Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Cinnamon-Honey Raisin Bagels

Cinnamon-Honey Raisin Bagels are all the best parts of childhood in a chewy, perfectly toastable whole grain package. Smeared with cream cheese, butter or your favorite jam, you can't go wrong!
 
 
My family used to have a ritual when us kids were in school: at least once a month, the four of us would pile into the car and head to the bagel shop for a baker's dozen of goodies: my sister and I would each choose four of our favourites, and mom and dad would pick the other five. When it came to my sister, she rotated between three favourites: chocolate chip, plain, and cinnamon raisin. I have to admit, the cinnamon raisin bagels were incredible toasted with butter, and if they were out of sourdough (my fave), they were second on my list!
 
 
So it made me smile when my sister came to me asking for a whole grain version of her old favourites to take with her to work. I added in a squeeze of honey to accent the whole wheat and raisin flavour, and (as all bagels should be) I boiled them in honey water for an extra bump of flavour and shine. While I don't have a wood burning oven a la the Montreal style bagels I love, I did bake these on a baking stone which gave them an awesome, blistery texture.
 
Cooled and sliced, they were frozen on a tray for a quick grab in the morning - they would thaw by lunch and be ready for margarine or peanut butter!


The Bread Bakers Event for July 2021 is Favorite Breads, be sure to check out all the favorites baked this week!
BreadBakers
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rhubarb Snacking Cake

A simple, yet delicious snack cake is packed with homegrown rhubarb and topped with a sprinkling of sugar for extra sparkle! 
 

My stepdad harvested a huge bunch of rhubarb from his garden the other day and gave it to me to cook with. Normally my rhubarb goes into either pie or preserves, but since I had no patience for pastry and I was not about to haul out the canner I started browsing around for a different option that would still fit the summer vibe. I came across a great looking cake recipe from
A Veg Taste from A to Z and with a few substitutions I had everything on hand, so I set to it!
 
What I love about this cake is that it's a perfect mix of scone and cake, slightly muffiny and just the right amount of sweetness. The small amount of oats lent a nutty flavour to the batter and a tiny sprinkle of sugar on top added a delicate crunch and sparkle. The best part is that it is fast to whip up, the slowest part is chopping the rhubarb. The speed is especially quick if you're using weight to measure, since there are no measuring cups needed! 
 
Once the cake is cool, it can be wrapped in foil and frozen for later or kept wrapped in the fridge for up to 5 days. We served it with vanilla ice cream at a barbeque and it was a hit! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Chocolate Centred Wowbutter Wafers

These rich and nutty cookies are completely #peanutfree - surprise! They get their flavour from a dose of @wow_butter and the sweetness is offset by a bittersweet chocolate centre.


I'm going to admit it, I made these cookies ages ago - like 2019 ages ago. 2020 was a total writeoff year, as was most of this year - so I'm getting around to my ye olde posts!

At any rate, these cookies are the quintessential combination of perfection for me - nuttiness, sweetness and chocolate all in a chewy bite. Because these are so simple though, the quality of ingredients - particularly the chocolate - is paramount! I used WowButter to make these nut free for guests, but you can use any nut or seed spread you wish! Store in an airtight container up to a week (if they last that long, that is!).

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Nostalgic Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - Toast Topper #92

Can you capture nostalgia in a jar? This Strawberry Rhubarb Jam tastes exactly how I remember my grandma's to be - and it should since its only 3 ingredients, time and heat! Simple is often the best!
 

For once, our rhubarb and the local strawberries managed to peak at the same time! I love this time of year when everything is fresh and bright - and nothing reminds me more of one particular childhood summer than strawberry rhubarb jam. I'm sure my paternal grandmother made it more than once, but there is a definite memory of a summer when I was about 10 or so where we visited a community garden and farm stall prior to me helping her make dill pickles and strawberry rhubarb freezer jam. I used to swear I hated rhubarb too - what kid would like this sour / bitter vegetable of all things? But her jam convinced me that it was possible to make it taste good with enough sugar and strawberries added in!

I came across a recipe similar to my grandma's on Food52 and decided to give it a go with a few other tricks I had from an old church cookbook, namely freezing the strawberries, rhubarb and a tiny bit of sugar first before completing the maceration. I'm not entirely sure what this does to be honest, except draw out extra liquid and leaving the berries and rhubarb a bit more chunky. Whatever it did or didn't do, this recipe is a keeper - it's perfect for a small glut of strawberries or when you only have a few jam lovers in the house (shocker, I know).

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Chocolate Chip Date Muffins

These muffins are the perfect example of an accident gone right! I totally forgot the sugar in my Chocolate Chip Date Muffins, but thankfully the @nakednutrition Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry along with the chocolate and fruit more than made up for it! Not super sweet, they are a fantastic breakfast item (yes, chocolate is a breakfast food!)
 

One of my classic sayings as a teacher was always "I can't expect perfection because I am not perfect". It is a pretty good life lesson to live by, if I'm being honest! In the kitchen, I kind of pride myself in turning mistakes into (at least) tasty treats, if the mistake itself isn't to my satisfaction. Then again, sometimes I'll make an error (usually while distracted - I have an infamous "shiny" complex) and the result is exactly what I was going for!
 
