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goats cheese stuffed turkey burgers with honey mustard dressing

February 28, 2014

I am a supermarket cashiers worst nightmare. The lady with a trolley load of bulk-bin bags and fresh grocery items, all requiring the punching in of a ‘bin code’ or a produce name.

When we do the weekly shop, Jesse and I purposely avoid the self checkouts for this reason. Foolishly we sometimes succumb to the temptation of the shorter aisles at these checkouts but without exception we spend far longer impatiently keying in the (often incorrect) code and trying to decipher between organic yams, non organic yams or sweet potato (what’s the difference!?) than if we just relied on the old school, experienced, man-labour; the cashier.

goats cheese stuffed turkey burger with portobello

Back in New Zealand I was told once that supermarket cashiers are on timers. I thought this was pretty radical, that staff have to scan a certain number of products per minute. What if it’s a quiet day? Does the cashier lose wages if they don’t reach their target? Should cashiers be promoting their aisle in order to hit more scans per minute?

But now I get how valuable that was.

Clearly Canadian cashiers are not on timers. Priority is not on getting you through the checkout asap. It’s to hover in the checkout, fingering the stacks of candy bars and junky magazines, eyeing up what others bought that you should have, remembering items you have forgotten and dashing back down the aisles, ie: spending more money in store. It’s infuriating to have the cashier pick up your bag of brown rice and ask what it tastes like. Or inspect each one of your dozen eggs, as if you haven’t already done so. Hey why not check the expiry date on my yogurt? And pour yourself a glass of almond milk while you’re at it.

When I am in need of a dash-in-dash-out shopping experience I strictly avoid Superstore and head to Calgary Co Op instead. Although their cashiers too like to amble through their scanning, it is always a far more satisfying shopping experience. A great range of locally raised chicken, antibiotic free steaks and bulk containers of natural yogurt. With a pound of ground turkey from the packhouse a few streets back from my home, a roll of fresh goats cheese, freshly baked local Ace Bakery buns, local Portobellos and homemade caramelised onions it was turkey burgers on the menu for us.

turkey burger with portobello and honey mustard dressing

Goat’s Cheese stuffed Turkey Burgers with Honey Mustard Dressing
Makes 5 or 6 burgers

500g ground turkey breast (or dark meat)
bunch fresh herbs (I mixed cilantro and rosemary)
2 tsp whole grain mustard
chopped spring onion

6 slices of goats cheese (Chèvre)

6 portobello mushrooms, dirt wiped off with dry paper towel
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
20g butter, chopped into cubes

fresh buns
caramelised onions
alfalfa sprouts
roasted kale to accompany

Preheat oven to 350˚F with baking tray in centre of oven ready for the patties and the mushrooms.

Rip up kale leaves and place in a lightly sprayed roasting dish. Season generously and place in oven for 20 minutes until golden and crisp.

Thoroughly mix together turkey, herbs, mustard and spring onion. Divide into 5 or 6 (depending on preference for burger size) and shape into disks. Press a slice of goats cheese into the centre of each disk and fold over the edges to enclose the cheese.

Heat a lightly oiled frying pan over high heat. Grill patties on each side until golden. Transfer to hot baking tray in oven to cook through. Meanwhile, scatter chopped garlic over gills of the upward facing mushroom. Dollop over the butter and add to baking tray with turkey patties. Cook for 10 minutes until turkey is cooked through and cheese is melted. Mushrooms should be dark and start to release their liquids. Remove from the oven.

Prepare fillings, ie, lightly toast ciabatta buns and spread with avocado. Top with caramelised onion, mushroom, turkey patty and alfalfa sprouts. Drizzle over honey mustard dressing and serve with kale chips.

