Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (That Don't Suck)

A perfectly chewy oatmeal raisin cookie (that doesn't suck) is a thing of beauty. Raisins soaked overnight, coupled with 24 hours in the fridge to let the grains hydrate and a stint in the freezer to help the cookies keep their shape all go into making each bite a treat.

Don't be scared off by the time commitment! Since these freeze really well, I like to make a double batch at a time and bake as needed. For an extra treat, try soaking the raisins in butterscotch schnapps!

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There are two kinds of people in this world - the kind who see an oatmeal cookie and groan, or the kind that see one and immediately want it. This gets even more divisive when the cookie has "bits" in it. I know I'm not the only one who eagerly bit into an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and was immediately confronted with burnt, crunchy raisins! 

That said, oatmeal raisin cookies can and should be delicious - with the right treatment. I have a few oatmeal cookie lovers in my life, and since I'm putting together Christmas care packages I knew these would be one of the offerings I'd include. I settled on a tried and true recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes as my base, and (as I am want to do) made a few tweaks to suit the people I'd be giving the cookies to as well as what I had on hand.

Perfecting the bake on these was the difficult part - freshly made dough led to insane spread on the cookie sheet, burning on the edges while still remaining raw in the middle. Refrigerating it helped the spread a bit, but we still had the raw middle issue. Finally, I froze the scooped cookie dough, then baked it at a lower temperature for a bit longer.

That last step was magic - problem solved! The cookies still spread a little bit, but they don't burn, and while the centres still look gooey when they come out of the oven, once cooled they are perfectly baked. The results are chewy, sturdy enough to pack, and full of toasted oat flavour and pops of plump raisins. They're as good as the ones I remember from the cookie factory by my grandparents' house growing up, and a lot easier to obtain.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

We are fully into soup season! This spicy, smoky Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup is the perfect way to use up leftover pumpkin and is hearty without cream.

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 Even though we've only had a brief dusting of snow here (which is long gone), the weather is brisk enough to run a chill up your spine. When I come in from errands or the gym, the only thing I want is something warm and filling - and this soup fits that bill perfectly!

Having stashed pucks of pumpkin puree left over from Halloween pumpkins (not the carved ones, mind you!) I had a jumping off point to work with. I wanted to make something spicy and smooth, but not heavy and rich with butter or cream. I saw a few recipes online about adding white beans to soup to make it creamier, which sounded like a solid plan - however, I only had black beans in the pantry and I was not about to go shopping again. 

That said, the black beans started me thinking about more smoky-spicy flavours, so I started putting together a spice blend with some of the offerings from Selefina Spices (they are my go-to now for fresh spices, and their sister companies Lardera Coffee and Adagio Teas provide me with all the hot and cold drinks I could want throughout the day). 

A quick deep dive of the freezer netted me bags of cherry tomatoes and zucchini as well, so in they went with vegetable stock, a diced onion and lots of garlic. An hour of slowly simmering brought the garlic to a mellow note throughout the mix, and it only took a short blitz with my immersion blender to bring everything to the perfect texture. Right out of the pot, it was up-front and personal with the smoky spiciness (which I love personally) and after sitting in the fridge overnight the flavours continued to blend, toning it down just a little bit. Paired with crusty bread, it was a perfect meal for the week.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Honey Gingerbread Cookies

It's never too early for gingerbread cookies, especially when it's the special request of a certain 5 year old! These soft and chewy cookies are made with brown sugar and honey with a hit of warm spices from @selefina.spices . Glazed with a simple icing sugar mix and topped with as many sprinkles as you like, they're a great after school snack.

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My niece and I love to get into the kitchen and bake once a week or so, and with the holidays fast approaching she has been asking for gingerbread. For the first time in probably a decade, I did not have any molasses on hand, so I took a leap and decided to try swapping honey in for it instead. The honey swap served two purposes - one, it was a liquid sweetener, so the properties of a liquid sweetener stayed the same (read: soft and tender cookies) and two, honey is sweeter than molasses so it made the cookies a little less bitter and spicy than standard gingerbread.

Speaking of spices, I had access to some super-fresh, fragrant ones from Selefina Spices - including whole nutmeg. My niece got to smell what they really are supposed to smell like, compared to the spices we have in the pantry which are maybe a year or two old, if not older. The learning continued with the exploration of what nutmeg is and what it looks like inside, which is honestly such a beautiful picture:

Ever wondered where nutmeg comes from? It's actually a seed from an evergreen tree called Myristica fragrans! Whole, nutmeg is pretty boring in appearance - it looks like a small Walnut- but once you grate into  it a beautiful pattern emerges! My niece says it looks like a brain! Thank you again to Selefina Spices for this beautiful spice!

