Monday, December 31, 2012

Caramelized onion, candied tomato and goat cheese crostinis

 My coworkers remembered me bringing these crostinis into the office over a year earlier, and asked me to make them again for our Christmas potluck. The flavour is outstanding, because they're topped with ingredients that were cooked veeeery slowly over low heat and are deliciously caramelized. Translation: they take time, but are soooo worth it. I made extra onions and tomatoes and used them another night to stuff chicken breasts, which I topped with Parmesan and served over cooked spinach. Don't forget, the tomatoes and onions will reduce considerably.

To make the crostinis, peel and thinly slice 6 onions. Heat 1T butter and 1T olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onions along with 1T sugar and 1/2 tsp salt, mix well, and cook with a lid on for the first five minutes. Then remove the lid and continue cooking for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until brown and sweet. You may need to increase heat to medium. Add 2T balsamic glaze (I use the PC brand) and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning.

My recipe for slow-roasted candied tomatoes is here
Slice an extra-large French baguette into crostinis about 1" thick. I used a rosemary-garlic baguette. Brush each slice with olive oil, then bake at 400 for about 5 minutes until crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle. Top each crostini with a smear of goat cheese, a small mound of caramelized onion and a candied tomato slice. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shades of grey

Usually, the hardest part of a outfit for me to plan is the footwear; I don't feel especially creative when it comes to that. (It doesn't help that half my shoe collection resides at the office). I do a lot of walking so my footwear has to be practical and sturdy enough for urban Canadian weather. Anyways, the whole visible socks idea has been intriguing me; I love when I see men and women alike pulling it off with panache. With this outfit, worn a couple of weeks ago, I decided to just take the plunge and roll my skinny jeans above a pair of black (baby steps!) socks and taupe booties.
As an aside - It always amazes me when bloggers independently come up with similar outfits. Tasha Delrae, who's been showcasing some wicked pregnancy fashion, recently wore a similar sweater and scarf. I love that she threw in a third mixed print in the form of a graphic black and white dress - great idea. Here's the link to her post.

Jeans - Forever 21
Sweater - Thrifted (Tristan)
Tank - Winners
Belt - Mexx
Scarf - Consigned (also here)
Socks - Costco
Shoes - Old Navy
Earrings - Le Chateau

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thrifted poncho

I wore this outfit a few weeks before Christmas, but I thought it would be fitting to post it now. Why? Because ponchos are AMAZING for concealing the effects of holiday overindulgence, while also making you feel like you are wrapped in a hug all day long. What could be better?

Skirt - Thrifted (Caroll) (most recently here)
Poncho - Thrifted (Majora)
Turtleneck - Mexx
Shoes - Shoe Republic via sidewalk sale (also here and here)
Bracelet - Le Chateau
Earrings - Gift

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

5 things - Christmas edition

I wish you love, laughter and the happiest of holidays. Here are a five little things that filled me with joy in the lead-up to Christmas.

 {Wrapped gift for work Kris Kringle}

{First snow on Parliament, seen through a window ornament in our living room}

 {Holiday bouquet in a rustic watering can}

 {Wreath on our door}

 {The Christmas tree at my parents' house}

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bedroom and bathroom update - the reveal

 B and I have been living in our rented condo for two and a half years. Our furniture is a mishmash of items we each brought to the household, everything from childhood  hand-me-downs to inexpensive pieces we bought when we were each young, single professionals living on our own. Last spring I got an urge to update the bedroom and my bathroom. Since we're saving up to buy a house, and don't know what kind of place we'll have, big investments don't make sense. This refresh was about stretching a budget with easy updates like painting a statement wall, and in some cases, getting creative. I'm really happy with the end result; our home feels a lot cozier. Let me know what you think!


Our bedroom has some nice features - a high, exposed concrete ceiling and one wall made of glass. However, our headboard-less bed was dwarfed by the tall ceiling. The cream-coloured lamps with pencil-thin bases virtually disappeared into a sea of white, and the side tables offered no storage space.

I painted the wall behind our bed a steely navy colour (Behr's Evening Hush). My sister was getting rid of the two sets of drawers which now double as our bedside tables. They were originally part of a desk unit that my parents bought in the 1980s from a not-for-profit organization which employs people with developmental disabilities to build furniture. I cleaned, sanded and painted them with two coats of glossy white paint. I like how they really pop against the dark wall.

I bought the bedding with grey and black piping on sale at Winners. Now that we have a bedskirt, we can finally conceal the storage boxes under our bed. Between the headboard, sheets and wall colour, I started to see a nautical theme coming together. I kept it up with red lamps with crystal bases I found at HomeSense.

Our new headboard is made from two square (teak!!) tabletops I salvaged from our condo building's common patio area. The tables were destined for the dump after their legs splintered in a windstorm. I'd done a lot of research on DIY headboards and was inspired by ones made of reclaimed wood (like this one). I measured the tabletops and to my surprise, two were the exact width of a queen-sized bed.

