Categories
Cooking Food General Recipes

Deceptively Delicious Super Smoothie

If you know me well, you should be sitting down for this post. In fact, I would advise strewing some cushions about the floor, just in case you should fall over in sheer shock. You see, this smoothie is not just pretty good, it’s actually ridiculously healthy, but most importantly, it contains a vegetable! Yes! A real vegetable! And I, enemy of vegetables, find it quite edible, enjoyable even!

I must warn you, it doesn’t look all that delicious.

But don’t be fooled by how unattractive it looks, it’s actually more than palatable. Remember my post about the strawberry-banana smoothie that I am now sweet on ;)? Well, this is a variation on that smoothie that I was brave enough to try out. And I am so glad I did! I get spinach into my diet now, and it’s easy and yummy! Much easier than having to find a way to stomach (literally and metaphorically) a salad!

Here’s what you need:

5-6 Organic Strawberries

A banana

A handful or so of raw, organic spinach

3-4 tablespoons of yogurt

A few splashes of milk, depending on the consistency you prefer

Two pinches of cinnamon powder

Method:

Hull the strawberries:

Wash a handful of spinach, this is about how much I used:

Now, throw the strawberries, peeled banana and spinach into a blender, along with the yogurt, milk and cinnamon powder.

Super smoothie recipe

And blend it all until even and smooth. You can add more or less yogurt and milk, depending on the thickness/consistency you prefer.

And there you have it, a perfect little drink between study breaks:

It doesn’t look all that appetizing, but I promise you, you can barely taste the spinach. All it tastes of is strawberries, banana and cinnamon.

I make sure to use organic fruits and vegetables for this smoothie because I figure there is a decent chance that they will have less pesticides than the non-organic ones. I am aware of course, of how little the use of the term ‘organic’ is regulated in the food industry.

I’ve also made a chocolate variation of this by adding a tablespoon of cocoa to the mix. I find it tastes fine without the chocolate however; I almost feel like there are too many flavours interacting with one another in the chocolate version.

Categories
Adventure General Reviews

An Island Paradise 5 Minutes from Downtown Toronto?

The Toronto Islands are surprisingly beautiful, all things considered. I’ve been before, several years ago, but it was only on a recent trip there for the first time in years, that I realized how picturesque the islands are! Obviously, they’ve got nothing on any island in the Caribbean, but for a beach in a busy metropolitan centre, it’s pretty gorgeous. Far more peaceful than the beach in Chicago, and more beautiful than the beaches on Sentosa Island in Singapore for instance, by several orders of magnitude.

I think Toronto residents often don’t get to enjoy the beaches on the Islands as much as they could and should.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Best beach in Toronto

Toronto Islands

We even managed to stay long enough to enjoy a beautiful sunset:

Beautiful beach on Toronto's Centre Island

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

In Praise of Spontaneity and Vanilla and Espresso Buttercream Frosting

One of the things that often irks me about living in North America is how much people seem to plan and organize their social lives. Speaking broadly of course, based on anecdotal evidence from my life, I find that people in India are far more spontaneous. I think there is something nice about being able to phone a friend and make an impromptu plan for the same day once in a while. But, here, more often than not, people plan dinner parties and drinks weeks in advance.

Unfortunately, having to pencil appointments with my friends into my calendar really doesn’t work for my personality. I often find myself feeling tired, or un-social, and want nothing more than to sit on the couch with a book, but end up having to go out because I accepted an invitation weeks ago. People may have gone to considerable trouble to cook for me, or a the very least they’ve set aside time to see me, so I feel compelled to go. At other times, I have a spontaneous urge to go out and see people, but end up staying in, because I haven’t made any plans with anyone.

I realize that part of life is having to do things one doesn’t feel like doing, but when it comes to how we interact with one another, I don’t think it has to be this way, and it isn’t this way in India. Of course, the ‘impromptu system’ I am advocating has its own drawbacks. In spite of its flaws however, I prefer this system to what I see as an overly organized North American model.

Luckily, that’s all it is, a model; which means not everyone follows it and I’ve managed to find a few people here who like spontaneity once in a while too 🙂 All of this has meant that last evening, I was able to indulge in one of the small, simple joys of life, namely throwing an impromptu soiree. The plan was made frantically, over multiple text messages, sometime last afternoon. After which, I could be seen running about trying to throw some snacks together. Since spontaneity was the theme, I even decided to bake a cake! It turned out pretty well, but what I really liked about it was the icing, so I thought I would share the recipe here with you 🙂

Ingredients:

1 Chocolate Cake

4 Eggs

1 Cup Sugar

2 Pinches of Salt

3 Sticks of Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Essence

1 tbsp Instant Espresso

Method:

Place the sugar, salt and eggs in a double boiler (just place them in a heat proof bowl and then place the bowl over another bowl of simmer water, make sure not to let the bottom of the first bowl touch the water). Gently and continuously, whisk the mixture while it heats up. Using a thermometer check the temperature of the mixture periodically. When the temperature reaches 160 F, take the mixture of the heat. Now beat the mixture at high-speed until it becomes fluffy and airy and reaches room temperature. Then add the butter in, half a stick at a time, beating continuously at medium speed. Once the butter is whipped in, separate the mixture into two equal parts in two bowls.

