Monday, December 27, 2010

Week 51 of 52 - Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays foodie blog followers - I am now at home in Ottawa enjoying some home cooked meals. Nothing says home like my mom's simple meals. Wishing all of you and yours happy holidays! Stay tuned for the New Year's Eve extravagana planned :)
Bon appetit!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 50 of 52 - Gingerbread cookies

This week I’ll be taking part in a cookie exchange and no one does cookies better than Martha. Her website has the most beautiful holiday cookies and for me nothing says holiday better than gingerbread. This recipe although very easy does take a little bit of time – the dough will need to be chilled, rolled out and then frozen before being cut. I think keeping it cold helps the cookies keep their shape.
I tried substituting fresh ginger for the ground ginger and probably didn’t put quite enough – so I ended up with a lightly spiced ginger cookie. The cookies came out crisp and delicious! This is a classic for future holidays.

For decoration, I decided to keep it simple and sprinkled coarse sugar on the cookies and for presentation, a clear bag with raffia does the trick!
Bon appétit!

Gingerbread cookies – courtesy of
Cost: $
Rating (out of 5) *****
Makes 36.

• 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
• 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
• 1 large egg
• Decorating sugar or sprinkles (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.
3. Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired.
Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely on baking sheets

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Cookies - week 49 of 52

Hi guys - no recipe this week, as I was in Oakville with one of my friends for our annual holiday tradition - cookie decorating!

We decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies - enjoy!

Bon appetit!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Woodland mushroom soup - week 48 of 52

It’s been absolutely freezing this weekend and nothing warms my heart like a good bowl of soup! I found this one in the Trish Magwood book “Dish entertains” – I love love love mushrooms and this soup for sure will impress the guests! It tastes like something from the restaurant (Trish mentions this is one of her favourite restaurant – recreated dishes).

This has just a few ingredients and that really lets the mushrooms be showcased. The soup is hearty even though it is not cream based. I substituted chicken stock for vegetable stock and also added the water from the reconstituted porcinis to add extra depth of flavor. If you have some truffle oil, that would be the perfect finishing touch to this dish.

Bon appétit!

Woodland Mushroom Soup, courtesy of Trish Magwood, from her cookbook “Dish entertains”
Rating *****
Cost **
Makes about 10 cups (2.5L)

- ½ cup (125ml) dried porcini mushrooms
- ¼ cup (50ml) grapeseed oil or butter
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 2 cooking onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups 1.5L mixed fresh mushrooms
- 1 cup (250ml) white wine
- 4 to 6 cups (1 to 1.5 L) vegetable stocks
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Splash of sherry or cognac
- ¼ cup (50ml) 35% cream (options)
- 1 tabsp (15 ml) finely minced chives, for garnish

1. Soak porcini mushrooms in hot water until softened (about 10 minutes). Drain mushrooms then gently squeeze dry.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook shallots, onions and garlic, stirring often, until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gently wipe fresh mushrooms with a moist paper towel or mushroom brush to remove any dirt. Trim off toughest part of stems (tender parts of stems can go in the soup). Roughly chop mushrooms (this can be in a food processor).
3. Add chopped mushrooms and drained porcinis to the pot. Cook until mushrooms are soft, another 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in white wine and let liquid evaporate for 1 to 2 minutes. Add enough stock to just cover vegetables. Bring to boil. Then turn down the heat to medium and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until mushrooms are very tender. Skim off any foam that rises to surface.
4. Remove from heat. Using a hand (immersion) blender or in a blender, puree the soup until it is a creamy consistency, adding a bit more liquid if necessary. If soup is too liquid, return it to the pot and ocok until reduced to the desired consistency. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add a splash (or more) of sherry and stir in cream, if desired.
5. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with chives and a drizzle of 35% cream.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thai Green Chicken curry - week 47 of 52

Continuing with the Asian theme, wanted to make some Thai green curry. My dad makes a mean Indonesian curry, but I prefer Thai curry. I made everything except the curry sauce below – this I found at the local asian supermarket. I used probably about 2 tablespoons of the curry – you can adjust to taste.

I also added veggies to the dish to make it a little more complete. I added carrots, broccoli, green beans and eggplant. I threw this in along with the chicken. You can add whatever veggies you like. Note - eggplant apparently takes long to cook than the other veggies - you may want to saute until almost cooked before putting into the curry.

Later in the week I made a vegetarian option with tofu (firm) instead of the chicken and added veggies above along with baby corn and red peppers. That was my favourite! You must find lime leaves - it makes such a difference and will add an authetic touch to the curry. Lime leaves are from the kaffir lime bush - a plant native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Becareful - they have some sharp thorns (I found out the hard way!)

