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
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
sunflower seeds (or other seeds or nuts)
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.
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.
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.
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
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
And so it starts, 190 days of school lunches ahead of us as the kids head back to school. That is a lot of days and it can quickly become more difficult to keep things unique, tasty and appetizing. We want to provide our kids with a nutritious lunch that they will enjoy and most importantly that they will eat.
Basic strategy for school lunches is to try to include something from each food group. A fruit, a vegetable, some bread or other grain choice, some source of dairy or dairy alternative, and a source of protein from meat or a meat alternative. Variety is the key to keep things interesting by varying within the food groups as much as we can.
Taking the kids shopping with you to choose fruits and veggies may help to encourage them to try new things. Packing lunches together can motivate them to choose things that they will eat and that they enjoy. If mornings are hectic and stressful, many lunches can be made the night before and stored in the fridge until it is time to leave for school in the morning.
One of our favourite variation on sandwiches is wraps. I like to use whole grain wraps as they provide a source of fibre as well. To add variety, the kids choose the wraps sometimes and giving them a choice makes them feel in charge. It also gives us a chance to talk about the different choices, how to read food labels, and why I like to choose the ones I do so that they start to understand principles of nutrition as well.
In this wrap, we spread it with delicious unsweetened apple butter , topped that with grated carrot, sprinkled with sunflower seeds and also added finely chopped lettuce. Roll this up and either simply cut it in half or cut it like sushi. For packed lunches if they move around at all the sushi style rolls can become unwrapped so we often just leave them in halves so they stay together.
A healthy wrap, some fruits and vegetables, and maybe some cheese cubes or cheese alternative would add something rich in calcium to make this a very balanced lunch. Once and a while adding a cookie or treat keeps kids on track and encourages a healthy approach to school meals.
There are endless variations on the wrap but the basics are to start with something sticky as kind of a binder that will hold the rest of the toppings. Some ideas are: hummus, other bean spreads, quark cheese or homemade yogurt cheese, light cream cheese, butter, sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seeds butter (peanut butter or other nut butters if not against school policy) etc. The next step is to add your toppings, depending what you started with it might be grated carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers (slicing with a peeler works well), thinly sliced roasted vegetables, grated cheese or cheese alternative, meat or meat alternatives, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds.
I will be posting lots more lunch ideas because I know what a big issue this can be for families.
Veggie Wrap with Carrots, Apple Butter and Sunflower Seeds
1 whole grain wrap
1-2 tsp unsweetened apple butter
1 carrot, grated
2 leaf lettuce leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Directions: Spread apple butter on wrap, top with carrot, lettuce and sunflower seeds and roll up. Slice like sushi or simply in 1/2. Depending on what type of lunch box you have you might want to wrap it in some parchment paper or plastic wrap.
This option is vegan and can be gluten free with a gluten free wrap.
Holidays can provide wonderful inspiration for future recipes. We taste flavours that we are not as familiar with, spices we may not know, combinations that are really really amazing. I love finding that local hot spot that is so good at what is does and we were lucky enough to find a couple of those places on our last trip which was in March 2016.
Our trip began with a quick flight to Las Vegas. As we arrived late, we opted to stay overnight and pick up our car the next day. This, by the way, saved us a lot of money on our rental car as we didn’t have to pay for extra airport rental surcharges. It practically paid for that first night in the hotel. The next day we drove to our first canyon, the one and only GRAND CANYON where we stayed for 2 nights. From there, we went to Page, Arizona for 2 nights, Bryce Canyon for 1 night and lastly to Zion National Park for our final 3 nights before we completed our circular route back to Las Vegas to travel home.
What an incredible trip, a bucket list trip of sorts. We enjoyed blue bird days, went hiking every day, each new place, new canyon, new view taking our breath away. Even looking at the pictures again, I can hardly believe it, these are incredible places folks! As much as it was a bucket list trip, we can’t wait to go back. There is just so much to see and after a rainy winter at home, I can tell you the dry temperate climate, sunshine, gold orange landscape, and beautiful days spent in Arizona and Utah felt so good. We are already planning our next trip…
It was on our way to the airport that we stopped at River Rock Roasting Company in Hurricane, Utah for breakfast. There was a local mountain bike festival on and it was busy with a happy energetic vibe, our kind of place. We enjoyed the best coffee we had on the whole trip and this is where I ordered a Roasted Corn and Chili Mini Quiche in Tortilla Crust. The corn with chili peppers was an amazing combination. It was definitely one of the dishes I most wanted to recreate to be able to enjoy at home and share with you!
I love that the dish is made with a tortilla crust. It is a much healthier option than a traditional pie crust in a typical quiche. I tried making it with corn tortillas but found that they broke apart and were hard to mold into the muffin cups. Flour tortillas worked much better for me, making these suitable finger food for a party, part of a brunch, or a perfect lunch with a salad. They pack well and are very tasty at room temperature so work well for a school/work lunches.
Sharing our travel inspirations is the theme for the August Recipe Redux. Read all the great stories and try the recipes from adventures near and far. See the link at the bottom of this post.
Roasted Corn and Poblano Mini Quiche in Tortilla Crust
4 large flour tortillas
1 1/4 cup corn, cooked and lightly roasted
1/4 cup poblano pepper, roasted and finely diced
1 tbsp fresh green onions or chives, finely chopped
pinch chipotle pepper powder
1/4 tsp New Mexican chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, light, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare tortilla shells by cutting them in circles to fit muffin tin. (I have a standard muffin tin and I used a bowl that was 4 3/4 inches round to cut for my crusts. I folded large tortilla shells over and cut out the rounds. They fit perfectly! ). Tuck the rounds into a lightly oiled or buttered muffin tin.
Prepare filling by mixing eggs with Parmesan cheese, spices, green onions or chives, salt and pepper. Add corn and poblano peppers. Mix well. Add to tortilla crust lined muffin cups, approx 1/4 cup of filling fits in each one. Top with a little cheddar cheese and bake approx 12 minutes or until set with the crusts golden brown.
Enjoy the adventures and healthy recipes in the links below!