Apple Butter Gingerbread Loaf

Apple butter is pretty new to me. I’ve known about it for a long time but the idea of spreading it on toast just didn’t seem overly appealing for whatever reason. Not until I took a stop at The Big Apple did I realize how amazing it is in baked goods.

Stupid as it may sound, I didn’t properly read the instructions my first look through and didn’t realize this recipe made two loaves—you’d think the four cups of flour would have clued me in but on, I blindly persevered and ended up with far too much loaf (or so I thought). I don’t own two loaf pans so when I realized my mistake, I took a square baking pan and pour the second half of the batter in, planning to ice them and make squares. To my amazement I didn’t end up having to toss some of it out and it tasted great.

I adapted this recipe from Dizzy, Busy and Hungry. I changed a few things around but kept the same general ingredients and steps. I do feel the need to say don’t mind the sloppy photography on this one, it’s getting dark where I live at about 5pm this time of year which makes it a bit tougher.

Apple Butter Gingerbread Loaf

Ingredients

Makes 2 loaves

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 and ¾ cups coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 and ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup apple butter
  • 1 and ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, apple butter, milk, and maple syrup. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into two 9×5 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and remove from loaf pan. Spread a mixture of softened cream cheese and apple butter for an extra rich flavour.

Apple Butter Gingerbread Loaf

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Homemade Nutella

Nutella is one of those magical foods that makes everything amazing. Waffles, cookies, icing, peanut butter sandwiches, spoons…it’s all up to your imagination really.

I was dreading removing the skins from the hazelnuts because it seemed like kind of a tedious task, but once you roast them, they come off very easily. This process takes no more than 5 minutes and you will notice a major difference in texture.

I asked readers on my Facebook page to vote on which recipe I should make next. It was between Pistachio Eggplant or Nutella. As you can see, Nutella was the unanimous winner (no surprise there) so off I went.

Since this was my first time attempting to make my own Nutella, I stuck to the original milk chocolate flavour. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment though. I bet a dark chocolate hazelnut spread would taste amazing.

Homemade NutellaHomemade Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 12 oz. high quality milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread hazelnuts out evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in centre of oven for 9-10 minutes. Do not roast them for longer. They continue to cook after you remove them from the oven and burnt nutella is the last thing you want.

Carefully pour all the hazelnuts onto a clean, dry hand towel. Wrap the towel around them and rub vigorously until most of the skins have been removed. You can remove any excess skins by applying a small amount of pressure, using a pinching motion. Place the hazelnuts into the bowl of a food processor. Process until a paste has formed—this will take roughly 60 seconds.

Using a double boiler, melt down the chocolate chips, stirring frequently.

Add oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt to the food processor and blend until well combined. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Once mixed, pour the melted chocolate into the hazelnut mixture and process until smooth and creamy. Strain the mixture once to rid of any remaining clumps.Homemade Nutella

Store in an airtight jar on the counter for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long). It will thicken as it cools. If you prefer a stiffer spread, I would recommend storing your nutella in the fridge.

French Toast Smoothie

Eating a meal in my household that everyone enjoys can be tricky. We’ve got one vegetarian, one gluten-free mom and a lactose-intolerant brother. This smoothie is quick, easy, vegan and can be widely enjoyed by anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s also a nice grain-free treat for people who can’t enjoy traditional french toast.

This recipe is pretty open-ended in terms of substitutions. I made this one vegan by using soymilk, but you could easily use regular milk, almond milk, even coconut milk if you’re looking for a stronger flavour. I used frozen avocado but it’s not a necessity—you could throw in some frozen banana slices too.

Oftentimes I’ll use an immersion blender for smoothies, especially if it’s for a single-serving recipe. I used a traditional blender for this recipe because the frozen avocado needs to be completely blended and creamy, so I needed a strong blade.

