Sunday, 2 December 2018

Sugar Plums

I have made sugar plums several times over the years with varying success. These historical Christmas treats mentioned in the poem "The Night Before Christmas" feature ground nuts and dried fruit rolled in balls and dredged in sugar. This version is the best I have made and the soaked nuts made a difference in their consistency. The recipe is very versatile and you can use the following method as a guide.

Soak 1-1/4 cups of walnuts (or other nut) in salted water overnight. Drain, rinse and pat dry.

Coarsely chop 2 to 2-1/2 cups of dried fruit. I used dried apricots, soaked figs, dates, and prunes.

Measure spices as desired. I used 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and some freshly grated nutmeg. You could use other spices if you prefer.

Add the grated zest of one orange.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until it comes together in a coarse paste. Roll in balls with your hands (1 tbsp/15 ml) and then roll the sugar plum in granulated sugar. Alternately, they could be rolled in coconut or hemp seeds.

Makes about 2 dozen gluten free, grain free, fat free (other than the nuts), vegan treats. Nutrients calculated for 1/25 of recipe with sugar coating.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Heat one cup of milk of choice over medium heat until it is steaming, but not boiling.

Add to blender

  • 1-2 tablespoons of pumpkin purée, 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 
  • sweetener- 1-3 teaspoons to taste
  • vanilla extract- 1/2 teaspoon (optional)
Add the hot milk to the blender and mix on high until milk is frothy.

Put the milk mixture in a latte mug and add 6-8 ounces of strong coffee or a shot of espresso. 

Serves one.

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves  (optional)

Store in small jar and use in everything!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Our Favourite Sourdough Bread Recipe

My sourdough starter is a mature 3 years old now and I have tried a number of bread recipes. This is our favourite and I bake 2 loaves a week. The entire process takes about 18 hours depending on the room temperature. It is possible to speed or slow down the rising time by using a slightly warm oven or by letting the dough rise in the fridge. (slow!) The recipe is versatile and bread is moist, slices easily and resists mould due to the acidity. 

I feed the starter once a week and keep it in the fridge after it has bubbled. I use cold starter for the recipe and feed it with equal parts of flour and water before putting it back in the fridge.

The basic recipe is 3/4 cup of starter, 1-1/4 cups water, 1 tsp salt and 3 cups of flour. 

I use a combination of flour types and like to add flax seeds, poppy seeds and/or hemp seeds. Because I use the sourdough infrequently, I add 1/2 tsp baking soda to counter any excessive sourness in the dough. 

I use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour for the bread. Sometimes I use some whole rye flour or whole oat flour along with the whole wheat flour but keep the total amount at 1-1/2 cups. 

The total amount of flour needed depends on several factor that are beyond my control such as humidity. After making the bread a few times, it becomes easier to know when there is enough added flour. It is not necessary to knead the bread for 10 minutes as the sourdough starter does that work in the extended rising period.

Put the dough in a covered container and leave for 8-12 hours. (I oil the container) If I am in a hurry, I heat the oven to 100 F, turn it off and set the container in the oven. This is helpful to give a good start to the rise, especially in the winter if the house is cold.  After the first rise, I place the punched down dough in parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper, coat the dough in flour for the second rise. 

The second rise is faster and takes 2-4 hours depending on the room temperature. I use a 4 or 5 litre cast iron pot with a lid for baking. You really can use any pot you want as long as it has a lid. The bread is less crusty in a lighter pot. Alternately, you can put some foil over a pot if you do not have a lid. 

Heat the pot in a 450 F oven for 30 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment paper and dough into the pot and put the lid on. The bread is basically steaming for the first 15 minutes. Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes of baking time. 

I have made this bread with 100% white flour and it rises higher due to larger air bubbles in the dough. I would recommend slashing the top of the dough with a sharp knife in a couple of places if you use predominately white flour. This allows some of the air out so the bread is not too "holey".

Some notes about the starter:
I use the starter weekly, but if I was unable to bake bread, I would remove 1/2 cup of starter and feed it with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I use a quart jar for my starter but if it is filled too full, it can overflow once it starts to work. I prefer to use whole wheat or whole rye flour for my starter. Sometimes the starter gets too sour. From time to time I get a clean jar, add a cup of flour and a cup of water and just a couple of tablespoons of the sour starter. Leave the jar at room temperature until the fresh starter starts to bubble. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Paneer Masala Curry or Gravy

The Indian grocer near our home sells hot meals from a small counter at the back of the store. The menu is based on the whim of the cook and each day there are 3 different curries available. Last week we bought a paneer curry and the cook told us it was a tomato gravy thickened with flour. We put it over our spicy oven roasted potatoes and wow! Paneer is better than cheese curds. I have been buying jars of butter chicken sauce or curry sauce at the grocery store but they are relatively expensive and higher in fat and sodium than our usual meals. Today I experimented with a recipe found on Spice Up the Curry. Yum! There will be no need to go to the store to buy a jar of curry sauce or "gravy" in the future. The sauce could be used with other vegetables, lentils or meat.

