27 Mar

Four Things

A Feast for Crows is lacklustre and and boring in comparison to A Storm of Swords which I read last month. None of my favourite storylines are in this book. I’m about 3/4 through it and not much has happened at all.

On the bright side, Game of Thrones Season 3 starts in T minus 5 days.

Feast For Crows

Matt brought home pheasant today! He bought two from someone at work who hunted them. I’m pretty excited to try it because I’ve never had pheasant before and I love trying new foods.

Luckily his friend de-feathered and packaged it nicely for us. I don’t know what I would have done had Matt brought home a carcass feathers and all.

Pheasant

The package says Matt Skin which is kinda gross if you think about it. Don’t worry, it’s poultry.

It’s like Willy Wonka, but real! In the most epic marketing campaign I’ve ever heard of, Tate & Lyle Sugar created an eight-room Tasting House in London where nearly everything was some form of edible dessert like a meringue rug, fudge windowsills, and pillows made of spongecake. It’s my dream come true!

See more pictures here and here and here.

SWEET DREAMS… WORLD’S FIRST CAKE HOTEL OPENS TO THE PUBLIC

The pillows and the book are both edible!

I notice a huge difference between practicing yoga at home and going to the hot yoga studio. It’s partly because I slack off a little more when I practice alone, partly because the heat makes me more limber and lets me push myself farther, and partly because the interaction with the instructors is so helpful.

It might be time to buy another set of class passes.

Wheel

26 Mar

Waist Goals Update 4

I haven’t given an update on my waist goals since the end of January. It was my resolution in September to lose 6cm from my waist.

I hit a snag in December with the delicious vicious holiday chocolate and cookie spreads I could hardly say no to but I’ve slowly made a comeback.

Progress: (the measurements are waist/belly/weight)

Aug 15: 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/88cm/170.0lb

1cm down in both waist and belly. Minor improvement, but I’ll take it.

Aug 31Aug 31Aug 31

Taken Aug 31

 

Jan 28 (1)Jan 28 (2)Jan 28 (3)

Taken Jan 28

2013-03-17 (1)2013-03-17 (2)2013-03-17 (3)

Taken Mar 17

You can’t really see any differences in the pictures, but that’s because I haven’t made any major progress.

 

As a refresher, my game plan was to increase my protein, cut out white carbs, plan out my late night snacks, include a cheat meal every week (with dessert and/or white carbs), and opt for high intensity exercise.

How I’m Following Through with my Game Plan:

Start the Day with Protein

Usually eggs or a smoothie are my typical breakfasts but on the days that I wake up in a rush to get to work (which is relatively often) I’m also been inclined to settle for some toast and butter, which I know isn’t really doing anything for me.

Going Forward: Give myself ample time to prep breakfast.

Overall though I’ve slowly been decreasing my protein intake and I must admit that I feel much better as a result. I think I need a high fibre diet to feel feel my best which is hard when you’re shooting for a high proportion of protein in your macronutrient split.

Cut out processed food and white carbs.

While I’ve cut way back on sugar because of Lent I’ve been baking some white bread and cooking pasta a little more often than I should be.

Going Forward: Plan weekly meals that have less refined starchiness and more protein and vegetables.

Cheat Meal

These last few weeks of Lent I’ve been having sweets on Sundays which has been working out pretty well.

Going Forward: I’d like to continue to limit my sweets to once per week.

High Intensity Exercise

As of last week I restructured my accessory lifts in the 5/3/1 Programme for weightlifting to be complexes and high intensity lifts (a la crossfit) to get more cardio in.

For example, yesterday after heavy deadlifts and sumo deadlifts I did:

5 rounds, as fast as possible, of:

– 10 Inverted Rows
– 15 Swings (40lb)
– 3 Burpee Broad Jumps

in 8:40.

Going Forward: I’ll keep this up for at least the next 3 cycles of 5/3/1

Plan Night Time Snacks

Yeeeeeeaaaah, umm, this had completely slipped my mind.

