Review, Dinner and a Show: A Rocky Horror Pasta Vino

My boyfriend’s aunt is a big playgoer. I am a big Rocky Horror Picture Show fan. So naturally, when she found out that the Sudbury Theatre Centre was putting on a Rocky Horror Picture Show play, she gave me a ticket for my birthday. I was ecstatic obviously.

What’s for Dinner?

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We started the night off with a lovely dinner at locally owned Italian restaurant Pasta e Vino.  Pasta e Vino is a quaint little eatery a hop, skip and a jump away from the Sudbury Theatre Centre.  I had never eaten there before so was excited to try something new.  The building itself is in a small house that was turned into a restaurant.  923545_760436907313470_1121628469_nThe inside of the restaurant is well laid out, and the tables are spaced well away from each other so as to avoid unintentionally eavesdropping on other tables’ conversation.  My only thought on the restaurant itself is that it is too brightly lit. While I wasn’t really looking for a romantic, over the moon, stars in your eyes kind of night with my dinner companion, I will say that if I had gone with my boyfriend, I would have liked for the lighting to be a little more… dreamy.  Perhaps lower lighting and more candles would have contributed to the mood a little better.  Another issue I had was actually finding any form of online presence for the restaurant.  They had no website and an outdated Facebook page with incorrect business hours.  I have a big problem with this. I’m that annoying customer who likes to look up the menu to a restaurant before I go. I don’t like surprises. I like to know what my options are and I like to have an idea of what I might like to try. I enjoy doing research on a place before I go. The Facebook page did have a picture of the menu, but I had to zoom in substantially to see the options and I wasn’t able to read the descriptions.  Since most of the menu items were in Italian and my Italian is a little rusty (and by rusty I mean I don’t speak it at all) I could only make out the more obvious items.  I also think that an online menu is so important now because of dietary restrictions and health concerns.  My dinner companion doesn’t have kidneys, and because she is a dialysis patient, she is limited to what she can order. It would have been nice for her to have access to a menu beforehand.

The service was really great, and our waitress was really friendly and helpful.  When ordering entrees rather than pasta dishes, the menu specifies no substitutions, however they do allow you to substitute the roasted potatoes and vegetables for a half order of pasta, it’s just a little more expensive. I decided to go with that option, and order Veal Marsala with a half order of Rigatoni alla Burina, which was rigatoni noodles in a white sauce with broccoli, bacon, hot peppers and garlic. The meal was nice and hot when I got it, which for some reason is not always the case when I order a pasta dish, and it tasted amazing. All their specialty pastas (i.e., tortellini, ravioli) are actually made in restaurant. The veal was very tender and the pasta dish was nice and creamy without feeling too heavy. Because of this, I had room for dessert.

The dessert menu was limited, but my eyes spotted cheese cake and I immediately ordered it. Unfortunately, they didn’t have cheesecake that night which was a little disappointing. However, they did offer me an off-the-menu dessert item, ice cream wrapped in a crepe and drizzled with strawberry and raspberry sauce.  I’ve had a similar dessert before at a wedding, so I was excited for a warm crepe stuffed with cold ice cream. Unfortunately, the desserts while likely made at the restaurant, are done beforehand, and instead of a warm crepe I got an ice cold, extremely hard crepe-wrapped ice cream tube.  The dessert still tasted great, but I was expecting a different texture so was a little disappointed.  Despite this, we had a good experience at Pasta e Vino and I would be very happy to go back.

Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab.

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MUSIC, LYRICS AND BOOK BY RICHARD O’BRIEN
25 SEP TO 18 OCT 2014

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Theatre has always been exciting to me, ever since I was a kid and saw The Lion King in Toronto. It’s much more interesting than going to a movie, and feels like such a special occasion.  I’ve been a Rocky Horror fan since I was a kid. My parents loved the movie and let me watch it when I was possibly too young to get what was really going on, but I just loved the singing and bright colours. See the STC description of the play below:

 “A comic musical salute to B Horror Movies, The Rocky Horror Show is one of the most popular musicals of all time. One dark and stormy night, the newly engaged Brad and Janet find themselves in the castle of Doctor Frank N. Furter who believes he has discovered the secret of life. Will the muscular science experiment Rocky Horror live forever? Are Brad and Janet’s lives in danger? Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

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The play was very true to the movie – from the fishnets to the transvestite main character, the musical performances were phenomenal and the acting was incredible.  The only character that was a little off from the movie was Rocky, who has more of a Frankenstein monster personality in the movie, whereas in the play he speaks more adding a little more comic relief, and I thought it was well done. The actors did very well in portraying their characters.  Special shoutout to David Lopez who played Frank N. Furter, and Joseph O’Toole who played one of the Phantom Characters. Their performances were amazing and to me they really took the play to the next level.  I can’t believe how great of an experience it was to see this play, and I would absolutely go see it again. The play runs until October 18, 2014, so make sure you get your tickets soon!

Kelsey Does a Restaurant Review: The Hour Glass Sudbury

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Sooooo I’ve decided to start doing restaurant and food reviews as a writing side project, and because my bestie was all like “hey, you should do food critiques,” and I was like “okay”. So here I am, doing that.  I snagged the photos below from The Hour Glass Facebook Page and Website; please click them to go to the pages where they are located.

