Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013

I can't believe that 2013 has already come to an end!  A lot has of really great things have happened for me this year, both professionally and personally, and honestly I could not be more excited to see what 2014 will hold! 

Thank you to everyone that follows along on my blog, takes the time to leave comments on my posts and interacts with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  I feel like you guys are with me every time I'm in the kitchen, cooking along side with me!  Your comments are truly what inspires me to share my love for creating recipes with you! 

To cap off the new year, I've complied a list of the top 10 recipes of 2013 according to page views.  Here they are :  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

Instagram shot of the Christmas tree & fireplace
I hope you had a great holiday with family and friends!  I ended up going to the city (Edmonton) to my brother's for Christmas this year.  My Grandparents were visiting from BC (on their way to their winter home in AZ) so I took them to Edmonton the day before Christmas so my brother and I could spend some time with them.  
Gramma & I making her famous peanut butter pie

 On Christmas Eve we all made pumpkin tart's and peanut butter pie from Gramma's cookbook.  I had so much fun, not only baking with my dear Gramma, but also with my brother and Grampa as well! 

My brother & Gramps getting ready to roll out the dough for our  pumpkin pie tarts.

On Christmas Day I made herb & butter turkey and gravy, Brian made mashed potatoes, and Gramma made her stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts.  All in all it was a great dinner, and it was really nice spending the day cooking with my family. 

The Dinner

Marc and his Dad were still busy working on our new floors all the way up until Christams Eve, so they ended up coming for dinner on Christmas Day, as did my Dad and his girlfriend Roxanne.  It was really nice to seeing everyone together!

From left clockwise: Gramma, Grampa, Marc's Dad, Marc, Roxanne (my Dad's gf), my Dad.  My brother is taking the photo and I'm sitting beside Gramps on the left. 

Here are the Pumpkin Tart's that we were making on Christmas Eve!  The recipe came from my Gramma's cookbook using her No Fail Pie Crust

After dinner, we all exchanged Christmas Gifts around the fire, which was the perfect way to end the day.

                                                                                                                         Brian's Tree

So tell me, how did you spend your holiday this year?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Little Life Box Review/Giveaway

Ever since I joined Foodie Pen Pal's a few years ago, I have been obsessed with the idea of receiving random packages of food samples in the mail.  I get some of the coolest stuff - product's I would have never even thought of trying!  
The Little Life Box is a monthly subscription box that just launched in December.  Their concept is to take the guesswork out of finding green, healthy products.  Rather than drop some serious cash on an entire package of a product you may not love, you'll get to try a sample from a variety of Canadian products.  A box of over a dozen goodies is shipped right to your door around the middle of each month for $19.99 (plus $3 shipping to any province).  The folk's over at The Little Life Box were kind enough to send me one of their launch boxes to try - and I have to say I was pretty impressed! 
First and foremost, I just wanted to say how much I love the packaging that this box came in.  The second I opened it, I was greeted with some seriously awesome owl tissue paper and a note attached to a teeny tiny close pin - so cute!  
The contents inside the box were really intriguing! 

Greek Yogurt Blueberry Acai Bar
As much as I want to try this, Marc loves both Greek Yogurt and Blueberry's so I'm going to throw this in his lunch kit so he can enjoy it at work! 

Organic Nuggets
These are absolutely wonderful!  I love fruit snacks and I buy this brand often.  I haven't tried the apple kind yet, so I was happy to see it amongst the package.  I think I like it even better than the raspberry flavour I usually buy! 

Back to Earth Naturals - Face & Body Mud Mask
100% Natural Organic Moor Mud from Hungarian Lake Heviz, the largest thermal lake in Europe
I've never actually tried a body mask before, so I'm looking forward to using this product!  I also thought it was really great that it's completely natural and un-alterted!   I love that The Little Life Box includes not only green and healthy snacks, but green and healthy beauty products as well! 

Omega Chews
These are Omega 3 Fish Oil Chews in gummy form!  They tasted really great, and not at all like fish oil!  These would be awesome for kids.

