Lager and Rye Bread to Kick Off #SundaySupper Month!

I love making bread for my mom, and now that the overindulgence of the season is on it’s way out she can finally start transitioning to her favourite, hearty, grainy loaves again. She’s a huge fan of dark, crusty rye bread, and found a loaf during one of our market excursions that was definitely everything she adores about the carb – dense, molassesey, topped with flaked grain and when it was cut into released a burst of slightly malty aroma. I couldn’t wait to try my hand at making something similar.

I started with the base, which I adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Bread – lots of dark, rich rye flour, just enough whole wheat bread flour, both molasses and barley malt syrup and a flavourful lager teamed up for a fantastic crumb that rose quite well, given the lower gluten structure. To up the ante, the same lager and rye flour gets whisked into a lovely paste that coats the whole boule, both deepening the crust and serving as “glue” to hold on the mixture of rye and oat flakes I sprinkled on top.

Lager and Rye Loaf

The bread smells like Heaven in the oven, and as soon as it was cool enough to cut the knives came out – a hearty slab made the base for a cream cheese, veggie and leftover charcuterie open face sandwich that disappeared in a flash!

The Sunday Supper Family is kicking off 2016 in a big way! January is designated National Sunday Supper Month so what better time to get together? We all know that the practice of Sunday Supper starts off as just one day a week before blossoming into a lifestyle built around the family table. The biggest gift we can give to our family is to hug, laugh, share our stories and enjoy great meals together.

Appetizers and Soups

Main courses

Side dishes

Desserts

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Lager and Rye Bread
Makes 1 boule, 16 slices
12.3 oz (350 g / a generous 3 ¾ cups) dark rye flour
7 oz (200 g or 1 ½ cups) whole wheat bread flour
1 tsp salt
½ tbsp instant yeast
¼ cup molasses
2 tbsp barley malt syrup or dark honey
⅓ cup lager beer (I used Birra Moretti)
⅓ cup warm water

Paste:
⅔ cup lager beer
3.5 oz (100 g or 1 cup + 2 tbsp) dark rye flour
1 tsp raw sugar
handful rye flakes or large-flake oats

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt and yeast.
  2. Mix the molasses, barley malt syrup and lager in a measuring cup and add to the flour mixture.
  3. Using the paddle (or a wooden spoon), mix the ingredients together, adding water as required until the dough is clearing the sides of the bowl but is still soft.
  4. Knead with the dough hook or by hand on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. The dough will seem too wet at first, but will smooth out as you go.
  5. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave for 2-3 hours, until doubled.

Topping and Assembly:

  1. Mix the beer, flour and sugar to form a thick batter.
  2. Punch down the dough, knead briefly and shape into a boule.
  3. Place onto a sheet of parchment and spread all over with the paste.
  4. Sprinkle with rye flakes or oats.
  5. Place in a cold oven (leave the light on) and let rise 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  6. Near the end of the rising time, remove bread from the oven and turn the oven to 425F, using convection if available.
  7. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F (375F convection if using it) and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.
  9. The loaf will be a rich brown and should sound hollow when tapped on the base.
  10. Cool completely on a rack. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 163.7
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 146.4 mg
Total Carbs: 34.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g
Protein: 4.4 g

Cabernet Fudge Sauce

We’re well into our “use up all the holiday stuff” mode around here, and one thing we have a good lot of sitting around is wine. We usually open a couple bottles of red at the start of a party (one for each table), plus one of white, but there’s also beer, cocktails and “heartier” liquors available, not to mention the pop, water and seltzer in the cooler. Inevitably, we always wind up with leftovers, which sit for a good while now that my mom is avoiding wine at night for headaches. Instead of letting it go to waste, we’ve been cooking with it, making crockpot flank steak with mushrooms with the third-bottle of Shiraz and, with the half bottle of this Cabernet blend I’ve been let loose in the sweet kitchen.

The first thing I whipped up actually used up the last bits of a couple things in my kitchen – not only some of the wine fell into the pot, but the last of our half-and-half and milk chocolate pieces from Christmas Eve. I can’t recall where I found the original idea for making a chocolate fudge sauce with the red wine, but I’m glad I did! Pairing both the richness of bittersweet chocolate and salted butter with the premium milk chocolate and cream made a gorgeously velvety base that was perfectly accented with the reduced red wine and my homemade Cabernet Salt. Rather than overload the works with sugar, I added a little bit of Truvia along with sucanat to sweeten the deal. Jarred up, it’s hanging out in the fridge, where we’ve been dipping into it for drizzling on frozen yogurt, cheesecake and fresh berries! We’re all grownups here, so who knows? This might fall into our next mocha or cappuccino!

