Making Peace with Peach Muffins

One thing about moving is that with new apartments also come new neighbours. I’m not sure if it’s us or if we just have really bad luck. But for some reason we’ve had to deal with some really unpleasant neighbours.
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I’d like to think that Christoph and I are pretty nice and friendly people. But for some odd reason we always seem to have neighbours that dislike us. And they show their distaste for us by leaving their garbage in front of our apartment door or throwing their dug up weeds onto our patio when they think we’re not looking. That’s only half of it. I’m not sure what we’ve done to incur the wrath of our neighbours but it’s starting to make me think that it’s us. Or maybe it’s me.
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Anyhow, it’s the end of summer now and every corner store and farmer’s market is over flowing with peaches. So, when I see fresh ripe peaches I have a tendency to buy way more than I know what to do with. This time around, I decided to use them up in a muffin recipe. Together with sour cream, corn meal, and cardamom for added spice I came up with a lightly sweetened breakfast muffin. For a minute there I had the idea of using these muffins as a peace offering to our neighbours. Unfortunately, I’m not THAT nice and I’ll just enjoy my muffins alone.
 
Peach Cardamom Corn Bread Muffins
Makes about 18 regular sized muffins
 
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup golden brown sugar to 3/4 cup for sweeter muffins
1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 melted salted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup diced peaches plus more for topping
 
Preheat oven to 400˚F
 
Line a muffin tin with muffin liners, you’ll get approximately 18 muffins.

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. In a mixing jug or small bowl, whisk the sour cream into the milk and add the vanilla, and melted butter. With a wooden spoon, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until lightly combined. Gently fold in the diced peaches. Slice up a few more peaches to get 18 wedges.

Portion the muffin mix between the muffin liners, filling up to approximately 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a peach wedge. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden.
 
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Clean Out The Fridge Tacos

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People talk. A lot. And when I say ‘talk’ I mean to say that everyone likes to talk about how they are going to do this and that and all the great things that they have planned ahead of them. More often than not most of these intentions don’t pan out or don’t even come close to fruition. That was me. For months and months and even more months I had been telling myself and everyone that I would get back to blogging. I would blame it on my job, that was sucking the life out of me or really I should have blamed it on sheer laziness. Now that I’m jobless I don’t have much of an excuse since being lazy isn’t really a legitimate reason.
 
Just don’t let me get lazy again when I find a new job.
 
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So, the past year has been interesting. I was working as an assistant pastry chef and moved twice into new apartments. What a change it has been since moving out of my parents’ place. So much cleaning and so many responsibilities! Who knew that vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom should be done more than once a month…or more than once a week if you’re living with a messy guy.
 
Being responsible for groceries and cooking has really opened my eyes to how much food waste I produce. I seem to have a really hard time with buying just what I need and always end up with half empty containers of food and half rotten vegetables that I had planned to use for some new recipe or other. It also doesn’t help that I tend to only shop when I’m hungry. But it actually makes me feel terrible that I waste so much.
 
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The recipe I have today is one of my ways to use up leftovers. Tacos, to me, are great because they can be super simple or as complicated as you want. You can use as little as 3 or 4 ingredients and end up with something that tastes delicious. Here, I wanted to use up some roasted chicken that we had for lunch a few days before as well as some vegetables I had lying around***. From the fridge I pulled out an avocado, some leftover red cabbage, cilantro, and vegan mayo. All that was left was to buy the tortillas and limes. Simple, and much better than wasting perfectly good food.
 
Now I just have to find a way to use up the tortillas and limes…
 
 
*** More often than not I use fake beef for the filling. Yves makes some really good meatless beef tenders that are delicious in tacos when shredded and pan fried.
 
 
Spiced Chicken Tacos with Creamy Lime Aioli  (Can easily be veganized) 
Makes enough for 2 people as a main
 
1 large roasted chicken breast
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 of a small head of red/purple cabbage, shredded
1 large avocado
8-10 small tortillas
powdered cayenne pepper
paprika
juice from 1/2 lime
1 lime sliced into quarters
salt
 
For the aioli:
2/3 cup vegan mayo
juice from 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped roughly
 
First make the Aioli:
In a small bowl, stir the lime juice into the vegan mayo and add the minced garlic. Stir until smooth and then add the cilantro. Let it sit while you make the rest of the tacos so that the garlic has time to flavour the dressing.
 
To make the tacos, start by prepping the cabbage, avocado, and limes, and place them into serving dishes or spread out on a large serving tray. Shred the chicken breast by hand. Heat a nonstick pan on medium and coat with the vegetable oil. Add in the chicken shreds and sprinkle the cayenne pepper and paprika over, about 1/2 tsp of each or to taste. Stir fry until the chicken is crisp. Add the lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish.
 
Wipe the pan with a paper towel and turn the heat up to high. Add one tortilla to the pan at a time and toast on each side, about 20 seconds per side or until the tortilla starts to scorch.
 
Serve each taco with some extra cilantro on top as well as a squeeze of lime if desired.
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End of Winter Cranberry Chocolate Buns

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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.

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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.

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Strawberry Shortcake, not just for Dessert

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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.

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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.

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Miniature Meals

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Want to know what else? The cola fizzes!

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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.

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