Antipasto & Strained Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Plate

PC Black Label #PlayWithYourFood Campaign

Antipasto & Strained Sheep's Milk Yogurt Plate

I have been thinking of making this Antipasto & Strained Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Plate for what feels like months. Putting together the ingredients in my head  – would it lean in a whatever-I-had-on-hand direction or towards a more thought-out list of toppings, highlighting ingredients from a specific region? All I knew for sure is that a creamy, chili-oil streaked strained yogurt would form the base for a slew of toppings.

I recently partnered with PC Black Label  on a year long campaign to #PlayWithYourFood, using some of their gourmet ingredients. Of course, I am thrilled to be working with a brand I use often at home already, but more than that this campaign is exciting because it’s fun to have someone else pick out the ingredients for you so you can push your kitchen comfort zone a little.

Antipasto & Strained Sheep's Milk Yogurt Plate

I’ve long been a fan of Labneh, the strained yogurt enjoyed in sandwiches and mezze in the Middle East, and make it at home often. Usually we roll a batch into small balls, place in a jar with herbs/chilies, top with olive oil and use it to add a zing to pasta or soups, to spread on grilled bread, in sandwiches and salads. It’s super versatile and it’s tangy, creamy flavour is especially welcomed in a spicy dish as it cools the heat.

The ingredients I received this month from President’s Choice Black Label were an Eggplant Caponata, a tangy sweet/sour stew of eggplant, celery and capers and a Peperoncini, Italian imported spicy chili peppers in oil. After spooning half of each the jars into my gob, taking a few minutes to put out the fire in my throat from the Peperonici (it’s so delicious I couldn’t stop – something about self control here…) I had so many ideas for them but wanted to honor their Italian roots and create something fresh, light, and unique.  Sheep’s milk ricotta would have been a more authentic Sicilian base for the dip, but I couldn’t get the idea of a sheep’s milk strained yogurt out of my mind so I settled on that.

Antipasto & Strained Sheep's Milk Yogurt Plate

This dish is amazing for it’s balance of flavours, textures and colours. In one bite you get the creamy strained yogurt that cools the heat from the peperoncini, the crunch from the pine nuts and chickpeas, the sweet and tangy caponata, the briney capers and the warm, aromatic fresh oregano. It’s my favourite style of eating; Adaptable to your tastes and how hungry (or not) you are, a little taste of everything, best enjoyed with a glass of Nero d’Avola while you revel in good company, concerned only if the bread sticks run out. The strained yogurt can be made in advance and kept in a sealed container the fridge for up to 1 week as well, so you needn’t think too hard to put it together when your guests arrive.

You can find these PC Black Label Products online or in store – you don’t even have to go to Italy (but you should anyway). How’s that for convenience? If you’re experimenting with your President’s Choice Black Label products and share a photo, tag your inspiration it with #PlayWithYourFood to join in!

Antipasto & Strained Sheep's Milk Yogurt Plate

Antipasto & Strained Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Plate
serves 4-6 as an appetizer/antipasto

If you don’t like specific ingredients in this, like olives, feel free to swap it out for something more to your liking. Quick spicy pickled cucumbers or another pickled or fermented ingredient would help keep things balanced, but as long as you’re enjoying whatever you’re eating, you do you.

1 container (750ml) Sheep’s Milk Yogurt*
2 tsp PC Black Label Peperoncini oil
1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup PC Black Label Eggplant Caponata
1/2 cup mixed olives, whatever you like best
1/2 cup crispy chickpeas**
1/2 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp fresh oregano, rough chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp chopped fennel fronds, optional
extra peperoncini oil, for garnish
toasted baguette, crackers or bread sticks, to serve

MAKE AHEAD: Place a large coffee filter into a mesh strainer set over a bowl and add your yogurt, chili oil and salt. Give it a gentle stir and place in the fridge over night or at least 4-5 hours. You can save the leftover whey for other uses in the kitchen.