Making the dough was also a learning experience in measuring by weight, how flaxseed soaks up water, and how butter beaten with sugar can turn it into something really fluffy. The hardest part was waiting for them to cool enough to glaze and decorate - the above cookies got the liberal sprinkle treatment from the 5 year old, and more than a handful of sprinkles disappeared into her mouth in the process! 

 Even if you aren't making these as a teachable moment, you can't go wrong with these cookies - they are tender, chewy and just spicy enough, and are just as good plain as they are decorated in the manner of your choosing. They also hold their shape beautifully when baking, which is a huge perk if you're going for presentation!

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Brownie Spiders

A simple two bite brownie base makes for the most adorable Halloween treat! My niece and I made these for her to enjoy this Halloween, they are easy and fun for little ones to participate in!

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Since the climax of Spooky Season is almost upon us, it was only fitting that I get into the kitchen with my 5 year old niece to create something perfect for the season! The little loves chocolate anything, so when I saw a photo of spiders made out of storebought 2-bite brownies and pretzels I thought it would be a great activity, especially if we made the brownies from scratch. Armed with measuring spoons and a keen eye on my food scale, I pretty much let her go to work, only taking over for the "hot" parts like putting the pan in the oven and taking the big ceramic bowl out of the microwave.

Just like when I taught Home Economics, the act of putting together the recipe was only part of the lesson. Having already broken the pretzels into "leggy" bits, she busied herself with sorting piles of 8 - because, as she proudly declared: "you know spiders have 8 legs". When telling her about baking powder's function (she was fascinated that these puffed up like mini mushroom clouds in their tins) we got into a discussion about pressure release, leading into volcanoes. It's never a dull moment when she's around! 

As far as assembly goes, I actually suggest going with pretzel sticks if you can find them, rather than the knot-style ones, and the thinner the better. A 2-bite brownie does not offer a lot of real estate to attach legs to! If you can't get the candy eyes (or, like me, if you run out of them), use mini M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, or chocolate chips!

Friday, October 28, 2022

Pumpkin Cranberry Sourdough

'Tis the season! This hearty loaf is filled with pumpkin and cranberries, with a hint of sourdough starter to balance out the sweeter dough and pumpkin spice @nakednutrition Naked Shake. Baked in a pie pan, it's low rising but a showstopper nonetheless.

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I'm currently sitting here watching my 2 year old nephew experience pumpkin carving for the first time. While he is less than amused by the sliminess of the innards in the pumpkin, he has fallen in love with separating the pumpkin seeds from the stringy webbing and putting them into a bowl - which 100% works for me, since I'll be roasting them for rodent snacks after everyone finishes theirs! 

Personally, I cannot carve my own pumpkins anymore - arthritis precludes trying to saw my way through a 2 inch wall of pumpkin flesh - but I do get into the spirit of things by using pumpkin in a variety of treats! This bread was born out of inspiration from King Arthur Flour and a bevy of spices which arrived from Selefina Spices - the freshness and aroma of them is unmatched. Combined with a handful of dried cranberries and of course, the pumpkin, the dough smelled heavenly. Of course, with all the pumpkin pie elements, baking it in a pie pan fit well - and helped the relatively soft dough keep it's shape. Sliced into wedges, it was a perfect accompaniment to breakfast or mid afternoon tea!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Chocolate Banana-Zucchini Muffins

These vegan muffins are chocolatey, moist and perfectly sweet due to the addition of roasted banana. If you have picky people in your life who balk at a speck of green, just Peel the zucchini before shredding - they'll never know!

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Well, we've hit the official time of the year where we realize we have far too much stuff in the freezer. This is usually bags of produce we prepped and froze over the growing months - though I've gotten more realistic with my stamina when it comes to mass canning. Zucchini, shredded and packed in individually wrapped 1 cup bundles, has a more or less permanent spot in amongst the nuts, seeds, bread and meat, but since this summer featured all of the household cooks going on vacation for 2 weeks at a time, the hoard was getting a little unwieldy.

Enter the second round of zucchini-based baking. Of course, along with the standard (and previously posted) plain zucchini bread, I took the opportunity to use up some of the roasted bananas I froze as well in the treats. These muffins arose out of not only ingredients but a house-wide craving for chocolate, and boy do they deliver. Perfectly moist (yes, I used the word moist) and tender, each bite is packed with chocolate and banana flavour. I've made a few batches of these over the last few months and froze any that we couldn't finish in about 3 days - popping a still frozen one in a lunchbox allows it to be thawed and not dry by lunchtime, and if you're really desperate a quick burst in the microwave heats it just enough to where it feels like it was fresh from the oven.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Maple Walnut Bread

Maple Walnut Bread with sour cream and Canadian maple syrup is perfect on its own, or toasted with butter. I've heard it even makes fantastic French Toast!

