Book Review: Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat

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When my first-born started eating solids my husband was completely against feeding her meat. As she got older we eventually started to give her meat and she loved it. He wanted her to be healthier and not ingest all kinds of hormones and what not that comes with buying commercial meat. I am not sure that he himself really knew why – he just felt like it was a better decision.

I have occasionally entertained the idea of going meatless but never really had a reason to do so other than perhaps to just be healthier. I have never taken into consideration how raising animals that eventually become our dinner impacts the environment…it is absolutely crazy!

Meatless? A Fresh Look at What you Eat by Sarah Elton (thank you Owl Kids for sending over this book!) talks about it all in simple terms and is appropriate even for adults. Why people go vegetarian, the high cost of meat, and a fantastic sample chart of a meat-free week are some of the topics you will find in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the power of plants. Did you know that by combining a legume with a grain creates a complete protein? (I totally didn’t!) My Favourite?… A fantastic chart on meat alternatives! Included in this chart are a variety of meat-free sources to finding minerals (iron, zinc, calcium), fats and fatty acids as well as Vitamin B12. This book is geared towards children in grades 4-8 but let me tell you, I have learned so much myself reading it!

My 3 year old is a little too young to understand the language in this book but she saw it on our coffee table the past couple days and kept begging me to read it to her. I finally gave in. While the book is written for children in grades 4-8, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as an adult and learned quite a bit. I definitely had to simplify majority of it for her (and improvise on the parts that talked about animals dying- she would definitely cry) but she loved it and asked a million questions about every single page.

What to expect:

Here is a breakdown of the chapters:

Part One: A History of Meat-Eating (including a great section on religious rules- super interesting!)

Part Two: Why Go Vegetarian?

  • Animal Welfare
  • The High Cost of Meat
  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Enough Food for Everyone

Part Three: If Not Meat, Then What?

  • Plant Power
  • Faux Meat- Bon Appétit!

Part Four:

  • A Meat-Free Week
  • Telling Your Friends and Family
  • Tips from Kid Vegetarians

Conclusion: Set the Table for Everyone

I really admire how the author does not try to convince you to be a vegetarian or puts down meat eaters but rather educates you. I am not quite ready to tell my little lady that the chicken she eats is actually a dead chicken. (yes Sweetie, the same ones you see at the farms.. yes like your cute little stuffy that is on your bed right now that you adore and talk to each night) I just don’t have the heart to and I do not feel she is mature enough, so I am making the choices for her right now. As a family we are meat eaters but we do limit our meat each week. As my daughter gets older, she will be making her own decisions and this book is perfect for educating her in all aspects. It is definitely a keeper!

A big thanks to Owl Kids Books for sending over a copy of Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat by Sarah Elton in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own!

**Note: This blog post was originally posted on Jun.20 but due to some technical glitches of changing the theme of my blog and making some revisions to my site, it was sadly erased along with a group of other posts so I have reposted it! 🙂

Cookbook Review: The Whole30 Cookbook

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My husband will be turning 40 this year and for the past 4 years he has been suffering from a variety of skin disorders that have literally popped up over night and taken over his life. He has been steadily healthy and rarely ever has a sniffle but his skin on the other hand has just been wreaking havoc on his day-to-day activities. He can barely walk without feeling a degree of discomfort. Simple daily tasks are becoming more and more difficult for him especially if it involves his hands being in water or changing a diaper on our 9-month-old baby.

Almost every day there seems to be a discussion between us about his skin and what might be causing these never ending-issues. The topic of our discussions: Food. The relationship between what he eats daily and the reaction his skin has to the various foods he eats.

I love the idea behind the Whole 30. (A big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending over a copy) “ For a full 30 days, you completely eliminate the foods that scientific literature and my clinical experience have deemed the most commonly problematic in one of four areas- your cravings, metabolism, digestion and immune system. During the elimination period, you’ll be completely eliminating these foods for a set period of time, experiencing what life is like without these commonly problematic triggers while paying careful attention to improvements in energy, sleep, digestions, mood, attention span, self-confidence, cravings, chronic pain or fatigue, athletic performance and recovery, and any number of other symptoms or medical conditions.” (Hartwig, 2016) Once the 30-day period is over, you slowly reintroduce the foods you have been missing and carefully pay attention to your body, the changes that occur and how you feel.