When ready to make your dip, and it should be made the same day you plan to eat it, scoop the strained yogurt onto a large serving dish and spread around with the back of a spoon. Make 4 small wells in the dip and to each add: the olives, the chickpeas, the caponata and the tomatoes. Sprinkle the capers, oregano and pine nuts over the whole thing and drizzle with extra peperoncini oil or olive oil. Drag your scooper of choice through the dip and get a little bit of everything in each bite. Best eaten the same day it’s made.

*You can usually find this at well stocked grocery stores, but otherwise check at your local health food store or your farmer’s market. I like to use full fat yogurt as it gives the dip a decadent creaminess. The lower the fat, the less creamy it will be so keep that in mind when choosing your yogurt.

**for crispy chickpeas, toss a strained and rinsed can of chickpeas with 2 tbsp olive oil, a few pinches of salt and pepper (and any other spices you might like – I usually play with curry spices or zaatar) and bake in an oven preheated to 375 for 20-30 minutes, checking and shaking the pan every so often, until dried out and crunchy. These make great toppers for salads, cottage cheese, stews and soup etc etc.

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Disclaimer: I am part of the #PlayWithYourFood Campaign sponsored by President’s Choice Black Label and receive compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. Regardless, I only work with brands I use personally and enjoy.

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Roasted Mango & Green Cardamom Lassi with Vanilla Chia Pudding

Roasted Mango & Green Cardamom Lassi

Breakfast sort of drives me crazy most days. I wake up starving but with literally ZERO desire to make anything but coffee and toast. Now, there isn’t a thing wrong with toast but it gets to be a bit of a bore after 31 years of having it pretty much any/every way. And I often feel like I’m depriving myself of much needed nutrients to get my day off to a proper start.

Roasted Mango & Green Cardamom LassiRoasted Mango & Green Cardamom Lassi

This lassi parfait is equal parts simple to make and delicious to eat. I like to roast the mango in large batches and puree for this recipe as well as to top plain yogurt or add to smoothies. The green cardamom gives it a warm almost medicinal kick which I frigging love. Using pre-ground cardamom is an option here but fresh ground is so fragrant and flavourful and fresh that it works really well with the simple roasted mango.

Roasted Mango & Green Cardamom Lassi

Roasted Mango & Green Cardamom Lassi with Vanilla Chia Pudding
makes 2 large servings

I’ve used Hewitt’s Dairy Yogurt here as we love that it’s all natural and super tangy. I chose a 0.3%mf yogurt as a lassi should be thin and drinkable, not thick and heavy. You can use whatever you like best.

Lassi

2 large very ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 1″ strips
3 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups plain Hewitt’s Dairy cows-milk yogurt
water or milk, to thin
honey or agave, optional

Vanilla Chia Pudding
1/4 cup chia seeds
4 drops pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened milk (any kind)
1 tbsp light honey or agave

To Serve
Honey
Granola of your choice

For the Lassi
Preheat oven to 375.
Crush cardamom pods with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy pot. Remove the small seeds and grind in a mill or with a mortar and pestle.

Place peeled strips of mango on a baking sheet and toss with oil and cardamom. Roast until soft and starting to caramelize around the edges, about 12-15 minutes. Scrape mango and all the leftover juices into a bowl and place in the fridge to cool. While it cools, make your chia pudding so it has some time to set.

Add cooled mango and yogurt to a blender and pulse until super smooth. I usually add about 1/4 cup of cold milk or water to mine to thin it out at this point and pulse again. Taste and add sweetener if desired. I prefer mine quite tangy so generally don’t add extra sweeteners, especially if your fruit is nice and ripe.  Set aside.

For the Chia Pudding
Mix all ingredients in a small dish and let sit for 15-20 minutes so the chia can absorb the liquid.

To Serve
Add a layer of the lassi, a layer of chia and finish with another layer of your lassi. Top with granola and a drizzle of honey or shake everything together and enjoy as an extra high-vibe drink.

 

Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sour

Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sour

There are few things I love more than a glass of wine (or two 😏) after a long day of chasing a wild animal around our neighbourhood, cooking for 10 (1 toddler), washing dishes for 20, doing laundry for 30…. you get the picture here. I love wine.