This was definitely the case with these muffins - I had planned to make a batch of chocolate chip and date muffins for N to take home a few weeks ago, but in the mist of talking with him, watching clips of CSI on the TV and cleaning as I went, I wound up forgetting all the sugar listed in the original recipe until they were in the oven. As the time ticked by, I fretted - would they be bland? Hard as rocks? Worthy only as slingshot ammunition? Sugar, after all, doesn't only provide sweetness but a certain hygroscopic bonus that keeps baked goods moist. In the middle of my apologizing profusely, N reached over and grabbed a freshly cooled muffin, took a bite and went, "if you left out the sugar, do it again. These are good!" Okay then. Point taken! 

Thinking back, I figured it was the sweetness from the Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder, the dates and the chocolate that gave the muffins enough of an edge to not be "bland". The oats do need a little bit of time to soak up the liquid so I noted that in the directions. If you don't have the specific shake powder, any vanilla protein shake powder or a peanut butter protein shake powder would work perfectly fine. Just don't use an unflavoured, unsweetened one!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Casino Cuisine: World’s Finest Casino Restaurants

In the past, casino dining most often meant all-you-can-eat buffets. Today, many casinos have partnered with world-famous chefs or have developed incredible dining experiences that become highly desired destinations on their own. And while online casinos are ever-increasingly popular, land-based establishments offer additional value through amenities like art collections, golf courses and fine restaurants. Despite the different advantages of an online casino such as Rizk, some people will always be drawn to luxurious casino resorts, considering how they also offer a significant social value.

Robuchon Au Dôme – Grand Lisboa Hotel, Macau

Robuchon au Dôme is located in the spectacular, multi-story glass dome on the 43rd Floor of the Grand Lisboa Hotel in Macau. In the center of the restaurant is a beautiful chandelier with over 131,000 pieces of Swarovski crystal. The panoramic views and the decor inside are simply stunning.

Boasting cuisine and a vast wine selection as spectacular as the setting, Robuchon au Dôme has been awarded three Michelin stars and the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award and is widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Asia. The restaurant features contemporary French cuisine, including the 7-course “Menu Aux Crustacés” and an 8-course seasonal menu, topped off with a trolley of desserts.

Waku Ghin – Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Waku Ghin is the creation of famed Australian Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. Featuring contemporary Japanese cuisine with fresh seasonal ingredients, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in 2019. The daily menus are adjusted for the best ingredients available such as Botan shrimp with sea urchin, and Japanese Ohmi Wagyu beef.

A beautifully designed minimalist setting enhances the restaurant’s exclusive nature and keeps the focus on the food. Waku Ghin only serves 25 diners per seating, in private dining rooms and an intimate 10-person Chef’s table where you can watch the culinary artistry up close.

Aureole Las Vegas – Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

Aureole was designed as an experience for all of your senses. The James Beard Award-winning Chef Charlie Palmer’s sleek restaurant is located in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Its American Artisan cuisine is regularly described, by diners and food critics, as absolutely exquisite and features steak and seafood prominently.

The visual center of the dining room is the 10,000 bottle, four-story tall glass wine “cellar” rising up towards the ceiling. Sleekly dressed “Wine Angels” use a system of harnesses and ropes to scale the tower to retrieve your bottle of choice.

Restaurant Guy Savoy – Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Famed French Chef Guy Savoy (who trained Gordon Ramsay) has been awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant in Paris every year since 2002. His only fine-dining restaurant outside of France is at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The dining room is exquisitely romantic and even has a view of the Eiffel Tower (although it’s the one located at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel!). Signature dishes include the famous artichoke and black truffle soup, served with a toasted mushroom brioche and truffle butter.

Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse a l’Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Just steps away from the elegant casino in Monte Carlo (think James Bond-level sophistication) is one of the finest restaurants in the world. This opulent, classically European establishment has been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 1989. Chef Alain Ducasse is considered by many to be the Godfather of contemporary French cuisine and has trained a number of the top chefs in the world.

It is no surprise that a meal here, then, is considered to be the experience of a lifetime. Diners routinely describe the elaborate multi-course menus as flawlessly prepared and served by superbly attentive staff. The cuisine includes the freshest Mediterranean-influenced seafood and elaborate desserts, as well as a 400,000 bottle wine cellar.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Better-for-You Deep Chocolate Brownies

You never need an excuse for brownies, and these ones are no exception! Dense, fudgy and perfectly sweet, they are also packed with protein, calcium and whole grains - all for under 150 calories a piece!

One of the many casualties of the pandemic - at least near me - was a low fat brownie mix that was an absolute lifesaver when I was losing weight in my teens and later as a poor college student. It was great - just add water and bake - and was rich enough to kill off a craving without resorting to added frosting or ice cream. Now that my sister (who is a chocoholic like me) is back at work and looking for healthier snack options that would also keep her going, I started looking around to see if there was a way to make brownies that were a bit better nutritionally than the usual bakery kind. After a bit of research and modifications, including adding Naked Collagen and a vegan chocolate protein powder to the dry mixture, I had a working formula.

Needless to say, these were an absolute hit for the fudgy / chewy crowd here. The use of honey keeps these moist and dense for days (and not to negate their health but they make excellent "sandwich cookies" for ice cream) while the Greek yogurt adds just a touch of tang. To top it off, just enough chocolate chips stud the batter and crust of these beauties to accent the rich cocoa flavour and the tiniest hint of coffee. The brownies also happen to be gluten free thanks to the oat flour, but since sis doesn't need to keep GF I'd easily swap in whole wheat pastry flour in the future. The worst part is waiting for them to cool and chill - but I promise the payoff is worth it! 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Simple Rhubarb Pie

 The simplicity of a rhubarb pie is the epitome of late spring and early summer.


