Along the Grapevine


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Lilac Marshmallows

DSC03517Making marshmallows is quick, easy and even fun, with the added bonus of having a confection which is so superior to the store bought variety. I only recently began to experiment with different flavours, beginning with maple, honey, and spices. Then it occurred to me to flavour them with flowers from my garden and so I began with lilac. I look forward to other flavours as they come in season –  honeysuckle, peony, elderflower and Queen Anne’s lace to name a few.

The process is simple. The basic one for standard white marshmallows would be made with one cup sugar and one cup water. Heat the syrup allowing to simmer for a few minutes, then pour it gradually onto gelatine softened with a little water. I use the powdered Knox gelatine which comes in one-Tbsp packages. Originally I was using three packets per cup of syrup and this made a pretty stiff and stretchy marshmallow. For this recipe, I used only 2 Tbsp. which I prefer but the marshmallows are less robust and a little softer than the others.

As you pour the hot syrup over the gelatine, mix on high speed with a hand mixer. This will take about 10 minutes. If using three packets it is easy to over mix and the mixture will start to set before pouring it into a pan if you’re not careful.

Pour the mixture into any shape of pan you like – I used a 12 inch square dish. Chill in the fridge for about an hour until they are well set.

Lilac Marshmallows

1 cup lilac syrup

2 Tbsp powdered gelatine

5 Tbsp cold water (substitute a little colouring such as grape or blueberry preserve or juice)

Heat the syrup while the gelatine is dissolved in water. Gradually pour the syrup over the gelatine and beat on high speed. The colour will lighten as the mixture puffs up, so if you want a stronger colour, add more juice to the water. When thick and forming peaks, pour it into a pan and set in fridge to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

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Related Posts: Lilac Ice Cream; Lilac Fizz; Lilac Pavlova

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #226; Jhuls at The Not so Creative Cook.


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Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

DSC03246.JPGI have made more than a few recipes lately with the applesauce about which I wrote last week. All were good, but this one I particularly wanted to share as I thought it ideal for the fall season. It has the delicious, almost nutty flavour of buckwheat which makes it gluten free and is lightly sweetened and spiced. Once I was satisfied with the texture and flavour of this cake, I ‘tarted’ it up with an icing made from sea buckthorn berries, another ingredient I wrote about recently. Although I have made a few recipes with this superfood, this is the first where it was not necessary to cook the berries at all.

Rather than cooking before straining, I simply pressed them through a garlic press to extract the juice. You only need a small amount, so this is very easy to do. The flavour is perfect in an icing, tasting like a mixture of orange and lemon – but oranges and lemons don’t grow in my backyard so they don’t make it into very many of my recipes.

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp ginger juice plus 1 tsp dried ginger (or if no fresh ginger is available, 2 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp soda

2 cups buckwheat flour

Cream the oil and add the sugar gradualy. Add the eggs, yogurt, applesauce and ginger juice. To make ginger juice, take about 1 sq. inch of fresh ginger, chop it and press it through a garlic press. Mix the dry spices, soda and flour  and add gradually to the wet mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F in a greased 9 inch square pan for 35 minutes.

Serve as is, or ice it once cool.

For the icing, soften 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter. Gradually add 1 cup icing sugar, and between additions add about 3 Tbsp sea buckthorn juice.

This recipe can be baked in different forms. I did some in small muffin tins, perfect for freezing for when emergency snacks are called for.dsc03223

Linked to Fiesta Friday #142, Foodbod, and O Blog Off


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No-bake chocolate Cookies for Campers

These no-bake cookies are so easy to make and contain only four ingredients. From start to finish they take about ten minutes and are perfect for satisfying that occasional craving for sweet that might strike anywhere, any time!

DSC03119If anyone had asked me a few weeks ago what recipes do I never post, I would have said chocolate chip cookies. Not that I don’t like them, but they are an example of one of those things that just doesn’t fit with this blog which focuses on things I have in my garden, are seasonal and maybe even unusual. But never say never, and here is my first recipe containing chocolate chips – not the commercial ones but chopped dark Belgian chocolate.

The reason for this turn around is that we recently had a visit from a fellow blogger Stef from The Kiwi Fruit. She and her friend John are currently driving across Canada from east to west and I have been following them with considerable interest. For some stunning photos of the country, stories of their adventures and great recipes visit her blog – you will not be disappointed.

I met Stef originally at Fiesta Friday, so it is fitting to bring these cookies to this week’s event. Of course, I invited them to stop by here and camp on our property, and to my delight they accepted. They proved to be perfect camping guests with plenty of tales to tell. Unfortunately I did not think to get many pictures, as we were too caught up in chatting, mostly about food and travel.DSC03102

Their visit did make me think about the challenges of cooking and shopping when on the road – and this is one long road across Canada. Over 5,000 km as the crow flies, but much further when making detours to visit every worthwhile site along the way. I was thinking how John sometimes gets a craving for something sweet and how difficult it can be to make any of the traditional baked treats while camping, so I came up with this simple recipe which is like a cross between truffles and cookies. Chickpea flour, brown sugar, butter or coconut oil and some chopped chocolate bits or chips are all that is needed, cooked quickly in a pan over medium heat and then rolled into little balls of rich, sweet, chocolatey goodness.

