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Our last day in San Francisco was spent strolling along beautiful Fishermen’s Wharf. Around Pier 39, this beautiful building caught my eye.

Boudin

A whole bakery dedicated to sourdough?! Don’t mind if I do…

The inside was even more captivating! The location on the Wharf is their flagship store with big glass windows where you can see the bakers working their magic. We couldn’t get over this adorable transport system that went from kitchen to counter:

Boudin

Aw…look at those little bread baskets go! I picked up some goodies from the store to take home and ordered the Margherita Pizza which was perfectly delicious with an incredible sourdough crust (as expected).

Margherita Pizza from Boudin Bakery & Cafe

You can’t come to San Francisco and not have some chowder, right? And at the Wharf, there’s almost as many chowder places as there are people! Decided to try some at the infamous Crab House and even though I am not a shellfish fan, this chowder had my tastebuds dancing for quite a while.

Crab House

Good thing we did so much walking that day, because I was giddy with excitement over that evening’s dinner plans. We had reservations at Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys! Chef Keller is one of my favourite chefs and I couldn’t be more grateful for an opportunity to eat at his signature restaurant. It was an absolutely wonderful experience with exceptional service and an amazing prix fixe menu. The pictures below aren’t the greatest quality since they’re just quick snaps from my cell phone but I had to share them with you guys!

Top Left: Virgin Mango Guava Cosmopolitan. Left Center: First amuse-bouche compliments of the chef — Chilled Melon Soup & Pine Nut Currant Salad. Bottom Left: Second amuse-bouche — Pumpkin Gratin with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Top Right: Appetizer Course — Avocado & Frisée Salad with Seared Watermelon, Beets & Golden Panisses. Bottom Right: Second Course — Alaskan Halibut with Black Pepper Butter, Pea Greens, Carrot Emulsion, Pea Soup with Roasted Baby Carrots & Parmesan Cream.
Top: Third Course — Rye Crusted Scottish Salmon with Cabbage Three Ways, Buttered Rye Toast, Radishes, Picked Mustard Seed & Caraway Jus. Bottom Left: Dessert Course — Fleurburger (Lightly Spiced Dark Chocolate Ganache in a Home-made Beignet) with Banana Milkshake & Frozen Fennel Ice Cream. Bottom Right: Assortment of Madeleines and Tarts, compliments of the chef

Coming soon: Part IV of the series where we make our way back to LA and head to San Diego. And in case you missed them, here’s Part I and II.

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One of my favourite parts of our trip was when we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Fran — the scenic route was absolutely breathtaking. We decided to stop for lunch at Morro Bay, a beautiful waterfront city midway on our route. The shoreline is populated by quaint little shops and restaurants and it was hard picking where to eat. Settled on Giovanni’s because people were lined up all the way to the docks for it — knew it had to be something spectacular. I had the Halibut Sandwich with a side of Garlic Fries. The fries were insanely addictive and the halibut was so fresh & tender. It was there we coined our new motto: The Line Never Lies.

Morro Bay

Keeping with our motto, we decided to have brunch the next day at Dottie’s in San Fran. We waited almost an hour in line and it was absolutely worth it. I ordered the Black Bean Cakes & Eggs which came with grilled corn bread & homefries. We also got one of Dottie’s Famous Pancakes to share. The black bean cakes were nothing like I have ever eaten before. Not sure what I was expecting, but my taste buds were supremely happy. The corn bread was dynamite and when topped with their signature Jalapeño Jelly?! Don’t even get me started.

Black bean cakes topped with pico de gallo, scrambled eggs, home fries and chili-cheddar corn bread
Dottie's Famous Pancakes

We were full from that massive brunch for pretty much the entire day until 10pm that evening when we decided to track down The Melt Bus. Eagerly wanting some cheesy, melty goodness, we drove up to San Francisco General where they set up shop every night. I ordered The Mission which consisted of pepper jack cheese & jalapeños grilled between two slices of sourdough and a cup of their Sweet Corn Tortilla soup. The boys at the truck were absolutely lovely and the late-night meal was perfectly comforting.

The Melt

The Melt

Next morning, we hit up the acclaimed Tartine Bakery for breakfast which was another line-up that didn’t disappoint. We ended up getting an assortment of treats to go (which admittedly took us a while to finish). Everything we got was gorgeous to look at and perfectly delicious — the James Beard Award winning chefs definitely lived up to their name.

