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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Oven Baked Chicken Chimichangas

I need to share a new recipe that I discovered a few weeks ago.  It quickly became a household favourite – meaning my boyfriend begs me to make these at least twice a week.  Chimichangas.  So good I could die.  Chimichangas are essentially deep fried burritos and can be filled with anything from beef and beans to chicken and veggies – anything you can think of really.  For these tiny tubes of tastyness, I stuffed my homemade flour tortillas with salsa, spinach, a few spices, cheese, and a whole lot of chicken.  I top them with some homemade guac and some Sriracha sauce and voila – a quick and easy Mexican dish that everyone will absolutely love – and to top it off, these are baked, not deep friend.

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I made these using my smaller tortilla wraps, where I divide my regular tortilla recipe into 16 rather than 12.  But you can easily buy a pack of tortilla wraps at the grocery store if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own.  The first step is to cook your chicken.  I do this by cutting my chicken into small cubes and placing it in a skillet with a little bit of water.  Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.  Next, I mix together the salsa, spices, spinach and cheese.  Mix in the chicken and stir until all ingredients are combined.  For the spice, I use Oregano and Garlic Powder, as well as a little Cumin so that it has that “Taco” taste to it.  I like using medium salsa over mild as it adds a little kick to it.

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Once you have your mix, lay out your tortillas and place a few dollups of the mixture in the centre of the wrap.  About a third to half cup of the mixture depending on how large your wraps are.  This mixture usually lets me make 7 to 8 chimichangas.  Fold in two of the edges and then roll up the wrap.  Place seam side down on a parchment paper lined pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush each chimichanga with a little bit of melted butter, and then toss in the oven at 425 F Degrees for 25 minutes or until golden.

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Oven Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. chicken, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 jar of salsa or picante sauce
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 8 tortilla wraps

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F Degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine salsa, spinach,oregano, garlic cumin and cheese.  Add chicken and mix well to incorporate.
  3. Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the chicken salsa mixture to the centre of each wrap.  Fold in two edges and then roll up the wraps.  Place on the baking sheet stem side down.
  4. Brush each chimichanga with melted butter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Serve with guacamole, hot sauce, sour cream or more salsa.

I find that if I put too much cheese in these it has a tendency of seeping out of the wraps while cooking and this can make the bottoms a little soggy.  Letting these sit for a few minutes after taking them out of the over, while difficult because they smell so darn good, is a good idea – these are extremely hot inside and I’ve burned my tongue on more than one occasion, so be careful!!  These are a little over 300 calories each depending on what you serve them with.  They’re pretty filling, so I like to have 2 as a meal.  This recipe is a must try – yummy! Happy Baking!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

photo 1I’ve been trying to explore more daytime meal options that involve real, healthy food, and are relatively forgiving when it come to calories.  One thing I have always loved is hummus. I’m not really sure why, but I could pretty well eat it on everything and with anything. I’ll be honest…there has been more than one occasion that I’ve eating it straight from the plastic super market container that it came in…with a spoon.  Which I have to say I’m a little ashamed of.  Not because I ate an entire container of hummus in one sitting, but because I bought a prepacked version of hummus from a grocery store when it’s so easy to make yourself.  What was I thinking? I can surly go buy a small container at the store (usually around $4.00) OR I can make my own, get triple the amount for not much more money, AND it’s preservative free. 100% natural ingredients and made in a preservative free food establishment named “Kelsey’s Kitchen”.

My boyfriend and I have recently discovered how much money we have been wasting on food.  We make too much, don’t save the left overs, don’t freeze anything, constantly pick up groceries throughout the week with little to no budget, and we never make a list.  In the next few days him and I are going to plan out all our meals, set a budget, and try to figure out how to eat real, unprocessed foods on a skinny budget… I’ll let you know how it goes.  I can imagine it might be difficult to eat organic or free run with little money to spend, but we are going to do it dammit! Organic MUST go on sale every now and then, right?  I think proper food storage is super important if you want to stretch your budget out… thankfully I have been reading the 100 Days of Real Food blog and have picked up some pretty good tips for freezing and how long things can last in the fridge. I really don’t think we need to spend $200 a week on groceries for 2 people.

