Adults-Only Chocolate Orange Sauce

As a “grown up”, I’ve gotten used to the fact that some things I could get away with eating as a kid would raise more than a few eyebrows if I tried it now. Spoonfuls of Nutella and/or peanut butter out of the jar, frozen McDonalds french fries (don’t know why my mom used to freeze them but they were so good), corn syrup on toast and tubes of raw cookie dough shared amongst my closest friend all come to mind – along with the reminder that there was a reason I topped 200 pounds in my early teen years. Moderation was preached at home, but when left to my own teenage devices it left the building entirely. 

Adults - Only Chocolate Sauce

One of the other goodies I used to be able to get regularly at the local Tim Hortons was cups of chocolate milk – we’re talking the fountain-drink cups here, with a Large running at 24oz of cold, rich tasting, sweet dairy. With the evolution of the menu (and inevitable price increases for “real” food and skilled labour), the fountain-style chocolate milk disappeared and was replaced with the cartons, just as “freshly made” doughnuts transformed into pre-baked, frozen pucks that are reheated and glazed on site. While carton-style chocolate milk wasn’t the worst thing in the world (and was certainly better than Quik powder), it didn’t quit have the same indulgent feel going for it. When I stopped being able to drink “regular” milk, I started experimenting with a few variations of chocolate pastes, syrups and sauces added to various non-dairy milks – partially to cover up any off flavours and/or textures (looking at you, off-label soy milk and most rice milks) and partially to see if I could get anything to taste similar to what I remembered, dairy or non. 

Luckily, adulthood brought with it the freedom to experiment with extra flavour options, and I took a leaf out of my mom’s “chocolate-orange love” book when I came up with this beauty. The first and foremost flavour in this just-thick-enough syrup is definitely bittersweet chocolate – so much so that the milk chocoholics out there will probably shy away from licking the spoon (more for us!). However, a lingering, ever-so-subtle whisper of orange creeps in afterwards thanks to a hint of Grand Marnier. It’s not cooked out, hence the “adults only” moniker, but it is definitely a throwback to after-school snacks as a kid. The syrup is just thick enough to make for an artistic drizzle over cake, ice cream or fruit, but my personal favourite is to add a shot to a (cashew milk) caffe latte for a wicked twist on a hot mocha. I’ve yet to test it out on the heavier drinkers here making cocktails though – let me know what your favourite would be!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Adults-Only Chocolate Orange Sauce
Makes ~12 fl. oz, 12 (1 fl. oz) servings
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp amber agave (or honey, if not vegan)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch salt
½ tbsp Clear Jel
2 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp Grand Marnier
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Combine the water, sugars, agave, cocoa and salt in a pot over medium heat, whisking to combine.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the Clear Jel and cold water and add to the simmering mixture. 
  4. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat, stir in the Grand Marnier and vanilla and pour into a jar or bottle.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 44.3
Total Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.2 mg
Total Carbs: 11.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 0.3 g

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Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam Toast Topper #69

Strawberry and rhubarb jam has, I believe, become my new favourite flavour of Toast Topper. I’m not an overly sweet person when it comes to fruit (I love tart cherries and raspberries, for example), especially in the summer when it’s a billion degrees out. Luckily, our garden is bursting with rhubarb, which tempers the saccharine nature of the perfect local berries finally making it to market. 

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam

Of course, it is jam we’re talking about, and when I make preserves for holiday gift giving, the sugar does play a certain role in that respect. Most pectin demands sugar to work, and while I’m always playing with low-sugar options like Pomona’s and Ball’s, but sometimes having the convenience of perfectly proportioned ingredients trumps fancy-dancy fine tooling. Since I can a lot of things at a time to conserve energy (water bath canners take forever to heat up!), by jam #4 I’m getting ready to call it a day. Not willing to toss the ingredients into the freezer for another day, thereby admitting defeat, I pulled out one of my fail-safe jamming secrets when time is short – sugar with pectin already added and mixed in. Using the bag of that set up a ton of strawberries and rhubarb, and thanks to the natural thickening properties of rhubarb, the mix gelled more than the directions say it will (meaning less sugar per serving!). 

