pumpkin loaf

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This all started with a can of pumpkin that I inherited when I cleaned out a friend’s pantry. In my search for an interesting twist on pumpkin muffins, I came across a dairy-free, egg-free pumpkin loaf recipe on Food52. Intrigued by the magic of how this could possibly work without some kind of binder, I gave it a go. What a wonderful discovery! This loaf is moist, airy, with a good a hint of spice, and it’s a great base for incorporating your favourite flavour additions – raisins, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chunks. I have adjusted the original recipe to use a 15oz can of pumpkin puree, and to bake it as three mini loaves. Enjoy it for breakfast with some almond butter or whipped cream cheese, or as an afternoon snack. Wrap it well, and it will stay moist for a few days, so you can enjoy it alongside your Thanksgiving leftovers.

MAKES 3 SMALL LOAVES

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 15-ounce (425g) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup total per mini loaf pumpkin seeds, walnuts, raisins, or chocolate chunks

Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oil and pumpkin puree. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well combined. This makes a fairly dry dough, so keep stirring until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add pumpkin seeds, walnuts, raisins, or chocolate chips, if using. To make three different mini loaves, divide the batter into three small bowls and then add your favourite flavour additions to each.

Transfer to three lightly greased loaf pans. Smooth the top of each loaf with a spatula. Bake at 325F for approximately 50 minutes. Loaves should be springy and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.

Chickpea magazine winter 2013 issue

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I am very excited to be a contributor to the Winter 2013 issue of Chickpea Magazine, a vegan quarterly that I think appeals to vegans and open-minded omnivores equally well. If you’re ready to embrace winter in all its chilly glory, then hopefully you’ll grab some friends and get outside with the goodies in my Winter Picnic article. You can preview the issue online or grab a copy from the shop (print and digital options available).

As a sneak peek, here is my mulled wine recipe that appears in this issue.

MAKES 5 CUPS

2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
3 whole star anise
10 whole peppercorns
half a sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup Sucanat or cane sugar
1 bottle red wine (use any type that you like… I prefer something with dark fruit flavours, like merlot or cabernet sauvignon)
2 slices of lemon

Combine dry spices and fresh rosemary in a loose-leaf tea sac, tea infuser, or small piece of cheesecloth tied with a piece of kitchen twine. You can snap the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces so that they fit inside your spice pouch.

Pour wine into medium pot. Add spice pouch, Sucanat, and lemon slices.

Bring to a gentle simmer and then turn down to low. You don’t want it to boil or the alcohol will burn off. Stir to ensure Sucanat is fully dissolved. Allow flavours to steep for about 15 minutes. You can keep this on low heat to keep warm until ready to serve.

Remove spice pouch and lemon slices. Ladle into mugs or wine glasses.

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breakfast puffs (aka ‘muffins that taste like donuts’)

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My grandmother used to make a version of these breakfast puffs. Hers were full size muffins, and she would roll the whole thing in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar. My mom recalls enjoying them while they were still warm from the oven. I have made a few batches following the original recipe, but I have also tinkered with it a bit. I don’t often bake with shortening, so my version uses butter. And where the original calls for milk, I have adjusted to use sour cream. I am sharing both versions, so you can try either. Whichever you prefer, these little muffins posing as donuts make for great homemade Timbits. They are fun to serve up if you have a crowd for breakfast, or make for a nice afternoon treat with a cup of tea.

MAKES 24 MINI MUFFINS

Muffins:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sour cream

Topping:
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Add egg and beat just until incorporated.

Mix flour and sour cream into creamed butter mixture, alternating a bit of each until all ingredients are combined into a firm batter.

Spoon into a greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes.

While muffins are baking, melt butter. In a separate bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Mix until well blended.

When muffins are done, remove from muffin tin and transfer to a wire rack. Dip the top of each muffin into melted butter and then coat with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Here is the original recipe for those who want to give it a go. You can follow the same steps as my version above. I’ve tried baking the original version at 350F and 400F and I like the results at 400F for 15-17 minutes.

1/3 cup shortening, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

lemon posset

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The posset, while a very old dish going all the way back to medieval times, is very new to me. I learned about this creamy pudding while at the Ballymaloe Cookery School last August. The silky smooth texture is somewhere between a custard and a milky drink; it is surprisingly light and airy, even though you don’t whip the cream at all. There are variations on the recipe, some incorporating egg yolks, and others that use wine or ale to curdle the cream. The way I like to make a posset is incredibly simple and quick to put together, which makes it a great dessert for last-minute dinner parties. You only need a few spoonfuls to be quite satisfied, so have fun with small serving dishes – shot glasses, small glass jars, sake cups, little pots or ramekins. I am using lemon to curdle the cream, and have added a sprinkle of nutmeg for a slightly warming, autumnal flavour. At Ballymaloe, we steeped sweet geranium leaves in the cream and then strained them out. I think you could achieve a similar effect by adding a dash of St Germain elderflower liqueur. Next time I make possets I am thinking of incorporating nutmeg, ginger and a couple of cardamom pods…a sort of lemon chai posset. Will let you know how that turns out!

