Kheer #SundaySupper

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

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

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

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

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

Great Starts

Dive in with Sides and Appetizers

Coco-Nutty Main Dishes

“Col-lots-a” Desserts

Sweet to Sip Beverages

Sunday Supper Movement

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

Kheer
serves 8

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

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

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A Study in Apple Pie

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

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

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

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

A Study in Apple Pie for Canada Day

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

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

Looking at all three, what would your pick be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mulled Wine Apple Crisps

Its funny – as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, I’ve been finding myself craving warmer, spicier and more “comfort food” type dishes rather than the lighter, “brighter” fare so associated with Summer. I’ve always enjoyed a good, crisp salad as the basis of my lunch, but come dinner, I want the slow-cooked beans, rices, curries and soups. Dessert is no different – I’ve reverted to enjoying a bowl of chocolatey porridge and a warm cashew-milk mocha more than something like sorbet or my homemade tofu ice cream.

I’ve been missing my mom’s apple desserts lately too – her Harvest Apple Squares have long since fallen off the menu (mostly due to their high sugar content, which my diabetic stepdad can’t cope with), and since the family in general doesn’t groove on casseroles of bottomless crisps, only the occasional pie makes it out of the freezer for our enjoyment. I used to think crisps were rather “blah” myself – preferring the hearty, buttery oat crust on the squares – but once scaling the dish into individual portions I’ve changed my tune. When baked in single-serving jars, not only does the combination of fruit and crumble look gorgeous, but you get more crispy bits overall – instant win! The only thing I had to tweak from my mom’s “chop and drop” method of crisp making was pre-cooking the fruit slightly – and what better step could I use to really infuse some flavour?

Before I even got to the cooking step, I was faced with a small dilemma. I had bought 7 apples in preparation for making these jars of awesome, but somehow they got mixed in with “communal eating” apples in the fridge. By the time baking day arrived, my stash was down to 4 – not critical mass, but I needed something to bulk up the batch. Luckily, I had one of the most “apple” like vegetables I could think of sitting in the crisper – chayote squash. They are perfectky crisp, slightly sweet and hold their shape similarly to apples, and I knew that once they cooked together with the spices and an oaty topping nobody would be the wiser. Thinking of overall flavouring, I was mostly inspired by a small bottle of mulled apple cider left over from a weekend brunch, plus a bottle of Doppio Passo Botter Primitivo Salento IGT that I had received as a gift a while back and had never opened (I don’t drink). Why not make a mulled wine and simmer the fruit in that? It would not only add a gorgeous flavour, but tint everything as well. I decided to give it a shot!

Mulled Red Wine Apple Crisps

The wine, spices and a touch of sweetener smelled like all sorts of comfort and joy as it heated, which only intensified as the fruit began to cook. I wanted this filling to really be the star of the crisp after that, so instead of the usual butter/flour/oat topping, I opted for a neutral oil, two forms of oats, nutty kinako and just a touch of Truvia Brown Sugar Blend instead. Nobody noticed the difference, but everyone commented on the complexity of the filling underneath, which makes me think about trying the method again but turning the works into applesauce!

Mulled Wine Apple Crisps
Makes 6
4 large apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious), peeled and chopped
2 large chayote squash, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 cup red wine
½ cup orange juice (I used blood orange juice)
1 (2”) cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup kinako
½ cup instant oatmeal (pulse rolled oats in a food processor until mealy)
½ cup gluten free large flake rolled oats
3 tbsp Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup canola oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 6 (1 cup) jars.
  2. Place apples, chayotes, sugar, agave, wine, juice, cinnamon stick and cloves in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until apples and squash are tender.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer apple and squash mixture to prepared jars.
  5. Bring wine mixture to the boil over medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until reduced by half.
  6. Stir in vanilla, then strain over apple mixture in each jar.
  7. Whisk together the kinako, oatmeal, Truvia, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. Drizzle in the oil and toss to combine.
  8. Spoon crumble mixture over apple mixture in the jars, packing lightly.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crumble is golden brown.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 338.7
Total Fat: 10.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 35.3 mg
Total Carbs: 57.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.1 g
Protein: 6.9 g

Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about bread pudding (you know, a whole month), so I figured I’d share the latest (and hopefully for our waistlines, the last for a while) variation on the theme that my Home Ec class and I created. In the spirit of the “Europe” unit I was covering in our “eating around the world” series, I drew on Belgium again, not only utilizing their invention of bread pudding as a whole but their love for (and definite ability to make) chocolate.

