Chex Blox

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I thought the name I had come up with for these was pretty cute but one of my coworkers objected and decided they should be called “Chexicans” instead, because of the tenuous (maybe) connection of almonds to Mexico. Then he came up with Chex Yo Self, Chex-o-Slovakia (because Nutella was invented in the Czech Republic), and Early Chex Out (“like early check out, because if you eat too many you’ll die at a young age”). Then he arrived at “Dirty Chexican” because it made his fingers sticky. So I told him I would let you guys decide on a name because you are way smarter than he is. Annnnnnd GO!

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In any case, these little blocks of whatever-they-are are well-received wherever you want to take them. Aside from a wee bit of butter (that could be replaced with margarine), they’re dairy free, and the rice cereal makes them totally gluten-free as well. For nut-free folks you can easily skip the almonds. I totally made this recipe up as I went along so there’s no reason for you not to play around with it too!

Chex Blox 1

I started with a big-ass bowl and into it I dumped a whole box (about 5 cups) Chex cereal. It was the honey-flavoured but you could use plain too. Then went in about 1/2 cup sliced almonds (use any nut you like – these were on-hand), 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Or about those amounts. I didn’t measure anything. I gave that a good stir.

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Into a small pot on the stove went about 3/4 cup Nutella and 3/4 cup peanut butter. The one picture I didn’t take doubles of is of course the one that turns out blurry.

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I stirred that around until it was fully melted and amazing.

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… okay so this one’s a little blurry too.

In another pot I melted about 2 tablespoons butter.

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Then tipped in a whole package (about 5 cups) marshmallows.

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Stirred that up until it melted. SO GOOEY.

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Then I added the hazelnut peanut butter to the cereal and stirred it for a little while.

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Then went in the marshmallow and that got stirred around.

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I plopped it into a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pressed it down into place. You can shove it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process but it will happen on its own on the counter if it’s not too hot outside.

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When it’s hardened you can cut it into blocks.

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Store whatever doesn’t get eaten in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 21

Oh Jamie Oliver, you rarely let me down. Today is no exception. This recipe takes your standard cauliflower with cheese sauce to the next (actually, the highest) level with very little effort. Plus it involves SO MUCH VEGETABLE. A great source of good food in these final days of winter. I like to buy the flash-frozen vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the winter, because I know that they were at their freshest when they were frozen and haven’t spent days or weeks rattling around in a truck to get to me before they rot.

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 1

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 2

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grab 1kg cauliflower florets (A WHOLE KILOGRAM) and dump that in a large baking dish. I used half frozen florets on the bottom …

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 3

… and half fresh ones on top.

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Scoop up a decently medium-sized pot and dump in about 4 tablespoons butter and the equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (you can peel and slice it, but I used it from a jar here and I’m not sorry). Heat that on medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling.

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 5

Sprinkle in about 4-5 tablespoons flour and stir that until it forms a gummy paste, like in the picture.

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 6

Now, drizzle in, a little bit at a time, 2 cups milk. Whisk it all the while as you add so you don’t get lumps.

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Tip in 500g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen). Let those simmer away until they’re pretty much mushy.

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When they’re nice and mushy, you should mash ’em. I found the potato masher didn’t quite cut it so I used my immersion blender.

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Glorious.

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Now add in like 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or any cheese of your preference). Turn down the heat a bit and let that melt.

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Now pour your green creamy mixture on top of the cauliflower.

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Dig the cauliflower up a little bit to make sure the sauce gets into the middle.

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 17

In a food processor, whaz together about 2 slices stale bread, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and about 2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bread crumb topping!

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Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake the whole thing for an hour, until the crumbs are golden and everything is bubbly. I found that it was best to cover the crumb topping with foil so it didn’t burn.

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Sooooo good!

