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Mexican Compost Cookie Bars

who wouldn't want a cookie with some Bugels on top??
One of my favourite cookies is my Compost Cookie Bar  - I used to make Compost Cookie Bars for the kiddies when The Kid was at his Magical Unicorn School, using fun junk like Cap'n Crunch, caramel corn, Bugels, candy canes. I was very popular at his school.

I needed a dessert to serve with Chili Verde, Vegan Jackfruit Pozole and a Beet and Roasted Fennel Salad with Pepita Crema for a drop in dinner at The Depanneur. I guess I could have gone the more traditional Mexican cookie route but where's the fun in that?

Green & Black had sent me a few bars of their Organic Maya Gold  to play around with and , after tasting it, I knew it would make the perfect base for Mexican Compost Cookie Bars. The 60% dark chocolate bar's flavours are taken from a traditional Mayan drink from Belize so it's full of nutmeg, cinnamon and orange - a love match with salty, porky, chicharron.

When i say CHOCOLATE! 
You say PORK RINDS! 

When i say CHOCOLATE! 
You say PORK . . RINDS! 

I went to my favourite Mexican grocery store and bought a whack of Mexican junk food and a bag of freshly made pork rinds and came home to play. Not everything worked in the cookie so it took a few tries before I got the combination I liked but it's really personal so you should have some fun with it. In the end I settled on the pork rinds, salted tortilla chips, Choco Krispis, some weird Japanese style candied nuts and Pipoca Vovozinha. I thought that last thing was going to be popcorn but it turned out to be sweet, popped hominy. You just want to make sure there is a good balance of sweet to salty with plenty of crunch and you will be good.

Oh, and I am happy to report that the cookies sold out, proving, once again, that pork rinds are always a good call.

*Again, I received a few bars of Green and Black's Maya Gold to play with but no further compensation. I apologize for the absence of better photos of the finished cookies but they sold so fast that we are all lucky that I got any photos at all.

Mexican Compost Cookie Bars

makes 1 9'x13" pan

Cookie Base

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


approx 170g or 1 1/2 cups chopped Dark Chocolate (I used Green & Black's Maya Gold)

1 1/2 cups add ins:

I used a combination of sweet popped hominy, salted/roasted pumpkin seeds, Choco Krispis, chicharron, salted tortilla chips and candied peanuts


Put your rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375F

Line a 13x9x2" metal or glass baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to form handles that you will use to pull the cookie out with after it cools. I put a couple of small dots of butter on all four corners before laying down the parchment to sort of glue the paper in place.

Beat 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter for 3 minutes in your stand mixer at medium speed. Add both sugars and salt and beat for another three minutes. Throw in the vanilla and then start to slowly add in the flour, mixing until it's all fully incorporated and you get a sticky, wet dough.

Scrape the dough into your paper lined pan and use your fingers to pat the dough out, spread evenly over the entire bottom of the pan. I had a little bowl of flour sitting close by so I could flour my finger tips and I patted and spread the dough - it's pretty sticky.

Put the cookie base in the oven and bake it for 22 minutes. Remove it and scatter the chocolate as evenly as you can, covering the entire surface of the hot cookie.  (you can make the cookie base up to a couple of days ahead and store it at room temp until this step)

While your base is cooking, get your toppings together . Make sure to chop or crush everything up into small chunks, mix them up in a bowl and set aside.

Put it back in the 375F oven for 2 minutes, take it out and use a spatula to spread the chocolate around so that every nook and cranny of the cookie base is covered with chocolate.

Scatter your toppings all over the cookie base and press lightly into the chocolate. 

Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing the cookie using the parchment paper overhang as handles. Let the whole thing cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before cutting it into squares. Because these are pretty rich, I cut them into smallish squares and I got about 25 or so out of one pan.

Journey to the Perfect Pressure Cooker Poached Egg

Okay, it's egg time. Well, it's always egg time around here since The Kid eats them almost every morning for breakfast, let's be honest. I love a good poached egg but what I don't love is a watery egg with wiggly whites sitting in a watery bowl. Blech.

How to Make Protein Banyama Muffins as Fierce as Ru Paul

Because I love a challenge, I agreed to accept a giant vat of BioSteel Whey Protein Isolate, which is their brand name for protein powder, in order to come up with some tasty, protein rich recipes. Protein powder is not just for body builders and NHL hockey players, you know. It can be a godsend for people who need more protein and moms trying to sneak a bit into their picky kid's diet but the problem lies in the quality of the protein powders that are out there. Many other powders can contain stuff like processed soy, artificial flavours and sweeteners, fake colour and synthetic nutrients that are not all that easily absorbed by our bodies. BioSteel was developed by NHL trainer, Matt Nichol, who was sure he could do better and BioSteel was born. If it's good enough for Mats Sundin, it's good enough for me.

