Posts Tagged ‘cooking’


Monday, December 12th, 2011

Hanging Christmas Ornaments

For the very first time since we’ve moved in together (that’s 4 years now!), Allan and I decided to decorate our little apartment with Christmas decorations. And let’s face it, when I say “Allan and I”, I really mean me, since Allan would much rather be playing video games than doing holiday decorations ;) Plus, I’ll be honest — I’ve been suffering a little bit from wedding withdrawal, and I’ve been dying for an excuse to do floral arrangements, place settings and entertaining :)

Hanging Christmas Ornaments

Over the past two weeks, I’ve decorated our home space, the common room at work, and my parent’s house. I’ve been elfing it up this year for some reason! Normally we do Christmas completely over at my parent’s place as they have space to do the big tree… and while Christmas will most definitely still be over there, we are having my folks over for Christmas breakfast this year and wanted to prep the apartment in advance. I decided to do a silver and champagne Christmas theme with red accents.

Festive Flower Arrangement

Champagne and Silver Place Setting Starting to arrange flowers


We hosted a holiday dinner party this past weekend with Trev & Crista and Mat & Ali and managed to find some space for our pop-up table. Seating 6 around this table in our apartment is difficult, so swapped our normal computer desk for a “rolly” desk that we can roll into a different room when we have people over. Awesome! Then it was time for new place settings! I also did all the floral arrangements with fresh roses and Christmas greens.

Low Festive Flower Table Arrangement

Low flower arrangements with large red roses and berries.

Christmas Table Setting

I really like the way our place settings turned out and I think they are versatile enough to use all year round. Or do you think it would be too much for normal entertaining?

Silver Wreath

Here’s a silver wreath we used to bring some festivity to our kitchen.

Fresh Pines and Peppercorn Wreath

And my favourite… a fresh wreath with peppercorns, pinecones and tons of greens… smells so good!

Christmas Decor

Our side table was replaced with some silver Christmas trees and mercury glass candle holders…

Christmas Decor Christmas Decor and Wine

… a couple other accents here and there with reindeer and more candles.

Aftermath of Festive Dinner Party

The aftermath of our dinner party with some holiday decor on our coffee table and a festive throw blanket.

Clarifying Butter Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Making Chocolate Decorations Making Spinach and Beets for Pasta Colouring

I find cooking for 6 people really hard to do with plated dinners, so we did quite a bit of prep the previous night. I learned how to clarify butter for the first time (awesome for searing scallops at an extremely high temperature). I also toasted the pumpkin seeds, prepped the chocolate decorations and the veggies to give the pasta some colour.

Kobe-Style Beef Short Ribs Butternut Squash Cooking Brown Butter Sage Sauce Peas and mint for the puree

The next day, we put the kobe-style marbled beef short ribs in the oven for four hours and got the butternut squash soup going. Some photos of our prep with making the sage sauce, and the minted pea puree.

Making Striped Ravioli Spinach and Beet Striped Ravioli filled with Wild Mushrooms or Butternut Squash

Allan did a really nice job with the striped raviolis. We did beet-coloured ravioli for the butternut squash filled ones, and spinach-coloured ravioli for the wild mushroom filled ones.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Oil with a Parmesan Crisp

First course: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Seed Oil, finished with a Parmesan Crisp … we always seem to make this one when other people come over! (recipe)

Seared Scallops with Pea Puree and Double-Smoked Bacon

Second Course: Seared Scallops in a Minted Pea Puree with Applewood Double-Smoked Bacon

Braised Beef Short Rib with Cauliflower Puree and Wild Mushroom Ravioli and Butternut Squash Ravioli

Third Course: Braised Beef Short Rib in a Red Wine Reduction with Cauliflower Puree and duo of Wild Mushroom and Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce (recipe)

Tiramisu Cheesecake with Chocolate Decoration

Fourth Course: Tiramisu Cheesecake with Chocolate Decoration and Strawberries (recipe)

Our Festive Apartment

Overall I think our dinner party went well and our apartment is looking festive! I think we’re all set for the holidays…. can’t wait for Christmas! Can you believe it’s only 2 weeks away now?

What are your holiday plans this year? Are you going to decorate your place?


Sunday, May 8th, 2011

I hope everyone had a fantastic Mother’s Day a.k.a “Mom Day” as Allan likes to say :) Hope all the mothers out there had a special day! To my Mom, you are an amazing mother and I love you with all my heart!

We spent Mother’s Day over at my parents house just chilling, having brunch and watching movies. Allan and I made a special dessert for my mom and we all loved it so much I thought I had to share it with you! It’s probably one of the best desserts I have ever made and I would highly recommend this recipe, especially for dinner parties! It is based on a recipe from Araxi’s cookbook but I have modified the recipe in terms of flavour, cooking times, and also to work for individual portions rather than just one huge cheesecake. Scroll down to see the finished product!


Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise

Mascarpone Cheesecake (enough to make one large cheesecake or 12 mini cheesecakes)

8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup whipping cream
Optional: Prepared whip cream for serving

Almond Praline

1 cup whole almonds (unroasted)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Honey-Caramel Apples

4 large granny smith apples
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds craped
1/2 cup organic apple juice
1/4 cup liquid honey

Vanilla Creme Anglaise

6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk (homo milk)
1 vanilla bean, pod split and seeds scraped

Oven-Dried Apple Crisps
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 apple
Squeeze of lemon juice


Prepare Apple Crisps in Advance

1. Preheat oven to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Slice an apple in half and then use a mandoline or a sharp knife to make very round thin apple slices. Gently remove seeds.
3. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Remove from heat and squeeze some lemon juice in (less than half a lemon, maybe about 1/4).
4. Submerge apple slices and leave for about 5-10 minutes until translucent. Take one slices at a time, wiping excess syrup on the side of the pot and then lay flat on baking sheet. Press down edges and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours until they can be easily peeled off. Cool until hard.

