Sunday, November 21, 2010

Autumn Fields French Toast

Can you smell it?

Go on, try. Lean out the nearest window and take a whiff. There; can you smell it now? That crisp, coldly sweet, slightly smoky hint to the air? That new leather boots (half-off at Macy’s) and checkered scarf smell?  That burning leaves, baking maple-pumpkin pie aroma? That’s autumn, my friends. Yes, fall is upon us and it’s wearing expensive, designer perfume.

It smells like victory.

Actually, in the interests of accuracy, fall is very nearly gone – chased off by it’s bigger, meaner brother, Winter – but it can be hard to keep track of that living on an island. Hawaii doesn’t have much of a seasonal landscape and so it’s easy to forget about the shift. I'm always shocked whenever I venture out to the mainland, like now. Take the west coast of Canada, for instance; boy,does the scenery ever smack you in the kisser with it’s bold and beautiful colours. It left me feeling nostalgic and inspired to mimic some of that flavour.

French toast is one of those comfort foods that’s willing to go the extra mile and become whatever you want to make it. It lends itself effortlessly to many flavour profiles but it’s an old-fashioned kind o’ meal at heart and so it really shines when it’s submerged in rustic, hearty incarnations.

The first step is simply to roast some pretty, crisp apples and you can do this the day before making the toast, to save time. I like the combination of Macintosh and Granny Smith; a little sweet, a little sour and a whole lotta good. Combine slices with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and lemon juice; basically, make yourself a crustless apple pie!

Bake in a 400F oven for about forty minutes and you’ll have yourself a delicious dish of apple smoosh.

Resist the urge to eat it by the spoonful. Trust me, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Now, for the rest of the cast:

You’re going to want to pick a bread that’s going to stand up to the egg batter – something hearty and meaningful and stick-to-your-ribs delicious, the grainier the better. Even a well made sweetbread would work marvelously. It helps to let it get juuuust a bit stale, too – leave it out on the counter for a few days; this helps it from getting gloppy or falling apart in the pan.

Heat yo’ oven up again, to that magical baking temperature, 375F.

Whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, vanilla extract, maple syrup and enough milk to make a fairly substantial dip for the bread. Think somewhere between custard and crepe batter in terms of consistency.

et your bread slices soak up some of that fall goodness and then slap ‘em into a buttery pan for about two minutes on each side. You want it to brown up nicely but not cook all the way through.

And now, kids, it’s time to get our Yenta on and make this match.

Place a piece of your pumpkinized bread into a baking dish and slather on a nice, thick layer of those heavenly baked apples you made earlier. Don’t be afraid to be generous. There’s no such thing as too much love. When you’re done, pile on another piece of toast on top and give it a little pat to sort of marry everything together. Then pop it into your oven so the honeymoon can begin!

Oh. My.

Take a moment. It’s okay. I understand.

It should take about twenty-five minutes in the oven to get just picture perfect but keep an eye on it. Every oven is different and it would be a crying shame to miss out on this stuff right here.

Spoon a little Greek yogurt on top, sprinkle it with walnuts, drizzle it with honey or maple syrup if that’s your thang (I think it’s sweet enough without) and then pour yourself a big ol’ mug of coffee and dive right in.

Say it with me now: Mmmm.


Autumn Fields French Toast

(Serves 2)

For the filling:

Two or three apples, sliced

2 tablespoons lemon zest

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon



Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice your apples and in an oven-proof baking dish, toss them in lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Dot with butter.

Bake for forty minutes, or until soft and caramelized.


For the toast:


Four pieces hearty bread

2 eggs

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

Milk as needed


Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, milk, vanilla, maple syrup, and all spices until well blended.

Soak bread in batter.

In a large, buttered frying pan on medium heat, brown each side of bread slices – about two minutes per side.

Place two pieces of browned bread in a baking pan. Spoon on apple compote, and top with remaining bread slices.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Top with yogurt and walnuts.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Curried Shortbread Pillows

Let's talk about curry.

Mmm, curry.

