Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rhubarb coffee cake

I stopped in at our neighbourhood farmers' market a couple of weekends ago and picked up some late-season rhubarb. I love the idea of a fruit that's too tart to eat on its own, so you're pretty much forced to turn into something that will satisfy a sweet tooth. 

This cake recipe is a family one. I'd only made it once before, but it got the stamp of approval from my Aussie roommates at the time, so I felt confident bringing this one in to share with my coworkers. The usual baker on our team is on maternity leave and I was missing the occasional homemade treats! (We're spoiled)

I mentioned to my parents that I'd made this cake and was planning to post it on the blog. They both said 'oh, the lunar cake!'. After I stared at them blankly, they explained the sugary topping melting into the cake makes crater-like holes.


In a stand mixer, cream together 1/2 cup slightly softened butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Add two eggs. Add 1 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 tsp vanilla. Working in batches, fold in 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 tsp baking soda. Stir in 2 cups of chopped rhubarb. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13" baking dish.  

Again using the stand mixer, mix 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1T softened butter, 1T flour and 1 tsp cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of cake. 

Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Broiled scallops over apple slaw with honey-soy drizzle

I haven't been able to take many outfit photos in the past few weeks but I'm hoping to rectify. After all, we only get a few short weeks for warm weather clothing. I've made a couple of yummy recipes (of the use the oven for as little time as possible variety) so I'll fill the gaps with some food posts.

I bought a dozen giant scallops as a treat for a gourmet weekend dinner. I decided to experiment by using them in not one but two recipes. Both were delicious, but both B and I deemed this one the winner. I'll post the second recipe soon. 

The Asian-inspired vinaigrette and torn mint in the coleslaw added sharp freshness, and the crunchy vegetables were a pleasing contrast to the slippery smooth scallops. The honey-soy reduction added a nice bit of sweetness, and we even had a little bit left over for another use. This recipe is my own, and serves two.


I used a half a bag of salad mix from Costco made with shredded broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale and chicory. I omitted the salad accompaniments - sunflower seeds and dried cranberries - and substituted my own vinaigrette. 

To make vinaigrette, whisk together 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1T sugar, 1 tsp fish sauce and the juice of 1/2 lime. Toss with salad.

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup sherry, 1/4 dark soy sauce and 1/4 cup honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue boiling until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool and thicken further. My sauce ended up more viscous than in the photo after it cooled for another couple of minutes.

Thread six scallops onto a long bamboo skewer and wrap the ends in foil to avoid burning. Grill or broil scallops on very high heat for about 4-5 minutes, turning once. 

Serve scallops over coleslaw and drizzle with soy reduction.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Homemade pizza margherita

  I've wanted to make a classic pizza margherita from scratch for a long time. I don't have an Italian nonna (or know any) so I turned to the Internet and the back of a package of pizza yeast for recipe inspiration. Things were going swimmingly and my kitchen smelled like heaven, until I needed to lift my pizza into the oven. I couldn't - not with my hands, not with a pair of spatulas, not by sliding a baking sheet underneath, not by throwing every curse word I know at it. 

Finally I just scooped it up into one big blob and unceremoniously dumped it on a baking sheet. A few lessons learned if you try this at home: 1) Don't roll out the dough too thinly. 2) Shape your pizza dough directly onto a baking sheet or pizza stone that can go in the oven, then add your toppings. If you don't do this, then make sure your surface is very generously floured. 3) Another option is to bake the dough on its own for a couple of minutes to harden before adding the toppings, and finish baking. 

If you have advice based on your own experience, I'd love to hear it! I took a photo post-baking, just for the heck of it. For what it's worth, it tasted AMAZING. Commercial pizza just doesn't compare!


I adapted this recipe to make the pizza sauce. My adaptations included adding anchovies and red wine, and substituting some of the dried herbs. In a large skillet, melt 2T olive oil and 1T butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/4 cup diced celery, and two cloves of minced garlic. Sauté for several minutes, until translucent. Stir in 1 tin of tomato paste and an 8-oz can of tomatoes (I used whole San Marzano ones and broke them up using a wooden spoon). Add a generous splash of red wine, 3 anchovies, 2T grated Parmigano-Reggiano, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp ground star anise, 1/2 tsp dried tarragon, 1/2 tsp celery salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1 bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 30-60 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the dough.

I followed the instructions on the side of my jar of Freischmann's pizza yeast to make the dough. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2-1/4 tsp yeast, 1-1/2 tsp sugar and 3/4 tsp salt. Add 2/3 cup very warm water and 3T oil. Mix until well-blended, about 1 min. Add enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough (3/4 to 1-1/4 cups). The dough should form a ball and be slightly sticky. Knead on a floured surface adding additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic; about 4 mins. Pat dough with floured hands to fill greased pizza pan or roll dough onto a floured counter. The recipe says this makes 1 regular 12" crust or 2 thin crust pizzas but I think one regular crust is a better bet.