Going Forward: Calculate calories throughout the day to either allow for a late night snack or to make sure I don’t eat one when I’ve overeaten throughout the day.


Other waist goal recaps:

My Waist Goals
Waist Goals Update 1
Waist Goals Update 2
Waist Goals Update 3

21 Mar

Winter Bucket List Reassessment

It’s officially SPRING! Though this literally freezing weather is still a bit too wintery to declare spring truly sprung in Windsor. It’s been snowing for the last few days and the weather doesn’t look like its getting warmer any time soon.

I don’t mind too much though. I don’t think I’m ready for warm weather just yet. I’m just happy that the days are so much longer.

And now it’s time to take a look back at the Winter Bucket List I set out for myself way back in December.

Bake a Panettone (Check!)

Panettone

My favourite Italian yeast cake!

I considered doing a fun variation but instead I stick with a traditional recipe filled with raisins and candied citrus peel that I soaked in lots and lots of coconut rum.

I made the panettone for Tina’s birthday back in February.

Go Ice Skating (Not really)

"Skating for Tina's Birthday"

Did I go skating? Well, not technically. The night we planned on going out it had snowed so much that the rink was full of snow and there was a cleaning crew clearing it so we went out drinking instead (makes total sense, eh?).

We headed out back to the ice much, much later but everyone was too cold to put their skates on, save for one brave soul.

Make a Soufflé (Check!)

Souffle

Once I purchased a soufflé dish I was ready and willing to make a kick-ass soufflé. I went with a recipe for Herb and Goat Cheese Soufflé from the cookbook Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp which turned out SO delicious and fluffy and I couldn’t wait to make another.

. . . but then I dropped my brand new soufflé dish and it shattered into a million pieces. So that was the end of soufflé making for Sam.

But, on the bright side, Aida Mollenkamp commented on my blog post so it was pretty much worth it. Wicked awesome.

Enjoy a Warm, Crackling Fire

Never happened. Wah wah waaaaaaah.

Build a Snowman (check!)

Snowman!!

Totally did! And I did it in my front yard where the whole neighbourhood wondered what the fuck I was doing on my hands and knees, rolling balls of snow.

In the process I learned that making snowmen is a fun way to clear the driveway.

Watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (check!)

Muppets Christmas Carol! Favourite Movie

Damn right I did! It’s my favourite Christmas Movie.

Matt and I watched it for our December Date Night when our downloaded version of The Dark Knight Rises turned out to be a dud. Yes, we really did go from The Dark Knight to The Muppets.

 

So all in all I managed to get 4.5/5 bucket list wishes crossed off this winter. Next year I’m gonna cross them off all in one shot. I’ll go skating then warm up by a crackling fire whilst watching Muppets Christmas Carol and eating souffle and panettone for dessert. Why didn’t I think of that this year?

17 Mar

Nutella Banana Rolls

So I haven’t been doing too well with my Sugar Free Lent these last couple of weeks. My sugar cravings have come back and I’ve been sampling more and more desserts. Also I’ve been caving completely on Sundays (because, technically, Sunday’s don’t count). Today for instance I had a piece of pie and ice cream, and I sweetened my coffee with cinnamon sugar.

It’s rough.

Last Sunday I ate these:

Nutella Banana Rolls

Nutella Banana Rolls

This is one of Matt’s favourite types of bread that I make.

Use a soft white bread dough (like this one)

Roll it out with a rolling pin into a big rectangle

Spread nutella and mashed banana on top

And then roll it up like a cinnamon bun.

You can either bake it as a loaf or cut it into buns (cinnamon bun style) and bake it that way. 350F for 30min or so should do the trick.

Spread nutella on top after it’s baked for extra luxuriousness. It totally hits the spot.

Nutella Banana Bread as a loafThis version was made as a loaf

15 Mar

Super Soft White Bread

It’s the 15th of the month, that means it’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for this month is Gelatinized Starch.

