Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens

Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens | Swirls and SpiceThe bacon wins.  Even non-fans of sweet potatoes will be bowled over by the savoury bacon flavour that permeates this simple dish.  It’s an easy main dish, a very hearty side dish, or a weekend breakfast option that is destined to triumph over any skeptics you might have in the house.Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens | Swirls and Spice

All you need are four simple ingredients. I happened to have bacon, sweet potatoes, spinach, and green onions on hand this week, and so I decided to go for it.  Not surprisingly, the whole family loved this skillet!  And I think you will too.  Just don’t expect leftovers.

Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens {Paleo}

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Time: 30 min
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Ingredients:Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens | Swirls and Spice

  • 4 to 5 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes
  • 9 to 12 slices of bacon (I prefer uncured natural bacon)
  • 4 to 5 cups loosely packed greens, such as spinach, swiss chard and/or arugala
  • 2 green onions, diced


  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat until mostly crisp.  Remove bacon from skillet and let cool.  Spoon out some of the bacon drippings until a layer of drippings covers the bottom of the skillet.  Reserve any extra drippings for another purpose.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet and fry over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the cubes with a spatula every few minutes.  When sweet potatoes are mostly cooked through, add fresh greens.  Break up cooled bacon into 1-inch (2-cm) pieces and stir into the skillet with the sweet potatoes and greens.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until greens are wilted.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in green onions.  Serve warm, straight from the skillet if you wish.

Sweet Potato Skillet with Bacon and Greens | Swirls and Spice

I share recipes here.


Spiced Peach Oat Bars

Made with simple pantry ingredients, these oat bars and their peachy goodness are entirely within reach all year round!Peach Spice Oat Bars | Swirls and SpiceFinding a juicy fresh peach is not an easy thing.  Last summer we struck out and were disappointed with the peaches available; I have craved good peaches ever since.  Thankfully, canned and frozen peaches make it possible to taste one of my favourite fruits any time of year.

Summery peaches bring the hope of sunshine to come.  Warm weather may still be months away, but ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon are aromatic pick-me-ups.  Colour is also something my eyes long for as the cold lingers on, which the peaches and carrot cheerfully offer (along with Vitamin A).

While I have yet to master the art of carrot cake, I love adding carrots to all sorts of things, like granola and hot cross buns.  The flavour is such a subtle accent that you probably won’t notice the carrot, which allows the peaches to take center stage.  These versatile bars work well as an afternoon snack or a simple dessert.  Or follow my lead and save some for breakfast!Peach Spice Oat Bars | Swirls and Spice

Spiced Peach Oat Bars {with gluten free option}

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 45 min plus cooling
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Peach Spice Oat Bars | Swirls and Spice

Base Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups quick and/or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup rice flour (or 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour if not gluten free)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar, raw sugar, or golden yellow (light brown) sugar
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil or unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated (3 Tablespoons), optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups canned peaches (one 400 mL can), drained and diced
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch (or 2 + 1/2 Tablespoons tapioca flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut palm sugar or golden yellow (light brown) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Whisk together oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spiced.  In a separate bowl, blend together coconut oil (or butter) and grated carrot, and then stir in vanilla.  Add carrot mixture to dry ingredients.  Use a fork and/or your fingertips to break apart the larger pieces and mix well, until even crumbles are formed.
  2.  Line the bottom of a 8-by-11-inch (20 cm x 28 cm) or 9-by-9-inch (22cm) square dish with baking parchment.  Press about two-thirds of the crumb mixture into the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 15 minutes or until light golden.
  3. To make the filling, combine diced peaches with cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Stir well and mash peaches lightly with a fork.  Add maple syrup or honey and sugar.  Turn on heat to medium low and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently.  Simmer and stir until thickened juice turns clear.  Remove filling from heat and stir in 1/8 teaspoon vanilla.
  4. Remove baking dish with oat base from oven to cool slightly.  Spread peach filling over the oat crust.  Top with remaining crumb mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 20 minutes or until topping is golden brown.  Allow the pan to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Spiced Peach Oat Bars | Swirls and SpiceI share recipes at Allergy Free Wednesdays, Gluten Free Wednesdays, and here.

Also shared at Natural Family Fridays and Savoring Saturdays.


Tang Yuan: Chinese Black Sesame Dumplings

Chinese Black Sesame Dumplings (Tang Yuan) | Swirls and Spice

My two years in China were full of delicious new discoveries.  Tang yuan was one of them.  After a two-week holiday trip to Thailand, I had just returned to the small city where I was living and working in northeast China.  I had missed the main celebration of Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival, as most Chinese call it), but was delighted when some Chinese colleagues invited me to celebrate the Lantern Festival with them.

This lesser-known celebration marks the 15th day of the lunar new year, around the time most people are returning to work after celebrating the new year with family.  There’s an ancient tale that goes along with why tang yuan are served, which you can read at the Gumdrop Button (and she tells the story well).  That very first taste of these sweet dumplings brought a smile to my face.

