Friday, November 6, 2009

Homemade Applesauce

My friends and I booked a trip to Cuba for this coming December, and although I am beyond excited for the sun, sand, and what is sure to be an incredible time, I can't help but become aware of my less than healthy eating habits lately. If I'm going to feel comfortable in a bikini come December, I'm going to have to put away those Halloween treats (that means you 'basket full of treats' in my bedroom!) and start looking for healthier choices to get my sweet fix for the day.

Apples are one of the most versatile fruits. They can be prepared as sweet or savory, and can go with any meal of the day including snacks. Apples are thriving during the Fall, and have reached their full potential for sweetness, making them the perfect healthy choice! My Homemade Applesauce is perfect for a midday snack or even dessert. Just like almost all of my recipes, my Homemade Applesauce is quick, simple and tastes delicious! A lot of applesauce recipes call for 1/2 cup sugar, which I don't think is necessary when apples are already so sweet this time of year. When applesauce gets too sweet, it tastes just like eating apple pie filling, which would not be considered a healthy choice. But depending on the size and sweetness of your apples, you may adjust the amount to your taste.
Tip: Cheat a little and serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream over warm applesauce.

8 apples
1 - 2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar (plus possibly more to taste)
cinnamon to taste (around 1 tsp)
1/4 cup orange juice

1. Peel, core, and chop apples into about a 1/4 - 1/2 inch big chunks. During the process, place chopped pieces in a medium bowl with lemon juice. Continue tossing pieces with the juice to coat.

2. Place lemon coated apple pieces in a large pot. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice.

3. Set stove to medium-high heat, and bring bring to a boil. Once brought to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

4. Taste sauce to check for sweetness. If needed, add more sugar. Crush apple chunks with a potato masher, or, for a chunkier texture, use the back of a large spoon. Serve warm or cold.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

For years it has been a Halloween tradition for my family and I to carve out our pumpkins together, and to reserve all the slimy pumpkin seeds for me to roast off to make the perfect Fall snack, Spiced Pumpkin Seeds. Adapted from Martha Stewart's Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, these seeds have the perfect balance between sweet and savory with just a hint of spiciness. I changed Martha's recipe slightly by reducing the amount of sugar, removing the cumin, and substituting sesame oil instead of peanut. The seeds are crisp with a light coating of nutty sesame oil and caramelized sugar, generously dusted with sweet sugar, salt, savory ginger, and spicy cayenne pepper. This snack is fast, simple, and perfect to take to class or work. These Pumpkin Seeds also make great gifts. Make up a large batch and present them in festive Fall tins or gift bags to give to friends, family, or co-workers.
Note: Roasting time may vary depending on oven. Be sure to keep an eye on the seeds during roasting. If they are undercooked, the seeds will be chewy. You are aiming for a golden brown colour.

the seeds from one medium pumpkin (about 1 cup of seeds)
4 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil

1. Preheat oven to 325º. Cut open top of pumpkin and scoop out seeds. Place them in a colander and and wash well with warm water, making sure to separate any pumpkin guts that may be sticking to the seeds. Once cleaned, dry them with a towel.

2. Evenly lay seeds out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour or until seeds become golden brown. Stir several times during baking. See above note on roasting.

3. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tbsp sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper.

4. In a medium skillet, heat sesame oil on high heat. Add the baked pumpkin seeds and remaining 2 tbsp sugar. Cook while stirring until seeds are coated in caramelized sugar.

5. Transfer caramelized seeds into bowl of spices and toss to coat. Let cool. Store in an airtight container for about 1 week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Rosemary Focaccia Bread

There's nothing like warm bread fresh out of the oven. It's just another one of those food items that screams 'comfort'. My dad bought a bread maker a few years ago and it was amazing waking up to freshly baked bread every morning...for about a week. The problem with homemade bread is it is a very time consuming process, even with expensive bread makers. After a week of making bread, the machine ended up down in the basement, never to see the light of day again. Don't get me wrong, I love the process of making bread with your own two hands, the kneading, resting, braiding, and so on. But we don't all have the time for that. So Ihave found a way around that. Here is my Cheaters Handbook recipe for Rosemary Focaccia Bread.

I love this cheat because you can plan ahead or do it all last minute, you can improvise with the recipe a ton and add a lot of your own character, and it tastes amazing! The trick is purchased pizza dough. Pizza dough has a very similar texture to focaccia bread, and, just like focaccia bread, you can add a large variety of different ingredients and flavours. You can purchase pizza dough at most grocery stores, or even ask your favourite pizza restaurant if you can purchase a bag of their dough, you would be surprised how many will say 'yes'.

Pizza dough can stay in the fridge for about three or four days, so you can easily plan out your bread in advance. The bread that I have made here is just one of many different ways you can make your pizza dough focaccia, so try experimenting with all sorts of different ingredients. try out different herbs, spices, and vegetables, and have fun! This bread is great to serve to guests because it looks like you put a lot of effort into it (it's really a gorgeous looking bread) and you can cater it to the other courses you are eating. The night I served the Rosemary Focaccia Bread to my family, my mum was making spaghetti. I wanted to make a bread that would compliment the spaghetti sauce, so I mimicked a lot of the flavours found in the meat sauce. The meat sauce had garlic, rosemary, and parmesan, flavours that taste great in bread, so I topped my pizza dough with that.

1 bag of pizza dough
olive oil
flour for pan
pureed garlic
rosemary leaves
parmesan cheese, grated
sea salt

1. Take dough out of fridge and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Brush olive oil onto pan and lightly dust with flour. Shake off excess flour.

2. With your hands held together like fists, hold up the dough and form into desired shape and size. The fists will help to resist tearing.

3. Place onto floured pan and brush dough with olive oil.

4. Spread pureed garlic over dough and sprinkle with desired amount of rosemary, parmesan, and sea salt to taste.

5. Place in a 400º oven for about 15 minutes (depending on thickness) making sure to keep your eye on the dough (a thinner focaccia may bake very fast depending on your oven). Remove from oven and slice.