Baking: Cherry-Chocolate Pie

I’m finally back to baking!! Who’s missed it over here since a few years back when it was a normal segment that occurred? I know that I have but the last few years, my mindset hasn’t quite been there yet. However, we’ll skip the frilly things and get right down to it.

I’ve been craving a cherry pie forever and can’t seem to find one so my solution, pick up some tart shells and cherry pie filling (because cherries aren’t in season now) and then add a little something to give it a fun little twist.

Its nothing sophisticated or difficult to this one but I needed to get back to baking and this was something that I’ve wanted to do quickly so here we are as a quick solution. We’ll get fancier baked goods to come!

Cherry-Chocolate Pie

Cherry Chocolate Pie

Inspired by this recipe: https://food52.com/recipes/33749-heartbreak-pie-aka-black-bottom-cherry-pie

Ingredients

  • Pre-made Tart Shells (I used Tenderbake Pie Shells not deep dish)
  • 1 can Cherry Pie Filling (I used E.D. Smith)
  • Dark Chocolate Chips (Selection brand)

What I did:

  1. Thaw the tart shells for however long the package says, in my case, it was 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven at 425C.
  3. Layer one of the pie shells with the dark chocolate chips.
  4. Carefully pour or scoop the cherry pie filling as a layer on top of the dark chocolate chips.
  5. Put the second tart shell over the top of the first to cover it up. Use a fork to carefully seal up the sides. Cut some slits on top to release steam while in the oven.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes.

The final product looked like that above and a slice looked like this:

Cherry-Chocolate Pie

I did a few modifications to the recipe above as well as some things I’d have done differently.

  • The major one is that I didn’t make a ganache and just pour in the chocolate chips to melt on their own which I thought gave it a little more texture because a part of it melted and the other part had some bites of chocolate chips.
  • You can make your own cherry pie filling or your own tart shells. I would have made the cherry pie filling if cherries were in season but they aren’t unfortunately.
  • For this particular recipe, if I were to do it again, I’d do probably 400C at 45 minutes instead, mostly because this time, it was a little over-browned on the side. Not yet burnt but on its way, so lower temp would probably be better.
  • You can use any type of chocolate chip that you desire. For lactose-free concerns, this was my choice.

Final thoughts:

Now my usual baking endeavours, for sure. I haven’t baked in a long time so we’re starting off with some easy and simple recipe to just get back into the mood. This pie is actually quite good for quick solutions as the chocolate balances the very tart cherry pie filling without haven’t to add in more sugar than what is already there from this brand at least.  It turned out actually rather good and layered as I had hope with the chocolate forming a layer at the bottom and a tart cherry pie filling on the top.

What types of pies do you like to make (or to eat)?

Wine Recap: November 2019

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Its the November Wine Recap! November saw us having a week off from work on a little staycation and we managed to pick up some nice wines and then chilled out a lot just watching movies and relaxing a little so this time has a few more wines that we were able to try! Let’s check it out!

Domaine Le Grand Saint-Charles Duo de Frontenac 2017

Le Grand Saint-Charles Duo de Frontenac

Producer: Domaine Le Grand Saint-Charles
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Location: Quebec, Canada
Taste Tag: N/A

Le Grand Saint-Charles is a winery that I want to get behind so much because of its creative wine combinations. This one mixes two Frontenacs together: Frontenac Gris and Frontenac. We’re not exactly a huge fan of either of these wines but we do always like to try new mixes to hopefully have one that surprises us. This one actually was pretty alright compared to the other white wine varieties that we’ve tried from Le Grand Saint-Charles. Its not quite as acidic or extra-dry. This one was rather delicate and light. It still was leaning onto the semi-dry taste palette but there was also a well-enough balance to make it enjoyable.

Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling 2016

Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling

Producer: Inniskillin Wines Inc.
Alcohol Content: 12%
Location: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Taste Tag: Fruity and Sweet

Inniksillin is a winery that is pretty well-known. They have some fantastic ice ciders and my husband has been wanting to try out the wines, so here we are giving the Late Autumn Riesling a try. As expected, the safe area of Riesling didn’t disappoint at all. It was a pleasant one and rather rich in flavor because of the Late Autumn element that actually gives it a more reserve sort of status. This one is definitely in the fruity and sweet taste tag and one that is very easy to like a lot.

