Honey Lavender Latte

A little sweetness to start the day.

This time last year, I drove up the California coast to San Francisco with a good friend. At our final stop, we stayed at a cute B&B called the Red Victorian Peace Centre in Haight-Ashbury. With one notable exception, we loved everything about this place.  The cafe in the lobby made an amazing honey lavender latte. This is my version.

Honey Lavender Latte

Add 1/4 tsp honey and 1/8 tsp vanilla in the bottom of your mug, and pour 2 shots of espresso over them.

Add about 8-10 edible lavender buds to milk before frothing. When the milk heats up, it will take on the flavour of the lavender. Pour over the coffee and enjoy :)  

Gluten and Sugar Free Banana Muffins

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Gluten Free Sugar Free Banana Muffins

For the past few weeks I’ve cut alcohol, refined sugar, and (most) gluten from my diet in an attempt to correct the awful habits I slipped into over the winter. While this detox has reminded me how good it feels to eat healthy, sometimes you just want something sweet to eat. One night this week, during a shamefully long Game of Thrones marathon, I got a craving for cake.  I scoured my cupboards for something cake-y but still healthy to bake.

Luckily for me, I’m really bad at eating bananas before they get mushy and have amassed a freezer full of ripe bananas.  Bananas in hand, I decided to make banana muffins.  Unsurprisingly, however, every recipe I looked at was full of sugar.  I decided to omit refined sugar altogether, and hoped that my super ripe bananas and a few chopped dates would give the muffins enough sweetness to be palatable (palatable is a low standard, I know – but I wasn’t expecting much from this recipe).  If you like a lot of sweetness you could probably add some stevia.

The other hurdle was making these gluten free.  I don’t have any gluten-free flour, so I did a bit of investigating into flour alternatives that I already had in my kitchen. The options were almond flour or oat flour.  I decided almond alone would be too heavy, so I blended them together. I thought using only oat flour might makes the muffins a bit dry, but if you wanted to make them  lighter, that might be one way to do it.

As a lover of bread and sweets, I did not have high hopes for these muffins.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were.  Enjoy :)

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Gluten free sugar free banana muffins(makes approximately 24):

6-7 smashed up ripe bananas

1/2 cup of soft, unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of almond flour (ground up almonds)

1 1/2 cups of oat flour (made by grinding oats to a powder in a food processor)

1 tsp ground flax seed

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts(optional)

10 chopped dates (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins, leaving one well unlined. Fill that well with water – it will help you make moist muffins and will keep the bottoms from burning.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter and bananas.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla. On a low speed, add the dry ingredients and blend until just incorporated. Add the walnuts and dates if desired.

Fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes.

Quinoa Croquettes with Lemon Garlic Sauce

While my croquette-shaping skills leave much to be desired, I can assure you these are delicious.

While my croquette-shaping skills leave much to be desired, I can assure you these are delicious.

These croquettes are amazing. They make you feel like you’re eating something deliciously unhealthy, but there’s no guilt.  They’re also really versatile – I ate two over a salad instead of having meat with my dinner one night. You could also make smaller ones to serve as appetizers, or larger ones to eat as veggie burgers. Because they’re full of protein you will feel full for hours after.

They’re best served fresh, but they will keep in the fridge for a few days and can easily be warmed up.

Quinoa Croquettes (Makes 8 large croquettes)

In a bowl, combine:

1/4-1/3 cup of breadcrumbs (I made my own by toasting bits of stale focaccia  and grinding them in a food processor with herbs)

1 chopped, sauteed shallot

2 cloves of garlic + 1/2 tsp salt, smashed to a paste with a mortar and pestle

2 eggs

Half a carrot, grated

2 large leaves of swiss chard or kale, chopped

1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 pinch each of chili powder and paprika

Half a teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Optional – grated cheese (I didn’t put any in mine, but I would try something sharp like a pecorino, or my current obsession: Don Heliodoro Rosemary Sheep Milk Cheese)

Almost ready to be molded into misshapen croquettes!