The Hour Glass is probably one of my favourite restaurants in Sudbury. It’s locally owned and has fantastic food. I’ve never been disappointed with the service.  While the food is great, I find myself drawn to the restaurant’s atmosphere: it’s very urban, with brick walls, hardwood floors, and the staff all dressed in black attire. The restaurant is well laid out and you’re far enough away from other tables so that you don’t hear the conversation of the group next to you. This is incredibly important to me, and I actually refuse to go to certain restaurants where I feel I’m toO close to other people. When I go out to eat, I have no interest in hearing about Suzy’s new boyfriend’s sick pickup truck from the girl sitting two tables away, so I appreciate when a restaurant takes that into consideration, rather than squishing in as many tables as possible to maximize profit margins.  The service is relatively quick, but not so quick that you feel like you’re being rushed out, and all the servers I’ve had have always been incredibly friendly.

I really appreciate how many gluten free options the The Hour Glass offers: every pasta dish can be substituted with gluten free noodles, and all sandwiches and burgers have the option of a gluten free bun or bread.  The Hour Glass has a great variety of appetizers, 10686921_10154564775050234_3453984864744133707_nincluding bruschetta and garlic bread, wings and nachos, seafood options, antipasto, and fondue.  We ordered the nachos as an appetizer.  I’ve always been impressed with The Hour Glass nachos for the reason that they’re not your typical cheese and salsa nachos.  They are made on tri-colour corn tortilla chips with melted cheese, feta, and jalapenos, with sour cream, salsa and guac (optional) on the side. My biggest pet peeve with any nachos is that by the time you get to the bottom layer the nachos become soft and soggy, but I’ve never experienced that issue with the nachos at this restaurant, which is why they are my favourite. No one likes soggy nachos.

For my main I ordered the Sriracha Onion Burger, a gourmet burger with garlic and chive cream cheese topped with caramelized Sriracha onions.  Because I’ve ordered a burger at this restaurant before, I knew how large they were and decided to order a side salad rather than fries in case I wanted to try to fit in some dessert. The burger was amazing.  I had never tried cream cheese on a burger before, but since I am a burger lover, I figured, why not try something new? I almost couldn’t finish it, but I managed.  The only issue I had with this burger is that the garlic and chive cream cheese had WAY too much garlic. I quite literally had garlic breath until the next night, even after scoping and brushing several times.  No part of me is exaggerating. So because of that reason, while the taste was fantastic I don’t think that I would order this particular burger again unless they are able to tone down the garlic.  Nobody likes garlic breath.

desertBnrLeftI decided to skip dessert and instead got a fun flavoured martini – I opted for a chocolate martini, but I’ve tasted their cheesecake in the past (which is ALWAYS my go to dessert) and it is fantastic.  All their desserts are make in house and are all gluten free.  Overall I had a great experience at The Hour Glass, and I fully intend on trying every burger on their menu since they seem so different from the average burger. They actually have a burger that has peanut butter on it, another that’s rolled in toasted almonds, and another that has a deep fried cream cheese and jalapeno patty on the top of the beef patty. Can you say foodgasm? I sure can. FOODGASM.

Skyrim Cosplay Progression: Completion of Boots and Helmet

Bx_YenmIQAIqe5VGAH!!!! So after almost four weeks of slaving over a table covered in hot glue, paper mâché and spray paint, I have finally completed my helmet and boots for my Skyrim Nord Cosplay! In all honesty, if I wasn’t dedicating 70% of my week to a trecherous online Marketing class I’d probably be finished a lot more by now – finishing my degree is just SOOO getting in the way of my paper mâche-ing! Uhg. Worst. But that’s okay, I still have a month to complete the rest of my costume, and everything should be done (hopefully) by the week of October 25th – in time for Halloween and in time for some badass outdoor pictures my bestie will be taking of me with her super awesome camera. I’m actually a little nervous taking pictures because of how they might turn out. I’m a little camera shy when other people are taking my pictures. Unless it’s a selfie, I feel awkward and out of place – but I’m hoping that I can just suck it up for this. And, besides… I’ll be wearing a helmet so maybe that will help a little bit. My last update of this helmet was a few weeks ago and I was just past the foam and cardboard stage. You can find my previous post here. I did a lot of searching for some sort of tutorial to help me with this since I’m so new to costume making, but I found this amazing tutorial here that I’ve been using to help me along the way. Once I had my helmet skeleton I began the paper mâché stage.