Some days, however, call for something just a little more. Something that wakes up your mouth and shoots your taste buds to attention. A boozy sour is always good for that and this one is no exception. If there an option to choose bourbon instead of rum or whiskey, I always do. It’s smokier and a bit sweeter and I find it’s robust flavour lingers a bit more in cocktails.

Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sour

This has all the elements of a classic sour, a puckering zing from plenty of fresh lime juice and a simple syrup to balance it out. But the addition of pineapple juice gives this another level of sweet and sour flavour plus the refreshing tropical dream-enducing pineapple punch I love. We drank them in the backyard as the warm evening sun set behind the clouds and though the temperature was no where near tropical, we were feeling pretty sunny.

Make the sour mixture in advance and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Add crushed ice and bourbon to order and BLAMMO. Cocktail heaven in the comfort of your own home.

Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sour

Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sour
makes 6 lowball cocktails
I like to add a pinch of chili flakes to the sugar mixture to give this cocktail a little zing! Feel free to omit if you prefer things without spice.1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
pinch red pepper flake, optional
1 (398ml) can sliced pineapple1/2 cup lime juice (about 4-6 limes)
1 1/2 cups bourbon
crushed ice

Preheat oven to 450 and place a grill pan in to preheat with the oven.

Bring the water, sugar and chili flake, if using, to a boil. Reduce heat and stir until sugar is dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, add in the lime juice and all the juice from the can of pineapple and set aside. Can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in a sealed container in the fridge.

Pat 6 of the pineapple rings dry with a clean towel. When oven in preheated place them on grill pan until charred, 3-4 minutes. Flip and char the opposite side of the rings. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Fill each glass with crushed ice, 1/4 cup bourbon and top with sour mixture. Garnish with charred pineapple and enjoy!

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Everything Bagel Rough Puff + Spinach and Sausage Rolls

My mum and I used to work in the same office (rather, she got me a job at her office fresh out of high school) and every Friday on our commute we would stop for bagels. I looked forward to it all week, no doubt because it also fell on a Friday, and that first drift of yeasty garlic & onion wafting from my Everything Bagel was enough to weaken my knees.

I read about Trader Joe‘s Everything but the Bagel spice on Real Simple recently and instantly felt my mouth start to water. It had been a while since I’d thought about that perfect savory blend of spices. I thought to myself longingly that I wished we had a Trader Joe’s in Ottawa so I, too, could be sprinkling the mixture all willy-nilly on veggies, toast, avocado, fish….. what wouldn’t benefit from a dusting of everything spice? And whyyyyy not just make it myself, you ask? You’re exactly right – why not? It’s easy to make, fun to adjust to your own taste, and makes a great addition to so many dishes. So off I went sprinkling and mixing and eating everything with everything spice.

Everything Bagel Rough Puff & Spinach/Sausage Rolls

Last week, as I was enduring another ever-present sausage roll craving and pondering my plan of attack for them, the jar of spice eyed me from the kitchen querying, once again, why not? The resulting rough puff pastry flecked with crunchy bits of garlic, onion, poppy & toasted sesame seeds is TO DIE FOR, as you can imagine. But the flavour they add to the final sausage roll is so much more! If you’re not into meat, a cheddar and spinach filling would be insanely good. Or a mushroom/cheddar/spinach filling. Or cream cheese! The possibilities are truly endless and there are few ingredients that wouldn’t be just a wee bit better from a warm embrace by a flaky, fragrant pastry. Just remember to ask yourself… why not?

Everything Bagel Rough Puff & Spinach/Sausage Rolls

Everything Bagel Rough Puff & Spinach/Sausage Rolls
makes 1 dozen sausage rolls

I use sausage from a local shop here so feel free to use whatever you like best. My favourite is something simple with fennel and some red pepper flake. As well, I cut my rolls a little too small here so I’ve adjusted the recipe for thicker bites.

1 cup unsalted butter, grated
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp Everything Bagel spice, recipe follows
8-10 tbsp ice water

1 lb fresh pork sausage meat
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed until all the liquid is drained
1 egg
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Combine the 1/4 cup of frozen, grated butter and the flour. Rub together with your hands quickly until mixture is almost sandy with a few larger pieces of butter. Add in enough ice water, mixing with a wooden spoon, to bring it all together. Knead for a few minutes so it comes together into a firm dough, and let rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.

