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


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

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

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

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

Beerinara for a Father’s Day #SundaySupper

If I had any doubt that Father’s day was coming close, I’d only have to look at the tables, shelves and cubbies of our school classrooms to wipe it away. Just from Home Ec alone, 75 glass jars have floated in and out of the building, filled with everything from candied pretzels to BBQ sauce, flavoured salt and a KFC style chicken coating. The goodies, being made by kids, are of course all “child friendly” and nut-free – things like beer cozies and spiced nuts are pretty much verboten, not to mention a good chunk of our student body’s parentage does not touch a drop of alcohol.

That said, at home, my dad loves a good beer on a hot Summer day, not to mention he (like his daughter!) adores his garlic. Really, it’s a wonder that both of us have hypertension given she sheer amount we consume, but genetics does weird and wonderful things (at least I know I belong to my parents, who both have genetic hypertension!). But I digress. I found a bagful of tomatoes roasted and frozen from last year’s crop when cleaning out the deep freezer a month or so ago and knew I needed to do something with it, as well as some of the zillion tons of zucchini I had shredded and individually frozen for baking but never used. Inspired by The Beeroness, I took a quick trip to the store which netted me a lovely Quebec-made gluten free ale and some fat heads of garlic begging to be roasted. A hint of homemade, salt-free lemon pepper added just the right amount of zip without the extra salinity, and the whole works canned like a dream for enjoyment both now and down the road. In fact, I can’t wait for my July tomatoes to start coming in just so I can try this out with other beers! 

This #SundaySupper is celebrating dads! Does your dad love to cook or would he rather leave that to someone else? What is his favorite recipe he likes to make or have made for him? Is your dad the king of the grill (or not!)? Let’s share stories about dads/father figures and all the delicious foods they loved to eat or make!

Appetizers & Snacks:



Condiments & Sauces:


Main Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Plus What Dad Really Wants for Father’s Day from Sunday Supper Movement

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.

Makes ~ 9 cups, 36 (1/4 cup) servings
2 large heads of garlic, papery overcoat removed but unpeeled
3 lbs tomatoes (ideally plum or other meaty variety), halved
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded
3 cups shredded zucchini
12 ounces gluten free ale or IPA
6 oz tomato paste
¼ cup fresh basil, divided
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp salt-free lemon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut a small amount of the tip off the head of the garlic heads to expose the cloves and place on two small pieces of aluminum foil. Fold the foil tightly around the garlic, place on a baking sheet.
  3. Add the tomatoes (cut side down) to the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast the tomatoes and the garlic for 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft. Allow to cool.
  5. Pass tomatoes through a food mill into a bowl, set aside.
  6. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat.
  7. Add the onion and cook until golden.
  8. Stir in the carrot and zucchini (along with any zucchini liquid) and cook until carrots begin to soften.
  9. Add the beer, tomatoes, tomato paste, half the basil, thyme and paprika.
  10. Squeeze in the roasted garlic cloves the cloves into the sauce.
  11. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, cover and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavours blend.
  12. Stir in remaining basil, salt and lemon pepper.
  13. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree until smooth.
  14. Can in a waterbath for 35 minutes

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 27.1
Total Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 108.1 mg
Total Carbs: 4.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 0.9 g

Gluten Free & Vegan Garlic Breadsticks #BreadBakers

If there’s one ingredient I refuse to be without in the savoury kitchen, it’s garlic. Fresh, roasted, dried or fermented, I love it every way I can get it, and I’m sure I (as Rachael Ray says) smell like a walking salami because I eat so much of it.

Normally, garlic is avoided in the baking nook – it’s pungency and heat when fresh, dried or pickled doesn’t generally play well with desserts (granted, there are some chefs crazy enough to use various forms of the bulb that way) and the awful flavour it takes on when it toasts even a touch too far makes it a finicky bread ingredient as well. That said, my family (and most of the kids at school) love garlic bread, in particular the Italian restaurant-style breadsticks that seem to be disappearing all too fast these days. For Home Ec, I decided to take on the challenge of making a soft, garlicky, herby dough to shape into breadsticks. Not only did I succeed in making delicious bread, but my class and I did it without using eggs, dairy, nuts or gluten-containing flours – meaning everyone in the class could have one! The flavours of the flours and flaxseed were subtle, but added just the right amount of “whole wheat” flavour so that the herb and garlic oil slicked overtop blended seamlessly. Unlike a lot of gluten free breads (and I don’t claim to be an expert, just someone with a hint of experience), these breadsticks also stay moist for a good period after baking and freeze exceptionally well too, not even needing the usual “toaster treatment” to retain edibility.