With the exception of maybe two or three of the kids in class, chocolate is the great equalizer between the ages, backgrounds and outside interests of the 33 youngsters – and being relatively young, their palates are still sensitive enough to develop appreciation for the nuances in different brands, percentages and forms of one of my favourite foods. In fact, a few of them truly impressed me by rejecting “milk chocolate candy” (i.e. your typical convenience store bars) in favour of higher-cacao bittersweet couverture callets and even squares of 72% Ghirardelli. 
 

#chocolate bread pudding for #breakfast? Don't mind if I do...
Muffin version – not nearly as gooey and rich

Bread pudding is definitely a great recipe to make with kids in general – first off, they get to tear the proverbial snot out of stale bread, something that even as an adult I enjoy doing (bonus if it’s Challah, since the plaits make for perfect handholds). They get to whisk eggs (again, another magical activity I enjoy as an adult), squish in the bread and watch as the whole mixture turns from liquid | solid to one relatively firm, moist mass. The worst part for everyone involved (kids or adults!) is the waiting. First the 15 minutes before the pan goes into the oven, then another 40 while it slowly bakes to delicious, almost brownie-like perfection and a final 10 before being able to dig in. Yes, it’s seen as a form of torture by some of the sweet teeth among us – but oh, the reward! Especially when you get a bite with a nugget of semi-molten chocolate. The only thing that would make it better is a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!  

Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding
Ooey, gooey and perfect hot or cold!

As if I needed further proof this was a keeper, many of the kids (even ones who gave me the “oogie look” while we made the recipe) continued to talk about making and eating “those chocolate brownies” for weeks after the class. Hey, if brownies sells them, I’m in!

Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding
Serves 12
9 oz stale Challah or similar enriched bread (I don’t recommend French or Italian bread here, it falls apart too easily)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
⅓ cup vanilla (or regular) sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp melted butter
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I was lucky enough to have a can of decadent “red” cocoa at home, but any good quality one would work fine)
5 tbsp vanilla custard powder or “Cook & Serve” vanilla pudding
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (something between 60-70% is perfect) or couverture callets – you can use high quality chips in a pinch – as I did for my Home Ec classes, but they don’t melt as well and are stiffer than “bar” chocolate when cool

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9” square baking pan. Place the tin on a baking sheet.
  2. Tear the bread into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt until well combined.
  4. Add the butter, cocoa, custard powder and baking powder and beat well.
  5. Pour the custard over the bread and stir well. Let stand 15 minutes.
  6. Pour mixture into the pan and gently press the bread cubes with a spatula to compact.
  7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 172.3
Total Fat: 6.0 g
Cholesterol: 40.5 mg
Sodium: 146.5 mg
Total Carbs: 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 4.7 g

Crunch – Topped Peanut Butter Cinnamon Roll Pudding

It’s no secret that we have a few peanut butter fans in the family. I mean really, the spread is such an iconic emblem of childhood – at least for my generation and older, who were allowed to bring PB sandwiches to school for at least some of their youth – and as we’ve grown older, the possible uses of a jar have expanded to fill both savoury and sweet voids equally. I for one would not pass up a slab of rye bread thickly spread with creamy peanut butter and drizzled with local honey, nor would I ignore  a mole sauce using freshly ground, sugar free peanut “paste”. My mom is famous for serving a jar of Kraft and a loaf of French bread with her chili, and loves the richness a dollop or two adds to hearty dishes like Thai Vegetable-Peanut Noodles, West African Beef and Peanut Stew and Kale and Sweet Potato Stew.

In terms of numbers (and fervor), my circle of family and friends contains just as many fans of French toast and bread pudding. I’m staunchly in the “French toast only” camp, preferring the slightly crispy egg layer on the outside of the bread to a moist custard-like concoction, but my dad’s side of the family is 100% passionate for the pudding. When I found myself with a large (and rather dried out) cinnamon roll left over from a potluck platter, an open carton of rice milk, one lone egg and a jar of 100% natural peanut butter this long weekend, I immediately thought of whipping up a version of the “usual” recipe baked in jars instead of a pudding mould.

