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White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

People ask me all the time, “don’t you miss … [insert pasta, bread, rice etc.]??” which the answer is always no. I was never a big sandwich for lunch kid, tuna or grilled cheeses will always have a special place in my heart between my Dad and me, but it’s not something I had every day. Nor where we a big pasta or rice for dinner people, we’re an Irish family with someone who’s allergic to potatoes (go figure) so our side was usually mashed yams with our meat and veggies. But cookies … now we’re talking because I LOVE cookies. You can keep your dry cakes, your disgusting crusted pies, cupcakes I can take or leave them, but I could never resist a good warm chocolate chip cookie. I’m that person, if I had a craving, I would be in my pjs at 9 pm stirring batter by hand just so I could have one or two … or four. Why is it that the fourth cookie always put you over the edge? Am I the only one who would have three cookies and really crave that fourth one despite knowing it was a bad idea?

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So when I went primal, those 9 pm bake offs were out of the question. For anyone who’s tried baking primal cookies they will understand, for me it seems to be the hardest to pull off right. We’ve mastered the almond flour waffle, the delicious chocolate cake, yet finding a cookie with the same distinct texture and gooiness seems to elude us; in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good recipes out there that give me that slight remembrance I need to get me past any cravings, but I could never give them to some die hard flour fan and tell them not to know something is up.

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So when the annual Food Blogger’s Cookie swap notice came around I jumped at the chance to join especially since I’ve skipped the last two years. I wanted to see what other people, who bake gluten-free, would make to get some new ideas into my repertoire. Yet that idea back fired on me. You see out of X amount of Canadians that signed up, I was the only one who asked for gluten-free – oops! So instead of being a guinea pig for almond/coconut flour treats with coconut oil or sugar, I told my matches not to worry. Did I also mention I was asked to participate in a potluck cookie swap… ? Yeah suffice to say I’ve been endowed with large amounts of cookies ranging from delicious grain-free chocolate and peanut butter to wild ones like rosemary and olive oil shortbread. (Thank you to my three matches that sent me cookies!)

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Despite all the cookies, I’m going to toot my own horn and say these were the best. I’ve been on a huge white chocolate and peppermint kick this year, thanks to the chocolate shop. These cookies nail that addiction on the head.  The white chocolate chunks are mellow, but with a soft sweet decadence to them. Smashed candy canes add extra crunch to the cookie especially when you add them to the batter because you forget to put the chocolate into your cookies and realize it 30 seconds after your cookies are in the oven… *whistles*. The key to these cookies are the peppermint extract added to the batter, it adds a nice overall peppermint note that will make you keep grabbing for more. These grain-free ones made with almond flour are not a substitute for regular flour base ones, but when you haven’t had a cookie in a year they are to die for. Just be careful of that dreaded fourth cookie!

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Note – The following recipe was not the same cookies I sent out to my three matches. Almond flour can get ridiculously expensive for three dozen cookies, not to mention fragile due to the lack of gluten, a binding agent. Because the cookies were being mailed, tossed around and who knows what else, I opted to make regular flour and white sugar cookies. For people interested in the flavours I used, but not wanting/willing to try the below recipe using almond flour, just take your traditional chocolate chip recipe and replace the chips with white chocolate chunks and add peppermint extract to the batter.

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White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
A basic almond flour cookie get's a festive uplift using white chocolate and crushed candy canes.
Ingredients
  • ½ cups almond flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ melted coconut oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½-1 tsp peppermint extract
  • ½ white chocolate chunks
  • 2-3 mini candy canes, crushed
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix your dry ingredients. Mix in your egg, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Add in your peppermint extract, starting with a lower amount and then adding more as you taste. Don't be afraid to taste the raw batter, you will need to to determine the strength of your peppermint. Once the smell hits your nose, it will be really hard to determine by taste a taste tester is always handy. Stir. Add in your white chocolate chunks.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop (best invention for cookies ever!) or a spoon, spoon out your cookies in even amounts onto a baking sheet. I press my cookies a little bit, they won't really change shape in the oven. Sprinkle a little bit of candy cane on top.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes or until the bottom gets golden brown. Take out of the oven and let them cool a bit before moving to a cooling rack. They will be very soft right out of the oven so you won't want to move them right away.
  5. Eat and enjoy!

