Harcha with Scented Cinnamon Honey Butter

I hear you: what-cha?

Luckily, if you like English muffins, johnnycakes or toasted polenta, the name of this Moroccan, skillet-cooked flatbread doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s easy, kid-friendly, infinitely variable and most importantly, delicious. 

Harcha//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsTraditionally made with semolina, milk, cream or buttermilk, oil, and occasionally cornmeal, harcha can easily be a relatively Spartan carbohydrate staple for breakfast or with a meat or legume entree. However, adding a few extra touches – sugar, saffron, and vanilla – the crisp-crusted cakes are prime for a special breakfast or even dessert. This was the version I opted for when it came time to share the dish with my grade 1-6 classes, and while the just-textured-enough discs were more than delicious enough on their own, we upped the ante by dolloping an orange blossom water, cinnamon and honey butter on top. 
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One of the best things about these (to me, anyways) is that they’re yummy warm or room temperature, not to mention portable and 100% freezer friendly. Leave out the saffron, and they’re totally budget-friendly too! Whether you adorn them to the nines or grab them hot out of the pan, there’s no wrong way to taste Morocco at home.

Harcha
Makes ~12 
1 ½ cups fine semolina
⅓ cup fine cornmeal 
pinch saffron, ground or crushed (optional)
2 tbsp flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup canola oil
½ cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the semolina, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the canola oil and milk and mix until a dough forms. (It should be very moist, but still be able to pack into a ball – add additional milk if needed).
  3. Shape the dough into balls about the size of apricots, place on a sheet of waxed paper and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Heat a flat griddle or frying pan over medium-low heat and spray with cooking spray.
  5. With damp hands, flatten each ball into a disc at least ¼” thick.
  6. Cook the discs for 5 to 10 minutes on each side, until they are lightly golden. Make sure to turn them over only once.
  7. Serve immediately (optimally with Scented Cinnamon Honey Butter).
  8. You can freeze these up to 6 months – thaw and reheat them in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 161.5
Total Fat: 6.1 g
Cholesterol: 1.0 mg
Sodium: 5.4 mg
Total Carbs: 23.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 3.4 g

Harcha

Scented Cinnamon Honey Butter
Makes just over 1/2 cup, 8 servings
½ cup salted butter, softened
3 tbsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
1 tsp orange flower water (or vanilla)
½ tsp cinnamon

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 126.2
Total Fat: 11.5 g
Cholesterol: 31.0 mg
Sodium: 82.1 mg
Total Carbs: 6.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.1 g

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Roasted Peach BBQ Sauce

Although the “official” BBQ season is in the books for another year (sigh), it’s been warm enough this past week that the outdoor grills have remained fired up. On any given day, I can come home to a neighbourhood filled with the aromas of world-wide outdoor cooking – from our “two doors down” Jamaican neighbours making a killer jerk recipe to the Portuguese family across the street grilling herb and garlic fish and chicken and our “native” Canadian next door neighbours tossing on burgers and hot dogs for their family of five. Ironically, I’ve never been a fan of grilled food as a rule – chalk it up to a childhood of once too often charred protein from the backyard barbecue (and currently living in a household that adores emptying a whole canister of lighter fluid onto the charcoal before lighting it each time) – but I do love the smell of it cooking when it’s done properly. 

That said, even dried-out (and hopefully NOT charcoal-black) grilling can be enhanced – even saved – by a good, balanced and flavourful sauce. Normally, you would never see me bring fruit to a savoury party willingly (I’m not talking “fruit vegetables” here), but I’m not opposed to sauces with certain fruity tones. You’d find me enjoying Spicy Plum Sauce (and it’s apricot / pumpkin based Western version) on broiled pork chops or chicken breasts, pineapple marinades do wonders for tofu, shrimp and flank steak, and while I personally shy away from the whole “apples and pork” cliche my mom goes for it whole hog (sorry!).

Roasted Ontario Peach BBQ Sauce!

So when I came across this roasted fruit BBQ sauce in Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, by the fabulous Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, I knew I had to make it – not only for me, but for Mother Dearest who has an almost unnatural passion for fresh Ontario Summer peaches. I gave my batch a few twists along the way, amplifying the caramel sweetness of the peaches with roasted Vidalia onions and raisiny, long-aged black garlic. For a kick of savoury in with all the bittersweet notes, a whisper of smoked paprika and smoked salt kicked up the flavours of the fire, even if your BBQ is tucked away for another year!

Shared with  Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten Free Fridays

Roasted Peach BBQ Sauce
Makes 4 cups, 32 (2 tbsp) servings 
3 medium fresh peaches, halved and pitted
½ sweet (Vidalia) onion, peeled and halved
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
6 cloves black garlic (you can use half a head of roasted garlic if you can’t get black garlic)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
½ cup apple juice (or ideally, cider)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika (either hot or sweet)
½ tsp smoked salt (or sea salt)

  1. Heat oven to 425F
  2. Place peaches and onion, cut side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with oil.
  3. Roast for 25 minutes, shaking pan halfway through.
  4. In a large pot, combine the vinegar, sugar and honey and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and the roasted mixture and simmer 25-30 minutes.
  6. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and can 15 minutes in a water bath.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 21.0
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 32.8 mg
Total Carbs: 4.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 0.2 g

Cheese Pizza on Sourdough

I always love getting kids in the kitchen, and when I was given the chance to bring a touch of Home Ec to the little(r) ones at Summer Camp, I wanted to give them something they would have a fun time doing, would enjoy eating and actually participated in creating. Pizza making felt like a completely obvious choice, since even if I did the “grownup” work of baking the crust and shredding the cheese, they could have complete control over stirring together a simple sauce with hand-torn fresh herbs(and a secret flavour booster), as well as sprinkling the mozzarella onto the par-baked Herbed Sourdough Pizza Dough
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Cheesy Sourdough Pizza

In retrospect, I should have had the kids make two of these – not only did they all polish off a sizeable piece (and that was after lunch!), but the staff wanted a taste too! Even the children who, while making the sauce, adamantly declared that the basil and garlic “smelled yucky” wanted seconds… I would say that’s a pretty ringing endorsement! Besides, who doesn’t love stringy, melty, ooey gooey cheese, a crispy crust and even the little crispy bits on the edges? 

Cheese Pizza on Sourdough
Makes one sheet pan pizza, 16 slices

Sauce:
¾ cup plain tomato sauce
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 tbsp tamari
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
½ tsp oregano
3 tbsp minced fresh basil
½ tsp sugar

Pizza:
1 recipe
Herbed Sourdough Pizza Dough, prepared for one thicker-crust pizza
300 g part-skim Mozzarella cheese

  1.  Heat oven to 400°F
  2. Combine all the “sauce” ingredients in a bowl and spread onto the par-baked crust.
  3. Top with cheese and anything else you wish!
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and melted.

*NB: If you love the crispy cheese bits around the edges, you can broil the pizza for 2 minutes after baking.

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 170.2
Total Fat: 3.5 g
Cholesterol: 10.9 mg
Sodium: 247.2 mg
Total Carbs: 26.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.3 g
Protein: 9.4 g

Tiny Berries in Lemon Balm Syrup

How has everyone’s Summer been treating them?

Ah, yes... #sandbanksbeach #sandbanks #summer

Well, for the first time in forever, I was able to get away to Prince Edward County with my Dad and sister for a weekend of a little R&R. Between the sun, the sand and the water, it was fantastic and I can’t wait to do it again next year. Dad and I took a drive around the area, making fantastic use of a morning to afternoon and popping into local artisans and funky shops along the way.

