Pistachio Cranberry Rose Nougat

CranRoseNougat3 Why hello there, 2014!  You snuck up on me so fast that I hardly got to say good-bye to 2013.  Last year brought change, among many other things.  A change in jobs, a big move, the husband going back to school.... too much to reflect on for right now.  This currant chapter of our lives has continued into the new year, and I am thrilled to dive into the pool of ideas and inspiration I have lined up for the months to come.

I am not really one for setting yearly resolutions, most likely because I am not very good at sticking to them.  Like dieting.  and Lent.  I know this will probably makes me sound all high-and-mighty, but I am more about changes in lifestyle and lessons of moderation instead of complete deprivation or extreme activities for a short period of time.  Just typing that alone was exhausting.  So if you asked me what my resolution for 2014 is, I would not really have answer.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things in my life that need improvement.  I can always be a bit healthier, more productive with my mornings, and better about getting out the door in a timely manner.

As far as health goes for 2014, I came up with a few small adjustments to my diet.  Instead of saying no sweets (we know that's not gonna happen) or going vegan (although I do cook vegan unintentionally on occasion), I will start with these three moderations:

  • Less unnecessary carbs This pretty much means no more white rice as side dishes, passing on the bread basket, but I can indulge in the occasional pasta dish at my fave Italian restaurant.
  • Less white sugar With sweeteners like agave, my favorite muscavato sugar, and the beautiful wild flower honey I picked up at Whole Foods the other day, there really is no need for adding white sugar to anything- unless I'm baking a cake or making Swiss meringue buttercream.
  • Cut out the candy and processed snacks Let's face it, as long as I am a pastry chef,  I am never going to stop making sweets.  And I will probably never completely stop going out to dessert or to try out the latest new bakery in town (it's research, I swear!).  If I am taste-testing my own treats and enjoying the occasional pastry, then there is no need for outside candy.  Plus, with my own baking, at least I know that only real butter and organic eggs are being using - no artificial flavors or preservatives please.

I know these ideas are not ground-breaking and probably not life-changing, but they are doable.  I tend to keep a fairly healthy lifestyle as it is, so I am hoping these small changes will be easy enough to follow but also make a small difference - perhaps not in pounds but at least energy levels and longevity.

On another note, one thing that is certainly not all that healthy, but fun to make and share is this fabulous Pistachio Cranberry Rose Nougat.  Hey, this is a dessert not diet blog after all.  However, if you are going to eat candy, surely the homemade kind has got to be a bit better for you.  Right?  At the very least, it contains healthy nuts and ingredients you have easily find in any  home.  Make a big batch and share with friends or wrap of as gifts.  Feel free to change up the flavors, nuts, and add-ins!

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Recipe adapted from Cooking Melangery

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Peppermint Rocky Road

PeppermintRockyRoad-Horizontal 15 hour drive to California with lots of snacks and fast food, eek!

Continuous holiday celebrations with family and friends.

Finally check out my collegue's restaurant downtown, including cocktails, fresh-made bread, 3 courses, and sweet treats.

Day trip to SF with the cousins and get in touch with our German roots while eating schnitzel and waffles.  Discover Dandelion Chocolate, OMG.

Cookie decorating with my nieces and nephew.  Enjoy a cold beer before the kids actually get there.  Cover cookies with gobs of frosting and way too many sprinkles.

Frantically finish wrapping up my Red Wine and Rosemary Sea Salt that I made as gifts this year as the doorbell rings and family arrives.

Make two-kids of focaccia to go with Grandpa's Chili for Christmas Eve.

Double Christmas at my in-laws' and my parents' homes.  Christmas margaritas.  Eat two celebratory dinners, plus Gingersnap Ganche Tart with Coffee Whipped Cream (recipe coming soon).

Squeeze in a volleyball game with my cousin and her BF from San Diego.  Get bruises from not having played volleyball in 15 years.

Christmas Round 3 - BBQing during an unusually sunny California December.  Second round of Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip.