Regardless of whether you need to be gluten free or not, if you‘re as much of a garlic lover as I am you’ll adore these breadsticks. Vampires beware! 

Gluten Free & Vegan Garlic Breadsticks

#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. This month’s theme is Garlicky Breads, in celebration of National Garlic Day in the United States – 19 April. Our host this month is Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Thanks Karen! 


We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

Gluten Free & Vegan Garlic Breadsticks
Makes ~18

4 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup warm water
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
500 g whole-grain gluten-free flour mix (I used my Artisanal Gluten Free Flour Blend)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp guar gum
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp Kosher salt
warm water

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves minced fresh garlic
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried parsley
Pinch ground pepper


  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a small bowl and let stand 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the flaxseed, flour, garlic powder and guar gum.
  3. Add the foamy yeast mixture to the bowl and mix for 3 minutes with a sturdy spoon (or using the paddle if using a stand mixer).
  4. Add the oil and salt from Column C to the bowl and mix until the dough comes together into a soft ball and feels somewhat elastic. (If the dough feels too dry, add the warm water in small amounts until the dough feels right.)
  5. Set the dough aside in a warm place and let it rise for 1 hour.
  6. Deflate dough and knead briefly in the bowl. Let rest 5 minutes.


  1. Heat the oven to 375F
  2. Combine the oil, garlic and herbs in a small bowl.
  3. Divide the dough into 18 balls and shape into breadsticks (I found it easiest to treat the dough like playdough and squeeze tubes with my hands).
  4. Place shaped sticks on a parchment lined sheet and brush with the garlic oil. Let rise 30 minutes.
  5. Bake the breadsticks for 20 minutes. Cool at least 15 minutes before enjoying!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 142.3
Total Fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 195.9 mg
Total Carbs: 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.4 g
Protein: 1.8 g

Gluten and Dairy Free Hot Cross Buns

Do you follow the tradition of eating hot cross buns at Easter? The spicy, fruit packed yeast rolls are a favourite of my dad’s and were a staple in our kitchen from the beginning of March all the way through April, when they disappeared for another year. I liked the spicy flavours and the raisins, but never got onto the “candied fruit” bandwagon, so I just stopped bothering to buy and eat them as an adult!

Now, the original recipe is obviously rich, decadent, and made with wheat flour – since this past week saw be being tested for Celiac (and since I’ve had numerous issues even working with wheat flour), I decided I’d take our “recipe box” formula and try out a gluten free, dairy free variation and see how it went.

All things considered, I think these are pretty darn delicious – packed with raisins, currants, Craisins (and even the prerequisite candied fruit) that all marry with sweet, warming spice is kind of hard to go wrong with! My flour blend for these also included the sweet richness of chestnut flour and my current favourite sweetener jaggery, which added an “old style” flavour to the mixture. The traditional flour-water cross overtop got a touch of sugar and almond extract for extra oomph, and the whole shebang was glazed with chestnut honey right out of the oven. The honey also helped to keep everything moist for a while, since these gluten-free rolls generally don’t stay moist for too long (about 2 days, tops). That said, leftovers (and even fresh buns) are excellent split, toasted and topped with honey or vegan butter!

Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns

Now, forewarning: these buns took a long time to proof – and I’m still not sure they poofed all the way – but the two 2-hour waits were beyond worth it for me.  I can’t even begin to explain how DELICIOUS these are! Candied fruit and all!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Gluten and Dairy Free Hot Cross Buns
Makes 10

Fruit Mixture:
½ cup raisins
¼ cup currants
¼ cup Craisins
Juice and zest of 1 orange
¼ cup hot water
1 tbsp vanilla

½ tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp baking powder
1 ¼ cups sorghum flour
1 cup rice flour
¼ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup chestnut flour
½ cup tapioca starch
1 tsp  guar gum
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup jaggery or coconut sugar
¼ cup diced candied fruit (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup rice flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water
2 drops almond extract (optional)

3 tbsp chestnut honey, warmed until runny (you could use amber honey too)

  1. Combine raisins, currants, craisins, orange juice, orange zest, water and vanilla. Let soak at least 20 minutes.
  2. Combine yeast, baking powder, flours, starch, guar gum, spices, jaggery, candied fruit and salt in a stand mixer.
  3. Add the fruit mixture (along with any soaking liquid), oil and egg.
  4. Mix for 5 minutes dough will be stiff but slightly sticky.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 2 hours, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in size.
  6. Grease a 9×13” baking dish.
  7. Divide dough into 10 pieces and roll into balls with lightly oiled hands.
  8. Place them in baking dish, re-cover and set aside in a warm place for 2 hours, until risen.
  9. Heat the oven to 400F.
  10. Whisk together the “cross” ingredients to form a smooth paste.
  11. Scrape into a small zip-top bag and snip the corner.
  12. Pipe the paste in a cross over the center of each bun.
  13. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped.
  14. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with honey.
  15. Return to the oven for 2 minutes.
  16. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack.
  17. These don’t stay moist for too long, but leftovers are excellent toasted with honey or vegan butter!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 328.9
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 18.6 mg
Sodium: 245.0 mg
Total Carbs: 58.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g
Protein: 4.9 g

