Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fresh basil pesto

After years of crappy blenders, I decided the time had come to invest in a good one. Vitamix seems to be the undisputed king of blenders, but I wasn't willing to spend $500. I spent an hour researching options and decided to go with the Breville Hemisphere, which was on sale for less than half the price of the Vitamix, but seemed to offer good bang for my buck. 

I've only had it for a couple of weeks but so far I'm really pleased. It's got a solid motor, four regular blades plus two sweeping blades (no little chunky bits hiding at the very bottom of the jug). The blades are soldered to the jug, which I'm hoping doesn't cause any problems for cleaning; so far so good. On that note, I'm not sure if it's technically dishwasher-safe, but I've put the jug through a few times no problem. And I'm enamored with the smoothie button!

 It arrived in time for me to whip up some fresh pesto with basil from our garden before the first frost. My recipe is pretty classic but I felt I ought to post it, as I use this in, or on, everything - mashed potatoes, pasta, sandwiches, grilled salmon - you name it!


To make, pulse 2-1/2 cups packed basil leaves and 1/3 cup pine nuts in a blender for a few seconds. Add 3 minced cloves of garlic and 2/3 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and pulse again. With the blender on low speed, slowly pour in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Adjust the quantities to taste, then season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New favourite statement necklace

Is anyone else loving Banana Republic's jewellery collection these days? A few posts back, I was gushing about these turquoise earrings. Also love at first sight was this statement necklace, a gift for my 30th birthday in August. I knew I wanted to pair its purplish-grey hue with another fall colour, burnt orange.

I'm keeping an eye out to see if BR comes out with any jewellery in our wedding colours (blush pink, dove grey and ivory with gold accents) that would go with my dress. Fingers crossed!


Skirt – H&M via thrift store
Blazer – Elie Tahari via thrift store
Blouse – Max Studio via Winners
Shoes – Aldo via thrift store
Necklace – Banana Republic
Earrings – Gift

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shrimp and kale salad rice paper rolls

I often wrestle with the types of recipes to post on the blog. I aim for a balance between familiarity and originality, difficulty and simplicity - and always, lots of variety!

This falls into the super-easy end of the spectrum. I think I put it together on a weeknight when I really didn't feel like mucking around in the kitchen.  


I started with Eat Smart's Sweet Kale salad mix from Costco (which actually has chicory, green cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, in addition to the kale). If you don't have this, you could substitute coleslaw. I didn't add the little package of dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, nor the dressing. Instead, I mixed in Wafu Original Sesame dressing. A good substitute for the Wafu would be a creamy Asian sesame salad dressing. 

I wrapped the kale salad with cooked shrimp in dampened rice paper rolls.  That's it! If you wanted, you could dip these in a sweet chili dipping sauce, or add fresh basil or mint to the rolls.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lemon layered bars

What is it about moms and their collections of ingeniously easy, yet delicious, recipes? Unfortunately, I can't give the original author of this one credit, as I only have a photocopied page of an unknown cookbook. It came to me via my BFF's mom, who had a little handwritten note in the margin about how much her daughter had liked these. So sweet!

My only genius modification was to add a slice of lemon for decoration in the middle. I got distracted doing laundry and slightly overcooked the crust, but it actually made the lemon stand out more!  I also didn't have the right size of pan, so my bars were a little taller than usual. I brought them to a dinner with friends so I didn't get a picture of them cut up. But, I can saw they were a real crowd pleaser, and I kept sneaking back for JUST ONE more.


In a large stand mixer, combine 1 package lemon cake mix, 1 egg and 1/3 cup melted butter. Beat on low speed until well-blended and crumbly. Reserve 1 cup crumbs for topping. 

Press remaining crumbs firmly into 13x9" greased bake pan. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. 

In a small mixer bowl, combine 2 eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Beat on medium speed until light and foamy. Pour over crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture evenly on top. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until set and golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Dust with icing sugar (not shown). Cut into bars. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

A refreshed layout, and a minor fashion miracle

I'm excited to present my new blog layout, designed by the wonderful Laura of The Blog of Worldly Delights. A second glance was sorely in need of a refresh, and I'm super grateful to Laura for helping me bring my ideas to life.

This week was also home to a minor fashion miracle - after something like five years, I found a pair of boots to fit my narrow calves. Hallelujah! I'd even tried and failed with an online order from a UK company that specializes in narrow calf boots. That pair fit through the calves, but was way too wide in the ankle.

The model I finally landed on was the Blondo Verga. My winter boots, the Blondo Snowtrails, are by the same Quebec-based company so I already knew the quality would be great. The shaft is elasticized waterproof rubber and the boot portion is a beautiful leather with a sturdy rubber sole. Good for Canadian weather! My only quibble is that the  inside back of one boot's been rubbing against my ankle; I'm going to try adding some cushioning.


Leggings – Madonna via thrift store
Bronze tank – Sportsgirl
Cardigan – Tommy Hilfiger via outlets
Vest – Calvin Klein via Winners
Faux fur scarf – Thift store
Print scarf – Thrift store

Boots – Blondo 
Bag – Chloe via thrift store 
Earrings – Le Chateau

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cheddar-broccoli soup with turkey bacon

B and I will occasionally buy fresh soups from Costco but we're pretty conscious of how fat- and salt-laden they are. One day, I found myself with a lot of broccoli and cheddar to use up and decided to create my own version of broccoli-cheddar soup, which included adding turkey bacon. It was still creamy and cheesy and the broccoli stayed tender-crisp. I didn't measure how much this made as it disappeared too fast, but I'd guess 4-6 portions.


Cut 2 lbs broccoli into bite-sized pieces, separating stems from florets. Dice 1 sweet onion and 3 cloves garlic. Cut 8 slices turkey bacon into 1" pieces.

Melt 6T butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, broccoli stems and turkey bacon, then saute for several minutes until onion is translucent and bacon browned, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. Add garlic and 1 tsp paprika and cook for another minute. Sprinkle with 3T flour and stir rapidly to avoid burning. Once starting to turn brown, quickly add 6 cups chicken broth and 1 cup white wine. Increase heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. 

Add florets and cook for another couple of minutes, until tender-crisp. Stir in 2 cups of sharp cheddar and 1/2 cup table cream, then immediately remove from heat and stir until cheese is melted. Season to taste.

Tip: This recipe would probably be delicious topped with sliced day-old baguette and extra cheese, then broiled, much like French onion soup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A second glance at a tweed dress

Every season, I fall in love all over again with some piece from my wardrobe that I'd neglected the year before. Last year, I fretted that this dress was too sexy for work. It does have a relatively high slit up the back, not seen here. However, with pencil skirts inching back below the knee and tweed being all the rage this fall, right now I'm all c'mere sugar.

 On this dress's two previous turns on the blog, I wore it like a jumper, with a top underneath - here and here. This time I tried a different tack - a bright cardigan and a thin scarf in autumnal tones, and a print that's reminiscent of abstract peacock feathers.


{The only shot we got with true-to-life colours}

Dress - RW & Co. (also here and here)
Cardigan - Talbots via Winners (last seen here)
Scarf - Thrifted
Shoes - Naturalizer via thrift store
Watch - Kenneth Cole
Bracelet - Toronto boutique
Earrings - Gift

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday prime rib roast

Growing up, roast beef meant a monthly Sunday dinner at my grandparents' house. There was the novelty of signing their guestbook every other time we went over. We'd sit in their dining room to eat, with the one wall wallpapered with a giant forest scene that often lured my attention away from the table conversation. We'd jostle for the last popover. My grandfather would start clearing plates as we were still chewing our last forkful. With his endless sweet tooth, he'd bring out the crisper drawer from the fridge chock-full of candy bars for dessert, while my grandmother would take orders for tea. They now live in an assisted living facility, where we've maintained the informality that defines our family, and that comes from having lived streets apart. It took B by surprise when we started dating that we call our grandparents by their first names, we speak our minds, and we engage in occasional black humour about ageing. My brother now lives in my grandparents' old home.  While the wallpaper is no longer, I hope he fills it with just as many memories. 

My grandparents came from an old-school style of cooking where roast beef is well-done and tough. I love them to bits, but I definitely lived for the popovers, vegetables, gravy and candy bars.  Then I met B and discovered his dad's succulent prime rib, slow-roasted on the BBQ. Since we share a communal BBQ in our condo building which we can't take over for hours at a time, I've had to try to recreate the results in the oven. The main purpose for me posting this dish was to link to an article about how to cook roast beef which impressed me with its logic. Sear at a high temperature then reduce heat? NO. Here's why.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Egg McRye

I love waking up well-rested on a Saturday morning, then making a hearty breakfast before starting on housework, or heading out to run errands or to the gym. I find it sets the tone for an awesome day. A protein-and-berry smoothie later, plus a nap and some downtime catching up on blogs, is usually enough to catapult me to dinnertime and Saturday night socializing.

When I'm too famished to wait until B gets up and makes his famous scrambled eggs, some variation of this breakfast sandwich is my go-to. I start with toasted light rye, spread with grainy mustard. Then, some sharp cheddar melted on top. After that, 3 slices of cooked turkey bacon. Followed by baby spinach and sliced mushrooms sauteed in 1 tsp of butter until spinach is wilted and mushrooms just browned. I top 'em off with a pair of poached eggs, and a dash of pepper. What's on YOUR weekend breakfast menu?


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Shiny objects, happy people

I'm not a big impulse shopper. Nevertheless, in the span of one week I fell in love with two items I didn't need, but couldn't resist taking home with me. Both shiny, colourful and just gosh-darn pretty, they reinforced my conviction that if I was a bird, I'd definitely be a magpie. 

But even impulse purchases can be smart purchases. With a 40% off friends and family coupon in one hand, and a year-old $30 store credit in the other, these multicoloured danglers from Banana Republic only put me another $8 out of pocket. The top was a thrift store purchase. It's actually a semi-sheer tunic with matching embroidery along the hem and the cuffs, and came with a shell-and-leather string belt. I figured it would make a good bathing suit coverup come summertime. In the meantime, I managed to make an outfit out of the two, along with a pair of turquoise cropped denim pants given away by my coworker.

I'm hoping my mom can perform the laundry miracle I couldn't to get a stain out of the pants after an unfortunate red wine incident later that night. Said spillage took place during a night of general hilarity with B, my sister, and some of my very best friends, which I wouldn't trade for the world.



{Even magpies need to check their makeup in their sister's sunglasses.}

Top - Vero Moda via thrift store
Pants - Bianca Nygard via hand-me-down
Shoes - Vince Camuto via outlet
Earrings - Banana Republic
Bracelets - Hand-me-downs

Monday, October 07, 2013

Banana-chocolate chip cake

I'm sorry I didn't get a better picture of this banana chocolate-chip cake because I am short-changing it. I've been eating this for as long as I can remember and it's delicious. When we were kids, my siblings and I had an unwritten rule to always leave two or three bananas in the fruit bowl to brown. Like magic, they'd turn into this cake. 

I don't think I've made it since I moved out on my own over a decade ago. At a wedding recently, a friend of a friend came up to me. She'd been making this cake with what she'd just learned was my Mom's recipe, and was raving about it. Alas, my Mom can't take the credit either; it's from a Company's Coming cookbook, a popular line of Canadian cookbooks. I don't have the original recipe and it's possible there were a couple of modifications along the way, but here it is, as dictated to me!


Using a fork, mash 1 cup very ripe bananas (approximately 2-3) in a bowl. In a stand mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla and beat. Add mashed bananas and 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and beat.

In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt. Working in batches and with the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and stir until just blended. Fold in 1-1/4 cups chocolate chips.

Pour cake batter in a greased 9x13in pan. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Summery coloured denim for fall

This outfit felt like it breathed new life into my yellow denim, allowing me to transition it into fall, instead of relegating it to a Rubbermaid storage bin with my other summer clothes. I also liked this hairstyle - a French bread with the tail piece twisted into a bun at the nape of my neck and pinned in place. This would work well for anyone with very fine hair like mine.


Jeans - Forever 21 (last seen here)
Top - Vila via Winners (also here)
Blazer - Banana Republic
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Belt - Mexx
Earrings - Hand-me-down

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Fiesta salad with lime-jalapeño vinaigrette

This salad could also be called 'tortillas décomposées'. It's a whole-meal salad that's lighter on the carbs, but without omitting them altogether. This recipe is my own, and serves 4.


To make salad:
To make, thinly slice 2 coloured peppers, 6 radishes, and one avocado. Brush 3 whole wheat tortillas with oil, then sauté for 1-2 mins per side over medium-low heat. Crumble and set aside. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups Boston lettuce, peppers, radishes, avocado, 3/4 can drained and rinsed black beans, 1-1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, 3/4 cup shredded cheddar. 

Just before serving, add 3/4 cup crispy onions, tortilla pieces and a large handful of chopped cilantro. 

To make vinaigrette:
In a blender, combine 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup lime juice, grated rind of 1 lime and 1/2 deseeded and coarsely chopped jalapeño (I used pickled jalapeño and added a bit of the pickling juice). Blend on high for about 30 secs.