 

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Westcoast Seafood Chowder

When I travel food is a HUGE factor for me. I want to get off the beaten track and try delicious foods from local jaunts (cue this delicious sandwich I ordered in Rome via a lot of waving and pointing). Most of my memories involve food in one way or the other. Chowder reminds me of cold damp nights, being grumpy, sipping noisily scalding hot broth in a dark pub like restaurant in Charlottetown, PEI ages ago. (Wow, has it really been nearly ten years?!) Ever since then I’ve been on the hunt to make the perfect chowder. Well perfect to me, I’m sure there are going to be diehard traditionalists that would fight me on this one.

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It’s been a trial and error process from trying a Michael Smith recipe (disgusting) to making a mental note to use seaweed when scouring a west coast foraging book. I even have a scrap piece of paper with chicken scratch, labelled “Yankee GMA Chowder” from a friend of mine. Sorry Brit I don’t know why I called it that! That recipe uses old school ingredients that can be difficult to find like salt cured pork, holy crap batman salty! Finally after some trial and error, the family has finally settled on this one. It’s a go to in the freezer on days where I’m running behind, I’m hungry and I want a heavy dose of protein to propel me into the afternoon. This recipe has been years in the making and it has been greedily hidden away in my book not seeing the light of day, that is until now.

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(Hard to take photos with this beast attacking your leg.)

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This isn’t your traditional New England clam chowder; it doesn’t involve flour that turns everything gummy, thick, and flavourless. This is a west coast version, which packs a punch of miso paste and adds seaweed for a decent dose of minerals like iodine, calcium, and vitamin B12. To make things easier, I buy my fish and shrimp frozen, which is easy to keep on hand. I defrost them slightly to be able to cut them easier before tossing them in at the end. Like every soup, nothing is exact, mix around with the ingredients till you’re happy. For example, I usually buy a mix bag of shrimp and scallops and toss them in. You should be able to find miso paste and seaweed at your local ethnic store.

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Once the leaves start to turn and I can see my breath in the air, I start getting requests for this delicious chowder on a regular basis. What is your go to soup, chowder, or stew when it starts to get colder?

Westcoast Seafood Chowder
Give your typical chowder a west coast flair by adding miso paste and seaweed.
Ingredients
  • 6 slices of thick cured bacon, diced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 236ml bottle of clam juice
  • 3 cups good quality stock
  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • ⅓ cup dried wakame, crumbled
  • 1 can of clams with juice
  • 1 cup chopped uncooked salmon
  • 1 cup chopped uncooked white fish (halibut, cod, haddock, etc)
  • 1 cup shrimp, cut in half
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a soup/stock pot, render the bacon down on medium heat till crispy on the edges. Remove bacon and set it aside, but leave the fat.
  2. Saute the white onion till you can see through. Add herbs and stir around. Add the potatoes and stir around frying the edges a little bit.
  3. Add your clam juice to the point. Things will bubble a bit, get a good wooden spoon and rub/stir all that nice brown golden bits from the bottom of the pot. This is flavour and we want it mixed through the chowder. Add your stock. You may need to add some water depending on amounts. You want enough liquid that it covers the potatoes by a couple of inches. If your using frozen fish, like I use, you won't need as much liquid. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked. About 10 minutes.
  4. Once you're able to slide a knife into the middle of a potato, take your wooden spoon and smash your potatoes against the side of the pot. Leave half in chunks, but smash the other half, this adds thickness.
  5. Add your miso and seaweed to the pot. Making sure to stir and incorporate the miso paste. Trust me, as much as I love miso I don't really want to find a big hunk of it on my spoon. Add back your bacon, the clams, and shrimp; giving it a good stir. Gently place your fish into your chowder. Cover and let it cook for 5-10 minutes (sorry never keep track!) until your fish is cooked.
  6. Turn off the burner, set aside. Taste to see if you need to add any pepper. Give everything a good stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. Place chowder into bowls and serve.