Happy blog-day to me! It is crazy to think this little hobby project of mine has been around for 14 years - and in that amount of time I've gone through more rounds of school than I can count, began and ended a career as a Home Economics teacher and definitely improved my cooking, baking and photography skills. Thanks to those of you who have come along for the ride, and to those of you that are just dropping in! 

Now, in the spirit of my off-and-on tradition of presenting a Canada Day / blog anniversary pie, I bring you a quintessentially local one, made with only rhubarb from my backyard. Normally, you'll see rhubarb blends in pies - strawberry, blueberry, and my favourite: cherry. But my mentor and colleague specifically asked for a rhubarb pie this year, as as I was leaving my position at the school I made it my mission to present her with one as my going-away gift. 

Now, for the uninitiated, rhubarb is a stalky vegetable that (at least around here) grows like weeds, is tart and slightly two-faced as the leaves are toxic. It is incredibly versatile, making it's way into sweet and savoury applications throughout the year. To stand alone in pie, though, it needed a decent dose of sugar - making it unlike our standard apple pies where its fruit + pastry without anything else. However, the key is to add only enough sugar to take away the tannic sourness without completely obscuring the flavour! Because this was a special occasion pie, I upped the ante with a sprinkle of coarse sugar on the lattice as well.

You absolutely need to bake this pie on a tray though - the rhubarb has a lot of moisture and it will bubble over! Once it's cooled and chilled though, it slices beautifully and is the perfect foil for a scoop of ice cream.
 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant Empire Wasn't Built In A Day

Ramsay's restaurant empire started by handling a few tables in a year. Soon later, those few tables turned into managing thousands of tables. Those tables were the foundation of his entire career in the culinary industry and other industries, such as gaming and the' Hell's kitchen' new slot game, where even you can play with fire without getting burnt. 

 

In a nutshell, Gordon Ramsay is a TV personality, movie star, author, and most importantly, a world-renowned chef and restaurateur. Nevertheless, considering his table management skills and newly found slot game producing ability, he might also add casino table games to that list as well.

Although it seems like Ramsay gained his wild success overnight, he played with fire in more places than the kitchen to make it where he is now. One of those places being, Gordon Ramsay At Royal Hospital Road. 

 

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay At Royal Hospital Road

 

After a sports injury pushed his soccer career to the sidelines, Ramsay ended up taking another road to success. Specifically, Royal Hospital Road, otherwise known as his first solo restaurant, opened in 1998 and still serving signature Ramsay meals after more than two decades. In addition, this one restaurant led to the opening of approximately 57 other restaurants worldwide.

 

However, before Restaurant Gordon Ramsay opened its doors to the public, Gordon had to make peace with the fact that becoming a professional sports star was no longer in the cards. That is when he decided to attend North Oxon Technical College, where he completed a course in hotel management and graduated at the age of 21. This love for the culinary arts led him to perfect his culinary skills under master chefs such as Albert Roux, Joel Robuchon, and Guy Savoy. 

 

Seven Michelin Stars Worldwide

 

Apart from being the star of many television shows and movies, Ramsay earned himself several stars off-screen. The restaurant that was the stepping stone to his career, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2001 and is now London's longest-running restaurant to hold this award. 

 

He also has another 4 Michelin stars to his name awarded through restaurant Pétrus in Knightsbridge, Le Pressoir d'Argent in Bordeaux, and Gordon Ramsay au Trianon in Versailles.

 

Over his entire career so far, Ramsay acquired 16 Michelin Stars, making him the third most rewarded chef globally. Behind his beloved and late mentor Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse. 

 

Inevitable Hiccups In Business

 

Of course, just like every other business venture, even a businessman such as Ramsay didn't have his plans go as planned, and several roadblocks took him in a different direction. You could have witnessed this just at the start of his career and by several losses of Michelin Stars. Nevertheless, his persistence, determination, and incredible work hours resulted in over 50 restaurants since the start of his career.

 

Gordon Ramsay once said in a Reddit takeover, "I work incredibly hard. I have about three to four hours a day off, and I work my freakin' ass off because I get so excited with projects!"

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Cereal Date Muffins

These Cereal Date Muffins are moist, sweet and full of @naturespathorganic Flax Plus Multibran Flakes. Snag one while it's still warm for a mid morning snack - it's an excellent and nutritious pick me up!

Happy weekend! It still feels weird to be saying that, since for the last year and a half it's felt like time has no meaning. Then again, Saturdays still hold a little bit of magic even if we are still in this weird limbo of time and space! One of the things I love to do in my spare time is making muffins - they are like little promises for the future since they can be frozen, packed for lunches, grabbed mid morning or on the way home and always appreciated. 

Of course, if I'm baking muffins, I am always experimenting! I had a box of Nature's Path Flax Plus Multibran Flakes in my pantry that they had graciously sent me, and thumbing through one of my cookbooks I came across a muffin recipe using bran flakes instead of my usual "twig" or raw bran addition. Using that as a base, I set about adding flavour - namely with maple products (hey, I have to keep my Canadian card 😀) but also sweet, candy-like dates. The mixture comes together easily and while the resulting muffins aren't giant bakery-like superstars in appearance, they are absolutely what I think of when I think of muffins. The amount of fibre in these also helps keep you full for hours which is a bonus if, like me, you're always doing something! 