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 Happy World Bread Day! I almost missed it (joys of life piling up around me) but luckily I remembered that I had made this loaf a while back for the express reason of sharing it for the event! 

One of the best things about the cooler temperatures here is that cranking up the oven or the stove isn't as much of a bother to the rest of the household. As a result, we've been eating a lot more hearty meals: stews, soup, even hot cereal some mornings when there's a threat of frost outside. I'm trying to ignore the fact that in a few short weeks we will have snow on the ground! Lately, the go-to breakfast for my mom has been porridge with flax seeds and a spoonful of amaranth, topped with diced apples or blueberry compote, and that meal combined with the weekend favourite of pancakes with maple syrup and chopped nuts inspired this loaf's creation. 

This bread is so simple to put together that it's easy to dampen your expectations of it's flavour. To be honest, I've had hit and miss results baking maple syrup into bread when it came to the taste coming through, so I wasn't too sure what would happen. As soon as I opened the oven door to pull this out though, I didn't have to wonder: the aroma of toasted nuts and unmistakable maple filled the kitchen. Cutting into it an hour later (sometimes, we just can't wait for these things to cool completely), my mom remarked that it was the perfect addition to teatime - subsequent days saw slices topped with butter, cream cheese, slices of Cheddar and raspberry jam. The heels of the bread became French toast, which - covered in maple syrup  - smelled heavenly.

Since we are headed into the holiday period which practically guarantees extra bits and bobs of nuts and dried fruit around the house, I can't wait to see what variations I can make to this moving forward.

Banner World Bread Day, October 16, 2022 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Mom's Cabbage Soup

Now that Fall has arrived, it's officially soup season! My mom is known for her cabbage soup, a simple, hearty meal we traditionally serve with a side of bread and cheese. Not only is it fairly quick to whip up, it is one of the cheapest meals out there - perfect for today's economic climate.

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Happy Fall everyone! My mom hearkened the new season this year by making a huge batch of her famous cabbage rolls to share with family and friends. We always have the inner part of the (very large) cabbage left over from the process, and being the frugal person she is, it never goes to waste! Mom's been making this soup for as long as I can remember, and while incredibly simple, it is also the perfect addition to a lunch spread when coupled with good cheese (she likes aged Cheddar) and whatever hearty, artisan-style bread I happen to have made lately. As it is rather bare-bones, it is also the perfect jumping off point for additions (like chopped carrots, chunks of ham or chicken, cooked beans or potatoes) if you want something more well rounded and "full meal" like. 

This is also the soup I think of when I think of recovery or recuperation, not only from the persistent Fall colds that seem to run through the neighbourhood but from the exhaustion that comes with the changing pace and routine. Kids (even big kids, like my sister) are back to school, the garden is wrapping up, birthdays and Thanksgiving are on the horizon and there seems to be a never-ending ping pong game of back and forth to appointments, the store, and people's houses. Coming home for a few moments to savour a home cooked meal re-centres the soul and gives it just that little bit of fortification to keep going, like a little hug in the chaos. Whatever this soup does for you, I wish you nothing but the best for this season!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Mongolian-Inspired Stew over Black Sticky Rice

Homely but delicious, this Mongolian-Inspired Stew over Black Sticky Rice is a healthy, filling meal packed with vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Cleaning out all the frozen veg from the freezer never tasted so good!

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The end of Summer brings with it quite the collection of harvested goodies, and in my mind there really is no better way to transition into Fall than with a hearty, yet fresh-forward meal. We are huge fans of Asian-inspired flavours here, with jars of hoisin, bottles of tamari and toasted sesame oil lurking in the pantry and fridge at all times, so I wanted to blend the two into something that would keep mom powered through into the fall filled with parties, child-minding and endless chauffeuring.

I leaned into cleaning out the fridge for this stew, taking out all the vegetables we still had lurking, and wound up with so many of them I had to break out the big Dutch oven to house it all. In the end I had a delightful smelling bowl of stew - which admittedly isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but the taste more than made up for it. Sweet, spicy and savoury notes blended in the sauce that blanketed the vegetables and ground meat substitute and soaked into the black sticky rice ever so slightly. 

If you're going to make this as a make-ahead lunch, I'd keep the rice and stew in separate containers and mix them after heating. That way, nothing gets soggy and the heating is more even!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Thai Peanut Noodles

What better way to purge the crisper drawer than this simple, flavour packed Thai Peanut Noodle dish? Tons of veggies form the backbone of this hearty meal, accented with vegan ground meat and noodles that cook in the sauce - no extra pot needed!

