Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012

Just before ringing in the new year, I thought I'd look back at a few of my favourite recipes I blogged about this year. I look forward to sharing many more food stories with you in the year ahead and thank you for all your comments and questions - they make this blog worth writing!

It's hard to believe I started writing this little blog back in 2007 -- when I didn't yet know just how much food would become integral to my professional career. What started as a simple passion for making food at home and sharing it with like-minded readers has turned into my full-time occupation. Since starting my job as a Food Specialist for Canadian Living magazine, there are very little days where talking about a  new way to use an ingredient or thinking about a new dish to create isn't on my mind.. and I wouldn't have it any other way.

And now for the recipes, here is 2012's top 6!

{1}Full-On Chocolate Tarts
{2} Seared Scallops with Lemony Parmesan Peas
{3}Steel-Cut Oats with Cinnamon Pears
{4} Pumpkin and Ginger Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches
{5} Grilled Radicchio and Caprese Salad
{6} Shallot and Herb Mussels (with Fries!)

Friday, December 21, 2012

DIY Gift Wrapping

There's something about doing things at the last-minute isn't there? It kind of gets your adrenaline going and forever reminds me of my years writing Political Science essays during college - I've never written so many 15 page papers overnight! And the less time I have, the more incredibly efficient I become -  does this ring a bell for anyone? I also spent last weekend in New York (my long lost love!) which threw me off my schedule in the most wonderful of ways. Here is one of my favourite photos from the trip - a whimsical moment I happened to come across.

My family flies in from Paris today to celebrate the holiday season and I'm knee deep in last-minute holiday shopping. The wrapping supplies, however, I have covered! I thought I would share an easy DIY wrapping idea - which involves washi tape and a simple candy cane.

And here's a little glimpse of my tree this year - happy holidays!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Cookbook Giveaway Part 2

The holidays really seem to have taken over in our house. Although I grew up in a half Jewish household, we've always had a Christmas tree - there's something so festive about decorating a tree, and for me it's just a symbol of taking the time to reunite with family.

Being here in Toronto and an ocean away from my family in France, it's small traditions like these that make this month of the year feel special (albeit a little stressful at times!). After a trip to Toronto's Christmas market in the Distillery district, I can feel the countdown to a lovely holiday dinner approach. I'm still etching out my final menu. but I know there will be figs, chocolate and good cheese involved!

Christmas Market in Toronto's Distillery District
Now for a little added cheer! Second on my list of holiday cookbook giveaway is Tiny Party Food. This book is perfect for entertaining and filled with clever ideas to make impressive bite-size treats. A few of the recipes that caught my eye are the Tiny Potato Salad Bites, Teeny Chicken Parmesan Crostinis and One-Bite White Chocolate Cheesecakes.

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment and let me know what kind of finger food you usually most enjoy.. The contest ends on December 19th, at midnight. The winner will be drawn at random and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Persimmon Chocolate Tarts

Do you remember the chocolate tarts I blogged about a few days ago? These are an easy variation to make homemade tarts that much more of a treat. Every time I see bright orange, plump persimmons at the market, I can't help adding a few to my basket. They are usually only available a couple months a year (on this side of the world anyway!) and are one of my favourite fruit. Slicing a perfectly ripe persimmon makes a quick light dessert, but why not add them to top a chocolate tart?

In the summertime, I would top these with berries, but at this time of year, persimmons are a heavenly switch-up. Just make sure to add the fruit right before serving so it's as fresh as can be. Visit my chocolate tart post for the recipe.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Treats and a Giveaway!

As the holidays are fast approaching, my to-do list seems ever expanding - everyday I pin another recipe I'd like to try, or DIY project I'd love to tackle. I'm sure many of you can relate to this, but every year I wish that December was a couple of days longer. Between flavoured marshmallows, indulgent cakes and intricate cookies, I know this holiday season will be sweet, flavourful and time-consuming!

To help ease the hectic season and lend a little festive spirit, here is the first of our December giveaways! I have a copy of Rachael Ray's newest cookbook, My Year in Meals. The book is split between recipes and a series of cocktails concocted by Rachael's husband, John Cusimano. If you're looking for a few colourful drinks to add to your holiday menus, this is a great place to start. I already have my eye on the Panettone, a mix of vodka, Grand Marnier, orgeat syrup and champagne - that has to be a perfect way to ring in the new year, don't you think?

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment on this post and let me know what your go-to holiday dish is when you entertain. The contest ends on December 15th, at midnight. The winner will be drawn at random and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!

And for a few stress-free holidays treats, try a few of my favourite indulgences for this time of year!

