Strawberry Banana Smoothie

H and I enjoy making homemade smoothies.  Our favorites are blueberry, strawberry/banana, raspberry and mango.  We buy large quantities of fruit in season, wash, dry, cut, and then freeze in single layers, before storing in lock and lock containers in our freezer for later in the year.  We prefer to use frozen fruit as it gives a thick and slushy consistency (ice tends to water down a smoothie).

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Makes 2 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk (skim, 1% or your choice, such as almond, soy …)
  • 2 – 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (or fresh, placed in freezer until slightly frozen)
  • 1 banana
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp chia, ground flax or hemp seeds (or a combination of all)
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (optional – if using, omit honey)

Blend all ingredients on high speed until smooth.

Cheers!

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching; will you be making Irish soda bread?

Traditional Irish soda bread is made with flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. There are strong debates on adding anything else! Surprisingly in Ireland, the bread is referred to as brown bread, and doesn’t resemble any of the recipes in North America.

Nowadays, you’ll find sugar and butter added, as well as caraway seeds and/or raisins. There is no yeast or kneading involved, and the bread relies on baking soda as a leavener. The bread is rustic, typically round in shape, dense and slightly chewy.

Whichever recipe you choose, Irish soda bread is very easy to make and will keep for several days at room temperature. The flavor improves with age, and it’s best made several hours in advance, or even overnight.

We like ours toasted and spread with butter and jam! To serve with savory foods, you can omit or reduce the sugar.

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup sugar (adjust to your taste or optional to leave out)
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk (you can make your own by adding 2 tbsp vinegar to a measuring cup, then add milk to equal 2 cups, stir and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Butter a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients
  4. Add egg to buttermilk and whisk to combine, then add to dry ingredients and combine until moistened
  5. Add melted butter and stir until well distributed
  6. Spoon into prepared pan
  7. Bake for 60-70 minutes, checking near the 60 minute mark. When a toothpick inserted comes out clean, the bread is done!
  8. Let cool completely on a wire rack

Kitchen notes:

  • This recipe yields a very soft dough and requires a loaf pan to hold its shape
  • When bread is cooled completely, wrap in foil and keep at room temperature for several days

 

Godiva Truffles for Valentine’s Day

Godiva

I’m not a huge fan of chocolates, but H is!   I took him to Godiva and when we got to the counter, he was waiting for me to choose the flavors.  I told him it was his treat for a change, and to pick the ones he liked.  Of course he resisted, but after some prodding … Birthday Cake, Key Lime, Tiramisu, Chocolate Lava, Champagne, Smooth Coconut, Salted Almond and Hazelnut Crunch.  Mmm!

Godiva Truffles

Do You Crave Fudgy Brownies or Cake-Like Brownies?

Mmm … a decadent, chocolaty, chewy and moist brownie – are you craving this?

Fudgy Brownies or Cake-Like Brownies

I tested more than 6 recipes before I was ready to share the results! The ingredients are so simple: melted butter, sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract, cocoa, salt and flour. Surprisingly, I found a basic recipe works best. I’ve tried others that call for melted unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, but I personally found them underwhelming.

I baked batch after batch until I didn’t want to see another brownie again. I tweaked 2 recipes that are now my tried and true favourites!

Most of my friends prefer a fudgy brownie, while in our household, we like a cross between fudgy and cake-like. What we don’t crave are the gooey, wet-like brownies that leave a chocolaty layer on the roof of our mouths :(

Both recipes are not only easy, but super-fast. You can whip up a batch before your oven heats up! And, you don’t need a stand mixer, just one bowl, a whisk and a wooden spoon!

Bake some today, and don’t forget to let me know which one you prefer.

Fudgy Chocolaty Brownies

Makes 9 squares
Adapted from bonappetit.com

* Fudgy, deep chocolate flavor, chewy but won’t stick to the roof of your mouth!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup unbleached flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. Line an 8×8” square pan with:
    Foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2” overhang. Coat foil with non-stick spray
    OR
    Parchment paper and secure with binder clips. You just need to fold the edges down (I prefer to use parchment paper)
  3. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, watch carefully. Let cool slightly
  4. Whisk in sugar, cocoa, and salt to combine, and then add vanilla extract
  5. Switch to a wooden spoon and add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition (the batter will be very thick)
  6. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix). It will be difficult as the mixture will look like one big lump and you’ll need to use some muscle – don’t worry
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula.  Remove binder clips if using
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Do not over bake
  9. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan
  10. Using foil or parchment overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board
  11. Cut into squares.  The original recipe states 16 squares, but you are not going to want tiny squares!!

Fudgy and Cake-Like Brownies

Makes 9 squares
Adapted from allrecipes.com

* Best of both worlds: fudgy and cake-like

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line an 8×8” square pan with:
    Foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2” overhang. Coat foil with non-stick spray
    OR
    Parchment paper and secure with binder clips. You just need to fold the edges down (I prefer to use parchment paper)
  3. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, watch carefully. Let cool slightly
  4. Whisk in sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder to combine, and then add vanilla extract
  5. Add eggs one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition (the batter will not be as thick as the above recipe)
  6. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix)
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula.  Remove binder clips if using
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Do not over bake
  9. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan
  10. Using foil or parchment overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board
  11. Cut into squares.  The original recipe states 16 squares, but you are not going to want tiny squares!!