The classic way for mere mortals to use it is to throw some into a morning smoothie but that can get boring and not everyone likes smoothies so that's where I come in.

Now, there is no shortage of super healthy, no wheat, no sugar, no gluten protein muffins and cookies and pancakes out there and , frankly, they don't appeal to me at all. If you know me at all, you know that I am all about whole foods but MY whole food diet includes flour, butter, pork and sugar. My challenge was to make a delicious, wholesome enough but delicious treat that would be a joy to eat. Put too much whey powder in a recipe and the texture gets dry and weird and too little makes me wonder why I would bother?

I turned to one of my favourite muffin recipes, my crunchy banyama muffin because all that sweet potato and banana results in a muffin that is already really moist and forgiving.

#DrinkThePink when you've had a bit to drink

Although it's not something that BioSteel brags about, their sports drink might or not be amazing the morning after, say, an evening of revelry. We keep the concentrate on hand and carbonate it in our SodaStream. This electrolyte supplement meets all the right needs: It's gluten free, vegan and diabetic friendly, sugar, lactose and caffeine free and it gets it pink colour from beet powder, unlike all of the other sports drinks out there. Instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners, BioSteel uses Stevia, a plant derived sweetener that the people in Paraguay and Brazil have been using to sweeten their food for hundreds of years.

I was given some free product in order to develop recipes but was not compensated further. I was already a fan of BioSteel sports drink 

Protein Banyama Muffins

makes approx 18 muffins

1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato 
3 smallish or 2 large bananas, mashed
1 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tbls milk
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, unsifted
1/4 cup + 2 tbls Vanilla BioSteel (whey protein powder)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a couple of muffin tins - I get about 20 muffins out of this recipe. You can use paper liners or spray the trays with spray oil.

I pre-cooked the sweet potatoes in the pressure cooker. You can bake,steam or boil, mash and cool

Mix together the mashed sweet potato, mashed banana, sugar, oil, milk and eggs in a large bowl. Stir it until all the ingredients are completely mixed. In another bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt before adding those dry ingredients to the wet. Stir the flour mixture in JUST enough to blend it fairly well - if there are still a few spots where the flour isn't wet yet, that's okay. 

Combine the nuts and seeds in a small bowl and pour in 3/4 of the nuts/seeds and just give it a few more turns. Over mixing the batter can lead to a tough muffin.Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full and sprinkle each with a bit of the nuts/seeds, pop the tins in the middle of your oven and cook for 18 to 20 minutes. Check at the 18 minute mark with a toothpick or a skewer - the skewer should come out clean and the tops will just be starting to brown up.Let them cool in the pan for about 5 or 10 minutes before you take them out and let cool to room temp on a wire cooling rack. Store, covered, at room temperature. They also freeze really well.

Why The World Is A Better Place Because Pressure Cooker Rigatoni With Meat Sauce Exists

Okay my people, the Instant Pot adventure continues. If you love to cook but live under a rock, the Instant Pot is a 7 in 1 electric pressure cooker that also serves as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker and more and it is taking the world by storm by the look of it. I was given one to try out and review and I love it so much that I just bought a second one (it came last night!) and I am going to start teaching pressure cooking classes in Toronto with them. You could say I am obsessed.

How Pressure Cooking Sumac Chicken with Lentils Will Make You A Better Lover

Okay, maybe it didn't make me a better lover but it certainly didn't make me any worse!
Last week I made this chicken stew with beluga lentils  and it was so delicious and so easy that I am now on a mission to see how many variations I can come up with. I want to keep it from being boring and maintain the versatility that enables a dish like this to be added to the regular rotation. As I said before, this recipe is more of a template than a buttoned down recipe, allowing you to throw in what you have - the main ingredients being chicken and either brown, green or black lentils - the softer red and yellow will fall apart and turn into mush. I don't think I mentioned it before, but the basic idea for combining lentils and chicken thighs came from Serious Eats. It was one of the first recipes I read when I was first researching ideas for my new pressure cooker.

Got An Hour? Then You Have Time To Make Chili In a Pressure Cooker

I have been having more adventures with my Instant Pot this week - this chili, a tomato based meat sauce for pasta and another chicken and lentil stew.