{1} Almond, Ginger and Chocolate Buche de Noel
{2} Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows
{3} Lemon Bundt Cake

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Full-On Chocolate Tarts

This weekend was a chocolate kind of weekend and it all started with the simple desire of making homemade chocolate dough. Whenever things get hectic around me, or I feel a little ungrounded, I like to turn towards something that never fails me - like making a classic dough. No matter how many times I make it, I never cease to be amazed by the fact that a few simple ingredients can turn into a pliable, homogenous disc of perfection. When things feel uncertain or fragile the kitchen becomes -- even more so than usual -- my happy place. I find endless comfort in knowing that the right amount of flour, butter and sugar will always come together. This might be my cheesy moment of the week, but I'm sure you fellow baking-lovers can relate - am I right?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Steel-Cut Oats with Cinnamon Pears

Ah, breakfast.To be honest breakfast has always been pretty low on my list of favourite meals. I usually have unorthodox desires (read non-breakfast desires) that I don't always have the time to fulfill in the morning when I'm rushing to get ready for the day ahead. I went through a Japanese-inspired phase a couple weeks ago that consisted of a bow of white rice topped with toasted sesame seeds, a nori sprinkling, sliced avocado and a drizzle of sesame oil. In a bit of a Goldilocks fashion, I seem to have trouble finding my perfect  breakfast option -- the one that will keep me satisfied for the better part of the morning. Because, let's be honest. when you work in a Test Kitchen, the last thing you want is to be overly hungry when you first walk into the office!

Steel-cut oats have solved my breakfast dilemma - for now! These golden pearls have a wonderful bite and texture, and, although they take a little while to cook, they really make a wonderful breakfast option that will keep you full for hours.

This version is sweetened using seasonal pears tossed in brown butter and cinnamon and topped with toasted almonds and a drizzle of flavourful honey. I can't think of a better way to start the day at this time of year.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin and Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

When I hosted Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to serve an array of desserts but try to steer away from doing the classics only. This is how this delicious treat idea came about - creamy pumpkin ice cream sandwiched between two crinkled, ginger cookies. The toughest part was finding good pumpkin ice cream. If it weren't Thanksgiving, I probably would have whipped up a homemade batch, but given the amount of food I was already making (herbed and butter turkey, wild rice and hazelnut stuffing, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, pumpkin praline tiramisu) this was an easy make-ahead dessert. I whipped up a batch of homemade ginger cookies the night before, and simply added a heaping tablespoonful of pumpkin ice cream right before serving.

The only tricky part was finding the perfect pumpkin ice cream! Il Gelatiere (one of my favourite gelato stores here in Toronto) didn't disappoint - they had a wonderful homemade batch of the fall-flavoured goodness. And to package these, I opted for these little chevron pouches - each just fits one of these two-bite treats!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chevron Chic

Pretty patterns have always been on the top of my home decor love list, and I currently have a particular penchant for chevron. When things gets a little chaotic, I find solace in this predictable yet whimsical pattern. A little touch here and there is really all you need to add a little pizzazz to your kitchen space. The gold tray is gorgeous isn't it?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes and Pancetta

Lazy fall weekends lend themselves so beautifully to meals like this one that I couldn't resist not sharing it with all of you. 

Now that the leaves have started to turn and that the pumpkins have become the staple of most markets, I find myself yearning for the ultimate comfort foods around. This kind of dish is not only quite budget-friendly (you pay less for these tougher cuts of meat that need a long time to slowly cook) but it's also a great way to feed a hungry crowd with little effort. Once you've browned your meat and nicely caramelized the bottom of your pan, all you need is to add a flavourful base - in this case pancetta, onions, carrots and herbs - and some liquid to cook the roast in. The hardest part of this type of meal really is the waiting. I imagine that in large dwellings it may be easier to seek refuge in one corner of your space so you don't have to endure the warm aromatic smell of slow-cooked meat, but in my cookie-cutter Toronto condo, you really can't escape the sweet aromas of the kitchen.

For the few hours needed to bring this meat to fork-tender perfection, my apartment turns into a haze of goodness. And the best part? The leftovers! I'm not usually a big leftovers person - I like creating a new meal from scratch whenever I can - but this lends itself so perfectly to be tossed with a freshly cooked bowl of herbed pasta, or piled high to top toasted focaccia bread.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Momofuku in Toronto!

