Launch of My Sweetie Pie Pyjamas!

Hello dedicated followers!

I am super thrilled to announce the launch of my pyjama company, My Sweetie Pie PJs! As you all know I am a stay at home mother of a 2 year old with another on the way (coming very soon!) I have been working very hard on this project for the past couple months and I am super excited to provide Mamas with super comfy jammies to match their little one. I decided to start this company after searching online and in my community for cute matching pjs for myself and my little girl. I couldn’t find anything! When I did find something I liked, it would be coming from the United States and the shipping costs would be outrageous and downright unaffordable.

I am proud to say that these pjs are 100% Made in Canada and designed by myself.  Currently I ship to the United States and Canada but will most definitely expand to international in the future. They are made of 100% cotton flannelette and are SUPER COMFY!! I carry women’s sizes small, medium and large and baby sizes newborn to 12 months. There are plans in the near future for toddler and children sizes as well. (yay!)

Please feel free to check out my Etsy Store!

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MySweetiePiePJS

**MY SWEETIE PIE PJS SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. Kindly follow and support! xo**

INSTAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/mysweetiepiepjs/

TWITTER:

https://mobile.twitter.com/mysweetiepiepjs

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https://www.facebook.com/My-Sweetie-Pie-Pyjamas-1680648062146967/

E-MAIL: mysweetiepiepjs@yahoo.com

Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any questions you may have! I’m super friendly..promise! 🙂

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Cooking Around the World Blog Tour: 3 Cookbook Reviews

When I was asked to participate in the Cooking Around the World Blog Tour, I was absolutely thrilled! I love culture and food and the two together and I love experiencing new and different things. My husband and I used to be avid travelers until we became parents 2 years ago. The most adventure we have now is once a month, heading out to a local Toronto restaurant and experiencing local food. I mean, its not terribly bad but nothing beats getting on a plane of course. Cooking from these wonderful cookbooks gave me the opportunity to bring the countries to us. Read on as I reviewed 3 beautiful cookbooks and traveled to France, The Caribbean and Croatia right from my home and filled my kitchen with the smells of authentic food from these great countries!

CookingAroundtheWorld

“The South of France Cookbook” by Nina Parker

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Author Nina Parker takes us to the beautiful beaches of St. Tropez and all the local wonderful food it has to offer. With strong, fresh flavors of Provencal cuisine, Nina shows us her take on classic recipes from the South of France.

The pictures in this cookbook are just beautiful. With a mix of local pictures around St.Tropez and the beautiful food photography by Paul Winch-Furness, I truly felt like I was right there in St. Tropez feeling the warm sun on my back, munching on some tasty food at a local restaurant.

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The book is divided into the following chapters:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Teatime
  • Drinks & CanapĂ©s
  • Dinner
  • Dessert

Each chapter begins with a chat of Nina’s adventures in St. Tropez and how it relates to the coming chapter. Each recipe also begins with a fun little description of the origins of the particular recipe. Ingredients are listed in order of use and directions are simple to follow. Most ingredients are readily available at your local supermarket.

I recreated the Ramatuelle Bioche and boy was I ever impressed! It was perfectly flakey and oh so buttery and the smell in my house was incredible once I removed it from the oven! This is a perfect recipe to make if you don’t have the time or patience to make homemade croissants with a very similar taste. Find the recipe below along with pictures of my creation. Please don’t let all the proofing times turn you off from trying it out. It takes nothing to leave dough on its own to rise and hands on time was fairly minimal.

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Brioche dough prior to rising. For whatever reason this dough did not rise well but still turned out great!
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Brioche dough after the final rising of 3 hours, Brushed with the egg.

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Ramatuelle Brioche

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves

Ingredients:

  • 5 tsp whole milk
  • 2 tsp fresh yeast or 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast  (* I used instant)
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 oz/200g) bread flour
  • 2 free-range large eggs, plus 2 yolks, lightly beaten (*I used regular large eggs)
  • 2 tbsp unrefined superfine sugar (*I used regular granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 cup (4oz/125g) soft unsalted butter
  • sea salt

Heat the milk until lukewarm and add the yeast and 1 heaped teaspoon of the flour. Set aside for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat three-quarters of the eggs, the sugar, and a pinch of salt together. Add the yeast mixture, and after a minute, gradually spoon the rest of the flour. Mix until everything is just combined, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now, set the mixer to a slow speed and begin spooning in the soft butter, letting each addition combine with the dough before adding the next. Once everything is incorporated, increase the speed and mix until the dough looks elastic and shiny. Scrape into a clean, dry bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in the fridge overnight.

(* Upon opening my fridge in the morning to check on my lovely dough, I noticed it hardly rised at all. The dough in general seems to be a very heavy, dense dough and not a typical dough I am used to. I am not sure if this is normal or if this was a result of making a couple substitutions. I was ready to start the recipe all over again but then decided to just bake it after the second rising and it came out perfect.)

The next day, line a slightly larger-than-standard loaf pan or two standard 8 x 4 x 2 1/2-inch (17 x 1 1 x 9-cm) pans, with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and pit it in the pan(s). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave to proof for 2-3 hours in a warm, dry place. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Once the dough has doubled in size, brush it with the remaining beaten egg and bake it for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is gorgeous and golden. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm.

This brioche is at its best in flavour and texture on the same day it is made. It should be moist, flakey and buttery.  I did keep it for a couple days and as the days went by it got drier and therefore not as tasty.

Some other recipes you can expect to find: Sticky Buns, Coconut and Wild Honey Bread, Sea-Salted Caramel from Grimaud, La Mole-Inspired Omelet with Chanterelles, Gruyere and Thyme, The Feline Onion Tart, Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Pizza, Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild Fennel Seeds, Graniers Spring Rolls, Bun Man Chicken, Vanilla and Orange Blossom Marshmallows, St.Tropez Tart, Buttermilk Scones with Raspberry Jam and Rosewater Cream, Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms and Chickpeas, Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream and so so many more!!

You may purchase “The South of France Cookbook” By Nina Parker on Amazon.ca for $42.29 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.

