Friday, March 29, 2013

Very Moist Carrot Cake

         By request, here is a carrot cake with homemade marzipan carrots and cream cheese icing, dusted with toasted coconut that I made for Easter.

The marzipan will look gritty when you first make it due to being made from ground almonds, and for a moment you'll doubt if this will work out, but when you work it and shape it, it will take on a smoother texture, similar to play dough.

Often, carrot cakes tend to be dry in texture, however this cake is moist due to the addition of a few tablespoons of sour cream to the batter. Carrot cakes I've had in the past were really sweet, so I reduced some of the sugar that goes into the cake and cream cheese frosting.

Happy Easter!



1 cup icing sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
dash of salt
1 egg white


  • Gently blend together all the ingredient except for the egg whites.
  • Separate the egg whites from the yolk and beat slightly with a fork.
  • Add a little bit at a time of the egg whites to the almond-sugar mixture and mix with your hands until it starts to become mealy.
  • Continue to add enough of the remaining egg whites until a smooth texture and consistency is achieved. 
  • Form into a ball or loaf then wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

*You may add food coloring and work it into the marzipan to make all kinds of garnishes and decorations!  

*Equal parts powder sugar and ground almonds is key for best texture and product. Store bought marzipan usually is a lot tougher, stiff and harder to work with due to using less almonds and more sugar to cut production costs.

Carrot Cake


4 Eggs
1 cup Canola oil
1 1/2 cups Sugar
4 Tbsp Sour cream
1/2 Tbsp Vanilla extract

2 cups All Purpose flour
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking powder
2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1 cup Grated carrot
1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9 inch spring form pan. Then trace the pan onto parchment paper and cut a circle to fit inside the pan. This will keep the cake from sticking to te bottom.

2. In a large bowl or Kitchen Aid mixer, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, sour cream and vanilla until smooth and light. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts. Pour batter into the pan.

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown to quickly, you may cover it with tin foil.

4. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cake onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting


2   8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


Cream the butter and cream cheese in a mixer or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the icing sugar and vanilla, continute to beat until creamy.

Cream of Tartar

In food, potassium bitartrate is used for:
  • Stabilizing egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume
  • Stabilizing whipped cream, maintaining its texture and volume
  • Preventing sugar syrups from crystallising
  • Reducing discoloration of boiled vegetables

Additionally it is used as a component of:

  • Baking powder and as an acid ingredient to activate baking soda
  • Sodium-free salt substitutes, in combination with potassium chloride
  • A similar acid salt, sodium acid pyrophosphate, can be confused with cream of tartar because of their common function as a component of baking powder

So there you have it folks, here are some of the functionality of Cream of Tartar.
Happy Baking! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Almond Raspberry Baked Camembert

Do you have friends dropping by and you want to serve something tasty and different, but don’t want to spend a long time prepping or break the bank on fancy appetizers?  Here is a quick and easy recipe for a baked Camembert.

Almond Raspberry Baked Camembert

1 small        Camembert cheese wheel                      1/2 cup     Baby spinach
2-3 tbsp   Raspberry jam                              1 tsp      Olive oil
2 tbsp       Lightly toasted almonds             a dash of salt & pepper 

various crackers or fresh sliced French baguette


1)  place the cheese in an oven-safe dish
2)  spoon the jam on top of the camembert
3) sprinkle the lightly toasted almonds on the jam covered cheese wheel
4) set oven to 375 F
5) put cheese in oven for 10-15 mins until the cheese is softened.  You can check this with a toothpick, poke down through it if it's soft, and gooey, it is done.
6) while the camembert is baking, wilt the spinach by heating up a frying pan on med-high heat then adding 1 tsp olive oil, place spinach in the hot pan, add salt and pepper and stir.  Remove from stove, continue stirring until spinach is wilted.
7) place wilted spinach on a plate and put the baked camembert on top of the spinach
8) serve with sliced baguette or crackers of your choice

You can also use Brie instead of Camembert.  This ooey gooey fancy looking (and sounding) cheese dish is quick, easy to make and uses ingredients that you probably have at home (you might not have the cheese, but it costs about $5) so it is a pretty cost effective appetizer. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

T&T Supermarket

Every time I go to Toronto to visit my Grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins, I always make a point to enjoy Chinese treats I wouldn’t easily be able to get back in Newfoundland.  I go to dim sum at least twice, as there are no fresh dim sum places home, I hit Pacific Mall and Chinatown for shopping and I go to my favorite Chinese grocery store, 大統  T&T Supermarket.

