Sunday, December 25, 2011

Marshmallow Pops

I first wanted to wish a holiday holiday to all of you Chocolate Shavings readers. Your kind comments, emails and readership mean the world to me and make me want to write even after a long day. I hope your holidays are filled with great company, delicious food and a lot of love. Maybe even a few thoughtful gifts too!

For a simple festive treat, here is my recipe for marshmallow pops. These are delicious - and even better with homemade marshmallows!. You can make them as a part of a dessert buffet table or a simple indulgence for an afternoon party. Once the chocolate has set you can lay them out on platters or creatively display them upwards on a table. If you like marshmallows as much as I do, these are the treat for you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spiced Apple Cider and a Holiday Cookbook Giveaway

Can you believe how fast December has gone by so far? I have quite a few things left to do on my list and very little time do it in! This year, I'm spending the holidays in New York - it's the first time that I will be spending the holidays outside of a 'home' - we usually spend the time off at our family home in the South of France. Living in North America now, it always feels great to take the time to go to back to my French roots and recharge but we are switching it up this year! It won't be a home-cooked meal but it will be a delicious New York staple restaurant and instead of lazy days by the fire, we will be catching up with New York's busy Christmas streets. I'm wrapping a few small gifts for my family to pack in my suitcase - just a few presents that are sure to please. Sometimes the holidays end up being a hectic time of running back and forth trying to find the perfect gifts for one another - which in my family can be quite the challenge! Most of my immediate family is not materialistic in the least (which overall is a good thing!) but makes it difficult to attempt to pick something out. So this year, we are keeping it simple and sticking to what really matters in the end: spending time together. That might sound a tad cheesy but that's exactly what it's going to be!

And now for a very fitting recipe ....spiced apple cider! It's perfect for this time of year - soothing and filled with holiday flavours.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows

After putting up my Christmas tree this weekend, it seems that the holidays are really in full swing! During this hectic time of year - between holiday shopping, seeing friends and family and wrapping up a busy work year - there is often little time to sit back and relax. No matter how hectic it is, it's always healthy to take a little time to yourself and enjoy the simple pleasures. A warm cup of hot chocolate topped with mini marshmallows and a festive candy cane is a great place to start in my book!

Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows

Ingredients per mug
1-1/2 to 2 cups of milk
1 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
1 tbsp of bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
1 candy cane
5 or 6 mini marshmallows

Add the milk to a saucepan on medium high heat. Bring the milk to a high simmer and mix in the vanilla extract. Set aside.

In each mug, add the cocoa and chocolate chips. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure the mixture is homogeneous as you go.

Garnish with a candy cane and mini marshmallows. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gift Wrapping Ideas

It seems that a few days ago I looked at my calendar and September was just ending. How is it almost December? The one thing I systematically look forward to at this time of year is waiting for the first real snow fall. You know, that moment when the skies become white and fluffy, the city quiets down, and thick cotton-like fluffs fall from above in calming streaks? I might not love it as much come February, or March.. or April! but in December it has to be one of the most beautiful scenes nature has to offer.

The first snow fall hasn't hit Toronto yet, but we've been hard at work preparing for the holidays at the Style at Home offices! Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or just time off with friends and family, this time of year usually comes with wrapping a few gifts. I've prepared a few easy ideas to spice up your wrapping skills this year. What do you think? These are all you need to make something personal and pretty without spending a bundle.

To read more about these, take a look at my complete article here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday DIY project

The holidays are always an ideal time to start working on a few DIY projects. It's usually a great way to save some money but, for me, it's more importantly the perfect excuse to put some time aside to get creative. This is a very, very simple DIY project that will help bring on the holiday spirit. It's just about painting a few pine cones with a soft tone of gold and stacking them in a glass jar. I added a slate label secured with rustic rope. This decor item is ideal to brighten a kitchen counter (that's where mine is right now!) but also looks beautiful atop a mantel, a shelf or on a side table in a guest's room.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pea and Pancetta Soup

Oddly enough, the term 'comfort food' is not something I ever grew up hearing in France. I think it's because so much of the food really is, inherently, comfort food that it would make for quite a redundant label. From creamy potato puree, to seared duck breast, pot au feu (beef stew), salade de chevre chaud (frisee lettuce topped with melted goat cheese on crusty bread) to even just a cheese platter with a good baguette and cornichons (small French pickles) - there are very little foods in France that don't make you feel good inside. Our conception of food in France is something I have rarely seen elsewhere, if I have to be perfectly honest. The knowledge of food of even those who don't like to cook always strikes me a little when I make my way back home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Win a Kitchen Aid Mixer with our Holiday Cookie Swap

As readers of this site know, I 've been working for Style at Home for the past few months. The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for our food and home decor content, and I will be sharing some of my holiday articles with you in the next few weeks . For now, I wanted to let you in on a giveaway I thought all you bakers might be interested in!

We are putting together our first ever holiday Cookie Swap! We will be sharing delicious cookie recipes and photos from our readers. Starting on December 1st, all submissions will be published on our website. The best part? A lucky winner will receive a beautiful Kitchen Aid Stand mixer. You can take a look at all the rules and regulations here. The contest is open to all Canadian residents, excluding Quebec,

What are you favourite treats to make for a holiday cookie swap?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tarte Tatin and a Cookbook Giveaway

First things first ... tarte tatin! Have you ever had a slice of this delicious, upside down, caramel and apple tart? If not, I suggest you run through this post and give it a try as soon as you have a moment in the kitchen! This dessert is a real staple of my Parisian upbringing. Growing up, we had this tart for many different occasions, usually enjoying it warm with a melting scoop (or two!) of vanilla ice cream. This is really one of the staples of French cuisine and one of my favourites. It's a simple concept (apples, flaky dough, caramel) and the end result is not only gorgeous but incredibly delicious as well.

