Monster Cookie Mix in a Jar for a Gift Giving #SundaySupper

While I’m not a fan of the holidays in general, I do love one thing about them – making and giving gifts. It’s so rewarding to see the looks on people’s faces when they unwrap something you’ve crafted with love, just for them. Even if you (like us) make batches and batches of cookies, then divide them up between recipients, the fact that it’s homemade with the giving spirit in mind means so much more than spending thousands of dollars at the store. Homemade gifts are almost always enjoyed (since there are so many things you can make and give!), particularly those involving food, and on the whole they cost a lot less per person to concoct!

I actually chose this recipe (adapted from the fabulous Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine by Shaina Olmanson) for a few reasons. First, it’s a cookie mix, and who doesn’t like cookies? Second, I was testing recipes from the book so that I could write my review and was hooked by the fact that it had no flour and pretty candy-covered chocolate pieces (translation: I could use Hallowe’en leftovers!). Third, I had the perfect recipient in mind – my hairstylist who loves to eat (especially sweets… I’m jealous of her svelte figure!) but who claims she can’t cook worth a darn. Well, I was determined to show her that she can bake some delicious, easy cookies too! And it really is easy, and fun, to do. Neither whipping up the mix (which you can make for yourself and keep in the pantry!) nor mixing the final cookies with regular butter, peanut butter, vanilla and eggs, is likely to cause a sweat or a kitchen catastrophe. And, as most of us foodies know, once you bake your first batch of anything and taste it, you’re hooked on the victory!

Susan, AKA The Wimpy Vegetarian, suggested the theme of “Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen” for this week’s Sunday Supper. Our contributors – over 50 this week – rose to the challenge with a huge array of breads, drinks, condiments, snacks, and desserts! Check out what we’re giving out below:

Breads / Breakfast

Condiments / Ingredients

Soup and Snacks



Please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper on November 11. In the evening we will meet at 7pm EST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat.

Monster Cookie Mix in a Jar
Makes 1 quart-jar of mix
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (or regular if you can’t find vanilla sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/4 cups rolled oats (not instant, I used a mix of “quick” 3-minute and thick-cut “10-minute” oats)
1 cup assorted candy, nuts and/or fruit (I used a box of Smarties and 2/3 cup of Chocolicious Snack Mix from Bulk Barn)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

  1. Mix together the vanilla sugar, baking soda and salt in a small dish and place in the bottom of a 1-quart jar.
  2. Layer with the oats, then the candy, brown sugar and chocolate chips.
  3. Seal the jar and attach directions, below:

To prepare Monster Cookies:
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural or unsweetened)
2 tbsp salted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (if you didn’t use vanilla sugar in the mix)
1 jar Monster Cookie Jar Mix

  1. Mix together the peanut butter, butter, eggs and vanilla (if using) until well combined.
  2. Add the jar mix and stir well to combine.
  3. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F and line three cookie sheets with parchment.
  5. Form 2″ balls and place no less than 2″ apart on the sheets.
  6. Bake 14 minutes.
  7. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
  8. Makes 24 cookies.

Amount Per Serving (1 jar dry mix)
Calories: 2,408.3
Total Fat: 57.5 g
Cholesterol: 14.7 mg
Sodium: 1,956.6 mg
Total Carbs: 488.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 26.6 g
Protein: 39.8 g

Amount Per Prepared Cookie
Calories: 162.6
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 18.6 mg
Sodium: 131.9 mg
Total Carbs: 21.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 4.2 g


Dark Rye with Fruit and Spicy Cacao

I love fruit of almost any kind. chances are, if there’s a fruit platter out at a party, I’m filling my plate more than once and offering to take home the leftovers. But, I have a confession – in most circumstances, I absolutely abhor fruit with or in anything. There are exceptions, of course, like banana bread, pies and some sweet things like apple squares, but in general I like my fruit on it’s own.

 My mom, on the other hand, is the antithesis of my “fruit-no-touchy” rule: the more things she can add it to the better! Like me, she’s a chocoholic, and she’s a hearty “peasant-style” bread fan too, so when it came time to figure out what I could bake up for her for this year’s World Bread Day (7th edition!) I looked into my freezer and baking stash for something to really shine. I came across some black cherries I had frozen earlier in the year, and immediately thought of the cacao nibs and rye flour in the cupboard.

Chocolate and cherries are one of the glaring cases of the “exception to the rule” I mentioned above. Provided they’re fresh, sour cherries dipped at home into quality bittersweet chocolate that’s barely allowed to set before being popped into my mouth – I’ve tried storebought and restaurant versions and they just don’t compare to that experience.