Thanks again to Nature's Path for the opportunity to create these treats!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Ruby Rhubarb Bars

These nondescript looking Ruby Rhubarb Bars hide a ton of fresh spring flavor- from the dash of local honey to backyard rhubarb and fruity ruby chocolate. Eaten alone or next to ice cream, they're an excellent addition to your Father's Day or summer picnic basket.

There are few guarantees in this world, but one thing I can always count on happening is my absolute monster of a rhubarb plant coming up every year. I've had it for 13 years now and even when we've had ice storms that killed huge trees that thing just keeps coming back. I admire it's tenacity to be honest. Luckily, rhubarb is one of those vegetables that pairs well with others and is incredibly versatile, so it very rarely goes to waste. 

One of my colleagues is a verifiable rhubarb fanatic and requests rhubarb "things" every spring, from pie to compote. This year I decided to up the ante with an extra treat perfect for backyard bbqs and picnics - bar cookies. Much like blondies in nature, these brown sugar bars are chewy, rich and a nice break from dark chocolate (wait, did I say that?). For a twist though, the batter is studded with diced rhubarb and one of my new favourite "alternate" chocolates - ruby chocolate. This variety is a beautiful pink colour and has prominent fruity, almost tart notes to it. In fact, it really is not unlike strawberries in colour and flavour, so it is a natural to add to these bars! It's also a chocolate type that is gaining more popularity, and therefore availability, but if you don't have it on hand I'd suggest white chocolate instead. 

The true test is to let these chill right down before digging in - I know, it's torture, but it is worth it, especially paired with a simple ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Honey Graham Oatmeal Cookies (Baked or Not!)

These oatmeal cookies are chewy, sweet and full of "bits" accented by @nakednutrition Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder. The best part? You can eat the dough raw by the spoonful if you want - Graham crumbs replace flour in the eggless recipe so there is little e.coli risk!

I love my home ec classes. Even on Zoom, the kids love being able to watch me cook or create treats (and sometimes they even mix along!). I altered my curriculum this year to incorporate more "no bake" items, partially due to the unpredictable format of lessons and partially due to the limitations on lifting and carrying my car accident placed on me. These oatmeal based "cookies" were one such invention - filled with safe-to-eat graham cracker crumbs, oats and optionally a few scoops of protein powder in place of flour, sweetened with honey and packed with tasty mix-ins, what more could a kid want? 

One of my favourite discoveries with this recipe is that it is absolutely bake-friendly, if standard cookies are more your speed. I baked off some of the extra dough that didn't get consumed raw, and when eaten in a day or so they're a great chewy-crisp texture. After that, they do get really soft and fall-aparty (yes, that's a word now) so I tossed a tray of them in the freezer for future ice cream sandwich making. I'm very tempted to make a honey-vanilla frozen yogurt to nestle in between these cookies, since the flavours would mesh really well!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Multigrain Blueberry Bread #BreadBakers

This Multigrain Blueberry Bread is full of nutty flavour from whole grain cereal while a hearty addition of @croftersorganic Wild Blueberry Spread adds a touch of sweetness and authentic fruit flavour. Baked in loaf pans, a slice or two are perfect for breakfast - I suggest toasted and topped with cream cheese and more blueberry spread, but they apparently also work with bacon and eggs!

Toast and jam used to be the absolute best part of a school day morning for me. Quick, easy and as variable as the available toppings in the fridge and pantry, it was a great way to get something in before the 45 minute car ride to school. When we had homemade bread on hand, breakfast was even better - you could not beat the heartiness of a slice toasted golden and topped. 

Now that I'm the principal bread maker in the house, I love playing around with ideas from my childhood as well as flavour combos that just taste awesome. I still had a large amount of blueberry jam left over after making the Butter Pecan Thumbprints and wondered if I could swap it in place of honey in a standard whole wheat bread recipe. The results were even better than I thought - the perfect blend of sweet, fruity and nutty with the multigrain and flax mix, a beautiful toastable crumb and the most delicate purple hue. Thankfully the recipe makes two large loaves because the first one disappeared in a few days!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
This month’s event is Breakfast Bread hosted by Zesty South Indian Kitchen

Friday, June 11, 2021

Honey-Oat Granola Bars

Who doesn't love a chewy granola bar? These are made with a mixture of oats, local honey, coconut oil and a couple scoops of @nakednutrition Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder. Baked in a loaf pan, the bars are the perfect snack size - chocolate drizzle is optional (I guess!).


 Summer is (almost) here, and with the end of school comes the hordes of kids (and adults) who are seemingly always starving. When I worked summer camp, we knew that aside from frequent water and shade breaks, the campers would be craving energy boosts to keep up with all the activities they were doing. Apart from fruit (which is great, but needs to be kept cool), we went through a lot of granola bars. It's easy to see why - they're convenient, portable, individually wrapped, high energy and kid-sized. Field trip purchasing runs involved an embarrassing amount of boxes of the snacks!

 
That said, buying all those boxes is expensive - not to mention some bars are essentially candy with a health halo attached. Luckily, not only are home-made granola bars easy to make, you can get the kids involved with mixing and you can add anything your heart desires to the mixture - my Home Economics students decided that dried apples, cherries, chocolate chips and banana chips were top contenders, while I opted to keep the base "bit" free and instead added flavour and nutrition with a healthy dose of Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder and Naked Rice protein powder. I drizzled each bar with dark chocolate for no other reason than I could, so why not? 
 
