Spooky chocolate soy nut butter cookies

Disclaimer: As a Featured Blogger for The SoyNut Butter Company, I was compensated the cost of the ingredients for this recipe. However, all opinions are my own, and I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter is a product that I truly endorse. I’ve actually been using it since I was 11 years old!

Growing up with a nut allergy (to all nuts except for almonds!), I got used to my restrictions and learned to not feel sorry for myself. When I tell people about my allergies, I often get comments like “So you’ve never had Nutella (or some other food made with nuts)? Man, that must suck!” Well, not really. I was okay with it.

Flourless chocolate soy nut butter cookies -- gluten, dairy, and nut free!

Except on Halloween. It was hard as a kid to have to give up half my Halloween loot because of all the nut-filled chocolates! And I always had to forego eating the homemade treats at my classroom Halloween parties because the parents couldn’t guarantee that their baking hadn’t come in contact with nuts. It was the one time of year when I bitterly wished I wasn’t cursed with a nut allergy.

Which is why when I bake now, I like to try to accommodate everyone. So for Halloween this year I made these nut free chocolate soy nut butter cookies using I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter. These cookies are not only nut free, they’re also free of gluten and dairy as well. Holidays are always more fun when everyone can enjoy them!

Flourless chocolate soy nut butter cookies -- gluten, dairy, and nut free

Spooky chocolate soy nut butter cookies

Adapted from my recipe for chocolate almond butter cookies with goji berries and coconut.
Makes 9-10 large cookies | Nut free, dairy free, gluten free

1 cup creamy soy nut butter
1/4 cup cacao powder
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
1/4 tsp table salt
Optional: 1/2 cup coconut butter (not oil) or royal icing for writing

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl combine the soy nut butter, cacao powder, brown sugar, maple syrup, egg, and salt. Mix with an electric hand mixer until everything is combined. Use your hands to roll the dough into 9-10 balls, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten with your hand, then bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes. They will still be a bit soft when you remove them, but they will firm up after cooling on a cooling rack.

Optional: Melt 1/2 cup of coconut butter in a dish, then let it cool in the fridge until it has firmed to an icing-like consistency. Scoop into a piping bag, then use to decorate the cookies. Note: you may have to put it back in the fridge between cookies to let it firm up again. Alternatively, you could use royal icing, which is easier to work with. If you choose to ice the cookies with coconut butter, make sure to store them in the fridge!

Flourless chocolate soy nut butter cookies -- gluten, dairy, and nut free

Are you doing any Halloween baking? 

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Vegan supper club #4

This past week Tracey and I got together for our fourth vegan supper club. We actually started planning October’s menu all the way back in August when we excitedly came up with the idea of making chili and cornbread. But it seemed better to wait until the the chilly weather had hit us to make that dinner.

Well, the chilly weather is here (despite my protests), so what better way to try to embrace it than with good old comfort food?

Vegan Supper Club 4 - cornbread

We went back and forth on the cornbread recipe, but eventually decided on this vegan and gluten free skillet cornbread from the blog Keepin’ it Kind. It looked perfect in the skillet, but it crumbled a bit when we tried to cut and serve it. It seemed to firm up after sitting for an hour though! Taste-wise it was good, but was missing the buttery mouthfeel that I love so much about cornbread. I also would have liked a bit more sweetness in it.

Vegan Supper Club 4 - cornbread slice

The chili we made was Oh She Glows’ favourite vegan chili. I had never actually added tomato paste to my chili before, but I really liked the addition of it – it added a nice rich tomato flavour to the dish! The original recipe calls for a homemade vegan sour cream but because of my nut allergies, we had to omit it. Instead we topped it with a garlic avocado puree and vegan almond “Parmesan” that I had leftover in my fridge. They complemented its flavour really well!

Vegan Supper Club 4 - chili

Dessert was pumpkin spice chocolate chip blondies from Davida’s blog. We made them with whole wheat pastry flour instead of gluten free flour, which gave the recipe a slightly fluffier more cake-like texture than the original. And they turned out delicious!