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 I covered the entire helmet skeleton, inside and out with paper mâché. I decided to use a flour and water mix for the mix rather than a glue and water mix. My reasoning behind this was that a) I find I can waste alot of stuff, particularly when I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’d have less of an issue with wasting a small amount of flour rather than a large amount of glue; and b) because it’s cheaper to buy a bag of no name flour than it is to buy a bunch of glue.  Essentially, to make the mix, all you need to do is add flour into a bowl and then water and mix until you reach your desired consistency. I’ve noticed that I enjoy a much runnier mix rather than something thicker, especially when using toilet paper strips as I’ve found the thicker the mix the more difficult it is to apply the toilet paper strips. One downside to using flour and water paper mâché mix is that you must wait for each layer to dry completely before adding the next in order to avoid any potential mold. This was a little setback in terms of time but since I gave myself 2 months to complete the project it wasn’t’ a huge deal.  Once I had one layer of mâché over the entire skeleton, I added foam strips back over the eyes and down across the helmet from the front to back in order to make the detail “pop” a little more. I didn’t tape these on but rather hot glued them on to ensure all the edges were nice and defined.

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The next step was to create the “holders” for the horns. I did this by attaching cylinder-shaped foam pieces to the sides of the helmet. This took a lot of random measuring and taping to get it the way I wanted. I then added a layer of paper mâché to the entire thing. Once it was dry I made the horns.

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I made the horns by layering foam and newspaper around a piece of hanger into a horn shape.  The hanger came in handy when trying to bend the horns into the shapes I wanted. I then stuck them into the horn holders on the helmet and then secured them there with a hot glue gun. I also used tape to hold the horns together.

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Next I covered the main helmet with toilet paper mâché and the horns with regular paper mâché (i.e., newspaper) and then again with . Once toilet paper mâché. Once dry I covered the entire helmet with gesso. Gesso is something that painters use to prepare their canvases before painting. I applied several layers of gesso to the main part of the the helmet and sanded in between to try to give my helmet a smoother finish. I found working with toilet paper mâché was very difficult and it was hard to get all the strips on there neatly. I made the rings around the horns using toilet paper and then added one more layer of gesso.  I did not sand any part of the horns.

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I made the armor for the boots in a very similar way. I cut out pieces of cardboard, added foam to help with bending, and then added a layer of paper mâché and toilet paper mâché and then layered with gesso and then sanded.

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Once the helmet had completely dried I started to paint. I used three different colours – metallic black, silver, and bronze. I first painted the entire thing black and then spray painted it silver. I added bronze for a “rusted” effect. I did the same for the armor on the boots.

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I’m pretty happy with the turnout.  It was alot of work but it looks totally badass. Once the armor for the boots was dry, I hot glued fur that I had torn off the hood of a jacket arount it. I then glued it onto a pair of brown leather boots I picked up at the Salvation Army for $6.00. I added straps to the bottom of the boots and more fur to the top. I wrapped a few leather staps around the back of the boots as well and glued them into place.

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Annnnd that’s it! I’m currently working on my shield, and will then do my gauntlets and then my main armor, which I have chosen to do mostly leather with some fur (if I have any left). I will add a belt as well. Most of the material I’m using is from old leather jackets that I picked up at value village/salvation army. I will likely do my main armor similarly to Aela the Huntress, but with a teensy bit more material. Anyway that’s it for now!!

-XOXO
K. Bakes

Happy September: Cosplay and the Perfect Buttercream Frosting

Eeeesh. So I apparently abandoned my blog for the summer. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write… honest. And to make up for it I will share a wonderful recipe for the perfect chocolate buttercream that I found recently on Averie Cooks. But that will come later, fist I have a few fun and exciting updates.  First, I’m not sure how avid my fan base is, but those of you who follow me often enough will know that over the last year or so I’ve been slowly turning this baking blog into an everything blog. The next few months will be no different, because as my blog has grown, so have my interests, and I’ve moved everywhere from baking and cooking, to cake decorating, to DIY and arts and crafts, and now I’ve developed a love for Cosplay and Costume Making.  Last Halloween I made a fantastic Minion Costume and this year, I’m going all out with some badass Skyrim Cosplay! Here’s my progress thus far:

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I don’t know how much of a detailed tutorial I’ll post, but I’ll try to post more photos when I start adding more to my helmet.  I constructed this out of soft cardboard that I pulled from empty cereal and granola bar boxes. I cut out a few long strips, measured them around my head and then taped them together using electrical tape to make a large circle. I cut up the various shapes I needed and affixed them to the circle. I used foam paper to fill in the rest. I layered it with two full layers of foam.  I plan on using paper mâché to create the rest of the helmet, and then painting it a combination of black, silver, and bronze. I can’t wait! I’ll be completing the rest of my armor with a similar approach.

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In the end, it should look somewhat like this:

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I’ve also started a little vlogging here and there, and been having a lot of fun doing it. You can find my channel here. It’s all about Life as Kelsey Bakes, and I’ll be sharing all of it on here. 

Remember to please like and share my videos and subscribe to my channel!! Now… for that recipe I promised.

I make these bad boys for an end of summer work barbecue at my boss’s house. This has to be the best chocolate buttercream I’ve ever made. I don’t know why, but it was just better than anything I’ve ever made before, from it’s consistency, to it’s taste.  You can find the full recipe here along with a recipe for some yellow cupcakes.  We were celebrating a kind of end of summer-going away party-kelsey’s birthday party…thing.

