October 29, 2013

'Paleo' Pumpkin Caramels

Ah Halloween. The season of sugar. My nemesis. I'm always in search of healthier desserts so I can indulge my sweet tooth without feeding my sugar addiction too much, especially at this time of year. And I wanted to make a healthier version of these salted pumpkin caramels, featured in my last video recipe.

As you can see in that video, those caramels do require a small mountain of sugar. They're amazing, don't get me wrong, but I wanted to come up with a naturally sweetened, healthier version. And I had a hunch some of you out there might dig it. 

So I played around a little and came up with this recipe which is pretty darn delicious and totally simple. It's essentially made with only 3 ingredients: pumpkin, honey, and coconut oil. Mmmm. Happy Halloween!


1 cup pumpkin purée

1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
Optional but recommended: 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves)  half of one vanilla bean, 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, dash of good quality salt

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, simmer the pumpkin purée, honey, spices, and scraped vanilla bean seeds on medium-low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes or until very thick (about the consistency of mashed potatoes). Be sure to stir the mixture frequently as it cooks, particularly once it thickens as it can stick to the bottom of the pot. 

Once it has thickened considerably, remove from heat and add the coconut oil. Mix together until the coconut oil melts. Blend with a hand blender (or whisk vigorously by hand) until smooth and thick. 

Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with oiled parchment paper (leaving an overhang on either side for easy removal) and spoon or pour the hot pumpkin mixture into the pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds until the top is evenly covered. 

Refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove the solid rectangle from the pan by pulling the edges of the parchment paper, and invert it onto a cutting board, pumpkin seeds facing down. Slice into squares. (If you have trouble slicing them cleanly, place in the freezer for an additional 15 minutes before slicing). If you wish, sprinkle a little salt on top of the caramels. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

(A final note: the pumpkin can be replaced by winter squash such as buttercup, butternut, or delicata. The drier the flesh of the squash or pumpkin, the less time you'll have to cook it with the honey to get it to the right consistency - I find cutting any squash or pumpkin in half and baking it cut-side down on the pan until soft, then letting it cool cut-side side up yields the best results and a nice firm squash or pumpkin purée)

October 24, 2013

Parsley Almond Pesto on Angel Hair Pasta with Roasted Squash

First of all. Thank you so much for the kinds words I received from so many of you after my last post. Your response really moved me and lifted my spirits. I especially appreciate the encouragement because sometimes I find it difficult to write about the things that matter the most to me. When I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to write about what happened in Elsipogtog but found it hard to find the right words to do so, she told me to write from the heart. Not always an easy thing to do, but I'd like for this blog to be a place where I can dig a little deeper, and write from the heart more often. So thank you for encouraging me to do that.

And right now, my heart is telling me to tell you about parsley almond pesto. On angel hair pasta. With roasted squash. Because while the basil in your garden may have passed its heyday, parsley is just getting its groove on and looking mighty fine around these parts, and hopefully where you live as well.

I actually like this pesto better than basil pesto. I know. Blasphemy. But it's true. There's just something about parsley, it tastes so fresh and vibrant and it's such a hardy little plant that can withstand such cold temperatures. And did you know it contains three times the Vitamin C as oranges and twice as much iron as spinach? It makes a pesto that aside from  bursting with flavour, packs a real nutrient punch.

Top it with some seasonal roasted squash (whichever one you've got handy will do), and you've got yourself a meal.

I recommend angel hair pasta because I find it's the best way to highlight a good pesto. This is a brand I often like to use. The pesto should be applied generously and coat every delicate noodle so it maximizes the flavour. Do be careful not to overcook angel hair pasta though, it cooks in about 2 to 3 seconds flat! 

This pesto uses almonds, but feel free to use walnuts, pine nuts, or whatever you fancy. You can use either flat leaf or curly parsley. Enjoy! And click here for the recipe.

October 22, 2013

Why every food lover needs to say NO to fracking

I love being a food blogger, I really do. But every now and again, things happen that make me question whether another cookie recipe is really what the world needs. 

Last Thursday, only a couple of hours from my home, the Canadian police came down in full paramilitary force on anti-shale gas protestors, many of them from the Mi'kmaq First Nation of Elsipogtog. I had been working on tomorrow's video recipe for salted pumpkin caramels and suddenly, pumpkin-anything felt pretty meaningless (to say the least) and I sat frozen in horror as I watched images streaming-in of snipers in full camo gear with assault rifles and snarling dogs descending on unarmed men, women, elders, and children near the town of Rexton, New Brunswick.

These images broke my heart because I had visited the site of the protest the week before and was awed by the courageous people I met there. That day, as I listened to a sacred Mi'kmaq song sung to the steady beat of drums, I looked around me and saw people of all backgrounds, uniting together in a common goal: to protect the land, their home. It takes guts to put your body on the line and block a powerful gas company from fracking in your community. 

Since my visit to the shale gas blockade in Rexton, I have been trying to learn more about fracking and its consequences. So last night I watched this David Suzuki documentary (only viewable in Canada) which clearly explains what's at stake. One of my readers has also brought to my attention a documentary called Split Estate which can be viewed free online from anywhere. And then, there is the Oscar-nominated film Gasland which is a must-see. Watch it for free here

I initially felt that I couldn't write about this here since this is a food blog where I share recipes. But then I read this excellent article by Elizabeth Royte explaining how farmers across the United States are seeing the effects of shale gas developments on their land and livestock, and I realized that fracking and food actually have a lot more to do with each other than one might think. From dying cattle, to sick animals, to contaminated groundwater, our food chain is being placed at risk by the hundreds of highly toxic chemicals (including known carcinogens) used in shale gas fracking. This means that food lovers everywhere need to get involved in this battle too. Because food comes from the earth. And if we want good clean food, we need to protect our water, our soil, and our air from toxic pollution. The short-term financial gain is simply not worth the long-term dangers.

