Gingerbread Biscotti

DSC_0192I love baking over the holidays, but I find it’s really easy to over do it with too many sweet things. These gingerbread biscotti are a nice alternative to traditional Christmas baking as they are not overly sweet and contain some wholesome ingredients. I made these cookies with toasted hazelnuts and dark raisins, but you can substitute pecans or walnuts for the hazelnuts and dried cranberries for the raisins.

When baking these biscotti, make sure that you use large eggs. I tried this recipe a few times and accidentally used medium sized eggs on one occasion. The result was a very dry and crumbly dough that was difficult to form into a log.

These biscotti make nice mini gifts and they will keep for several weeks if stored in an air tight container. I gave a few packages out to friends and had great feedback. You can find food gift bags and festive ribbon at craft stores. I purchased mine at Michaels. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Ingredients:

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 cup rolled oats, divided

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

2 large eggs 

1/4 cup fancy molasses

2 tbsp canola oil

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup raisins

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove from oven, place the warm hazelnuts in a clean dish towel, roll it up, and leave for about five minutes. Briskly rub the nuts in the towel to remove most of their skins. Set aside to let the nuts cool and then coarsely chop.
  3. In a food processor, process 1/2 cup of the rolled oats until finely ground.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the 1/2 cup of finely ground oats, the remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla extract.
  6. Slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and beat until combined. Mix in the chopped hazelnuts and raisins and beat just until incorporated.
  7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Take each half of dough and form it into a log, about 30 cm long and 5 cm wide. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  9. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. 
  10. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut into 2 cm slices, on the diagonal.  Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 6-8 minutes. The cookies should be dry and firm.
  11. Remove from oven and let cool.
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Oven “Fried” Black Bean Croquettes with Tomato Avocado Salsa

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DSC_0153Typical croquettes are made with minced meat, fish, or vegetables, and they are coated with egg and bread crumbs and deep-fried. These croquettes are much healthier version. Black beans serve as a protein and fibre rich filling and the light coating provides a nice crunch without too much grease. I liked these croquettes as per the recipe below; however, if you prefer spicier foods you may wish to add hot sauce to the bean mixture. My favourite part about this recipe was the tomato avocado salsa. It was so colourful, fresh, and it really complimented the croquettes well. When you choose avocados, select ones that yield to firm gentle pressure as they are ripe and ready to eat. If they are too hard or too soft it may compromise the quality of the salsa. Serve these black bean croquettes and salsa with a green salad or a side of steamed vegetables.

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Oven “Fried” Black Bean Croquettes with Tomato Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

2/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, divided

2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp olive oil

1 avocado, diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with oil.
  2. Mash black beans and cumin in a large bowl until no whole beans remain. Stir in corn and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and 1 teaspoon chili powder. Stir 1 cup of the tomato mixture into the black bean mixture.
  4. Mix the remaining 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, oil and the remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl until the breadcrumbs are coated with oil. Divide the bean mixture into eight 1/2-cup balls. Lightly press each bean ball into the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the croquettes about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir avocado into the remaining tomato mixture. Serve the salsa with the croquettes.

Recipe adapted from EatingWell.com

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Cranberry, Pear, and Apple Crumble

Joy of Baking is one of my favourite websites to find recipes for desserts and baked goods. I have yet to make something from this website that I didn’t love! Sometimes I find their recipes have a bit too much sugar for my liking, but sugar can easily be reduced in recipes such as a crumble where its main role is as a sweetener. I have already reduced the sugar in my adaption of their recipe below, but feel welcome to adjust to your own tastes.

Crumbles are a quick and easy dish that makes for a great lighter choice dessert. Crumbles are nice any time of the year because the versatility of the filling. I especially like the combination of cranberries, pears, and apples for a fall crumble as these are all in season in BC at this time. Crumbles are also great because they tend to be inexpensive to make. I will often use fruit that I already have at home, or I will check the discount shelves at produce stores for fruit that is just about past its best. For example Kin’s Farm Market will sell $1 bags of apples or pears.

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Cranberry, Pear, and Apple Crumble

Ingredients:

Crumble Topping:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces

Filling:

1 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch 

4-5 Firm, tart-tasting apple – peeled, cored, and sliced into 1 inch chunks

4-5 ripe Bartlett or Anjou Pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks

1/2 cup cranberries, cut in half

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F, and place rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Place all the topping ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats, nuts, and butter) in a food processor and process just until the mixture has clumps the size of peas. (This can also be done in a large bowl with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips.) 
  3. In a large bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch. Peel, core, and slice the apples and pears and toss them with the cranberries, in the sugar mixture. Once combined transfer to the baking dish. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
  4. Bake for ~ 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the topping is golden brown and crisp. 
  5. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. 
  6. To reduce calories, try serving with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

Recipe adapted from joyofbaking.com

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Vegetarian Wonton Soup

Photo credit: Whatdidyoueat.com

Wonton soup is one of my favourite Chinese dishes, but I have yet to find a restaurant that make a vegetarian version. I had always wanted to try making it, but was skeptical of making my own wontons. It turns out wontons are easy to make, especially if you have someone to help you assemble them!

Unless you own a pasta maker, I recommend purchasing wonton wrappers over trying to make them yourself. They are inexpensive, easy to store in the freezer, and can be used in other recipes such as vegetarian pot stickers. I wasn’t able to find wonton wrappers at either of my local grocery stores, so I had to go to Osaka supermarket. Wonton wrappers often contain egg products, so you will find them in the freezer or refrigerated section of the store. The brand of wonton wrapper recommend to me was Double Happiness.

This soup is best the day it is made as the wonton start to soften and disintegrate over time, but it is still very good the next day. You can also cook the wontons you intend to serve with the meal and freeze the leftover ones for another day. _______________________________________________________________________________________

Vegetarian Wonton Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups thinly chopped green onions, divided
  • 10 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb. crimini mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 16-ounce box firm tofu, finely shredded
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • About 40 wonton wrappers
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced bok choy
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Prepare the broth. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutest. Add 1 1/2 cups of the chopped scallions and the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the broth to simmer while you prepared the wontons.

2. Prepare the filling. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the canola oil, adding the finely chopped mushrooms and garlic powder. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the crumbled tofu, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 cup chopped scallions.

3. Fill the wontons. Set out the wonton wrappers on a dry surface. Place about 1 Tbsp of the filling into the center of the wontons. Moisten the edges of the wrappers with water, pull one corner to its diagonal and pinch, then pull the remaining two corners to the same point and pinch the edges closed.  Repeat until all of the wontons or filling is used.

4. Bring a pot of water to simmering. Just before serving, cook the wontons until they come to the top of the pot, about 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the wontons from the boiling water. Transfer wontons to each bowl.

Add the bok choy and broccoli florets to the simmering broth. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables are bright green in color. Ladle the broth and greens over the wontons in the serving bowls and serve.

Recipe adapted from dairyfreecooking.about.com

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