Roll dough out into a long rectangle. Place half the grated butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the 3rd of dough without any butter over the middle section, and the other end on top of that, like folding a business letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll that piece out into another rectangle. You’ve just completed one “fold”.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY
Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Place the rest of the grated butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the 3rd of dough without any butter over the middle section, and the other end on top of that. You’ve now laminated the butter in 2 folds. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again. Repeat until you’ve made 5-6 folds. If you find the butter is getting too soft, freeze for 10 minutes after you complete a turn. Chill for at least 4 hours in the fridge. Will keep in the fridge for 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.

When ready to make your sausage rolls, Preheat oven to 375.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle approx 1/4″ thick. Slice in half and arrange 1/2 the sausage meat along one side of the pastry. top with half the spinach and roll up in the pastry. Pinch seam and place that side down. Give it a few good squeezes so the sausage is nice and snug in the pastry. Whisk the egg up in a small bowl and brush the rolls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cut into 1.5″- 2″ pieces. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake, turning sheet halfway through, for 25-30 minutes or until pastry has puffed up and is golden brown on the top. Serve with your favourite mustard.

*I used an Oktoberfest Sausage from a local shop, The Red Apron. Use something that isn’t too strongly spiced or flavoured. Failing that, mix together some ground pork, fennel seed, a tbsp of grated onion, salt/pepper, pinch of red pepper flake and call it a day.

Everything Bagel Rough Puff & Spinach/Sausage Rolls

Everything+ Bagel Spice
makes approx. 1 cup

I add flax and hemp seeds to my everything bagel spice mix because it’s an easy way to add more nutrition. Feel free to omit them if you’d like.

2 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoon dried garlic
2 tablespoon dried onion
1 tablespoon hemp hearts, optional
1 tbsp flax seeds, optional
2 teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together in a jar and keep sealed in a cool dark place for up to 2 months.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Bean Upside Down Rye Cake

+ iPad Giveaway from Gaylea

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Cake

It’s pretty wild to think of the evolution of recipes and how they’re shared now compared to just decades ago. I have a select few of my Nana’s recipes that she passed down, scribbled barely legibly on a branded notepad and held together with a sewing pin. The ink is fading by the day and I try to remind myself often that I need to have them copied or re-write them, lest they be gone forever. These recipes, created with family and community in mind, painstakingly recorded and tested/tweaked by the palettes of visiting guests, family and hungry children, were how food knowledge was passed along before the internet age took hold.

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down CakeRhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Cake

My generation, on the other hand, rarely looks further than internet. Between the umpteen trillion food bloggers (hi!), online cooking mags, cooking websites based on recipes from print magazines, video recipes and online cooking forums… the need for tangible books has passed. But is that really a good thing? Cookbooks are tested. Laboriously. And then tested again. And then revised. And re-tested. And revised. Buying a cookbook generally ensures no meals will be ruined in the quest for deliciousness. Online recipes, on the other hand, aren’t always tested and perfected before being shared with the world. Which isn’t to say they can’t be trusted, they may just take a bit more time to get the result you were looking for in some cases. Finding a source for online recipes that you trust is crucial in your hunt for meals worthy of your precious time and money. Failing that, turn to your favourite cookbooks and family-tested recipes handed down. They may not be perfect but each one tells a story of a time and place in your family’s past.

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Cake

This Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Rye Cake is based on an old written recipe I have for a more traditional pineapple upside down cake with some updating of ingredients and techniques. The topping is tangy and sweet which pairs incredibly well with the hearty, slightly bitter rye flour base.

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Cake

Rhubarb-Vanilla Bean Upside Down Rye Cake
makes one 9″ cake

I used Stirling Creamery Churn84 European Style butter in this recipe as I wanted a rich, creamy butter for the topping and a smooth and luxurious fat for the cake. I’ve used salted and unsalted but feel free to use one or the other and adjust salt in the recipe slightly.