Vegan Supper Club 4 - pumpkin blondies

Any bets on how long the leftovers will last? I’m pretty sure they’re already almost gone…

Vegan Supper Club 4 - pumpkin spice blondie

Like always, we enjoyed the meal while catching up on life. At one point we started talking about our history of writing, and I realized I’ve been writing pretty much my whole life. I started in third grade when I kept a journal filled with uncensored observations about people in my life, just like my inspiration: Harriet the Spy. I transitioned to a diary format during the angsty pre-teen years, then hopped on the Livejournal bandwagon when all my friends did in high school. I returned to pen-and-paper journaling for a year or two before getting the itch to start blogging, which brings me to today.

It’s funny because I’ve never considered myself a good writer – science has always been my strong point – but for some reason I’ve been drawn to writing for nearly my entire life. Maybe I just enjoy it… but I think there’s something deeper that explains my need to write over the years. Maybe because it allows me to embrace my introvert nature, or because I need a creative outlet, or because it lets me empty my thoughts onto paper when my mind feels too full.

Or maybe I just really like talking about food, and I have to write about it online because no one in real life will listen to me anymore. Except for Tracey – she’s just as big of a nutbar as I am.

Previous supper club posts:
Vegan supper club #1 and 2
Vegan supper club #3

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My top 10 highlights from the Delicious Food Show 2014

I was planning on writing this post immediately when I got home from the Delicious Food Show in Toronto last Sunday. But I couldn’t. Instead I was bed ridden with a sugar hangover for the rest of the evening with only enough functional capacity to browse Pinterest (clothes, not food – I couldn’t even bear to look at food).

But after a few days, I was ready to revisit my pictures and write this recap of the amazing time I had at the Delicious Food Show. I was provided with a free media pass to attend the event, but I gladly would have paid the ticket price ($20 online) to attend. The demonstrations and free samples make it more than worth it!

Delicious Food Show

There was so much to see there that it would be impossible for me to recap it all in this post. Not only were there restaurant booths there, but there were also food companies, cooking equipment companies, food trucks, and alcohol. Plus all the other special features such as chef demos, presentations by celebrity chefs like Tyler Florence and Chef Hughes, book signings, hands on workshops, and lots more. Clearly there was a lot there! But I’ll try to keep this post brief(ish) and just touch on my favourite finds.

1. Holy Cannoli

The first booth I stopped at was Holy Cannoli, where I tried my first taste of cannoli. I have no other cannoli experiences to compare it to, but it tasted fantastic. It must have been owner Vanessa Chiaravalloti’s secret cannoli cream recipe passed down to her from her father that made it so good! I also loved their idea to sell “fill your own” kits and cannoli chips & dip.

Delicious Food Show - Holy Cannoli

2. Short and Sweet Cupcakes

I was so excited to discover Short and Sweet Cupcakes, a 100% nut free bakery in Toronto that prides itself on using only quality ingredients. I am seriously loving that all these nut free bakeries are popping up in cities all over Ontario. 15 years ago I couldn’t eat anything except for what my mom baked me; now I’ve got so many options! We tried a banana chocolate chip cupcake which I really enjoyed, although the icing was overly sweet.

Delicious Food Show - Short and Sweet Cupcakes

3. Feast

Feast (Fabulous Eats for the Allergic and Sensitive Types) is a recently opened “allergy friendly gourmet food store” in Toronto. They adhere to extremely strict protocols so they can guarantee their food is free of wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish. Such great news for those of us with severe allergies that always worry about finding food that’s safe to eat! I tried one of their coconut milk caramels which was a wonderfully sweet treat, and now I can’t wait to visit their location on Queen Street West to try their hand pocket pies and donuts!

Delicious Food Show - Feast

4. Screamin Brothers

Another great allergy friendly find was the coconut milk ice cream at Screamin Brothers. This company has a really touching story behind it too. It was founded to raise money after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and it continues to donate 5% of its profits to local and international children’s charities. Tasty nut free ice cream and supporting a great cause? That’s definitely something I can get behind!

