The Single Girls Guide to Enjoying Valentine’s Day Solo, part 1

I woke up yesterday morning slightly tired from Saturday’s skiing adventures and more than a little sick with a worsening chest cold.  With those two factors in mind I decided to do something I hadn’t done in far too long: sleep in and do nothing all day.  This sparked a revelation:

Today is Sunday, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day so that mean’s couples all over the world are going to be celebrating how much they love each other today and tomorrow so why don’t I do the same for myself?

Today’s post will feature part 1 and part 2: The Single Girls guide to enjoying Valentine’s Day Solo.

Sunday was the ultimate lazy day for me.  I lounged and slept for most of the day in my super comfy bed with my super comfy pillows not worrying about anyone hogging the blankets or really bad morning breath. Face it, it happens.

Dear god I enjoyed that!

By the time I decided to join the living, I was feeling 100 times better and was 100 times hungrier than normal.  I took a long hot shower, put on zero make up and went out to the grocery store on the hunt for the perfect Valentine’s Day meal for 1.

Note, you could easily make this for two, and the quantities I list actually are for two, I just had the 2nd portion for lunch today.

I started things off with a delicious salad featuring spinach, blood oranges, red onions and almonds.

To make really pretty orange slices, cut off both ends of your orange so you have a flat surface to work with.  Then with a sharp knife, follow the contours of the orange and remove the peel and pith so you have something the looks like this:

Now, slice in half and cut into thin slices of pure citrusy prettiness.

Add in your onions along with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and allow mixture to marinate for a few minutes.

Heap the mixture onto plates of fresh baby spinach and top with slivered almonds.  This is sure-fire way to get your taste-buds going.

Next up, I needed a main course.  I decided spaghettini was in order because nothing is more decadent to me than a nice flavourful pasta.  Rather than plain old sauce I kicked things up a notch with a Serrano chile, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes for my own version of an arrabiata sauce:

The makings for a killer sauce

Chop up your shallot, garlic and chile (be mindful to wash your hands after handling) and sauté with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.

Stir for about 1 minute until nice and fragrant then go ahead and add in your tomatoes.  I used crushed tomatoes but you could use Diced if you prefer.  Add in a dash of red wine vinegar, your paprika, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover, and let the flavours marinate while your pasta cooks.

Once your pasta cooked to al-dente add in your sauce and serve up with some fresh bread.  I used this fabulous Tuscan Loaf:

You can serve as is like I did, or top with some freshly shaved parmesan.

Now what meal is complete without dessert? I opted for the simple, mainly because a) I’m sick and not in the mood to bake and b) there is nothing better than a square (or 4) of dark chocolate.

So there you have it, the perfect balance of sweet and spicy for your fabulous single girls Valentine’s Day meal.  If you have a Single Girlfriend why not invite her to join you? After all, there’s nothing like indulging with the right-minded girlfriend.

Recipes:

Blood Orange and Red Onion Spinach Salada

1 Blood orange, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

¼ red onion thinly sliced

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp slivered almonds

2 cups baby spinach

Combine orange slices,  onions and vinegar, toss and let marinate for 5 minutes. Pour mixture onto beds of spinach, top with almonds.

Arrabiata-inspired Sweet and Spicy Spaghettini

1 can Crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 serrano chile, seeded and minced

1 tsp red wine vinegar

½ tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 handfuls of spagettini pasta

Heat olive oil over medium heat, sauté shallot, garlic and chile for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add in your tomatoes, red wine vinegar, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and let marinate.

Bring pot of salted water to boil, add in pasta, cook until al dente, drain and toss with sauce.  Serve with bread.

I hope you’re enjoying your Valentine’s Day and check back later tonight for part 2!

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The case of the chickpea addict


It’s no secret that hummus and I have a major love affair going on.

My first introduction to this delightful dip/spread/main course was back in my early adolescence.  There was this international/fusion place near my parents’ house called The Rude Native and they had amazing hummus.  Served on a warm plate loaded with soft and chewy pita breads, their hummus was piled high topped with light and tasty olive oil.  I don’t think any other dish sits so clearly in my mind, I can practically taste it as I type this.
Yes, I have issues, no need to remind me.

Sadly, The Rude Native is no longer the same, or even in the same location.  As many restaurants do, The Rude Native changed management, changed locations, and somewhere in the kafuffle the hummus was taken off the menu.  Devastating, I know.