Cabernet Fudge Sauce

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays


Cabernet Fudge Sauce
Makes ~1 cup, 8 (2 tbsp) servings
½ cup red wine
3 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
1 ½ oz premium milk chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp salted butter, diced
¼ tsp Cabernet Salt (or kosher salt)
¼ cup raw sugar, sucanat or brown sugar
3 packets Truvia
½ cup half and half cream

  1. Bring wine to a simmer in a small pot and cook until reduced by half.
  2. Meanwhile, combine chocolate, butter, salt, sugar and Truvia in a double boiler and heat, stirring, until chocolate and butter are melted.
  3. Whisk in the cream and wine reduction and cool.

Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp)

Calories: 165.0
Total Fat: 9.7 g
Cholesterol: 15.0 mg
Sodium: 31.5 mg
Total Carbs: 16.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.3 g

Zippy Quick B & B Pickles

Happy new year everyone! While I’m sure some of you are still recovering from the festivities last night (I didn’t even party and I slept for 10 hours!), the new year is a time for opportunity and new experiences. What better way to embrace the first week of the year than with a brand-new project?

Pickles are definitely one of my favourite things in the world – ever since I was old enough to sit up in a high chair, you’d find me “gumming” on a big ol’ kosher dill when my family went to one of the local pubs. I’m definitely on the side of the “sour” or “spicy” pickled goods though – you won’t find me loading up a cocktail plate with the syrupy-sweet classic bread and butters when there’s tons of sour pickled cocktail onions and gherkins to choose from! That said, a good portion of the family adore the sweet “chips”, so back when our garden was overflowing with cucumbers I knew I would make them a little something special to top their burgers through the Summer. The first batch was more successful than I ever imagined – jars kept coming back to me with little notes asking for more, and I’ve been making them almost constantly since. My secret is taking the classic “sweet” pickle a little over to the “savoury” and even “exotic” side – onions, mustard seed, Tellicherry pepper and even a pinch of Sichuan peppercorns make them addictively unique and definitely worthy of even the most high-end sandwich.

Pickles and caramel. .. what a weird morning in the kitchen! #cooking #foodie #vegan #food #foodinjars

Thankfully, the whole process is dead-simple, not to mention fast… to get into the jars. However, I implore you – wait that week before cracking into them. Trust me. That pickling time in the fridge is crucial – otherwise you’re just eating damp cucumbers, and who wants that? Plus, being pickles, they last (almost) forever in the fridge, so even if you’re not constantly pickling, you can have a nibble or three of preserved Summer anytime you like!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Zippy Quick B & B Pickles
Makes ~3 pints, 24 servings
1 ¾ lbs fresh cucumbers, cut into ¼” slices
2 tbsp minced dried onions
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns (optional but recommended)
¾ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 cup cider vinegar
⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

Per pint jar:
¼ tsp Ball® Pickle Crisp® Granules (I don’t know of another brand of calcium chloride, but if you have one you like use it)

  1. Pack cucumber slices into jars, set aside.
  2. Bring remaining ingredients, except Pickle Crisp®, to a boil.
  3. Pour brine over cucumbers in the jars, add Pickle Crisp® and screw on lids.
  4. Store in the fridge at least 1 week before enjoying.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 12.3
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 49.1 mg
Total Carbs: 3.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 0.2 g

*NI includes average absorption of salt and sugar but no additional whole spices

Fudgy Black Sesame Brownies

Do you hold any stock in “good luck” symbols, especially around the New Year? I never actively think about it, buy in reality I do have a fair amount of “lucky” things in my daily life, from dream catchers, keys, evil eyes and trees of life to my diet rich in grains, greens and legumes. With all the amulets kicking around here, I really should expect to win the lottery soon – or at the very least, have a sudden windfall in my classroom situation. That said, I’m very much of the school of thought that we ultimately make our own fortunes, but a little help now and then doesn’t hurt, does it?