This golden blend of rustic spices that stains everything a warm, rich saffron and lends a deep, earthy undertone to whatever dish it's added to is, without a doubt, my favourite spice. My gran used it so often when us kids were growing up that it's scent has become inseparable from her in my mind - all it takes is a pan of onions sautéing in butter and curry and I'm whisked back to the careworn kitchen in which she prepared many a delicious, memorable meal.

Curry is actually a blend of herbs and spices and the taste varies depending on the mixture used. Common additions are turmeric (from which it gets it's gorgeous colour), cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and cloves. I love mixing my own - you get more control over the taste that way and you can make it in batches as needed instead of buying that monster bargain-priced tub that you'll just end up throwing out after using a quarter.

The best thing about curry though, is that it's good on just about anything. You have a problem? Curry will solve it.

How can you make roast chicken more exciting? Rub curried lemon butter under it's skin, my friend.

Tired of those same old mashed yams? Add some curry to those jewels, baby.

Your kitten in desperate need of a makeover? Sprinkle away, Clinton Kelly, sprinkle away!

(note: no kittens were harmed in the making of this post.)

Whenever I'm feeling blue and need a pick me up, I turn to my old familiar friend. Which is exactly how these cookies happened. There I was, in the middle of whipping up some shortbread pillows when my eyes fell upon a cluster of spice jars. Do I dare? I thought to myself.

Oh, dare I did. And it was awesome. Try it. You'll love it - and even if you don't, how can you pass up the opportunity to try something as delightfully weird as curried shortbread?

They're not hard to make. Just cream together those star-crossed lovers, butter & sugar, slowly add in flour and just a dash of cream (sometimes you don't even need it), and then add in your spices until you get a beautiful, loose dough.

Roll it out and either use cookie cutters or, if you're after a more rustic look, just use a plain ol' dinner knife to make wedges. 

No need to grease the baking pan - these suckers are mostly buttah, after all. But feel free to sprinkle a little flair on them. Sugar is always good. Cinnamon. Allspice. Heck, go crazy and do all three!

Then bake them at 400F for 6-8 minutes, until just set and the edges just barely turn golden. Let them cool on a rack. Eat three or four while you brew a cup of chai tea. Then enjoy the rest while you relax and watch the sunset. 

Curried Shortbread Pillows

3/4 cup butter, at room temp

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4-1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 tsp cinnamon

2-3 tbsp cream, if needed

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in flour and spices and mix until incorporated. If dough is too dry, add in cream. 

Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness (note: you might have to refrigerate the dough to make it easier to handle) and cut into desired shapes.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 6-8 minutes until just set and edges begin to turn golden brown.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cuckoo for Coconut

Ahh, lazy Sundays are amazing, aren't they? The rest of my week us usually so busy that my only real "day off" (and I use that term lightly) is Sunday. I've deemed it a no-pressure day. There's no pressure to wake up early, no pressure to workout, no pressure to clean or burden myself with other adult tasks. If I want to, that's fine. If I don't, even better. It's a chance to catch my breath and gather my frazzled thoughts for the rest of the week.

One thing I have been trying to commit to on these rest days is a stretching routine. I am notoriously bad abut slacking off in regards to stretching. I almost never do it, not even before or after a workout. Terrible, I know. I pay the price too; my hamstrings and hips are always super tight and I'm constantly getting aches in my lower back because of it. Yoga has helped a lot but I'm really trying to get better about stretching.

So because of that and because it's almost impossible for me to really sleep in these days, this morning I woke at 5 and enjoyed a slow brain warmup, letting myself come-to for about ten minutes before I actually got up. I love it when the house is still dark and quiet and still. I splashed some cold water on my face, changed into sweats, and popped in the X-Stretch DVD from the P90X series. So good!

A long hot shower later and then I wrapped myself in my papa's massive green terrycloth robe (my grandma gave it to me after he passed away a few years ago - is that weird?) and took my tea outside to watch the world arise.

Today is traditionally Pancake Sunday but no one was really feeling it this morning. I had mad cravings for protein so we did a fry-up with onion, mushrooms, eggs, and salmon cakes (and some fresh fruit so that I could count this as 'healthy'.) Really hit the spot!

