Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baking Bonanza!!

Mid-July. Vacation: started. I love this. No homework, no early morning bus rush, no lunches, no meal plans. I have been off for 3 days and my oven has been on for each one of them: raspberry peach turnovers, double chocolate raspberry muffins and now a fig tart with raspberry jam. There's definitely a theme here!

Raspberry season is in full swing and my shrubs are producing an abundance of fruit this year. Even with almost no water (it hasn't rained here in weeks) they are juicy, ripe, ruby jewels! They even had a little house guest, can you see him?

Figs are also in season. Oh! boy do I love figs! I love a nice fig and prosciutto salad, it's my favourite this time of year.

I bought a flat of figs and found this recipe that I had made with dried figs in winter one year. This time I used fresh figs and modified it a bit to modified it a bit to make it dairy free.

Fig and Almond Tart - adapted from the LCBO.


3 tbsp (45 mL) ground almonds
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup (75 mL) vegan shortening sticks, cubed


9 to 10 figs, stemmed and cut in half - if they are small, you will need 15-16.
½ cup (125 mL) ground almonds
2 eggs
1/3 cup (75 mL) sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated orange rind
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (250 mL) coconut milk (Open the can, pour into a small sauce pot and gently heat until uniform. Store the rest for later use.


1 cup raspberries
3 tbsp maple syrup
Juice of half an orange
1 tbsp cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

2. Prepare pastry. Combine almonds and flour. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles bread crumbs. You can roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper OR pat into pan. Big fan of "pat into pan", less mess and I usually end up reconstructing my crust in some way anyway! Place parchment paper over pastry, and weight with dried beans or metal pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and paper and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until pastry is pale gold.

3. Reduce heat to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Place figs on base of tart in a circular pattern. Whisk together almonds, eggs, sugar, orange rind, vanilla and coconut milk. Pour over figs.

5. Place in oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until custard is set. Cool.

6. Heat raspberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. In a small bowl whisk orange juice and cornstarch together. When the raspberries have become liquid, whisk in
orange and cornstarch mixture. Stirring occasionally, let it come to a low boil and thicken. Strain it to remove the seeds (or not - but for the purpose of a glaze, I recommend it). Brush over figs.
It turned out a bit redder then I expected but that's what raspberries are all about!

Serves 8

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Early Summer Indulgence

Was my last post really in February? How time flies!! I have come to a really wonderful realization and I wanted to share. I started this blog to see if it would be possible as a full-time working mom of 3 little boys to sustain a mostly locally sourced seasonal diet and the verdict is: you can. It's a lot of work, but very rewarding. The thing I find the most challenging? Finding the time to blog about it!!

I've had the wonderful opportunity to write my first guest blog post about coconut milk rhubarb ice cream here: Please check it out :)

With local farmer's markets now back for the season, I'm inspired to discover new flavours and share them with everyone!!

Rhubarb Ice Cream

2 cans of coconut milk (400 ml) - not light kind
2 cups chopped rhubarb
6 medium egg yolks or 4 large
2/3 cup sugar (divided) - note: you could also try 1/2 cup agave (divided) if avoiding refined sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Rhubarb compote

Chop rhubarb and place in saucepan with maple syrup, 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon.
Heat on med-low until stewed, purée until smooth then transfer to a bowl and cool.

For the ice cream

Here is the coconut milk right from the can

Heat coconut milk on med-low until smooth then increase to medium and bring to just before boiling. Watch it closely, you don't want it to boil!

Here is the coconut milk warmed up and smooth
In a glass bowl, whisk egg yolks with remaining sugar until pale yellow.
Dark yellow yolks

Light yellow yolks
Temper the eggs. Basically what this means is whisk eggs with one hand while slowly pouring in about half the warm coconut milk, then pour the eggs back in the pot with the remaining coconut milk. Keep whisking until it's fully incorporated.

Heat until the mixture begins to thicken. It will not thicken like a dairy custard but will coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Prepare an ice bath. When the custard is ready, strain into a clean bowl and sit in ice bath. Whisk in rhubarb compote and chill for about 20 minutes.

Place some plastic wrap directly on the mixture and chill in the fridge for a few hours. You just want the mixture to be very cold. I've left it overnight, it's not a problem.

Before placing the custard in the ice cream machine, you'll need to give it a good whisk.

The mixture has separated a bit - no worries!
Churn according to manufacturer's instructions.

