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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.

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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?

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

How do you like your greens? Crisp!

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I remember clearly my first taste of Coffee Crisp. I had one in my bag of Halloween loot many moons ago (pretty sure I went as a clown, can’t get much scarier than that!) and the first taste of bitter coffee was too much for my young palate, I spat the tiny half chewed treat into the trash, only to have my mouth then filled with the mochalicious aftertaste. I learned not to judge a food by its first flavour profile as there may be more, and better, to come.
When I first had kale, it was cooked by Momette without additional flavouring. I did not enjoy it, to say the least. But, when, as an adult, I bravely shared a spicy kale-centric dish at Vij’s restaurant with my husband, it was fantastic! I realized that kale was just a vessel and must be filled with flavour.

Kale has a ridiculous amount of nutrients and calorie for calorie is the best thing you can give your body! It’s a sturdy leafy green that can take the heat and soaks up flavour like a tasty sponge.

My new summertime favourite is when Exec Chef blanches kale, marinates it in lemon juice and garlic, then throws it on our charcoal grill. Seriously, I could eat it all day long. Smoky, sour, garlicky goodness that sticks to the ribs (and goes well with ribs!).

The blogosphere has been whispering in my ear about the amazing tastiness of kale chips/crisps. The words are compelling, but the images lean more toward the repellant. Dry green leaves covered in goop. I’ve been enjoying kale in soups, now that the grill has been put away for the season, and it was only a craving for chips of the potato variety that made me join the food focussed blogistas in their kale chip cult.

I had been resisting the urge to buy Honey Dijon Kettle Chips until one day the snack food satellites aligned in my local Save-On-Foods. Kettle Chips were on sale for 2 bags for $5, the racks were mostly empty and there wasn’t a single orange mustardy bag of goodness to be found. It was only when I was zipping back to the produce department to grab some purple yams (so pretty!) that my eyes landed on a single bag of potato-ey gold that had been abandoned by the newly installed self checkouts. I practically scaled the Mt. Everest of Lucky Charms boxes, shoving Lucky and his crusty “marshmallows” to the side, to rescue the lonely bag. It was obviously meant to be mine and I may have stroked it gently as I made my way to the register.

Once I had them in the kitchen, I decided to reverse engineer the tongue tantalizing taste and find a less nutritionally void vehicle to deliver dijon spiked sweetness to my pleasure centre. I mixed, tasted, mixed again and used the excuse of “research” and “comparative analysis” to stuff my face with the crispy taters. I used olive oil as a base with Keen’s mustard powder, one of my go to ingredients for all things savoury, providing the necessary tongue curling zing which was mellowed by Maille’s Dijon Originale and creamed honey. Apple cider vinegar provided a tangy kick, which was rounded out by onion and garlic powder. Tumeric added it’s sunny colour and an earthy sweetness that only needed the finish of salt and pepper to match the taste of the half-finished bag of inspiration.

I massaged by mustardy elixir with my tumeric toned hands into the waiting leaves of kale. The oven dried them to a crispy conclusion and it was time for the final comparison.

The translucent leaves shattered into delicate shards on my tongue and the flavour was almost exact, there was just a subtle vegetal undertone that melded nicely with the mustard. They were a hit with Young Fresh Chef and he insisted on packing them in his school lunch for the next day. So, if you’ve been resisting the call of kale, give in!

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