Le Grand Ballon Val de Loire Chardonnay

Le Grand Ballon Chardonnay

Producer: Sarl Joel Delaunay
Alcohol Content: 12%
Location: Centre-Ouest, France
Taste Tag: Delicate and Light

From my memory, this is the second time that we’ve tried a wine from Val de Loire. French wines have so many territories and each have their distinctive elements and taste that its truly hard to remember all of it. I did remember the last one that we tried from Val de Loire was more on the dry side and that applies to Le Grand Ballon’s Chardonnay as well. Its more of  semi-dry taste with has a bit of light-bodied elements and fruity elements as well. The dryness does hit harder on the first sip but it does have a refreshing taste down the throat.

Slow Press Chardonnay Monterey County

Slow Press Chardonnay

Producer: The Wine Group
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Location: Monterey, California, United States
Taste Tag: Aromatic and Mellow

I’m not going to lie that my initial draw to Slow Press was its classy bottle label and the color choice. It had this oaked and aged wine sort of look to it plus it had the aromatic and mellow taste tag which always has this surprisingly sophisticated taste to it. Slow Press is actually quite good. It is a little dry but it has a nice finish, just like most of the wines in this taste tag category. Its why we always go back to it as its not exactly a fruity and fun deal but one that is a little more elevated and has more depth in its taste.

Growers Honeycrisp Apple

Growers Cider Co.

Producer: Arterra Wines Canada Inc.
Alcohol Content: 5%
Location: Ontario, Canada
Taste Tag: Sweet & Fruity

Ontario ciders are rather different from Quebec ciders. I’ve tried a good few Ontario ciders to this point and I’ve become quite picky on what stands out for me. A lot of them actually are very similar probably because of the apples they choose. What makes Growers Cider different is that it uses Honeycrisp Apples and it adds this tartness to their cider that actually balances really well with the apple sweetness. Its a rather unique cider taste and has quite a delightful experience.

That’s it for this November Wine Recap!
Some really neat discoveries this time around!

Double Feature: Holiday in the Wild (2019) & The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

And we’re off! Officially in the Christmas double features phase with some holiday movies and such. The first one, Holiday in the Wild is more set passing through Christmas and is more about a literal holiday vacation instead of actual holiday but its paired with The Knight Before Christmas because the first movie is playing on TV in this one. Its a very Netflix movies promo experience in the second film with Holiday Calender also getting a scene playing as well.

Holiday in the Wild (2019)

Holiday in the Wild

Director: Ernie Barbarash

Cast: Kristin Davis, Rob Lowe, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss

Jilted by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari, a woman travels to the continent alone where she meets an elephant conservationist. – IMDB

Holiday in the Wild isn’t exactly a Christmas holiday movie but I thought it was so it ended up being part of the line-up. Luckily, it did have some overlapping Christmas scenes in Africa. These types of Hallmark style movies that Netflix is tackling in their originals usually is something of a hit and miss deal. Holiday in the Wild is a bit awkward to watch. Its definitely featuring an older couple and probably aiming to get the more mature audience than its normal audience. For that, its also a lot more serious and drama oriented with some jokes here and there. The script is a bit all over the place but with the right heart of focusing not only on romance between the characters Derek and Kate but also on the importance of the conservation work for elephants. Some people choose to bring awareness through documentaries (like Virunga) and they choose to deliver it this way. It works all the same and its the good intentions that matter.

The best parts of the film actually are with the elephant conservation and this whole location which is rarely used. I think the last time I saw anything about animals and Africa was maybe in the TV series Zoo and I can’t remember if that was Africa or not. Point being, the exotic location does this movie some wonders and it is delivering an honorable message which they take the effort to share some statistics at the end of the movie. There are a lot of flaws in the romance and some really bad dialogue but with what they had, Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis had some decent chemistry but its easy to feel like the movie wasn’t really about them and it wasn’t about family but more about Kate finding her way back to being herself and living the life that she wants.

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

The Knight Before Christmas

Director: Monika Mitchell

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ella Kenion, Isabella Franca

A medieval English knight is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love. – IMDB

The Knight Before Christmas is something of a fish out of water story and for anyone thats been here for a while, you know that I’m a sucker for those types of stories because they can bring in a ton of humor. Humor isn’t the same for everyone but for me, it works for me. The Knight Before Christmas actually surprised me quite a bit but that might be because I sometimes wonder about Vanessa Hudgens movies. I don’t know why I do it because a lot of stuff that I’ve seen her do has been pretty good.

