Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spiced hot apple cider

You know that tingly, giddy feeling you get when the holiday bug finally bites? This is the drink version of that feeling. This recipe (my own) will take you about 15 minutes and turn ordinary apple cider into something extraordinary. It made me want to throw a holiday party just for an excuse to make a big batch. 

You could use either whole or ground spices. It really depends what you have on hand. When I only had ground spices, I added them directly to the cider. I corralled the whole spices in a tea leaf holder that I lowered into the cider to infuse. The vanilla bean, orange peel and cinnamon stick were easy to scoop out at the end.

To make, pour 4 cups of apple cider into a saucepan. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, 1/2 tsp each of anise, allspice, nutmeg and cloves and 1 length of orange peel. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot with a cinnamon stick to garnish.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coral minidress

Blogging has encouraged me to expand my horizons and try plenty of different silhouettes and styles. Some I already know don’t work for me, like most strapless tops or dresses. So I avoid them. But there’s something nice about discovering a shape that seems to work with your body type and sticking to it. In my case, short stretchy skirts worn with a looser-fitting top half that ends at the hip (other examples here, here and here). When I spotted a dress that brought all those elements together in a pretty coral colour, at a thrift store right before our trip to Florida, I was smitten.

Thank you for the congratulatory messages on B and my engagement (these pictures, incidentally, were taken a few hours before). We're SO happy and excited. I promise to get back to regular AND more winter-appropriate posts shortly, but in response to some of the questions you've asked: He proposed by the beach after dinner (in French!). Though we'd long been planning a future together, the proposal was genuinely a surprise. He asked for my parents' blessing beforehand. He proposed with a promise ring so we could go pick out the actual ring together. And we're planning a wedding in 2014. I'm marrying a guy who's incredibly genuine, kind-hearted, committed, fun-loving, intelligent and funny, and feel like the luckiest girl!! Our relationship is loving and real and I look forward to growing old together. I love you B.


{My hubby-to-be!}

Dress – Thrifted (Bebe)
Shoes – Guess via Winners
Clutch – ? (Gift)
Bracelet – Le Chateau and hand-me-down
Ring – Le Chateau

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beer-battered fish with Gribiche sauce

This week's posts were scheduled in advance. B and I are on a 5-day mini-getaway to Naples, Florida where my friend generously lent us his condo (YAY!!). B's been working really hard and this past year has been such a tough one for him that I'm more excited to see him relax than anything else. I didn't have as many outfit posts ready to go as I thought, but I have been cooking up a storm. I thought this beer-battered fish would be a good tribute to Florida's seafood culture. I don't have a deep-fryer; this version uses a hot saucepan and a generous heaping of oil. This recipe requires some careful attention in the kitchen.

To make batter:
In a large bowl, combine 8oz flour, 1-1/2 tsp baking soda and pepper. Gradually add 8oz beer (I used a Scottish bitter ale) and a splash of vinegar. Whisk vigorously to remove lumps. The mixture should look a bit thicker than pancake batter.

To prepare and cook fish:
Pat 4 haddock fillets dry. Dredge in flour, shake off excess, then dunk in batter. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with canola oil and heat until very hot but not quite smoking. Use a splatter guard if you have one. Cook fish for about 3 minutes per side. Remove pan from heat, then gently remove fish from oil and drain on paper towels.

To make Gribiche sauce: 
Hard boil two eggs and finely chop. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp Dijon, 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar, 1T chopped gherkin pickles, 1T chopped capers, and 1/2 tsp each of parsley, chervil and tarragon (fresh or dried).  

To serve:
Serve fish wrapped in newspaper with a piece of lemon and tied with a piece of raffia, with the sauce on the side.

Click here for original fish batter recipe. 
Gribiche recipe is adapted from Le Cordon Bleu.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This dress is a reminder to me of how much choice there is in fashion nowadays. When I was starting off my career eight years ago, I searched high and low for a shirtdress for my tiny but growing work wardrobe. This dress from Winners was all I found. Nowadays they're ubiquitous; available in every colour, print, fabric and button size. Although this one wasn't quite what I was looking for at the time, it's really grown on me. The print is timeless even if the material is a bit clingy and does not photograph well. And depending how you accessorize it, you can play up the colours (red shoes and belt) or mute them (olive jacket). Speaking of accessorizing, one of the photos below shows the belt with a bib necklace I taped on. In the end, I decided I preferred it without any adornment. Plus the necklace wouldn't stay put. Have you ever tried 'belt jewellery'?

Anyways, this dress also let me indulge in one of my favourite fall/winter trends this year - pops of red, a colour I NEVER used to wear. What trend have you 'fall'en for?