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The only downside about a looming vacation is trying to shop and cook enough so you don't starve, but not so much you have a billion things in your crisper and fridge that will go bad. Being that it's summer, the quantity of vegetables in our house is large, and with my mom away I wanted to be able to make meals for her to come back to that used up all (or at least some) of the produce, were simple, and could be frozen for even she's running around with my nephew. Luckily we also have a well stocked pantry, and I was inspired by a tub of peanut butter I picked up from Bulk Barn to make cookies and never finished. 

An hour later, I had a huge pot of a Thai-inspired vegan peanut curry, filled with tons of veggies and noodles for even more texture and nutrition. The noodles cooked in the curry sauce, which not only infused them with the spicy peanutty flavour but thickened the sauce just enough where it moved from "soup" to "sauce" consistency - perfect!

As I said, this makes a lot of curry, but it keeps well and can be frozen. If you don't have or like the vegetables I used, swap in your favourites! I basically just kept going until the pot was full. Any thin noodle will work as well, so if you only have spaghetti, or rice noodles, or bean thread noodles, throw them in! The versatility here means you never have to make it the same way twice.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Pink Frosted Chocolate Doughnuts

When you have your 2 four-year-old nieces over and a free afternoon, it's time to make the doughnuts! These are eggless chocolate cake doughnuts moistened with yogurt and given a classic flavour with a bit of Selefina Spices nutmeg. 


First off, I'll admit I'm working a bit backwards with these "baking with my niece" posts - for the last month of Summer break, I've made one day a week baking day with her both to keep her busy and to teach her a few life skills (and to give my mom a bit of reprieve!). If you follow me on IG (and if not, you should!), you'll have seen some of our past projects, and I will be sure to share those too! But upon her request, the doughnuts are going first.

These are a pretty straightforward baked cake doughnut, with a touch of yogurt to keep it moist and just a hint of nutmeg for that doughnut flavour - that addition amazed the littles, and they had a blast looking at the whole nutmeg Selefina Spices had sent me. Being so simple, the recipe allows lots of opportunity for learning - aside from melting the butter and measuring the yogurt and milk, everything else was measured and mixed by my team of two sous chefs. The girls were also the lead decorators, picking the colour of the icing and deciding on the sprinkle selection, dipping the doughnuts and finally, showing them off to the other adults. I dare say they were on par with some of my old grade 7 and 8 kids!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Blueberry Pecan Bread

You can never have too many pecans (well, if you're a pecan lover like my mom!), and combined with this multigrain dough made with blueberry jam and a hint of orange blossom water every slice feels luxurious.

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With a week to go until she left on vacation, my mom and I decided to do a complete clean out of our fridge and freezers - yes, we have three freezers, which sounds great until the documentation of where things are starts to falter and more and more items get shoved to the back! In my rummaging, I came across a bag full of different nuts and seeds that I had put there for safekeeping and forgot about! 

Since I knew I had the end of a Costco-sized jar of blueberry jam to use up, I decided to try and combine the two into a slightly sweet whole grain loaf - just one, mind you, since otherwise we wind up with storage issues of the bread persuasion, and mom could bring the remainder of the single loaf on her road trip. Buffed by Naked Shake for protein and a hint of sweetness, and packed with whole grains for even more texture and fibre, the resulting loaf is perfect for when you need to keep full for a while and much better tasting than the average gas station fare!

This loaf inspired a few others in it's wake, so stay tuned to see the twists I put on this one and let me know what you would add to your perfect loaf: cherry jam and almonds? Grape jam and peanuts? Or maybe skip the nuts altogether and add your favourite fruit!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Chocolate Cold Brew using @lardera_coffee

I "discovered" cold brew coffee a few weeks ago, but it was a hassle to make at home with what I had. Enter Lardera Coffee Roasters and their cold brew pitcher. Simply put your preferred coffee grounds into the stainless steel filter core and fill with cold water (more instructions will be on my blog post - don't worry!) and let steep overnight. The result is smooth and delicious straight (if, like me you like black coffee) or jazzed up like in my Chocolate Cold Brew.

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Like most trends, I'm really late to the party when it comes to cold brew coffee. I'm a hot coffee drinker through and through - and since I drink it black, I'm picky about what I have in my cup. The idea of chilled coffee always felt a bit weird too - I associated cold coffee with when I was teaching and my neglected cup sat ignored on my desk for far too long. 