With that said, a lot of the normal holiday romance Hallmark-like films that Netflix has been getting on does have some of the normal trademarks that a lot of people don’t like which is cringe-worthy dialogue and fairly predictable and formulaic story. This movie definitely suffers from some rather subpar dialogue and its not hard to imagine where things end up but it has this positivity to the Christmas message that its trying to deliver and also it has some nice chemistry and romantic elements between Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse’s characters, Brooke and Cole.

There are some really nice Christmas sets here whether its the winter and snowy weather or the whole Christmas decor inside and outside the house along  with the Christmas village and the Christmas decorating and baking, etc. Its a movie that sets its Christmas setting very well and uses it in a nice way with two pretty decent performances from both Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse.

Plus, Netflix is taking this year’s holiday films to really cross-promote all its projects especially with this one as it shows movies playing on Netflix for the characters like last year’s The Holiday Calendar (review) and the movie we reviewed above, Holiday in the Wild. At the same time, it mentions A Christmas Prince’s kingdom, Aldovia and how the parents went to get ornament that they have there to tie in the universe together. Its pretty neat to see Netflix as such a giant that it can link its projects together like this. They just now need to remember to not mesh The Knight Before Christmas’s sequel if they have one to vacation in Belgravia where Vanessa Hudgens’ character is now Queen since the events of last year’s The Princess Switch (review).

On that note, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel for The Knight Before Christmas or maybe its already hinted at with how they did the post-credits scene..

That’s it for this first Christmas Double Feature!
Have you caught up with these new Netflix holiday movies?

DIY Crafts: Branch Wreath (1st attempt)

Signs of the early years of Tranquil Dreams is coming back into shape this December as I get through some housekeeping for the blog going on in the background, I’m having this sudden urge to get back into doing some DIY crafts and also some cooking and baking planned as well. Its going to be (hopefully) a fun little December that will get back on track on all the positive things that I’ve always liked doing as a crafty and creative outlet that is a very wonderful release for me when I manage to put together something nice.

First project to tackle is a branch wreath. I’ve put together all the wreaths at our current home and while it might not be as economical as a store-bought one, all of mine are unique to what I want on there and how I want it to look like. Feeling like a bit of a change, I went for a branch wreath at Michael’s during the Black Friday Sale and picked up a bunch of wreath decorations to see what I could do.

Here are all the supplies that I had bought:

20191130_082941.jpg

  • Branch Wreath
  • Wreath Decorations

There’s something very different from doing a branch wreath than doing a pine wreath. It has to do with the whole messy elements of trying to put all the elements in. Putting in the decorations is trying to find that spot to hold them in place while hiding the sticks holding them up also. I didn’t use any wire which you could get or go with using hot glue to keep them all in place. With that said, designing branch wreaths are more minimalist in some ways where less is more.

Here’s my first trial which didn’t quite look like how I wanted so it was quickly pulled apart to rethink and redo…

Branch Wreath

Back to zero, I did some research on Pinterest on how branch wreaths usually are structured and then thought about a new structure where I would go find some supplies that I had bought before but never used. There some gold hollies and berries that I had picked up a year or two ago at Michael’s at a previous sale but never found a way to implement in anything else.

The final branch wreath turned out like this:

Branch Wreath

The final one looks like this.

It is a very simple first attempt and I can see some places where I can improve at filling in the gaps and making it feel more full and giving it some more volume as well. Overall, I am fairly happy with it as it does have the fun little elements of Christmas that I like and its along the lines of what I wanted to do.

Branch wreaths are this very interesting element to discover because of the whole fitting the pieces into a more classy style and it also has this less is more element to it while giving it space for the branches to have its compliment to whats put on it. I’m definitely having some more ideas on what themed wreaths to do. But there’s still time to maybe spruce this one up as nothing there is set because I also like my wreaths to have the chance to change it up when I get tired of looking at it. This version doesn’t have any glued elements and just held from strategically placing them to hold in place by the branches under and some of the wired holders on the wreath decorations.

*As a side note, I am working on a second one as a gift so expect a post on the new one (along with an update if I do change something on this one). That one is looking a lot more refined than this first one in my opinion so far but the theme isn’t fitting in as well as I’d like it to so its still in the making. *

Music Obsessions – December 2019

Its time for the final normal music obsessions for 2019! Its crazy, right? This one will not be Christmas-focused but it will have one with a special nearer to the holidays for some light-hearted and fun content. With that said, November was pretty crazy but I did find some fun music that I found almost all spontaneously during TV shows or TV drama.