The hard part is the waiting!!
It will be soft when you remove it from the machine so transfer it to a container and freeze for about an hour. If it is frozen solid when you pull it from the freezer, let it sit for 5 minutes and it will be easier to scoop.

I served this ice cream in a waffle bowl topped with stewed strawberries. It would be delicious with strawberry shortcake!!

Taste tested: 5 kids, 4 adults, 10 thumbs up!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For the love of ice cream!

Been a little distant from my blog lately. It's not because I've increased my consumption of foreign foods or because I've revolted against #sugarpurge or #dairypurge, it's simply because life is hectic. I've also been experimenting in the kitchen with a few recipes but none have been blog worthy... Until today!

This idea has been churning in my head since Xmas (no pun intended). See, it all started with a box of Toffifee. I know what you're thinking, "what happened to #sugarpurge"? Well, we all have out weaknesses and a box of Toffifee is mine. I could eat a whole box in one sitting, I have no self control when it comes to those little nougat lovelies!

My hubs knows they're my favourite. Last weekend he picked up some snacks at the grocery store, including a box of Toffifee. I told him no treats for me, I was back on #sugarpurge but he was so happy to have bought me a box of my favourite treats, how could I say no ;)

I could have eaten that whole box of 48. But instead, I chopped them all up (well, all 36 remaining) and made some ice cream. I used coconut milk as the base because even though I may have my ups and downs with #sugarpurge, #dairypurge is holding pretty strong. It would certainly be delicious with half cream, half whole milk.

Coconut milk Toffifee ice cream.

36 Toffifee (cause let's face it, you'll want to eat some)
2 cans of coconut milk (organic, 400 ml)
3 egg yolks (just found a local supplier, very excited!)
1/2 cup brown sugar (organic, fair trade)

Slice each Toffifee in half and separate.

Chop nougat into small pieces. Chop caramel cups into small pieces and add half of the caramel bits to the nougat pile. Place into a large heat-proof glass bowl. Place a fine strainer over the bowl. Chop hazelnuts and place in a small bowl with other half of caramel bits.

Shake the coconut milk cans and add to sauce pan. Heat on med-low for a couple minutes so that the coconut milk becomes a consistent liquid. You can skip this step if you successfully managed to shake your coconut milk into a uniform texture. Take out 1/2 a cup.

Separate your eggs, keep eggs whites for tomorrow's healthy omelet :). Make sure your 1/2 cup of coconut milk is cool then whisk your egg yolks with the cool coconut milk.

Add brown sugar to the warm coconut milk in the pot and increase heat to medium. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and heat until it starts to bubble but not boil. Temper the egg yolks then whisk the warm egg mixture back into the pot. Heat on medium stirring constantly for 5 or 6 minutes. It will thicken slightly but will not thicken like a dairy custard. If you're using milk and cream, you might need to head for a bit less time.

Pour the warm liquid through the strainer over the nougat and caramel bits and whisk until fully melted. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and place custard mixture bowl inside, let cool completely, maybe 45 minutes. Place a plastic wrap directly over top of the mixture and chill completely, at least 3 hours.

When ready, place in ice cream maker, churn according to directions. In the last 5 minutes, pour in chopped nuts and caramel. You can eat it right away, may be a little soft, or chill in freezer for a few hours to harden.

Share the Toffifee, share the love :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When in doubt, make soup.

I have been receiving winter squash in my CSA baskets lately. They look like alien acorn squash with their cream, orange and green splotches. They're actually called Carnival (Delicata) Winter Squash and apparently they're so delicious you can roast them and eat them peel & all! My Nana used to slice the squash and bake it in the oven with brown sugar. I still cringe when I walk by the acorn squash section of the grocery store, but I smile inside cause I remember her.

There is no way that my boys will eat slivers of roasted squash, even if they were covered in a full bag of brown sugar. They will however slurp up pretty much any soup I put in front of them, provided I call it a colour. In our house we have white soup (cauliflower/cheddar or potato leek), brown soup (mushroom), green soup (spinach) and orange soup (carrot). Their favourite is the green soup. The oldest won't bring it to school for lunch anymore though cause the kids teased him about eating grass. Lovely. Oh well... At least he still asks for it at home :)

Carnival Winter Soup aka Yellow Soup

2 carnival or acorn squash
1 large potato
1 medium onion
2 small parsnips
Olive oil
Chicken stock (confession: I am using a 284 ml can. But it's organic, so that's ok, right?)
2 cups apple cider (no sugar added) *if you'd like your soup less sweet, maybe try 1 1/2 cups.