Invented by the Tatin sisters in France, this tart came about when the sisters were flooded with clients at their restaurant and came up with a clever way to recover their damaged traditional 'tarte aux pommes' (apple tart). The solution was to bake the tart up-side down, with the crust on top of the filling, and to flip the tart over once it was nicely caramelized by the butter and caramel used in the filling. This photograph doesn't really do the tart justice - but to tell you the truth, I made the tart in the evening and by the time it was out of the oven it was begging to be sliced... right then and there. An instagramed picture will have to do the trick for this post then!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Owl Cupcakes

This post will be a short one. I've been sick with a fall flu for the past couple days and have spent more time in bed than I care for. I miss my kitchen and the real desire for food! I still got myself to make these over the weekend, and it helped take my mind off of things for a little while. These cute little owls caught my eye on a couple different blogs and given the owl craze I recently blogged about and Halloween merely days away, it only seemed fair that I give these a try. The only tricky part to this recipe is separating the Oreo cookies to make the owl's eyes. My method included a flat knife and placing the Oreos for a couple seconds in the microwave. If you have any tips on how to perfectly separate the two halves - I'm a taker! Please leave a comment with your best tip!

Owl Cupcakes
- Use your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe and dark chocolate frosting.
- Separate oreos for the eyes
- Use smarties for the nose
- Junior mints for the pupil (dabbed with a tiny bit of frosting to make sure they stay put)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Roasted Heirloom Baby Carrots

There's often a misconception that making a healthy meal takes time and is not achievable on any given day of the week. This post is meant as an easy recipe to counter that approach! A couple weeks ago, I was asked what my tips were to eat healthy while saving time and money. My answer was to buy seasonally whenever you can. Seasonal produce is generally more flavourful, affordable and needs little to be turned into a delicious meal. These carrots are the perfect example. I purchased them at the Evergreen Brick Works farmers' market here in Toronto and they made the most perfect lunch. I simply roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs and served them alongside a sunny side-up egg and some crusty bread. With a glass of local fall apple cider, it's pretty close to the perfect lunch in my book! These baby carrots are so small and sweet that they barely need to be peeled and are so pretty on a plate with their different shades of oranges, yellows and purple. They're nothing better than a plate that screams autumn to make me happy to put on some boots, a warm scarf and make the best of falling leaves and crisp air.

This dish can be made with many other vegetables: try roasting some baby potatoes the same way or turnips and sweet potato. For quick meals, I like to use baby vegetables, but you can also chop your veggies in bite-size pieces. If you're making this for dinner, add some roasted salmon on top, or a nicely seared piece of chicken breast - or for a lighter meal, try it as I did, with a couple eggs, sunny side-up.

In other recent news, a couple articles I had been working on were published in the Food and Beverage section of National Post this week. I interviewed a few bloggers for the piece - Deeba from Passionate about Baking, Matt from WrightFood and Kevin from Closet Cooking as part of an article on kitchen tools, as well as MacKenzie from Grilled Cheese Social, about her love and passion for the world of toasted bread and melted cheese. You can take a look at the articles here!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No-bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Sandwiches

As I've mentioned here before, Halloween wasn't celebrated in France when I was growing up. I remember learning about trick or treat and dressing up while watching Friends and other TV shows, and from my American friends at school. The only time I celebrated it was in elementary school. We had a British nanny for a little while in Paris who took care of me and my brother while my parents were hard at work during the day. She sewed a matching pumpkin outfits for her and myself, complete with little tiny pumpkin hats. It was ridiculously cute.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Owl-themed decor for your home

Readers of this blog will know that I love blogging about food as well as fun and pretty home decor accessories, tableware and DIY projects. Working for Style at Home also means that I get to look at beautiful homes everyday, as well as design trends and new ways of updating your space. I'm constantly inspired to re-do parts of my apartment and on the constant lookout for pretty new pieces.

This week, I wrote about how owls-inspired accessories have become a real decor trend - they have been popping up on so many different items and can help add a whimiscal touch to your space. Here are some of my favourite finds.

What item is your favourite?
{1} Embroidered owl pillow cover
{2} Antique owl globe
{3} Owl organic dessert plate
{4} Creature kingdom hook
{5} Patterned owl print
{6} Owl catch-all dish
{7} Baby owl earrings

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Parmesan and Herb Mashed Potatoes

With Thanksgiving only days away here in Canada I thought I would post an easy side dish recipe that pairs wonderfully with deliciously moist turkey and sides such as green bean salad or beet puree. I certainly didn't grow up celebrating Thanksgiving (it's obviously not a holiday of any kind in France!) but it's a tradition I have come to embrace since moving to North America. There's a little French touch in all the dishes I like to serve for the big day - and it's been a nice way to bring in a little of my upbringing and culture into the mix.

For this potato puree, I added some fresh herbs and some good quality Parmesan cheese to a classic buttery mashed potato recipe. These few easy additions help turn simple mashed potatoes into something a little more special.

For more of my Fall recipes, take a peak at Canadian Gardening. What will you be serving this Thanksgiving?

Parmesan and Herb Mashed Potatoes

8 large Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of good quality Parmesan shavings
2 tablespoon of finely chopped parsleySalt and freshly cracked black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Add the potatoes to a stockpot and fill with cold water to cover. Add a couple teaspoons of coarse kosher salt and bring to a boil.

Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are completely cooked and tender. Drain the potatoes and immediately return to the warm stock pot.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until they begin to break down, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and mash vigorously to melt. Add the milk and mash again until the mixture is smooth and silky. If the mixture is too chunky for your liking add a couple more tablespoons of milk.