Let’s check it out!

You Calling My Name – GOT7

I don’t listen to a lot of Kpop in general but I’m a big fan of Jackson Wang and he’s part of GOT7 which is why I ended up finding this one on Youtube when it first released. Its a really catchy tune and the video is pretty fun. The song is pretty good plus GOT7 has a good style to their voices and such. I’m definitely going to be looking up more of their songs.

大好事 (Great Thing)- 張洢豪 YiHao Zhang

I finished watching Wait, My Youth TV drama in November and it was so much fun! The soundtrack also was really good and it came down to deciding which of the three songs that I had in my playlist from the series that I wanted to share in this one and I came down to this one which is an original song and one that is more happy and positive, because who doesn’t like fun songs, right?

He Doesn’t Understand 他不懂 – Jason Zhang 張傑

I know that Jason Zhang for a while and I only really listened to his English single, Perfume earlier this year. Recently, I heard another one of his songs in Mandarin translated to be He Doesn’t Understand. I has really good lyrics and he has a pretty nice voice. Its one that has been on repeat on my playlist recently.

 錯過 (Missed) – 梁詠琪 Gigi Leung

Going back to a rather older song as I dive back into some Gigi Leung music. Gigi Leung is a singer that I’ve liked since I first started to like singing and music and all in high school so her music has followed me for a while. I’ve actually never heard of this one but still so great. Her voice works very well in this kind of slower music, not to mention, I actually like the lyrics also for this one.

WYTB – NEXT

The most recent song released on this list goes to WYTB by NEXT which was just released a week or so ago. After Nine Percent disbanded, NEXT carries a good portion of the members there. Oddly, Adam Fan isn’t part of this song, making me wonder whether he is still part of the group, although nothing says otherwise. Still, this one really does deliver as a few of these members are singers from Idol Producer that I really did like a lot. NEXT is always full of upbeat music every time I listen to them so always looking forward to their stuff even if they literally just got together this year. So lots of space to grow and release new content in the future.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
A mix of upbeat and energetic music and slow ballad type songs this time around!
This wraps up the year for Music Obsessions, at least the normal segment.

Look out for a Christmas themed one the week before the holidays!

TV Binge: Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 1, 2019)

You can also check out:

Sugar Rush (Season 1, 2018)
Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 1, 2019)

sugar rush christmas

Host: Hunter March

Judge: Adriano Zumbo, Candace Nelson

Sugar Rush is finding its own slice of fun on Netflix and this year, they released their Christmas edition, Sugar Rush Christmas which uses the same system and concept as pretty much the changes they made in Season 2 (you can see what I mean from the review linked above) and implementing it to a Christmas scenario whether its Christmas spirit, Wintery themes like polar bears and North Pole or Santa Claus, etc. The themes inspire some of these bakers to make some great desserts.

Sugar Rush Christmas

Sugar Rush is the more professional baking side of baking competition and it has its own viewers because there is a really nice element of strategy and how some of these teams play for more time in their final round. The time element is what makes this fun and definitely inspires to open up a lot of creative baking themes as well. The variety leaves room to see where different bakers will do their own versions of desserts and this season’s competitors are rather fun, bringing in variety with a few bringing something new like gluten-free teams, etc.

Sugar Rush Christmas

At the same time, the charm of the show is in its host and guest judges. Hunter March adds a lot to these shows which are normally more serious in nature with bringing in some bad jokes or just simply bringing up the energy. Perhaps its scripted or its not, because unlike Nailed It, they never do seem to have that as a joke so I can only imagine that he does his part improvised and it all lands very naturally and adds a lot of fun. The guests this time also adds some fun as well, even if most of them are fairly unknown to myself because I either don’t watch their Netflix shows or whatever else. They aren’t all comedians or actors but still almost all offer good criticism.

Sugar Rush Christmas is for the audience that is there for more serious baking and creativity with a slight hint of fun on a time-based challenge. Most of the time, the time element really comes into play as something that can get a little tense about in the final challenge and not so much for all the other two challenges in the beginning for Cupcakes and Confections respectively, except for maybe one time in this season. For myself, its fun because I enjoy baking and learning new ideas for baked goods and designs especially for the holidays. With 6 episodes in this season, its very easy to binge if you enjoy this sort of entertainment, if not, its still fun to watch one episode at a time. It does have a lot of Christmas spirit and adds some nice holiday fun.

