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.

photo 2photo 1

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

photo

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.

photo 1

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.

photo 2photo 3

 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.

photo 1

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.

photo 3

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!

photo 4

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.

photo 4

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.

photo 5

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.

photo 2

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.

photo 3

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.

OT8380_Ardito

 

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.

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

GAAAAAH! Okay, it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and, it’s not that I don’t love you guys, honest I do, I’ve just been lazy in the kitchen department and haven’t made anything new or worth writing about.  However the past few days I’ve become motivated to get back in the kitchen and make something new, tasty and healthy, the latter likely having to do with the fact that I am going to be sitting on a beach in the Dominican in less than a week.  Let me tell you, I am shit at dieting. I suck.  I eat healthy most of the time, but I often overeat and drink on the weekends.  I’ve lost about 10 pounds, definitely not the 20 I had originally intended… but I just can’t help it, food is SO GOOD.  Nonetheless, my eating habits can be problematic, and my lack of physical activity.  But I’ve started running and it’s making me feel a little better.  Anyways, I’m sure you’re all like, “That’s a really sad story Kelsey Bakes, but lets get to the recipe part.”  Well okay then, I will! Because I’m avoiding carbs like it’s my freaking job right now (not actually, I’m just reducing them a little), I thought  I would test out a few new salads this week.  I started off with my Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing and then moved on to the yummy recipe that I’m going to share with you today.  Trust me, you’ll love it, even my boyfriend Mr. Skeptical liked it.

photo 4

The first thing I like to ensure when I make a salad is that it is as colourful as possible.  Lots of colours not only means lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, but it means lots of taste too.  For this salad I added corn, red onions, red cabbage, spinach, romain lettuce, green peppers and julienned carrots.  I really can’t stand a bland salad.  I mean, what’s the point?  I vowed to start a Salad Revolution and dammit I’m going to do it! I’ve been on a HUGE red cabbage kick lately, and so has my boyfriend.  After begging me to to put any cabbage in his salad, because it was “disgusting” I chopped it up and threw it in anyways, and now he’s begging me to put more in.  Win.

photo 5

I can be very weird about chicken.  It can’t be too moist or juicy because that makes me feel like it’s undercooked and then I get all nauseous and want to puke.  It also can’t taste too chewy – it just freaks me out. The chicken has to be perfect.  I’ve found that if I cook the chicken in my skillet, covered, until it’s nice and tender and then remove the lid and let the juices evaporate that the chicken gets a really great texture.  For this chicken, I sliced up some boneless skinless chicken breast and added about 1/4 cup of wing sauce (I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce) to a large skillet.  I cooked covered for about 7 minutes, flipping as needed, and then removed the lid for about another 2 to 3 minutes.

photo 2

For the Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing, I combined 1/2 an avocado, 6 tbsp. of Kraft Fat Free Ranch Dressing and 1 tsp of Sriracha Sauce.  You can add more Sriracha if you want more spice.  I simply used a whisk to mix it all together and then drizzled it over the chicken and vegetables.

photo 1

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

makes 2 dinner sized salads

Ingredients

FOR THE SALAD

  • 10 oz. of Chicken, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup of red onion
  • 1 large julienned carrot
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup red cabbage

FOR THE DRESSING*

  • 6 tbps. of fat free ranch dressing
  • 1/2 an avocado, mashed
  • 1 tsp. sriracha or hot sauce
    *note that this makes quite a bit of dressing, I jarred mine and saved it for my lunchtime salad the following day.

Cooking Directions

  1.  Pour wing sauce over chicken strips and cook in a skillet on medium heat, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, flipping as needed.  Once the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear, uncover the chicken and continue to flip for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl and then divide between two plates.
  3. In a small bowl, combine avocado, ranch and sriracha until they are well mixed.
  4. Top your salad mix with half of the buffalo chicken and then drizzle the Avocado Ranch dressing on top.  I used about 2 tbsp of the dressing.

photo 3

And that’s it! Pretty easy right? I enjoy making salads during the week because they take barely anytime and very few dishes… and they make me feel a little skinnier in the morning.. hehe. Happy cooking!!!