Since it still seemed a bit too sweet for my taste, and mom loves the combination of strawberries and black pepper, I chopped up a handful of my beautiful, zippy homegrown nasturtium blossoms and tossed them in with a dash of white pepper for interest! The floral peppery-ness really amps up the fresh flavours of the berries, and is definitely something I will continue to do!

Are you a fan of savoury and sweet combinations (like pepper and strawberries)?

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam
Makes 8 cups, 64 2-tbsp servings
600g (~4.2 cups) fresh or frozen whole strawberries, thawed if frozen
2 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/3 cup chopped nasturtium blossoms, plus 8 whole ones
1 full bag (1 kg / 5.218 cups) Redpath’s QuickSet for Jam (or another jelling sugar, around here it’s either Redpath or Lantic)

  1. Combine the berries, rhubarb, water, lemon juice and pepper in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Cook, mashing berries and rhubarb to a chunky pulp, for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chopped nasturtium blossoms and Quickset and bring to a full boil.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars and top each with a whole nasturtium flower.
  6. Seal and process in a waterbath for 10 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 69.2
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.2 mg
Total Carbs: 17.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars #CreativeCookieExchange

Wow. I don’t know what’s happened to my brain these days, but I am all out of focusing power. Since I have the summer “off” (fellow teachers know that’s a huge lie), I’ve been stuck in the mentality that I’m “multitasking” during the day when in reality I’m doing a lot of things and getting none of them done. It’s been hot as blazes the past week or so too, meaning that the oven is off 90% of the time (which also saves us on energy costs), whatever fruit I glean from the farmers market with the eventual goal of turning into jam is banished to the freezer, and the ice cube trays are getting a workout. That said, I have learned that frozen lemon slices are perfect for chilling large cups of water, T-shirts make great re-usable shopping bags, a pair of socks can turn into an owl and I’m better at altering clothing than I thought.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars



Normally at this time of year I’d also be regaling you with stories about the garden’s glorious bounty. While the produce and herbs are coming along perfectly fine themselves, we unfortunately have attracted a family or two of voles, which have decimated all my early harvest lettuce, kale, heirloom peppers and some of my prized heirloom tomatoes. Until those pests are under control for good, I’ve decided to patrol my little plot every morning, filling in holes and mourning my losses. Needless to say, this year’s haul might be somewhat spartan, and this realization has slightly deadened my usual drive to live the kitchen, heat be damned.

What has convinced me to crank up the oven lately are the almost weekly BBQ cookouts my family has. Voles aside, we have a spacious, well taken care of and (if I say so myself) rather pretty backyard, and now that our gazebo is once again securely anchored and screened in after an early season windstorm, it’s a decently comfortable location for a small group to dine. While mom takes care of making the burgers, corn, salads and fruit trays, she’s often too pressed for time to think about a secondary dessert option. I’m not saying fruit isn’t a good Summer sweet, but one can only have so many slices of watermelon in an afternoon, and when there are kids involved you know eventually one of them is going to pine for “real dessert”! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

In the interest of pleasing both the sweet teeth of all our guests as well as the goals of many of the adults to stay svelte this season (and their desire to limit the kids’ sugar consumption) I devised these thin, cake-like banana bars. Essentially squares of indulgent chocolate-chip banana bread, they get a dense crumb and light tang from cream cheese that makes them perfect for a backyard BBQ or picnic lunch. The recipe makes a big pan’s worth and freezes beautifully, making the most of your oven time in the midst of the summer heat. With all the chocolate chips peppered throughout, you’d never suspect they were vegan, nut free and full of fibre from oats and whole wheat. If you need to dress it up, just spoon over a handful of seasonal berries and grab a fork! 