In the recipe I call for chopping the rhubarb into smaller chunks. This is slightly easier to work with. If you prefer the long strips like I have in the photos, cut your stalks in half lengthwise and into various sized strips no longer than 9″. Caramelized them as per recipe and then arrange in springform pan in strips.

RHUBARB TOPPING
1lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into various sized strips (no larger than 8-9″)
1/4 cup Stirling Creamery Salted Butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 vanilla bean

CAKE
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dark rye flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup unsalted Stirling CHURN 84 European Style Butter butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp PURE vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

PREP
Line the sides of a 9″ springform or cake pan (with sides at least 3″ high) with parchment. Butter  and flour the sides of the parchment.

TOPPING
Preheat oven to 375.

In a heavy skillet, add the butter, sugars and salt over medium heat. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds out using the back of your knife, running it along the length of the inside of the bean. Scrape into butter/sugar mixture. Swirl pan a few times so it’s all combined. Add your rhubarb slices to the pan in one layer and turn heat up to med-high. Cook until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, 6-8 minutes. Arrange rhubarb pieces/strips on the bottom of your prepared cake pan and pour remaining butter  mixture in the skillet over.

CAKE
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder/soda, salt and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with your hand mixer/whisk, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time mixing completely into the batter. Add the vanilla and milk and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing well in between each addition. Give the batter one last 10 second whisk/mix to ensure everything is well combined. Pour over your arranged rhubarb and carefully spread out over the mixture.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges of cake are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (it’s ok if you see some of the gooey rhubarb topping, that will set once it cools a little). Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes in the pan.

Remove the cake by pulling the parchment out of the pan. Peel the sides of the parchment down and put a plate, serving side down, over the whole cake. Holding the plate firmly, flip them both together so the rhubarb becomes the top of the cake once it’s on your serving platter. Carefully remove the pan from the cake.

Serve with clotted cream or ice cream. This cake is best eaten the day it’s made.

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Upside Down Cake

AND! Gaylea Food Cooperative is giving away a free IPad for all your online recipe reading, admiring and creating! See below to enter. Good luck!

Gay Lea iPad Mini 2 Giveaway – April 2017

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Savory Pea & Parmesan Hand Pies with Sumac Labneh

Baked The Blog

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With Spring so close you can almost taste the fresh peas, I haven’t been able to get this recipe from Baked The Blog out of my head. Savory green pea & nutty Parmesan filling spread over a tangy sumac strained cheese and tucked away in a flaky, buttery pastry. I shared it on the blog almost 2 years ago now so I think it’s time to bring it home again. What’s not to love? Make a double batch so you can freeze some for easy lunches or snacks.

Shoot over to Baked the Blog to find the recipe!

Savory Pea & Parmesan Hand Pies with Sumac Labneh

Powerhouse Green Dip

Powerhouse Green Dip

Back before we had Ruthie I imagined a world where she would sit, quiet and still, on the counter top watching diligently as I put together a recipe or meal. She would be absorbing everything I did, holding steadfastly to the memory of cooking with Mama when she was a little girl. We would sit together at the table, at the same time, and eat every meal side by side as we giggled to each other.

Powerhouse Green Dip

And then I actually had a baby. To most parents, this is hilarious. As “well-behaved” as your baby/toddler is, they likely do not sit still for more than .377560367 seconds at time. And if they do, you’d better go check on them because your phone/glasses/toothbrush are probably in the toilet. They may have also taken some of that beautiful meal you so lovingly prepared for them, all the while dreaming of what-could-be, and made a painting for you on the wall with it. There is little romance or whimsy in raising toddlers (or so I feel), but every so often they’ll surprise you by sitting still. Even for 10 minutes while you make this dip together. And then actually EAT it! Hallelujah!

We are able to spend more and more time in the kitchen together as she gets older, and though it isn’t without challenge, we do our best to instill healthy eating habits in her while also showing her how delicious healthy foods can be when you prepare them with some creativity. She loved this dip and that was a home run as far as I’m concerned. The toddler palette is, of course, the most refined.

