The Diet Fix

So it has been almost two years since I posted to this blog, but an exciting and busy two years it has been. I got engaged and I got married and I started focusing a lot more on my health. I had to stop blogging about delicious recipes, because I have been trying to cut back on high-fat foods (or bad fats anyways).

My husband and I have been on honeymoon for the last week and we’ve eaten like royalty all week and I’ve had a lot of margaritas and champagne. After honeymoon indulgence and all the wedding related celebrations, it is time to get my diet back on track. I am starting the 21 Day Fix diet and exercise program tomorrow. I haven’t tried the exercise program yet, but am looking forward to getting back to daily 30 minute workouts.

I am excited to try the Fix because this plan doesn’t seem so much like a “diet,” but more like a perfect portion controlled clean eating lifestyle switch. You can eat the fruits, vegetables, meat, carbs, cheese and other healthy fats that you like, but within your daily portions. The container measurements may be tough to get used to, but I hope they will help to hold me accountable. (Its easy to eat too much healthy food.)

The daily container allowance for my calorie bracket is:

4 Red (protein); 3 Green (vegetables); 2 Purple (fruit); 2 Yellow (carbs); 1 Blue (cheese and healthy fats); 1 Orange (dressings and seeds); 2 Teaspoons (oils, etc.)

Meal Plan

Week 1 Meal Plan

Here is the meal plan I came up with for my first week (starting Monday). I plan three main meals per day and 2 snacks. Some days I’ll have one snack between breakfast and lunch, and one between lunch and dinner, other days I won’t have a snack in the morning and instead have one after dinner.

No soda or juice, only water (lots) and one cup of coffee with 2 tablespoons of milk per day.

On Sunday, we have dinner at my parents place, so I will save up my yellows so I can have a glass of wine, and then eat according to what containers I have saved for that meal (cheese, salad, meat, potatoes).

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday scrambled eggs with peppers, onions and salsa ( 1 Red, 1 Green) roasted chicken* with mixed greens and balsamic (1 Red, 1 Green, ½ Orange, 1 tsp) steak with roasted (sweet) potatoes, green salad with balsamic (1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Green, ½ Orange, 1 tsp) Strawberries (1 purple)

Multi-grain crackers with cheddar (1 Yellow, 1 Blue)

Greek Yogurt with fruit compote* or berries and 1 tsp peanut butter (1 Red, 1 Purple, 1 tsp)

Tuesday Eggs, whole grain toast, watermelon (1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Purple) leftover steak, beet salad, mixed greens, goat’s cheese, balsamic (1 Red, 1 Green, ½ Blue, ½ Orange) Grilled chicken with tzatziki, greek salad with feta, couscous (1 ½ Red, 1 Green, ½ Blue, 1 Yellow) carrots & tzatziki (1 Green, ½ Red)

grapes (1 Purple)

Wednesday Overnight oats – Greek yogurt, berries and oatmeal, with 1 tsp peanut butter (1 Red, 1 Purple, 1 Yellow, 1 tsp) Greek Salad with feta, grilled chicken, creamy herb dressing (1 Green, ½ Blue, 1 Red, ½ Orange) Stuffed peppers (2 Green, 1 Red, ½ Blue, ½ Yellow, ½ Orange) multi-grain crackers (4) with 1 tsp peanut butter (½ yellow, 1 tsp)

protein shake (1 Red)

watermelon (1 Purple)

Thursday Protein shake, yogurt and berries, whole wheat toast, with 1 tsp peanut butter (2 Red, 1 Purple, 1 Yellow, 1 tsp) Stuffed peppers (2 Green, 1 Red, ½ Blue, ½ Yellow, ½ Orange) Salmon, green beans,couscous, Greek salad with feta (1 Red, 1 Green, ½ Yellow, ½ Blue, ½ Orange) -melon (1 Purple)

-yogurt and berries (1 Red, 1 Purple)

Friday berries and greek yogurt with 1 tsp peanut butter (1 Red, 1 Purple, 1 tsp) salmon with beet salad, mixed greens, goat’s cheese, balsamic (1 Red, 1 Green, ½ Blue, ½ Orange) beef tacos in corn tortillas, grilled peppers and onions, lettuce, salsa and cheese (1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Green. ½ Blue) -skim milk cappuccino (1 Yellow)

-yogurt, fruit  and peanut butter (1 Red, 1 Purple, 1 tsp)

Saturday Greek yogurt with berries and cinnamon, eggs and whole wheat toast (2 Red, 1 Purple, 1 Yellow) Taco salad – lettuce, peppers, salsa, ground beef, cheese (1 Green, 1 Red, ½ Blue) BBQ Chicken with corn, grilled peppers and onions (1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Green, 1 tsp) -carrots and hummus (1 Green, ½ Blue)

-grapes and pistachios (1 Purple, 1 Orange)

Sunday Scrambled eggs and fruit (1 Red, 1 Purple) Grilled chicken with roasted beets and mixed greens, balsamic (1 Red, 2 Green, ½ Orange) Sunday Family Dinner

(2 Yellow, 1 Red, 1 Blue, 1 Green, ½ Orange, 2 tsp)

-grapes (1 Purple)

protein shake (1 Red)

I did my groceries today (Sunday) and am preparing some meals for the week in advance. I hope that having healthy meals will help curb unhealthy choices.

Preparation

Today I made:

Fruit compote – for mixing with yogurt

Roasted Chicken Breasts – can keep in the fridge for about four days

– Beets – roasted, peeled and refrigerated for beet salad throughout the week

– Balsamic Dressing (21 Day Fix Recipe)

– Tzatziki – strain 2 Cups of plain Greek yogurt in cheese cloth lined sieve, set over a bowl in the fridge to make tzatziki tomorrow.

– Scrambled eggs with peppers and onions for breakfast tomorrow.

– Assemble lunch and snacks for tomorrow.

I am new to 21 Day Fix so would be happy to hear any advice and suggestions from anyone who has tried it in the comments section!

Flaky French Croissants

Croissants are definitely my favourite pastry, but it’s hard to find really, really good ones.

When I lived in Toronto, I used to work across the street from this fabulous French bakery called Patachou. They had the best croissants I’ve had outside of France. Ever since I moved, I have been looking for croissants that could rival theirs.

I have always wanted to try my hand at making homemade croissants, but considered it an extreme culinary challenge.

Recently I bought some frozen croissants from the grocery store that you thaw overnight and then bake in the morning. While they weren’t bad, they were made with margarine in place of butter. We all know a true croissant must be made with real butter  – and lots of it.

After my disappointment with the ingredients in those store-bought croissants. I found a similar all-butter alternative from Williams Sonoma. They will send frozen croissants to your door for you to bake and serve fresh out of the oven. But while I am sure their croissants are delicious, they come with a hefty price-tag.

I realized though that if these companies could freeze their croissant dough before baking, so could I. Perhaps the hard work involved would be worth it for a freezer stocked with homemade ready-to-bake croissants.

I did some research and found two great bloggers who had tried their hands at croissant making. I used a slightly adjusted recipe from Butcher Baker Blog, converted it into my confused Canadian measurements, and combined it with some of the technique from Weekend Bakery.

While it did take an entire weekend to make these croissants, it really wasn’t all that difficult and now I have two-dozen 20 delicious croissants in my freezer ready to be baked and served fresh from the oven.

Croissants are so versatile. They are delicious with a coffee, as a savoury snack with brie and pâté, or with homemade jams. For a sweeter treat, roll your dough around some semi-sweet chocolate when shaping your croissants to make chocolatines/pain au chocolat.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 4  2/3 cups of pastry flour
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp caster sugar

For rolling:

  • 1 pound of butter
  • dusting flour

I did this challenge over a weekend, starting the dough on Friday night.

After mixing the dough with the bread-hook on your mixer, leave it in the fridge overnight covered with plastic wrap.

The next morning (Saturday) take out your butter and let it rest on the counter for about an hour. Note: if you make these in the summer make sure your butter does not get too soft. You want your butter to be workable, yet still firm.

Cut the pound of butter into eight 1/4 cup sections and then cut two of those sections into thirds. Arrange the butter in a neat square on plastic wrap, cover with plastic, and then use your rolling pin to pound the butter slightly so the squares blend together and roll it to 1 cm thick, keeping the square shape. butter!

Put your butter in the fridge while you roll out your dough – for the first time.

Take your dough from the fridge, dust it with flour and, on lightly floured surface, roll out into a rectangle slightly larger than twice that of your butter, leaving a border.

fold in the butter

Place your butter on the bottom half of the dough rectangle, fold top-half over butter and then pinch all the edges together. You want to seal the butter in.

