Thursday, April 17, 2014

Turkey chili

Believe it or not, this is the first batch of chili I've made. In my life. I know, right? I've enjoyed it at other people's homes but for some reason it just never crossed my mind to make it myself. But it's never too late to start, I thought as I rolled up my sleeves and peered at my sister's recipe. I used her instructions as a starting point but took plenty of detours in coming up with this version.

Don't judge me by my relative chili inexperience. Unlike most other dishes attempted for the first time, this one was a hit right off the bat, and quickly gobbled up. Nowadays I'm looking forward to lighter spring and summer fare (hoping our condo building BBQ is set up soon!). But when summer invariably turns to fall and winter again - a notion I can't even contemplate now - it'll be nice to know that this comfort food with layers of flavour awaits.

xx

The night before you make this recipe, soak 2-1/2 cups kidney beans in water.

Dice 2 small red onions and set aside. Deseed and chop 2 yellow peppers in 1" pieces. Chop 2 Portabello mushrooms into 1" pieces. Dice 6 cloves garlic. Using a mortar and pestle, grind one dried ancho chile, including the seeds (this will make a medium spicy chili; for a mildly spicy version, remove the seeds and stem).

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, heat 2T olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Working in batches, brown 3/4 lb ground turkey and 4 coarsely chopped sausages (I used ham and maple-flavoured ones). Transfer meat and onions to a crockpot. 

Add mushrooms, peppers, ancho chile, drained kidney beans, 2 large tins of diced tomato, 2T Worchestire sauce and 1T hickory-flavoured smoke sauce to crockpot. Stir in 1T onion powder, 1T chili powder, 1 tsp celery salt and 1 tsp pepper.

Cook on low for 8 hours. 

Serve with grated aged cheddar and crusty bread on the side.




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

OK then!

When I saw an outfit posted by Laura over at The Blog of Worldly Delights back in January, where she combined two jewel tones to lovely effect, I knew I wanted to try something similar (see Laura's outfit here). While this is clearly more of a winter silhouette, these colours would look fantastic in summer set against a deep tan. *Sigh*.

One of the disadvantages of taking selfies at home (beyond my inability to shepherd good lighting or photo quality) is that most of my shoe collection resides at work. I'll just say I wore this outfit with gold print ballerina flats, and it looked cute, mm-kay?

In my last post with this skirt, I talked about the immigrant cleaner in our building who replies 'OK' to pretty much anything. I discovered months later that he's from Haiti and has mastery of our other national language. I humbly realized I should have been addressing him in French all along! I get much longer replies now, but still punctuated with that infectious throaty laugh. Awesome.

xx




Skirt - DKNY via outlets (most recently here)
Turtleneck - Banana Republic (also here)
Necklace - Road Trip

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hostess gift idea: homemade spice mixes

For those who like to add a personal touch to their gifts, homemade spice mixes are a practical and unfussy option. It's just a matter of measuring everyday spices and pantry staples into a cute container, like Mason jars tied with twine and handwritten labels.

I was sending this batch in the mail, so I shook up the spices after adding them to the jar. However, they can look pretty poured in layers and left as is, as shown in the left-hand side of the photo below. Try to alternate darker and lighter ingredients for visual impact.

The best mixes use freshly ground whole spices, but this is more time-consuming.

The spice mix recipes below are my own amalgams of various recipes found online, so I can't credit any one source.

xx

Coriander spice rub
Combine 1/4 cup ground coriander, 2T paprika, 1T white sugar, 1T ground ginger, 1T coarse sea salt, 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp saffron and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Ideas for use: Spread this spice mixture under the skin of a whole chicken before roasting, use it as a rub for fish or scallops served with generous wedges of citrus fruit, or mix it with Greek yogurt as a marinade for lamb. 

Pumpkin pie spice mix


Combine 2T white sugar, 1T ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/2 tsp allspice.


Ideas for use: Add 2 tsp of the mix to 1/2 cup cream before whipping. Use the whipped cream as a topping for hot chocolate, coffee or pie. Add the mix to waffle, muffin or pancake batter. Toss with beaten egg whites and nuts, then bake. Season popcorn. Mix it into coffee grinds before brewing.

Southwestern BBQ

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup hot Hungarian paprika, and 1 T each of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and cracked pepper. 
Ideas for use: Use it to enhance the flavour of any number of slow-cooked meat dishes. Rub it into baby back ribs or chicken wings, then coat with a maple-BBQ or honey-BBQ sauce. Add it to homemade burgers patties. Rub into into pork shoulder in a crockpot. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the mix into a pot of simmering chili.

Mexican seasoning
 Combine 6T paprika, 2T ground coriander, 2T ground cumin, 2T coarse sea salt, 1T black pepper, 1T sugar, 1T ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp crumbled saffron threads and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.


Ideas for use: Add to any Mexican dish, such as tacos or fajitas, along with chopped cilantro and freshly-squeezed lime. Add it to baked beans. Toss it with olive oil and potatoes before baking.




