Sunday, November 25, 2012

Carrot, Apple, and Ginger Soup

The further we get into winter, the more I can't seem to get enough soup! Nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of hot, homemade soup and a thick slice of buttered bread when you come in from the cold and snow. This creamy, blended soup will warm your body and brighten up the dreariest of snowy days. The fresh ginger gives it a little kick and will definitely help you battle any winter flu bugs going around! I made a big batch and froze individual servings to have on hand for quick homemade meals throughout the week.


1 Tbsp. coconut, olive, or canola oil
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Large chunk (about 3") fresh ginger root, grated
3-4 large carrots, chopped - No need to peel the carrots first
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped
2 small-medium or 1 large Gala apple, chopped - No need to peel the apples
900mL-1L vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste - Never underestimate the power of salt in soups! I know that everyone is always worried about their sodium levels, but nothing does a homemade soup more disservice than an inadequate amount of salt. Salt really brings out the other flavours of the soup and gives it a rich, balanced flavour overall. I don't know exactly how much salt I used but, since different people have different salt tolerances, just keep adding and tasting until it tastes right to you.


In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, and grated ginger until fragrant and the onion is translucent.

Add the carrot, rutabaga, and apples to the pot and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the vegetable broth and water. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Allow the soup to simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the soup from the heat. Puree the soup directly in the soup pot with an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, then you can wait for the soup to cool a little bit, then scoop it into a regular blender and puree it until smooth. You may have to do this in multiple batches depending on the size of your blender, and you should be very careful when blending hot liquids. Return the blended soup to the pot and heat until warm.

Season the pureed soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh bread or crackers. This soup freezes very well so you can freeze a large portion of the batch or individual servings in airtight containers and reheat as needed.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Bread

This is one of the best quick breads I have had in a long time! It's a hearty, healthy loaf that can be enjoyed plain, as a dipper for soups or chili, or with a thick smear of your favourite spread. My favourite way to eat it is warm with butter. The roasted sunflower seeds give this bread a great nutty flavour and crunchy top crust, and the combination of Kosher salt and honey is the perfect balance of salty with a hint of sweetness. This recipe makes two loaves so you can eat one and freeze the other for later, or be a friendly baker and give one away! I know I will be making this bread again and again.


2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups butttermilk - Make your own by combining 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. of vinegar with enough milk to equal 1 and 1/2 cups, then allow it to sit for 5 minutes until curdled
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds


If you just have raw sunflower seeds, then roast them at home by tossing 1 cup of them with 1 tsp. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of Kosher salt. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet and roast them in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 12 minutes, or until they are slightly browned. Allow them to cool before incorporating them in to the bread batter. Skip this step if you already have roasted and salted sunflower seeds.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans with butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the honey, eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add in the wet ingredients all at once. Stir the batter with a large spoon until it is just incorporated - be careful not to over-mix. Once it is almost mixed, fold in 3/4 cup of the sunflower seeds, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top of the loaves.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of each loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes. Gently turn the loaves out of the pan onto wire racks to finish cooling. If you are planning to freeze one loaf then wrap it tightly in plastic and then aluminum foil before placing in the freezer. 

*Recipe from Joy the Baker

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Granola

This granola is probably one of my favourites that I have ever made - and I am a granola lover through and through! The equal ratio of pumpkin seeds to rolled oats makes it much more crunchy and flavourful than many other granolas that just include seeds or nuts as a small add-in. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of zinc, which is an important mineral for the prevention of osteoporosis, as well as B vitamins, protein, and vitamins E and K. They have been shown to lower bad cholesterol, prevent inflammation in the body, and they can even help to boost your mood and help you to have a good night's sleep since they contain tryptophan. The combination of pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon pairs perfectly with the nutty flavour of the seeds and the sweet, chewy dates. This recipe makes a big batch and I have been enjoying munching on this on its own for a snack, and sprinkled over top of yogurt, oatmeal, and applesauce.  


2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
5 tsp. olive oil or canola oil
4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg)
1 and 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 cups pitted, chopped dates - You could also use dried cranberries or raisins instead of dates


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line an extra large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin seeds, oats, and olive oil. Evenly spread them onto the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and pour the oats and pumpkin seeds back into the large mixing bowl. Stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.

Spread the granola mixture back out onto the baking sheet again. Bake for another 15 minutes, until it begins to turn golden brown, stirring the granola at least once to ensure even baking.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes, then stir in the chopped dates. Store in an airtight container or jar. 

