Monday, September 6, 2010

A Back to School Recipe

This week marks my return to the world of the working. I'll be teaching French to students in grades 5-8. All. Day. Long...although honestly, I couldn't be more thrilled about it! I'm also putting together two choirs; one at each of my schools. To say that this new schedule will take some "getting used to" is an understatement...At any rate, I don't anticipate being altogether too thrilled to cook up a meal every evening. Enter: my slow cooker. The following is a recipe that I have returned to time and time again, because it's so darn good...It's also a lovely fall transition recipe, and you'll have tons left over for lunches!



Chicken Orzo Soup

You will need:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into thin half-moons
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
6 chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dried orzo
pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic, celery and carrots together in the pan until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 mins. Add them to your slow cooker.

2. In the same skillet, add the chopped chicken thighs and brown completely (they don't need to be cooked through). Put the browned chicken pieces into the slow cooker.

3. (Optional) If you have the time, and you're inclined, "deglaze" the skillet, by adding about 1/2 cup of water and bringing it to a boil while scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add this liquid to your soup for another "flavour dimension." You can completely skip this step if you're pressed for time.

4. Add six cups of water to the slow cooker, the balsamic vinegar, bouillon cubes, bay leaves and pepper. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

5. 15 minutes before serving, add the raw orzo to the soup. Cover and flip your slow cooker to "high."

Enjoy! Happy back to school!

Note: You can also use any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand to make this soup even easier. Just shred up about 1-2 cups of precooked chicken and skip steps two and three.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wedding Wednesday

I have decided that I will keep up with Wedding Wednesday in spite of the fact that my wedding is over. I still find myself researching colour palettes, and "shopping" on Etsy for one-of-a-kind wedding details and I think that if wedding planning is still one of my interests, my blog should reflect that.

This week's palette is a peacock theme. I think that if I hadn't done my "Pink, Cream and Gold/Marie Antoinette-inspired" theme, I would have almost certainly done a peacock theme.

Without further ado:


If any of you have any requests for themes, I'd be happy to see what I can come up with...Just drop me a line :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe

Growing up as an Italian-Canadian, homemade gnocchi has always been a staple in my diet. I spent hours as a child in my grandparent's basement, watching them work seemingly endlessly making all types of pasta, but my favourite was always the gnocchi. I was always so amazed that a pile of flour, mixed with potato could become the little flavour-bombs I love so well. My grandparents also make gnocchi using zucchini as the binding agent when the garden overflows with them in late July. Zucchini gnocchi is so light and delicious...maybe that'll be a recipe for another day.

My sweet potato gnocchi recipe was created because I wanted to make a slightly healthier version of my favourite old standby...plus I loooooove sweet potato. I would recommend tossing these gnocchi in a little sage- scented brown butter for a decadent treat, or just serving them up with a marinara for a healthy, hearty dinner.

The process of making gnocchi employs the Italian "quanto basta" measurement technique...literally, "until it's enough." So if you're looking for an exact recipe, you won't find it here. I'll do my best to explain exactly what you should see and feel, but rest assured, even if you mess up, the results are usually more than acceptable.

You will need:

- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 3-4 cups of whole wheat flour
- 1 large egg
- salt and pepper to taste



1) Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and roast them at 400* for approximately an hour. Your knife should slide effortlessly through the flesh. Halve the potatoes and let them cool for
10-15 mins.


2) Scoop out the flesh of the potato and put it into a large bowl. Mash the flesh and discard the skin (or eat it as I do...mmm, fibre!). Mix together the flesh, egg, and a little salt and pepper. Then slowly add about 1-2 cups of flour. You should have a sticky, gloopy mess at this point.


3) Turn this sticky, gloopy mess out onto a well-floured work surface, and sprinkle liberally with flour while kneading the dough. Continue adding flour until the dough is easy to handle...It will still be slightly sticky, but you can work with it at this point. Don't worry about adding too much flour, just use what you need. When you have finished kneading, cut the dough into quarters.


4) Roll each section of dough into a 12-15 inch long tube. (Think: kindergarten play-doh centre antics). Try and keep the tubes the same-ish width. Use more flour here if necessary.


5) Cut each tube into pieces. I make my gnocchi about 1cm, you can make yours longer or shorter.

6) In order to ensure the gnocchi holds some sauce, you'll need to give it some ridges using a fork. Hold the fork in one hand and place the gnocchi on the fork. Press and roll the gnocchi with your thumb. Like this:


This will create both ridges on the top:


and a well underneath to catch sauce. This is a very important step. You can skip it, but you may regret it!