Halve the squash, remove seeds. My boys call them guts. Slice into slivers, and microwave for 8-10 minutes. If the microwave creeps you out you could probably roast them in the oven until them start to soften. Let them cool enough to handle then peel.

Peel potato, cut into chunks. Do the same with the onion. Peel parsnips, slice.

In a large pot on medium, add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add onion and sautée until they become soft and start to caramelize. I salt the onions but I suppose if salt is not your thing you don't have to. Add the vegetables and stir them up until they're coated. I add a bit of salt here too. Let them sautée a bit and when you start to smell them all stir once more and add the can of chicken stock. I filled the can with apple cider twice and added it in. That's actually a bit more than 2 cups. Then I added about half a can of water, just enough so that the vegetables were all covered. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down, cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wow! The weather this weekend is perfect. What a beautifully warm Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Usually the house is warmed by the oven being on all day roasting that turkey and the stovetop burners with their mashed potatoes and soup... Oooh! I can't wait!! but this year it's so hot outside, I think a little non-traditional something might be in order.

Given this weekend's warmth, what could be better than pumpkin pie ice cream? Well, vegan pumpkin pie ice cream of course!

Vegan pumpkin-pie ice cream (adapted recipe from Williams-Sonoma Pumpkin Ice Cream)

1 can coconut milk (not light)
1/3 cup agave syrup (maple syrup would be great too!)
2 Tbsp molasses (convinced that this is the secret ingredient)
2 tsp cinnamon (you can use less, I just love cinnamon)
Pinch of nutmeg, pinch of ginger, pinch of cardamom, pinch of allspice
1 cup pumpkin puree (check your freezer in case you followed my last blog post)
1 tsp vanilla

Shake the can of coconut milk, a lot. Then shake it again just to be sure. Add all ingredients to a medium pot and heat over gentle heat. Use a whisk to blend everything until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and refrigerate until cool (overnight is ok). Before pouring chilled mixture into ice cream maker, give it a good stir. It may have settled a bit. Churn according to manufacturer instructions (25-30 mins). Chill in freezer for a few hours and when ready to eat, let soften at room temperature about 10 mins.

Hope you enjoy it as much as my boys & I do! Happy Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pleasures!

Wow! It's been a while! I have been so busy, my blog has taken the back burner lately. I know, everybody is busy, all the time. Ever notice that when you ask someone how they're doing they respond with "so busy" instead of "fine thanks"? Sometimes you get an "ugh, so tired" and I know, because this is the answer that tends to come to the tip of my tongue before I realize that I don't have the energy to answer "so tired" because that would involve a big long qualifying explanation. "So busy" on the other hand is perfectly acceptable. Chances are, if you're busy, you're also tired. This was me last spring, always going, never stopping... Until I got pneumonia and it knocked me off my feet. Took weeks to recover and now with Winter approaching I know I am at risk of getting it again.

I started seeing a Naturopath at the beginning of Summer and he recommended I decrease my dairy and refined sugar intake. Ack! No way did I think it would be possible for me to cut out my beloved cheese (with crackers, often a meal in itself) & ice cream (oh how I love thee, ultimate comfort food). Refined sugar I thought would be difficult in baking, but I am allowed honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and probably agave too (but I have questions about it so more on that another time). I swapped out my cow milk for rice milk lattes, sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar. Discovered honey does work well in coffee not just tea. I found delicious coconut ice cream in the Natural Food store - because I don't always have time to make it. I ate natural black licorice to fight off mid-afternoon sugar cravings and wouldn't you know it, those cravings are gone! I did notice an increase in my salt cravings but that was temporary. Then, somewhere around the 10 week mark, something happened ...

I felt zen.

You know that feeling of being balanced? I was there. I had never felt like that. The crazy energy in my head that keeps telling my body to go go go, don't sit, get up, get it done... That crazy energy? Calm. Not gone, just tamed. And my body, the one that keeps telling my brain to slow down cause it needs a rest, it just goes now, all day but at a more even pace.

