11 Jun

6 Things to do in Stratford Ontario

Stratford (24)

Matt and I recently visited Stratford Ontario for a weekend getaway. It’s close by (only a few hours drive from Windsor, and there’s even a direct bus from Detroit and Toronto), Matt has never been, and we thought it would be a cool place to see.

We spent 2 nights in Stratford at the Forest Motel and were able to keep ourselves relatively busy all weekend with theatre and eating and shopping and swans and yoga and boating and chocolate.

If you’re interested in taking a trip and are not exactly sure how to keep yourself occupied, here’s my recommendation for 6 things to do in Stratford Ontario:

See a Play

Kind of obvious. In fact, that’s probably why you’re planning a visit there in the first place.
And if you’re going to see one, why not see two? The Stratford Festival has a packed schedule of plays and musicals in the summer, up to 5 a day, so there is a lot to choose from.Hamlet - Stratford

Matt and I saw Hamlet. Not to be confused with Macbeth which, when we purchased our tickets, is precisely what we did. Imagine our surprise when there were no witches.

I’ve been to the Festival Theatre a few times and never had a bad seat, including that one time I was sitting in the nosebleeds and literally got a nosebleed (but that’s a story for another time). So you can still have an enjoyable experience in the cheap seats.

(Bonus: If you’re under the age of 30 you can score tickets for $15-$35 on the Play On Weekends.) 

This time, however, we splurged on front row tickets which were so close to the action that I was afraid of distracting the actors by putting on a sweater when I got chilly.

Make Chocolate

The candy-making workshop at Chocolate Barr’s was our favourite part of the weekend. Derek, the head candy-maker, taught us how to properly temper chocolate by hand, how not to burn chocolate (which, as I learned, I do all the time), how to make chocolate bark, and how to make truffles.

We came home with everything we made, which was a lot, and consumed it way too quickly to be socially acceptable.

Chocolate Making at Chocolate Barr's

Our truffle making skills were weak and the resulting truffles hideous in comparison to the stuff sold at Chocolate Barr’s, though we could spin it as “rustic, hand-dipped, and artisanal” and the hipsters would love it. They were delicious regardless.

Derek gave us lots of samples of the Chocolate Barr’s products, answered my million and a half questions about his shop, and only made fun of us a handful of times in the process.

Highly recommended.

Call or e-mail the shop in advance to organize a time. It’s $75 per person and totally worth it.

Stroll

Stratford Avon River Walk

Stratford is a beautiful place to stroll, particularly along the Avon River. I say stroll because the pace is leisurely: partly to accommodate the abundant waterfowl, partly to observe the beauty, and partly because of the geriatric nature of the patrons.

The river stroll is really quite nice so it’s no wonder it is so popular with tourists and locals.

If you walk far enough west along the river, away from the downtown and the theatres you’ll find the Avondale Cemetery which has some prominent local individuals going back to the late 1800s. You can even take a self-guided heritage walking tour of the cemetery. Or should I say strolling tour?

 Afternoon Tea

In Stratford eating is an event in itself. The restaurants definitely cater to the theatre crowd and offer really high calibre meals but I didn’t find the price points totally out of reach. We dined at Mercer Hall, Pazzo Taverna, and Canadian Grub and I didn’t have a meal that I disliked. (Tip: it’s a good idea to make reservations for dinner pretty much everywhere, especially on Saturdays)

My favourite meal was at The Parlour Inn where we had afternoon tea with an abundance of sandwiches and scones and spreads and pastries. But of course I’d say this, being the Anglophile that I am.

Afternoon Tea Stratford

The Parlour Inn has afternoon tea service on Sundays from 1-4pm for the very reasonable price of $22 per person. They used to have it posted on their website but don’t appear to list it any more. Either way, you need to call ahead to book a reservation.

Take a Yoga Class

Of course I’d say this. I actually managed to convince Matt to take a yoga class with me while we were in Stratford. We took a Hot Yang/Yin class which was exactly what my body needed though Matt is not a fan of the slow pace of Yin practices.

Downtown Stratford has two studios, Moksha Yoga Stratford, where we took a class, and Yoga Collective.

Drop in rates are $21 and $18 respectively.

Canoe/Kayak

The Forest Motel, where we stayed, was on a tiny lake and they had canoes and paddle boats available to use for free to people staying at the hotel so Matt and I took advantage.

