Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cranberry Tea Biscuits (wheat free*, dairy free, vegan)

So, you're having people over for brunch and you've got some dietary restrictions to accommodate. How about a batch of these delicious little tea biscuits! They are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside as well as being wheat free*, dairy free, and vegan. 

*This recipe uses spelt flour which, please note, is not gluten-free, if that's what you're looking for. Some would even argue that it's not accurate to say wheat free, as spelt is an ancient species of wheat. However, if you're simply avoiding common, modern day wheat, spelt is a good option. Baked goods with spelt have a similar texture without any added corn or potato or filler starches and the flavour is mild and slightly nutty.

As usual, I started with a simple recipe for baking powder biscuits and then substituted to my heart's content. I'm always a bit surprised how you can "break the rules" when it comes to recipes and still end up with something fantastic.

Here's the quick recipe for a small batch. These taste best right out of the oven, so I only make as many as I need. The full sized recipe is at the bottom of the page.

Cranberry Tea Biscuits
Makes 5 large or 10 small biscuits

1 cup spelt flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/6 cup of coconut oil, or 2 1/2 Tablespoons (refrigerated so that it's solid)
6 Tablespoons almond milk (sweetened or not, you choose)
1/3 cup frozen whole cranberries

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Chop frozen cranberries into smaller pieces. Set aside. You can use dried cranberries or currents or raisins if you prefer, but the frozen berries are helpful later'll see. 

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.

A note about this next step: I keep my coconut oil in the fridge, so that it's always in a solid state. It makes getting it out of the jar a bit tricky, but it means it behaves like butter and can be used in baking to create a nice airy, flaky texture.

Cut coconut oil into flour mixture with a knife or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture. Add the almond milk all at once and using a fork and stir just until moistened. Add the frozen cranberry pieces. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead the dough until smooth.

Now here's where the frozen berries are helpful. Coconut oil is very sensitive to heat and as soon as you start to work the dough, the warmth of your hands is going to start melting it. The frozen berries, however, help keep the dough cold and the coconut oil in a solid state until it melts in the oven, crating flaky pockets of air in your biscuits.

Pat or roll the dough to 1/2 inch thickness and using a biscuit cutter (or the rim of a cup if you don't have the space for specialized kitchen equipment...) cut dough into biscuits.

Place biscuits on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes until edges are slightly crispy. 

Remove from oven and serve hot with your choice of jam.

Full sized recipe:

Cranberry Tea Biscuits
Makes 10 large biscuits

2 cups spelt flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of coconut oil,  (refrigerated so that it's solid)
3/4 cup almond milk (sweetened or not, you choose)
2/3 cup frozen whole cranberries

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Jam

This is a little something I call Winter Jam. It's actually my own recipe for vegetarian mincemeat, but I don't like that name. I know the recipe has meaty origins, but if you're leaving the meat out, why not a name with more appeal? Since it's traditionally served at Christmas, has spicy winter flavours like cinnamon and cloves and the sweet goodness of fruit, I will henceforth call it Winter Jam! You heard it here first.

I made this for friends at Christmas and gave it away before I could get a shot of it in its pretty jam jar. But my pal was kind enough to post a nice shot of it on her site here.

Here's the quick and easy recipe:

Winter Jam
Makes 5 x 250ml jars*

Put the following ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over low to medium heat, covered, for about 30 minutes until fruit is soft and spices incorporated, stirring occasionally. Add extra water during simmering if needed.

3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (McIntosh are a good choice)
1/2 cup sultana raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup frozen cranberries
3/4 cup pitted prunes, chopped
Zest and juice of one large navel orange
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water + 2 extra tablespoons during simmering process if needed

*Note: Please follow proper canning instructions which includes sterilizing and sealing jars for long shelf life. Alternately, you can put it in any glass container and keep it in the fridge for about two months, or cool and freeze in small batches for up to six months.

Winter Jam is particularly good as a topping for vanilla ice cream, or on oatmeal for a delicious breakfast.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Spinach and Zucchini and Pancakes with Yogurt Tahini Dip

I've already admitted that I like to use a mix for pancakes, and then dress it up by adding my own extra ingredients. Well, I did it again. This time, I decided some savoury pancakes for dinner were just the thing.  I've had a crush on leeks lately - they provide a nice mild oniony flavour without being too powerful. So I tossed them in along with two other green items I found in the fridge. Presto. I made some simple and delicious yogurt and tahini dip to serve along with them and dinner was served.

