The Best Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Going

I would really like to post pictures of these cookies.  Unfortunately they were eaten before a picture could be taken.  I don’t know how it happened.  All I can say is that these cookies are just that good.  You’ll have to make them yourself to see what they look like.  I can give you a clue, they look delicious.

I love chocolate chip cookies, but I don’t like them crispy, I like them soft and chewy.  Anna Olson has perfected this concept.  Her recipe for a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie has the texture spot on.  While I love what she’s done to the texture of the chocolate chip cookie, I like a bit more spunk in my cookie, a bit more flavour.

Regarding the chocolate.  I can’t get chocolate chips in London (for a decent price) and have discovered instead, bars of chocolate.  I buy them when they’re on sale, and chop them up as I need them.  They make for some funky shapes in the cookies and melt beautifully!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  You can buy a better quality of chocolate in bars than you can get in chocolate chips.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (with spunk) – based on Anna Olson’s recipe from “Sugar”

3/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c brown sugar (the darker the better)
1/4 c white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract – it’s ok to be heavy handed here
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch – this is the key ingredient to the soft and chewy texture!!!
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raisons
1/2 c rolled oats
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Combine the butter and sugars in a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and blend.  Stir in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in the raisons, rolled oats, and chocolate chunks.  Drop tablespoon sized cookies onto a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cook (if you can) on a wire rack.


The Easiest Lasagna You’ve Ever Made

The mad rush after work.  It’s not fun.  We don’t even have kids and the mad rush after work isn’t fun.  I jump on the tube, madly run through what’s in the fridge/cupboard, and how I could combine what’s there with a quick stop at the grocery store to make something for dinner.  This is where leftover Marinara sauce is king.  Lasagna is a easy enough dish to throw together.  There are however, a few ways to make it even easier.  This is my take on a wicked fast lasagna that still tastes like you spent hours slaving over a hot stove.

look at that bubbly goodness!

look at the layers of flavour!


ground beef (1 lb)
leftover Marinara sauce (about 3 cups)
oven ready lasagna noodles (now is not the time to muck about with boiling lasagna noodles my friend)
ricotta cheese (1 pkg)
2 tsp basil
salt and pepper (lots of fresh ground pepper please)
spinach (1 bag of ready to serve please)
mozzarella cheese (I’m going to say it…pre-shredded – this is a mad week night/crazy november grad student supper)

Cook the ground beef in a skillet until no longer pink.  While the beef is cooking, combine in a bowl, the ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, mozzarella cheese, and half the spinach.  It will be kind of globby, but that’s ok, it’s lasagna, it will even out.  Take some of your leftover marinara sauce and spread it in the bottom of your lasagna pan (I use a 9×13 pan but to each his own).  Layer some lasagna noodles to cover the bottom.

When your beef is finished cooking (aka no longer pink), combine it with the remaining leftover marinara sauce. Lovely, now for the layering!  Layer the lasagna as you see fit, blobby spinach and cheese layer, sauce layer, noodle layer…whatever strikes your fancy.  I like to add the other half of the spinach somewhere in the middle, I find it adds a little oomph.  Just be sure that there’s lots of sauce covering your noodles at the end of all your layering.  Any noodles that are dry (aka not covered in sauce) will stay that way and lead to crunchy lasagna (not so awesome).  Sprinkle some leftover cheese (or parmesan if you’ve got it lying around) and a few turns of the pepper grinder over your finished product and toss it in the oven for ~45 minutes at 350 or until cooked through (aka no hard noodles).

I’ve made this particular combination twice now.  It all comes together in about 15-20 minutes.  By the time Mr416expat walks in the door I’m lounging on the couch typing out another blog post!

One last note for the mad crazy grad students among us, this lasagna freezes well and makes an excellent meal. Let the whole pan cool completely, toss it in the freezer for 15 minutes, THEN slice it into individual pieces and freeze in saran wrap or tupperware.

Pasta Sauce on the slow…

Sunday afternoons are my absolute favourite.  They’re the perfect time for me to get a long drawn out recipe bubbling away on the stove while I lounge away reading the latest issue of House and Home, periodically rising to stir a sauce, add some salt and pepper, or grab a cookie.  This pasta sauce is the perfect sauce for such an afternoon.  It doesn’t take a ton of time to prepare, makes enough to freeze, and leaves your house smelling like a Tuscan afternoon (or what I imagine one to smell like).  So if perhaps you’re a grad student, up to your eyeballs in work, and looking for a quick escape and delicious smells for your apartment, this is a good start.