Now, using your rolling pin, roll the dough to twice it’s original length. Turn your dough by 180 degrees to get an even pressure. Fold both ends of the dough in to meet in the middle then fold bottom half over top half. Wrap your dough and let it rest for a while in the fridge. I let mine rest for two hours. If you don’t give your dough time to rest between rollings, it will become too glutenous and stubborn.

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folded

After about two-hours (work around your schedule, more time doesn’t hurt), take your dough out and turn it 90 degrees from how it was last folded. Roll the dough out so it is double in length, then fold the same way as before and return it to the fridge (covered).

Let it rest for another two-hours or so and repeat the last step, turning the dough 90 degrees from the last fold, before rolling. Return to the fridge again and let it rest until tomorrow morning.

On the third and final day, remove your dough from the fridge in the morning and roll it out to a giant rectangle slightly larger than 140 cm x 50 cm. Then, using a pizza cutter, cut your dough to this size, keeping your lines as straight as possible. Now, cut your rectangle in half lengthwise -giving you two 25 / 140 cm strips.

Now you can either make a isosceles triangle template template that is 25 centimetres high by 20 centimetres wide, or you can make notches every 20 centimeters on both sides of your dough strip, attach the notches to cut into 7 rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half from opposite corners, to make 14 triangles.

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Note:Traditionally, pain au chocolat keeps rectangle, as opposed to crescent shape. So if you are adding chocolate before rolling these up, you can adjust your cutting to make rectangles instead of crescents.

Roll up your triangles from the 20 cm base. Take each end and pinch them together to make the crescent shape, or leave straight if you prefer. Now either freeze your croissants to bake at another time, or leave them to double in size (a few of hours).

To Freeze: If you want to freeze some of your croissants, now is the time to do so. Lie them flat on a baking  and freeze flat. Once frozen, put them in an airtight container. To bake, remove from freezer, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet with a damp towel overtop. Let defrost and rise for 6-8 hours (overnight).

To bake: When the croissants are ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F. Make an egg wash with one egg yolk and one Tbsp of milk, brush over the croissants that you are going to bake.

Bake croissants for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until perfectly golden. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for a minute and then enjoy while still warm!

These turned out so great! I hope yours do too!

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Classic Christmas Fruit Cake – Part Two

Once your fruit has soaked in the rum and orange juice for a couple of days and has absorbed all the liquid (see part one), it’s time to bake your cakes.

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You can use either one 9″ round springform pan, or several mini-loaf pans. I am using six small ceramic loaf pans. Line your pans with two layers of parchment paper. I use a stick of butter as a glue stick to help the paper stick to the pans.

You bake the cakes in a low-heat oven for about two hours, and your house will smell amazing while these are in the oven!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup of butter
  •  1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/8 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • fruit and booze mixture (from part one)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 C
  • Line cake pan(s) with a double layer of parchment paper
  • Sift flour, salt, allspice, and nutmeg
  • In stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on low speed until combined, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase to medium-high speed, and mix until fluffy.
  • Scrape down bowl and add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each
  • Fold in flour mixture
  • Stir in nuts
  • Add fruit mixture one third at a time, gently mix before adding more
  • Divide into prepared pans
  • Put a double-layer of parchment paper over filled cake pans, gently pressing into batter
  • Bake cakes for an initial 1 hour and 50 minutes
  • Remove cakes from oven and check with a cake tester. If tester comes out wet, return to oven checking every ten minutes. If tester is dry, remove and let cool completely in pans.

Once cakes have cooled, remove from pans and place in airtight container. Pour between one and two ounces of rum over the cakes every 2 days until just before Christmas. You can also switch it up by adding an ounce of orange juice instead of rum every now and then. Turn the cakes over once every week or two to prevent the liquids from settling at the bottom. You want the cake to always be moist, but not dripping wet.

The next step of the cake involves topping it with marzipan and royal icing held together by apricot jelly. This is done as soon as possible before serving, (although it can be stored in the fridge for several days, or the freezer indefinitely, once completed). I will likely be icing my cakes around the 22nd. Check back in mid-December for the instructions in Part Three.

Classic Christmas Fruit Cake – Part One

I am personally not a fruit cake fan, but it is my dad’s very favourite treat. Every Christmas when I was young, he used to make himself a fruit cake from a boxed-mix because my mom didn’t have a good recipe. For the past few years, I have experimented with various recipes to try and find the perfect cake for my dad, and last year I finally succeeded. Both my parents said it was the best fruit cake they have ever had.

Because this classic Christmas fruit cake needs to be made at least a month before it is served, it is the first thing I make to kick off the Christmas baking season.