Spinach and Zucchini and Pancakes with Yogurt Tahini Dip
(Makes about 10 pancakes)

For Dip:
Mix well in a small bowl:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (fat free, 2%, Greek - your choice)
1 Teaspoon tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

For Pancakes:
1 batch of buttermilk pancake mix (refer to package directions - mine asked for 1 1/4 cup of mix, 1 cup of milk and 1 egg, so you get an idea...)
1 small zucchini, grated
1/3 cup leeks (light green part), sliced thin
large handful of spinach, chopped (once it's chopped it should measure about 1/2 cup)
1 Tablespoon of olive or grapeseed oil for frying

Grate zucchini into a small bowl and add about 1/4 tsp salt. Set aside. Prepare leeks and spinach. Prepare the pancake mix according to package directions in a large bowl. Press the zucchini into a sieve to remove most of the water. Add all three veggies to pancake batter and mix well.

In a large skillet, heat oil and drop spoonfuls of batter into the pan. Cook as you would pancakes, waiting for bubbles to appear on one side before flipping. My only extra advice would be to cook them at a slightly lower temperature and therefore more slowly than you would normal pancakes to allow the veggies to cook through - they need about 2 to 3 extra minutes. Serve hot with Yogurt Tahini Dip.

Bonus tip: Don't try to take pictures for your blog while you've got something on the stove. While I was trying to make this batch look photogenic, I burned the last couple in the pan! The one on the right, above, has grill marks because I like to put them in the toaster oven to keep them warm while I make the next batch.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sweet Potato Soup with Swiss Chard

Happy New Year!

It's a cold January day, so what better way to warm up than with a nice hot bowl of soup. I've taken to making a big pot each weekend, ready for lunch or dinner anytime throughout the week, especially good when time is in short supply. This is the ultimate in kitchen improv, most soups being a mish mash of whatever is on hand, each one different and delicious in its own way.

And so this is what came to be in my kitchen yesterday:

Sweet Potato Soup with Swiss Chard

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 large zucchini, diced
3 leeks (the top dark green part, sliced thinly) * I'd made some Potato & Leek soup last weekend, and had saved the tops for another time
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet potato, cubed
2 chicken bouillon cubes
8 cups water
1 bunch Swiss chard, sliced into strips

In a large stock pot heat the olive oil and add the onion, zucchini and leeks.

Cook until softened and slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the water, the bouillon, the potato and the sweet potato.

Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and puree the mixture slightly with an immersion blender. (I like to puree just enough to give the broth a smooth creamy texture but leaving some of the veggies intact)

Add the Swiss chard.

Stir, put the lid back on the pot and let sit for about 10 minutes to allow the chard to wilt. (If you like, puree a second time if you want the Swiss chard to be in smaller pieces)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Kugelhopf

This beautiful Chocolate Kugelhofp, filled with golden raisins, chocolate and brown sugar was made following this recipe from Martha Stewart Living.

What's a Kugelhofp? The Internet, being the wide and wonderful place that it is, describes endless variations and origins. A yeast-risen cake from France (especially Alsace) or Austria or Germany, it is baked in a round fluted pan, filled with raisins and sometimes almonds and dusted with powdered sugar before serving. The legends abound... One story says that the sweet bread was a gift from the three Magis returning from Bethlehem. Another, says that the recipe was brought to France by Marie Antoinette from Austria upon her marriage to Louis XIV. Another still, says it was a victory cake, baked in the shape of the sultan's turban after the Turks were defeated at the gates of Vienna in the 15th century.

This one had the consistency of a sweet bread not unlike a buttery brioche. Typically served with coffee, or at breakfast, I completely concur with the recipe that it's best toasted with a bit of butter. (But that didn't stop us from eating slice after slice just as it was. That's right. WAS. This delicious loaf disappeared quickly...)

I followed the recipe precisely, because I'm not crazy enough to think I can overrule the laws of chemistry, especially after past disasters with breads involving yeast. So, just diving into this project felt risky enough for me. But as always, variations are possible...I think any mix of dried fruit and nuts would work. Cranberries for Christmas would look pretty. This recipe added chocolate, so why not cinnamon?