L to R: Coconut Macaroon, Gruyère Breakfast Bun, Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Lemon Cream Tart, Morning Bun, Swiss Chard Quiche

Check back tomorrow for Part III as we round out the rest of San Fransisco’s delectable offerings.

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As I spend yet another morning brushing snow off my car cursing what seems to be a never-ending winter, I reminisce back to only a few days ago when my life was nothing but beaches and sunshine. I was fortunate enough to spend an amazing week and a half vacationing in gorgeous California with a friend of mine. We had an incredible time and of course, consumed very delicious food everywhere we went.

Had a bit of a star-struck moment on my flight to LA, when I ran into the ever charming Chef Robert Irvine! My vacation could’ve ended right there and I would’ve been completely pleased with my trip.

Me with Chef Robert Irvine

Alright…that was maybe a lie because as you will see from the following pictures, I’d be a fool to take all this deliciousness for granted.

One of the only things we had planned out before we left Toronto was to see Sean Paul at the Arsenio Hall Show (I know that is super random, but my friend is a HUGE Sean Paul fan). We got there a little late and were turned away at the gate :(. Since food is pretty much the universal anti-depressant, we decided to cheer ourselves up with some Mexican grub at Mission Cantina on Sunset Boulevard.

Virgin Mango Margartia on the patio at Mission Cantina. Also had the Pescado Tacos there but they were nothing to write home about.

Tacos didn’t quite do the trick in the cheering-up department, but we pretty much squealed in excitement when we spotted The Waffle as we walked back to our car. Their Red Velvet Waffle was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network, so it was the obvious choice. I wanted to try a little sampling of their other offerings as well so ended up ordering the Sweet Flight of Wee which included mini versions of their Red Velvet, Blueberry Lemon & Sticky Bun waffles. They were absolutely divine and I highly recommend checking out The Waffle if you’re in the LA area.

Sweet Flight of Wee a la mode

Some notable mentions over the next couple of days included a late-night stop at Churros Calientes on Santa Monica Boulevard. I had mine filled with Nutella (of course I did) and topped with dulche de leche. SO SO good with a cuppa tea.

Churros Calientes

Fish tacos Round 2 happened at El Compadre, which seemed to be a favourite among the locals. The restaurant has a vintage Mexican feel with a beautiful interior, great atmosphere, and good service. The tacos were fairly decent and their chips & salsa definitely hit the spot.

El Compadre

The next day when we ventured out to Hollywood Boulevard, I must admit we were way more excited to spot a location of Crumbs Bake Shop than we were to see the Walk of Fame. It took us three days to consume everything we greedily purchased, but boy did we savour every last bite. It was also our first time trying the croissant-doughnut hybrid that seems to be quite the rage everywhere, and I most definitely see what all the hype is about. Mmmm…

From L to R: Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Cup, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Glazed Heart Crumbnut

Stay tuned for Part II where we make our way up the Pacific Coast Highway and into San Fransisco!

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I have quite the weakness for shortbread cookies–the light, buttery, crumbly texture can be really hard to resist. They are also one of my favourite kind of cookies to make. They require few ingredients and can be easily transformed into something really impressive. This combination of raspberry jam and white chocolate sandwiched between two shortbreads is nothing short of that. And come on, how perfect are these for Valentines?

Raspberry White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies with White Chocolate & Raspberry Jam
(adapted from Joy of Baking)
[Yields 18 cookies]

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Filling:
1/3 cup raspberry jam
2 oz white chocolate, grated

Directions:
1. Whisk flour and salt together and set aside
2. Beat butter until smooth
3. Add sugar and beat until smooth
4. Beat in vanilla extract
5. Gently stir in flour mixture until well incorporated
6. Form into dough, and chill for atleast an hour
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
8. Grease and line two baking sheets
9. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick
10. Using a medium-sized round cookie cutter, cut out dough
11. Using a small heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centres of half the cookies
12. Place cookies on baking sheets and chill for 10-15 mins so they retain their shape in the oven
13. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned
14. Let cool for 20-30 minutes before assembling
15. Dust cookies with the cut-out with icing sugar
15. Spread raspberry jam on the full cookies
17. Sprinkle grated white chocolate on top
18. Carefully sandwich both cookie pieces together
19. With a small spoon, fill the heart cut-out with more jam

Enjoy!

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Happy 2014! How’s everyone doing with their healthy eating resolutions? I for one, cherish every last minute under my warm, cozy comforter before bracing out in this mind-numbingly cold weather. So waking up a bit early to prep lunch for the workday has been fairly unattainable these days.