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Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Makes enough frosting for 12 – 15 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softenend
  • 1/2 heaping cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. cream or milk

Directions

  1.  Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
  2. Add the cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, another 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Add the cream and continue to beat until well combined. Note that it may not be necessary to add the cream, and you can omit it if you’ve reached the desired consistency. I had to add some, as my frosting was chunky and much too thick.
  4. Transfer frosting to a piping bag and using a Wilton 1M tip (for the standard cupcake swirl) frost the cooled cupcakes.

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So there you have it! This is a great recipe because it gives you the perfect consistency for frosting cupcakes. Of course, if frosting a cake i’f add a lot more cream to thin it out for the full crumb coat/coat. It was also my birthday a few weeks ago. I got spoiled, as usual.

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You can see one of the super duper fun gifts I got below. Have an excellent day! Happy baking!

Triple Chocolate Banana Muffins

photo 4I have been having some SERIOUS banana issues. I love bananas. Alot. We usually have to buy two bushels of bananas every week and we still tend to run out a day or two before it’s time to do groceries.  However, with the hot weather lately, something that most of us in this small city in Northern Ontario aren’t used to, my bananas have been ripening much faster than usual. Apparently our bananas aren’t used to the hot weather either.  I’m not a huge fan of eating over ripe bananas, as I imagine most people aren’t, but no matter how tempted I am, I never throw them out. I HATE wasting food. So I end up putting them in the freezer to save for that loaf of banana bread I’ll get around to making. Unfortunately, I have yet to make that loaf, and the bananas are piling up in my freezer.  So yesterday, when I realize that my bananas had ripened to a problematic level and were starting to attract a small hoard of fruit flies, I decided to make some muffins.  I am not putting one more damn banana in my small freezer. So, I broke up the hooligan fruit fly party in my kitchen, mashed up the bananas, and whipped up some utterly badass chocolate banana muffins with, get this, white chocolate AND milk chocolate chips. Living on the edge people. Living on the edge. That’s where the “triple chocolate” name comes form… in case you were wondering.

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I’m not even kidding when I say that these are the best muffins I’ve ever made. Or ever put in my mouth. Seriously. They’re fantastic.  And even more fantastic the next day. Since, for some reason bananas have this magical quality where when baked into something they taste a billion times better the next day. I have no idea why, nor do I care, all I know is that I had a MAJOR foodgasm when I ate one. Annnnnnd it took all my strength not to eat a second, and a third, and, well, all of them really.

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The recipe is actually quite simple, as I find most muffin recipes are.  This one requires smashed bananas (duh), oil, an egg, white and brown sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Of course, you will also need chocolate chips.  I used both white and milk chocolate chips.

I’m actually not a huge fan of baking muffins in liners, so I sprayed the crap out of my muffin tins with non-stick spray and baked the muffins right in the pans.  These muffins were super moist and really REALLY tasty. It was like a chocolate banana flavour bomb in every bite.  A variation of this recipe can be found here.

Triple Chocolate Banana Muffins

makes about 15 muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 large smashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  In a mixing bowl, beat the bananas, oil and egg until well combined. Add the white and brown sugars and beat again.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Slowly combines the mixture into the wet ingredients.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter into 15 in the muffin tins and for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Muffins should be stored out of the fridge in a sealed container.

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They are so good. Trust me. I’m getting hungry just writing about them.  In other news, Ken and I spent the weekend at camp and are planning on going back this coming weekend.  Aside from the mini heatwave last week, we’ve had nothing but cold weather and rain. Poop. Oh well, at least we have the sauna at camp to keep us warm.  We went for a super fun cliff exploring hike adventure which proved to be not only an incredible workout, but also ended with an amazing view.

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Living the Plantlife

photo 3So I want a garden. I want to grow squash, peppers, strawberries and zucchini. I want to grow corn and potatoes, regular and sweet, and I want to grow tomatoes and jalapenos and even herbs.  I want to grow everything. All my own stuff. Two problems: 1. I kill everything, and 2. I live in an apartment with no yard to grow a garden.  But this year I decided I just HAD to grown SOMETHING.  And after promising myself that I would not forget to water my beautiful plant babies, I decided to buy some cherry tomato plants and a few jalapeno plants.  I also decided to to grow come herbs: coriander, parsley, basil lettuce leaf, rosemary and chives.  Since I don’t have a place to put a garden, I borrowed a few planter pots from my boyfriend’s mom (she is my teacher in this whole… “growing thing”) and put four small jalapeno plants in one pot, four small tomato plants in another, and all five of my herbs into the third.  My tomato and jalapeno plants have yet to sprout, and according to their little plant information sign thingies, tomatoes take about 60 – 65 days to mature and jalapenos take 60 to 80 days to mature.  So I should see some tomatoes around the end of July and the peppers probably closer to the end of the summer.

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 I am super duper, over the moon ecstatic about my mini garden.

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When my boyfriend and I {hopefully} buy a home next year, we will plant a big garden with as many veggies as possible.  And eventually, we want to build a greenhouse when we can grown our own produce all year round. Of course, that’s a stretch from my three potted veggies and herbs, but we’ll get there one day.  For now, I’m just working on not accidentally killing the plants I have now. I can rarely keep plants alive inside my home, but I think the reasoning for that I don’t care enough to remember to water them… and then they die.  Which, is sad, I don’t want to be a plant murderer, I want to be a plant grower, a gardener, a herb whisperer, a seedling soother, a shrub nourisher.  I want to be like professor sprout from Harry Potter, just a total boss when it comes to gardening.