By baking this cake in mini-loaf pans, it makes for perfect little Christmas gifts. This recipe will make either one 9″ round cake, or six small loaf cakes (mine are 5″ x 3″).

ceramic mini-loaf pans

There is a ton of fruit in this cake! Be prepared to spend around $50 on ingredients, plus a bottle of dark spiced rum.

ingredients

The cake comes together in various stages and the first involves assembling the fruit and letting it soak in rum and orange juice.

fruit and rum

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange
  • 1 3/4 cups seedless California raisins
  • 1 3/4 cups seedless golden raisins
  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 3/4 cups dried currants
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, stoned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red glace cherries
  • 1/2 cup green glace cherries
  • 150 mL dark spiced rum

Directions:

  • Juice the orange and set juice aside
  • Finely grate orange rind
  • Mix fruit with orange rind in a large container with lid
  • Add rum and orange juice and mix well
  • Seal container and leave fruit to absorb liquid for a couple of days, stirring once or twice a day.

For part two, you will need: dark brown sugar, butter, eggs, flour, allspice, nutmeg, ground hazelnuts and chopped hazelnuts; as wells as your pans and parchment paper.

Once your fruit has absorbed all of the booze, see part two for baking instructions.

Still Dreaming

It is the fourth of April and Spring still has not sprung in western Québec. Last year, on the first day of Spring it was 27 degrees Celsius. This year, it was -7. Two weeks into Spring and the temperatures are still in the negatives. We also still have quite a bit of snow that needs to melt.

In my last post, I talked about my dreams of starting a vegetable garden on our property. However, I decided I must observe the summer sun on our land for one season first.So I will wait another year in order to find the best location for it.

This year I opted for a cutting garden. I ordered my seeds from Veseys back in March and have started nearly all the ones that need to be started indoors. Now, hopefully the snow will melt so the ground will be ready in time for me to plant them outdoors.

I am looking forward to seeing what is already in the garden. I know there are lot of hydrangea’s and hostas, but apart from those I have no clue.

The new cutting garden will include:

  • Gerbera Daisies
  • Snapdragons
  • Asters
  • Cosmos
  • Dahilia’s
  • Calendula; and
  • Sunflowers

For the window boxes, I have started seeds of petunia, lobelia, verbena, and geranium.

Finally for edging and landscaping I have also started lavender, hollyhock, and in honour of my dear cousin Andrew, forget-him-nots.

Later this week, I will start posting about the needs and challenges of growing each seed.

Dreaming of Spring Gardens

It may still be -30˚C outside (yes, I live in Quebec), but today I am dreaming of spring and my garden.

This is the time of year that, despite all the snow, I start to think of the seeds I would like to sow.

Last year, I lived in an apartment with a small balcony and was limited to what I could grow in containers. But this year, it’s a whole different story.

Indeed the garden is one of the things I loved most when we saw our house for the first time last summer. The previous owner did a fantastic job with the landscaping around the house with beautiful perennials, including many hydrangea bushes (my favourite). The only thing missing is a vegetable garden. Although there are two raised-beds in the back, they were not put to use. I plan on changing that!

We moved into our house in October and with all the things to be done, I had no time to do anything except prune back the existing garden and rake the billions of leaves before we were covered in snow.

Once the snow is gone and the ground has thawed, I plan to put those raised-beds into production. However, this may prove challenging due to their location. The beds are at the back (north side) of the house on our heavily wooded lot. This means they get a lot of shade and most veggies want full sun.

In the sunnier of the two beds, I plan on trying my luck with some raspberries and blueberries. These plants usually take three years to start producing fruit, so I will have a while to wait.

In the other, more shaded, bed I will plant vegetables that can survive with 3-6 hours of sun. I have decided on Rhubarb, spinach, green beans, onions, lettuce (romaine and iceberg) and beets. In the same bed I will also plant Marigolds, parsley, dill, summer savoury and tarragon to help with growth and to keep insects at bay. This website is a great source for companion planting. Around the bed, in separate pots, I will grow sage and mint. I will plant a climbing rose bush between my two beds to encourage bees for pollination and some lavender along one side. Finally, I will do tomatoes in large containers with some basil and chives, which I will place in the sunnier front-yard.

I will order all my seeds and plants from Veseys soon. They will ship the seeds immediately and the plants when the time is right. I will start my seeds indoors mid-March when I return from vacation and then hope for the best.