June 29, 2010

Blueberry Cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake

I feel like there has a lot of celebrating, eating cake or cookies and gaining a few pounds alongside it all.

At a time when signs seem to be creeping up around the neighborhood of "Bootcamps! Get Bikini-Ready Fast" and people are talking about eating a lot of salad and dieting, I'm feeling like a bit of an outcast with my cheesecake and flourless chocolate cakes.

I recently had a conversation with friends about eating dessert after dinner. Some friends have memories of always having a little something after each dinner. My father wasn't a huge fan of dessert and sweet things (though, that has changed) so we used to keep cakes and pies for get-togethers and celebrations. I pretty much do the same now (though we entertain a lot and go to many get-togethers). Except, my hubby usually wants something sweet, so he'll dip into the ice cream and I often cave in too because !gosh-darn-it!, it's sugary-fatty goodness - how can one say no?!!

Either way, cake and desserts are always welcome. Especially cheesecake, one of my hubby's favorites. For his birthday/father's day, we had family over and enjoyed this colorful cake. I found it easy to make and I LOVE blueberries, though you could substitute other fruits or berries of your choice, if you prefer.

I guess next week, I'll get into salads and bootcamp business.

Or not.

Maybe I should just put up signs and directions to my house next to the Bootcamp signs: "Cheesecakes, Brownies and Tarts, OH MY!" Because, dessert always tastes better shared. It's true.

nom nom, munch munch.

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Blueberry Cheesecake
9 inch cake

1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup graham crumbs
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup butter, melted

2-1/2 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature (*cream cheese pkg sizes are 250g each)
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 eggs, lightly beaten at at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries for the top (optional)

Place the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Mush the blueberries slightly and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sugar is all dissolved and the mixture has thickened up a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the cheesecake base by mixing together the graham crumbs, almond flour and butter until mixed. Line and grease a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and press the crumb mixture at the bottom uniformly. Place into the refrigerator to cool.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in the cooled blueberry mixture from above. Pour the filling onto the crumb bottom, in the springform pan. Top with more fresh or frozen blueberries.

Bake at 300F for about 1 hour. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Recipe adapted from: blueberry swirl cheesecake, donna hay modern classics 2.

June 24, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

It was my hubby's birthday and I wanted to make something small for the four of us to enjoy. We were going to have family over to celebrate on the weekend but I wanted to have something sweet to celebrate on his actual birthday.

We are big chocolate fans and my hubby enjoys subsituting almond flour with regular flour in recipes (he's a lower carb advocate). I also substituted baking splenda with the bulk of the sugar in this recipe.

The cakes were very rich and chocolatey. One small cake was a lot to eat. I would have preferred them to be a touch more sweeter though, but that's my preference.

This is a great recipe when entertaining. They can be made beforehand too. Add some whipped cream and berries and you have a decadent dessert that serves a large group.

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Flourless Chocolate Cakes
makes 12 muffin size cakes or about 6 individual springform pans

3/4 cup (180g) butter, chopped
220 g (7-1/2 oz) pure semisweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/4 cup sugar (*I used 1 cup splenda and 1/4 cup sugar)
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
5 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter, chocolate and sugar in a saucepan, until smooth.

Remove from heat. Add almond flour and cocoa and whisk until completely mixed.

Add the eggs and incorporate until uniform.

Spoon the mixture into prepared 12 cup muffin tins or mini-springform pans.

Bake at 300F for 20-25 minutes until firm. Remove from oven and let cool in their pans on baking racks. Serve.

Recipe adapted from: flourless chocolate cakes, donna hay modern classics book 2

June 22, 2010

Apricot and Strawberry Dutch Baby

Apricot and Strawberry Dutch Baby

I've come across recipes and seen pictures of dutch babies but I have never made one or tasted it before. Apparantly, dutch babies are also known as German pancakes. This is where I was confused because did the Dutch and Germans get together on this? According to wiki, one possibility could be that the term "dutch" may be a moniker for "deutsch". Who knows. Dutch baby or Deutsch baby... either way, it's Delicious, baby.

I looked for a recipe and was amazed to see how simple it is to make. It really isn't hard. I can't believe it took me this long to get around to making one. It really is as simple to make as a pancake. Tasty and can be made with any combination of fruits or without if you prefer.

