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Healthy Baking Tip!

This week was been unpleasant to say the least, as I’m getting over exhaustion, a cold, a very busy week at work, and some important ‘get my life in order’ tasks that I’ve been putting off since before Christmas. So, I haven’t had much time to try new recipes, but I plan to catch up on some next week. 🙂

Gum + Smurfs seemed appropriate...

In the meantime, I wanted to share a really quick tip for people who are dieting or trying to eat heathily, but still love to bake. Personally, when baking I usually always taste things a few times, or snack on the ingredients (sneaking a handful of chocolate chips, tasting an extra spoonful of the peanut butter, everyone’s got their weakness!) so that by the time my lovely creation is ready to eat, I’ve already probably had enough extra sweets but of course that cannot stop me from amply sampling the final product. So, Ive come up with a solution that works perfectly:

Chew gum while you bake. 🙂

Unlike cooking, baking rarely requires you to sample the dough to make sure the flavor is right, or to add more seasoning. Nope, you pretty much just need to follow the recipe by the book, and maybe make a few alterations based on texture, rather than taste. So, if you’ve got gum in your mouth, you are a lot less likely to try and taste things along the way. Give it a try!

I think I’ve found one of my new favorite restaurants in Montreal (existing ones include Lemeac, Chez Leveque, L’Express, and Gibby’s): Cuisine Dependence.

Located on the cusp of Mile End, on St. Laurent just below St. Joseph, this fantastic French restaurant has a cozy and inviting yet modern and sophisticated atmosphere, with outstanding service and some of the best tasting food I’ve had at a Montreal restaurant in years.

My boyfriend started with the scallops in Bouillabase with Rouille sauce, and it was fantastic. The scallops were fresh and tender, and the sauce complimented the flavours well but was light enough to not overpower. I started with their salmon tartar garnished with a cabbage and spinach remoulade, and it was also delicious.

The main courses were what really shone. Again my boyfriend stuck with seafood, opting for the Cod. I ordered the veal cheeks which were served with root vegetables and potato mash, and it was honestly one of the best meat dishes I’ve tasted in years – the veal was so tender I didn’t need a knife at all.

For dessert we both ordered the terrine de chocolat – a slab of dense chocolate mousse, garnished with creme anglaise and rich caramel sauce – the perfect finish to our meal.

Service was exceptionally friendly and attentive – we were offered several wines to sample before ordering, and the food was served at a leisurely but not too slow pace, so we could take our time with each course and enjoy our conversation. The final bill was a bit high, starters run from $8-$12, main courses are in the $25-$30 range and dessert with coffee was $13 each, so combined with a bottle of wine and and extra cocktail and tip, we were above $200 but felt the meal and experience was well worth it.My only suggestion would be that they develop a table d’hote menu, so that diners could experience their cuisine at a more affordable price.

All in all I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for the ideal spot for a romantic dinner, a special celebration, or just a treat for your taste buds.

Just got back from Las Vegas, where I attended an affiliate marketing conference for work. I hate Vegas, or at least I hate Vegas when on business, but I love business, and am now still in hyper-networking mode. So, when I heard about another upcoming Montreal Geek Girl dinner next week, I decided I must attend.

Girl Geek Montreal

Girl Geek, according to Wikipedia, is defined as “Girl Geek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Geek): Someone who is female and has an interest in technology, particularly computing and new media. Not necessarily technically minded.”  I guess that applies to me, and the dinners organized in Montreal are (and this is copied directly from the Montreal Girl Geek Dinners website) monthly events are aimed at providing a welcoming atmosphere and a platform for learning in an informal environment. They are always held in pubs, bars or restos and there is usually a speaker (or several) who talk for a short while on a chosen subject for the evening.

The next edition is happening this Monday, January 25th from 6 to 8pm at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Bishop Street. The guest speaker is Edith Dandenault, a professional organizer who will be talking about removing clutter from your life to be more effective with your time. I’m going mainly to see some friends and check out what’s happening in the MTL online marketing/job community. Plus, McKibbin’s has some yummy food, I plan on trying out one of their stews.

If you’re going, let me know!

The past two weeks I’ve spent more time in my kitchen than at my office, and while that fact sort of horrifies me, it’s also been very relaxing and fun. Post Christmas and New Year’s celebrations came my wonderful boyfriend’s 30th birthday. While dinner was had at Le Bleu Raisin, I of course baked a delicious cake, in this case Jamie Oliver’s “A Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone Icing” (found in his book “Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook“).