Cheesy Cauliflower Broccoli 20

Almost Not There Lemon Squares

Paleo Lemon Squares 28

I made these from Amy Approved yesterday for another round of meetings at work.  They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo, so if you have any sensitivities to food you’re probably safe eating these (unless you’re allergic to nuts, coconut, or eggs, in which case you might die – don’t eat these).  In addition, unlike traditional lemon squares, where you bake the crust and then bake the filling, this filling is a stove-top deal, so it’s ideal if you need your oven for something else.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 8″ x 12″ baking dish with parchment paper.

Paleo Lemon Squares 1

Grab about 2 cups raw almonds (I used blanched ones) and pulse them in a food processor until they’re in small chunks — don’t go too far, though: you don’t want almond meal.

Paleo Lemon Squares 2

Mix the almonds together with 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons coconut flour, and 2 large eggs.

Paleo Lemon Squares 3

It looks like vomit. Gross.  Don’t let that deter you.

Paleo Lemon Squares 4

Press that sticky gooeyness into the bottom of the dish and bake that for 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown.  Let that cool completely.

Paleo Lemon Squares 5

Paleo Lemon Squares 11

For the lemon filling, crack 6 large eggs into a saucepan and add as well 1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 4 large lemons), 1/2 cup honey, and a dash of sea salt.

Paleo Lemon Squares 8

I don’t feel lemon bars are complete without some lemon zest as well, but I leave that up to you.

Paleo Lemon Squares 6

Whisk that all up and heat over medium.  Stir in 1/2 cup coconut oil until it’s completely melted.

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Keep whisking.

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And whisking.

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The mixture will eventually start to thicken, so you want to keep gently heating and whisking until you’ve got something resembling a thick pudding.

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When you get there, give it a few more whisks and then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.

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Once the lemon goo is cool, you can smooth it over your crust.

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Paleo Lemon Squares 21

Feel free to garnish the tops with shredded coconut as well.

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Shove that in the freezer for about 30 minutes so everything will set and harden, then cut into bars. I just chucked mine in the fridge overnight.

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Keep these babies in the fridge to prevent them from going gooey.  If they last that long. They’re not as satisfying as a lemon square made with butter and sugar and flour but they’re still pretty tasty!

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I love me some Granola

Granola 26

My morning meal usually consists of coffee, juice, yogurt, and granola.  Like I could eat that stuff every single day.

Granola 30

Until now, I’ve been buying our granola, but it’s quite expensive for the amount you get and it’s full of all sorts of weird additives and the like that I don’t really want to put in my system.

Granola 28

My mother used to make granola for us sometimes when we were kids, so I figured that I could probably do it myself if I tried.  And it’s easy.  And you can use what you’ve got in your cupboards, or what you can scoop up at the bulk food store.  Which means you can customize each batch.

Granola 6

So preheat your oven to 350°F and get out a large rimmed baking sheet.  I took the precaution of lining mine with parchment paper, so stuff wouldn’t stick.

The majority of granolas start with a base of oats, about 4 cups.  I used four double handfuls, because I measured my tiny hands once and put together that’s about what they hold.  And thus ends my list of measurements for this recipe.  Because you can do whatever you want.  So what else have I got going on here?  In addition to the oats, I have bran, ground flax, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, lavender flowers (yes), and then a selection of dried fruits: apricots, mango, and raisins.

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Take all your happy dry ingredients (minus the fruits) and plop them in a bowl.

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Mix ’em up.

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In another bowl, add about 1/2 cup runny honey,

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about 1/2 cup maple syrup,

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and about 1/2 cup melted butter.

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*** EDIT: If you’d like granola that forms clumps (and that’s my favourite kind), whisk 1 or 2 egg whites into a froth and add them to the mixture as well.  The protein in the whites will stick everything together during the baking process.  Just use caution when stirring mid-bake, as the amount you stir will affect the size of the clumps you create. ***

Pour that golden loveliness into the dry mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are coated.

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Spread that stuff out on your baking sheet and chuck that in the oven for about 40 minutes.

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Make sure to stir with a spatula every 10-15 minutes or so to keep the stuff on the bottom from burning.

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While that’s on the go, get your dried fruit ready. I chopped up the apricots and mango slices a little to make them easier to get on a spoon.