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Browned Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

To me, there are three categories of chocolate chip cookies: Those that come from a mix or some sort of tube, the simple, puffy chocolate chip cookies you enjoy with a glass of milk after school, and the fancy, foodie versions that call for things like browned butter and sea salt that add little twists on a classic. Each are delicious in their own right (okay.. except for that weird canned dough.. I mean come on, I can't really advocate for that on a homemade baking blog can I?!) and I'm sure we all enjoy a good chocolate chip cookie every now and then. This is one of those chocolate chip recipes that has a few added extras which really make them something special. You may not quite be able to put your finger on the little hints of this and that, but trust me when I say that the result is one delicious cookie! Using browned butter instead of just regular butter adds a rich, nutty caramel flavour, and the addition of a pinch of nutmeg enhances the buttery flavour even further. In general, adding a little bit of nutmeg brings out the buttery flavour in dishes, which is why it's often also used in Alfredo sauce, mashed potatoes, and other creamy sauces. A sprinkle of sea salt on top of each cookie creates the irresistible salty-sweet combination with the chocolate chips. I brought a batch of these to a meeting and was handed back an empty container in less than fifteen minutes!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter (directions on how to brown butter follow)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups milk or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips, divided use
Medium-grain sea salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease with butter.
How to Brown Butter: Browned butter is just simply butter that has been cooked a little past its melting point, so that the milk solids brown and a delicious nutty aroma and flavour develops. It really creates a delicious flavour and you can use browned butter in many other recipes. To brown butter, just place the 3/4 cup called for in this recipe in a medium skillet over medium heat. Slice the butter into smaller chunks before adding it to the skillet to ensure even melting. Melt the butter, whisking frequently. Once melted, a light foam should form on top of the butter. Continue whisking and watching the butter carefully until it begins to turn a light-medium brown. You will definitely tell the difference in colour from the initial melted butter and will be able to detect a nutty aroma when you smell the butter. Once the butter has browned, quickly remove it from the heat and transfer to a bowl or liquid measuring cup to stop the heating process. Set aside. Note: It is easy for browned butter to go from perfect to burnt, so if you notice any black specks then I suggest throwing it away and starting over otherwise the flavour will not be pleasant. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until well blended. Add in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. 

Mix in the dry ingredients by hand with a large spoon, until just blended. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter and set aside the remaining 1/2 cup of chips.

Drop 1-2 Tbsp. of cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them at least 1-2 inches apart. Press the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips onto the tops of the cookies and lightly sprinkle the top of each cookie with sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges of the cookies begin to lightly brown. Cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Even though these cookies are a little fancier you can still enjoy them with a big glass of milk!

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dark Chocolate and Red Wine Cookies

I have been dying to make these dark chocolate and red wine cookies ever since I found the recipe this summer, and I'm very excited to finally cross them off my baking bucket list! It's taken me so long because I'm not a huge red wine drinker, so I rarely ever have any on hand. It's a different story altogether with the dark chocolate though, as I usually have at least 3-4 different bars of it in my freezer at one time! The perfect opportunity to make these finally presented itself a couple of weeks ago when my good friend left half a bottle of red wine at my house after a party. Moral of this story: If you leave alcohol at my house you may only get it back in the form of baked goods!

I can't think of a more rich, indulgent combination than dark chocolate and red wine. The batter definitely showcases the red wine flavour, but once the cookies are baked they are left with just the smallest hint. The intensity of the red wine flavour might also depend on the type of wine you use, but there's no denying the presence of bold dark chocolate in this soft, chewy cookie. If there was ever a cookie that could be called sexy, then this cookie would definitely be the one.


1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup red wine (I used a Shiraz)
10oz. (about 1 and 1/4 cups) dark chocolate, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. Add in the egg, vanilla, and red wine. Continue to mix until combined.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until combined. Fold in the chopped dark chocolate until evenly distributed in the batter.

Spoon the batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 1-2" apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 2-3 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

Enjoy with a glass of your favourite red.

*Recipe adapted from Keep It Simple Foods

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Coconut Curry Sweet Potatoes and Quinoa

This is a warm, comforting meal that is perfect as the temperature starts to drop. Thanks to the slow cooker it comes together in no time at all, so you can leave it to cook during the day and come home to a hearty, delicious meal. The coconut milk makes the quinoa super light and fluffy, and provides a great hint of flavour to accompany the curry and other spices. Sweet potatoes and carrots add lots of colour to brighten up your plate and provide a boost of Vitamin A! 


1 medium/large sweet potato, cubed - I leave the skin on my sweet potatoes for some added fibre and texture, but you can feel free to peel them if you don't like the skin
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, or chopped tomatoes
1 400mL can coconut milk
1 and 1/2 cups plan, unsweetened almond/soy/cow milk
1 and 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2-2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper - This will just give the dish the tiniest hint of heat, but if you like it spicy then add more and adjust to your taste
4 cups cooked quinoa - If you don't have quinoa you can also substitute with basmatic or brown rice
Fresh cilantro, to garnish


Place all ingredients, except quinoa and cilantro, in a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat for 4 hours or low heat for 6 hours. It will look a little liquid-y but once you add the quinoa it will absorb a lot of the liquid and thicken up. Add in the cooked quinoa during the last 15-20 minutes. Alternately, you could add 2 cups of uncooked quinoa from the beginning with the recommended amount of liquid on the package (most likely between 4-5 cups) to cook along with all the other ingredients. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan