Waffles

Picked up a waffle maker last week and made some waffle batter today.

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Making waffles was way easier than I thought.

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I put the batter together and Boyfriend Unit cooked them.

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This is the very first one. There is a small learning curve about how much batter to use.

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Patty’s vegan muffins 2.0

This is the same recipe as the first vegan muffins with two minor additions. They turned out great for a healthy and delicious breakfast.

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I used the organic lemon extract I purchased at The Spice Trader, and added ground cinnamon. These were so good fresh out of the oven, Boyfriend Unit just woke up as they finished and we ate them for breakfast. The smelled so amazing.

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The Spice Trader & gravlax

This week my friend Maui and I went to The Spice Trader, an organic spice house in the Queen West neighbourhood to attend a gravlax class, the Nordic way of curing salmon. The class was taught by Donna Ashley of Karelia Kitchen.

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We had a great time!

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This was my first visit to The Spice Trader, Maui and I had planned to visit twice before and that turned into a wash, luckily 3rd time was the charm. It’s located at 877 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M6J 1G5 (at Strachan), across from the park. They have both a retail and online spice shop.

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It’s a beautiful store, with wooden shelves and an old-fashioned scale in the window. The shelves are alphabetically organized and have ample room making them easy to find, I appreciated that the shelves were not jam-packed with product, they had just enough bottles out.

Sadly, only one jar of Saigon cinnamon to be found and Maui snagged it first. It smelled so amazing, I can’t wait to get a bottle. They have a sample of each spice and that one just smelled so good.

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At The Spice Trader they offer classes and we learned to make gravlax, or cured salmon. The etymology of gravlax was interesting to learn. Gräva is the Scandinavian word for grave, or “to dig”, and lax/laks means salmon. (Although you can use any fatty fish for this, like trout or halibut). The fishermen used to salt the fish and bury the salmon in the sand to ferment it, and dig it up later to eat it. Due to modern sensibilities we make it slightly different now.

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So how do you make this anyway?

  • Buy the freshest cut of salmon you can find, with the skin on.
  • Make a mixture of equal parts kosher salt and brown sugar. Kosher salt is used specifically because the shape of the salt flakes make it easier to get a good application of salt, the flakes cover more surface area than rounder granules. So ratio is 1:1. You can change this a bit to taste, I prefer sweeter.
  • Place the fish on a platter and pack the mixture around it generously.
  • Get fancy by laying a bunch of fresh herbs and a citrus fruit on top, like dill and lemon. Or make a puree of beets and horseradish. Possibilities are endless!  I’m intrigued by trying with vanilla beans.
  • Cover and refrigerate 5 or 6 days to cure it. The salt dries out the moisture and the fish will firm up. Then slice thinly and serve. Cooked fish without an oven! That easy!

Our instructor Donna was great, she was thorough, funny, and very charismatic. Allison the shop keeper was amazingly good with names. She memorized 12 names on the fly.

I left the shop with Hawaiian black salt, ground white pepper, pink Himalayan salt, lemon oil, and orange oil. I made a delicious chicken dinner with my new spices and can’t wait to try the oils.

This is the gravlax Donna cured in beets and horseradish I believe. Look at how the colour stays near the top, won’t that look stunning done on white fish?

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Here is the dill and lemon gravlax, see the packed sugar and salt?

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They all tasted delicious but the red one was my favourite. I will definitely make another trip to The Spice Trader to acquire that cinnamon.

French Corner Bakery & Patisserie review

Yesterday was my first visit to French Corner Bakery & Patisserie. I am now planning many more visits.  ^^

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French Corner is located at 1224 Dundas Street West, Unit 114, Mississauga, ON, L5C 4G7.  They have an active Facebook page and you can see many delightful pictures of their wares from Yelp reviewers.

My friend and I ventured forth in the aftermath of a freezing rain to sample the goods.  She has been there many times and told me about how much the bakery has expanded since she started visiting.

Review:

Another pasty gem hiding in plain site, what is with these amazing French patisseries in unexpected neighbourhoods?

