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Za’atar Deviled Eggs

Za'atar Deviled Eggs | Swirls and SpiceOur move from Saskatchewan to the Chicago area is finally over.  And one of the perks of living near a major city is that I now have greater access to spices of the world.  Za’atar is one of my favorite discoveries ever when it comes to spice blends.  I bless the day that my dear friend who lived in Jordan introduced me to such a glorious blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.

That was two years ago, and I have been on a quest to find a local source for za’atar ever since.  I certainly did not expect to find a large bag of green za’atar waiting for me on the shelves of the nearest Meijer store.  But there it was!  And now I am going to put it on “all the things!”

Za'atar Deviled Eggs - Packed for LunchZa’atar is unique and versatile enough to go on anything from chicken to bread to eggs.  I have already packed these delicious eggs for my daughter’s school lunch (which she thoroughly enjoyed).

Next, I am planning to serve a platter of these deviled eggs over Labor Day weekend.  The perfect blend of spices makes the eggs taste exotic without overpowering their classic appeal.  My family really enjoys them, and I am confident this updated potluck classic will be a hit with the relatives too.

Za'atar Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:Za'atar Deviled Eggs | recipe by Swirls and Spice

  • 6 to 8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar spice blend*, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped green onion, optional
  • sea salt, to taste
  • smoked paprika, for sprinkling, optional
  • cilantro or parsley, optional, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Slice cooled eggs in half lengthwise.  Gently remove yolks and mash with a fork in a medium bowl.  Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, and za’tar and blend briskly until smooth.  Add sea salt to taste.
  2. Stir in green onions, if using, until well incorporated.
  3. Use a small spoon (or plastic bag with a corner snipped) to place portions of egg yolk mixture into hollow egg whites.  Sprinkle filled eggs with za’atar and paprika.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

*The Ziyad brand, which I bought, uses wheat in the blend.  You can blend your own to make it gluten-free, like this homemade za’atar recipe.

I’m bringing this dish to Allergy Free Wednesday,

Fiesta Friday and other fun parties here.

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Cherry Coconut Pudding Popsicles

Cherry Coconut Pudding Popsicles | Swirls and Spice

While I love strawberry season, the deeper flavour of cherries should not be missed.  Now that summer is officially here, cherries are in season at last!

And when cherries meet coconut, it’s a storybook match.  How I did I discover this?  The neighbourhood bakery of my childhood made some of the most amazing cherry coconut bars I have ever tasted.  They were my mom’s favourite.  While I still hope to replicate the taste of those unforgettable cookie bars some day, creamy pudding popsicles are a simpler way to get the same flavour combination.  There’s no baking involved–and you can eat them on a stick!  Which means these cherry coconut popsicles are essentially the perfect summer treat.

The coconut pudding was simplified from my recipe for Banana Pudding Ice Box Cake. This pudding is vegan and paleo-friendly, yet it has a rich taste all the same, thanks to coconut milk.  I added almond extract (which tastes amazing with coconut) to keep the colour as light and bright as possible.  However, you could use vanilla too;  just double the amount of extract.

If you are short on time, you can skip the stove top method and use a boxed instant pudding mix*. The pudding will still be vegan if you use coconut milk.  And either way, your homemade popsicles will likely be healthier and cost less than their packaged counterparts. Simply freeze and enjoy on the next sunny day!

Cherry Coconut Pudding Popsicles | Swirls and Spice

Still have more cherries left?

Try these recipes:

Cherry Coconut Pudding Popsicles - vegan

Cherry Coconut Pudding Popsicles | Swirls and SpiceIngredients:

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh or frozen sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1 + 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk)
  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons pure honey
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch* or arrowroot flour

*cornstarch and sugar are not considered paleo-friendly

Directions:

  1. Whisk together salt, cornstarch, honey, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan.  Slowly whisk in cold coconut milk and cold almond milk.  Turn on heat to medium and bring the milks to a simmer, stirring constantly. Simmer for 7 to 9 minutes, until thickened.  Stir in extracts and remove from heat.  Transfer to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill pudding until cool, at least 45 minutes.
  2. Coarsely chop cherries and fold into cooled pudding.  Pour cherry coconut pudding into popsicle moulds and freeze until solid, about 3 hours or longer.  Serve frozen.

Inspired by People, Places & Plates.

 I’m sharing these at Savoring Saturdays and here.

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Touring Canada, Part 3: The Maritime Provinces

Some of our best Canadian friends hail from the maritimes, as do several of my husband’s favourite Canadian authors.  Such an easy connection with people who grew up so far away from us is both astonishing and intriguing.  Furthermore, we love seafood, and this stunning travelogue from Simple Bites gives evidence of how happy we would be to eat local catches fresh from the coastal waters.  For so many reasons, the Atlantic coast beckons us to fulfill our destiny and explore these tiny provinces to the east.