Adult cookie decorating- cue more sprinkles and too many cocktails.  Sure made for a funny and fantastic game night though!

Grandma's Ginger Crinkle Cookies.

Left-overs for DAYS.

Attempt to clear out mom's fridge before returning to Canada by making TONS of kale chips and juicing everything is sight.

15 hours drive back to Canada- decide to balance out fast food with the left-over kale chips.

Feel a tiny bit better about previous week's diet, and allow a few too many finger-foods on NYE.  Happy 2014!

Vow to eat clean and exercise in the new year.

 

Finally get back to the gym...

 

..... browse our pantry after being gone for weeks.  Find some leftover candy canes, round up the half-open bags of chocolate chips and leftover blocks of chocolate I always have in my kitchen, think about purging the pantry of all processed food, decide to make Peppermint Rocky Road with the last half of a bag of mini marshmallows.

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Halloween Candy Cupcakes

Halloween-Candy-Cups It's almost that time!  As we approach Halloween weekend, I hope you all have some spooky plans made.  Although I think we will be missing most of the festivities come Halloween night (seeing as there are no trick-or-treaters in this home, and we leave in an apartment building), our weekend will include a trip to a Haunted House and a Puppy Costume Contest for Miss Remy.  To kick off the celebrating, I made these Halloween Candy Cupcakes!

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My apologies for not adding a recipe here today.  But it's Friday, and these are super fun and cute!  The toppers were sculpted from colored fondant.  They were fairly easy to make, and I hope they inspire you all to make your own!

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Ultimate Candy Bar Cake

CandyBarCake1 Ok guys, this might just be my most indulgent recipe ever.

Second to pumpkin spice coffees and baked goods, who else is guilty of downing handfuls of candy this time of year?  I will even admit to finishing off the Halloween stash before the trick-or-treaters pick out their costumes.  However, with my perpetual diet and life-long quest to eat a little healthier and a bit less-processed, it's always a constant battle: to have or not to have Candy Corn in the house.  I am sure many of you can relate ;)

This week, I solved about half the problem.  I snagged what was left of some candy bars that "mysteriously" found their way into the house and decided to put them in a cake.  Now, I know what your thinking, "How in the heck is a candy-filled cake at all healthy?"  Well, it's probably not, but it sure helps eliminate the temptation of munching on all the chocolate all at once.  Plus, paired with a bit of silky caramel and fluffy fudge, hopefully one small slice will suffice and the rest can be shared and enjoyed.  Or at least that is how I will justify the amazingness that is this Candy Bar Cake.

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Okay, it's not really a fix for all that candy eating, but that's okay, right?  For this recipe, I chose to fill loaf-shaped layers of cake with candy bars.  I picked simple KitKats, but I'm sure almost any favorite would do.  To continue along with the candy bar theme, I made a layer of almond cream and caramel, before finishing off the entire cake with chocolate fudge.  The shape resembles that of a candy bar as well.  This cake is truly one to celebrate with.  It's a bit rich but will certainly kill any craving for sugary "fun sized" treats.  Plus, it's cute and your guests will get a kick out of a cake filled with candy bars, for sure.

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Assembly-
You'll need:
1/2 recipe Vanilla Butter Cake
Almond Buttercream
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Store-bough Caramel sauce
KitKat bars (about 3 original packages)
 1. Once cool, carefully invert the cake.  Trim the 1/4 sheet cake into three 8" X 4" pieces.

2. Place 1 layer of cake on a cake board or cake stand.  Spread a layer of buttercream onto the cake.

3. Create a buttercream "dam" with a a piping bag.  Fill in with caramel sauce. (*jarred Dolce de Leche recommended)

4. Top the caramel layer with another layer of cake.  Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top.

5.  Place KitKat bars on top of the buttercream- being sure to break the sticks apart for easier cutting later on.

6.  Top KitsKats with another thin layer of buttercream and secure with third piece of cake.

7.  Ice cake with fudge frosting and sprinkle with any remaining KitKat bits.

For full list of details and recipes, head over to The Cake Blog

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