Monday, March 02, 2015

Waldorf couscous and chicken salad

 "Maybe I can put off going to the grocery store ONE more day." Raise your hand if you can relate. Slim pickings from the fridge, freezer and pantry turned into this couscous and chicken dish, modelled after a Waldorf salad (recipe is my own). I wasn't planning to put it on the blog, but it turned out to be so yummy I had to share! It's healthy, fresh-tasting and also super-easy to make. This recipe serves four.


To prepare the chicken:
Whisk together 2T olive oil, 2T walnut oil, 2T lemon juice, 1T regular mustard, and salt and pepper. Pour over 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinate for several hours. 
Remove from marinade and cut the chicken into 1" strip. Sauté over medium-high heat until no longer pink. (You may not need to add much - if any - oil to the pan because of the residual marinade). 

To prepare the dressing:
This is the part where my recipe gets a little embarrassing. I'd bought a spinach dip that wasn't very good, so I'd been trying to find other uses for it. I scooped out half the container and watered it down with a little milk. Then I put it back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to set. That's it. That's the dressing. If you have plain yogurt or sour cream on hand (which I didn't), I'd suggest using a spoonful or two of this as well. 

To prepare the couscous:
Cook 1-1/3 cups dry couscous according to package directions. After fluffing with a fork, add 3 apples (I used empire), cored and cut into 1" pieces, 4 stalks of celery, sliced, 2/3 cup of pecans, coarsely chopped, and 2/3 cup raisins. Add chicken and dressing and toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tart kale, lemon and beet salad with champagne vinaigrette

I recently read a Macleans article about bitter flavours in cuisine, which can add refinement to dishes, but often take a backseat in our sugar-crazed society. That article was front of mind when I came up with this salad, which marries bitter kale and tart citrus with the crunch of roasted chickpeas and the slippery sweet flavour of cooked beets. This recipe serves 4 as a side dish.


To make the beets:
Scrub two beets, then wrap in foil. Place in the oven to roast for about 1 hour. 

To make the roasted chickpeas:
This part of the recipe is the same as for this roasted sweet potato and chickpea saladWhisk together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2T apple cider vinegar, 1T honey, 1T orange juice, 1/2T Russian-style mustard, 1/2T orange zest, 1 tsp sambal oelek, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom and 1/4 tsp salt. Drain and rinse one can of chickpeas, then toss with vinaigrette. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and add to oven with beets. Cook for about 40 mins, shaking the tray once through cooking.

To assemble the salad:
Once beets are done cooking, peel off the skin and dice. Wash and dry one head of kale. Cut away the coarse rib, then roughly chop. Add 2 pickled lemons, deseeded and thiny sliced, a handful of sunflower seeds and several thin slices of firm goat cheese. Add the roasted chickpeas and beets. 

To prepare the vinaigrette:
Whisk 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of champagne vinegar, 2T Dijon, 2T honey and salt and pepper to taste. Toss salad with vinaigrette about 15 minutes prior to serving. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Italian strata

I came up with this dish by altering my ham-and-pesto strata recipe so as to use up leftovers from my Italian sandwich buffet lunch. The bonus? It works just as well for brunch as it does for dinner. Serve with a salad on the side. This recipe makes enough for 4 people.


Slice 12 mushrooms and one small onion. Mash 2 cloves garlic. Heat 2T olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes more. (Do not overcook as the strata will be going in the oven later). Remove from heat and add 4 sliced roasted peppers.

Slice a day-old baguette lengthwise, and spread grainy mustard on each half. Top with several slices of prosciutto, turkey, capocollo and provolone. I didn't weigh the ingredients, but you'd probably need about 300 g of meat and 100g of cheese total. Put the pieces back together, then slice the other way into 1-inch wide 'sandwiches'. Line the bottom of a 8x10" baking dish with the half of the sandwiches placed on their sides. Layer the mushrooms and onions over top, then add a second layer of sandwiches. Tuck extra meat in between the sandwiches. 

In a bowl, whisk 4 eggs with 1-2/3 cups of milk, and pour this on top. Cover the baking dish and place in fridge for at least 4 hours to let the bread absorb the eggy milk mixture. Remove from the fridge and sprinkle parmesan over top. Then bake at 350F for 35 minutes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Make-your-own Italian sandwich bar

Entertaining doesn't have to be stressful for those who don't like, or have time, to cook. Last weekend, we hosted friends for lunch before a skate on the Rideau canal. Instead of cooking an elaborate meal, I picked up ingredients at a local gourmet deli for a build-your-own sandwich bar. Add a side of homemade or store-bought soup, garnished with fresh herbs, sliced green onion, croutons or a swirl of crème fraîche for a hearty winter meal.

If you end up with leftovers, check back in a few days for another meal idea to use up the odds and ends!


So what do you need? Here are some ideas to get you started....

{fresh baguette}

{pesto, grainy mustard, aioli}

{olives, onion, roasted pepper, marinated mushrooms, hot peppers, sundried tomatoes}

{provolone, tomatoes, arugula}

{proscuitto, turkey, capocollo}

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Upgraded store-bought soup: Mexican-flavoured sweet pepper and tomato

I'm a brown-bag lunch kind of gal. It's cheap and healthy, and makes those occasional take-out/restaurant days all the more exciting. However, it can be time-consuming, so I'm always looking for ways to make life easier. 

