Banana Frozen Yogurt for Dogs

Banana Frozen Yogurt for Dogs | Sophster-Toaster

Summer afternoons get pretty hot for this fluffy pupper in our old house with no air conditioning. We keep cool with walks in shady parks, romps in the kiddy pool and this two-ingredient doggy frozen yogurt stuffed into Kongs. Made with just banana and plain yogurt, it’s a simple, healthy and refreshing summer treat!

Ingredients

Makes enough to fill 2 large size Kongs.

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • ½ cup plain yogurt

Method

  • Mash banana in a small bowl and mix well with the yogurt.
  • Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.
  • You can serve the frozen yogurt to your dog now but it will be more of a soft serve consistency. For a longer lasting treat, fill a couple of Kongs (or other dish your dog can eat directly out of) and stash in the freezer for a few hours.

Since there isn’t any added sugar, the frozen yogurt is going to freeze up quite hard and will be difficult to scoop. If you can’t freeze it right into something your dog can eat out of, just leave it out on the counter until it thaws out a bit and becomes soft and scoopable again before serving.

Banana Frozen Yogurt for Dogs | Sophster-Toaster Banana Frozen Yogurt for Dogs | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

Always Sunny

Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster

We were recently up at the cottage with some of the best weather I’ve ever seen there. I’ve been going up to my husband’s family cottage for almost a decade now and this was the first time we’ve been up during a summer heat wave and not for the cold and rainy spell right before or after. The weather was hot, sunny and gorgeous everyday but one out of the trip, making this regular, water-based ink version of my Hello Sunshine Tee the perfect thing to wear as we lounged by the lake.

Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster Always Sunny | Sophster-Toaster

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All photos by Matt Harrison.

Lavender Macarons

Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog

I’ll be at the Niagara Lavender Festival with my summer dresses, tees and accessories this weekend so I thought I would get into the spirit by making some lavender macarons! Still using the summer version of my macaron recipe, this is a more traditional style and flavour than I usually go for but it’s still got something special and unexpected about it.

Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog

Ingredients

for the macaron shells

  • ¾ cup ground almonds (as finely ground as you can find)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp dried lavender
  • purple gel food colouring

for the buttercream

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3½ tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp dried lavender
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • purple gel food colouring

Method

for the macaron shells

  1. Prepare your parchment sheets by drawing 1″ circles, ½” apart across the entire sheet (or using silicon baking mats with the circles already printed on them) and placing them on a large flat surface suitable for drying your batter, like a dining table. You will need 2-3 half sheet pan size pieces.
  2. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together, twice. Set aside.
  3. Grind the lavender in a mortar and pestle or food processor and mix into the almond and sugar.
  4. In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until you have a foam with no liquid remaining.
  5. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat on high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. You’ve made meringue!
  6. Add vanilla and purple gel food colouring and gently beat in.
  7. Fold your almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue in two parts.
  8. Here’s the part that takes practice: it’s time for the macaronnage! With a spatula, spread the batter, with some force, against the side of the bowl. Then scoop it up by running the spatula along the side of the bowl again and try to flip it all over and sort-of lightly smack it back into the bottom of the bowl. Gather the batter up again and repeat 15 times. It takes some time to figure out the best way to do this, don’t be afraid to play around with it. When doing the macaronnage correctly, repeating more than 20 times can result in oily, blotchy macarons, but I’ve found that doing it incorrectly doesn’t count towards this limit. If you are doing it right, the batter will take on a noticeable and somewhat sudden change in consistency, this means you are about half-way to that limit. When finished, the batter should be thickened and drip slowly from the spatula. You will have to pipe it onto your baking sheets/mats and it won’t work if the batter is too runny. This is the technique that defines macarons, this is what makes mastery of them impressive.
  9. For perfectly round macarons, use a large, 0.4″ plain tip with a pastry bag, or do it the lazy way and cut a corner off a zip top bag for mostly round macarons. Twist (or don’t yet cut) the bag at the tip and place it, tip side down, in a tall glass. Fill with your batter and twist, close or clip the other end to help keep the messy batter moving in the right direction. Pipe the batter into the centre of the circles on your sheets/mats and stop before reaching the edges as the batter will spread out a bit.
  10. (If you would like to sprinkle lavender on top of some of the shells, now is the time to do it.)
  11. Once finished piping, carefully pick the sheets/mats up and drop them back on to the table from a height of a couple of inches. The theory is that this helps the cookies keep their round shape and form the little bubbles around the bottom (the pied) when you put them in the oven.
  12. Leave the cookies on the table, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes to dry (or more on a humid day). This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. You will know the macarons are dry when they look smooth and are no longer sticky to the touch.
  13. Place an oven rack in the centre of your oven. Place a sheet of macarons on two stacked sheet pans (this will stop the bottoms from getting too hot, resulting in cracked macarons) and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through baking. At this point, if you want to try to keep your cookies light in colour, place a second oven rack directly below the first and move your cookies down to it, then place a third sheet pan above the cookies on the higher rack to protect them from the heat above. It can be hard to tell when the macaron are done. I pull them out when the kitchen smells sweet and the cookies look crisp, have just started to brown, and don’t look blotchy in the middle.
  14. As soon as the parchment sheet/baking mat is cool enough to handle, take it out of the pan with all the cookies on top and place it on a cooling rack. The macarons will be too sticky to remove from the sheet/mat now; once cooled, they should peel off easily. I usually wait a few minutes for the pans to cool a bit and for the oven to come back to a steady temperature before moving the next sheet to the pans and baking the next round.

for the buttercream

  1. Warm the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave until it is soft but not melted and beat until creamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil and add the lavender. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk lightly. Add the sugar and beat with a whisk until they are a pale yellow in colour.
  4. Slowly pour the steeped milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Strain this mixture back into the saucepan and discard the lavender.
  6. Simmer over low heat until the mixture has thickened.
  7. Now pour the mixture into a clean bowl and beat with a whisk until it has cooled and become thick and custard-like.
  8. Add the butter in three parts and whisk until smooth with each addition.
  9. Add the purple gel food colouring and whisk through.

Once everything has cooled, snip the corner off your bag of ganache and pipe it onto half of your shells. Then place another similarly sized shell on top and gently press them together.

Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos by me.

Fireworks Night

Fireworks Night | Sophster-Toaster

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the Canada Day long weekend because it truly kicks off the summer. As Canadians, we tell ourselves that the Victoria Day long weekend (towards the end of May) is the weekend that starts the season of warm weather and summer activities, but it’s really just the marker for when it’s safe to put your garden vegetables in without risk of frost. Canada Day is when you can really sit out on patios at night, have barbecues, swim in lakes, and go camping and cottaging.

I also love that both Canada and America have a summer kick-off celebration at the same time of year. We celebrate almost the same thing, at the same time of year and in the same ways. The two holidays (one on July 1 and the other on July 4) almost never line up to be on the same weekend, but I love how we get a full week of festive spirits on both sides of the border right at the beginning of summer.

We were up at the cottage for Canada Day this year. We’re on an island, and lucky enough to have our deck face the part of the lake where the fireworks are, so we lit some citronella candles and played with sparklers while we watched the boats gather, each with their own twinkling, bright light. As the stars came out, we tucked the pup inside, sipped some Canadian beer, and watched the fireworks shimmer across the lake. Summer is officially here.

Fireworks Night | Sophster-ToasterFireworks Night | Sophster-ToasterFireworks Night | Sophster-Toaster

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Fireworks Night | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by Matt Harrison.