7) Allow the gnocchi to dry for about 15-20 mins. If you are cooking them immediately, use a large pot of salted, boiling water. The gnocchi will need about 2-3 minutes to cook. You will know they are done when they float to the top of the pot.

8) If you are freezing them, Don't cook them. Place them in a single layer on a plastic-wrapped baking tray and flash freeze them for about 2 hours. Store them in a large freezer bag. To make from frozen, allow them to thaw and just follow the cooking directions above.



As an aside, I also made fresh whole wheat linguine using my new Kitchen Aid stand mixer attachment...but I think that's a recipe for another day!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're Married!

...and here are some pictures to prove it!

More to come...as well as some more good news!


The ceremony...

The dove release...


Resting my sore hips...



A kiss for my lovely husband....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Invites: Sent!

Since I'm guessing most people have already received their wedding invites, I doubt my mother would be too averse to me writing about them now.

My wedding invitations were a huuuuge labour of love. It began a year ago, when we first got engaged. The cherry blossom chiyogami paper on the front is really the jumping-off point of the colour palette and the theme for our day. I literally hand cut, hand tied and hand-mounted every.single.invitation...I did have some help in the final hours, which is great because I think I would scrapped the entire endeavour without it.

If you read my blog you know: I LOVE to DIY, but I HIGHLY recommend leaving the job up to the professionals (unless you quit your job to plan your wedding:) In the end, they turned out beautifully and I wouldn't have been able to afford the same quality materials had someone done them for me...so I guess it's all for the best.

This is the entire invitation "suite" as it were...


The invitations were printed on this embossed cherry blossom paper by Peninsula Press...They look a little wonky here, but this was before they were flattened out properly...



The reception card and the response cards, too! No wedding crashing, please! :)

The final product...

We've already received some responses, and it finally feels like we're really getting married...OOOOH! and the eggs are finally done! I have to show you how they turned out...someday soon!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pretty Favour Packaging...




I cannot express to you how thrilled I was to find these lovely coasters at Kate Aspen.

They are in keeping with our cherry blossom theme, and they are pretty to boot! In terms of packaging these little treasures, I went to my go-to people at Paper Source where I picked up this pretty matte brown wrapping paper.



I tied it all up with a band of my signature chiyogami, and topped it off with a golden bee. I think they turned out really well...Now all I have to do is stamp a pretty golden "thank you" and we're done done done! I have so many projects on the go right now, as it's getting down to crunch time! I'm definitely excited, but overwhelmed at the same time...at least the invites are good to go. I'll post them here next week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Latest Wedding Idea...Coming to Fruition!

If there are any of my former readers left out there, you may remember me salivating over these place card holders by Paloma's Nest.


These beauties would be perfect on our day, however at $58 for 6, they were considerably out of our budget. I was disappointed for about 1.4 seconds, whereupon I realized **I could just make them myself!** Here's the plan:



+

+

=


I haven't got anything to show you yet, but thanks to my extraordinary cousin, I should have these babies in two weeks! I am currently in the process of drawing up the invites which will be printed and mailed next weekend.

Everything is coming together...I just have to breathe...

Also, as the wedding draws nearer I am trying to be more careful about what I am eating...in order to further motivate me to do so, I am going to be posting a link to my food journal everyday at the end of the day...Once I figure out how.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Count it Down!

The countdown begins. Only 96 days until our...

I am BURSTING with excitement! Hence the 2:00am post, and my apparent insomnia.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Updates!

I apologize for my extended hiatus, but I cannot promise I'll be back to posting regularly any time soon. I have been insanely busy over the past few months, and I must say, March has been quite rewarding in terms of career gains...To reference my January goals:

Professional Goals:

~ Get FSL certification
~ Apply to TDSB: Undecided about this goal in general
~ Get a French teaching job
~ File my pay-scale paperwork: Almost there! This week at the latest.
~ Build my teaching portfolio

Essentially, I have made some major gains in the career field over the past few months, and I am proud to say that I am a gainfully employed teacher (for those of you not aware of the situation for teachers in Southern Ontario, this is a MAJOR cause for celebration!) I am teaching French and Grade 1 and 3 science and social studies in a school just east of Toronto. While I'm not guaranteed work in September, it is a lot more likely that I'll get something now that my foot is in the door.

Wedding plans are moving full steam ahead. I have some pics to post in the next few days. All the save-the-dates have been sent, 1/2 the favours have been packaged, and I am going to be getting a head start on the menus and the programs over the next few weeks...Just 100 days to go.

I'll update more regularly now that my life is a little more on-track. Big changes take a while for me to adjust to...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eventually...