You can also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats right on the Avon River in the middle of town at Avon Boat Rentals for $15-$23 per hour depending on the type of vessel. If you don’t want to do the paddling yourself, they offer river cruises for the reasonable price of $7.50.


 

16 Nov

Food is not a reward

Food is not a reward. This is a philosophy that I try to uphold. Food is nourishing, energy-producing, sustaining, celebratory, and uniting among other things. But for anyone other than the family pet it shouldn’t be a method of positive reinforcement.

So, in some ways I feel like participating in the Hot Chocolate 15K was a bit hypocritical of me and might be setting a bad example.

Let me see if I can explain myself out of this one.

Hot Chocolate 15K

The Hot Chocolate 15K was that 9.3 mile (15km) race I ran in Chicago this month with a finish line party that left participants lining up for mugs of hot cocoa and fondue. 40,000 people registered to run this race (which at $73 after fees isn’t cheap by any stretch) with the prospect of rewarding their endurance with chocolate.

I usually get upset about things like this– that is the association of junk food (or any food, really) with moderate exercise. House-league sports teams giving kids sugary sports drinks during one hour practices; karate teachers handing out Hallowe’en candy after classes; gym dates with girlfriends followed by venti frappucinos; it all drives me insane.

This doesn’t promote a ‘healthy balance’.

A healthy balance is a workout followed by a piece of cake because it’s your mom’s birthday, not just because you finished the workout. No, this sort of activity is just promoting the idea that you can exercise away a bad diet which, guess what?, you can’t.

Hot Chocolate 15K

So if this is the way I feel, then why did I bother registering in the first place? A couple of reasons:

1) I need a gimmick to race. Why would I bother paying and registering and getting up early to participate in a race when I could sleep in and run on my own time for free?

I’m going to get to take pictures with all my favourite Disney characters? I’m in.

I get to a sweet medal or sweatshirt for participating? I’m in.

I get a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate at the end of the race on a cold fall morning? I’m in.

2) I wanted to race with my sister in Chicago. We were planning to run the Colour Run (gimmick!) in Chicago this summer but it sold out before we registered. So I looked for another fun run in Chicago on a weekend that she would be in Illinois (she comes home a lot!) and this one fit the bill. It’s long (longer than Vicki has even ever run before) so it really felt like more of an event than just a 5K would have.

3) It was a vacation. Participating in the race gave us the opportunity to make a fun weekend out of it in downtown Chicago that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. And we got to run along the Chicago waterfront which I otherwise would not have had the chance to have done.

4) Most importantly, I didn’t think of the Chocolate as a reward, but as a celebration. There’s a difference. I don’t cap every 9 mile run I do off with bowl of fondue and a cuppa cocoa. This was a special occasion. Getting to sit under the sunny skies in Grant Park with my best friend and my sister and chat about our race experience over a cup of hot chocolate felt celebratory.

Hot Chocolate 15K

It’s hard to feel bad about my race choice when I had such a good time participating and when I really didn’t consider the Hot Chocolate party as a reward for running. But to many participants I think it was, and that kind of thinking can be deterimental to having a balanced lifestyle.

I’m sure I could have found another race for us to do that would have been just as fun and celebratory without the food rewards. I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for one.

18 May

Chewy Espresso Chocolate Cookie

Espresso Chocolate Cookies

I’ve been back to baking a lot of cookies again. It’s track & field meet season and Matt likes to bring cookies for his fellow coaches so it seems like I’m making a batch of cookies each week.

This week I made two.

I picked up a Food & Drink magazine from the LCBO and they had a recipe for Espresso Chocolate Cookies in it and I wanted to make they right away. They were loaded with chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pecans, and shredded coconut, and they had a fudgy chew to them which was an awesome texture.

Matt like them a lot too, even thought they had a strong coffee flavour and he’s not a fan of coffee, and he wanted to make some for the track coaches at the WECSSA meet. 4 of his throwers are going on to SWOSSA next week– Go Team!

This version of the cookie is a bit different. I didn’t have any more baking chocolate for the cookie base so instead I used more butter and I mixed cocoa with the flour. Also, I left out the cranberries and swapped the pecans for walnuts and basically made these cookies more friendly on the wallet.

They turned out quite good actually! Matt preferred them to the original batch I made. They were very chewy with a strong espresso flavour and lots of chocolate chips.

Good thing I was paying attention, because I’m going to want to make this recipe again, and probably soon.

