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fast and easy

Work and Life

My Simple Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

strawberry shortcake recipe by kim vallee

This is the ideal dessert for time-crunched parents. In less than 10 minutes, without rushing, I had this good-looking dessert ready-to-serve yesterday. Even if you have to make a trip to the store, you will be able to put it on the table in less 30 minutes. It is that simple!

The ingredients are an Angel food cake, whipping cream, fruit sugar, pure vanilla extract, and lots of fresh strawberries. I save time by buying the cake. For purists who prefer to make the cake from scratch, I suggest to have a look at the Angel Food cake recipe by David Lebovitz. Although you can taste the difference, I prefer to spend more time with my family than in my kitchen. This is why I go store-bought for the cake.

The kitchen tools that you will need are a tall bowl to whip the cream, a hand blender with a whisk attachment, a soft spatula and a cake plate or cake stand. Continue Reading


My Simple Tips: Get Waterproof Eye Makeup Off More Easily

waterproof mascara remover tips

Any amount of wind makes my eyes cry which why I wear waterproof mascara and long-lasting crayons. But my love affair with waterproof make up products sometimes turn to hate when comes the time to take my makeup off late at night.

Last week, I needed to replenish my waterproof eye make up remover. I was asking the beauty expert about the product performance when she reminded me of a simple tip that makes all the difference. You need to let the remover soak on your eyelashes for at least 10-15 seconds. Then, everything will get off easily. She was right! I found this little break relaxing. Try it and see for yourself how much it makes a difference.

Above are the two waterproof make-up removers that I used more often. What are your favorite ones?

+ photo credits: Sens’Eyes by Make up Forever $24| Instant Eye Make-Up Remover by Clarins $26.50 at Sephora



Pumpkin & Fennel Dukkah recipe


Pumpkin & Fennel Dukkah recipe

I continue my series on easy holiday entertaining ideas with a Canadian twist on a popular Egyptian spice blend. This dukkah recipe replaces the traditional hazelnuts, pistachios and sesame seeds with pumpkin seeds and almonds or pine nuts.

When people asked me what they should keep in their pantry to be ready to entertain, dukkah naturally comes in mind. While your guests are enjoying a glass of wine or your welcome cocktail, cut a baguette, pour some olive oil in a large plate or an oil serving bowl, and serve dukkah in a low bowl. You dip bread into olive oil, then into the nut mixture. I have to warn you to make plenty since dukkah can become addictive. Leftovers can be stored into a airtight container for a month. Another easy to make appetizer is to cover goat cheese balls with dukkah.

Pumpkin & Fennel Dukkah recipe by Josee Robitaille


  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) almonds or pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) sesame seeds
  • 4 teaspoons (20 ml) fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) sea salt

How to make it

dukkah preparation

  • Preheat your oven at 350 °F (180°C)
  • Grill the pumpkin seeds and almonds on a cookie sheet for 4 to 6 minutes (until they are lightly golden)
  • Deposit the sesame seeds into another cookie sheet and grill for 3 to 4 minutes (until they are lightly golden)
  • Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let cool completely
  • Deposit the fennel seeds into a pan and roast them 3 to 4 minutes at a medium heat. Then, remove from oven and let cool completely.
  • Pulse the pumpkin seeds and the pine nuts in the small bowl of a food processor to a coarse consistency. Be careful, it should not become a paste. Another option is to chop them with a knife.
  • Grind or place in a mortar and pestle the fennel seeds and pound until the mixture is crushed
  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl

Voilà! Put another batch into a Mason jar, attach a gift tag and you will have a tasty hostess gift ready to bring during the holiday season.


Simplify your Life with Soup


photo credits: Anjali of Eat Your Greens. Get the recipe on her blog.

We all have a go-to meal for when we are too busy, we don’t feel like cooking or to make us feel good. For me, it’s soup. I could eat it every day. I appreciate its versatility. On a 3-week trip to Portugal, I ordered a vegetable soup almost every day and none were similar. Plus, a soup can be as sophisticated or rustic as you want. You will not be proud to serve this roasted tomato, squash and coconut milk bisque to their guests.

A soup is an affordable and easy way to eat tasty, healthy food. I feel even better knowing that it helps me manage my vegetable drawer. I build my recipe from what I already have. If you are busy (we all are), keeping a supply of frozen, portion-sized homemade soups will simplify your life. I appreciate even more my supply of soups now that I have  a toddler. When he is too hungry and that supper is not ready, I serve him a bowl of soup while I continue cooking. His delight comes quickly. I keep my microwave in my kitchen just for these moments.