 

“Creole Kitchen: Sunshine Flavors from the Caribbean” by Vanessa Bolosier

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With recipes based on classic dishes from Guadeloupe and Martinique, Vanessa Bolosier takes us to the islands with her new cookbook “Creole Kitchen”. Vanessa, a self-taught cook has learned all she knows about island cooking from mother and from her late father who was her food mentor. Food has been and always will be a huge part of her life and you can feel the passion she has as you read each recipe and how it remains special to her. Vanessa goes on to discuss the history of Creole food, what it is and how it came about. She chats about local restaurant and street food and most importantly homemade food.

Included at the beginning of the cookbook is a section on what ingredients you may expect to find in a Creole kitchen. To name a few: coconut vinegar, white vinegar, allspice, cloves, fresh ginger, chilies, mangos, pineapples, a variety of beans, plantains and bananas, breadfruit, cassava, Giraumon (a squash that grows in the Caribbean) and many more. Some ingredients included may not be familiar and may also be difficult to find locally however she give alternatives at the beginning of the book. Also included are some key elements of Creole food and techniques.

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Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Drinks (Bwoisson)
  • Starters (Komanseman)
  • Fish & Seafood (Pwasson e fwidme)
  • Meat & Poultry (Viann e poul)
  • Sides (Akonpayman)
  • Soups (Soup’)
  • Sauces & Condiments (Soss e kondiman)
  • Syrups (Siwo)
  • Desserts (Desse)

I chose to recreate the Mont Blanc Coconut Cake. A genoise sponge cake with coconut frosting. This cake was supposed to be light and airy that “makes it taste like a coconut cloud”. I am sad to say that mine came out very dense. I am not sure exactly what went wrong but it still tasted great. I loved the flavours of rum and coconut together, it reminded me of something I would eat on vacation.

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Cake pre-bake.
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Cake split in half to fill with coconut rum icing.
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Icing was not as thick as it was supposed to be (I would recommend whisking the cornstarch with the water prior to adding to coconut milk mixture as the cornstarch clumped even with whisking, therefore not thickening the icing as it should be)

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You may purchase “Creole Kitchen: Sunshine Flavors from the Caribbean” by Vanessa Bolosier on Amazon.ca for $43.65 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.

 

“Mamushka: A Cookbook” by Olia Hercules

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Author Olia Hercules, a native of Ukraine takes us back to her hometown where she grew up eating seasonally. This is a truly authentic Cookbook with a collection of recipes from Ukraine & Eastern Europe. My husband was thrilled when he saw me flipping through this book as his father is from Hungary and many of the recipes he saw took him back to his childhood.

Some useful ingredients are included at the beginning of the book. These include some that may not be familiar to the average home cook. I certainitely did not recognize a few. There are about a handful of ingredients used in the book that would have you traveling to a local Eastern European grocery store (Gherkins, dill heads, sour cherry leaves, Smetana, syr)

The Recipes

If you are looking for a healthy range of recipes, look elsewhere. These recipes are all definitely very indulgent and hearty. Many of the recipes in this book have a lengthy list of ingredients. The directions are not terribly hard but you do need to make sure you have the time to recreate it, as some of the directions are also lengthy. I found the recipes quite unique and in my opinion daring. Many of which I would be a little hesitant to try but perhaps I am not as adventurous as I thought! That being said, the pictures are fantastic and the food does look scrumptious. Each recipe begins with a description and mini history/importance of the forthcoming recipe which I always love reading before deciding to make a particular dish.

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Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Introduction
  • Broths & Soups
  • Breads & Pastries
  • Vegetables & Salads
  • Dumplings & Noodles
  • Meat & Fish
  • Fermented Pickles & Preserves
  • Sweet Conserves
  • Desserts
  • Drinks

I managed to recreate the Zucchini & Potato Stew (Coyc/Sous) I had thought that it would have been super quick and easy but it did take longer than I expected. I was standing at the stove for a good hour or more just frying (not including prep time). The upside: it was super tasty. The downside: time consuming and every single ingredient was fried. I can’t say that it was very picturesque but it sure tasted better than it looked! (promise!)

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Zucchini & Potato Stew

Some of my favourites that I would love to recreate: Ukrainian Garlic Bread (this recipe looks phenomenal!), Greek breads with green onions, Moldovan giant cheese twist, Stuffed Ukrainian pasta, Ukrainian gnocchi, Garlicky Georgian poussins, Apple sponge, Poppy seed roll.

You may purchase “Mamushka: A Cookbook” by Olia Hercules on Amazon.ca for $39.92 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.

* A big thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending over all three copies of these beautiful cookbooks in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own.

Simon & Schuster Canada:

Cookbook Review: Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook

I’ve had a subscription to The Canadian Living Magazine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mother always had a subscription and I would pour over her magazines staring at all the pictures of food, dreaming of the day that I would be able to make them all in my own kitchen. Each month when a new issue arrives at my door, I read every article (yes I’m that dedicated!) and tear out my favourite recipes.

I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly thrilled I was when I started to see advertisements in the magazine that a cookbook filled with the ultimate recipes would be hitting the bookshelves. As I flipped through the book, I started recognizing recipes that I have seen in the magazine that I kept (bye bye tear outs!) all neatly laid out in this perfect cookbook!

For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you…they all turn out amazing. The Canadian Living Test Kitchen is composed of industry professionals, food experts, home economists, recipe developers, and food writers. I have been recreating their recipes for years and there is not one recipe that has gone wrong. As a busy mom who cannot afford to lose time, I can trust that each recipe will go right without any errors. Every recipe is tested till perfect, which means they have tested every recipe using the same grocery store ingredients and regular household appliances as we do. No surprises, no strange “where in the world do I find this??” ingredient. Perfect for the everyday cook and busy parent.

The collection of recipes you will find in this cookbook are the ultimates of everything. The ultimate appetizers, the ultimate fish and seafood, the ultimate sauces, seasonings and preserves, and so much more. This means you are getting the best recipes of everything. I have this book tabbed to the max and my dinners planned out for the next couple weeks (no word of a lie!).

I love that this cookbook bypasses most of the usual do’s and don’ts, techniques and ingredients that are typically located in the beginning and cuts right to the recipes. The recipes are so simple you don’t even really need anything else.

