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Gorgeous Gluten Free Gingerbread Granola

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I love ginger. Fresh, pickled, crystallized, preserved and every way in between. But I love it best in gingerbread form: cookies, houses, lattes and now granola!

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Gingerbread Granola

I have been playing around with making granola in my slow cooker, rather than in the oven, and it makes it so much easier and gives a more consistently crunchy and evenly toasted cereal.

The best part about making your own granola is that you know exactly what is in it. The other bonus is that you can get all creative and come up with customized flavours. Inspired by my Epicure Gingerbread Spices, and the recent dessert for breakfast trend, I decided to make a healthy and delectable granola.

Gingerbread Granola Detail

Gingerbread Granola Detail

Granola is pretty easy to make and the measurements don’t need to be precise and by using a slow cooker, you don’t have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn. The pain of dumping most or all of a burnt batch of granola in the garbage is not something I wish on anyone.

Gingerbread Granola Overhead

Gingerbread Granola Overhead

Recipe for Gingerbread Granola

Makes approximately 6 cups of granola

Ingredients

One of the joys of granola is that is ridiculously adaptable, feel free to increase, reduce or switch up anything!

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon Molasses

1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon Epicure Gingerbread Spices (or a teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves and ginger)

1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt

1 cup Buckwheat

2 cups Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats (or Rolled Oats)

1/4 cup Flax Seeds

1/4 cup Sesame Seeds

1 cup Pecans, roughly chopped

1 cup Crystallized Ginger, roughly chopped

Method

1. Turn slow cooker on to Low setting and melt coconut oil with molasses, maple syrup, spices and salt

2. Add remaining ingredients, except Crystallized Ginger

3. Stir until thoroughly mixed

4. Cover with lid, but leave a slight gap for moisture to escape

5. Stir every 30 minutes until crunchy (about 2 hours)

6. Turn off slow cooker. Add in Crystallized Ginger and spread on baking sheet to cool

7. Once cool, store in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks

Try it on cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or fruit salad!

I’ve also made Aloha Granola (pineapple, papaya & coconut) and Maple Walnut Granola in my slow cooker. What’s your favourite Granola flavour?

See my list of available samples of Epicure product by clicking here.

Ravishing Roasted Carrot Soup

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Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup

I buy big bags of carrots. Many of these carrots get juiced, grated, peeled, baked, salad-ed and snacked upon, but sometimes we don’t quite make it through the bag before they start to get bendy. I had just such a dwindling bag of carrots taking up valuable real estate in my fridge the day before New Year’s Eve, and so my brain began to whir…

Knowing that I was having family over for a simple dinner to ring in the New Year, I started thinking of what else I had and what I could do with these extra carrots. I knew I had lots of onions and lemons, a bit of feta cheese and some Kalamata olives, this had me thinking Greek. Recalling that I had Epicure’s Souvlaki seasoning and El Greco Secret Sauce, a plan came together.

While this was a simple dish to throw together, I actually prepped it the night before so I could have more time to relax and reminisce about the year that was ending, the soup was greeted with rave reviews and encores of second and third helpings!

Ravishing Roasted Carrot Soup Ingredients

Ravishing Roasted Carrot Soup Ingredients

I knew I had to share this recipe when my Instagram post was shared by Epicure on their Facebook page as part of their weekly round-up of images shared on Social Networks featuring their products.

Recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup

makes 8 servings

Soup Ingredients:

8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into finger size pieces

2 medium purple onions, sliced in finger width sections

1 head garlic, peeled and hard bottom bits cut off

2 TBS Epicure Souvlaki Seasoning

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cups dried red lentils

6 cups water

juice of 1 lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

Garnish Ingredients:

1 TBS Epicure El Greco Secret Sauce

2 TBS water

1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Feta Cheese

Kalamata Olives

Method:

1. Pre-Heat oven to 400

2. Spread carrots, onions and garlic on baking sheet, sprinkle Souvlaki seasoning and Olive Oil and toss to coat

3. Roast vegetables in oven until golden brown on the edges (approximately 30 minutes)

4. For garnish: Mix El Greco Secret Sauce and water, let stand for 5 minutes and then add Olive Oil, cube feta and slice olives

5. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool while placing a soup pot with the red lentils and 6 cups of water on high

6. Once water is boiling, add vegetables turn heat down to medium and cook until lentils are soft (approximately 10 minutes)

7. Add the lemon juice and puree with an immersion blender

8. Add water, salt and pepper to achieve desired consistency and flavour

9. Serve soup in bowls and garnish with tiny cubes of feta, sliced Kalamata Olives and a smattering of prepared El Greco Secret Sauce from Epicure

I also served a simple salad of thinly sliced bell peppers and cucumber (using my Epicure Ceramic Slicer) dressed with Epicure’s Greek Dressing seasoning mixed with red wine vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

If you would like to purchase Epicure seasonings or cookware, please visit my online store: www.juliaustine.myepicure.com or contact me for samples.

