Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade sweet-and-sour sauce

Asian stirfrys are a go-to dish for me during weeknights because they're quick to prepare. I've been getting weary of teriyaki sauce, so this time I decided to try a homemade sweet-and-sour one that's a combination of various recipes I found online. I'm not going to lie, your local Chinese takeout version probably packs more flavour but this one is far more artery-friendly. And when paired with fresh shrimp and vegetables you can satisfy that take-out craving without the guilt. It'll even have that authentic orange colour to further trick your brain!

To make the sauce, combine 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 diced hot chili pepper, the juice from one can of canned pineapples, 2T brown sugar, 1T honey, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1 clove garlic, and a sprinkle of mustard powder in a small saucepan. Whisk 1T cornstarch in an equal amount of water, and add to sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat slightly and continue boiling gently for several minutes until sauce thickens to desired consistency. I let mine boil for about 6-7 minutes but wish I'd thickened it a little more - maybe 10 minutes.

For the stirfy, I sauteed 1 red onion and 2 red peppers, cut into bite-sized wedges, in 1 tsp vegetable oil until crispy-tender, then added the canned pineapple and 2 cups of cooked shrimp and cooked until heated through. Fresh pineapple would add a nicer depth of flavour, particularly if it was grilled.

I served over rice with the sauce, and topped it with sesame seeds.

Friday, April 27, 2012


A couple of days after I wore this tripped-over-a-rainbow outfit, I found the perfect way to describe it in my May issue of Instyle: 'colourshocking: the pairing of neon brights that dares you not to stop and stare. The fun (and scary) part of it is that neutral anything - shoes, hair, or makeup - is simply not allowed.' (It so happens I had some raspberry-coloured lipstick on that day)

I liked how my scarf pulled together all the colours from my outfit. I found out later my dad has an identical one in his closet - a gift from my sister after a volunteer stint in Ghana. Good thing I only paid $1.99 at a thrift store. It also served as a colourful table runner over a neutral tablecloth when we invited friends for dinner recently.

I bought my pants and shoes this spring and can't wait to wear both throughout the summer months. LOVE LOVE LOVE even if the pants wrinkle a lot in the wash. No issues with the shoes at all. The shirt is an oldie but goodie from a Canadian brand called Dynamite. Dynamite is known as a 'cheaper' chain but I find they offer pretty decent value for money compared to other stores at the same price point. Anything I've bought from there has held its shape and colour well, even after endless washings.



Shirt - Dynamite
Pants - Forever 21
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Scarf - Thifted
Bracelet - Aakriti Designs
Earrings - Thailand markets

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fish tacos

Lately I've been feeling more cooking inspiration than outfit inspiration. I think it's the backwards season we've been having. We started off the month with 27C weather and yesterday it snowed. Who wants to see wool layers on a fashion blog in spring? So off we head to the kitchen and a dish I've been wanting to try ever since I saw I Love You Man - fish tacos! I know these are a staple in parts of the U.S. but I've only come across them once in Ottawa and that was at a fusion restaurant. My homemade version was easy to make and healthy with a pleasing crunch. They also made me want to strap on some rollerblades and head to a beach-side boardwalk.

I started with leftover baked trout from dinner the night before. When I make these again, I'll make bread the fish before baking (pat fish dry; dredge in flour; then in whisked-egg-and-milk mixture; then in Panko breadcrumbs; then bake). 

To make the sauce, I combined 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup light mayonnaise, the juice and rind of one lime, 1 diced jalapeno, 1T dill, 1T capers, 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/2 tsp cumin. The lime flavour came through quite strongly which I liked. If you end up with leftover sauce, it makes a tasty spread for tuna-and-roasted tomato sandwiches.
Assemble the tacos using flaked pieces of fish, butter lettuce, cilantro, diced cucumber, diced avocado, and halved cherry tomatoes. Add sauce to taste.

Note: My sauce looks more like cottage cheese because I thought I'd add Panko breadcrumbs to it right before serving and before they got soggy. It didn't work.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chicken and rice casserole with cream of mushroom soup

This casserole can be made ahead and frozen in anticipation of busy weeknights. It's well-rounded nutritionally and mildly flavoured - great for those with kids. It was a staple in our household when I was growing up, except nowadays I like it with a sprinkle of hot sauce. It's also incredibly versatile - try macaroni noodles instead of rice, canned tuna instead of chicken, or another flavour of 'cream of' soup. Different types of vegetables - like mushrooms -  and cheese - like mozzarella -  also work well. The recipe below makes enough to serve two people with a bit left over.  

To make casserole:

Cook 1 cup of rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking,
slice 1 sweet onion and trim and cut 1/2 large bunch of asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Spread vegetables into a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with a small amount of olive oil. Place three boneless, skinless breasts onto another baking sheet. Cut the top off a bulb of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place vegetables, garlic and chicken in the oven and bake at 350. While they're cooking, grate 1 1/2 sharp cheese, such as Gruyรจre.

