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
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