Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola // My Path to Health and Fitness

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

A few years ago I wasn’t happy with the way my body looked and how unfit I felt. I barely exercised and I ate whatever I wanted. And like many others on New Year’s Eve, I made my resolution the ever so popular, ‘get fit and be healthy’. I really wanted to stick to this goal, knowing that it takes time to see results and I definitely didn’t want to fall off the New Years resolution bandwagon. I knew that this wasn’t a quick fix; I had to completely adjust my lifestyle if I wanted to feel healthy and strong. So one morning in 2013, with brand new runners on my feet, I stepped out the door of my tiny Vancouver apartment and went for a jog on the False Creek seawall and since then, have never looked back.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

Nowadays, I’m happy, healthy and am in the best shape that I’ve ever been in. It might be hard to believe that I’m a serious advocator for fitness and health when I write a food blog that is full of sugary sweets! Everyone has an opinion on what to eat to stay healthy, and I truly believe in life balance. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine if you want to eat that cookie or cake slice! I think that as long as you try to incorporate whole and fresh ingredients into your meals and keep active you can feel great and still stay sane.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat GranolaVanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

As much as I would love to have sausage with a side of bacon every single day for breakfast, I don’t think it’s the best idea if I’d like to continue to fit into tiny swimsuits for the beach. My favourite go-to breakfast that is both delicious and healthy is my homemade granola. Sprinkled onto of some Greek yogurt with a few slices of fresh peaches reminds me of Saturday mornings in Vancouver after a long run around the Seawall. It’s sweetened with honey and made with buckwheat for an extra crunch; I can’t help but grab a handful for a quick snack whenever I walk into my kitchen.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola 
2.5 cups large flake oats
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
2/3 cup almonds whole or sliced
1/2 cup unseated coconut flakes
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup honey or agave
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup of coconut or olive oil
1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°C

Combine all dry ingredients including spices in a large bowl. Mix together the honey, water, oil and vanilla extract in a small bowl and add to the dry mix, making sure it’s combined well.

Spread granola mixture flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-30 minutes, checking and flipping granola every 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to fully cool before storing away in an airtight container.

Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream // Wedding Bells

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photo by Simply Sweet Photography

Last weekend I was honoured to be a part of my big brother’s wedding as a first time bridesmaid. The first in our family to tie the knot, Jasper and Bonnie’s nuptials was the event of the year, it was a lavish wedding of an astounding 470 guests! And I felt so lucky to be able to share the big day with them. The whole day went according to plan without even the slightest hiccup, which is absolutely amazing considering the size of the party.

Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream
Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Jasper proposed to Bonnie last year in June while visiting Dan and I. What could be more perfect than Bermuda’s blue water and pink sand as a backdrop while popping the big question? Besides, Bermuda Tourism’s slogan is after all, “Feel the Love”!

Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream
Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream

I couldn’t be happier that Bonnie was officially going to be my sister-in-law. I asked her earlier this month what was her favourite type of cake and she promptly replied, “anything Earl grey”! I wanted to bake a little layer cake in honour of their day and I had the perfect 4-inch cake rings for the job. I had actually bought the moulds from a 100‎¥ store in Tokyo while on vacation with the pair. I knew Bonnie was going to be the perfect sister-in-law to be when she gleefully agreed to join my quest on eating ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner the entire time we were there! No one else in the world can understand my craving for noodle carbs like she does! So here we have it, a little earl grey cake in celebration of the newly wed couple!

Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon ButtercreamEarl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream
Adapted from Sift and Whisk

1 Cup milk
4 bags of Earl Grey Tea
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Cups of All Purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon finely ground earl grey tealeaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs

Heat milk up in a small saucepan until a bare simmer. Remove from heat and place the bags of earl grey to seep for 20 minutes. Remove the bags and squeeze out as much liquid back into the milk. Add the vanilla extract. Pour into a measuring cup and add more milk if less than a cup is remaining.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of 2 8-inch cake pans (in my case I used 2-4 inch cake pans a few times!)

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, ground tealeaves, and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl of a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one egg at a time, scraping down the sides until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the tea infused milk and ending with the flour. Mix until everything is combined and no dry bits are left.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out dry. Cool layers in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes and carefully turn the cakes out to cool completely before icing.

Lemon Buttercream
1 cup of softened butter
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
4 cups of icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of milk

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter with the lemon zest on medium-high until pale. Sift in 1 cup of powdered sugar and add the lemon juice, milk, and vanilla extra. Add the remaining powdered sugar and whip mixture until fluffy, adding more milk if needed until desired consistency.