Dress - Ripe Collection via Winners
Jacket - Deane and White via Winners
Shoes - Shoe Republic via sample sale
Tights - Costco
Belt - Swapped (Brooks Brothers)
Belt adornment - from necklace (Laura)
Bracelet - Hand-me-down
Earrings - Walmart

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tomatillo salsa

For those of you who mark Remembrance Day, I hope that you took a moment yesterday to honour veterans. I have been wearing a poppy for the past two weeks. My grandfather is a WWII vet and my grandmother supported the war effort. I respect that my grandfather doesn't like to talk about the war but I am thankful every day for the freedom they and so many others brought about...including those who were not fortunate enough to live to see their descendants. Thank you xx

From military to Mexican...Every so often at the grocery store, I'll pick up an ingredient I've never cooked with, for a mini culinary adventure. Recently I bought a couple of tomatillos, which look like small bright green tomatoes in a thin papery husk I came up with a salsa recipe but realized I hadn't bought enough tomatillos, so I topped it up with canned tomatoes. I'd love to try this again with just tomatillos to see how the tartness changes. 

To make: 
 Remove husks and lightly wash four tomatillos (they may be slightly sticky). Cut each in half horizontally and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Broil at 450 for about 7-9 minutes, or until tops brown. Place tomatillos in a blender. Add 14 oz (1/2 can) diced tomatoes, juice of one lime, 1/2 small chopped red onion, 1 deseeded and chopped jalapeno, a handful of cilantro, and 1 tsp cumin. Blend until relatively smooth, then season with salt to taste. Makes about 2 cups.
I used the salsa in a couple of different dishes. The one shown below is a whole wheat tortilla wrap with pulled pork, salsa, lettuce, avocado, Greek yogurt and shredded mozzarella.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Eggs florentine (light version)

Ohmygoodness, where has the past week gone? Here is a much overdue recipe post, just in time for those of you reading this on a pre-brunch Saturday morning to build up an appetite.

As a foodie, I've got expensive taste. Pricey ingredients like vanilla beans, saffron and pomegranate seeds have found their way into recipes on this blog. A couple of weeks ago, I nixed tofu stir fry dinner plans in favour of lobster tails when B and I found ourselves at Costco during their seafood roadshow. (B will tell you I actually started hopping with excitement). But like everyone else I've noticed food prices rising rather quickly and so now we eat vegetarian one or two nights a night. It helps keeps our food budget in check and I'm told vegetarian is good for the environment. This recipe is a lighter version of traditional eggs Florentine. With some fruit on the side, it's substantial enough to make a healthy and filling breakfast-for-dinner. Serves 2.

To make eggs and vegetables:
Heat a large pan half-filled with simmering water and 1T vinegar to a simmer. Gently break 4-6 eggs into pan, then cook for 3-4 minutes, spooning the hot water over the yolks. Once cooked, gently remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Drain water from pan, then heat 1T margarine and 1T olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 6 sliced white mushrooms and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add several large handfuls of rinsed baby spinach (may need to be done in batches) to mushrooms. Cook until just wilted, then drain and pat dry. Season with pepper to taste. Note: The original recipe calls for leeks and spinach.

To make sauce:
Mix 2T cornstarch to a paste with a little milk in a small mixing bowl. Pour 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir the boiling milk into the cornstarch mixture, then pour back into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Once it has thickened, simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 50g grated Gruyรจre cheese and season with nutmeg and pepper. 

To bake:
Preheat the broiler. Spread the vegetables in a large ovenproof dish, make hollows using the back of a spoon, then place an egg in each hollow. Spoon the cheese sauce over top and top with paprika. Broil until the top starts to brown. Serve with toast.

Recipe source: Cook Smart for a Healthy Heart cookbook

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cozy weekend knits

A blogger friend from Alaska, Katie, told me that she'd been looking through my old posts, seeking winter wear inspiration from a fellow cold climate dweller. With my city's first frost within sight, I decided to pull my knits out of storage this week. Ironically, I bought this American Eagle-labelled wool cardigan from a market in Thailand, where it came without the $98.99 price tag. With jeans, a light blue striped button down and chunky ankle boots, I felt like an Eddie Bauer ad. But Katie is hardly one to need inspiration. She layers like a pro, and manages to do it with two kids in tow. Check out her style and marvel at the pretty Alaskan countryside at An Alaskan Weredork.



Sweater – American Eagle via market in Thailand
Shirt – Coupe via Winners
Jeans – Seven via Winners
Boots – Sirens (last seen here)
Bag – Dooney and Burke
Earrings - Handmade by my cousin