Once the potatoes have reached the desired consistency, fold in the Parmesan cheese and herbs. Add a couple good pinches of salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DIY Pumpkin Decor

With Canadian Thanksgiving days away and the beautiful Fall season upon us, what better than to infuse our homes with a little seasonal decor? I've put together a few easy DIY ideas using mini pumpkins. To get all the tips to make these centerpieces at home, take a look at my DIY piece on Style at Home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Millionaire's Shortbread and an Ode to Blogging

As I was taking the time out of a busy day to prepare this blog today, it dawned on me how much time I've spent on this site for the past four or so years. There are so many blogs on the internet these days that it can sometime seem like the virtual world is over-saturated and then some. It seems so easy log on to Blogger or Wordpress and start your very own little publication sphere. I think in a way, this has undermined how much dedication it takes to consistently run a blog. For my part, I know that sometimes, no matter how much I love interacting with readers and how much I love sharing my passion for food, I really have to pull through to get a blog post up. As Chocolate Shavings has steadily grown, I sometimes find myself being too much of a perfectionist. There are so many dishes that don't make it on to this blog because I feel like I haven't gotten my recipe exactly where I want it or because I feel like the photos I just took of a dish do not do it justice. There have definitely been countless, countless times where food had been brought to the table at room temperature because I wanted to take the very best shot I could.

All this is to say that sometimes it's easy to take a blog for granted - to quickly browse through a couple pages of a blog, maybe bookmark a recipe or just glance over recent content. I've done it, and I'm sure you have too. The term 'blogging' often gets a bad reputation as well. There is a sense that anybody could be a blogger, that anybody can jot down their thoughts of the day and quickly press 'publish' for the world to see. But being a dedicated, regular blogger really does take time It's often like running your own mini magazine, alone and to offer the content free of charge for all to enjoy. My goal with this post is really just to give fellow bloggers a real pat on the back. The realm of blogging was just a hobby when I started during college and has, in many ways, help me jump-start my career. It's what made me want to go to culinary school, what gave me the continued dedication to write on a regular basis and what got me my first commercial photography job. I owe a lot to the blogging world, and this is my small way of giving back.

So why not indulge with a slice of Millionaire's shortbread?

Millionaire's Shortbread
Adapted from Claire Robinson

2 sticks butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for preparing pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing pans
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Caramel Layer:
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
Chocolate Topping:
3/4 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 (8-inch) square nonstick pans and coat with flour, tapping off excess. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse once. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles peas. Press the shortbread mixture into prepared pans and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Caramel Layer:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Continue stirring over the heat until mixture becomes thick and amber in color, about 15 minutes. Pour the caramel over the cooked shortbread and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Topping:
In a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Once chocolate has melted, pour it over the cooled caramel layer. Cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and then place in the refrigerator to cool completely, allowing chocolate to slightly harden but not get hard. Cut into 2-inch squares and enjoy, or store in an airtight container, at room temperature, or my favorite - keep in the refrigerator for a yummy sweet and cool treat!

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Cod and Country Cookbook giveaway

A few weeks ago, I told you about a special project I have been working on relating to sustainable fishing. This week's giveaway is a great extension of this theme and the perfect way to keep the conversation about what we decide to put on our table going.For Cod and Country has to be one of the most mouth-watering cookbooks I've had the pleasures of reading through this year. Being in the food business, I spend a fair amount of my work hours and free time reading about new cookbooks. This one really is a gem. Chef Barton Seaver seems to exactly know the kind of food I want to be eating! Recipes like Trout and Autumn Squash with Roast Garlic and Pecans, Halibut with Ginger-Raisin Crust or Salmon Carpaccio with Grilled Lemon and Herbs are just a few of the recipes that first drew me to this book

But most importantly maybe, Barton Seaver discusses all the issues that come with the way so much of our fish and seafood gets to our supermarkets and tables. He offers some suggestions to be more gentle to our planet and understand what we can individually do to eat more ethically. Simple changes like thinking of eating fish seasonally or eating smaller portions of fish with plenty of vegetables around it are workable solutions to becoming better eaters.

To win your very own copy of this cookbook, simply let me know if there are any changes you have made to your diet to eat more ethically and responsibly. Leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's Facebook page with your answer. You can write a comment on both platforms and your name will be entered in the contest twice. The contest ends on October 2nd, 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!

Congratulations to Natalie from Once Upon a Cutting Board, the lucky winner of this cookbook giveaway!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cauliflower with Olives and Herbs

When planning for a meal, a lot of us think of which fish or meat to prepare but don't necessarily give that much thought to what it will be served with. Side dishes, as their name suggests, are often an afterthought and not the protagonist of the meal. While simple salads, pasta and rice are lifesavers during busy workweeks, it's practical to have a few simple, healthy side dishes that you can quickly whip up and that will add to whatever it is that you're serving.

French cooking is pretty brilliant when it comes to tasty side dishes. I grew up eating a variety of delicious side dishes that could almost make a meal on their own. Some of my favourites are garlicky haricots verts, butter-glazed carrots, "poireaux vinaigrette" (velvety soft leeks with dressing), endive salad with Rochefort, walnuts and apple. This cauliflower dish came about after browsing through a couple of Mark Bittman's cookbooks, and I've added it to my list of easy side dishes that turn a meal from ordinary to one filled with colour and flavour.

What are some of your favourite side dishes?

Cauliflower with Olives and Herbs
Serves 4

1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup of nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup of bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a hot pan on medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the cauliflower in one layer and leave untouched for 3-4 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to brown. Give the pan a stir and add the olives, parsley and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir until the bread crumbs are golden and toasty. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Berry Roundup

With the summer months slowly winding down, I thought it would be the perfect time for a berry roundup and a celebration of the best that summer has to offer. These recipes are my favourite berry-filled treats are are the sweet dishes I find myself missing in the colder months. I do always have some good frozen raspberries or strawberries in the freezer but there's something about knowing you can go get perfectly plump berries from the market to transform into something special. If you were to open my fridge today, you would find baskets of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and lemons. The vivid colours always make me want to whip up something fresh, crisp and tasty.

For my all-time favourite berry recipes, from left to right:
Raspberry Semifreddo
Berry Crumble
Red Berry and Basil Granita
Strawberry Tarts
Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream
Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes with Raspberries

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blue Horizon - a special project I have been working on

For a few months, I have been hinting about a special project I’ve been working on. I can finally reveal what it is! I’ve been working with Blue Horizon, a sustainable seafood company based in California. Blue Horizon’s products are available at many different retailers across the US and Canada, and most notably at Whole Foods. I have been in charge of styling and photographing Blue Horizon’s line of products and help convey everything the company stands for.