With the cherries, cacao and rye flour, I began to build my vision. Ground coffee and some unsweetened cocoa came into play, which made me think of my Chunky Aztec Chocolate Granola. That, of course, meant Demerara sugar, ancho chili powder, cinnamon and raisins too, and I rounded out the “tang” of traditional rye with a dose of Greek yogurt. To add a touch of moisture to the bread, since ryes are notorious for drying out, I also added some whole milk and a few egg yolks, which worked beautifully. Roasting the cherries allowed me to control the “wetness” of the dough too, though it’s still fairly sticky. The finished boule is low-rising, dense and lightly spiced, with occasional “pops” of cherry, raisin or cacao laced throughout.

World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! Bake loaf of bread on October 16 and blog about it!

Also submitted to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast

Dark Rye with Fruit and Spicy Cacao
Makes 1 large loaf, 20 slices
6 oz fresh or frozen (thawed) black cherries
1 cup nonfat, plain Greek style yogurt
1 cup whole milk, warmed
1/4 cup Demerara sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour
1 tbsp finely ground coffee beans (not instant coffee)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cacao nibs
2 tbsp dark raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1 tbsp rolled oats, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Spread the cherries out in one layer.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, then chop roughly and scrape into a bowl. Cool completely.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and salt. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together the yeast, flours, coffee, cocoa, ancho chili powder and cinnamon.
  6. Add the yogurt mixture and start the mixer. Mix/knead for 15 minutes on low speed. It will be very sticky.
  7. Cover and allow to rest 40 minutes.
  8. Deflate dough and with greased hands (or a bench scraper) knead in the cherries, cacao nibs and raisins. Re-cover and let rest 30 minutes.
  9. Deflate dough and, with greased hands, shape into a round loaf and place on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silicone.
  10. Cover and let rise 40 minutes.
  11. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  12. Bake 50 minutes, covering with foil after 20 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 126.3
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 22.3 mg
Sodium: 18.3 mg
Total Carbs: 23.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.3 g
Protein: 4.8 g

Peanut Butterscotch Banana Bread Puddings

I love baking for my dad. It had been a while since I made a treat for him, and when I came across a Salted Caramel Banana Bread Pudding in my copy of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich I was won over by a combination of elements: first, the ingredients were easy to access, affordable and (above all) delicious. Second, bread pudding in general is dead-simple to whip up, and who doesn’t have a few crusts of bread (or in my case, leftover panini buns) hanging around? Finally, the presentation of the puddings as individual desserts rather than one big casserole meant that I could scale it as needed and that leftovers wouldn’t get that weird “film” most custards do when refrigerated. Whenever I think of bread pudding, I think of him, and knew that with a few tweaks to the recipe I could come up with something fantastic that was definitely to my dad’s tastes.

Aside from adoring bananas and bread pudding (or anything custardy in general) my dad is also a big fan of butterscotch and peanut butter. While I know salted caramel is a “big thing” these days, I found a butterscotch sauce recipe in Medrich’s book as well that I couldn’t wait to try out. I took some major liberties with the mixture along the way, though, using coconut milk in place of the heavy cream, extra Scotch and peanut butter for the standard dairy butter. I was terrified that the whole thing would blow up in my face – but you know what? It worked! I got a silky smooth, dark and rich mixture that became the “magic” with the bread pudding mixture.

Since I did not have the 6-oz ramekins Medrich calls for in the book, nor could I find any, I dug up some old (oven safe) coffee mugs from the basement and used those. The slices of stale, whole grain panini bun that I used were the perfect size for the cups, and the flavour of the whole wheat lent an additional nuttiness that played off well with the peanut butter sauce. I tossed in some extra bananas just because my dad likes them, and the custard was cobbled together from the end of a carton of no-cholesterol egg substitute, Coconut Dream®, and a touch of caramel-flavoured stevia. All in all it was a rich, decadent dessert that somehow I can see being eaten for Sunday brunch… who am I to judge?

Peanut Butterscotch Banana Bread Puddings
Makes 4 coffee mug sized puddings, 8 servings
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup Peanut Butterscotch Sauce (see below)
2 whole grain panini buns, sliced thinly crosswise and lightly toasted
3 ripe bananas, sliced on an angle into 14″ thick pieces
3/4 cup Egg Creations egg substitute (or 3 eggs)
2 packets caramel-flavoured stevia
pinch salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups original Coconut Dream® (or canned coconut milk)
1 tsp raw sugar, for topping