Luckily, I’ve discovered the perfect make-ahead lunch: the mason jar salad. Gorgeous layers of greens, veggies and protein in a portable and convenient package! The possibilities are endless with these, but here’s my favourite combination of the moment.

Super Simple Salad with Honey Lime Cilantro Dressing

Super Simple Salad with Honey Lime Cilantro Dressing
[Serves 1]

Ingredients:
1-2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium-sized cucumber, diced
1/2 mango, diced

Honey Lime Cilantro Dressing:
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt, a pinch
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Starting with lettuce, layer all the salad ingredients in a mason jar
2. For the dressing, stir together lime zest lime juice, honey, cilantro leaves, salt and pepper
3. Slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture while whisking
4. Store dressing and salad separately in the refrigerator until ready to use

Enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Calories: 326, Total Fat: 5g, Sat. Fat 7g, Carbs: 67g, Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 37g, Protein: 9g, Sodium: 398mg

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Let’s ease into fall with a little root vegetable action shall we? I love sweet potato and well, I love pie. Okay, I’m going to be real with you guys…love is a pretty tame word for how I feel about pies. These mini pies are SO adorable, so easy to make and so perfectly portioned. Perfect as an appetizer, served with a salad for lunch or if you’re feeling fancy…high-tea perhaps? I’m usually a huge snob about making dough from scratch but for some reason, frozen phyllo dough is completely acceptable to me. This recipe is pretty versatile, be creative! You could substitute the chicken with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. I even made a few without chicken for a friend that’s vegetarian and they turned out great too. Yay, pies!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Phyllo Pies
Chicken and Sweet Potato Phyllo Pies

Chicken and Sweet Potato Phyllo Pies
[Makes 12 pies]

Ingredients:
Crust
9 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet potato, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas & carrots
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
10 ounces boneless chicken, diced
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 cup white sauce

White Sauce
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan
3. Add onions and garlic, sauté for a few minutes
4. Add sweet potato, cook till almost tender
5. Add peas and carrots, sauté for a few minutes
6. Remove from pan, set aside
7. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste
8. In the same pan, sauté the chicken until cooked through
(While chicken is cooking, prepare white sauce)
9. Add vegetables and vegetable stock to de-glaze pan

White Sauce
10. Melt better over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan
11. Add flour and salt & pepper, stir for a few minutes
12. Pour in milk slowly, whisking constantly
13. Add more milk if needed, until sauce is smooth and thick
14. Add to chicken and vegetable mixture

Assemble
15. Lightly oil a 12-cup muffin pan
16. Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and lightly spray or brush with oil
17. Stack the rest of the phyllo sheets on top, spraying each with oil
18. Cut into 4 squares
19. Gently press 1 square of phyllo in each muffin cup
20. Repeat with 2 more squares, off-centering each one to create a star
21. Fill with the chicken & veggie mixture and gently fold over corners
22. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden

Enjoy!

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A buttery shortbread crust, generously topped with a smooth, rich, creamy, melt in your mouth cream cheese filling, followed with a lightly sweetened layer of vanilla sour cream and finished off with a decadent Toblerone ganache. Yep, that’s this cheesecake. It’s most definitely not the easiest cheesecake recipes out there, but I believe with great effort comes great cheesecake.

Happy Birthday Hamzah! Even though I didn’t actually make you this cake..its the thought that counts yes? Just reminisce to a time you’ve eaten a cheesecake made by me.

New York Style Cheesecake with Toblerone Ganache
(loosely adapted from Anna Olson)

Ingredients:
Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Filling
2 pounds (4 pkg) cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Topping
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Toblerone bar, chopped
1/8 cup whipping cream

Directions:
Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy
3. Beat in egg until smooth
4. Stir in flour and mix until dough comes together
5. Divide dough in half, wrap one half and chill
6. Spread the other half of the dough onto the bottom of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan
7. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool
8. Once cooled, press the other half of the dough onto of the first layer. Do not bake second layer
Filling
9. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees
10. Beat cream cheese until very fluffy and smooth
11. Gradually add sugar while beating
12. Beat in flour
13. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until egg is fully incorporated before adding next
14. Beat in vanilla and 1/2 cup sour cream
15. Scrape batter onto crust base and bake for 10 minutes
16. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 30 minutes
Topping
17. Stir sour cream, sugar and vanilla together until sugar dissolves
18. Remove cheesecake from oven carefully and gently spread sour cream topping over cheesecake
19. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes
20. While cheesecake is baking, heat whipping cream and add Toblerone pieces to melt
21. Remove cheesecake from oven and spread Toblerone ganache on top
22. Cool cheesecake for 30 minutes, then run a spatula of knife gently around the edge of the cheesecake
23. Cool cheesecake to room temperature and chill overnight

Enjoy!