These brownies, like the other “lucky” things for me, were not planned to be amulets of good fortune. They were planned to be rich in flavour, fudgy and refined sugar free! However, since it is New Year’s Eve, I dug a little bit into the ingredients and method and found three little nuggets of information which hint at the possibility of a bite of these fudgy squares of goodness becoming a bona-fide talisman for 2016! Here’s what I found:

First, baking (and sharing) baked goods is seen as an insurance policy that a household will always be warm, filled with friends and always has food. It’s a Scottish custom to follow a tradition called “first footing” during Hogmanay (New Year’s) in which the first person to enter a home (and what they carry) after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have.

Second, the beans and grains in the brownies themselves. This is a well-known tradition worldwide, and for good reason – their appearance resembles coins, and the foods plump up as they cook – foretelling financial gains for those who eat them, I couldn’t find any indication if purees like my black-eyed-pea based Brilliant Bean Dip, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip or hummus count… I hope so!

Sesame seeds are lucky again, due to their shape and plentiful nature. Seeds are also inherent symbols of fertility and immortality as they contain all the life-giving elements for a plant. Even more, the fact that sesame oil is a non-drying variety indicates that the lucky virtues it bestows on those who anoint with it or consume it won’t “dry up”.

Fudgy Black Sesame Brownies

Cool, huh? But really, these brownies are all about the flavour, which it has in spades! These get a ton of nutty (yet nut-free) flavour from black sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil – two of my favourite pairings with cocoa. For the dense, fudgy texture, I turned to one of my new favourite legumes – Tongues of Fire beans – which I pureed a la Nutella Stuffed Black Bean and Banana Cookies and Very Red Velvet Brownies. To sweeten things up a tad, I gave the batter a kiss of coconut sugar, agave and stevia, and used stevia sweetened chocolate chips in the mixture too. To keep the rich brownie-like texture going, I followed my tried-and-true baking method of putting the hot pan in the freezer for 30 minutes before taking to room temperature and cutting, which always works like a dream. Mom and I snuck a taste before tucking the bars into the freezer for tonight and they earned two BIG thumbs up!

Given that these bars are gluten – free , refined sugar – free and vegan, everyone can partake in good luck (or at the very least, good food) this New Years! Here’s to a killer 2016 – we’ve earned it!


Fudgy Black Sesame Brownies
Makes one 8″ pan, 16 pieces
1 ½ cups cooked Tongues of Fire, adzuki or black beans, rinsed and drained well if canned
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup quinoa flakes
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup light agave nectar
¼ tsp liquid stevia
2 tbsp coconut palm or raw sugar
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp black sesame seeds (you can use toasted white sesame if you can’t find black)
⅓ cup miniature dark chocolate chips (use stevia-sweetened for 100% RSF)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray an 8″ baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, combine the beans, cocoa powder, quinoa flakes, salt, agave, stevia, sugar, oils, vanilla and baking powder. Process until smooth.
  3. Pulse in the sesame seeds and chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325F and bake another 10-12 minutes, until dry on top and set.
  5. Remove from oven and immediately place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the freezer and let stand at least 30-40 minutes at room temperature before cutting.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 122.1
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.4 mg
Total Carbs: 16.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 2.3 g

Gingerscotch Cookies

So, are you sick of cookies yet? Around here, we actually lucked out in the cookie department – short of a few shortbreads in our heirloom cookie tin (which are disappearing alarmingly fast), there isn’t anything really decadent kicking around. We even managed to avoid The Everlasting Fruitcake of most Italian households, the panettone!

Of course, in my gift boxes I had to include my own batches of cookies, and this year ginger was a predominant theme. I’m always spurred to make a gingery concoction or two at the holidays since a few of my favourite giftees are ginger-holics, and I try to never repeat a recipe (mostly because I really don’t have the ability to follow one most of the time!). Last year, one of the recipes I found and couldn’t wait to make involved the addition of one of my favourite “soft cookie” ingredients in an unusual flavour – butterscotch pudding mix! I have never paired ginger with butterscotch in my mind, but upon reflection realized the caramel tones really work well – especially since it’s a less cloyingly sweet option normally played by molasses (which these cookies lack).