The projects that I take on are always ones that I feel a particular affiliation for– and this project was no different. Blue Horizon is committed to sustainable fishing practices, and only uses fish and seafood caught from environmentally sustainable, small community-based fisheries. They use all-natural ingredients without synthetic growth hormones or preservatives. Blue Horizon’s commitment to ethical fishing techniques and its mandate against any practices that participate in destroying the ocean’s ecosystem was one of the aspects that first really drew me to work with this company. We worked for several weeks finding the look for the packages. Blue Horizon wanted their packages to be a reflection of what they stand for. We thus worked on achieving a look that would convey the freshness of the products and remind consumers of the the richness of the ocean as well artisanal fisheries.

In a world where food production often fails to respect moral standards, eating responsibly has been increasingly important for me. Blue Horizon is taking several steps in the right direction and I couldn’t be more proud to have contributed to such a great company. Here is a glimpse of some of my will soon be able to find the rest of the packages in stores! If you’re curious to find out more about sustainable fishing practices and how to always buy ethically caught fish, visit Blue Horizon’s website. You can also sign up for their newsletter here where you will receive a special discount coupon to try some of their goodies.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Veggie-Packed Crustless Quiche

The only slightly tedious part of making quiche is taking the time to make a good homemade dough. For that reason, it can be hard to make quiche on a busy weeknight. I also find that dough usually makes for a heavy meal, especially in the evening. This recipe is my solution to the issue - crustless quiche! My recipe is packed with baby spinach, zucchini and feta. It's perfect straight out of the oven and maybe even better the day after, at room temperature with a nice green salad.

This quiche also works great with leftovers. Try it with some leftover roast chicken, peppers, goat cheese or prosciutto and pour the quiche mixture over top.

Veggie-Packed Crustless Quiche
Serves 4-6

5 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
A pinch of nutmeg
5 heaping cups of baby spinach
1 medium zucchini
1 tsp of dried oregano
1/4 cup of Parmesan
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 425F. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the cream, milk, nutmeg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Reserve.

In a pan on medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the spinach and cook until it just starts to wilt, for 4-5 minutes. In the meantime, grate the zucchini. Place the zucchini in a dish towel and ring out as much liquid as possible. Add to the just wilted zucchini. fold in the dried oregano and cook for 1-2 minutes. Place the spinach and zucchini on a chopping board and coarsely run your knife through the mixture. Add to the milk and cream mixture. Fold in the feta and half of the Parmesan Pour into a 9 x 1.5 inches greased pie plate. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the quiche is golden brown. Leave to cool for a couple minutes and unmold onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with a green salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mint and Watermelon Juice

As most of my French readers will know, August is really a national holiday month in France. Every year, most of the locals leave the crowded city for a couple weeks and make their way to the many beach towns in France. Growing up, August was always that month where things got relaxing, where you forgot about the busy rhythm of everyday life and just enjoyed spending time with friends, family or both. For us, it usually meant making our way the South West of France, near Biarritz and feasting on deliciously fresh dishes, relaxing by the water and catching up with one another.

This year is the first that I am not making the trip back home. I started working for and have been busy setting up shop here in Toronto. With the warm days still in full swing and a big balcony that I am attempting to transform into an urban oasis, I've had no other choice but to bring the holiday bliss to my doorstep. One of the best ways to do that has been to sit back with an ice-cold drink, a sundress and some good company. This watermelon juice recipe has been my go-to drink for the past couple summers. It's inspired by the watermelon juice from Cafe Gitane, one of my favourite restaurants in New York. while I was a student at the French Culinary Institute in nearby Soho, I often made my way to this quaint little cafe for a late afternoon snack or early dinner. Their watermelon juice is amazing. This is my version of the drink - it's a perfectly refreshing glass of bright pink goodness.

Mint and Watermelon Juice

1 large watermelon, seeded and cubed
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1/2 lemon, juiced
A small handful of fresh mint, coarsely torn

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat until the sugar has just dissolved. Let cool. Place the watermelon pieces in a blender and blend until smooth. Place in a pitcher and add the sugar water. Stir. Add the lemon juice and mint. Serve in large glasses with ice cubes and a slice of fresh watermelon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Carrots 'N' Cake Giveaway

It's time for another giveaway folks! I will be giving a copy of Carrots 'N' Cake to one lucky Chocolate Shavings' reader. This book stems from the popular Carrots 'N' Cake blog. You will find plenty of recipes as well as stories about its author, Tina Haupert, and how she managed to find a livable and practical way to be healthy. The book will give you tips on how make wise food choices without giving up the things that you love.

In other news, I've been exploring Toronto as much as possible since moving here. I've tried dozens of restaurants already and am getting a better idea of this city in terms of its variety of food offererings. Understanding a city through its food is the ideal to really understood the core of a place: its origins, people, history. It's been great. Toronto really is the most multi-cultural area I have ever lived in.. even more so than New York! I wil be sharing some more of my experiences in a few, so stay tuned!

Back to our giveaway: here is how to enter! leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's Facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Simply let me know what eating healthy means for you and what your struggles with it are. The contest ends on August 28th, 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!

Congratulations to Isabelle of Crumb, the lucky winner of this cookbook!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No-Bake Peach Bars

I've been recipe testing to find a great no-bake, fruit-filled dessert for the summertime...and here it is! These bars hit the spot for me -they're easy to make, there's no need to turn on a warm oven and it makes the best of fresh fruit. Softening the peaches for a few minutes really makes a big difference as the peaches release their natural juices and becomes perfectly velvety. These bars are a little gooey so I suggest enjoying them with a fork!

No-Bake Peach Bars

1 1/2 cups of dried prunes
1/4 cup of raw macademia nuts
3 tbl rolled oats
1 tsp of honey
4 peaches, pitted
2 tsp of brown sugar
a small knob of butter

Pulse prunes, nuts, oats and honey in a food processor. Lightly butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and line tightly with plastic wrap making sure the wrap goes over the sides of the pan. Press down the prune mixture at the bottom of the pan using the back of a spoon or pressing down above a sheet of parchment paper if the mixture is too sticky to properly even out.