Friday, April 11, 2014

Baked spring rolls with shrimp and vegetables

I'm in a cooking phase I'm dubbing 'wrap and roll'; I love anything that can be encased in a neat little package and ideally, eaten with your hands. Cue the fajitas, rice paper rolls, lettuce wraps, stuffed crepes, and shawarmas!

This recipe was inspired by a Double Trouble blog post; I made some adaptations. While the recipe calls for some oil, the rolls are baked, not deep-fried, and stuffed with plenty of vegetables.

xx

Peel and grate 2 large or 3 medium-size carrots. Shred 1 cup cabbage. Chop 6 green onions.

In a large wok, heat 3T sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, cabbage, green onion, 1 cup bean sprouts, 1 can sliced water chestnuts, 1 can mini corn, 2T chopped garlic and 1T grated ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. I added a couple of tablespoons of chow mein sauce that I had left over in the fridge and cooked for another minute or two. Double Trouble's version is a thickened hoisin sauce.

Remove vegetables and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok, increase heat to high. Sauté 1 lb raw shrimp until just beginning to turn pink. Remove and add to vegetable mix (the shrimp will finish cooking when the rolls are baked in the oven).

Place a spring roll wrapper in front of you, then spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in the centre of the roll. Fold the bottom and top edges of the wrapper over each other, and seal edges with a bit of water. Pinch the left and right edges so the roll resembles a candy wrapper, and seal with a bit of water. Brush rolls with a pastry brush dipped in vegetable oil.

Bake at 400F for about 10-15 minutes. 

Stir 1/2 cup chopped cilantro into 3/4 cup sweet chili dipping sauce and serve alongside rolls.







Monday, April 07, 2014

'Greetings everyone, greetings and salutations'

I must say, it feels pretty good to be sitting down to write my first blog post in almost two months. Between wedding planning, work and a million other little things, life's been a whirlwind. It seems surreal that we're only five weeks away from the big day! My AMAZING bridal party planned an unforgettable bachelorette weekend last month with a truly fun group of girls. My friends live kind of all over, so I really relish opportunities for us to be in the same place at the same time. There was a cooking class, games, T-shirt decorating, plenty of wine and a pretty cool photoshopped poster of my hubby-to-be. 

With the endless winter weather and all my running around, I've been finding myself reaching for comfortable and classic clothes. I jazzed up this simple printed thrifted dress and waterfall cardigan with a fabric flower pinned to a chain necklace, with a stud earring to hold it in place and to add another touch of gold (similar look from an earlier post here).  

Needless to say, I can't wait to take tour around and catch up on all the blog posts I've missed! I've been wondering what you've all been up to!

xx 







Dress - Anne Taylor Petites via thrift store
Cardigan - via thrift store
Chain necklace - Jones New York via thrift store

{Bacheloretting!}

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mediterranean-flavoured tuna salad

I've been eating cereal with bran buds and pomegranate seeds, plus fruit, for breakfast almost every day for over a year, and I'm not sick of it yet. My patience for tuna-and-mayonnaise sandwiches lasted maybe a week. 

Seeing flavoured cans of tuna at the grocery store inspired me. I hate that you're charged a premium for the flavoured versions over plain tuna, but it's easy enough to copy the idea at home.
xx



This easy tuna salad lunch was made with one can of flaked light tuna in water, 2T sun-dried tomato pesto, 2 chopped black olives, 1 diced tomato and one roasted red pepper. For a heartier meal, add chopped lettuce and shredded cheese and use a filling for a wrap.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Teenage nostalgia

American Eagle was one of my favourite stores as a teenager. The clothes and ads filled with beautiful, toned bodies beckoned with fantasies of endless hazy summer days filled with concerts, friends, beaches and road trips. The reality was closer to chores, homework, after-school jobs, and the emotional roller coaster that came with navigating the eternally complicated world of teenage friendships and relationships. But, I still remember some of those absolutely perfect moments: standing on a skateboard rocking out to a great band, feeling the warmth of a sun-warmed car seat on the back of my bare legs when I slipped behind the wheel of my parents' car, or the titillating thrill of a flirtatious glance from a boy-crush. 

When I spotted this soft plaid flannel shirt at a thrift store, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I bought it. Summer may still be a long way off, but I wrapped myself up in the memories of the carefree times of my youth. 

xx



 




Jeans - Forever 21
Tank - Banana Republic
Top - American Eagle via thrift store
Vest - Eddie Bauer via thrift store
Boots - Ecco via Winners
Necklace - Gift
Earrings - Steelex

Monday, February 10, 2014

Israeli couscous with garlicky wilted kale and spinach

I've always been a fan of couscous, but trying pearl-size Israeli couscous for the first time opened up a whole new world of culinary possibilities. If sautéed beforehand, the grain takes on a nutty flavour, and it has a toothsome, al dente texture. 

I used this recipe (my own) as an opportunity to try another new-to-me ingredient: buddha's hand, which looks like a citrusy octopus and is ugly, in a beautiful kind of way (see picture further down). It has no juice, but the skin and white pith are sweeter and less bitter than a lemon. The 'tentacles' can be chopped up and added directly to dishes. I wasn't completely won over - I still found there was a bit of bitterness - but it was a neat experiment. This recipe serves 4.