The Recipes

The recipes are categorized with symbols above each recipe into the following categories:

  • 30 minutes or less
  • Canadian classic
  • Vegetarian
  • Complete meal (balanced meals containing protein, starch and vegetables)

Recipes are super easy to follow with ingredients listed in order of use. Directions are also simple and uncomplicated. Each recipe lists hands on time, total time and how much the recipe yields. Also included at the end of most recipes are storage directions, any make-ahead steps that can be done ahead of time (thank you Canadian Living, all busy parents are thanking you!), any variations of the particular recipe and nutritional information per serving. Recipes are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite. (yes…perfection!)

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Appetizers, dips, & spreads
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Side dishes
  • Poultry
  • Beef & Lamb
  • Pork
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Pasta, Noodles & Dumplings
  • Eggs & Breakfasts
  • Quick Breads
  • Yeast Breads
  • Sauces, Seasonings & Preserves
  • Pies & Tarts
  • Cakes
  • Desserts
  • Kitchen Reference

I have created several of the recipes in this book thanks to my monthly subscription of The Canadian Living Magazine. For the purpose of this blog post, I recreated my favourite Hazelnut Moose Cake that has become a staple for birthdays in my family. Every one loves it! I get compliments every time I make it and the best part…it contains one of my favourite ingredients, Nutella! This would also be a perfect cake to make for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, I promise you will not be disappointed! (Recipe & pictures below) I also recreated (for the first time) a super tasty and healthy Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup that was a hit in my family as well.

Chocolate Hazelnut Moose Cake (pictures below)

Prep Time: 1 hr       Total Time: 4 ½ hr       Portion Size: 16 to 18 servings

Ingredients

  • 175 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Chocolate Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) cider vinegar

 Hazelnut Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) ground roasted skinned hazelnuts, (about 1/2 cup whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla

 Mousse:

  • 1 pkg gelatin
  • 1 cup (250 mL) hazelnut chocolate spread
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Candied Hazelnuts:

  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) roasted skinned hazelnuts

Preparation

Chocolate Cake: Grease 10-inch (3 L) springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside. In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Whisk in 1 cup water, oil and vanilla; stir in vinegar. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Run sharp knife around edge. Remove from pan; let cool completely on rack.

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 24 hours.

Cut cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers.

Hazelnut Meringue: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 10-inch (3 L) springform pan as guide, trace circle onto paper. Turn paper over. In bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold in hazelnuts and vanilla. Spoon onto circle, smoothing top.

Bake on bottom rack in 225 F (110 C) oven until dry and crisp, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off oven; let cool in oven for 2 hours. 

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container in cool dry place for up to 5 days.

Mousse: Meanwhile, in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbsp water; set aside. In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt hazelnut spread with 3 tbsp water until smooth; stir in butter.

In microwave, warm gelatin on high until dissolved, about 20 seconds; whisk into hazelnut spread mixture. Set aside and keep warm. (Mixture may separate while standing; whisk to combine.) Whip cream; whisk one-third into hazelnut spread mixture. Fold inremaining whipped cream.

Line bottom of 10-inch (3 L) greased springform pan with parchment paper. Place bottom cake layer in pan; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Place meringue layer in pan, trimming to fit if necessary; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Top with remaining cake layer; top with remaining mousse. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil. Freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw overnight in refrigerator; continue with recipe.

Meanwhile, place chocolate in bowl.In small saucepan, bring cream to boil; pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until ganache is thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Run sharp knife around cake; remove from pan and set on rack over parchment paper.

Pour ganache over top, smoothing top and sides with palette knife. Refrigerate until almost set and ganache is still shiny yet no longer jiggles, about 30 minutes.

Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Candied Hazelnuts: Meanwhile, in shallow saucepan, dissolve sugar and salt in 3 tbsp water over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is light golden, about 8 minutes. Spread nut mixture on parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Let cool. Coarsely chop; sprinkle over top of cake.

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I had to show this picture first to entice you to make this gorgeous cake! This is the finished product. Hazelnut Moose Cake topped with a Ganache frosting and caramelized Hazelnuts.
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Making the meringue
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Candied Hazelnuts
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Spreading the moose over each layer of cake
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The assembled cake pre-ganache

 

The end of the book takes us to the Ultimate Kitchen Reference including a table of equivalents (measurments), cooking equipment, baking equipment, an extensive and most useful list of ingredient substitutions, food safety, meat doneness temperatures & visual cues, and a fruit & vegetable buying guide.

I loved this cookbook and it just might be the cookbook of the year for me. It includes anything and everything and would make the most perfect Valentines gift for your loved one (or for yourself of course) I know that in the next couple of years the pages will get stained with sauce and oil and may get a little dog-earred but I can’t wait to place this ultimate collection on my bookshelf and eventually share these classic recipes with my kids.

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. I received a copy of Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook from the most generous Simon & Schuster Canada to give an honest review. You may purchase this cookbook through Chapters.Indigo.ca for $40.00. Price is subject to change.

Join myself with Simon & Schuster Canada on Valentine’s Day and cuddle up with your favourite book!

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Canadian Living- Social Media

  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/canadianliving/?hl=en
  • Website: http://www.canadianliving.com
  • Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/canadianliving/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canadianliving/

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” Review

I am a lover of all things Disney. I have a massive cabinet filled with Disney snow globes of all characters and every Disney DVD that has ever been released. When I noticed this adorable cookbook combined with the classic literature of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland I knew I had to get my hands on it!

In “Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook”, Julie Van Rosendaal creates the most sumptuous Wonderland delicacies based on the storyline. Pierre Lamielle creates modern, whimsical and beautiful illustrations that are unlike any other interpretation of Alice that I have ever seen (and probably one of my favourite parts of the book, other than the recipes themselves!)

It never occurred to me how many references there are to food items throughout the story, despite reading and watching the movies several times. What a brilliant idea to create this most adorable keepsake book. Something that I look forward to passing on to my daughter once she’s old enough (and passes the “ripping pages out of books” stage)

With recipes like Alice’s “Eat Me” Cakes with Blackcurrant Icing, The Queen of Hearts’ Red Velvet Cupcakes with Regal Cream-Cheese Frosting, and the Milky Mystic Matcha we can bring ourselves and our imaginations deep into Alice’s Wonderland and feel like we are there right beside her sharing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Speaking of which, there is an adorable Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Section that outlines each of the following 4 characters: the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and Alice and their own versions of a scone, a savory, a sweet and a unique tea concoction. How sweet!