Glutinous Rice Flour

I happen to love sticky rice, which is what the flour for these dumplings is made of.  Though the flour is often called “glutinous rice flour,” it contains neither wheat nor gluten.  Also known as sweet rice flour, glutinous rice flour tastes wonderful in Asian desserts, where it may be steamed, fried, or in this case, boiled in ginger syrup.  These dumplings are chewy on the outside and delightfully different on the inside too, thanks to sweet black sesame paste.

Black Sesame Filled Sweet Dumplings

Although I have seen frozen tang yuan dumplings for sale in Asian supermarkets, this year I decided to attempt making them myself.  They turned out very much like I remembered. Yet the taste also made me wish to return to the place where I was first introduced to tang yuan and life in a foreign culture.  Much has changed in the years since I left, but once in a while I still find myself back on those dusty streets lined with ramshackle shops and student eateries–in my dreams.

Chinese Black Sesame Dumplings (Tang Yuan)| Swirls and Spice

Tang Yuan: Chinese Black Sesame Dumplings {GF}


For the Black Sesame Filling

  • 1/2 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coconut oil, softened
  • 2 teaspoons honey, optional
For the Dough
  • 1 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour)
For the Ginger Syrup
  • 3 medium slices of ginger
  • raw sugar (or rock sugar), to taste


  1. Grind the toasted sesame seeds in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender until they form a coarse paste.  Add the sugar and coconut oil and mix well.  If the mixture still seems very crumbly, 2 teaspoons of honey may be mixed in as well.  Chill the sesame mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Form the chilled sesame paste mixture into 16 small balls and gently place them on a plate lined with baking parchment or plastic wrap.  Freeze for 40 minutes or longer.
  3. To make the dough, mix the glutinous rice flour with 1/2 cup cold water.  Knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, adding more water by teaspoons as necessary.  Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and cover them until ready to handle.
  4. Take one piece out and coat lightly with glutinous rice flour.  Form dough into a round disc, and place a ball of frozen sesame filling in the centre.  Wrap the dough around the sesame ball and seal it to close.  No black sesame should be visible.  Continue the same process with the remaining dough and filling until all dumplings are formed.
  5. Prepare the ginger syrup by boiling 2.5 cups of water.  Add ginger slices and sweeten with raw sugar to taste (I used 3 tablespoons).  Boil for 5 minutes before adding the dumplings.  Continue to boil and stir the dumplings gently until they float to the top of the syrup and become translucent.
  6. Serve the cooked tang yuan in bowls with the sweet ginger syrup.

Recipe adapted from The Gumdrop Button 

I’m sharing this at Fiesta Friday, Savoring Saturdays, and here.


Tastes of Asia: 14 Lunar New Year Recipes {Gluten Free}

Lunar New Year Roundup 2015

Did you know that tomorrow is Lunar New Year’s Eve?  Before I went to China and Vietnam, I was mostly unaware of this major holiday.  Yet after spending seven years there, I now find myself wistful at this time of year, as I think of the friends, food, and festivities I left behind.  Thankfully, through Facebook, I am still in touch with some of the people I came to know and love during my time in Asia.

Authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food can be a little more difficult to find though.  To help in my quest, I have gathered of lots of tantalizing ideas on my Lunar New Year Celebration board from this year and last year!

This coming year is the year of the sheep on the lunar calendar.  In honour of the occasion, I have collected more fantastic Asian recipes to share this week.  These may just inspire you to try something new too!  What will it be?  Let’s take a look…

Savoury Category

Braised Abalone and Shiitake Mushrooms over Bok Choy | by the Piquey Eater1. Braised Abalone and Shiitake Mushrooms over Bok Choy by The Piquey Eater

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl | by The Taste Space2. Manchurian Chickpea Bowl (Vegan) by the Taste Space

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms | by the Taste Space3. Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae) by the Taste Space

Ginger-Garlic Green Beans | by Within the Kitchen4. Ginger-Garlic Green Beans by Within the Kitchen

Honey Garlic Eggplant | by Relish the Bite5. Honey Garlic Eggplant by Relish the Bite

Pan-Fried Noodles with Baby Corn Manchurian | by Relish the Bite6. Pan-Fried Noodles with Baby Corn Manchurian by Relish the Bite

Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls | by Within the Kitchen7. Chicken Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce by Within the Kitchen

Cleansing Ramen Soup | by Food Well Said 8. Cleansing Ramen Soup by Food Well Said

Chicken Satay Noodle Bowl by In Search of Yummy-ness9. Chicken Satay Noodle Bowl by In Search of Yummy-ness

Quinoa Fried "Rice" | by In the Wild Kitchen10. Quinoa Fried “Rice” by In the Wild Kitchen

Chicken Fried Rice Noodles with Black Bean Sauce | by Life Made Sweeter11. Chicken Fried Noodles with Black Bean Sauce  by Life Made Sweeter

Inside Out Potstickers12. Inside Out Potstickers by Swirls and Spice

Sweet Category

Sticky Rice Cakes with Banana13. Sesame Sticky Rice Cakes with Banana by Swirls and Spice

Gluten-Free Peanut Cookies by Helene14. Gluten-Free Peanut Cookies (Fah Sang Peng) by Helene

So can you guess which country each dish might represent?  Chime in via the comments and we’ll see what the consensus is!Happy New Year Banner

I like to link up at Allergy Free Wednesdays, Gluten Free Wednesdays, and here.