Espresso Chocolate Cookies

Chewy Espresso Chocolate Cookie

(makes 20-24)

Ingredients

½ lb salted butter at room temperature
¾ c sugar
¾ c brown sugar
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
1 ¾ c AP flour
¾ c Dutch process cocoa powder
1 T espresso
2 eggs
½ t vanilla
1 ½ c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts
½ c shredded coconut

Directions

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it’s soft, white, and fluffy.

Beat in the sugars together with the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla, and eggs (one at a time),

In a separate bowl stir together the baking soda, baking powder, flour, and cocoa powder until well combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl of the mixer, add in dry mixture a little bit at a time. Mix until incorporated then add the nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut just until mixed.

Scoop cookie dough and form into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten the balls slightly with your fingers.

Bake at 350*F for 10 minutes or until the top is just set (not shiny).

The cookies should still be very soft and look underbaked. Let them cool on a rack before eating.

16 Feb

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day was probably my favourite day as a kid. I don’t care what anybody says, nothing beats celebrating Valentine’s Day between the ages of 6 and 12 in the good ol’ grade school days.

You spend an entire weekend afternoon writing out valentines on those little perforated cardboard cards to everyone in your class and sealing them with kisses.

You make sure to scrutinize each pre-written message so that your friends get the “Best Friends” cards, your crushes get the “Be Mine” cards, and those kids that you don’t even talk to get something generic like “You’re A-okay valentine!”.

Or maybe just the girls do this. Yeah, it’s probably just a little girl thing.


This card would definitely have been reserved for the grade school ‘love of my life’

At school you make a little paper bag with a heart and your name on it and you go around spreading the Valentine’s day joy into each person’s bag. Everyone is excited and happy and running high on the sugar from candy hearts.

I’m not gonna lie, I still have most of my valentines cards from grade school. I don’t even keep cards from my family and yet those cards from kids I don’t even see anymore are still hiding in the nightstand at my dad’s house.

That atmosphere of excitement is entirely lost when you reach high school and you’re not friends with everyone anymore. People start dating and it feels like Valentine’s Day is just for couples and you feel left out of the fun. But it’s even more distant when you’re in a relationship and you feel pressured to go over the top for Valentine’s Day with flowers, and fancy dinners, and heart-shaped jewellery.

Luckily, Matt totally gets Valentine’s Day. It’s about small thoughtful gestures, random acts of kindness, and candy. Last night Matt made me coconut chocolate pudding, and we ate it together while watching our favourite show: Top Chef.

Chocolate Pudding for Valentine's

That’s my idea of a great Valentine’s Day.

P.S. I asked Matt for the chocolate pudding recipe, but he lost it 🙁

Update: Here is the recipe he used, but he added shredded coconut and orange blossom water.


Matt also e-mailed this lovely collection of cards to me and I swooned.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll understand.

30 Nov

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Today’s 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies recipe comes from Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. I’ve heard lots of good things about her recipes and how they’re really creative but work with the most blue-collar ingredients like her compost cookies, which I had been hoping to make, and crack pie.

I was really excited to bake these cookies but after having done it, to be honest, I don’t think I will make them again. They weren’t as amazing as I hoped. They were too big, too crisp, too chocolaty (if that’s even possible), and too salty.

Or maybe I will try making them again but change things up a bit like cutting back (way, way, waaaaay back) on the salt in the recipe and bake them for a little less time since mine came out crisp rather than chewy. I would also make them smaller; I’m not sure if that would affect their texture but their current size is unreasonably large and it only takes about a quarter of a cookie to be fully satisfied in the chocolate department.

One thing I did like about the cookies was the chocolate crumb. It’s a nice change in texture to have that extra toothsome crunch compared your standard chocolate chip cookie which has lacks that variance of texture. I’d like to try making chocolate chip cookies with this crumb instead of chocolate chips. The crumb recipe is a keeper.

Anyway, if you’re interested in trying them out for yourself, I won’t stop you. If you like a big, crisp, chocolatey cookie with a hefty salt content then these are for you.

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies

Makes 10 to 15 cookies
From Christina Tosi via Bon Appetit

Ingredients

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces 55% chocolate, melted
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1-3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 recipe Chocolate Crumb (below)

Directions

Cream together butter, sugar, and corn syrup with a mixer on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and melted chocolate, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute (do not overmix).