Butterscotch Ginger Cookies

I did play around with the original recipe, though – mostly in terms of spices, although I did use half non-hydrogenated shortening (for easier rolling and better shape retention) and some of my Truvia Baking Blend (for less sugar!) too. The butterscotch, which I originally worried would overpower the cookies, actually only lent a subtle, yet undeniably decadent, flavour while providing the full amount of tenderness I’ve come to expect by pudding-mix cookies. Not really either chewy or cakey, they’re a unique option for any spice cookie fans out there!

Gingerscotch Cookies
Makes ~ 24
¼ cup salted butter, softened
½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
¼ cup packed Muscovado or dark brown sugar
¼ cup Truvia Baking Blend
3 ⅜ oz (1 pkg) instant butterscotch pudding mix
½ tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp black pepper

  1. In a bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, Truvia and pudding mix until well combined.
  2. Add the vanilla and egg, beating well.
  3. Add the flours, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and both peppers, mixing well.
  4. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight.
  5. Heat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment.
  6. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to ¼” thick, then cut into desired shapes.
  7. Place 2” inches apart on the baking sheets. Re-wrap and chill trimmings 1 hour before re-rolling.
  8. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 11 minutes. Cool on the sheets.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 117.9
Total Fat: 6.3 g
Cholesterol: 12.9 mg
Sodium: 84.5 mg
Total Carbs: 11.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.5 g

Tart Lime Jam (Toast Topper #65)

Since I made my fair share of treats centred around my favourite desserts this holiday season, I felt it was only fair to make a couple things inspired by my friends and family’s cravings too. I’ve mentioned before that my mom is a huge fan of key lime anything, from pie to ice cream. One year while we were vacationing in Florida we came across a key lime jelly that was to die for – the perfect mixture of sweet and tart, completely reminiscent of the classic pie. We bought two jars, and upon getting home they both disappeared within a month – my favourite way to savour it was spread on a cream cheesed bagel – or if I was feeling decadent, using a graham cracker as the base instead. Mom added it to everything, but I seem to recall a large amount of Saturday morning pancakes and crepes with the spread in lieu of syrup! 

This whole jam experience was over 10 years ago, and neither of us ever forgot the flavour of that jam. For mom (and, lets face it, for me too), I made my own batch of lime jam – a lower-sugar formula to allow all the bright, tangy flavours of the citrus to shine through, and allow us to smear on just that little bit more on our toast in the morning. The whole thing set up perfectly with Pomona’s Pectin (my go-to for all my jammy Toast Toppers), and canned like a dream – I decided to part with a few jars at Christmas, but the rest is ours – ready and waiting for months of enjoying! 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tart Lime Jam

Tart Lime Jam
Makes ~ 5 1/2 cups, 88 (1 tbsp) servings
2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice with pulp
Lime zest of 4 limes
2 cups water (lime juice is too acidic to jell if you do not cut it with water)
1 tbsp calcium water (from Pomona’s Pectin)
2 tbsp light agave nectar or honey
⅔ cup Just Like Sugar (a 100% natural sweetener made with orange peel, chicory and calcium), or cup-for-cup stevia
1 ⅓ cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Pomona’s Pectin

  1. In a bowl, mix the Just Like Sugar and granulated sugar with pectin. Set aside.
  2. Combine lime juice, lime zest, water, calcium water and honey in a pot and mix well. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add pectin-sweetener mixture and stirring vigorously for 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin. Once the jam returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.
  4. Process 10 minutes in a water bath

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 14.1
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.1 mg
Total Carbs: 4.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.0 g

Sticky Toffee Date and Gingerbread Granola

In the crush of computer problems, visitors, lesson planning, traveling and various pet issues with multiple vet visits (a very long, cat / rat / dog story), one thing I never got around to this season was taking many photos! Often, my smartphone was standing in place of my gorgeous (albeit bulky) point-and-shoot, and those I did take with the P&S have yet to be uploaded / edited because there’s always something else in the making! That said, all horrible photos aside, the stuff that’s been coming out of the oven these days has been nothing short of delicious!

