Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles and the Holidays

>> Friday, December 24, 2010


Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles
Another year is wrapping up pretty quickly here and I just wanted to reflect on this year before shutting everything down and doing nothing over the next week or so but celebrate the season with family (of course that never means shutting down the kitchen, au contraire, if anything the kitchen is just firing up!). 2010 has been an interesting year for me, I decided to start a blog, began training for a half marathon, started a new job, planned a wedding and the most special of all, I got married (you knew it had to end somewhat mushy, come on, just give me this one time). It was a busy year and time flew by faster than it ever has, sometimes I wonder whatever happened to summer, oh right, Calgary never got one!

Yet with everything that has happened this year, I’m looking forward to 2011. I wonder what new experiences it will bring and hopefully I’ll be able to continue sharing them on my blog. So let’s end this year on a sweet (but healthy!) note with some delicious Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles. These truly melt in your mouth and are extremely easy to make and look really nice on a platter along side all your Christmas goodies. I really didn’t change much to the original recipe, except swap out the full fat cream cheese for low fat cream cheese, but if you want a richer chocolate truffle, then you can mix in some dark chocolate chips with the semi sweet ones. I found that the semi sweet chips were pretty decadent already, so proceed with caution unless you really enjoy your dark cocoas. Hope you enjoy this recipe over your holiday season and have a Happy Holidays! See everybody again in the New Year!

Chocolate Chips
Ingredients:
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (or you can add in a bit of dark chocolate chips and remove a bit of the semi sweet chocolate chips)
1 package (8oz) low fat cream cheese
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup graham crumbs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Extra graham crumbs, icing sugar, coconut for coating (feel free to try different ingredients)

Preparation:
Melt half of the chocolate chips in a double boiler over the stove. Remember to use low heat, once melt leave it on the stove until ready to use.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until it’s a smooth consistency. Add in the icing sugar and cream until it is incorporated. Pour in the graham crumbs and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.

Add in the melted chocolate and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 mins or a longer until it’s set and ready to be scooped out and rolled.

Once ready, hand roll each ball to about 1 inch and coat with desired topping (I found that I enjoyed the coconut the best, but the oreo cookie crumbs weren’t bad either!)

Recipe adapted from here.

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Peas and Carrots Risotto

>> Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peas and Carrots Risotto
After a long days work, sometimes its hard to imagine having to conjure up a nice dinner (especially when all you want to do is grab that Chinese takeout on the way home). I know it’s been said many times before that food doesn’t have to take long to be gourmet nor should it taste like a cardboard box because that’s what you probably dumped it out of, but it could be as simple as just lacking the motivation to figure out what your dinner is going to consist of. I find myself staring at the fridge sometimes and just not knowing what to make because, well, I just didn’t go grocery shopping and nothing in my fridge looks edible. Enter in risotto, a fancy name for a fancy looking dish that in reality can be made out of any ingredient you may find in your pantry or refrigerator and really doesn’t take that much time at all. You can let it boil away in all its glory while multitasking with other pots and pans cooking on the stovetop.

A good go to recipe for risotto I find is mushrooms, but if you don’t have those on hand, try a peas and carrot variation (seriously frozen peas are my best friend, they put a nice spin to any dish and provides fibre and vitamins!). This recipe is definitely versatile and you can pretty much put anything you like in to it - chicken, sun dried tomatoes, asparagus...the list goes on - this version is vegetarian and I've left out the cheese which makes this risotto healthy as well!

Cooking Risotto
Ingredients:
1 medium sized onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp white wine (or cooking wine if you don’t have any white on hand)
1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock (low sodium is best)
1 cup green peas
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preparation:
Place olive oil in pot, cook onions and garlic over medium heat until onions become slightly see-through (opaque).

Pour in arborio rice and stir until everything is mixed in nicely, add in the wine and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid. This step ensures that each grain of rice will remain separated during the cooking process.

Add in a cup of the chicken stock and mix in the carrots, turn the head to medium low and let it go to a slight boil. Keep stirring the rice occasionally and adding more stock when the liquid level goes low.

After about 10-15 mins, check on the rice and see if it’s al-dente. If so, stop adding in any more stock and allow what’s left of the liquid to become absorbed.