Prepare Almond Praline in Advance

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out almonds on the sheet.
2. Toast 8-10 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet.
3. Place the sugar in a small pot and combine with just enough water to moisten the sugar (a little less than 1/4 cup). Heat on medium heat without stirring until caramelized light amber (approx 10 mins).

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
4. Pour the syrup over the almonds and quickly stir almonds until they are evenly coated. Allow it to completely cool.
5. Grind everything (almonds and caramelized sugar) in pieces into a fine powder in a food processor or similar. Set aside in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise

Prepare Vanilla Creme Anglaise in Advance

1. Take a large sized bowl (preferably metal) and fill with lots of ice. Fill also with some cold water until about halfway up the sides. Set aside.
2. Separate egg yolks and place yolks into a medium sized metal bowl. Set aside.
3. Place sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla bean into a saucepan and heat on the stove on medium heat and bring to a boil (do not overheat).
4. Use an electric mixer or a hand whisk and start whisking the eggs until very creamy. Slowly pour the heated creamy mix into the eggs and continue to mix well with blender or whisk. Mix until smooth.
5. Return the mixture to the stove and heat on low-medium heat, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil or simmer. Give it about 10 minutes and it will thicken up very nicely. Don’t worry if it is slightly lumpy, just make sure it gets nice and thick like the consistency of pudding.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
6. Pour back into the medium metal bowl and place this bowl over the bowl full of ice. Whisk the contents until smooth and cold. This can be kept chilled in the fridge for a few days. Make sure to whisk this up again just before serving to make sure it is extra smooth.

Make Cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. If making individual portions, use small custard cups if you have them or similar. You can also make one big cheesecake if you like. Make sure you line the bottom of whichever baking container you use with a round circle of parchment paper for the bottom. You do not need to line the sides (in fact after testing some lined on the sides and some without, I recommend against lining the sides… just the bottom is enough). If you have springform containers those work best, but I personally don’t have any and mine turned out great with just custard cups. Place containers on a baking sheet.
3. In a large bowl, combine mascarpone and cream cheeses with sugar and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to mix on medium speed until cheeses are very smooth and the sugar is dissolved, approximately 5 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and cream. On a low speed, add the egg mixture to the cheese mixture and mix until smooth about 5 mins. Strain the batter into the prepared baking containers (e.g. custard cups or the cheesecake mould). Place in oven and quickly pour some water into the baking sheet without getting any into the containers to create a water bath. Pour in enough water but don’t have it overflow the edges of the baking sheet.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
5. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and bake for another 5-10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, check constantly by inserting a clean knife into one of the cheesecakes. As soon as it comes out relatively clean, the cheesecakes are ready. Do not overcook!
6. Remove from oven, cool, and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

Make Caramel-Honey Apples

1. Peel the apples and dice into very small cubes (see picture). Place in a large bowl with the lemon juice.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
2. In a large saute pan on medium heat, cook the sugar until golden brown about 4 minutes. Quickly add the apples to the pan (make sure to stir quickly), and then add in the vanilla seeds and the pod. Deglaze the pan with the apple juice and honey.
3. Saute the apples, stirring frequently and really cook them down until all the liquid is reduced (about 15-20 mins).

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
4. Remove the apples and transfer to a steel bowl. Let these cool and set them aside. You can even refrigerate them if you’d really like to prepare everything in advance but I did like the taste of these made the same day as being served.

Plate Everything!

1. Place a scoop of the almond praline onto the serving plate and carefully mould it into a circle shape. Then press down with a plastic bag to make a crust.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
2. Take a knife dipped in hot water and run it gently along the outside edges of the cheesecakes to loosen, then carefully flip it onto the centre of the almond praline you prepared. Take a knife and gently press the praline up onto the sides to create a crust. I liked to use all the praline so there are no remaining pieces on the plate but it takes a loooooooong time and isn’t necessary.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise
3. Take a scoop of apples and gently place it on the top of the cheesecake. I liked to make sure there were none going over the edges and tried to make it flat on top.
4. Place an apple crisp on the top of the apples.
5. Take a spoon and heap a very generous portion of vanilla creme anglaise around the cheesecake. Keep some in a small serving bowl on the side as people will definitely want more of that sauce to go with the cheesecake!
6. Now either take a can of whipped cream or whip the cream yourself and then take two spoons and shape a small batch of whipped cream between the spoons. Carefully place on top of the apple crisp.
7. Now top with a final apple crisp placed vertically and quickly serve it before the crisp falls over as the whip cream starts to melt. Wow your guests!

And there you have it! The taste it absolutely DELICIOUS. The cheesecake is light and creamy, but not too cheesy. The almond praline is crunchy without being hard, and the apple crisps look really pretty. The caramel apples are slightly tangy and the whole thing goes perfect with the creme anglaise. I really think it is one of the most delicious desserts I have ever eaten! Hats off to the team at Araxi.

Mascarpone Cheesecake Recipe with Honey-Caramel Apples, Almond Praline and Vanilla Creme Anglaise


How was your Mother’s Day?

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