source

Of course, all of this is just a cover for the fact that I totally forgot to take any photos of these two amazingly hearty, chunky, stick-to-your-ribs granolas I whipped up for my Christmas boxes this year. I was definitely inspired by a few of my favourite desserts this year (as if the “Date Square” Granola wasn’t enough of a hint) and quickly went about doing my “thing” with the mixes – which is to say throwing every grain and avenue of flavouring I had at them. As a result, my Sticky Toffee Date batch is definitely more on the decadent side of things, but it’s also significantly higher in protein thanks to the high-protein hot cereal mix I added to the oats, ancient grains, nuts and seeds. A good dollop of date paste, date molasses and a sprinkling of toffee bits don’t hurt matters in the flavour department either – and it’s not like you’re going to sit down to a giant bowl of this stuff every morning! Well, you might, but I’m not judging 🙂

If you’re on the dessert flavour train with me, but are looking for a little bit of a lighter option for your granola, the Gingerbread recipe is definitely one for you! It’s packed with apple butter and pumpkin puree and gets it’s sweetness from molasses and stevia – no refined sugar added! For more of a “cookie” aspect I tossed in a handful of graham cracker crumbs, which along with the instant oatmeal helped the clusters “clump” and make a truly chunky granola. A few pumpkin seeds added a little extra crunch for kicks too, and like the Sticky Toffee Date variety, I added some kinako for an extra protein and fibre boost.

So, apologies for the lack of photos, but please don’t let that dissuade you from whipping up a batch or two for yourself. Who knows, it could be the kickstarter for your New Years Resolution to eat better (or at the very least, breakfast!).

Sticky Toffee Date Granola
Makes 8 cups, 16 (½ cup) servings
1 cup date paste
¼ cup date molasses or honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavour
1 tbsp butterscotch schnapps (optional but yummy!)
½ cup water
2 tbsp canola oil
½ tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 cups large flake rolled oats
2 cups high protein hot cereal (I used Dixie Diner’s Cinnamon & Spice Low Carb Instant Hot Cereal)
⅓ cup raw millet
2 tbsp amaranth
⅓ cup shredded coconut
½ cup kinako
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup toffee bits
¼ cup raisins
5 dried figs, diced

  1. Combine all the “wet” ingredients and seasonings (date paste through salt), then add remaining “dry” ingredients except toffee bits, raisins and figs, stirring well.
  2. Bake on a lined baking sheet at 300F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so until oats are golden. Turn off the oven and let stand inside for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and immediately stir in Skor bits, raisins and figs. Cool on the sheet.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 320.3
Total Fat: 9.3 g
Cholesterol: 1.0 mg
Sodium: 321.7 mg
Total Carbs: 44.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.7 g
Protein: 17.6 g

 
Gingerbread Granola
Makes ~ 9 ½ cups, 19 (½-cup) servings
⅓ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup apple butter
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp molasses (not blackstrap)
¼ tsp liquid stevia
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tbsp vanilla
1 ½ cups large flake rolled oats
½ cup instant oats
⅓ cup graham cracker crumbs (Mary’s Gone Crackers makes a refined-sugar free graham!)
½ cup kinako
3 tbsp millet
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

  1. Combine all the “wet” ingredients and seasonings (pumpkin puree through vanilla), then add remaining “dry” ingredients, stirring well.
  2. Bake on a lined baking sheet at 300F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so until oats are golden. Turn off the oven and let stand inside for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the sheet

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 93.7
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 46.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Hélène’s Beautiful Pears

Well, we made it through Christmas! While it’s almost never smooth sailing (especially here, with 4 meals at one place and 1 at another, 3 different diets and one oven), the week of celebrations heralded everything that the season is about – love, peace, laughs and family. In terms of meals, the new “convection roast” function on our oven made a spectacular turkey while the warming drawer kept everything else perfectly hot, the collaborative vegetarian pasta dish mom and I made for Christmas Eve (roasted cauliflower, peppers and ricotta) was divine, the Clementine and Cranberry Sauce I adapted from Aimée’s book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars has been slathered on everything from mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts to our toasted leftover Challah this morning.  

With so many rich meals so close together this year, dessert was simple – dishes of ice cream with a spoonful of these cocoa-laced pear preserves. I was inspired by the Poires Belle Hélène recipe in Camilla Wynne’s book Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes a few weeks back when planning gift baskets, and with the glut of Asian pears in the local store I decided to try those out instead of the traditonal Anjou. Muscovado sugar and a kiss of Grand Marnier upped the elegance a wee bit – and with the inspiration being more of an adult-friendly one anyways I wasn’t pulling any punches with the flavour. I wound up making a second batch for holiday gifts, after the first one mysteriously disappeared – but who knows how those North Pole elves celebrate?

