Sunday, October 10, 2021

Plum Yogurt Cake

This delicious yogurt cake is topped with plums and a sprinkle of sugar, while the batter gets a hint of fall flavour from @nakednutrition Pumpkin Spice Naked Shake. Moist and beautiful to look at, it's a perfect dessert for any fall table.

 Jump to recipe

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians! For the first time in what feels like forever, we are actually hosting dinner on the holiday Monday and not the Sunday (the joys of retired and student life here, I suppose), and while there isn't as many people over this year we do have quite the spread of food! 

One of the things I love to do over the holidays is making the dessert. This year I made two - a batch of chocolate chip cinnamon cookies (for the littles) and this delicious cake topped with sparkling plums. Luckily, I got the chance to add a bit of pep and nutrition by adding some of the brand new protein shake powder the folks at Naked Shake sent to me - pumpkin spice! Like the other Naked Shake products, the new flavour combines pea protein, adds MCT oil, fermented cane sugar, and natural plant-based flavours and adds a dash of cinnamon for that irresistible flavour profile. A serving contains 20g of protein and 4g of sugar, and paired with a scoop of their other new product, baobab-sourced Naked Fiber, it's a great addition to your day when you're running non-stop or working out.


The flavour was subtle but a perfect accent to the roasted fruit, and since the tester batch I made (albeit in muffin form) was a hit here, I can only imagine what it's like in full scale glory!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Peanut Butter Blueberry Cookies

These cookies are boosted with Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder and made with peanut flour - lightly sweet and melt in your mouth with a hint of fruit!

I'm a peanut butter fan (as if you couldn't tell!) and my mom and grandma used to make those standard three ingredient, cross-hatched cookies on the regular when I was a kid. They're a classic for a reason - perfectly sweet and the right size for little (or big) hands! Looking at my pantry staples the other day, I wondered if I could use the powdered peanut butter and peanut butter blueberry shake powders I had to recreate my childhood favourites, and I have to say it worked out perfectly!

Because these are powders and not a creamy spread we're dealing with, you do need to add some moisture in the form of oil and a good binder like flaxseed (you can use an egg, however I would toggle the dry mix to account for the extra liquid). Otherwise it is a simple mix, wait, bake technique! The blueberry powder in the Naked Shake lets the baked cookies taste a little bit like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, though I would absolutely up the ante and make these sandwich cookies with jam if I was serving to company (and not transporting - like your normal PB cookies, these are tender and crumbly!). I gave a bag of these to TurkeyBoots who was passing through town on a road trip, and they apparently disappeared before they left the province! 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Bella Luna Spritzer with Adagio Teas' #bellalunablue

It's Friday! Why not kick off the weekend with this Bella Luna Spritzer - a blend of limoncello, lemon lime soda and Adagio Teas Bella Luna Blue loose leaf tea is irresistibly summery and a perfect beverage on the porch or at the cottage.
 

Now that the rules about gatherings are somewhat less stringent around here, people are beginning to gather on patios and each other's backyards. While it's easy to haul out a cooler with canned or bottled beverages when company is over, it's always fun to bring out something a little more fun when it's a close group of friends or a special occasion! When Adagio Teas sent me a pouch of their loose leaf tea sold exclusively on the blue moon - aptly named Bella Luna Blue - I couldn't wait to taste it and experience the colour change (made by the butterfly pea flowers) myself by adding just a hint of acid. Check out the video here.

The tea itself has a lovely mix of blueberry and lemongrass flavours, and the lemon juice accents both perfectly. A squeeze of honey adds a good balance, but it isn't super necessary unless you like sweet tea! I knew I wanted to try making something with this when it was cold, and then the idea for a bubbly cocktail popped into my head. Why not? 

I started by brewing a small measuring cup of the Butterfly Pea Flower Tea following their instructions (1 tsp tea leaves in a tea ball, steeped at 212°F for 10 minutes). Once brewed, I popped it in the fridge along with the bottle of Limoncello and the Sprite and let them chill overnight. The next afternoon it was a simple mix and enjoy. I made a quadruple batch since I had company that day and everyone loved the flavour and hint of sparkle it had!