I was inspired to make this because of an upcoming initiative by Williams-Sonoma for Smoothie Week. You can find a wide range of the blenders they carry here. It’s so easy to want to settle into comfort foods once the weather cools down, smoothies tend to keep my inner-snacker in check. Making your own smoothies at home is cheap and much, much healthier than buying fast food smoothies. I don’t know what they put in those things but it’s not meant to be ingested.Vegan French Toast Smoothie

Ingredients

Makes 1 smoothie

  • 1 cup plain soymilk
  • 1/4 frozen avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. high-quality maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Remove avocado from the freezer and allow it to thaw for 5 minutes. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle a little bit of extra ground nutmeg and maple syrup on top for an extra kick of flavour.Vegan French Toast SmoothieFrench Toast Smoothie

White Bean, Okra and Buttercup Squash Stew

Cold weather always makes me want to sit inside with comfort food and go into a Netflix coma. Only problem is, when you live in a place where it’s cold a big portion of the year, you may form a permanent “winter layer”—not so desirable. This stew gives the best of both worlds by being a delicious comfort food while also being healthy and nutritious.

For most stews, I would say that they are better the day after you make them because the flavours develop and become stronger. For this one, I’d say day-of is best only because the texture of the okra changes the longer it sits. I honestly can’t explain why because I haven’t done much cooking with okra; the first day it was tender and soft, mixed well with everything. Further on in the week it felt chewier and like it had become a little harder…not quite as pleasant as before.

For those of you that have never tried buttercup squash before, I’d recommend it. The flavours aren’t as strong as a butternut squash and once cooked, the texture can be compared to cooked potatoes. It absorbs flavours really well in soups, stews and curries, so it was perfect for this dish.

I adapted this recipe from Amateur Vegan Chef.

White Bean, Okra and Buttercup Squash Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 whole tomato chopped
  • 2 pods fresh okra, scrubbed and sliced
  • 1 (425g) can of white beans—do not drain
  • 1 medium-sized buttercup squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 3 drops extreme hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • Salt to taste
  • A dash of cayenne pepper

Method

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrot and celery and heat until the onions are translucent. Add in the tomato, okra, beans and squash. Do not rinse the beans. Fill the empty can with water twice and add that to the pot.

Add in all seasoning. Simmer, covered, on medium-low until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Serve hot with rice and you’re set for a healthy, filling meal.White Bean, Okra and Buttercup Squash StewWhite Bean, Okra and Buttercup Squash Stew

Buffalo Blue Cheese Cauliflower

Want a late night snack that won’t give you post-greasy food itis? Here it is.

I made this not realizing how potent the taste of two hot sauces and strong blue cheese are, and decided to split it between two people. While it tasted delicious it was really strong and the spice built up after a while—I decided that it would be perfect as a side dish or appetizer for roughly six people.

This dish is great because of it’s simplicity and versatility. Add it on top of your burgers, serve it hot with toothpicks at parties, and even sprinkle them on pizza.

In all fairness, this isn’t a comparable snack to actual buffalo chicken wings because the flavours aren’t replicated here (or the texture). I just borrowed the sauce from one dish and added it to another.Buffalo Blue Cheese Cauliflower

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves removed
  • 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. canola oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup sriracha hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the stalk end off the cauliflower so that the head sits flat and place it on a large baking sheet. Rub 2 tablespoons of the canola oil all over the cauliflower, coating it well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and roast until it begins to brown, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a cutting board and allow it to cool completely. Once the cauliflower is cool enough to touch (it stays hot in the middle for quite a while), cut or break it into small florets.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring both of the hot sauces to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then slowly whisk in the butter until fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Shut off heat and set aside.

In a large, deep saucepan over moderate heat, warm the remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil. Add the cauliflower florets and sauté until heated through. Add enough buffalo sauce to coat the cauliflower and continue sautéing until both the cauliflower and the sauce are hot, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower to a platter and garnish with the crumbled blue cheese.Buffalo Blue Cheese Cauliflower

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips

This was my first attempt at red velvet anything and I went into it with a blank slate. I honestly had no idea what made something “red velvet” and how it differentiated from any other colourful cookies. Here’s the long and the short of it: it’s not very different at all.

Essentially, red velvet is regular chocolate chip cookie dough with some added cocoa powder and red food dye. It doesn’t sound as exquisite when you put it like that, but they still look really impressive (and taste awesome), so that’s really all that matters, right?

I decided to use peanut butter chips because they are the equivalent to crack in baked goods. So delicious and addictive. If you haven’t tried them yet I truly feel sorry for you.

I adapted this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. She seriously is the master of all things baked.

