Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bento snack box

A couple of months ago, B started a new job where a hectic work pace and long hours make it difficult for him to plan for regular meals. He's also an athlete who trains often and is conscientious about healthy eating. So, after some 'Pinspiration', I decided to surprise him with an on-the-go bento snack box. The idea of repurposing a storage box with customizable compartments from a hardware store totally appealed to my sense of organization (yes, I'm one of THOSE people). Just be glad I didn't coordinate by colour... though the idea crossed my mind. This would also be great for road trips, though in my own version I'd be sneaking in some jellybeans or gummi bears.


Back row: teriyaki beef jerky, cashews, pecans, dried apricots
Third row: Sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut, dried prunes, almond slivers, raisins, dried cherries
Second row: BBQ flavoured rice crackers
Front row: Madeira fruit and nut mix, granola bar, Singaporean snack mix

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sundress with black tank

Canadian summers are notoriously short, this past one being a (wonderful) exception. Therefore, we like to find ways of getting more bang for our buck when it comes to summer clothes. Deft layering does the trick, but this dress is a little challenging. It's very low-cut. The pleats on the torso add bulk. To cap it off, I bought it a couple of sizes too big, attracted by the lure of a sale. Last fall, I layered a short-sleeved knit top and a blazer to smooth things out and cover up for the office (see it here). This time I tried the reverse - a black tank top worn underneath, and a sheer skinny scarf to better define my waist. Patent brogues, a black velvet blazer and a structured leather bag gave it a bit of a menswear vibe. 

Do you try to give your summer clothes staying power?


Dress – H&M (also here and here)
Blazer – H&M
Brogues – Libby Edelman
Tights – Winners
Bag – Leo Monk
Tank – Winners
Scarf (as belt) - Thrifted

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Slow-roasted candied tomatoes

Think you couldn't make tomatoes taste as sweet as candy? Think again. Heat and time do MAGICAL things to tomatoes, let me tell you. Yes, you need about 3 - 3 1/2 hours to cook these babies but take advantage of a time when you happen to be home for a few hours. The prep work is easy and once the tomatoes are in the oven, you pretty much let them be. I used a whole slab of tomatoes since they will shrink by about three-quarters as the moisture in the tomatoes evaporates.  

To make, slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. In a large bowl, gently toss tomato slices with 4 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 T each of whatever Italian-style herbs you have on hand. I used oregano, thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage and marjoram. Add a couple of generous pinches of coarse sea salt and 2T chopped garlic. Drain excess liquid from bowl. Place tomatoes on baking sheets lined with foil and bake at 300 for about 3 hours or until almost completely dehydrated, turning once. 

Substitute these for tomatoes in any kind of recipe – toss in salads, serve on crackers with fresh Parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic, add to a pesto pasta dish, layer in a Panini with grilled vegetables, stuff in chicken breasts with goat cheese…hungry yet?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thrifted navy suede blazer - two days, two ways

With its beautiful tailoring and gold-coloured hardware, this genuine suede blazer from Danier was a thrifty steal at $12. At first I wasn't sure about the princess sleeves but I like how they let your shirt cuffs peek out. The armholes are also cut a bit lower than I like but when thrifting, you can't be too choosy. And its hefty fabric has kept me warm on some cold Canadian days!

I thought I’d show two of the ways I’ve worn it. I played it pretty safe on both counts – once with dress pants in the same tone, a neutral silk button-down and a gold belt and once with a lacy salmon tank, skinny jeans and knee-high boots. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them!


