End of Winter Cranberry Chocolate Buns

IMG_3843

Winter is finally starting to let up over here in Toronto. There are still a few patches of snow here and there but for the most part the weather is warming up and I can finally stop wearing my heavy winter boots! This winter has been the longest and coldest I can remember in a long time. Ice storms, -40˚C days, and countless extreme cold weather warnings. This past Christmas we dealt with about a week of power outages across the city. Mine lasted from the night of my Birthday up until the day after Christmas. I sadly remember sitting in a slump in my frozen living room, wearing 5 layers of clothing, on Christmas day crying “This is the worst Christmas ever, I hate Rob Ford”. Yeah, I blame it on Rob Ford.

So, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever been so excited for summer to come. With its hot days, going to the beach, walking around Toronto’s different neighbourhoods, biking around the island, sitting out on patios, going to farmer’s markets, and hopefully some gardening. That is what I’m looking forward to this summer.

But for now, since it is still a little chilly outside, I like to warm up with some tea or coffee and something warm to eat. These buns are a nice way to use up some frozen cranberries that most people have lying around after their winter season. The combination of tart cranberries and the sweet dark chocolate makes for a nice contrast. This recipe comes from one of my all time favourite books: Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is a wonderful book that I was lucky enough to get for half price about 10 years ago in a small book shop in downtown Toronto. It is filled with wonderful recipes for buns, bread, tarts, cakes, and small pastries from their travels around the world. As well, each recipe comes with its own story from their travels or interesting backgrounds of where the food came from. It’s probably one of my favourite books just because of that. Who doesn’t love to read stories about the food they’re just about to make?

However, I did not follow the recipe exactly but instead made these little buns vegan by swapping the dairy products for vegan alternatives and omitting the egg from the original recipe. They’re just as delicious as the originals but maybe just a little bit better for the world.

IMG_3810

 

Cranberry Chocolate Sweet Buns (vegan)
Makes 1 loaf of 8 rolls (can be easily doubled)
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

1 cup almond milk, heated until lukewarm
1 tsp active dry yeast
About 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp and a little more
1 tbsp sugar of your choice (caster, coconut, brown, etc.)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, chilled
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 tbsp of almond milk or melted margarine for topping
2 tbsp coarse sugar for sprinkling

Lightly grease one 9×5 inch loaf pan with vegan margarine.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, pour in warm almond milk and stir in yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour. Add margarine, in pieces, sugar, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add 1 more cup of flour and stir in until fully incorporated. Now add in the chilled chocolate and cranberries with 1/4 cup more flour. Mix until incorporated. If not using a stand mixer, turn out onto a very well floured surface an knead gently, incorporate more flour until the dough is only slightly sticky. If using a stand mixer, just follow the kneading process and incorporate more flour until it is only slightly sticky.

Place dough into a bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch down. Cut into 8 equal sized pieces. Lightly grease the palm of your hand and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball beside each other into the greased loaf pan. Cover the pan with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes while you preheat your oven.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and place rack in the middle.

Once buns have risen, lightly brush with almond milk or melted margarine and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

IMG_3826

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strawberry Shortcake, not just for Dessert

IMG_5377

It’s been a while.

The past 7 months has been a busy time for me. Starting a new job, moving to a new place, and of course school. It was a stressful time for me to say the least.

Unfortunately, within those 7 months I really let go of my healthy eating habits and started to eat a lot of processed foods. It’s hard to plan and cook meals when you’re so busy with other things and I probably had a lot more instant ramen noodles and Korean Chocopies than I’d like to admit. However, it’s no excuse for poor eating habits since I know a lot of people manage to eat healthy while leading busy lives.

Hopefully getting back into the blog will help me with getting back on track!

For this post I decided to health-ify strawberry shortcake, a common dessert that’s full of fat, processed sugar, and gluten. My version, however, has none of these things. The biscuits are gluten free, sugar free, and sweetened with apples and blackberries. While the whipped cream is replaced with greek yoghurt and out of season strawberries are improved with a little vanilla and maple syrup. It’s delicious, in it’s own healthy way, without making you feel guilty and without making you feel like you need to take a nap.