Strawberry Papaya Jam: Toast Topper #67 #thereciperedux

There’s no getting around it – our family loves jam. Whether it’s peach, lime, persimmon or bluebarb, the plethora of Toast Topper I’ve posted (and the even greater number of general condiments) should indicate that we can’t leave a piece of bread (or waffle, or pancake…) undecorated – even filled ones like the Figgy Olive Oil and Sesame Challah – untouched. No, we need a spread to crown our carbs, but by and large we find the standard jars from the store well… standard. You just don’t find flavours like the ones I mentioned at the local grocery store here, and the jams and jellies you do find are often packed with sugar or (in the case of the so-sugar-added ones) artificial sweeteners.

That said, jam doesn’t have to be like that – nor does it need to be a super-complex, multi-pot, 47-jar canning bonanza (though I have nothing against that!). Last post, I mentioned how you needed sugar to activate the pectin in standard recipes, but luckily today there are varieties of pectin requiring less (or no) sugar at all to work, as well as a couple other options like agar, gelatin and, what I partially relied on here, chia seeds. Back last June, I made No-Cook Berry Chia Jam using the incredible gelling properties of the seeds to great effect. This time, I used them as an accessory thickener – a fail-safe, if you will – since the fresh papaya in the jam can sometimes wreak havoc with the jamming process (thanks enzymes!). With the extra help, and natural sweetness from the tropical fruit, it turns out that cooking up a healthy and delicious Toast Topper with fresh fruit and coconut water is not only easy, but fast – and you won’t miss the refined sugar either – promise!

This Recipe Redux has out gang whipping up no-brainer dishes with “7 or fewer” ingredients in honour of tax season. As a lover of spice (and flour) medleys, it was tough, but yummy experimenting!

Strawberry Papaya Jam
Makes ~2 cups, 16 (2 tbsp) servings
7 oz chopped strawberries
7 oz chopped papaya
⅓ cup coconut water
½ tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
¼ cup coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
3 tbsp chia seeds

  1. In a pot, mash together the strawberries, papaya, coconut water, lime juice and pectin.
  2. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.
  3. Add the sugar and chia seeds and return mixture to a full rolling boil.
  4. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour into jars.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 28.4
Total Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.8 mg
Total Carbs: 5.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 0.7 g

Black Currant and Wine Jelly Toast Topper #66

I’ll admit that when it comes to making jam and jelly, I’m a slave to added pectin. I know there are times when I don’t need it (Backyard Grape Jam, for instance) thanks to the natural pectin in the fruit, and if I’m making a full-sugar preserve as written (like this Blood Orange and Cranberry Marmalade) I will abstain.

The problem for me is that to activate the pectin, you need sugar. And a lot of it. Since the whole point of me making jam at home (well, one of the points) is to make a healthier Toast Topper for the pantry, adding a bucket of sugar to a recipe doesn’t really compute. That said, I’m always learning! I’ve discovered agar and gelatin do a bang-up gelling job, and recently I discovered a technique in Miyoko Schinner’s book The Homemade Vegan Pantry that relies on the power of both reduction and arrowroot starch to solidify the spread.

Black Currant and Primitivo Wine Jam

Now, this isn’t a “jelly-like” condiment like what you’d normally find on the shelf, but a slightly thicker-than-apple butter spread. Regardless of what you call it though, the combination of currant juice and “Doppio Passo” wine reduces to a semi-sweet, mellow, elegantly flavoured syrup, which I added dried currants to for contrasting texture and more of a “jam like” feel.  A bit of sweet blood orange juice helped cut down the need for extra sugar and heightened the fruity notes in both wine and juice. The recipe is still somewhat high in sugar by my standards, but the tartness of the currants and the tannins in the wine need it – you want to enjoy your healthier spread, after all!

