Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bridesmaid's dress in style evolution

This coral bridesmaid's dress from my BFF's wedding in 2012 is an ever-evolving piece in my wardrobe. On her big day, it was full-length and worn with delicate jewellery. 

A year later, I had it altered it to knee-length. I wore it with a chunky pearl necklace and white-hot nails to ring in my birthday in Montreal. 


I wanted to breathe new life into the dress for a late summer wedding this year. My fitted black waxed denim jacket, a long beaded tassel necklace and buckled stilettos gave the delicate chiffon pleats some edge, and toned down the girliness.

The military style of the jacket seemed fitting: the wedding took place on a military base. 

To create a cleaner line for the necklace, I snipped off the fabric flower decoration on the bust and secured it to my clutch with a little double-sided tape.

It was a nice wedding, with lots of dancing and the chance to catch up with friends we haven't seen in a while. The weather was ominous, but what are a few grey clouds when you're wearing a colour this cheerful?

Dress - Bari Jay
Jacket - Paola Prata (consigned)
Shoes - Aldo
Clutch - Coach
Necklace - Consigned

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Birthday gifts in round boxes

I celebrated my birthday recently, and my hubby surprised me with a felt wide-brim fedora I'd been fawning over for weeks. It was outrageously expensive and I told him I'd kill him if he bought it. BUT he knows how frustrating it is for me to find hats that fit, and that's how I came to unwrap a round silver box from Nordstrom amid shrieks of excitement. After all, he said, aren't birthdays gifts meant to be the kinds of things you'd never buy for yourself? Some girls lust over Chanel handbags and Louboutin shoes. I lust over Rag and Bone hats with a size small tag. With its all-season slate blue colour, I know I'll get a lot of wear out of this hat in spring and autumn alike. However, I couldn't resist taking it out for a spin with a pair of summer print shorts, before the cooler weather sets in.


Shorts - Vero Moda
Tank - 9/15 via Saks Off Fifth
Jacket - Saks Off Fifth
Hat - Rag & Bone
Shoes - Aldo
Necklace - Ardene

Monday, August 17, 2015

Roast vegetable quinoa with chicken and feta

Well, my couscous obsession is slowly morphing into a quinoa one. Plain quinoa tastes like pulverized cardboard, but dressed up with slow roasted vegetables, tender chicken and fresh herbs....wait, what were we talking about? 

My friend A and I created this dish through experimentation, for a picnic with a group of 14 friends, with leftovers for delivery to my parents and siblings. It's healthy and light, without sacrificing flavour - perfect for summer dinners. I've adjusted the quantities, and the recipe below would serve four. 


To prepare the chicken:
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup walnut oil, 2T cherry balsamic vinegar, 1T maple syrup, 1T Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over four chicken breasts and marinade in the fridge overnight. I baked the chicken at 375°F for 15 minutes, turning once. It would also be delicious grilled. 

To prepare vegetables:
Wash and chop 1/2 bunch of asparagus, 2 small zucchini, 4 shallots and 2 red peppers into small pieces. Mince 1 clove of garlic. Toss vegetables and garlic with a little bit of olive oil, then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 350°F for 45-60 minutes. 

To prepare quinoa:
Cook 2 cups of dry quinoa according to package directions.

To prepare vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup finely chopped olives, 2T apple cider vinegar, 1T honey, 1T orange juice, 1T chopped preserved lemon, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 1 tsp sambal oelek, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom and 1/4 tsp salt.

Note: This vinaigrette was a mashup of leftover homemade olive tapenade and the honey-chile dressing from this recipe. Most of the ingredients could be substituted or omitted to suit different tastes. 

To assemble:
Gently toss the quinoa with the roast vegetables and vinaigrette. Top with slices of chicken, crumbled feta and freshly cracked pepper. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme for contrast. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spinach and cheese ravioli with butternut squash, cranberries and pine nuts

I know this post is a little later than promised. Brad and I have been vacationing in the Maritimes and all the seafood noshing and sightseeing got ahead of me. 

Thanksgiving dinner is one of my absolute favourite meals. I'd eat it every week if I could. This dish brings together key holiday flavours - like cranberry, squash and sage - in glorious, glistening-with-butter harmony. Did I mention it's also a PASTA dish? This recipe serves six as a main dish, or eight as a side dish. 