As I was waiting on the bread to soak, the open bag of  Nature’s Path Gluten Free Fruit & Nut Granola caught my eye. I instantly thought of using a spoonful of the crunchy cereal to crown my sweet, eggy jars of goodness, and after pulling the pan out of the oven, the absolutely stellar aroma proved my thoughts correct. Even though I’m not as passionate about eggy bread as some people (looking at you, dad!) I don’t think I’d ignore the offer of splitting a jar for dessert.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

One of my favourite things about bread pudding is it’s sheer versatility – for example, this recipe is dairy free depending on the cinnamon roll you choose. Annie’s and Bunner’s cinnamon rolls are both dairy free options… or use an equal weight of “safe” cinnamon bread or bagels for an equally delicious option!

Crunch – Topped Peanut Butter Cinnamon Roll Pudding 
Makes ~3 cups, 4 (3/4 cup) servings
¼ cup dark Muscovado sugar
1 cup enriched rice milk (I used Sprouted Rice Dream)
1 egg
2 tbsp well stirred natural-style peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 (6 oz) baked cinnamon roll (I used one from Panera), stale, torn into pieces
2 tbsp Nature’s Path Gluten Free Fruit & Nut Granola

  1. In a bowl, beat together the sugar, rice milk, egg, peanut butter, vanilla, baking powder and salt until well combined.
  2. Add cinnamon roll pieces and fold in well to coat with the mixture.
  3. Let stand 20 minutes.
  4. Heat the oven to 350F and grease two (12 oz) jars or ramekins.
  5. Spoon the bread pudding mixture into the jars, pressing in lightly, and place in a 2” high baking pan.
  6. Top with granola.
  7. Pour hot water halfway up the sides of the pan and carefully place in the oven.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes, until set.
  9. Cool in the waterbath for 15 minutes, then remove jars to a wire rack and cool at least 15 minutes longer before serving.
  10. Alternatively, cool completely and store, covered, in the fridge up to 1 week.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 312.9
Total Fat: 12.7 g
Cholesterol: 66.5 mg
Sodium: 133.3 mg
Total Carbs: 50.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 6.4 g

Pssst:
Don’t forget to enter the #OnMyPath Giveaway! You can win an awesome prize pack of Nature’s Path goodies or even ORGANIC GRANOLA FOR A YEAR!

Apple – Grain Squares

I know we’ve all been there at least once – you cook up a batch of rice or grains to go with a stir-fry or stroganoff and wind up with a cup or so leftover. It’s never enough to re-purpose on it’s own (if you’re cooking for more than yourself), but it’s too much for people like me to feel OK about tossing it. This goes double in times like these where the economy is less than kind, and the grocery bills keep stretching higher and higher! Yes, you can freeze the remains of the pot… but I personally don’t like the texture when it thaws and (knowing me) I’d just leave it there until I eventually threw it out in it’s freezer-burned glory.

I used to love having the bowlful or so of cooked rice in the fridge – as a kid, rice pudding was the dessert my dad and I would eat gallons of and it was a blaze to whip up in the microwave using a splash of milk, some sugar, cinnamon and raisins. These days see a milk-free menu on my plate – not to mention more than just plain boiled white rice in the fridge! I’ve become a huge fan of pretty much every colour of rice (but white!), savouring bowls of not only our go-to brown Basmati, but Wehani, heirloom blackBhutanese red, purple Camargue and (my favourite) pecan varieties of rice without any adornment, and have opened my pantry to millet, amaranth, teff and buckwheat. All of these add extra possibilities to the leftover rotation, their unique flavours and textures working wonders in baking, both sweet and savoury.

