Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Spicy and sweet, these easy molasses cookies are filled with gingerbread spices. They are a delicious holiday cookie that is perfect with a cup of tea or to dunk into a glass of milk, a great after school snack or sweet addition to lunch boxes. They also pack well and would be a terrific holiday gift for neighbours or teachers.

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour
Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

As far as cookies go, these are a pretty healthy choice.  With so many tempting treats, the holidays can be a tough time to stay on track. These are a nicely balanced cookie, filled with flavour, but offer some extra nutrition beyond the calories. These cookies are made with oil in place of a hard fat like butter or shortening,  iron rich molasses as the sweetener, and sprouted spelt flour.

Spelt is an ancient grain (cultivated since 5000 BC),  which is more nutritious than the standard wheat we have available today.  It has a sweet mild flavour and a fine texture, that gives these cookies a tender, cake like consistency with a soft crumb. Spelt is lower in gluten and is ideal for cookies, pancakes, cakes, muffins, pie crust and crackers.  The gluten in spelt has slightly different properties which make it easily digestible.  It may be a choice to try for those with gluten sensitivities.

Sprouted flour is something relatively new on the market and I’m pretty excited to see it available at the grocery store.  Sprouting grains increases the availability of the nutrients locked in the seeds and can make them easier to digest and absorb. Important nutrients like B vitamins, Vitamin C, soluble fibre, essential amino acids are reported to be higher in sprouted flour. Good news for those who suffer from allergies: sprouted grains may also be less allergenic. Sprouted grain flour is made with intact grains and is a very healthy whole grain flour.  I’m planning on using it a lot more often!

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour
Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Makes 12 cookies

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/3 cup fancy molasses

1 1/4 cup sprouted spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons hot water

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with a silicone mat.

Heat water and pour it out into a medium heat proof bowl or the bowl of your mixer.  Add baking soda and stir to dissolve.  Add oil and molasses and mix well.  Stir in spices and mix well.  Add flour and stir until well incorporated.  Batter will not be as firm as typical cookie dough.  Using two spoons or a cookie scooper (I used a medium size) make dough into balls. Put loose sugar on a flat surface or plate, roll balls in sugar and place on cookie sheet leaving room between cookies as they spread out a little while baking.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until just baked. Let cool in pan before removing.

This recipe is adapted from the free ebook  “Bake Better Bites (2014) – Recipes and Tips for Healthier Baked Goods”

 

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Every time I make poached pears I don’t know why I don’t make them more often.  They are such a lovely, light, elegant dessert, simple to make and gorgeous on the table.  They can easily be made ahead and refrigerated until needed, making them a great choice for holiday entertaining.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce
Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Pears are underrated. When you bite into a perfectly ripe pear, you know.  Bartletts have a juicy, sweet, delicate flavour and soft, succulent texture.  They turn golden when ripe but a more accurate test for all varieties is to press the neck of the pear. If it is still hard, leave it on the counter for a couple of days. It can be a little tricky to check for ripeness, which has probably led to the belief that there is only one day when a pear is perfectly ripe.  Have you heard that?  Luckily this recipe is very forgiving — you actually want slightly underripe pears that are firm but not too hard.

Like many of you, I most often associate sage with savoury dishes, the most famous being dressing or stuffing. Sage is a complex flavour, aromatic and earthy.  I first tasted the combination of blackberries and sage in an ice cream flavour.  The combination is surprising and delightful, and adds depth and sophistication to this simple dessert.

Fresh or frozen blackberries work well. I used frozen wild blackberries that I had picked in the summer, which were quite sweet.  Commercial varieties can be tart so you may need to sweeten the sauce.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce
Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

This month’s Recipe Redux is all about trimming the table. “Show us the healthy holiday dessert you will be sharing with family and friends this season.”  I can’t think of a more perfect dessert than these elegant poached pears.  I can’t wait to gather up more ideas from all the recipe redux members to add to my holiday collection. Check out the link at the bottom of this post.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Serves 8

4 pears

2 cups blackberries

3 cups apple juice

1 cup water

10 fresh sage leaves

Directions:

In a medium saucepan add blackberries, apple juice, sage leaves and water.  Heat on medium heat.