Delicious Food Show - Screamin Brothers

5. Naseem Dates

I’ve always thought that a date is a date is a date. Who cares where I buy it or what kind it is – they’re all the same anyways. Man, was I wrong. The dates I tried from Naseem Dates were the softest, most melt-in-your-mouth delicious dates I’ve ever tried. I’m kicking myself for not picking up like ten boxes!

Delicious Food Show - Naseem Dates

6. Foodies on Foot

Foodies on Foot is a company that any Toronto foodie should be familiar with. They do cooking classes, food tours, and other food related events in the city. To give you an idea of what they do, in November and December they have an “Insanewich! Food Tour” which takes you around to some of the restaurants and cafes serving the best sandwiches in Toronto. How awesome does that sound?

Delicious Food Show - Foodies on Foot

7. Canadian birch syrup

Of all the products I tried at the Delicious Food Show, I think this  Canadian birch syrup was the one that I would be most likely to take home with me (if only the price tag wasn’t in the range of $25-28!). What’s really neat about birch syrup is that it is so versatile depending on which kind you buy. The amber gold is sweet enough to use in dessert, while the dark variety has a strong, deep flavour that would be perfectly suited for red meats. I would love experiment with cooking with this syrup someday (psst mom and dad, Christmas is coming up soon).

Delicious Food Show - birch syrup

8. Olympic Dairy Balkan Style Chia Yogurt

With Greek yogurt and chia seeds going strong as two of the top food trends in the past few years, I guess it should be no surprise that a company has now combined them. Olympic Dairy‘s Balkan Style yogurt with chia seeds tasted great to me, although if you’re turned off by textures, you might not like it. Personally I think it’s a great way to get some extra omega 3 fats in my day, although I could probably just as easily add them myself to regular yogurt.

Delicious Food Show - Olympic Dairy Chia Yogurt

9. Foodland Ontario

It was great to see Foodland Ontario at the show promoting all the great food we grow locally here in Ontario! I feel so incredibly fortunate to live in a region that has such fertile land and such a strong network of individuals, organizations, and companies involved in the local food system. I sampled some great Ontario preserves, pears, goat cheese and more! There was also a chef cooking up some dishes made with Ontario grown food, but unfortunately we missed out on that.

Delicious Food Show - Foodland Ontario

10. S’mores ice cream bar

One area of the Delicious Food Show was Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium, where eight Toronto restaurants served two dishes each that people could vote on. As soon as we saw the chocolate s’mores ice cream bar from Home of the Brave, we knew we had to try it. It was delicious (how could something with ice cream, chocolate, and marshmallows not be?) but its flavours were slightly flat. I know they were restricted to using certain brands in the creation of their dish though, so that might explain it.

Delicious Food Show - Home of the Brave

I sampled so many other foods I wish I could write about on here, and others that I didn’t get to sample that I wish I had. If only I had an extra stomach for events like this! At least there’s always next year’s show. Who wants to join me?

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Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria

I’m going to tell you something and it’s going to make me sound like a giant dork.

I created an Excel chart for my restaurant bucket list, organized by city and type of food. This way I can easily pick out just a few restaurants to suggest when I’m making plans with someone. It’s kind of neat!

A few Fridays ago I crossed one Stratford restaurant off my bucket list. JZ was able to get off work early, so we headed there mid-afternoon and planned to explore the city a bit before dinner.

Highway 7

It was chillier than we expected out, so we wanted to grab some hot drinks to warm ourselves up. I suggested Balzac’s, a local chain with great coffee, but as we were walking we stumbled upon a small independent cafe called Slave to the Grind that we decided to check out.

Slave to the Grind

I liked it immediately! Exposed brick walls always create a really cool atmosphere. This place had several other great features too, like lattes made with various brewed teas and a selection of vegan milk options. I got a masala chai latte made with almond milk with a dusting of fresh cinnamon on top. It was delicious while not being a sugar bomb like most chai lattes.

Slave to the Grind

We sipped our drinks while walking around Stratford. I found at least 3 other restaurants there that I had to add to my bucket list when I got home! We also wandered through Shakespeare Gardens, which was exactly what I pictured the gardens looking like when I read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. As a side note, if you haven’t read that Shakespeare play yet, add it to your reading list. It’s my favourite one!

