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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Apple Pie Muffins

010I am so excited that I have holidays coming up. After today, I will officially only have 9 full days left of work until I can enjoy a full week off, away from work, housework, and my cellphone.  I am planning on spending my week at camp with Ken, but not before spending a night or two at Summerfest to watch The Sheepdogs perform.  It’s just getting harder and harder to wake up in the morning. I’m in serious need of a vacation.  

I am still on my quest to find some great healthy dinner ideas, and was forwarded a few blog addresses yesterday that will surely help this pursuit.  One of my favourite summer salads in the whole world is my Summer Spinach Salad.  It has loads of fresh strawberries and blueberries, dried cranberries and chopped walnut halves, and is topped with Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette salad dressing and goats’ cheese.  Last night I had it with my go-to salmon recipe, that has a balsamic marinade and is seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes.  Pretty tasty, and I promise I’ll share the recipe once I’ve perfected it.

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So let’s talk muffins.  Miss Sally strikes again!  I totally fell in love with her Sky High Apple Pie Muffins.  They are so good! You know the kind of muffin that you buy in a bakery? or a coffee shop? They’re super tall and round and fantastic.  Well these are pretty much it. Except for one HUGE difference. They’re around 200 calories, compared to your average muffin, which are generally around 350 to 500 calories. Yikes! What the heck do they put in those things???  The original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction says that this recipe yields 12 muffins, however, I overdid the amount 011of diced apples that I put in the batter so I actually got 16 out of the mix. Always exciting.  This time when I attempted to make these “sky high domed muffins” I think I did it right, compared to my Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins where I overmixed the batter. I skipped the stand mixer on this one and did it all by hand.  I was careful to get out all the flour pockets, but once it was all mixed together, I stopped,  and once in the oven, the muffin tops soared creating fantastically fluffy, high domed muffins.  The trick with the high domed muffins is the initial high baking temperature of 425F degrees.  After the muffins bake in this temperature for 5 minutes, the heat is decreased to 375F degrees (keeping them in the  oven while the temp is reduced) and then they are cooked for an additional 15-18 minutes.  It’s also important to have a thick batter (spoonable, not pourable) and that the muffin tins be filled to the top.  I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t over mix the batter as this has been one of my major faults with baking.  016

So what’s over mixing? Most recipes in terms of baked goods like cakes, muffins, and cookies involve stirring your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, etc.) in to your wet ingredients.  When the flour is mixed around and exposed to the wet ingredients it start to develop gluten, a protein that helps bind your ingredients together, but can also give baked goods a firm and elastic structure – not always great in cakes, muffins or any type of pastry.  So, do the minimum amount of mixing necessary.  Get all the flour pockets out by ensuring that there are no streaks coming out in your batter.  Or, if you’re mixing in things like fruit, chocolate chips, or other add-ins, mix until there are only a few streaks left to ensure the minimum amount of mixing – you’re going to have to fold in your add-ins so the batter will still get mixed up.

The healthy good for you ingredients in this recipe include fat free, apple flavoured greek yogurt and unsweetened applesauce (in lieu of oil), white whole wheat flour, and rolled oats in the streusal topping.  So yummy!! These is both brown and white granulated sugar in this recipe.  I was super close to trying it with brown sugar from Splenda (I think it’s essentially the same, but sweeter so you can use less), but I figured I’d best stick to Sally’s recipe for the first go so that’s I’d have a recipe to rave about the next day.  

In terms of the type of apple I chose for this recipe, I decided to go with a Cripps Pink apple.  These apples are juicy and sweet, and I found these apples really kept their shape while baking.  I’ve used other apples in the past and I’ve found once in the oven, that they lose their shape and essentially, “become one with the better”.  I don’t know about you, but I want apple chunks in my muffins. So I chose an apple that would likely not break down too much once cooked.

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Sky High Apple Pie Muffins

makes 12-16 muffins. 196 calories per serving.  muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  I found the muffins tasted better the second day once the flavours had settled.  

Ingredients

to make the muffin

  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour (or white all-purpose flour)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup almond milk (or soy or regular)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp fat free apple yogurt (or vanilla or plain)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 heaping cups chopped apple (cored + peeled, if you prefer peeled chunks – I did not peel mine)

to make the Oat Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Prepare oat streusel topping by mixing everything together until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Set  aside.
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  3. Prepare the muffins: in a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugars, yogurt, apple sauce, eggs, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Gently fold wet mixture into the flour, stirring until *just combined* – do NOT overmix. Gently fold in the apples.
  5. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins, making sure each one is filled to the very top.  Sprinkle reserved oat streusel topping over each muffin. (bake any additional muffins separately, adding water to the empty muffin spots to ensure even baking)
  6. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 *note that I was able to divide the batter itself over 16 muffin tins, but I had to make more of the Oat Streusel topping (I halved the recipe) for the additional 4 muffins. That additional topping is included in my calorie estimation.

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T hanks to these muffins, I totally broke my “only one muffin a day” rule.  But in all seriousness I didn’t mean to eat it.  I was going to save it fro breakfast the next day…. but it just smelled so great.  For some reason the smell of baked apples and cinnamon reminds me of Christmas. I was feeling a little nostalgic so I broke down and ate one…in my defense I ate the smallest one I could find, or what looked like the smallest anyway.  I urge you to try this it is fantastic and very easy (like most of Sally’s recipes).  Like I said, I have found some pretty fantastic blogs over the past few days, and a lot of them focus on healthy eating (which I think we could all use every now and then).  Be sure to visit Sally’s Baking Addiction for more healthy recipes! 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!!