That’s it for this TV binge! I am curious on what other people feel about Sugar Rush?
Have you seen it? Is it something you like to watch?

Double Feature: Lady Bird (2017) & A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

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Welcome back to Double Features! Its been a crazy 2 months or so of festival season so double features has been tucked in the back. Its December so also time for the festive films to start. Slim pickings most of the time so this time, we’ll be having a little mix and mash of festive films, Marvel/Disney/Pixar last hurrah before they leave Netflix month in December. The first taste of Christmas films, A Cinderalla Story: Christmas Wish is paired with Lady Bird, a movie that I saw was expiring on Netflix this month as well.

Let’s check it out!

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Director (and writer): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedge, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California. – IMDB

I always wonder why I put off watching movies for so long because Lady Bird had been on Netflix for quite a while. Being a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan (and I have a few more of her films to catch up on), there’s something truly fun about this one. I love coming of age films especially with girls and then 2002 was also my graduating year in high school so all the things from posters to style to lingo all became very nostalgic especially with all the feelings of finding the path and future, romance and friends.

Lady Bird, as her character calls herself instead of her given name Christine, tackles all of these things with her somewhat of a drama queen personality and a determination to do whatever she can to get what she wants regardless of the consequences which she will deal with afterwards. She’s a bit of a reckless character without actually realizing that she is in many cases. In the struggle between trying to break free from Sacramento and get to the East coast much to her mother’s disagreement and always being inconsiderate on how much she dislikes her current situation whether the place or constantly thinking that her mother doesn’t like her, its a bit sad to watch this character try to find love and care. Saoirse Ronan takes on this role with so much charisma. There’s this over the top and bizarre sort of character that Lady Bird is that no one else understands who she is and she tries to act very confident about who she is and yet there’s this extremity to her and it starts right off the bat when an argument with her mother in the car results in her plunging out of the moving car. That sets the tone of this mother and daughter relationship right from that moment between these strong characters.

Lady Bird focuses primarily on the family dynamic of Christine and her family especially the mother and daughter relationship and the desire of breaking free from a place to pursue her dreams and wanting to be acknowledged that she can be more than she is and the acceptance and having someone to share those grand dreams. In the process of finding who are her true friends and what the value of love is in her mind (or how little it matters to others). There’s this greatness of how her character is presented that makes those genuine moments even easier to connect with. Everyone on this part of her last year of senior high sets her in the right direction to her future and finding the confidence to be herself and mending or expressing herself .

Lady Bird is a really great movie. All the pieces from performances to the time to the different experiences she goes through and the coming of age moment when she finally embraces who she is is a journey and one that is a mix of drama and comedy that connects really well.

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish

Director (and co-writer): Michelle Johnston

Cast: Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Lilian Doucet-Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso, Barclay Hope, Garfield Wilson

Its really hard to believe that A Cinderella Story is a film franchise at this point with this latest film, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish as its fifth film. While I completely am behind the first one original A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray which is a fun one to watch even now, and can relatively get into its second one with Selena Gomez. Skipped the third one mostly because it wasn’t available and I didn’t want to buy it and then watched the fourth one (review) which was very disappointing and now we get to this one…and I ask myself why I put myself through these things. I didn’t think it could get worse than the last one but it really is.

The performances are completely wooden. The story has nothing new to it and simply predictable. Even the whole evil stepmother and stepsisters were really uninspiring like it didn’t really matter to whoever made this one either. Not to mention, not much of it logically made sense even in how a girl becomes unidentifiable with a pink wig and pointy elf ears and an elf costume and not some kind of special makeup or anything.

Its really hard to get behind this one. I’m trying to find something good about it but I don’t know what to say. It is set during Christmas so the Christmas setting is nice, I guess. These just need to stop (and I don’t say this very often about the worst of franchises).  Maybe the pretty leads and some of their musical numbers (there is one that was okay) could appeal to someone maybe younger than myself. Sometimes, we just outgrow these things I guess.

That’s it for this double feature!
We kick off the Christmas month with a rather lacking movie but hey, its only going to go up from here (probably just jinxed myself). 

Have you seen any of these movies? Thoughts?