Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review of Terra Coffee and Tea

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Perfect way to start your day or get through a long afternoon!

Terra Coffee

When Terra Coffee asked if they could send me a sample of there coffee and tea, I was excited - coffee is one thing I just couldn't live without and my kids love herbal teas! I was even more excited when I opened the box - it was chock full of coffee, teas, and cocoa and hot chocolate. Over the past month, we've had a great time brewing and drinking all of the products.

There are so many great things to say about the company and its products.

The Company

Let's start with the company - Terra Coffee. It's Canadian! Based in Montreal, Terra Coffee roasts it's coffee beans to their own exact standards. In fact, over their 30 year history, they have created their own roasting method known as Torréfaction Artisanale Granito (T.A.G). It ensures that their beans are never be under or over-roasted and that the beans' "sugars have been fully caramelized in order to create the most body as well as deliver rich flavour notes."

I also love, love , love that they believe in giving back and being socially responsible to the communities and farmers where they buy their beans through the Humaniterra Foundation.

Coffee

Terra coffee have a variety of blends and single source coffees available. You can buy them online by the bean or ground. Over the past month we've enjoyed Terra's Gran Riserva - Cuba Caracolillo and Terra Classica - Le Montreal.

Gran Riserva is part of their exclusive estate, single origin coffees selected by their own Master Roaster. Cuba Caracolillo is described as "highly intense aroma with a delicate sweetness and unmistakable hint of chocolate." We found it to be our go to morning coffee - it's rich and full bodied - a perfect way to start a busy day.

We also enjoyed Le Montreal - a blend of beans from South America, Asia and Indonesia that are roasted in small batches. I prefer this blend in the afternoon - it's a bit earthy and still rich - a perfect pick me up to ensure you get through those long afternoon meetings!

Tea


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The tea samples were abundant and included:
  • Bursting Berries from their Spa Collection
  • Vanilla and Pear White Tea
  • Lemon Citrus Green Tea
  • Moroccan Mint
  • Masala Chai
Their Ariel line of teas is huge and available in loose leaf and biodegradable pyramid-shaped tea bags. A portion of their tea sales also go to charity.

Our favorite by far was Bursting Berries from the Spa collection which is caffeine free an dmade from herbs, spices and fruits. Bursting Berries is a fruit infusion of dried elderberries, raspberries and other mountain berries. This tea is so fruity, fresh and sweet - no bitter notes at all.  We had it hot and made another batch cold. It's now the kids favorite tea! I foresee us making this as an iced tea throughout the summer months.
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Bursting Berries from the Spa Collection

We weren't big fans of the vanilla pear tea but a friend loved it so we sent it home with her. I think that's the great thing about this line of teas - there is something for everyone.
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Vanilla and Pear White Tea - something for everyone.

Hot Chocolate and Cocoa

This brings us to the cocoa and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is rich and chocolaty - perfect on a cold wintry day - especially when topped with a hand full of marshmallows.

This dutch processed cocoa is 100% organic, dark, and rich. Do you know what the difference is between dutch processed and natural cocoa? Dutch process cocoa is bathed in a potassium carbonate solution to neutral cocoa acidity. Dutch process cocoa usually has a pH level of 7 (same as water) vs natural processed cocoa that has a pH level of 5 or 6. Natural cocoa has a sharper flavour. Due to the neutrality of the dutch processed cocoa, it doesn't react to alkaline leaveners like baking soda. As a result baking powder is m ore common in recipes using this type of cocoa.

I've used the cocoa in my favorite brownie recipe with lovely results - deep, dark, fudgy.

If, like me, you live no where near Montreal don't despair - they deliver! If you sign up for their newsletter you will receive 25% off your first order.

*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cardamom Vanilla Tea

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So simple, so good.

A former work colleague of mine would occasionally bring a cup of this delicious tea into work for me. Her husband makes her a cup every morning!

Makes 2 cups of tea.

Ingredients

1.5 cups water
1 cup milk
2 black tea bags
2-3 cardamom pods
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean pod

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan.
  2. Simmer for 20 – 30 mins. 
  3. Remove tea bags and pods.
  4. You can also add a little bit of fresh ginger if desired. Enjoy!
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mango Blueberry No Nut Granola Recipe

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Every few months I make a batch of granola. The kids eat it with yogurt or milk. They also love taking it to school as a snack at recess. For this reason, I make it nut free.

