October 26, 2015


pumpkin whoopie pies with buttercream icing

Remember cupcakes? They used to be THE popular and trendy dessert. That was so 5 years ago. After cupcakes, macarons took over, and then cake pops, donuts and desserts in jars. Somewhere in there whoopie pies had a moment in the spotlight. Whoopie pies--with traditions beginning in the United States when farmers would find them in their lunch boxes and yell "Whoopie!--encompass a lot of those trendy desserts. They can be considered a cake, cupcake or pie and are made with two pieces of cake sandwiched with icing. What is also trendy at this time of year is obviously pumpkin desserts, and pumpkin-themed everything. 

pumpkin whoopie pies

Natural delights sent me a package of date rolls to try, including their limited edition pumpkin spice date rolls. I enjoy eating dates themselves as a snack. The rolls are a little more luscious and almost brownie-like with no pits in the middle! They satisfy sweet cravings if you're not tucking into a huge pumpkin whoopie pie. Keep in mind they are 50 calories per roll, which isn't that bad considering 2 or 3 rolls is about the same amount of calories as a can of pop. 

Natural Delights date rolls

Natural Delights almond date rolls

Date rolls are the newest way to enjoy Medjool dates. They are made of chopped, compressed dates rolled in either coconut or almond. They are a sweet and convenient treat, although not too sweet, and it saves you having to make date rolls or squares yourself. Plus they have added fibre and potassium. I'm not just saying the pumpkin spice was my favourite because this is a blog post about pumpkin. It was my favourite by far and tasted like biting into a pumpkin pie. My close second was the coconut flavour. I found the almond flavour tasty, however the soft texture made them clump together a bit so the package ended up a bit like almond date mush. 

Natural Delights date rolls

Natural Delights pumpkin spice and almond date rolls

Natural Delights date rolls are available in pumpkin spice, coconut and almond flavours at most major grocery stores and online for $4.99 per 8oz tub. I brought some along for Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law's and the date rolls were a nice break from pumpkin pie and cookies. They would look nice on a dessert or cheese tray. Yes, sometimes you need a little break from pumpkin pie. As much as I love pumpkin pie, I also like experimenting with other pumpkin desserts and even savoury pumpkin meals. These whoopie pies are like a fluffy, pumpkin cake with icing. I also sprinkled a few fall-themed sprinkles that I found at Bulk Barn on the icing for some decoration. 

pumpkin whoopie pies with buttercream frosting

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in medium bowl.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs, then pumpkin and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture until combined.
4. Pipe or scoop the mixture onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes and then cool for 5 minutes before piping icing onto them. If you don't have a piping bag handy, cut a small triangle at the corner of a Ziploc bag to use for piping like I did:  

Quick Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp milk or water
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Cream butter for a few minutes and then add gradually add icing sugar.
2. Add vanilla extract.
3. Add the milk or water to achieve the right consistency. 
pumpkin whoopie pies

I threw any plans of making a "mini" dessert out the window when I made these. They will expand in the oven like crazy, which is always a good sign when baking. These whoopie pies were massive. I had to cut them in half and couldn't eat a whole one in one sitting. Man, are they good though. I am glad whoopie pies had their time in the spotlight because I almost prefer them to cupcakes. Instead of a bunch of icing on top of cake, you get a wonderful dessert "sandwich" with even layers of cake and icing.

Disclosure: I received free product samples from Natural Delights for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.
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October 13, 2015

Mont Tremblant weekend getaway

I get weirdly excited about staying in hotels. Waking up in a comfortable room, watching all of the TV I want and relaxing in a new place is like Christmas morning for me. I don't understand people who find staying in hotels stressful or even boring. When my husband had a conference day at Mont Tremblant a few weeks ago, I suggested we stay overnight and turn his work day into an excuse for a mini getaway. The whole week leading up to it I was so excited to go and stay in a hotel overnight because somehow that's exciting to me. Maybe it's a sign I need a real vacation? I don't know. It was another destination near Ottawa to check off the road trip list.

Croissant and coffee

Mont Tremblant is a village in Quebec about an hour or so from Montreal and an hour and a half from Ottawa. Well, Mont Tremblant is the village and Mont Tremblant ski resort is at the foot of Mont Tremblant mountain. The only other time I had heard about Mont Tremblant was from stories I heard about wild ski trips there in high school and University. I guess I never went on any of those crazy bus trips because this was my first time going. 

Mont Tremblant village

I dropped my husband off at the conference centre he was going to in the morning and was ready for a day of exploring. After a coffee and croissant in the village at Au Grain de Cafe I was all set to take a hike, practice my putting or going up the gondola. Then it started pouring rain. After layering up to stay warm, I thought "Great. Now what am I supposed to do all day? Do I sit in my car all morning listening to the radio (which I did for awhile) or find something entertaining indoors?" Any tourist attraction worth their weight in gold has a rainy day alternative to keep people happy when the weather doesn't cooperate. For me, it was painting pottery at Le Studio Creatif. I picked out a mini trailer piggy bank out of the shelves of possible mugs, plates, bowls and keepsakes. 