Hélène's Beautiful Pears


Hélène’s Beautiful Pears
Makes 2 ½ pints, 5 (1/2 cup) servings (including syrup)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup Muscovado or dark brown sugar
1 tbsp amber honey or agave nectar
1 ⅓ cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 large Asian pears, peeled and sliced into wedges
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (use a high-quality one)
pinch salt

Per (pint) jar:
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla

  1. Combine the sugars, honey, water and lemon juice in a pot over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the pears and cook 5 minutes. Transfer pears to sterilized jars, add the liqueur, lemon juice and vanilla and set aside.
  3. Whisk the cocoa and salt into the syrup and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  4. Remove from heat and carefully pour over the pears in the jars.
  5. Process 25 minutes in a waterbath.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 306.7
Total Fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 5.7 mg
Total Carbs: 80.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.7 g
Protein: 1.8 g

Mini Tourtières

Our family has a few holiday traditions – a big brunch with Mom’s infamous Holiday Brioche and Challah taking centre stage, dancing with the turkey and of course as many batches of shortbreads as humanly possible before school starts again in January. Over the years we’ve added the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve to the docket, too. My own “traditions” during the season involve making granola and biscotti to go into the gift boxes I give in lieu of purchased gifts, and this year I added a new one – homemade freezer meals for both my grandmother and a friend to enjoy in the New Year.

I’ve always associated meat tarts like Scotch pie and French-Canadian tourtière with spending weekends at my grandma’s house – it seemed like that was our go-to dinner at least one night, usually paired with carrots, peas or a salad. It has been ages since I’ve broken into the flaky shell of one to enjoy the flavourful, spiced meat filling – not only because of my own food restrictions but simply because making them is a process not fit for a fast weeknight dinner. Since it is Christmastime, though, and tourtière is one of the traditional francophonie holiday meals, I decided I’d make some (smaller sized) pastries for grandma to enjoy.

Ironically, these pot pies actually contain no meat at all! With the economic crunch yet again putting strain on the food budgets everywhere, even the cheapest ground meats are getting ridiculously expensive. Our family as a whole has been eating less animal protein and more vegetarian options like lentils, beans and eggs – and in things like chili, bolognese sauce and shepherds pie, we’re stretching the meat with TVP. Some foodies will turn their noses up at this, but when soaked in a flavourful liquid (or simply added to the stew or sauce) it’s almost indistinguishable – and the same case goes for these tourtières. Not only is the basic recipe spiced well originally, but by combining “unbeef” broth, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce and red wine with the vegetable crumbles the umami flavour really shines through and the texture is dead-on. All that was left is to add were the traditional herbs and spices, grated potatoes and onion – and for a festive twist, a shot of cognac too!

Finally, I thickened the works with some kinako from our Asian market, since we were sorely lacking crackers in any form for the traditional binder.

Mini Tourtières

Whether you’re looking to save a little money this season or are simply trying to reduce the meat you eat, these little 2-serving pies are a great option. Make a batch on the weekend and freeze for later – just pull one out to thaw overnight and bake, covered, at 350F for 20 minutes.

Note – for the most “authentic” French Canadian Tourtière flavour, do not omit any of the seasonings. They truly add the “oomph” to the filling and lend nuances of sausage, pork and beef savouriness.

Mini Tourtières
Makes 5 “pot pies”, each serving 2

Filling:
1 ⅔ cups TVP granules
1 ½ cups hot not-beef broth or water
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
½ cup dry red wine (I suggest Beaujolais or Pinot Noir)
1 tbsp canola oil or melted Earth Balance
1 large, sweet onion, finely grated
1 large Russet potato, skin-on, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp savory
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp celery salt
½ tsp fennel seed
¼ tsp ground clove
1 cup hot water
splash of Cognac (optional)
⅓ cup kinako or fine cracker crumbs

Assembly:
1 tbsp cornstarch + ¼ cup cold water, for brushing
Pastry for two (2 crust) 9” pies (I used the classic Crisco recipe)

  1. Combine TVP, broth, tamari, vegan Worcestershire and wine in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion, potato and garlic.
  3. Cook about 5 minutes, until potato begins to soften and garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add TVP mixture (with liquid), spices and water (and Cognac, if using), stir well and bring to a boil.  
  5. Reduce to a low simmer and allow mixture to cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally (and adding a splash of water if necessary) to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove from heat and add kinako or cracker crumbs. Stir well.  
  7. Loosely cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  8. If mixture is still “soupy”, add in more kinako or crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time and stirring well after each addition, until the mixture is still “wet” but not drippingly so (especially if using kinako, which takes a few minutes to absorb liquid).
  9. Cool to room temperature before using.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and water, set aside
  3. Roll and cut out about ⅔ of the pie dough to fit into 5 “pot pie” pans (about 5” across and 1 ½” deep).
  4. Fill the pie crusts with cooled tourtière filling.
  5. Roll and cut out the remaining pie dough, top the filled pies and crimp / flute the edges to seal.
  6. Trim the edges and brush with cornstarch slurry.
  7. Cut a cross into the top of each crust to vent.
  8. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, or until dough is golden brown and mixture is steaming.
  9. Let stand 10 minutes before digging in!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 482.0
Total Fat: 24.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 708.9 mg
Total Carbs: 55.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 9.6 g

Tigernut (Chufa) Biscotti

It’s biscotti time again! I find it ironic that every year, I choose to make the cookies that technically last the longest at the very end of the baking spree – after all the shortbreads, drop and sandwich cookies, candy and fudge, granola and tarts are packed up and in various stages of either being consumed or stored. Biscotti – in all its various incarnations over the years – has remained a clear favourite in both the family circle and the friends I gift the crunchy sticks to.

The recent years have seen a definite upswing in the presence of food restrictions I’m baking for – it seems like everywhere I turn somebody is avoiding eggs, meat, nuts, soy, sugar, corn and – the biggest “baddie” of all – gluten. While I have my own thoughts as to these (usually) self-imposed restrictions – for instance I only know of 5 people who require a gluten free diet every day for life, no exceptions, no cheating – I do my best to cater to them because, as a foodie and nutritionist, I can. Gluten free baking isn’t overly complex for me any more, but in the craziness of the holiday rush, simple is often best! This particular recipe is inspired by Ricki Heller‘s Grain-Free Hazelnut Biscotti with Cinnamon Glaze and the resulting cookies are  gluten, egg, Tree Nut, refined sugar, peanut, soy and corn free (if you use Corn-Free Baking Powder). Just because I could – and really, the flavour was fabulous paired with the tigernut flour – I tossed in a glug of Butterscotch Schnapps for good measure! They don’t need any sort of frosting or chocolate to sing on their own, but a cup of mocha on the side? You’re on!

Tigernut (Chufa) Biscotti

What allergies do you cook or bake for over the holidays (or everyday)? What’s your go-to dish?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Tigernut (Chufa) Biscotti
Makes 10
¼ cup  coconut flour
1.6 oz (a generous ½ cup) ground chufa (aka TigerNut flour)
2 tbsp potato starch
¼ cup psyllium husk powder
½ tsp Corn-Free Baking Powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch fine sea salt
¼ – ½ tsp gluten free liquid stevia
⅔ cup half-and-half cream (for dairy free, use canned coconut milk)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 fl. oz butterscotch schnapps (make sure yours is GF (like Dr. McGillicuddy Intense Butterscotch) if needed)
coarse or raw sugar, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine all the ingredients just until blended and uniformly moist, but not sticky-wet (it should stick together when squeezed but may not form a ball while mixing).
  3. Turn the mixture onto the cookie sheet and, with wet hands, shape the dough into a flat log about 8 ½” long and 3” wide.
  4. Coat generously with coarse sugar and, using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut along the log on a diagonal into 10 pieces.
  5. Gently move the biscotti apart so they are positioned upright with at least 1” of space between them.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until edges just begin to brown. Reduce oven to 350F.
  7. Turn each piece over onto one cut side and bake for 12 minutes, then turn over and bake another 12 minutes.
  8. Turn off heat and leave the biscotti in the oven 1 hour.  

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78.7
Total Fat: 3.4 g
Cholesterol: 5.8 mg
Sodium: 5.8 mg
Total Carbs: 11.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.9 g
Protein: 1.2 g