When I was at chef school in New York, I often made my way to the East Village for a pork bun bite at Momofuku. At the time, there was a small line but nothing like the phenomenon it has become today. Pork belly, though certainly not invented by David Chang, has become a trendy menu item across a myriad of restaurants in North America. Since moving from NYC, I have often yearned for the two-bite pork buns made famous by the Momofuku brand. And now Torontonians can enjoy them at Toronto's very own Momofuku, in the recently opened Shangri-La Hotel.

I usually don't tend to wait in line for restaurants but I was ready to make the exception when I went for lunch at Momofuku today, the day after it opened.The restaurant is far bigger than its New York counterpart however, so we were seated as soon as the doors opened.

 As I sat down, I couldn't help but think about one of the lines from an old episode of 30 Rock that refers to Toronto as "just like New York but without all the stuff". The line always makes me laugh, but I think somewhere deep down it kind of annoys me too. I've only lived here for a little over a year, but I strangely feel attached to this city and think its potential is far greater than most places I know. The fact that David Chang decided to open here, is, in my mind, a small token that shows just how much of a food and culture hub Toronto really is.
Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Chang as he was promoting the release of his Momofuku cookbook (you can read my review of his book here) and it seems that in the few years since he's become that much bigger. With his Lucky Peach magazine, his Milk Bar success and now his Toronto expansion, Chang has achieved a level of success most chefs can't begin to dream of.

As I was feasting on my ginger scallion noodles (another staple dish) I looked up and David Chang was there, on the second story of his restaurant, looking down at the bustling, feasting crowd. And for any skeptics out there, let me tell you, the food was amazingly flavourful, well-executed and true to the New York Chang meals I have enjoyed. The bill on the other hand? Still a little high for what you get on your plate - but still somehow worth it..!

Have you made your way to Momofuku yet?

Momofuku on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Easiest Blueberry Tarts

No matter how satisfying making dough is, sometimes you just need a fast alternative. Don't get me wrong, I love making dough from scratch - taking a few simple ingredients and turning them into a pliable, versatile dough always seems rather magical. But for those times when you're really in a pinch, I'll let you in on my go-to solution

Phyllo dough is the hero of the show here - I like to use whole-wheat phyllo dough, but regular works just fine as well. Simply cut out circles of dough using a cookie cutter (or tracing around a glass with a pairing knife). You can easily free-form these using mini muffin tins. They then crisp up wonderfully thanks to a warm oven and a little melted butter. In the summer, I love filling these with wild blueberries, a simple sprinkling in each crisped-up shell makes the perfect sweet treat - but during the wintertime, these work wonders filled with a little chocolate ganache and a dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shallot and Herbed Mussels (with Fries!)

Mussels and fries. Need I say more? This classic combo, a staple for so many restaurants, is so easy to put together at home... and dare I say better? Mussels - like scallop and shrimp - often get a bad rep as being finicky, but they are incredibly easy to put together and so flavourful that you don't need much extra fuss to turn them into a satisfying meal. As long as you have ready-to-go, mussels, this is a really feasible everyday meal. I love the classic when it comes to mussels - a little white wine, some sweet shallots and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. I do occasionally branch out with curry or creamy flavoured mussels but this is a simple go-to.

A few words of wisdom when it comes to mussels:
- make sure your mussels are as fresh as can be
- before cooking, make sure all mussels are tightly shut. Close the ones that aren't and make sure they stay shut; discard those who won't stay closed
- remove any beard by tightly pulling on the thread
- once cooked, only eat the mussels that have opened; discard any closed ones

Shallot and Herbed Mussels
Serves 2

3lb mussels
2 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups white wine

In a large stockpot on medium heat, add olive oil, shallots, garlic and thyme. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring.

Add mussels and wine; stir. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, shaking the pot once or twice to help the mussels open. Serve with your favourite crispy fries. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Caprese Salad

I get a little giddy every time tomato season hits. During most of the year, tomatoes still remain a staple of my everyday cooking but I look at them with less of a loving eye. They don't come close to what what they taste like at this time of year and often feel bland and uninteresting. Plump, heirloom tomatoes at their peak are a whole different story - they can happily be enjoyed .with a simple drizzle of good olive oil, some fleur de sel and a few speckles of cracked black pepper only, and I often just snack on them with a few speckles of salt.

During the wintertime, produce has to be cajoled a little more to be turned into a warm, comforting meal - but we have it easy when tomatoes taste this good. They are the undeniable star of the show. This simple salad - my all-time favourite - is made nestling milky buffalo mozarella with thin, meaty tomato slices. These gorgeous, uneven gems were purchased from the farmers' market a Liberty Village and surely didn't disappoint. I added some fresh basil leaves (picked from our very own urban garden/balcony!) and a few salty, cured olives. I really can't think of a better summer lunch and I know I will be eying this photo with envy in a few weeks from now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Have you ever had a puffball?

