Thursday, February 28, 2013

Island of misfit clothes #3: the Aztec print teal/cream sweatshirt


I got this US Polo Assn. brand sweatshirt at a clothes swap two years ago.

Pros: The Aztec print is great for winter. I love the colour, and the wide scoop neckline is unlike anything else I own.

Cons: It's short and super-boxy. The extra-long cuffs emphasize the fact that it's a sweatshirt.  The colour is hard to pair with casual bottoms like blue jeans (plus I have an aversion to denim + teal). 

Solution: Discover a perfectly-matched necklace in your jewellery drawer(!). To avoid looking too casual, fold back the cuffs, and pair with more tailored bottoms. Choose a colour that will complement the teal nicely: bright yellow. 

Epilogue: Originally I planned to wear this top with burgundy pants (here), my white puffy vest and faux-shearling boots (both seen here). But the pants shrank in the wash and are now too short :( so I went for the yellow skirt instead. I must have tried on 10 outfits; this was the best I could manage and even so I'm not crazy about the red shoes. Sometimes you have to let go, and this top now has a new home in Nini's closet. I pass the challenge baton to her!

Top: Swapped (U.S. Polo Assn.)
Skirt: Thrifted (Caroll) (most recently here)
Shoes: Walmart
Necklace: Handmade (also here)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two-squash soup with crispy sage, proscuitto and croutons

This is more than a soup. This is a gourmet meal in a bowl, and a nice way to take advantage of seasonal produce. I made it on the weekend and we had leftovers for weekday lunches. My favourite touch was homemade croutons, made with potato-chive ciabatta bread cubes tossed in olive oil and Parmesan, then baked. B and I kept popping them in our mouth before we even got to the table. You may recall that some of these ingredients did double-duty with an earlier recipe, kale salad with roasted butternut squash. This recipe is my own and serves about 8.

To prepare squash and garlic:

Cut the top off one bulb of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Cut one butternut squash and one acorn squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds, then lay cut side down on a baking sheet along with the bulb of garlic. Roast at 300F for about 45-60 minutes (or until fork-soft). 

To prepare accompaniments:

Follow the instructions here for the croutons. 

While the squash is roasting, tear 8 slices of prosciutto into pieces and saute over medium heat in a large stockpot until crispy but still chewy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Using the same stockpot, add 1 tsp olive oil and saute 1/4 cup sage leaves until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon. 

To prepare broth:

Peel and coarsely chop one large carrot, 2 stalks celery and one small onion. Using the same stockpot used to cook the sage and prosciutto, add another tablespoon of olive oil, then the chopped vegetables. Sauté for about 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized. Add 1L vegetable broth, 1/4 cup apple cider, 2T cider vinegar, 1T cinnamon, and 1 tsp each of 1tsp nutmeg, allspice, cumin and paprika. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. As soon the squash is cooked, scoop out half the flesh from each and add to soup. Reserve other half for a different use. 

To assemble:

Working in batches, scoop mixture into a blender and puree. If the mixture is too thin, add a little more squash flesh. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water or broth (or milk for a creamier taste). Season to taste.

Serve soup with croutons, prosciutto and sage, and a swirl of plain yogurt if desired.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Carrot-oat balls

I recently discovered a new pair of Ottawa food bloggers, El and Emily, who are behind Double Trouble Kitchen Edition (check it out!). They recently featured no-bake carrot cake balls which I wasted no time in making myself. Carrot cake is perhaps a bit of a misnomer but these bite-size morsels are packed with energy boosters. The delicious yet intriguing taste evolves from the first bite as other flavours start to come through. They're super easy to make and a great snack to keep on hand. I followed the ingredients as listed, except for rolled oats, for which I subsituted the instant oatmeal I had in the cupboard. I also varied the quantities (and by that I mean I didn't measure so these are my guesstimates below). I definitely had more than 1/4 cup of shredded carrot, and based on the photo I think I used more wet ingredients.

 To make, finely grate 1 cup carrot and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 3 packages instant oatmeal (I used one plain and two maple-cinnamon), 1/2 cup slivered almonds, 1/2 sultana raisins, 1/4 cup flaxseed, 1/4 shredded sweetened coconut, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and enough maple syrup and almond butter (added in equal proportions) to 'bind' the dry ingredients together. 