Once the bars are cooled, you can wrap them individually for travel and keep them on the counter for a week or so, or freeze them. Of course, if you're just enjoying them at home you can keep them in a covered container for the same amount of time, or freeze. Here's to a summer of beginning adventures!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Veggie Pesto Pizza

Veggie Pesto Pizza is all homemade and vegan, from the Sweet Potato Pizza Crust to the spinach and lentil pesto and mozzarella cheese. Leftovers (if any!) Freeze well and are perfect for snacks, lunches or next-day dinners.
 
 
Pizza and I used to be best friends when I was growing up. There was a small pizza place around the corner from my house growing up, and the owner Kerry was always there with a smile, asking us kids about our weekends and occasionally throwing us a double slice for the price of a single. School pizza days were okay, but the mass produced stuff couldn't hold a candle to Kerry's hand tossed crust and generous toppings.

As I got older and developed my host of dietary issues, pizza generally fell off the menu for me. I loved making it - I just couldn't eat it! When N (who also eschews pizza due to his sensitivity to tomatoes) was musing about missing his pizza, the two of us put our heads together and came up with an alternative that was healthy, tomato free and still delicious! A quick shop later and we had all the fixings for a new, vegan but equally delicious pizza on hand, using one of his favourite veggies - sweet potato!


I added the sweet potato to the crust in lieu of some of the water and oil traditionally present. I added a decent portion of whole wheat flour to the mix for flavour and nutrition, keeping enough all purpose to keep the dough smooth and elastic. Instead of tomato sauce, I whipped up a spinach and lentil pesto with lots of garlic and (vegan) Parmesan which added a great bright flavour that accented the sweetness of both the crust and the onion / pepper topping. A quick blast in the oven on my pizza stone later and we had two pies ready to go - one disappeared between dinner and breakfast (cold pizza is amazing, am I right?) and the other was packed for his work meals the next day. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Cookies with Naked Shake

 These two bite cookies are tender, ever so slightly chewy morsels packed with the rich flavor of @nakednutrition Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry. Bursts of dried blueberries and chopped dark chocolate add texture and a fun twist on tradition too.
 

I love pretty much everything about cookies - they are fast to make (usually), portable, and open to pretty much every variable under the sun. If one type of cookie isn't your thing, there are probably at least 20 that are. The variability that a simple recipe - say, a classic chocolate chip - has affords a whole world of possibilities for not only flavour, but texture and nutrition. It was in that vein that I decided to take a simple, two-bite chocolate chip cookie recipe and turn it into a snack that was a great medley of sweet, fruity and nutty. I was inspired by the jar of Peanut Butter Blueberry Naked Shake sitting on my countertop, freshly opened after I had made myself a sample with cashew milk and discovered it tasted like a PB&J without the bread. I had dried blueberries on hand and a bar of dark chocolate, so along with the shake powder these cookies packed a punch of flavour!

 
I am so fortunate to be partnering with Naked Nutrition once again. You may remember them from my posts using their Naked Collagen and Naked Rice protein powders - two products which regularly make their way into my baking and eating routine - and this time they've come up with an innovative, gluten-free, soy-free and vegan protein shake powder made with fruit juice, MCT oil and no artificial sweeteners or flavours. One serving (5.8 tbsp or 2 scoops) 20g of protein and only 5g of sugar wrapped up in 140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Their blend uses non-GMO pea protein, which I found paired extremely well with the nutty peanut powder in the flavour I chose. I obviously used the Peanut Butter Blueberry flavour (what can I say, I love my peanut butter!) but they also have a strawberry-banana flavour as well. The powder is on sale now with a suggested retail price of $39.99 US - a deal since a little goes a long way!


Monday, May 24, 2021

Mocha Cappuccino Bread

This hearty Mocha Cappuccino Bread is full of coffee and chocolate flavour, accented by the nutty notes of whole grain flour and @naturespathorganic Flax Plus Multigrain Flakes and studded with dark chocolate chips. A slice with peanut (or our favourite - cashew) butter makes for a decadent breakfast or anytime snack!

I have always loved the combination of coffee and chocolate. As a kid, my parents would make cafe au lait with a squeeze of chocolate syrup for me while they had their morning brews, and when I was introduced to cafe mochas as a young teen a good portion of my babysitting money found it's way into the coffers of the local coffee shop. Today, I always treat myself to a scaled-down, yet still delicious mocha as I'm winding down for the night - it may seem counterintuitive to have a late night coffee but it helps me sleep! While I love coffee itself too, I will fight tooth and nail for the chocolate and caffeine fix!

 
The only other person I know who shares the fierceness of my die hard love of coffee and chocolate is my mom. When I made chocolate-covered spoons in Home Economics class, all of a sudden they would "disappear" and a pot of coffee would be made. Even today, when I'm given chocolates from my students for Christmas or Easter, I'm guaranteed to find all the coffee-flavoured bon bons gone within a day or two! So, when I came across this coffee-infused loaf on Kneady Girl I was inspired to give it a twist, especially when it came to playing with one of my mom's new favourite cereals - Nature's Path's Flax Plus Flakes. She loves them because they stay crisp in milk and have a really deep, nutty and complex flavour when compared to other bran flake cereals as well as having fibre, protein and iron - all nutrients that she (and many people I know) struggle to get enough of in their daily diets. 