  1. Stir the salt into the Peanut Butterscotch Sauce.
  2. Grease the insides of four (8-oz) oven-safe coffee mugs and pour 1 1/2 tbsp butterscotch into the bottom of each.
  3. Spread remaining sauce on one side of each bread slice and top with a slice of banana. Top with more butterscotch and another slice of bread, stacking as high as the coffee cup with the top slice facing butterscotch-side down.
  4. On either side of the stack, place one slice of bread with butterscotch and banana side inward. Repeat to fill the remaining mugs.
  5. Whisk the Egg Creations, stevia, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  6. Whisk in the Coconut Dream.
  7. Fill each mug with the egg mixture, and let stand 45 minutes. Top up the mixture in the mugs as necessary.
  8. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  9. Sprinkle the tops of each bread pudding with the sugar and place mugs into a 9″ square pan that can comfortably hold the mugs.
  10. Put the pan in the oven and pour boiling water into the pan to come a third of the way up the sides of the mugs.
  11. Bake 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the puddings comes out mostly clean.
  12. Let cool for 10 minutes in the water bath, then remove with tongs.
  13. If not serving within 2 hours, cover and refrigerate.
  14. Serve the puddings in their cups, warm, at room temperature, cold, or reheated individually for a few seconds in the microwave. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 250.3
Total Fat: 7.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 138.4 mg
Total Carbs: 49.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 6.1 g

A word to the wise regarding the butterscotch sauce: ensure the coconut milk is warm before stirring into the sugar, or it will separate and curdle.

Peanut Butterscotch Sauce
Adapted from Alice Medrich
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp Scotch
1 cup dark brown sugar
pinch sea salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter

  1. Combine the water, scotch and sugar in a saucepan set over medium heat.
  2. Cook, uncovered, swirling the pan occasionally to redistribute the sugar (do not stir), until the mixture is dark and the bubbles all over the surface get smaller and slower to pop.
  3. While sugar cooks, warm the coconut milk and peanut butter together until fingertip-warm.
  4. When sugar syrup reaches the correct stage, remove from the heat and stir in the milk mixture.
  5. Place back over low heat and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Amount Per (2-tbsp) Serving
Calories: 152.4
Total Fat: 5.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 31.2 mg
Total Carbs: 30.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 1.4 g

Toast Topper #9: Crab Apple Jelly

I don’t consider myself a huge “jam” person. I’m not overly picky about what fruit goes on my toast or crackers, but since I don’t eat them very often buying a jar often leads to waste. I do make a lot of it though, both for my mom (who takes it to work to have with her bread of the week) and for Christmas gifts. This year I had inspiration all over, but this particular jelly is packed with memories – both of my hometown and of my dad’s mom!

For some reason I always think of two foods when I think of my paternal Grandma, and both of them had to do with preserving. The first one is pickles. For holidays, Grandma always puts out a dish of them along with tiny cornichons, and as a kid I remember going to a local community garden with her to pick the cucumbers she’d use for that year’s batches. I don’t believe she canned either her dills or her bread and butters, but those dill pickles were incredible – sour, spicy and definitely laden with garlic and dill. However, I detest sweet pickles – to me, they seem like something that evolved because a chef mistook sugar for salt and didn’t want to toss the batch. You can claim that they have their place (though I’m hard pressed to think of where that is) but I’ll take a pass. Give me my full sour Kosher dills and I’m good, thanks.

The other thing Grandma reminds me of, and the whole purpose of this post, was crab apple jelly. I don’t know if she actually made it herself, but she always seemed to have it around the house. It was there that I had my first taste of it (on a Triscuit, likely with some Havarti or Cheddar) and fell in love. There is nothing better to put on a platter of “plain” crackers and mild to medium cheeses than a tangy crab apple jelly, along with a little bit of hot pepper jelly and some fig jam.

Crab apples also remind me a lot of my home town of Ajax. A lot of the streets there, especially the older ones, are lined with crab apple trees, and the city never seems to either spray them with pesticides or prune them. They also don’t do anything with the fruit they bear every year – the relatively small trees always overburdened with apples by the end of the summer, which just falls off and rots, leading to an oh-so-wonderful aroma by mid October (apparently, they don’t clean up the fallen fruit either). This year, I didn’t want to see it all go to waste yet again, so on my way home from a gym class a few weeks back I pulled over onto a side street and filled one of my shopping bags with ripe, tiny apples. I had a recipe for jelly from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook and used that – with great success. I wound up with a crystal clear, bright pink-red jelly that was perfectly set and neither too sweet or tart. I did opt to concentrate the juice after straining it, which really brought out the flavour of the fruit. If you’re looking for a foolproof “first jam / jelly” to make, this is definitely one to look at!