Included is a section on brewing a proper pot of tea; assembling your cups and saucers, stirring your tea “never clanging the sides of the cup or spilling over the sides”. Another cute little section on tea sandwiches including a visual guide of different kinds.

Another notable (and adorable may I add) 2 pages on Tasseography. I actually had to Google this when I was reading it as I wasn’t sure if it was made up or actually real! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tasseography is the ancient art of reading your fortune in tea leaves. “The finer the tea, the more detail you will find in the images.” Instructions on how exactly to do it are included along with the creative illustrations with Alice characters on interpreting your fortune wherever the tea leaves may land. Loved it and it is something I would definitely incorporate at my next tea party/brunch with the girls!

It was nice for a change to open a cookbook and not have a thousand pages on equipment and ingredients, etc. Not that I don’t appreciate what authors write (I actually do learn a lot despite being an avid cook and baker myself) but just nice to cut to the chase and see simple recipes that anyone can recreate without a boat load of Do’s and Don’ts.

The Recipes

Each recipe begins with an adorable little “Alice in Wonderland” description of what is to come. The recipes range from savory to sweet including specialty drinks. They are easy to follow and are appropriate for the beginner cook/baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and instructions are simple, organized and well laid out.

The book is divided into the same chapters you will see in the classic story as told by Carol Lewis. Under each chapter you will find a collection ranging from 1-5 recipes that reflect that particular chapter. Here is an example:

Chapter 4: Rabbit sends in a Little Bill

White Rabbits Cucumber Frames with Three Fillings

Bill’s Brandy Snap-to-Its

Alice’s Little Cake Pebbles

I managed to recreate the Mock Turtles Chocolates, which consisted of pecan halves topped with square caramels and a piece of dark chocolate. They were ridiculously easy to make despite the fact that I left them in the oven too long (opps!) This is a perfect quick dessert to make if you have last minute guests coming over. I didn’t have pecan halves at home but rather pecan pieces that were already chopped so I tried my best to recreate what I saw in the picture.  My picture below isn’t the greatest but hey..they tasted awesome regardless and I can’t complain. For presentation purposes, buy pecan halves!

Mock Turtle’s Mock Turtle Chocolates

Makes about 2 dozen tasty turtles

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (250 mL) pecan halves
  • 24 individually wrapped square caramels
  • 1 bar (3 oz/90g) dark chocolate, broken into about 24 pieces

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees (180 C).
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the pecan halves in groups of four, all pointing away from eachother, like the legs of a turtle. Unwrap the caramels and place one on top of each cluster, right in the middle.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the caramel softens and starts to melt. Remove from the oven and place a square of chocolate on top of each caramel, pressing lightly so that the caramel oozes out a bit on the sides. If the turtles have spread out too much, you can push the pecans back together while the caramel is still soft.
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Topping the pecans with carmel squares. Please don’t mind my not-so pecan halves!

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This picture doesn’t do justice! They were so so good! This picture comes from the second batch I made. Can you tell I was running out of good looking pecans? Ha!

Tips from Melissa’s Kitchen:

Use the cooking times above as simply a guideline and not an exact duration to bake/melt. Each oven varies in temperature so it is best to keep your eye on these turtles very often as the carmel melts. I had expected that the carmel was supposed to be oozing in the oven prior to taking them out but I was wrong! I ended up making 2 batches of these because I I had waited for the oozing and by then it was too late…they had started to burn. They only need to be slightly softened when you top them with the chocolate, otherwise the carmel will harden too much causing a much difficult dessert to eat and possibly some broken teeth!

Comment below if you try these out, I would love to know!

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A big thank you to White Cap Books for sending over this gorgeous cookbook!

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” may be purchased at http://www.whitecap.ca for $34.95. For more information on this cookbook, click on the following link: http://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1770501916

Social Media-White Cap Books:

Social Media-Julie Van Rosendaal:

Social Media-Pierre A. Lamielle:

 

 

 

Cookbook Review: “Duchess Bake Shop” By Giselle Courteau

This is quite possibly the prettiest cookbook I have ever laid my hands on. The front and back of the book is covered in linen, the golden lettering and the antique-looking logo makes me feel like I am reading a classic cookbook from my moms collection. “Duchess Bake Shop” written by Calgary bakeshop owner Giselle Courteau is a cookbook that you will no doubt want to display in your kitchen or bookshelf just for the look alone!

The Duchess Story began when two friends teaching in Tokyo had dreams of opening up their own bakeshop. With no formal training upon returning to Canada, friends Giselle and Garner opened Duchess and so began what is now a super popular joint in Alberta.

When I first started flipping through the book, I felt a little intimidated by the beautiful pictures. Just looking at all the tasty baked goods made me think of how difficult and time consuming these recipes must be. While some of them may be a little time consuming, they are not all that complicated and they are nonetheless absolutely worth every minute.

This Cookbook is for the adventurous home baker. The recipes range from easy to moderately difficult. I always say that difficulty levels of baking are very subjective though. What I may think is easy may be more challenging to someone else, but the step by step pictures for each recipe simplifies the process that much more.

The book is divided into the following sections:

A Day at Duchess

The Duchess Story

A Note for the Home Baker

Tips & Tricks

Equipment

Ingredients

Macarons

Croissants

Brioche & Bread

Tea Time

Cookies

Pies

Tarts

Cakes

Pate a Choux

Sweets

The Recipes

 Each recipe begins with a little story about the particular one mentioned. All recipes are easy to follow and well organized. As mentioned above, each recipe has step-by-step instructional full colour photos which is fantastic. There are also individual pictures for each recipe of the finished product. Ingredients are measured by weight and volume, depending on what it is, some are both. Most ingredients are easily assessable at your local supermarket. At Duchess they use only fresh yeast (where the heck is that?) I’ve never seen fresh yeast but then again I’ve never actively looked for it. She does give options for using dry yeast, which is what I used when making the tartiflette and it turned out great. For some of the recipes you may need a thermometer as well as a scale. The directions are also pretty straightforward, nothing confusing or out of the ordinary. Recipes are cross-referenced in the index (Thank you Jesus!)

