Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stuffed beef burgers with mushroom, aged cheddar, hot peppers and bacon

Stuffed burgers are having a moment, and I decided to get in on the action. It was a relaxing evening during our February staycation, Olympic hockey was on TV and this guy-friendly fare was just what I was craving. This recipe is my own.

xx

Using the back of a spoon, scrape out black gills from one Portobello mushroom, then finely dice. Cook 6 strips of bacon until tender-crisp, then finely dice. Using some of the reserved bacon fat, sauté the diced mushroom over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup of picked hot pepper mix. In a small mixing bowl, combine mushroom, bacon and hot peppers with 1/3 cup grated aged cheddar. 

Place 2 lbs lean ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1T steak seasoning, 1T Worchestire and 1 tsp Dijon mustard. Using your hands, but handling the beef as little as possible, mix the ingredients.

Divide the beef mixture into 12. Shape each piece into a extra thin patty, leaving the edges slightly raised. Gently spoon 1/6 of the filling into the middle, then top with another (upside-down) patty, gently pinching the edges together to seal. The closer you can get the filling to the edge of the burger, the more flavour there will be in each bite. Repeat for 5 more burgers. 

Brush burgers with BBQ sauce, then cook in the oven, or preferably, over the BBQ. Brush again once with BBQ sauce during cooking. Serve in a traditional burger bun, or a sliced and toasted English muffin, as we did. 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Perky blue

Starchy dress shirts are always a classic investment, so I was happy to snap this pinstripe blue and white one up at a thrift store, for about a fifth of the full price. 

Pairing the shirt with a bright cobalt skirt really perked up the colour. I added a necklace in similar hues for a tonal look. You can say I was feeling the blues, but in a good way. 

I wasn't sure what shoes to wear. A deep plum high-heeled oxford would have been fresh and fun but with mostly blacks and browns in my collection I went for a neutral bootie. I liked the rest of the outfit, but I'm not crazy about the footwear choice. What sort of shoes would you have worn?

xx







Shirt - Hudson Room via thrift store
Skirt - DKNY via outlets
Belt - DKNY via outlets
Booties - Old Navy
Necklace - Handmade by my cousin
Ring - Winners

Saturday, April 19, 2014

South Indian-spiced spaghetti squash

Well this is another winter dish but that's what happens when you're out of the blogosphere for two months. I've usually made spaghetti squash with Italian flavours so this vegetarian South Indian-inspired version was a very nice change. I liked the mix of flavours and textures from the chickpeas, raisins and almonds. 

xx

Cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Place on a baking tray cut side up, brush with olive oil and bake at 375F for 45-50 minutes. Allow to cook slightly, then scrape out squash strands using a fork. 

Using a mortar and pestle, ground 1T coriander seeds and 1T cumin seeds. Pour into a small frying pan, along with 1T garam masala mix. Dry-sauté over medium heat until fragrant but not burned. Set aside. Using the same pan, sauté 1/3 cup almonds until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Using the same pan, heat 1/4 cup butter until lightly browned. Add spices to butter and pour over squash. Add 1 can drained chickpeas, 1/3 cup raisins and the almonds, then toss gently. 


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