In previous posts, I've written about how to build on store-bought basics with a few extra ingredients, like a can of tuna turned into a Mediterranean-flavoured tuna salad or a package of instant oatmeal given a lift with fruit, spice and nuts. Soups are another good candidate to become a filling main, with some of the legwork already done for you.

Here, I started with Campbell's fire-roasted sweet pepper and tomato soup from the Gardennay line. My extras: cubed ham, finely shredded aged cheddar, cilantro and crumbled chipotle-flavoured tostadas. Pack the tostadas and herbs separately and add them just before serving. If you have any other ideas, I'd love to see about them in the comments section!


Monday, February 09, 2015


I find wearing colour so energizing, and that suits my mood these days. I started a new job last week!! I'm still with the same organization, but now on a one-year loan to another area. I wasn't actively looking for new opportunities but this one came up and I decided to throw my name in the hat. I like to push myself, and I knew this job would take me out of my comfort zone and accelerate my skill development. Without going into too much detail, I'm now working in an advisory capacity for a senior executive rather than directly managing my own files. It's fast-paced and challenging, but my new coworkers have been incredibly welcoming and generous with their time. So much for a quiet start to 2015!

I've worn this sweater with ripped jeans for a girls' lunch (here), but I profess'd it up a little for a work day a few weeks back. Since I switched jobs I've been playing it safe (read: boring) until I get a feel for the office. But I'm hoping the brighter pieces aren't completely relegated to weekend wear!


Sweater - Olsen, thrifted
Skirt and belt - DKNY outlet
Shoes - Guess, thrifted 
Earrings - Laura
Bracelet - Aakriti Designs

Friday, February 06, 2015

BAM! Tangelo

It's been a while since I've had me-self some mixed prints, so here's my take on polka dots + animal print, broken up with jolts of coral. The prints are in the same colour family which is key to a cohesive look. 

On my blog I normally only wear clothes I well and truly own, as I'm a strong proponent of fashion on a budget. Buuuuut, I cheated a little on the shoes. They were given away to me by a friend, but I soon discovered they don't fit me properly either. I ultimately decided to pass them on to a more deserving owner (Sorry, feet. You'll thank me later). However, I couldn't resist using them in these photos. They look so demure from the front, and then it's like, BAM!, tangelo. So fun. (Is summer here yet??)


Blouse - Ann Taylor, thrifted
Sweater - Forever 21
Skirt - Joseph Ribkoff, thrifted
Shoes - Coach, swapped
Necklace - Dynamite

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Unabashedly girly

In another Valentine's Day-themed post, here's some outfit inspiration for the type of people who love all things girly (baubles! pink! chiffon! stilettos!). If you're the type to tell someone to go gag themselves on a rose stem, I'll be back to my usual fare in a couple of days.


Turtleneck - Mexx
Skirt - Vertigo, Winners
Shoes - Aldo
Necklace - Road Trip
Bracelet - Hand-me-down

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Phyllo-encrusted baked brie with hazelnut and cranberry

I made this recipe over Christmas, but it would also be great for Valentine's Day, now just a couple of weeks away. Shared it with a loved one, a friend, or make it for a date with yourself - it's that good. You can prepare the Brie package ahead of time and bake it just before serving. 


To prepare phyllo:
Defrost a commercial package of phyllo sheets. Carefully lay one sheet of phyllo on a clean surface, keeping remaining sheets covered with a damp clean cloth. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of melted butter. Layer another sheet directly over top and brush with melted butter. Continue until you have 5 sheets, with no butter on top sheet. 

To prepare hazelnut crumbs:
If you're going to the trouble, you may want to prepare a larger quantity and save the extra for other uses. You'll only need about 1/4 cup nuts for the recipe but I suggest preparing 1/2 cup. Start with a bowl of ice water and raw hazelnuts. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda (the water will foam up). Add the hazelnuts and boil for about 3 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts to the ice water. Use your fingers to rub off the skin. You can also roll the nuts between two dishcloths to help remove it. Toss the nuts with 2T honey, then place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 350F for 15 minutes. Pulse the nuts into a crumb-like texture using a blender or food processor. 

To prepare the Brie and toppings:
Cut a round of Brie into quarters and place them on the phyllo spaced slightly apart. I do this so some of the topping falls in between the gaps. Sprinkle the top of the cheese with brown sugar, then spoon on whole-cranberry sauce. Finish with hazelnuts crumbs. Bring the corners of the phyllo together and twist them to create a seal, trimming the phyllo as needed. Alternatively, you can just fold the corners over each other. You can brush the top with melted butter if you wish; this will facilitate browning.

To bake the Brie:
Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. 
Serve hot, slathered onto slices of baguette.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter whites

This is one of those easy, everyday work outfits. Look closely though, and you'll see a hint of the 1990s (and no it's not ME, I'm older than that). This velvet burnout scarf is from Jacob, circa 1998. Also known as devoré (French for 'devour' - appropriate enough), the burnout technique consists of using a chemical process to dissolve the fibers in portions of solidly woven fabrics for a sheer effect. It was trendy in the pre-millenial years, but I think it's due for a one-woman revival. In any case, it gets my vote over cutoff mom jeans.




Blazer - H&M
Top - Tristan, thrifted
Pants - Elie Tahari outlet
Scarf - Jacob
Shoes - Coach outlet
Earrings - Gift