Sauté in 1 tbsp of coconut oil or ghee:

2 coarsely chopped onions
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 pods cardamom, husks removed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1 inch fresh turmeric, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, with seeds if you want heat
1/2 tsp salt

When the onions are soft and starting to brown, add 4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (3 cups)

Simmer until vegetables are cooked.

Transfer the vegetables to a blender and blend on high until puréed. Add 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of flour to the mixture while the blender is on low.

Transfer the blended vegetables back to the pan. Add 300-400 grams of diced paneer cheese, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and 2-4 tablespoons of 10% cream. Stir until combined and adjust seasonings to taste.

Add 1 teaspoon garam masala, hot chili powder and black pepper if desired.

Heat on low but do not allow the curry to boil. Serve over potatoes, vegetables, rice or with naan bread. Like all curries, the flavour improves with time and leftovers are delicious.

(Vegans could use tofu cubes and skip or substitute the dairy ingredients)

Friday, 3 March 2017

Mocha Walnut Torte

One of the housekeepers at work makes the most amazing European pastries. She often brings in a tray of goodies that we devour in short order. Last week she brought in walnut cake that was so good that I asked for her recipe. She proceeded to tell me she adds a rounded spoonful of this and that for each egg and little more of this and a little less of that! Her daughter works with the therapy team and she wrote out a recipe that I could follow. It turned out very well and even though it seems long, it is not hard to make. The cake is not very sweet and it can be served in thin slices. It was perfect for birthday we celebrated today.

Sponge Cake

7 eggs, separated                  2 tbsp cocoa (optional- decrease flour by 1 tbsp)
7 tbsp sugar                          1 tsp baking powder
7 tbsp flour                            1 cup crushed walnuts
                                              1 tsp instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

Line 2 - 8 or 9 inch square or round pans with greased parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat egg whites on high in mixer with a pinch of salt. When the eggs start to get foamy, add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

2. Add egg yolks and beat with mixer until they are incorporated.

3. Slowly fold in dry ingredients with a spatula- flour, (cocoa), baking powder, walnuts

Divide batter between two pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until set and golden brown.
Remove cake from pans and allow to cool. Each cake is cut in half horizontally so you have 4 layers.

Butter Cream Filling

6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup softened butter

1. Put eggs in double boiler with sugar. Mix together and heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.(approx 110F)
2. Add eggs to mixer and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
3. Add softened butter a tablespoon at a time to the egg white mixture and continue beating.
4. Add flavouring as desired. I added 2 tbsp melted 50% cocoa chocolate chips and 2 tsp instant coffee. You can use Nutella as well and walnuts can be added to the filling if desired.

Spread butter cream filling between layers and on top of cake. Garnish with walnuts, chocolate covered coffee beans or anything else that tickles your fancy. I used candied walnuts.

 Candied Walnuts

Place 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/8 cup white sugar in frying pan. Heat over medium heat and stir ingredients together until the nuts are lightly toasted and the sugar is melted. Cool and use as a garnish on top of the cake

The cake slices best if it is refrigerated.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

We like to visit the Distillery District in Toronto Ontario. SOMA Chocolates has a store there and their premium products are all tempting. I love the chocolate shortbreads which are made with a few basic ingredients including criollo cocoa.
I had some premium Callebaut cocoa at home which has a more intense, dark chocolate flavour so these cookies are not the same as SOMA's. These are delicious and easy to make. I modified a recipe found here.

  • 1/2 lb salted butter
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour

Place butter in a food processor and process until it is light and well aerated. Add sugar and process for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Stir cocoa and flour together and add to butter/sugar mixture. Process until the dough comes together. (You can do this by hand if your want but mix well!)

Divide dough in half. Roll into a log (round or square) and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This is an essential step or the cookies will spread when baked. I made a roll about one inch in diameter as I wanted the cookies to be small. 

Heat oven to 325F. Slice cookies 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake for 17-20 minutes. I found it easier to let the cookies set on the sheet as they are fragile when hot. You can carefully remove them to a rack with a spatula to cool. 

I don't know how many cookies this recipe made as we ate the ones that broke.  

Friday, 16 December 2016

Curried Peas and Tofu with Mushrooms

We have tried a number of salads and entrées from Farm Boy's take out selection. Their pea and tofu curry is delicious and I have recreated it at home. Served over rice, it is a fast and easy supper.
The ingredient list and proportions are approximate. I buy small cubed packages of extra firm tofu as the rectangular blocks are too large for our family. Use 1/2 of a larger rectangular block of tofu.


1-2 tbsp olive oil or veggie broth
2 cooking onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cups frozen peas
6-8 oz extra firm tofu diced in small cubes
1/2 tin coconut milk (200 ml or 3/4 c)

1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a wok or 2 litre pot and cook onions and garlic until softened. Add the sliced mushrooms and cubed tofu along with the spices. Cook, stirring often until mushrooms are done and spices are well mixed. Add frozen peas and coconut milk. Simmer until peas are thawed. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Like any curry dish, this is even better the next day

Serve over brown or white rice

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Non-alcohol Glühwein

We paid $9 for a bottle of alcohol-free Glühwein at the local Christkindl Market this month. It was delicious but a bit on the sweet side for my taste.