T&T on Cherry street, Toronto - Photo from Wikipedia
T&T Supermarket is pretty much a Chinese Dominion, in fact, T&T Supermarket is owned by Loblaws, the parent company of Dominion.  I always head there the first few days I am in Toronto to get lop cheurng, beef jerky, and other non perishable grocery items, and the day I fly back to NL so I can bring home freshly baked Chinese pastries and buns.  They have everything you could want in a Chinese grocery store, but has the standards and cleanliness of a western national grocery chain.  I have written to T&T several times asking them to open a T&T in St. John’s, but they always replied “thank you for your interest, however we have no plans to open a location in Newfoundland any time soon”.  Sad.

Anyways, I was walking through Dominion the other night and saw a display of T&T products!  I was very excited, and bought some products, such as the frozen mochi dessert, Chinese egg pastry (Chinese rice krispies) and pineapple cake squares.  There were a few Korean marinades, a few different cookies and crackers and some Japanese items.  There wasn't a great selection, but for Newfoundland, I was impressed.  I hope that the items sell well so that Dominion will carry more T&T brand items.

By the way, the Mochi were delicious!  I never had frozen mochi before, but after waiting the 10 mins for the glutinous outside to thaw, I popped it into my mouth and was amazed, it tasted awesome!  The pineapple squares were really good as well, they are something like fig newtons on the outside, but the filling is very sweet fruity and tropical.  The Chinese rice krispies were quite tasty as well.  Sweet, but not too sweet, which is great for people who want a little treat to go with their tea, but nothing too sweet.  They’re also my mom’s favorite, so I better go pick up some for her visit next week. Happy shopping!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

             On this day, all things Irish, or what is thought to be all things Irish are celebrated.  What was once a religious holiday for Catholics in Ireland, St. Patrick ’s Day for many is an excuse to party and drink excessively.  But what is truly Irish?  It is stereotypical to say that drinking is Irish culture, it is like saying maple syrup is Canadian cuisine.  There is so much more to it.  That said, Ireland is known for producing some of the best beer and whisky in the world, so for today’s post, I am discussing some of Ireland’s famous beers.

I went to the liquor store to get my favorite Guinness, but instead found this little gem, the Irish Beer Discovery Pack, which features the following Irish beer from the makers of Guinness; Guinness Draught, Harp Lager, Smithwick’s Draught and Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale.  I decided to taste test each beer in the pack and give a little description of each.

What are the differences between ale, and lager anyways, isn’t it just “beer”?  Well, yes but in the same way that wine is just “wine”.  According to, the differences between ale and lager rests in three main factors:  yeast (ales being a top fermenting beer, and lagers bottom fermenting) Temperature and time (ales ferment best at higher temperatures, and faster, while lagers ferment at colder temperatures and longer times) and Additional ingredients (ales often have more hops, malts and roasted malts, thus has a more malty flavor and bitterness)

Now on to the tasting.  First up, I tried the Harp lager. It’s a light tasting beer, light golden amber color with a nice head.  It is light and crisp and is a nice beginner beer to start out the evening.  At 5% alcohol, it gives a nice little buzz. 

Second up is the Kilkenny, a nitrogenated Irish cream ale, from Kilkenny, Ireland.   A darker beer, it has an interesting creamy head.  We observed quickly after it was poured that the foam underneath the head was moving up and down as it was settling.   At 4.3% alcohol and slightly less volume than the Harp, it still packs a punch.  Being an ale, Kilkenny has more of a malty taste and a rich bitter caramel aftertaste.

