Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles with Maple Bourbon Whipped Cream

Claudia's Cookbook - Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles with Maple Bourbon Whipped Cream cover

I am really trying to do my best not to believe that autumn is upon us here in Canada. I was in full on denial up until this week, when I decided to give into Starbucks and purchase a Pumpkin Spice Latte every single day this week. They are just so darn delicious. It’s also hard to deny our impending seasonal change when the weather here has turned cool, and all I see on my Pinterest news feed is nothing but pumpkin recipes. So yeah, I gave in. 

I’ve featured my fair share of pumpkin recipes on the blog (feel free to check them all out here). So each September and October I rack my brain to come up with a unique spin on such a classic flavour. I think I did well this year. This dessert is so dreamy. Yes, dreamy. It has the best pumpkin pie flavour but is light as air. The pumpkin cheesecake layer is rich and creamy, but very light. The maple bourbon whipping cream has a wonderful sweetness, and the Speculoos cookie bottom is so decadent. Not to mention, it’s a pretty classy looking dessert, right? Bring on autumn! 

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Guilt-Free Chocolate Nana Ice Cream

Chocolate Nana Ice Cream cover

Leave it up to me to finally blog an ice cream recipe when it’s September and freezing cold outside. Don’t tell me I am the only person who craves ice cream 365 days a year. Because I would have to call you a liar. And, I really don’t want to do that to you, my friends.

I do have a very valid reason that I am super tardy on this post. I got hitched 2 weeks ago! Yep, I convinced a boy to marry me. He’s pretty great too. As you can imagine, Claudia is over the moon. Because we are friends, and so many of you have sent me so many amazing well wishes and congratulatory comments (thank you!), I thought I would share a couple of my favourite photos of our special day:

#jaimeLovesAnthony

 A moment captured by my Maid of Honour.

Bridemaids

 The best Bridesmaids in the entire world!

Now that the wedding planning insanity (insanity in a good way!) is over, I have more time to really focus on making healthy choices. As I’ve mentioned before, I crave sweets A LOT. Lately, I have been on the hunt for healthy alternatives for sweet treats. This one is probably my favourite!

I’ve seen a lot of photos of “Nana Ice Cream” on Instagram this summer and I thought I would give it a try for myself. I can honestly say that it is amazing! Yep, the texture is creamy like ice cream, and it’s so versatile. I am a chocolate fiend, so this recipe is my go-to. You can easily incorporate peanut butter, strawberries, shredded coconut….you name it! Play to your favourite flavours. This one is a serious keeper (like my new husband). Sorry, I had to do it.

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Healthy No Bake Energy Bites

Claudia's Cookbook - No Bake Energy Bites cover

Time flies when you are having fun….or planning a wedding. I have been very M.I.A on the blog lately. I am two weeks away from my wedding and feel pretty good about it. I have fielded the same question for the last few months: “Oh, you must be so stressed?” Not really. Not at all actually. One great thing I have discovered about being Type A is that my incessant organizational skills are coming in handy. I also have the most wonderful bridesmaids and family that have made everything so easy and carefree.

I am actually so organized, that I was able to do not one, but two road trips in two weeks. The first was two weeks ago to Minneapolis. While it was a great 3 days away in one of my absolute favourite cities, the diet suffered. Oh, did it suffer. Road trips often mean salty snacks in the car, followed by pub beers and “I’m on vacation!” desserts. My digestive system took a beating. I felt terrible when I returned home. I also dreaded the second road trip to Madison, Wisconsin I was about to embark on. Therefore, I decided to take things into my own hands and find healthy road trip snacks that won’t make my friend and I feel terrible in the car and throughout our awesome trip. Boy, did I ever hit the jackpot on these No Bake Energy Bites by Gimme Some Oven! They are so incredibly delicious and easy to make. Not to mention, super healthy! My friend Nicole raved about them, as did my cousin-in-law who saw me post this recipe on Facebook and decided to make them for herself.