I looked for a recipe that was similar and tried a couple of online recommendations. This drink is similar to Mexican Christmas Punch without the added fruit. It is best when warm but is also good when chilled.

Here is a basic recipe that can be modified in many ways by changing the juice and spices.

  • 4 cups unsweetened 100% juice such as grape, cranberry blends, or apple cider
  • 2 cups tea- black, hibiscus, or other
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 4-5 cardamon seeds, lightly crushed
  • allspice seed, crushed
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • rind and juice of one orange- peel the rind off the fruit with a sharp knife
  • rind and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp sugar if desired (I didn't add sugar)
Put all ingredients in a 2 litre pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Do not boil. Strain and serve.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Lentil Tourtière

Tourtière is a traditional savoury Christmas pie. There are many variations and the meat version we use is found here. I made this vegetarian pie today and it turned out very well. It was similar in taste and texture to the vegetable samosas we buy at the local Indian market.

Served with chutney, pickled beets and stir fried vegetables
1 double pie crust
4 cups cooked brown lentils
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 chopped onion (cooked)
1-2 cloves of garlic (cooked)
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cumin
other seasonings to taste- sage, thyme, ginger, dash of turmeric
Salt,  pepper

Cook lentils until soft or used canned lentils. Dice the onion and garlic and cook until softened in a little oil.
Boil 1-2 large potatoes in water until soft.

Mash lentils and potatoes together leaving some chunky pieces. Add onions and seasonings. Adjust spices to your preference. We like lots of spice in our food. I added a little more potato to make the ingredients stick together well.

Roll out pastry. Line the bottom of a 9" pie plate with pastry. Add filling and cover the top with pastry.

Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and cook for another 30-40 minutes until crust is nicely browned. 

All Butter Pie Pastry

This makes enough for 1 double crust pie or 2 single crust pies

1/2 cup cold salted butter, cut in cubes
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water

Combine butter and flour in food processor until it is well blended and the consistency of coarse salt.
Slowly add 1/4 ice water- process until it comes together in a ball.

Chill if you are not using it right away. This pastry is very easy to work with.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is a quick meal to put together after a busy day. Serves 4.

Peel equal amounts of white and sweet potatoes, cut in chunks, and boil in salted water until soft.

At the same time, cook 1 cup of green or brown lentils in salted water until tender or use 1 tin of prepared lentils.

In a wok or dutch oven, add a little oil and sauté;-

2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup frozen peas
Seasonings to taste- i.e. oregano, herbes province, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper

You could add any other vegetables you want such as cauliflower, mushrooms, corn or green beans or just use a couple of cups of frozen mixed vegetables. Cut the vegetables in a uniform size.

Add some vegetable broth and simmer until vegetables are tender so you have a stew-like consistency. Add the cooked lentils and stir everything together.

Mash potatoes with milk of your choice, butter or sour cream if desired, and season to taste.

Serve the lentils over the mashed potatoes or make a casserole with a lentil base and potato topping.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, salsa if you want.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Masala Poutine

We visited Quebec City in September and were advised to try a restaurant called Le Chic Shack which is located just below the Plains of Abraham and Château Frontenac in the old city. It was September 13th, the anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham where the French and British troops fought in 1759. Le Chic Shack is locally famous for its poutine, a calorie-laden French Canadian dish of french fries with cheese curds and gravy.

 I chose masala poutine, a spicy East Indian version that did not disappoint! The potatoes were roasted, curry sauce was used rather than gravy, and the potatoes and curds were garnished with chutney, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers. The restaurant also serves burgers and chicken but I don't know how a person could eat the hearty poutine and a burger in one sitting.

This was a dish that had to be re-created at home. We ate the most successful version tonight, which is significantly modified from the original. It still features the complex flavours of curry and cheese with potatoes. I used this recipe from Kimchi Mom as a starting place for experimentation.  I found a mild Indian Curry Sauce at Farm Boy which is low in calories (50 calories per 1/2 cup) and very flavourful. It works perfectly for the gravy. My next experiment will be reproducing the curry sauce.

Spice Mixture:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves freshly pressed garlic (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F

Cut 3 pounds of potatoes in wedges or chunks and lightly toss with olive oil. I used half white potatoes and half sweet potatoes. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the potatoes and mix with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until tender- about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting you can make this optional fresh chutney. If you want it to be hot, use the entire pepper, otherwise remove the seeds.


1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems and leaves (3 cups) washed and drained.
1 jalapeño pepper
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado (optional but delicious!)

Pulse the chutney ingredients in a food processor or blender until pureed. The chutney keeps for a week or so in the fridge and can be used as a condiment for other dishes.

When the potatoes are tender you are ready to assemble to dish. It can be made as spicy or mild as desired.


Grated "melty" cheese or curds
Curry sauce or gravy, heated
Cherry tomatoes, halved or chopped fresh tomatoes
Other vegetables- we added a few steamed brussels sprouts today
Sliced jalapeños, fresh or pickled
Sour cream
Fried onions

Enjoy! This is an ultimate, one dish comfort meal.