It’s incredibly easy (as long as your buy the green curry sauce at the store) and if you prep the night before you’ll have a tasty tasty curry in 15 minutes! Curry in a hurry - love it!

Bon appetit!

Thai Green Curry Chicken courtesy of The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
4 servings
Cost $
Rating (out of 5) ****

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) finely chopped shallots
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped gingerroot
3 tbsp (45 mL) green curry paste, (see recipe below)
1 tbsp (15 mL) fish sauce
4 lime leaves
1 can coconut milk
1 cup (250 mL) Thai basil leaves
2 tsp (10 mL) lime juice

Cut chicken into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces; set aside.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook shallots, garlic and ginger, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until softened. Stir in green curry paste, fish sauce, lime leaves and coconut milk until combined.
Add chicken to pan; simmer for about 8 minutes or until slightly thickened and chicken is no longer pink inside. Stir in basil leaves and lime juice.

Additional Information:
Green Curry Paste:
8 small green chilies, seed and chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh coriander (stems and roots included)
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped shallots
1/4 cup (50 mL) trimmed and chopped lemongrass
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 piece galangal, peeled (1 inch/2.5 cm)
2 tsp (10 mL) ground coriander
2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 ml) each ground cumin, turmeric and shrimp paste
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
In blender, puree together chilies, coriander, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, coriander, oil, cumin, turmeric, shrimp paste, salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chinese Almond Cookies - week 46 of 52

I was recently at my friend’s “Moon Yuet” – where a new baby, at least one month old, is introduced to friends and family at a banquet. In ancient China, infant mortality rates were quite high, and a baby who reached one month would likely survive and that was celebrated.

The parents will have red-dyed eggs which symbolize happiness and renewal of life. There is also a many many course dinner, at the end of which they serve dessert, including almond cookies. These are crisp almond cookies with a crackled top, and are also sold at Chinese supermarkets.

I wanted to make some to share with my friends at work. I found this recipe on and they generally have great recipes (and the picture looked really pretty!)
These were very easy to make and I discovered what gives the cookies a crackled look – once the cookies rise, the egg yolk that’s brushed onto the cookies “crackles”.
Although the cookies were yummy, they tasted more like almond shortbread than crispy almond cookies. I will have to find another almond cookie recipe and try again! However, as you can see from the picture below, I might be better off to buy them for $2.49

Bon appétit!

Chinese Almond Cookies
Rating (out of 5) ***
Cost $

3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, softened
3/4 cup (175 mL) shortening
3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp (10 mL) almond extract
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) ground almonds
1-1/4 tsp (6 mL) baking powder
70 blanched whole almonds, (about 2/3 cup/150 mL)
1 egg yolk

In large bowl, beat together butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, almond extract and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds and baking powder; add to butter mixture and stir to form stiff dough.

Roll dough by tablespoonfuls (15 mL) into balls. Place, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, on greased or parchment paper?lined rimless baking sheet; top each with whole almond, pressing into dough. Mix egg yolk with 1 tsp (5 mL) water; brush over cookies.

Bake in centre of 350°F (180°C) oven until edges are light golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mu shu pork - week 45 of 52

This week I had a craving for Chinese food – after being on the road for 3 weeks, just wanted a good home cooked meal. Mu shu pork is one of my favourites – Chinese fajitas!

Mu shu pork is a northern Chinese dish generally made of shredded or sliced pork, eggs and Chinese black mushrooms and shredded bok choy. These are stir fried together and wrapped in a thin pancake.

I went to T&T to get most of these ingredients. Some changes to the recipe-
- Used ground pork instead of shredded pork
- Added fresh shitake mushrooms (about 5)

The mu shu pork is very easy to make – just takes some patience with the chopping. One thing about the black mushrooms is you buy them dried and they expand to about 5 times the size once you rehydrate them! They are an acquired taste, as they have a texture that you may not like (think a little rubbery, like the seaweed in wakame salad).

I wanted to make fresh pancakes – those are a little time consuming – so you may want to just serve the mu shu pork as a stir fry if you don’t have the patience.
I’ve always wondered how they got them so thin! You only need two ingredients – boiling water and flour. Knead until smooth and then let rest for about 20 minutes. Then you take small pieces, brush the tops of two of the pieces with sesame oil and then roll out into a flat pancake. These are then cooked in a non-stick pan and then removed from the heat. The sesame oil between the pancakes allow them to be peeled apart – becareful – the pancakes are really hot and release some steam. It’s really neat though!