What is your favourite way to use up a carrot surplus?

Buck Brand Citrus Bliss

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Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

There is something truly special about tasting fresh produce while chatting with the farmer that brought it to fruition. When I heard that Lisle Babcock of Deer Creek Heights Ranch would be handing out samples of his terrific Buck Brand Organic Citrus at my local Thrifty Foods, I made a date with my mother to meet the man behind the oranges that we can’t get enough of every winter.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

With his cowboy hat and many, “Ma’am”s Mr. Babcock was generous and genial with the samples of the many types of organic citrus that are currently in season on their ranch. Thrifty Foods has an exclusive deal to carry Buck Brand Organic oranges and some of their 80 different varieties of citrus fruits in British Columbia.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

I go through bags and bags of their navel oranges every winter and supplement my citrus cravings with grapefruit, tangerines, pommelos, blood oranges, sweet limes and anything else that is available throughout the citrus growing season.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Until February 25th, when you buy a 4 lb. bag of Buck Brand Navel Oranges at Thrifty Foods, they will donate $1 to BC Lions Society’s Easter Seals Camps to fund kids camp fees at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan and Camp Squamish. Plus you’re supporting a 5 acre family owned organic farm with almost 1000 citrus trees, including many heritage and hybrid varieties.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

While all the citrus samples were delicious and juicy, I was most interested to try the Finger Lime, I’d seen all the pretty pictures on the internet and I was curious to see if they tasted as fascinating as they looked. Originally from Australia, Deer Creek Heights Ranch has been growing them in Terra Bella. California for 4 years. Lisle cut one in half and gave it a gentle squeeze to make the tiny little juice packets bubble up to the top, to be enjoyed like an ice cream cone. The flavour is similar to a very floral lime, quite tart and tangy, but it is the texture as the little pearls pop inside you mouth that is so delightful. I bought a 50g package to bring home and enjoy at my leisure and to share with my son.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle and Mary Lou Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

We had a great time chatting with Lisle and Mary Lou and I really appreciate that they make such an effort to share their luscious fruits and take the time to interact with Canadian consumers.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

I now have a nice selection of citrus beautifying my kitchen counter and I’m faced with the delicious dilemma of incorporating them into a recipe or just enjoying them as nature intended.

Related Articles

New Ingredient: Finger Limes (gastronomiette)

Thrifty Foods Tour Maple Ridge: video (Meat of the Message)

What is your favourite citrus fruit outside the holy trinity of lemon, lime and orange?

Shamrock Smoothie

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Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

There is a certain fast food chain that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a suspicious green sludge dubbed the “Shamrock Shake”, while I admit to having consumed one or two in my reckless youth, I’m no longer foolish enough to put the 54 ingredients that add up to 820 calories of no-goodness into my body. Especially not when I’ve created a delicous and very healthy drink I’m calling the Shamrock Smoothie.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

I came up with this smoothie when my 10 year old, Young Fresh Chef, was getting bored with all my fruity smoothie combinations. I was looking through my baking cupboard trying to come up with something fresh when I spied raw cacao powder and mint extract. I am a big fan of mint and chocolate together so I knew I could make something wonderful.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette FindsI’ve been adding frozen baby spinach (the kind you buy fresh in the plastic tub) for over a year with my son’s knowledge and approval and when I recently tried frozen kale it got a thumbs up as well. I used frozen bananas as the only source of sweetness and almond milk to help it blend better, but the chocolate and mint are the real stars!

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When I tested this on the Young Fresh Chef he finished it down to the last drop and declared it his favourite smoothie ever. So it’s definitely a winner. He couldn’t taste the kale at all, when it’s frozen it pretty much disintegrates when blended. By using bananas that were left to ripen until they were super sweet and then broken into chunks and frozen it could satisfy any sugary craving. I use raw cacao powder to get all the antioxidants and minerals that are usually lost when cocoa beans are roasted. Cocoa powder would still work in a pinch for the flavour.

Shamrock Smoothie

After sucking back this smoothie I always have a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It’s a much better feeling than what you would get after a visit to your local heart attack shack and your body will thank you for years to come.

Recipe for Shamrock Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana (very ripe)

1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your preference)

2 handfuls of frozen kale (or frozen baby spinach or a combo)

2 drops of pure peppermint extract (or to taste, it’s powerful stuff!)

2 TBS chia gel (optional, I use 1 part chia to 6 parts water and keep the extra in the fridge for up to a week)

Method:

1. Blend all ingredients in a glass or mason jar with an immersion blender (or in a blender)

2. Enjoy!

Shamrock Smoothie  - Kitchenette FindsWhat are some other sweet ways you get your greens?

Peanut Butter Cookie Cavalcade

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Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Twitter told me today that March 1st is Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, not to be confused with Peanut Butter Day on January 24th. I was planning on making Peanut Butter Cookies anyway, but I decided to include my social networks in the process. I instagrammed, tweeted and facebooked and probably made some people drool in the process. Here are the Instagram photos with the accompanying tweets followed by the normal recipe.