For #CreativeCookieExchange this month, we’ve decided that cheese makes everything better – even cookies! Sweet or savoury, you can find all sorts of inspiration here!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars
Makes one 15×10 inch jelly roll pan, 36 pieces
¼ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
½ cup cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp Lyle’s golden syrup (or corn syrup)
4 mashed over-ripe bananas
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup rolled oats
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips 

  1. Heat the oven to 350F and line a 15×10″ jelly roll pan with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, beat together shortening, cream cheese, sugars, vanilla, golden syrup and bananas until smooth.
  3. Whisk together the flours, oats, nutmeg, baking powder and salt and add to the banana mixture, mixing to combine.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until firm.
  6. Cool completely in the pan before slicing

 Amount Per Serving
Calories: 104.5
Total Fat: 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 20.5 mg
Total Carbs: 18.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 1.6 g

Blue Raspberry Chia Jam: Toast Topper #68

Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. Around here, especially in the height of summer, our table sings with the bounty of both our backyard and the local farms that sell on the market days. It’s a time that flies by way too fast in my opinion, since it seems like only yesterday I was hauling my first load of rhubarb from and planting my tomato seedlings in the garden, and now we’re halfway through July!

Anyways, my latest foray into the farmer’s market netted me with two boxes of wild Ontario blueberries, which (after careful taste testing!) were carefully stashed away from prying fingers. I had picked up a bag of frozen Ontario raspberries the week before, and had been grabbing the occasional handful right out of the freezer after a few hours in the 35C heat in our backyard, and it occurred to me to combine the two fruits in a lightly sweetened, lightning-fast Toast Topper. After all, we had a fresh loaf of Pain au Levain to gild!

Blue-Raspberry Chia Jam

I’m not kidding, either, when I say this recipe is an exercise in simplicity – or frugality. It can be as easily made in the dead of winter with frozen berries as in the height of summer with fresh, and doesn’t contain any added sugar – the minimal boost in sweetness for this batch came from a boiled apple syrup I cooked down from fresh juice and tempered with added lemon juice and zest. To thicken the medley of berries, a dose of chia seeds went to work, making for a spread that is not so stiff that you have to cut through it with a knife (yech!) but thick enough not to run off your bagel in the morning. While the mixture is less alien today than a year or two ago when the chia craze first hit, I’ve still yet to find many people (outside of my Home Ec classes!) that have truly tasted it like this. Hopefully this recipe will spark another group of eager eaters!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Blue Raspberry Chia Jam
Makes 2 cups, 16 (2 tbsp) servings
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tbsp Boiled Apple Cider Syrup (I made my own but you can use this too)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp raw sugar (optional, I didn’t use any)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chia seeds

  1. Combine berries, syrup, zest and sugar (if using) in a medium pot and bring to a simmer, mashing the berries slightly. Cook 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and chia seeds.
  3. Process in a waterbath for 25 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 16.8
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.4 mg
Total Carbs: 3.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 0.4 g

Pain au Levain avec Banane #BreadBakers

Pain of whatnow?

Relax, the fancy-schmancy French name I gave the hearty, crusty boule made for this month’s #BreadBakers event simply means Banana Sourdough. There’s only six ingredients – five if you don’t count water – and there’s no added sugar at all. All the sweetness comes from the namesake fruit, and in lieu of added butter or oil, a scoop of all natural cashew butter adds the “peanut butter and banana sandwich” nuance along with everlasting moisture.

Pain au Levain avec Banane et Blé Entier

Of course, sourdough anything, regardless of the sweetener or fat used, is usually far from being a mindless pursuit. There’s a starter to maintain (sort of… mine pretty much lives in the fridge unless I decide to bake one morning), baking stones to heat in the oven, and hours upon hours to wait for each rise. I’m not denying these steps exist with this loaf, either. They do – from almost a full day, followed by an overnight, rise as well as multiple stretch-and-folds in place of a one-shot knead. However, all this fuss and time allows the relatively heavy dough to strengthen, rise and eventually shape nicely into it’s final round.

Looking at it, of course, it’s not impressive. In fact, the perfectly baked loaf is pedestrian at best, not large or beautifully embellished with washes, score marks or egg paint. It’s something that would sit in the breadbox, untouched by passerby – and definitely nothing that would fly out of a boulangerie. The secret to this bread only reveals itself when it’s cut into – and even without butter or any other Toast Topper I dare you to declare it’s not delicious!

Pain au Levain avec Banane et Blé Entier

All our naturally sweetened breads:

BreadBakers

#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.

In brackets, I have included the baker’s percentages so you can easily scale up or down as you need.

Pain au Levain avec Banane 
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf
Makes 1 loaf, 20 slices

350g 100% hydration, recently fed (preferably rye) sourdough starter    (100%)

350g whole wheat bread flour  (100%)
246g mashed banana  (70.18%)
55g smooth cashew butter (this is my current fave) (15.79%)
49g water  (14.04%)
11g salt (3.16%) – use less if your cashew butter is heavily salted

  1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  2. Mix ingredients on low speed for 2 minutes, just to combine, then cover and let rest 20 minutes.
  3. Knead for 12 minutes on medium-low speed. 
  4. Cover and let rise 2 ½ hours, stretching and folding (30-40 times) every 50 minutes.
  5. Cover and let rise, undisturbed, for 2 hours.
  6. Place in the fridge overnight.
  7. Bring to room temperature, shape into a round loaf and let rise 4 hours on a sheet of parchment.
  8. Meanwhile, place a baking stone in the oven and heat to 410F.
  9. Transfer dough (on the parchment) to the stone and bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Reduce temperature to 375F, tent with foil and bake another 25 minutes.
  11. When fully baked, the loaf will be 190F internally.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 118.6
Total Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.6 mg
Total Carbs: 23.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.8 g
Protein: 3.7 g  

Kheer #SundaySupper

Is there anything more comforting than a big bowl of rice pudding? While the bulk of my experiences with the grainy dessert growing up were the result of opening and dumping a can into a couple bowls, dad and I were suckers for the stuff (nobody else, by the way, even remotely likes it here). Today, if you were to ask me to name what I crave in times of stress, you’d hear me wax poetic about the thick, creamy pudding warmed up in the microwave and shoveled down as fast as I could. Heck, even cold, a spoonful from the fridge could cure wonders.

I wanted to bring the great memories of sharing rice pudding to my Home Ec class this past year, and since we were working on a “food around the world” theme, I turned to the only other country with a rice pudding that I knew of – India. Kheer, as it’s called, is not always 100% rice based though – recipes vary from using wheat, tapioca, or vermicelli noodles as the starch and anything from cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, nuts and sesame seeds to flavour it. The version I made for class was culled from one of my old college professors and was what was served at her son’s first birthday – leftover cooked rice elevated by re-cooking it in thickened milk, coconut milk, saffron and sweet spices before being garnished with softened raisins and dates. It sounded absolutely incredible – even to someone allergic to coconut such as me!

Making this exotic comfort food is even easier than making rice (to me, anyways… I’m stovetop-rice challenged). The kids – from 6 to 8 years old – all had at least one heaping spoonful, and some even took extras home after polishing off thirds! What made it home with me was eagerly purloined by my dad to rave reviews (probably a good thing, otherwise I’d be making ice cream with the thick, custardy mixture and trying to figure out what to do with it then!). If you and your family can tolerate dairy and coconut, I really wouldn’t worry about the leftovers sticking around too long though!

A #bowlful of #Coconut #Raisin Kheer (rice pudding ) for a #glutenfree #snacktime

You know what else uses a lot of coconut? Piña Coladas! National Piña Colada Day is today, and those in the know are toasting the combination of coconut, pineapple and rum with their own libations. To our credit, the #SundaySupper gang is sharing over 40 coconut recipes today, with both sweet and savory dishes, breakfasts and drinks, almost anything you could think of! Check out our offerings below and don’t forget to leave a comment telling me your favourite coconut dish!

Great Starts

Dive in with Sides and Appetizers

Coco-Nutty Main Dishes

“Col-lots-a” Desserts

Sweet to Sip Beverages

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Kheer
serves 8

1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ cup whole milk powder
pinch saffron (optional)
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
¾ cup full-fat, canned coconut milk
¼ cup coconut sugar
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
⅓ cup raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
¼ cup chopped soft dates (soak with the raisins if they’re too dry)
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the milk, milk powder, saffron (if using) and cooked rice, whisking well.
  2. Heat until the mixture begins to boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture begins to thicken – about 5 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, cardamom and cinnamon.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture just begins to thicken again, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. When mixture begins to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the raisins and dates.
  6. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled – if chilling, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to avoid forming a “skin”.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 148.0
Total Fat: 5.3 g
Cholesterol: 8.5 mg
Sodium: 39.5 mg
Total Carbs: 22.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 3.7 g

Orange Tofu Noodles

It has been ages since I’ve had good old-fashioned Chinese (Canadian) food. Since becoming the Italian-centric blended family we are, the household’s general eating out attention has been on Canadian “bar and grill”, pizza or burger joints. In fact, aside from my 2-3 sushi restaurant trips a year, Americanized European fare is as “exotic” as we get. That said, Mom and I, in particular, adore Asian-style cuisine, and when it has the balanced flavours of the culture with a ton of veggies as well, we’re in like dirty shirts! While she’s retired now, I still make Mom her lunches (and bread) for the week so she can grab-and-go something slightly more nutritious than a can of soup or a deli-meat sandwich. 

This time around, I had a mission in mind – an (almost) vegan, gluten free noodle bowl packed with all sorts of goodies from the garden and local farms. I started with a hearty mixture of carrots, broccoli and onions that I had prepped and frozen last year, fleshing it out with greenhouse zucchini and Ontario sweet potato that I spiralized for extra bulk. The noodles themselves were spaghetti from the new Barilla Gluten Free line of pastas, that I cooked in vegetable broth for extra “oomph” – and that I’m excited to say not only hold their shape better than most “normal” noodles but taste identical (I just wish they were whole grain, but small miracles!). 

Cooking up #glutenfree yummies with #sanj and #barilla #cooking #healthyfood #foodie #vegan #vegetarian #instafood #yum

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Protein wise, I turned to my ever-present stockpile of various tofu, opting for Vitasoy Organic Black Soybean TofuPlus, one of my all time favourites, marinated in a bottle of San-J Orange Sauce amped up with ginger, garlic and extra sweet, sour and salty flavours. The sauce contains honey (the reason this is “almost vegan”) but generally is more fruity than syrupy, adding a decadent flavour to the tofu and blanketing the noodles and veggies perfectly. The finished dish was delicious hot (right out of the pot… shhh!), but equally delicious cold the next day – just like stereotypical Chinese take out, with none of the “mystery” ingredients, excess fat or crazy sodium levels!

Orange Tofu Noodles

 Shared with Gluten Free Fridays


Orange Tofu Noodles
Makes 8 generous servings

800g (2 blocks) Vitasoy Organic Black Soybean TofuPlus (or your favourite firm tofu), frozen, thawed, drained and pressed
200 ml (just over ¾ cup) San-J Orange Sauce
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp low sodium tamari
1 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 large sweet potato
1 large zucchini
4 cups gluten free vegetable broth
1 box (12 oz) Barilla Gluten Free Spaghetti
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced into half moons
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped broccoli
¼ cup minced cilantro
  1. Cube the tofu and place in a shallow casserole dish.
  2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the Orange Sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar, tamari and rice syrup.
  3. Pour 3/4 of the sauce mixture over the tofu and stir gently to coat all sides. Cover and let stand while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Reserve remaining sauce.
  4. Using a spiralizer, julienne peeler or sharp knife, cut sweet potato and zucchini into “spaghetti” strands. Place into different bowls and set aside.
  5. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot and add the spaghetti. Cook for 8 minutes, then add sweet potato and cook 2 minutes.
  6. Reserve 2 cups of broth and add to the reserved sauce mixture, then drain pasta mixture and set aside.
  7. In the same pot, heat sesame oil over medium high.
  8. Add the onion and carrots and cook until softened.
  9. Add the broccoli, tofu and spiralized zucchini. Cook until broccoli begins to soften and turn bright green.
  10. Add the pasta mixture and reserved sauce mixture. Cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are combined and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
  11. Fold in cilantro and serve.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 362.7
Total Fat: 7.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 624.5 mg
Total Carbs: 60.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 13.2 g

A Study in Apple Pie

Happy Canada Day everyone! I can’t believe I’ve been writing this little blog for 9 years now – with a little blurb, a love of food, and a bored brain full of ideas. I’ve been through quite a few changes over the years, and the blog has seen the subtle shifts as I’ve grown, developed, and learned to “adult” as opposed to “student” or “invalid”. I joined up with The Recipe Redux and The Sunday Supper crews, which keep me mostly on track with blogging (thanks!), and while I’m not the most regular of posters, I still try my best to share the joys (and the occasional frustrations) the kitchen brings me.

These days, I am gloriously happy (most days!) teaching Home Economics in the school I grew up in, taking care of my cat, Dish, and cooking and baking as much as I possibly can. Who knows what the next year will bring? Hopefully, you’ll all stick around to find out.

So for this special day, I decided to do a little R&D for that aforementioned Home Ec class – a study in apple pie, if you will. Apple pie is American, you say?? Well, the USA may be known as the “owner” of apple pie, but I’ve grown up with enough apple picking, pie making, and pie-eating to know that we have equal stake. Extra if you add a slice of old Cheddar cheese on the side. Now, our “mom standard” around here is very, very plain-Jane: as in no sweetener, butter, and half the time not even cinnamon (we get distracted when we bake!). No, our Fall Harvest pies are just crust (made with shortening, but not the Crisco recipe anymore since it doesn’t behave the same with their new formula) and Northern Spies piled up as high as we can go. They are still some of the best pies I ever remember eating, and as a kid I would not touch a storebought one becaue it was “too sweet”.

But when have I ever followed the rules? Looking back at this blog, every apple pie recipe I’ve shared has had some sort of adornment. I’ve learned that (especially cooking for kids), most people are so used to the sweetened crusts and fillings of pie from bakeries or grocery stores that ours is “flat” to their tastebuds. That said, when one of my students started bringing in to-die-for tarts she called “apple tarts with caramel”, and wrote me a request that we make them in class this coming year, I had to try and figure out what actually went into them. Thankfully, her mom pointed me in the direction of the recipe she used – the infamous Apple Pie by Grandma Ople recipe from Allrecipes. Looking at the recipe, I can see why it’s so popular – how can you go wrong with butter and sugar and a lattice crust? I was hoping for something a little more streamlined, though (I only have an hour for lessons), so I decided to try a few other options too and see what still gave the “caramel” feel with less effort (yes, I said effort. I’m managing up to 15 Grade Ones this year!).

A Study in Apple Pie for Canada Day

So, armed with my trusty muffin tin and strips of parchment for easy removal, I tried three different options (using my mom’s crust recipe, but with added instant oatmeal for texture). The first one (on the right of the photo) was filled with my variation of the Caramelized Apples recipe on rouxbe.com, using salted butter (it’s all we use at home), a pinch of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of honey (love my local honey!!). Next (in the middle) came the “original”, a scaled-down Ople pie, using salted butter, oat flour instead of all purpose simply because it was on hand, and with more water (it was clumping too much with the amount as written). Lastly, I wanted to make Bright Eyed Baker’s fantastic DIY Caramel Sauce (which has worked for me before) and drizzle that on top of the apples, but when I added the milk it split and curdled, and I wound up tossing the batch. Instead, I opted to try a mock “condensed milk”, adding a pinch of cinnamon and only reducing the sugar and milk for a few minutes, until syrupy. Those are on the far left.