Honey Mustard Dressing

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon clover honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
squeeze lemon juice
1 tablespoon natural yogurt
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Mix together and refrigerate until ready to use.

black forest crepe cake

February 21, 2014

black forest crepe cake

I’ve never been a fan of Black Forest cake. I grew up with a distaste for whipped cream and funnily enough, chocolate cake. I did, however have a thing for those sticky, sweet, ‘unbelievably’ bright red cherries..

spread with cream cheese and yogurt

Having been introduced to the joy of fresh, Canadian cherries, those artificial candies garnishing the Black Forest cake (and studded through Christmas cake) have quickly lost their appeal. Alberta and BC are known for producing some fantastic fruit come spring and summer. Needless, we are pretty excited for some Okanagan roadtrips to collect such cherries, peaches, plums, berries..

chocolate crepes

In the meantime, it’s jarred or frozen cherries for us. Once stewed with a little sugar and a squeeze of lime, this cherry compote brings the Black Forest essence to this stack of crepes. In place of whipped cream (I’m still not a total fan) I’ve used whipped cream cheese mixed with a little natural yogurt for that tart but creamy layer between the chocolate crepes. A dark chocolate ganache completes this fun, simple and visually appealing take on the classic cake.

TIP: For a more traditional Austrian version of Black Forest Cake, brush each crepe with rum before spreading over the cream cheese and yogurt mixture.

stewed cherries with lime

Chocolate Crepes
Supposedly makes 20 but I only got 12…
Recipe from Ambrosia Baking

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
85g melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in blender. Leave in fridge for at least an hour. Heat large frying pan or griddle and lightly grease (unless it is non-stick). Pour on approximately 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan to coat evenly – batter should be thin enough to spread without holes. Cook until bubbles appear – flip and cook the other side. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Continue until all batter is used.

Black Forest Filling
1 large jar cherries (not cherry pie filling)
sugar to taste (approx 2 Tbsp)
squeeze lime
2 Tbsp corn starch

1 x 225g block cream cheese, room temperature
100g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
3/4 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt

chocolate ganache (100g dark chocolate, melted into 1/2 cup warm cream)

In a saucepan, simmer cherries with sugar and juice until soft. Taste and add more sugar as required. Mash slightly, leaving some cherries whole. Dissolve cornstarch in a little hot water and stir through cherries. Continue simmering until juices have thickened slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat in the yogurt until smooth. Taste and add a touch more sugar if necessary.

To assemble
Place first crepe on cake stand. I like to lay four strips of parchment down to make clean up easier. Spread over 2 – 3 tablespoons of the cream cheese and yogurt mixture. Top with crepe and repeat. Once 4 crepes have been layered, spread a third of the cherries (with the thickened juices) over cream cheese and yogurt mixture. Continue layering crepes and cream cheese mixture. At crepe 9 or 10, repeat with another third of the cherries. Continue layering crepes and cream cheese mixture. Finish with a crepe and pour over the chocolate ganache. Garnish with stewed cherries and dark chocolate shavings.

black forest crepe stack

Some more crepe cakes on De La Casa

Chocolate Kahlua Crepe Cake
kahlua crepe cake

Banana Nutella Crepe Cake
banana nutella crepe cake

Bruleed Mocha Crepe Cake
bruleed mocha crêpe cake

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

February 10, 2014

An amalgamation on my two favourite cakes – Red Wine Cupcakes and Quinoa Chocolate Cake – these Red Wine Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes certainly take the cake. I’m all about things in moderation, but dark chocolate (and perhaps, maybe, sometimes, red wine) are the two that require brute force to keep in moderation.

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

For those who will be celebrating Valentines without their love this year (me!), embrace that this recipe serves 15 and get amongst a casual group dinner party. As our least favourite (being ridiculously commercialized) holiday, we can hardly resent being apart for Valentines. No pink, no love hearts and no candy to be found in our home this weekend! Just purplish, red wine tinted cream cheese swirled over rich chocolate oh-so-moist quinoa cupcakes.

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Quinoa 365
Makes 15 cupcakes

2/3 cup quinoa (this time I used red quinoa)
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup raw cane sugar (or white)
1 cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Lightly spray a 12- muffin pan with baking spray or line with cupcake liners.