This weekend, as I was strolling through the St Lawrence Market for some seasonal produce my eyes landed on this unusual specimen: a puffball! These large, rounded cream-coloured gems - part of the mushroom family - were my market-find of the day. I had never seen these anywhere before (have you?), but after a little research I knew exactly how I would be serving them.

Puffballs can be cooked much in the same way as regular cremini or button mushroom, although they have more of a soft, spongy, marshmallow-like texture. They reduce a lot when cooked and are best enjoyed warm. Even though I stocked up on heirloom tomatoes, golden beets and wild blueberries for the week, I was most excited about these over-sized cartoon-worthy goodies.With a little white wine, herbs and garlic, they make a perfect side dish. They soak up flavour with ease and plump up when cooked with wine.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Burgers

This summer has been a busy one so far - after a trip to Boston, a week in the South of France and working on the holiday issues of Canadian Living, the warm sunny days have quickly gone by! We're on to working on our January 2013 issue, with a plethora of wintery comfort foods on the list. It's always a little bit of a challenge to project yourself to the cold, winter days at this time of year and remember the foods that you crave when the snow is falling and plush scarves are a daily part of your routine. There's such a meticulous process to the making of a magazine - in this case from recipe creation, to re-testing, to editing, and editing some more, to styling, shooting and designing the final page as it will be seen and flipped through by readers.

This lengthy process explains why we prepare our issues so many months ahead of time!

When I get home from a day of January-in-August, I fall right back into my normal summer schedule, and cook with seasonal foods. This time around, it's classic, burgers, pilled high with sauteed mushrooms, melted aged cheddar cheese and a couple slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes, with some fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper. Sweet summer heirloom tomatoes with their vivid hues and uneven shapes add a good dose of sunniness to these burgers - a flavour I know I will miss come fall.

What do you like to add to your burgers?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shallot and Goat Cheese Tarte Tatin

Little beats the perfection of a classic Tarte Tatin. Serve it warm with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and I'm sold. The culinary technique behind this staple dessert can be applied to many different types of fruit but also works wonders with savory flavours. As long as your filling has a sticky, caramelized consistency and that you top the tart with flaky puff pastry you can't really go wrong.

The only tricky part is to invert the dish once it's cooked. The beauty of a Tarte Tatin comes from the way it is cooked - with the puff pastry tightly nestled on top of the dish- the filling will bubble away while the dough can slowly crisp up without getting soggy. My best advice is not to over-think it when times comes time to invert the dish- simply run a pairing knife around the edges of the tart, top the tart with your platter (or a cutting board) and flip it over in one confident go. If a few sticky filling pieces stay lodged in your cooking vessel, gently free them and arrange on top of your dish.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Patterned Plates

We all know that we eat with our eyes first. The same dish, nicely displayed and presented will generally make you want to eat it more than if it comes spooned into yesterday's take-out containers.

Don't get me wrong, some foods are best served stripped of any fancy tableware (think authentic fish and chips served in newspaper or street food served on paper plates) but for most dishes, a little extra effort never hurts. Here are some of my current favourites - I especially love the Kate Spade and Anthropologie ones!

Which one would you add to your dinner table?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brioche Lobster Rolls

When life gives you lobster, make lobster rolls! There are many perfect summer meals, but little comes close to a fresh lobster roll enjoyed by the water, with a soft breeze and the sun shining. If all these components are not part of your everyday routine, the lobster roll alone should do!
I don't like to get too fussy when I make lobster rolls - or overpower the dish with excess sauce. If you've ever had a lobster roll with more mayonnaise and bread than meaty lobster chunks, you'll know exactly what I mean! I like to keep things simple: a little homemade mayonnaise with herbs, hearty bite-size lobster pieces, a warm, buttery brioche and crisp Boston lettuce.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Ultimate Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have become a regular on the menu in our household - they're a stress-free option to serve for get-togethers, especially in the summertime when you don't want something too heavy. Guests can mound whichever toppings they like onto a hearty taco shell, and all you have to do is scatter a few different toppings across the table. If you're having a lot of people over, this really is an easy way to entertain. Most of the toppings can be made ahead of time and the fish can be prepared in a few minutes once your guests arrive. I like to serve these with an ice-cold jug of watermelon juice and/or glasses of berry mojitos. It's more relaxed than a sit-down dinner and perfect for a warm summer evening where you want to eat outside. If you're hosting a potluck, have every guest bring their favourite taco topping while you provide a few of the essentials.
Here are a few of my favourite toppings. I also love serving these with shredded red cabbage, grilled corn kernels, purple rice and orange salsa. What are some of our favourite fish taco toppings?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Shrimp, Scallop and Pancetta Skewers

We've been trying to figure out how many pounds upon pounds of butter we've been using in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen in the last few weeks. With developing recipes for the 2012 holidays, the bags of sugar, flour and packs of eggs and butter seem to dissapear just as fast as they make their way into our kitchen. The consensus seems to be that we stopped counting after 18 pounds of butter!