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I of course, had to purchase a bright pink watering can. Because, you know, it’s pink, and pink water cans water plants more efficiently. Everyone know that.

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 Now, onto the recipe I’m going to share.  The recipe is simple, quick, excellent for a weeknight meal, and contains loads of fresh rosemary from my herb garden.  I can across this recipe at bakedatmidnite.com while browsing Pinterest and tailored it a little based on the veggies I have in my house.

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Roasted Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

serves two

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cut into strips
  • 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs olive oil for browning chicken
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

to make the sauce

  • 2 large rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and add to the skillet, browning on both sides.  This should take 5 to 8 minutes per side.
  2. Add all vegetables to a large bowl and toss in 2 tbsp. olive oil. Spread the veggies evenly over the bottom of a n oven safe baking dish. Top with brown chicken.
  3. Mix all sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken and vegetables.  Add another few rosemary sprigs (whole) on top if desired, and bake at 400 F degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

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So, super fantabulous right? Love love love this recipe and it’s great because it doesn’t really require much effort, making it a perfect weeknight dinner.  I like to add a little more wine to the mix as well.  After I pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies, I dump a little more wine over the chicken and veggies so that the veggies are almost completely immersed.  This helps ensure the veggies will soften a little more.  Ken likes his veggies a little firmer so this time around I didn’t do that, but I prefer a softer veggie.  I love the fact that I can use a little bit of what I’ve grown in this recipe.

I absolutely wish I had the ability to start my big gigantic vegetable (and maybe fruit?) garden this year, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until my and Ken have a backyard to plant one in.  Happy baking!

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Saturday Night Pizza Night: Featuring Homemade Breadsticks

Not only did I make some melt in your mouth, buttery garlic-y softy and chewy bread sticks over this part weekend, but like the title of this posts suggests, I also made pizza. Really tasty pizza. Two kinds of pizza actually. The first was a pepperoni and cheese pizza with real bacon and mozzarella stuffed crust.  Did you just have a foodgasm? I know I did.  The second was a barbecue chicken and cheese pizza with spinach and red onion slices. Equally as foodgasmic, but a little on the healthier side so that you’re not popping out of your skinny jeans the next day.

Lets start with the skinny pizza first…

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For both these pizzas, I used the Quick and Easy Pizza Dough recipe that you can find here.  But here’s a quick reminder:

Thirty Minute Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 packet (or 2 1/4 tsp) of quick rise yeast
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp  sugar (I use 1 packet of Splenda)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour in hot water and oil and mix with spoon or hands until you form a large bowl.  I found the crust to be very dry at this point, so I plopped it on a clean, dry surface, added a teaspoon of water, and kneaded until the dough formed a large ball free of excess flour or flakes.

Place the dough on a piece of wax paper.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap and cover the ball, sprayed side down, for about 20 minutes. While your dough is rising.  Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees.

That’s basically the tough part in making this homemade pizza.  Once your dough is ready simply place the dough ball on a clean, dry and lightly floured surface and roll out until you reach the desired size.  Essentially what i do here is roll it out until i get a crust that’s about 12 inches, and then place on a 9 inch pizza pan.  I usually trim off most of the excess for a thinner crust, or i keep all the excess and roll it to make a very thick crust.  You will need to keep the excess if you are planning on stuffing your crust.

Barbecue Chicken and Cheese Pizza with Spinach and Red Onion

makes one 9 inch pizza

Ingredients

  • One Thirty Minute Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (above).
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I use Diana’s Chicken and Rib Sauce)
  • 1 – 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup red onion slices
  • mozzarella cheese, shredded (i think I use between 1/2 cup to a cup depending on my mood, you can use more or less depending on your tastes)

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 45o F degrees.  Roll out your pizza dough and press into a 9 inch pizza pan lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.   Create desired crust size and trim off excess, as needed.
  2. Cover the bottom section of the pizza with the barbecue sauce.
  3. Layer spinach, red onion slices and cheese.
  4.  Place in over for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the outside crust is golden brown.

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The last step, is of course, to eat it! I always recommend letting you pizza stand for 3 to 5 minutes at room temperature so that it can cool.  The reasoning behind this is (a) it’s too damn hot to eat and will burn the crap out of the roof of your mouth… not like I’m speaking from experience or anything; and (b) if you cut it while the pizza is still super hot, it will likely pull the cheese a little, and no one wants gobs of cheese being pulled off their pizza slices.

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Now on to the more….  calorie dense {fatty} pizza.

So this pizza has LOTs of cheese, 8 slices of chopped REAL bacon, a layer of pepperoni and pizza sauce, and full out mozzarella stuffed crust.

