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Brownie Brouhaha

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IMG_2581Brownies can be controversial, at least when it comes to my friends and family. Some factions say there needs to be frosting, others are in the cakey camp, while a few are stuck in the fudgey side. There is often heated debate about how Butterscotch Brownies (blondies) and Black Bean Brownies are not acceptable options at all. But, when I’m the one donning the apron I say nay to frosting and go for my tried and true One Pot Brownie recipe (please note: no pot is IN the brownies, they are mixed IN a pot).

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I have been using the same recipe since I started baking when I was eight (out of desperation as my mother wouldn’t bake or buy sweets as often as I wanted them). It has never failed me, though I have failed it on occasion. A couple of times, I MAY have over-baked the brownies until they were dried out. My problem solving brain and thrifty heart turned this loss into a win by making ice cream sandwiches with them!

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Kitchenette Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup creamed honey

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon Epicure Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Kosher Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan on the stove
  3. Mix sugar, honey and cocoa powder into melted butter
  4. Add eggs and and mix with a whisk
  5. Add flour, baking powder and salt and gently combine
  6. Stir in vanilla extract
  7. Pour into a greased 8-9″ pan or the Epicure Perfect Petites for 30 lovely little loaves
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean or just a bit crumby)

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Serve with fresh fruit (I had grapes, mango and raspberries) and a dollop of whipped cream (try not to over whip it like I did).

Which side of the brownie battle do you take or will you just take any brownie that’s available?

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?

Cranberry Craze

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When the leaves twist and turn and fall into colourful piles, waiting for boots to crunch their way through, it’s time to prepare for comfort food simmering on the stove. Years ago we started a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas that Young Fresh Chef and I make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. Mostly I do the prepping and cooking and he just lets me know when it is sweet enough. I had always been a fan of the canned variety, piling it on turkey sandwiches and maybe even eating a spoonful on the sly. 

But when you look at the ingredient list on the can it is short and sweet: CRANBERRIES, GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE, GLUCOSE, WATER. I knew I could do better. I researched recipes years ago and I took the bits and pieces that appealed to me and created my ultimate cranberry sauce! The least daunting of the traditional turkey accompaniments, it’s a great take along if you are invited to a holiday feast.

Living in the heart of B.C.’s cranberry country, I can usually buy cranberries in the Fall, fresh from the bog, at the local Farmers’ Market. They are also easy to find in the produce section in your grocery store this time of year. I usually pick up some extra to fill a vase or pile around a pillar candle for a centre-piece.

Once you have the cranberries, next come the seasonings, and while it is necessary to add some sweetener to balance out the pucker inducing tartness of the berries, you can also add some holiday spice to add layers of flavour. The key to keeping it on the savoury side instead of being jelly is bay leaf and white peppercorns. By placing the smaller spices in a tea ball (or a cheese cloth pouch) you don’t have to fish them out individually, or wonder where that last clove is hiding.

While cranberry sauce completes the holiday table and elevates turkey to a special occasion, it’s also great mixed in with yogurt and granola, slathered on a peanut butter sandwich or maybe just a straight spoonful or two!

Recipe for Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries

1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice

3/4 cup honey (or other sweetener to taste)

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

zest of 1 unsprayed/organic orange

3 whole cloves

4 white or black whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 piece of nutmeg seed (optional)

1 thread of mace (optional)

1 allspice berry (optional)

1 star anise pod (optional)

3 cardamom pods (optional)

1 piece crystallized ginger (optional)

salt to taste

Method:

1. Place small spices in a tea ball or make a cheesecloth pouch tied with string.

2. Place all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

4. Simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally (about 20-25 minutes).

5. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaves and spices.

6. Allow to cool, the sauce will thicken up even more.

7. Refrigerate sauce until cold.

8. Serve with turkey, or yogurt or swirl into muffin batter!

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Share your favourite homemade holiday tradition in the comments.

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