Epsom Gel
This is the product that I am most excited to see!  We go through 4L of Epson Salts every month or so (Marc uses them to sooth sore muscles), so I knew that this product would get used.  Sure enough, Marc was reaching for it the day after I received this box.  It has a really pleasant smell, not surprisingly, exactly like epsom salts! 

Hemp Hearts
I use this brand frequently and buy the largest bag I can find whenever I head to Costco.  Hemp Hearts have a distinct nutty taste that goes great in yogurt or on peanut butter toast!  I will definitely be sharing this smaller pouch with my friends - perhaps for Foodie Pen Pal's next month? 

Whole Body
I'm not a huge fan of the flavour of most protein powders and I'm still on the search for the right one.  I haven't tried this brand yet so I'm looking forward to seeing how it tastes! 

Mighty Leaf Tea
I have a slight obsession with tea.  I have about a million different kinds of tea, and always still feel the need to buy more for myself.  This package came with 3 different samples - I'm going to throw these in my desk at work and share them with the folk's at the office. 

Xylo Sweet/Spry Mints
I'm not a huge fan of sugar replacements.  I absolutely hate artificial sweeteners, and even though this one is 100% all natural, I'm still not all that interested in trying it.  I'm going to give these sugar packs to my husband's little brother Quinn.  Quinn has Type 1 Diabetes so he is constantly using these types of sweeteners.  I know he will appreciate trying a natural alternative! 

These are getting used the next time I'm feeling under the weather!  They are a healthier version of powdered drinks and seem like a great way to get extra Vitamin C in your diet.  

Aroma Crystal - Gardner's Dream Cream
These are from Salt Spring Island, BC!  Having just been there recently I was really excited to see this product! My Father in Law is visiting us right now and he and my husband were complaining about how dry their hands were.  I grabbed one of these samples and it was more than enough for all of us to try.  It's extremely fragrant and smells like essential oils.  Reminds me of salt spring island for sure! 
All in all I was really happy with this box, I can't wait to see what January's box has to offer!  Luckily The Little Life Box offered to send their January box to not just one, but two lucky readers!  Giveaway is open to Canada only. 
Good Luck! 
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Nothing says Christmas like whipped shortbread.  The cookies are as light as air, and literally melt in your mouth the second you bite into them!  They are incredibly easy to make (only 3 ingredients) making them an ideal cookie for the busy Christmas season! 

We've had a pretty busy week at my house!  My Father-in-Law is up visiting this week.  We started renovations on our house last month so he came down to help us with the laminate floors.  He and I spent the entire day ripping out carpet yesterday (I have a newfound hate for tiny staples) and today we laid the underlay and flooring in the living room.  We're about 3/4 done, and since Marc is off tomorrow, we will likely finish the rest tomorrow morning.  

My coworker bought me this cute "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" and since we are renovating our living room this year are lacking space in our living room, we decided not to put a tree up.  That and we will also be heading to my brother's for the holiday this year, so we will be exchanging gifts on Christmas morning under his tree.  

Tell me, how are you spending your holiday this year? 

- 1 lb (2 cups) butter (use the real stuff - trust me)
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 3 cups flour
Cream together butter and icing sugar in a stand mixture (with the whisk attachment) set to medium speed.  Slowly incorporate the flour (I add about 1/2 cup at a time being sure that each addition is fully mixed before adding the next).
Continue to whip for about 10 minutes, stopping every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  You're going for a dough that's the texture of whipping cream, and as light as air (it will get there, I promise!).
Spoon onto cookie sheet (or use a piping bag).  Leave plain or top with your choice of sprinkles, nuts, jam, or dried fruit.  
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Larabar Review & Giveaway

Today Larabar and I have come together to bring you all a tasty giveaway!
I have to say, I'm not generally a fan of energy bars.  To me, they always taste chalky and full of fake ingredients - not really what you're looking for in a healthy snack.  Larabars taste different though  - since they are made from a blend of fruit, nuts, and spices, not only do they taste great, you can actually feel good about eating them.  All of the ingredients are pronounceable and there are no more than 9 ingredients in each Larabar. 

