Friday, 27 September 2013

Eat Here Before You Die: Culinary Conspiracy (Ottawa)

Is it just me or have most of my recent posts been about food? My waistline would agree with that statement! My apologies to my readers who aren't interested in where to eat but I have to share this little treasure located right here in Ottawa called Culinary Conspiracy.

Culinary Conspiracy (great name by the way) is actually a catering company who also offers eat-in and take out orders to accommodate a lunch crowd. Smart! My co-workers and I had been referred to try this place for lunch based on a high recommendation by another co-worker who has frequented CC on several occasions. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint and lived up to the hype we had been dished (pun intended).

Located right around the corner from our office on at 855 Industrial Ave in Ottawa, Ontario (sorry my non-Ottawa readers!) this place looks unassuming from the outside but once entering, it is an open, modern, bright and clean first impression. You can see the open kitchen right at the back and there's a bar to eat-in if you so wish. They can't accommodate a huge eat-in lunch crowd so go early if you can. At the front of the shop they have their in-house Ketchup, BBQ sauce, Seasonal Soups and Pasta sauce for sale; all homemade. Their lunch menu offers, sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads; all very reasonably priced. Fancy coffee is also available; Americanos, Lattes, Cappuccinos etc...

I ordered a smoked Turkey Sandwich ($7) and a side of Homemade Chips ($2) that also came with a small side of coleslaw. I can't tell you how many Turkey sandwiches I have eaten in my lifetime but this one was the BEST I have had in recent memory. I will let the pictures speak for themselves for the moment...

That's right, that's real smoked turkey you are seeing there. Not just breast meat either, real dark meat thickly sliced and smoked - like the real deal smoked. Topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo nestled between multigrain bread, toasted to perfection; I think you can see why this sandwich won it's way straight to my heart!

These homemade chips were a kettle cooked style and they were crispy, salty (but not too salty) and complimented the sandwich beautifully. All of this food for $9 and the portion size was so big that I couldn't finish the other half of my sandwich - -  that NEVER happens to me.

Culinary Conspiracy believes in creating homemade gourmet food made from fresh and more importantly real ingredients and I can attest to that being a true statement. They will also tailor to meet dietary needs such as vegan or gluten free. If their catering is anything like their eat-in meals, then I would definitely have them cater my next event. They can cater me making my bed in the morning for that matter!

If you need to cater any event (min for ten people) or if you want to try a new spot for lunch that serves a great sandwiches and soups made from fresh gourmet ingredients AND is affordable, Culinary Conspiracy is a conspiracy you will want to be entangled in. 


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Food Post: Apple Cider Pork Chops with Butternut Squash

With Fall being officially here comes the opportunity to make some of my favorite comfort food. Those meals that are warm and satisfying where all you want to do after you eat is curl up on the couch with a blankie blanket and watch a movie.

This past Sunday I was craving a Fall meal so I looked through my "Eat" Pinterest Board and found a recipe for Apple Cider Pork Chops that I thought would suit my needs. Apple Cider just screams Fall and to pair with this dish I chose Butternut Squash, which I absolutely love.... Perfect! This meal sounds fancy but it is really easy, just a matter of throwing everything in a couple of pans and the squash bakes in the oven while you are preparing the pork. 

*I made a few revisions to the original recipe that turned out really well.

Here's what you will need:

  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops
  • 1–2 tablespoons fresh sage chopped, according to preference
  • 1 pound apples, cored and sliced in ¼-inch slices (you can peel the apples if you wish but I like the skin on)
  • *4 tablespoons butter
  • *1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • *1 tsp ground cloves
  • *1 tsp dried sage
  • *6-7 whole cloves
  • *5-6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • *4 cups cup apple cider (buy the real stuff)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Two packages of pre-chopped butternut squash (I am lazy but by all means, you can use 1 whole squash to de-seed and cut into chucks)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Olive oil (EVOO works too)
What you'll do:

  • I marinated my bone in pork chops in about 3 cups of apple cider with the whole cloves thrown in and a little ground pepper for about 3-4 hours before hand.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 F. On a baking sheet spread out the chopped butternut squash and drizzle with Olive oil until coated. Give the squash a toss with your hands to make sure it is coated evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and throw it in the oven for 30 mins. So easy!
  • In a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add the nutmeg, ground cloves and dried sage to the bubbling butter. Pat the pork chops dry on both sides. Add the meat and cook for 3–5 minutes, or until browned. Turn and cook the other side until browned and the pork is ALMOST cooked through (you will cook it through later!). Turn off the heat remove the pork chops and let them rest on a plate covered.
  • In another skillet melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the butter and cook for 1 minute, or until it begins to melt. Add the apples and sauté over medium heat until the apples are browned and tender. This should take about 10–15 minutes.
  • Take the squash out of the oven and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar. Place back in the oven for about 5 mins under broil.
  • In the pan that the pork chops were cooked in, add the remaining apple cider and cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the cream, bring to a boil and allow it to bubble for a few minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Sprinkle with fresh sage and season with salt and pepper if desired. Add your almost cooked pork chops to the sauce (make sure you add in all those juices to the sauce, great flavor!) and allow them to cook for 1-2 more mins until done.
  • By the time your Apple Cider Pork Chops are done, your squash should be ready. If serving immediately, spoon the caramelized apples on top of the pork in the pan. Alternatively, you can pass the apples separately at the table and portion them out directly on the dinner plates. Make sure you get some of the sauce that your pork cooked in on the plate as well. To. Die. For!

Now that I have typed out this recipe, it looks like it's a lot of work. But I didn't think so when making this meal. It's not the type of meal that you can step away from but really it is just frying ingredients in a pan, the oven does the work for you with the squash and then you just combine everything at the end so it's not as bad as it looks, I promise you!
It tasted rich and hearty, sweet and savory - everything that you would want in a Fall meal. I totally forgot how much I love sage too; such a unique tasting herb that compliments pork so beautifully. The ONLY thing that I would change next time is I wouldn't use bone in pork chops. I would use pork tenderloin cut into medallions. I just like it better for a pork dish, chops I find a little tough. My Roomies LOVED how this recipe turned out, they said it is what you would hope your meal tasted like when ordering from a restaurant.
I am so SO sad to say that the picture I took of the finished product turned out blurry! It didn't appear that way when I took it but that's iPhone photography for you!
Here are "stock" photos of the finished product that actually do look the way this dish turned out.

I hope you try this one out, you won't be sorry. Please ask any questions in the comments below.

Happy cooking!


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, 20 September 2013

Outfit Post: Jeans & T-Shirt

As much as I like to get dressed up in pretty shirts, dresses and skirts, there's nothing like wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt. It's easy, it's comfortable and you can dress it up with a few accessories and out the door you go.

Tank underneath: American Eagle
Shoes: Novellino
Necklace: Ardene (new)


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Who Works it Better?

With the recent hoopla surrounding Britney Spears' latest single release and her over-the-top Vegas show announcement I have to offer my readers another less poppy, more edgy alternative to Britney's "Work Bitch".

Now don't get me wrong, I loves me some Britney and I especially love that she seems to be keeping her s**t together since she went berserk in 2007 - 2008. I also don't mind her newest single, it's catchy, upbeat and I like the message in it. Basically if you want the finer things in life, you better work for them! These kids today (yes, I just said that!) seem like they think they are entitled to drive an expensive car, live in a big house and go on lavish vacations. Well you CAN have those things, but you have to work for them. 

However, an up and coming artist that I recently discovered, Iggy Azalea, has an even better single called Work about her struggles to get where she is today. I can't stop listening to this up-tempo song with it's infectious chorus and the video shows that twerking can be sexy rather than skanky - hear that Miley?

See for yourself:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Cable Knit Pencil Skirt

This weekend was super hectic and I feel like could have used several additional weekends to recover. It was my Roomie/Bestie's Birthday and we cooked up a storm for 10 guests for her B-Day dinner on Saturday. 

We bought two filet roasts from Costco, cut them up into steaks, marinated them in BBQ sauce and added some Hawaiian Salt to them just before they hit the grill. We created a Baked Potato Station with chives, Gruyere, Blue & Cheddar Cheese, real bacon bits and sour cream. I also made Caesar Salad dressing from scratch and we had Caramel Salted cupcakes for dessert. Needless to say, it was a meal to remember!

The Potato Station - it was a HIT!

Me helping with the clean up
Shirt: Dynamite - seen here and here

As a thank you for all of my efforts - mostly cooking related - my Roomie picked up a really cute cable knit skirt from Joe Fresh as a gift. Who gives someone a gift on THEIR Birthday weekend? Well apparently she does and that's why she's my BFF!

So how can you style a cable knit skirt with out looking like a doughty Grandma? Pick a contrasting top in a bright color to offset the traditional look of the skirt.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Dig It

1) Athena d'Orsay Pumps at
3) Shirt Dress by Michael Kors
5) Sole Society Ankle Booties

Haven't done a Dig It post in a while so here we are! While browsing through Pinterest I pinned all of the above items in the effort to find similar options for cheap. I am also still looking for a nice Chambray button down shirt but haven't been successful yet.

Also to show the new sweater I picked up at Fairweather over the weekend, here are some Gorilla Shots of how I wore it today.

Sweater: Fairweather (new)
Tights: Lysse
Shoes: Nine West
Necklace: Chloe
Earrings: Colombian Emeralds International

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Outfit Post: Stripes & Solids

I love this bright striped top and this solid banded skirt paired together. I especially love that the former is super cheap and the latter, not so much but they can be mixed and match to create a great outfit for work or I would even wear this out to dinner with a clutch.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Eat Here Before You Die: Pajos in Stevenston BC

Having been born and partially raised in Vancouver has given me insight into two things:

1) Sushi
2) Fish & Chips

I am a proud connoisseur and snob of each and having to be brave with eating each of these dishes in Ontario (where almost all fish and seafood is imported) is a cross to bare (haha just kidding, but not really).

When I spent a week in Vancouver in July I was able to cross off my to-do list which is 100% food driven. Sushi, Fish & Chips and a White Spot burger are a priority when on the left coast as you can't get the real thing in Ontario.

I am lucky to have a sister who resides in Steveston, British Columbia, a historic fishing village that is part of Richmond, BC (where the Vancouver Airport is). This village has a very quaint small town feel and is becoming more upscale each time I visit with the addition of high end restaurants and spas. So while I was staying with my sister, we had to make the mandatory fish and chips stop at a renowned stand located right in Steveston.

My favorite place to quench my fish and chips craving is Pajos, located right on the Warf of Steveston. Since 1985 Pajos has been THE place to get fish and chips that are melt in your mouth good. People flock there in the Spring and Summer to get their hands on these greasy, crispy fillets of goodness. They offer 4 locations in the lower mainland and I can only dream that they will open a location in Ottawa :-)

Here are some quick snaps of my trip to Pajos:

 Before our meal I worked up an appetite by taking a walk along the beautiful boardwalk. It was so peaceful and the smell of the sea air was intoxicating!

 We arrived at Pajos, it was kind of chilly but we ate outside regardless. I took this pic while waiting patiently for our order.

 Pajos is literally located right on the water, here's the picture of the plank down to the restaurant to prove it. As a side note - I tripped walking back up this plank after our meal while wearing a short dress and flashed all of the diners! Sorry to anyone who had to see that!

And here we are, the Halibut Fish & Chips at Pajos. My mouth is watering just looking at this. The batter is light and crispy but has a lot of flavour. The Halibut is rich and has a buttery dense texture with a mild, clean finishing taste that I dream of. I drench mine in malt vinegar, sooooo good!

It is difficult to get Halibut as a fish and chip option in Ontario so this is an extra special treat. If you would like to read more about Pajos, please click here. I have said this before but I am a big fan of restaurants that use fresh, local ingredients and Pajos believes in this philosophy as well.

So, if you are in the Vancouver area as a visitor or if you live there, please check out Pajos in Steveston. It will be worth the drive, I promise you!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Shopping #Fail

So this weekend I had a hankering to go to Target and spend some time looking through their merchandise for new Fall clothes (boots in particular). I haven't been to Target since moving to Ottawa so this was an exciting way to spend a Sunday afternoon, for me anyways, doesn't take much to make me excited these days :-)

So I do a Google search on the trusty iPhone and get the closest store location to me, which is in Billings Bridge. To say this is close is slightly inaccurate because I live at least a 30 mins drive from anything in Ottawa.

Once I get to the strip mall where the Target is located I see that Target isn't opened (all other stores were). Hmmmm..... weird? So I go back to my Google search and see that the location I chose to go to doesn't open until the Fall! ARGH! How did I not see that before? So since I had driven all the way there I decided to look around some of the stores at Billings Bridge.

I picked up some cute necklaces from Ardene, they were 3 for $15. I also went into Fairweather, tried on and bought a purple and grey stripped sweater for $20 that I desperately need for work. It seems like all of my sweaters have decided to die just in time for Fall - they are all pilled or have a hole so I may return to Fairweather to buy more.

 Super hero stance!
Shopping outfit:
Jacket: Agent 99 in Kingston, Ontario (old)
Shirt: Dynamite
Jeans: Rag & Bone
Boots: Nine West
Necklace: Ardene (new)

 A better look at the boots, I love these and will probably wear them out by the end of the Fall/Winter

Sorry for the flash in this picture! This is the new top from Fairweather . It is super comfy and will go with dress pants, leggings or jeans easily.

So for $35 I got 3 necklaces and a sweater for work, not a Target adventure but not too shabby.

I also had filmed and uploaded a new Vlog and then I promptly deleted it. Why? Well I found it too long and boring, I also say "ummm" like a hundred times during the video. So I chickened out! 

What did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Order from and 100th Post!

I am so excited for two reasons today -  and I am sure you can already guess why by the post title :-)

First, this is the 100th post for Planet MelMac! I know that this isn't ground breaking especially in the land of so many talented bloggers in the Blogger-verse (sp?). However, this Blog  really only started as a small hobby for me at the beginning of the year and now I find myself constantly trying to improve what I post and finding new topics to share with my readers. At the start I was so shy and timid that I wouldn't even post a picture of myself to save my life. It felt too exposed and like I was setting myself up to be criticized. But with the encouragement and inspiration of some amazingly strong Ladies, I now have:

- (Fairly) Regular outfit posts, I really should be more consistent, so I will work on that.
- Found new and creative ways to edit photos
- Acquired and started using a snazzy Nikon L320 Coolpix Camera
- Upgraded my iPhone 3 to an iPhone 4S to take better quality pictures on the fly (among other major benefits)
- Started a Twitter account for Planet MelMac
- Posted my first very short Vlog with more to come (promise!)
- Attained many site visits and connections with my series of posts regarding a Wine Tour in Prince Edward County
- Most importantly my readers have shared their stories and questions with me and that has been my favorite part my far (Office Divas have been a personal favorite)!

When I look through my Blog at the beginning of the year to now, there is a real progression and growth; I am truly proud of that. Thank you to all of my readers for taking a peak at my life and for leaving such wonderfully sincere and encouraging comments; you guys ROCK!

Okay, now on to number two. My order arrived from yesterday while I was at work and I raced home to see if my Madison Leather Look Thick Leggings would 1) fit and 2) could I pull these off? I am happy to report that they did fit and they look fabulous! I love the look of the partial leather and I am impressed with the fabric quality. It is thick and looks well made. All for the price of $30 plus no shipping fees! Hallelujah!

My order had arrived! included a great catalog as well.

 Love the way these look -  sexy and stylish!
Top: Vero Moda
Shoes: Nine West

These earrings will go great with my new leggings!

I am very pleased with my first shopping experience with and I will definitely be a repeat customer. They shipped from Ireland so it does take some time for the parcel to arrive to Canada, but I didn't find that unreasonable, especially when the shipping is FREE! I haven't worn these leggings out yet but I have plans, oh do I have plans to. I felt strong, sexy and confident wearing these leather look leggings (if only briefly in my bedroom) and I will be buying more of them from Boohoo, for sure!

Thank you again for reading and I look forward to sharing 100 more posts with you!


MelMac oxoxoxoxo

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ever heard of Ground Cherries?

Hi all!

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend (long weekend for us here in Canada and the US). I literally had the most non-eventful weekend on record. I did visit yet another petting zoo with my God Daughter and Roomie (yes, another one!) and that was pretty much the only thing I did of note. Sorry! I know so boring right! This time we went to Abbey Hill Farms and saw a farm built in the 1800's, got to pet 1 week old bunnies, see kittens, turkeys, goats and llamas!

The Llama wasn't interested in the grains, but we managed to get this shot looking like I was really feeding him (or her, not sure!)

After we hit the zoo, we stopped by a produce stand to get some corn and spotted these interesting looking fellas....

Have you ever seen these before? I know that I have but never really gave them much thought. Well, the ladies at the produce stand informed us they are called Ground Cherries or Physalis as they are more formally known.They are small orange fruit encased in a paper-like lantern that you peel off. We tried one on site and decided to buy some. They are slightly (and I do mean slightly) sweet with a buttery pineapple flavor. Very unique and different from regular red cherries and they look like yellow tomatoes.

 You peel off the lantern

The peel is attached and you just pop it off 

 Looks like a little yellow tomato

Crazy looking picture of me enjoying my ground cherry as a snack at work today

After a little research I found that Ground Cherries are super good for you! They are very low in calories about 53 for 3.5 oz and they are a good source of Niacin, vitamins A and C. They are good for eyesight, believed to inhibit cancer and lower cholesterol. 

Just like most berries, they are a powerhouse of vitamins that benefit your health in several ways and should be a part of your diet if it isn't already. As these tiny fruits are mild tasting, they can be used in salads and apparently make a wonderful tasting jam.

Well, back to another work week....sigh! Why can't all weekends be long ones?