Also shared at Savoring Saturdays.


Chocolate Buttercream Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches {GF}

Chocolate Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches {GF} Truly, truly, homemade cookies are the best.  And peanut butter makes them too good to resist.

Chocolate Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches {GF}These little cookie sandwiches are my Mardi Gras indulgence.  And they are held together with my Chocolate Peanut Butter Lentil Frosting.  Because leftover frosting prompted me to make cookies–specifically peanut butter cookies.

Peanut butter and coconut are go-to items that I eat all the time.  I spread peanut butter on bread and sprinkle it with coconut for a protein-rich anytime snack.  Or I swirl the two of them into my morning oatmeal.  And when peanut butter and coconut are fused together in cookies that are sandwiched together with chocolate frosting? We have a definite winner.

Chocolate Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches {GF}

  • Servings: 18
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar OR brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened fine coconut flakes, plus more for rolling
  • 2/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Lentil Buttercream Frosting


  1. Mix together 1/2 cup coconut flakes, oat flour, and baking soda.  Stir in peanut butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until an evenly mixed dough forms.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 C).  Scoop out rounded teaspoons of cookie dough and shape into round balls.  Roll in additional coconut flakes if desired, or leave plain.  Use the back of a fork to press dough balls flat onto a baking sheet (lined with parchment).
  3. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes until bottoms turn golden.  Let cookies cool for 1 minute on the tray.  Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.  Cool completely.
  4. Spread the bottom of one cookie with Chocolate Peanut Butter Lentil Buttercream Frosting.  Add another cookie to make a sandwich.  Repeat until all sandwiches are assembled.

Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches with Chocolate Filling | Swirls and SpiceI share recipes at Allergy Free WednesdaysGluten Free Wednesdays, and here.

Also shared at Savoring Saturdays.


Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles | Swirls and Spice I adore fresh bread.  A restaurant can draw me in just by serving fabulous bread before my main meal arrives.  Having warm and flavourful bread to start a meal or round out a buffet table is a treat at home too.  For as much as my family enjoys fresh bread sticks made from scratch, I don’t always get around to making a batch because of the rising time.  A quick-rise dough leavened with baking powder makes a handy alternative to yeast dough.  Inspired by this idea for savoury waffles, I decided to make some better-for-you pizza waffles using whole wheat flour and nutrient-dense lentils!

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffle | Swirls and Spice

These waffles are packed with pesto flavour and are also super quick to cook in the waffle iron.  In about 30 minutes you can make a crispy, delicious appetizer that goes well with any Italian entrée you can think of.  These pizza waffles will also make a great packed lunch the next day.  I made some waffles with cheese, and some without.  Both versions were fantastic and full of Italian flavour!   So those of you who eat dairy-free or vegan can still enjoy the waffles as much as everyone else.

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles with Cheese | Swirls and Spice

You may have noticed that I am a big fan of lentils.  These waffles are so delicious that I will be entering them in the 2015 Canadian Lentils recipe contest as well, this time in the appetizer category.

If you’d like to see more amazing lentil recipes, head to the 2015 Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge board on Pinterest.

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles | Swirls and Spice

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles

  • Servings: 24 waffle quarters
  • Time: 30 min
  • Print


  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 Tablespoon honey or brown rice syrup
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter or margarine, cut into small cubes
  • 2/3 cup lentil purée
  • 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 3 Tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives, optional
  • 8 slices of mozzarella cheese, about 2 cm by 2 cm, optional
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, for dipping


  1. Whisk together flours, baking powder and garlic salt.  Blend with pieces of cold butter, using your fingertips, a pastry blender or a food processor, until even crumbs form.
  2. Whisk together lentil puree with honey (or syrup) and milk.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient mixture and stir together until a dough forms.  Do not over mix.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form into round biscuit shapes with your hands.
  3. Preheat a waffle iron.  Use a sharp knife to cut a deep slit and form a pocket in each round of dough.  Fill with 1 teaspoon pesto, 3 to 4 olive slices, and cheese, if using.  Seal the open edge of the dough.stuffed-lentil-dough
  4. Into the greased waffle iron, place the filled dough in the center of the iron.  Close the lid slowly.  Cook until golden brown and the middle of each pizza waffle is cooked through.  Keep warm.  Serve with marinara dipping sauce. Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffle | Swirls and Spice

Lentil Pesto Pizza Waffles | Swirls and Spice

I’m also bringing my recipe to Fiesta Friday, Savoring Saturdays, and here.


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