I'll be back to posting semi-regularly, I promise. I know you're concerned.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Booklist

One of my New Year's resolutions was to read two books a month and review them here...I actually read four this month, so I'll review the best two:



Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a beautiful story about two young sisters born in Shanghai to a wealthy business man and his wife. They live a privileged, modern life (by Chinese standards) until their fate takes a turn for the worse. The are forced to move to America, where they find themselves living a life they never expected. This is a heart-rending story about the bonds of family, the importance of tradition and the plight of immigrants of visible-minority to America before the civil-rights movement (many of the sentiments, I am sad to say, are still entrenched in the hearts of North Americans today.) I love Lisa See, and have read several of her books, I also love historical fiction...I would highly recommend this book, especially if that genre is of interest to you.



Still Alice by Lisa Genova was an incredibly well written story about a brilliant Harvard professor in her early forties who develops early-onset Alzheimer's. The story is written from Alice's point of view, and it chronicles her journey as she tries to identify with her family and herself as her brain, and the life she once knew, deteriorates. It's a story about redefining self-identity, the strength of familial bonds (again) and it offers keen insight into the mindset of someone suffering from Alzheimer's. Once again, I highly recommend this novel...It will certainly make you hold your friends and family a little bit closer. NB: Read with Kleenex close at hand.

I'll be joining the book club at the Oakwood branch of the Toronto Public Library starting in March. I've already read the February book, so I figured I could wait. I've also booked our hotel in Ottawa for Winterlude this year. I can't wait for a weekend of skating on the Rideau, eating beaver tails, speaking French and spending time with good friends....
I'll also be taking a pottery class and starting up with yoga again as soon as my job at Oxford officially ends in three weeks. Not that I'm counting :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dodgeball Champions!

This past weekend was one of the best I've had in a loooong while! S and I play in a charity/birthday dodgeball tournament called "The Budd Cup" put on by a few of our good friends. This year the tournament benefited the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, and it also went to promoting artistic endeavors for at-risk children. We had so much fun, and I really improved my game...our team, The Harlem Globedodgers (aka the American Apparel team...just look at the photos and you'll see what I mean), even went on to win the tournament! I've got a few of the 445 (yes, 445) photos that S took of the day. I have mostly included photos of myself, not because I'm narcissistic, but because I don't want to share photos of people on my blog that haven't given me permission to do so...No one likes getting in trouble with the law.


Ready to play...looking sufficiently deceptively innocent, complete with a Stephanie Tanner-worthy side ponytail.


Catching turned out to be my new-found skill. I even caught two balls at once...but as cool as it looked, it technically meant I was out, because you can only handle one ball at a time...


Throwing was certainly NOT my skill...the ball weighs nothing, and I was trying to throw it like a baseball.


S and I relishing the big win.


Snuggling the cup.


The Harlem Globedodgers...a damn good team!


Things got a little silly at the after party, as they are wont to do.

S and I also won some excellent raffle prizes...tons of CDs and a Flip video recorder...which has already become an integral part of our lives...Needless to say, I see some video blogs in the near future!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On My iPod: La Roux!


Have you heard of La Roux? Since the release of their first album this past summer, I have been listening non-stop and I am totally in love! My current band-crush hails from Brixton, England and is headed up by the adorable (and self-described androgynous) Elly Jackson. Their sound is a distinctive mix of synthpop, folk music and Britpop...hence the fact that they cite such influences as David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Joni Mitchell and Madonna.

La Roux literally means "red-haired one" in French...although grammatically speaking it should be "Le Roux" (don't worry, I'm not going to get all "French teacher" on you!) Apparently Elly chose the name on account of her red hair, but she chose to mix the feminine article (La) with the masculine noun (Roux) to further illustrate her penchant for the androgynous...Pretty clever, but also pretty obscure :)

I've included the original single off their self-titled debut album, which was released in Canada on July 28, 2009. The song is called "In for the Kill" and I'm loving the Night Rider feel of the original video, but you'll have to click through this link to view it on YouTube as their record label has disabled embedding abilities. You may have also recently heard a remix of this song on a video game ad for Bayonetta.



There are so many awesome songs on the album, it's well worth picking it up on itunes...plus it's a steal at only $10!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's In Your Bag?

Several of my fellow bloggers have done "In My Bag" posts in the past, so I in no way take credit for the idea...I just love it. I openly admit I am weirdly interested in seeing into the lives of random women...On more than one occasion I have zeroed-in on a person idling in her car at a red light, examining a nutrition label while grocery shopping, or performing some other equally-mundane task and thought to myself "I wonder what her life is like..." I suppose it's why I read blogs with such fervor...It sates the voyeur in me. With the rampant popularity of blogs, I can only assume I'm not alone in this guilty-pleasure.