Crab Apple Jelly
Makes 7 cups
6 1/2 lbs crab apples, chopped (do not peel or core)
10 cups water
5 cups sugar

  1. In large pot, bring the crab apples and water to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very soft – about 30 minutes.
  3. Crush roughly with a potato masher.
  4. Pour into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl and let drain 6-8 hours in the fridge.
  5. Pour juice into a clean pot and boil until reduced to about 5 cups.
  6. Add sugar and return to a boil.
  7. Cook, stirring often and skimming off foam, for 18-20 minutes – until jelly gels on a cold plate.
  8. Ladle into jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (1/2 pints or pints)

Amount Per (2-tbsp) Serving
Calories: 79.8
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.2 mg
Total Carbs: 20.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.0 g

Submitted to September’s Food of the Month Club where we’re cooking with apples!

Goat Cheese Cannelloni

Now that it’s September, life around here has settled down enough that we were finally able to have my stepfather’s coworker and his family over for dinner. While dinner guests are in themselves a fairly involved shindig in terms of planning menus, shopping and storing the leftovers (particularly when, like my mom, one feels the need to make 3 entrees for 6 people), I had the task of helping to plan an offering that was safe for the husband, who had gout. While a strict “gout diet” is not needed for most cases, I wanted to keep the purines low enough that we could avoid an attack later down the road. I had a purine table left over from school (purines are the precursor to uric acid which aggravates and furthers gout), and between my mom and I we crafted a decent menu that catered to my stepfamily’s Italian palate as well.

Salad with my mom’s standard oil-and-vinegar, crusty bread (white, sadly, since protein-rich bran in whole wheat has more purines), grilled chicken for the kids, chicken cacciatore, white rice and this cannelloni meshed into a low purine (although regrettably low fibre and very carb heavy) meal. Our guests also generously supplied dessert from an Italian bakery – an assortment of cannoli and bignes that looked (and from what I heard, tasted) so decadent you just knew hitting the gym the next day would be a must.

Thankfully, everyone but my stepbrother only had a single piece of this rich, cheesy cannelloni rather than the three a standard serving entails. I adapted the recipe from BBC’s Simon Rimmer to make it a bit more gout-friendly while keeping all the flavour and as much nutrition inside as I could. Slightly tangy throughout thanks to chevre in both the sauce and the filling, it’s lighter tasting than your usual pasta casserole, and I added just shy of half a bag of Cookin’ Greens spinach (it comes in 500g packages rather than your standard 10-oz bricks) for a bit of texture. Low fat cottage cheese and yogurt rounded out the rest of the filling and the whole thing got topped off with shredded Mozzarella and a smattering of halved cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were greedily snatched up by the two boys after the pan came out of the oven since they became sweet and gooey, narrowly avoiding burning themselves! While my mom was concerned that the kids wouldn’t like the spinach or goat cheese, not a single complaint was uttered – in fact I heard “yum” (literally) more than once!

I’m sending this fantastic tubular treat ( 😉 ) to Ruth’s event Presto Pasta Nights!

Goat Cheese Cannelloni 
Makes 12 side dish servings or, four 3-cannelloni main dish servings
3/4 cup prepared tomato pasta sauce
10.5 oz soft goat cheese, divided
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
zest of 1/2 lemon
17 fl. oz 1% cottage cheese, drained
1 tbsp non-fat plain Greek yogurt
7 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 fresh “lasagne” sheets, cut in half width-wise
1/2 tbsp olive oil
7 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 oz (about 3 1/2 tbsp) finely grated low-fat Mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a casserole dish large enough to hold all 12 cannelloni.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the pasta sauce and 2 tbsp (about 1 oz) of the goat cheese until smooth. Spread a third of this mixture on the bottom of the casserole and set the remainder aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together the remaining goat cheese, thyme, basil, onion powder, lemon zest, cottage cheese, yogurt, spinach and garlic.
  4. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. On each lasagne sheet half, spoon (or pipe through a piping bag or Ziploc) a line of the cheese mixture along the longer edge.
  6. Roll up pasta like a cigar, placing each finished roll seam side down in the sauce in the dish.
  7. Drizzle top of pasta with olive oil and spoon the rest of the sauce mixture evenly over top.
  8. Sprinkle with cherry tomatoes and Mozzarella.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, until hot throughout, the tomatoes collapse slightly and the Mozzarella is melted.

Amount Per (3 Cannelloni) Serving
Calories: 559.5
Total Fat: 22.6 g
Cholesterol: 43.2 mg
Sodium: 1,074.1 mg
Total Carbs: 46.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.3 g
Protein: 41.2 g

Olive Semi – Sourdough Boule

One of  the last “great hurrah’s” of Summer my mom and I share is our farmer’s market circuit. We usually start off fairly tame and close to home, checking out the two that happen to run weekly in our town, and they’re a great place to pick up the produce that we’d normally be shelling out for at the supermarket. Granted, it’s not always a cheaper option, but the quality and experience is more than worth the extra dollar. Plus, there’s always samples!