So if you see some of the news coverage of the New Brunswick blockade and the arrests of the protestors, keep in mind that even though the media is trying to portray them as criminals, the real crimes in this world are those that leave a toxic legacy for generations to come. The real criminals are companies that will stop at nothing to make a profit, not even placing a lifelong gag order on children whose health has been compromised by their practices.

Here are a few ideas for ways to get involved:
-Organize a screening with family and friends of the Oscar-nominated film Gasland
-Email or contact your elected officials to tell them you are opposed to shale gas fracking
-Email the premier of New Brunswick, David Alward, and tell him to ban shale gas fracking and respect the Treaty rights of Mi'kmaq people: premier@gnb.ca
-Email or call SWN, the company that is trying to frack on Mi'kmaq land: media@swn.com / 281.618.7753
-Get involved in the Global Frackdown
-And just get involved in whatever little (or big) way you can

Thank you for listening my dear friends and I promise I'll have a recipe for you next post :-)

October 16, 2013

Individual Half-Pear Crisps with Salted Bourbon Caramel

Alright. Pear season is here. 

So here's a little autumnal pear-themed video recipe for you all...

Of course, it's no big surprise that pouring salted bourbon caramel into pear halves and topping them with buttery crispy oats and brown sugar turns into something pretty special. Indeed, this little dessert is fun to make, and even funner to eat.

Step 1: Find some ripe, preferably organically-grown pears that have a soft flesh such as Bartletts. 

Step 2: Cut the pears in half and remove the seeds, ends, and stems, leaving a nice little hollow to catch all that caramel.

Step 3: Make your caramel and be generous with the bourbon! (PS: in the absence of bourbon, plain old whiskey works just fine, sorry for bourbon connoisseurs out there, but it's true!)

Step 4: Make the crisp topping.

Step 5: Assemble.

Step 6: Bake!

Step 7: Top with more caramel.

Step 8: Devour!

To get the recipe, visit my PBS post over here.

PS: This works just as well with apples :-)  

Bon appétit!

October 10, 2013

My Mom's Red Cabbage Slaw

You know the book Goodnight Moon? I sometimes have my own little version of the words running through my head as I walk up and down the garden at this time of the year. 

Good night tomatoes.

(It was fun while it lasted).

Good night nigellas who stood so proud. See you next year.

Good night artichokes. You were divine.

Good night red cabbage. You I will miss the most.

You gave us this.

And this.

And best of all, this. 

My mom's red cabbage slaw. A salad I've been eating since I was a little girl. It's probably one of the simplest salads I know, but also happens to pack the mightiest flavor punch I know. It's become a staple of mine. And if you try it, you'll see why. It may just become a favorite of yours too. For the recipe, please visit my post on PBS Food.

Good night you all.

October 02, 2013

Plum Almond 'No-Crust' Tart

It's a little late for plums I realize... but if plum season has already passed where you are, pears will do the trick just fine. In fact, this little tart is not picky in the least. It is on very friendly terms with cherries, peaches, apples, apricots, figs. Whatever you've got, it will gracefully accommodate. 

But the plums were particularly nice, as plums tend to be. 

So the deal with this tart is it's a lazy frangipane. Meaning, I skipped the crust. Frangipane is a French tart filling made with ground almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs. Usually it's baked into a tart shell with fruit nestled into the filling. But I've done away with the crust altogether because, well, some days you just don't have time to make a tart crust. So this dessert ends up somewhere at the intersection of cake and tart. It takes minutes to whip up and it's buttery and delicious. No one will even notice you took a shortcut. Glaze it with an easy amaretto glaze and you're set.

Get the recipe over here at PBS Food. Bon appétit!

October 01, 2013

October Giveaway!

Happy October everyone!

I have a fabulous giveaway for you this month but first of all, I wanted to say that I was totally floored with the enthusiastic response to last month's giveaway and the many innovative tips you shared for making your kitchen a more eco-friendly place. From making your own dishwasher detergent to composting kitchen scraps, from making your kids' lunch bags with recycled (parade!) materials to washing and re-using ziplock bags, from avoiding plastic food packaging by making your own snacks to using cloth instead of paper towels... the list went on and on. You guys are amazing!!! Sometimes I feel kind of hopeless when I hear the news and look around at what's happening in this world, but seeing your comments streaming-in all through the month filled me with hope and renewed determination, so thank you! If you missed them and want to get inspired to green-up your own kitchen, be sure to have a read-through the comments on this link.

Without further ado, the winner of the September giveaway is Whitney, who makes her very own dishwasher detergent! Congrats Whitney and enjoy your lovely Bee's Wraps :-)

Now planting our feet firmly into October. My giveaway is from the Oh so stylish Oh Little Rabbit, a West Coast-based company that creates gorgeous, whimsical handmade housewares. Jason and Cara, the creators at Oh Little Rabbit, are generously giving away this gigantic screen-printed recycled cotton tote bag...

as well as this adorable set of 4 clucky organic cotton table napkins....

to one lucky Kitchen Vignettes reader!!

You'll definitely want to check out these guys' creations on their Etsy page. They make their products with organic or recycled cotton and non-toxic water-based inks. And the best part is their designs are absolutely magical. I'm about to place an order with them myself and can barely decide what to get because I find every single thing in their online store completely irresistible!! Plus they now make aprons and re-usable lunch bags, and even the cutest ever organic baby onesies. Ahhhh. Now I know where I am getting most of my Christmas presents this year. 

So to enter this month's giveaway, I'm going to try something new here with Rafflecopter which should make entering the giveaway easier for you, and drawing a winner easier for me. Let's see how this thing goes...  hopefully it works!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway