Thursday, April 30, 2015


I have been making a few different salads lately when we have had guests for dinner.  It's a great way to round out a full supper, or to serve as a lunch.  I like being able to make food ahead of time so I'm spending less time in the kitchen after our guests have arrived.   I wanted to share some of these salad recipes that have been a hit around here.

Just a side note, it is so easy to make your own salad dressing, once you realize this, it will be hard to go back to the bottled dressings from the store.

Asparagus Pasta Salad
This is going to quickly become a staple at our house.  The asparagus is so nice and fresh for the summer, it is perfect for a side dish for a BBQ or to bring to a potluck.

8 oz ditalini pasta (about half the box, you could use other pasta shapes but this one matches the asparagus)
12 oz fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 oz bacon, fully cooked and cut into bits
7 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup green onion
1 tbsp lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup Homemade Ranch Dressing (seriously, don't bother with the bottled ranch, it will not be as good as this homemade recipe, see below)

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.  Drain.  Put pasta in a large bowl, toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Let cool.

Add asparagus pieces to a pot of boiling water. Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes until brightly coloured.  Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water.  This stops them from cooking more.  You just want them to be slightly soft but still crisp and definitely not mushy.  Let cool and then add to pasta in bowl.

Add bacon, cheese, green onions.   Stir.  Add the dressing (as much or as little as you like), and some salt and pepper to taste.

Homemade Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup light buttermilk (they sell 1% here)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp plain yoghurt
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives or ends of green onion, chopped
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a jar or other container with tight lid, shake until combined.  This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

Green Salad with Figs, Walnuts and Chèvre
Mixed Salad Greens (you can just eyeball this, it is about one handful per person.  The rest of the ingredients can easily be modified depending on the size of your group)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried figs, cut into strips
1/3 cup crumbed goat cheese (chèvre)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp whole-grain dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about half of a large orange)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper

Place walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast for a few minutes until they begin to brown and become fragrant.  Stay close, these can take a turn very quickly and you'll burn them.  Remove from heat and pour into a small dish to cool.

Add salad greens to a large bowl.  Top with cooled walnuts, figs, and crumbed goat cheese.  

In a separate dish, mix together vinegar, mustard and honey.  Whisk in oil, then orange juice, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  

Toss the salad in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing.  Serve remaining dressing on the side if necessary.

Sweet Potato Salad
I am not a huge fan of regular potato salad, but this recipe takes it to the next level.  The salad is pictured below in the bottom bowl.  A great way to add flavour and colour to your plate.  This recipe is originally from Michael Smith's cookbook Back to Basics.  

2 to 3 sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 green onions, chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced
Handful of fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
a few splashes of your favourite hot sauce (I use chili pepper paste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; turn on convection fan if you have one. 

Toss cubed sweet potatoes in olive oil in a festive salad bowl.  Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast potatoes until they are golden brown and crispy, about 30 minutes.  Don't over-roast them or they will get mushy.

Wipe out the salad bowl with a paper towel, then add vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, honey, salt and hot sauce. Whisk dressing until smooth.  Toss in green onions celery, parsley, pecans and cranberries. Add the potatoes (no need to cool them, but if you have a few minutes, do let them cool a bit), and give the whole bowl a thorough toss. 

I've got a few more salad recipes I will share throughout the summer. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

I am linking up with Shay and Sheaffer for a new Link-Up Party.  It's pretty self-explanatory but it's a list of what you're up to:

What we're eating this week...
I actually didn't write a menu out this week (horrors!). With our guests on the weekend I didn't get a chance to do a full menu plan and shopping trip.  So we're winging it!  We had leftovers on Monday and Tuesday.  Who knows what we'll have tonight?!  We're living on the edge over here.

What I'm reminiscing about...
Our travels.  We took both of our European trips in the spring.  We don't have any big trips planned now, but I am getting the travel itch!  You can read about our honeymoon here and our trip to Peru here and here. I have yet to recap our England/Ireland trip, but I will sometime.

What I'm loving...
Sarah's Cottage Rental.  I love Sarah Richardson and Tommy, designers from Toronto HGTV.  We watched all of the episodes and I love that cottage.  I want to rent it, although it is probably ridiculously expensive since it was on TV and all.

What we've been up to...
We are trying to get active again.  We went for a bike ride after supper on Monday and I ran on Tuesday while Dave and E biked.

What I'm dreading...
As much as I love the sun and warmth and being outside, I am dreading putting on sunscreen.  E and I are both pretty fair, and we need to keep the sunscreen on at all times.  I am constantly reapplying.  Fortunately, Arbonne has a new sunscreen that should be a good addition to our routine.

What I'm working on...
Tomorrow is month end so I am trying to get as many billable hours as I can squeezed into the month of April.  Lots of shareholder buy-outs on my plate right now. 

What I'm excited about...
Getting our family photos done in a couple of weeks. Besides our wedding photos, we have never had professional photos done.  I am already thinking of outfit ideas.  I'll try to limit the plaid, but I know at least one of us will be wearing it.  

What I'm watching/reading...
I am reading the next book for our book club, A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.  It is pretty good so far.  Now that the Toronto Raptors and Ottawa Senators are out of their respective playoffs, we are catching up on Mad Men, Game of Thrones, etc. 

What I'm listening to...
As always, I listen to the Jay and Dan Podcast and the This American Life podcast on my way back and forth to work. When I'm done with those, I'm listening to 92.5 Kiss FM.

What I'm wearing...
My new clothes from Old Navy!  I love getting fun tops for the summer at Old Navy.  I stopped in last week to get some things for E and couldn't resist some things for myself.

What I'm doing this weekend...
Getting my hair done! Can't wait.  I get my haircut and highlighted about twice a year and I always look forward to it. 

What I'm looking forward to next month...
More consistently warm weather, Mother's Day, Birthday Parties, Farmer's Markets, Neighbourhood BBQs, Our Anniversary

What else is new...
This pretty much sums it up.  

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weekend Recap

We said goodbye to the last of our visitors this weekend.  My dad and his wife were still here, and Dave's aunt was arrived on Alberta to spend a few nights with us before her conference began.

Dave and I took advantage of our visiting babysitters and went to a fundraising event on Friday night.  This is the same event where last year we got the Jesus tree. This year we bid on a Jade tree and were successful. It is quite the interesting tree, and it appears to be pretty low maintenance (i.e. make sure it is in the sun, don't overwater, and fertilize once a year).  We'll see how this goes...

Our new tree, Crassula Ovate Gollum

Swimming was cancelled on Saturday morning, so instead we headed to the library, E got a haircut, and we picked up some sausage buns.  Dad and Karen had been at the St. Lawrence Market so they came over with some sausages for the BBQ for lunch.

Side burner for fried onions

Our first outdoor meal at the new house

After lunch we walked up to the playground and E's favourite place, the sandbox.

After we got back from the park, Dave and E watched a movie and then went to Home Depot.  I walked up the street by myself to pick up ingredients for supper.  

This is the new Shoppers' Drug Mart.  It is in the old Runnymede Theatre and it is the most beautiful Shoppers I have ever been in.  This is the view from the balcony. There used to be a Chapters here but then it closed.  It is great they have still preserved the old theatre features. 

When I got back, I made a snack of cheese and crackers and we sat on the front step. Well, I sat on the front step to eat it and drink some wine, while Dave worked on the front yard.  E alternated between snacking and helping. Then they headed to the airport to pick up Dave's aunt while I got supper ready.

My favourite meal

On Sunday, we all went to church.  Then Dave and E kept working on the yard.  Aunt Linda took some pictures and supervised, while I got supper ready.  
Cutting away the edge of the "garden"

Tapping in the stones.

Note the truck that helped to carry the stones from the backyard.

We had BBQd chicken, pasta salad, and green salad (recipes coming up on Thursday!).  Dave's cousin and her boyfriend also came over so we had a full house.  The apple pie didn't make it through the night.

 It is so nice to be outside and doing stuff in the yard.  Here are some pictures Dave took of his recent projects.  He said they weren't for the blog, but since I don't mind bragging about my husband, I wanted to share them.
The lawn is always a work in progress, but it is seeded now and there is an edge between the garden and grass.

This was last weekend's project, a platform for the BBQ to sit on.

Dave built this railing for E's treehouse

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Arbonne Products!

Last week Arbonne held its Global Training Conference in Las Vegas last week.  At this year's conference a few new products were introduced.  I love seeing the new products and I can't wait to try them.

Lip Balm. SPF 15 with coconut oil.

Tinted self-tanner.

There are 16 shades of this new lipstick.  This one is Peony.  

Ten shades of this lip gloss. This is Primrose.

RE9 Advanced Lifting and Contouring Eye Creme

I am super excited about this sunscreen. When I am outside in the summer I am usually doing something active so this sunscreen will be more appropriate than Arbonne's original sunscreen.

I feel like now that it's getting warmer, people are coming out hibernation.  If you're interested in hosting an Arbonne party, I would be happy to help you host one.  

I am also putting an order in before month's end, so if you're interested in getting some of these new products, or any of the old standards, please let me know.  If you live local, I can deliver it to you.  If you live far away, I can send it to you.  Remember you're always welcome to set up your own account, just use my Arbonne ID code 116201315.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Favourites

Linking up with AndreaErika and Narci for Friday Favourites.

Thank you for stopping by today, I can't believe another Friday is here.  My week went by like that.

1. One of my favourite things to do is go out for supper. This past Monday I got to meet up with some friends at Bricco.  It was so nice to visit with some friends, and even better that I could walk there from my house.  I had the kale salad and homemade pasta.  My friends both ordered the grilled octopus; I tasted it and I think it was the best octopus I'd ever had.

2. My favourite basketball team is the Toronto Raptors.  They are currently down two games to none in the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Wizards.  They need to get it together for the next few games, they can't end up undefeated!  Bring it back to Toronto!  I met Mo Pete (Morris Peterson, former Raptor) last weekend.

3.  I made my favourite cookies for Administrative Professionals' Day. I shared the recipe yesterday.

4. I finally downloaded the Pinterest app for my phone.  For some reason I had refused to do it so far, but I finally caved.  It's a pretty good app, can't believe it took me this long to get it.  Pinterest is my favourite thing to do to put in time. Check out my boards here.

5.  I talked about one of my favourite authors on Wednesday.  I finished Emily Giffin's The One and Only yesterday.  I read some reviews of it online and it didn't seem like people liked it as much as her past books.  I loved it though!  It is set in a football town in Texas, something that I am fascinated with.  The main character is involved with an older man and with a NFL quarterback. Some people found the older man thing a little icky, but I totally bought the storyline.  If you like Emily Giffin, read it, just keep an open mind. 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chai Spice Cookies

It was Administrative Assistants' Day (or whatever it is called now) yesterday but our office is celebrating today.  I got my own assistant a gift, but I also wanted to bring something to the other staff that provide me with assistance on a daily basis - our receptionist, corporate clerk, office clerk, accounting department, etc.  I decided to make a batch of cookies.  I made these chai spice cookies, and since they don't have icing or chocolate, you can pretend they are a breakfast food and they pair well with your coffee or tea.

Chai Spice Cookies

1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice and black pepper.  Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar-spice mixture.  Set aside to reserve for rolling the cookies.

Beat butter and sugar-spice mixture with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about three minutes.   Beat in egg and vanilla, combine until fully incorporated.

Slowly blend in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until just combined.

Roll small balls of dough in your hands (about two teaspoons each).  Roll in reserved sugar-spice mixture.  Place dough balls on baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over bake.

Cool on wire racks.

These cookies are so addictive, you have been warned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Media Wednesday

As much I love reading my book club books, nothing beats an Emily Giffin book.  A friend of mine first introduced me to Something Borrowed when I was in law school.

I quickly read that first one and then the sequel Something Blue.  I've purchased every book since then, but only after they have come out in paperback so I could stack them next to each other on my book shelf.

Last Friday when I was at Shoppers, I decided to treat myself to the newest Emily Giffin Book (since it was out in paperback), The One and Only.

Since then I have barely been able to put it down. I read it in my car in the parking lot at my office, at lunch, in bed, and right now as I'm writing this post.  I have only a couple of chapters left and I am contemplating staying up to read them even though it is late. 

These are more than just easy chick-lit reads, they are more intelligent than that.  Sure there is a "formula" for the story telling, but there is something about the writing that makes it better than typical beach reads.  I can't remember the last time I wasn't able to put a book down, so there is definitely something special about these books.  

I am glad I have purchased all of the books, because I have read them more than once.  I definitely recommend them for a quick entertaining read.