I really enjoyed the mu shu pork and pancakes – the pancakes didn’t turn out perfectly round, but still turned out super tasty! Time consuming but definitely worth it!

Enjoy! Bon appetit!

Mu Shu Pork – serves 4 – courtesy of
Rating (out of 5) ****
Cost **

• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon dry sherry
• 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
• 1/2 pound boneless lean pork, shredded
• 4 dried black mushrooms
• 2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
• 1 carrot, julienned
• 3 scallions, white and light green parts, slivered
• 1 cup bean sprouts
• 3 tablespoons peanut oil
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
• 3 tablespoons chicken stock
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon dry sherry
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• Hoisin sauce

Combine soy sauce, sherry and hoisin sauce in a bowl. Add the pork, toss to coat evenly, cover, refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in enough hot water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain and thinly slice. Set aside on a plate, along with the cabbage, carrot and scallions.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium/high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl to coat. Pour in the eggs, swirling and tilting the wok to form a thin film. Cook just until the eggs are set and feel dry on top, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter, let cool slightly and cut into 1 inch strips.

Return the wok to high heat, and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry to release the aromas, about 1 minute. Add the pork and stirfry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts, and scallions, along with the chicken stock, and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, and sugar, and cook, stirring until sauce boils, about 1 minute. Add egg strips and mix well. To serve, spread a small amount of hoisin sauce on a warm Mandarin Pancake. Spoon about 1/2 cup mu shu mixture in center of pancake, wrap like a burrito, folding the ends to close, and serve.

• 2 cups sifted flour
• 3/4 cup boiling water
• 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Place flour in a medium bowl, making a well in the center. Pour in the boiling water, and use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to mix until a soft dough is formed. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a log, 16 inches long. Cut the log crosswise into 1 inch pieces, shape each piece into a ball, then use your hands to flatten each ball into a pancake. Brush the tops of the pancakes lightly with the sesame oil. Then, place one pancake on top of a second pancake, oiled sides together, so that there are 8 pairs. With a rolling pin, flatten each pair into a 6 inch circle. (A tortilla press also works well for this.) Cover the pancakes with a damp towel to rest.

Heat an ungreased, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the pancakes, one at a time, turning them once as they puff and little bubbles appear on the surface, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. As each pancake is finished, remove from pan and gently separate the halves into 2 pancakes while still hot. Stack cooked pancakes on a plate while cooking the remaining pancakes.
Serve pancakes while still warm with Mu Shu Pork. Or, pancakes may be prepared up to 1 day in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated. Pancakes may also be frozen. Reheat them by steaming for 5 minutes, or warming them in a 350 degree F oven, wrapped in foil, for 10 minutes.

Yield: 16 pancakes

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NYC - food bites week 44 of 52

Hi everyone – I just got back from a week away for work and this week will fill you in on the NYC food bites! Recipe next week – stay tuned!

I went to Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant in New York City when I was there for work – I walked in and was seated at the sushi bar. I ordered the toro tartare because Duff Goldman had put it on an episode of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” - it was incredible!

The dish was visually stunning! Minced toro is served in a tray with a mini scoop – the way to eat it is to take the scoop and take some of the toro and dip into one of 6 sides: crème fraiche, avocado, seaweed sauce, rice crakers, sprout or fresh wasabi. Not only was the dish beautiful, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!

I ordered several other dishes, including soft shell crab roll, gyoza in an interesting bacon foam and lobster fritters – they were all good but the toro tartare was hands down the best thing ever! Note: If you’re on a business trip by yourself, definitely get a seat at the sushi bar, that way you get dinner and a show! The chefs make it look so easy – it was mesmerizing to watch them prepare the dishes – it looked almost effortless! Next time will go back for the omakase!
Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rigatoni with eggplant & sausage - week 43 of 52

Hi everyone! Have been traveling lots in the last couple of weeks (work) and am going away again next week. This weekend the fall chill is really starting to set in, so I wanted to make something hearty, and easy.

I brought my trusty Tyler Florence book and found this recipe. I’ve recently started enjoying eggplant, so this seemed like an easy way to throw into a dish (and who doesn’t like a dish that has a 1pound of mozzarella cheese?)

I shared this with my friends and they liked it! Needed a little bit of salt (probably in the tomato sauce), but otherwise, it was a great hearty dish for the chilly fall days. I would boil the tomato sauce for about 25 minutes so it gets thick and also, I would use a little less pasta than suggested. The best were the bits of pasta with the crunchy parmesan cheese that had crisped up a little!