In blender combine 2 cups cooked quinoa, red wine, eggs and vanilla. Add the melted butter and blend until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until knife inserted in centre of a cupcake comes out (fairly) clean. Transfer to wire rack. The cupcakes will sink a little on cooling.

Red Wine Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
100g butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar

Place red wine and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick and syrupy – it should make about 1/3 cup total. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy (ensure no lumps). Add powdered sugar until desired sweetness – I find 1/2 cup to be enough. Slowly pour in red wine syrup, reserving 2 tablespoons.

Frost cupcakes with piping bag. For an effective spiral appearance, drizzle a tablespoon of the syrup into the piping bag before dolloping in the cream cheese frosting. Gently squeeze in a spiral pattern over cupcakes. Garnish with a chocolate heart (aww) or a red grape.

grape topped red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

pumpkin chocolate brownies

February 6, 2014

pumpkin and chocolate layered brownie

It was time to whip out the studio lights this week – not ideal but despite living in the sunniest city in Canada it is still darn-well pitch black by the time I finish work and take public transit home (never thought I would be a daily public-transit-er! However, I never thought I would live in a real city either..)

pumpkin chocolate brownie

It is also darn well freezing. We truly believed we had left the -30s behind when we departed the Northwest Territories 4 months ago. Not so – Calgary has hit some frigid temperatures this last week in stark contrast to the positives we had all the week prior. The Canada Goose has emerged from storage and the desire to stay home, drink tea and nibble baked goods besieges.

turning brownies into circles

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies
Original Martha Stewart recipe adapted into a high protein dessert The Iron You and ever so slightly adapted here

120 grams butter
170 grams dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 scoops (¼ cup) protein powder (either vanilla or unflavored)
1 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup raw (or dark brown) sugar
8 egg whites (or 4 large eggs)
1 ½ cups (or 320 gram can) pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) degrees. Lightly grease or line a 9-inch square baking pan.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.

Place sugar and eggs in blender and blend until fluffy. Add flour, protein powder, baking powder and cayenne pepper and blend until smooth. Pour half the batter (about two cups) into the chocolate mixture and mix well. To the remaining batter in the blender, add the pumpkin and spices. Blend well.

Pour half of the chocolate batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners with a spatula. Pour over all the pumpkin batter and again smooth to the edges. Dollop on remaining chocolate and smooth over into even layer. The layers will mix slightly but this just adds to the marbled layer effect.
Bake until the top is just set and beginning to crack – about 30 minutes. Check that the center is cooked with a cake tester. Let cool in pan and refrigerate overnight or serve warm with yogurt and fresh fruit.

These are great straight from the refrigerator with a dense, fudgy texture and a hint of warming spices.

sourdough crumpets with whipped blueberry butter

January 28, 2014

Of the many fond childhood memories I carry, that which I often reflect on is afternoon tea time. Afternoon tea in New Zealand (and I suppose the UK too) is a meal. It’s a 3 o’clock sit down, with a tea for the adults and an afternoon school ‘snack’ (as they call it here) for the kids. It’s a time to debrief about the day, take a break and refuel in order to make it through the following three hours until dinner time.

sourdough crumps and blueberry butter

Here in Canada, Jesse and I have continued the morning tea (10.30am), afternoon tea (3pm) and evening tea (8pm) ritual whether we are at home or at our workplace, whether its tea, coffee or a shake. And although it’s a little out of place here (“you have a set time for your snacks??”) it works perfectly for Jesse and I who struggle to go 3 hours without our next meal, and if we took the ‘snacking’ route we would probably find ourselves nibbling. All day.

crumpets from sourdough starter

My favourite afternoon tea as a child was crumpets. Returning home from school to warm, toasted crumpets, smeared with butter and drizzled with honey, the sweet syrup dripping through the holes and down the sleeves of my school uniform. The crinkle of the plastic Golden wrapper (which always tears), that distinctive soda flavour, the deep cavities for the honey or jam to nestle in.

blueberry butter

To make crumpets from scratch is incredibly satisfying. It is a super simple recipe, no waiting, kneading or resting as the batter is instantly activated by the mixing through of baking soda. Throw spoonfuls onto the hot skillet and watch them rise and bubble. Because I have a sourdough bubbling away, requiring emptying and feeding, I figured I could use all sourdough starter instead of yeast as I usually would when making these. It worked, but they didn’t bubble as much as expected. Mind you – the sourdough flavour is well worth the lack in bubbles.