Almost ready to be molded into misshapen croquettes!

Mush everything up with your hands, and gently shape into small balls or patties. I’m not sure how other people do this. Clearly, the shaping of patties falls outside my culinary skill set (see the top photo). It may have been the ratio of “filler” to “binding agent” –  I’m really not sure. This is also a struggle I have with meatballs, though, so most likely the issue is just me.  But I digress –  do whatever it is you have to do to make these look presentable.

Heat up a small amount of olive oil (or use cooking spray) in a pan and cook the croquettes on medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping carefully. I covered the pan to hold in the heat while they were cooking.

Serve with Lemon Garlic Sauce (Or anything else you think would go well on top)

Lemon Garlic Sauce

Combine in a magic bullet/food processor, approximately (I rarely measure things):

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp light mayonnaise

The juice of about half a lemon – or the equivalent in white wine vinegar

A few sprigs of coriander and/or flat leaf parsley

1 clove of garlic (clearly when I made this up I was having a party of one. You may want to omit the garlic if you plan on eating this around other people).

Drizzle over the croquettes and enjoy!

My organic energy smoothie

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Before…

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…after

I’m not one for eating in the morning. I used to just eat a piece of fruit and down a cup of coffee before running out the door.  By 10 am I would be starving and eat the first thing in sight (usually coffee cake at Starbucks). Since I started training for a half marathon last month, I’ve realized my eating habits have to change.  This breakfast smoothie keeps me full until lunch, and because it gives me energy, my mornings at work are so much more productive. Gone are the days of the mid-morning Starbucks coffee cake (ok, not entirely true – but I don’t snack at Starbucks nearly as often).

Organic Green Smoothie

8 leaves of organic kale: I switch between kale, swiss chard and spinach depending on what the grocery store is selling that week. Generally I fill my magic bullet cup halfway with greens packed in fairly tightly.
Half an organic banana
1 quartered and peeled organic orange
1  quartered organic pear, skin on
Any other organic fruit I find (kiwis, blueberries, strawberries). The smoothie won’t look as appetizing if you use colourful fruit, but it will still be delicious.
Sometimes I just fill the rest of the cup with water (approx 1 cup).  Usually, though, I use skim milk or a bit of yogurt with water to add some protein and calcium to the smoothie.
Blend and enjoy :)

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

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Sweet, salty pieces of heaven.

If you want a recipe that will make you popular among friends and colleagues – this is it. I first made this stuff back in December with a co-worker to bring to our work holiday party. It was devoured. I’ve made it about 5 other times since then, and every single time I bring it somewhere, people rave about it. The best part is that it’s very easy to make.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 bag of pretzels

Flaky sea salt, like Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or Cyprus Flakes

2 cups Semi-sweet or Dark Chocolate – I used a block of Callebaut dark chocolate that I bought at Johnvince. I shaved the block into little flakes with a knife to make it easier to use. Personally,I don’t think 2 cups is enough – I used much more.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with foil, arrange pretzels on the foil.

In a pan, melt butter and sugar together on medium-low heat. This is the hardest part. The first time I made this, I overcooked the caramel and it separated. Once the sugar dissolves, increase the heat to medium and, while stirring constantly, let the caramel boil gently until it starts to stick to the bottom and is thickened. If you have a candy thermometer, you should let it get to 290 and then remove it from heat.

Pour over the pretzels, and let the pretzels cook in the oven for 5 minutes. Pull out the pan, cover in the chocolate shavings (or chips, either works), and return to the oven for another 2 minutes.

Remove from oven, sprinkle liberally with salt, and immediately place in the freezer. Once hardened, break apart the pieces (the foil is tricky to remove) and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Valentina-lime Popcorn

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This post is dedicated to my travel buddy, who first introduced me to Valentina hot sauce in California this summer.  Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.  It adds so much flavour to blander foods like tofu…and popcorn.

I was poking around my kitchen looking for something to season my popcorn with the other night, when my eyes fell on the Valentina in my fridge. Beside it was a lime. I shaved a tiny sliver of salted butter into a saucepan on medium heat and added two tablespoons of Valentina. While that was heating up, I added the zest of a lime to the pan and let that all cook together for two or three minutes before tossing it into my popcorn.