Note: I made these in a stand mixer, but made one small mistake which was adding the chips in and using the mixer to stir. It ended up being a little too aggressive and breaking up the chips. It still tastes good and I added more on top, but I’d suggest just stirring them in with a spatula to avoid crumbles.Gluten-Free Red Velvet CookiesGluten-Free Red Velvet Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free baking mix*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pure xanthum gum
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. red gel food colouring
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips

* You can make your own mix using rice flour, potato starch, xanthum gum or a combination of whatever you feel works best. If you’re not opting for gluten-free you can substitute all-purpose wheat flour.

Method

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Turn up the speed to medium and beat in both sugars until combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Once mixed, add the food coloring and lightly beat until combined. Turn the mixer off and pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed. Beat in more food coloring if you’d like the dough to be redder. Add in the peanut butter chips and stir by hand. The dough will be sticky at this point.KitchenAid Stand Mixer Paddle with cookie dough

Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. Chilling is mandatory.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Scoop 1.5 tablespoons of dough and mold into a ball. Place roughly 9 balls onto each baking sheet—there should be enough space so they can spread a little. Bake each batch for 10-11 minutes. If the cookies only spread slightly, press down on the warm cookies to slightly flatten and form crinkles. Lightly press a few peanut butter chips on top of each cookie.

Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days. Cookies may be frozen for up to 2 months. Cookie dough may be frozen up to 2 months – thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cookie dough balls may be frozen up to 2 months. Bake for 1-2 extra minutes (do not thaw).Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cookies

Protein-Packed Vegan Crockpot Chili

Crockpots are a godsend for lazy (or busy) home cooks. Besides from the prep, you can just throw everything into one pot and come back a few hours later to a finished meal.

When I called this chili protein-packed, I wasn’t exaggerating. 9 different kinds of beans, edamame, shredded tofu—you’re getting a ton in every serving. On top of that, the flavour is perfect for the colder weather and it’s filling. I put in a couple of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (these should be easy enough to find in a big supermarket) but if you don’t have access to these I’d suggest using some smoked paprika and a bit of hot sauce. If you love smoky flavour I’d even say a drop or two of liquid smoke would be a good addition.

Feel free to play around with what you add in. Chili is forgiving. If you’ve got a bunch of bits and pieces sitting around in your fridge that need to get used up, chances are if you toss them into a slow cooker for 6 hours it’ll taste glorious.

Note: My batch was a little more liquidy than I would have liked. To fix this, I just added in a small amount of cornstarch mixed with water to thicken it up. Allowing the chili to sit overnight in the fridge lets the flavours mix and thickens it up even more. The photos you’re seeing are before I attempted any thickening.Protein-Packed Vegan Crockpot Chili

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups dried bean mix (I used Golden Boy 9-bean soup mix, but make your own if you want)**
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, plus a teaspoon of the sauce
  • 3/4 cup firm tofu, shredded
  • 1 (796mL) can diced tomatoes, plus liquid (should be about 2 cups liquid without tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 whole dried cayenne pepper

**If you’re making your own bean mix, I’d suggest a mix of kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils, peas, etc.

Method

Rinse bean mix well. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water so that 4 inches comes above the bean mix. Soak for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.9-Bean Golden Boy Mix

Add all ingredients to bowl of the slow cooker. Put the lid on and cook on high for 6 hours. Serve with quinoa or rice. Keep in the fridge up to 5 days, or freeze in batches.Protein-Packed Vegan Crockpot Chili

Banana Split Hot Chocolate

What are the essentials of a banana split? Chocolate drizzle, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and of course, banana. Turn that into a drink and you’ve got an easy-to-make unique dessert with no major mess that’s addictive. The only thing that’s missing is a cherry on top (which is fine by me—it would have sunk down to the bottom and added unnecessary sweetness).

When I made this, a couple of the chunks of chocolate were too big and didn’t melt all the way through. I just strained them out when pouring the drink into mugs; just be sure to finely chop the chocolate.

If super sweet drinks aren’t your thing (as this is very rich) you can cut down on the amount of chocolate you add in, or you can add a little more milk and cream to dilute the mix and share it with more people. If you’re not a fan of white chocolate, feel free to experiment with milk and dark chocolate as well. I discovered dark chocolate milk a little while ago and I could only imagine how good that would taste blended up with banana.