We visited around 3:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  There were a few other customers but it wasn’t packed (thank you weather!), which was nice. Both counter staff were friendly and helpful. The food we tried was very good, and reasonably priced.

The front area is a long rectangle, with a counter running lengthwise and a large display case. You can see into the back where the staff are at work creating their works of art which is neat.

Aside from pastries and baked goodies, they also offer fresh breads, soups and salads, hot drinks, lots of lovely things.  The only thing I found odd was that the pastry displays are not labelled, this for example is obviously a lemon tart, but some other items were not so obvious to me what they were called. It was fine however, the lady behind the counter patiently explained each item that I was interested in.

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I had the lemon tart and the night and day mouse.  The tart was wonderful, the lemon curd was tangy and light, in a nice firm crust.  The mousse was amazing, I will definitely try both of these items again!

My friend had pistachio mouse and a red raspberry item, which I forget the name.

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The cup of hot chocolate was perfect for a cold spring day.

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I’m looking forward to bringing Boyfriend Unit to this bakery with me next time.

Vegan banana muffins, experiment # 2

I didn’t set out to make a vegan muffin. It just happened during the course of testing out ingredient substitutions.  This muffin had some improvements over the previous effort, the inside was a lot closer to a regular muffin than the 1st healthy banana muffin experiment.  But I’ve discovered something disheartening during these substitution tests.

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An ingredient that reduces calories will up the sodium or the fat, or an ingredient to replace dairy will raise the values I’m trying to lower.  It seems you can have one or the other, but not both.  (Not that I’ve tried everything, but based on my experiments so far, when something goes down, something else goes up.)  It’s rather annoying.

These new muffins weight in at:

nutrition

This is still much better than a muffin from a fast food restaurant, but it has more calories, fat, carbs, sodium, and sugar than it’s non-vegan predecessor.  Wuah!

Before you get started: There’s a thorough explanation on substituting flaxseeds for egg whites on this great resource Vegan Baking.

Time required: 30 min

Yields: 12

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients:  $45-ish

Cost per muffin: 52 cents

Ingredients:

  • 4 large bananas
  • 188 grams organic sprouted spelt flour
  • 25 grams granulated Splenda
  • 60 grams red palm oil + 4 oz water
  • 5 grams baking powder
  • 4 grams pure vanilla extract
  • 10 g ground flax seed + 1.5 oz warm water

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 176°c or 350°f.  Grease the muffin tin well.

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2. Whisk warm water into the flaxseed and let stand 10 min.  It will turn into sludge. Yummy!

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3. Meanwhile mash the bananas, then beat in the Splenda, red palm oil, water, and vanilla.  Once the flaxseed sludge is ready, add it to the wet mixture and beat until combined.

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Wowzers this looks vile.

4. In a seperate bowl, stir the baking powder into the spelt flour, then add gradually to wet mixture.

5. Bake 24-26 minutes. Tah-dah!

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Verdict:

Loved these.  The consistency isn’t overly chewy like last time.  There’s a very slight graininess to them, which I suspect is the flaxseed.  The muffins rose quite high in the oven and collapsed to hockey puck height when they came out.

I let them sit out overnight and in the morning, the outside was firm but not hard, the inside was still moist.  This was definitely a muffin that impressed more when it was oven-fresh, but still good the next day.

I don’t foresee making them this way again due to the calorie and fat content. They were really good though!

Do you know of any ingredient substitutes that improve the nutritional values?

Healthier banana muffins, experiment # 1

I went back to the drawing to work on the treasured banana muffins.  I opted to cut the Splenda by 50%, eliminate salt, use red palm oil in lieu of butter, use egg whites, and spelt flour again.

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Unlike blueberry trial # 4 which had a very thick batter with spelt flour, this batter was quite runny.  They took an extra 2 minutes to cook through, and they do feel very moist, with a chewy consistency.  These muffins did not rise very high.

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Boyfriend Unit noted that this time, he can’t detect the Splenda aftertaste that was present in the 2nd blueberry trial. Perfect!  These muffins clock in at:

banana muffins Mar 8

I am quite pleased with these muffins, but not ready to post a recipe.  I’m still looking into cutting the sodium so stay tuned.