The crushed cereal wove its way throughout the loaves, staying slightly distinct even when saturated with the coffee and chocolate milk. For even more chocolate flavour, I rolled chocolate chips into the dough before coiling everything up and letting it proof in springform pans to help it maintain form. This bread baking smelled like the coffee shop I used to have by my university campus in Ottawa - a combination of pastry, yeast, chocolate and freshly brewed coffee wafting it's way around the kitchen. It was a good thing mom was out while I baked - when she came home she made a beeline for it right away!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Back to Basics Sourdough

What is more comforting than a back to basics, simple loaf of sourdough? If you have time on your hands (at least a few hours worth for active labour and a few days for resting) and a decent starter, this delicately tangy, chewy crust loaf can be yours with really very little effort! My sister hardly waited for it to cool before grabbing a big slice!

Well, happy May! I don't know if it's just me, but time seems to both crawl and fly by when lockdowns are involved - suddenly I have 10 times the work to do and almost none of the time to do it. Luckily, the school year is winding down and Summer is almost here, so while it may be crazy now I'm hoping good weather and more social opportunities will be around the bend.

Because I've been every so slightly busy these days, my breadmaking has transformed into low-effort, long rise affairs where I can simply mix, cover and rest, rest, rest until baking day. Luckily, sourdough is built for just that purpose - and you can mix up a few doughs and bake them throughout the week for always fresh bread with ever-tangier crumbs. This particular loaf arose from my sister's hankering for a sourdough boule while I was writing final exams. After promising her that everything would be baked off after the last test was in the books, I mixed up the levain and let it get to work. After the dough came together, it was pretty much hands off, save for the few stretch-and-folds along the way. A scorching hot Dutch oven was my baking vessel of choice and resulted in a blistered crust with a few open air pockets throughout. 

I say this a lot about bread, but if you have no self-control around carbs, the aroma of this one when it cools will tempt you beyond belief! I think this boule survived an hour on the cooling rack before the knives came out, leading to the round getting ever so slightly squashed. While the appearance may have suffered a bit, once the chunk was smeared with butter it didn't matter - the whole thing was gone within a week and the next batch already resting. The recipe is basic for a reason, and is a keeper in this household - I would love to try it in a real banneton one day too.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Continued Rise of Ghost Kitchens and Why They’re Being Invested In

The Continued Rise of Ghost Kitchens 
and Why They’re Being Invested In

Many business ventures have turned towards the ephemeral. Startups design products like SnapChat or introduce features like stories which are focused on the fleeting – Clubhouse is the latest example in the social media landscape. Pop-up stores are another example of this movement towards for-a-limited-time-only presence in malls and shopping estates, as are the exclusive collaborations which fuel these temporary shopfronts.

The food industry is no stranger to this type of business model. Restaurant pop-ups have been popular for a long time. Many chefs focusing on this model rather than establishing consistent residencies. It allows some to impress investors and business people to allow them to then open their own place. Still, the premise is that a space, for a specific and short period, is entirely theirs, setting an atmosphere and a menu to create a distinct experience – it’s an art installation, as much as anything. However, a new adaptation of this is taking over: ghost kitchens.

 

Ghost Kitchens
Some restaurateurs are opting for delivery-only. To achieve this, they are making use of ghost kitchens. There appears to be two approaches to these spaces. One is that the ghost kitchen is hired and filled by the restaurateurs own staff, to prepare and cook meals and then organise their own delivery system, making use of existing services like Uber Eats or Deliveroo. Some are calling these types of business “digital restaurants,” as they follow the technology trend of picking and choosing when to appear as a physical entity.

There are many perks to this business model. There will be no continued rent on a building, for instance, which is, obviously, a considerable cost for many establishments. Also, no needing to account for the purchase and maintenance of equipment and the salaries of a larger workforce mean that overheads are reduced further.

The downsides and upsides are that the marketing strategy is hugely important. This may sound like a silly thing to say, as its applicable to all businesses anywhere. However, not having a geographically fixed location means that it’s important to work hard to earn the attention of eyeballs online. It’s difficult for a digital roamer to wonder past your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter page without meaning to, making a mental note to try that place out in the near future with some friends. As such, many of the key players in the early parts of the ghost kitchen scene have been celebrities which huge existing audiences. 

Mr Beast’s Burgers
Mr Beast, a YouTuber with 56.9 million subscribers, whose content mostly revolves around gaming, excessive challenges, and philanthropy, opened Mr Beast’s Burgers on December 19 th and by the week of March 12th they had sold their one millionth burger, which is an average of 40 per day at each of their 300 locations across the United States of America and Canada. This is a promising start for the business. While it is someway off a lot of its competition (McDonalds, Burger King, etc.), it’s an important milestone in both Mr Beast’s endeavour and for ghost kitchens.

There have been some criticisms, though, which have followed Mr Beast’s Burgers – due to its profile – as some ghost kitchens are other business’s kitchens which have their own or other orders to fulfill and, therefore, puts extra workload on their staff.

Mr Beast continues to attract venture capitalist intentions, with his management company, Night Media, creating a venture studio to help nurture and grow its stars entrepreneurial endeavours, including his existing fast food business.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Kitchen
Gwyneth Paltrow, a Hollywood actor, author, and entrepreneur, founded Goop, a lifestyle company, in 2008. It is a company which has attract some controversies with its emphasis on wellness solutions and dieting tips that are based on “pseudo-science”. Despite this, Goop continues to be successful and has decided to set-up a delivery-only food service.

Their menu is at odds with Mr Beast’s Burger’s. Goop Kitchen is focused on healthy eating, using sustainable growing practices, and meeting Goop’s own standards for “cleanliness”. The service is geographically limited to Santa Monica, California. It may expand, as Paltrow’s company’s mission is to continue to grow and inspire a movement around these lifestyle choices.