The wintery treats of the day make me crave anything summery come dinner (if I'm still hungry for a proper meal that is!). Lighter fares are usually welcome, like these fresh seafood skewers. We enjoyed them alongside grilled radicchio - a lovely addition to any summer barbecue - and a caprese salad with plump heirloom tomatoes and a caper dressing.With a few colourful blooms on our balcony and a gentle breeze, I can't think of a more perfect hot spring night.

And if you're looking for the perfect book to dive into this summer, take a look at the list in the comment section of my latest giveaway, Apron Anxiety. Chocolate Shavings readers share some of their favourite food-related reads. I've added a few to my to-read list already! And if you haven't entered the giveaway, you have a few more days to do so here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Giveaway: Apron Anxiety

When I picked up Alyssa Shelasky's book Apron Anxiety, I really wasn't expecting much at all. To be honest, I was mostly looking for an easy read for my subway ride to and from work, and ended up really connecting with a lot of the storyline. I read it in a matter of days - with a mix of smiles, anger and understanding.

The book is part memoir, part food tale, part recipes but ultimately a story about falling in love with food. Some passages might make some food-lovers cringe - Alyssa is a self proclaimed simple eater with generally no desire for fussy, 'adventurous' foods, but her love affair with cooking is endearing and relatable for anyone who uses time in the kitchen as a moment of peace from the outside world.  And the cherry on the cake? Shelasky shares candid details about her relationship with Top Chef hottie Spike Mendelsohn - the one contestant I was rooting for week after week on tv. The book is honest, witty and well-written. On a personal note, the ins and out of living with a chef as described by Alyssa really hit home for me, and the details were surprisingly similar to my own personal life living with a busy doctor. 

I got to ask Alyssa a few questions about her book, so read on for her answers and details about how to win a copy of Apron Anxiety!

Was writing the book therapeutic for you? Was it difficult to be so brutally honest about your relationship, family and the events that took place in your life?

The telling of my story was not as therapeutic as the feeling of importance and relevance that writing the book gave me. I started the process at a time when I felt very small, and quite unsure of myself. I remember how ecstatic I felt even just getting an agent. I mean, even if the journey had stopped there, it was the jolt I needed to feel alive again. Then that was multiplied a million by writing a proposal; and once I actually go the book deal, it was just all-together mind-blowing. So, I think, this sense of challenge and accomplishment, professionally, was the most uplifting of all. Examining my life, spilling my heart out, all that's something I've always done!

I tried your mom's tomato and garlic spaghetti recipe from the book - it was amazing. Dead simple, but I could have eaten the whole bowl! What's your favorite recipe you share in the book? Was it difficult to narrow them down?

My self-imposed rule was that if a recipe took too long to type, or the explaining of it was too laborious, than I'd skip it! To me, the most delicious is the Gentleman Caller's Onion and Cumin Quiche. It's really delicious,and involving cumin plus preparing your own crust adds just a touch of sophistication. The most special is the Shepherd's Pie because in the intro to it, I mention someone, one of the best human beings I ever knew, who recently passed away--  and I'm just so happy there's a little part of him inside my first book.

Is there a particular dish that you find really challenging to master in the kitchen?

None from my book, but I have a hard time making fish dishes, as simple as they are. I'm just a wimp about it. I can't stand the smell or texture of most raw fish. My boyfriend is a health-nut and wants me to integrate more salmon into my homecooking, but I'm sorry, no, yuck.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Seared Scallops with Edamame

Working in a professional Test Kitchen definitely comes with numerous perks: for starters, you get to work with food most of the day (than in itself makes it a dream job in my book!), you have a playground to create recipes and new concepts, and you get to talk about food trends and food ideas on a daily basis! The only down side so far? Ironically, my love of food! We are surrounded by so many delicious concoctions that it's close to impossible not to overindulge. The art of restraint has never been my strongest suit, so this has been quite the challenge.

We are currently working on holiday recipes, re-visiting classics as well as inventing new sweet treats to serve to friends and family this coming holiday season. Between coming up with concepts, testing and re-testing recipes, we've gone through dozens and dozens of packs of butter, flour, sugar, cream, chocolate and various nuts.