Add the butter to a small pan on medium heat. Cut the peaches into quarters and sprinkle with the sugar. Add to the pan when the butter starts to foam. Cook until the peaches just start to soften. Lay the peaches snugly over the prune mixture. Fold the extra plastic wrap over the peaches and leave to set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cut into triangles and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mini Pita, Haloumi and Zucchini Pizzas

Have you had haloumi cheese before? Haloumi really is one of my favourite cheeses to cook with. It's great in sandwiches, to top salads and even to use on top of your favourite burgers during this summer's BBQ season. Haloumi in often used in Middle Eastern cuisine and has that perfect mix of saltiness and sturdiness - which makes it the ideal cheese to grill and melt.

This recipe was born out of a desire to make weeknight meals more exciting and easier to put on the table. During this time of year, there is no excuse not to use seasonal produce. I tend to move away from heavy meals (especially for dinner) and to concentrate on crisp, fresh dishes that I can get to the table in minutes. These pizzas really hit the spot in our household - I use mini pitas as a base (for all those times when making fresh pizza dough just isn't an option)and pack them with fresh veggies and gooey cheese. The pita also helps make the pizzas lighter and ensures that you have a paper-thin crust that will cook in no time. These are also really perfect for entertaining - the pizzas cook in a flash and are great to enjoy outdoors, with an ice-cool glass of watermelon juice (recipe to come soon!).

And on another note, the winner of my Clean Start Cookbook giveaway is Marcella - congratulations!

Mini Pita, Haloumi and Zucchini Pizzas

Makes 12 mini pizzas

6 mini whole wheat pitas
1/4 cup of olive oil + 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic, very finely minced
1/4 tsp of dried oregano
1 small green zucchini
1 small yellow zucchini
1 good squirt of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of pitted Greek olives
6 medium thick slices of Haloumi cheese
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Preheat your oven to 400F. Carefully cut each pita in half lengthwise to get two round bases. Lay out the pitas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, inside facing up.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, Parmesan, garlic and oregano and generously brush the mixture on each pita half. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of zucchini and place in a bowl. If the strips are too large, cut them in half lengthwise using a small paring knife. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes and olives. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper and gently toss to coat. Don’t add too much salt as the Haloumi and olives are both quite salty.

Evenly lay out the zucchini, tomato and olives on each piece of pita, leaving a small border. Cut each slice of Haloumi cheese into 2 or 3 pieces and add them evenly to each pita. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the zucchini just starts to wilt. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July Cookbook Giveaway!

As promised, here is the Chocolate Shavings cookbook giveaway of the month! I'm giving a copy of Clean Start, Inspiring you to Eat Clean and Live Well to one lucky reader! The summer being in full swing, it's really the perfect time to start eating right (if you weren't before!) Terry Walters' book is a wonderful resource for all of us who love food but also want to properly nourish our bodies and eat healthy, delicious, balanced meals. The book takes you through a variety of methods to eat right. The book is based on some pretty fundamentals principals: eat local whenever you can, know where your food comes from, read labels carefully but try to avoid food that need them - and eat foods with beautifully vivid colours with a lot of healthy greens. Terry Walters' gives you some easy to follow tips with some fabulous meals ideas using some ingredients you'll love to add to your diet like miso, ginger root and tofu.

Here are just a few of the mouth-watering recipes you will find in the book: Maple Mustard and Tahini Glazed Carrots, Green Beans with Figs and Pistachios in Balsamic Reduction, Rhubard Cream with Strawberries and Candied Ginger.

To win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Simply let me know what healthy meals you like cooking the most. If you haven't been cooking a lot of healthy meals lately, poke around the recipes on Chocolate Shavings and comment on the ones you'd like to try! The contest ends on July 28th, 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!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Favourite Tomato Recipes

Have you been the feeling the heat as much as we have here in Toronto? It's been incredibly warm and humid these past few days, the kind of temperatures that make you want lighter meals paired with a ice cold drink!

As the full swing of summer is making its way, I thought I would do a little roundup of my favourite tomato recipes to enjoy all summer long!

- Pita Sandwiches with Flank Steak, Tomato and Avocado and Lemony Yogurt Sauce
- Homemade Tomato Sauce
- Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic-Infused Oil and Goat Cheese
- Fresh Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese Cream and Oregano

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What to do with Leftovers? Roast Chicken Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

This is the very first recipe of a new series I'm starting here on Chocolate Shavings. "What do with Leftovers" will bring you some fun and easy ideas to effectively use leftovers and turn them into dishes that will feel new. If your kitchen is anything like mine, there is often a plethora of foods to sample... which usually means a lot of leftovers! Roast chicken is a very common leftover in our house. Let's face it, no matter how moist and flavourful the chicken was straight out of the oven, once it's been in the fridge overnight it tends to get a little dry. Using chicken in a well balanced salad really gives it a new life. The key is to thinly shred the chicken and to make sure there is enough dressing on the chicken itself. This salad is, of course, very versatile. All the ingredients used here meld wonderfully with chicken, but don't hesitate to use any other leftovers you might have in the fridge. I've made this with soft crumbled goat cheese, toasted almonds, mandarin oranges, and baby spinach leaves...

Roast Chicken Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves 2

1 Roasted chicken breast, discarding the skin
1 cup of chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 avocado, sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 mini mozarella ball, sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
6 caper berries
3 basil leaves, coarsely torn
A few Parmesan shavings

Shallot Dressing:
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 good squirt of lemon
1 tablespoon of very finely diced shallots
A good pinch of salt and pepper
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients

Add all the salad ingredients to your serving bowl. Right before serving, add the dressing and mix well. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Few Favourite Bites

It's been a little silent over here lately, but the wait is up! There will be plenty of new recipes coming this way soon but in the meantime I leave you with some of my favourite photos from a recent trip to France.