This is a make again – I really enjoyed it!

Bon appetit!

Bake Rigatoni with Eggplant & Sausage – courtesy of Tyler Florence
Rating (out of 5) ****
Cost $$
Ingredients – serves 6-8

• Kosher Salt
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 links fennel pork sausage (about 3/4 pound)
• 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
• Leaves from 1 small bunch basil
• 1 pound rigatoni
• 1 pound fresh mozzarella
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Get yourself a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
Heat a 2 count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and toss in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, you want them nicely browned on the outside but still rare on the inside. Put the sausages in the baking dish.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is nice and browned, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Use a spatula to put the eggplant into the baking dish with the sausage. Cook the rest of the eggplant pieces, adding more oil to the pan, as needed, and putting the finished eggplant into the baking dish.

Add another 2 count of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick. This will take about 15 minutes.

By this time your pasta water will be boiling. Add the rigatoni, give it a stir, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, it should be slightly firm as it will cook further in the oven. Ladle out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve; the drain the rigatoni.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Chop the sausages into nice big, bite-size chunky pieces and return the pieces to the baking dish. Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, and the reserved pasta water. Break up half the mozzarella over the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and gently mix with your hands or a spatula. Dust with the Parmigiano and drizzle with more olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining mozzarella in an even layer over the top and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Amaretti cookes - week 42 of 52

This week is amaretti cookies courtesy of Canadian Living. Ameretti are almond Italian macaroons - name translate to "bitter ones" since they are flavoured with bitter almonds. These cookies can be made with almond paste of ground almonds.

I went to the grocery store for ground almonds and they were incredibly expensive! I decide to make my own by blanching the almonds and then grinding in coffee grinder. The texture of the ground almonds is a little coarser than the the store boughts almonds.

These cookies are very rich in almond flavour - quite different from the store bought kind. Light and crispy! These were a hit with the co-workers! I may try the next time with almond paste and see if the flavour is a little subtler.

Bon appetit!

Amaretti cookies
Rating (out of 5) *** 1/2
Cost $

2 egg whites
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) almond extract
2-1/2 cups(625 mL)ground almonds

2 tbsp(25 mL)granulated sugar

In large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in sugar, 2 tbsp (25 mL) at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Beat in almond extract; fold in ground almonds.

Drop by generous 1 tbsp (15 mL) or pipe using piping bag, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto parchment paper–lined baking sheets.

Topping: Sprinkle sugar over cookies. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 300°F (150°C) oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, for about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and light golden. Transfer to rack; let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Store layered between waxed paper in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chocolate eclairs - week 41 of 52

Inspired by my recent trip to Paris, I wanted to make some chocolate éclairs. From my experience today, French pastries seem to be a little fussier than most (read - lots of steps) but is worth it! Amazing tasting - the pastry cream instead of whipping cream filling makes all the difference!

The pastry for éclairs is same as the one used for cream puffs – a choux pastry. It is a cooked water, flour & butter mixture to which eggs are added. When cooking, the choux pastry is almost like a polenta. Then to it, you add the eggs. The first batch of éclair pastries turned out horribly! They barely rose and had a heaviness to them – they almost looked like ladyfingers. Although the taste was fine, texture terrible – so into the garbage. I called my friend who recently took some pastry courses and got some advice:
- Before adding in the eggs to the cooked flour mixture, beat the mixture for 2 minutes to let us much heat out as possible
- Add 4-5 eggs instead of the 3 – makes the éclairs lighter.
The second time round – perfect! As well, when making the filling keep an eye out on it as it can turn from runny to thick quite quickly.

Bon appétit!

Chocolate Eclairs
Rating (out of 5) *****
Cost $
Make 16 medium sized eclairs
Courtesy Gale Gand, “Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Julia Moskin, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 1999


• 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
• 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 6 egg yolks
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
• 1 cup water
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed – Foodie Girl’s notes – 4 or 5 eggs is better
Egg Wash:• 1 egg
• 1 1/2 teaspoons water
Chocolate Glaze:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. *** Foodie girl’s notes – beat for about 2 minutes so the batter isn’t too hot when the eggs are added. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. *** Foodie girl notes – add 4 or 5 eggs. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.

Egg Wash: In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps of points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't stuff them full).

Glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.
Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.