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The stuffed crust part is the only tricky part to this recipe.  But it’s not really that tricky, so you’ll be fine. When you roll out your pizza crust, simply roll it out to 12 inches and press in your pan.  Add a layer of mozzarella around the edge of the pizza crust, inside the pizza pan.  Then, simply roll your crust over the cheese.  Put as much or as little as you would like. Obviously, the more the better.

Pepperoni and Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza with Bacon

makes one 9 inch pizza

Ingredients

  • One Thirty Minute Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (above).
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • pepperoni slices, enough to cover the bottom of the pizza
  • 8 slices of cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded, plus more for stuffed crust

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 45o F degrees.  Roll out your pizza dough to about 12 inches and press into a 9 inch pizza pan lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Add mozzarella cheese to the edge of the pizza crust, inside the pizza pan, and roll excess crust over the cheese.
  2. Cover the bottom section of the pizza with the pizza sauce.
  3. Layer pepperoni, bacon pieces and remaining cheese.
  4.  Place in over for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the outside crust is golden brown.

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Again, it’s best if you let this stand for at least 5 minutes.  There’s alot of cheese on this so you want to let it cool before you start slicing.  This was a hit with my boyfriend and his buddy, who often complain that I hide vegetables in their food. 
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Lastly, I made some wonderful homemade garlic bread sticks.  You can find full details on them here from simplyscratch.com, but here’s a brief overview.

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Homemade Garlic Breadsticks

makes 18 breadsticks

For the Breadsticks

  • 2 tablespoons Honey
  • 1 1/2 cups Warm Water (between 110 – 120 degrees F)
  • 1 packet Active Dry Yeast {2-1/4 teaspoons)
  • 4 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

For the Breadstick Topping

  • 6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine the honey, warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let stand for about 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer.  Add in the melted butter and then mix the ingredients together on low in your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Continue to mix until the dough forms a large ball.
  4. Roll the dough into a rectangle and cut evenly into 18 pieces. Roll each into a breadstick form and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm place for 1 hour so your breadsticks can rise.
  5. Melt six tablespoons of unsalted butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add in the teaspoon of salt and garlic powder. Stir and brush over the risen bread sticks.
  6. Place breadsticks in a preheated 400 F degree oven and bake for about 6 minutes. Remove and brush with more of the butter/garlic mixture and return them back to the oven for 6-8 more minutes.

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I actually cooked mine for a little longer.  I like my sticks nice a soft, just like the ones from toppers pizza, but my oven isn’t the greatest, so I left mine in for about 10 minutes after the second brush with the garlic butter and the sticks from simplyscratch.com still turned out a little darker than mine.  Anyways, these are probably the best breadsticks I’ve ever eaten.  They were soft, buttery and way less greasy than the ones we usually order from a pizza joint.  And honestly, aside from the hour rise time, they were relatively simple to make, and I LOVE simple. Don’t forget to check out my link above to simplyscratch.com so you can see full details, picture by picture, on how to create these fantastical breadsticks of awesome. Happy Baking!!!

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Garlic Lime Chicken Salad with Bacon, Goat’s Cheese and Arugala

There are alot of things that can make a salad great.  I think a great salad requires some sort of cheese, some bacon {DUH}, grilled or sautéed chicken slices with a wonderful sauce or marinade {no poached, boiled, or seasoning free chicken for this girl}, and an extremely tasty {preferably homemade} dressing.  This salad has all those things, as well as a rainbow coloured assortment of veggies. Yummy!  I’ve developed a love for salads recently. They’re just so darn good, and I like how light I feel after I eat them, but yet full and satisfied.

Now, the first thing I want to say, is that yes, I know, i have been writing that much, and the reason for that is: 1) I suck and I’m lazy; 2) aside from this salad and a delicious BBQ chicken pizza I’ll share next week, I have made nothing new and exciting; and 3) I wish I could say it’s cause I’ve been busy, but I’ve been playing video games and reading books like it’s my freaking job, and I’ve just plain and simply made no time for writing.  So, I apologize for that, but after a trip to the Dominican, countless hours of video games, and six whole books later, I’m back!  My trip was magnificent by the way.  Truly fantastic. I’d go back in a heartbeat. And the food…oh the food. It was so great. And there was alot of it. And I mean alot. And the booze was also plentiful. I came back feeling a little bloated. So I made this salad to make myself feel better, a little lighter.

photo 2So whats in it? Well, as the title suggests, I marinated the chicken in a garlic and lime concoction that included four {minced} garlic cloves, a little salt and pepper, 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I essentially mixed all the ingredients in a large bowl, plopped in 10 oz of raw, slice chicken strips, and let sit for about a half hour covered in the fridge.  Then, i added the chicken to a skillet, along with a few large spoonfuls of the leftover marinade, and cooked covered on medium heat, flipped every few minutes, until the chicken was cooked through.  Then I removed the cover and cooked until the juice of the marinade were gone and the chicken began to brown.

While cooking the chicken, I also cooked four slices of bacon (two for each person, but cook only one for each person if you want to cut some calories).

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Once all the meets were cooked, I placed both the chicken and bacon atop a bed of fresh spinach, lettuce, arugula and red cabbage.  I added a few hunks of goat’s cheese and then made a homemade honey dijon dressing that included honey dijon mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil, white rice vinegar and celery seed.