1. Red Mullet Served Over Sauteed Vegetables 2. Melon from the Local Market 3.Salmon Carpaccio 4. Charcuterie Plate with Chorizo, Jambon de Bayonne, Saucisson and Caper Berries 5.Beautiful Roses to Brighten up Any Kitchen Table 6. Colourful Carrots!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jenn's Favourite Kitchen Things: Mellow Yellow

It's been a little silent around here lately - I'll explain why very soon! In the meantime, I’m launching a new section here on Chocolate Shavings: Jenn's Favourite Kitchen Things! As well as having a never-ending passion for everything culinary, I’ve always had a particular interest for how we decide to decorate our tables and display our food. This summer, yellow is my color of choice! Here are some of my favourite items to add a bright, crisp, colourful splash of yellow to your dining table.

1. Yellow Pitcher
2. Modernist Bowl
3. Ice Cream Scoop
4. Pomeroy Yellow Candle Pot
5. Sunshine Tea Towel
6. Beam Mug
7. Spun Vase
8. Coiling Dots Mug
9. Radio Yellow Plate
10. Yellow Fork
11. Marimekko Pieni Unikko Lime Tray

Monday, May 23, 2011

A taste of Summer: Shrimp, Cherry Tomato and Oregano Bucatini

As the weather is getting warmer, I've been craving light pasta dishes tossed with fresh ingredients and a mix of vibrant colours. This dish fits the bill pretty perfectly! I like using different types of pasta to spice up weeknight meals and the bucatini works beautifully in this one. It's a thicker cut than spaghetti with a nice bite and swirls wonderfully amongst the fresh cherry tomatoes, peas and shrimp. I also like finishing off these types of pasta dishes with a few simple steps: a little lemon juice (to brighten up all the flavours), some fresh herbs and a few creamy feta cubes. It's really the perfect spring or summer meal!

Shrimp, Cherry Tomato and Oregano Bucatini

Serves 2

Bucatini for 2
4 garlic cloves, thinly minced
12 shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup of diced feta
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
4 sprigs of fresh oregano (leaves roughly torn)
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Add the peas to the pasta pot when there are 5 minutes of cooking time left.

While the pasta is cooking, place a pan on low heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the garlic and stir to coat. Add the shrimp with a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the shrimp just becomes pink and opaque. Remove from the heat and add the cherry tomatoes. Once the pasta and peas are cooked, drain and add to the pan with 2 teaspoons of pasta water and return to medium low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice, zest, cream, feta and oregano.

Transfer to a serving platter adding a good drizzle of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway

I bring you a wonderful cookbook giveaway this week - Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.Loyal readers of this site know that I'm continuously experimenting with new ingredients in the kitchen. One of my latest ventures has been trying new recipes using different types of flour. From spelt, to whole wheat, to kamut - it's really changed the way I bake and has brought a myriad of textures to my baked goods.

When I was approached by Maria Speck about her Ancient Grain for Modern Meals cookbook, I knew this book would be right up my alley. It's full of wholesome and delicious recipes using whole grains and quick-cooking grains with fresh Mediterranean flavours. It will help you experiment with ingredients such as spelt, quinoa, farro and barley as well as polenta, buckwheat and millet. There are a lot of useful tips to master the art of cooking with grains and dozens of mouth-watering recipes to try. Some of the top ones on my list are Parmesan Polenta with Rosemary Oil Drizzle, Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Tangy Parsely Sauce and Spelt Crust Pizza with Fennel, Prosciutto and Apples.

To win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Just let me know what your experience cooking with grains is. The contest ends on May 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!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Scones

Scones always brings back oodles of good memories for me. There used to be a big Marks & Spencer grocery store in Paris when I was growing up. As I've mentioned here before, my mom and I would love to stop by there every once in a while and pick up scones with some thick double cream and jam. It was the perfect indulgence.

Savory scones are certainly less common, but they really are a wonderful treat as well. These come packed with sweet onion jam and chunks of blue cheese. It's quite a strong flavour combination, but I absolutely love it. The onion jam can, of course, be purchased at most gourmet stores from a jar, but preparing it at home makes it really special. It's not hard to make, it just takes a little time. The only thing to be prepared for is that the onions reduce incredibly so all the meticulous onion chopping job results in a pretty small quantity of jam, once cooked. It's a good idea to make a big batch of the jam - it's absolutely delicious on top of pizza (and then layered with figs and goat cheese), as it is spread on crusty baguette topped with roasted beef and roasted red peppers.

These scones are a nice afternoon treat when you're not in the mood for something sweet, and also work wonders as a complement to a cheese platter. And, really, what's not to like about a cheesy warm scone?

Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Scones

Makes 16 hefty scones
Adapted from Good to the Grain

For the dry mix:
1 1/2 cups of graham flour
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tbl sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the wet mix:
4 oz (one stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4oz of good blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup of buttermilk
3/4 cup onion jam
1/4 cup honey

Move the two oven racks to the upper and lower third positions and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone mat.

Find a ruler at least 9-inches long and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. If there are any bits left in the strainer, add to the sifted mixture.

Add the cubed, cold butter to the dry ingredients and using your hands or a pastry blender break down the butter until it breaks down into pieces as small as crumbs and as large as squashed peas. Stir the crumbled blue cheese into the mixture and refrigerate the bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, onion jam and honey. Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently combine the two until everything is incorporated and the dough looks wet but crumbly.

Generously flour a work surface and dump out the dough. Using your floured hands, gently move around the dough and knead until a soft ball can be formed. The dough should be dry enough that it doesn’t stick to the counter but wet enough that a knife will stick when cutting through it. Using your hands or a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 9 by 7-1/2 inch rectangle about 1-inch thick.

Using a knife or a bench scraper slice the rectangle first into 4 rectangles, then each rectangle into 4 rectangles yielding 16 2-1/4 by 2-inch scones. Place the scones on the two prepared baking sheets and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Bake for 22-24 minutes, rotating the baking sheet 180 degrees around halfway through. The scones are finished baking when the tops are golden brown and the blue cheese starts to ooze out and starts to caramelize on the baking sheet.