Powerhouse Green Dip

We are a dip family. Most things eaten under this roof are dipped in some form of liquid or sauce. Hummus, ranch dressing, toum, milk or tea, satay sauce, ginger scallion sauce…we firmly believe everything can be made better by dunking. This green dip is no exception. It’s jammed with fragrant herbs, nutritious greens and extra decadent sour cream and Greek yogurt. It’s creamy and rich, but with the addition of lime juice it isn’t heavy or unbalanced. Whether you’re using it for a dip, a marinade for chicken or fish, a sandwich spread or topping for soup, I think you’ll agree that it makes everything better.
Powerhouse Green Dip

Powerhouse Green Dip
makes 1 1/2 cups

I used the Gaylea GOLD Sour Cream here because I wanted the dip to be as creamy and rich as possible. Feel free to use any percent of sour cream you’d like.

2 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh mint
2 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 green onion, light and green leafy parts
1/4 cup torn kale leaves
1/4 cup rough-chopped bok choy*
1/2 cup Gay Lea GOLD Sour Cream
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 large avocado
2 tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2-1 whole lime, depending on taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
milk/water, for consistency sake

Add the first 8 ingredients (greens and herbs) to the bowl of a food processor. Process until everything is minced finely. It should be almost paste-like in consistency. Add the sour cream, Greek yogurt, avocado, olive oil and lime juice and blend again for a good 3-4 minutes or until smooth. The texture of the dip will depend on the power of your food processor. If you have a powerful high speed processor or blender, it will be extra smooth. Otherwise it will be similar to mine here, creamy with some texture from the greens. Add the garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper (to taste). Pulse a few more times. If you like the consistency, it’s ready to serve. If it’s too thick, add some milk or water 1 tbsp at a time until it’s the right consistency for you.

*Bok Choy is a nutritional power house. High in Vitamin A & C and minerals like phosphorus, zinc, sodium, copper, manganese, selenium, niacin, folate, choline and beta-carotene, it is one of the most nutritionally dense plant based foods. We generally have bok choy hanging around which is why I added it here. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to skip.

A Lack of Colour

Creamy Coconut Lentils with Caramelized Onion and Fennel

 Creamy Coconut Lentils with Caramelized Onion and Fennel

I’ve been feeling heavily uninspired in the kitchen lately. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta, a lot of Marcella Hazan’s 3 ingredient tomato sauce on top of said pasta, a lot of bread-based meals and boring grains. Whether it’s the grey cast days we’ve been having lately or the general lack of colour in the stores, I’m bored. I want more sun, more vegetables, more flavour.

These lentils are inspired by a beautiful bowl I happened upon on Pinch of Yum. That humble bowl of lentils spoke to my gut, alluring with it’s promise of creamy pulses licked with fruity oil and fragrant thyme. The simplicity wasn’t the inspiration I thought would stir me but the heart wants what the heart wants.

 Creamy Coconut Lentils with Caramelized Onion and Fennel

This is my version of a creamy pot of lentils, made with what was on hand and what felt right for my tastes. The caramelized onion and fennel provides a rich sweetness to the broth while the coconut milk is just enough fat for it to coat your mouth with flavour.  Serve with grainy bread that’s been drizzled with oil and charred lightly to fill this meal out even more.

 Creamy Coconut Lentils with Caramelized Onion and Fennel

Creamy Coconut Lentils with Caramelized Onion and Fennel
serves 4 as a main

1/4 cup olive oil, butter or mixture of the two
salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 (pinch) tsp cinnamon
pinch red pepper flakes
5-6 cups veggie or chicken stock
2 cups brown lentils
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chopped curly or lacinato kale
olive oil, for serving
toasted grainy bread, optional for serving

Warm olive oil over medium heat and add the sliced onion and fennel. Let cook stirring only occasionally but keeping an eye so they don’t burn, until deep golden brown and sweet, approximately 20-25 minutes. Add in the diced carrot, celery and red pepper flakes and cook until starting to soften, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle in the ginger, coriander and cinnamon and stir so the spices coat the vegetables. Pour in the stock, lentils, thyme and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes. Lentils should be cooked through and still hold their shape without being mushy. Add in the chopped kale and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Serve with fresh thyme leaves, a drizzle of oil, lots of fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes if you like it extra spicy. Serve with charred grainy bread on the side.