I know it probably doesn’t sound as exciting as macarons(!) or cookies(!) or pie(!), but to me it’s super exciting because it means bread making. . . an you know I love bread making.

It can go by many names—tangzhong method, scalded flour, water roux—but they’re all essentially the same thing: Gelatinized Starch.

Super Soft White Bread

How Gelatinized Starch Works to Make a Soft Bread

Flour is made up of starch granules. Let’s think of them as bricks.

If you take some of that flour then add water and heat up, the starch gelatinizes. The starch granules in the flour will suck up all the water until they explode (think of a brick crumbling into sand) into starch molecules which suspend themselves in the water.

Your standard bread recipe doesn’t have the moisture, heat, or time for the starches to gelatinize during the baking process, so the bread is like a sturdy house built of starch ‘bricks’. It’s dense.

However, if you make ‘sand ‘ by gelatinizing the starch before baking the bread, then you’ll build yourself a sandcastle or, in bread terms, a soft and fluffy pillow of deliciousness.

Super Soft White Bread

Super Soft White Bread

Makes two 9”x5” loaves
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

So in this recipe your starter is some flour that’s been heated up with water to 65*C to create a gel (known as the tangzhong method). This is added to the final dough, making a soft and fluffy bread.

This recipe is great on it’s own as a sandwich bread. It also makes a really good base for sweet breads (like cinnamon bread, or hot cross buns, or buns filled with custard) which are best with dough that has a soft crust and light crumb like this one does.

Starter Ingredients:

50g/ 1/3 cup bread flour
250ml/ 1 cup water

Final Dough Ingredients:

700g/ 5 cups bread flour
110g/ 1/2 cup sugar
10g/ 2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
250mL/ 1 cup water
All of the starter
12g/ 4 tsp instant yeast
60g/ 3 Tbsp oil

Directions – starter:

In a small saucepan whisk the flour into the water and remove lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Heat the mixture to 65*C. It will be thick and hold the ‘lines’ made by stirring with the whisk.

Tangzhong - see all the streaky lines?

Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking right onto the surface of the starter. Let cool. It can be used immediately once cool or stored in the fridge for a few days as long as it doesn’t turn grey.

Directions – final dough:

Combine all the dough ingredients into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and then switch to the dough hook. (You can also mix the whole thing in a bowl with your hands and knead it manually). Knead on high speed for 6-10 minutes until the dough is elastic, smooth, and not sticky. To test if the dough is ready, you might stretch the dough. If it forms a thin “membrane”, it’s done.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Transfer to a clean, floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Flatten each portion of dough into an oval shape. Fold like a letter: 1/3 from top edge to the middle and press, then fold 1/3 from bottom to the middle and press. From the narrow end, roll the dough into a cylinder. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

Fold overFold over againRoll upSide by side in baking pan

Place 3 side by side into each of 2 greased 9”x5” loaf tins, with seal facing down. Cover and proof in a warm place until double in size.

Bake in a pre-heated 356F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and tin. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Slice to serve or place in an airtight plastic bag or container once it’s thoroughly cooled.

Super Soft White Bread

 

 


BakingPartners



05 Mar

Celebrity Look Alike

Lately my friends and I have been discussing who would play us in a movie version of our lives.

It’s a fun game but it can be really hard (especially if your celebrity knowledge is weak). We were trying to think of actors similar to us in age, face shape, colour, and general features. And preferably a celebrity we don’t hate.

I was leaning toward Zooey Deschanel for her big eyes and pale complexion, though nobody was entirely convinced she’d make a good Sam.

Tina mentioned America Ferrera and was like, “Yes! Totally!” She’s got my dark features and a similar body shape and most importantly I think she’s awesome (I was an avid Ugly Betty viewer and thought she was amazing in Real Women Have Curves and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants).

But my other friends disagreed.

Me + America Ferrera
Well? Not Bad Right?

So I plugged my picture into this celebrity look alike generator. There are a few on the net but picked this one since I didn’t have to put in my e-mail info to use it.

