Saturday, December 1, 2012

Warm and Spicy

I've taken a break that's more than a little one. It feels like it's been a long time. I went from sunny, still-warm weekend afternoons to frosty Monday mornings, hectic marking on Fridays and bone-chilling Sundays that, although expected this time of the year, leave us feeling more than a little under the weather.

While I haven't been cooking too much during my time away from the blog world, I have discovered a few new-to-me and delicious things: the winter squash world beyond pie pumpkins and butternut, quinoa's little sister, amaranth, a re-kindled love for pasta, stunningly black beluga lentils and a brief introduction to tempeh.  I confess that, although the thought crossed my mind, I did not photograph all of these discoveries. However, each and everyone of them is worthy of a repeat in the kitchen, and so those recipes will follow (hopefully) soon enough.

This is the first time in about a month and a half that I've felt more or less caught up with marking and planning, that I've not brought home a pile of folders and books only to leave them in the bag near the door untouched again until Monday, that I've not woken up and instantly planned out the hours that I would need to catch up on work and feel ok again when the work week starts in two short days.

What a year. And the action has just started. But I think I'm on way back to my usual grove, on my way back to looking forward to Mondays just as much as Fridays, and back to just feeling ok. But before I delve back into the work week, I'll leave you with a quick little cookie recipe that uses two of my new found favourite ingredients: winter squash and amaranth. I know these ingredients don't sound very cookie-like, but they definitely produce a unique cookie. It's great for using up that tiny bit of pumpkin puree you have left after making a pie, and it's got the warmth and comfort of spiciness and molasses: almost a holiday-type flavour if you ignore the fact that it's low-fat. What you don't want to skip is the amaranth; it gives these cookies a unique crunch, especially if you toast them first. But be careful! If your pan is too hot (like mine was!) you'll end up with popped amaranth-- totally cool, like tiny little popcorns! -- which is better eaten as is, or with a splash of milk, like cereal. So just toast the amaranth lightly and add it to the batter and when it makes, you'll get a interesting crunch, like no other crunch you've experienced.

I'm on my way back to routines and schedules and deadlines and marking, but I think it will be ok.  I think I feel ok.  And I'm hoping that regular blogging will resume. Hoping.  Thanks for your patience.

Spicy Squash Cookies with Toasted Amaranth

makes about 20 smallish cookies

inspired by Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1/4 cup of amaranth seeds (toasted for about 1 minute on a dry pan)
1/3 cup of pureed squash (I used kobacha squash .. it's so tasty!)
2 tablespoons of apple butter
2 tablespoons of molasses
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon of garam masala spice blend
a few good grinds of black pepper (yes, black pepper!!)
1 cup of spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
a pinch of salt
a few slices of candied ginger, chopped fine

1. Heat a small pan over medium heat.  Add the amaranth seeds and toast for about 1-2 minutes, or until the seeds get toasty brown or a few of them start to pop!  Remove from the heat and cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the squash, apple butter, molasses and canola oil until smooth. Add in the spice powder, pepper, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until a thick batter forms.

3. Add in the cooled, toasted amaranth and candied ginger and mix until thoroughly combined.

4. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a prepared cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

5. Enjoy with a chai tea latte!

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