Overall, looking at the options, I kind of like the first ones best. First, the recipe cooks the apples, meaning they’ll shrink less in the oven (read: more apples per bite!), second, cooking the apples in the butter / sugar mixture allows them to really soak up the butterscotchy flavour of the brown sugar, and they release their juices too. After filling the shells with the strained apples, I drizzled each with a little of that sauce left in the bottom of the pot (which I let reduce a little as I sorted the apples), and the rest makes an awesome syrup for anything appley! (For adults, I’d even add a half-shot of butterscotch schnapps to the filling mixtures… but you do you!). Regardless of the one you like, it’s always important to let the pies cool completely before digging in so the juices can set. Reheat them in a low oven afterwards!

Looking at all three, what would your pick be?

Caramelized Apple Tartlets
Makes 3 tartlets
1 tbsp salted butter
1/2 tsp honey (I used a dark amber one made by our neighbours, which could be any variety)
2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1 whole tart apple (such as a granny smith), peeled and diced

  1. Heat the oven to 400F and line 3 muffin cups with a strip of parchment.
  2. Fit rounds of pie dough into the lined cups, allowing 1/2″ overhang around the edges.
  3. In a small pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the honey, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the apples and cook, stirring, until they begin to collapse and release their juices – about 4 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat (leave the pot on the burner) and, using a slotted spoon (I used a fork, which does the same thing!), fill the tartlets up to the lip.
  7. Drizzle with reduced sauce, then fold over the edges of the pastry to slightly encase the filling.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.

Almost Ople’s Apple Tartlets
Makes 3
1 whole tart apple (such as a granny smith), peeled and diced
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp oat flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp boiling water

  1. Heat the oven to 400F and line 3 muffin cups with a strip of parchment.
  2. Fit rounds of pie dough into the lined cups, allowing 1/2″ overhang around the edges.
  3. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Make an “X” with scraps of pie dough overtop of the apples.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Stir in flour and cook 30 seconds – 1 minute, until “pasty” and not “floury” smelling.
  6. Add the sugars and stir, then stream in the water and bring to a brisk simmer.
  7. Let simmer, stirring, until the mixture is thick and creamy – about 2 minutes.
  8. Gently spoon the sugar and butter liquid over the crust and apples in the muffin tin.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes.

Sweet Milk Apple Tartlets
Makes 3
1 whole tart apple (such as a granny smith), peeled and diced
3 tbsp whole milk
3 tbsp sugar
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt

  1. Heat the oven to 400F and line 3 muffin cups with a strip of parchment.
  2. Fit rounds of pie dough into the lined cups, allowing 1/2″ overhang around the edges.
  3. Fill with apples, mounded slightly.
  4. In a small pot, heat the milk, sugar, cinnamon and salt until briskly simmering.
  5. Cook, swirling the pan often, until the milk starts to reduce and possibly take a hint of colour (it may be hard to see because of the cinnamon, but the thickness should be like a syrup).
  6. Spoon over the apples, then fold over the edges of the pastry to slightly encase the filling.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes.

Chufa Chocolate Chippers

Are you a “chunky” type of chocolate chipper? Growing up, you’d never catch me with chunks of anything other than chocolate in my cookies – raisins, chopped nuts and seeds, granola were verboten by us kids, and my poor chocolate chip-pecan-oatmeal cookie loving mom obliged year after year, batch after batch. Eventually I started to come around to the “heartier” side of things, but I never really liked the semi-bitter flavour that walnuts and pecans brought to the sweet party, not to mention I could barely bring “nutted” goodies anywhere anyway, after the explosion of allergies in schools, camps and even some offices.