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Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan, stirring it occasionally to break up the chunks.  The finer grained your ingredients are, and the more sticky wet ingredients you use, the chunkier your granola will be.

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While it’s still a little warm, stir in your dried fruit.

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Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, and enjoy whenever you want!

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Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons 19

I’ve had a real hankering after macaroons recently, so I decided to fulfill my craving.  And if you’re looking for good, easy, light and airy dessert ideas (gluten-free, too!) for Passover or Easter, this one (with any modifications you like, such as kosher ingredients) would probably do in a pinch.  And it’s a cinch.

Separate 3 large eggs.

Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons 1

Bring the whites to room temperature by setting the bowl they’re in into another bowl of hot water — just make sure not to get the water where it shouldn’t be.

Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons 3

Press plastic wrap into the surface of the spare yolks, seal them in an airtight container, and put them in the fridge to use in something else.

Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons 2

Preheat your oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, plop your 3 room-temperature egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, a sprinkle of salt and 2 teaspoons pure almond extract.

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Whisk those together until it’s all glossy and frothy and the sugar is mostly dissolved.  The frothier you get it, the better your macaroons will stick together and the fluffier they will be.  You won’t get a meringue out of this because you added the sugar at the beginning but you can get this lovely white stuff that works really well.

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Fold in 4 cups sweetened shredded/flaked coconut and 1 cup blanched sliced almonds.  Make sure the egg mixture is fully combined with the dry ingredients.

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Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons 8

I used a soup spoon to scoop these onto the baking sheets and ended up with about 20 cookies.

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Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until they’re a nice golden brown. Allow them to cool completely.

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For a bit more pizzazz, I melted a hunk of white chocolate and another of milk chocolate and dipped half the cookies in white chocolate, and the other in the milk and put them back on the parchment to dry.

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Deadly.

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Them’s Fightin’ Cookies

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

This is a recipe for gluten-free almond chocolate chip cookies.  I found it in Thursday’s issue of The Ottawa Citizen, where it was referenced to the California Almond Board.  Can we get more complicated?  Surely.  These cookies are also touted as a great energy snack after a workout (a cookie?  Really?).  Whatever they are, they’re gluten-free, egg-free, refined sugar-free, and, if you use carob instead of chocolate, then they are also dairy-free and vegan.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

So I figured I’d bake up a batch and try them out on my collection of captive guinea pigs — in this particular case, the Pie’s fighting game community, which meets every Sunday.  I’m sure that the last thing they need is more energy, but whatever.  They are good at ensuring the Pie and I are not left alone with too many cookies to eat by ourselves.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups almond flour (I did half coconut flour and half almond meal, because that’s what I had and I figured that the recipe actually meant almond flour, which is a finer grind, and not almond meal) with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (regular canola or sunflower oil will do as well), 1/2 cup agave nectar (available at any health food store and many grocery stores — it’s basically sweet cactus sap, and they also make tequila out of it), and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

I’ve finally busted open the home-made vanilla that Ando and Teedz gave me a couple Christmases ago.  It’s excellent, and I can just keep refilling the bottle to get more and more vanilla.  Fantastic!

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

I’m not sure if I had to do this, but I whisked the ingredients thoroughly together until they formed a lovely smooth and thick emulsion.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and make sure they’re thoroughly combined before folding in 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips and 1/2 cup sliced almonds.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

I didn’t have any sliced almonds so I just used some raw almonds, which I then toasted and crushed myself.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

Using a tablespoon, drop the dough onto the parchment sheets and press down on the dough to flatten it a bit.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

Well, that’s what the recipe said.  I had a hard time keeping mine together so I found if I used my hands and mashed them hard into little patties then I had better luck.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

Bake those puppies for 7-10 minutes, until golden, before removing from the oven.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes before you try to peel them off.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

This recipe had potential, but it fell far short for me.  The cookies turned out a little burnt on the bottom despite me only cooking them for 7 minutes, and they were so very, very dry.  If I were to make these again (and I might), I would nix the oil and substitute in about 1/4 cup butter, salted (which means leaving out the salt in the recipe) and then 1 large egg instead.  If you still want to pursue the vegan route you could also substitute in some apple sauce.  In fact, I might add in some anyway, in addition to the butter and egg.  There simply was no glue holding this baby together.