 My dad lovingly sanded and stained the wood which was a weathered grey. Then he assembled the tabletops into a custom headboard (he surprised me with the finished product after I went out of town unexpectedly, so I don't have the details of how he did this). The grain of the wood is absolutely beautiful and I am so so grateful for the time and effort my dad put into helping with this project <3. Best of all, these tables hold happy memories of dinners and casual BBQs with friends and family, and are now permanently incorporated into our home's decor.

The picture frame is from Winners; the duck statue from Dollarama.

I got this walnut bowl from an art gallery in Banff a few years ago; it was made my a local artist. I moved it onto the bedside table when I saw how nicely it complements the headboard.


This dresser, which is at the foot of our bed, has sentimental value to me. It was custom-made by a contractor/family friend to fit into my shoebox of a room in university (imagine what you can rent for $235/month and you'll get the idea). I wanted to some new small storage boxes to corral our DVDs and CDs, as well as some plants and artwork.


Most of the pieces seen here are from big box stores (Walmart, Home Outfitters, Winners, HomeSense, Zellers). I had hoped to thrift some stuff but gave up after several months of searching. The mini cube-shaped dresser is from my childhood bedroom and has been many colours over the years, most recently black. I used leftover paint from the statement wall to paint it to match.

I moved the square stand from another part of the house to the top of the dresser. It was made in Thailand and reminds me of a womb. I picked up the woman figurine during travels in Vietnam.

The suitcases took the longest to find. I wanted something with vintage charm and eventually settled on faux vintage from a big box store.


B and I have our own bathrooms, so mine was a space where I wanted to bring in some femininity. You can't tell in the photo, but the paint was poorly applied and peeling in places, from the time we moved in. It was driving me nuts. Also, my one sorry piece of artwork looked woefully out of scale. 


I started by painting the right wall a colour that better matched the tiling, countertop and sink vanity (Behr's Irish Mist). I found the framed artwork at Winners for $30. It just spoke to me, and the frame matched the bathroom fixtures perfectly. I didn't originally plan to hang it there, but I found the final placement more intimate. Plus you can see it from the hallway even when my bathroom door is open.

I created a mini vignette in the corner using a statue from Dollarama, a silver box that was a childhood gift and now stores Qtips and cotton pads, and a small dish for jewellery.


I wanted to paint the front wall of my bathroom (the other non-tile one) a soft but non-neutral colour. I also wanted extra storage for products that used to take up space on the vanity, so I could wipe down the sink counter more easily. 


I took my artwork with me to the paint store to choose a colour that would pick up on one of the hues in the flowers, settling on Behr's First Blush. In person it reminds me of cotton candy and is my least favourite of the three new paint colours...but it's not too bad. The glass shelf was from Walmart. I reinstalled the towel rack a little lower, and we've since been given some dark grey towels that pop against the light walls.

Are you planning any updates in 2013?


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 7 - Lemon curd

I was a little gung-ho with posting my holiday baking recipes, being that 7 days of baking only brought us to the 23rd. But I consider that Christmas starts on the 24th, so can we say close enough? Be sure to check back in tomorrow. I'm doing something slightly different...a reveal of our bedroom/bathroom makeover!
Originally, I was going to post my recipe for pumpkin cookies for Day 7. Sadly, they didn't turn out as well as I hoped and need some work. I still served them to my friends, who are probably pausing mid-bite as they read this ;) Instead, I'm sharing a lemon curd recipe from my Mom's collection that we made as a Christmas gift for my grandmother.

To make, grate rind and juice four Meyer lemons and set aside. Whisk 4 eggs in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, melt 1/2 cup salted butter. Whisk in 2 cups white sugar, the lemon rind and lemon juice, and the beaten eggs. Cook on stovetop over medium-low for about 25 minutes, stirring regularly with a whisk to avoid burning on the bottom. Gradually increase the heat to medium or medium-high if the curd isn't thickening. Continue cooking until about the texture of Greek yogurt. Ours got to this point after about three minutes of gentle boiling. Remove from heat and leave to set for about an hour.

If you want to preserve the curd, spoon it into sterilized mini Mason jars. It will keep in the freezer for
3 months or the refrigerator for 6 weeks. We intend to use ours up quickly, so we used small screw-top Tupperware containers.

There are myriad uses for lemon curd - use it in baking (trifle, tarts, cakes, pies, cupcakes)
, serve it for breakfast (over scones, crepes, muffins, berries, or yogurt) or eat it straight off the spoon!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 6 - Cocoa-espresso cookies

Last year, I modified a Food Network recipe for cocoa wafer cookies by topping them with crushed candy cane (here). This year I decided to forgo the candy cane, but substitute half the cocoa for instant espresso. The result was SO good. And you can totally justify having one of these with your morning coffee. Go ahead, it's the holidays!

To make, beat together 3/4 cup softened butter until soft and fluffy. Sift together 1 cup icing sugar, 3T cocoa and 3T instant espresso powder and beat together with butter. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 egg yolk and 1T heavy cream. Add 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking powder. Shape dough into disc, then chill for 20 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8" thick. Cut into shapes then transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 5 - White chocolate bark with candied ginger and dried apricot

I can't really take credit since chocolate, ginger and dried fruit are a  classic combination, but this is my 'own' recipe.

 Prepare 3/4 cup coarsely chopped candied ginger and 3/4 coarsely chopped dried apricot. You can substitute virtually any other dried fruit. If it had been available at my grocery store, I would have liked to try adding dried pear as well.
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt 350g good quality white chocolate chips, stirring regularly. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. You can also melt the chocolate in a glass bowl using the microwave. Microwave in 45-second bursts on a low power setting, stirring well in between. Once chocolate is completely smooth, pour onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread until about 1/4 inch thick. Pour ginger and apricot evenly over chocolate. Two alternatives are to arrange the ginger and chocolate on the parchment paper, and pour the chocolate over top, or stir them right into the chocolate. Allow bark to harden, then break into chunks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 4 - Brown butter-toasted almond cookies

Admittedly, I was worried about how these cookies would turn out when I saw the batter. It seemed too...oily. Again, this is my own recipe so I had no reviews to fall back onIn the end, these turned out to be one of my favourites (along with the cocoa-espresso cookies, coming up soon). They have a pleasant crumbly texture, delicate almond flavour and are not overly greasy or sweet. N suggested they would pair well with afternoon tea, and I couldn't agree more. Teddi - these are egg-free!

To make, sauté 1/4 cup slivered almonds in a small dry saucepan over medium heat until just starting to brown. Shake pan occasionally to avoid burning. Set almonds aside. In the same saucepan, prepare 1/2 cup browned butter, then allow to cool slightly.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat browned butter, 1/4 cup almond butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar on high. (If you don't have almond butter, I suggest increasing the amount of browned butter above to 3/4 cup, and either preparing 1/3 cup of toasted almonds instead of 1/4 cup, or adding 1 tsp almond extract.) Add 3 tsp amaretto and mix. Gradually mix in 2 cups of all--purpose flour. Stir in toasted almonds. Taking care to handle the dough as little as possible, roll dough into 1" balls and space out on an ungreased cookie sheet. Insert a dried cherry into the top of each cookie, then bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Tip: If you have patience in abundance, these cookies would probably be even more fantastic if you substituted lightly crushed German-style burnt almonds for the toasted slivered almonds.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 3 - Cardamom, pistachio, and dried cranberry dark chocolate bark

Along with my cookies, I made two types of chocolate bark this year (one dark, one white) for the chocolate fiends amongst my family and friends. This version has a pleasing salty-sweet flavour and the colours are perfect for Christmas.

 Prepare 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios and 1/2 cup dried cranberries.
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt 350g good quality dark chocolate chips, stirring regularly. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. You can also melt the chocolate in a glass bowl using the microwave. Microwave in 45-second bursts on a low power setting, stirring well in between. Once chocolate is completely smooth, stir in 1-2T of ground cardamom. Pour chocolate onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread until about 1/4 inch thick. Pour pistachios and dried cranberries evenly over chocolate, pushing down slightly into chocolate as necessary. Allow to harden, then break into chunks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 2 - Toasted coconut-lime cookies with macadamia nuts

Last Christmas, I made lemon-cream cheese cookies which ended up being some of my personal favourites. I liked the idea of doing a citrus flavour again this year. I decided to try lime, and substituted toasted coconut and macadamia nuts for the cream cheese, which made for a tropical kick. 

To make cookies, beat 3/4 cup softened butter and 1 cup icing sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add 3T coconut milk and the juice and zest of one lime. 

In a small saucepan, brown 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes over medium heat. Watch carefully to avoid browning. In a mixing bowl, sift together coconut flakes, 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Working in batches, gradually add to flour mixture to batter and mix until just combined. Mix in 1 cup lightly crushed macadamia nuts. 

 Roll dough into 1-inch balls on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, and place onto a greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Make an indentation in the dough balls with a fork dipped in icing sugar. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, or until delicate brown underneath. 

Recipe: my own

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seven days of holiday baking: Day 1 - Whisky-molasses cookies with raisins

7 days until Christmas!! I'm counting down the final week with a recipe a day from my holiday baking. First up: whisky-molasses cookies with raisins. This and the six others are my own personal recipes.

To make, prepare 1/4 cup brown butter on stovetop, then cool to room temperature. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream brown butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Add 1 egg, 1/2 cup molasses, 3 oz whisky and 1 tsp vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp ground cloves. Gradually add flour to batter, mixing until just combined. Stir in 1 cup raisins. Chill dough for an hour as batter will be sticky. Then spoon out onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

Check back tomorrow for toasted coconut and lime cookies with macademia nuts.