Whether its a myriad of iced cakes, snowflake-shaped cookies or frosted yule logs, there's definitely something quite surreal about Christmas food displays in the midst of a warm Toronto spring.Although the kitchen smells like sweet gingerbread and candied fruit, the biggest challenge for me has been not to taste every dish that makes it to the testing table.Or maybe, to resist and have just one bite! I've always really loved the whole rituals that surrounds food, and, more often than not, I find it difficult not to order dessert. Needless to say, these past few weeks have been flirting with my sweet though. If you have any advice to share for a healthy balance in a Test Kitchen, I'm all ears!

In the meantime, let me share a deliciously healthy meal I prepared to counteract the sweetness overload at work! I love using edamame in salads and side dishes - they take a few minutes to make, are cooked straight from the freezer, and the non-shelled kind make a satisfying snack when sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Easy Weekend Brunch

When I have friends over for brunch - or most meals for that matter - I like to keep it simple. No fuss, no looking up new recipes, no over-thinking it. I choose a couple dishes I'm very comfortable making, think up a quick menu with a mix of sweet and savory options and try to pick at least one dish I can make ahead of time. These few steps are my tips for eternal stress-free entertaining! As for table decor, I like to add a few fresh blooms in mismatched vases and display them around the table. All easy and inexpensive, these little touches add a welcome dose of whimsy to a weekend morning.

The brunch I made this weekend fit the bill. I first made yogurt parfaits (by mixing Greek yogurt with honey, and layering slices of fresh strawberries). I topped these with a few spoonfuls of good granola and served them family-style, in a couple of pretty bowls. I made these a couple hours before my guests arrived, popped them in the fridge and topped them with the granola at the last minute. Next of my list were creamy scrambled eggs with feta and chives, with a side of crispy bacon (no time for a photo unfortunately!). This was the only tricky dish - you have to make this right when you want to serve it, but it's worth it, and what brunch would be complete without some sort of egg concoction?

Then, there was an easy homemade bread pudding using sweet challah (I used my base recipe and added raisins and vanilla paste to the mix). I toasted the leftover challah bread and served it with a couple jams - a orange and lemon one, and a classic strawberry. We washed it all down with dark coffee and freshly pressed orange juice.

I'm looking forward to many more of these kinds of brunches this summer!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quick Halloumi Salad

This weekend was in large spent getting our balcony ready for the summer months. Being lucky enough to have a pretty sizable outdoor space (by no means a terrace, but a pretty big balcony for Toronto standards!) we are growing tomatoes, and an array of herbs (chives, oregano and thyme are happily blossoming as we speak). Living in a crowded urban centre and working indoors most of the time, it's nice to set up a space that will help you spend as much time as possible outdoors. With a glass of fresh watermelon juice and a book (I'm currently reading Alyssa Shelasky's Apron Anxiety) we enjoyed our first real spring day of the year.

With less time to dedicate to the kitchen this weekend - shocking I know! - this halloumi salad was the quickest and most delicious substitute to a full-fledged meal. The salty, golden-brown halloumi mixed with an oozy egg and some peppery greens was exactly the dish that this newly discovered gardener was in the mood for!

Quick Halloumi Salad
Serves 2

6 1/4 inch thick slices of halloumi cheese
3 cups arugula
2 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add slices of halloumi cheese to a warm non-stick pan on medium heat (with no added fat). Cook the halloumi for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Set aside. Add vegetable oil to pan and crack the two eggs into the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In the meantime divide the arugula between two plates. In a small bowl whisk olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle over arugula and top with halloumi cheese and sunny-side-up egg.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Easiest Chocolate and Pear Pudding

Before I give you the recipe for this deliciously easy chocolate pudding - some food news! As most of you know, I've been working in the food realm for a few years now and, as of a couple weeks ago, started a new position as a Food Specialist for Canadian Living. Canadians will know the magazine I'm sure, and for all my non-Canadian readers - I hope you take a few minutes to take a look at the magazine's website.

I will be sharing some of my daily experiences with you on this blog and talking about life in a professional Test Kitchen.I`m excited for this new chapter - nothing makes me happier than spending my work hours creating recipes, writing about food and talking about today's relevant food-related issues. I hope you will be joining me on this culinary journey!