Vacation food bites - London & Paris

Hi all – had an amazing vacation in London & Paris and here are some food tidbits

Pret a Manger – my favourite chain of fast-food restaurants! Not fast-food in the sense of hamburgers & fries, but fresh sandwiches, salads, pastries & wraps. Since the continental breakfast at my London hotel was terrible, I had Pret every morning! Love it! They are everywhere in London – about as many as there are Starbucks in Toronto. There are now several in New York and Chicago. Definitely think they should open in Canada!

Hix – first night went to dinner with a friend at “Hix” in Soho, near Picaddilly Circus. Hix is one of Mark Hix’s many restaurants in London and was also voted best new restaurant 2010 by “Time Out” travel magazine. It was good - we had the prix fix which included smoked salmon on a toast and pan-fried pickerel.

Cider – that night we went out to bar for some stand-up comedy and I found my new favourite drink – cider! Cider is an alcoholic drink made from apples – available in sparkling or still. I prefer the sparkling kind (even though it gives me little cider hiccups)

Tea – we had tea at Brown’s Hotel, voted one the Tea Guild’s one of London’s top teas! Started off with a tower of finger sandwiches, scones and little desserts (and tea of course). Finished tea with some chocolate and white cake. It’s a great tradition that we should have here in Canada – nothing like a little afternoon pick-me up. Finger sandwiches and tons of little desserts is more filling than you would think - or maybe it was the clotted cream – that filled me up until dinner!

Harrods – in the basement level of the “store that sells everything” are the incredible food halls. The food variety is incredible – fresh fruit (a $16 pomegranate), baked goods (a £4000 cake), fresh seafood and teas, coffees and candies. This is also a great place to pick up some souvenirs (there are some very affordable ones, don’t worry!)

Fish & chips – I had to have fish & chips – we went to a pub near the British Museum for the classic UK dish (along with a pint of cider). My friend who lives in London said that it was not the best fish & chips he’s had, but I thought it was pretty good!

Leon de Bruxelles – this is a chain in Paris with very tasty mussels and fries. I went to the one on Champs Elysees. Prix fixed seems to be a big thing in Europe and I got the white wine mussels & fries and finished the meal off with crème brulee! Excellent – you must try!

Gelato wars – apparently there is a rivalry between two gelato/ice-cream chains – Amorino (from Italy) and the Berthillon (from France). Of course I had to try both.
- Amorino – from the Lafayette store (go to the 6th floor for some delicious gelato & beautiful views of Paris. I got strawberry, mango & vanilla
- Berthillon – after dinner went to Champs Elysees, got two types of sorbet – cassis (black current) and passionfruit.
And the winner is... Amorino (Berthillon a close second)! I loved the clean, fresh flavours a little better, but it was difficult to pick a winner.

Fauchon – this store is at the Madeleine subway stop and is foodie heaven! There are two stores – one with pastries & bread and caviar. The 2nd store is just across the street and a must visit (and a great place for souvenirs). This store carries wines, teas, coffees, cookies & chocolates – it’s such a beautiful store and amazing merchandise!

Cafe de la Paix – across from the Paris Opera (Palais Garnier), the inside of this restaurant is just beautiful! They have some of the best millefeuille ever – flaky with a rich creamy filling (for €14 it must be!). I was too full from lunch to eat the dessert so I took it to go and carried it for half a day around Paris before wolfing it all down in my hotel room. Delicious and super rich – must try!

Cafe de Flore – in St Germaine de Pres, this cafe has be great view of the bustling street St Germaine. I ordered a cheese sampler plate for €20 and thought I would get literally a “sample”. I ended up getting 3 humongous pieces of cheese. I barely good through ½ of it! The cheese in France is a little more pungent, brie is a little sharper but I really enjoyed the blue.

Relais de entrecote – this restaurant only
serves two things – steak and fries! Some of the best I’ve had. When you get there they only ask you two things – what would you like to drink and how would you like your steak done. They then bring you two servings of steak & fries. Be prepared for a wait – but worth it!

Macarons – these are a little treat, made mostly of egg whites & almonds and comes in a variety of flavours such as raspberry and chocolate. I tried several while I was in Europe and thought they were a little overrated (gasp!). However, they are some of the cutest little desserts I’ve ever seen!!

McCafe – anyone who knows me well knows that I love Mcdonald’s (yes, it’s true, a foodie with a thing for McDonald’s). They have amazing McDonald’s in Europe – the one that I visited in Europe had McCafe – with lattes, pastries & macarons – amazing!

Three and a half days in each city was certainly not enough to experience everything – I will definitely be back for more foodie adventures.
Bon appetit!