Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberries, also Gluten-Free!

This is adapted from The Canadian Living Cookbook. I made it gluten-free. It was delicious and despite its good looks, really easy to make.


Crust:

1-1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup gluten-free gingersnaps, crushed to crumbs (or other plain cookie)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:

3 oz. (90g) semisweet chocolate
1-1/2 lbs (750g) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Garnish:
2 cups strawberries
3 oz or more semisweet chocolate

For the crust, in a small bowl, stir together pecans, crushed gingersnaps, sugar and butter. Pour into a well greased 10" (25cm) springform pan. With fingers or the bottom of a glass, press into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

For the filling, melt chocolate in the microwave or over simmering water. Let cool slightly and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese at the lowest speed until smooth.Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Stir in sour cream, vanilla and salt. Transfer 1-1/2 cups of the batter to a small bowl. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate.

Starting with the light coloured batter, alternately layer large spoonfuls of the two batters over the crust. Using a table knife, cut down through the batter and swirl into large spirals. Be careful not to hit the crust and DO NOT OVERMIX. A very light touch is needed here or the contrast will be lost.

Bake in a 325F oven for 40 minutes or until firm around the edge but still shiny and soft in the middle. Remove from oven, and immediately run a knife around the edge to prevent cracking as it cools. Let cool completely on a rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan.

Wash and dry the strawberries. (Make sure they're completely dry or the chocolate won't stick.) Dip each one in melted chocolate and place around the edge of the cheesecake.. The smaller the berry, the smaller each slice will be because everyone wants a strawberry with their piece.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caramel Cheesecake topped with Butterscotch and Toffee? Yes please.

I made two cheesecakes for Easter brunch last weekend. The chocolate cheesecake (at the bottom of the page) I've made before, but the caramel toffee one was a new recipe and unlike many of my experiments, it turned out great. I made them both gluten-free and you would never have known the difference.

Here is the caramel one, if you be wanting the recipe.


Caramel Cheesecake with Crunchy Toffee Topping

(adapted from Allrecipes Toblerone Topped Caramel Cheesecake)

Crust:
1 1/4 cups gluten-free ginger snaps, crushed to crumbs
1/4 cup butter

Filling:
3 (250g) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 TBSP good vanilla
3 eggs

Topping:
1/2 cup or more caramel ice cream topping (I used PC Old Fashioned Butterscotch)
200g crushed dark chocolate covered toffee (I used gluten-free but you can try Skor bars, or Toblerone)

Heat oven to 350.

Crust:

Crush the gingersnaps using a food processor, or in a plastic bag with a rolling pin if you need to work out your ya yas, as a friend used to say. (I pounded mine with the rolling pin. Make what you will of that.) Place in a small bowl. Melt the butter, and mix it into the crumbs. Pat the crust into a Teflon 9" springform pan, pressing it flat with the bottom of a glass. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
* If your pan isn't Teflon, you might want to spray it with a little Pam. (Seriously, who thought that product name was a good idea?)

Filling:

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave if necessary. In a large bowl, just beat it, just beat it, (sorry) with the sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs one at a time at low speed, just until blended. Pour over crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the centre is almost cooked. I had to add another 10 minutes because my gas oven is the son of Satan.

Immediately and carefully run a knife around the edge to prevent it from cracking as it cools, but don't remove the rim until you're ready to serve it. Cool, then refrigerate it for at least 4 hours.

Topping:
Just before serving, spread the caramel topping on the top in a thin layer, almost to the edge, but not quite. You don't want it oozing down the sides. Sprinkle the top with the chopped toffee bits. Remove the rim and cut yourself a slice before the boys discover it because it's game over after that.

Here's the chocolate one I made. Let me know if you want the recipe for that one. It ain't hard, honest. It just looks impressive.



Monday, April 7, 2014

On gratitude

My brother-in-law sent this reminder.

We should, we must open our hearts to the many gifts and blessings, big and small, which are available to us every day.

It could be something as simple as a smile.

And when you do this, "then it will really be a good day."


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Meet Apollo, a dog who will melt the Grinchiest of hearts


During our visit to St. Lucia last week, we had a chance to chat with a lot of people from around the world (mostly Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.)

Patti and Gene did many dives with us, and we shared stories at lunch one day. Patti had an up close and personal visit with a giant octopus on the west coast of Canada. They are the largest on earth, some of them 20+ feet long, and weighing in at 150 lbs. (See HERE) (Lisa, I double dog dare you to look.)

