Pages

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014


photo credit: http://thebrunettebaker.blogspot.ca/

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. That's right, it's time for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) 2014! I can't believe it's already the 4th edition of this amazing Secret-Santa style trade. The tastiest, sweetest gift exchange I've ever been a part of, the fbcookieswap is this awesome idea where food bloggers send each other cookies through the mail. Organized and facilitated by the brains behind Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchn, the swap brings together over 500 talented foodies each year to share love and joy through cookies. Added bonus - it's all for charity! To learn more, visit www.fbcookieswap.com, or search the hashtag #fbcookieswap on twitter or instagram.

So, what did I make? Every year, I try to make something original, using flavours that go above and beyond the traditional. It being winter and all, I've been on a chai kick lately. Inspired by my favourite tea, I made some melt-in-your-mouth, sweet and salty and oh so perfectly spiced Cardamom and Anise shortbread thins. 

Hello, delicious!

I hope my recipients enjoyed them as much as I did, because let me tell you, I enjoyed them. Even my boyfriend, a self-proclaimed shortbread hater, liked them. (And that says a lot!) 


One of our teachers at Pastry school suggests that the rule of thumb for cookies is that they are made small. And I mean small! No more than 10 to 12 grams each. Why? His reasoning is that people like to get more for their money. (My reasoning is that it's more fun to eat something that's bite-sized!) It's important to note that shortbread has a tendency to be pasty in the mouth if you have too much at once, so make sure to keep these cookies thin, rolled out to less than a quarter of an inch high. I used a scalloped round 1" cutter to shape them, but feel free to get creative and use whatever cutters you have on hand. Remember to keep cookies of the same size together on the same baking tray, because smaller ones will cook faster!

Happy baking, and happy holidays!

Simple Shortbread with Cardamom and Anise
adapted from Châtelaine magazine, December 2014

ingredients
1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 tsp ground anise seed
3 tsp ground cardamom

Salted cinnamon sugar: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon & a pinch of salt, for dusting

method
Mix together dusting ingredients and set aside.
Using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Stop the mixer and add in flour, salt and spices.
Mix on low speed just until blended. (Do not overmix!)
Form dough into a ball and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a few baking trays with parchment paper.
Roll dough out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Sprinkle with salted cinnamon sugar.
Place cookies onto lined baking sheets and bake in preheated oven, 10 minutes or until very lightly golden. Let cookies cool on cooling rack before eating!

Enjoy!



Friday, November 7, 2014

Home Remedies (Sumac Lemonade)




Sumac! Fresh Sumac! You know, that zesty, unusual spice that gives Za'atar it's tang and adds a middle eastern flair to roasted veggies? Excitement poured over me when I found out that I was going to be receiving some fresh sumac in my Lufa produce basket last week. I've never even seen fresh sumac before. I had no idea that it would arrive as a fluffy, barby, vividly red cluster of... stuff. My first thought upon examining the bright bouquet: how do I use this? Unsure of which part of the fuzzy berries could be turned into the sweet, lemony herb that I've only ever seen dried and crushed, I turned to my trusty friend, the internet. Internet, o internet, inform me, o wise one! 

During my search, I learned that Sumac has been used in ancient herbal medicine for centuries, aiding in the prevention and treatment of various ailments, from chest congestion to stomach upsets. Well, this is just perfect timing, I thought, as I just happen to be suffering from what seems to be the world's longest bout of fever and joint aches. Also probably a good tonic to give the boy to sip on to prevent catching this dreadful flu. 

Influenza, be damned! I will sumac you right in the face!  

Now, let's get back to the "how?"

Having only eaten sumac in savoury dishes, I would never have thought to use the spice in a beverage of any kind. That is, until I stumbled upon a blog that suggested that I make Sumac-aide! (Also known as cold sumac tea, sumac lemonade, or sumacaide... depending on who you ask!) This lemony fresh tonic is super easy, and super tasty! How to do it? Soak fresh berries in cold water. Strain. And drink. That's it? That's it! How perfect is that? Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few slices of ginger for some extra immune-boosting power, and extra tasty flavour. 

Sumac Lemonade

4 cups cool water
2-3 clusters fresh red sumac berries
juice from 1 lemon (optional)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (optional)

Roughly break up sumac clusters. In a large bowl, combine water, sumac and ginger and let steep for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Strain though very fine tea strainer or cheesecloth. Add freshly squeezed lemon and ice cubes just before serving. 




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#PSL (Vegan Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte)


Well, folks. I did it. I went and made a homemade vegan Pumpkin Spice Latté.
Move over, coffee shops! Move over, Starbucks! This latté is the real deal.