Refrigerate the mixture for an hour, then roll into 1" balls. Keep refrigerated.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Layered tops and leggings

Happy weekend! Do you guys have any plans? I was going to spend it continuing my search for a bridal gown with one of my bridesmaids, but as it happens I 'said yes to the dress' this week! As soon as I put it on, I felt so beautiful, but also very me. I still went to a few more stores, and a sample designer gown pop-up sale, but none of the others gave me (or my mom) the same reaction. 

The bonus? I bought it off-the-rack for 50% off! Like so many other couples, B and I are discovering that despite our best research and planning, weddings cost more than you'd expect. So to get that magical feeling AND come in under my gown budget was more than I could have hoped for. We're making process on other fronts - we booked our venue so our wedding date is officially set: May 10, 2014. We didn't plan it that way, but the date happens to fall on B's birthday :) Hopefully it's an EPIC celebration!!

Anyways, enough wedding talk - I've been doing some cooking this week so check back soon for my upcoming recipe posts!


Leggings - Gap
Booties - Sirens
Top - Vila via Winners (also here)
Wrap cardigan - Thrifted (Rebecca Ruby)
Hat - Thrifted
Fur scarf - Thrifted
Bracelets - Toronto boutique and hand-me-downs
Watch - Kenneth Cole
Earrings - Winners

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kale salad with roasted butternut squash and parmesan-foccacia croutons

Happy Valentine's Day! I'm on work training this week and haven't put together a holiday-themed post...but here's a yummy salad recipe to kick off your day!

Before the Christmas holidays, Costco was selling a great salad-to-go made with raw kale, sweet potato, dried cranberries and pine nuts. It was an instant hit in our household, but as so often happens at Costco, it's nowhere to be found these days. This week I decided to try my own version. We had the salad for dinner along with a two-squash soup (recipe coming soon). I saved time by using the roasted butternut squash and homemade croutons in both dishes. 

To make salad:

Cut the top off one bulb of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Cut one butternut squash in half lengthwise. Remove peel and scrape seeds, then place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet along with the garlic and roast at 300F for 45-60 minutes (until fork-soft). Cut desired quantity of squash into 1" cubes for salad, and keep the rest for another use (I used 1/4 for the salad and 3/4 for the soup).  

To make croutons, dice one day-old loaf of potato-chive foccacia bread (I got mine at Loblaws) into 1" cubes. Toss bread cubes with 1T olive oil and 1/4 cup Parmesan. When squash is done baking, increase oven temperature to 415F. Spread the bread cubes into a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. The croutons should be lightly browned, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Thoroughly wash and dry one head of kale. Cut away ribs, then coarsely chop. Place kale, squash and croutons in a salad bowl along with a handful of raisins and pecans.

To make dressing:

In a small bowl, mash half of the cloves from the roasted garlic bulb. Whisk in 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 2T cider vinegar. Pour desired quantity of dressing over salad. Ideally, let the salad - minus the croutons - sit for 10-15 minutes before serving, to allow the kale to absorb the dressing.

Option: Dry roast the butternut squash seeds and add to salad.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Shawarma-style grilled chicken wraps

Ottawa has a large Lebanese population, and shawarma is arguably THE post-bar snack, rivalled perhaps only by poutine and pizza. Last week I got a craving for one and decided to try a homemade version. I consulted my Lebanese friends and quickly established that zataar spice was a must. I picked up a 1 lb bag at a specialty deli - it's the most spice I've ever received for $4. I wasn't able to pry a garlic sauce recipe out of anyone so took to the Internet. It seems like garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt are the main ingredients, but the stuff in takeout stands seems much more white in colour than what I got - maybe they're using lard? Anyways, I used extra-virgin olive oil in my recipe but found the taste off-putting so I think regular olive oil is the way to go. If anyone has spent time in a Lebanese kitchen and has suggestions for me, I'm all ears...(Update: It was suggested to me that canola oil or another vegetable oil is best for garlic sauce. I haven't tried this yet thought I would share the feedback.)

Serves four.

To make chicken: 
Combine 1 cup greek yogurt, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup zataar spice, 2T dried oregano, 1T dried parsley, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp each of cumin, garlic salt and pepper. Pour over 4 chicken breasts and marinate overnight. Grill or bake, then slice lengthwise into thin strips. 

To make garlic sauce:
Put the bulbs from one head of roasted garlic and one head of raw garlic in a blender. Add juice of 1/2 lemon and a generous amount of salt. Turn on blender and while mixing, slowly add 3/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin). I ended up adding 2T mayo to try to cover the taste of extra-virgin.

To assemble wraps:
Layer slices of chicken with pickled turnips (also from specialty deli), slices of pickle, tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce on a whole-wheat pita. Top with tahini and garlic sauce, then roll and secure with aluminum foil. 

Serve with a lettuce, tomato and roasted chickpea salad tossed with a simple oil, white vinegar and lemon juice vinaigrette. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Island of misfit clothes #2: The thick, moss brown sweater

I bought this sweater at Winners when longer tops were just starting to come into style.

Pros: The sweater is an unusual colour (moss). It's thick and cozy in winter. The back is cut in a pretty V-style.

Cons: The sweater is an unusual colour (moss can also be called 'vomit'). It can add bulk around the middle. Sometimes I get chilly when my neck is exposed.

Solution: Play off the earthy tones with peekaboo lace top and a cream-and-gold pearl belt, which also cinches the waist. Wear with very slim bottoms. Add enough layers (via tall boots) to ward off chills. 

Sweater - Winners 
Blouse - Max Studio via Winners (most recently here)
Jeans - Forever 21
Boots - Thrifted (Etienne Aigner)
Belt - Thrifted
Earrings - Gift
Watch - Kenneth Cole

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Black-and-rose jumpsuit

I've been looking forward to wearing this jumpsuit ever since I bought it on Boxing Day. An opportunity finally presented itself when my friend invited me to get tickets to a chef competition organized by the National Arts Centre's Southam Club. The dress code was sort of dressy, but artsy, so I went for a look that was loosely inspired by female tuxedos. The jumpsuit has great detailing, like an asymmetrical neckline (not visible here) and an open slit down the back. What I DON'T like is that the pants are heavier than the blouse part so they tend to tug downwards when you walk. I added a belt but it wouldn't stay put. I may take them to the tailor to see if an inner elastic or something might help. That's just my word of caution for future buyers...

 A group of about 10 of us ended up going to the competition and we had a BLAST. We got to eat and rate each chef's creation as part of a decadent 5-course meal. The chefs had to use winter squash and I was blown away by their creativity and skill. Our table enjoyed spirited debates about the merits of one dish versus another and shared lively conversation.


Jumpsuit - Zara
Shrug - Laura (also here and here)
Belt - The Limited
Ribbon - from a Gap sweater
Purse - Consigned (Bob Mackie)
Shoes - Liz Claiborne
Silk rose - Vintage hand-me-down
Bracelets - Aakriti Designs, Le Chateau and hand-me-downs

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Beet and blood orange salad

When making salads I love combining sweet, tangy, creamy, salty and bitter flavours. I made this recipe up with whatever I had in my fridge that brought those together. I love how colourful it is on the plate! It's not insanely original, but I thought 'Darn!' when I came across a similar recipe on People when this post was still in the draft stage. How do you guys feel when that happens?  This recipe serves 4.

To prepare beets:
Wash and trim the ends of four golden beets, then dry thoroughly. Brush with olive oil and wrap each one individually in foil, then bake at 300 for about an hour. Once cool enough to handle, remove skins and slice thickly.

To prepare Swiss chard:
 Wash and thoroughly dry one head of red Swiss chard. Remove the thickest part of the stems, then coarsely chop. Heat 1T olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add Swiss chard and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted. At the end, I stirred in 2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp honey and 2 tsp of this orange glaze (before I had added the hot sauce to it). 

To assemble salad:
Top beets with Swiss chard, segments from two blood oranges, a handful of chopped pistachios and crumbled goat cheese to taste (to taste means that I ended up adding way more goat cheese compared to what's in the picture).