Turn the chicken and vegetables after 10-12 minutes. Remove the chicken after another 10-12 minutes or when fully cooked. Increase the temperature to 400 and cook the vegetables and garlic for a further 10 minutes. The vegetables should be starting to brown and the garlic should come out easily when squeezed. Dice the chicken into 1 inch cubes.

In an oven-proof casserole dish, combine rice, chicken, vegetables and cheese. Add 1/2 cup of frozen peas. Squeeze in roasted garlic. Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and mix well (2 cans will make this extra-creamy). Season with pepper to taste. Spread Panko breadcrumbs over top. If serving right away, return to oven at 350F without a cover for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Otherwise place in freezer until ready to serve. Then defrost and follow last step.

{Adding the frozen peas and roasted onion and asparagus to the cooked rice}

 {Adding the chicken, cheese and garlic}

Friday, April 20, 2012

50s retro

 After watching the car scene from Rihanna's 'We Found Love' video, I was inspired to try a similar hairstyle with a fabric-and-wire wrap I'd thrifted. While Rihanna rocked a curly updo, I back-combed, hair-sprayed and pinned mine into a beehive style. I kept up the retro vibe with my sunglasses, big hoop earrings, shrunken jacket and Keds-style shoes.

My Mom took these photos for me in a random neighbourhood on the outskirts of Montreal. A few weeks ago, we decided to take a day off work to go shopping together, which for us means A BIG DAY. I didn't think we could beat our previous record of six hours at Macy's in NYC but we managed to log NINE hours at the mall, including two food breaks. We'd hoped to make it to the thrift stores and boutiques downtown but a massive student protest kept us away. My Mom is a very cautious shopper and hardly ever buys anything for herself, but she insisted on spoiling me that day. I'm a VERY lucky gal and do not take her generosity for granted! I got a few work essentials, two dresses for summer weddings, some accessories and a fun, cropped faux-fur cardigan. We got virtually everything on massive sale. Yippee!! I tend to binge shop so I doubt I'll set foot anywhere else for a while, but I look forward to creating outfits from my new purchases!

The inspiration:


Jacket - Thrifted (New Look)
Shirt - H&M
Shorts - Talula via Aritzia
Shoes - Forever 21
Hair wrap - Thrifted
Sunglasses - Joe Fresh
Bag - Dooney and Burke
Earrings - Le Chateau
Ring - Winners

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thai-inspired red curry

I absolutely adore Thai food, with its fresh and tangy flavours of basil, lime, cilantro, lemongrass and chilies, but I've found it rather difficult to recreate the complex layers of a red curry at home. With a little experimentation every time, I'm getting closer. If anyone out there is familiar with Thai cooking, I'd really appreciate your suggestions or advice!! I usually make this dish with pineapple but I had a bunch of baby bok choy to use up so I decided to throw it in instead, even though it's more commonly associated with Chinese cooking. Why not? This recipe serves 2-3 people.

Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 large onion, finely diced, 4 cloves garlic, finely diced, and 2 T grated ginger. Cook until onion is translucent but not brown, stirring regularly. Add 2-4 T of Thai red curry paste (depending how spicy you want it) and cook for another minute, stirring to avoid burning it. Add 2 cups of homemade or canned chicken stock, 1 can of light coconut milk, the juice and zest of one lime and 2 T brown sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer. Add 1 stalk of bruised lemongrass and a large handful of fresh lime leaves. I had a Thai green curry spice blend on hand so I also added 1 T of that. Add your vegetable(s) and simmer for another couple of minutes until crispy-soft. Green beans, carrots and bamboo shoots all work well. Season to taste.

In a separate pan, fry 4-6 chicken thighs in a small amount of oil until cooked through (or oven bake). Add chicken and 1 1/2 cups of cooked shrimp to curry sauce. Simmer for another minute or two. Serve over rice with lime, fresh basil and/or cilantro. I added a couple of teaspoons of Sambal Oelek (also not typically Thai) just before serving, for extra heat.

Sprinkle toasted chopped peanuts on top. 
Add a split hot chili to the mixture after bringing to a simmer.
Substitute coconut milk for half the water when preparing rice.

For this post I'm linking up with Carole's Chatter Food on Friday - Go Asian edition

Monday, April 16, 2012


Happy Monday! I wore this to work a few days (weeks) ago but it was too busy for a photo break so I waited until I got home. Not that that's a bad thing, because I was able to have an impromptu solo dance party while I was at it. Which brought to mind SATC's 'secret single behaviour' episode.