But we’d be missing out on a lot if we didn’t get down to our two favourite Toronto markets at least once a Summer too. First off, we head on down to the Brickworks to see what’s on offer from Vicki’s Veggies, the cheese purveyors from Best Baa Dairy and Monforte Dairy, and buy probably my favourite mushrooms ever at the Fun Guy Farm stall. Even though it’s usually only about 10AM when we leave there, I still always make sure to get my stevia-sweetened lemonade too – it is way too good to pass up and it’s only once a year!

After our jaunt to the Brickworks, the normal progression of events is to head on down to the city centre to visit the most famous of the Toronto markets – the St. Lawrence! We love it for their delis (especially the pickles at Scheffler’s!) and their huge assortment of fish and seafood, fresh and looking just as good as when the boat brought them in. But downstairs, mom’s resolve is tested in no small way! That’s where you’ll find Stonemill Bakehouse’s shop, and when you first walk into the vicinity the aroma that hits you is nothing short of divine. Because the bread (and pastries!) are just that good, if you don’t swipe up what you want at the beginning of the day, you’re likely leaving without it at the end.

That’s exactly what happened to my mom, which (as she put it) was a blessing in disguise since otherwise she’d have left with the whole store! After having been tempted by the (apparently) amazing olive loaves at St. John’s Bakery in the Brickworks (I say apparently because I’ve never tried it, abhorring both olives and cilantro!), and finding none at the St. Lawrence, she still couldn’t get it out of her head a week later! I decided that I’d make her one that would be a little less guilt-inducing than an all-white flour loaf but with all the flavour and texture of the artisan creation. Whole wheat bread flour and a little sourdough starter was my jumping-off point, which I added cornmeal, potato flour, an instant yeast booster and some honey to before packing it full of olivey goodness with the fruitiest olive oil I could find in the house along with two types of olives. About half the total olive content was your standard deli Kalamatas, the rest were dried Botija olives that I found on the olive bar packed in olive oil. It was a royal pain to pit them all (once I found out that the “pitted” and “with pits” sections in the olive bar at the store had been mixed up) but the end result? Gold.

I mixed up a fairly moist dough with the simple ingredients and decided that it would fit best as a boule, to maximize the crust potential. I also opted for a bit of steam in the beginning, and if my pizza stone hadn’t broken the last time I tried to heat it to 450F I would have used that! Even then, the loaf came out looking and smelling like any other artisan bakery’s offering, and according to my mom it was my best loaf yet!

I’m sending this to Susan’s YeastSpotting event this week as well as this month’s Bake Your Own Bread round-up, and humbly suggest you use Sunday’s Tomato Confit to enjoy it!

Olive Semi – Sourdough Boule
Makes 1 large boule, 20 slices
4 cups whole wheat bread flour
1/3 cup fine cornmeal
1/3 cup potato flour
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp dried basil
2/3 cup mature (fed) sourdough starter  
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
175g sun-dried olives (ideally) or Kalamata olives packed in oil, drained, pitted and chopped roughly

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, potato flour, yeast, fennel seed and basil.
  2. Add the sourdough starter, water, oil and honey.
  3. Begin kneading with the dough hook on low speed.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes, then add the olives and knead 2 minutes more.
  5. Cover and let rest 45 minutes.
  6. Stir down and scrape into a bowl lined with a well-floured tea towel or a round brotform.
  7. Cover and let rest 1 hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450F and place a pan of hot water on the lowest rack.
  9. Place a greased baking sheet over the loaf in the bowl and flip out. Remove the towel.
  10. Slash the top of the loaf 3-4 times and place in the oven.
  11. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 400F and bake for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove the pan of water and continue baking for 30 minutes longer.
  13. Slide immediately onto a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 135.1
Total Fat: 3.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 154.6 mg
Total Carbs: 24.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.5 g
Protein: 4.1 g

Spicy Raisin Bread

My sister can be, shall we say, finicky when it comes to food. I have never met somebody with a palate as honed as hers who is so anti-foodie. She’s happy with her box mix pancakes and chocolate cake with canned frosting and premade decorating icing, her frozen pizza pockets and waffles, and the neon-orange mac and cheese. But she does like one thing I make her – cinnamon raisin bread. I figure it’s about time that she start liking the homemade stuff, especially since now she’s developed a taste for whole wheat and with one or two exceptions a whole-grain cinnamon raisin “sandwich” loaf is non-existent (when I can’t get to making her this recipe or my previous swirl version, she does like Country Harvest’s version).

This version of the classic cinnamon raisin bread came around after several failed attempts at toasting slices of my Sister’s Sweet Cinnamon – Swirl Bread. While they were perfect for French toast and fine just smeared with peanut butter, the toaster was a bit too violent for the swirl to handle. Teaghan wanted the flavour of the original but in a more cohesive package, with extra raisins. I was only too happy to oblige!