But, I am no longer that bright-eyed naïve adolescent. Oh no! I have since learned how to make my own hummus ready to enjoy in a myriad of ways.

This past Sunday was the ever infamous Super Bowl Sunday and while I have zero interest in Football, besides seeing whose butt is the cutest, I have to admit I love the day just for the food. My friend Tania had us over for one of her glutton-fests and I naturally contributed in the way of my Mexican-layered dip:


and this fabulous roasted garlic hummus.

Please note, before going any further, that I went for a 4 mile run prior to the party in anticipation of the food.  Actually, it was in anticipation for my upcoming half marathon, but you get the picture.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

1 c. chickpeas drained and rinsed well

1/3 c. tahini

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp sea salt

1 head of garlic

¼ c. olive oil, divided

Preheat oven to 400

1)      Roast your garlic: slice off the top of your garlic bulb, just enough that all the bulbs are exposed and peel off the excess papery skins.  Place the bulb on a sheet of tinfoil and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Wrap up the bulb in a little package and roast for 30-35 minutes or until soft and golden like so:

2)      Toss chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt, garlic and remaining olive oil into a blender, blend until smooth.

Tip: To give your hummus that really nice creamy texture without going overboard on the olive oil: once you’ve rinsed and drained your chickpeas toss them back in the can and fill up with water, then toss water and peas into the blender. This way, you’ll get a bit more liquid to play with.

Well there’s another hummus dish for you to check out. I’m heading up to the cottage for some skiing action with some friends, but be sure to check-in Sunday for a special Valentine’s Day treat!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Jess xo

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A weekend of wine, girlfriends, and a really good vegetarian restaurant!

That statement pretty much sums it up.  This past weekend was crazy, delicious, and hilarious.  I don’t think I’ve had this little sleep since my university days.  But in the end, it was totally worth it.

It all began last Thursday when my friend Sam came in from Halifax for a long weekend visit which was super exciting as I haven’t seen Sam in about 3 years!

Me and Sam circa 2007

Oh and Tess decided to come up from Ottawa to join in the fun as well.

Proving to be an epic weekend in the making, no detail could be overlooked and no one could be left out.  That’s why Liz and I had a conference call to create a schedule of events where everyone could pick and choose when they’d like to participate. We’re not at all type A people…

Anyway, one of my favorite items on the itinerary was Saturday’s lunch.

Liz and I decided that we’d take everyone to this amazing vegetarian restaurant in the McGill Ghetto (student section) of downtown Montreal called Lola Rosa.  My friends, this is vegetarian comfort food at  its finest.  I’ve been three times now and have ordered a different entrée each time and not once, have I been disappointed.

source

The first go-around I had their Veggie Burger which was probably the most unique I’ve ever tasted.  They used egg as their binder and so it had the texture of an omelet meets burger with plenty of veggies crammed in there, definitely worth trying out.  My only complaint was they served the burger with ketchup- I’m a mustard girl all the way, but I will concede the ketchup paired nicely with it.

For my next visit I had their Curry which was creamy, slightly spicy and oh-so perfect for a January evening in Quebec.  This past Saturday I debated between the Black Bean burrito and Hemp Burger and when the kind waiter/owner asked how hungry I was (with “sort of” being my reply) he promptly recommended the burger.  So I guess the burrito is for those “I feel like I haven’t eaten in days” moods.   That, or he underestimated my appetite- despite my size, I can pack it away.  Just ask Tess.

Regardless, when my burger arrived all burrito-centric thoughts quickly evaporated from my mind; I knew I had hit the jackpot.  Sitting prettily upon a crusty bun was a substantial looking patty topped with cheese, bbq sauce and sautéed mushrooms.  Oh.my.god. this was good! It was filling and flavorful with a bit of a spicy kick to it!

source

Susan, I think this has become my #1 veggie burger, rivaling that of the Queen Mother Café’s…

QM Burger, you met your match...

Anyway, once I had licked my plate clean and wiped the drool from my mouth we all, naturally, ordered dessert.  On a previous visit Liz and I had shared their banana-chocolate tart which was light and chocolate-y with the flavours complimenting each other perfectly.  This time around, I opted for their Ginger-Basil crème brulée.  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, you should be jealous.