These energy bites can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for approximately 5 days. You can also freeze them or keep them in a container in the fridge. You can also mix up the ingredients to incorporate your favourites. I use natural peanut butter, but you can easily use almond butter. Instead of chocolate chips, you can easily use dried cranberries or any dried fruit your heart desires. Very versatile and perfect for your next summer road trip!

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Strawberries & Cream White Chocolate Scones

Claudia's Cookbook - Strawberries & Cream White Chocolate Scones 17

A word of advice, my friends: don’t ever schedule two workout sessions in one day after a weekend of consuming beer and rich food for your birthday. It won’t end well. At least that is what I have discovered today when I made my triumphant return to the gym this morning with a 1 hour weight class. I was so dehydrated, I got dizzy and thought “And I have to do this all over again at 6:30pm? No way!”. Even my lovely trainer who was teaching the class commented that I looked “off”. It was then and there that I regretted all my terrible (yet oh so delicious) food choices of the past weekend. Burgers, ice cream, chocolate and beer. I swore them off then and there. It wasn’t worth feeling so horrible while working out. But, after 2 hours of recovery and a nice relaxing bath, I am back to my old self and craving these decadent scones.

Besides our Pumpkin Scones, these are by far the best scones I have ever made. They are so soft and buttery. The strawberry glaze gives it a fruity sweetness. Not to mention the melted white chocolate and strawberries inside the scone – so amazing. The dough comes together really easy in a food processor and is very easy to roll out with your hands.  A no-kneed dough is my kind of dough, people.

This recipe makes 6 very large scones, but you can also make smaller, mini scones as well. Just depends on how big of a cutter you have, or how big you want to cut the dough triangles. I highly recommend you give these a try soon! I know I will. Totally worth struggling in the gym for.

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Raspberry Brownies

Claudia's Cookbook - Raspberry Brownies cover

I’ve been meaning to blog these decadent brownies for a couple years now. Basically, ever since a bunch of us went out to my friends cabin and we devoured an entire pan in 2 hours. Yeah, they’re that good.  They’re also incredibly simple and quick to make, which is perfect for my life these days.

One of the reasons I love the ladies on my ice hockey team is that they allow me to experiment on them with recipes. I brought a pan of these brownies to our game today and I was reassured they were blog worthy. They are rich, fudgy chocolate brownies with a tart layer of raspberry jam. Not to mention the sweet glaze on top. This recipe makes a lot of brownies (approximately 32 small squares). Because they are so rich, you can easily cut them into smaller pieces.

You can also use your homemade raspberry jam, or your favourite store bought brand. You really cannot go wrong. I highly recommend you make these for your next BBQ or picnic. They are delicious!

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Buttered Popcorn Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Claudia's Cookbook - Buttered Popcorn Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies 14

So, remember in my last post where I was complaining about the cold weather? Yeah, that’s not the case anymore. It has been so incredibly warm and beautiful here the past two weeks I almost forgot I live in Winnipeg. Granted, our summers are traditionally nice and hot. I actually went for lunch on a patio with a friend on Friday and got sunburnt. Gone are the days where I used Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil with SPF 6. Seriously, that’s what I used 20 years ago when I went to the beach! Today, I put on SPF 60 to cut the grass. Either our ozone layer is non-existent now or I’m learning another harsh reality of growing older. As if the grey hair wasn’t enough, right?

We are celebrating 4 birthday’s on our hockey team this week. Since I am incapable of celebrating without baking, I decided to make something unique for the birthday girls. These cookies combine my favourite movie theatre snack items. I recently discovered that the kids pack is the best invention ever. I don’t know about your theatres, but our theatres have a kids pack that comes with the perfect amount of popcorn, one chocolate bar of your choice and a normal-sized drink. Not to mention, it’s cheap! Well, cheap for movie theatre standards I suppose. You simply cannot go wrong.

You also cannot go wrong with these cookies. The salty buttered popcorn pairs wonderfully with the dark chocolate chips and creamy cookie dough. They are also extremely chewy and soft. I used buttered microwave popcorn because it’s super convenient. But you can also pop and butter your own popcorn too if you don’t like microwave popcorn. This was actually the first time I bought microwave popcorn in years as we typically pop our own on the stove. A huge shout-out to both Joy the Baker and Deb from Smitten Kitchen for originally creating this recipe. They are two of my all-time favourite food bloggers, so serious props need to be given to them. I highly recommend you check out their blogs. They are stunning.