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and add the chocolate crumbs and mix on low speed just until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, 4” apart. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature–they will not bake properly.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Bake for 18 minutes. If after 18 minutes, the cookies still seem doughy in the center, give them another 1 minute in the oven, but not more.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.

Chocolate Crumb

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

2/3 cup flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Heat the oven to 300F.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and stir until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly soft when taken out of the oven and they will crisp up as they cool. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.


This recipe is part of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies.

12 weeks of christmas graphic

Prior Posts:

Week 9: Flaky Butter Tarts
Week 8:
Lime Curd Sablés
Week 7: Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies
Week 6: Macaroons
Week 5: Wildberry Dream Cookies
Week 4: Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies
Week 3: Poppy Seed Filling
Week 2: Cinnamon Bun Cookies
Week 1: Soft & Pillowy Coconut Frosted Cookies

26 Oct

Wildberry Dream Cookies

I’ve been feeling nostalgic for Norway lately.

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I know I make it sound like I spent half my life there when really it was only a week vacation but I fell in love with Oslo and the beauty of Norway, even in the middle of winter.

The astronomical cost of everything there and long and cold winters are more than made up for by the friendly people, the beautiful scenery, and the very high quality of life.

I really do just want to run away there right now.

Oslo ParliamentNaerofjordFjordOslo

When Matt and I were staying in Geilo we stayed in an apartment there so we were able to cook our own meals. This proved to be extremely practical because the cost of food was through the roof.

One thing that we picked up on one of our many grocery store trips was, naturally, a box of cookies called Skogsbærdrøm Cookiene which roughly translates to Wild Berry Dream Cookies (according to google translate, of course).

Wildberry Dream Cookies

I really liked these cookies. They had dried fruit in them as well as white and milk chocolate. They were loaded with deliciousness.

One morning while drinking tea with cookies and watching Norwegian news I was “reading” the side of the cookie package. A lot of Norwegian words are incredibly similar to English so it didn’t take me long to decipher that the recipe on the outside of the package was a recipe for the cookies was a recipe for the cookies inside!

My first instinct was “Sweet! Jackpot!” and I immediately ripped the side of the cookie package off and tucked it into my luggage. I would be making these at home for sure.

My second instinct was “Who the hell puts a recipe for their cookies on the cookie package??”

Norwegians do. They’re good people.

I typed up the recipe in Google Translate to make sure that I got everything right. Suprisingly, my own Norwegian to English translation was pretty much on the ball. I’ve held on to the recipe since March but hadn’t made this cookies until recently when my urge to go on vacation back to Norway was strong.

They were just as good as I remembered.

Related Norway Posts:

Norway in March
Norway Travel: The Food
Exploring Norway by Train, Boat, and Bus
Active Pursuits in Norway
Homecooked Meals


DSCF7506

Skogsbærdrøm Cookiene

The recipe in Norwegian, for fun. Scroll Down for English.
(ca 20 store cookies)

4 dl hvetemel
1 dl havremel
150 g smor/margarin
1 1/2 dl sukker
50 ml farinsukker
1 1/2 ts bakepulver
1/2 ts salt
1/4 dl sirup
1/2 dl eplemos
1/2 dl vann
40 g torkede blåbær
40 g torkede tranebær
40 g rosiner
100 g hvit sjokolade
60 g lys sjokolade

1. Bland mel, smore, sukker, bakepolver, og salt slik at det blir som små brødsmuler. Tilsett så sirup, eplemos, vann, og rør til en deig. Bland til slutt inn bærene og sjokoladen.

2. Rull deigen forsiktig i en lang rull, ca 5-7 cm i diameter. Legg deigen i kjoleskapet i ca 30 min. Skjær deigen i skiver (ca 1 cm tykke) og legg skivene på en plate med bakepapir.

3. Forvarm ovnen til 400F senk så temperaturen til 350F og stek cookiene i 10-15 min – midt i ovnen. Avkjoles på rist.


DSCF7504

Skogsbærdrøm Cookiene – Wild Berry Dream Cookies

(makes 20 large cookies)

These cookies are very sweet, slightly crispy, and loaded with chocolate and dried fruit. The recipe is a bit funny because the volume measurements are metric (and not even standard) but with a few tweaks you can figure it out.

400 ml flour
100 ml oatmeal
150 g butter
150 ml sugar
50 ml brown sugar
1- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 ml light corn syrup
50 ml apple sauce
50 ml of water
40 g dried blueberries (~1/2 c)
40 g dried cranberries (~1/2 c)
40 g raisins (~1/2 c)
100 g white chocolate (~1/2 c)
60 g milk chocolate (~1/4 c)

1. Combine flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until you get small crumbs. Pour into a separate bowl and add the syrup, apple sauce, water. Stir to form a dough. Mix in the berries and chocolate at the end.

2. Roll the dough gently into a log, about 5-7 cm in diameter. Put the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 min. Cut dough into slices (about 1 cm thick) and place the slices on a plate with baking paper.

3. Preheat oven to 400F, then lower the temperature to 350F and bake cookies for 10-15minutes – in the middle of the oven. Cool on wire rack.


This recipe is part of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies.

12 weeks of christmas graphic

Prior Posts:

Week 4: Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies
Week 3: Poppy Seed Filling
Week 2: Cinnamon Bun Cookies
Week 1: Soft & Pillowy Coconut Frosted Cookies

19 Jun

Carrousel and Dad’s Birthday Weekend

It was one of those weekends when I had a million and a half things going on, I got nothing done around the house, and wished I had 2 more days off to just unwind.

Friday – Carrousel of Nations

One of my favourite times of year here in Windsor is the Carrousel of Nations which is a festival that different cultural groups in the city participate in over 2 weekends in June. Each cultural group showcases their cuisine, music, and dancing at different locations or “villages” all across the city.

Windsor is a really diverse city so there are lots of different ethnicities showcased at the Carrousel from Italian to Serbian to Chinese to Scottish but my favourite is, by far, the Greeks.

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I wait every year to have my annual gyro (seriously, I only have a gyro once a year) at the Greek village because it is AMAZING.

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They also sell saganaki, spanikopita, souvlaki, honey balls, Greek salad, and baklava. All of which I’ve tried and loved, but the my heart lies with the gyro.

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Afterward we hit up the Caribbean Village which always has the best entertainment. They had a great Caribbean band playing on Friday night. Usually there are dancers and drummers at the Caribbean Village as well, but maybe they were scheduled on a different night.

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Matt ordered a Chicken Roti which was delicious (and enormous, so he only ate half) and his brother got the Jerk Chicken. I nibbled on some fried plantains which I have to recreate at home. I love all the West Indian flavours.

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I could have gone to a few more carrousels, but we decided to call it a night after the Caribbean Village.

Saturday – My Dad’s Birthday

Saturday I went to an early spin class that my sister Vicki was teaching. I haven’t been to spinning in a while but whenever Vicki comes home from Illinois and teaches a class then I try my best to attend. It was a great class and reminded me that I should go to spinning a bit more often. It’s so much more fun than other forms of gym cardio *cough* elliptical *cough*.

In the afternoon, my dad had a huge birthday party with about 60 friends and family at Spago on Erie Street. It was a big party to celebrate life. My dad was recently very sick and hospitalized for 2 months he has almost completely recovered. After all the stress of that ordeal it was a well deserved party for all of us.

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Me and my Dad

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The food there was phenomenal. We had calamari, beef, chicken, arancini, caprese salad, pizza, and desserts. And of course, vino.

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The Fam – Me, Dad, Vicki, and Nonna

Afterward a group of us headed to The Keg downtown on Riverside Drive for more drinks and appetizers on the patio. The Keg has the greatest patio in Windsor by far with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the Detroit skyline.

Sunday – Early Morning: Coppens’ Birthday

After everyone left The Keg, Matt and I hung around downtown for a while waiting to meet my friend Coppens for her 26th birthday at the nightclub The Room.

We strolled along the waterfront and checked out SummerFest which is going on Downtown for the next few weeks and then wandered around the casino (because neither of us are big gamblers).

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Then I got a text: “We’re at the club” and even though I was exhausted from the long day, Matt and I headed to The Room to meet Coppens and her friends and to get our groove on. It’s been a while since I’ve been out dancing – it was a great time! Happy Birthday girl 🙂

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Me and Coppens

Sunday – Father’s Day

I got a wake up call from my sister Vicki at 9 this morning. I was exhausted so I slept in late in spite of the fact that all the blinds were drawn and the house was beaming with light. We planned to bake my dad a birthday cake in the morning and bring it to his place for lunch.