I've been reading rave reviews in the blogosphere about Garlic Gold oil but have never been able to find it until today, when I nipped into the market in town. Snatched it up excitedly and decided to use it right away for lunch:

Tomatoes, broccoli, scallions, basil and smoked salmon drizzled with Garlic Gold:

Ohhh my goodness. This stuff is a-maz-ing! It's got a deep, buttery flavor, almost like liquid garlic bread. Totally addicted now. Also hurrah for my favorite magazine! I perused it slowly while we ate outside in the sunshine.

After lunch we all went our separate ways and then when the mid-afternoon munchies hit, we decided that we were ready for some Pancake Sunday action.

... waffle-shaped pancakes, that is.

The last time I was at the health food store I picked up some coconut flour. I'd been meaning to get some anyway and after reading through a paleo blog and stumbling across a recipe for coconut pancakes the deal was sealed. Seriously, I'm such a sucker for coconut anything that I'll try anything with it no matter what.

Coconut Waffles
(makes about 4 waffles)

4 eggs
1/4 cup coconut milk or other milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond; less fat)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1 tbsp honey (I omitted this and just added a little extra milk to the batter, but for a sweeter, denser waffle you're going to want it.)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon

In a bowl, beat your eggs until they're frothy. Add in your other wet ingredients and mix. Stir in coconut flour and beat until batter is smooth. Pour into a hot, pre-greased waffle iron for five minutes. Voila!

I had set out berries sprinkled with stevia the night before to mascerate and then I pureed them with some fresh mint and stirred in a little Greek yogurt. Whooo boy, was it ever good. I could have eaten a whole bowl of just the topping (I settled for a few spoonfuls.) Plopped some grated coconut meat over top and served it with apples and cinnamon. These are really, really good waffles. Lighter than your average Belgian but still really satisfying.

In keeping with the theme, I got to try out one of my other new products, this time from my favorite oil company, Spectrum. Coconut oil in a spray can!

Also picked up this:

Which I'm going to go and sip on with my dinner salad. Happy end of weekend, everyone! Here's to a great Monday!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brought To You By Laura Ingalls Wilder

Whoo boy. I feel like I went out in the middle of the ridiculously humid morning and ran for two hours straight until my legs went rubbery and my brain melted. Oh, wait. That's exactly what I did do. >_<

The morning started off well enough. There were requests for 'apple pie' for breakfast from the boys, probably more facetious than I'm apt to acknowledge. Imagine their surprise when I readily agreed. Now, I'm not the sort of person who believes that real pie should be eaten for breakfast - sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbs aren't exactly a respectful way to set your body up for a day of activity. Of course, we've all stood in front of our fridges post-holiday, pie plate in hand, shoving forkfuls of cold pastry and fruit filling into our mouths in a sleepy sort of haze. That's a lovely sort of excess, a tradition of delicious debauchery. But on a regular basis? Not a great plan.

Apples, however,
are a healthy way to start the morning. And when you bake them with a little cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, stevia, vanilla extract and Earth Balance and spoon them over Ezekiel cinnamon-raisin toast, it's almost like having pie for breakfast. I had mine sans toast, substituting an especially tasty Green Machine (fresh basil and ginger inside, so bright and flavourful!):

After breakfast, my brother started to limber up for a run and he asked me to go with him. I refused; I'd already worked out before breakfast and lately I've been feeling incredibly sluggish and stiff. It's hard work just to get in forty-minutes of aerobics. With Fitz, forty minutes is a bare minimum and there's so much sibling competitiveness between us that everything becomes an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, savagely fierce effort. So no, I did
not want to go on a run. But you know what? I was dragged went on that run.

We left at 9:30. We got back at
11:45. I'm not even joking. It was ridiculous and we only stopped once to catch our breath and snag some water from a hose. And when we got back to the house, we did a ten minute ab circuit. I'm going to be so sore tomorrow!