 {Buddha's hand - Source: Wikipedia}

xx

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté 2 cups Israeli couscous in 1T vegetable oil over medium heat. Add 1.5 cups water, 1 cup vegetable broth and a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, approx 20-25 minutes.

While the couscous is cooking, coarsely chop 1/3 cup macadamia nuts and dry sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Set aside. 

Wash buddha's hand, then finely dice half the 'tentacles'.

Wash 1 head of kale and 4 packed cups of spinach. Shake off excess water. Cut away the coarse ribs, and roughly chop the kale and spinach leaves. 

Add spinach, kale and 3 tsp garlic to the same sauté pan used for the nuts. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are just wilted. (I find that the remaining water droplets on the kale and spinach mean you don't need oil, but if the garlic is starting to burn, add a little oil to the pan).  

In a serving bowl, combine couscous, kale, spinach, garlic and buddha's hand. Add the juice of one lemon, and toss gently to combine.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

We had this as a side dish with haddock.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Packing guide - fall/winter work trip edition

I was recently asked for advice on what type of clothes to pack for a fall/winter work trip. I thought I'd write this post as a follow-up to an earlier one, on a spring/summer work trip (here), where I also had gave some general tips for packing. 

This is what I brought to Paris and Brussels in late October. I was away for one week and I knew the weather would be cool and unpredictable, and that I'd have to walk a lot. I wasn't sure of the dress code for the Paris portion, so I assumed I'd need a blazer. I chose black as a base neutral and brought pieces that could be both layered, and mixed and matched. I actually started with the footwear and built my outfits up from there. I was lucky to have my girlfriend L over the night while I was starting to pack. She was an awesome sounding board!

xx

{cashmere-blend long-sleeved black minidress; grey tweed dress}

Why? Both of these dresses can be layered. I've worn blouses under the grey one and the minidress can be worn with leggings underneath, or as a top when layered under a work skirt. The tweed dress is beautifully tailored and doesn't wrinkle, and the fabric is all business. The cashmere in the black dress is warm and oh-so-soft.

{burnt orange cropped cardigan; grey print swazer with leather accents; black stretch blazer}

Why? The black blazer is stretchy and wrinkle-free, the cut looks polished and it goes with everything. Same with the swazer, which also has on-trend leather piping. Both were small enough in the shoulders to fit under my jacket. The knit fabric and the cut of this cardigan make it a bit more sophisticated and suitable for Europe. 

{two statement necklaces; one gold chain necklace; gold earrings; silver earrings; watch; two bracelets}

Why? Since some of my outfits were slightly androgynous, I packed statement necklaces to give them a bit of flair. I kept things simple and small with the earrings, just one gold pair and one silver pair. I consider a watch an essential because it's easier to check discreetly than a phone. I threw in a couple of bracelets for good measure.

{slim puffer jacket; one wide and one narrow belt; structured handbag; zebra print scarf}

Why? The jacket is featherlight but also warm because of the goose down fill. It can double as a pillow or blanket on the plane. I layered up with the scarf and gloves on cool evenings. The scarf can be used as an outfit accessory or as outerwear. The belts and bag are toned-down neutrals but the texture adds dimension to outfits. The bag is roomy enough to stash an ipad and an extra pair of shoes.


{tall black flat boots; camel ballerina flats; black patent brogues; low black pointy-toed pumps}

Why? The tall flat boots are good for walking and can fit over leggings or skinny jeans. The rubberized shaft is waterproof, in case of rain (which I did get in Brussels). I wore the camel flats to walk to my destination, then changed into the low black pumps which I'd stashed in my bag. The brogues gave me a flat footwear option, and they cover more of the foot on colder days.

{one set of workout wear}

Why? I like to have the option to get some exercise, even if it didn't happen this time around. C'est la vie!

{cream knit tee; two camis in neutral colours; leopard-print silk blouse; blush cherry-blossom print blouse; cream wrap sweater}

Why? I had a bit more fun with colour and prints on the blouses, but nothing over-the-top. These are wrinkle-free, and with the exception of the sweater, pretty light. I wore the sweater on the plane because it can pretty much double as a blanket. The camis and tee were for miscellaneous layering.

{dark skinny jeans; black leggings; light grey wool trousers; black pencil skirt with gold detailing}

Why? One pair of dress pants and one pencil skirt were enough to mix and match with the rest. One pair of leggings and one pair of skinny jeans got me through my downtime.

Here are four of the outfits I wore; I wish I'd had a chance to photograph more of them, especially the actual work ones!






Sunday, February 02, 2014

Three for three

Three times on the blog in a month. Clearly these are my new favourite jeans. My sister, a loyal blog reader, remembered me mentioning my love of stretchy, comfy blazers and got me this pretty grey one with a polka-dot lining for Christmas. The jeans and blazer looked great together, but I felt the outfit really came together with the print scarf and black wedges, which gave it a more graphic, modern feel.

xx









Jeans - Banana Republic
Tank - Banana Republic 
Blazer - The Limited
Shoes - Aerosoles via thrift store
Scarf - Consigned
Earrings - Winners
Bracelets - Hand-me-downs