A fresh batch of #tomatoes @vickisveggies - DELICIOUS!Then, of course, there was the food that PEC is known for. First up on the “grand tour” was a farm I already knew and loved from their presence at the Brickworks Farmers’ MarketVicki’s Veggies. There, I picked up a container of freshly-picked heirloom tomatoes that tasted like candied sunshine, while Dad grabbed a nifty looking weeding tool and some to-die-for hot sauce along with some green leafies. That hot sauce really was something – and as a self-proclaimed aficionado of the stuff I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy one of each (and two of the “smokehouse” variety), had I the cash!

Picked up a little something for Mom @fifthtown #cheese #buffalomilk #wherethebuffalosroam #princeedwardcounty #eatlocalNext up came the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., where I picked up a half-wheel of a cave-aged, washed rind buffalo milk cheese for Mom. While I couldn’t taste it (curse you dairy intolerance), Dad gave it his seal of approval and eventually, so did Mom.
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//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsWe capped our tour off with a visit to Picton’s Bean Counter Cafe for a fabulous cuppa (me) and a gelato (Dad). The atmosphere there is enough to make you want to spend a whole day there, and with their veritable library of books lying around for guests to read you very well could!
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As fantastic as the side trips through the County were, I actually came home with the most precious cargo courtesy of the very same trailer park we were camping in. The edges of the park’s common “open field” areas were lined with bush upon bush of raspberries, and while I was a little late in the season I still managed to take two hours Sunday morning and pick a sizeable bowl to enjoy as a mid morning snack. I knew what I couldn’t eat right away wouldn’t last long in the fridge, and I really wanted to savour the flavour as long as I could while keeping the integrity of the berries as much as possible. The lemon balm on my kitchen counter flicked the “aha” switch over to overdrive and in entered this concoction: the tiny berries floating in a lightly flavoured lemon balm syrup, processed quickly in a waterbath. I’d love to tell you both the 1/2 cup jars I made are sitting prettily on the shelf, but only one got that far… the other became a moreish topping for my oatmeal midweek. I suppose it would be ideal on ice cream, yoghurt or pound cake too, but that involves waiting for dessert!

Hand picked #wild #raspberries from Prince Edward County. .. NEVER complain about the price of wild berries! #eatlocal #foragedfood #foodie #healthyfood

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Tiny Berries in Lemon Balm Syrup
Makes 1 cup (including syrup), 4 servings
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon balm leaves and green stems, roughly chopped
1 cup wild raspberries (or regular raspberries) – red, black or a mix
1 cup sugar  

  1. Bring water to a boil and pour over the lemon balm. Let steep 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, spoon berries into one or two canning jars, shaking them to sit closely together but not crushing them. Set aside.
  3. Strain the lemon balm water into a pot, discarding solids. 
  4. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 2 minutes.
  6. Carefully ladle syrup over the berries, leaving 1/2″ headspace.
  7. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Tiny Berries in Lemon Balm SyrupAmount Per Serving (including syrup)
Calories: 205.5
Total Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 53.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 0.3 g

Simple Fresh Pasta with Quick Spaghetti Sauce

Mondays always seem to be far more hectic than they should be – after all, it’s just another workday. However, Murphy’s law always seems to dictate that if things that mess with routine are going to happen, you bet Mondays at about 4:55PM is when you’re going to discover them!

Tonight, for example, was the night of my class’ music and movement presentation – a fun opportunity for the little ones to showcase their talents for sure! While I certainly knew about it ahead of time, it still means not getting home until 8PM at the earliest without dinner… but thanks to a little advance planning this weekend a big ol’ pot of healthy, hearty noodles and sauce is minutes away.

I was actually inspired to re-create tonight’s dinner after making pasta and spaghetti sauce with my Home Economics classes. With such few ingredients and a great opportunity to make a mess, fresh pasta is a perfect opportunity to get kids into the kitchen, not to mention give them an appreciation for the work it takes to make their favourite food! All of the kids I worked with (grades 1-3) loved the whole process of both dough and sauce making, especially when they got to “play” with the pasta machine!