Poaching pears in blackberries apple juice and sage
Poaching pears in blackberries, apple juice and sage

Peel pears and gently cut out the blossom end.  Trim the bottoms so the pears can stand on their own especially if you are serving them upright.  Add the pears to the poaching liquid and cook on low-medium for 30-35 minutes until a knife easily slides through them.  Turn them occasionally as they start to absorb the colour from the blackberries.

Remove pears and strain remaining liquid through a sieve.  Return liquid to saucepan, heat on medium and reduce for approximately 30 minutes to thicken it a little and concentrate the flavours.  Taste for sweetness and sweeten if desired.

Date Caramel Apple “Cookies”

These have to be the healthiest, easiest “cookies” ever made.  And fun!  They’re perfect for afternoon treats or snacks, school parties or celebrations. For a Halloween party activity, have the toppings and apple slices ready and the kids can build their own apple cookies.

Make the date caramel first and let it sit for the flavours to blend while you prepare everything else.  You will be surprised by how many uses you will find for it: it’s delicious on toast with nut butter in place of jam or jelly, on pancakes or waffles, and just as a delicious spread.  You can give it a thinner, syrupy consistency by adding more water.  I added pumpkin spices, but you can add the flavours you enjoy.

Pumpkin Spice Date Caramel Spread

Makes 1 1/2 cup

1 cup dates

6 tablespoons hot water

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

pinch nutmeg

pinch cloves

Directions:

Place dates in a heat proof bowl and pour 1/4 cup hot water over them.  Press dates into hot water, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Put softened dates with water (most of it will be absorbed) into food processor and add spices.  Begin to purée dates, scraping down the sides often.  When mixture is smooth, add more hot water 1 tablespoon at a time to the consistency you want.  For a spreadable paste I needed 2 additional tablespoons but this may vary depending on how moist your dates are.  Add more water to make a syrup.  Scoop into a jar or suitable container and store in the fridge.

Date Caramel Apple Cookies
Date Caramel Apple Cookies

Date Caramel Apple “Cookies

Apples

chocolate chips

flaked coconut

sunflower seeds (or other seeds or nuts)

Directions:

Core apples and slice at least 1/4 inch thick.  Spread date paste on one side and top with fun toppings.

Inspiration for this recipe and for food styling is from Rachel Shultz.

 

 

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

My Mom was a terrific cook and baker, and I learned so much from her.  I have so many memories of cooking with her, from learning to make bread and  buns, roll cabbage rolls, pack pickle jars, and shell peas for freezing to baking cookies and cupcakes.  She did so much to provide healthy delicious foods for her family. Food was love for the family.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

She loved to bake chocolate cupcakes, and this was one of the first recipes she taught me. We didn’t have a stand mixer but used a hand held mixer over a bowl.  I remember one day we were making cupcakes together and I got to hold the hand mixer.  I was doing fine so she momentarily left the room.  The mixer slipped out of my hand!  It kept spinning out of control, splattering chocolate cupcake batter all over me, the floor, the kitchen table, the chairs, and even the ceiling.  The mixer came to life and kept hopping around.  It was like a comic strip unfolding in our kitchen.  It was hilarious and fun and we both laughed and laughed.

I still make this recipe today for my own kids.  We haven’t had the mishaps I experienced but have had lots of fun, especially in the decorating department.  My kids came up with adding a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate chips on top.  They look so tempting.  The cupcakes are delicious, rich and chocolatey.  The recipe makes a great birthday cake or mini cupcakes for parties or picnics.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

First cooking memories is the September theme with The Recipe Redux.  I can’t wait to read all the stories! The link is at the bottom of this post.   These early experiences we have in the kitchen shape our futures even though we don’t realize it at the time.  I look forward to creating lots of fun kitchen memories with my kids.  Remembering my own makes it even more important to be sure to have lots with my kids.  I want them to realize one day that my cooking and baking was love too.