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Garlic Lime Chicken Salad with Bacon, Goat’s Cheese and Arugala

makes two dinner sized salads

Ingedients

for the chicken marinade

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

 for the salad

  • 10 oz. chicken breast, sliced
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into strips
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup lettuce
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 oz goat’s cheese

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add sliced chicken and allow to sit for about 30 minutes covered in the refrigerator.
  2. Strain chicken from marinade and add to a skillet along with a few large spoonfuls of the marinade.  Cook on medium heat, covered and flipping occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Uncover the skillet and continue to cook until all extra marinade juices are gone and the chicken begins to brown.
  4. Divide the salad ingredients between two plates and top with the cooked chicken.
  5. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and divide into two, drizzling over the salads.  Top with goat’s cheese (1 oz. per salad).

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, salad is an amazing thing to eat during the week, because it takes very little time and effort, and trust me, I am not one who likes slaving away in the kitchen during the work week. So, try this and add a little salad inspiration to your week!

Spring Cleaning and DIY Storage Ideas

Okay so Summer is almost upon us.  I’m been slacking on finishing up my Spring Cleaning, but I’m slowly getting there.  Pinterest is an amazing place.  My favourite thing about it (aside from the million upon millions of recipes, and fashion, and fitness pins) is that it can help you transform your space from boring to magnificent.  There are SO MANY great DIY renovation and decoration ideas that I could literally spend my entire day perusing pin after pin, board after board.  It’s enough to make a girl go crazy… and keep her up at night because all she’s thinking about is DIYs; it’s enough to make a girl start tearing apart her apartment in preparation for all the incredible DIYs that are about to happen…  I might be talking about me. I am talking about me.  I have a SERIOUS Pinterest addiction right now.  And it is TAKING OVER MY LIFE BUT I DON’T WANT IT TO STOP BECAUSE I LOVE IT SO MUCH.  But enough about my obvious need for a twelve step program – let’s talk spring cleaning, and lets talk DIY storage, on a budget.  I’m not exactly hurting for cash, but I’m not about to blow a bunch of money on an apartment that I likely won’t be in for more than another year or so, especially when I got debt coming out of my ears, an upcoming school semester (kill me now please) and a house to save up for.  You know when you just get tired of where you live? I’ve been feeling like that for a LONG time, and I got to a point a few weeks ago where I literally wanted to move because I was so annoyed about what my place looked like.  My apartment isn’t hopeless, it isn’t awful or a lost cause, I have a nice space for a great price, I just hate it right now and need to make some changes.  So I want to make some DRAMATIC and DRASTIC changes to my apartment, without spending too much money and not so many that my landlord has a heart attack when I move out – which is why I turned to Pinterest for some help.

Want to know what the first step to making your space great? Clean and reorganize – make better use of your space.  In other words, clean up your shit people.  Figure out what you want and what you don’t, get rid of all the unnecessary crap you’ve been hoarding since your last major spring clean and scrub the life out of all the dirt, grease and grime hiding in every nook and cranny.  Nothing makes me happier than a nice organized clean area with no unwanted junk lying around.  You know that cupboard of yours that is so full of mismatched Tupperware and storage containers that you literally have to brace yourself before opening in case of a plastic lid and container avalanche? Clean it up.   

Organize and maximize your space

If you live in an apartment like me, you likely don’t have the freedom to knock down walls, replace cupboards and rip things apart, and why would you want to? Unless you’re sure this is going to be your place forever you probably don’t want to fork out the cash to do such things. So, where do you start?

Clean out your closet: If you’re like me, your closets can get extremely disorganized – I fill them with crap I don’t need, and all of a sudden, they are bursting at the seams, ready to pop open at any moment.

  • Take everything out and scrub every surface clean.  Vacuum the bottom of your closet and wash it if it is flooring.
  • Purge.  Get rid of everything you don’t want and remove things that don’t belong there.
  • Use boxes and bins to organize your things.
  • Wash all you linens and spare blankets.  Yes, ALL of them.  Even if you don’t have surprise guests over very often, take a sniff of those sheets you haven’t washed since last spring.  Would you sleep with that? No? then wash it.
  • Check expiry dates – all products have them.  Check all your medications, ointments, creams, scrubs and makeup.
  • Replenish your stock – make a list and restock your supply.

Use closet/cupboard doors to maximize storage space:  Utilizing your doors can not only give you MORE storage space but can also give you ease of access to the stuff you use most.

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Install shelves, wire racks or even use a shoe organizer on the inside of your kitchen cupboards to organize your spices, or in your bathroom to tidy up your scrubs and lotions.  Use magazine holders to store food packaging items such as plastic wrap and tin foil.  I picked this up for about $5.00 at Staples.

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Make a plan to keep things organized: I know, seems almost impossible.  Every time I clean something, I say to myself  “this time, I’m going to keep it clean, this time will be different,” and if you were to see the condition of my bedroom right now, you would probably be disappointed in my inability to keep my promises – but do everything possible to keep your space organized.  Label your boxes and bins so you’re not constantly throwing things in the wrong spot.