Now, I am not the biggest dessert fan, I like it on occasion, but I never really “crave” sweet foods, I’m a total savoury girl.  But, desserts like this could convert me.

It was sweet, refreshing, and tantalizingly savoury all in one go.

Places like this only reaffirm my lifestyle as a vegetarian.  Lola Rosa shows you what it’s like to eat wholesome, flavorful (meatless) food that warms you up toes to nose.  It’s the perfect place to go and unwind after a busy day, or spend a giggly afternoon with some girlfriends all the while enjoying really good food in a relaxing atmosphere at a reasonable price.  Seriously, what more could you ask for?

Lola Rosa
545 rue Milton, Montreal, QC

Find them on Facebook!

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Chef’s Block

Chef’s Block

No, not a cutting board; I know you’ve all probably heard the term “writer’s block” before, but this week following my binge on Mexican food I experienced a total Chef’s Block.   I just could not for the life of me figure out what to make for dinner.  I blame this squarely on two things: neglecting my blog and foodie community in favor of my job that actually pays the bills and my evening workouts that cause me to become so famished that simple carbs and proteins are all that appeals to me. Hello Almond Butter and Toast.

Yeah, I know, boring!

So after wasting an entire lunch hour (and then some) scouring websites and blogs looking for inspiration to no avail, I finally sent an email to Tess for ideas.

Tess is my favorite person to discuss food with, we both love it; we both love to eat it.  We don’t always eat the same way, but we always drool over the other’s concoctions.  Anyway Tess sent me an email with one word that got the creativity flowing back: Soup.

For some reason that triggered a craving for mushrooms, and from there I thought, cream of mushroom? No, I need it lighter, but still warm and savoury.  From there, the recipe just came to be…

Visions of mushrooms and leeks began dancing in my head

Now, I don’t often make soup, especially on weeknights  Homemade soup for me is always interpreted as layer upon layer of subtle flavors coming together over a slowly simmering pot, aka a process that takes a few hours.  This one changed that game for me as it took 20 minutes to make. Seriously, I began chopping at 7:30 and by 7:50 I was slurping up some soup-y goodness.

So with that, I give you:

Mushroom and Leek Soup with Thyme

You will need:

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp butter (I used vegan margarine)

1 lb of mushrooms, sliced (I used mini bellas and white, but cremini’s would be an excellent addition)

1 medium leek thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic minced

3 c. vegetable broth

A few sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil and butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Toss in your leeks and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes, then add in your garlic and stir for another 30 seconds.

Add in your mushrooms and let them cook for a good 5 minutes until softened and reduced in size.  You still want some of their liquid to be in the pan as this will simply add more flavor.

This smelled sooooo good!

 

After the mushrooms have reduced in size by half, add in your stock and thyme and bring a simmer.  Reduce heat, taste, and season with a salt and pepper.

Serve.

I enjoyed mine with a few slices of this delicious sunflower seed bread topped with roasted onion hummus. Which, by the way, you need try out asap if you haven’t already!

How could you say no to that?!

 

So happy my Chef’s block quickly disappeared with the help from my friend 🙂

Question: Do you ever find yourself lacking inspiration or in a cooking rut? What do you do to get re-inspired?

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Hola!

A few weeks ago, I was out for dinner at this awesome Mexican restaurant, Casa de Mateo, with two friends visiting from out of town. One was a vegetarian, the other a flexitarian.  All three of us decided that Mexican food was definitely in our top 3 in terms of favorite ethnic foods and that guacamole is, hands down, our favorite condiment.

Honestly, is there anything better than the fresh and creamy texture of homemade guac?  We didn’t think so either, so it comes as no surprise that we decided to order their guacamole as a starter to go with our complimentary chips and salsa (which was equally delicious by the way).

We were surprised, however, when this bright-eyed, sweet Mexican girl approached our table with a massive cart loaded with guacamole inspiring ingredients.  Scratch that, we were drooling when she approached us.  She asked whether we had in fact ordered the guacamole and upon confirmation happily showed us how to make authentic guacamole that was the best I have ever eaten outside of Mexico.  So naturally, I had to show you guys how it’s done too!