Fresh Pasta with Quick Tomato Sauce

When it came to whipping up the sauce, I took a hint from a few celebrity chefs (i.e. Michael Smith and Rachael Ray) and added a few “secret”, flavour-packed ingredients that made the 5 minute sauce taste like it simmered all day! The first trick was a combination of plain tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes – when mixed, they made a perfect base that was not too sweet, spicy or acidic. Then I added rich vegetable stock for a long-simmered taste and tamari for a burst of umami flavour. Finally, a piquant zip from a dash of red wine vinegar woke up the dried spices and really lightened the overall mouthfeel, making it perfect for cloaking hand-cranked pasta. Serving it to mixed (and young) company, I opted to keep things smooth and meat-free originally, but when I make it myself I throw in most of the garden too!


Simple Fresh Pasta
Makes just over 1 lb, perfect for 6 (side dish) portions
2 ¾ cups flour, plus more as needed (I used 1 cup semolina flour and 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour – you can swap in up to ½ the flour for whole wheat as well. )
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional, for more nutrition – included in the NI)
¾ cup warm water, plus more as needed
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Combine the flour(s) and salt (and flaxseed if using) in a mixing bowl.
  2. With a spoon, create a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together
  4. Using clean hands, knead in the bowl until the ingredients bind together and it forms into a ball. The dough should not be sticky, but should be moist enough to hold together.
  5. If the dough is too dry at this point you can add water, ¼ tsp at a time, until the dough is more workable. If the dough is too sticky, add a teaspoon of flour at a time, until dough is workable.
  6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
  7. If you find dough too sticky, sprinkle in flour as needed.
  8. Form the dough into a ball and dust the surface with flour.
  9. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  10. After the dough has rested, use a sharp knife to divide the ball of dough into 4 pieces.
  11. Shape each piece into a flattened log, generously flouring each side.
  12. Pass one piece of the dough through the roller part of a pasta maker, beginning on the thickest setting and going down 1-2 notches at a time to your desired thickness.
  13. Alternatively you can roll the dough by hand as thinly as you can.
  14. To cut the pasta, re-flour both sides of the dough sheet and pass it through the cutting mechanism of your pasta maker.
  15. If you don’t have a pasta maker you can cut noodles with a pizza cutter or knife.
  16. Place cut pasta on a cookie sheet coated with flour and dust with extra flour so the noodles do not stick together.
  17. Dry for 15 minutes, then transfer to a plastic container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can freeze the dough in the container up to 3 months.
  18. Boil for approximately 4-5 minutes, or until pasta begins to float to the surface.
  19. If using frozen pasta, do not thaw first (add 2 minutes to the cooking time).

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 242.5
Total Fat: 2.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 195.1 mg
Total Carbs: 45.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 7.8 g

Quick Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 2 cups, 8 servings
1 cup plain low-sodium tomato sauce
1 cup low-sodium crushed tomatoes
¼ cup vegetable or chicken stock*
½ tbsp tamari
½ tbsp sugar
½ tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp fennel seeds

  1. In a pot, mix together all the ingredients until well combined.
  2. Place pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes, then toss with cooked pasta and enjoy!

* I love homemade stock, but when I don’t have any on hand I love to use a quality “cooking stock” like Swanson’s or Imagine brand

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 22.2
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 98.8 mg
Total Carbs: 5.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 0.9 g

Chopped Chicken Ragu

I have this theory that celebrating the birthday of someone is misguided – if anything, the date of your birth should be a celebration of the efforts of the parents who not only have birth to you, but raised to to become the person you are today. It’s not overly conventional thinking, but I’m like that! Plus, it takes the emphasis off of me every April 4 ;-).