Shakespeare Gardens Stratford

When our reservation time came, we headed over to Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria, one of Stratford’s best known restaurants that is both a Taverna in the upper level and a Pizzeria in the lower level. Our reservations were for the pizzeria.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria

Because it’s below street level with stone walls, you almost feel like you’re in a wine cellar! It gives it a really cool atmosphere, although I wish our table wasn’t so close to our neighbours’ table. It’s hard to have a nice conversation when you can almost join in the conversation of the people next to you.

I had a glass of their wine special for the night, which our waitress recommended and I really enjoyed. I wish I had written down what kind it was! JZ really liked his Tawse Riesling as well.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - red wine

I had the Soiled Reputation (a local farm) green salad to start, which had slow roasted tomatoes and fennel in it. It was a bit overdressed but I otherwise really enjoyed it. I like that they stuck to only a few flavours to let them really stand out. Unfortunately JZ didn’t love his Caesar salad, and I had to agree with him. It had a strong punch of garlic, but was somehow bland at the same time.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - salad

We both really enjoyed our pizzas though.

I took a while to decide on my order (like always – decision making is not my strong point!) but eventually decided on the Don Corleone pizza on the whole wheat crust, which came topped with pepperoni, Italian bacon, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil. It had the perfect thickness of crust (thin, but not too thin) and such great flavours on it! JZ loved his Italian Stallion pizza too, topped with prosciutto, Italian sausage, Italian bacon, spicy calabrese, bocconcini, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - Don Corleone pizza

They were pretty big servings though and we both left with half our pizzas in to-go boxes. Two meals from a $16-20 pizza ain’t bad! But my forgetful self ended up leaving my box in JZ’s fridge, so I didn’t get to enjoy my leftovers. Guess we’ll just have to go back some time!

Pazzo Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Are “healthy choices” on restaurant menus actually healthy?

You know what makes me laugh? Seeing some of the options under “Healthy Choices” or “Lighter Fare” on a restaurant menu. Because sometimes, they’re not actually that healthy at all.

Are "healthy choices" on restaurant menus actually healthy?

I mean, who decides what is a “healthy” choice? Do they have a background in nutrition? Are they a dietitian? Did they enter the ingredients into a nutrition processing software to see its nutrition information? Do they even really understand what constitutes a “healthy” choice? Not always.

Sometimes the menu items under those headings don’t even have criteria, so its up to the discretion of whoever wrote the menu. One of my favourite examples is finding “Yogurt layered with granola and fruit with a drizzle of honey” under the “Healthy Choices” on breakfast menus. That meal is going to be packed with added sugars from the yogurt and granola, not to mention the honey. And considering that granola is often over 250 calories per half cup, this option may be even more calorie dense than one of the options on the regular menu!

restaurant table

At some restaurants there is criteria for the options labelled as a “Healthy Choice”, so at least there is some degree of discrimination behind it. Most of the time I find that criteria is based on being under a certain number of calories. On the plus side, you know that you won’t be eating an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal. But an item’s calorie count doesn’t say anything about other important nutrition considerations such as its sugar content, its fat content, how much sodium it contains, whether its made from whole grains, or whether it contains fruits or vegetables. I’ve seen some menu items labelled as a “Healthy Choice” that still have more than three quarters of your day’s allowance of sodium, and others that are basically just refined carbohydrates with little other nutritional value. Essentially the “Healthy Choices” section on menus often really just means “The Least Unhealthy Options”.

Now I’m not one to say that we always need to be making health-conscious choices at restaurants. Food is meant to be enjoyed too! But for people who do want to make healthier choices when eating out, it’s important to be aware that the “Lighter Options” section of restaurant menus (while having good intentions) may not always be that healthy.

Do you agree/disagree?

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Cheesy baked cauliflower

Thanksgiving is typically a very traditional holiday for most families, including mine. It’s often filled with the same people, the same food, and the same rituals year after year. That’s what makes it so comforting.