You will need:

1 Large ripe avocado

1 lime

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

¼ c. diced red onion

¼ c. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp cumin

½ tomato, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Slice your avocado in half and remove the pit. Please don’t follow my previous example and slice your finger open. It really sucks when that happens!

Toss the avocado flesh into a bowl and mash slightly.

Next add in your lime juice, red onion, cilantro, cumin, tomato, and some of the jalapeno. Mix well together and taste, add in more jalapeno if desired. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my guac this week on Mexican inspired dishes such as black bean and corn quesadillas

and black bean burgers.

But you could go the traditional chips ‘n’ salsa route, or tacos, nachos, etc… However you want to eat it, just promise me you’ll try it out.

Oh and if you happen to be visiting Montreal, stop by Casa de Mateo for an authentic Mexican dining experience complete with Mariachi band. Then head over to Pinq Taco for a Tequila Mojito. I’m serious.

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New PHAC Regulations Hurting or Helping Canadians?

42% of Canadian adults aren't getting any physical exericse

When I got to work this morning, I took a few minutes to peruse the headlines when this article caught my eye: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/12/31/exercise-fitness-guidelines-canada-weighs-in.html

It appears that in order to address the issue of ever increasing obesity rates in the Canadian population the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has decided to lower its recommended daily physical activity rate from 60 minutes per day to 150 minutes per week for adults and from 90 minutes per day to 60 minutes for children.

That has got to be one of the biggest oxy-morons, ever!

It’s no secret that Canadian obesity rates are ever increasing.  47% of the adult population is overweight or obese and an overwhelming 42% don’t do any form of physical activity. We are a country that prides itself on having the great outdoors in our backyard and yet more and more of us stay sit on our asses watching the hockey game rather than actually play hockey.

When did watching sports become a sport?

I experienced a lot of emotions while reading this article: exasperation, anger, indignation, but mostly I was just sad.  This article brought me back to the days when I was an active kid that played multiple sports, had endless amounts of energy, and just had plain old fun going outside with my friends.

Unless you were sick, my parents had a rule where you were not allowed to spend weekends or vacations hanging around the house. The video game consoles were unplugged, the TV’s and VCR’s (yes, we had VCR’s back then) were turned off and we were booted out the door dressed according to the current weather conditions.

In the summer we would spend hours in the park playing soccer, baseball, and tag, or splashing around in the pool.  Winter was for skiing, sledding, skating, and good old fashioned snow-ball fights.  We didn’t have Wiis or PS3’s we had legitimate exercise and social interaction.  With all those options open to us, 90 minutes a day was more than feasible, hell, it was just a given.

Even my parents found ways to stay active.  My Mom played soccer for a few years, my Dad played squash; today they are both avid golfers and skiers.  They may not get in 60 minutes a day everyday, but they certainly don’t sit in that 42% category either.

But that was then, this is now.  In 2011, we have grown so advanced in technology that we no longer feel the need to spend our time outside.  We buy Wii fits, gym memberships, and all sorts of fancy quick-fix fitness equipment we’ll never use.  Who needs to go for a walk with a friend when you can Facebook chat them from the comfort of your bed/couch wearing your Lululemon pants that you’ve never ONCE taken to a yoga class?

At the end of the day, the Public Health Agency has got it wrong, it’s not time to make it “easier” for people to get their recommended daily physical activity, it’s time to make them realize how easy it is to live up to the current standards.  60 minutes a day is nothing. The average person works 9-5 with a 60 minute lunch.  So rather than continue to sit down (you’ve most likely been sitting in your chair all day) get out and walk with some co-workers and there you have it- you’ve gotten in your 60 minutes of recommended physical activity.

Sorry, PHAC, but this isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense.  Lowering the standards is not only insulting to us who do manage to stay active, but is an easy way out for people who don’t make the effort to start.

So with that in mind, this is what I propose.  Starting today, for the next 60 days, I am going to make an effort to get in 60 minutes of physical activity per day to show you and the PHAC just how stupidly easy this is.

This could include: walking, running, yoga, weight training, biking, swimming, rock climbing, skiing, etc… You get the picture.

Feel free to join me.

Now, turn off the computer and go get some exercise.