If you’ve really got an extreme sweet, you could just drizzling some peanut butter chips on top or melted some peanut butter directly into the saucepan. I didn’t want to overpower any of the flavours so I didn’t try it this time, but next time there’s a pretty big chance that’s happening.

Banana Split Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

Serves 2 people

  • 1 medium-sized overripe banana
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 5 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Method

Add banana, milk and whipping cream to a blender. Blend for roughly 60 seconds until ingredients are completely smooth and no clumps remain.

Strain the mixture into a small saucepan, and begin to heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Bring the mixture to a light simmer and add in chocolate; stir frequently to prevent burning. Continue to cook/stir until all chocolate has melted.

Pour the drink into 2 cups for a warm, ultra-rich drink that makes for a unique dessert!Banana Split Hot Chocolate

Note: For thicker hot chocolate (and even less effort) don’t bother straining the mixture before adding it to the saucepan. As long as the mixture is blended very well, it will still taste great.Banana Split Hot Chocolate

Triple Ginger Cookies

Ginger is one of those flavours that I can’t get enough of, and I like it to be strong. Especially since we’re coming up to the winter months, it can be warming, a bit spicy and tastes perfect crammed into a cookie.

I adapted this recipe from the November 2013 edition of House & Home magazine. I ran into a few troubles with this recipe, and was actually disappointed at first because my final result was not as smooth or dark as the cookie in the photo.

Firstly, the crystallized ginger they called for was for “rolling”, but after one or two cookies I quickly learned that it was too sticky and thick to roll anything in. It clumped together and looked ugly; your best bet is mixing it into the dough. Crystallized ginger is also referred to as candied ginger, which can be found in most bulk food stores and supermarkets.

Secondly, the colour was not as dark and rich as it was supposed to be, and I never quite figured out why. You’ll see the colour of my cookies in the photos below—they taste great and have a light brown colour in the end.Triple Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

Makes 25-30 cookies

  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup fancy molasses
  • ¼ cup finely diced crystallized (a.k.a. candied) ginger
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for rolling

Method

In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour and baking soda. Stir in spices and salt until well combined.

In a separate bowl with electric beaters, mix together butter, brown sugar and grated ginger until smooth. Reduce speed to low. Add egg, then molasses. Gradually add dry ingredients until a smooth and thick batter has formed. Mix in crystallized ginger.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 baking sheets with silicon baking mats or parchment paper. Form roughly 2 tbsp. of dough into balls—roll balls in turbinado sugar and place on baking sheet, leaving a small amount of space between each ball. Flatten with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks until ready to eat, or to store away for later.Triple Ginger Cookies

Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle Peppers

Comfort foods tend to be super greasy and carb-packed, but not all of them have to be that way. I mean, I don’t complain if they are. I’m not likely to turn down a big bowl of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese…if I do, there’s something wrong. That being said, sometimes a bowl of soup can be just as comforting, and you might not feel the immediate need to nap afterwards.

This soup is a new favourite for me. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a great, versatile ingredient; a little goes a long way. I put two in, but if you don’t love spice, I would cut out the hot sauce completely and only use one pepper. The smokiness from the peppers is contrasted with the sweetness from the sweet potatoes, making for a damn good soup.

The original recipe I adapted mine from is from Healthy Seasonal Recipes. When first reading the recipe, I was a little hesitant to add the cinnamon because I’ve never been a huge fan of sweet spices with sweet potatoes. In the end I decided to take a risk and try it out, and trust me, even though it’s subtle it makes a huge difference in a good way.Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2 drops extreme hot sauce (I used Blair’s Ultra Death Sauce)
  • 1 drop liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • Basil leaves for garnish or fresh chopped chives for garnish

Method

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil. Add onion, celery and salt, stirring until the onions very lightly brown and soften. Add in the hot sauce, liquid smoke, cumin and cinnamon, and stir for another 60 seconds until all the flavours have mingled and become aromatic.

Add in sweet potato and broth, stirring to mix well. Cover and increase heat, bringing the mixture to a light boil. Uncover, bring heat back down to medium-low, and allow to lightly simmer for 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked all the way through. After the 20 minutes is up, stir in the minced chipotles and the cider vinegar. Stir well.Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth and creamy. Stir in cheddar and serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves, chives or freshly ground black pepper. Store the soup in the fridge for up to 5 days—it tastes even better heated up the next day!