But this year my Thanksgiving was a blend of the old and the new. It was filled with most of my favourite things that makes Thanksgiving feel so familiar, but with some new twists and perhaps even new traditions. It was different, yet still had all the elements that make Thanksgiving so special.

On Sunday I went to JZ’s family’s Thanksgiving for the first time and got to partake in their traditions including his grandma’s Slovenian soup and an intense game of Blackjack! I made these apple spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting from Canadian Living to contribute to the meal. They were basic cupcakes, but the caramel topper I made using this tutorial really made them stand out!

apple spice cupcake 3

My family’s Thanksgiving was on Monday. Like always, we went to the Norfolk County Fair beforehand. It no longer holds the same appeal now that I’m older and don’t care for the rides or games, but I keep going back because of its nostalgic meaning to me. And I still enjoy the horse shows and giant pumpkins!

norfolk county fair

Our Thanksgiving meal was essentially the same as every family holiday dinner, right down to the side dishes. Despite eating the same thing two or three times a year for my entire life, I still look forward to their familiar flavours every time!

Thanksgiving dinner

I like to add a twist every year by contributing a new side dish though. This year I made this roasted squash with lemon tahini sauce from Bon Appetit, which was a hit amongst all the squash lovers in my family. The slightly bitter, tangy sauce was a good complement to the sweetness of the squash.

roasted squash with lemon tahini sauce

The real side dish standout was my dad’s cheesy baked cauliflower though. With a topping made of mayonnaise and two types of cheese, it will convert even the biggest cauliflower skeptics (just ask JZ)! I love the dish as is, but as an experiment, I decided to try making a lighter version with the leftover cauliflower.

Cheesy baked cauliflower

To lighten it up slightly, I replaced the mayo with Greek yogurt and reduced the cheese by just a touch. The result was a healthier version of my dad’s dish without sacrificing any flavour.

See? Sometimes slightly changing traditions can be a good thing.

Cheesy baked cauliflower

Cheesy baked cauliflower

Serves 3-4 | Vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, nut free

4 cups large cauliflower florets
1/2 cup shredded extra old cheddar cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1.5 tbsp plain 2% Greek yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower and let cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until it is tender and able to be pierced with a fork. Then drain and place in a 1 to 1.5 quart baking dish and sprinkle with salt.

In a small bowl, combine the cheddar, Parmesan, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard. Stir to mix well, then spread it on top the cauliflower. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.

cheesy baked cauliflower

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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Enjoying fall in Burlington

I think one of the reasons I love fall so much is the fact that it’s so fleeting. It seems like that perfect period of time when the weather is still comfortable and the trees are still vibrant with colour goes by in the blink of an eye. So I’m trying to soak up autumn as much as I can. Here’s how I’m enjoying fall in Burlington right now:

Apple picking at Applevale Orchards

A few weekends ago I dragged JZ to go apple picking with me at a local orchard because it’s one of my favourite fall activities. I like Applevale because it’s not an entertainment farm that charges up the wazoo to just enter its property. It’s simple and to the point: just pay for your desired size of bag, and go pick apples. We picked a huge bag of Macintosh apples that have been great for snacking on. I’m also hoping to go back soon to get some Golden Delicious apples for applesauce and apple crisp!

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Applevale orchards

Hiking at Dundas Valley Conservation Area

Fall is the ideal time for hiking in my opinion. The temperatures are just right, and you really can’t beat the views! Dundas Valley is just a short drive away from Burlington, so my friend Andrea and I decided to check it out one afternoon. We hiked the Main Loop, which took us about 1.5 hours (including a 10 minute period where we got lost). But you could seriously stay there and hike all day on its various trails while taking in its gorgeous views:

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Dundas Valley Conservation Area hiking

Fall treats at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe

Before our hike we stopped for a treat at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, which always has amazing fall goodies (and nut free too!). I went for their ginger molasses cookie since it was one I’d never tried before. I’ve also had their pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and pumpkin scone which are both delicious.

