Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Ahhhhhhh! I love fall SO much. I love the crisp, cool air, I love the leaves that are changing colour (leaves that I get to rake now!) and I love the smell of firewood that lingers in the air! I know it's totally cliche, but Fall is my favourite season, hands down! I have so many happy memories associated with this time of year and they just continue to develop.

The happy memory for this year will be moving into our new home AND the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. Training for this marathon was a shorter shorter time period than last year. I had more going on, which meant I missed training on 4 different weekend. I also went into the race with a different mindset. This year, I just wanted to run. I didn't care about the time, I just need to show myself that I could do it again.

I was lucky that I got to do this race with very special people (all of them half marathon virgins!). We finished with a time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, which I was really pleased with. It was a really great course and if you're thinking of running a half marathon next year, I highly recommend this one. I'll be doing it again (and hopefully with my lovely husband who PINKY SWORE he would do it with me).

The night before the race we had a HUGE pasta dinner (gotta get them carbs!) and for dessert, fruit & these yummy brownies. Although they were a little gooey (I didn't use the right type of chocolate) they were still very tasty. These are a fabulous fall treat & will be a hit anywhere you take them!

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 oz bittersweet (NOT milk) chocolate
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pureed plain pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
chopped nuts (optional, I didn't use)

Preheat oven to 350F & butter a 9 inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. This allows for easier cleaning & for easier removal.
Melt the chocolate and butter together using a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pot with water. Make sure to use bittersweet. I used milk chocolate and it was tooooooo gooey! Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Don't be nervous about the cayenne pepper. I know it sounds weird, but it adds a really unique flavour to the batter. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) whip together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the flour mixture until everything is combined. 

Put half the batter in a separate bowl (so you have 2 bowls of batter). Add the melted chocolate to one and the pumpkin, oil and pumpkin pie spice to the other. 

Working quickly, pour half of the chocolate batter in your prepared pan & smooth with a spatula. Do the same with half the pumpkin batter. Repeat with the remaining batter. Using a knife, swirl the two batters together. Sprinkle with nuts (if desired). 

Bake for 40-45 minutes. I had to bake mine for longer as I used a smaller pan. The brownies will be a little gooey and that's totally OK! That's what makes these amazingly delish. 

Allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or a glass of milk!



Monday, 6 October 2014

Glad Fresh Food Challenge

Hi Friends!

I want to tell you, I've really missed blogging. Every time I make something I think "this would be AWESOME on the blog" but had to remind myself that I'm taking a break.

Well, we just finished moving on Saturday and I can barely contain my excitment - I have a BEAUTIFUL kitchen now that is screaming for me to bake, bake, bake and who am I to say no?. I'm very happy to say that I'm going to start writing again. It won't be all the time, and it may be spotty at time, but I'm coming back!

To kick off my posting again, I want to tell you about something I'm working on right now - the #GladFreshFoodChallenge! Here is a few "fun" facts:

  • The typical Canadian household s[pends $5,572 per year on grocery food items ($465 of that is on fruits and vegetables)
  • On average 13% (or $725 worth) of food all is thrown out! That's almost 2 months worth of groceries!
  • That means, on average you and I waste $175 per year of food!
Glad is looking to change that by spreading awareness of how to keep your food FRESH!

How do we do this? Proper storage and a little bit of organization.

Now, for storage, a trick that I've used since University is when buying meat in bulk (like multiple chicken breasts), store each piece (or serving) in Freezer Bags (or Glad Press & Seal works nicely). That way, you can take out ONLY as much as you need at a time. This is especially helpful when you're only cooking for two people (like I am). 

For organization - I find that when I put leftover in the fridge to "save" for later, I often push the previous leftovers to the back of the fridge to make room for the new. I find these (fuzzy) leftovers about month later and go "oh yea!"

My solution? Put newest leftovers behind the old and rotate them out that way! I also find writing on the plastic wrap/zipper bags helps to keep track of what needs to be used next!

You can also plan one night a week where you use up what is in the fridge! If you don't know what to make, go to Allrecipes, input your ingredients & it'll tell you what you can make! I promise you'll try things you never even thought of!

This month, I'm attempting to go do the #GaldFreshFoodChallenge and go a FULL MONTH without throwing away any food. None at all (except for the parts of vegtables you can't eat). I'll be posting recipes & tips along the way! I do hope you'll join me!

Stay tuned!


**Disclaimer: I am working with Glad on this initiative & was given materials to do this challenge but all thoughts & feelings are my own**

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

5 Regrets of the Dying: Important Life Lessons

Image Source: Phillip Brande
I know I said I wouldn't be posting for awhile but I came across this article today that was too good/interesting/important to pass up. If you're reading this, it means it is NOT too late to make these important changes in your life. Please share, I think many of us could use the reminder.

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying 
by Bronnie Ware

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives.

 People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

 It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. 

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Credit: Huffington Post