Easy Chicken and Beluga Lentils in the Pressure Cooker

Okay, I don't do New Year resolutions, for the most part but I am kind of making one anyway. Due to high level adulting that my life has required over the last 6 months, I have not been cooking enough. It's gotten to the point where our waitress worries about us if we haven't been to the pub in a couple of nights and that is just kind of sad, seeing that cooking is kind of what I am supposed to do over here.

Scotch Eggs, Take 1

Wanting to make a special treat for our wonderful friends, The Neighbours, I wracked my brains for a week. They are both really good cooks so I can't easily wow them but I recalled that the topic of scotch eggs had come up more than once over the holidays. They both have fond memories of his mother's scotch eggs so there is a sentimental attachment, making them the perfect dish to bid goodbye to one year and usher in the new.

Beets, Roasted Fennel with Pepita Crema

It's a new year and I am starting to book some new, exciting events and classes. First up will be another Drop in Dinner at The Deppaneur here in Toronto on Friday, January 22 starting at 6pm. I will be serving this salad with either a delicious Pork Chili Verde or my vegan Jackfruit Pozole , some Agua de Jamaica to wash it down and Mexicanish Compost Cookies for dessert.

I made the salad that this was inspired by and it was delicious but some things just didn't work for me so I made some changes and tinkered with it and came up with this variation. Don't get me wrong, Rick Bayless's version was delicious but the dressing was thicker than I wanted and I found that the addition of orange juice brightened it up (and I thinned it out a bit too).

So, you can make this yourself OR you can come to the Deppaneur, say hi and let me make it for you. 

Beets, Roasted Fennel and Oranges with Pepita Crema

adapted from Rick Bayless


Pepita Crema:
3 tbls toasted, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
2 tbls fresh orange juice
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbls pumpkin seed oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 to 1 whole seeded jalapeno, quartered
1 tbls honey
1/2 tsp salt

*1 lb cooked beets (I used half red and half yellow)
1 head fennel
glug of olive oil
1 orange, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup cojita cheese, crumbled
another 1/4 cup of pepitas (1 tbls per serving)


Preheat the oven to 400F

Cut the top of the fennel off and cut the bulb in half. Cut out most of the core on each half and then slice both up into 1" wedges. Reserve the feathery leaves from the stalks to scatter over the top of the salad and I keep the rest for soup stock.

Toss the fennel in a bowl with a glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and then lay them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes before turning them and cook for another 15 or 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them after you turn them so that they don't shrivel up and burn - you want them nicely caramelized with brown spots but still soft and not burnt. When they are done, set aside.

You can roast the beets (about an hour in the same oven as the fennel, wrapped in a foil pouch and when fork tender, run them under cold tap water and rub the skins off), you can steam them OR, like me, you can cook them in a pressure cooker ( I used the new love of my life, my Instant Pot) by placing them on the trivet set over 1 cup of water and then cooked at high pressure for about 15 minutes for small beets or about 25 minutes if they are large and let the pressure release naturally. If they aren't quite tender after the time is up, try another 5 minutes.  You can also cut them in half if they are huge but I like to keep them whole if I can so they don't bleed all over the damned place. When you have cooked, peeled beets you can then slice them into wedges and put them aside.

To make the Pepita Crema:

Put the pumpkin seeds, lime and orange juice in a blender.
Heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat and throw in the whole, peeled garlic cloves and the hot pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 4 or 5 minutes until the garlic is getting brown.
Take the pan off of the heat for a couple of minutes and then scrape the contents of the pan as well as 2 tbls of pumpkin seed oil into the blender.
Add the honey and salt and process until it's smooth. It should be on the thicker side but able to dribble off of a spoon.

Arrange your beets, fennel and orange slices on four to six small plates and drizzle with the pepita crema, scatter some cojita over the top and finish with about a tbls of toasted pepitas.

Turkey Scotch Broth is a Snap In The Instant Pot

I love me some turkey scotch broth almost as much as I love a big turkey dinner. I have shared my usual method for making soup after turkey dinner here , but, as much as I love it, what I HATE about making it is the process. I either have to find room in my fridge for the turkey carcass or I'm forced to make stock right after dinner. Once I clean up the disaster in the kitchen (my kitchen looks like a tornado went through it after a turkey dinner) and let it simmer for a few hours it's way past this woman's bed time. But that's not the end either because I have to stay awake long enough to let it cool down sufficiently to refrigerate it only to find that there is no room for it in there anyway. All that and I still have to make the actual soup!

No wonder people buy Campbell's and call it a day.

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