Add in salt and pepper to taste and stir in the peas. Let sit for about 2 mins and you’re ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Aida's Mediterranean Bistro

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mouhammara Dip

After tasting Mediterranean in the region of its origin, it really makes you want to taste and compare what our local jaunts are like (constantly having to travel to Lebanon or similar countries to get Mediterranean food just doesn’t seem economical or realistic…but one could dream). Since I’ve driven past Aida’s many a times and have heard good things about it. I figured that it was time to call up a reservation and pull a chair up to Aida’s table.

Seafood Platter
Atmosphere: Small contemporary space with a Mediterranean twist.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: I always find it hard not to order everything off the menu since all the descriptions sound amazing, so instead I opt to taste a bit of everybody elses. We ended up settling on a couple platters which allowed us to sample many different dishes off the menu without having to order them individually, which was a nice treat, especially if you’re in a bigger group. We started with my friend’s recommendation of the Mouhammara Dip, which is a red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate juice served with unlimited pitas (you always get unlimited pitas with your meals...yum!). It was garlicky and sweet, a perfect way to start off the evening, everyone at the table agreed that it was different and unique. I ordered the Shawarma Platter which came with a choice of Hummus or Baba Ghannouj and Fattoush or Tabbouli Salad. I opted for the Hummus and Tabbouli Salad, which I found were a little tarter that I imagined them to be, which sort of threw off the flavours of the dish for me, plus my beef was a little dry.

Lamb chops
I also got to try a bit of the Seafood Platter for two, which included Prawns cooked in a light garlic sauce, Squid rings in a white wine tomato reduction, Baba Ghannouj, Fatayer which are spinach filled pastry triangles, Grape leaves and different cheeses; we also added on the delicious sounding lamb chops as well. It was quite a bit of food and a great sharing platter. I especially enjoyed the prawns and the squid rings, the lamb was moist and quite yummy as well. On top of that, I managed to sneak in a couple bites of Baked Halibut as well, it was relatively mild in flavour, but since I’ve never really had halibut cooked that way at a Middle Eastern restaurant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it did feel a little overcooked. I believe the main consumer of the dish was not overly enthused but ate it none the less, you can let halibut go to waste!

Baked Halibut
The wine list comprised of some interesting Lebanese wines which were interesting, but we opted to stick with just a few teas and coffees to end the night. Of course the coffee – Turkish style - was accompanied by some Baklava (crispy phyllo pastry filled with nuts) and Kashtaliey (a milky pudding with pistachio nuts on top). My table partners didn’t seem overly enthused about the desserts and I have to admit that I’ve had better baklava before, but the coffee was interesting and definitely packed a punch.

My Picks: Mouhammara Dip, Garlic Prawns, Squid Rings

Kashtaliey
Overall: It was a nice trip down memory lane tasting some of those Mediterranean type dishes at Aida’s. Although it’s not quite the same as being in the Middle East, it is definitely a lot more accessible and all the dishes were quite well priced for the amount of food that we received.

Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro
2208 4 Street Southwest
(403) 541-1189
Website: www.aidasbistro.ca

Aida's Mediterranean Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Addictive Pringles Stix

>> Friday, December 10, 2010

Pringles Stix

So as of late, I’ve found that I’ve been extremely hooked on these new Pringles cracker stix (yup that’s how they’re spelled and yup Pringles makes crackers now). Ah who am I kidding I have been hooked on these things for the last 6 months, ever since I first saw them on the shelf at a convenience store right by my office during a mid afternoon snack attack. I’ve just been procrastinating blogging about them because I was selfish and didn’t want everyone running out and buying them all and not leaving me any. Now that it has been 6 months and I am able to come to terms with the fact that they’re not in scarcity and I won’t have to run over swarms and crowds to get to my stix, I’m finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and blog about my new obsession.

In all seriousness, these stix are great! They come in several different flavours (pizza, jalapeno, cheddar and honey butter, which is my favourite, they use to have vanilla which I found really yummy but they took those off the market for some reason, I should write to Pringles, ah again, who am I kidding, I don’t have time to write…wait. Doh!) and each box contains 6 pouches of roughly 20 or so stix (not that I counted…). Each serving which is a pouch, equates to roughly 90 calories, 3.5g of fat and barely any sugar, which isn’t too bad for a quick snack fix when you’re craving something crunchy but not too overwhelming. I found that it hits the spot for those afternoon lulls / pick me ups and goes along well with that afternoon coffee at about 3pm. Yup, everyday at 3, I get peckish and these are the perfect size.