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Click the image above to hit up the free printables from lifeinyellow.com.

Utilize Mason Jars to Help with Storage

 I LOVE mason jars. Why? Because they’re freaking awesome, that’s why.  About a year ago I scored BIG TIME, and while tossing a bunch of trash in my apartment building garbage room, I stumbled across an entire box full of mason jars.  Naturally I scooped it out of there, free mason jars? Yes please. I’ve used them here and there for things, but I in general I only give my cupboards a good scrub once a year, so this year I decided to put these lovely jars to use by decorating them all pretty and using them for some much needed cupboard organization. I wasn’t about to just toss these mason jars in my cupboards unlabeled and undecorated, so I picked up some patterned duct tape and Martha Stewart Jar Labels from my neighbourhood Staples store and got to work.  I covered the lids with purple owl patterned duct tape, and surrounded the outside in a thin pink patterned duct tape.

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My cupboards are almost all organized and I’m super pumped about my duct tape decorated mason jars. The great part about it, is that it was very inexpensive to do it! The tape and labels cost about $13.00 and the mason jars were free! Of course you can always buy your jars if you don’t have any lying around.

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I hope this helps! And I sure hope you’re not as behind in your spring cleaning as I am.  At this rate I hope to be done sometime before fall… maybe I’ll call it summer cleaning from now on… hehe. Happy cleaning!!

The “Sort of” Skinni Taco Salad

photo 1I freaking LOVE tacos.  The taco seasoning, the soft shells, the cheese, everything.  Tacos are amazing, especially when they’re loaded with salsa, hot sauce, and jalapenos.  Since I’m sort of on a salad kick this week, I thought I would make a sort of skinny taco salad.  I used to make taco salads all the time, but in all honesty they were NEVER as good as the one I’m about to share today.  The first thing I want to stress about tacos, is the importance of making your own taco seasoning. Why? Because a. when you make it yourself, you can choose to eliminate the salt if you want; and b. because when you make it yourself, you don’t add any unwanted ingredients, additives or preservatives, such as Maltodextrin.  Taco seasoning is SUPER easy to make, and requires very few ingredients.  I’ve found quite a few versions of it, but I find this one tastes REALLY close to the Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix.  I got this receipe a while back from Food.com while searching for a recipe for ground chicken tacos, and simply omitted the salt.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Mix all spices together, add to warm water, and stir until the mixture is completely combined.  And there you have it! Four ingredients and water.  It’s that simple! Neat right?  I’ve you don’t fear salt, add 1 tsp. of it to the mixture, it gives it that extra little something.

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I like a lot of different things on my tacos, but I’d have to say that my basic taco staples are usually lettuce, jalapenos, onion, green or red peppers, cheese (duh), salsa, hot sauce, and sometimes sour cream and guacamole.  For this recipe, I decided to omit the guacamole and I also decided to omit the hot sauce since I was using fresh jalapenos rather than the jarred, pickled kind.  Fresh is much spicier, especially if you keep the seeds in there.

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Making this salad is incredibly simple.  It’s takes very little prep time and very little cook time.  First you brown your beef.  I add the jalapenos and sliced onion in with the beef and fry everything up together.  Drain your beef mixture with a strainer and then add it back into your skillet.  Pour the taco seasoning and water mixture into the skillet and mix until everything is coated.  Continue to cook until you reach your desired consistency, about 5 minutes.  I don’t like the mixture to be very runny to begin with, but as a salad I want it to be especially thick.  When your beef is close to being done, set your oven to broil and pop two pitas in the oven.  I use this as the base of my salad.  broil for about 3 minutes or until the top of you pita has browned.  Place your pita on a plate and top with beef and all your favourite taco ingredients. And BAM! That’s it.

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The “Sort of” Skinny Taco Salad

makes 2 dinner sized salads

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound of beef
  • homemade taco seasoning
  • 2 cups lettuce
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 large red or green pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 oz cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. salsa
  • 1 tbsp. fat free sour cream
  • 2 small whole wheat pitas

Cooking Directions

  1. Add beef, onion and jalapeno to a skillet on medium heat and cook until beef is browned.  Drain the beef mixture and then return it to the skillet.  Pour the taco seasoning and water mixture over the beef and stir, ensuring all the beef is well covered.  Continue to cook until the water and juices have almost all gone and the taco beef mixture is thick.
  2. Set your oven to broil and bake pitas for about 3 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  3. Place pitas on a plate and top with beef and all other ingredients.

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It’s easy right? If you want to get more creative take a few homemade or store bought flour tortillas and place them in an upside down muffin tin to make taco bowls.  I haven’t tried this exactly yet, but I have done something similar when I’ve made homemade hard taco shells by hanging the tortillas over the racks in my oven and baking them for 10 minutes.  Click the picture below for a quick how to from EatingWell.com.

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I’m sure you’re wondering why i called this the “sort of” skinny taco salad…. well, it’s pretty calorie dense for a SALAD… any salad that’s over 400 calories seems to be a little… less skinny than others.. but no matter. This salad was frigging good. Try it. Right now. Seriously.