For the time being, I wanted to share a recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Pudding. I made a few changes to this basic pudding  and served it warm with a side of orange/mango sorbet. This was the easiest chocolate dessert and the perfect recipe to have on hand when you have a late night chocolate craving and not much in your fridge. It starts with plump canned pears - which help keep the pudding really moist. Although I usually prefer using fresh fruit, canned fruit really work here. They are plump and soft, and the extra juice they release gives the pudding a satisfying saucy consistency  This sure hits the spot!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting inspired in Paris

Every time I go home, I recharge, relax and get inspiration from what I can now say is the most beautiful city in the world. Sure, there are close seconds in my mind, but the beauty of Paris always finds its way to my heart. I always get inspired by the beauty of Parisian streets and the constant discovery of a new detail you hadn't noticed before. I usually come home with a slew of ideas for upcoming projects, and a paper-version of my Pinterest boards that I create by jotting detailed notes on small patterned notebooks. Although I grew up in Paris and have all my family still there, I find that I appreciate the city that much more now that I live away from it. I look at familiar streets with a new eye, and take the time to explore neighbourhoods that I sometimes took for granted when I had them surround me all year long.

I was in Paris last week and took a few hours to wander the Marche aux Puces of Sanit-Ouen. Walking through the small cobblestone streets with its vendors and old world aroma makes you feel like you, literally, just walked in to a scene in Midnight in Paris. You'll find everything here: from antique furniture, to period pieces to memorabilia of eras long gone. This time, I went looking for tableware inspiration and come back with a myriad of new ideas. I wanted to share some of my favourites with you, a virtual tour of my Paris, if you will.
Keep reading to see all of the photos from my trip...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outdoor Accessories

I'm spending a few days at my parents' home in Paris for a short vacation, so I apologize for the lack of posts! I will soon be back with many photos to share and stories to tell. I've discovered new restaurants (it seems that everytime I come home there is a full list of new places to try) and taken the time to walk around a few neighbourhoods I don't usually spend too much time in. Although the weather hasn't been very nice since I've arrived here, I've been making up for it by preparing for the warmer months. These pretty outoor accessories are my favourites for 2012.

Which of these would make a nice addition to your patio, balcony or terrace? I'm loving the bright touches of reds and yellows, it makes me want to sit outside with a homemade fruit juice and a few tasty nibbles. Here is the list of where each of these are from if you want to track them down:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DIY Easter Egg Decor

With Easter being a handful of days away only, I thought I would share some of the DIY Easter egg ideas I prepared for Style at Home this year. After long work week, I can't think of many more relaxing activities than spending a few hours doing something creative. These eggs all use different simple decorating techniques (using paint, stickers, glitter and tape) and are perfect to make with children or to prepare as decorations for a fancy Easter dinner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seared Scallops with Lemony Parmesan Peas

Have I declared my love of seafood on this blog before? If not, I must! I absolutely love seafood - some of my favourite childhood food memories include my mother and I heading to our local neighborhood market in Paris and getting delicious shellfish that we would enjoy for Sunday lunches with homemade mayonnaise. Favourites were always 'bigorneaux' (a sea snail), lobster and shrimp. For some reason, seafood always feels like a celebratory meal for me - maybe because it's more expensive than meat or chicken - or maybe just because I don't have it that often. Delicious, fresh - and decently priced - seafood is not always easy to find!

For this dish, I used wild Nova Scotian sea scallops which I buy frozen. This makes it more affordable (usually) and the scallops still taste fresh and plump. Having these on hand in my freezer has helped make scallops a more regular meal in our house. This dish also includes microgreens - healthy edible plants with a lovely bite - but you could replace these with pea shoots or baby spinach, or omit them altogether.Now for the recipe..!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cookbook giveaway: Norwegian Cakes and Cookies

Each month, I usually run a giveaway here with a cookbook I think my readers will enjoy. This month, I have a copy of  Norwegian Cakes and Cookies - a pretty cookbook that I hope will inspire you to cook up a few desserts that you've never made before. The book offers a beautiful repertoire of dessert recipes - many based on traditional Norwegian desserts with a modern twist. Acclaimed pastry chef Sverre Saetre shares some of his favourite recipes alongside some gorgeous food photos. Some standout recipes I can't wait to try are his Marzipan Cake with Strawberries, Raspberry Jam with Lychee and his Rhubarb Soup with Cinnamon and Sour Cream. It's often easy to get into a bit of kitchen routine and to make the same desserts over and over again. This book is the perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone - whatever it may be - and try something new!

To win your very own copy of this cookbook, simply let me know which dessert you've made most recently. The contest ends on April 12th 2012, at midnight. The winner will be drawn at random and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yellow Kitchen Accessories

I love brightening my kitchen with a little pop of colour. It makes the space inviting and cosy and makes me want to cook that much more. Somehow, yellow items always seem to make it to the top of my list of favourites so I thought I would share some of my current sunny kitchen crushes.