I managed to attempt the Tartiflette which is a thin focaccia topped with onions, Gruyere, fresh thyme and thin potato slices. This was SO GOOD. I also baked up the Raspberry White Chocolate Scones which were equally as tasty. I was super impressed with the simplicity of both recipes. These days I rate recipes based on how fast I can get them done. (Terrible I know!) But with my 2 year old, it is constantly a challenge. I have provided the recipe for the Scones below as well as pictures of my experience. If you get the chance to try them out, comment below I would love to know how they turned out!

RASPBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE SCONES 

Ingredients:

340g (2 cups + 2 Tbsp) all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ baking soda

3 Tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

130g ( ½ cup + 1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, cubed

135g ( ½ cup + 1 Tbsp) buttermilk

75g ( ½ cup) fresh or frozen raspberries

100g ( ½ cup) white chocolate chips

Extra sugar, for finishing

Equipment:  You will need a baking sheet, a pastry cutter (optional), and a 3-inch round cookie cutter. If you use a smaller cookie cutter, make sure to decrease the baking time accordingly.

Procedure:  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 C) Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients. (**Melissa’s Note: I did the 2 knives technique and it pissed me off so I just used my hands to break apart the butter) You want your mixture to look quite dry with some small lumps of butter remaining. If you use a food processor, you run the risk of turning your mixture into a dough, and making it difficult to incorporate the buttermilk in step 3.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in half the buttermilk. Using your hands, incorporate the buttermilk by pushing the dry mix from the bottom and sides to the centre while gently rubbing the mixture between your hands. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk until incorporated. The mixture should feel slightly dry- which will make for a flaky scone- but if its too dry it wont hold together, add a few tablespoons of buttermilk.
  4. Add the raspberries and white chocolate chips and gently incorporate. If using frozen raspberries, make sure to work quickly to incorporate them before they thaw. Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Press the dough together to form a large circle, about 1 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut scones out of the dough and place on the lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Lightly sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the scones are golden brown.

STORAGE: These scones will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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The dough after blending the buttermilk.
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Fresh raspberries and white baking chocolate chunks.
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The dough after adding fresh berries and white chocolate. I may have added a little too much buttermilk but it still came out super tasty.
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The scones pre-bake.
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Fresh Raspberry and White Chocolate Scones. Perfect with your morning coffee!
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This is the tartifette. I used a mandolin to thinly slice a red potato.
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Topping the focaccia with fresh gruyere, thyme and onions over the potato slices.
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The Tartiflette all baked up.

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Other great recipes in this Cookbook:

Macarons

Macaron cake (This is on my to do list… It looks amazing!)

Croissants

Spinach and Feta Danishes

Brioche

Apple Crème Brulee Brioche Filling

London Tea Time Muffins

Oatmeal Milk Chocolate Cookies

Dark Chocolate Meringues

Maple Pecan Pie

Banana Cream Pie

Quiche Lorraine

Tart Montreal

Classic Eclairs

Duchess St. Honore

And many more!

I absolutely loved this cookbook. The recipes were simple, tasted great, the layout was clean and easy to follow and I’ve already had numerous compliments and questions about it with it just sitting in my kitchen..that is how pretty it is! This Cookbook is a perfect addition for the savvy baker and an even more perfect gift for the holidays!

**All opinions in this post are 100% my own. A special thank you to Duchess Bake shop for generously sending me this beautiful cookbook to give an honest review. Another special thank you to Nancy from Sandhill Book Marketing for all your time and assistance! http://www.sandhillbooks.com

You can purchase “DUCHESS BAKE SHOP” by Giselle Courteau for $45 at their online shop: http://duchessbakeshop.com/collections/cookbooks/products/duchess-bake-shop

While you are there, check out some other cookbooks they sell. They have a phenomenal selection!! Take it from me, the cookbook hoarder!

Additional Info:

Duchess Bake Shop Website: http://duchessbakeshop.com

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/duchessbakeshop

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/duchessbakeshop

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/duchessbakeshop/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/duchessbakeshop/

“Per la famiglia” Cookbook Review

 

“The recipes in this book represent a love of food and family”, author Emily Richards writes in her new cookbook “Per la famiglia” and I couldn’t agree more. In this cookbook, Emily lets us into her heart and her home and shares with us her most treasured family recipes. I come from a Southern Italian family myself and as I was reading through the recipes and short stories, it brought back so many memories of my own life growing up in an Italian-Canadian family. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two looking at the food pictures. Yes…food pictures! Food is more than just food. Food represents memories, good times and big celebrations shared with family. As I read the recipe for Cudduri, I thought of my Zia Rina. I would walk into her home at Christmas Eve and the smell of fried goodness would fill our noses (and our clothes) and all the good times that came along with sharing this food. Beautiful! I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food photography that accompanied almost every recipe in this cookbook. As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m a huge fan of great food pics! Pictures are what entice me to recreate a recipe. This cookbook is not short on pictures and I think it’s great that Emily styled her own. It shows how talented she is in addition to creating this beautiful book.

In the beginning of this book you will find a food glossary that includes bread, cheese, cured Italian deli meats, peppers and more. This is a great guide for those who are not of Italian decent, not familiar with Italian culture, and who would like to pick up a few Italian staples. She also has a section on kitchen staples. Foods you should have stocked away, ready to eat at any given time. This section is particularly helpful for the busy Mama or Papa. If your ever in a pinch and need a quick meal, you have a perfect tasty homemade meal ready at your fingertips. These meals are easy to make and can be made in large quantites to freeze or jar for a later date.

Another notable section in this cookbook is the outlined menus for Italian celebrations. Here she goes over some popular celebrations for Italians including St. Joseph’s Feast, Easter, Baptism/First Communion/Confirmation, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and sample menus you might have on each of these occasions. The rest of the book is divided into the following chapters with recipes included in each: Easter, Christmas, Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies. Everything you need to know food-wise if you want to celebrate Italian-style.