This loaf redux if being sent to Susan’s YeastSpotting event.

Spicy Raisin Bread 
Serves 16
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
7 fl. oz (1 cup minus 2 tbsp) unsweetened almond milk, warmed
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp large-grain turbinado sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup sultana raisins, soaked in hot water and drained

  1. In a saucepan, cook the apple juice until it is reduced to 2 tbsp. Let cool slightly.
  2. Pour the reduced juice into a large measuring cup and add enough warm almond milk to equal 1 cup. 
  3. Stir in the yogurt, brown sugar, eggs and oil. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook) combine the flour, yeast, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turbinado sugar.
  5. Add the wet ingredients and begin mixing. 
  6. Knead for 3 minutes, then add the salt and knead a further 10 minutes.
  7. Cover and let rest 45 minutes.
  8. Punch down and knead in the raisins.
  9. Re-cover and let rest 15 minutes.
  10. Shape into a loaf and place in a greased 9×5″ loaf pan.
  11. Cover loosely and allow to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  13. Bake 35-40 minutes, covering with foil after 20 minutes.
  14. Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 177.7
Total Fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 23.2 mg
Sodium: 27.5 mg
Total Carbs: 37.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g
Protein: 6.0 g

Citrus Curd with Crisp Meringue Caps – A Lemon-Lime Pie #RecipeRedux

 Summer always seems to scream citrus to me. Even though we don’t get the best of the batch in the middle of August, it’s hard to pass up a bright, tart lemonade or a scoop of tangy strawberry-lime sorbet served on the back porch. The acidity of the lemon / lime combination is a fresh pop to the day, especially for those of us who (like my family) spend every second they can outside. We’re huge gardeners here, and with a summer reaching record after record temperatures the tomatoes and peppers (not to mention the weeds!) have kept us busy – and always in need of refreshment.

My mom is a huge fan of key lime pie – ideally served up in Florida from J.J. Gandy’s (who we used to hit up every time we traveled to Tampa). Even as a five or six year old, I knew that pie was special, and we never had it any other time than when we were down south. We’d get a whole pie for the hotel suite’s fridge (after requisite groceries at the Publix in the same parking lot!) plus a slice for each of my parents. I wasn’t sure at the time if I really liked the confection enough for my own serving (I opted for something chocolatey at Publix), but I never passed up a taste of mom’s every time we travelled!

 My stepdad, on the other hand, is a lemon meringue fan, which he can only have on special occasions thanks to his diabetes and penchant for overindulging in the sugary topping! I always found it strange that he liked the confection since he is vehement in his hate for anything “creamy” – but there you are. Like mom, I prefer my pies unadorned by whipped cream, meringue or fancy garnishes, especially something as rich and dense as a custard based tart!

As fresh- and light-tasting as these citrusy pastries are, though, they are deceptively rich: a modest slice of either (without whipped cream or ice cream on the side!) can easily run between 375-450 calories, with up to 14 grams of fat, 70 grams of carbs and over 20% of your daily intake of cholesterol! While I’m not saying that pie of any kind is designed to be a health food, for barely a taste of that awesome filling it seems a bit “expensive” nutrients wise. I could never ask anyone – family, friend or nutrition client – to give up something they adore, and really moderation is key… but sometimes it’s nice to give in without considering what you might have to sacrifice later.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to finangle a bit of a “fix” for the family’s citrus pie addictions that is light enough nutritionally to enjoy every night if they so wanted. I packed all the best things about a lemon or lime pie into a creamy, smooth curd that doesn’t have to be baked – and with so much flavour there just wasn’t room for a crust! I did want to add a bit of texture dimension with the dessert, and evoke a bit of the feel of a meringue topping. Instead of breaking out pastry or making a marshmallowy cloud, I combined crispy and light in little meringue cookie spirals. I used those as “caps” on each teacup of curd, which in the end made them look like cappuccinos!

The resulting product was fantastic – the filling (which I greatly adapted from Fifi O’Neill’s “Lemon Sour Cream Pie” in The Romantic Prairie Cookbook) was a fairly basic custard with eggs (from my soon to be stepsister-in-law’s mom’s chickens!) and thickened with tapioca starch, laced with the zest and juice of both 2 lemons and 2 limes. For a more tropical element (as well as more creaminess), I used some Coconut Dream® along with the water and juice, and added a touch of coconut extract at the end. Instead of sour cream, I used my (and my mom’s) favourite, organic nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and though I did add the touch of butter at the end, it was in my opinion a necessary component in preserving the rich texture of the dessert.