Chopped Up Chicken Thigh Ragu


Anyways, with the birthday rant over and with a mind to celebrating my mom in particular, I will turn to a recipe that has become her long-time favourite sauce and/or stew since I made it up for a class project in 2009. As I’ve said numerous times before, we are bona fide veggieholics, and there is almost nothing better than tucking into a dish made with the bounty of the garden or the labours of our local farmers. I originally created the hearty (and gluten-free) mixture of diced chicken thighs, fresh rosemary, carrots, tomatoes and zucchini to be a hearty sauce for pasta or whole grains, and this is still one of the family’s favourite ways to eat it. Using chicken thighs (in place of the usual SBCB) lends the ragu not only a rich flavour but more iron, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, vitamin B-6 and zinc. That said, over the course of time we’ve also adapted it as a stand-alone stew (which is awesome the next day), as well as with various forms of protein like leftover holiday turkey, cubed tofu or cannellini beans.

Regardless of the “meat of the matter”, we almost always keep a container of this stuff (or the ingredients to make it) on hand for a taste of Summer when Spring has barely lifted it’s head!

Holistic Ragu with Leftover Turkey
Post Christmas Shredded Turkey Version!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Chopped Chicken Ragu
Serves 6 as a stand-alone stew, 10 over pasta or grains
½ tbsp olive oil
¾ lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-size pieces
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, peeled and finely grated
¼ cup dry red wine
28 oz low sodium whole tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste (I love my homemade stuff, but when I buy I look for tubes of double concentrated paste)
Black pepper to taste

  1. In a deep pot (I use my cast iron Dutch oven), warm oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the chicken and brown, stirring occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Stir in the onions, zucchini, rosemary leaves and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the carrot and cook, stirring, 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, stirring well, and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes, crushing them into the sauce, then add tomato paste.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding add pepper to taste.
  8. Serve alone or with your favourite grain.

Amount Per Serving (based on 6 servings)
Calories: 257.2
Total Fat: 11.6 g
Cholesterol: 94.7 mg
Sodium: 197.4 mg
Total Carbs: 15.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 23.0 g

Gianduja Creme Filling

When it comes to cravings, the women around here (including myself) simply refuse to ignore the call of the cocoa bean. In particular, my sister and I adore the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate – her, in the form of the classic Nutella spread, while I lean towards the more bittersweet forms of gianduja like this spread. That said, until recently (when my hazelnut allergy developed), I was hard pressed to pass up any confection where the words “chocolate” and “hazelnut” appeared in the description. 

Now that eating them (or even handling the nuts without gloves) is not an option I’ve become even more obsessed with creating treats with those flavours. Call it a sad form of self-torture, but I just can’t stop myself! Luckily, I have lots of willing taste-testers on hand to make sure my goodies pass muster… When it came to this smooth, thick and dark chocolate-hazelnut creme filling, I was lucky to come out of the kitchen with any left to actually fill chocolates with! I can certainly understand, though – while the base recipe is essentially a modified ganache (cream, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, chocolate-hazelnut extract and Frangelico), it truly morphs into a thick, velvety “custard” of sorts  with the addition of guar gum. 

Gianduja Creme Filling

Usually reserved for gluten-free baking in my kitchen, I’ve since discovered it’s handiness for thickening sauces and purees (it has saved my vegan, gluten free stir-fry sauces more than once). Adding even a smidge more than you really need in a dish can drastically change the texture, and by looking at how much is technically required to thicken x amount of liquid I was able to figure out just the right quantity to add for my runny chocolate sauce to become a smooth, pipeable creme. What didn’t get eaten right away, I stashed in a freezer container for filling chocolate shells later on – given the amount of Nutella fans I know, there still won’t be enough to go around!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten Free Fridays

Gianduja Creme Filling
Makes ~2 cups, 32 servings
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup half-and-half cream
1 1/2 cups chopped bittersweet couverture chocolate
2 tbsp Frangelico
1 dram (~1 tsp) super strength chocolate hazelnut flavour (i.e. Lorann’s), optional
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp guar gum