So what does one do with more energy? Why, one plans ahead for those busy times and gets cooking!! Now that I'm back in the office and the boys are back in school, I've turned to my trusted mom calendar for scheduling activities and preparing our meal plans. I've decided to try out 2-week period meal plans and see if that makes a difference and so far, so good! On the second week, my grocery shopping is done in one stop and I need to buy much less. I also save a lot of time by only going place. Here's what I made this weekend with that extra time: Pumpkin Spice Latte mix. Yup! That's right. Pumpkin Spice Latte mix. Now I know what you're thinking, can't you just get a PSL soy latte at your local coffee shop? Why yes, you could. Buy it's loaded with sugar and can you even really taste the pumpkin? Oh well I say! I will make my own!!

Here's how I ended up with this creation :)

Pumpkin Purée:

Choose 4 local/seasonal sugar (pie) pumpkins. Set oven to 400F. Slice pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds & goop, save seeds and compost goop. Place pumpkins face down on baking sheets and roast until soft. Probably 30 minutes but I actually wasn't paying attention, I was busy prepping for Monday night's dinner. Remove from oven, let cool. You'll probably notice the skin blistering. Scoop out flesh into a food processor and pulse until smooth. You should have a bit more than 7 cups of pumpkin purée. Divide into one cup servings, store in freezer for later use (pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream - with coconut milk - I'm feeling inspired!).

Pumpkin Spice Latte mix:

You should have about 1/4 cup of pumpkin leftover from the purée you just made. Place it in a small saucepan along with 2 cups rice milk (or whatever milk you drink) 2 Tbsp of maple syrup, 1 Tbsp cinnamon and a pinch of your other favourite spices: nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, allspice... Whisk over med-lo heat until dissolved, store in fridge. The next morning, you'll have to stir your mixture and place some in a pot to reheat for your latte. You might want to strain it into your mug, the spices tend to drop to the bottom of the mug but that's the only downside I guess with using real ingredients.

Oh! And those saved pumpkin seeds? Wash them, dry them, coat them in olive oil and salt and toast them in the oven at 250F for about an hour.

So there you have it: 7 cups of pumpkin purée, 3 Pumpkin Spice Lattes an a mid-afternoon crunch snack for $4 and about an hour in the kitchen. That, my friends, is planning and that my friends, is zen. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stock up for winter!

I know, I know, we've barely turned the calendar page on August and I'm posting about winter. Makes me cringe a little at the thought, but you have to start loading your freezer now if you want to enjoy local summer goodness all year round.

I picked up 5 of those 3L Ontario peach containers, they were $2 each! Family and friends came over and they all asked what I would possibly be doing with all the peaches! Well, as it turns out, Mac & Flip are peach-eating munchkins. They must have eaten an entire basket between the two of them. For the rest, I tried making fruit leather. They were tasty but I definitely need to tweak that recipe a bit. The rest, I poached, peeled, pitted and froze. I don't think I've ever had so many peaches in the freezer before. Can't wait to come up with something peachy on a snowy day!

Tonight for dinner we had chicken. We love chicken here and we eat a lot of it. I buy whole chickens when I can, they're very affordable and you get so much out of them. I love to rotisserie them on the BBQ, chop them in half and grill them butterflied or even break it into pieces. I'm starting to get the hang of that but I'm no master carver just yet. I tried poultry shears and giant kitchen knives but what works best is a very sharp poultry knife. If you're going to be breaking up chicken into pieces, invest in one of those.

You know what's also great about whole chickens? The carcass. I love making my own chicken stock and it's so easy! Here's my recipe:

Chicken carcass and other chicken bones (local)
One large handful of carrots, chopped in chunks (you don't have to peel them but I take off the tops)(local)
Celery stalks 2 or 3, chopped in chunks (local) *tip: don't be shy with the celery. I've tried making stocks without it, it's so much better with it!
Two yellow onions, chopped in chunks (cut off the tops but leave on the outer peel) (local)
Salt, peppercorns (5 or 6) and bay leaves (2 or 3)

Place chicken carcass and bones in a large stock pot with carrots, celery and onions. Fill with cold water. Season with salt, add peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring pot to a boil, cover and simmer for a couple of hours. Remove the lid and let it reduce a bit. Let cool, strain and store in the freezer. I use plastic containers for the freezer. I have managed to crack my 1L Mason jars more times than I can count. I've tried refrigerating them first, freezing with cap off, tightening the cap after stock is frozen, they almost all cracked! So disappointed. If you have a tip please let me know.

This recipe will make anywhere from 24-30 cups of stock, depending on the size of your pot.

You can also make your stock in a crockpot overnight. It will make less but it's so convenient. A little word of caution though, the smell of warm chicken stock might wake you at 3 am :)