Next up is Smithwick’s Draught, premium Irish Ale.  Also from Kilkenny, Smithwick’s claim to fame is as Ireland’s oldest ale.  Smithwick’s Draught was first brewed in 1710 by John  Smithwick at the St. Francis Abbey Brewery, Ireland’s oldest operating brewery.  A clear beer with a ruby red finish, Smithwick’s is similar in taste to Kilkenny, but slightly less bold. 

Last but not least, is Guinness Draught.  Arguably is the #1 stout in the world as an enduring symbol of Irish pride.  This popular beer from Dublin, Ireland, owes much of its success to its unique style and award-winning advertising campaigns.

Some would say that Guinness is an acquired taste. I starts with a foamy thick head and a dark molasses colored body. Even though there is a common misconception that Guinness is black in color, if you held it up to the light it actually has a dark ruby red color. I found the flavor to be quite bold, malty, and strong like coffee. So it will pair nicely with strong foods, perfect if you're a carnivore. 

Taking another cold sip, it's going down very thick and frothy. One could make a meal from drinking this "black stuff". It certainly feels more filling than the average beer. So curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the the calorie count. To my surprise, a 12 oz full bodied frosted glass of Guinness Draught(126 cal.) has fewer calories than the same amount of Tropicana, Pure Premium extra pulp orange juice(165 cal.) or a tall glass of 2% milk(183 cal.) packed with all it's calcium goodness. It even contains less calories than it's popular competitors including the likes of Coors at 148 calories, Budwweiser at 143 calories,and Molson Canadian with 144 calories just to name a few. This new found knowledge lead me to think, " all Guinness liquid diet!" I dunno if my vital internal organs would agree to that one.

 Let's all raise a glass with a unified global toast of Irish love and pride!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day

  Happy Pi Day!

As many of you know, March 14th is Pi day, the celebration of the mathematical constant , or 3.14.  In honor of this day, I made a blueberry and mascarpone pie and I am writing a review on a local gourmet pizzeria, Pi.

Pi is a fairly new trendy restaurant on Kings Rd, just up from Duckworth Street.  I went with two buddies on a Saturday afternoon.  For appetizers, we ordered garlic cheese bread, sweet potato and roasted red pepper soup.  The prices were reasonable, $7 for a ½ loaf of homemade bread with garlic seasoning and tons of cheese, $5 for a bowl of soup, which was smokey, creamy and rich. 

For mains, we ordered a Carnivore pizza, Fettuccine Alfredo pasta and Sir Issac Salmon pizza.  The carnivore pizza is a black olive tomato base topped with pepperoni, bacon, shaved steak, chicken and red onion, $27 for a medium.  The fettuccine alfredo served is linguine with a parmesan cream sauce with vegetables and chicken for $21.  The Sir Issac Salmon is a sun-dried tomato and avocado cream cheese base topped with smoked salmon, sweet potatoes, red onion, fresh tomatoes and feta and Italian cheeses, $21 for a small.

The carnivore pizza was loaded with toppings with a thin crust, given the thinness of the crust, it didn’t hold up well with the abundance of toppings, we needed to cut the pizza with a fork and knife in order to keep the toppings from coming off the crust.  This worked well, as in my opinion, the toppings are the best part of the pizza.  The fettuccine was very cheesy, the waitress came to our table and grated fresh parmesan cheese onto our pasta.  The noodles were overcooked, but the sauce was rich, creamy and the garlic was tasty, but not overpowering.  The Sir Issac Salmon had less toppings than the carnivore, but was bold and savory in flavor. The thinly sliced sweet potato pieces were a delicious complement.

Overall, the experience and flavors were great, and we will definitely return to Pi.  The prices are a bit high for a typical pizzeria, however this is not a typical pizzeria, it is a gourmet pizzeria and well worth the money.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chinese Coconut Cream Pie

Chinese Coconut Cream Pie



½ can                     Carnation milk

  cups               Water

1/2 cup                 Sugar

1 tsp                     Vanilla extract

6 Tbsp.                  Cornstarch, mixed with 3 Tbsp of water to form a slurry

1                              Ready-made – graham crumb crust

2 pouches           Instant whipped topping mix (prepare as per package directions)

2 Tbsp.                  Coconut, toasted






Bring Carnation milk, water, and sugar and vanilla to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Keep stirring to avoid scorching the milk. Stir in the cornstarch slurry with a whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.