I highly recommend you get your hands on some Bella Luna Blue when it goes on sale on August 22, 2021. It's only available on that day, so don't wait!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Fruit & Nut Muffins

Fruit & Nut Muffins are packed with trail mix and cranberries while the whole wheat batter gets a protein boost from @nakednutrition Naked Rice. Easy to pack and eat, they're perfect any time of the day!
 

Muffins are a food that has so much memory attached to it for me. When I would take swimming lessons as a child, every so often my dad would spring for a giant (think Costco-sized) muffin as a morning treat. Somehow, they made the endless laps and 7AM start worthwhile! Over the years, muffins were always my go-to snack over things like doughnuts or cookies, because who doesn't like a individual cake in the middle of the day?

These days the muffins I make tend to be more manageable in size, and lean away from the super sweet "cake" ones of my youth. Because they're such a handy snack or breakfast and you can add almost anything to them, I decided to whip up a batch of trail-mix packed, protein infused muffins for my sister's boyfriend. The whole grains and protein keep you full for longer while the yogurt adds a hint of tang that offsets the sweetness of the batter and dried fruit.
 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Chocolate Strawberry Swirl Bread

This rich, twisted loaf is filled with fresh strawberries and chocolate chunks, making breakfasts just a touch more decadent these days!

I love when we get fresh Ontario fruit here - the peaches, cherries and berries always taste a million times better when it was picked just outside your door, not to mention the costs come way down! Along with simply eating them by the bowlful, I love being able to take the fresh seasonal strawberries and make beautiful and delicious things with them! As luck would have it, I came across a recipe for a fruit studded babka shortly after coming home from the farmer's market and I was instantly intrigued. Chocolate and strawberries are a natural combo (and, truth be told, the only real "fruit and anything" combination I like), so pairing them in an enriched loaf was a new but decadent twist for me. 


Because the bread was enriched with milk, eggs and butter, I knew it would have a higher "done" temperature than lean dough and I didn't want the sugar to burn by overbaking. When the timer rang, I was able to quickly read the internal temperature with my ThermaPen One, sent very graciously to me by ThermoWorks. The ThermPen ONE is touted as the world’s fastest cooking thermometer, and with one second, super-accurate readings i am inclined to agree! Developing the thermometer was the result of five years of research and development, and comes with a NIST-traceable calibration certification verifying its accuracy to national standards. This thermometer also features a patented auto-rotating 360° Display Technology, a super bright Intelligent Backlight and a motion-sensing Sleep/Wake Mode. Since the kitchen can get messy, it is also fully waterproof to IP67 standards! As you can see I also use it to temp the water for more delicate teas to avoid scorching, and I love the backlight because my kitchen has some really dark pockets!

 

For more information and to buy your own ThermaPen One, check out their website here. You can see more videos on their YouTube channel as well!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Sweet Potato Cranberry Spice Cookies

These little Sweet Potato Cranberry Spice Cookies are gluten free and vegan but full of flavour from homemade pumpkin pie spice! The recipe makes a big batch of dough which is perfect for freezing ahead - thaw and bake whenever the craving strikes!
 
 
 
I'm going to start this off by saying... I know. It's not fall, its 30C and sunny outside, people are lounging around eating watermelon and ice cream. Most people are not cranking up their oven for anything.

But I'm not most people! I love the flavours of spice and fall, and baking is something I will do no matter the weather (unless out AC goes out in the middle of summer, which has happened!). So when I was playing around last summer to come up with holiday cookies, I came across some pumpkin cookies that looked like a hit for me and a few of my gluten free friends. However, because it was the middle of summer, canned pumpkin wasn't overly available. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, were - and I actually much prefer the flavour over pumpkin. With the spices, the bit of richness from the brown sugar blend and the dash of maple extract, the dough smelled amazing, and the craisins I tossed in added the tiniest bit of tang and fruity flavour. Being gluten free, nut free and vegan, they were also a hit with the kids I taught and safe for the school environment (they would be great for camp too!).
 

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!