The Whole 30 diet involves eating meat, seafood, and eggs, lots of fruit and veggies and healthy fats. There are rules that you need to follow during the 30 day elimination- no added sugar of any kind, alcohol, grains, legumes, baked goods, dairy, etc. (Refer to the book for the rest-she goes in detail). I’ll be honest- I have never been able to stick to any kind of diet ever. I have tried to eliminate sugar in the past and it just doesn’t work for me. I also don’t have any major health issues that would make me want to diet in the first place anyways. That being said, I am always motivated to just eat and be healthier in general. My thoughts: If you can stick to the rules and you are motivated to change your life in some shape or form. This, in my opinion is the best way to do it. I love the idea and it just all makes perfect sense.

For those who are further interested in Whole 30, author Melissa Hartwig’s book The Whole30 talks all about it. This particular book “The Whole30 Cookbook” includes a bunch of recipes to get you started on your Whole 30 journey.

The Recipes

Recipes are easy to follow and most don’t have a lengthy ingredient list. There are a few exceptions of course. Recipes with longer ingredients however are ones with more spices (which only makes a dish tastier right!) Each recipe is accompanied with a description about the particular dish as well as a picture. Also included: Prep time, cook time, total time and serving amount. Some recipes have additional tips at the bottom for the particular recipe. The end of the book takes us to a Basics Section where she includes chicken broth, bone broth, basic mayonnaise, egg-free mayonnaise, Whole30 Ketchup and more. Also included is a list of Whole30 approved companies, cooking conversions and of course an index.

I managed to recreate 3 recipes in the book. You will have to pardon my not so perfect pictures. All were made in the evening when my kids were sound asleep so the lighting and presentation were not the greatest! Also not pictured below: Beef and Sweet Potato Chili. This was my favourite one of them all. I have already made it 3 times! I love this recipe because it has all the flavours of a normal chill minus the beans. I can’t for the life of me come to like beans!

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Smoky Barbecue-Spiced Kale Chips

 

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Pesto-Pepper Frittata with Squash

I have to be honest… I have not completed this 30-day challenge but trust me I can definitely use it and of course my husband would really benefit from it too. Once I can convince him to stick to an elimination diet to find his triggers, I will most definitely update this post and let you all know what the results were! Stay tuned!

A big thank you to Penguin Random House Toronto for sending over a copy of The Whole 30 Cookbook in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own. 

“Holiday Cookies” Cookbook Review

Christmas cookie baking for our family starts around mid November, when the Downtown Toronto Santa Clause Parade all goes down. To me this signifies the start of the Christmas season. I am trying to create memories and traditions for my young family and one of them is baking gingerbread with my 3 year old for the big day with her cousins. We bake and decorate all day and wrap up our tasty treats in plastic and she proudly shares them with her aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I loved reading some of the essays in this book and the memories each unique cookie played in that person’s life. “Holiday Cookies” is filled with a collection of recipes and essays from the history of the Chicago Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest. For the contest, readers submitted a brief essay and a recipe describing what made the cookie special to the writer. The book is divided into the following chapters:

  • Simple Drop Cookies
  • Sugar & Spice
  • Fruit & Nut Treats
  • Chocolate Delights
  • Sandwich Cookies
  • Brownies & Bars

Most recipes are accompanied by a picture of the cookie, as well as a photograph of the writer. The recipes are all quite simple to follow and most ingredients are readily available at your local supermarket.

I managed to recreate Dorie’s Dark and Stormies recipe which included chocolate of course. This recipe was used by contest winner Colleen Frankhart to get her through a rough romantic patch..and I can totally see why! Let’s just say they got me through the night with my 3 month old colicky baby! Comment below if you get around to trying the recipe.

 

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Dorie’s Dark and Stormies

Prep time: 25 minutes

Chill time: 1 hour

Bake time: 14 minutes per batch

 

Yields: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits.

Directions:

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside. Beat the butter until smooth in bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the sugars, vanilla and salt; beat 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated but still crumbly, and being careful not to overload the dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
  1. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface; squeeze it so that it sticks together in large clumps. (If you need to, it’s OK to lightly flour the work surface.) Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Shape each ball into a log 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour.
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Gently slice logs into ½-inch rounds using a serrated knife (some will crumble; simply press broken bits back onto cookie). Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
  1. Bake, one sheet at a time, 14 minutes; cookies will not look done or be firm. Cool on pan 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.

NOTE: Dough can be made ahead and frozen. Frozen dough doesn’t need to be defrosted before baking: just slice logs and bake one minute longer. Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen up to a month.

 

I received a copy of Holiday Cookies from Agate Publishing. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase Holiday Cookies from Amazon.ca for the current price of $28.43 CAN.

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!

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“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 & Canapés
  • 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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“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

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