Bacon Ranch Barbecue Chicken Burgers

photo 2Okay…. so apparently I’ve been a little obsessed with burgers lately.  Perhaps it’s because I’m being hopeful that spring weather will soon be upon us – we got snow yesterday… April 2nd… and I’m feeling a little depressed about it.  The weather forecast, however, does look promising and I don’t see any below zero degrees Celsius in the next week.  Pray that the weather network isn’t lying, and that the temperature will warm up, bring rain, and get rid of the six-foot snowbanks that encompass every street in the city.  To me, burgers are something that you eat in the summer, you barbecue them on your patio, or at camp, the sun beaming down on you – seriously, I’m getting sick of this snow, maybe if I keep cooking summer foods mother nature will get the hint and bring me some double digit temperatures.

So the recipe I’m going to share today is great because not only does it taste fantastic, but it’s also relatively healthy, like most of my recipes.  Burgers are typically a little higher in calories, since they usually are accompanied by a bun, some sauces, and in my burgers, cheese and turkey bacon, but trust in me when I say that this is well worth it.  Each burger patty will run you just over 300 calories – the rest depends on what toppings you would like to add.  For this burger I added a slice of turkey bacon to top my ground chicken patty, as well as a slice of mozzarella, some fat free ranch salad dressing, a few lines of Sriracha (because I love me some spice) and a few slices of red onion.  I served it, of course, on a whole wheat Ezekial bun and ate it with a cucumber and tomato Greek style salad.

photo 1

For the patties I combined ground chicken, bread crumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and some PC Chicken Barbecue Sauce – but you can use any sauce.   I mashed all the ingredients together with my hands, and then formed the mix into four 4 oz patties.  I cooked the burgers in a skillet, covered, for about 6 minutes on each side, then topped them with bacon and cheese, re-covered, and then cooked for an additional 30 seconds (or until the cheese has melted).  I pretty well cook all my burgers the same way – in a skillet, as I am not allowed to have a barbecue, and for about 12 minutes.  I then topped the burgers with Kraft’s Fat Free Ranch Dressing – I love this stuff because it’s creamy and thick and doesn’t really taste like fat free.  If you’re looking for a taste that’s closer to the full fat dressing, you can always go for the Calorie-Wise Ranch Dressing from Kraft – it pretty well tastes exactly like the full fat version.  I of course, made it spicy, and couldn’t resist adding a little Sriracha Sauce.  I developed this recipe by working off this one from JuliesEatsandTreats.com.

photo 3

Bacon Ranch Barbecue Chicken Burgers

makes four 4 oz. burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp barbecue sauce
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 4 slices of cheese (I used Mozzarella)
  • 4 tbsp ranch dressing (about 1 tbsp per burger)
  • Sriracha Sauce (if you like it spicy)
  • Other garnishes of your choice – tomatoes, onion, spinach, etc.
  • 4 Burger Buns

Cooking Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, bread crumbs, spices and barbecue sauce.  Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  2. Divide the chicken mixture into four and make four equally sized patties (they should be about 4 oz. each)
  3. Place in a skillet and cook covered on medium heat for six minutes.  Covering helps your burger get an even cook.  Flip and repeat.
  4. Add bacon slices and cheese to each burger patty, cover, and cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the cheese has melted.
  5. Remove burger patties from heat, serve on a bun and top each burger with ranch dressing, Sriracha, and you favourite burger garnishes.
  6. Eat it!

photo 4

I promise that you will LOVE this burger.  It’s got a great taste and I LOVE adding the spicy Sriracha to give it a kick.  I promise I will make something else other than burgers at some point – they’re just so easy and versatile – meaning that they’re great for a weeknight dinner.  For more burger ideas please see my Burger Lover board on Pinterest.  Happy Cooking!!