At this point, the scones can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and baked just before serving. Or, you can freeze the formed dough for 2 hours on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Onion Jam
2 pounds of yellow onions, about 7 1/2 cups, sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt (use less if you are using regular salt)
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Peel the onions and cut them in half. Slice them into 1/4 inch slices.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onions, salt and pepper and stir to coat the onions. Saute the onions for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The edges of the onions should begin to brown. Turn the flame to low, cover the pot and cook for another 20 minutes.

Uncover the pan, stir the onions and continue to cook for 1 hour. Make sure to stir often to make sure the onions do not burn. The onions are ready when the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark, translucent and jammy. Stir in the vinegar and allow to cool. The onion jam will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 month.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pear and Chocolate Loaf

This recipe came about when I realized I had a few leftover pears that I wanted to put to good use. I wanted to make an easy dessert that would combine both pears and chocolate -a heavenly combination! Pear pieces, when baked in this type of loaf, soften and meld beautifully with the other flavours to create an airy yet incredibly tasty treat. A little orange zest really boosts the flavours and lightens the cake and the simple citrus icing makes the loaf that much more special.

This loaf could also be served at breakfast, in which case I would suggest omitting the icing. The loaf is incredibly versatile: it's perfect as the first sweet bite of the day, as well as for an afternoon snack or for dessert, anytime. And, the best part? It takes minutes to put together!

Pear and Chocolate Loaf

40 grams of bittersweet chocolate
140 grams of butter, softened to room temperature
150 grams of granulated sugar
2 eggs
160 grams of all purpose flour
1 tsp of baking powder
2 pears (not too ripe)
1 orange, zested
40 grams of cocoa

1 cup of confectioner's sugar
2 tsps of lemon juice

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and reserve. In a mixer bowl, add the softened butter and sugar. Beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Fold in the cooled melted chocolate.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 batches, beating the mixture until just homogeneous. Add the orange zest.

Peel and core the pears and cut them into small bite-size pieces. Add the pear to the batter and fold until the pear is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Place the batter to set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425F. Remove the batter from the fridge and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, and lower the temperature to 350F. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out just clean.

Let the loaf cool for a few minutes and gently unmold onto a cooling rack.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Add the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice to a bowl and whisk. The consistency of the icing must be thin enough to spread on top of the cake, but thick enough to be opaque. Add a few drizzles of water until you reach the perfect consistency. Once the loaf has completely cooled down, drizzle the icing on top of the loaf and carefully even out using an offset spatula or flat butter knife. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

With the Easter long weekend just around the corner, it's the perfect time to make a warm batch of Hot Cross Buns! Check out my full post for these delicious treats on Style at Home. What will you be making this Easter?

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12 buns

1 cup of whole milk
1 package of active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of bread flour
1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/4 cup of chopped candied lemon peel
1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp of water

1 1/4cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tbl of milk
1 tsp of lemon juice

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it reaches 100-110 degrees. Remove from the heat immediately and pour into a mixer bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and butter. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and mix on medium speed until the mixture is homogenous. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix until just incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix the flours, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the dough. Knead until the mixture starts to form a sticky dough (4-5 minutes).
Add the golden raisins and candied peel and knead until the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Pour the dough into a lightly greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Once the dough has about doubled in size, shape the dough into small tight balls (each should hold in the palm of your hand). Lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the balls of dough have expanded and are touching.
Preheat your oven to 400F. Using the beaten egg white and water mixture, brush a light coating of egg onto each bun. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Let the buns cool completely before glazing.
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients to make the glaze. Place the glaze in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch tip and make a cross design on each bun. Using scissors or a knife separate the buns and serve.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Creamy Mustardy Chicken with Haricots Verts and Red Onions (and a Giveaway!)

First of all, here is one of my recipes for the ultimate one-pot meal. It's perfect for any weeknight when you're looking for something comforting and nutritious without spending hours in the kitchen. I love using creme fraiche and mustard to give flavour to the chicken. It's such an easy marinade and really helps to keep the chicken tender. Haricots verts also work wonderfully with this combination. I have a soft spot for haricots verts as they were one of the vegetables I ate the most growing up in Paris. My mom boils them in salted water and tosses them with minced garlic, good olive oil and sea salt. If you can't find haricots verts, you can definitely make this dish with regular green beans but I love the more delicate flavour and thin texture of haricots verts.

I also bring you a fabulous giveaway this week. Sterling Publishing is giving away a copy of Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love to one lucky Chocolate Shavings reader. Cristina Ferrare hosts a cooking show on Oprah's OWN network and is a New York Times best-selling author. Her cookbook includes many mouth-watering recipes like Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta, Mustard-crusted Salmon and Peach Crumble.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page and let me know what dishes you are most looking forward to trying this spring. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. The contest ends on April 28th at midnight and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. I will draw the winner at random. Good luck!

Creamy Mustardy Chicken with Haricots Verts and Red Onions
Serves 3-4

6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 large red onion cut into bite size pieces
200 grams of haricots verts
1/2 cup of creme fraiche
2 heaping tablespoons of grainy mustard
1/2 large lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375F. Heat a large cast iron pan on medium high heat. Pat the drumsticks dry and generously season with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of vegetable oil to the pan and place the chicken, skin side down once the oil is hot. Leave the chicken to brown, untouched for 2-3 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up and remove the pan from the heat. Scatter the haricots verts and red onion around the chicken.

In a small bowl add the creme fraiche, grainy mustard, lemon and minced garlic. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are just tender. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kitchen Favourites

I often get asked what kitchen accessories I couldn’t live without. For me, it’s often the small things that make cooking a smooth and fun process. I’ve compiled some of my favourites kitchen items to share with you. They are all pretty inexpensive items that make cooking and baking as easy as pie. What are some of your favourites? To read my full post, visit Style at Home.

1 Stainless steel knife rack
This is really the most efficient way to store knives. In a minute, knives are safely put away and readily accessible.