The first recipe I was inspired to make was the brodo (chicken soup). No pictures beside this one but it didn’t need any. I know exactly what brodo looks and tastes like. This was something I ate at least a couple times a week growing up as I was a super picky eater and my poor mother struggled to find a meal I would like every day. When I first got married, as good Italian mothers do, my mother would pack us frozen homemade brodo for myself and my husband. I don’t know why but I never asked her for the recipe. I remember attempting a Martha Stewart vegetable broth in the early years of marriage that turned out absolutely tasteless. Since then, I had no motivation to make brodo until now. This recipe was ridiculously easy and I am so happy that I made it….well I should actually credit the husband for this one. Sadly as I was cutting a leek, my knife slipped and I sliced 3 fingers. As I was at the hospital, my hubby gladly finished the rest of the soup for me and he did a fine job! When I walked back into my condo, the smell of brodo filled my home and a flood of memories went through my head. I was thrilled that it smelled EXACTLY like my mamas and almost (almost) shed another tear!

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Homemade Chicken Soup (Brodo)

The second recipe I was inspired to recreate were the arancini (rice balls). It is something I’ve also never attempted to make but absolutely love eating. These were also very easy and completely doable for the beginner cook. I found the arancini must tastier in a homemade tomato sauce but completely up to you how you would like to eat them. Here’s the recipe:

Arancini (Cheese-Filled Rice Balls)

Filling

2 ½ cups water

1 tsp saffron threads

1 ½ cups Arboro rice

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

2 tbsp butter

1 egg

 

Coating

6 oz Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago or Havarti cheese

2 eggs

ÂĽ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

4-6 cups canola oil for deep frying

Filling: In a large saucepan, bring water and saffron to boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add cheese and butter. Let cool completely.

Coating: Meanwhile, cut cheese into 16-18 cubes; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; set aside. Divide rice mixture into 16-18 balls. With fingers make indentation into each ball and fill with a cheese cube. Seal indentation. Roll balls in flour; then egg; then in breadcrumbs. Set aside on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a large deep saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Fry balls, in batches, about 2-3 minutes or until golden crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Makes 16-18 balls.

Make ahead: You can make the arancini up to the point of frying them; cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let come to room temperature before frying in oil.

A couple notes on my experience making these: 

I did not have saffron so I obmitted it completely. I couldn’t find any at my local Longos grocery store and I don’t keep it at home as it is quite expensive.

I made the mistake of not boiling the rice at a lower heat setting for a longer time. The problem with this is that the rice had too much moisture in it therefore making it difficult to roll the rice into balls. I countered this problem by adding a little extra flour to my hands when rolling in order for the balls to stay in place and it worked out perfectly. I also made the mistake of putting the balls in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap prior to rolling them in the coating. This did something to my mozzarella cheese filling…it stayed quite solid even after frying. Note: I have a toddler running around me during the day and for those who do not have children, this translates to unfinished work all the time! Things that are completely out of my control. I also did not have 4-6 cups of canola oil. I had maybe 2 cups or so and used this amount to fry the balls. This required turning them once throughout the frying time. I would recommend either making or buying a tasty tomato sauce to accompany the arancini. All in all, these were amazing! They will definitely become a regular recipe in my family and my toddler and husband loved them!

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Arboro rice after adding cheese & butter.
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Cutting the Mozzarella in cubes..It was a challenge to cut them evenly into 16-18 cubes. I realized I didn’t cut them big enough when I had a lot left over! (Thus doubling up!)
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Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. My little coating assembly line. These onion soup bowls were perfect for dipping the arancini in to coat.
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Ta-da! The tastiest arancini you will ever have over a homemade tomato sauce.
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Pardon the quality of this picture. These are the eggplant meatballs that were super delicious. I also put these in my homemade tomato sauce as I would regular meatballs.

 

I really wish I could have tried the super tasty looking Nutella Pizzelles! I have yet to purchase a pizzelle maker…it’s on my Christmas wish list this year.

Some other great recipes you will find in this cookbook: Homemade Tomato Sauce, Fresh Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Ricotta Ball Soup, Cream-Filled Doughnuts, Cheese-Filled Sicilian Cake, Genetti Cookies, Mussel Soup, Fried Mixed Fish, Tiramisu Trifle,  Panettone Bread Pudding, Christmas Cookies, Balsamic Glaze, Grilled Sausage Pizza, Fried Calzones, Olive and Rosemary Bread, Roasted Squash Agnolotti,  Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, Spaggetti Carbonara, Easy Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni, Slow Cooker Lasagne, Nonna’s Meat Sauce with Polenta, Fresh Pork Sausages, Roast Pork, Pickled Hot Peppers, Garlicky Green Beans, Tomato Cucumber Salad, Ice Cream Roll Cake, Celebration Custard Cake, Amaretti Cookies, Nutella Tie Plates (Pizzelle), almond biscotti and many, many more!!

The only thing I would have liked to see that wasn’t there were subtitles under the family pictures! I would look at them and smile and think to myself “wow this is such a great picture, this reminds me of so and so..I wonder who this is!” It was truly heartwarming to see Emily’s family pictures throughout the book and made it all that more personal.

Reading this beautiful cookbook reminds me of how important it is to keep culture and family traditions and pass them on to my children. Italian or not, traditions help to keep certain things that are important to you, in your family. Every family has their own and will create new ones as the years go by. A big thanks to Emily for reigniting the passion in me to recreate, keep, and pass on some recipes that are familiar to my upbringing. The recipes that remind me of big family get-togethers, intimate weeknight dinners, warmth, love, and compassion.

**I received this book from the generous Whitecap Books to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts on this blog post are 100% my own. You may purchase “Per la famiglia” from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $18.77 (price subject to change)

“3 Times a Day” Cookbook Review

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“3 times a day” is written by Marilou and Alexandre Champagne, a husband and wife team who are also the creators of a blog called “Trois Fois Par Jour”. Marilou created this blog after overcoming a recent battle with anorexia in which she named her blog after eating 3 meals a day. Alexandre has a passion for photography and as Marliou begun her blog, he started taking beautiful pictures of her creations. If you have not had a chance to check out this blog, I would suggest you do so now. It is just lovely! http://www.troisfoisparjour.com/en/accueil There are plenty of easy to follow recipes, videos, and more all in a clean layout.

This cookbook is simply beautiful. The introduction is touching and the food photography is stunning. As you read it, you can feel the passion and the love that has gone into every recipe and every word on each page.