No, but seriously. Real pumpkin. Real spices. Real coffee. It all makes for real good stuff!
I must mention that none of this would be possible without the great people over at Café Santo Domingo, who recently sent me some incredibly delicious coffee. It made for a wonderfully robust base for this delightfully satisfying little PSL. (Or maybe it should be a PSSL. Or a VPSSL?)


How cute is that mug? Joe from Café Santo Domingo sent me a set of them with matching saucers, along with some truly awesome beans and grounds. Seriously, you guys rock! The beans are SO tasty that I've gone ahead and made some dark-chocolate covered coffee beans with them to keep on hand as a quick snack, a great little afternoon pick-me-up. I would have included a photo, but the boy can't stop eating them all up!

A few other exciting things

For those of you following my story, I have almost completed my studies in Professional Pastry, and I am looking forward to many new adventures come January. I have started to offer custom cakes and sweets, and I am in the process of creating an online portfolio attached to this blog. I will soon cater sweets for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, or any other occasion (like, say, a girls night in!) where you may desire some custom goodies. Oh, and yes, I do vegan desserts like a champ!

On an unrelated, but very exciting note, I am pleased to announce that I will once again be participating in the 4th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) hosted by The Little Kitchen and Love & Olive Oil. I can't wait to receive my matches and see what kind of incredible edibles will be delivered to my doorstep in the coming weeks! SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!

Oh, right, so I guess by now you're probably all like, "That's nice, but I WANT ME A PSL!" Alright, alright, don't get your legwarmers in a bunch. Here it is, without further adieu... The one, the only, the real, vegan pumpkin spice latte. Or, if you prefer, the Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte. Whatever you want to call it, just make it, then sit back and drink it!

Caution: this latte is extremely addictive!

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Rustic Apple Tarte Tatin


Even though the weather might say otherwise, apple season is in full bloom! Never having been a traditional apple pie kind of girl, I've always enjoyed showcasing my freshly picked apples in something slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Whether it is my go-to German apple cake, or cinnamon and spice apple sauce, apple desserts are the epitome of fall comfort food. When I saw that Canadian Living's October issue was going to feature the "Ultimate Tarte Tatin", I knew that I had to try it out!

This exquisite tart combines warm skillet apples with a buttery, salty caramel and a melt-in-your-mouth flaky pastry shell. Oh, even writing this description makes my mouth water! A word of warning: make sure to invite someone over when you make this, because you will eat the entire thing in one sitting.



Some tips from the pastry kitchen:

Do NOT overwork your dough. It will come together crumbly, and that's good! If you work it too much, you may end up making a dough that is tough and chewy, missing out on the flaky, delicate texture that it is meant to have.

DO chill your dough before rolling it out.

DO flour your work surface. And your rolling pin.

DO use granny smith apples as suggested. I made the mistake of using another variety and they nearly turned into apple sauce. While it will still be tasty, you won't end up with the prettiest of tarts.

DO make this recipe, and do enjoy yourself! Though it takes a little while to complete, it is very, very worth it.

Oh, and a nifty bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!
To get the full recipe, visit Canadian Living's website here.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Pretty in Pink Salad (Quinoa with Watermelon and Beets)


Being vegetarian for over 10 years, I often get asked "but where do you get your protein?"
There are so many plant-based significant sources of protein out there, many of which you're probably already eating. (Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, peas, spinach, broccoli, just to name a few.) Quinoa is among those plant-based sources, and it is a little powerhouse. Quinoa is even more versatile than rice, quick and easy to cook, and contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs for growth and repair. You can eat it sweet like porridge, savoury like rice, or go somewhere in between, like this pretty pink salad.

Watermelon + Beets: a tantalizingly refreshing combo that looks as wonderful as it tastes. The earthiness of the beets balance the sweetness of the watermelon, and the textures compliment each other beautifully. I convinced the boy to hop on the pink salad bandwagon with me, and we were both hooked. Imagine my surprise when came home after work one afternoon, about to rush over to school, when I was greeted by the loveliest smile and a hands that were holding a watermelon and beet salad, ready to go. Only this time, it wasn't only watermelon and beets. No, my wonderful man took it up a notch, and invited quinoa and figs to join the party. With some avocado placed delicately on top, Josh had turned a side salad into a full blown vegan meal. I couldn't be prouder!

I'll keep this post short and sweet, so you can get right on to the market and pick yourself up a nice juicy watermelon to make this salad tonight. I'll share the recipe, you share the love!