This month for the #RecipeRedux we’re sharing our Most Memorable Vacation Meals. Now, I don’t consider pie a meal (though it does have a protein, starch, and usually some sort of produce!) that key lime pie from Tampa was such an integral part of our vacation dinners that I had to share.

Citrus Curd with Crisp Meringue Caps
Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings

Meringue Caps
1 tbsp meringue powder (see note below)
1 1/2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
few drops vanilla extract
few drops lemon extract

1 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 limes
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon / lime juice (this was about equal to the lemons and limes I zested)
3/4 cup original Coconut Dream® (not coconut milk), hot
3/4 cup water, hot
1 tbsp salted butter
1/2 cup Greek style, nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 tsp coconut extract

Meringue Caps

  1. Preheat the oven to 225F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Beat the meringue powder and water together in a small, deep bowl for 1 minute, then spoon in the sugar and salt and beat until stiff peaks form.
  3. Beat in the extracts.
  4. Scrape into a piping bag (or zip-top bag with the corner snipped) and pipe spiral discs on the parchment.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
  6. Turn off the oven and allow to cool 2 hours inside.


  1. Combine the sugar, zests and starch in a saucepan and whisk in the eggs. Place over medium heat.
  2. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, then whisk in the juice.
  3. Slowly whisk in the hot Coconut Dream and hot water.
  4. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
  5. Let bubble, whisking often, for one minute longer.
  6. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth, then add the Greek yogurt and coconut extract and whisk in until well combined.
  7. Spoon into individual serving cups or ramekins, lightly press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of each to prevent a skin forming, and refrigerate 3-4 hours.


  1. Remove the cups from the fridge and place a meringue cap onto the surface of each curd.
  2. Serve within 30 minutes of assembly, but this is best eaten immediately.


  • The caps can be made a week ahead of time and kept away from heat and moisture up to 1 week.
  • If you do not have tapioca starch, substitute 5 tbsp cornstarch.
  • I used meringue powder because it was such a small amount needed and I didn’t want a bunch of leftover egg yolks.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 232.1
Total Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 67.0 mg
Sodium: 70.3 mg
Total Carbs: 45.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 4.9 g

Individual Cottage Pies

One of the classic pub foods I’ve encountered over the years is the hearty, meaty cottage pie. You probably know these as “shepherd’s pies”, but the common recipe for the casserole utilizes beef these days – not the mutton that gave the original recipe it’s name. Like any casserole of any kind, though, recipes are really guidelines, completely open to interpretation and a canvas for “throw it all in” use ups of ingredients. But casseroles, though simple to make, can take forever to prepare and serve a ton of people, making them a bit tricky for busy families and the singletons out there.

Given that my grandma is still fairly recently on her own, my household is all over the place with work, school and life schedules never seeming to entwine completely, and my stepbrother is still in the process of learning to cook for his (mostly vegetarian) fiance, I took that classic “meat and three”, scaled it back for two and tweaked it just slightly to make it vegetarian and lower fat. The richly flavoured, herb, garlic and cheese potato topping and using a ton of veggies with the simply spiced vegetarian “meat” crumbles (I used my grandma’s recipe for seasoning) kept the mini-pies completely stick to your ribs, and vegetarian or not you get wrapped in a blanket of comfort with the first bite. For those not feeding an army every night making mini-versions is even better – the “pot pie” plates make portion control, freezing and reheating easy!

Keeping in tune with the traditional recipe’s economical lean, these cottage pies are relatively inexpensive to put together, especially when you consider the cost of eating out or ordering in. Plus being a whole meal in a pot (pie), my individual versions aren’t too hard on the calorie budget either – with just over 400 calories for the whole mini-pan (no portion pinching!), these also pack in about 12 grams of fibre and over 370% of your minimum intake for vitamin A! My grandma could only eat half at a time, but even heartier appetites will be full after dinner.

Individual Cottage Pies
Serves 2
1 large Yukon Gold potato (or 2 medium), peeled and cubed
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp non fat Greek style yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced chives
2 green onions, minced
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
pinch black pepper
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 large onion, diced
16 baby carrots, diced (or 2 large carrots)
200 g Yves’ Veggie Cuisine Ground Round
1 tsp “Better than Bouillon” Vegetarian Beef Base (or 1 tbsp other vegetarian beef bouillon) mixed with
1/3 cup hot water
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup frozen peas

  1. Boil potato in a large pot of water with 1 tbsp sea salt.
  2. Pass through a food mill or ricer (or mash completely smooth).
  3. Stir in yogurt, garlic, green onions, Parmesan, black pepper and dried parsley. Set aside.
  4. In a large frying pan heat the oil and cook onion and carrots until tender, about 12 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine Yves’ Ground Round, base + water, thyme, allspice, Worcestershire, ketchup, and peas.
  6. When vegetables are done, add to the mince mixture and stir in thoroughly.
  7. Divide between two pot pie plates.
  8. Dollop half the mashed potato mixture on each pie and spread to cover the filling.
  9. Bake immediately or wrap well in foil and freeze.