  1. Combine the creams in a measuring cup or small pot and heat until vigorously steaming.
  2. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream overtop. Let stand 3 minutes, then stir to melt the chocolate.
  3. Cool 20 minutes, then whisk in the Frangelico and chocolate hazelnut flavour.
  4. Mix together the cocoa and guar gum, then whisk into the chocolate mixture until well incorporated and beginning to thicken.
  5. Cool to room temperature, then chill (covered) until use.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 66.4
Total Fat: 4.4 g
Cholesterol: 4.9 mg
Sodium: 2.9 mg
Total Carbs: 5.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 0.7 g

Sautéed Bananas on Pain Perdu

One of the things I love teaching my kids about in Home Ec is that you can have delicious, decadent and even exotic food at home for less money and time than a restaurant. While the majority of their parents cook at least some meals at home, a lot of the time the food is your standard “in a rush, feed the kids what they like” fare. I like to take my hour of time each week to challenge them, even in a small way, to think of food outside the supermarket “box”.

This week we made French toast – one of the simplest and cheapest things you can make for any meal of the day. It’s also one of the fastest and most variable dishes I know of, and one I learned very early on at my mother’s hop. Of course, over the years I’ve learned a few tricks and tips along the way to jazz up my version – thoroughly drying out the bread (to a “crouton” texture) so that it soaks up the maximum amount of custard possible is my standard practice now, because it makes even whole grain bread (like what I used today) a perfect base. By adding just a smidge of sugar along with vanilla and nutmeg to the eggs and whole milk, and whisking in my most recent “secret ingredient” – a scoop of custard powder – turns everything into a decadent, creamy sop for the bread and cooks to a crisp exterior while maintaining that “bread pudding” mouthfeel inside.

Finally, there’s the topping. While maple syrup is perfectly acceptable (and wholly supported by me, especially when the dark, grade B version is available), I opted to take my French toast to New Orleans and go a Bananas Foster route. A whack of butter, brown sugar and bananas caramelized slowly before finishing with more vanilla and a touch of lemon juice, making a perfect topping for the Pain Perdu as well as a crepe filling and crown for an open-face peanut butter and banana sandwich. The dregs of banana that were left after 3 days of cooking (the photo showed the batch I made for 30 kids, with 12 bananas!), I pureed into luxurious banana “butter” and baked into some of the richest banana bread I’ve ever made – Heaven!

If you ever wondered what caramelized bananas for 30 looked like...

Sautéed Bananas on Pain Perdu
Makes 8 slices, 4 (generous) adult servings

Bananas:
2 tbsp salted butter
1 ½ tbsp dark brown sugar
3 large, “firmly ripe” bananas, sliced cross-wise into ¼” slices
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ tbsp lemon juice
*Adults – add a splash of bourbon or rum to the bananas when they finish cooking for extra decadence!

Pain Perdu:
3 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder or “cook & serve” vanilla pudding mix (note: eliminate the sugar if using pudding)
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
8 thick slices whole grain bread (I used this)
Non-stick cooking spray

Bananas:

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. When butter begins to bubble, sprinkle in the sugar and cook 2 minutes, without stirring.
  3. Add the bananas and cook, stirring gently to avoid burning, for 2-3 minutes – until tender and caramelized but still holding their shape.
  4. Set aside.

Pain Perdu:

  1. Heat the oven to 275F.
  2. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes per side, until dry but not coloured. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, vanilla custard powder, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a large casserole dish. Set aside.
  4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  5. Place 2 slices of bread in the egg mixture and let soak in the egg mixture for 30 seconds – 1 minute per side. The bread should feel heavy but not fall apart.
  6. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the soaked bread.
  7. Cook until the outside is golden brown and crisp and the inside is cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  8. When the French toast in the pan is almost done cooking, soak the next two slices in the egg mixture.
  9. Move the cooked slices to a plate, slice in half on the diagonal and top with the bananas.
  10. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 486.8
Total Fat: 13.7 g
Cholesterol: 159.6 mg
Sodium: 525.9 mg
Total Carbs: 70.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.7 g
Protein: 16.3 g

Toast Topper #55: Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

About this time during the Winter, I wake up, look out the window and want to yell “will you just be over already?”. Away from the whimsy and joy of the anticipated Christmas / Hanukkah season, the January-March stretch is nothing but dreary, (at times bitter) cold and boring. Sure, there are the standard holidays to “look forward to” – Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras – but I’ll really start celebrating when the temperatures are regularly above 0.