Sourdough Crumpets
Recipe from The Fresh Loaf
Makes 8

1 1/2 cups leftover 100% hydration starter (straight from the fridge works best)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Mix it together and watch it bubble!

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Spray crumpet rings (or egg poaching rings) generously and place on skillet to heat. Pour in enough batter to fill rings, about 1/4 inch thickness. As bubbles begin to form, remove rings and repeat with remaining batter. (Bubbles may need a hand popping with something sharp). Flip and toast briefly on other side.

Serve warm with honey or whipped blueberry butter (recipe below)

Whipped Blueberry Butter
1/2 cup blueberries (frozen)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
120g butter, room temperature

Heat until blueberries have thawed and softened. Bring to a simmer and let cook (about 5 minutes) until thick and syrupy. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add cooled syrup and beat until combined. Toss through some fresh blueberries and serve alongside crumpets.

peppermint chocolate quinoa cupcakes

January 25, 2014

peppermint quinoa chocolate cupcakes

A makeover of the popular Chocolate Quinoa Cake takes it from a good picnic cake, to a classy evening dessert. The addition of peppermint extract within, and a dark peppermint ganache frosting adds a depth and sweetness, making these quite the treat.

I topped mine with cacao nibs and mini candy canes from my David’s Tea but outside of the festive season I would vouch for fresh mint leaves. Oh for the change of season where this snow can melt away and the garden can flow with mint and other herby greens..

chocolate cupcakes full of quinoa and topped with peppermint ganache

Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes
From adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
Makes 15 cupcakes

2/3 cup quinoa
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp peppermint extract
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup raw cane sugar (or white)
1 cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, cook for 10 mins. Turn off heat and leave for another 10 mins. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Lightly spray a 12- muffin pan with baking spray.

In blender combine milk, eggs, peppermint. Add 2 cups quinoa and the melted butter and blend until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 20 -25 minutes until knife inserted in centre of a cupcake comes out (fairly) clean.

Peppermint Chocolate Ganache Buttercream
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

125g butter (salted)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
100g dark chocolate, melted
2 tsp peppermint extract
dash milk as required

cacao nibs
a candy cane, crushed (or fresh whole mint leaves)

Thoroughly beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Add icing sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth. Pour in cooled melted chocolate and peppermint extract and combine, adding milk as necessary to make easy to spread on cupcakes. Top cupcakes with cacao nibs and chopped candy cane (if desired).

banana oatmeal cookies

January 22, 2014

It’s been a jungle of change for us recently. Over the last few months we have packed up our lives, moved city, travelled to New Zealand (me), lived in a hotel for 6 weeks straight (Jesse), started new jobs, set up home from nothing, found new friends, attended (far too many) new churches, got new licenses, new doctors, new coffee shops… a lot of change, yes?

However, amidst all that there has been one consistency.

These cookies.

oatmeal, banana, coconut, protein powder

The biggest challenge was Jesse’s 6 weeks in a hotel for B1900 training. What does the nutritionally conscious do with no access to cooking utilities, refrigerator, boiling water? When the only half decent food shop within walking distance is Subway (not our idea of healthy eating) and the breakfast provided by the hotel is more about muffins, brioche, waffles and sugary cereal than ‘real’ breakfast options?


Sending Jesse off with individual Tupperware servings of Curried Apple Quinoa Salad (to be stored in the bathroom’s icebox) helped, but these cookies were quite depended on – nutritionally sound enough to enjoy for breakfast and the perfect snack with the midnight cuppa tea prior to the all night simulator flight sessions.
As we have settled into our new home and new jobs these simple but incredibly tasty, satiating cookies have proven to be an ideal grab-and-go snack, holding up well in Jesse’s flight bag, lasting well on long away trips and making an excellent addition to the lunch box.