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Thinking Ahead

Yeasted Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Waffles

Yeasted Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Waffles

I remember the days of stirring softly in bed, my thoughts drifting to breakfast as I re-joined the cognizant world and marveled at the way the morning sun painted our whole room gold. So romantic. Breakfast could be whatever I dreamed, coffee and pancakes or maybe a smoothie and some oatmeal, homemade of course. These days I rouse to the sound of my husbands alarm at 5:54 (precisely), tell myself to go back to sleep before the baby wakes up and promptly hear said baby cry, my eyes slightly burning from fatigue and the number of times I’ve crammed my fist in there to rub them hoping maybe that would jolt me back to life.

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Thinking ahead isn’t always my strong suit so breakfast can be a bit of a pain some days. Trying to get Ruthie fed and ready for the day takes precedent and often I end of drinking 14 cups of coffee and eating whatever I can reach while trying to make sure she doesn’t leap to her death off literally everything in the house. A fantastic recipe for jittery anxiety come 12pm. Not sustaining, not healthy, not fueling. Not a good way to start the day.

The last few weeks I’ve been trying to spend 30 minutes on Sunday making something I can eat for breakfast each week. A few weeks ago were oatmeal muffins with banana and chocolate chips, and then some cookies that were high in fibre and full of seeds and nuts, and this week we went for waffles. But not just any waffles. Waffles that fill the air with the smell of fresh yeasty bread & warm cinnamon, flecked with sweet plump raisins. I wrote this recipe to make a big batch of waffles to eat through the week or to freeze for future chaotic mornings, of which I’m sure there will be plenty when I return to work soon. Enjoy these toasted with butter (my favourite!), with your favourite nut butter and fresh fruit or on their own.

Yeasted Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Waffles Yeasted Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Waffles

Yeasted Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Waffles
adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 1 dozen regular waffles or about 6-8 Belgian waffles

I used spelt flour because I had it on hand and its super nutritious. If you only have whole wheat and all purpose, use 2 cups of each.

3 tsp active dried yeast
3 cups lukewarm milk
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2/3 cups unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Stir the warm milk and yeast together with the honey or maple syrup and leave for 5-10 minutes until frothy and bubbly.

Add the butter, salt, vanilla and eggs and stir to combine. After whisking the flours together, add them to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon and raisins and fold together. Place a piece of cling wrap over the bowl loosely and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The longer you leave the batter, the richer and more yeasty the flavor will be. It is best if made at night and left overnight in the fridge but they will still be delicious with a shorter resting time.

When ready to cook, lightly grease your waffle maker and cook according to manufacturers instructions. Set on a wire rack to cool and then place in a freezer bag separated by parchment paper so they don’t stick together. Or put half in the freezer and keep half out to eat now – they will keep for 5 days in an air tight container.

The Art of Spent Love

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns
Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns

We don’t celebrate Valentines Day in our house. That isn’t because our immaculate love transcends Hallmark Holidays or because we reek of pretentiousness and manage to romance each other every day so we don’t need a special day that tells us to do it. If I’m being honest, it’s because we don’t really care. Because at the end of each day we dig deep to find the last tiny shards of physical affection that remain from a day of being tugged, climbed, screamed at, hugged, kissed, poked and touched over and over again (which can be difficult enough for those of us who need to have our physical space). We try to unravel the tangled thoughts in our heads to form a few sentences in order to share our days with each other as concisely as possible. After dinner is done and Ruthie is in bed we often sit, legs sprawled and heads hung to one side, weighted by the day, our fingers feeling around for the others’ until they meet and fasten together, unable to speak but confident in our love despite how spent we are. Those fingers bound together is just enough some days to know you’re seen, cherished and supported. That is our love. And it doesn’t need a special day because chances are good we would forget to celebrate anyways.

goat butter rough puff pastry & ginger-cardamom morning buns

On the days I find it hard to connect through physical touch, I often bake knowing that’s almost as good as a hug. My husband has the sweet tooth in our family, my daughter and I tending toward the savory. But my one sweet indulgence, the one I can’t walk past at the bakery and that sustained me through my pregnancy, is anything made with puff pastry or croissant dough. Those laminated layers of butter-crisped dough stuffed with any number of oozy or sugary or creamy fillings is the stuff of my dreams. If anyone is worthy of homemade pastries, it’s my dear sweet husband.

