Monday, September 30, 2013

English Muffins Two Ways

When Andrew is away, I have to re-adjust to cooking for one again. This was challenging at first but once I got into the swing of it I started to get creative while still keeping it simple.
My go-to ingredient has become whole wheat English muffins. Low cal, healthy, freezable, and sturdy enough to hold all of my creativity. ;)

Here are two of my favorites –

Mini Pizzas – Split an English Muffin into 2, add some pizza sauce, peppers, turkey sausage, whatever floats your boat. Top with a little bit of mozza, oregano, and garlic salt. And pop into the toaster oven. YUM!

Tuna Melt - Split an English Muffin into 2, add some tuna to each half (with mayo or without) top with cheese, and into the toaster until the cheese gets melty!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Must Make Appetizers

We love having people over and entertaining but since we live in a condo we generally just put out appetizers as we wouldn’t have room for everyone to sit. I haven’t yet decided if doing this is more work or less work but I’m getting better at knowing how much food to make. The first time we had so much food left over we were eating it for the rest of the week!

The 2 things I always make are Crock Pot Meatballs and Garlic, Parmesan and Herb Crostini’s. These are both super yummy and always the first to go!

Crock Pot Meatballs

  • 1 package of frozen meatballs (beef or turkey)
  • Half a jar of grape jelly
  • Half a jar of Heinz Chili Sauce
  • Frank’s Red Hot Sauce – To Taste (optional)

1. Combine all of the ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours. Serve warm with toothpicks.
This recipe would also work great as a meal over rice!

 Garlic, Parmesan and Herb Crostini

  • 1 Baguette, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup of Olive Oil
  • ½ cup of Mayo
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp of either (or combination of) Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Basil

1. Add all of ingredients to a food processor or magic bullet, and blend until you have a thick, creamy spread. (Fresh herbs always taste the best, but dried works as well. This past time I used Rosemary as that’s what I had on hand, fresh)

2. Spread onto one side of each slice of baguette, place on baking sheet, spread side up. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 10 mins or until the edges are brown. Serve right out of the oven on its own or with bruschetta.

For another great appetizer recipe click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banana Zucchini Chia Muffins

When Andrew is in town eating healthy goes right out the window for me. Last week was no exception. So I decided to put an end to it and make a healthy meal plan for this week. I also made some healthy muffins which we both love.

I just started incorporating chia seeds into some of my baking. (I used them in my energy bites as well) I don’t know why I haven’t used them sooner. They are super healthy, don’t really have a taste but add a little extra crunch.

Chia Seed Benefits

Full of Fibre & Anti-Oxidants
Cuts food cravings
Balances Blood Sugar
Rich in Omega-3 and Protein
3 times more iron than spinach
5 times more calcium than milk
7 times more vitamin C than oranges
15 times more magnesium than broccoli
Anti-Aging, and great for your skin, hair and nails

  • 4 cups of zucchini, grated
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup of oat bran
  • ½ cup of chia seeds
  • ¼ cup of butter, melted
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups of whole wheat flour 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tbsp of baking powder

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease 2 muffin tins (24 muffins)

    2. In a larger bowl to kitchen aid, mix together the zucchini, bananas, butter, egg, chia seeds and sour cream.

    3. Add in the remaining ingredients to combine. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for approx. 16 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    Monday, September 23, 2013

    The Clarisonic

    Best. Investment. Ever.

    This brush is a godsend! It cleans and exfoliates your skin better than any other at home treatment.
    Nothing feels better than your skin after using little guy. I’ll wash my face thinking it’s clean, and then use my Clarisonic and it will take off even more makeup that I didn’t even know was there!

    It’s similar to an electric toothbrush in the sense that it has a wall charger and the brushes can be replaced as needed. You can also buy different types of brushed that focus on different things IE deep pore cleansing. You can even use it to exfoliate your body, and yep, there’s a brush for that! ;)

    Although it does a deep clean, it’s still easy on sensitive skin. In my eyes, there is nothing I would change about this brush. LOVE it!

    You can order one, or get more information about the Clarisonic here

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Cheesecake Blondies

    These squares are YUMMY! They were quick to make and were a huge hit when I brought them into work. I actually made two pans of these and saved one batch for Andrew as he’s home this week. They most definitely get his stamp of approval. They didn’t cut very nicely, so they don’t get any points for presentation but they make up for that in taste.