That changed this summer, when we got a heatwave that gripped us in 40°C (104°F) days and rendered the thought of eating or drinking anything hot impossible. I had seen the ads for Starbucks' cold brew drinks and it inspired me to try making my own cold brew at home, where I could control the ingredients and make a large cup without shelling out $10. My original method of soaking ground beans in water (in my trusty litre Mason jars) then straining it through a filter worked, but was messy and a bit of a pain to babysit. 

When Lardera Coffee (sister company to Adagio Teas and Selefina Spices) approached me with a new cold-brew pitcher, I was immediately sold for a few reasons:

1. Capacity: the pitcher is 44 fl oz, which is perfect for me to sip through on a Saturday (yes, I am a caffeine addict) or to make more moderate sized drinks for a group

2. Material: the pitcher is glass, with a silicone band for grip. The glass keeps the taste of the coffee pure, which I appreciate (and yes, this means the better coffee you buy, the better it will taste). The glass look is also gorgeous to serve from, and the pitcher has a lid that fits snugly on the infuser insert or loosely on the pitcher so it keeps your coffee clean.

3. Cost and convenience: I don't need to tell you that making coffee of any kind at home is going to be cheaper than going to your local coffee shop. The cold-brew pitcher here is only $24USD. Even with buying better beans, you get a lot more bang for your buck this route, and if you're like me, you want to enjoy coffee in your PJs, not schlepping out to the cafe.

My only critique of the pitcher has to do with an absolute lack of instructions. Not having really made cold brew before, I had to look up coffee:water ratios on another website before beginning since there are no guides in or on the box. I found the best flavour (for me) with 105g of ground coffee to the 44 fl.oz of water.

Lardera also offers a bunch of coffee varieties on their website, including samples for those who aren't quite sure what they're after in the flavour department. I sampled both Kenya Washed and Catuai Honey as cold brews, and I prefer Catuai Honey as a straight "pick me up" cup with a bit of ice while the Kenya Washed is perfect for more dessert-y drinks like the recipe below.

If you've never tried cold brew before, I definitely suggest making it at home and playing with it until you find what you like. This summer is going to be a long one, and its a great way to keep cool. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Two Bite Confetti Cake Cookies

Two bite cookies are the perfect snack, and when they taste like confetti cake *and* have added protein and fibre in them, there is no excuse not to indulge!

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It's definitely a month of celebrations around here - the end of school for the littles at home, graduation for my past class of grade 8's, Pride month and the end of exams hearkening the halfway point of my last term of college. I always love to bring some dessert to the celebration atmosphere, and cookies win out due to their portability and never-ending variability.

Given that we're still pretty busy these days, I wanted to put together a batch of cookies that were a bit more power-packed than usual, while still keeping the taste of dessert. When I saw this recipe I was sold - confetti cake in cookie form, with a protein boost? Heck yes. I made these cookies vegan and gluten free to serve the allergic amongst me, and the combination of Naked Shake's vanilla flavour and Naked Rice protein powder worked perfectly - slightly sweet, very vanilla-y with no grit. Sprinkles were added with abandon, because you can never have enough sprinkles!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Condensed Milk Bread

Have a can of sweetened condensed milk about the house? Why not use it for something new - like two (or three) loaves of super soft whole wheat bread? I added a bit of extra flavour and protein with @nakednutrition Vanilla Naked Shake, and as you can see the resulting loaf (in admittedly a too small pan) had higher aspirations than I did in college 🤣

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I take a distinct pleasure in bread-baking day, especially since it gives me something to do between countless assignments and quizzes for school, or watching lectures. Periodically getting up to check on proofing, knock down and shape dough, or checking on it through the oven window is the perfect quick diversions of my attention that break up the monotony of the day. 

Today's loaf was surprisingly simple, yet such a performer! I had a can of condensed milk in the pantry with no plans to use it, so I searched a bit to see if I could incorporate it successfully in a loaf. RasaMalaysia gave me a great base recipe, which I tweaked a bit to double and make mostly whole wheat as well as add a hit of protein from my favourite Naked Shake. After the first rise, it shaped easily and I popped it into two loaf pans, hoping for the best since I only had one 9x5, the other one being an 8x4. Guys - spring for another 9x5, unless you're after the mushroom of a loaf I have here (or use three 8x4 pans)! That said, it may have looked a bit wonky but the crumb was velvety soft and the flavour was the perfect balance of sweet and wholesome. Toast it for a bit of heft before layering on jam or eat it straight with super soft butter - the choice is yours!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Soy Noodle Stir Fry

This spicy-sweet Soy Noodle Stir Fry is packed with protein from the noodles and tofu, fibre from a ton of veggies and flavour from a hoisin based sauce. Two types of heat (fresh chiles and @selefina.spices cayenne) will keep your tongue dancing til the last bite.