When I toyed with making my own at home, I felt a bit daunted. There’s a lot of information out there and while the process and ingredient list is minimal, I felt that maybe I was missing something. There must be more to it. Some sort of magic that happens in those simple folds that I must be neglecting to read about. Nope! It really was so easy. I decided on a rough puff pastry which is a short cut version that takes about 45-50 minutes to put together. Using goat butter can be a tiny bit more difficult as it has a lower melting point thus requires a few pops into the freezer during the process to ensure everything stays cold. Cold = flaky. My hands run hot so I definitely needed to chill throughout the process. But maybe you’re one of those really cold people who have hands like tiny icicles. I wish I were. My pastry skills would be on point. I digress. Goat butter gives this pastry a mild grassy, sweet farmy taste. If you like goat cheese, goat milk etc then you’ll appreciate the unique flavour. If you do not like goat dairy, what’s the matter with you!?! I kid. Give this a try just the same, the flavour is much milder than you’d expect and if you’re not looking for it you may not even notice a difference from your cow butter pastry.

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns

This is simple pastry made with love for my man. I may not be able to lift my head more than an inch in the evenings, but I can direct you to the pan of sweet, flaky, warmly spiced morning buns and utter a quiet “I loveeeeee you” knowing you’ll get the real message, which is  how terribly, painfully much I love you even if in this moment in our lives, we can’t always fully convey that message as clearly as we’d like. Now eat your love buns and leave me in peace!

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry + Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns
makes 1 dozen buns

I made this pastry the day before I planned to make the buns as I wanted the pastry to be nice and chilled in it’s final state before mucking about with it. If you don’t like ginger or cardamom, which will give these buns a warmth that cinnamon alone won’t, you may omit and add an extra 1/2tsp of cinnamon.

Goat Butter Rough Puff Pastry
1/4 cup unsalted Hewitt Dairy Goat Butter, grated and frozen

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted Hewitt Dairy Goat Butter, grated and frozen
2 1/4 cups flour, refrigerated for 30 minutes prior to starting.
1/2 tsp fine salt
8-10 tbsp ice water
Ginger-Cardamom Morning Buns
1 recipe Goat Butter Rough Puff, above
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup butter, softened
 Combine the 1/4 cup of frozen, grated butter and the flour. Rub together with your hands quickly until mixture is almost sandy with a few larger pieces of butter. Add in enough ice water,

mixing with a wooden spoon, to bring it all together. Knead for a few minutes so it comes together into a firm dough, and let rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.

Roll dough out into a long rectangle. Place half the grated butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the 3rd of dough without any butter over the middle section, and the other end on top of that, like folding a business letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll that piece out into another rectangle. You’ve just completed one “fold”.


Place the rest of the grated butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the 3rd of dough without any butter over the middle section, and the other end on top of that. You’ve now laminated the butter in 2 folds. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again. Repeat until you’ve made 5-6 folds. If you find the butter is getting too soft, freeze for 10 minutes after you complete a turn. Chill for at least 4 hours in the fridge. Will keep in the fridge for 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.

When you’re ready to make the morning buns:
In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, zest and spices until combined. Remove 1/4 cup of the mixture and set aside (this will be to sprinkle over the baked buns). Mix the butter into the remaining mixture.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll your pastry into a 16×20″ rectangle. Gently spread the butter and spice mixture over the dough. Starting at the longest end, roll the dough into a long tube. Slice tube into 1″ pieces and place in a butter or oiled 12-muffin tin. If the dough is too soft to slice, freeze for 10 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, loosen from the pan and spoon remaining sugar & spice mixture over the warm buns.


Gay Lea KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway – February 2017

Disclaimer: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Gay Lea, and receive compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. Regardless, I only work with brands I use personally and enjoy.

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