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Vicki is a pretty expert cake baker. You may remember her amazing coconut cake and red velvet cake. She also made her sister-in-law’s wedding cake and phenomenal cupcakes for my own wedding. Anyway, she said we wouldn’t have enough time to make a cake for the afternoon between prepping it, baking it, letting it cool, and then frosting it. So we went with a chocolate espresso torte instead. My dad likes chocolate (who doesn’t?) and espresso, so it was a win-win.

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Vicki looks innocent even when wielding a knife

The cake was flourless and neither of us has baked a flourless cake before so we weren’t quite sure how it would turn out. We had a bit of trouble folding the whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter because the batter was SO thick, but it ended up turning out okay.

I’m not exactly the greatest when it comes to decorating things which is why I stick with baking cookies and bread instead of cakes and cupcakes. Vicki almost pissed her pants laughing at my glaze-drizzling “skills” because the cake was clearly looking hideous. …nothing a little powdered sugar can’t fix, I guess.

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Now I’m off to Amherstburg to have dinner with Matt’s parents for Father’s day. Yeesh! A girl can’t get 5 minutes of down time this weekend. I know I didn’t really post my food journal for the weekend but you can imagine that I ate A LOT. Especially desserts : / I could definitely go for something very green tonight!

20 Apr

Winning Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Tomorrow morning Matt is heading out to Tennessee (UTK) to coach his throwing team in a Track and Field meet. (Any Tennesseans in the house?)

Despite the fact that I’m jealous that he’ll be enjoying the Smoky Mountains and the 80*F weather I still decided to bake him some extra chewy, extra delicious chocolate chip cookies to take on the very long drive down south.

I’ve been dying to make the recipe for Erika’s Chunky Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies that the Top Chef Just Desserts judges raved about in episode 3.

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And they’re worth raving about. I think this is my new Go-To Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

The recipe on the Bravo website isn’t very specific, so here’s my version:

Chocolate Chip Cookies (6)

Chunky Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookie

(makes 18-24 depending on how much cookie dough you eat)

INGREDIENTS
  • ¾ c sugar
  • ¾ c dark brown sugar
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ lb salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ c AP flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c chopped hazelnuts
DIRECTIONS

If you don’t own a mixer: melt the butter and allow to cool. Beat the butter and sugars together with a whisk . Whisk in the vanilla, eggs (one at a time), and the baking soda.

If you do own a mixer: use room temperature butter and beat it in the mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add the sugars and cream them together with the butter, running the mixer for 2-3 minutes at medium speed. Beat in the vanilla, eggs (one at a time), and the baking soda.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the baking powder and flour (Note: For the most accurate measurement of the flour, lightly spoon it from the container into the measuring cup and level off the flour even with the top edge of the measuring cup using the back of a knife. Don’t use the measuring cup to scoop the flour out of the container.)

Mix till incorporated – the dough will be wet and sticky—then add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips just until mixed.

Scoop cookie dough and form into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press down on the balls slightly with your fingers.

Bake at 350*F for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. The cookies should still be very soft and look underbaked. Let them cool on a rack before eating.

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Bikini Eating:

Nothing but leftovers today. I’m slowly eating my way through the fridge.

1618 cal: 44% fat/ 47% carbs/ 9% protein

I made a soy latte AGAIN for breakfast today! I’m on a roll.

Bikini Fitness:

In spite of getting a blister the size of Tokyo on my baby toe that almost made we cop out early, I still finished 8 miles today (dreadmill. the weather was not in my favour). Hell yeah!

I think the combination of caffeine, a new music playlist, and all my training kept me going at lightning speed (…Because lightning travels at 6.2 miles per hour right? No? Excuse me, it’s been a while since I’ve taken a science class.)

(Training Schedule)

Bikini Confidence:

My body is pretty damn awesome because I can run 8 miles and not even consider that a long run 🙂

25 Jan

Matt’s Birthday

Yesterday was Matt’s birthday so I made him a fantastic dinner for two when he got home from work. I don’t cook meat very often but I will definitely make an exception for Matt’s birthday. Last year, I made him Boeuf en Croute (or Beef Wellington). This year I made Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Leek Stew and Vanilla Maple Gastrique.

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The recipe is from Tom Colicchio on Martha Stewart (you can see it here). The meal was delicious. I must admit that I picked this recipe because I thought the gastrique sounded really fancy and I was hoping to impress Matt on his b-day. It wasn’t really impressive at all though. I found it to be way to sweet for the dish. I think the recipe would’ve been even better without the Maple Vanilla Gastrique.