For those of you who are Asian, you’ll notice that they sneakily remind you of Pocky sticks, those little chocolate or strawberry covered sticks that I would always get when I was younger waiting in line at the Chinese grocery stores. Well if you thought they looked similar, I can attest to the fact that their crunch is roughly the same, except for the lack of a coating of chocolate or strawberry, which actually makes them a bit healthier as well. Either way, I’m impressed with the overall satisfaction they provide me when I require something to munch on (in moderation of course) and I’ll definitely keep buying these as long as they sell them, but if they ever stopped, they’ll be getting a letter from me!

Honey Butter Stix
Pringles Stix Honey Butter Nutritional Information:
1 Pack
Calories 90
Fat 3.5g
Saturated 1.5g
Trans 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 150mg
Carbohydrate 12g
Sugars 2g
Protein 2g

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Historical Normandy

>> Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral
Before we bid adieu to France, we had to make a trip up to the historical area of Normandy. A place with a ton of historical significance and we felt it all around us. However since we were only on a day trip, we didn’t make it to the beaches of Normandy (I know! We were crushed about it too! Don’t remind me), but we were able to head to Rouen. The birthplace of Joan of Arc (sadly this was also where she was burned at the stake for heresy) and you can see her name everywhere around town, from the tower where she was kept to the square where she was burned.

Joan of Arc Plaque
Surprisingly the area around the Joan of Arc square is also the most well preserved area of town, it survived the bombings of WWII by allied troops and continues to stand tall. The buildings here have now all been turned in to a shopping area with names like Burberry to Chanel to Mango, but the buildings above reminded us of a time and place that is long gone (they also reminded me of the buildings in Amsterdam, where they’re all slightly leaning to one side or the other, like a Tim Burton movie).

Old Buildings
If you walk down the main street, you’ll run in to a neat clock tower, which you can’t miss since all the tour groups stand there for at least 15 minutes talking over its historical significance. We quickly snapped our photos and continued on our way. This is the main area in Rouen so it also houses most of the restaurants and you can find many different types of cuisines here. Further down the road and the one of the main reasons for me coming to Rouen was the cathedral, a gorgeous gothic building that inspired Monet’s paintings and I can see why. If you look closely at the building walls, you can notice the charred walls from the bombings during the war. Certain parts of the cathedral were completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt afterwards, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of the building itself, I thought it actually gave it more character. If you walk around the town you’ll actually see quite a few charred stand alone buildings and towers that were ruins from the war.

Old Church
Of course we couldn’t come all the way to Rouen and not have a taste of their food. We were able to find a nice busy restaurant beside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen (what a view!) and sat down to fill our stomachs. Luckily my other half (nope, not typing in better half because we all know it’s the lady that’s the better half, right? Right) knew how to speak French or else we would have just ended up pointing at random items on the menu and hoped for the best (like in Barcelona where we ended up with a fried egg over some French fries and noodles, it was interesting). Especially when the table beside you was enjoying a nice stewed lamb shank with baked beans and a lovely stewed pear dessert. Yes, I want what they’re having please, but not before I woofed down some of that delicious French bread!

Lamb Shank
Once our meal was consumed we found our way to the Church of Saint Ouen (the Rouen basilica), which was almost as awe inspiring as the cathedral, but smaller in size. Like the cathedral, it too faced heavy bombings during the war and had to be mostly rebuilt. The exterior basilica walls are very dark due to these bombings and it seems like the French has left this as a reminder to all. None the less, the building itself remains quite a sight.

Pear Dessert
After all that walking around, sightseeing and shopping, we managed to find a nice little coffee shop to end our day at Rouen. Aptly named Five O’Clock (since we were feeling drained and that it was almost home time) it was a great way to sit back relax in this little coffee / tea shop, which housed teas from around the world, and get a cup of caffeine jolt before heading back to Paris and prepping for our return home to Canada.

Ruins

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