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Stir fries are my favourite way to quickly use up a ton of stuff in the fridge, and never get boring! We've been trying to keep our grocery costs down (like everybody here) and eating out of the pantry and freezer has been a luxury for us. I had a few packs of tofu in the freezer that I bought when they were on sale, along with countless bags of vegetables that demanded use before the seasonal veggies from the garden start coming in, so I used those as my jumping off point. From there, it turned into an assessment of what saucy-type things I had, as well as a base carbohydrate to soak up everything and add bulk.

What emerged at the end of this (surprisingly simple) thrown-together meal was a spicy, sweet, saucy stir fry for a crowd - which was great because my mom is always looking for quick lunches during the week when she watches the littles. Portioned into 2-3 meal blocks and frozen, all she has to do is thaw, plate and reheat for a delicious, filling and healthy meal between setting the toddler down for a nap and picking up the 4 year old from kindergarten.

A note on the sauce - this is definitely not what I'd call mild, maybe a medium level of heat. I used the cayenne from Selefina Spices in addition to fresh chiles, and even though I added a small amount it is potent. We like our fire here, so it was perfect, but your mileage may vary. Also, I used soy-based pasta because it's what I had on hand, however whatever noodle you prefer works just fine (I think using rice vermicelli would soak up this sauce beautifully as well, as would whole wheat spaghetti).

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf with @selefina.spices

This sweet and spiced Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf is packed with dried apricots, blueberries and dates, which play off the toasted pecans and oats in the dough beautifully. A generous dash of spices from @selefina.spices ties everything together - try it toasted with cream cheese for a treat!

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Even though the spring weather is starting to creep out and more and more freshness is permeating the world, I have a soft spot for the warming, hearty baked goods all year round. In particular, if I'm making a loaf for breakfast (which is what I'm usually baking for Mom), I know there are a set of unofficial criteria to follow - slightly sweet, hearty (packed with whole grains, seeds, or as my mom calls them "bits"), and good toasted with either a Toast Topper, butter or cream cheese. In essence, it gives me free reign to clean out the pantry and freezer every once in a while, and figure out a way to tie everything together. This loaf was inspired by a plethora of dried fruit I had and bolstered by the recent arrival of a set of brand new spices from Selefina - a sister company to the Adagio teas I love and have reviewed here before. With a quiet afternoon on my hands I decided to create a Dutch-oven baked boule with a bunch of whole grains and the aforementioned ingredients to see how it all worked out. 

The first thing that I realized with this loaf is that the combination of ingredients makes for some happy yeast and a great rise, yet because the loaf is so hearty the crumb remains tight. This, to me, is not a bad thing - I want a piece of bread in the morning that can stand up to toasting or topping (or both), and the flavour was well worth the lack of airiness. The Dutch oven gives this bread a glorious crust too, so even while it may not be incredibly visually appealing, it is well worth the effort!

From the Press Release: The creative team behind Adagio Teas had recently launched Selefina Spices, a new online shop for herbs and spices. Selefina will also differentiate itself from other online purveyors by making its quality products available in small amounts. The objective is to deliver herbs and spices of optimum freshness as well as encourage trial of unfamiliar products and broaden culinary exploration. 

My notes: I love the fact that these spices come in small quantities, opaque, zip-sealed bags, and that the company has such a variety of them! I was sent a very generous variety, and looking at the website I can still see some that I'd love (looking at you, butterfly pea flower, lavender and pasilla chile). The fact that these spices come from a sister company to Adagio, who arguably make some of the best teas I've ever had (I'm still enjoying the last of the advent calendar offerings and can't wait til its iced tea season again) I know I'm getting quality ingredients. These spices are super fresh and potent, so a little goes a long way!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins

These jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins are vegan and full of roasted apple chunks and apple compote. A bit of extra flavour and nutrition from @nakednutrition Pumpkin Spice #NakedShake up the ante, making these a great option for a lazy Sunday morning as well as a grab and go breakfast mid week.

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Muffins are such a perfect anytime food. I remember having them as breakfasts or snacks when I was in school, or for a quick energy boost after swimming lessons. They're also a great way to incorporate all those bits and bobs of baking pantry items into a portable snack. Knowing I have work on Sunday mornings, I wanted to make something for the team to enjoy after we wrapped things up and we went on our day. I had a few lonely apples in the fridge and a handful of oats and oat milk which I used as my starting point, and thought adding some of the Pumpkin Spice Naked Shake would be a great idea as well - after all, why wouldn't I add some functional nutrition and extra flavour when I can? 