Many of them start with a base of dates, so they kind of remind me of date squares, which I love.  With flavours like "Cherry Pie" or "Snickerdoodle" it's easy to believe you're actually eating a sinful dessert instead of a healthy snack. 
                                                                                                                               Cherry Pie LARABAR
My favourite flavours so far are "Carrot Cake", "Banana Bread", and "Coconut Cream Pie", and I can't wait to try the rest!  Today, you will get the chance to try all of these flavours too!  LARABAR has graciously offered to send one lucky reader an entire case of their bars.  That's 16 delicious flavours to be exact.  They include: 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Coconut Chew, Coconut Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bar, Cherry Pie, Banana Bread, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Chocolate Chip Brownie, Apple Pie, Blueberry Muffin, Carrot Cake, and Cashew Cookie! 
Good Luck! 

Please note I did not receive any compensation from LARABAR for this post.  They did however send me a free case of their bars to try in addition to offering a giveaway for my readers.  All thoughts all opinions are completely my own. 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Canadian Maple Bacon Jam

This recipe encompasses 3 of my favourite things: bacon, wine, and Canadian maple syrup.  Since Marc doesn't eat pork I never usually buy bacon - it seems like a waste to make it just for me.   I had seen a recipe for bacon jam online sometime last year and was instantly intrigued. I kind of put the idea in the back of my head though, knowing it would be far too good to resist, especially if I had the entire recipe all to myself. 
Every year, Holly over at the The Inspired Home and I get together and bake/make crafts around the holidays, all the while sharing in our mutual enjoyment of making homemade Christmas presents. This year Holly mentioned to me that she wanted to come up with something that would be a good homemade "husband" gift so this recipe immediately came to mind.  We got together for a few weeks in a row perfecting the recipe, until we came up with our favourite combination of savoury and sweet.  While mine didn't become a "husband gift" the friends that helped sample it have all loved it - I've even had a few people request that I make another batch just for them! 
- 2 lbs bacon
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup malbec wine
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
                                                                                           Take 1: Taste Testing at Holly's


Pre-heat frying pan over medium heat.  Dice onion and sauté until translucent, then set aside.

 Chop bacon into small pieces, and fry until cooked completely through.  Drain bacon, then add to slow cooker along with the chopped onions, maple syrup, wine, and balsamic vinegar.  Turn slow cooker on high and cook the bacon for about 4-6 hours until most of the liquid has disappeared and the bacon jam has turned a deeper colour like so: 

Serve with crackers, crostini, or any other way you might enjoy bacon (breakfast sandwich anyone?). 


Monday, December 9, 2013

Baked Brie Pastry

In addition to blogging, I also have a monthly recipe column in my local newspaper.  You can find all of my past columns here.  This recipe is my most recent column, which appeared in the December 5th edition of The Hinton Voice. 

[When I look at the calendar, I can hardly believe it’s already December. If your calendar is anything like mine, it’s quickly filling up with get-togethers aimed at spreading Christmas cheer.  Along with this usually comes appetizers and potlucks, which can get pretty overwhelming if your schedule is already busy like mine is. Today I’m going to share with you one of the world’s easiest, and tastiest appetizers.

Though this type of recipe has been around for awhile, I tried it for the first time at a friend’s house this past summer.  We decided to get together and have an “appy night” where we each made a couple of appetizer’s off Pinterest (for those of you that aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it’s a pin board style website where users can share ideas for recipe, crafts and other types of hobbies). This is one of the appetizers that she chose to make.  Her version had raspberry jam and a crescent roll crust - it was so delicious, and easily my favourite appetizer of the evening.   

Fast forward a couple of months to September, when I attended a foodie conference in Seattle.   One morning for breakfast they served another delicious version of this warm, gooey treat.  I was sold – this was the perfect appetizer that could also double as a fancy side at brunch – and it couldn’t be easier to make.  The best part is that as long as you have a wheel of brie and some type of pastry dough, you can choose any spread and topping that you like. Plans of serving a maple cranberry version on Christmas morning are already dancing in my head.]