I will include the full recipe below at the bottom, but be warned, as cake recipes go, this one is fairly complicated, and takes about an hour to complete (including the icing, which is deeeeelicious).  The cake itself comes out delightful, it is very moist, a bit dense, packed full with flavour and the lime and mascarpone icing really sets it off nicely. I find it tastes a little too  much like orange (and I hate all orange flavoured deserts with a fairly strong passion) so I would recommend using only half of the orange juice and zest recommended.

Also – serve it at room temperature to make sure the full flavours came out. I kept this one in the fridge before serving it, and it was a bit too cold. So, below are the directions, good luck and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

2 cups light-brown sugar

5 large eggs, separated

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder

1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground nutmeg

>1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup ground almonds

4 ounces shelled walnuts, chopped, plus more for garnish

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted

10 ounces carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

Sea salt

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 scant cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Zest and juice of two limes
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add orange zest and juice; pulse to combine. Add baking powder; pulse to combine. Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger; pulse until mixture is well combined.

In a large bowl whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Gently fold in almonds, walnuts, flour, and carrots; fold cake mixture into egg white mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cake cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, mix together mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and lime zest and juice. Spread mixture over top of cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped walnuts

I don’t particularly consider myself a coffee person, I’ll buy a cappucino or coffee a few days a week at work from Starbucks, but other than that don’t usually bother to make it at home. That is, until we received the awesomest new coffee machine for Christmas – a Keurig! It’s a fancy machine that brews one fresh cup of coffee at a time, using cute little “K Cups” of pre-measured coffee. It came with boxes of different assortments of coffee – breakfast blends, bold, french roasts and my favorite, flavored. 🙂

I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that since the coffee comes pre-measured, it comes out tasting the way it’s supposed to, not too weak or too strong. Plus, it’s always fresh, and it’s really fun to pick out which little cup of coffee I want to try on a particular morning. If you are a regular coffee drinker, I highly recommend you check it out. I think they run at about $100 each, and a box of 22 K Cups costs about $14. I can’t be bothered to do the math to find out whether or not that is a good deal, but you can also use the machine with regular ground coffee you buy in bags, but just measuring an individual serving amount into the reusable filter.

So, this means I’m going to be drinking coffee more often which is not necessarily a good thing, but at least will hopefully cut down on my Starbucks budget.

Quite the title eh? Well, it sums up the new recipe I tried out this weekend. My boyfriend bought a large amount of hemp protein powder a while back, and while I’ve been eating the dark chocolate flavoured one a lot (sprinkled over plain oatmeal, or fruit and yogurt) we still have a ton of the plain kind left. So, I decided to make muffins, and in the spirit of keeping things healthy post-holiday over indulgence, I came with up a recipe that is very low in calories and fat, high in fibre and protein, tastes good and is very filling.It’s based on a recipe that I found at SparkPeople.com but modified myself.

One small warning though – these are not pretty, fluffy, sweet muffins that you make for a bake-sale or for your kids (see picture below). They are more for a healthy breakfast option or pre/post workout fix. They come out moist thanks to the apple sauce but very dense, thick, and filling. 

Ingredients (makes 20-24 mid-sized muffins):

-1 1/2 cups 1% milk

-2 cups rolled oats

-1 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powder

-2 cups whole wheat flour

-1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda

-300ml applesauce

-2 eggs

-2 egg whites

-1 tsp baking soda

-2 tsp baking powder

-2 tbsp cinnamon

-1/2 cup ground flaxseed

Directions:

1. In  large bowl, soak the oats in the milk for 20-30 min, until most of water is absorbed. Mix in the apple sauce, eggs, protein powder and Splenda.

2. In seperate bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and flaxseed.

3. Gently mix dry ingredients into wet mixture, and still until blended but do not over mix.

4. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20 min.

One of my favorite Christmas books as a kid was called A Cranberry Christmas, and on the back it had a recipe for `Maggie’s Favorite Cranberry Cookies’.

Cranberry Christmas

I only ever tried making them once (as a kid I wasn’t too keen on cranberries) but vaguely remember them being tasty. This year, I’ve decided to make them again for Christmas Eve dinner, which J and I are hosting for his family. So, here is the recipe, I’ll post some pics later once they are ready.

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda into a bowl, mix with a fork. Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy, beat in egg, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in flour mixture until well blended, then add cranberries. Drop by tsp on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, until firm and golden.

Note from Fudgie: The recipe also calls for 1 cup of chopped walnuts, but frankly I hate chopped nuts in my cookies. I am thinking of adding white chocolate chips instead. 🙂

UPDATE: Cookies turned out AWESOME, one of the best cookie recipes I’ve ever made. I added coarsely chopped white chocolate with coconut flakes (about one full large-sized chocolate bar) which really set off the sweet and tart flavours nicely.

Cranberry Cookies with White Chocolate