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New Year, New Goals

It’s Sunday, January 2, 2011.  As I sit here at Starbucks, aka my second home, sipping on my latte, I feel incredibly happy and lucky to be where I’m at with my life.  I’m 25 and living in the amazing city of Montreal.  I have wonderful friends and family, an incredible job that allows me to work with inspiring individuals on a daily basis, and of course my lovely blog. I’m 25 with so much going for me and now with the arrival of a new year I feel like I have the opportunity to really embrace it.

Like many people, I’ve made resolutions over the years where I have the best intentions and then find they just sort of fall by the wayside.  I think the only resolution I actually kept was when I quit smoking and that took place in June of 2008… So this time around, in an effort to make my resolutions stick I’m putting them out on the internet where you can all keep me accountable.  This should make for an interesting year.

I’m a girl with many passions and so it’s no surprise that my resolutions are equally diverse. But that only makes it more fun, right?

So here goes:

1)      Fitness: I plan to really step it up in the running and exercise department this year.  2010 was probably my fittest year since I played varsity sports in high school, so I want not only continue that trend but up the ante a bit.  As of today, I’m planning on running 3 races at the half-marathon distance this year.  I’d also like to get back into Bikram Yoga where, ideally, I’d go twice a week.

2)      Diet: No, I’m not “going on a diet” that would be completely absurd.  I meant my actual diet.  Lately, I’ve been hitting up the dairy and the pasta like it’s my job and I know I can do better to get a more balanced diet to support my fitness goals.  Before the Fall I was eating about 80-90% vegan and I found that was when I felt my best so I’d like to return to that ratio.

3)      Blog: I’ve been neglecting my personal online space a bit too much lately.  This is a place that gives me so much joy and entertainment that I really want to continue putting in the proper effort it deserves.   I’m going to make the effort to blog 4 times a week- with relevant, delicious content of course! (Does this count as 1 out of the 4??)

4)      Smile: I take life way too seriously sometimes. This time next year, I’d love to be once again sitting at Starbucks smiling and laughing as I reflect on the amazing times I will have had with friends and family.

So there you have it, my new year’s resolutions.  I’ve gone and pressed publish and put it all out for you to see, now let’s see if I hold up my end of the bargain, shall we?

Happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope 2011 is full laughter and love.

-Jess

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Better Than Sex Pasta

Yes, you read that correctly.

Hello again! I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post (again).   I’ve been having too much fun lately which has cut into my blogging time. But, I promise you it has been put to good use including creating many a delicious recipe:

Mac n Cheese using Maman Starkey's Cheese Sauce

Ravioli topped with sautéed mushrooms and heirloom tomatoes

Not to mention training, working, and partying… ‘tis the season right?

Chris (roomie) and I hosted an awesome Christmas Cocktail last week

On top of all that I also dragged myself to the dreaded malls of downtown Montreal today to finish up my Christmas shopping.

I’m not at all a major procrastinator.

This is where the origins of tonight’s dinner began.  I stopped in at Chapters for one Christmas gift and I of course stopped by the cook book section.  Big mistake.

Foodie Rule #38795408: Just like you shouldn’t grocery shop when hungry, I would also recommend against visiting the cook book section when hungry.  On top of the Christmas gift, I walked away the proud owner of a brand new cook book to add to my *ahem* growing collection.

Let me introduce you to “Bite Me”.

If you’re thinking I purchased this gem based on the title, you would be 100% right.

Anyway, I haven’t had too much time to go through the whole thing yet, but there are some true gems in there that will prove promising for adding to my culinary repertoire.  It was also the inspiration for tonight’s pasta.

Whilst perusing the pages of Bite Me, I came across a dish titled Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pasta.  As IF I could pass on the opportunity to try this out.  At that point I dropped everything, including the book and booked it (heh heh) to the grocery store to get the rest of the ingredients which included white wine- score!

I got as far as caramelizing the onions before I totally changed course to create a whole new recipe (surprise surprise).  But I do owe the inspiration for this dish to the amazingly sarcastic ladies of Bite Me.

Better Than Sex Pasta

Yes, that’s what I’m calling it.  Deal with it.

You will need:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Butter (I used Earth Balance as it’s what I had on hand

2 white onions thinly sliced

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

¼ c. balsamic vinegar

1 box of penne pasta (I used whole wheat)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1 shallot, roughly chopped

1 c. dry white wine

¾ c. cooking cream

¼ c. slivered almonds

1 granny smith apple thinly sliced

1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

125 g. goat cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat your olive oil and butter over medium heat and add in onion, sugar and salt.  Sauté them for a good 15-20 minutes until they turn that gorgeous brown colour we all know and love.