- 1 wheel Brie
- ¼ cup fruit spread of your choice (I used fig butter)
- 1 sheet of puff pastry or 1 can of crescent rolls dough
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ cup nut of choice (I used crushed almonds)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar (or honey, or maple)
- 2-3 apples
- ½ a lemon or 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2-3 cups cold water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Split the pastry dough into two square pieces.  Place one of the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet, and set the brie in the center (no need to remove the rind – it’s completed edible).   Top the brie with fruit spread of choice.  Place the second piece of pastry dough on top of the fruit covered brie and press the dough together to seal around the brie completely.

Brush dough with a beaten egg, then sprinkle on sugar and nut topping.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry crust is a deep golden brown.   Allow the brie rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

While brie is resting, slice apples and place in a cold water and lemon juice bath for 2-3 minutes (this will prevent the apple slices from turning brown).  Dry apples and serve with pastry.

- Nutritional Info (1/12 recipe) -

Calories - 173   Fat - 10    Carbs – 16     Protein -  5  Fibre – 1


Friday, November 29, 2013

Review/Giveaway: Suja Juice 3 Day Cleanse

So I’m going to be upfront an honest with you right now – I hate celery.  I have hated it since the beginning of time, even having the uncanny ability of being able to detect celery salt in recipes (thanks for passing along this trait to me Gramps!).   So why did I decide to do a juice cleanse where ½ of the juices contain copious amounts of celery?  1) Because I know celery is good for me and wanted to experience the cleanse in all it’s glory 2) Because I honestly didn’t realize just how much celery I would be consuming until after I agreed to review this cleanse.   Do I still hate celery after completing this cleanse?  You bet I do.  Now, onto the review:

I’m the type of person that really likes new beginnings.  New Year’s day is the ultimate new beginning, being the day that most people start eating healthier (myself included) and break old habits.  I have been wanting to eating healthier for awhile now, and I knew that if I didn’t start before the holidays, I would overindulge, knowing I was about to start a healthier eating regime as soon as the holidays were over.  For me this cleanse is the start of a new, healthier chapter. When Suja offered to send me an entire 3 day supply of their juices, I knew this would be just the kick start I needed.

So what did I think of the flavours?

Glow – This one tasted A LOT like celery. I was hoping the fruit juices would mask the taste, but all I could taste was my vegetable nemesis.  I didn't mind it so much on the second day (it's a nice light, refreshing juice) but on day 1 it was a bit of a shock to my usually celery free taste buds.

Fuel – This one was absolutely delicious.  I really looked forward to this juice on the second and third day!  I stopped by my office for a bit and one of my co-worker’s tried a taste - she thought it was delicious as well.   It was by far my favourite of the veggie juices, and I would definitely buy this one again.

Purify – This juice was definitely the earthiest tasting of them all. Having only recently discovered that I don't actually hate beets as much as I though I did,  I wasn't sure how I would feel about this juice.  I  didn't mind it though, and I even found myself craving it after I finished the cleanse.  This is also the drink that you get to have around lunchtime, and since it kind of reminded me of soup (borscht), it almost felt like I was having a real meal.  

Fuji – I was really looking forward to this one because I love fuji apples.  Once again though, the 6 stalks of celery in it completely took over my tastebuds.  I let a friend of mine try all of the juices and she said that this one was her favourite.  If you don't hate all things celery like I do, then you will probably think that this one is delightful.

Green Supreme – I was incredibly relived to see that this green drink didn’t in fact have any celery in it (whew!).  It reminded me of the wheatgrass shots I get at Boosterjuice (I don't really like the taste of them, but I know they are good for me so I power through).  I love kale when it’s steamed, or made into a chip (although in all fairness pretty much anything tastes great when it's made into a chip), but I'm not a huge fan of it in smoothies or juices.  This drink did make me feel really great though, so I would probably drink it just for the health benefits alone. 

Vanilla Cloud – This one was a pure cloud of deliciousness at the end of each night.  It’s extremely dessert like, and I love how thick the coconut made it.  The second I opened it I got a huge blast of  cinnamon and nutmeg goodness.  It also contains areola cherry and camu camu putting it entirely in a league of it's own.  I would seriously drink this one every single day.  