Apricot and Strawberry Dutch Baby_2

You can enjoy dutch babies for breakfast or make it for a quick dessert. Sprinkle some icing sugar on it and people will think you worked so hard for such a pretty dessert. Easy entertaining! Don't worry, your secret is safe with me :)

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Apricot and Strawberry Dutch Baby
makes a 10 inch pancake

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk

3 -4 cups strawberries and apricots, diced in sizes of your choice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 425F.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Fold in the apricots and strawberries.

Melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Add the batter and spread the fruit evenly.

Place the skillet in the center of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The edges should puff and be browned. Remove from oven and cut into wedges and serve.

Recipe adapted from: Mixed-Berry Dutch Baby, Food and Wine July 2009 Magazine

June 21, 2010

Weekly Photos: Day and Night

Pouring rain on a sun-shiny day

I love when it rains as hard as the sun is shining bright.


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Tealight lanterns aglow in the tree

I love the glow of tealight lanterns hanging from the trees, amongst the darkening sky.

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Hope you all had a lovely weekend. I sure did.

June 19, 2010

Canadian Fruit and Vegetable Availability Chart

I clipped this Hellman's Grown-in-Canada Fruit and Vegetable Availability Chart from a magazine. For those of you who wonder when certain fruits and vegies are available in Canada, this will come in handy.

Grown in Canada Fruit & Veg Availability Guide

June 17, 2010

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Last week, I made some mint chocolate chip cream with a big batch of mint I have growing on my kitchen windowsill and I was left with egg whites sitting in my fridge. I find it hard sometimes to use up the whites (no egg white omelettes for me - blech. I want the tasty yolks in there!) I'm also not a huge fan of meringues.

But, one of my favorite cookies to buy when I'm at the Italian Centre is Amaretti cookies. I always b-line it to the cookie aisle and pick up a package or two. They are small sweet little cookies with and almond taste.

This recipe worked out really well, however, I didn't make my cookies small (I was lazy and didn't feel like using more baking pans so I made the cookies a lot larger than they should be). But, I usually prefer them smaller since they are pretty intensely sweet. Depending on the size of your eggs, you might have to add a bit more flour if your batch is a not firm enough.

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Amaretti Cookies
makes 24 cookies

1-1/2 cups (200g) almonds
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large egg whites
1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract

Pulse the sugar in a food processor until fine, about 2 minutes. Add raw almonds and process until roughly chopped. Add flour, egg whites and vanilla extract and process until combined. Depending on your size of your eggs, if your mixture is not firm enough, add a bit more flour.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spoon out tablespoonfuls of the mixture.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until tops are lightly browned. Cool on trays and serve.

Recipe adapted from: amaretti, donna hay modern classics book 2

June 16, 2010

Baby Bok Choy

baby bok choy

My hubby had come home with a large variety of seeds the year before, gearing up for the growing season. Up until last year, I had hardly even heard of bok choy much less eaten it. So when I saw that one of the packets contained bok choy seeds, we weren't even sure they would grow here.

Last year was the year we became VERY familiar with bok choy. The hubby got a bit heavy-handed with planting those seeds because we had so many bok choy plants growing in our gardens that we couldn't keep up with eating them. We also let them grow to full size before harvesting, not realizing that they can be picked much younger. There was so much that I was giving it away to anyone that even looked my way in the neighborhood.

"You can grow bok choy here?" and "I've never eaten bok choy!" is something I heard a lot.

baby bok choy_2

Bok choy is apparently from the cabbage family. The stalks remind me a bit of celery without the strings and the greens are like swiss chard or kale with a slight bitter taste. Baby bok choy is also milder tasting than the fully grown version.

We've already enjoyed two harvests of baby bok choy this year, since we started growing them earlier indoors. They are great in stirfries, curries, soups or as a side dish.

Fresh from the garden, doesn't get more local than that!

June 14, 2010

Weekly Photos: Jump Around

It started a couple of years ago. First, it was jumping on the couch. The children got bigger and I eventually forbid them from couch jumping, as they could make serious dents by now. Then, they moved onto our bed. King-size bed for two kiddos makes for non-stop jumping fun.

Last year, the hubby mentioned we should look into a trampoline for the kids. I hummed and hahhed, as I was nervous for many reasons. Injuries, having to constantly watch the kids and their friends, mowing around a giant apparatus in the summer and then, what the heck to do in the winter?

But then, a sale came. The hubby stated he was going to pick one up. And now a done deal and question is history.