MAKES 6-8 SERVINGS

1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp heavy 35% (whipping) cream
just shy of 1/2 cup granulated sugar (don’t fill the measuring cup right to the top)
dash nutmeg (optional)
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine cream and sugar in a small saucepan. Add dash of nutmeg if including. Bring to a simmer. Then turn the heat down to low and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Pour into serving dishes. Allow to cool. Transfer to fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. The posset will set into a soft pudding.

DIY artisanal crisps

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When I discovered Raincoast Crisps a few years ago, they really rocked my cracker world. With all the various fruit and nut combinations, they were so much more interesting than a basic biscuit.  When a friend (well, actually a friend’s mom’s friend…try saying that 10 times fast!) told me she had a recipe for a homemade version, I was very excited to give it a go. Turns out they’re not really crackers, but more like double-baked biscotti – first you bake a loaf, then you slice and bake again. I have tweaked the original recipe over the years and ultimately find the one below works quite well. This recipe gives you three small loaves, so you can choose to do three different flavour combinations with your choice of fruit, nuts and seeds.

MAKES 3 SMALL LOAVES (APPROXIMATELY 30 CRACKERS PER LOAF)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup liquid honey

suggested flavour combinations:
1/4 cup raisins; 1/4 cup dried cranberries; 1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins; 1/4 cup dried cranberries; 1/4 cup sunflower seeds; 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/3 cup dried figs, finely chopped; 1/3 cup hazelnuts (filberts); 1/4 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup dried cherries; 1/3 cup whole almonds; 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries; 1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped; 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flours, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, ground flax seeds and rosemary in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and honey. Stir until blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir gently until dough comes together. Add your choice of flavourings.

Grease three small loaf pans (or line with parchment paper). I use three 5.75″x3″ pans (14.6cmx7.62cm). Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes. Check if the loaves are done by inserting a toothpick into the centre – it should come out clean.

Remove from oven and transfer cooked loaves to a cooling rack. I find the loaves easier to slice when they are really cool, so you can pop into the fridge, or even the freezer, for a few minutes before cutting into individual crackers. Place slices onto a baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 300F. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip crackers and return to oven for another 10-12 minutes.

Alternatively, I bake the loaves, cut them in half, and freeze them. Then I bake up the crackers in small batches when I am ready to serve. To cook from frozen, remove from freezer and allow to defrost for about 30 minutes. Slice into crackers. Spread slices out on a baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip crackers and return to oven for another 10-12 minutes.

Serve with your favourite cheeses and spreads, or enjoy them straight up.

roasted pumpkin seeds

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For the past five years, we have had a standing pumpkin carving soirée with a couple of friends. It’s an evening full of creativity, friendly competition, and much discussion of carving tools and techniques. While my favourite part of the night is seeing our creations lit up for the first time, running a close second is the sound of pumpkin seeds popping in the oven as they toast up for a midnight snack. All the scraping, spooning, and clearing of pumpkin goop is well worth it. This year I added a dash of smoked paprika and a very light dusting of cayenne pepper. You can’t go wrong with the classic olive oil and sea salt combo, but the paprika adds some nice colour while the cayenne gives that little hit of heat.

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Thoroughly wash and dry the pumpkin seeds. Spread out on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, as well as any other seasonings of your choice. Mix to coat.

Toast for 15 minutes. Stir. Toast for another 10-15 minutes. Check to see if the seeds are as crunchy as you would like. If not, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes of so until the seeds are fully dry and have a nice crisp bite. Store in an airtight container or bag for a few days (if they make it that long…they disappear pretty quickly in our household).

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cranberry relish

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This raw cranberry relish is a fresh alternative to cranberry jelly or store-bought canned cranberries. The recipe originated with my great-grandmother, but has become known as ‘Momma Coop’s cranberries’, named after my mom. After a big turkey meal shared with friends and family, there is usually at least one request for the recipe. And I’ve had guests take some home with their leftovers and enjoy it with yogurt for breakfast the next morning. It is a great addition to a festive feast, however you like to enjoy it.

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 large seedless orange
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup orange liqueur like Grand Marnier
½ tsp ground cloves

You want to use the outer rind and the inner fruit of the orange, not the white pith that is bitter. Here is a helpful video on how to zest and section an orange. They show a grapefruit in the video, but the techniques work for an orange too.

Zest the orange using a microplane to remove the outer orange rind. Transfer zest to food processor. Cut around the outside of the orange to remove the white pith from the fruit. Then section the orange to remove fruit segments by cutting the membrane on both sides. The juicy fruit pieces should release easily. Discard membrane and white pith. Transfer orange segments to food processor.

Add cranberries, liqueur, cloves and 3/4 of the cup of sugar to the food processor.

Pulse until you have a coarse relish and the mixture is evenly blended. Taste for sweetness and add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar as needed. The total sugar needed will depend on how naturally sweet your orange and cranberries are.

Transfer to a glass storage container and refrigerate.  Make one to two days ahead in order to allow the flavours to meld and to allow the relish to develop its beautifully cranberry colour.

This relish keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and is great with holiday leftovers.