Apple-Grain SquaresPerusing one of Rodale’s cookbooks (and the particular one escapes me at the moment), I came across the inspiration for this lightly sweet, whole grain dessert. A baked “rice pudding” of sorts, though without dairy, it’s a combination of shredded apples, cooked millet and brown Basmati rice bound with egg whites and brown rice flour, sweetened with stevia and laced with toasted sunflower seeds and rum-soaked raisins. The pan bakes to golden, dense-yet-moist perfection and is more than worthy of inclusion at breakfast or dessert – and since it’s gluten, dairy, nut, sugar and added-fat free why not have more than one a day?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Apple-Grain Squares

Apple – Grain Squares
Makes one 9″ pan, 12 pieces
4 large apples, shredded (no need to peel)
¼ cup sultana raisins
3 tbsp spiced rum
1 cup cold, cooked brown Basmati (or your favourite whole-grain) rice
1 cup cold, cooked millet
½ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup tapioca starch
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tbsp ground cinnamon
4 egg whites
½ tbsp liquid stevia
1 tbsp vanilla
¼ cup sunflower seeds

  1. Combine the apples, sultanas and rum in a bowl and let stand 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 325F and line a 9” pan with parchment or greased foil.
  3. Combine the cooked grains, flour, starch, flaxseed, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
  4. Add the egg whites, stevia, and vanilla, mixing well.
  5. Fold in the apple mixture (with any liquid) and the sunflower seeds.
  6. Spread evenly in the pan, smoothing the top.
  7. Bake 40 minutes. Cool in the pan.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 148.6
Total Fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 18.1 mg
Total Carbs: 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 3.6 g

Belgian Style Bread Pudding (Dairy Free)

I woke up this morning to the dreary realization of two things. The first was that (yet again) it was Monday – where did the weekend go? (Answer: up in a Zumba-fied cloud of curry paste and gluten free pizza dough). The second was that Old Man Winter had once again blown through the neighbourhood and left his all-too-familiar, icy calling card. My car escaped the frost coat last night, thanks to my mom shuffling cars and allowing me to tuck it into the garage, but that didn’t stop the morning from being a little on the brisk side!

Belgian - Style Bread Pudding

Luckily, being a Home Ec teacher has its perks – namely, that I can create “comfort food”, warming menus for my lesson plans! My classes always run right after recess, so we’re all chilled by then, and there’s nothing better than getting into the warm embrace of the kitchen and making some belly-filling, bone-warming nosh! These days, I’ve been all about bread pudding – it’s quite possibly the most stick-to-your-ribs, hearty, homey, soul food dessert I can think of in the Winter, and it is infinitely variable! I actually wound up doing a bit of research on the recipe for our “food around the world” week at school, and was surprised that I couldn’t find much on it in British history. Instead, I discovered that the dish we know commonly as “bread pudding” originated in Belgium! Either way, it’s definitely a great treat to make with the kids – they get to crack and beat eggs, sniff cinnamon and vanilla, tear up bread and smoosh it all into the pan! Everyone in my classes – from ages 3 to 9 – enjoyed the process and participated at their own level and interest rate.

Due to allergies in some of my classes, I opted to make this version dairy free with flax milk. However, the richness of the dish doesn’t suffer in the least (I credit that to the custard powder) and it is equally delicious hot, cold or reheated a few weeks later after being frozen!

Belgian Style Bread Pudding
Makes one 9×13″ pan, 20 pieces
1 ½ lbs (1 large or 1 ½ standard size) day-old or toasted cinnamon-raisin bread (preferably whole grain)
4 eggs
¼ cup vanilla custard powder or “cook and serve” vanilla pudding mix (reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup if using pudding)
3 ½ cups unsweetened flax milk or non-dairy beverage of choice*
2 tbsp melted Earth Balance “Buttery Stick” or non-dairy butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp raw coarse sugar, for topping

*Feel free to swap in 2% milk if allergies aren’t an issue!

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13” baking dish or casserole.
  2. Tear the bread roughly into the pan and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, custard powder, milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended.
  4. Pour over the bread in the dish and stir gently to combine.
  5. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  6. Cover lightly with foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 164.6
Total Fat: 4.4 g
Cholesterol: 37.2 mg
Sodium: 159.3 mg
Total Carbs: 25.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 4.3 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

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip with @Truvia Brown Sugar Blend

