Monday, February 18, 2013

Superfood, Buttery Hearts and More..

Yikes! I've let two semi-major celebrations pass without a hit of a recipe. What's happening to my blog brain? I have no clue -- none at all, except to say that I've got lots of pictures for you and not one but two recipes to share. Yeah, I know it's a little late, but treats are good at anytime of the year, especially when there's no celebration except friendship or love. How sappy is that.

Well, let's get on with it then!

Last weekend was the Lunar New Year -- hello year of the Snake! Our festivities were small and condensed to spending time at home this year -- no dim sum or loud restaurants, but I was totally fine with that. I did make a few treats to share including these coconut sesame peanut cookies .. I used peanut butter and tahini this time and skipped the canola oil since I was all out. Totally snackable and delicious...

I also made these traditional barbecue pork buns (char siew bao) to bring over to my parents on New Year's Day. My dad made the filling and I made the dough. My favourite part is the sticky sweet glaze that goes on top.

And so that my New Year week would be filled with health and all things red (lucky colour of Asians!), I made these superfood quinoa muffins to take to work. They are packed with red quinoa, dried unsweetened sour cherries, brain-healthy walnuts and spelt. Recipe included below!

And what about Valentine's Day? A bit of a bust since it was the same day as parent-teacher interviews, but I managed to make this to-die-for chocolate silk tart with almond and date crust. It's got a secret ingredient that, when you find out, will just make you go back for another piece. My adoring Valentine enjoyed a piece while I was running after students outside their homerooms, and I had chocolicious bite right before bedtime when I got home.

Usually, I get it together and bake treats for my colleagues for Valentine's day, but this year I was too exhausted. Better late then never, right? I made these brown sugar chai-spiced butter cookies yesterday to take to my friends at work tomorrow. They're not too sweet, tender and buttery, with a crunchy, sparkly sprinkling of spicy raw sugar on top. They are perfect with a nice chai tea or latte or of course, coffee.


Red Quinoa Superfood Muffins
adapted from Hungry Gnomes
makes 24 mini muffins

The original recipe for these super healthy babies, calls for fresh or frozen blueberries. Since we're in the dead of winter, I opted to sub in some unsweetened dried sour cherries. I also warmed it up with a healthy dose of cinnamon and cardamom. If I were making this during blueberry season, you can bet I would throw in a big handful of fresh berries, and I might also skip the spices and orange juice in favour of some lemon zest and juice. 

2 tablespoons of almond milk
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of cane sugar
2 tablespoon of tahini
1/4 cup of spelt flakes
1 cup of spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of cooked red quinoa
1/4 cup of dried unsweetened sour cherries, chopped
1/4 cup of walnuts ,chopped

1. In a large bowl, combine the milk, juice, maple syrup, tahini and sugar. Whisk to combine.  Add the spelt flakes and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Sift in the flour, spices and baking powder and soda. Stir gently. Add in the cooked quinoa, nuts and cherries. Stir until just combined.

3. Spoon the batter in prepared muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Brown Sugar Chai-Spiced Butter Cookie Hearts
makes about 3 dozen little hearts

This little buttery hearts can be flavoured any which way you like if you're not into chai. A simple cinnamon sugar would be lovely, as would the combination of orange and cardamom, or just straight-up vanilla. 

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 good few grinds of black pepper
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of spelt flour

Sugar Topping
2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar, or turbinado sugar
a pinch each of ground cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom and ginger

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and well-combined. Add the egg and mix well.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until a stiff dough forms. Refrigerate for an hour or so, just so the dough firms up.

3. Take the chilled dough and divide into four balls. Take one of the balls, roll out on a flour surface, using a pastry scraper to turn after each roll to make sure it's not sticking. Roll the dough to about 1/4 -1/3 inch. Cut out your cookies with whatever shape your heart desires.

4. Place you cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather up the scraps, roll out the dough and repeat until you've worked through all your dough balls.

5. Sprinkle your cookies with the sugar-topping and pop them back in the fridge for about 10 minutes before they go in the oven. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until the sides get a little golden brown.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Trending: #Cauliflower

Don't get me started on how much twitter is a waste of time. I know. It's ridiculous. But I've braved through report card season with a twitter browser in front of me, refreshing every 5 minutes, and I still made it on time. It's also a great news source depending who you follow. Ahhhh! I've jumped on the twitter wagon and it's hard to jump off.  Help.

In other matters, I've noticed that awhile back, everyone was making cauliflower. 'Tis the season, I suppose, and I joined right in. I made this lovely, bright yellow stew that I've bookmarked for more than a year. The original recipe calls for farrow, which was out of my reach at the time, and so I made do with some Nishiki rice, a medium-grain sushi-type rice. It has a lovely nutty, sweet flavour, and plumps up nicely in the stew, giving it bulk and texture. I also added some fennel, which gave it a lovely, warm fragrance. This is a real meal in a bowl. I added chopped spinach, but any green will do. I also added red lentils because I wanted a nice creamy broth, and they did just the trick -- turned it from soupy to stewy and creamy in minutes. Perfect.

 In my mind, I'd like to make the cauliflower recipes mentioned above really soon -- especially the cauliflower with pasta -- but in reality, I'll probably be eating pureed squash soups and squares of tofu for another little while. In my mind, I'll make a beautiful wild rice and mushroom pot pie, something I've been wanting make for a while, but in reality, I'll probably be making this lentil soup for the 50th time this year. In my mind, I'll get up next Saturday morning and post about an exciting baking adventure I had in the middle of week, but in reality, I may not get to posting until much later.

I hope this soup hold you over during this unsettled time. Be well!

Curried Cauliflower Stew with Brown Rice and Lentils
adapted from Leek Soup
makes a big pot

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 bulk of fennel, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 hunk of ginger (whatever you can handle!), minced
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of tumeric
1/4 cup of red lentils, rinsed well
1/4 cup of Nishiki rice, rinsed well
4 cups of vegetable stock of water (or a mixture of both)
1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 bunch of spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a big pot, heat the olive oil, and add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until the veggies are glistening and starting to soften.

2. Add the spices, salt and pepper, and stir well. Cook for about a minute, until things start getting a little sticky at the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils, rice and stock/water, stirring well to pick up all the fragrant bits from the bottom.

3. Simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils have melted away and the rice is almost all cooked.  Add the cauliflower, cover the pot and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the cauliflower is gender.

4. Stir in the spinach, and simmer again for another 5 minutes, to let the liquid reduce a little.

5. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve and be comforted.

Happy Cauliflower!