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I got hit with the dreaded Facebook timeline yesterday. My cousin warned me that all posts become public so I should go through my profile and delete what I may not want the world seeing. I scrolled all the way down and started making my way up. Some posts made me cringe, some brought a smile to my face—oh the memories that are retained by having your life up on a social platform for the last 7 years. Then I came across October 31, 2006 and time stopped for a minute. I remember the day like it was yesterday. My first time having avocados.

Yes, I was introduced to avocados quite late in life and it was all thanks to my dear friend Calla Lee. She took me to a deli at our university campus and ordered me an avocado sandwich. Who knew two slices of bread with some green mush in the middle could taste so amazing?! My love affair with avocados has been going strong since. All I could think about after reading that post was avocados (and Calla—I do dearly miss Calla). I went to work and thought about avocados all day. I had a 15 minute conversation with my boss about avocados. We even looked up grocery stores near work so I could get me some avocados for dinner.

I’m surprised I was able to restrain myself from cutting the avocado open and just have the whole thing by itself. I’m glad I did though…because it resulted in this quinoa salad. And it was delicious.

Curried Quinoa Salad
[Serves 2]

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tsp coconut oil (olive oil works too)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup corn
3/4 cup black beans
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp chili powder
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1. Rinse quinoa well
2. Place 1 cup water and quinoa in a saucepan over medium-high heat
3. Bring to a simmer, then cover and let cook for 15 minutes
4. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and set aside
5. Heat oil in a pan
6. Add onions and garlic, saute for 2 minutes
7. Add green pepper and corn, let caramelize for 5-7 minutes
8. In a bowl add beans, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, cooked quinoa and vegetable mixture
9. Make a dressing with the lime juice, curry powder, chili powder and salt
10. Drizzle over salad and mix well

Enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Calories: 392, Total Fat: 12g, Sat. Fat 3.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4.8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.7g, Carbs: 64g, Fiber: 16g, Sugars: 5.5g, Protein: 14g, Sodium: 520mg, Cholesterol: 0mg

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Like any normal person fasting for 17 hours, I spent most of my day today perusing food blogs. It made me miss my own blog. A lot. So I scrambled to find my camera’s memory card hoping to find pictures of something I was too lazy to had forgotten to upload. Lo and behold, I had forgotten this little gem. Made these for my co-workers back in April. So rich, so dense, so chocolatey…

Took one of my favourite brownie recipes, Anna Olson’s Triple Chocolate Brownies and decided to do a little twist by replacing the white chocolate with toffee bits. The result? Chocolate caramely goodness.

Double Chocolate Toffee Brownies
(adapted from Anna Olson)
[Yields 16]

Ingredients:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces toffee bits (Skor ones work great)
4 ounces milk chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Grease and line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper
3. In a bowl resting over a pot of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter, stirring gently
4. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla
5. Stir in eggs, one at a time
6. Stir in flour and salt
7. Fold in toffee bits and milk chocolate chips
8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out clean

Enjoy!

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Oh, well hello there! I know, I know…I’ve been absolutely inexcusably missing in action from the blog. I just had myself stretched thin with work and life. But you know what they say–when life gives you lemons…make lemon yogurt cake!

When I first came across this recipe, I almost died of shock. An Ina Garten recipe with no butter in it?! This must be one of those end-of-the-world signs everyone keeps talking about. I’m glad I recovered from the shock quickly, because this is one of the most delicious and moist cake recipes ever–and doesn’t it just scream summer?! On that note, let’s take a moment to look outside and admire the gorgeous weather we’re having here in Toronto. Ahh…

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake
(adapted from Barefoot Contessa)
[Yields 1 loaf]

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease and flour a loaf pan
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
4. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla extract
5. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
6. With a spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, until well incorporated
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and top with blueberries, slightly immersing them into the mixture
8. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until done
9. Meanwhile, cook the lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves
10. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes
11. Carefully slide it out of the pan and place on a baking rack over a sheet pan
12. Poke numerous holes in the cake with a toothpick or skewer
13. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in

Enjoy!

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