A few people expressed concern that I wasn't eating anything for the duration of this cleanse, and they were worried I wouldn't be getting enough nutrients.  On the contrary, I consumed more fruit and veggies each day than you could possibly imagine! Here’s all the fruit and veggies an entire days worth of juices contained: 

9 apples, 14 stalks of celery, 3/4 of a cucumber, 2 handfuls spinach, 3 collard greens, 3 bunches kale, 3 lemons, 16 carrots, an orange, 1/2 pineapple, 1/2 beet, 1/2 coconut, 12 almonds, 1 tsp areola cherry, 1 tsp honey, a spring of mint, a pinch each of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, camu camu, and turmeric.   

As you can see, I still consumed a ton of goodness totalling just under 1,200 calories.

The pureness of the ingredients in the juice were also really great - nothing but pure fruit, vegetable goodness.

Now, onto the cleanse itself!

Day 1
Cravings:  Coffee, carbs, something warm… chewing in general
Cheats: a handful of almonds (around dinnertime I started feeling sick and headachy - I had to teach a 2 hour class this evening so I had about 12 almonds or so just to be safe). 
Water: 6 - 8 oz servings
Comments: I felt pretty hungry around mid afternoon - I think better preparation for the cleanse would have made the transition much easier - next time I will be preparing 2-3 days in advance (which Suja recommends) rather than having pizza for supper the night before starting a juice cleanse (ya, I did that).

Day 2
Down 1.3 lbs
Cravings: peanut butter, protein 
Cheats: a tbsp of peanut butter around 11:30pm.  I couldn't sleep and felt like I really needed protein. 
Water: 6 - 8 oz servings
Comments:  I felt incredibly energized and not all too hungry.  I missed eating though.  The juices were a bit harder to swallow and a few of them even made me gag (I'm looking at you Glow and Fuji).  I was behind a juice pretty much all day (had my breakfast juice at around 10:00 am instead of first thing in the morning.  I ended up drinking Fuji and Green Supreme pretty close together just so I would fit all the juices in. It was cold and snowy out and I was craving something warm so I drank hot water all day instead of coffee - I think this really helped with the hunger.  This wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and after awhile I didn't even miss coffee.  

Day 3
Down 4.7 lbs
Cravings: Cauliflower, quinoa
Cheats: N/A
Water: 4 - 8 oz servings
Comments: I had a good amount of energy and was incredibly productive this day.  I ended up finishing a bunch of projects I had been putting off - my mind felt clearer.  Even though I watched Marc eat all day since it was Saturday and we were both home, I didn't feel hungry until dinnertime.  After savouring my last Vanilla Cloud, I felt satisfied. 

On day 3 I had the brilliant idea of combining my two favourite juices (Vanilla Cloud and Fuel)  I was going for a "creamsicle" kind of flavour, but what it ended up tasting like was pure deliciousness - it was like carrot cake in a glass!  I wish I would have thought of this on Day 1 but better late than never, right? 

A few observations along the way... 

It was nice not having to make breakfast or worrying about packing a lunch.

I had a lot of energy, especially on the 2nd and 3rd days.  I felt healthy.  I had that “clean” full feeling like when you eat sushi for dinner instead of pizza.

I’ve always struggled with acne, even in my twenties.  This cleanse made my skin look a lot better – and it gave my normally pigment challenged face a nice healthy glow. 

I lost 5 pounds in 3 days. Great motivation to continue eating healthy after the cleanse.

Overall conclusion
Would I do the cleanse again?  Absolutely.  I would try and be better prepared for it first though, and I would definitely try swapping out the celery juice next time (watermelon strawberry looks delightful!).  I think I’ll try doing another cleanse after the holidays – it will also be great for summertime when all I’m craving are cool drinks!  I would absolutely recommend this cleanse to my friends, the health benefits alone made it worth it! 

Disclaimer: Suja sent me this cleanse to try, though all opinions are completely my own. 

Suja Juice has graciously offered to send one lucky reader an entire 3 day cleanse ($162 value!) shipped straight to their door!   Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Find out more info about Suja Juice here.
Follow Suja Juice on Facebook here.
Follow Suja Juice on Twitter here.

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