Blazer - Thrifted (Danier Leather)

Pants - Consigned (BCBG)
 Blouse - Thrifted (Jalouzie)
Belt - Thrifted
Shoes - Old Navy
Watch - Kenneth Cole
Ring - Le Chateau

Jeans - Guess
Tank - Banana Republic
Boots - Geox
 Necklace - Thrifted (Jones New York) 
 Watch - Kenneth Cole
 Ring - Le Chateau

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Carrot-zucchini cake with cream cheese and vanilla bean icing

One of my favourite little pleasures in life is moist carrot cake with real cream cheese icing. Living in residence in my first year of university, my floormates and I used to scrape off the inferior icing on the cafeteria's carrot cake, stir in cream cheese from the bagel bar, then put it back on the cake. The following year, living in student housing with three other girls, I discovered my housemate's terrific carrot cake recipe. The addition of grated zucchini in her version keeps the cake nice and moist. When I decided to make one recently for my Dad's birthday (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; we both love it), I decided to step it up a bit. I combined my housemate's recipe with my Mom's recipe for rum-glazed carrots, which we usually have during the holidays, and added a few extra spices. The outcome was exquisite. 

 To make cake:
Peel 1 cup carrots and cut into pieces of roughly equal size, about 3". Place carrots in a small saucepan with 1T margarine and 3 oz rum. Add enough water to just cover carrots. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue boiling until water has evaporated and carrots are nice and glazed. Mash carrots. 

In a mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup sugar until foamy. Gradually beat in 2/3 cup oil. In a separate bowl, sift 1-1/4 cups flour, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir in 1 cup grated zucchini and mashed carrots. Bake in a greased 9x13 pan at 350 for about an hour (I had doubled this recipe and it took an hour and 20 minutes in my oven)

To make icing:
Beat together 1 3-oz package softened cream cheese, 2 cups icing sugar, 3T margarine, and beans scraped from one vanilla pod. Taste. Taste again to be sure. Say to hell with it, get a spoon and enjoy some straight from the bowl.

Once cooled, spread whatever icing is left over onto cake and serve with a cinnamon stick for garnish.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Russian-style luxe

I had no idea what to title this post, but I ended up reducing it to the Russian stereotype of fur, red and gold accents and rich patterns. I don't get many chances to take photos of stuff I wear outside of work (that is, when I'm not puttering around the house in sweatpants, or heading to and from the gym in workout gear).  I used an Ottawa blogger meet-up as an one of the last opportunities to wear office-inappropriate shorts before the temperatures really drop. It was great to finally meet the blogger behind Hippie Lace, and catch up with the gals of Tinfoil Tiaras and A Fine Balance over yummy Mexican.


Shorts - Gap (also here)
 Top - Swapped (Banana Republic)
Red scarf - Swapped (also here)
Faux-fur collar - Thrifted (also here)
Shoes - Shoe Republic via sample sale
 Tights - Gap
Clutch - Gift
Necklace - Banana Republic
Ring - Le Chateau
Earrings - Thrifted

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Almond-crusted chicken with Balsamic-poached pear and Brie cream sauce

Despite no longer being in school, I find the back-to-school period invigorates me to tackle projects around the house in a way that the New Year never does. This year one of those has been organizing my rather daunting recipe collection. In the process, I came across a recipe I clipped from our local newspaper years ago: almond-crusted chicken with Balsamic-poached pear and Brie cream sauce. It's too decadent and labour-intensive for an everyday meal, but I thought it would be the perfect dish for a birthday dinner B and I hosted for my Dad and the rest of my family. My Dad has been so good to me - like helping with my reclaimed wood headboard DIY project that I can't wait to reveal - and I wanted to show him some appreciation. Look out for an upcoming post about the gourmet carrot cake we had for dessert.
 Serves 6.

To prepare pears (can be made a day ahead):
Peel, slice in half lengthwise and core four ripe Bosc pears. Heat 1 cup balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized saucepan to simmering, then add pears and poach for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, slice pears, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Reheat just before using.

Tip: My pears were not completely immersed during poaching, so I turned them once. I kept the leftover vinegar for use in salad dressings.

To prepare chicken:
Pulse 1 1/2 cups almonds in a blender until slightly coarser than breadcrumbs. Pat 6 chicken breasts dry, then roll in almonds. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until fully cooked. 

To prepare sauce:
  Melt 6T butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once starting to froth, whisk in 6T flour and continue to whisk until a light-brown roux is formed. Whisking, add 1 cup white wine,  1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1/2 cup table cream. Simmer until thickened to sauce consistency. Remove from heat and stir in 6T Brie (or other cheese). Season to taste with pepper.