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Kellys Bake Shoppe ginger molasses cookie

Comfort food at West Plains Bistro

As soon as fall hits, I’m hit with cravings for comfort food! Which is why my home cooked dinners lately have consisted of casseroles, risotto, pasta, and stew. I also recently had a fantastic beef bourguignon at West Plains Bistro with the most tender beef! Served over shallot infused mashed potatoes and enjoyed with a glass of Merlot, it was comfort food at its finest.

Enjoying fall in Burlington - West Plains Bistro beef bourguignon

Lattes at Tamp Coffee Co

This is my and JZ’s favourite coffee shop! There’s a little seating nook there that’s the best place to hang out for a few hours on a chilly fall day with one of Tamp’s pumpkin lattes (which, FYI, are eons better than the pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks!).

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Tamp Coffee Co latte

Fall produce at the Burlington Mall farmers market

Fall to me means one thing: squash! I go nuts for all the great squash at the farmers market. A few years ago you could mostly just find butternut, buttercup, and acorn squash but these days I’m finding all sorts of different varieties like delicata, hubbard, kabocha. It’s awesome! I also love the Brussels sprouts, leeks, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots this time of year too. They’re perfect for using in all my comfort food cooking. Oh, and let’s not forget The Cheese Man’s stand – because comfort food requires cheese, am I right?

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Burlington Mall farmers market

Speaking of comfort food, I’ll be busy cooking, eating, and enjoying Thanksgiving this weekend, so I won’t be posting again until mid next week. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

How are you enjoying fall where you live?

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Healthy oat and flax date squares

This past weekend was a pretty low key one. The weather was gorgeous on Friday, so JZ and I went on a bike ride to the farmers market to pick up some ingredients for lunch and dinner.  I also picked up a gorgeous cauliflower that I’m making risotto with this week as well as the last of the season’s local blackberries – I can’t believe summer is really over!

The skies opened up once we got back, so we spent the rest of the rainy afternoon cozied up with some blankets and a vanilla scented candle while he did some work and I edited these pictures.

Healthy oat and flax date squares

After a dinner of pork tenderloin Diane (here is the recipe – it was pretty good!) and falling asleep on the couch in the last 5 minutes of the Leafs game against Detroit, we were in bed by just after 10 pm.

Gosh, that makes me sound old. And my obsession with date squares just adds to my premature senior citizen status. I mean, before getting into blogging, I’d never met anyone under 70 who likes date squares. I love them though! Buttery, crumbly, gooey, and sweet – they’ve got all the components of a perfect dessert.

My version is a healthier twist on the classic dessert, based upon a date flax bar I had at Borough Market in England. These oat and flax date squares are low in added sugar and fat, making them healthy enough to be an everyday snack. Plus they’re free of dairy, eggs, and nuts, so they’re a safe choice for allergies. But the real selling point is all the fibre in these guys! With oats, flax, and dates, there’s tons of the good stuff in these squares to help move things along – if you know what I mean.

… I really do make myself sound old, don’t I?

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Makes 16 squares | Dairy free, egg free, nut free

Crust:
2 cup rolled oats
0.5 cup ground flax
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt

Filling:
1.5 cups pitted Medjool dates (about 15 dates)
1/4 cup boiling Water

Before getting started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 8×8″ square baking pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the oats and flax, and process until the oats are slightly ground (don’t grind them into a flour). Then add the melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and salt, and process until everything is combined. Remove mixture from the food processor into bowl, then take about 2/3 of the mixture press it down firmly into the baking pan to form the bottom crust. I spent at least 5 minutes making sure it was very firmly pressed down.

Give your food processor a quick wipe if needed to remove any crumbs, then add the Medjool dates and boiling water. Process until it is a soft, sticky paste. You may need to add more or less water – you want it to be a consistency that you can spread on top of the crust, but isn’t too liquidy. When it is a good consistency, carefully spread it on top of the oat and flax crust.

Then take the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the date layer, pressing it down lightly.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 25-30 minutes, then remove and let the pan cool on top of a rack before removing. Cut into 16 squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Do you like classic date squares? Do you ever feel like you act older than your age?