Early fall, with the wide choice of fresh vegetables, is the ideal time to make soup at home. Take advantage of it. If you do not know where to start, you will find recipes for broths and tasty soups in Vegetable Soups by Deborah Madison (I own it). Often, I simply start with the traditional onions, French shallots, celery, carrots base and build flavours from that. Since I work from home, a break provides me enough time for the prep work. I let the soup simmer as I continue to work. At other times, I start a big pot of soup while I cook dinner.

I’m telling you

One way to simplify your life is to keep a reserve of good homemade soup in my freezer.


The Costco Challenge: The Making of a Stylish Cocktail Party on a Budget

stylish canapes costco challenge

stylish canapes costco challenge

This article from Town & Country is the proof that you do not need to spend a fortune to entertain in style 20 guests. Event planner David Monn bought at Costco the food he needed to make stylish canapés.

menu costco shopping list

David Monn spent $10.40 per guest. His cocktail party menu was comprehensive with 8 savoury hors d’oeuvres and 2 sweet treats. You get a nice mix of meat and seafood for that price. I’m impressed!

menu costco

I plan to make his Norwegian Smoked Salmon filled with scallion cream cheese and tied with a string of chive. Who will not love a Brie and apple on bruschetta topped with caramelized walnuts?

Get the details on the April 2012 issue of Town & Country magazine. Go to Zinio for a digital version delivered to the device of your choice.

+  photos by Juliana Sohn – Courtesy of Town & Country magazine


What’s for Dinner: Balsamic Roast Chicken

balsamic roast chicken

balsamic roast chicken

A one-pan dish not only saves you time, they build flavor while you do something else. I am partial to oven dishes versus a slow cooker. It’s because it’s the way I am used to cook.

The recipe on my to-do list is the Balsamic Roast chicken with caramelized pearl onions, olives and tomatoes that I saw in the March 2012 issue of Style at Home. It looks so tasty. Their wine expert, Konrad Ejbich suggests to pair it with a saucy Ripasso Valpolicella. You need a certain amount of sharpness to complement the olives and the tomatoes. The Ripasso Valpolicella is stronger that the fruity Valpolicella, but not as powerful as Amarone.

According to Wine Align, “the Ripasso technique involves taking leftover pomace from the production of Amarone and adding it to simple Valpolicella to kick-start a second fermentation; this method serves to boost the alcohol, body and tannins as well as add layers of complexity to the overall wine”.

Nov. 4th, 2012 Update: You can now find the recipe online here.
The recipe is also published on page 116 of the March print issue of Style at Home. You can buy a digital copy of Style at Home at Zinio. This is now where I subscribe to most of my magazines. Zinio operates a Canadian and an American store. Select your country for the flag at the right top corner.

+ Style at Home (March 2012) – Photo by Edward Pond, Prop Styling by Lara McGraw


5 Minute Martha: DIY Halloween Family-Friendly Decorations

diy tombstone halloween decor

diy tombstone halloween decor

I like the amusing side of these Halloween decorations. They perfectly illustrated how a simple design can make an impact. It is not too late to make yours. You could have your children to pitch in to create your own front yard Halloween decorations.

easy constructions

It does not require extreme skills or tools to make your own tombstones using plywood. The kids will have fun writing the epitaphs. It is a good opportunity for them to use their creativity.

homemade wood tombstone for halloween

As for the upside down men, you simply attached a pair of old pants to two sticks and topped the legs with rubber boots. Sewing patches to the pants add to the charm of the scene. I took these pictures from a family house in NDG (Notre-Dame de Grâce neighborhood in Montreal).


5-Minute Martha: Peter Callahan’s Bite by Bite

salmon pork and hot dog canapes

amuse-bouches for kids

At last, you can get a finger-sized hors d’oeuvres cookbook that will not require you to stay up all night or cook all day. Why do I say that? It is not obvious when you look at the stunning food presentation but the recipes proposed by Peter Callahan have shortcuts. For example, his peace of pizza contains only 4 ingredients, which includes store-bought pizza dough and marinara sauce.

bite by bite stylish hors d'oeuvre

Who knew that spaghetti and meatballs could become so stylish? You can save time when hosting a dinner party by preparing one type of hors d’oeuvres. You can stretch it to two hors d’oeuvre types, if they are simple to make. Select one bite as your show-stopper element, plus prepare a batch of simply tasty canapes.