Oh, and if you do decide to make this recipe and include the gastrique, don’t take Tom’s advice to “keep it warm until ready to serve”. I kept it on the lowest setting on the stove and it ended up turning into maple candy! I had to make a second batch that would be ready exactly when the birds came out of the oven.

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One happy birthday boy!

My favourite part of the recipe was the stuffing. I’m pretty positive it’s the best stuffing I’ve ever eaten in my life. But, then again, I’m used to my family’s stuffing which everyone raves about at the holidays but I can’t stomach because it’s too greasy and much to heavy on the parsley. Tom’s stuffing is perfect: onion, apple, bacon, bread (homemade bread, in my case). What’s not to love?

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The leek stew was topped with candied pecans which, by Tom’s suggestion, I made in advance. Great idea to save time, but I ended up eating half the batch before Monday evening rolled around (luckily the recipe for the pecans makes 4 times more than you actually need for the recipe. Good thinking, Tom, good thinking.)

We capped the night off with one of my favourite cakes: Sourdough Chocolate Cake! I’ve made this before and even though it looks hideous (entirely the fault of the baker, that being me) it tastes phenomenal. Like a chocolate doughnut. Yummm…

I quartered the recipe and used my mini loaf pan to make two mini loaf sized cakes oozing with espresso frosting.

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Well, I’m stuffed to the brim! Happy Birthday, husband.

09 Dec

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

My hubby Matt likes to cook, but he’s not much of a baker.

Don’t be fooled, he didn’t bake this rosemary sourdough bread he’s holding.

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That’s not to say that he never bakes. He does. And when he does, it’s glorious.

The first year that we were dating I mentioned that no woman can resist a man with a cake. On our first Christmas together he surprised me with an Oreo Cheesecake that he baked all by himself and I was totally smitten.

Matt solidified his place in the hearts of my family by bringing a homemade Chocolate Cheesecake to our family thanksgiving party. It was such a hit that they requested another one the following year— this time Apple Cinnamon.

With my weakness of anything cheese or cake in mind, Matt hasn’t been baking many cheesecakes since those days. It’s for the best. Truly.

A couple of years ago he did stumble upon a recipe that turned him from the “cheesecake guy” into the “cookie bar” guy with two gays to thank:

Steven & Chris.

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Right after our wedding Matt moved to Toronto, where I was working at the time. He was unemployed and settling into his role as house husband by playing video games, cooking, and watching daytime talk shows on one of 2 TV channels that we had. Steven & Chris fast became his favourite (It really is a good show) and when he saw a recipe for fudgy cookie bars he made them that day.

I am not a fan of this Sandra Lee style of baking (I really do hate Sandra Lee—tablescapes? really?) but even I have to admit that these bars are dangerously addictive.

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I asked Matt last week what kind of cookie bar he wanted me to bake for him and he decided that none of my options were good enough. It had to be THE cookie bars.

This is his peanutty twist on the original which uses another layer of cookie dough on top instead of peanuts. There are lots of ways to alter the recipe, which makes it a really foolproof and versatile cookie bar. Hell, you could even make the cookie dough yourself if you want!

Matt’s Fudgy Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

(adapted from Steven & Chris)

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Ingredients:
1 roll, store-bought chocolate chunk cookie dough
1 small can, sweetened condensed milk
1 bar of Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa chocolate
1 c. unsalted peanuts, toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8×8 baking dish. Warm the condensed milk in a sauce pan, add the chocolate, stir until all is melted and combined.

Break up the cookie dough into big chunks, gently press into bottom of the dish to cover evenly. Pour the chocolate/milk mixture on top of cookie dough base. Top with toasted peanuts.

Bake until the cookie dough turns slightly brown (15 – 20 minutes) and the bottom is fully cooked.

Let cool completely and refrigerate for a few hours until the filling is set before cutting into bars.

Thanks Matt!

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This recipe is part of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies being hosted by Abby Sweets.

Week 10: Mulled Pecans
Week 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Dates
Week 8: Peppermint Bark
Week 7: Lebanese Walnut Cookies
Week 6: Oatmeal Reese Cookies

Week 5: Candy Corn Cookies
Week 4: Apple Pie Squares (Vegan)
Week 3: Superhero Balls (Raw & Vegan)
Week 2: Chewy Spiced Ginger Cookies (Vegan)
Week 1: Double Chocolate Biscotti