The best apple muffins I had contained chunks of tender apple inside them, but weren't soggy or dense. To try and recreate that, I opted for a dual approach: a cheater apple compote for moisture and roasted apples for texture. The result was exactly what I wanted - lightly sweet and spiced, a perfect smattering of apple chunks and a hint of nuttiness and texture from the oats. This will be staying on my rotation, especially during the fall when bags of apples appear in our cellar!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Red Velvet Shortbread

I can never say no to red velvet anything - and these cut out cookies have all the flavour of the cake in a portable form! The vibrant colour and burst of flavour comes from Lorann Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, coupled with the tang from vegan cream cheese and a dash of red wine vinegar.

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In the four weeks spanning between my mom's birthday and my sister's birthday, we do a lot of red velvet. And by we, I (of course) mean me! It's really hard to beat the complex flavour that goes into a well made red velvet cake, but I've had success with cookies in the past and decided to try my hand at a type of shortbread. These cookies are tender but not chewy, and have the perfect amount of tang which is something that can be hard to find with these bakes. The colour (and some of the flavour) comes from my favourite "cheat" product, an emulsion-style flavouring for baking from Lorann Oils. It's dark red and smells like red velvet cake batter (and stains everything, so be warned).

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the texture of these cookies, given that I used a mix of fats, including a melted fat, melted chocolate and no eggs. I'm used to shortbread as a 4 ingredient, butter forward kind of cookie, but I (and my family) enjoyed these just as much. I was feeling fancy this week, so I decided to keep these cookies red carpet worthy with gold sanding sugar, nonpareils and silver stars. I'm not a fan of royal icing (and who has that kind of time these days?) so the sprinkles were a quick and easy fix that even my finicky niece liked.

That said - if you don't like sprinkles, they're great as is, with royal icing, or made into decadent sandwiches with cream cheese frosting! Hear me out - cream cheese frosting sandwiches with these, frozen, are the ice cream sandwich you didn't know you needed. Yes, it's decadent, but who needs an excuse to indulge now and then?

Note: I have made these with vegan butter (Earth Balance and Becel sticks) and vegan cream cheese (Follow Your Heart) and it worked beautifully!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Caramelized Onion Lentil Soup

The cold and damp weather here practically demands comfort food, and what better than a bowl of Caramelized Onion Soup? Simple and wholesome with a bit of an unexpected kick from Aleppo Pepper, it's nutritious, tasty and a perfect work from home (or not) lunch.

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 March is such an in-between month. On one hand, we've had temperatures up to 18C and lots of sun some days, and then there's days like today when it's cold and rainy. Add in the inevitable "last month of class" stress, March Break (with the littles visiting daily), birthdays and appointments, and it seems like we never get a chance to sit down, much less relax. Comfort food has definitely been on the table more often than not, especially big bowls of soup like this one. While not exactly a 90 second microwaveable meal, the time spent to caramelize the onions so that they're sticky and sweet followed by the hour of lazy cooking is quite cathartic, and you're rewarded with many meals that you can pack for lunches or heat up if you (like me) work from home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sourdough Irish Soda Bread #BreadBakers

This soda bread gets an added dose of tang from sourdough starter, texture from oats and a hint of spice. Raisins or none, it's up to you!

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I keep forgetting about how delicious and easy soda bread is - I'm usually embroiled in making slow rising sourdoughs, boules filled with a bunch of grains, seeds and fruit, or a batch of sandwich loaves when my creativity is running low. That said, for some reason in March I get a bit of an injection of Irish inspiration and I dig back into our bread books to see what I can do!

I always feel a touch of guilt tossing some of my sourdough starter every time I feed it, so I went on the lookout for recipes to use it this time around. The Gingered Whisk has a great simple recipe for soda bread that used sourdough discard, so I used that as a base and added flavour, fruit and fibre to it while making it vegan (dairy and eggs are getting expensive here). The result was a slightly sweet, deeply flavoured loaf studded with juicy raisins and just enough texture from the oats to be interesting. 

While tradition would be to tear into this while it is still warm and top with copious amounts of butter, my sources say this was still excellent the next morning for breakfast topped with some grape jam (we are still working through the 30 jars we canned last year!), and for tea with butter and honey.

I am hosting this month and asked the others to join me in sharing Irish Breads in honor of St. Patricks Day which is right around the corner.  Let's see what everyone baked up for us today......

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Condensed Milk Cookie Bars

These Condensed Milk Cookie Bars are rich, tender and full of vanilla flavour from @nakednutrition #nakedshake Vanilla. Condensed milk creates almost a caramel note during baking (yes please!) and adds to the chew, while a combination of low gluten flours keeps everything melt in your mouth.

They also get a dose of fibre from #nakedfiber along with all the butter and chocolate!