2 Kuhn knives
Paring knifes are one of the most useful tools to perform small tasks in the kitchen. I love the range of colours Kuhn offers. They are also made with a carbon steel blade which helps keep them sharp.

3 Apple tea towel
The designs at Ferm Living are absolutely stunning. I love their organic cotton kitchen towels — they have the perfect pop of colour for any kitchen space.
4 Silicone tongs
Most chefs do not use tongs in professional kitchens but I find them to be one of the most useful tools in a home kitchen. The silicone ensures you won’t scratch the surface of your pans.

5 Garlic press
This incredibly inexpensive tool is ideal for mincing garlic in seconds.

6 Mixing bowls
I use mixing bowls for seasonings, marinades and garnishes. I love these bowls from Anthropologie. Stacked on a shelf in different colours, they are beautifully functional.

7 Silicone baking mat
This silicone mat does not need to be greased and is completely non-stick. It’s perfect for making any type of cookie and replaces parchment paper.

8 Microplane
This is my absolute favourite! You can use it to grate zests, chocolate and parmesan cheese.

9 White silicone cookie spatula
This silicone spatula is slanted to make it easy to move cookies from a baking mat to a cooling rack. It’s also a practical tool for other tasks in the kitchen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic-Infused Oil and Goat Cheese

I often get asked where I find my inspiration in the kitchen. A lot of recipes I develop come from dishes I have sampled while traveling and from tasting a delicious meal at a restaurant. Every once in a while, I taste a dish that I know I should try to make at home. This tomato recipe is inspired from one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, Tapeo. This restaurant serves a myriad of tapas-inspired dishes, all using crisp, simple ingredients. There is one dish that I always order there, the roasted cherry tomatoes - the tomatoes are slowly roasted until soft, and cooked in a garlic-infused oil with herbs and soft, velvety goat cheese.

After living in Montreal for the past few years, I am in the process of packing up the Chocolate Shavings kitchen and moving to Toronto. This recipe is a nice homage to some of the best food I have enjoyed in Montreal. My cooking philosophy has always been that simple ingredients, cooked to perfection make the best meals. This dish exemplifies this and is a wonderful way to use tomatoes in the summertime. I like to serve it alongside a crusty piece of bread and a green salad for lunch, and as a side dish to roasted fish or grilled chicken for dinner. Tomatoes are really one of the best fruits to roast. They release all of their naturally sweet juices and burst with flavor as soon as they are cut open.

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic-Infused Oil and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium-sized cloves of garlic, crushed
5 sprigs of thyme
A dozen vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of coarsely crumbled soft goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Remove the thyme leaves from their stem and finely chop. Reserve.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan on low heat add the olive oil, thyme and crushed garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan (leaving the stems on) and cook for 5 minutes, on low heat, until the tomatoes just start to soften. Place the tomatoes in a casserole and drizzle with the garlic-infused oil and thyme. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roasted Tomato Mac & Cheese

If there's one recipe I really learned to appreciate only recently, it has to be mac & cheese. I had never heard of the dish growing up in France and then only tasted the boxed version in my freshman year of college. This was now a handful of years of ago, and to be honest, I had never really wanted to try it again since. Call it French snobbery, but that processed orangy cheese never suited my palette. After a recent trip to the local farmer's market, I found myself coming back with more cheese than would be healthy to munch on by itself... and a homemade mac & cheese found its way into my kitchen. Topping it with a sweet roasted tomato really brings this over the top. For an indulgent night, it's really quite perfect!

Mac and cheese, although one of the quintessential American favourites, beings with one of most classic French sauces- bechamel.This sauce is wonderfully creamy and easy to make. It starts with a classic roux (a mix of butter and flour) which helps thicken the sauce once milk is added. This is also a perfect sauce to use in lasagna as a alternative to tomato sauce. I like to use it when I make vegetarian lasagna, and ladle it in between layers of goat cheese, mushroom, spinach and silky lasagna pasta.

Roasted Tomato Mac & Cheese

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces mild cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 ounces strong cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
6 ounces of cooked macaroni pasta (make sure to under-cook the pasta by 2-3 minutes as it will continue to back in the oven)
1 tsp of paprika
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
2 tomatoes, finely sliced
1 tsp of dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan, add the butter. When it starts to melt add the flour and stir until the mixture is homogeneous. Add the milk and stir until the mixture starts to thicken (about 4-5 minutes). Add the grated cheese, reserving 1/4 cup to top the macaroni.

Once the cheese has started to melt, add the cooked macaroni and stir. Add a good pinch of salt, pepper and the paprika. Transfer to a greased oven-proof dish. Top with the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375F. On a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet, lay out the slices of tomato. Season with salt and pepper and the dried oregano. Bake until the tomatoes slightly wrinkle, for about 8-10 minutes. Top the mac & cheese with the tomato slices and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Green Market Baking Book Giveaway!

I have a wonderful giveaway this week on Chocolate Shavings - the Green Market Baking Book! This beautifully illustrated cookbook presents 100 recipes from different chefs and bakers across America offering alternatives to baking with refined and artificial sugar products. In an effort to eat more wholesome foods, Laura C. Martin's book gives great insight on how you can substitute white sugar for more healthy natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey or brown rice syrup.

I don't think I could ever completely give up on using white sugar in baked goods, but this book does give plenty of ideas to not use it all the time. The recipes are filled with natural, fresh produce that will make you want to take a trip to the local market at any time of year. The Asparagus-Ricotta Tart with Comte Cheese, Fig and Basil Muffins and the Plum and Walnut Upside-Down Cake are on my to-do list already!

To win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Just let me know if you have any experience using alternative sweeteners in your baked goods, and if so which recipes you've really enjoyed. The contest ends on March 28th, at midnight and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. I will draw the winner at random. Good luck!

And if you're looking for a quick and easy recipe to make for last minute entertaining, check out my Ice Cream Sundae recipe on Style at Home. If you're inspired to try some ice cream recipes without using refined sugar, you will find a few in the Green Market Baking Book!
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