The last time I wore this vintage dress I embraced its tomato red colour with an equally bright, sheer silk cardigan and a white-and-gold belt (here). This time I juxtaposed a modern men's-style blazer and grey studded booties. This dress is on the edge of my comfort zone. I felt more conspicuous in this than in almost anything else I've worn on the blog. But, I love that the sweatpant material. Wearing it to work feels secretly rebellious.


Dress - Thrifted (Bretton's) (also here)
Blazer - Mexx (also here)
Booties - Thailand markets
Necklace - Gifted 
Bracelets - Aakriti Designs and gifted

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mussels with saffron-cream sauce

Ever since my work trip to Brussels, I've been harbouring (no pun intended) a craving for mussels. As far as seafood goes, they're pretty inexpensive. Leads one to wonder why I tried to save even more money by buying them at Costco, even though it was basically a crate's worth. I had to clear out half the fridge just to make room for the thing. So we had one batch on a weekend and then I had to cook the rest of them again on the Monday before they went bad. Monday nights I also play volleyball. So this lovely meal had to be shovelled down before I ran out the door. (*Sound of balloon deflating*) That also explains the atrocious photo quality. If you make this dish, it's worth savouring - and open a bottle of white while you're at it!

To make mussels:

Sort and scrub 2 lbs mussels, reserving the juice in which they were resting. This step is important so you get rid of any mussels that are already dead. There are how-to videos on youtube if you're not sure how to do this. Note: 2 lbs is usually enough for 3-4 people.

Prepare 3/4 cup fish stock and set aside. I wasn't about to make my own; I used this good quality powdered one. Dice 1 small onion and 2 cloves of garlic and slice 12 mushrooms. Melt 1T butter in a large pot (ensure it comes with a tight-fitting lid for later) over medium heat, then sautee onion and garlic until onion is translucent, stirring regularly. Add fish stock, 3/4 cup white wine, several tablespoons of reserved mussel juice and a couple of threads of saffron.

Add mussels to pot, cover with lid and steam for a couple of minutes or until mussels open up. Discard any that remain closed, then remove mussels with a slotted spoon.
Bring liquid to a boil and reduce by about a third. Add 2T heavy cream then simmer for several minutes. Serve mussels and broth with hunk of baguette (if you have a hunk and a baguette even better!) and a green salad.

Substitute fennel for onion.

For this post I'm linking up with Carole's Chatter Food on Fridays - Fish and Seafood edition

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rise and shine

The theme of this post is S-H-I-N-E. G sent me a picture of her Juno awards outfit (the 'funky urban' look I talked about in this post), in which she's wearing a shimmery blazer...scroll down to check it out! And lo and behold, I wore a metallic sheath recently. In my books, two outfits is enough to warrant a theme.

When I got this dress, I was looking for something multi-purpose that could be worn to work, to a winter wedding, or to a holiday party. This metallic sheath - not quite silver, not quite gold, not quite bronze - with its velvet piping, fit the bill. To tone down the shine for work, I added a long beige blazer. I thrifted it on a whim for about $12 even though it's an XS so I can't wear it buttoned up. But I'm glad I did. The length adds sophistication to any outfit, and unlike a jacket, you don't have to coat-check it at formal events and then be cold all night! I swapped the plain buttons for some ornate gold ones.


Dress - Ellen Tracy via Winners
Shoes - Liz Claiborne via Winners
Blazer - Thrifted (Tristan and America)
Tights - Costco
Necklace - Thrifted (Jones New York)
Watch - Michael Kors
Glasses - Marc O'Polo

In true blogger fashion, G sent me the breakdown of where each piece in her outfit is from, along with this picture. How cute?! I love her blazer (in an on-trend mint colour, to boot), the hem detailing on her skirt, and her cool hairdo. Apparently the show was a blast and they were on their feet all night - which made G glad she opted for sensible flats, with fishnets for a little edge! Thanks for sharing G!!

T-shirt: Joe Fresh ($8)
Blazer: hand-me-down from niece
Skirt: bought in Prince Edward Island 
Necklace: Gifted from Roots 
 Tights: Joe ($8)
Shoes: Globo ($49)
For this post, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy's What I Wore Wednesday 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One-year blogiversary!! A look back...

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of a second glance!! When I sat down to write my first blog post, I didn't realize what a rewarding creative outlet this would become for me. Through blogging, I've found inspiration, escapism, affirmation and companionship. I can't say it's changed my life, but it has challenged to stretch myself in new, more creative directions in the kitchen, in my wardrobe and behind the lens of my camera. Making honeycomb, studding a jacket, and taking photos in -30C weather were firsts for me this year! If you have any feedback or suggestions for year two, leave them below or email me: One of the things I'd like to get better at is formatting my posts. Creating these thumbnails was victory enough for today; just ignore the awkward spacing (or send me info on how to fix it)! I didn't do a roundup of my food posts but the recipes are all listed here with links to the original post.