This time I used coconut oil. At room temperature, it is solid but as soon as it hits 76 degrees it will begin to liquefy. By heating the oils and the spices, the spices bloom and their flavors and aromas are released. Your kitchen will smell great!
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This makes a big batch of granola so I usually distribute half of it into small snack bags so they are ready for lunch boxes or snacking at anytime. The other half of the batch goes into a big container that we keep on the counter for easy kid-access!

Note about coconuts from this Health Canada site: A coconut is a seed of a fruit and nutmeg is obtained from the seeds of a tropical tree. Coconut and nutmeg are not considered tree nuts for the purposed of food allergen labeling in Canada and are not usually restricted from the diet of someone allergic to tree nuts. However, some people have reacted to coconut and nutmeg. If you are worried, consult your allergist before trying coconut or nutmeg products. 

I also make sure anyone who eats it knows there is coconut oil in it.



Ingredients

1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 c maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp salt
8 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup milled flax
3/4 cup dried blueberries
1 cup dried mango, chopped

Optional
1/2 tsp fleur de sel

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In medium sized pot combine oils, maple syrup,vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
  3. Stir over medium-low heat until just simmering and remove from heat. Watch carefully and be careful not to burn yourself.
  4. Combine oats, wheat germ, bran and flax with salt.
  5. Pour oil mixture over oats and stir until well combined.
  6. Spread granola on two large cookie sheets.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden. While baking, stir granola every ten minutes to ensure even baking.
  8. Remove from oven.
  9. If desired, add sprinkle of 1/2 tsp fleur de sel. 
  10. Cool completely.
  11. Place in large bowl.
  12. Add dried fruits and combine.
  13. Store in air tight containers.
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Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Grandma's Easy Date Squares Recipe


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Date squares? Have you ever had one? Is it a dessert you associate with your great aunt Agnes? Date squares seem to have become something of an "old-fashioned" dessert. Date squares or matrimonial squares (some say because they were made with so many "dates". Get it? You gotta go on a lotta dates to get married???) as they are known in some parts of Western Canada have been around since at least the 1930s.

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They are made from a layer of sweet, gooey dates that is sandwiched between two layers of buttery golden oats.

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My mom used to make them when I was a kid but I hadn't thought much about them since then. That is, until my 9 year old son saw a bag of dates at the grocery store. He wanted to try them. They were on sale so I bought two bags since my brain flickered with the idea of date squares. Turns out my son didn't like dates straight out of the bag (no surprise). That left me with two bags of dates and the brain flicker turned into a brighter light (luckily I didn't have the urge to walk into it).

I knew the kids would love the oat mixture - it's pretty much a crumble topping but I wasn't sure about the dates in the middle. Would the texture be appealing? In a word. YES. Yes, it would . Granted the dates are mixed with enough sugar to make them sweet and delicious and taste bud friendly to almost anyone.

I think date squares deserve a new minute in the sun, another 15 seconds of fame and it starts right here. Try this recipe. Let me know what you think of them. I know you'll love them (so will your great aunt Agnes so be sure to share)!



Ingredients

2 cups dates
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar (can reduce or increase this amount to suit tastes)

1-1/2 cups large flake oats
1-1/4 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

Instructions


Fruit Mixture:

  1. Place dates, water, juice, baking soda and sugar in sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Using a fork or potato masher, squish the date mixture a bit to form a coarse paste.
  6. Cool.

Oat Mixture:

  1. In large mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, oats, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.
  2. Mix with hands,
  3. Cut butter into 1 inch pieces and add to bowl.
  4. Using your hands, rub and mix butter and other ingredients together until you have a  crumbly mixture that will hold together if squeezed.

Making the squares:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non stick spray.
  3. If desired, line with parchment or nonstick foil, letting it hang over edges for easier removal later. 
  4. Place half of oat mixture in bottom of dish and use your hands to firmly press mixture evenly over bottom.
  5. Add all of the cooled date mixture on top of crumble and spread evenly (I use an offset spatula).
  6. Add rest of oat mixture over dates.
  7. Gently press down to cover fruit.
  8. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, until top is golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  10. Either cut in pan or remove by pulling overhanging foil.
  11. Cut into desired number of squares.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Double Chocolate Candy Cane Bark

Need an easy, delicious sweet treat for dessert or a hostess gift? Try this! Any bag of chocolate chips will do and in any flavour. A few crushed candy canes and maybe a few extra sprinkles and you're done!