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Chip

Gluten-Free Chocolate and Raisin Brownies

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Fussellette and I have been attempting to re-create the ooey-gooey goodness of Gluten-Free Pantry’s Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix.  This recipe, from one of my favourite bloggers Nick at Frugal Feeding, may very well replace that mix in my heart.

The ingredients are simple: chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, cocoa, almonds, and raisins.  And we all know the best things in life are often the simplest.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray and line a glass baking dish.  The larger your dish, the thinner your brownies will be, so keep that in mind.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

In a large metal bowl suspended over simmering water, melt together 200g dark chocolate and 75g butter until smooth.  Remove it from the heat and put it on a heatproof surface.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Chuck in 130g sugar and stir that up.  Then add in, one at a time, 2 eggs.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Stir in, as well, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons ground almonds.  I think next time I might experiment using almond flour instead, but today I didn’t have any. With just ground almonds I did have some trouble with cohesion when it was done.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

When that’s all combined, add in a couple handfuls raisins according to your preference.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Slide that good stuff into your dish and bake for anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes, depending on your brownie depth, until the centre is JUST set.  If you bake any longer, then you’ll have cake, not a brownie, and that just isn’t the point.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

As hard as it will be, make sure you let the brownies cool completely before slicing and serving.  in fact, it often helps, when making especially tender brownies, to freeze them for an hour before cutting them.  You can always heat them up again later, but if you move in too soon you’re likely to end up with a brownie mess.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies


O Canada: Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Despite having eaten probably a thousand of these over the years, I have never made one before.  I guess I thought it would be hard.  It really isn’t.

The origins of the Nanaimo bar are shrouded in mystery.  Some say they are not from Nanaimo at all, that some housewife merely pointed to a town on a map when she named her crusty buttery bar.

Others (Canadians, mostly, and especially those from Nanaimo), insist that the Nanaimo bar belongs in its rightful birthplace on Vancouver Island.  For our purposes, we’ll go with the second story.  According to that second story, miners in town would take the bars with them when they went to work.

Nanaimo Bars

There are, of course, a hojillion recipes out there for Nanaimo bars.  There are a bajillion variations (my neighbour makes a variation with candy canes at Christmas).  I kept seeing ones that told you to use custard powder or pudding mix and I kept thinking, where is the original recipe?  How can I make this from scratch?  Then I realized that using a powder mix IS the original recipe.  The custard powder is there more for flavour and sticky-together-ness than it is for making an original custard.

Nanaimo Bars

This particular recipe, with some very minor modifications, comes from Nanaimo [Nah-NIGH-mo] itself, which is a tiny town on the tiny Vancouver Island, a few hours’ ferry ride away from Vancouver in British Columbia.  Apparently the mayor of Nanaimo held a contest several years ago to find the BEST Nanaimo bar recipe in town.  It was re-posted by the owners of the Buccaneer Inn, in Nanaimo.  How many times do you think I can say “Nanaimo”?  I bet it’s more than you think.

In a double boiler, or a bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water, melt 4 or 5 ounces dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons butter.

Nanaimo Bars

Stir it until it’s smooth and set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Nanaimo Bars

It will cool faster if you swish it up on the sides of the bowl.

Nanaimo Bars

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, whip together 1/2 cup room temperature butter, 3 tablespoons cream, 2 tablespoons custard powder (I used Bird’s), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 cups icing sugar.

Nanaimo Bars

Keep going  until it’s light and fluffy.

Nanaimo Bars

In another bowl over a pot of water, melt and stir together 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 tablespoons cocoa.

Nanaimo Bars

Beat up an egg.

Nanaimo Bars

Add that into the melted butter, sugar, and cocoa, and stir to thicken.  The egg will cook as you do this, and the texture might turn out a little lumpy, but that’s fine.