 

 

Dark n’ Stormy Ice Cream

 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream

I remember the summer before I started high school I pretty much ate ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like all teenagers I happily consumed the frozen treat without a guilty thought in my mind. I ate it straight out of a giant family sized tub and my flavour of choice would always be Neapolitan (why choose when you can have all three?). And to this day, ice cream is by far my favourite sweet. My eyes would light up like a Christmas tree at the mention of a trip to Yo Cherry, Bermuda’s answer to a Pink Berry.

 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream

For my birthday a couple of years ago Dan gifted me the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid. He admittedly said it was a selfish gift, hoping that my new toy would transform our kitchen into a gelato joint. If I wasn’t so concerned about our waistlines growing, I’m sure we would’ve been on board with the idea!

 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream
 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream

Vanilla was the fist recipe I decided to test first, it’s classic and simple. So I cracked open my new copy of Bi Rite Creamery’s Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones to guide me through my first churn. Multiple yolks and a ton of heavy cream? I had no idea homemade ice cream was just a delicious rich custard! I had been fooling myself with Breyer’s “iced dessert” for years! The only con about the ice cream maker (if you can even believe it) is that you have to pre-freeze the bowl for at least 15 hours. So I can’t make ice cream at a moment’s notice; however, the outcome sure is worth the wait.

 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream
 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream

Gosling’s makes another appearance on the blog this week for this ice cream experiment in the form of a Dark n’ Stormy sundae. I’ve never really been a huge fan of caramel type toppings on ice cream, but in this case, the spicy ginger pairs really well with the butterscotch notes of the Gosling’s rum sauce. An extra special treat to make for dessert, this ice cream is a little more prep than a shake and a stir of the famed Bermuda drink. So put your glasses away for now and instead churn up this ice cream and you’ll have everyone requesting for a second round.

 Dark N' Stormy Ice Cream

Dark N’ Stormy Ice Cream
Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
5 inch knob of ginger
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks

Peel the ginger and slice very thinly. Place the ginger in a non-reactive saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Heat to medium high and bring to a boil for 1 min. Remove from heat and strain and put ginger slices back into the pan. Add the cream, milk, pinch of salt and 1/4 of the sugar. Return the pan to medium-high heat. When just barely a simmer, remove from heat, cover and let the mixture steep for 45 min.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks to break them up and then add the remaining sugar. Set aside.

Remove the ginger slices and return the saucepan of cream to a bare simmer. Carefully scoop out about 1/2 of the hot cream mixture and add it to the eggs and sugar while whisking constantly. Repeat adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream. Using a spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly add the egg/cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.

Cook the mixture over medium heat stirring constantly until it’s thickened and coats the back of the spatula for about 1-2 minutes longer. Strain the base through a fine mesh sieve into a container and set the container into an ice bath. Continue to stir the case until it is cool and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Freeze your ice cream machine according to the manufacture’s instructions (for a Kitchenaid mixer it’s about 15 hours). Pour the base into the mixer and watch it transform into delicious soft serve! Fold into a container and freeze if a firmer texture is desired.

Gosling’s Rum Sauce
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 cup of cream or milk
1/2 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of goslings black rum
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk sugar and cornstarch together and add into the melted butter. Pour in milk and cook stirring frequently until the mixture begins to boil and thicken. Remove from heat and add Gosling’s black rum. Cool before serving over ice cream.

Cup Match Popsicles – Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

So who would’ve thought that this tiny country shuts down entirely for a weekend in the summer in the name of a cricket match where one side of the island plays the other side of the island? As many here would say, “only in Bermuda!” This is Cup Match: a public holiday where all of Bermuda enjoys a four day celebration of camping, boating, swimming, eating and of course, cricket!

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Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
An island wide celebration of it’s Emancipation Day, the annual game dates back to the late 1800’s, where the friendly game was played during picnics between men from Somerset and St. George’s. Every year, before the start of the holiday, fans can be seen sporting their chosen team’s colours – red and royal blue for Somerset and light blue and navy for St George’s. This year the match is held in St. George’s, the oldest English town in the New World. If cricket watching isn’t your thing, you can try your luck and gamble on a game of Crown and Anchor, where many locals take advantage of the relaxed gambling laws during the holiday. Other weekend festivities include a beach party on Horseshoe Bay, one of the more famous Bermuda beaches, as well many reggae and soca concerts throughout the evenings. To cap it all off, Sunday is the annual Non-Mariners Race and boat raft up in Mangrove Bay.