OK, admit it. If you’re a cookie lover (or a sweet tooth in general), you love those stolen moments while you’re baking (and nobody’s watching) when you can lick the batter off the spoon, your fingers, and maybe even the bowl. Trust me, you’re not alone – when my sister and I were growing up, you could pretty much guarantee you’d need to make a batch and a half of chocolate chip cookies in order to get the 30-odd a single recipe indicated. If it was shortbread season, we’d be lucky to see 3/4 of the dough make it onto the cookie sheets before us two “master taste testers” and Mom nibbled our bway into it. Cookie dough has always had a certain flair for being better than the baked rendition, but with the waves of e. Coli, listeria and salmonella that keep cropping up in everything from lettuce and cantaloupe to flour, meat and cheese, the raw stuff is getting less and less safe to enjoy en masse.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Enter the glory of Cookie Dough Dip. Designed to be eaten raw, it can range from simply a cookie recipe made without eggs (but still packed with butter, sugar and flour) to recipes like this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip that I adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie. This style of cookie dip is not only egg free, but is made without dairy, nuts, oil or gluten as well – all while getting hefty boosts of fibre and protein from the oats, beans and WowButter and rich tasting (but lower sugar) sweetness thanks to Truvia®’s new Brown Sugar Blend. I brought a batch of it to work today, and shortly after lunch found myself accosted by several co-workers demanding to know if it was real cookie dough in the container! Luckily for all of us, licking a spoonful of this is more likely to treat your tummy well instead of tie it into knots.

About Truvia®:

Truvia® Natural Sweetener is born from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant, and is the natural sweetener of choice when people want to reduce calories.  Since stevia leaf extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar, only a small amount is needed to deliver a clean, sweet taste.

According to a recent survey, consumption of total sugars averages 21% of daily energy intake in the Canadian diet – a startling statistic for anyone watching their waistline.  Fortunately, the Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend provides the texture, moisture, and taste that we all love about brown sugar, but with 75% fewer calories.  This delicious blend of Truvia Calorie-Free Sweetener and brown sugar is simple to bake with – simply use half as much Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend as you normally would brown sugar.
Here are a few other key highlights that make the Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend unique:
  • Bakes and browns just like brown sugar
  • Specially-packaged in a one-pound resealable bag to make it easy to store after use
  • Suitable for individuals with diabetes
  • Gluten-free and non-GMO
  • One-half cup contains just 210 calories (regular brown sugar contains 830 calories)
Lookie what we have here! As if I needed an excuse to #bake #food #truvia #brownsugar #baking blend @truvia

The folks at Truvia® not only were kind enough to send me a bag to play with, but also provided some extra (to-die-for looking) recipes using the Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend for What Smells So Good? readers to enjoy! With bake sale season kicking off, I know I’ll be looking into a few of these soon myself – if I don’t keep making and eating this dip, that is!

The other key ingredient I used in this dip (in order to keep it school-friendly) is a peanut butter substitute called WowButter, made from soybeans. To me (and everyone else who’s tried it), it tastes like peanut butter – especially in foods like sandwiches, sauces and cookies – but is 100% Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Trans Fat Free, and Cholesterol Free. A serving of 32g contains 7g of complete soy protein, 1200mg of Omega-3 and 4g of fibre too – making it a great choice for kids and kids at heart!

Twitter: @WowbutterFoods and @Truvia

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip 
Makes ~2 cups, 16 (2 tbsp) servings 
250 g pureed chickpeas or cannellini beans (I used a mix)
1 g Kosher salt  
2 tsp vanilla  
½ tsp butter flavouring, optional 
pinch nutmeg  
45 g (about 3 tbsp) WowButter (or your favourite nut butter)  
2 tbsp Truvia Brown Sugar Blend (or ¼ cup brown sugar)  
64 g honey 
2 tbsp unsweetened plain soy milk  
pinch baking soda  
57 g gluten-free instant oatmeal   
¼ cup miniature chocolate chips 

  1. Combine the chickpeas, salt, vanilla extract, butter flavouring (if using), nutmeg, WowButter, Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend and honey in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Scrape into a bowl and add the soy milk, baking soda, oatmeal and chocolate chips, stirring well until thickened.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 week in a tightly covered container.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 81.3
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 97.2 mg
Total Carbs: 13.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 2.1 g
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Tiny Berries in Lemon Balm Syrup

How has everyone’s Summer been treating them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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