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies

makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soft butter

1/2 cup brown sugar – packed (I prefer light brown)

1/2 cup honey (the written recipe says 1/2 cup white sugar, but I always use honey)

1 egg

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla (or to taste)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2.Cream butter with sugar (and honey if using instead of 1/2 cup sugar).

3. Beat in egg, peanut butter, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

4. Add flour.

5. Roll about 1 Tablespoon of dough into balls with wet hands and place with lots of space between on a cookie sheet.

6. Press a wet fork gently in a cross pattern on the balls of dough.

7. Sprinkle with kosher salt (optional)

8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

What’s your favourite way to use peanut butter?

Bay Leaf Bonanza

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Kitchenette Finds Bay Laurel Leaf

My favourite part of our kitchen, since our renovation, is the shelf that cradles my collection of spices and herbs. I can travel the world just by inhaling the heady aromas enclosed in the purple apothecary jars that preserve the flavourful treasures within. I’d like to share some of these seasonings and why they make me so giddy!

My tasty collection

My tasty collection

The scent of Bay Leaf always takes me back to the California coast where groves of California Bay Laurel trees fill the air with a heady scent as the trees sway in the constant ocean breeze. My other strong scent associated memories of California are the night-blooming jasmine in Napa and the ever-present scent of Ranch Dressing in the capital city of garlic, Gilroy. While the leaves of the California Bay Laurel can be used for seasoning dishes, the more subtly flavoured Bay Laurel that is native to the Mediterranean is more commonly used in cooking and more widely available. There are also other varieties of Laurel trees outside of Europe that are used in local cuisines, including: Indian Bay Leaf, Indonesian Bay Leaf, West Indian Bay Leaf and Mexican Bay Leaf. Each has a different flavour profile, but they all have a similar appearance.

Bay Laurel Leaves

While dried Bay Leaf can be purchased at any grocery store, it’s always better to dry the fresh leaves yourself for maximum flavour. While I have never been lucky enough to have my own Bay Laurel, I have been the recipient of branches from generous friends and neighbours who have. My most recent bough was overflow from a bushel given to my mother. The fresh leaves are quite mild and need to be dried for several weeks to reach their full flavour capacity. I like to use the newly dried leaves as I find the flavour is more buttery and rich. In the photo below, the leaf on top is one from the branch above and the bottom leaf was purchased.

Bay Laurel Leaf

I use Bay Leaf in almost every soup and sauce that I make (including Cranberry Sauce), as it works well with most other spices and herbs adding a slightly floral complexity. I always use whole leaves and fish them out near the end as they are inedible unless ground to a fine powder. You can also place the smaller pieces in a tea ball or muslin bag, which can also be improvised with cheese cloth. As with many herbs and spices, bay leaves have long been used for their medicinal properties, but the leaves of the laurel tree are most often associated with the laurel wreaths worn by Olympians in Ancient Greece and victors of war in Ancient Rome. Bay Leaf is always a winner in my books and I will continue to rest on my laurels when I’m looking to create a more complex flavour.

Bay Laurel BranchWhat dishes just wouldn’t be the same without a hint of bay leaf?

Olive Greek Salad Dressing

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Cooks always start by mastering the Garde Manger station, our home kitchen is no exception. I started my son, Young Fresh Chef, on salads and appetizers. My mother, Momette, has always made salad dressings from scratch and I’ve continued the tradition. Years ago, when I was making a vinaigrette with my son, he couldn’t have been any older than 6, he asked why I didn’t add some of the olive juice from the bottle of Kalamata olives that I was using from the salad. I’d never considered adding the brine as an acidic element, so I splashed some into the dressing and it was fantastic!

Olive Salad Dressing Ingredients

Later, when we told his dad, Exec Chef about our latest creation there was a glint in his eye that a new menu item was about to appear at his restaurant. It was the first time that our son had inspired a dish and he was as proud as physically possible to be a part of the creative process.

Lately, I’ve been trying to healthify (this is now a word) our food at home and one way is by cooking with fats from whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) rather than using extracted fats (butter, oil, shortening, etc). When trying to make a new type of salad dressing, I thought back to the flavours that I loved to put together and, of course, I thought of the olive juice salad dressing. Why not use whole olives instead of olive oil?

I decided to go with a Greek flavour profile, based around Kalamata olives. So, I threw together some fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a bit of feta cheese, some Kalamata olives, salt and pepper in a little jar and blended it together with my immersion blender.

Blended Olive Salad DressingI topped a salad of romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot and celery with some of the dressing and I couldn’t believe the amazing olive and feta flavour that was delivered with every bite. Usually, when I add whole olives to a salad I try to space them out to get maximum enjoyment. With the blended olive dressing, I felt like every forkful was filled with salty tang of Greece.

Enjoying Olive Greek Dressing

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