I ran it twice just to be sure. (Actually I ran it three times but in one picture my hair was pulled back and the generator thought I was a man, not unlike Gary Sinise. It should probably have the functionality to allow you to specify your gender.)

Run 1:

Eva Mendes is cool. Slightly older of an actress than I’d like to see play me, but I can see the resemblance. What I can’t see is Katherine Heigl or Naomi Watts (or is that just because I can’t picture a blonde looking like me?)

Celeb Look Alike

Run 2:

Eva Longoria is gorgeous so I’m not complaining.

Celeb Look Alike 2

Eva Mendes and Kim Kardashian are the only two that show up in both runs, so maybe there’s something to that.

But, I still think I’d prefer America Ferrera play the part of Samantha in the movie of my life.

What do you guys think?

04 Mar

What’s Cooking Expo

On Saturday Matt and I went to the What’s Cooking Expo at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit. The show was made up of live cooking demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and food sampling by exhibitors.

The expo started at 12pm but we didn’t get there until 2pm. In hindsight I wish that we had gone earlier so that we could see more demos (Michelle Bommarito was presenting at 12) and take part in more of the workshops.

On the bright side we did get to to see Carla Hall demo a Squash Soup and a Rustic Mushroom Tart.

Carla Hall (6)

I’ve loved Carla ever since she first appeared on Top Chef Season 5. I was gunning for her to win it (she didn’t, but she came so close!). She’s really lively and animated and fun and she seems like a genuinely nice person. Also her recipes are really good.

The coolest part was when she was rolling out the crust for the tart and lamented about how terrible it is when you roll a pie crust out and it sticks to the counter. As I was nodding my head in sympathy she pointed at me and said

“Girl, you know! You know what I’m talking about!”

That was great.

After seeing Carla we walked around to sample food at some of the vendors and I might have eaten some sweets, guys :/
The mac and cheese croquettes (on the left) were probably the best thing up for sample.

Mac & Cheese CroquettesMini Doughnuts

When we were sure that we sampled absolutely everything, we went to a workshop by Sweet Heather Anne on piping techniques. She focused on simple techniques which is fine with me since my skills at piping are terrible.

What's Cooking - Piping Techniques (1)

We practiced piping with royal icing on some parchment paper first and then we got to decorate our own cookie.

What's Cooking - Piping Techniques (10)What's Cooking - Piping Techniques (9)

My cookie probably could use the help of an expert hand.

What's Cooking - Piping Techniques (12)

01 Mar

Lent Update

We’re over 2 weeks into Lent and I figured I’d give a little check in.

No sugar and no judgement. I’ve somehow decided it would be a good idea to remove from my life the keystones that my whole self is built upon.

no sugar

On my Sugar Free eating:

So far so good. For the most part.

I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t been checking that everything I eat is completely sugar-free but my focus is more on ensuring that I stay away from obvious sweets than the sugar in my crackers or my nonna’s pasta sauce.

But I have been staying away from desserts. My dessert cravings may have decreased a little (a very little) but not my sugar cravings. I’ve been eating tonnes of fresh and dried fruit to keep my taste buds satisfied . . . but I could really, really go for a cookie right now. I miss cookies hard.

On Being Judgmental

Also, for Lent I’ve been trying to better myself by attempting to be less judgmental. I know it’s not exactly a switch that you can turn off, but at least I can be more aware of times that I’m being judgmental and I try to let it go.

So when a girl beside me in the change room at the gym spritzes perfume and lint rolls her yoga pants, my initial reaction is to roll my eyes in annoyance at the necessity of a pre-workout beauty routine. But then I think

“Let it go. Why is this your business anyway? There’s nothing wrong with her wanting to look good.

Besides, she’s probably thinking you’re a smelly slob who should put on deodorant anyway.”

I guess being less judgmental is making me self conscious by thinking other people are judging me. . .
hmmm . . . I don’t think that’s how this thing is supposed to work.