So. Back to the hummus. I thought to myself, you know, I’m sure it’s not that hard to make hummus.  So I took a little trip to the grocery store, picked up some chickpeas, tahini, garlic, red peppers and lemons, and put my new food processor to use.  I made two different types of hummus.  The first, from 100 Days of real food, can be found here.  It’s good, but I found the tahini extremely over powering.  I couldn’t taste the chickpeas.  And while I know grocery store bough preservative packed hummus is not very great for you, it still tastes good right? I want my hummus to taste as good as the stuff I’m used to buying.  So this one is out on my favourites list.  However, the roasted red pepper hummus recipe I found, from a a nice little site called inspired taste, is fantastic.  You can find the recipe here.  They seem to know their stuff. Their instructions are incredibly detailed, which I love, and they have great pictures to go along with each step.  I’m going to be honest… I didn’t actually follow their directions.  I sort of jumped the gun on this one and just threw everything into my food processor without really reading much into how to make their recipe.  My hummus turned out great, and I am so not complaining about it, but you know… maybe check their process out before skipping all the steps like I did.

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One thing I was excited about is for the first time ever, I was able to successfully locate tahini. I have searched high and low, all over the Asian cuisine and international sections of the grocery store, looking for this paste like substance that has been required for so many recipes! I never thought to look in the peanut butter section…. so just an FYI it is usually in the peanut butter section.  I searched it out in the organic section first and found it there.  It has the consistency of natural peanut butter.  Picture above is the 100 Days of Real Food Hummus.  I topped it with paprika.  I may re-make it but add a few more spices and reduce the amount of tahini used in the recipe.

The Inspired Taste site describes a method to creamier hummus, where you “de-skin” (ew) the chickpeas.  This process took about 10 minutes per can.  I only did this on the traditional 100 Days recipe and didn’t notice much of a difference between the consistency of the traditional and roasted red pepper hummus.

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I was very excited that I was making this recipe 100% from home… meaning that I had to roast my own red peppers.  I’ve never done this before but the process is easy enough.  Simply line a baking sheet with foil and place cored and sliced red peppers on the sheet, skin side up.  I cut mine into fours.  Set your oven to broil, and place oven rack approximately 5 inches from the broiler.  Broil for about 10 minutes or until the skins are charred.  Place the charred peppers into a resealable bag or bowl coverd in plastic wrap for 10 – 15 minutes.  This will help the peppers steam and will make removing the skin much easier.  Remove the skin from the peppers and discard.

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I think from now on I will always make my own roasted red peppers.  It takes no time and is made right at home so I know that there are no additives sneaking their way into my food.  Roasted red peppers are great in stuffed chicken, sauces, and even soups.  So never buy it in a jar again.

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

hummus can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to one week.  you may also freeze it.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole red bell peppers
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) tahini (*I used only 1/8 of a cup)
  • Half of a large garlic clove, minced (*I used a whole garlic glove)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preparation Instructions:

1. Prepare peppers for roasting.  Core and remove seeds.  Cut into fours and lay skin side up on a foil lined baking sheet.  Broil for approximately 10 minutes or until skins have charred.  Place peppers in a resealable bag or plastic wrap covered bowl for 10 – 15 minutes in order to allow for easy skin removal.  Remove charred skins and discard.

2. Add all ingredients into food processor other than the peppers a blend until smooth.  Again see here for details on a different process.

3. Add red peppers (coarsely chopped) into the processor and blend until no chunks are left.  If hummus is thick, slowly ass 1 – 3 tbsp of water and blend until desired consistency is reached.  You may save a few of the roasted peppers for garnishing.

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Pictured above is today’s lunch! A whole wheat pita (only 5 ingredients!) stuffed with sliced cucumbers, and a side of sliced carrots and green peppers with my homemade roasted red pepper hummus. Yummy!  For those of you who are wondering where the protein is, here is my response: click.

On another note…fall is only a few days away… time to pull out the pumpkin flavoured recipes? I think so.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

photo 1People – Love your food.  Too often are we apologizing for loving to eat.  Lately I’ve realized how sick I am of feeling guilty for loving food.  It drives me bonkers! I love food.  I am a foodie. And proud of it! Here’s a fun quote I found in a book I started reading about eating real food:

We forget that, historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity.” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

A great read – I recommend it.  Now on to the newest real food recipe I discovered over the weekend. Despite my ever changing food routine, one thing has remained consistent through everything: Breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because some of my favourite food memories have been of Sunday morning brunch.  My dad would cook up a whole slew of bacon, accompanied with Cavendish potatoes, fried in oil, paprika, parsley and garlic.  Those were my favourite.  Still are actually, although I always use fresh potatoes in replacement of the frozen bagged potatoes.  Still, there was something about those tiny cube shaped potatoes that still make my mouth water.  I would drown them in Ketchup and could probably eat them by the truckload.  Often my weekend breakfasts include fried potatoes and turkey bacon, with a side of toast and fruit.  I’ve never been an egg person.  During the week I go more towards fruit and toast, oatmeal, sometimes cottage cheese, and every now and then a protein shake.  Although lately with my recent move towards real food and no processed foods, I tend to skip the protein powder.

