Cherry Tomatoes Fresh From the Garden

Cherry Tomatoes Fresh From the Garden
How lucky am I to get baskets full of cherry tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden every year!

Cherry tomatoes come in so many varieties and colors, and can range from tiny and round, to oblong, and as large as golf balls!

Not only are they high in antioxidants, they help lower cholesterol. And, they’re absolutely delicious – little bursts of fresh tomato flavor.

Check back soon for some scrumptious cherry tomato recipes!

Coconut Palm Sugar – Product Review

Coconut Palm Sugar
I heard about coconut palm sugar a while back but it wasn’t until I saw the product on Dr. Oz that I took an interest.

Being a dessert lover, of course I’m concerned about the amount of sugar my family consumes, so I was really excited to try coconut palm sugar. This sugar is also known as coconut sugar and is produced from the sap of flower buds from a coconut palm. It’s been around for thousands of years but we seem to be hearing about it more often, perhaps as we take a vested interest in our health and the foods we consume.

Coconut palm sugar is more commonly available as a granule, much like turbinado sugar, only darker in color.   Here are some benefits of coconut palm sugar:

  • Is considered safe for diabetics (please see disclaimer below)
  • Can help stabilize glucose levels
  • Rates low on the glycemic index
  • Very high in mineral content

The taste is similar to brown sugar with caramel overtones.  It can be used in place of regular sugar at a 1:1 ratio, and in my testing, it did very well except when caramelizing crème brulee, where white sugar would already be the best choice.

Coconut Palm Sugar

There are a lot of brands on the market so the choices can be overwhelming. What I like about this one from Xylitol Canada is that it is certified organic and available at a great price, even better when purchased in bulk.

It was not a difficult transition for us and we barely tasted any difference in our morning tea and coffee.  We used the exact same amount that we normally did with regular sugar or turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw).  The only problem we encountered was when we ran out and went back to regular white sugar.  It tasted soooo sweet!!!  We immediately purchased more coconut palm sugar; this time in bulk!

Coconut Palm Sugar from Xylitol Canada

Purchase Coconut Palm Sugar online or find store listings

You can also purchase products from their location (call ahead of time):

Xylitol Canada
160 Davenport Road
Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1J2
Telephone: 416-288-1019

Note:
Keep in mind that coconut palm sugar is still a sugar, and should be used sparingly.

Disclaimer:
This review is based solely on my usage of the above product. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before starting any supplementation or use of products that may conflict with your medications, or if you have any health concerns.

Disclosure:
Product is courtesy of Xylitol Canada. This is not a paid advertisement.

Peach Pie vs. Peach Crostata

Peach Crostata

Who doesn’t love pie? Our all-time favorites are apple and coconut, with blueberry and peach not far behind. In our region, peaches are at their peak in June, July, August and September.

Peeling peaches sounds like a lot of work but here’s an easy way to peel peaches.  Cut an X on the bottom of each peach and carefully lower them in simmering water for 30-40 seconds.  Remove peaches with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of iced water.  They should peel off easily, or with the back of a spoon if necessary (start at the X).   And, the boiling water will take care of any nasty pesticides!

how to peel peaches

I’ve made pies with a traditional double crust (my favorite), lattice crust or as a crostata (H’s favorite). I find the latter to be much easier! There is no difference between a crostata, which is an Italian baked tart or free-pie, and a galette which is the French term. They also range from savory to sweet and I’ve also seen them referred to as flat pies.  In any event, they’re all delicious!!

When making crostatas, the method is to place a rolled out pie dough on a rimmed baking sheet, place filling in the middle and fold the sides over. I find the filling tends to ooze out despite all the trouble shooting steps I could find. I’m left with all that delicious fresh fruit filling making a puddle “around” the crostata!

My solution which is so much better and way easier is to place the pie dough on a pie plate, pile the fruit filling in the middle and just fold the edges over! Don’t worry about perfecting this; it’s supposed to be rustic. Just be sure to go around the crostata and pinch any openings close (don’t forget this step), apply an egg wash, place on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and in the oven it goes!! Amazing!!!

Peach Crostata

Let’s get to the recipe … I searched high and low for one that would draw oohs and ahhs! Most recipes call for a lot of sugar, up to 1 cup. I always reduce the sugar because I want to taste pure fruit. And, no pie is complete without ice cream so there really isn’t any need for all that sweetness!

I experimented 3 times before I was satisfied, and the results are impressive … just saying! The peaches were bursting with flavor, with just the right amount of sugar and spices. The crust was flaky, tender and buttery!

Peach Crostata

This crostata was just taken out of the oven.  You might even see the juices still bubbling away!  I wish you could smell and taste it too!

Peach Crostata

I hope you’ll try this scrumptious peach crostata (or as a pie)! Either way, you’ll definitely crave a second piece!