Now go ahead and add in your balsamic vinegar and let all the liquid absorb.  About 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Oh...

Yes!

Meanwhile cook your penne pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

In the same skillet you used for your onions, heat olive oil over medium heat and add in your garlic and shallot.  Stir around for 30 seconds until fragrant, then up the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine and make sure to pour yourself a glass too.

Let the liquid reduce and then go ahead and add in your cream.

Bring to a boil then add in your almonds and onions, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Now go ahead and dump in the pasta, apples, and parmesan cheese and mix it all up and season with salt and peper

Serve with freshly crumbled goat cheese and prepare yourself for a mind-blowing culinary experience.

I’m sure some of you are wondering where the hell I came up with the idea to throw in a granny smith apple, right? Well, for my birthday we all went out Mozza, this fabulous bring your own wine Italian restaurant located in the gay village of Montreal.  If ever you happen to be in the Montreal area- go! They served me up the most exquisite dish of fettuccine topped with brie and granny smith apples.  It’s been over a month and I still cannot get this dish out of my head, clearly.

Another fun fact:  my wine bottle had a fabulous pink label with matching pink cork.  It went perfectly with our Christmas Tree!

So there you have it, better than sex pasta.  If you need to impress anyone this holiday season, give this recipe a shot.

Have you had any orgasmic foodie experiences lately? Please do share!

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Cookie Dough makes it all worth while

Today has been quite the day, let me tell you.

Apparently today was not the day where things were supposed to go my way.  At least not easily.

It all began this morning at 6:50am when I was attempting to leave my apartment building to hit the gym before work and the front door would.not.open! I kid you not; I stood there for a good 5 minutes fruitlessly trying to push the damn door open and it would not budge.  Eventually I gave up and went back up to my room where I have access to the fire escape.

Now, I know what you’re thinking- why didn’t you just do that in the first place? Well, as it happens, my bed is blocking the doorway since the room is too small to position my bed in any other way.

So I literally shoved my bed out of the way, tossed my bags out, squeezed through the door and went on my way.  I honestly have no idea why the door would not open this morning but I was not pleased.

My escape route

By the time I got to the gym I only had time for the briefest of workouts before I had to shower and change for work.

Oh and I forgot to bring my breakfast, so on top of being rushed I was also hungry.  So not a good combination.

Now, I won’t be a complete pessimist and will admit that the rest of my work-day got better.  I  am currently working on a new project for the holiday season that I am supremely excited about which you’ll probably hear about next week.

Upon getting ready to leave the office on my newfound high, I decided to really get in to the holiday spirit and do some baking tonight.

I happily went on my way to get the supplies for some sugar cookies and headed home.  However, when I walked through the door (that now opened, go figure) and up to the apartment to unpack my stuff I discovered the pound of butter I purchased was nowhere to be found.  Great.

After a brief meltdown that may or may not have involved some chocolate I decided to go and check to see if it fell in the car.  It didn’t.

Now, most people would probably call it quits at this point, but I happen to be a very stubborn determined individual and so I decided to walk to the grocery store 3 blocks away and purchase another pound of butter.  By the time I got back and was ready to start baking it was 8:30pm, but at this point I needed something to cheer me up so, I donned my pretty apron and I began to bake anyway!

What? You don’t wear an apron when you bake?

Anyway, without further ado, I give you the recipe for Grandma Starkey’s Sugar Cookies!

Recipe for success:

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs- add one at a time

2 Tbsp milk (I used almond)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cream of tartar

Dash of salt

Directions

Start off with your dry ingredients and sift together cream of tartar, flour and salt

In a separate bowl add in your two sugars

Cream the butter and sugar together and then add in your eggs, one at a time, mixing each one in very well.

In a small bowl combine milk with baking soda then add into your sugar mixture and mix in well.

Next, slowly add flour into sugar mixture until well combined.

** Dough will be sticky, so be prepared to use extra flour when rolling out dough***

Using a well floured surface, roll out the dough to an 1/8” thickness and cut into shapes, I chose 2 different sizes of circles.

Bake at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes or just until sides start to turn a light brown like so.