Over this past weekend I tried a new weekend breakfast that totally blew my mind.  I made pancakes.  I was never a huge pancake lover as a kid.  I didn’t really get what the fuss was about.  Although toss me a waffle and my heart would melt.  One thing I forgot to mention – I LOVE peanut butter and bananas.  Separately they are amazing, but together? Wow.  So I usually jump at any change to add either peanut butter, banana, or both to my breakfast.  So when a friend gave me a simple, real ingredient pancake recipe I just had to make it my own – by adding bananas.  This recipe is simple.  It’s another blender recipe. For simplicity’s sake: Add all the ingredients into a blender.  Blend. Pan fry. Eat. Done. THAT simple.  Well, you’d think so wouldn’t you.  The pan fry part was the challenge for me.  The batter is very thin, so creating pancake like shapes is difficult.  The pancakes can get too big and it’s tough to flip them.  But no matter.  They turned out fantastically (the second time).

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I made sure to use 100% Pure Maple Syrup – no added sugars or unnecessary preservatives.  You can really notice the difference in taste when using the real stuff in comparison to what you get with the processed stuff.  These pancakes are quite good, and will run you about 570 calories for the entire meal, including the Maple Syrup.  A little high, but I usually have brunch relatively late so I just sorta watch my calorie intake for the rest of the day.

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So if I’m having nothing else except these pancakes, I will make 2 large pancakes for myself, otherwise I’ll offer one up to my boyfriend – it feels like a lot of food.  I’ve actually yet to finish my entire plate.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

makes 2 large pancakes 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 medium banana
  • olive oil or butter for cooking
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries or blackberries
  • 100% Pure Maple Syrup

Cooking Instructions

  1. Combine rolled oats, milk, egg whites, honey, baking powder and banana in a blender.  Blend on high until combines, scapping down sides if necessary.
  2. In a skillet on medium heat, heat oil or butter.  Once the oil is hot, take 1 cup serving of the pancake batter and add it to the center of the pan.  Adding it to the center will stop the very thin batter from pooling to one side.
  3. In the mean time, add diced strawberries and blackberries into a skillet and top with maple syrup.  Cook on medium until berries are tender and have created a juice.  I usually leave them in there until the pancakes are done, but will switch them to low after about 5 minutes.
  4. Once the pancake has become somewhat solid on the top, you can flip it.  Be very careful, and try to use a large spatula.  Once the pancake is flipped, continue to cook until cooked through the middle and brown on both sides.  It’s best to cook one pancake at a time, so once the pancake is done, I usually sit it in the oven on low heat until the second one has cooked.
  5. Once pancakes are done, add the berry mixture on top and drizzle with maple syrup.

The first time I made these pancakes I made the mistake of putting the entire batter in the pan… it was impossible to flip and ended up being a big mushy mess.  Speaking of mush.  Last week I mentioned homemade veggie burgers….ya they did not turn out. They were 100% mush. I’m trying a different approach when I re-attempt them this weekend so I will keep you posted.  Happy Baking!

Steak and Cheese Quesadillas

009I am on a constant adventure to find healthy and tasty meals.  I always aim for low sodium and low fat, and low calorie if I can help it.  I love, love, love starch.  Breads, pastas, any type of carb really.  You name it, I love it.  So usually, I try to save my two daily servings of starch for dinner, which is my favourite meal of the day.  I try to enrich the rest of my meals with servings of protein and veggies (with one of my tasty bakes for dessert once a day…usually one of my healthy bakes).  I love how I feel when I’m eating healthy. I love eating real foods and finding new recipes that actually taste good.  I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve tried a new recipe that deems itself healthy and flavourful, and then end up with some bland wannabe that just did not do the trick.  It’s awful, and I hate when it happens. Like alot.  So, you can imagine my excitement when I find a really great tasting meal option.  The meal I’m going to share with you today is my steak and Cheese Quesadilla, a favourite at my house.  What really puts the icing on the cake with this one is it takes about 15 minutes to made (this includes bake and prep time).