Spread the sauce over the dough. Layer sliced tomatoes, sliced bocconcini (I used mini bocconcini) and whole basil leaves. Drizzle with reduced balsamic. Bake at 425 until cheese is starting to brown.
{Fresh basil we grew ourselves!}

{I took a photo just for the heck of it!}

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mint tea lemonade

We had a lot of lemons left over after entertaining recently, and our mint plant is growing quickly so I thought I'd make a refreshing summer lemonade using the two. We drank it straight, but the lemonade would also be a great base for a punch or cocktail. This recipe is my own. 

To make, squeeze the juice of 5 lemons, which should yield about 1 cup. In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups of water and 2-1/2 cups of sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the water boils, drop in a bag of mint herbal tea and remove from heat. Infuse for 5-10 minutes, then discard teabag. Once cool, add lemon juice and chill in refrigerator. 

Serve with muddled fresh mint.

Note: I adjusted the recipe after the lemonade turned out too tart. You may need to play around with the ratios of lemon to water to sugar to suit your tastes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Road trippin'

These were the only blog photos I took on our New England road trip. We pulled over somewhere outside Ogdensburg after spotting this picturesque fence and swing set. 

I'm trying out the neon bra under a semi-sheer top trend. It needs the right occasion (road trip, concert) but it sure kept me cool on a sweltering day!


Shorts - Forever 21
Tank - Dynamite
Sandals - Thailand market
Belt - Pac Sun
Bag - Dooney and Burke
Sunglasses - Boathouse
Necklace - Vancouver Aquarium giftshop

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vegetable and herb frittata

B and I had a great trip to Boston. Highlights for me were visiting the coastal towns north of the city, Marblehead and Salem, trying new food, seeing my first ballgame at night, and just exploring the city hand-in-hand with B, our first real quality time together in a couple of weeks. We had a few hiccups - a 5am fire alarm at the hotel, a short spell of heat stroke on a day registering 43C, but it isn't a trip without it! The Wrentham Premium Outlets were awesome. B took a long detour to the gym, but was a saint and still logged over 6 hours of shopping with me. He's a keeper! We mostly stuck to the sales but found some great stuff at 50-75% off.

We indulged well on our trip but coming home I was looking forward to some healthy homemade food. My neighbour gave me locally-grown garlic scapes which I used in a frittata, along with herbs grown on our balcony. Yay for high-rise gardening! 

To make, in a large mixing bowl, break 12 eggs and stir with a fork until combined. Add 1 cup grated sharp cheddar. Stir in a handful of fresh chopped herbs. I used chives, marjoram and thyme. Add generous amount of freshly cracked pepper. Mix until combined. Set aside

In a large skillet, melt 4T duck fat over medium heat. Add 1/2 red onion, diced, and 3 garlic scapes, cut into 1" pieces. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 6 coarsely chopped mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chopped candied tomatoes (or used canned sun-dried tomatoes) and stir to combine.

Increase heat to medium-high. Pour in egg mixture. With one hand, shake pan gently back and forth. With the other hand, use a fork with the tines parallel to bottom of pan, and use the fork to stir the egg mixture in concentric circles.

Once eggs have set on bottom (will resemble scrambled eggs), but are still runny on top, place pan into an oven preheated on the broil setting. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the eggs have set and edges have just started to brown. Serve with a side salad.

Serves 4.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Coral and pink

This coral-and-pink outfit with gold accessories reminds me of Miami. I spotted a beautiful field of wheat lit up with late afternoon sunlight while driving to a dinner in the suburbs, and got B to pull over to take these photos. It was one of those ideas that's better in theory than in reality. We couldn't get the field into the frame since it would have involved shooting into the sun, and the strong wind wreaked havoc with my hair. We fired off a couple of quick shots then I changed into a more casual tee-shirt in anticipation of cooler temperatures later in the evening.


Top - Swapped (Costa Blanca) (also here)
Skirt - Banana Republic (also here)
Belt - Thrifted
Sandals - Le Chateau
Clutch - Gift
Earrings - Gift
Bracelet - Banana Republic

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Island of misfit clothes #6: The tight bordeaux lace dress


I went thrifting for dresses with sex appeal and thought I'd found that in this Le Chateau lace number. I figured it would be great for Christmas.

Pros: Lace is white-hot right now. This dress shows off every curve.

Cons: This is a 'skinny day' dress. It doesn't really work with a bra and it's too small at the bust. It doesn't look right with any of my cardigans, blazers or shawls and let's face it, those are needed for warmth during the holiday season! None of my shoes work particularly well either. 

Solution: Avoid the warmth issue and wear in the summertime. Go funky instead of sexy and layer it underneath a loose-fitting grey top with a statement necklace and simple black sling backs. Face up to the fact it doesn't fit properly, enjoy it as a one-hit wonder, and give it away at next opportunity.

{Lots of laughs in the parking lot before a Rihanna concert}

{A clip of my favourite song from the show...We Found Love}

Dress - Thrifted (Le Chateau)
Top - Thrifted (Banana Republic)
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Necklace - Road Trip via sidewalk sale
Bracelets - Aakriti Designs and hand-me-downs