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Well, school is back in full swing (as if you couldn't tell - I know my posts have been spotty!) and with midterms coming up, let's just say the amount of comfort food needed around here has increased. I've been spending a lot of my free time in the kitchen stress-baking, but since I share my creations with people who have other health and fitness goals I have been trying to be cognizant of that fact, making treats that are both delicious and functional. After making countless batches of these brownies and these cookies (with added protein powder) for my sister, I figured it was time to switch things up a bit and use up some pantry staples that were kicking around. Luckily, the lovely folks at Naked Nutrition had just sent me their vanilla flavour to sample (can you tell that I love these shakes?) and I couldn't wait to add it for some extra oomph.
Like the other Naked Shake products I've reviewed (and baked with) on here, the vegan Vanilla Naked Shake starts with a great tasting pea protein, with the addition of MCT oil, coconut sugar, and natural  flavors. A serving (2 scoops) contains 120 calories, 1.5g of fat, 20g of protein and only 5g of sugar. My sister was actually the one to try this first, mixing it into orange juice for a creamsicle shake. I'm a coffee fiend so this blended with iced coffee would be a perfect pick me up too - when I'm not baking it into cookies and bars that is!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Mandarin Marmalade - Toast Topper #93

Mandarin Marmalade is laced with homemade Limoncello and is bright, citrusy and as perfect on toast as spread on roasted meats.

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Happy New Year everyone! I am going to try to post the recipes for things I have cooked (and posted on Instagram) in the past but never made it to the blog because - well, timing. Or laziness. Or both! Now that I'm stuck at home for the forseeable future I'm sure new things will be popping up too, so here's to a productive year in the kitchen and at my desk!

I have to say, I haven't been making nearly the amount of Toast Toppers recently as I have in the past - 2021 was definitely not a great year for me physically so the idea of lugging around all the equipment to can was a bit overwhelming. That said, given mandarins are still quite prevalent in the local stores (and I may be a bit inspired from a recent trip to Orange County) I am definitely making this marmalade again. It is bright, refreshing, and with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Nigella, and I tweaked it ever so slightly to make a single jar filled with flavour that was both wintry and summery at the same time (is that even possible?).

The jar disappeared quickly of course, since not only was it perfect on toasted sourdough but my mom used it over pork chops and as an ingredient in stir fry as well. Citrus has such a way of working with caramelized flavours that it really isn't hard to imagine it working with other things as well!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Canadian Christmas Feast: Indulge, But Don’t Forget Your Teeth

If there is one time of the year everyone looks forward to, it is the festive season. This is the time that you can spend a lot of quality time with loved ones, including family and friends that you do not see at other times of the year. In particular, one thing that everyone likes to do at Christmas is indulge in delicious foods and enjoy alcoholic beverages. This is part of the celebrations and we all know that the most popular New Year’s Resolution is to lose the holiday weight.

But, one thing you need to make sure that you do is look after your teeth. Your visits to the Jane and Finch dentist (in Toronto) over the course of the year absolutely allow you to enjoy your food this holiday season. You want to have fun at this time of the year. But, you cannot neglect your oral health. Let’s take a look at some ways you can make sure that you are looking after your teeth.

Be Aware of the Sugar

There are so many delicious foods available around Christmas time. For example, everyone likes to indulge and have mince pieces, puddings and Christmas cake. But, one thing you do have to be aware of is that there is a lot of sugar in treats like these. Of course, sugar is something that is not good for your health or your teeth. So, try to be mindful of how much sugar you are consuming and brush your teeth after high-sugar foods.

Always Follow a Routine

Over the festive season, you are going to have a lot of plans. It is likely that you will have time off work and your normal schedule will be all over the place. But, one thing you have to make sure that you stick to is your routine when it comes to your teeth. In other words, no matter how busy or tired you are, make sure that you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day. This includes flossing and other healthy habits. This time of year can be hectic but you have to ensure that you do not pick up any bad habits along the way.

Remember the Bottle Opener

It is actually very common for people to experience broken and cracked teeth around Christmas. The reason for this is that everyone is celebrating and are using their teeth as tools. In other words, they are using their teeth to open bottles during the festive celebrations. This is something that you never want to do. It is very risky and could cost you a lot of money to repair. Therefore, make sure that you have a bottle opener before Christmas day. This way, you are not going to be tempted to dry to open the bottles with your teeth.


Enjoy Some Cheese

You may be wondering why you are being encouraged to eat cheese during the festive season. Well, there is a good reason for this. Cheese is a useful food that is able to achieve neutral acidity in your mouth. This is something that is beneficial for your teeth and it can mean there is a lower risk of decay and damage from other foods you are eating around this time.