Happy August!

Quinoa with Watermelon and Beets

2 cups watermelon, cubed
4 small beets, boiled until tender, cooled and cubed
1 cup cucumber, cubed
1 cup cooked, cooled quinoa
Handful of dried figs, chopped
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 avocado, sliced

Combine all ingredients, except avocado, and toss gently. Garnish with avocado slices. Sprinkle with pistachios or hemp seeds for an extra protein boost!







Monday, July 28, 2014

The Perfect Cheese Plate (and a product review!)


Pop quiz! What takes under 10 minutes to prep but looks and tastes like heaven? Answer: a cheese plate! Perfect for entertaining in the hot months, when you don't want to be slaving over the stove for hours, cheese plates make the perfect centerpiece at a gathering or a party. When done properly, with a little variety, a cheese plate can be a stand alone meal. The boy and I usually make a cheese plate by having one of each type of cheese: soft, semi soft, firm, goat and something crumbly like blue. We like to round it out by adding crudités, dried fruits and olives and serving alongside assorted bread and crackers. Recently, we were trying to figure out what else we could add that would be simple, quick and that would compliment the cheese but also fit on a cracker. That same evening, a special package arrived in the mail, and we knew exactly what we were having for dinner.


The awesome people over at Rio Mare sent us a few samples of their light tuna in olive oil. Arriving in it's iconic bright pink tin, I was excited to try it for the first time. We've always purchased generic tuna in water, thinking that oil might make it too rich, too greasy or too fatty. Lo and behold, we were wrong: olive oil makes tuna taste absolutely delicious! A product of Italy, Rio Mare uses only the good stuff. The ingredients list nothing but fish, olive oil and salt. No fillers, no preservatives, no bi-products. What a perfect addition to our cheese plate! I loved it so much that I went on a tuna binge for the next couple of days, making me realize just how versatile tuna can be. I stuffed an avocado with it. I had it in mac and cheese. I had it in a grilled cheese. I had a mac and cheese tuna grilled cheese... I even ate it straight out of the can as a nighttime snack. Along with the samples, I received a little recipe booklet with ideas such as warm farro salad with tuna, tuna and hardboiled egg salad, and a couple of tuna and pasta dishes. Tuna fan? You can find even more recipes and inspiration on Rio Mare's website here!

You're probably all like "Mac and Cheese Tuna Grilled Cheese? I want that!" Alright, pescetarians and omnivores, rejoice! I now present to you mind blowing. taste bud exploding, ooey gooey delicousness. Oh, by the way, I would have included a better photo, but with food this good, I was too excited to eat it that I didn't have a chance!



Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Tuna 
and spicy avocado sauce
an original recipe by allison sklar

Serves 2

1/2 cup cooked macaroni
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup shredded gruyere
4 slices thick-sliced (country) bread
2 tbsp mayo
1 can Rio Mare Tuna in olive oil

dipping sauce:
1 avocado, mashed
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tbsp mayo

Mash avocado, combine with sriracha and mayo. Set aside. Combine cheese with macaroni and tuna in small saucepan on low to medium heat. Spread mayo on one side of bread slices. Begin to heat bread, mayo side down, in skillet or frypan on low to medium heat. Once bread is heated and cheese begins to melt, transfer scoops of mac and cheese mixture inside bread and sandwich together, flipping intermittently. Serve with avocado dipping sauce.






Monday, July 14, 2014

Comforting Cobbler


When it comes to summertime desserts, I tend to opt for all things simple and refreshing. Fruits are often the star, especially when they're fresh and local. So, when I got my hands on a giant container of juicy blueberries last weekend, I knew that I had to make them into something special. In an act of perfect timing, I got the chance to sneak a peak at Canadian Living's August cover recipe - a deliciously comforting blueberry cobbler.


If blueberry pie and cornbread got together and had a baby, this dessert would be their offspring! When a crispy, crumbly topping sits on top of a mountain of sweet blueberries, it’s a challenge not to devour it straight out of the oven. Not only does this comfort food taste as incredible as it smells, but it’s super satisfying to crack through the cobbler crust with your spoon for that very first bite!

You can whip yourself up one of these babies at home in no time flat, just follow the link below to take you to the original recipe on Canadian Living's website.

Tip: top with a dollop of ice cream for an extra summery touch!