Mom’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Makes 12 large cupcakes

1 2/3 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare cupcake pan with liners.   Mix flour, soda and salt together well and set aside.  In a mixer beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, cocoa, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for approx 25 minutes.  Check them with a toothpick to see it they are done (a crumb or two on the toothpick is perfect). This recipe works well as a 9 inch cake pan or as mini cupcakes as well.  Adjust your cooking time accordingly. They freeze well so can be made ahead.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

I often think of this delicious soup on fall days.  When the weather is cooler and we have an abundance of fresh carrots. I first tried this soup many years ago.  The original recipe is from an old favourite cookbook, “The Silver Palate”.  This was a very popular cookbook  in the 1980’s, written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins from a popular Manhattan food shop.  In the book, this soup is a starter, a simple soup with onions, carrots and orange juice.  From the first time I made,  I just loved it, along with the many excellent recipes in the book.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews
Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

Orange and carrot is an elegant combination.  The orange adds so much to this soup.  It brightens the flavours and adds such a lovely fresh citrus taste that is superb with carrots. I used sweet mandarin oranges  but if you have only navel oranges available that should be fine.  Adding in cashews gives the soup a marvelous creamy texture and makes it silky smooth.  The cashews also add protein and healthy fat which balances the soup to make it a complete meal.

We have officially made Monday soup night in our house.  We have such a busy schedule on Mondays and we need to have an easy dinner that is healthy and satisfying before everyone heads out the door again.  With cooler autumn weather a warm hearty soup for dinner is ideal. Do you have busy days like this?  How do you manage your meals?

Soups is the theme for the Autumn collaboration with a group of terrific Canadian Food Bloggers.  Thank you to Diane from 365 Days of Healthy Recipes for putting it together this month.  If you need more soups in your weekly autumn menus check out all the delicious soups at the bottom of this post.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

Serves 4-6

3/4 cup cashews

1 liter vegetable stock plus extra for thinning the soup if needed

2 medium onions, diced, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons oil

2 lbs carrots, trimmed and chopped

zest from 2-3 mandarin oranges

4 mandarin oranges, peeled and quartered, with seeds removed

salt

black pepper

Directions:

Soak cashews in water for about 1 hour.  Drain, rinse and blend with approx 1 cup of vegetable stock.  Blend until smooth and “cream” like.

Heat oil in large saucepan on medium heat.  Add onions and turn heat down to low.  Cover with lid and let cook until very soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Add carrots and 3 cups of stock.  Cook until very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.  In a blender or food processor blend the soup until very smooth.  Add mandarin oranges and blend.  Add blended cashew “cream” and blend again.  Return to pot and heat, adding fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste. Serve with bread or Super Seed Crackers.

This soup freezes well.  Simply defrost, reheat and serve.  It also makes a good packed lunch in a thermos for school or work.

Autumn Soups #CDNFOODCREATIVES
Autumn Soups #CDNFOODCREATIVES

Super Seed Crackers

Have you ever made your own crackers?  This recipe is so quick and easy, once you make them you will probably never go back to store bought crackers.  These crackers are also very healthy.  With a combination of fibre rich seeds like chia and flax, protein from hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus healthy and important fat from many of the seeds these super seed crackers are super nutritious.

Making this recipe is a little like making polenta but with much less liquid.  It comes together quickly by mixing in the oil and hot water and voila, you have your cracker dough. Roll it out, score the dough, bake and you are done! One bowl, one spoon and no mixer required.

Salt is essential in these crackers.  Please do not leave it out.  It is very important for flavour.   Having said that, you can vary the flavours.   Try rosemary olive oil by substituting olive oil and adding very finely chopped rosemary (add it to the water to extract more of the flavour).  Experiment with flavours you like and come up with your own favourite variation.

Super Seed Crackers
Super Seed Crackers

These crackers fit many dietary needs.  They are gluten free, grain free, dairy free, vegan, paleo, and FODMAP friendly.  Are they the perfect cracker? But wait!  There’s more!   They are crispy and delicious too.

Super Seed Crackers

Makes 50 Crackers

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup flax seeds, milled (flax meal)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/3 cup oil (I used avocado oil)

330 ml hot water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper or silicone sheets.

Measure all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Add oil and stir to combine.  Heat water and add salt.  Stir to dissolve salt and then pour into mixture.  Stir well.  Divide dough in half and place onto cookie sheets.  Place an additional piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, roll on the parchment paper to roll the cracker dough smooth and even and out to the edges of the cookie sheet. Peel off the parchment paper. Repeat with second pan, making the dough as even as possible.  Using a long straight edge knife, score the lines for the crackers but do not “cut” the dough, they will separate cleanly once they are baked.  Bake for approx 55 minutes or until dry and crisp.