New Buns-wick Canada

NEW BUNS-WICK

Until three years ago, I knew next to nothing about New Brunswick–and the maritime provinces in general.  But then I met my friend Julie, who grew up there.  Between her stories and the wonders of the internet, I have learned a few things.

Molasses, I discovered, has a long heritage in the maritime provinces, owing to the trade routes that brought supplies to the early British settlers.  And now whenever I bake with molasses, I think of my good friend and imagine her mother and father’s table with a jar of molasses in the centre.

Recipes to Try:

PRAWNS EDWARD ISLAND

Like many of my contemporaries, my introduction to the beauty and serenity of Prince Edward Island came from the Anne of Green Gables movies.  What I’d like to see more of and taste in person is the fresh seafood!

Recipes to Try:

NOVA SCONE-IA

The Scottish influence on these Canadian isles is something I am keen to experience.  Scottish dancing and scones with tea would be two of my top picks.

Recipe to Try:

New-Flounder-Land

NEW FLOUNDER-LAND and LABRADOR

Starting with a time zone that’s 30 minutes different from the next province, Newfoundland and Labrador have a reputation for being different. I really want to see for myself if all the “Newfie” jokes I’ve heard from other Canadians are based in reality.

Recipes to Try:


I hope you’ve enjoyed my three-part tour of Canada.  If you haven’t explored the six other provinces with me yet, be sure to check out the western provinces in Part 1, and Ontario and Quebec in Part 2.  It’s been a pun journey!

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Touring Canada, Part 2: Ontario and Quebec

Welcome back to my grand Canadian tour!  If you missed Part 1, I hope you look back and find some delicious highlights from the western provinces, including Saskatchewan, which is my home for now.  This time we’re headed east, to the provinces where a majority of Canadians dwell.   Ontario I have been to in person, while Québec I have not…yet.  Let’s peek at what each province has to offer.

On-Cherry-O CanadaON-CHERRY-O

The Canada I knew first was found in rural northern Ontario, where my grandparents lived when I was a child.  Wild blueberry picking and my first fishing expeditions happened with my grandfather there–far from the bustle of cosmopolitan Toronto.

Though blueberry bush and roadside wild strawberries loom large in my childhood memories, stopping to explore farmers markets across the province would be a top priority.  The further south one goes in Ontario, the more likely it is to find local orchards that grow apples, peaches, plums and cherries.

Some day I would like to drive all the way across Ontario, starting at the Manitoba border, curving over the tops of the Great Lakes, stopping in Sioux Lookout for old time’s sake, and then continuing south and east toward Toronto.  After that, Ottowa would need to be explored before crossing into Québec next door.

Recipes to try:

QUÉ-BACONQue-Bacon Canada

Beyond knowing that a majority of people there speak French, I am still not well acquainted with the most populous province in Canada.  But I’ve been waiting and hoping to visit Québec for many years, eager to explore the architecture and the restaurants, as well as wishing to experience what it’s like to be immersed in a Francophone world.  I’ve discovered that I like poutine and tourtière in recent years; to have those signature Québecois dishes there and sample sweets from authentic pâtisseries would be amazing, je suis sûre.

Recipes to try:

I hope you’re join me again for part 3 of this series in the middle of the week.  We’ll explore the east coast as we conclude this food-centric Canadian tour on July 1.

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Touring Canada, Part 1: Pun Times in the West

To explore Canada from one coast all the way to the other one is of my great wishes.  Three years of living on the Saskatchewan prairie have only strengthened that thirst to roam across this vast, diverse nation.  After such a journey, I might even be able to correctly label all ten provinces on a map.

Provinces I Have Visited in Real Life (shown in colour)

Provinces I Have Visited in Real Life (shown in colour)

My first Canadian encounters were visiting my grandparents in Ontario when I was a child.  Later on, my parents brought my sister and I on a long but worthwhile road trip to British Columbia.  The majestic mountains of the Canadian Rockies and the charm of the gardens and architecture in Victoria remain etched in my memory.  I hope to return some day with my husband and children.

Besides Ontario and B.C., there are many other provinces I have never visited and know little about.  Not having grown up in Canada, I am a bit puzzled by how the provinces and territories are counted.  But I am still enjoying learning more about this country that my Swedish immigrant forebears came to call home.

Especially since I am leaving Saskatchewan in a couple of short weeks, I find myself wishing I could take a grand farewell tour.  However, it will have to be a virtual tour at this point.  Regrettably, my family and I will be too busy making our international move this summer to hit any more of our Canadian wish list destinations.

In the meantime, I have come up with a culinary depiction of each province, with puns intended. Inspiration for this series came from an offbeat project by Chris Durso to represent the 50 states with food.

For part one of my fond farewell, I bring you the western provinces of Canada, in pun form:

SASKATCHE-WON-TONSaskatchewan Wontons

Small-town Saskatchewanian culture been immortalized in a popular comedy series, which we were instructed to watch when we arrived.  That was very good advice.  Almost everything I needed to know and appreciate about Saskatchewan, I learned from Corner Gas.  We enjoyed the recent feature-length movie too.