Guy Fieri’s Flavortown
Guy Fieri is a restauranteur who made his name hosting shows on Food Network in the late 00s and has more recently become more of a meme online. He has still, though, the chops for keeping up the with restaurant industry by relieving Flavortown of its brick-and-mortar confines and taking it virtual. There are classic Fieri options on the menu and has already established operations in twenty-four states, with multiple outlets in many states. It’s aiming big, as his profile, knowledge, and contacts enable him to.

Ghost kitchens are another leap into the digital-first approach for businesses and the emphasis on being in a place just long enough.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Rainbow Velvet Cake

This Rainbow Velvet Cake is vivid in colour with a rich vanilla flavour. Six thin layers sandwiched with my Cream Cheese Buttercream and cloaked in a chocolate fudge frosting made for a decadent birthday treat!
 

Since I was born, there has rarely been a time when my birthday didn't conflict with either Easter or other family members' birthday plans. As fate would have it, my whole immediate family have birthdays within a 4 week timeframe, with Easter falling on either my dads, my sister's or my weekends. Most of the time it's not a big deal, although as a kid birthday parties were always somewhat disappointing. Then again, some years I did get chocolate and gifts, so I guess I'm not too hard done by!

This year my birthday fell right smack on Easter Sunday, so knowing we would have my grandma and N there I figured it would be a great time to make a tester batch of Rainbow Velvet Cake in preparation for my sister's celebration. She got the idea for a multicoloured multiple layer cake from watching Trixie Mattel's Easy Bake Oven series on YouTube (seriously, you should watch her cooking videos for the sheer fact that they are hilarious) and since I hadn't made one stacked that high in - well, ever - I needed to see if it worked.

 
Luckily, this cake recipe is simple - it's one batter that gets divided and individually coloured. That said, be prepared for all the dishes! While the cake I made uses only three colours, you need 6 bowls for tinting so as to get the right amount of batter per cake pan. Obviously, if you want more colours just don't double up on the bowl tinting! As for what colouring to use, I strongly suggest a gel or paste, since to get enough tint in the batter liquid dye will thin it too much. I haven't tried with liquid, so can't say what you'd need to alter for proper product.
 
Another note on the batter portioning - it will look like you won't have enough batter per 8" pan. You will. The batter should be thinly spread because you are effectively baking half a layer at once. Separate pans eliminates the hassle of torting and dealing with all those crumbs. 

 
When it comes to filling and frosting, your choices are endless - though I have to say both my sister and I are biased! I folded sprinkles into my Cream Cheese Buttercream and schmeared it generously between the layers and cloaked the rest in a chocolate fudge frosting. Given that it's a vanilla cake, pretty much any flavour filling will work - my mom loves raspberry jam, my dad loves custard, and me? Well, I'd be loading up on the chocolate. If you aren't using frosting, make sure to pipe a border around the outside edge of the cake to keep it from leaking out!

At any rate, have fun making this cake - and while it certainly feeds a crowd, it doesn't dry out too fast so storing it for the 3 or 4 days it takes to disappear is no problem!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Golden Miniature Panettones

These golden, pillowy Mini Panettones are studded with dark chocolate, Craisins and pistachios and full of orange zest for an irresistibly festive flavour. They're rich and sweet with a secret ingredient that makes them even more special! 

Well, it's Easter weekend - and for the second time, both the Easter Bunny's visit and my birthday are being spent in lockdown. I shouldn't complain though, it isn't like I'm one for parties or bar-hopping, but it would be nice to actually grocery shop without the 45 minute lines again! This birthday is also being spent with limited baking potential, since I'm still relatively useless when it comes to hauling buckets of flour and bowls of dough here and there thanks to the car accident. So, rather than showcase a spiffy cake this year (though one may be forthcoming...) I'm going to share a festive bread that I made last Christmas and forgot to post about! Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the experience, or the reactions from the family I shared it with. Besides, panettone seems to crop up at our household on the Easter weekend as well, so let's say it's still seasonal!

I will admit, I've always wanted to make this form of bread to see just what is so special about it - having a vast Italian stepfamily and working with a few others who love the stuff, its ubiquitous every holiday. One year we had 4 large ones in our pantry thanks to gifts from family and friends! Because we had far fewer people dropping by last year, I decided to try out a recipe that could be made rather easily in miniature form using jumbo muffin tins and a few ramekins, and just so happened to be vegan, but that would be no less decadent. My inspiration came from a carton of Coconut Nog that I picked up at the discount grocery, which seemed like it would add not only flavour but richness to the dough. To make up for the missing "eggy" colour, a pinch of turmeric sufficed. The dough came together like a dream and was satiny and soft like my mom's Brioche dough is. Then I debated fillings.

Given that my mom was one of my taste testers, I knew there had to be chocolate in there somewhere. I mean, how can you go wrong? After that, I looked to my stash and after finding my bag of shelled pistachios in the freezer it hit me - holiday colours could be had by adding Craisins too! I will admit that I measured these rather loosely, so my amounts below are a guide, but each little loaf had a generous amount of each component.