Store in an air tight container.  A cookie tin works well.

The recipe is adapted from Miss Marzipan.

 

Chai Applesauce, Apple Butter & Apple Leather

Yay for Apple Season!  You might know it as fall or autumn.  Bring on the apples, pears, plums, pumpkins, winter squash, and root vegetables, and all the warm comforting dishes for cooler weather. As our locally available produce changes, so do our cooking methods and spices.  Did you ever notice that we use more spices in fall?  Spices like cinnamon with apples, ginger with pears, these along with cloves and nutmeg with pumpkin.  I love all these comforting spices, especially in interesting combinations such as in chai.

Chai is an Indian tea brewed with milk and spices.  It is delicious and fragrant, offering warmth from the hot tea but also from the spices, some of which have a little heat.  The spice mix can vary by region but typically includes cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper, and sometimes star anise, coriander, and cloves.  It is cozy and comforting on a cool autumn day. Thinking about comforting things for fall, I could not help but think about all of these spices and how to use them with fresh local fruits and vegetables.

Chai Applesauce, Apple Butter, and Apple Leather
Chai Applesauce, Apple Butter, and Apple Leather

Fall. Warmth. Comfort.  That is the first theme for a new collaboration of Canadian Food Bloggers (#CANRecipe) that I am proud to be part of. You can check out all the recipes for fall comfort at the bottom of this post.  When I began to think about what is comforting for me, I thought spices, and apples and all the wonderful things we can do with apples.  Adding a blend of chai spices makes the applesauce taste more complex and adds depth. It’s apple sauce for grown-ups.

I used Ginger Gold apples for this recipe. The complex flavour, sweet with a little hint of ginger, worked beautifully with the additional spice. However, any variety of apple would be fine.

I did not use any sugar in this recipe as the apples are quite sweet.  Depending on what type of apple you use you may want to add some sweetener but I would suggest waiting until you have the sauce or butter made to taste it.  As the apples cook down the sugar naturally becomes more concentrated and adding sugar may not be necessary.

Chai Applesauce, Apple Butter, and Apple Leather

5 lbs apples, washed, chopped and core removed

1 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon fennel

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon black pepper (finely ground)

In a large saucepan (4 quart size) add apples, water, lemon juice and spices and heat on medium until apples begin to cook, then cover and turn down to low, stirring often and add a little more water if they begin to stick.  The apples will release their juices and slowly lose their shape.  If you want a chunky apple sauce simply mash them with a potato masher to break them up a little as they cook.  If you want a smooth apple sauce, cook for about 45 minutes, turn off, cool and blend with an immersion blender.  At this point you have already made the applesauce.

To make the apple leather, take out approx 2 cups of apple sauce and spread it on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet or pan. I spread it out with a spatula and then tilted and tapped the pan to make it even.  This is important so it will dry evenly. Place in warm oven (140 degrees) for 6 hours or overnight to dry.  Starting from a corner, loosen from the silicone sheet to roll up or simply roll up the parchment paper and cut into sushi style rolls.  Store in an air tight container.

To make apple butter, simply continue to cook the apple sauce on low where it will continue to thicken and darken, stirring once in a while to prevent sticking.  Stop cooking at desired thickness and spoon into jars.

The applesauce and apple butter freeze well.

This batch made 1 roll of apple leather, 1 300ml jar of apple butter, and 3 300ml jars of apple sauce.

Fall Comfort Dishes with #CANRecipe
Fall Comfort Dishes with #CANRecipe

I’m glad to say that starting this month I will be sharing recipe ideas from my Canadian blogging friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. This month we are celebrating the change of season with fall comfort in the kitchen.

From the top left the dishes are:

Rustic Apple Tart @ Red Cottage Chronicles

Spicy Vegetarian Chilli @ Allergy Girl Eats

Indian-inspired Vegetable Pilaf Topped With Crispy Brussels Sprouts @ Maple and Marigold

Maple and Oatmeal Ale Pulled Chicken Sliders @ Mommydo

Mushroom Hand Pies @ Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen

Maple Bacon Mini-doughnuts @ Everyday Allergen-Free

Chai-Spiced Apple Sauce, Apple Butter and Apple Leather @ Making Healthy Choices

Spaghetti Squash Bake @ The Inspired Home

Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie @ It’s Just My Life