One of my favourite parts of this wonderful cookbook is the introduction, which speaks of Marlilou’s struggles and passions in life. She went from being a popular pop sensation in Quebec to food blogger and author. I think that a lot of us can relate to her words, which I absolutely love. How many of us want to change careers and are too afraid to do so?! How many of us don’t listen to what we want and listen to what other people want for us? Marilou speaks about finally following her heart rather than other people and what others wanted her to do and thus begun her journey and passion for cooking.

In the beginning of this cookbook you will find a page dedicated to tips and tricks for cooking, as well as recipe categories. Each recipe has a couple categories listed underneath so that you can easily identify and anticipate what type of recipe it is or what it can be used for. Categories include: economical, entertaining, gift, gluten free, indulgent, lactose free, quick and easy, raw and vegetarian.

This cookbook is beautifully laid out with pictures for every recipe. I absolutely love this! I know some people argue that pictures are deceiving and “it doesn’t always turn out like the pictures!” But for me it is what lures me into recreating the meal and I don’t care what it looks like in the end when I make it, as long as it tastes good.

Contents of the book are divided into the following:

  • Breakfast & brunch,
  • Snacks & small bites,
  • Lunch & salads
  • Soup & stews
  • Fish & seafood
  • Meat
  • Pasta, rice & pizza
  • Desserts

I can’t lie, my favourite recipes in this book all fall under the “indulgent” categories, mainly the pasta, rice & pizza section (which is probably the Italian in me). Everything just looks so succulent I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen! The recipes in this cookbook are simple enough for a beginner and only require tools that you likely already have in your kitchen. One of the dessert recipes even uses mason jar lids as a mini tart pan with a removable bottom. Genius! (This particular recipe is actually the pie you see on the front cover of the book but in mini form.)

I managed to recreate the ricotta gnocchi (which were out of this world!) and the Oatmeal, espresso and dark chocolate cookies. I have made Martha Stewart’s ricotta gnocchi before but they definitely did not taste like these! I am of Italian decent so please trust me on this one…they were phenomenal. My 2 year old and my husband devoured them. The recipe says prep time is 25 min but they took me 10 minutes and I’m generally a slow cook. They were super simple and this recipe will definitely be a staple in my house. Since the gnocchi were my favourite of the two, I have provided the recipe below.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

Quantity: 30-35 gnocchi

Prep time: 25 min

Categories: economical, vegetarian

Ingredients:

1 cup ricotta

1 egg

ÂĽ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Âľ cup all-purpose flour

ÂĽ tsp freshly grated nutmeg *I used the dry spice as that is what I had in the pantry.

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients until the flour is fully incorporated and a smooth dough forms.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour. Set aside.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half.
  5. On a floured surface, roll one portion of the dough into a rope, about 1 inch diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  6. Cut the ropes into ½-inch pieces and place them on the floured baking sheet. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the centre of each gnocchi.
  7. Freeze the gnocchi for later, or cook them immediately in a pot of boiling salted water just until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Serve with the sauce of your choice. *I served with my homemade tomato sauce and fresh basil and it was perfection.
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Ricotta gnocchi dough (step.1)
Step.6 , Cutting the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces.
Step.6 Cutting the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces.
Ricotta gnocchi in tomato basil sauce.
Ricotta gnocchi in tomato basil sauce.
Oatmeal, espresso, & dark chocolate cookies dipped in 70% Lindt chocolate.
Oatmeal, espresso, & dark chocolate cookies dipped in 70% Lindt chocolate.
Oatmeal, espresso, dark (Lindt) chocolate cookies... perfect with a cup of coffee!
Oatmeal, espresso, dark (Lindt) chocolate cookies… perfect with a cup of coffee!

I made 2 batches of these since my tub of ricotta was 500 grams. (and thank God I did because the family devoured them) I accidentally used Pecorino Romano cheese for one of the batches. Initially I panicked but they ended up being just as tasty!

If you purchase this book, please take the time to read the acknowledgements. I know most of you probably bypass this section but it really was so beautifully written. Marilou and Alexandre’s note of thanksgiving to each other was so sweet and endearing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it really just validates how much heart and soul they put into the making of this cookbook.

**I received this book from the generous House of Anansi to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase it from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $25.

**Stay tuned to my social media accounts as I recreate more of the recipes in this book. Pictures will be posted!

the life-changing magic of tidying up- the japanese art of decluttering and organizing.

This book is written by Japenese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo.  Marie is a decluttering expert and has helped thousands of people in transforming their lives. She calls her method the “KonMari Method”. This method of decluttering is so effective, she currently has a 3 month waiting list in which she physically goes to people’s houses to assist them in decluttering. In my opinion, this book is so effective at getting her point across of how to declutter, I wouldn’t even need Marie (sorry Marie!) In addition to the long wait for her services, none of Marie’s clients have lapsed into decluttering ever. This is powerful!

I think a lot of us to some degree have cluttering issues. I certainly have and let me tell you as I was reading this book, I became slightly obsessive over decluttering my condo. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning just throwing stuff out.  I love things. I love keeping things, I love receiving things and I find it hard to throw stuff out. My husband absolutely hates clutter and sees how different of a person I am now that I have read this book. Any time we are trying to figure out where a certain item should go whether its new or old my husband now says to me “Well…what would Marie do??” or “What would Marie say to this?” I love it. Marie is now an imaginary character in my home.

Here are some chapters and subtitles of what you can expect if you pick up this book (note: I have only included the first 2 chapters):

Chapter 1: Why can’t I keep my house in order?

  • You can’t tidy if you’ve never learned how
  • Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever
  • The moment you start you reset your life
  • Storage experts are hoarders –(LOL)
  • Sort by category, not by location

Chapter 2: Finish discarding first

  • Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely
  • Selection criterion: does it spark joy?
  • One category at a time
  • Starting with mementos spells certain failure
  • Don’t let your family see
  • If your mad at your family, your room may be the cause
  • What you don’t need, your family doesn’t either
  • What to do when you cant throw something away

What I got from this book: The only way this method will work is if you do it her way and she has good resasons supporting this to which I strongly agree. I myself have tidied my place only to keep tidying the same areas over and over and it becomes a never ending stressful cycle of “my home is never clean” The issue is that I have too much stuff. You can organize all you want but you will still have the same volume of items. Things need to be thrown out. I know this can be hard for some people but as you read the book, you will become more comfortable doing so as Marie puts things into perspective. Each item that you decide “sparks joy” as Marie says, has to have a home. When items don’t have homes, they end up in piles. These piles become disasters and this is how clutter is born.