In the first bowl beat in the espresso at high-speed until you have a really light fluffy frosting.

Next, cut the cake in half. (Ideally, when you bake the cake, bake it in two separate bowls so that you have two layers without having to slice the cake in half later). Using a spatula spread a thick layer of espresso frosting over the top of the bottom layer. You don’t have to worry about doing this neatly. Make sure to leave aside about 3-4 tablespoons of frosting to decorate the top of the cake with. Then place the top layer of the cake on top of the frosting.

In the second bowl, beat in the vanilla essence, until you have a smooth, fluffy texture.

Using a separate spatula, spread this over the top and sides of the cake. Once you have a somewhat smooth (it does not have to be flawless) surface, use a basting brush to draw fine decorative lines along the sides and top of the cake. Finally, fill some of the left over frosting into a frosting bag and squeeze little bits of it on the top the cake in whatever pattern you like.

And there you have it, a white vanilla butter-cream frosted cake with a creamy espresso layer in the middle. Mmmm.

Mine turned out a little lopsided 😦 clearly I have to work some more on my decorative skills. However, it tasted pretty darned good and got rave reviews at my party 🙂

Categories
Chocolate Food General Recipes

Velvety Hot Chocolate Fudge

Of all the lovely chocolatey treats in the world, chocolate-themed ice cream is one of my favourites. If you’ve seen my post on the best ice cream in the world you know I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I am hooked to chocolate filled, chocolate topped and chocolate sprinkled chocolate ice cream.

Now ordinarily, I eat my ice cream with Sanders Dark Chocolate Fudge, which is an absolutely delicious ice cream-topping that you can get in grocery stores all over Michigan. I haven’t found a decent substitute here in Canada though, and believe me, I’ve looked. So I stock up on Sanders every time I am in Michigan. When I run out, which is always fairly soon after I return to Canada, I settle for whatever generic fudge is available at my local grocery store. This makes me immensely discontent. Really, it gets in the way of me being truly happy here. Also, store-bought fudge is often filled with high fructose corn syrup and tonnes of sugar and preservatives. Given this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve tried on 3 separate occasions to make a homemade fudge topping, following recipes from different sources each time. Alas, the result was sub-par each time.

But today, as I sat down on my couch to a new episode of “Luther”, I was struck by an idea. You see, the biggest problem with the homemade sauces I made was that none of them were gooey and fudgy enough. Also, there is a warm, velvety feeling that the Sanders fudge fills my mouth with, and I haven’t been able to re-create this texture and taste in all my fudge-making attemptsI’ve been telling myself that my refusal to use high fructose corn syrup lies at the root of my failure. “Or perhaps, it is some other, secret ingredient that I am missing”, I would think to myself morosely, in my dark moments. But the thought that came to me this evening, the question rather, was this: could it be, that the secret ingredient was caramel sauce? (Side note: I have now discovered that this inspiring epiphany was the result not of divine intervention, but a happy co-incidence. You see, I was eating caramel chocolate ice cream on the couch, while watching the tv show).

I was intrigued, I was inspired, I was impatient! I pranced over to the kitchen, and began concocting. What I ended up with wasn’t as good as Sanders chocolate fudge, but it was pretty darned delicious nevertheless. Also, I think that this recipe is slightly healthier, because I used no corn syrup or preservatives, just good wholesome, somewhat fattening ingredients 🙂 If you want to try it, here’s how:

Homemade Dark Chocolate Sauce for Icecream

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp organic unpasteurized honey

1 tbsp organic grade B maple syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp good quality, unsalted butter

A few pinches of salt to taste

1 tsp vanilla essence

150 g 80% good quality dark chocolate

Method:

Place the sugar, water, honey and maple syrup in a little saucepan and heat on medium heat. Don’t stir the mixture at all; instead swirl the liquid about in the saucepan once in a while. Use a basting brush dipped in water to brush down the sides of the pan if needed. Wait until the sugar dissolves and then turns a deep amber (the maple syrup will make the mixture a little brown right from the start, so wait until the mixture turns even darker), about 8 minutes.

Next, take the pan off the heat and add cream and butter to the mixture. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth.

Homemade hot chocolate fudge

Then add the chocolate, salt and vanilla essence. Mix it all up until you have a nice smooth texture.

Homemadel hot chocolate sauce

You can serve it warm, as most people like it, or you can wait until it cools and thickens. I like my sauce thicker and more fudgy, so I wait until it has cooled down before I drown my ice cream in it. Either way, whenever you’re ready, pour this delicious goeeyness on your ice cream and eat away to your heart’s content.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Topping

Pour the left-over fudge into a jar and store it in the fridge.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Sauce Recipe