Tip: Clarified butter is used in a traditional roux. 
Tip: Before adding the cheese, I separated the sauce into two batches and added Brie to one and blue cheese to the other so people could choose.

To serve:
 Spoon sauce over chicken breasts and top with poached pear slices. Serve with mushroom risotto finished with a splash of lemon juice, and a green salad with a balsamic dressing made with the leftover poaching liquid.

Recipe source: Ottawa Citizen (with some minor adaptations)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yellow, purple and pink colourblock

Lately, I've been inspired by colour wheels to try new combinations. This eggplant-hued top doesn't get worn much because most of my pants are equally dark. Instead I tried it with a bright and cheery lemon-yellow skirt from the other side of the colour wheel. The skirt is a bit lumpy around the waist, so I tend to wear it with a wide belt, blazer or untucked top. Pink shoes completed the colourblock effect.


Skirt - Thrifted (Caroll) (most recently here)
Top - Yildizi (from Vietnam) (also here)
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Earrings - Jacob

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pasta with anchovies, roasted tomato and eggplant

This mouth-watering dish is simple yet elegant, and does a standout job highlighting the freshness of a few key flavours - ripe tomato and eggplant, creamy roasted garlic, salty anchovies, and freshly-picked basil. It was loosely inspired by this recipe, and instantly became a new favourite. I'm already looking forward to making it again.
Serves 4.
To prepare vegetables:
Thickly slice 3 large tomatoes and 2 small eggplants, then toss in 1T olive oil and place on baking sheet. Cut top off 1 head garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast tomatoes, eggplant and garlic in oven at 325. Remove garlic after about 45 minutes, continue roasting tomatoes and eggplant for another 15-20 minutes.

To make pasta:
Cook 375 g whole-wheat spaghettini according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water.

To prepare sauce:
Thinly slice one large sweet onion. Sautee with 1/2 T olive oil and 1/2 T butter over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and starting to brown. Add roasted tomatoes and eggplant, garlic squeezed from bulb, 1 can whole tomatoes and about 20 chopped anchovy fillets. Gently break up canned tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring sauce to a boil, then add 3/4 cup red wine and reserved cooking water. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with pepper and a dash of chili flakes. 

To serve:
Toss sauce with pasta. Serve with grated Parmesan and torn basil leaves.


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Streamlined stripes

I'm making an effort to give items I don't often wear a chance by purposely building an outfit around them, like this sleeveless blouse. I thought the stripes and colour scheme called for a modern, streamlined look. I added a black pencil skirt with exposed zipper, simple black envelope purse, wedge sandals with bold black elastic straps and glass-bead necklace. I wore my hair straight and kept my makeup simple.


Top - Charter Club (Hand-me-down)
Skirt - Zara
Purse - Marie Claire
Sandals - Bandolino
Necklace - RW & Co.
Ring - Reitman's

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Salmon steaks with black olive tapenade

This recipe has a great flavour-to-effort ratio, and I was able to get two very tasty dishes out of this black olive tapenade.

To prepare tapenade, thinly slice two medium-sized sweet onions. Saute onions over medium heat with 1T butter and 1T olive oil, sprinkled with 1 tsp sugar. Stir regularly until onions start to brown. Remove, chop finely and add to mixing bowl. Chop 1/3 cup black olives, 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes and add to bowl, along with 2 tsp capers. 

For dinner, I spooned the tapenade over two salmon steaks, then cooked the steaks at 425 until skin was opaque and flaked easily (about 12 minutes in my oven).  

For lunch, I tossed the leftover tapenade with a can of tuna and a can of artichoke hearts and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

70s colour palette

Until recently, I never would have mixed olive and kelly greens. But they worked when worn with accessories that picked up the mustard and fuchsia colours in this dainty floral top.


Skirt - Mexx
Tank - Lorelai via Road Trip
Cardigan -  Jacob
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Purse - Thrifted (Chloe)
Sunglasses - Boathouse 
Earrings - Le Chateau