Because this part of the year is so drab, it’s the perfect time for me to dig into a bright, fruity preserve that I made late last Summer when fruit was at it’s peak (and cheap!). The medley began with a pile of local, organic cherries, wild blueberries and crushed pineapple, which I loosened up with a splash of pomegranate-blueberry juice. After the mixture cooked down a touch, things moved double time thanks to a pectin-infused “jam sugar” (the same kind I’ve used before in preserves like this). The hardest part was waiting for it to boil (doubly true if your fruit is frozen, as it likely is now) – but the second hardest thing was waiting overnight for it to fully set. That’s not to say this preserve wouldn’t be delicious right away (hello, vanilla ice cream topping!) but for spreading, that pectin needs to do it’s job. Sigh – the things we must go through for delicious food!

Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam
Makes 4 1/2 cups, 36 (2-tbsp) servings
¾ cup 100% pomegranate-blueberry juice (or 100% pomegranate or cherry juice)
1 cup finely chopped, pitted sweet cherries (do not drain if frozen)
1 cup blueberries (do not drain if frozen)
1 cup diced pineapple, drained if canned
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 kg (1 package) “jam sugar” with added pectin (I used Redpath’s QuickSet for Jam)

  1. Combine juice, cherries, blueberries and pineapple in a pot and mash slightly. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until berries soften and begin to burst.
  3. Add the lemon juice and jam sugar, return to a hard boil and cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Process 10 minutes in a water-bath canner or store in the fridge up to 3 weeks.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 115.7
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.2 mg
Total Carbs: 30.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Vegan Butter – Toast Topper #49

I was always a sucker for butter. Real, semi-salted, cultured pats melting into a freshly toasted bagel or hot biscuit, the rich body and texture a stick lends to shortbread cookies and brioche, the undeniable flavour it lends to scampi and the simplest pasta at dinner. These days, butter’s become less and less popular in my circle of acquaintances, since whether for allergies, intolerances, health issues or ethical dilemmas dairy is more or less back to being the “bad guy”. It’s not like the storebought alternative margarines are excessively healthy either – they are still fat, after all, and the processing is occasionally more dubious than the ingredients themselves. I wanted to see if I could find a less processed (and more importantly, more affordable) version that I could do at home, thus making only what I need and not shelling out 2-3 times the price of a block of butter for hydrogenated (or not) oils.

Vegan Butter

I found my answer on Vegan Baking, where Mattie combined soy milk, coconut oil, lecithin and a little magic to create a great-tasting, cholesterol (and animal) free “stick” ideal for baking or softening for morning toast. I added a dash of butter flavouring for extra oomph, and was thrilled with the results – not exactly like dairy butter, but boy was it close! It even fooled the mixture of butter-holics and die-hard vegans I served it to – they thought I had snuck in the real deal!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Gluten Free Wednesdays

Vegan Butter
Adapted from Vegan Baking
Makes 1 cup, 48 tsp (215g)
5 tbsp unsweetened plain soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp Kosher salt
130 g refined (flavourless) coconut oil
1 tbsp canola oil
½ tsp butter flavouring
1 tbsp soy lecithin granules
¼ tsp guar gum

  1. Mix soy milk, vinegar and salt in a cup and let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the coconut and canola oils just until barely liquid (you need them to be as close to room temperature as possible).
  3. Add to a food processor along with the soy milk mixture, butter flavour, soy lecithin and guar gum.
  4. Process for 4 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through.
  5. Pour the mixture into a mould and place it in the freezer for 1 hour.
  6. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 27.3
Total Fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 12.2 mg
Total Carbs: 0.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.0 g