After all that activity, we were voraciously hungry and so I got to chopping and topping for a nice, filling summer salad. Leaf lettuce, curly kale, red kale, cucumber, tomato, red onion, celery, scallions, peaches, grapefruit, and salmon. It was just begging for a nice creamy dressing, but the only one I had on hand was Amy's Tuscan Italian and tomato wasn't the right base for this.
Out came the mini-blender. In went an ounce of almonds, a big handful of lemon basil leaves, a teaspoon of Maile Dijon mustard, some garlic-infused red wine vinegar, some white wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Blended it all up and ohhhh - it was heavenly. Light and creamy, the fresh, clean line of the basil cutting right through the rich, earthy nuttiness of the almonds and ending with the zippy twang of vinegar, all underscored by a spicy pitch from the Dijon.

I tossed the salad with it and then stuck it in the fridge while we showered so that it would marinate a little. We ate heaping, massive platefuls of salad with mashed cauliflower on the side:

I love how salads fill you up but don't leave you with that heavy, sated feeling. What's your favourite summer salad?

After tidying up the mess in the kitchen, I did some cleaning around the house and finally, gratefully, flopped down for a rest with my library book.

Did any of you ever read any of the Little House on the Prairie books when you were growing up? I absolutely adored them and read each and every one, even the later series about Manly and Laura's daughter, Rose. It was in one of these latter ones where a memory is recalled of Laura cooking up a special dinner for Manly as they forge along on a trail in their own homesteading journey. It was apparently one of his favorites: apples and onions. That scene used to absolutely enrapture me with it's descriptions of the hot, cast-iron skillet braced over the fire, onions and apple slices sizzling away inside with butter. Even as a kid I was obsessed with cooking!

I remembered it while cooking up the apples for breakfast this morning, and decided that I wanted to make our own apples and onions for dinner tonight. It was pretty simple - sliced Vidalia onion, thinly slivered Red Delicious wedges, mushrooms, Hawaiian chili pepper, tomato, and kale, sauteed in the thick skillet I inherited from my grandmother.

So tasty! The combination of onion and apple, though it sounds a little strange, is just delightful. Crunchy and sweet and savoury all at the same time. There was plenty leftover so I know exactly what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!

Today I Am Grateful For: Nature. All too often we become so accustomed to our surroundings that we forget to stop and really look at them. When we do remember, it's always so breathtaking and humbling.

Well, that's it for me, kids. I'm going to go snag a nice, long bath with essential oils and then collapse into bed, where I will no doubt sleep like the dead. Have a wonderful evening, lovelies! I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Friday, July 9, 2010

Puppies & Chillun'

Hello my darlings! How are you all doing? I hope you had a good day today - we certainly had fun!

It seems there's a budding author in our family. Back in January this guy wrote a story for a contest at school: 

Well, he received a notice in the mail saying that he'd won first place and that he was to be presented with an award (a certificate and a gift card for the local organic ice cream shoppe) at the end-of-year summer ceremony. Good job, Andy!

We packed breakfast-to-go (egg white omelettes with mushroom, mozzarella, onion and scallions with a side of peaches, watermelon, and cantaloupe):

And then we picked up these guys:

And then we were off to the ceremony. It was held outside and was really adorable. Each of the prizewinners read their short story and then when everyone was done the awards were handed out. Even with the readings it didn't last long - which was nice because it was a scorcher today! Hello Mr. Sun!

Afterwards we stopped at the playground and snacked on some green beans and cherries: 

Caleb is a big fan of cherries, it seems. He couldn't get enough!

A quick stop at Foodland for celebratory Gatorade, Maui chips, and an alien ray-gun. I nipped into the health shop next door and grabbed some treats pour moi: 

HAZELNUTS. Oh my goodness, I am so excited about finding hazelnuts here. I've been keeping an eye out for them for ages, to no avail, and was getting to the point where I was ready to order a case online and just eat the shipping costs. Can't wait to use these bad boys - I foresee homemade Nutella in our future. Drooooool.

Lunch was leftover salad from the Fourth of July, celery sticks, and a big bowl of fruit. I love summer so much!

With all the rushing around this morning I hadn't had time to workout so I fit in a quick 30-minute Pilates session and then crashed for a nap. I've been so, so, so tired lately and nodding off in the afternoon for about twenty minutes seems to keep me going until bedtime - any longer than that, though, and I'm a complete foggy-headed zombie. Internal clocks are tricky things. 