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Salted Caramel Mocha Cake Donuts

Claudia's Cookbook - Salted Caramel Mocha Donuts 18

I’ve had a bit of a donut obsession over the last few months. I’m not 100% sure why. I don’t really crave them, and they’re not really my favourite dessert. If there was a box of store bought donuts sitting in the lunch room at work, I could easily pass it up. Chocolate cake, on the other hand, I would have to be dragged from. So, my obsession has baffled me slightly. I actually blame Pinterest. I’ve never made homemade donuts before, so I think I felt: a) left out and b) up to the challenge.

I’ve been on the hunt for a donut pan for a while. It was one of those things where I would see them everywhere when I didn’t want to buy one, and nowhere when I did want to buy one. I finally found one at a great local kitchenware store this weekend. I wasted no time and got to work on these delicious treats.

These donuts are baked and have the texture and density of cake (hence the name, cake donuts). The chocolate is rich, the glaze is sinful and the salted caramel is, well, amazing. Baking donuts are also a tad healthier and less greasy than traditional deep fried donuts. They are also very easy to make and they take no time (9 minutes)! I’ve already had orders from my hockey team to bring a few dozen to our game on Wednesday. They are a very supportive (and hungry) bunch.

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Flourless Dark Chocolate Cookie Bites {Gluten Free}

Claudia's Cookbook - Healthier Dark Chocolate Flourless Cookie Bites cover

You are looking at a hockey champion. That’s right, my hockey team won our divisional championship last weekend! Considering we didn’t win a single game until January (season started in October), being division champs is HUGE feat for us. I couldn’t be prouder of my team, which is made up of the best group of ladies ever. I honestly don’t think we could have grown as a team as much as we did without the positivity and sportsmanship everyone exuded each game. Even the ones where we lost 10-0. Yes, that happened more than once!

Goal Diggers: ASHL Hockey Champs

 (I’m second from the left in the front row!)

I am on a month hiatus until our spring/summer hockey league starts. Not only will I miss the ladies I play with, I will also miss the exercise each Sunday. I have started a really awesome workout regime thanks to my teammate Danelle, who is also a personal trainer. For the first time in a few years, I’m actually enjoying going to the gym and working out with her. I have also found that when I get into a solid workout routine, my diet naturally gets better. It’s probably because when I’m laying on the floor in utter exhaustion, the last thing I want is for all that hard work to go to waste by eating terrible.  But don’t get me wrong – I still crave my favourites, including my beloved chocolate. That’s where these cookie bites come in. They are a healthier version of a dark chocolate cookie, but without all the guilt. They are not only flourless, but they are also made with egg whites and bittersweet/dark chocolate (which has less sugar). Not only do they totally fulfill my chocolate cravings with their delicious flavour, but they also have an amazing merengue-like texture with a fudge centre. Not bad for 80 calories a cookie bite!

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Chocolate Porter Fudge Cookies

Claudia's Cookbook - Chocolate Porter Fudge Cookies cover

I am a huge craft beer fan. My love affair started about 6 years ago. Before that, I was a Gin girl. Give me a bottle of Bombay Sapphire for my birthday and we would be best friends forever. That is until that one fateful party bus night for my friends bachelorette party, where we consumed a little too much good cheer and can no longer handle the taste let alone the smell of the stuff. We may also not be allowed on that party bus again either. But I digress…(sorry Mom!)

There are many definitions of what constitutes “craft beer”.  To put it simply, craft beer is created by a brewery that is local, traditional and most importantly – independent. The industry is growing, with new craft breweries opening every day around the world. When I was in Arizona a couple weeks ago, I was astonished by the amount of craft beer in the aisles. At one point I almost fell to my knees from the glorious site – true story.  In Canada, we have several amazing breweries. However our liquor laws are ancient here in Manitoba, and the amount of craft beer brought into our stores is few and far between. I was so happy with the selection in Arizona that I had to pay an additional $50 to the airline I was flying on because my suitcase was too heavy from the bottles I was bringing back. Totally worth it. In hindsight, I should have brought back more since I had to pay.