To bake immediately or when thawed: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and bake (uncovered) 35 minutes.

To heat from frozen:

  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. Bake, covered 1 hour, then uncover, raise oven to 400F and bake 10-15 minutes

Amount Per Serving (1 pot pie)

Calories: 417.7
Total Fat: 8.0 g
Cholesterol: 2.1 mg
Sodium: 1,140.6 mg
Total Carbs: 59.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 12.2 g
Protein: 26.4 g

Italian Salami Pasta Salad with Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette

It’s a Civic Holiday here in most of Canada, which essentially means an excuse to give us all a long weekend in August because hey – we don’t have a real holiday to give us the day off! We’re spending our “extra day” finally finishing up the menial chores in the garden, basement, garage and kitchen, but I know a good amount of my fellow Canadians that are still living it up at the cottage, boat or at family gatherings and picnics. 
Yesterday, I shared one of the goodies we brought to my stepbrother’s recent engagement party – Julia Child’s Oeufs à la Diable. Since my mom is fairly well known in our family as being a wonderful cook (I know, I lucked out with a foodie for a mom), she was also asked to bring a pasta or potato salad to round out the already gratuitous spread – which included the aforementioned eggs, veal scaloppine, chicken in some sort of gooey cream sauce, bread, coleslaw, garden salad, antipasti, cocktail shrimp, steamed vegetables with olive oil and herbs, corn on the cob and a full dessert table featuring (amongst other things) gelato, cannoli and a three tiered cake. Plus a very well stocked bar (we’re talking 2 cases of wine and 6 of beer in addition to the hard stuff). You’d think that they were serving a hundred (or two) people – in reality, only 75 were invited, and out of those a grand total of 41 came. Needless to say, we are now the grand recipients of a lot of leftovers! 
Thankfully, while the chicken and veal are a bit on the “rich and gloopy” side for everyday dinners (though my stepbrother took them for lunches all last week), we also got a full tray of veggies that my mom’s been using for dinner and that I pureed into a soup for her lunches, as well as the leftovers of this pasta salad. I’m kind of proud of this one – its full of sauteed veggies, with relatively little pasta, and a touch of flavour packed black pepper hard salami that I had done a product demo for a few months back. It’s also not a creamy salad – around here we’re not huge fans of the mayo in general, so I whipped up a bright, lemony Parmesan vinaigrette that I adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks for the mixture instead. Not having any eggs, it was safe to keep out on the buffet with the rest of the bread and green salads, and it also lasts longer in the fridge as leftovers! With the meat, pasta and veggies, it’s also a light meal in itself which is nice in the throes of Summer when you really want something cool for lunch.
While I never told my mom that the recipe wasn’t from a cookbook but that I had written it (she has a “thing” about trusting my food around other people 0_o), she never asked – she just assumed one of the books I had for review was the source. Granted, mom has been incredibly generous with her palate, opinion, pantry and occasionally waistline when it comes to appeasing my foodie tendencies… but you’d think she’d be trusting my own recipes by now!
It’s been a looooong time since I last participated in Ruth’s blog event Presto Pasta Nights, but this salad was just so summery that I had to share. Be sure to check out her blog (she’s host this week) on Friday for all the other noodley nosh!

Italian Salami Pasta Salad
Makes 16 generous servings
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced Vidalia onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
3 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¾” pieces
1 zucchini, cut into ¾” cubes
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ lb spicy Italian hard salami, cut into ¾” cubes (we used this one by Le Sauciflard)
1 pint halved grape tomatoes
1 pound tri-color rotini (we used Giardino)
1 tbsp salt
½ cup drained chopped black olives, optional
½ cup Parmesan vinaigrette (see below)
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add broccoli, red pepper, zucchini and wine; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add salami and tomatoes; toss until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.
  5. Cook pasta in a large pot of water with the 1 tbsp salt. Drain and immediately add to the vegetables.
  6. Add olives and dressing. Stir to coat well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Amount Per Serving (including olives)

Calories: 223.6
Total Fat: 8.4 g
Cholesterol: 21.9 mg
Sodium: 418.5 mg
Total Carbs: 26.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 10.6 g

Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette
1 cup, 16 (1-tablespoon) servings
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Whisk all ingredients except for oil until well combined.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly until the mixture is combined.
  3. Store dressing in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Amount Per Tablespoon
Calories: 41.4
Total Fat: 3.8 g
Cholesterol: 1.2 mg
Sodium: 29.2 mg
Total Carbs: 1.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.7 g