No-bake Chocolate Cookies

1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar according to taste

about 4 Tbsp chocolate bits

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the flour and stir continuously over the heat for about five minutes. The mixture will become a slightly darker colour and will bubble and thicken. Add the sugar and stir until it all dissolves, about three more minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and stir in the chocolate. While still slightly warm, form into balls and then let cool completely. This recipe makes about 1 dozen small cookies.

I made one recipe with butter, the other with coconut oil. I preferred the flavour of the latter as it was nuttier tasting, but the former was easier to work with. Either way, they were delicious, and I hope Stef and John enjoy them as much as we did. I also wish them all the best on their odyssey and thank them sincerely for taking the time to visit us. It was a real pleasure!DSC03120.JPG

Linked to: Fiesta Friday, Foodbod and Dad Whats 4 Dinner.

Posted one year ago: Milkweed flowers


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Maple Walnut Nougat

 

DSC02935Maple syrup season is fast approaching. In fact we have already had a few days of above zero weather where we might have tapped some trees, but we hope to hold off until March. Meanwhile, we still have some of last year’s batch which means I can offer a new, nowhere else to be found recipe for the upcoming season.

I actually started this for Christmas when I wanted to use some of our own maple syrup for our festive sweets, but fudge was out of the question – too sweet and too much work. So I attempted a delicious nougat inspired by the Spanish turron I am so fond of. I used walnuts rather than almonds since they go better with maple syrup, and other than those two ingredients, just a little sugar and egg white is all you need. I added a smidge of cream of tartar just to help stabilize the eggs. And unlike fudge, you can do all the beating with an electric mixer.

It has taken this long because my first two attempts were a disaster. The first was too soft, and ended up being scooped into little balls and baked like macaroons. Very tasty but not photo worthy. I realized I needed less egg white and a hotter syrup, but the second batch got scorched, and there was no remedy for that. The third time was a success. It is not difficult to make at all, but definitely the heat of the syrup and measurements do matter.

Maple Walnut Nougat

Ingredients

3 cups chopped walnuts, roasted

1 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg white

a pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Heat the maple syrup and sugar in a saucepan until it reaches 265 degrees F or 133 C. Do this on a low heat, and keep any eye on it so it doesn’t boil over or scorch. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, it is ready when it reaches the hard ball stage, which is when a drop in cold water forms a ball but it is firm and will hold its shape on its own.

While the syrup is heating, beat the egg white and cream of tarter until they form peaks and set aside. Once the syrup reaches the right temperature, pour it slowly into the egg white mixture continuing to beat and blend the two mixtures well. Fold in the chopped walnuts and pour into a pan or moulds. I used a pan measuring 4×14 inches. Let cool and refrigerate for at least three hours before cutting.

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I cut some of mine a little prematurely – after about 1 hour, but if you don’t have to get pictures while the sun is shining, I recommend waiting the prescribed time and there won’t be any soft spots. It’s best to cut them just after they have set, as they can become crumbly after a day or so.

They are soft and dry – not at all hard on your teeth. The maple flavour holds up well but without being too sweet.

Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen and Zeba at Food for the Soul.

 

 


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Highbush Cranberry Toffee

Making up recipes with foraged ingredients in the winter usually means a little foraging in the pantry for all that is dried, pickled, frozen or fermented. I never actually expected to find fresh edibles well into February in this area, and certainly not juicy berries. But here is one little shrub, much overlooked and maligned, which is at its best in late winter. highbush cranberries #1highbush cranberries #2 Highbush cranberry (viburnum trilobum) is not a cranberry at all but a deciduous shrub which can grow to 4 meters in height. Its leaves are similar in appearance to maple leaves. Clusters of white blossoms appear in the spring, and the green berry turns to orange and then a bright red in October or November. No wonder it is often used as a decorative landscaping plant, standing out particularly in winter months where the berries afford a beautiful contrast to the snow. It is an easy plant to identify with its clusters of berries measuring about 15mm in length and 12 mm in width. They have a single, flat white seed, and a pungent smell which is less strong in the winter after a few freezes and thaws. Rich in vitamin C, it is maybe a too bitter for many palates, but like many bitter foods has a good flavour once sweetened. DSC01817 Further to my experiments with cooking with these wild cranberries, I decided to make a vegan toffee using just sugar and coconut milk with the berries. First I pureed 1 cup berries. If you want a very smooth puree, pass them through a food mill to remove all the seeds and skin. DSC01821 This was added to 2 (400 ml) tins of coconut milk and 2 cups of sugar. Cook the mixture on a low heat until it reaches 270 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or between the hard and soft ball stages. This took approximately one and a half hours. DSC01818 DSC01820 Once cooked, pour into a 9 inch sq. pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool completely. Cut into whatever size and shape you like and store in a very cool place. They are quite sticky when at room temperature. DSC01836 The flavour reminds me of a tamarind sweet – very creamy and soft. I will be taking these to Fiesta Friday – do drop by to see what the other guests have brought.