Best popcorn ever.

I think it worked so well because Valentina is thick, full of flavour, and not too spicy. I don’t think a thinner, spicier sauce like Franks or Tabasco would work for this. It would shrivel up the popcorn and you wouldn’t taste the lime.

Enjoy :)

Momofuku Milk Bar Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies

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Cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookies

“This is the essence of how we come up with things. We make things that we are interested in. We make them taste good. Then we stand in front of our fridge, with the door open, just like you do at home when you’re trying to figure out what to make for dinner or eat for a midnight snack. We pick and pull out things we’ve been working on and see where we can merge ideas and flavours. We try to be intelligent about it. But most of the time, its a eureka moment that we didn’t even know we were working toward.” – Christina Tosi

Christina Tosi is the master of using conventional ingredients in an unconventional way.  It really does feel like some of the things that come out of Momofuku Milk Bar are the serendipitous result of Tosi throwing together a bunch of things she found in her pantry. Everything I’ve tried tastes new and exciting, but also familiar.  And, of course, so unbelievably good.

As it seems Milk Bar will not be joining the rest of the Chang Empire in its northern expansion anytime soon, I bought the cookbook and have been experimenting Tosi-style in my own kitchen. A testament to how good these cookies are is the fact that I’ve come out of blogging retirement due to the number of requests I’ve had for the recipe.

Part 1: Cornflake Crunch

5 cups of cornflakes

1/2 cup of milk powder

3 Tbsp of sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

9 Tbsp melted butter (roughly 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp)

Heat your oven to 275. Crush the cornflakes in a bowl with your (washed) hands to approximately 1/4 of their original size. Add the milk powder, sugar and salt. Toss to mix. Add the butter and toss it to coat the mixture and create clusters.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread the crunch out, and bake for 20 minutes. Your kitchen will smell like buttery heaven.

You have to let this cool completely before using it in the recipe. Since I’m usually short on time, I throw it in the freezer until I need to use it and its been fine for me.

Part 2: The Cookie

1 cup of butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar

2/3 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp of baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt

3 cups of Cornflake Crunch … which leaves you with 2 cups to snack on

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I used real ones the first time and it was fine)

1 1/4 cups of mini marshmallows (I accidentally bought jumbo the first time and tried to cut them up – it was a sticky disaster)

Beat the butter and sugars on high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and (this is very important) beat on high for 7-8 minutes until the mixture gets light, forms peaks, and is almost doubled in volume. This is what will get you a cookie that’s crispy on the outside with a brownie-soft middle.

Reduce your mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined. Still on low, add the Crunch and chocolate chips until just incorporated, and then the marshmallows. Taste the dough – its the best you will ever have.

The recipe says to use an ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measure to portion the dough onto a parchment lined pan. That struck me as slightly too big. For the first batch I used a 1/4 cup measure and put 8 cookies on each baking sheet. I ended up with basically one big cookie. I pulled a few dough balls off the next batch in the oven and ended up with huge cookies. The second time I made these I just used a heaping tablespoon and that turned out much better. A friend of mine made these in unlined muffin tins, which will solve the issue of spreading and make them less like cookies and more like brownies.

Once you’ve divided up the dough, cover the cookie sheets in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour before baking. Preheat your oven to 375.

A note on baking time: the recipe says to bake the cookies for 18 minutes. Unless you use a 1/3 measure, this will be way too long. I baked my first batch of cookies using 1/4 cup measure for 14 minutes. The marshmallows were chewy and toffee-like. The second time (see the photo above), I made smaller cookies and baked them for 11 minutes. These ones were even better, because half of the marshmallows had that gooey melted marshmallow texture and the other half were chewier. It really just depends on how you like your cookies.

Let them cool completely before removing from the baking sheet. I usually don’t have the patience for this, but as I found out, the marshmallows make these cookies delicate when they’re hot.