A couple of my favourite quotes from the book:

“I have only two rules: store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.” P.138

“When you are choosing what to keep, ask your heart; when you are choosing where to store something, ask your house” p.144

“The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered” p.178

“letting go is even more important than adding” p.177

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future” p.181

“In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their posessions, and the house they live in.” p.190

“It’s a very strange phenomenon, but when we reduce what we own and essentially “detox” our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well”. p.193  **towards the end of the book, Marie discusses the effect decluttering has had on her clients. People have lost weight, found jobs, found new passions in life. Just amazing.**

And these are only just a few. There are so many more that were great.

This book completely changed the way I think about every single thing in my life.  I think twice about buying something new. I think twice about what the purpose of each item I own is to me in my life, and best of all, I am now enjoying experiences more than materialistic things. Marie’s words of wisdom have put my life into perspective and they will for you too, I promise. Even if you are not a self-help book type of person, I promise you will love this book, you’ll never look back and you will thank me and Marie later.

One thing I’ll never get rid of…my collection of cookbooks. Sorry Marie, they spark too much joy.

**I purchased this book from Amazon.ca for $15. All opinions are my own.

Decadent Mocha Eclairs

I try to recreate at least one recipe from each food magazine I receive monthly…as long as something catches my eye! November’s Chatelaine Magazine had a super tasty looking Decadent Mocha Éclair recipe and omg were they ever decadent! I tried my best to get some cool looking pics of these tasty desserts but keep in mind I have an (almost) 2 year old running around my crammed condo and well..you know, I try my best! This recipe was super easy and let me tell you..SUPER TASTY!! I have shared the link to the recipe below, pictures and some tips on my journey to recreating them.

Decadent Mocha Eclairs Recipe (click on the link below)

http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/desserts/decadent-mocha-eclairs/

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Step 2 after stirring flour in mixture.
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Step 2 after stirring in eggs to prepare for pastry bag.
The Eclairs all baked up.
The Eclairs all baked up.
Slicing the eclairs in half to make way for the mocha filling.
Slicing the eclairs in half to make way for the mocha filling.
Piping the mocha cream on each eclair & spooning the chocolate on top.
Piping the mocha cream on each eclair & spooning the chocolate on top.
Eclairs all done!
Eclairs all done!

Tips: When piping the eclairs, make sure you make them wide enough. I piped them to be about 1inch in width post baking. (sorry I can’t remember what the width was pre-baking)..probably half that. The problem is, if you pipe them too thin as I did, when you pipe the mocha cream on each bottom half of the eclair, it will topple over as the cream will be too heavy for it. Because of this, I was not able to pipe as much as I was supposed to and threw out a lot of the cream. (ok maybe I piped some into my mouth..shhhh!)

Tip #2: In step number 4, at the very end where it says to spoon the melted chocolate over the eclairs…make sure you save some of that chocolate you microwaved.  I made the mistake of putting all the chocolate in the mocha cream! Opps…

NOTE: I prefer to fill eclairs traditionally by poking them and squeezing the filling inside. I liked that this recipe was different and the cream swirls were so visually appealing but I found eating them kinda messy and the mocha would squish out of the sides.

All in all, these were super tasty. You don’t know the mistakes you will make unless you make them! If I were to make them again I am confident they would come out perfect. Everyone that tried them loved them. Its a recipe keeper!

I receive Chatelaine magazine monthly through my Rogers account and I pay $1.50/month.  You can also get a subscription on their website for $14.99/year. http://www.chatelaine.com.

Nutella Truffles

I am a self-confessed Nutella nut. I love everything Nutella. I have Nutella in my latte every single morning. Any time I see a recipe with Nutella in it, I have to put it to the test immediately. I first saw this recipe for Nutella truffles in a special issue of America’s Test Kitchen, Christmas Cookies 2013. I never toss collectors issues of desserts and always refer to them even years later as there are so many great recipes, but of course not always a lot of time to get through them all!

I first made these truffles 2 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I went on a baking binge, baking as many treats as I possibly could before giving birth (which turned out to be mid December). My goal was to create tasty treats that were freezer friendly so that once she was born, and people came to visit I could just bust them out of the freezer. It turned out these truffles froze exceptionally well. I only froze them for about a month, so I didn’t test beyond that. You can defrost them in the fridge if planning to have a little later or on the counter if you would like them sooner. These truffles are also perfect for Holiday events and gift giving. Pop them into mini paper cups and your good to go! Check out the recipe below:

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Nutella Truffles

Nutella Truffles

(makes 24 truffles)

Ingredients:

2 cups (2 oz) cornflakes

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted & skinned, plus 24 hazelnuts, toasted & skinned. *Note: I buy hazelnuts pre-skinned. I find skinning them messy and a pain in the butt.

½ cup (3 ½ oz) sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter

ÂĽ cup whole milk

1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Âľ cup Nutella

Directions:

  1. Make foil sling for 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Spray aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray. (or just rub vegetable oil on it)
  2. Pulse cornflakes in food processor until finely ground, about 10 pulses; transfer to bowl. Process ½ cup hazelnuts in food processor to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Spread processed hazelnuts in shallow dish and set aside.
  3. Microwave sugar and butter in bowl, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, about 45 seconds. Whisk in milk and cocoa until combined. Whisk in Nutella until fully incorporated. Stir in finely ground cornflakes. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly into even layer with greased spatula. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 10 minutes.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift chilled Nutella mixture out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut 24 pieces, then mold each 1 whole hazelnut to encase completely. Roll truffles in processed hazelnuts to coat and transfer to platter. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 10 minutes. Serve, or store in refrigerator until serving time.

How to skin hazelnuts: Transfer the hot, toasted hazelnuts to the centre of a dish towel. Fold the towel around the hazelnuts to seal them inside: then rub them together in the towel to scrape off as much brown skin as possible. Once you open the towel, you will see that the skins have come away from the hazelnuts. Its fine if some small patches of skin still remain.

Recipe excerpt, Americas Test Kitchen “Christmas Cookies, 64 Foolproof Recipes, from Classics to New Favourites”, 2013.

Happy Baking! XO