While I didn’t can my jelly (it disappeared too fast!) the cookbook says you can waterbath can it. I’m not too sure what the standards are for starch-thickened recipes, so I suggest storing this in the fridge and making small batches as needed!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Black Currant and Wine Jelly
Makes ~3 cups, 48 (1 tbsp) servings
3 fl. oz red wine (I used Doppio Passo Botter Primitivo Salento IGT)
3 cups black currant juice
¼ cup orange juice (I used blood orange juice)
3 tbsp dried currants
¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp arrowroot starch
¼ cup cold water

  1. Cook the wine, juices, currants and sugar over medium heat until reduced by half and syrupy, about 45 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the arrowroot and water and add to the syrupy mixture.
  3. Simmer 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thick.
  4. Pour into jars and refrigerate up to 2 months.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 23.3
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.1 mg
Total Carbs: 5.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.0 g

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Thanks to March Break, I’ve been able to get into the kitchen more than before – something I’ve truly missed! Of course, the first thing on the docket was a batch of homemade lunches for my mom, who is currently caring for my grandma, planning birthday parties, preparing to move my sister home from college and hosting a part-time boarder in the basement. With Easter (as well as the aforementioned parties) coming up, we were all in the mood for something light on the stomach and wallet that was still soul satisfying and warm. Flipping through my copy of Vegetarian Comfort Foods by Jennifer Browne , I spotted the perfect solution: a Thai-inspired tofu curry.

The recipe was relatively Spartan as written, without much in the way of Asian flavours or a vegetable medley. Those paltry issues were solved with an open-minded trip to the Asian grocery store, where I managed to pick up a wealth of cheap, high quality produce as well as the tofu, coconut products and spices I wanted. Given that curry is so versatile, you could certainly use your favourite veggies from the supermarket – I just wanted to see what I could find, not to mention save money on (our Asian grocer is reliably lower-priced for the same, if not better, quality when it comes to produce, meat and seafood).

I also had a few aces up my sleeve for enhancing the flavours in this stew – the first was a spoonful of Litehouse Freeze Dried Lemongrass – one of the three bottles of the freeze-dried herbs sent to me by the company, and definitely the most unique one of the bunch. With a fairly lengthy simmer time, the dried pieces softened and flavoured the mixture without any woodiness – something that couldn’t be said for quick marinades or stir fry sauces. As an aside, the salad herbs and red onion are DELICIOUS and have no preparation needed.

Litehouse Foods Instantly Fresh™ Lemongrass

My second secret to taming the relatively spicy body of the curry was to use a mixture of sweet starches in addition to the bland tofu and a ton of other veggies. On one of my regular trips to the Asian market, I picked up an Oriental yam and an Okinawan Sweet Potato, and paired them with one of the last Delicata squash I had at home. The light, slightly earthy sweetness buffered the sharp spice of the chile powder and serrano, but stayed mild enough for the brightness of the spinach, green peppers and snow peas to cut through the rich coconut cream.

Sweet Starches
L-R: Delicata squash, Oriental yam / Japanese sweet potato, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Mixing the coconut cream with coconut water and cashew milk created the perfect body for the stew as well – not too thick or thin, with the needed richness but enough fluidity that you don’t feel like you just ate porridge or rice pudding for dinner. The cubes of tofu soak up the spice just enough that you get a little “pop” with each bite, and the whole thing livens up a plain bowl of rice both in flavour and nutrition! The best part for us was that it freezes fairly well too – so for families like ours, who eat at a myriad of times throughout the day, it’s easy to pull out a single-serving container (and some frozen cooked rice!) and reheat it when you don’t feel like cooking for one.

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry 
Serves 8
1 cup unsweetened coconut cream
1 cup coconut water
1 ½ tbsp curry powder
½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne
1 Serrano or finger chili, minced
1 tbsp Litehouse Freeze Dried Lemongrass
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, grated
3 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp kelp granules (optional)
2 baby leeks or 1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 Oriental yam (AKA Japanese sweet potato / Satsuma Imo), peeled and diced
1 purple sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 ½ lbs firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
1 (8 oz) can shredded bamboo shoots
7 oz snow peas, halved
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 bunch (about 10 oz) baby spinach leaves

  1. In a large pot, whisk together the coconut cream, coconut water, curry powder, chili powder, minced chili, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and tamari.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add leeks, yam, potato, squash and tofu. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in cashew milk and bamboo shoots.
  5. Bring to a low boil and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add snow peas and green pepper, cook 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in baby spinach.
  8. Serve over rice (I’m partial to sticky brown rice here, but go for your favourite).

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 237.7
Total Fat: 14.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 452.8 mg
Total Carbs: 19.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.7 g
Protein: 12.0 g

Adapted from Vegetarian Comfort Foods: The Happy Healthy Gut Guide to Delicious Plant-Based Cooking by Jennifer Browne (I highly recommend it – it’s full of great recipes and healthy tips without being “preachy”)

Find the author on Twitter: @jennifer_browne and Instagram @freshfitvan