The summer is going to look a LOT like this:
Trampoline Fun
There have been surprisingly no injuries thus far. The constant onslaught of neighborhood children streaming in and out of our backyard hasn't driven me mad. (There was 6 children jumping at once at one point). My kids have probably logged enough bouncing hours on it already to have paid for it (not to mention all the other neighborhood kids who have spent their time on it!) And, it wasn't too hard to mow the grass around it.

Jump Around

All in all, a great purchase. The kids now are forbidden from further tenderizing my mattress and I can watch them from my kitchen window as I'm cleaning up or cooking. Not a bad deal. Here's looking forward to summer!

June 11, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Cookies_1

It often happens that I will have an ingredient in abundance in my pantry that leads me to scout out different recipes. This time it was raw peanuts. I was cleaning out my freezer and noticed a big bag of them.

I love cookies and I do like to try something a bit different at times and I felt that these fit the bill. Chocolate cookie with peanuts. Reminiscent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup though? Well, not quite. I think next time I'll make a peanut butter cookie with chocolate chips in it, if I want to get closer to that nostalgic feeling.

Otherwise, I quite liked this cookie. Like I said, it's different. My hubby said it could of been sweeter, but I liked it just the way it is.

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Chocolate Peanut Cookies
makes about 24 cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted raw peanuts

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and mix.

Sift together, in a separate bowl, the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until well blended.

Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture. Mix until combined. Fold in the peanuts.

Drop by the tablespoonfuls onto baking pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350F for 15-16 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Recipe adapted from: peanut cookies, donna hay modern classics 2

June 9, 2010

Tips / Techniques: Freezing and Macerating Fresh Berries and Fruits

I have no idea how grocery stores keep their strawberries or other berries looking fresh without them developing mold or getting soft so quickly. Never fails, when I buy a big batch of strawberries, there are always casualties by the next day. Either they shrink a bit and become soft, with their skins looking unappetizing, or a few start a mold science experiment by the next day. I hate throwing out berries I just bought.

So, I have made the no-waste berry challenge this year. I'm going to prolong my berry eating, without waste with two easy techniques.

Freezing and Macerating.

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freezing strawberries

Freezing:

Why let berries go bad when you can freeze a bunch for those winter days? I froze the bulk of my fresh raspberries last year and enjoyed them all winter long. I made shakes, pies or just enjoyed them over pancakes whenever I wanted. So fantastic when you are craving some tasty fruit.

Freezing is simple enough. Wash your berries or fruits and let them dry. Remove any stems, pits and hull your strawberries. Cut them into any desired size or leave them whole. Line a wax paper in a baking pan and arrange your berries, keeping space between them. Pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put them into freezer bags and since they are frozen individually, you can take out as little or as many as you wish later on.

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macerating strawberries

Macerating:

I often macerate my fresh fruits and berries. It's a delicious way to prolong the fresh berry eating. I often eat my macerated fruit over ice cream, use it on pancakes or my yogurt or just even eat them like that.

Wash all your fresh fruit and cut them into your desired sizes. Place them in a bowl, sprinkle them with sugar and mix. With a little time, the fruits release their juices and makes it very flavourful. I then pop it into the fridge and use it up within a couple of days. It's an easy technique that prevents any berries being thrown out.

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Both these techniques can be used for all sorts of berries and fruits. I often mix up different fruits together too. Good luck!

June 2, 2010

Mexican Style Salad or Chunky Dip

Mexican Style Fiesta Salad or Dip

I was looking at the dried beans in my pantry the other day. They were looking sad. Sad because I haven't used them in a while. I try to incorporate more beans and lentils in my meals but I don't often get around to it. Dry beans need to be soaked and cooked and I don't always remember to do it until I need it. Much like frozen meat that has to be defrosted. Canned beans to the rescue!

It was one of those times I was getting cravings for something fresh. Whether it be a salad with a tangy dressing or a piece of sweet watermelon, I am always looking for something that gets my taste buds satisfied and I remembered this recipe which contained beans too.

I also like when a dish can do double duty. I've served this dish as a salad side or as a chunky dip alongside tortillas for scooping. It's great both ways.

But, now I'm soaking a batch of beans to use. I will whittle down my pantry of dried beans.

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Mexican Style Salad or Chunky Dip

1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 cup whole kernel corn, fresh or frozen
1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained or 2-1/4 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Mix together ranch dressing, cumin and chili powder. Set aside.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the dressing mix. Serve as a salad or as a chunky dip with tortillas.


Recipe adapted from: Mexican Salad
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