\salmon pork and hot dog canapes

For the soccer game night or your Super Bowl annual reunion, get inspired by his Pigs in a Blanket canapes.

mini margarita served with fish tacos

It is really simple to serve personal vodka with caviar blinis. Individual alcohol bottles add panache to a common drink. As a bonus, you do not have to clean the glasses after the party. I love this idea!

This stylish entertaining cookbook can also help you organize your next kids party. All kids will be in awe when they see the cute doggy canapes or the tiny fudge pops.

+ via Glam
+ cookbook photos: Con Poulos and Glam
+ For Americans: Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party from Peter Callahan $18.92 USD [affiliate link]
+ For Canadians: Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party from Peter Callahan $25.08 CAD at Indigo


5-Minute Martha: Halloween Haunted House Party Decor Ideas

no-bake halloween haunted house

halloween haunted house party decor

Being a 5-minute Martha starts by knowing where to spend your time for ultimate impact and where to use shortcuts.

Halloween Cakes: From hard to easy

haunted house cake by martha stewart

Martha Stewart proposed here an awesome Haunted House cake. But let’s face it, I do not have the time, nor the patience, nor the baking talents to make something as complex. To give you an idea of the number of steps involved, I included one of the cookie templates that you will need to bake. I applaud women you can do this, but I am not ashamed to say that I am not one of them.

no-bake halloween haunted house

Having said that, I looked for another way to impress guests at a Halloween Haunted House party. If you are time crunched or if you have minimal cake decoration skills, you will appreciate the ease of this no-bake haunted house kit available at Williams-Sonoma. You simply need to glue the prebaked, precut cookie pieces with sugar icing and affix the decorations. Everything is included in the box. Now, this is something I can fit into my agenda!

Decorating Ideas for a Haunted House Halloween Party

ragged looking spider webs

Since I did not spent too much time on my cake, I can concentrate on decorating the room for the occasion. A must have for an haunted house party are these ragged-looking spider webs made by pinning, snipping, and tearing cheesecloth.

creepy flower centerpiece

You can assemble, in advance, a spookycenterpiece by affixing a few vinyl bugs and a snake with basic craft supplies. Buy fresh roses a couple days before your party. I feel that the insect-infected bouquet would be more realistic if the flowers would show signs of aging. Finally, I would add artificial cobwebs to show that the bouquet has sit there for a while.

coffin treat boxes walmart

From there, it is easy to build on these craft projects and to complete the look of your party. To cut corners, head to a local department store to buy more props. Walmart carries plastic bat cutouts, Halloween cobwebs and coffin treat boxes.

+ photo:  Haunted House Cake by Martha Stewart
+ No-Bake Halloween Haunted House Kit $19.95 USD at Williams-Sonoma
+ How to make cheesecloth spider webs by Martha Stewart
+ How to make an insect-infected Halloween centerpiece by Martha Stewart


How to Peel a Garlic Bulb in 10 seconds

how to a garlic head in 10 seconds

how to a garlic head in 10 seconds

With the big Holiday season only a few months away, it is good to know tricks that can save you time in the kitchen. In this video, SAVEUR magazine‘s Executive Food Editor, Todd Coleman, shows you how to peel a whole head of garlic in less than ten seconds. It’s a bit noisy but effective.

More Options

silicone garlic peeler

For every day use, you can tap a clove of garlic with the back of a chef knife. A less-messy option is a garlic peeler. I like the colorful silicone garlic peeler by Danesco and Zak Designs.

I am on the lookout for more time-saving cooking tricks. If you know any, please share them.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from
Zak Designs E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler, Blue $6.27 USD at [affiliate link]
+ via Aging Ungracefully


The Brita Slim Pitcher | Being a First-Time Mom

brita slim pitcher

brita slim pitcher

Although my baby was old enough to drink water from the faucet, I continued to boil the water to prepare his infant formula because of the poor condition of the city water pipes. Montreal is slowing replacing our water system but the process will take a long time. But I wanted to make it easier on me. This is why I bought a Brita water filter pitcher. I am happy that I did.

I selected the Slim pitcher (5-cups) since it contains more than what I need to feed my baby. What I did not expect was that my husband and I would also use it. We found that it improves the taste of our water. And the fact that it is their smaller pitcher is not a problem since it roughly takes half a minute to filter the entire pitcher. Plus, having a small pitcher leaves more room in my fridge.

+ Brita Slim Water Filter Pitcher $12.59 CAD at Canadian Tire
+ Brita Slim Water Filter Pitcher $9.54 USD at Lowe’s