Ingredients
  • 3 bags of milk chocolate chips
  • 3 bags of white chocolate chips
  • 1 bag skor bits
  • 5 candy canes, crushed
  • various sprinkles or other candies (smarties) or crushed cookies


What to do
  1. Melt chips in separate bowls or sauce pans (careful not to burn them).
  2. Spread melted white chocolate on a cookie sheet that has been lined with a silpat.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 of skor bits over white choclate.
  4. Spread melted milk chocolate over white and spread with a light hand.
  5. Sprinkle with more skor bits, candy sprinkles and crushed candy canes.
  6. Place in fridge until set.
  7. Break or cut into pieces.
  8. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Turducken for Sunday Football

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There are days for salad with no dressing and a squeeze of lemon. Sunday football and  especially Grey Cup on Sunday November 29th, isn't one of those days! Football calls for a little bit of decadence and a whole lot of easy. Easy dishes, that is. Because who wants to send the day in the kitchen when you could be watching the game? GO EDMONTON!

A perfect fit with game day feasting is a turducken! Specifically, a bacon wrapped turducken. That's right, a duck wrapped in chicken wrapped in turkey, wrapped in bacon I'll give you a minute to think about that........drooling yet? How about a layer of stuffing and another inside layer of bacon??!!!! Sorry vegetarians, this is not your kind of meal. Carnivores, jump for joy!

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Echelon Foods has added just such a turducken to it's line of deliciousness. I've been a big fan of their turduckens for awhile now and have served them at previous Thanksgiving dinners- both the roast and the whole beast.  Our guests are always impressed!

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But it's for more than the holidays. In fact, it's perfect for any game day and is sure to make a huge impression on your guests - a definite touchdown. It's easy to make - just defrost and throw it into your oven for four hours. And since you are putting such a show stopper on the table, you can add other premade or easy to make side dishes to round out the feast.

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For our buffet, I made a quick batch of orange infused cranberry sauce, simple cheesy potato skins, raw veggies, chips, salsa, guacamole (store bought), date squares that I had made earlier in the week, all of our left over Halloween candy, and a few other dishes. Trust me when I say, the bacon wrapped turducken was the MVP of the game! The outer layer of bacon comes out crispy and the birds on the inside are quite moist.

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I loved that with a little pre-planning I could watch the game with guests and not get stuck in the kitchen.

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I highly recommend any of Echelon's turduckens but the bacon wrapped turducken roast will definitely score a touch down at your next football (or hockey or baseball or basketball or whatever sport you're into) feast. Echelon will deliver your bacon wrapped turducken frozen solid to your door (the dry ice is an added bonus!). You can start defrosting right away (it will take 2-3 days to thaw so factor that in  to your timing) or put it in your freezer until you need it.

Our roast easily fed 12 people and none went away hungry!

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Note: I received a bacon wrapped turducken for review but opinions, as always, are my own.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Harry Potter Birthday Party Part 5: The Cake

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If you missed our other Harry Potter Birthday Party post, check them out:


Such a simple cake but the kids loved it!

It's a simple five layered chocolate and vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.

It's covered with marshmallow fondant. Let me be clear, I dislike regular fondant and try to avoid it like the plague! It tastes awful. When I use it, I make figurines (e.g. on our Plants vs Zombie cake) but would never cover a cake in it. But I had heard rumours that marshmallow fondant is not only easy to work with but also tastes waaaay better. So what the heck, I thought, let's try it.

It doesn't taste like marshmallows but it is sweet and pleasant tasting. More importantly all the kids (and my husband) ate it and liked it - not one peeled it off the cake! That says something!

It was easy to work with. Even though I rolled it a bit too thin, it still adhered to the cake well and it was easy to smooth out.  The ribbons on the bottom of the cake hid a bit of messiness around the edges of the cake!

After it was covered, I added a bit of color gels to pieces of extra fondant. After rolling them out and cutting them into shapes (you can use whatever cookie cutters you have on hand or even cut them free style with a knife), I wrote on them with edible ink. The kids gave me their favorite spells and quotes from the Harry Potter books and movies and I just copied them onto individual fondant pieces. If you rub a tiny bit of water on the cake or the back of the fondant piece it will be easy to adhere it to the cake!

Note: Make sure you make the fondant a day or so in advance - it makes it much easier to work with.

Here are the sites I referred to when making our marshmallow fondant:
Great Video by My Cupcake Addiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaKqSND8sPc


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