 

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Where in the World did the Time go?

Have you ever had those days or weeks .. well in my case months where you wonder where in the world did the time go? I feel like the last few months have been one blur of a day. I wake up, get a couple of hours of work done, take a couple hours to relax before I have to make a ridiculous early dinner before I head off to work in the evening, come home and sleep. Repeat. I have good intentions to post, I have all these ideas running through my head I would love to share, but then all of a sudden I realize Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I haven’t posted a single thing and oh wait now it’s November 11th holy crap what happened?!

School and a New Job
As of October 17th I am officially a holistic nutrionist, I have a fancy smancy paper to prove it. What am I doing with it? It’s currently … somewhere and I have yet to put any of my skills to use except for telling people not to use agave nector and wanting to yell at people to stop eating the sugar free candy at work. For the past month and a half I’ve been negotiating with Jason at Evoke Medicine to come on board as their media designer and program manager. I haven’t really wanted to announce anything until I signed my Hancock to the piece of paper, but it looks like that will happen very shortly. So yay!

Tweaking Designs and Evil People
As of mid-September, I decided to switch hosting so my apologies for broken images everywhere, things did not go smoothly. On Thanksgiving, 30 minutes before I needed to start cooking the birds, I received a call from my website security company saying my site had been hacked with malicious infection, if I did not do anything about it quickly my site would be black listed. Holy shit! As a friend of mine asked, “Why do people do these things?” Some money down the drain everything is clean, my site has a firewall, and you nor I need to worry. I had been spending time before this to tweak the design a bit, add a sidebar, some ads etc. Where’s the sidebar you ask? Well right before launch I decided I didn’t like a cluttered sidebar and decided to get rid of it. Which caused the site to go wonky and I had to start from scratch. One month later things are back to semi normal and I have people shaking their heads laughing at me that I took so long to do what exactly? So bear with me while I get things back to working condition, while I try to tackle on a million other things.

FBC 2014
I decided to say screw it to my graduation ceremony (sorry not sorry, but I don’t want to twiddle my thumbs waiting for a piece of paper) and decided to celebrate it at the second Food Bloggers of Canada conference which blew my mind! I met some fantastic people – Raj and Holly from The Primal Desire, Kristy Gardener from She Eats, and Angie from Friday Cake Night. This year’s conference was so raw inspiring starting with Robin Esrock’s opening speech that resonated within me to the end with Aimee Wimbush-Bourque’s call to action in narrowing your blogs focus within a hashtag. I didn’t leave the conference inspired or passionate, jumping up and down with excitement to put plans into place. Instead I felt stripped down, raw and a little bruised, but I liked it. It pushed me to consider my passion and future that I’ve never felt before.

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Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese & Basil

We’ve, meaning the internet, has stated this over and over, but we can definitely hide things and make everything look so peachy keen – cue pink, sparkles, and fluffy marshmallow like clouds. Why is it that when I think happy go lucky, cutsy wootsy that’s what I think of? Like a very bad television show with a princess wearing pink with long blonde hair. I don’t even like pink .. or princesses… anyways rambling. There are bloggers that make writing stories look so fluid and easy, with one quick sentence they can embrace you, drag you into their world and be able to taste the food with one imaginary digital bite. Then there are others, like me, where writing out one paragraph when not in the mood is like trying to get a cat to take a bath. Not very pretty and you’ll want to wear long sleeve shirts for a week.

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Back to Basics – Grain-Free Crust

In grade one, oh so many years ago, I had the bad habit of cutting my clothes during school. My parents realized this habit one day doing laundry and had a meeting with the teacher in where she expressed that I needed “help”, when really I was just bloody bored. You see I was told to create a pattern in class so I did, yellow-red-yellow-red, in my young little head my thought pattern was pretty rationale – you told me to make a pattern so I did, you didn’t tell me to make a complicated pattern. My Dad looked at me and said, “Heather, next time create a complicated pattern.”

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