IMG_5383

Healthy Strawberry Shortcake (gluten free, low sugar)
Makes 5 servings

Scones (gluten free, sugar free)
Makes 5 scones
Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories Apple and Oat Biscuits

100g Oat Flour, made from ground oats
75g Light Buckwheat Flour
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp organic coconut oil, hard, and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened, greek yoghurt
1/4 cup organic homo milk
1 small apple shredded
About 10 blackberries, chopped roughly

Preheat oven to 425˚F

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in coconut oil and using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the oil until it is evenly distributed in small pieces. Add in the rest of the ingredients except blackberries and bring into a dough. If too sticky add more flour and if too dry add more milk. Gently fold in the blackberries. Lightly dust your work surface with buckwheat flour and pat out evenly to about an inch thick. Cut into squares with a knife or whatever shape you like. Lightly score the top of the biscuits from corner to corner.

Bake on a parchment lined sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and crisp and the inside is slightly moist.

Strawberry Compote
Makes about 1 cup of compote

1 1/2 cups of ripe strawberries, chopped
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of lemon juice (optional)

In a small saucepan, cook strawberries and syrup on medium low heat until thick and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Add vanilla and lemon juice.

Yoghurt “Cream”
Makes 1 cup

1 cup of plain, unsweetened Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp of maple syrup
1/4 tsp of vanilla

Mix ingredients together and keep refrigerated

To assemble the shortcake, break biscuits into triangles and layer with cream and compote. The biscuits are best served warm with the cold cream and warm compote.

blackberryscones

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Miniature Meals

IMG_4520

No, you’re not seeing wrong.  That’s a very mini hamburger that could fit in the palm of your hand. Actually, it could fit in the palm of your baby’s hand.

IMG_4515

On Monday I decided to try out a crazy Japanese snack kit that I bought at one of the asian supermarkets in town. Originally I thought I was just buying a box of hamburger shaped candy. However, upon further inspection it turned out to be a DIY mini hamburger kit of sorts and with no candy in sight.

The kit comes with a whole load of powder filled packets and some mixing trays and utensils. How fun is that?! All you need is some water and a microwave to cook your very own mini hamburger, fries, and cola. A whole meal that will fit in the palm of your hand. Really! Ok, so it’s not exactly a meal, maybe a meal if you were the size of a hamster but still…it was fun.

I’ll just show you a bit of what I did so you can get the gist of it but mainly I just wanted to post it cause they’re so  darn   cute.

IMG_4417

IMG_4423

IMG_4429 IMG_4430 IMG_4434 IMG_4435

From the pictures you can see the fries being made. Essentially, all I had to do was mix the fry powder with a certain amount of water, mix it up, press it down into the ridged container, microwave it, and slice it into itty bitty little fries. Yes, they are adorable and surprisingly tasted a little bit like fries.

IMG_4441

Next, I made the hamburger buns, patty, and cheese. Yes, you even make the cheese. There’s real cheese powder in there. So weird. So cool.

IMG_4455

Want to know what else? The cola fizzes!

IMG_4467

IMG_4506

IMG_4460

IMG_4536

So, was all the work worth it for the taste? Was it delicious?

Absolutely not.

Though, I wasn’t expecting it to taste good. I mean, come on. Making food out of powder in your microwave? Also, in general, I find that western food created by asian companies always tastes strange. The bun for one was really sweet, the ketchup that I made was severely artificial, and don’t even get me started with the patty.

I managed to eat one and that was enough. But, overall it was totally worth it for the fun of making it. Now I just need to get my hands on their ramen making kit and I’m all set.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Perfect Pie

IMG_4374

It’s pie season!

There’s just something so homey and comforting about pies. I don’t know what it is. It’s not like I even grew up eating pies at home because my mother never wanted to bother with making something as fiddly as a pie. The only time I remember having a homemade pie when I was a kid was when my father and I tried to bake an apple pie together. I think it probably took us about 5 hours to just get it into the oven. Then of course, we never baked it properly and it ended up swimming in a pool of apple liquid.

Then, years later I tried my hand again at making pies but this time alone. You’d think that something like a pie, with just fruits and flour wouldn’t be so difficult… but that dough! The one you’re not supposed to over work for fear of a chewy, tough crust but instead gently pat and roll into shape, only to have it crumble on you while transferring it to the dish. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so frustrated by a dessert in my life.