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

In celebration of Cup Match, I made these fun fruity popsicles in Cup Match colours. It took me a while to figure out what flavors to choose, with so many blue shades between the two teams, there are only so many blue hued foods that exist! So pick your side to cheer for and keep cool in the August humidity…Dan and I are on team St George’s, but with these two delicious popsicles, it’ll be hard to choose! Have a Happy Cup Match everyone!

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
Makes 4 Popsicles

Half can of full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons of sugar
Bunch of mint leaves
1 cup blackberries
2 tablespoon simple syrup* to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Blue food colouring

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, and mint leaves. Cook stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover and let steep and cool down for at least an hour. Strain to remove mint leaves. Add 1 drop of blue food colouring and stir to combine.

In a blender or processor, puree blackberries and add lemon juice and simple syrup to desired sweetness. Add 5 drops of blue food colouring and stir to combine.

Pour the coconut mixture into half of the popsicle mold with the stick inserted and freeze until slightly firm, 1-2 hours. After the coconut layer is slightly firm, pour in the blackberry mixture. Freeze tray for 4 hours until set.

Triple Berry Popsicle
Makes 4 Popsicles

1 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons simple syrup

Puree strawberries and raspberries in a blender or processor. Add simple syrup and lemon juice. Adjust sweetness according to taste.

Pour berry mix into popsicle mold and then add in a few blueberries. Using the stick or mold top, push the blueberries down and to the sides of the mold. Freeze tray for at least 4 hours until set.

Simple Syrup

To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from stove to cool.

 

Chocolate Lavender Tart

Chocolate Lavender Tart
Chocolate Lavender Tart
I love everything French. Crusty baguettes, rich foie gras, savoury galettes and even all kinds of stinky cheese. I could day dream all day about living in a tiny town in Provence, riding my bicycle to the morning market for groceries and returning home with a belly full of sampled jambon and sweet pâtisseries . It’s a shame that I’ve forgotten most of my high school level French, but some days I like to live vicariously through an imaginary French me, humming along to Francoise Hardy’s Comment te dire adieu? while rolling out perfect croissants in my tiny Parisian kitchen.

Chocolate Lavender Tart

Last fall Dan and I travelled to France, specifically Paris, Lyon and Avignon. For the 2 weeks that we were there I was in culinary heaven. Much to Dan’s dismay, I dragged him to every cookery store that was highlighted in The Food Lovers Guide to Paris. A visit to G. Detou was of course a must. I’m pretty sure I stood in the aisle staring in awe at all the brick-sized blocks of chocolate for quite some time until Dan’s impatient foot tap interrupted my baker’s fantasy. I would’ve purchased the entire shop if I could, but I was already testing the check-in limit with the 2 bottles of wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. So alas, I escaped France with a bag of pearl sugar, jars of floral fleur de sel and a large tart pan that I thought would be perfect for the days I wanted to dream in French.

Chocolate Lavender Tart
Chocolate Lavender Tart

Yesterday was Bastille Day (Vive la France!) and although I’m nearly 3600 miles away from the Eiffel Tower; I still wanted to celebrate in my Bermuda kitchen by making tarte au chocolate with my souvenirs from Paris. A classic pastry of rich chocolate with a hint of lavender, a small sliver is all you need to make your day a little sweeter and perhaps you’ll even dream en francais!

Chocolate Lavender Tart

Pâte Sucrée
1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup powdered sugar (60 grams)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cup (195 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg

In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt, set aside. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for a few minutes until mayonnaise constancy. Add flour and continue to beat at low speed until the flour mixes with the butter/sugar and looks like wet sand. Add the egg and mix on low for 30 seconds until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Sprinkle flour over the counter. Take the dough out of the Fridge and bang on it a few times to soften it up. Unwrap the dough and roll it out into a 12-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully roll the dough onto the pin and then roll out onto a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the pan so it fits tightly; press the edges into the sides of the pan. It is important to press the dough evenly into every nook and corner of the ring. Use scraps to patch up any tears or missing areas.

Pierce the dough with a fork and place a piece of parchment paper over the centre of the shell and top with dried beans or pie weights. Place the tart shell in the fridge again for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven for 350°C and bake for 15 minutes, and then remove the beans or weights and bake again for another 15-20 minutes until slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Chocolate Filling
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp butter (1/4 cup)
2 egg
flaky sea salt
dried lavender

Preheat oven to 325°C

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until slightly simmering and pour immediately over the chocolate. Mix well until the chocolate has melted. Beat eggs in a small bowl and add to the chocolate mixture and whisk until completely blended and glossy.

Carefully pour into the cooled tart shell. Bake for 15-20 minutes until set and surface remains glossy. Cool on a rack and sprinkle sea salt and dried lavender buds before serving.