Once thickened, let the filling cool for 5-10 minutes then pour into the pie crust.

Let it set in room temperature for 30 minutes before refrigerating.

When the pie is completely set, spread a generous layer of the whipped topping.

Then garnish with toasted coconut. Enjoy!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Kenmount Restaurant, Retro style

This evening my family and I stepped into the past, well, not really because I still can’t get the flux capacitor for my time machine…but I digress.

Tonight, we went to the Kenmount Restaurant in St. John’s, a Chinese restaurant that has been well established in the city for years.  The outside looks quite traditional with dragons and Chinese characters adorning the storefront. 

Kenmount Restaurant, St. John's, NL

Inside, the restaurant looks exactly the same as it did in the 60’s, but in a well kept non-broken down way.  The chairs, table cloths, wall and ceiling décor reminds me of Chinese restaurants I used to go to as a child while my parents and grandparents would come to visit their friends.  Traditional and very retro.  It was amazing to me because usually retro means either dated and broken down, or recreated, to which this was neither. 
Hmm, I wonder what I'll order?

The menu, and the items on the menu were quite retro as well, (the prices weren’t, however they were pretty standard for Chinese restaurant prices in the city).  Keeping in the retro feel, we ordered the Pu Pu Platter, a novelty appetizer platter which was most popular in the 1950’s.  The platter has a wooden lazy susan with eggrolls, wings, beef kabobs, won tons, tempura shrimp and spare ribs, with a mini hibachi grill and skewers in the center in which to grill the already cooked appetizers.

There really isn’t much point to grilling the pre-cooked apps, as it only burns them and since the items were already cooked.  It is really mostly for amusement, but I must admit, it was kind of fun putting wings on a tiny BBQ with a stick.

 The Chinese American version differs from the original Pu Pu platter from Hawaii, as the Hawaiian version has raw ingredients, in which the diners can cook on the grill. 

We also had hot and sour soup, which was also prepared in the traditional way, with egg, tofu, Shiitake mushrooms, chicken, green onion, dried chili peppers, rice wine vinegar, and thickened with corn starch.  It was tasty and filling, and was the right balance of vinegar and spiciness.

All in all we really enjoyed our visit, and will go again in the future.  F.Y.I. the outside porch is a mess, but the inside is well kept, so if you can, ignore the porch and go right in.

3 out of 5

Our visit got me thinking about Chinese restaurants of the past and the different menu items which are not as common today.  My mother in law remarked to me that when she was younger, she used to love going to Chinese restaurants for a piece of Chinese style coconut cream pie, but most of the modern restaurants only serve pre-frozen western style (ie. McCain) coconut cream pies.  So, here is the recipe to “retro” Chinese coconut cream pie.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Top Chef Canada


        Top Chef Canada will be kick starting their 3rd season on March 18. This year we have someone new to cheer for...ladies and gentlemen, from St. John's, Newfoundland we have 24 year old Chris Chafe participating as 1 of 16 chef-testants. Woot!

        This talented young chef as made quite a splash for himself. Born and raised in St. John’s, Chris Chafe is the executive chef at Magnum & Steins in downtown St. John’s on Duckworth street. As a result of his hard work and passion, Chris earned the role of executive chef at age 22.   Chris began his culinary career working part-time as a dishwasher while attending university, and from there, he decided to pursue cooking full-time and landed the role of sous chef at Magnum & Steins. Completely self-taught, Chris honed his skills through apprentice work with experienced chefs including Antonio Esperanza and Blair Lebsack of Madison's Grill in Edmonton.

        When he is not spending time with his partner and one-year-old son, Chris absorbs any information he can through television, recipe books, the Internet and other local chefs. Winner of the silver medal at Gold Plates St. John’s 2011, Chris continues to challenge himself by participating in local charity and community events. Chris looks forward to building on his experience and taking on new culinary experiences and opportunities within the local St. John’s food industry.