In addition to Ukrainian and Scandanavian immigrants, there is also a legacy of Chinese immigrants here, dating back to the building of the railroads.  Before we leave Saskatchewan, I would like to tour the tunnels of Moose Jaw and learn more about the history of Chinese workers here.  For better Chinese food, however, we’ve learned that one usually has to dine in Regina or Saskatoon.

Spudnuts made in Saskatchewan

During our time in this province, we have gathered that desserts and sweets are the real pride and joy of prairie home cooks.   For example, we were treated to some amazing freshly made potato donuts (pictured above) one night at a weekend family camp in Strasbourg, Saskatchewan.

And here’s a potato donut recipe to try at home: a Spudnuts recipe from Home for Dinner.

Alberta Map

AL-BERRY-TA

Mountain grandeur taunts us next door, just a day’s drive away.  And all the Mexican restaurants in Calgary.  Plus the Albertans have a dinosaur museum.  Saskatoon berries can be found in all of the western provinces, which is yet another reason to explore the hiking trails of Alberta and beyond.

In the inset of the map above are my Canadian Butter Tarts with Saskatoon Berries and Rhubarb.

Recipes from Alberta:

British Colum-beer

 BRITISH COLUM-BEER

I married a craft beer snob, and one of his favourite Canadian ales was introduced to us by generous folks who hail from B.C., where great varieties of hops grow.  We need to go there as a family, perhaps when camping is not such a daunting prospect.   Trees and mountains attract us, as does the ocean.  I am afraid though, that once I eat at an Asian restaurant in Vancouver, I would never want to leave.  The dim sum, I have heard, is amazing.

Recipes from B.C.:

MANI-TOAST-AManitoba + Toast = Mani-toast-a

This province made me feel better about living in Saskatchewan.  Because it’s often just a little bit colder there.  But our neighbouring province does boast waterfront galore.  I see on the map that in addition to the shores of Hudson Bay, there are some mighty big inland lakes in Manitoba.  And most everyone likes toast, from the rugged outdoor enthusiasts to the Winnipeg city dwellers, right?

Recipes from Manitoba:

Have you ever been to western Canada?  Which province(s) would you like to visit?

I’m joining Fiesta Friday this week.

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Molasses Brown Bread Buns

Molasses adds a distinctive deep flavour and rich colour to these fresh buns based on traditional east coast brown bread.

Molasses Brown Bread Buns | Swirls and Spice

I asked a very good friend of mine from New Brunswick what typical maritime food is like.  Besides the obvious seafood specialties, freshly baked brown bread, she told me, was a staple that you would find quite often on the table.   And the inclusion of molasses in the bread and as a topping could not be stressed enough.  In fact, if she mentions to her father that she or someone in her family is tired or unwell, he makes a point of asking whether she is getting enough molasses.

Rich in iron, molasses is a healthy choice to sweeten bread.  And the darker the molasses, the more minerals it contains.  In Canadian grocery aisles, there are two types of molasses commonly available.  “Fancy molasses” is lighter and sweeter than “cooking molasses,” which has a stronger flavour and is richer in iron and calcium.  In the U.S., there are three grades of molasses–light, dark, and blackstrap, the third option being the most intensely flavoured and nutrient-dense.

Molasses Brown Bread Buns | Swirls and Spice

These brown bread buns have a rich molasses taste that will pair well with barbeque flavours and/or seafood.  Or you can slice them and make delicious sandwiches for lunch on-the-go.  They taste amazing with cream cheese (dairy or non-dairy); I plan to use these buns to make delicious cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for lunch this week!

Molasses Brown Bread Buns | Swirls and Spice

Molasses Brown Bread Buns

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 1/4 cup molasses (dark molasses for a more robust flavour, light molasses for milder taste)
  • 1/4 cup oil or butter
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar, optional
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used unbleached bread flour with 1 cup whole wheat flour)

Directions:

  1. Add boiling water to oats in a 2-cup bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Add molasses and or oil to oats.  Stir in salt, followed by maple syrup.  When oats are no longer hot but have cooled to lukewarm, add to the dissolved yeast.  Stir in flour, one cup at a time.  Knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth.  Gradually add small amounts of extra flour if necessary, so that the dough is soft but not sticky.
  2. Place dough in a large greased bowl.  Cover bowl loosely and let rise until double, about 60 minutes.Molasses Brown Bread Buns | Swirls and Spice
  3. Punch down dough and divide into 18 equal pieces.  Form pieces into round buns and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap or a damp tea towel.  Let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).  Uncover dough and bake buns for 20-24 minutes or until medium brown.
  5. Remove buns from oven and allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve warm with butter, or slice in half horizontally for sandwich buns.

Adapted from a vintage Atlantic Canadian cookbook recipe and Older Mommy, Still Yummy

I share recipes here.

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