Cut one small butternut squash in half lengthwise, then scrape out seeds. Brush cut side with melted sage brown butter (recipe here), then place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 350°for an hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut the flesh away from the skin and dice into 1" cubes.

While the squash is cooking, thinly slice 1/2 small red onion and dice two yellow zucchini. Sauté the onion and zucchini in a small pan in sage butter over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until softened but still al dente. Remove the vegetables from the pan. Add 1/4 cup pine nuts to the pan and toast until starting to brown, shaking the pan frequently.

In the meantime, cook 1 kg fresh of spinach-and-cheese ravioli according to package directions (I use the brand Costco sells). 

Gently toss the pasta with the squash, zucchini, onion, pine nuts, 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/3 cup of melted sage butter. Serve piping hot.

Variation: For extra nutrients, add broccoli.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sage browned butter

Butter is a miracle ingredient on its own. I love the delicate, creamy taste of it in a flaky croissant. I love the aroma of it sizzling in a pan with garlic. I want to marry butter. Beurre composé (compound butter) is a catch-all term for adding ingredients to take regular butter to a whole new level of awesome. Variations abound, with citrus juice, zest, herbs, wine, vinegar, stock, garlic and shallots all making great candidates for compound butters. This recipe is for sage browned butter, which imparts a nutty, earthy taste. It can be used to flavour vegetables, meat, gravies or pasta. Next week, I'll post a ravioli recipe that incorporates sage browned butter.


To make sage browned butter, start with 1 packed cup of sage leaves, stems trimmed. These are fresh from our garden!

Use a food processor or blender to pulse the sage into fine pieces.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 1 stick (454 g) of salted or unsalted butter over medium-high heat. (Note: don't use a pan as the butter will foam up quickly after you add the sage later on). Once the butter starts to bubble, reduce heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring occasionally so you can keep an eye on the colouration. Wait until the butter starts to brown and release a nutty smell, being careful not to let it burn. 

Add the minced sage all at once, stir quickly with a wooden spoon, then remove from heat. The sage pieces will settle at the bottom. That's ok. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 10-20 minutes.

Your butter will have started to harden and the sage pieces will still be separate, as in the photo below. 

Scrape the butter into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until well-combined. 

Place the butter back in the fridge to start to harden again. Once it will hold a shape, roll it into a log, wrap tightly in foil, and freeze. It will keep in the freezer for a couple of months. I simply slice off pieces as needed for cooking. 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Ramen noodle bowl with crunchy vegetables and creamy peanut sauce

A few months ago, I won an 'I Love Ramen' cookbook in a contest hosted by Double Trouble Kitchen Edition. The cookbook is full of ideas for dressing up that inexpensive staple found in many a student pantry. The recipes are beautifully illustrated, and mostly quite accessible, made with fresh, simple ingredients. 

I used some of the ideas in the cookbook as a jumping off point for creating my own dish, like using both boiled noodles (as a base) and baked noodles (as a crispy topping). By adding some leftovers from an earlier dinner of marinated chicken and pineapple skewersI wound up with a bowl filled with crunchy vegetables, healthy protein, topped off with a creamy peanut sauce. This recipe serves four.


To prepare chicken:

Note: This makes double the amount of chicken required for the recipe

In a blender or food processor, blend 1 small chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, rind of ½ lemon, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 small pieces of pineapple and 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander and turmeric until almost smooth. 

Dice four chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes and marinate in above mixture for several hours or overnight. Bake, sauté or BBQ chicken according to your preference. 

To prepare noodles and peanuts:

Remove noodles from four package of ramen and discard seasoning. Boil three of the bricks of ramen according to package directions. 

Crush the fourth package into small pieces. Heat 1T sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ramen noodle pieces and sauté until lightly browned. Remove noodles and set aside. Using the same pan, add 1/3 cup peanuts and toast until lightly browned. Set aside.

To prepare fillings: 

Remove the pods from about 2 cups cooked edamame beans (I use the ones that come in microwavable sachets from Costco). 

Peel and grate three carrots. 

Deseed and thinly slice three red peppers.

Thinly slice four green onions. 

To prepare sauce:

Note: This makes double the amount of sauce required for the recipe

In a small saucepan, stir together 1 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 crushed clove of garlic, 3 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the peanut butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.

To assemble bowl: 
Divide the noodles, chicken, edamame beans, carrots, peppers, onions, peanuts and sauce evenly amongst four bowls. 