Chufa Chocolate Chippers

Luckily, as years passed and I started paying attention to alternative options, I devised a recipe that had all the texture my mom (and many others) desired, but was allergy-friendly too. In the end, the basic formula switched extremes in a way – from being packed with nuts, eggs, dairy, refined sugar and gluten to lacking every single one of those. My secret was a blend of sorghum flour, ground chufa nuts (AKA Tigernuts) and sunflower seed flour for the base “dough” – making for a sweet and earthy cookie – then adding chopped Tigernuts for texture and a stevia/agave mix for sweetening. A few batches in and I was starting to get requests for them – leading to a bag of them in everyone’s Christmas boxes last year!

A note, which applies to almost all gluten free baking and certainly good chocolate chip cookie manufacturing: let the dough rest. In this case, it’s not to relax the gluten (there isn’t any!) but to allow the dough to hydrate – no sandy gluten free cookies!
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Shared with Gluten Free Fridays (#200!)

Chufa Chocolate Chippers
Makes 24
¼ cup canola oil
¼ tsp stevia extract powder
½ tsp vanilla
⅓ cup water
1 tbsp agave nectar
100g tigernut flour
50g sunflower seed flour
50g sorghum flour
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
½ tsp guar gum
pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
⅓ cup miniature chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped tigernuts (optional)

  1. In a bowl, beat together the oil, stevia, vanilla, water and corn syrup until blended.
  2. Beat in the flours, flaxseed, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips and tigernuts.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment.
  6. Scoop 1 tbsp balls of dough and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool on the sheet.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 85.9
Total Fat: 5.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.2 mg
Total Carbs: 9.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 2.3 g

Extra-Buttery Snickerdoodles

I’ve become addicted to the combination of cinnamon, honey and butter. Ever since  making and sharing my Scented Cinnamon Honey Butter, I’ve been making batches every few weeks, both for spreading on bread and baking with. Since the Ethereal Spice Cake was such a hit – using the spread, cream cheese and aquafaba to boot – I thought the next step would have to be another spiced offering.

Extra-Buttery Snickerdoodles

What better option to showcase the flavours of butter and cinnamon than a snickerdoodle? I came late to the snickerdoodle fan club, but when they’re homemade, I’m totally on board. These ones were customized to my own personal tastes – tender and moist, with a little tang from cream cheese, extra richness from buttery Kamut flour, vanilla and butter extract and a nice hit of butterscotch schnapps! To make them without eggs, I tried my hand at a direct aquafaba one-to-one substitution. It worked fantastically and kept the balance of tenderness and chew (from bread flour) in check. A roll in crushed cinnamon cereal adds an unexpected layer of texture, all while adding to the cinnamon flavour. Perfection for a cinnamon-toast person like me, and the kids who shared in my bounty!

Extra-Buttery Snickerdoodles

Extra-Buttery Snickerdoodles
Makes ~36
¼ cup Scented Cinnamon Honey Butter, at room temperature
¼ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
½ cup cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
6 tbsp aquafaba
2 tbsp butterscotch schnapps
1 tsp butter extract
½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup flour
½ cup Kamut flour
⅔ cup whole wheat bread flour

Coating: 
crushed cinnamon cereal (I used Nature’s Path Jungle Munch® Cereal) or graham cracker crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Beat together the butter, shortening, cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the aquafaba, beating until smooth.
  4. Beat in the schnapps, extracts, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add the flours, mixing until totally incorporated.
  6. Place the crushed cereal or crumbs in a medium-sized zip-top plastic bag.
  7. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the bag and shake until they’re completely coated.
  8. Space the cookies at least 1 ½” apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a flat-bottom glass to flatten them.
  9. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool them on the pan until they’re firm enough to transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 70.4
Total Fat: 3.8 g
Cholesterol: 7.0 mg
Sodium: 18.8 mg
Total Carbs: 8.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 1.0 g