Saturday, July 5, 2014

Vegan Cheesy Stuffed Mushrooms


With summer in full swing, I find myself craving all things light and refreshing. All the most delicious local produce is in season right now, and I've been stocking up on berries, leafy greens and whatever else the market has to offer each week. Though I haven't used my stove at home in what seems like ages (for fear that it might add to the smouldering heat wave that is just now starting to dissipate), I decided to turn on my oven today to make something that I've been craving for a while - stuffed mushrooms. I wanted to serve something a little bit fancy pants to munch on while we sat and enjoyed my beau's homemade Bloody Caesars. (For all of you Non-Canadians, a Caesar is like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato instead of Tomato, and with about 10x the flavour.)



Holy cow, did I ever impress myself tonight. Not that stuffed mushrooms are compliqué or anything. Completely the opposite actually, they're ultra simple. But I made a vegan version that is just ah-mah-zing. And, let me tell you, the boy wasn't even able to tell the difference!


I made two versions, so for those of you who are all like "but I need me some cheese!", I've got you covered. But I urge, urge, urge you to try the vegan ones. The creaminess, the flavour, the explosion of deliciousness in the mouth. Ok, ok, enough with my foodgasm, I'll get straight to the recipes. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Peaches and Cream (Grilled Peach Melba Sundaes)




What better way to test out our new BBQ than by grilling… peaches?! No but seriously. That's exactly what we did last weekend. An unexpectedly delicious combination, the charred brown sugar and butter coating resulted in an explosion of flavour. We got so excited about it that we started grilling other fruits too. We tried out some pineapple, and I can't wait to try grilling bananas next. I'm telling you, if you haven't tasted grilled fruit yet, you really haven't lived. Tossed into a fish taco, cubed up in a salad, on little toothpicks with cheese... the BBQ takes fruit to a whole new level! 

Alright, let's get back to the peaches. So imagine this. Smoky sweet peaches. On top of vanilla ice cream. Drizzled with warm raspberry syrup. Topped off with fresh berries and a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds.

Yeah. You know you want it. 

This über summery dessert would look super cute all layered up in a mason jar, but I opted to serve it in crystal wine glasses instead, putting a fancy twist on a casual sundae. What a hit! I threw on a dollop of fresh whipped chantilly cream (I couldn't help myself), and a dash of cinnamon. Perfection in a glass. 


Now now, I can't take all the credit. Though the cinnamon was my idea, the whole recipe actually comes from Canadian Living's wonderful July issue, on newsstands today! But just for you, loyal readers, I'll include a link to the recipe below so that you can try it out yourself. It's quick and easy, and looks as fab as it tastes. Throwing together a last minute brunch and don't have time to make the raspberry syrup? Don't fret. Some store bought jam would work in it's place! Oh, and take my advice, top it with a dash of cinnamon. It brings all the flavours together so nicely. 

Peach pit removal tip: to remove peaches from the pits, slice down the middle and twist while the skins are still on. If your peaches are ripe enough, the pit should come out without much fuss! 

For the full recipe, click here. 




Monday, June 2, 2014

Locavore Eats (Roasted eggplant with chickpeas and homemade za'atar)


As you may have read in a few previous posts, the boy and I have recently signed up to receive weekly produce baskets from Lufa Farms. We've been delighted so far - fresh, organic seasonal vegetables produced on local rooftop farms, delivered each Wednesday to a pick up point that is close to home. We love customizing our basket each week, choosing from the many different heirloom varieties of tomatoes, the vast array of seasonal vegetables, and our favourite organic, locally produced pantry staples. Eating local has encouraged us to go outside of our ordinary vegetable realm and try new things. From jerusalem artichokes to fiddleheads, our plates have never been bursting with such a variety of flavour.


Last week, I had my first taste of "spring garlic," also known as garlic scape. It's this green shoot that looks just like a green onion, only the taste is 100% garlic! I started out by adding it into my sweet potato salad for a deliciously unexpected twist. This week, I paired the scape with a beautiful purple eggplant and roasted it into something superb. 


Now, let me tell you, I am NOT usually an eggplant fan. Neither is the boy for that matter. He actually asked me not to feed it to him. And I understand the sentiment. I usually find the texture gooey and the flavour null. However, I've seen so many recipes in my various middle eastern cookbooks that look absolutely mouth watering. 



When the boy saw the bright purple aubergine peeking it's head out of our basket, he looked at me confused and asked, "ugh... really? why?" I simply replied with a shoulder shrug and a "why not?" Later that evening, I harvested some herbs from my balcony garden and I made the most delicious za'atar laced chickpea dish that I've ever had. My proudest moment? When the boy devoured it. He exclaimed, "Wow! That stuff was great! What was in there?" to which I ever so coyly replied, "Eggplant."