Patti said the top of its tentacle was as big as a man's arm, and after she and her fellow divers peered closely at it and gave it some gentle nudges, it decided to check her out but wrapping one of those meaty tentacles around her arm all the way up to her shoulder. It was intense, but she said she never felt threatened, only that it was curious. It eventually uncoiled itself and calmly swam off without any ink involved. Because they are as intelligent as dolphins, Patti can no longer eat calamari. (I have no such qualms, although I get it, because I refuse to eat horse, which is common here in Montreal. It was difficult sitting across the table from someone who was eating horse, quite frankly. I was grossed out. Not sure about what I'd do if offered seahorse on a cracker. But I digress.)

The subject of dogs came up and of course, we all became animated and had more stories to tell. Patti's was one of the most heartwarming, and she allowed me to share it, and some photos, here.

Apollo is their 130 lb Great Pyrenees they inherited at 10 weeks old after another family gave him up. He has a condition called "mega-esophagus." This means he is unable to eat like a regular dog. Food can't move through his esophagus because of this muscle or nerve defect. If forced to eat from a bowl on the floor, the food would not make its way down to the stomach, but instead, collect in his chest cavity. At a certain point, he would just throw it all up, and if not treated, he would certainly die.

So, treatment? I asked. Surgery? Nope. It's incurable.

The only thing that can be done is to either have the dog stand on its hind legs, and keep it upright for upwards of 30 minutes so the food can move down to the stomach, or...

...put the dog in a doggie high chair.

Apollo has his own, custom made highchair. When he's ready to eat, Patti and Gene gently place Apollo on his bum in the chair, arranging his tail underneath him. When Apollo wiggles into place and when he is comfortable, he lifts a paw in the air to signal he's ready for the tray to be lowered, and meal time to commence!

I didn't believe it, so Patti showed me photos and I thought my heart would melt on the spot. She agreed to let me post them.

Prepare to be swept away on a sea of dog love. Seriously, this is the cutest thing I've ever seen.






I'm dying here, looking at these.

Dying.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Under the sea, under the sea.

I just returned home from 10 days of diving in St. Lucia. My heart is still there, I'm afraid. We had one of the best vacations ever. The weather was hot, the drinks were cold and friends were around every corner. Just magic and so hard to come back to more snow.

Check out this video by my friend Phil. He was right behind me, so I can't believe I missed this!







Monday, February 24, 2014

National Liberal Policy Convention

Last weekend, I threw my hat back into the political arena. Not as a candidate, but as a delegate representing my riding of Westmount/Ville Marie (which I think is now called Westmount/NDG) at the National Liberal Policy Convention here in Montreal.

Basically it can be explained like this.

It's a biennial convention, so Liberals have two years to debate various policy proposals in each riding. Each riding then chooses which are priorities and they present these in their regional meetings. Here they are debated again, reworded, rejected, amended, etc. and presented again (some, not all) to a provincial meeting of Liberals. They go through the same process yet again, and then these proposals go to the national meeting, the one I attended.

All of the policy proposals from across Canada end up at this national convention. The proposed policies also originate from four other commissions - Aboriginals, Seniors, Women and Youth. (So I can vote for issues concerning women as well, and seniors when I reach the age of 65.)

At the convention we discussed, debated and voted on about 100 or so policy resolutions, from fracking to daycare to transportation reform and so on.

We prioritized that further, voting for the top two in every category and ended up on the fourth day in a plenary session with 32 policy resolutions.

These final 32 now become official party policies. They are expected to be supported by every Liberal MP and the leader, Justin Trudeau, in the next election. The rest of the policies (70-something) are still on the table, and members can adopt those as well. History has shown that most if not all will be represented.

How cool is that?

So the next time you're tempted to complain about how your community is run, join your local party, any party, and get involved. You CAN make a difference.

I also wanted to listen to our new leader, Justin Trudeau. I was really pleased to hear his vision for Canada, and that he is also tired of the negativity we've all grown so weary of. I like him. I used to work for his father's principal secretary, and I remember when he was born, so it was really a bittersweet moment to see him standing on stage and addressing the 3,000 attendees. I left feeling there really is renewed hope for this country.

And in other news... My mother phoned to say she saw my picture in the Toronto Star. Unfortunately it was me holding up my voting card in support of the dying with dignity policy. Why couldn't it have been for better daycare? Or support for bees?