You would think that my love of cooking/baking and craft beer would come together more often on this blog. The sad thing is, I don’t cook or bake with beer a lot. That is up until recently when I discovered one of my all-time favourite food blogs – The Beeroness. Jackie Dodd is the creative genius behind this blog and all things beer and food related. I have a serious girl crush on her. Jackie recently came out with the most amazing cookbook that now sits on my shelf. These cookies are from her cookbook. I have to say, they are probably one of the best cookies I have ever tasted. If you love a dense, fudgy chocolate cookie, you will fall in love with these.  Not to mention, they are also very simple to make. I used a chocolate porter beer from a Canadian craft brewery located in Victoria, British Columbia – Phillips Brewery. The beer is delicious on its own, and I thought the sweet chocolate hints in the beer would pair wonderfully with this cookie recipe. I was correct. Don’t worry – if you aren’t a beer fan, you can’t taste the beer in it at all. At least my friend couldn’t, and she hates beer and loved these cookies. I know, I’m friends with people who hate beer. Good thing she cooks for me every now and then or else our friendship would be in serious jeopardy.

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Honey Drizzled Blueberry Bannock…and my evening at with Manitoba Canola Growers

Claudia's Cookbook - Honey Drizzled Baked Blueberry Bannock cover

Last weekend, I attended a wonderful culinary event in Brandon, Manitoba hosted by Manitoba Canola Growers. Brandon is about a 2 hour drive west of Winnipeg. Although it isn’t very far from where I live, I hadn’t been to the city in over 15 years. I was very excited to get reacquainted with Brandon and learn more about a wonderful local agricultural association.

This particular event that I was invited to was located at the Grey Owl Restaurant, which is organized by Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts program. The Grey Owl Restaurant is actually only open for a four-week period where students from Assiniboine Community College’s Culinary Arts program create a delicious fine dining experience and menu to the public. After learning that reservations to the Grey Owl sell out in minutes, I felt extremely lucky and honoured to be a part of this event. I also felt a sense of nostalgia as well. When I went back to school about 10 years ago to take Hospitality and Tourism Management, I too experienced working in a fine dining restaurant with the Culinary Arts students at Red River College. It was such a fun experience, and seeing the students in Brandon hosting us brought back a lot of fabulous memories of my own.

I also must mention that the food was to die for! These students are extremely talented. Here are a few pictures that I captured from the awesome event:

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The gorgeous building where the Grey Owl restaurant resides.

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Before we headed into the dining room, we experienced the Manitoba Canola Growers Culinary Theatre. It is a cutting edge facility that combines media production and culinary classes to for college students. I would kill for this kitchen!

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We then took a tour of the actual kitchen facility.

This student is working with sugar to create gorgeous accents for our dessert!

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We were also able to nibble on some delicious homemade bread and infused oils before we made our way into the dining area.

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This was my appetizer – Charcuterie and Cheese Board. There was a delicious assortment of cured meats, fine cheeses, preserves, chutney and pickled vegetables.

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I also have to say that I was at the “fun table”. I dined with 5 fascinating and fun individuals. One of which ordered Pan Seared Scallops and Tiger Prawns, which of course they came to our table to flambé.

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I ordered the Manitoba Beef Monter au Beurre, which was an 8 oz. flame broiled classic center cut tenderloin, topped with shiraz thyme butter and served with beets and asparagus.

It was absolutely delicious! I had to remind myself that students, clearly younger than me, were making all this amazing food! I was so impressed.

image-4  And of course I had to have dessert. This was the best cheesecake I have ever had. It was a Turtle Cheesecake with pecans, gooey caramel and sinful chocolate. I was so full that I was only able to eat half and took the rest home with me.

Also, remember the sugar that the student was working on in the earlier picture? That piece on top of my cheesecake is his finished product. Just gorgeous.

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