I really do think that the contents of a woman's purse reveal a lot about her, and mine is no exception...Take from them what you will :)



Let me break it down for you:

Bag: Roots- Olivia Bag...I had been coveting this little girl since last year...I guess I mentioned it *once or twice* to S because I got it for my birthday this year...

Hand lotion: Shea Butter by L'Occitane...This stuff smells so good, and it really keeps my chalk-parched hands soft.

Lip balm(s): ~100% Shea Butter from L'Occitane...Best.Hands.Down.
~Burt's Bees...Love the pepperminty flavour, also love supporting honeybees
~Sephora Gloss...Free B-Day swag...I'm indifferent, but I use it.

Wallet: "Coach" (read: New York)

Datebook: Buck or Two...Covered in my wedding paper, to remind me of our "Big Day" everyday.

Pen: Ahhhh, Papermate?

Hair clip: Goody...Essential for those days I ambitiously wear my hair down, then wind up wanting to shave my head my noon.

Keychain: That pretty glass bead one was handmade by my Mama...I'm working on getting her to open her own Etsy shop for her glass work...perhaps someday you too could own a Liliana original. You should be so lucky :)

ipod: I'll show you some of what's on it in tomorrow's post.

Mirror: So cute...a stocking stuffer from last year ('08 that is)

Perfume Samples: Currently I have Madame Jean Paul Gautier, Idole by Armani and my old standby, J'Adore by Dior. It seems I have a very Rachel-esque (Friends Reference Alert!) talent for acquiring cosmetics samples.

iphone: Merry Christmas to me...Loooove this baby. So many features I didn't know I couldn't live without! How did I map my runs, book my dinner plans and navigate the streets of Toronto before Dec. 24, 2009? I can't even remember.

Gum: I know, I know...it should be mints, but they never last long enough because they always leave a bad aftertaste, thus prompting me to take another and perpetuate the cycle.

Also in my bag, but didn't make the cut: Tide to Go pen, H&M sunglasses and rabbit skin gloves.

There you have it...A mini-window into my life.

On another note: Four more weeks until I am finished at the job I left...trying to "grin and bear it." In order to get me through, I am planning my future "free time" like a madwoman.

You know I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Prayer for Haiti



I, like many, am shocked by the earthquake in Haiti. The destruction and devastation of a part of the world already so seemingly forsaken has the cynic in me asking "Why?" The fact of the matter is, the damage has been done...all that we can do now is focus our efforts on helping to rebuild both the nation's infrastructure and its faith in humanity. I will be donating to help the Red Cross' efforts in Haiti, and I urge everyone to consider donating whatever you can to help the relief effort...even of it's simply a prayer to whomever you believe can make a difference.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Well friends...I have made a HUGE decision this week, which has been the cause of my hiatus: I quit my full time job...This decision has been well thought out, and in fact I will be likely bringing in the same amount of money or more working at my part-time job...I'll also have the option of having a life, which is a lovely bonus. I'll be teaching more, but the best part is, I feel like I can FINALLY live the life I thought I had to wait six months for....It's all beginning this February, and I can hardly wait!

This picture just about sums up how I feel right now:



Elated!

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Plans for 2010

Just putting them out there...

Personal:

~ Buy a vintage bicycle
~ Read two novels a month and review them on Pint-Size
~ Travel to Europe
~ Follow organizational principles outlined here
~ Create some pretty pieces of jewelry

Professional:

~ Get FSL certification
~ Apply to TDSB
~ Get a French teaching job
~ File my pay-scale paperwork
~ Build my teaching portfolio

Financial:

~ Pay off 75% of all loans
~ Begin to save for a down payment on a house
~ Open an RRSP
~ Create a monthly budget and live on cash
~ Continue to build emergency fund

Physical:

~ Become more consistently active: run 3x a week
~ Eat more mindfully
~ Eat more fruits and vegetables
~ Drink more water
~ Practice more yoga

Today has been a quiet, peaceful, lazy day. Outside it's snowing gently and a pot of beef stew is bubbling away on my stove. Tonight I'll be watching a movie curled up with my honey on the couch.

I have had a lot of time today to reflect on the past year, and how excellent it has been...but even so, I am itching to get started on 2010. I just KNOW it's going to be the best one yet...and the best part about that is knowing that I really do have control over it. I know there are certain things that I don't get to have input on, but what I do control is how I react to the bumps in the road. If I can maintain a positive outlook, keep my faith, and surround myself with the people I love then everything will turn out as it should...

Welcome, 2010!