Snacktime brought cottage cheese with kalamata olives and apple wedges with cinnamon:

And a cup of one of my favourite teas, Good Earth's Mate & Citrus:

There's nothing like a cuppa in the aftie, especially if you can enjoy it slowly with a good book. 

Dinner is sitting on the table waiting for me  as I type - a quick stir-fry with curly kale, collard greens, vidalia onion, tomatoes, herbs, and tempeh. It smells amazing. Funny how the simple things are the tastiest, hey? I don't want to keep everyone waiting (or my stomach, which is totally roaring for food despite the hefty menu today) but I just have to introduce the latest member of our family:

This is Phoebe. She is the size of my shoe. Someone threw her out a car window. Thankfully our neighbors rescued her and brought her over and she didn't suffer any major physical harm, though she's still really timid. She's being absolutely spoiled with toys (which she doesn't show much interest in yet) and treats (which she most definitely does.) I'm not even a fan of tiny dogs but she's so cute and sweet that you can't help but love her. So welcome home, Phoebe!

And now, we sup!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Baking Blues

Le sigh. 

So here's the deal, guys. I had this entire post typed up and it was timely and filled with stories and photos and such and then... then I hit something. And everything disappeared. Today has been that sort of a day. Everything is going along as planned and then... BAM! (And not in the fun Emeril Lagasse way.)

So instead of that post, you get this one which is not nearly as interesting but still filled with tasty baking delights. 

The great thing about summer is all the fresh fruit that's suddenly teeming in bins at the supermarket. The bad thing about summer is that I always overestimate just how much fruit we can eat whenever I see those teeming bins, especially the darling little apple bananas that are so sweet this time of year. Inevitably a bunch of them end up limp and blackened on the counter, a bevy of fruit flies trying to woo them.

When life gives you overripe 'naners, there's only one solution: banana bread!

My father's sister makes an excellent loaf and this is her recipe; it should be noted that this is simply a base. Feel free to add whatever you like - coconut, fruit, nuts, etc. This time around I added the last scrapings from a jar of peanut butter and a ton of chocolate chips and cinnamon. Scrumdiddlyumptious.

Tannie Sheralee's Bangin' Banana Bread

3 or 4 ripe bananas

1/3 cup melted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp real vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups flour

pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to that magical baking temperature, 350F.

In a mixing bowl, mash your bananas to a paste. Add in your melted butter and stir to combine. Add sugar and vanilla and stir some more. In a separate bowl, beat an egg until frothy and then add to the banana-sugar mix. Stir in baking soda, salt, and flour and mix until you have a nice batter. This is the point where you also add in whatever fixin's you want.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool and enjoy. 

Goodbye, brave souls. You are going to a better place.

I discovered too late that both my loaf pans were being used and so I improvised and used these teeny bundt pans for the first time. It ended up actually being a better fit for our family - grab and go cake!

Not too long ago I posted a recipe for almond meal muffins. A friend of mine, Brian over at My Silver Lining, took that recipe and ran with it in a sweet direction by adding blueberries. It sounded like such a good combination (blueberries and almonds have always been clandestine lovers) that I had to give it a whirl and there's no time like the present! I doubled recipe, whipped out a batch of plain almond muffins, and then added vanilla extract, blueberries, and cinnamon to the remaining batter and baked them off. 

Of course, I had to sample one. With some 'butter' (aka Earth Balance). If you have a sweet tooth I would advise adding some sugar because the vanilla extract doesn't do much to counteract the default savory flavor, but I prefer these just like this. The mealie texture combined with the cool, creamy berries is awesome and you can't beat the nutty richness of almonds paired with the sweet burst of berries.

(Alright, alright, I might have had two.)

And because it was so delicious and I can't resist showing you my adorable new soup bowl, here's a dinner shot. Cantaloupe, broccoli, and one cup of vegetarian gumbo:

Whew. Didn't think I was gonna get this done tonight. Having done so and squeezed in a workout, I'm finally off to bed for a good, hard sleep.  Muchas smooches, darlings!