Peach Pie or Peach Crostata

Adapted from epicurious.com

My Favorite Pie Crust Recipe (using a food processor) from canadianliving.com

Use 1 pie crust for a crostata or 2 for a traditional pie

Peach Filling

  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups peeled and sliced firm ripe peaches (about 8-10). You don’t have to be precise about the amount!
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, potato starch or flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg or grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg beaten with small amount of milk or cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F
  2. Place fresh lemon juice in a large bowl. Add peach slices and toss to combine
  3. In another bowl, whisk sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch (or potato starch or flour), cinnamon, nutmeg and salt (make sure it is lump free). Sprinkle over peach slices and mix gently. Set aside
  4. Roll out pie dough and place on a 9” pie plate
  5. Pour peach filling over pie shell and dot with unsalted butter
    For crostata: gently fold overhanging pie dough over the filling. Double check for any cracks. If there are, gently pinch and fix (this will help keep the juices in)
    For double pie crust: Place second rolled pie dough over peach slices and crimp/decorate as you would a regular pie. Make sure there are some slits or holes on the top to allow steam to escape
  6. Brush egg wash evenly over pie crust (not on the filling)
  7. Place pie on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper (don’t skip this step or you’ll have a mess to clean up)
  8. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 375°F and bake until pie crust is brown and peach filling is bubbly (approximately 30 – 35 minutes) depending on your oven temperature.  If your pie crust is getting too browned, cover loosely with foil
  9. Let pie cool before serving (if you can wait that long), to allow juices to settle, or you will have a runny pie!

Kitchen notes:

  • If you have a lot of juices from your peach filling, just scoop the peaches onto the pie dough, do not add the remaining juices, it will cause the pie/crostata to overflow and become too wet and soggy.  I find this happens when the peaches are too ripe
  • If you really crave a sweeter pie/crostata, add additional 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp brown sugar

Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

I must have at least a dozen pancake recipes in my ever-growing collection! I’ve tried quite a few, including IHOP’s recipe, which produced thin pancakes. Other recipes included ricotta cheese, sour cream, evaporated milk, large amounts of eggs, whole wheat flour, and so on!

I fondly recall my sister making thin griddle-like pancakes from a carton that was already pre-mixed with liquids. Just shake and pour! I think the brand was Aunt Jemima, and at the time, I thought they were the best pancakes ever!! Mind you I was about 10 years old!  My friend loves “Batter Blaster;” the concept being batter in an aerosol can! How creative is that?  What about the popular pancake mixes?  Just add water! Heck, this is what I grew up on, but homemade pancakes are not that difficult and sooooo much better. Plus, you know exactly what the ingredients are (not names that you can barely pronounce)!

So, thin vs. tall and fluffy? We prefer tall and fluffy! What I don’t crave are heavy, dense and chewy pancakes! This happens when the batter is overmixed. Like muffins, you need a gentle touch. You don’t want a smooth batter, lumps are good! Other times, it’s the recipe itself. In my opinion, and from experience, too much whole wheat flour results in heavy and dense pancakes. That’s why I’m so happy with this recipe from Food Network magazine. There is a small amount of whole wheat flour in the batter, but you can barely detect it, and the pancakes are light and fluffy!

On to toppings – while I’ve tried sprinkling blueberries or chocolate chips on the batter while the pancakes are cooking, I always end up with a messy frying pan, and the toppings tend to burn. I’ve tried dotting the blueberries or chocolate chips with melted butter, which helps (before flipping), but I don’t want any added fat, and I personally prefer fresh fruit on the side.

I also like that this recipe can produce tall and fluffy pancakes, or thinner ones. For the latter, simply pour your batter onto a greased large frying pan and use the back of a spoon to flatten them out.

You should cook pancakes at medium low to medium heat and flip only once. If you cook them at a higher temperature, they will brown and have a burnt taste, and the insides will be gooey and undercooked. Lesson learned!

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes approximately 8 medium or 12 small pancakes
Adapted from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar (How to test cream of tartar for freshness)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (How to test baking soda for freshness)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  •  2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Canola oil or melted unsalted butter for the skillet
  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (first 7 ingredients)
  2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk until foamy, add melted butter and pure vanilla extract, whisk again
  3. Add liquids to the flour mixture and gently fold until just combined. (The batter will be thick and have some small lumps).  You don’t want the batter to be smooth
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat (do not add batter to a cold skillet) and lightly brush with canola oil or melted unsalted butter
  5. Drop a heaping 1/4 cupful of batter on the skillet for each pancake and use the back of a spoon to spread batter out (if you want tall pancakes, omit this step)
  6. Cook until bubbles form on the edges of the pancake and then flip over (you can also gently life the pancake to see how brown they are).  You should only flip once!  Pancakes are done when they are golden brown

Kitchen notes:

  • If pancakes are cooking too fast and getting more burnt than golden brown, you need to turn the temperature down
  • I’ve tried canola and coconut oil instead of unsalted butter, and while the result was ok, the flavor was quite bland. Unsalted butter is truly best in this recipe
  • Serve with pure maple syrup and fresh berries (we love bananas, strawberries and blueberries)