It took the better part of a day, with all the rising and punching and waiting, but it was a lot of fun. And I learned a few tricks along the way. Like when you have to add a lot of flour to a batter, you should use the attachments on your beater called "dough hooks" (see the second picture below....I was on the verge of a giant mess when I figured this out....)

Here are the delicious results in pictures. I think it turned out perfectly and would highly recommend it. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lentil Soup with Chicken Bacon

I love making big batches of hearty soup. In my house, it takes care of dinner, a couple of lunches and then there's still enough to put in the freezer for another time. The key to this one is the mix of chicken and beef flavours in the broth, and of course the chicken bacon. Start this recipe the day before to allow time for soaking the dried beans and grains.

Lentil Soup with Chicken Bacon
Serves 6 large bowls

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 large onion
1 cup of green beans
1/2 cup of dried brown lentils
1/2 cup of "soup mix" (found in the dried bean's usually a combo of dried beans, peas and barley)
1 chicken-flavoured bouillon cube
2 beef-flavoured bouillon cubes (I use the all-vegetable chicken and beef flavoured MSG)
10 cups of water
3 strips of chicken bacon

Soak the dried lentils and dried soup mix in water overnight or for several hours (at least 6 hours).

Peel and chop carrots and onion. Tip and tail green beans. Chop celery. Place all vegetables in a large saucepan/stock pot with olive oil and sautee on medium until vegetables are soft and onion is slightly browned.

Drain the lentils and soup mix and add to the pot. Add the water and bouillon cubes, cover and bring to a boil. Brown the chicken bacon in a frying pan. It's very lean, so you may need to use a little bit of olive oil. (It may seem counter-intuitive to choose a lean bacon and then add fat, but I prefer the healthier olive oil to the oil in regular bacon...) Once the chicken bacon is crisp, cut it into cubes and add to the soup. Simmer on medium heat, covered, for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and the beans and grains are soft.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Egg and Cheese Sandwiches and Root Vegetable Fries


This meal was awesome and unplanned. It all came together by accident...or by genius! We woke up too late for breakfast, so I decided to go straight to something a little more suited to lunch. A quick look in the fridge and I discovered some spicy hummus, eggs, and some extra old white cheddar. The last of my garden tomatoes had ripened on the counter. Sounded like the perfect mix of ingredients for a tasty sandwich. A few nights earlier, when I had the oven on, I'd chopped up some root vegetables to bake. May as well heat those up, I thought. Since I'd cut them in the shape of fries, my husband decided they needed ketchup. And wouldn't you know...with ketchup, they actually tasted a bit like fries! In less than 10 minutes, we had a and tasty meal that resembled a gourmet "grilled cheese and fries" but without the grilling, and without frying a single potato. Here's how:

Egg and Cheese Brunch Sandwiches
(Makes 2 sandwiches)

4 slices sprouted wheat bread
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons spicy hummus
1 medium tomato
several slices of old white Cheddar
salt and pepper

Special equipment: toaster oven

Toast the bread lightly. Meanwhile, fry 2 eggs in a little bit of olive oil on medium heat, breaking the yolks before you flip them. On one slice of bread, spread 1 Tablespoon of hummus, add 3 slices of tomato, salt and pepper, and one of the fried eggs. Lay cheese slices to cover the other slice of bread and return to the toaster oven on low to melt the cheese and toast the bread some more. Put the 2 sides together. Repeat for sandwich #2.

Recipe Improv: You can personalize this sandwich to your taste...choose your favorite rye or whole wheat bread, try a garlic hummus instead of spicy, and pick your favourite hard cheese if Cheddar's not your thing. This sandwich could also be done on a grill, or in the frying pan, but I wanted a version made without the oil/butter.

Root Vegetable Fries

3 large carrots
3 parsnips
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (remember this?)
salt and pepper

Wash and peel the veggies. Cut them in sticks - roughly 6-10 cm (3-4 inches) long, and 3/4 cm (1/3 inch) in diameter. A better measurement would be to say "make them look like french fries."

Toss them in the olive oil, with rosemary, salt and pepper. In an oven proof dish or casserole, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Serve with ketchup.

(I made these ahead of time, kept them in the fridge and heated them up for brunch - the time consuming part of this recipe was already done. I'm a big believer in cooking stuff ahead of time and figuring out how to use it later. Whenever you have the oven on anyway, try throwing in a squash or a sweet potato (or a carrot, or a parsnip) to bake. Later in the week you can get creative.)