This recipe is relatively low in fat, and the only real source of sodium is the Montreal Steak Spice 010(which you can skip – but I’d suggest the salt free version) and the whole wheat wrap which holds about 460 mg.  Calorically it’s a little high, but you can change that by reducing the amount of cheese (i use about 2 oz).  Now, let’s get back to the “this is a very simple recipe” part.  This has been one of my go to meals because really it takes no time at all.  You know when you get home from work, and you’re just having one of those days where you could literally eat a small country for dinner?  And the only thing preventing you from chewing your own arm off is the  promise that you will be eating dinner in the next 20 minutes? I have those often, which is why alot of my meals need to be quick and easy.

Some ingredients you will need include large wraps (white, whole wheat, or flavoured wraps, like sun dried tomato and spinach), shredded cheese (I prefer a mix of mozzarella and orange cheddar, chili powder, lime juice, Montreal Steak Spice (again, try to opt for the salf free or lower sodium version), 12 oz. of beef strips, and your favourite vegetable medley.  I use a red pepper, about 1/2 a white onion, 1/4 cup of sliced pickled jalapenos (I love spicy), 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms, and about 1/2 cup of chopped baby spinach.  First, throw all your veggies in a pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Saute until veggies a cooked through and beginning to brown.  While they are cooking, slice your beef strips into even smaller, bite sized chunks.  Toss the beef strips in a bowl with 3 tbsp of lime juice, 1 tbsp of chili powder, and 1 tbsp of Montreal Steak Spice.

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Add the beef into the veggie medley, and continue to heat until the beef is cooked through.  Once the medley is cooked, all you have to do is prepare the Quesadilla and boil until done.  I recommended layering your Quesadilla.  Cheese on the bottom, then the steak and veggie mix, and then more cheese. Only put the mix on one side of the tortilla wrap, and then fold in half once the mix is on.  I recommend using some sort of straining spoon.  The beef mix get incredibly liquidy with the lime juice and spice mix.  Adding too much of this liquid to the tortilla wrap will cause the bread to be soggy and your Quesadilla will become one messy meal.

004I usually turn on my broiler right when I’m about to throw in the Quesadillas.  Broil for approximately 2 minutes take out and flip, and then broil for 2 more.  Keep an eye on them!  These are estimates and are oven dependent.  Another tip – bake in a pan lined with parchment paper.  NO cooking spray or oil needed.  I strongly recommend this and I must say that I have not once successfully made this recipe without parchment paper…and trust me…there were alot of attempts to finally get this right!

Steak and Cheese Quesadillas

Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • Two large whole wheat wraps
  • 8 oz. of beef stir fry strips
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/4 cup of sliced pickled jalapenos
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp salt free Montreal Steak Spice
  • 1 tbsp oilive oil
  • 4 oz. shredded cheese

Baking Directions

  1. Dice red pepper and onion and place in pan.  Add sliced mushrooms and pickled Jalapenos.  Drizzle with olive oil and saute on medium until vegetables are cooked through and the onions begin to brown.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, chop beef stir fry strips into small, bite sized chunks.  In a small bowl, mix the beef strips with the lime juice, Montreal Steak Spice, and Chili Powder.  Set aside.
  3. Add chopped baby spinach to the vegetable mix and mix until the spinach is oil covered and wilted.  Add in the beef mix.  Continue to pan fry until beef is cooked through.
  4. Lay two large tortilla wraps on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Add 1 oz of shredded cheese to half of each wrap.  Add the steak and veggie mix on top, followed by another 1 oz of cheese.  Using a strainer spoon to scoop the steak and veggie medley will help remove any excess liquid from the mix.  Fold the tortilla wraps in half, pressing them down to ensure they don’t open.
  5. Broil the Quesadillas for approximately two minutes.  Remove from oven and flip and then broil for an additional two minutes, watching them to ensure they do not burn.  The Quesadillas should be browned and slightly crispy, with all the cheese melted.  Allow to cool for 1 minute, cut in half with a pizza cutter and serve.

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I find this meal quite filling, so I generally do not need a side for this – but it is paired great with a salad.  I will sometimes quickly toss a spinach salad with strawberries, blueberries, dried unsweetened cranberries, and walnuts, topped with goat’s cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette.  It makes an excellent meal and I have never had any complaints!  I usually dip mine in hot sauce…again I love spicy foods…but you can also dip in low fat sour cream or salsa…or both…or none! A variation of this recipe with an even lesser fat content is to use chicken rather than the beef.  I have not tried it yet so if you do please link to your recipe or at least tell me how it turned out!  I know this is the first time I’ve posted a recipe that isn’t some sort of sweet treat, but I thought it would be a nice change to add an everyday cooking category.  Let me know what you think! Happy Baking!!