Showing off some bottoms for you to check out 😉

The kitchen officially smells amazing!

Licking the batter bowl is not mandatory, but comes highly recommended.

Your kitchen will be a disaster but it will be all worth it in the end.

These cookies make a day that wasn’t supposed to work out, so perfect.

That’s it for me tonight mes amis, tomorrow we’ll decorate!

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Classics with a Twist

Hey!

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was the perfect balance of action and rest.

Saturday, Karo and her sister came over for appetizers and dinner before heading out to what would be a very pretentious club. More on that in sec.

For dinner, I decided to make a dish that was classic Jess from University along with a new appetizer.

Appetizers are a must for any girly soirée in my opinion.  The appetizer in question I decided to make was a spin on something I’ve done in the past: Baked Brie.

If ever you needed confirmation on my French roots…

Anyway, in previous events I’d prepared this dish using puff pastry and it is always a crowd pleaser.  However, when I got to the grocery store all they had was Phyllo pastry sheets so I figured we would try that out instead.  This turned out to be a pretty good idea.

If you’re planning on hosting a holiday party this season, I highly recommend you try this dish out.  Not only will it impress your guests, it has got to be one of the easiest things to make.  Always a plus for entertaining guests throughout the potentially stressful holiday season.

Phyllo Baked Brie

You will need:

1 8oz round of Brie (I used fine herb, accidentally, but it worked out perfectly)

2 tbsp orange marmalade

2-3 sheets phyllo pastry

I know, I know, you’re seeing “fine herb brie” and “orange marmalade” in the same recipe.  But, believe me when I say this turned out to be an amazing flavour combination.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Slice off the very top of the round of brie, discard.  Or eat it, depending on how hungry you are.

Top with marmalade.

Wrap the phyllo pastry sheets around the brie 1 sheet at a time* by placing the brie in the center of the sheet and pulling the corners up and bunch the excess in the middle to create a ruffled top.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.  Enjoy with some sliced-up baguette or crackers.

*Remember to keep the phylly sheets moist as you use them.  You can do this by placing a damp towel over the sheets.

Sorry guys, we got a little excited and this is the only evidence I have of the Baked Brie.

I’ll try to make another one soon to show you how it looks.

Following the appetizers we watched Leap Year and then got down to cooking dinner.

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to make a classic dish I was known for in our University years:  Penne Romanoff.

I was first introduced to this dish back in High School and have been slightly obsessed with it ever since.  I’ve tried many different recipe variations until I mastered this one:

Penne Romanoff with Pink Peppercorns

You will need:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 tbsp pink peppercorns

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

½ tsp sea salt

1 tbsp basil

1 can diced tomatoes

1/3 c. cooking cream

¼ c. vodka

Parmesan cheese

1 Box Penne Pasta

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add in pasta and cook until al dente.  Set aside.

Heat Olive oil in large sauté pan, add in onions and cook until soft and fragrant.

Add in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add in basil, peppercorns, pepper flakes and salt. Crush the peppercorns with the back of the spoon a bit to release the flavours.

Add in your tomatoes and vodka, bring to a simmer.

Pour in cream and parmesan cheese and bring back up to a simmer and let sauce thicken slightly.

Taste and adjust seasonings then pour over your pasta, top with extra cheese and serve.

This dish is truly a winner and a crowd pleaser; Karo, her sister, and my roommate all loved this dish so I definitely recommend you try it out!

As I mentioned, following dinner we went to a club that turned out to be the worst idea.  Aside from the general “I’m better than you” attitude held by everyone ranging from the bouncers to the bartenders to the other club patrons, we were nearly knocked over by someone every 5 minutes and then one girl decided she’d like to pour a drink down my back.  We called it a night after that one.

But, in other fun news, my roommate and I decided to get into the spirit of things and put up the Christmas Tree!

Très chic, isn’t it? haha I think the inspiration is Sex and the City meets Burlesque… Nonetheless, this has gotten me into the holiday spirit and I’m officially excited for Christmas!

Next on the list: Christmas Cookies!

Mama Starkey has just (re)sent me Grandma’s recipe for sugar cookies so stay tuned for that one!

Alright, bedtime for this girl; she’s got a date with the gym in the AM.

How were your weekends? Have you started getting into the Christmas/Holiday spirit?

 

 

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