Luckily, I’ve improved on my pie making skills and happen to have the perfect recipe for delicious, flakey, melt in your mouth crust that uses only 2 ingredients (not including water). Just salted butter, and plain flour. Nothing else. The technique however is a little different than your regular pie crust and comes from Pim Techamuanvivit at Chez Pim. It involves a bit of work, but nothing too hard to accomplish and also results in a VERY easy to handle dough that will in no way break on you while transferring it to the dish. And for that, I am thankful.

IMG_4245

Since I have so much rhubarb growing in my backyard it only makes sense to make a pie with rhubarb. Though, unfortunately a pie with only rhubarb would either be way too tart or need way too much sugar and that’s just not my kind of thing. Luckily, it’s also strawberry season and the perfect time for delicious Ontario strawberries.

IMG_4352

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Salted Butter Crust
Makes 1 9″ lattice topped pie

First make the pie crust following this recipe.

3 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1cm pieces
3 1/2 cups hulled, and quartered strawberries
1/2 cup of coconut sugar
1/2 cup of golden sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water
turbinado or coarse raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out half the dough until it is slightly larger than your pie dish. Transfer to the pie dish. Roll out the second piece of dough slightly larger than the pie dish and cut out 14 1cm wide strips. Add filling to the dish and gently arrange the strips in a lattice pattern so that the strips weave in and out of one another. Trim off any excess dough from the sides and crimp the edges with your fingers. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the crust. Now, with any extra dough left over, roll it out and cut out two or three leaf shapes and place them in the middle of the pie as decoration. Brush these with egg wash as well. Finally, sprinkle the pie with coarse sugar and place on a baking tray. Bake for about an hour or until the filling is bubbling and thickened. Let cool completely before slicing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Summer Sweet Fry Salad

IMG_4287

Lately I’ve been noticing how expensive it is to go out and eat. Here in Toronto it seems to be common place that a regular salad will cost you anywhere from $9 for a plain garden salad all the way up to $20 for a “fancy” one. Really? $20 for some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and maybe some sort of protein. It’s really quite amazing how much food is marked up in restaurants compared to how much you can make it for at home. But, I’m not really complaining since I do know how much labour costs and everything else that goes into running a restaurant costs. After all, you’re not really just paying for the food when you go to a restaurant. There’s the service, ambiance, experience, etc.

However, just yesterday I went for afternoon tea with my sister in one of the “high end” areas of Toronto. I put high end in quotes because I really just think all the people that frequent those places just like to pretend they’re high end and better than everyone else. They’re not.

Anyway, my point is, I’ve been for afternoon tea a few times before at a bunch of different tea rooms and I’d say that this was one of my worst experiences. You’d think that $100 would get you some nicely prepared sandwiches, some properly brewed tea, and hopefully some really great service. Unfortunately, the service and the quality of the food was incredibly similar to the whole vibe I get from that area in general.

IMG_4280

So, back to salad.

I don’t have much of a recipe today but this is just a salad that I like to eat when I want something filling with lots of different textures, flavours, and colours. It’s a really good meal for a hot summer day when the thought of eating hot food makes you break into a sweat. I never really make it the same way every time but I try to keep a few main ingredients such as sweet potatoes, pecans, and apples in there and then add whatever else I have on hand at the time.

IMG_4296

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pecan salad
Makes 1 large salad (approximately)

About 2 cups of mixed lettuce greens (spring mix)
Sweet potato fries (recipe below)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 a medium apple (something crisp such as a honey crisp works well), sliced
small handful of bocconcini cheese or about 2 tbsp of goat’s cheese, chopped or crumbled
about 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
good aged balsamic vinegar, about 2 tbsp
extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tbsp

First prepare the sweet potato fries. Lay out the greens on a plate and top with fries, apples, etc. drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or top with your favourite dressing. I like this Wild Ginger one from Fresh Restaurants.

Note: this is just a rough recipe and the amounts aren’t exact. Feel free to add more, less, or omit or add ingredients.

Sweet potato fries
1/2 medium caribbean sweet potato (the one with a reddish skin and yellow/white on the inside)
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil or any other high heat cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash and cut the sweet potato into about 1cm x 1cm x 10cm pieces. Melt the coconut oil in a large bowl and toss the fries in the oil. Lay out evenly onto the tray and bake for 15 minutes and then flip the fries and bake for about another 15 minutes or until golden.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers