Saturday, November 29, 2014

Outsized art

Outerwear is all-important in Ottawa's climate. Everyone tries to get as much mileage as possible out of cute fall coats before we settle in for the long haul of parka wear. As that draws nearer, I've been alternating between this peacoat and a puffer vest layered over a slimmer puffer jacket. 

My friend took these photos during a Saturday afternoon visit to the National Gallery on a grey November day. I hated this spider sculpture, called Maman ('mother' in French), when it was first installed but I've come to really like it. Its legs seem so delicate to be balancing a 30ft x 30ft structure of steel. The underside of the sculpture reveals a sac containing several dozen marble eggs. It's one in a series; others can be found in places like Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Within the gallery, we spent most of our time admiring a gigantic installation called Leaves of Grass, by Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer. It consists of about 13,000 images cut out from old issues of Time Mazagine, mounted onto dried grass sticks. The images are arranged thematically and chronologically, spanning five decades.



 {Leaves of Grass installation - photo source}

{Leaves of Grass installation - photo source}

Coat - Zara, hand-me-down
Skirt - H&M, thrifted
Boots - Ecco
Scarf - Winners
Hat - Joe Fresh
Gloves - Winners
Bag - Leo Monk

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Creamy quinoa pasta bake with turkey, shiitake mushrooms and peas

I'm starting to think I need to divide my recipes into weekday and weekend. The cornmeal-crusted cod topped with slow-cooked sweet peppers and beurre blanc I made recently (recipe to come) falls into the latter category while this one falls into the former. Freshly dried sage from our garden was a great addition to this dish. The recipe is my own. Serves 6-8. 


Prepare 500g of quinoa pasta according to directions. 

Drain and transfer into an oven-proof casserole dish. Add 2 jars of Alfredo sauce, 350 g cooked, shredded turkey breast (I cheated and used Costco's frozen cooked variety), 1 can drained peas, 1-1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms with the tough part of the stems removed, 2T freshly dried sage and 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix well. Top with 1 cup of shredded gouda, then bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Curried sweet potato and coconut soup with roast chickpeas

If I have to sum up this soup in a word: awesome. If I have to use more words, I'd say: its creamy texture and gentle sweet potato flavour evoke the best of comfort foods, but it's not done playing with your taste buds yet. The flavours soon give way to a delightful spiciness that lingers delightfully on the palate, while roast chickpeas deliver crunch.

I started with this recipe as a way of using up leftover sweet potatoes. The problem was, I already had quadruple the quantity of spuds needed. I was also wary of using three cans of coconut milk, so I decided to substitute vegetable broth for some of the coconut milk. The version below includes these and other tweaks along the way. Makes 8 servings.


Prepare the chickpeas:

Instead of following the recipe's instructions for the chickpeas, I roasted them in the same dressing used in my roasted sweet potato and chickpea salad with couscous, vegetable and honey-chile dressing

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2T apple cider vinegar, 1T honey, 1T orange juice, 1/2T Russian-style mustard, 1 tsp orange zest, 1 tsp sambal oelek, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom and 1/4 tsp salt. Drain one can of chickpeas and toss with the dressing. Spread the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet, then roast at 375 for 40 minutes. (Don't put them on the top rack in your oven to avoid them turning out like some of mine).

Make the broth:

Peel and dice 4 sweet potatoes, 1 sweet onion and 2 cloves garlic, then set aside. Heat 1T oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add 3T curry powder and 1/2 tsp cayenne. Cook for several minutes to enhance the flavour of the spices. Reduce the heat slightly, then add the onions and sweat them for several minutes, stirring regularly, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add sweet potatoes and 1 can chickpeas (see note below) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 1 can coconut milk, 2 - 32oz packages of vegetable broth, 1T sambal oelek, 4 Kaffir lime leaves, 1T salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer for another 25 minutes. Puree the soup using a regular or immersion blender. Serve piping hot topped with roast chickpeas.


I was pleasantly surprised by the creaminess of the end result, but I found the texture a little thin. That's why I'm suggesting adding a can of chickpeas directly to the broth. My caveat is that I have not yet tried this myself!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fall girl

Yes, my thrifted Paola Prata jacket is making a repeat appearance in back-to-back posts. The fall colours have been spectacular this year, right until the tail end when these photos were taken. It's one of my favourite times of the year. AI took my cue from the vibrant foliage to build some colour into my outfit. I find the military detailing of the jacket contrasts well with unabashedly feminine pieces. Last time it was a high neck ruffled blouse. This time, I tried a slim patterned scarf and a chiffon skirt. 


Skirt - Vertigo, Winners
Top - Black Label, Saks Off Fifth
Jacket - Paola Prata, thrifted
Scarf - Thrifted
Bag - Dooney and Burke 
Shoes - Aldo, thrifted
Earrings - Ardene
Bracelets - Toronto boutique & hand-me-downs

Monday, November 17, 2014

Carpe diem: Italian tailoring

Carpe diem. That was the name of the third of the four thrift stores I'd pinned to my map of Venice, Italy. It was also the third of four strikeouts: stores that simply didn't exist in reality or were inexplicably closed. I shrugged it off. Brad had been a patient co-navigator, and Venice isn't known for authenticity, especially at a bargain.  

However, soggy weather, a bad dining experience at lunch, and miscellaneous rudeness had us pegging the last day of our honeymoon as a bit of a bust. After regaining our sense of perspective (You're in a city built over a LAGOON celebrating your HONEYMOON with the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE), we wound up stumbling into the best dining experience we had in Venice. I wish I could tell you Trattoria Bar Pontini is off the beaten track, but it's not really. Go for the flamboyant, attentive and utterly charming server who doesn't speak a word of English. Stay for the luscious tiramisu and decent prices.

Coming out of Pontini, we were down to the final 30 minutes of our trip. Lo and behold, right next to the restaurant was a 'luxury thrift' store. The sign didn't say Carpe Diem, but it might as well have. We popped in for the briefest of browses, and I found this impeccably tailored, well-constructed jacket. The brand is Paola Prata, which originally started in a small studio in a town outside Venice, and is now sold in a handful of branded boutiques in Italy. Brad made my day by buying it for me as a souvenir of our trip (see: love of my life, above) and winning over both the saleswoman and me with a spontaneous phrase in Italian (translated for my sake): Neppure lontanamente bella come te. 


Blouse - Banana Republic, hand-me-down
Jacket - Paola Prata, thrifted
Jeans - Guess, Winners
Shoes - Guess, Winners
Earrings - Gift
Bracelet - BHLDN

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Autumnal brined pork tenderloin

Have you ever found yourself at a restaurant, gesticulating wildly toward your plate with your utensils, marvelling aloud about how they got that great flavour right INSIDE the meat? Like, permeating through it? 

For the average home cook, a great way to achieve this is with a brine. In an earlier post, I referenced the SOFA acronym (salt, oil, flavour, acid) that gives you the building blocks for a brine. This recipe is my own; I find it imparts a nice seasonal flavour to the pork. 


Fill a pot with about 16 cups of cold water. Normally the ratio would be about 1 cup salt to this quantity of water, but I found the pork too salty. I would use anywhere between 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup next time. Add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup brown sugar (the salt-to-sugar ratio is about 3:1)

Add half an onion, peeled and roughly chopped, 1 apple (or 1/4 cup apple juice), roughly chopped (no need to core or peel), 1 cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, 1T cloves, and 1T liquid smoke. 

Add two pork tenderloins to the brine, the cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Season with pepper and rub Russian-style mustard into the pork. 

Heat oil in a saute pan over high heat and sear the tenderloins for about 5-6 minutes, turning periodically in the pan until the crust is browned. Then cook in the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 160F. Remove from oven, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. 

I served this dish with roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato gratin (a recipe I'm still refining before it goes on the blog); however, it could be served with lightly sautéed apples on the side. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hearty Korean-style soup with udon noodles, chicken, tofu and mushrooms

A couple of weeks ago, I was craving Korean-style soup, the kind that's brimming with slippery noodles, tender pieces of tofu and chicken, fresh vegetables, suspended in a spicy broth that can chase away any cold. Not knowing where to start, I turned to youtube and stumbled upon a cute series of how-to cooking videos posted by a Korean mom for her children attending school away from home (aw). I started to get a sense for the ingredients in this type of cuisine and used it to create my own concoction. It was terrific! This makes enough for 8 mains; extras can be frozen. 


The night before - Marinate the chicken and tofu:
Whisk together 1/4 cup soya sauce, 2T sesame oil, 2T sugar, 2T freshly-grated garlic, 1T garlic and 1 tsp sambal oelek. Cut 8 chicken thighs into thin strips and 2 pieces of firm tofu into 1" cubes. Place in separate bowls and pour over marinade. Mix gently to coat, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

The night before - Prepare the broth:
(Alternatively, you could use commercial chicken or vegetable broth.) Roughly chop 1 large carrot, 1 stalk of celery and 1/4 onion. In a stockpot, heat 1T oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring often, until starting to caramelize. Add a rotisserie chicken carcass tied in cheesecloth and a bouquet garni, then add enough water to cover the carcass by several inches. Increase heat to high and bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. Season with salt and pepper. 

Prepare the filler ingredients:
The next day, peel and slice 2 large carrots, 3/4 onion, 6 green onions and 12 mushrooms. Cut a sheet of dried seaweed (the kind used for sushi) in half, then into thin strips. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the eggs and leave them until set on the bottom. Gently flip and cook the other side. Slide the omelette out of the pan and cut into thin strips. Set everything aside. 

Prepare the soup:
Remove the chicken strips from the marinade, reserving the liquid. In a large saucepot, fry the chicken strips in oil over medium high heat until lightly browned on the outside but still pink on the inside. Add reserved marinade, vegetables and broth, plus 1 cup of kimchi, a couple of chopped anchovies, 2T sambal oelek, 1/2 cup soya sauce and 2T of rice wine vinegar (you can also wait until the end and add each of these to taste). If you need more liquid, add water. Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Finally, add 3 packages of thick udon noodles and the tofu (and its marinade) and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

Serve with cilantro.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Honeymoon cruisewear: Flowy print trousers and a blazer

This summer, I obsessed over finding a pair of flowy print trousers I liked. Eventually, I gave up the search. It must have been meant to be, as I snagged this cute pair from a bag of clothes being given away by Nini, mere days before our trip. I played up the safari vibe with an earth-tone tank, then added a tailored blazer, heels and a clutch for a bit of polish. The tank has cute mesh detailing on the racerback, but I just realized my hair's covering it in the photo. The stretch pants were just the thing for indulging in the cruise's unlimited desserts!



Pants - Forever 21 via  hand-me-down
Tank - 9/15 via Saks Off Fifth
Blazer - Banana Republic
Earrings - Hand-me-down
Bracelet - Aakriti Designs, Toronto boutique, Aldo Accessories
Clutch - Coach
Shoes - Guess via Winners

{Dazzling Myknonos, Greece}

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Honeymoon cruisewear: formal night

One of the fun parts of our cruise was seeing everyone decked out for the formal nights. We watched from an upper deck as fellow travellers queued up to have their photo taken with the ship captain. While Brad mused aloud about the formidable skills required to captain a ship carrying thousands of people, I sipped on a glass of wine and let myself be dazzled by the steady parade of sequins and silk. 


A drawback to cruising is you have to pack dresses that likely only get worn once. I decided to pull my dress out again for a Saturday night in Venice, but casualized it with a leather jacket. After dining alfresco, we caught a Vivaldi symphony. Walking back to our hotel, we ran into people we'd met earlier on our cruise, who invited us to join them on a patio for what turned out to be several rounds of limoncello. It was a pretty magical evening.

Dress - Ted Baker outlet
Jacket - Danier Leather
Bag - Coach
Earrings - Gift
Bracelets - Aakriti Designs, Aldo Accessories

 {The colourful homes of Burano, Italy basked in late-afternoon sunshine}

Monday, November 03, 2014

Honeymoon cruisewear: poolside coverup

This thrifted, slightly sheer tunic has served me well. I've worn it with turquoise denim for an afternoon of shopping with my sister and besties (here), but it works equally well as a pool coverup. And dries in no time flat! I alternated wearing it with and without the wooden-bead-and-leather-cord belt.



Tunic - Vero Moda via thrift store
Bikini - Victoria's Secret
Flipflops - Walmart
 Sunglasses - SMD Eyewear via Shoppers Drug Mart

{Picture from our balcony of a storm moving in}

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Honeymoon cruisewear: black and white separates

Black and white was an easy, go-to combination throughout our travels. I kept the heels and leggings from my last post, and swapped in a print blouse cinched with a thin patent belt. A coral clutch and red lips provided a pop of colour.



Blouse - Red via Saks Off Fifth
Leggings - Wilfred via Aritzia
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Clutch - Coach
Glasses - Marc O'Polo
Necklace - Gorjana
Earrings - Ardene 

{Old Fortress in Corfu, Greece}