The start of spring has been incredibly warm here in Toronto -- it actually seems like we skipped a beat and fell right into summer. My lighter clothing is still in storage and only days ago I was still thinking about a couple stew and roast recipes I wanted to try. But there is no room to complain here so here are a few pretty items to get in the mood to entertain!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf with a Lemon Glaze

This post is the perfect platform to declare my love for meyer lemons. If you've never tasted one of these gorgeously sweet citrus, I hope it will be on your to-do list for the week! Meyer lemons are ideal to bake with and give that perfectly intense citrus flavour to sweet treats. This lemon loaf can, of course, be made with run of the mill lemons but try making it with organic meyer lemons if you can - you won't be disappointed!

As for this delicious dessert it comes together in minutes and features a mix of poppy seeds and lemon - a classic combination that usually pleases any palette!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dark Chocolate Medallions with Pistachios and Candied Papaya

I'm almost ashamed to write out a recipe for these delicious indulgences because they are so incredibly simply to make. These little dessert bites came about a few nights ago. Do you ever have a late night sugar craving you just can't soothe? It's not the most healthy feeling, but, let's face it, it happens to the best of us. I could have settled for a little piece of dark chocolate only but I knew I wanted to turn my craving into something I could share with all of you... and this is how these little chocolate discs made their way onto my kitchen counter. They take minutes to put together and are also perfect to serve with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon.

I've had different versions of these growing  up - they're called 'mendiants' and are basically chocolate discs topped with candied fruit. You can try these with different variations of fruits and nuts -  I love the combination of salty pistachios with sweet candied papaya but walnuts and candied orange are delicious too, as is candied lemon and toasted almonds! You can lay these out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, but I like to use a Silpat for projects like these.

Friday, March 2, 2012

DIY Coffee Table

Regular readers of this blog will notice that I've been sharing more and more home decor posts with all of you. The truth is, I've always been a lover of any creative DIY project, and my love of food has always been linked to my love of pretty tableware. So, it was only natural that I start sharing some of my decor inspiration with all of you! As a regular contributor for Style at Home, decorating is a topic I love to discuss during work hours as well as during my leisure moments.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lemon Meringue Chocolate Cake

 This past weekend was a weekend filled with indulgences. First, and foremost comes this cake - this decadent cake with its three separate layers of goodness: a delicious brownie-like chocolate cake whose centre is scooped out and filled with tangy homemade lemon curd that is then topped with meringue icing. Can you think of a more decadent dessert? This recipe was one of my favourite finds from the 10th anniversary edition of Donna Hay's magazine .

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine's Day Brownies

I didn't grow up celebrating Valentine's day. Should I even attempt the stereotypical sentence that Paris is romantic every day of the year and that we don't need a special day to celebrate love? I wouldn't dare. But the truth is, it's not a day of the year we that we're particularly attached to in France. Or at least not a day that really marked my young teenage years. I see a lot more marketing around the holiday when I go back to France now, but while I was in high school I saw it as a North American celebration that you really only understand from cheesy American movies.

Now that I live on this side of the world, I've got to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with it. Yes, it really is a consumer-driven holiday. The cards, the chocolate, the teddy bears, the teddy bears made of chocolate, the hearts, the flowers - is that really what we are waiting to receive? That part isn't really enticing to me in any way. However, the love part I'm all for. Although I don't believe in set days to remember to show affection, I will never say no to an added day of the year that's about a little bit of giddiness.

To mark the occasion, I've got an an easy update on a classic. Deliciously sweet brownies, all-dressed up for Valentine's Day! I like to use the Baked brownies (my all-time favourite!), cut the cooled brownies with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and add a few decorative Smarties.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011's Favourite Eats

2011 marks the year I got my very first iPhone. Before that, I was getting by with a fridge of a phone and, to tell you the truth, I was quite happy about it. I liked how little I was dependent on that type of technology and the fat numbers on the phone made me, more often than not, think twice before texting a friend. One of the things that really drove the change was being able to easily take pictures, everywhere, at any time. I have always been a very visual person - which in part explains me starting this blog years ago, while still a college student. Although, I love my camera it's just not feasible to always have it on me. My phone, on the other hand, is always accessible. I've been visually recording most of the delicious eats I've been trying since moving to Toronto a handful of months ago and these pictures remind me of every perfect bite. These are some of my favourite Toronto eats from Fall 2011 taken thanks to Instagram.

Lemon tarts at the Brick Street Bakery in the Distillery.
Brunch at Aunties and Uncles.
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