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Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Eggplant Parm Stacks

Disclaimer: In exchange for promoting The Delicious Food Show, I received a media pass to attend the event. I was not otherwise compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own!

One of the things I love the most about living so close to Toronto is all the great food events in the city. It seems like every month (heck, every week) there’s a new food festival or event being promoted on Twitter. It’s hard to keep up with!

One event that I’m particularly excited for is the Delicious Food Show, happening October 17-19 at the Direct Energy Centre. It’s going to be three days of exhibitors, cooking demos, tastings, workshops, appearances by Food Network and celebrity chefs, and of course lots of good food! If you’re interested in attending, check out their website and be sure to follow the event on Twitter and Facebook.

Delicious Food Show 2014

One person than I’m excited to see there is Lucinda Scala Quinn, who is the Executive Editorial Director of food for Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and also the author of 4 books. She will be doing a hands on workshop on Saturday at 2:30 pm as a part of the Exclusive Chef Series. And based on her Eggplant Parm Stacks recipe that I’ve been given permission to share, I bet she’ll be cooking something delicious!

Eggplant Parm Stacks

Eggplant Parm Stacks

Excerpted from Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan Books). Copyright 2013. Photographs by Jonathan Lovekin.

Serves 8 | Vegetarian

2 eggplants (2-1/2 pounds total),
sliced 1/3 inch thick (24 slices total)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups Italian Tomato Sauce (recipe follows) or other tomato sauce
A 1-pound ball fresh mozzarella, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (24 slices total)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center position. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

2. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with 1/3 cup of the olive oil and season with the salt. Working in batches, add to the grill pan and cook, flipping once, until charred and soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a platter or baking sheet.

3. Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, pepper, herbs, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium bowl.

4. Place 8 slices of the grilled eggplant on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top each with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of the bread crumb mixture, and a slice of mozzarella. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until soft, golden, and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Italian Tomato Sauce

Makes 3 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, pulsed in a blender to a semichunky consistency
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 basil sprig (optional)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)

1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and pepper flakes and stir constantly for 30 seconds, just long enough to release the garlic’s fragrance; don’t cook it to golden.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and salt, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and a deep tomato color. Add the basil sprig in the last 5 minutes of cooking, if using. Remove the basil before serving and swirl in the butter, if desired.

Toronto folks: will I see you there?

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Filed under event, recipe, toronto

Pin It Party #3

Today I’m joining in another Pin It Party hosted by The Lean Green Bean. All bloggers are welcome to participate – and it’s not too late to join in. Here’s what you do:

6June1

  • Round up 5 blog posts you’ve written that you would like to see on Pinterest.
  • Make sure there is a nice, pinable image or photo included in each post.
  • Write a short post featuring the posts you chose, including 5 nice images & links to the posts, along with a short description of each post.
  • Publish your post within the next few days, then visit Lindsay’s blog and add your post to the linkup (the link up will be open for about a week!)

The only rule is this: If you add your post to the linkup, please take a few minutes to visit at least three other posts and pin some of their images!

Here are my 5 posts (click the title or the image to get to the original post):

1. Pesto and arugula pasta with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts

This simple vegetarian pasta takes as little as 20 minutes to whip up, making it a great week night dinner! Amp up the protein by adding chicken if you’d like.

Pesto and arugula pasta with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts

2. 10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m at the farmers market, I tend to go a bit overboard and buy too much. These tips will help your produce last longer so that you don’t end up throwing it out!

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

3. Breakfast tofu scramble

Vegan. Gluten free. Nut free. Protein packed… this meal is about as trendy as it gets. And it’s tasty too!

Breakfast tofu scramble -- vegan and gluten free

4. Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

Who else thinks zucchini can taste pretty bland? I do! But with just a few simple ingredients, it can taste fantastic.

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

5. Cacao avocado pudding

This pudding is literally just 3 ingredients: avocado, dates, and cacao powder. So easy, so unbelievably delicious.

Cacao avocado pudding

Comment with a link to your Pin It Party post!

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Filed under link up