Garnish with toasted noodle pieces, fresh basil and lime.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Taco casserole

Some of you may recall my 'build your own Italian sandwich bar' post from a few months ago. This is the opposite. This is 'I can't be bothered to lay out the taco fixings in little individual bowls so it's all going in a single casserole' post. Bonus: it can be made ahead and cooked at the last minute. This recipe serves 4-6.


To prepare, finely dice one onion and one clove garlic. Add 2T oil to a heavy-bottomed casserole pot and cook the onion and garlic over medium-high heat, stirring regularly. Add 1 pound of lean ground beef and cook until no longer pink. At this point, you can add whatever vegetables or beans you have on hand - I used 1/2 can black beans, 3 finely diced red peppers and 1 cup corn. Add 1 jar of medium-hot salsa and stir well to combine. Cover the top with crushed tostadas and grated cheese (I used a combination of mozzarella and cheddar but Manchego would be nice). Top with pickled jalapeño slices. Bake the casserole without a lid at 350°F for about 25 minutes. You can broil for a minute or two at the end. 

Serve with shredded iceberg lettuce and a squeeze of lime.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


This skirt is the bottom half of a lovely peplum-top-and-pencil-skirt combo, but it feels too dressy for an average workday. Lately I've been wearing the skirt on its own with loose-fitting blouses or tops. This one - a steal at at RW & Co sale - has a sheer V-shaped panel at the neckline and a keyhole back. At the office, I usually wear it with a chunky necklace or an infinity scarf for a bit of modesty. 

Since my new job I'm also up and down from my desk a lot more, so flats and low heels are in heavier rotation. These are my first pair of pointy-toed flats and I ADORE them. You get comfort and elegance in one. Bonus that they're the perfect matching shade of deep teal!



Skirt - Femme de Carriere
Blouse - RW and Co. outlet
Scarf - Sirens
Earrings - Swarovski
Shoes - Via Spiga via Saks off Fifth

Monday, June 15, 2015

Doors Open Ottawa

 Earlier this month, B and I kicked off a weekend date day with a visit to Doors Open Ottawa. Doors Open is a free annual event where dozens of buildings around the city open up to visitors for behind-the-scenes tours and visits. This year, we checked off a local coffee roastery, the Supreme Court of Canada, and a posh, members-only social club with spectacular views of Parliament.

Boyfriend jeans and a casual white tee delivered casual comfort on a sunny early summer day, and acted as a canvas for accessories like a military-style vest, a floaty scarf and dangly earrings. Low-heeled suede booties were ideal for spending a couple of hours on my feet.


{Dwarfed by the Supreme Court building}

{Supreme Court of Canada - source}
{Rideau Club - source}
{Bridgehead Coffeehouse - source}

Jeans - Gap
Tee - Elie Tahari
Vest - Calvin Klein via Winners
Booties - Aldo
Bag - Dooney & Burke
Scarf - Sirens
Sunglasses - Shoppers Drug Mart

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spicy southwest chicken with couscous, carrot and brussel sprout medley

This chicken has some bite to it thanks to pureed chipotles in adobo in the marinade, which was repurposed from my Rebar cookbook. Couscous, fresh and crunchy carrot and brussel sprouts, sweet currants and crispy sage (my own combo) round out this dish. This recipe serves 4-6.


To prepare the chicken:
To prepare the marinade, place 2 roasted red peppers (canned or fresh), 1/4 head roasted garlic, 2 chipotles in adobo, 1 peeled shallot, 2 tbs rice wine vinegar, 2 tbs fresh lime juice, 2 tsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp salt in a blender. With the blender on low, slowly pour in 3/4 cup olive oil. Pour the marinade into a ziploc bag, add 12 chicken thighs and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Bake the chicken at 375°F for about 25 minutes, turning once.

Prepare the couscous:

Cook 1-1/2 cups dry couscous according to package directions, substituting vegetable broth for the water.

To prepare the vegetables:

Wash and trim about 1 lb of brussel sprouts, 3 large carrots and 6 green onions. Using a food processor fitted with the slicing attachment, thinly slice the vegetables. 

To prepare the crispy sage:

Heat 1 tbs oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Quickly sauté 1/2 cup sage leaves until bright green, turning once. Dry on a paper towel.

To prepare the salad:

Gently toss together the couscous and vegetables, along with 1/2 cup of currants. Top with chicken and crispy sage.