Nanaimo Bars

Remove the mix from the heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used almonds), and 1 cup sweetened dessicated coconut.

Nanaimo Bars

You can easily chop the nuts in your food processor.

Nanaimo Bars

Press the coconut crumb mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8″ square pan.  Lacking that, I used a 10″ x 7″ pan and hoped for the best.

Nanaimo Bars

Spread the yellow custard mixture over the top of the crumb base.

Nanaimo Bars

Pour on the melted, cooled chocolate and gently spread it to cover the whole area.

Nanaimo Bars

Chuck in the fridge and leave it to chill for at least an hour.

Nanaimo Bars

Cut it into squares and eat them all.

Nanaimo Bars

Store what you can’t in good conscience finish in an airtight container.

Nanaimo Bars

Fudgy Rocky Road Squares

Ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy, these easy-peasy squares came out of Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine, to which I am an ardent subscriber.

They don’t require a whole lot of baking, and if you’re feeling super lazy you could get away with not baking at all, so that’s always a bonus.  All you need are five ingredients: graham crackers (whole), almonds, marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips, and condensed milk.  Simple.Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with graham crackers.  Break them if you have to in order to get them to fit.  Bake them until the crackers are lightly toasted and fragrant, probably about 8 minutes.

While that’s going on, coarsely chop up 1 1/2 cups almonds.  Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the toasted graham while it’s still warm.

Dollop on about 1 cup marshmallow fluff in large spoonfuls.  Allow it to soften and spread by itself.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over simmering water, combine 1 12oz bag chocolate chips and 1 14oz can condensed milk. I’m pretty sure you need to use chocolate chips here instead of baking chocolate simply because of the unique physical properties of chocolate chips. 

Cook, stirring once in a while, until the chocolate is all melted and everything is smooth.

Work quickly, before the chocolate has a chance to thicken, and pour it over the marshmallow fluff.

Use a thin-bladed knife to swirl the marshmallow and the chocolate together. 

Refrigerate until set, about an hour, then cut into squares and serve. 

Keep them wrapped up tight in the refrigerator when you’re not chowing down.

Making Mincemeat (Outta You)

Mincemeat is to the winter holidays what chocolate and beer are to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (I’m serious.  Cadbury Mini Eggs and a microbrew during the finals is to die for).  Originally a combination of dried fruits, spirits, fat, and meat, over the centuries the meat part has all but disappeared from the recipe, and now it’s more of a dessert type of thing.  It does still employ three of the age-old methods of preserving, however: fat, sugar, and alcohol. 

I have adapted Allora Andiamo’s recipe from Jamie Oliver‘s website and it is incredible.  I quadrupled some things, and other things I just chucked in the amount I had, so it’s not particularly faithful to Ms. Andiamo’s original recipe but I give her full credit.

In a very large bowl I chucked the following, by weight:

275g raisins

55g dried blueberries

475g dried cranberries

575g candied orange peel

250g blanched almond slivers

400g finely chopped marzipan

474g (1lb) shredded butter (put the butter in the freezer, then grate it, or break it into chunks and run it through the food processor until you have fine crumbs)

1kg apples, finely chopped (I left the skins on and used a variety of different kinds, whatever I had lying around)

juice and rind of 5 large oranges

juice and rind of 2 large lemons

1kg soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons almond extract

8 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used both, of course)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

6 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Give that a good stir, cover it, and leave it somewhere to marinate for about 24 hours.

The next day, distribute the mincemeat into casserole dishes (or, if you are clever like me and used a metal bowl, don’t bother), cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225°F for 3 1/2 hours.

I stirred mine halfway through, just to be thorough.  And also because I don’t trust anything on its own in an oven for three and a half hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit.  The liquid will thicken as it cools so make sure to stir it occasionally in order for the syrup to coat all the fruit. 

Before it completely cools, pour into sterilized jars and seal — can according to your canner’s instructions, or check out our tips to canning here.

Store in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks before using.