Baking tip:

  • For an extra boost of intense chocolate flavor, add ½ -1 tsp espresso powder to the flour step

Kitchen notes:

  • Wrap each square in plastic wrap and place squares in a freezer-safe bag.  Freeze and take out whenever you have a craving
  • For an easy dessert, cut each square into small chunks, serve with vanilla ice cream and chocolate or caramel sauce. Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Have You Tried Dragon Fruit?

Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit is a beautiful type of cactus also referred to as Pitaya. Its origin is unknown, but believed to be from Mexico and cultivated around the world.  It is more commonly found in Thailand and Vietnam.  The color can be a vibrant red or yellow with layers of leaves.

A dragon fruit is ready to eat when you press on the outside flesh and it gives slightly.  Any softer than this and it will be too ripe.  After washing the fruit, simply cut in half.  The flesh is easy to scoop out and contains black edible seeds, similar to kiwi (the skin is very bitter and inedible).

Dragon Fruit

The taste is very mild and refreshing, slightly crunchy but not as tart as kiwis.  While dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they are also high in fructose and should be enjoyed in moderation.

The shell of the fruit is so pretty you can even use it to serve ice cream, yogurt or sherbet or sorbets. The fruit itself is best eaten cold.

Dragon Fruit

Seasons at the Prince – Sunday Brunch Review

H and I love to indulge in Sunday brunch, so I can’t believe we have never tried Seasons at the Prince, located inside the Westin Prince Hotel.

Upon entering the hotel, we were greeted with an impressive waterfall, as well as a towering Christmas tree and fireplace. Seasons at the Prince is casual, yet elegant at the same time.  The decor is very clean, modern and minimalist, with more sleek fireplaces.

Seating is spaced well and very comfortable, with a lot of options for privacy.  The semi-circular booths looked very cozy, and we loved our table for 2 which offered a beautiful view of the parklands.

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We arrived early and Aladdin was gracious in allowing me to take pictures before the brunch started. He was “very” attentive throughout our stay, making sure we were well taken care of!

A unique selection of hot and cold buffet items were available, and on our visit we enjoyed the stuffed lobster shells, oysters, mussels and shrimp, salads, danishes, croissants, the omelet and carving station, chocolate waffles, and so much more. The food was very fresh and nicely presented, and I noticed dishes were replenished very quickly.

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Smoked Salmon, Assorted Deli

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Stuffed Lobster Shells, Oysters, Mussels

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Omelet Station

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Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella with Balsamic Vinegar Drizzle

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Roasted Red Skin Potatoes with Lemon and Garlic, Seasonal Garden Vegetables

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Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pearl Onions and Sun Dried Tomatoes

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Butter Chicken

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Tri-color Tortellini with Spinach and Artichokes

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Herb Crusted Barramundi with Citrus Salsa

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Chicken Apple Sausages

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Chocolate Waffles

Fresh juices, smoothies and fruit balanced out an indulgent brunch, but of course my mind was on the dessert table!  Being a dessert lover, I noticed a beautifully displayed dessert table and was tempted to start there first! 

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Desserts

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What’s On Our Plates

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My favorite desserts were the chocolate mousse cake which was not too sweet, Tiramisu and Chocolate Pots de Crème.

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Jolanta, our server, suggested we make room for the bread pudding, but to honest, it looked quite plain to me.  As they say, “looks can be deceiving.” I’m so glad we gave it a try … the bread pudding was pure decadence!  The addition of a very light, yet creamy and thick vanilla sauce was amazing.

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Most surprising was the coffee, as I prefer tea. When we asked Jolanta, she informed us it was Starbucks. While we love Starbucks lattes, H does not like their coffee, but this particular blend was mild and smooth, with no bitter aftertaste. Of course H enjoyed the pot that was left on our table, and I helped myself to several cups as well!

While the restaurant was booked solid, we never felt rushed to finish our brunch. We lingered long after everyone had left, and I was impressed that food was still being served, fresh as when we first arrived.

We were having such a relaxing afternoon, looking out at the beautiful grounds when Jamy and Jolanta brought out yet another piece of dessert while singing Happy Birthday. It was very nice that they took the time to chat with us! Most often, servers are in a hurry to clean up and usher guests out, but this was not the case at Seasons at the Prince!

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We had a very enjoyable brunch, the service was amazing, and we’re already looking forward to returning soon!

Notes:

  • I contacted Kevin McFadden, Rooms Division Manager, to inquire about the Starbucks blend that was served at brunch. It’s very rare to see management respond so quickly, and with appreciation for our business. Thanks so much Kevin!
  • Sunday brunch is currently $44/person, which includes coffee or tea, juices and smoothies, as well as parking

Disclosure:
This is not a paid advertisement.