For this recipe I went back to Giada De Laurentiis’ cookbook “Everyday Italian”.  It’s a go-to favourite with lots of unique takes on Italian recipes.  This time around, I followed her recipe for Marinara sauce quite closely and wasn’t disappointed.

Marinara Sauce – adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian

2-3 good glugs of olive oil
2 cooking onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper (freshly ground if you can swing it)
2 cans of tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

Heat your olive oil on medium heat, adding your chopped onions and garlic when the pan is warm.  Sweat the onions and garlic until they are transparent.  Add your carrots and celery, salt and pepper stirring occasionally, cooking for about 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, stirring to combine.  Add the bay leaves.  Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will thicken over the hour.  Cook it for longer if you want a thicker sauce.  REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES.  I always forget this step.  If you like a chunkier sauce, you can stop here.  I use my immersion blender to puree the heck out of the sauce.

This sauce gets better with time (in the fridge) but can be used right away.  I cooked up some ready-made pasta and had it with the marinara sauce.  Pretty tasty stuff.  We’ve found a pasta maker at Broadway market, that makes the most amazing fresh pasta!  This week?  Wild boar stuffed ravioli.  Amazing!  It doesn’t even need a sauce, just some olive oil, parm, and pepper!

Check back tomorrow to see what happened with the leftover marinara sauce!  In the meantime, put on a pot of Marinara sauce, fill your house with yummy smells, and get back to studying!

Dulwich Modern Show – 14 Nov 2010

Last weekend we hit the Midcentury event of the year, the Midcentury Modern show in Dulwich (a neighborhood in South London).  We headed south on the Overground network and got there just as it opened.  And just after several hundred people beat us to it:

I’ve never seen such a well-done vintage/midcentury show, ever.  There were 5 large rooms backed with solid exhibitors (I would guess over 50 in all).  Best of all, the pieces were truly quality midcentury.  No Austin Powers vibe.

The crowd was unreal – mostly hip young families and in vast quantity.  We were able to score one of these:

That’s storage, my friends.  About 5×5 feet of it.  Beech.  Came out of a college in Ipswich.  Weighs a ton.

And, as of later this week, the above!

In other news, we were also able to score some Pannekoek:



Quick Breakfasts

I am not a great eater of breakfast.  Don’t get me wrong, I like breakfast.  On the weekend I make pancakes, bacon, french toast, all sorts of yummy treats that although delicious breakfast items are the sort that can’t regularly make an appearance on my table (both for ease of making and personal health).

Enter the mini-frittata.  You can make them a dozen at a time (easy), they reheat in a jiffy (quick), and they’re as healthy as you make them (healthy option).  You can even wrap them up and take them with you on the subway/streetcar/tube.  They’re basically the perfect breakfast food.  Anything that I can make on a Sunday and reheat during the week while Mr416expat makes his coffee in the morning is a fabulous breakfast option.

Mini frittatas are just the thing for the busy grad student who is working all hours in studio and not eating normally.

leeks, cheese, salt and pepper...all good things start with cheese


eggs, beat 'em up and add a splash or two of milk


experimented with muffin liners...don't use muffin liners


everything's better with bacon sprinkles



6 eggs
1/4 c milk
fillings – I used 2 leeks thinly sliced and 1/2 c of sharp cheddar cheese but you can use anything!  Broccoli and cheese, panchetta, the options are pretty much endless
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the eggs well and add the milk.  Add the fillings to the eggs and milk and stir it all together.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each muffin container 1/2 full (these guys really puff up in the oven) and bake for ~8-10 minutes. Watch them closely and remove them when they’re browning lightly on top and a knife comes out clean when you test them.

I topped them with bacon sprinkles mostly because the bacon I had was frozen and wasn’t going to thaw in time to make it into the frittatas.  Whatever you do, don’t put raw bacon in the frittatas.  That’s just asking for trouble.

You can eat these guys hot from the oven, cold from the fridge, or reheated in a toaster oven.

Note: I experimented with muffin liners.  Don’t use muffin liners.  It doesn’t work.  End of story.


Ah, Paris!

Last weekend we took a quick trip to Paris.

Quick trip to Paris, how awesome is that?  Via Eurostar train it’s a 2.5 hour trip.  We left St Pancras in London at 5:30am, and were walking down an avenue in Paris at 9:00am, including a 1-hour time zone change.

Our ~36 hours in Paris was intense, consisting mostly of walking around and eating.  Below, witness Eiffel tower; Notre Dame; fake Notre Dame; random street scenes; and food.

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