October 30, 2012

happy subtle halloween

Want to get into the spirit of Halloween without donning a costume head to toe?  The solution: Halloween earrings.  I made my own Halloween earrings at home in about 10 minutes.  Here's how:

Here's what I used:
-an skeleton necklace I bought from the dollar store for a dollar
-old drop earrings
-glue gun

I cut two of the skeletons off of the necklace, leaving enough string to tie the skeletons unto my drop earrings.

After I tied the skeletons unto my earrings, I cut off the extra string and then placed a dollop of glue unto the end of the string (to secure it) with the glue gun.  This will prevent the knot we used to tie the string onto the earring from coming apart.

And that's it!  You're ready to rock your spooky earrings.  Happy Halloween! :)

October 27, 2012

carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I love carrot cake.  It's the perfect fall dessert.

Here are my two tips for a great carrot cake:

1) Finely grating the carrots makes a difference.  Using the food processor would be easier, but the pieces come out thicker.  I grated the carrots by hand, which made the carrots really meld into the cake when it baked up, and also gave me a great arm workout.

2) I like to replace half the canola oil the recipe calls for with applesauce.  I think it makes the cake tastier, lighter, and of course, healthier.  Win, win, win.

Here's the recipe!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes about 24 cupcakes


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup all purpose whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups peeled carrots, finely grated
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line 24 cupcake molds with papers. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. 

Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots and walnuts. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick of butter, softened
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp lemon zest

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.  Spread onto cooled cupcakes.


October 22, 2012

butternut squash, roasted to perfection

I approve of all things with the word butter in it.  Butter tarts, butterflies, and butternut squash for example.  

Butternut squash, when roasted perfectly, is one of the most delicious things on the planet.  When I say roasted perfectly, I mean the texture inside is buttery and the taste is sweet, and there are some deliciously caramelized brown bits to boot.

Here's how to achieve this:

Roasted Butternut Squash

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Take one large butternut squash, cut away the peel, discard the core (I use a spoon for easy scooping), and cut it up into 1" cubes.

2) Place the cubes on a pan, spread them out evenly in one layer.  Drizzle with canola oil, sprinkle with sea salt.

3) Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, on the top rack.  Turn the pieces, and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes until completely soft and some bits have caramelized.

Now that you have your perfectly roasted butternut squash, you can add it to stews, to quinoa (and toss with lemon juice and olive oil), to pasta (with sautéed kale or swiss chard).  There are endless way to turn this into a fast and delicious dinner. 


October 18, 2012

easy peasy eggplant frittata

My mom is one of the most talented cooks I know.  Her food is not only delicious, but she comes up with a lot of her own recipes.

She made us this awesome frittata when we went for a visit last week.  Like most of her recipes, this eggplant frittata is delicious and easy to prepare.  Great for a weeknight meal!

it all begins with roasting your eggplant pieces in the oven

then place them in a pan...
pour the egg mixture on top and close the lid, and pop it in the oven
ready to eat!

Here's the recipe!

Eggplant Frittata 
my Mom's recipe

2 Chinese eggplants, cut in 1" thick pieces
4 eggs
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 garlic gloves, minced
salt & pepper
canola oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the eggplant pieces on a cooking sheet and broil for 10 minutes on each side in the oven.  Whisk eggs with garlic and spices.  In an oven-proof skillet, pour 3 tbsp of oil and place on medium heat.

Place the eggplant pieces in the skillet and pour the egg mixture over it.  Place it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.  Leftovers can be placed in the fridge and eaten the next day.  It's just as delicious cold!


October 15, 2012

6 true things

Mr. A and I took an RV trip across the USA and got back yesterday.  We saw some awesome sights, including Yellowstone Park and Mount Rushmore.  But more importantly  I was reminded that:

1 - I love our home.  I love my kitchen and my pillow and my closet.  I appreciate how spacious, comfortable and reliable they are.  After living in an RV for a week, our little kitchen feels giant, and it is.

2 - Warm water is amazing.

3 - Books on tape can be riveting.  We listened to The Drop and Locked On.  I preferred Locked On.

4 - Truck driving is a tough job.  Driving for hours on end all by yourself and sleeping in a tiny space in a dark rest area on the side of the highway.  I wonder if they listen to books on tape too.

5 - There are some places on this earth that are truly magnificent.  Yellowstone has alot of those places. Check this out.  That's the Grand Prismatic Geyser.  The steam drifted along towards us from time to time and it was like being wrapped up the warmest and lightest blanket ever.

6 - I'm so lucky.  I have the most patient and kind husband in the world.  I was even sick of me after being confined in a small space with myself for 20 hours, but Mr. A still loves me.

Here's a couple of more pics of the sights we saw:

Whitecliff Park, BC 
Somewhere in Montana

Yellowstone Park

Grand Prismatic Geyser, Yellowstone Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone Park

Mount Rushmore

Baha'i House of Worship, Chicago

October 14, 2012

not too shabby

Cleaning out your closet can turn out to be a really cheap way of going shopping.  You end up digging up some great finds that you forgot about deep in your bottom drawer or closet.

That's what happened to us when we cleaned out Mr. A's closet a few weeks ago.  We found us a great pair of jeans for $0.

But there was one catch: they needed to be hemmed.

I set out to hem the jeans myself.  I actually did a pretty good job!  {Not too shabby!}  Here's the awesome video tutorial I used to learn how to do this trick.

First thing you need to do is figure out by how much you want to shorten the jeans.  Then measure up half that and pin them in place.

Then, comes the sewing part.  Sew the jeans just under the original hem.

That's it, you're done!  The last step is to turn in the part you hemmed.  You can cut the extra fabric off, or just leave it.

Ta-da!  Best part of it is, the original jean bottom stays intact hiding the fact that the jeans were hemmed at all.

October 12, 2012

short-cut ghormeh sabzi (herb stew)

Ghormeh Sabzi is one of my favourite persian dishes.  It's pure comfort food and it's easy to have it as a vegetarian option because you can add the meat (chicken or beef) or leave it out (that's what I like to do).

Ghormeh sabzi is a stew made from a mixture of herbs: parsley, coriander, fenugreek, and chives.  Like many persian stews, it can take alot of time and effort to produce, but I just learned about a great shortcut and I'm sharing it with you.

The secret shortcut:  a canned herb mixture you can buy at persian food stores.  The brand we used: Sibone, here a pic:

This canned herb mixture will save you about 1-2 hours of cleaning, dry, cutting and frying the herbs.  And it takes just a great as if you did all that.  I'm a fan.

There's also another specialty item you'll need to pick up at the persian food store: dried key limes.  Here's what they look like whole and cut in half:

Here's the recipe!

Shortcut Ghormeh Sabzi

1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of Sibone Herb Mixture for Ghormeh Sabzi
2 cups chicken broth
2 dried key limes, cut in half
1 tbsp lemon juice
Optional: 1 can of kidney beans, or pieces of pre-cooked chicken

Saute the onion and garlic in canola oil, until caramelized.  Add the canned herb mixture and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add dried key limes, simmer for another 30 minutes.

Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

October 11, 2012

too many tomatoes on your hands?

We just visited my parents in Vancouver.  They have a small vegetable patch.  This small vegetable patch has 3 tomato plants.  These three tomato plants proceeded to give them more tomatoes this summer than they knew what to do with.  And they were still giving fruit in October.

If you ever face this situation or just find a good deal on tomatoes at the store and buy pounds and pounds of tomatoes, a great way to use them up is to make a fine homemade tomato sauce.

Here's the recipe!

Fresh Homemade Tomato Sauce
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Food Network

1 lb super-ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
2 gloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tbsp pesto sauce


1) First to peel and seed the tomatoes, blanch them.  To blanch your tomatoes, cut a small "x" on the bottom of them. Then place then in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Transfer them to a strainer and run them under cold water for another 30 seconds.  Now they're practically peeling themselves.  Peeling will be easy at this point.  To remove the seeds, cut the tomatoes in quarters and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.  Reserve the tomato juice.

2) Mince the onion, pepper and garlic and sauté them on low-medium heat until they are quite dark, about 10 mins.  Roughly chop your tomatoes and add them to the pot.  Bring to a simmer, lowering the heat to medium-low to keep it at a gentle simmer. Simmer your sauce, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.

Pour over pasta and enjoy!

October 07, 2012

quinoa jardiniere

My Mom made an amazing quinoa salad yesterday and I'm sharing it with you because you have to try it.  It's got great flavour, great crunch, and best of all it's super-healthy because it's made with quinoa and is chock-full for veggies like zucchini, carrots and avocado.  Oh, and I almost forgot, it's fast and easy to make.

Here's the recipe!

Quinoa Jardiniere
(my Mom's recipe)

1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 medium zucchini, julienne cut
1 medium carrot, julienne cut
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Cook quinoa in 1 cup of water until it is cooked and there is no water left, about 15-20 minutes.  Fluff up the quinoa with a fork, then add the vegetables and olive oil and vinegar dressing.  Season with salt and pepper. Toss well.


October 02, 2012

freshly steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt

... mm, mm.

To make edamame, first wash them and remove any stems, sticks etc.  Then put them into the steamer and steam them for about 10 minutes until the bean inside is cooked but still al-dente (you'll have to test a couple out to make sure they're ready).

After we drained them, we sprinkled them with sea salt.

And then we ate them.  Well, we sort of devoured them really.  They're so much fun to eat!  We made about 3 cups of edamame and we finished it in about 10 minutes.  I think we broke a record.  I'd only made frozen edamame before, but fresh steamed edamame is about 25x better.