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Pine Salt Chocolate Brownies

 

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Last April I wrote a post on collecting and preserving spruce tips and promised recipes using these ingredients later on. Now that winter is fully here, it is the perfect time for me to start experimenting, so I hauled out the spruce salt to put it to good use. When I saw David Lebovitz’s recent post on salty brownies, I decided to make my own version using my spruce salt. His of course is excellent, but called for ingredients I don’t have. Also, I wanted to make a vegan version just because I try to cut down a bit on the use of eggs in baking, except when really necessary. What I ended up with is definitely the best brownies I have ever had – something resembling a dark, chewy salted chocolate bar! After having missed Fiesta Friday for the last couple of weeks, I am bringing this to the party because I suspect that some of the guests, like me, enjoy a rich, not too sweet, salty chocolate treat. The pine flavour, though not very strong in this recipe at all, is a nod to the season.

In Lebovitz’s post, he describes how to line a pan with foil so that removing the brownies is made easy. A helpful tip for sure, but as I like to avoid using aluminum foil, I thought I’d share my own tip for baking. I often use edible leaves – grape leaves or corn husks from my garden which I blanche and freeze. I happened to have a huge pile of dried husks for making tamales, which I still haven’t got around to, so I used these instead. No waste! They will end up in the compost. To begin with, I poured hot water over four husks to soften them a bit, shook them dry and lined an 8″ square pan. Then I sprayed it with a little oil just to be safe. If the husks don’t lie absolutely flat, not to worry – the batter will weigh it down.

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And now for the recipe.

Pine Salt Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

2 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water

6 oz unsweetened chocolate

4 oz coconut oil

1 cup cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

3 Tbsp flour

2 tsp spruce salt

Method

Soak the ground flax seeds in the water and set aside. Melt the chocolate and oil in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. When it is liquid, add the sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Add the cocoa powder and the flax seed mixture, and mix well until the flax seeds are evenly distributed. Remove from the heat and add the flour and salt. Spread in a baking pan, 8 inches square or smaller if you want thicker brownies.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan before removing.

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If you don’t have salt made from spruce tips, you can use spruce picked in the winter too. The flavour of this amount is not very strong, and although the winter pickings are a little more bitter, it wouldn’t be a problem in this particular recipe. If you don’t have any edible greens, just use a coarse sea salt and some other flavouring, like cinnamon, chili or vanilla.


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Turkish Delight

 

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There is frost predicted in this region within the next day, so I am in some hurry to rescue as much from the garden as I can. And as I do that, I thank all of you who  have posted timely recipes on squash, kale, and the like – many of which we have enjoyed! It being Friday, I know that Angie’s guests will be bringing more treats from the garden – and elsewhere – to her 40th Fiesta Friday.

Among the plants I have harvested is my copious rose geranium and some feral apples, so Turkish delight seemed an obvious choice. I know this is not usually made with apples, but any fruit will do, and many recipes just call for flavouring, sugar and cornstarch, so this had to be better. The apples, being from an abandoned orchard, are not treated with chemicals, and although a little irregular looking, are perfect for cooking, even with the skin on. Once again, I decided to use honey to avoid excess of sugar, but I will admit that it overpowers the rose flavour somewhat. Another time, I would either use half honey and half sugar, or add more geranium leaves to the mixture.

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Wild apple

 

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Rose scented geranium plant

You could easily make this recipe with any fruit and flavouring, as well as chopped nuts. It is the cornstarch which gels it, so the pectin in the apples helps but is not essential. You could also use flavours like lemon, rosewater, pomegranate etc. instead of the geranium leaves.

How to Make Rose Scented Apple Honey Turkish Delight

Step 1. Cut the apples into large pieces and cover with water in a pan. I had enough to fill a large pot.  Add a handful of rose scented geranium leaves and simmer until the fruit is very soft. Strain and measure the liquid. I had 4 cups.

Step 2. Add by volume one half the amount of honey, or 2 cups for this amount.

Step 2. Boil this syrup down until it reaches the hard ball stage or 260 degrees F (125 C)

Step 3. While this is boiling, measure 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and blend it with 1 cup of water. Mix well.

Step 4. When the syrup is boiled down and the right temperature, add the cornstarch mixture and stir over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. It will get very thick and dark.

Step 5. Pour into a pan lined with slightly oiled parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap while it cools to prevent a crust forming. Allow to cool for 3-4 hours.

Step 6. Cut into squares and coat each square with a ratio of 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar to 2 Tbsp cornstarch.

This makes approximately 25 pieces.

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I will definitely be making some version of this recipe again, depending on the season and ingredients available.