This is a revamp of my old Porridge Bites recipe, replacing a bit of the almond meal with protein powder to lower the fat and up the protein (and add a little sweetness).

100% NZ protein - supporting the homeland cows

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 20
Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Protein powder. It’s a point of contention. What’s the point of supplementing with a powder when you should get plenty in your normal diet? It’s a give or take – and a matter of convenience. I always have some on hand to make a quick shake after a workout (a vital time to refuel) when I really want to restore muscle glycogen, boost energy levels and repair any muscle damage – oftentimes it is difficult to stomach an actual meal. It is completely optional in baked goods, and even more optional for those whose muscles are rarely fatigued (ie, non-exercisers). I like it for the well balanced sweetness (stevia) but also because I like all my food, snacks or meals, to be nutritionally complete.

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm – so it isn’t solid (or olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup vanilla protein powder (I’m enjoying protein from NZ, like BodyLogix)
1/3 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or raisins)

Preheat oven to 325˚F and a line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut (or olive) oil. Add the oats, almond meal, protein powder, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks or raisins.

The dough will be a bit looser than a standard cookie dough. Roll the dough into roughly shaped balls and place on baking tray. Flatten slightly. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Store remaining cookies in freezer.

super green smoothie

January 17, 2014


I have the fortune of working for an organisation that values wellbeing. Not only is my role to love and serve some of the neediest in our community and aid them in their employment, but through the organisation my health concerns are also well taken care of. Each morning on arrival at work I beeline for the Pure North booth. Here I have access to any vitamin, fish oil or supplement I could possibly dream of (if I were so inclined), alongside a Green Juice – powdered greens and pumpkin seed protein mixed through orange juice.

Pretty ideal straight after the early morning workout, or for a mid morning pick-me-up.

orange cucumber

As employees we are also offered free bloodwork assessment and a program for a daily pack of vitamins and supplements. I jumped at the opportunity to get things checked out (why not?) but was rather surprised to find that my ‘healthy body’ could still benefit from taking 9 pills and 8 D3 drops a day. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t bode well with my idea of a healthy, natural, wholefood diet.

Having grown up in a household rather cynical towards supplements in pill form (the joy of having a doctor and a nurse for parents!) I am certainly hesitant to get involved in the supplement program. Articles such as this one which recognizes the risks of long term vitamin supplementation and this one which questions the necessity in a well nourished population – of which I most certainly am.

As my mother always said, supplements mostly lead to expensive pee. And this (questionably reliable) article discusses this further..

ready to blend

Nonetheless, I do like the concept of incorporating more greens into the diet (or, gosh, should we be wary of this too!?). So I requested from Pure North a small pack of the Pure Synergy Superfood powder so I can make these green juices on the weekend too.

supergreen smoothie

Instead of using only the sugary juice of the orange I like to incorporate as much whole, fibre-filled fruit as possible – a whole orange, a whole apple and a good handful of spinach. This is a meal in itself – load up the ginger and it’s sure to fight off any cold during this sick-season.*

*Not scientifically proven.


Super Green Smoothie
Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows
Serves 2

Being highly fibrous, dark greens (the spinach and the Superfood Powder) will absorb liquid in the body leaving you with some uncomfortable bowel movements. If you normally maintain a low-fibre diet (as most in North America do) you will want to ease into high-fibre greens by beginning with only 1/4 teaspoon a day and ensure to keep well hydrated.

1 cup spinach or kale
1 large Gala apple (or other sweet apple), roughly chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 Tbsp powdered greens (spirulina or Pure Synergy Powder)
1 tsp honey, to taste (I used 1/2 tbsp or so)
Protein powder, optional (pumpkin seed protein recommended for this one)
water as necessary

Place all ingredients in blender in order listed. Whizz until blended, adding water as necessary to loosen. Throw in some ice cubes to cool and thicken if desired. Serve with slices of fresh, cool cucumber.

green smoothie


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