Now, sometimes little loaves are not what you need, but I have you covered with this nutty, citrusy, sweet bread recipe - it's absolutely translated into a large loaf pan and I give baking times below. Either way, I don't think it's fair to keep this as a holiday only affair - who's to say a Saturday morning isn't cause for celebration?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Shingled Taco Pie

When the wind is blowing and the thermometer is still up and down like a yo-yo, why not turn up the heat with these vegetarian taco pies? A simple spiced lentil and vegetable filling hides under a shingled blanket of thinly sliced potatoes and (of course) cheese! The recipe makes two, so have one tonight and freeze one for later.

Well guys - it's almost Spring! That said, around here, Spring is more fits and starts than a season of it's own, and the nights are still plenty chilly! I've also been sidelined from cooking (mostly) for the last month and a half since a lovely car accident and final exams, so my silence is not intentional! 

However, before all that went down I was dabbling a fair bit in the kitchen, and one of my favourites so far has been this Shingled Taco Pie. It (like a lot of things during the school year) was born out of leftovers - in my case, it was leftover taco filling that the kids and I made. N loves my shepherd's pie made with lentils, and with potatoes always in our pantry I figured why not take that idea and twist it into a meal he could enjoy for a week before his night shifts?

That said, I have a wee secret. I loathe making mashed potatoes. The water, the waiting, the splashing, the dicey-at-best draining... yeah, that's a two-to-three times a year thing (probably good too, cause we like these guys). So instead of baking / nuking the spuds and mashing like I do for the shepherd's pies, I decided to let my knife work and create a neat little shingled "roof" over the taco filling, held together by the highlight of any taco - cheese.

 Did it work? Yes - and way better than I anticipated it working. Not to mention how gorgeous it looked sitting in the pan! Of course, since this isn't a pie with a crust or anything, a slice won't hold the same photogenic quality. However, I am the last person to complain about how a delicious meal looks while I'm savouring every last mouthful! I made two pies and N froze one for a later stretch of work, which apparently came in handy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Comfy Kitchen: 4 Must-Have Appliances For Your Kitchen

 

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A Comfy Kitchen: 4 Must-Have Appliances For Your Kitchen

If you are moving in a new home or just planning to spice up your kitchen, make sure that you include in your list the most important appliances for your kitchen. Of course, there are so many kitchen appliances to choose from but you must remember to start with the basics that will really help you a lot in the kitchen.

We all know that costs escalate fast once you start looking into appliances to buy since you learn about better technology of one thing or the other, you could doubt what is beat to buy so you buy different things instead.  Maybe you now want a bigger sized appliance as you have quite a larger family, things that you never considered before.

There are just some things that should top your must-have list as these kitchen appliances come in very handy especially on days that you will need a hand in the kitchen. So, let us start start looking into the list of your Kitchen appliances must-haves:

Rice Cooker

A rice cooker may be small but it is a very jam-packed appliance that is very useful in the kitchen.  This easy-to-use automatic appliance is also an energy-saver that can give you the perfectly warm bowl of rice that you want. You just need to plug it and it is good to go, no supervision or monitoring needed as it works without much fuss.

The good thing about a rice cooker is that it is a multipurpose appliance. You can cook healthy, nutritious vegetables in it like steaming carrots, cabbages, cauliflower and even boil some eggs in your rice cooker. To check the best rice cookers, this guide on Foodal is a great resource.

Kitchen Stove

Whether you want a gas or an electric stove is up to you but take time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before purchasing one. All your cooking will be done here so it is essential that you pick one that will fit you and your lifestyle.

If you are quite picky with your food and cooking, you may prefer the gas stove as this can offer more control of what’s going on your pan. Heating up or cooling down with electric stoves may take some time, that may not get the nod of some fussy cooks or a professional chef. However, many modern housing and condos highly recommend electric stoves because they believe this is easier and safer to use.

On the other hand, another plus of gas stoves is that it can still be used even if the power is off. Residents in far-off areas with unstable power supplies usually have gas stoves as this is more appropriate for their situation. So, it is really up to what you prefer for your kitchen but this appliance is definitely very vital for every kitchen.

Refrigerators

Depending on size and style, refrigerators can take not only a large amount of space in your kitchen but your pocket as well. That is why it is critical to make sure that you need this new appliance before you hand in your bills. If you think you can no longer recycle your old fridge you may want to sell it at a low price online or to your family or friends, this could save you lots of money so that you can buy that ref that you really want.

There is no denying the advantages it gives to your health and comfort. With a fridge, you are able to save your leftovers. You are also able to save a lot because you are able to keep your meat, fruits and vegetables fresh and safe to eat for a longer period of time. If the food lasts longer, there is a higher chance that it will be consumed.

In addition to this, if you really want to save on your food you must check on its organization,  keep your newly-purchased goods at the back of your fridge so that the early retailed ones will be used up first.  

Microwave Oven

Another highly-popular appliance for your kitchen is the microwave oven. Since people are very busy with their daily work or business, many rely on the microwave to cook their food fast and easy instead of using the stove where you will need to flip the food and keep an eye on.

With the microwave, your frozen food will be cooked in no-time. You can grill, cook rice, thaw frozen foods plus it is cooked evenly. This is the reason why it is also very useful in many corporate offices as they usually work overtime. 

Takeaway

Even if you think you have it all planned out, you can still get overwhelmed with all the eye-catching tools and things for your kitchen. But you must always keep in mind that you will need something that will be able to help you do your everyday chores in the kitchen.

So stick to the basics and look for the appliances that will give you efficiency and durability which in the end will make a world of difference for you. At the end of the day, you would also want to rest, and these appliances will be your ever reliable friends you can always count on to make your life a bit easier.