Studio Creatif Mont Tremblant

You are allowed to pick out 5 colours to paint on your chosen piece. Then you pay $10 each hour you sit and paint, on top of the cost of the pottery itself. After you're finished painting, you leave the piece there overnight so they can fire and gloss it and it is ready the next morning for pick up. Even though I picked out one of the pricier pieces, for a few hours of entertainment and something to keep at the end, I didn't mind spending a little more money.  I enjoyed the time I spent concentrating on something creative and painting layer after layer to create a smooth, even coloured finish. The finished product:


By the time I finished painting to avoid the rain and grabbed a bite of lunch, it was almost time to check in to our hotel. We stayed in a deluxe room at the Holiday Inn Express. Before you go hating on the Holiday Inn, it was one of the cheaper options at Mont Tremblant where prices can skyrocket depending on the season. I didn't only pick it because of the price. It seemed to have one of the most central locations in the village to everything. You take three steps out of the door and you are at the base of the gondola and a two minute walk to coffee and restaurants.  

Holiday Inn Express Mont Tremblant

The room itself was spacious with a nice view overlooking the pool. Included in the price was a free gondola pass, a round of mini golf and a decent breakfast. When I book hotels I look for prime location, good bed, clean room and some breakfast, and this one checked all of those boxes for under $200 a night. The only thing I would caution is that it is a busy hotel with many families and tour groups, even in September, so the crowds and noise levels in the lobby, hallways and breakfast area are something you can't avoid.  

Holiday Inn Express Mont Tremblant

Going to Quebec means watching television in French, like tuning into some "Parts Unknown" dubbed in French over Anthony Bourdain's voice. I relaxed for a little while and then picked my husband up at the end of his day. Then it was time to decide where to go for dinner. We walked around the village to check out the options and ended up splitting a pitcher of sangria on one of the outdoor patios overlooking the main square. 


To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with the restaurant selection. The advertisements claim there are more than 40 restaurants of different cuisines in the village from sushi to classic French to steakhouses. I can see the appeal if you have been skiing all day and want a quick bite. For a romantic night, there are not that many fancy options or anything different than a resto-pub. We ended up settling on Pizzateria for dinner, which was exactly how it sounds. 

Mont Tremblant village gondola

When it comes to things to do at Mont Tremblant, the list is never ending. With some resorts, you run out of activities after a day. Although it was fall in Tremblant--and not ski season--there were still plenty of things to do for all ages. There are 11 hiking trains ranging from 1 km to 11 kms, bike rentals to bike cross country and for mountain biking, ziplining above the forest on a 5 line trail, river cruising on Lac Tremblant and of course shopping and the casino. For kids there is luging, mini golf, climbing towers, horseback riding and more. 

Mont Tremblant mountain top

What I didn't know was that there is a mini gondola that goes from the bottom of the village to the top near the base of the panoramic gondola. So you basically take a gondola to get to another gondola. We saved our tickets for the panoramic gondola for the Saturday we were there. Someone who is afraid of heights like me can still enjoy the thrill of zipping up a mountain in a glass bubble with 360 degree views of the scenery. You can look down and see the trees, fall colours and all of the those hikers who decided hiking the mountain was a good idea and are regretting their decision half way up. 


Mont Tremblant, Quebec

The Laurentian Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. As you look out on the spectacular vistas, you see about 100 million years of history. The elevation is about 3,862 ft. It is obvious why Mont Tremblant rivals Whistler as one of the best skiing destinations in Canada. The surrounding lakes, such as Lac Mercier and Lac Tremblant are also picture perfect dots along the vista. Sitting and enjoying the view is an activity in itself, as well as taking selfies. 

Mont Tremblant scenic panoramic gondola

Mont Tremblant Quebec

I would love to go back in the winter and try out some of the easier ski hills. Seeing the steepness of the mountain in the summer, I wonder what some of the more difficult ski hills are like in the winter. After the gondola ride, we figured we should use the free mini golf passes from the hotel and played 18 holes of mini golf along with almost every other kid there that day. I still love playing mini golf any chance I get. Then we headed back to Ottawa in the afternoon and our mini getaway was over. Don't underestimate fall as a good time to book a getaway. The rooms were cheaper and although there were still crowds, there probably weren't as many people as there were in the prime summer or winter months.  

Mont Tremblant, Quebec

I thought I would get bored exploring the village by myself on the first day. Exploring alone can be fun sometimes too and it takes you down unexpected paths, like painting pottery. You never regret traveling. No one is ever like "I wish I didn't take that vacation" (unless your credit card says otherwise). So take some time to see some different scenery, get outside, carve out some alone time and also spend time with a loved one. 

Mont Tremblant Quebec, Canada

If you're looking to visit Mont Tremblant, I would recommend taking advantage of their fall colours offer that saves 20% on lodging until October 30, 2015. You can also save 30% on winter bookings, if you book before November 19, 2015. 
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