    This recipe uses a boxed cake mix, which I know some people aren’t fans of. Personally, I think scratch recipes generally taste better, but cake mixes can have their place in the world too. When life gets chaotic and you realize last minute that you are in charge of bringing dessert to a dinner party, it’s okay, reach for that super moist chocolate cake in the Betty Crocker box, it will be our little secret! ;)

    • 1 box of yellow cake mix
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 package of light cream cheese, softened
    • ½ cup of butter, melted
    • 3 cups of powdered sugar

    1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

    2. Mix the cake mix, melted butter and 1 egg together, until you have a soft dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the dish.

    3. Cream together the remaining 2 eggs and cream cheese. Add in the powdered sugar and mix well. Pour this mixture over the dough, ensuring it dough is completely covered.

    4. Bake for approx. 45 mins or until the top is golden. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Makes approx. 18 squares.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Peanut Butter Energy Bites

    I have a confession – I hardly ever follow recipes. Which is extremely odd as you would think my OCD side would kick in and I would level off each measuring cup while baking. But I don’t. I add something extra or omit ingredients all together. You know the old saying “You win some you lose some”? Well when I’m adventurous in the kitchen and I win, I win big, and when I lose, well let’s just say there are tears involved. BUT I consider these little bites a BIG win and there is nothing more gratifying then making something delicious that you came up with yourself.

    These little bites are great to keep in the fridge or freezer in case you ever get hangry (a state of anger due to hunger) or to bring on road trip or hike. They are small, but are full of healthy ingredients that will fill you up! The best part is that they kind of taste like cookie dough, basically, little bits of business sent from god.

    • 1 ½ cups of large flaked oats
    • ¾ cup of bran
    • 2 tbsp of chia seeds
    • ½ cup of un-sweetened coconuts flakes
    • ½ cup of raisins
    • ½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder (I used Vega)
    • 1 tsp of cocoa powder
    • ½ cup of honey or maple syrup
    • 1 cup of peanut butter

    1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the peanut butter and honey/maple syrup and mix until you have a thick dough. You may need to add a little more peanut butter or oats to get the consistency you want.

    2. Using your hands, roll into 1 inch balls, and place on parchment paper. Store in an airtight container. Makes approx. 24 bites.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Vegetable Pot Pie Stew

    Last weekend was rainy and chilly, so I spent the better part of the day curled up on the couch with fur bags watching Scandal (watch it if you haven't - AMAZING and so addictive!) So this was the perfect day for some crock pot stew! This recipe is low cal (approx 100 calories in 1.5 cups) easy to make, and tastes just like Chicken Pot Pie minus the crust and carnage.

    So this one is for all you vegetarians out there! :)

    • 1 medium sized onion, diced
    • 1 sweet potato, diced into small cubes
    • 2 cups of fresh green beans (frozen would work too)
    • 3 small stalks of celery, diced
    • 2 cups of carrots, diced
    • 1 cup of fresh or frozen corn kernels
    • 1 tbsp of olive oil
    • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
    • 1/2 tsp of pepper
    • 1/4 tsp of crushed pepper flakes
    • salt to taste
    • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp of dried)
    • 1/2 tsp of oregano
    • 1/2 cup of low fat milk
    • cornstarch or gravy flour
    1. Add all of the ingredients to the crockpot except the milk and cornstarch. Turn the crockpot on high for 6 - 8 hours.

    2. Once vegetables are tender. Whisk together milk with cornstarch or gravy flour until you have a smooth, thick liquid. Add to the crock pot and cook for another 20-30 minutes for the stew to thicken up. Add more cornstarch as needed.

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    The Gentle Leader

    After taking Oscar to the vet for a checkup and complaining that he’s a “puller” on his leash, they suggested getting him a new harness called a gentle leader. I was intrigued. It’s a small black lead that goes over this nose and around the back of his head, basically the dog’s version of a horse bridle. This was is made for strong willed dogs that like to take you for a walk instead of the other way around. Oscar and I often play tug of war, so I was more than open to any suggestions.

    During our first walk testing out the new gear I had to keep looking down to make sure I wasn’t accidentally walking a different dog. The change was crazy! He walked right next to me and hardly made any sniffing detours. However, this new found enjoyment on our walks is one sided as it will take a little bit of time for Oscar to adjust. He’s not a huge fan but thank god he is such a tolerant gentle soul. I would highly recommend this to anyone with a larger dog!

    Doesn't he look super happy?! This will be the photo to use if he ever gets a passport or drivers license. :)

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Double Glazed Raspberry Cake

    I planned on taking a weekend off from baking....BUT I bought some raspberries and unfortunately they were a little tart. Instead of letting them go to waste or having to suffer through 2 pints, I quickly found a way to put them to good use!

    You'll see in the recipe that you add the batter to the pan then sporadically place the raspberries on top. It's hard to see after the cake is baked but my OCD kicked in once again and I had them in a perfectly spaced target formation. So proud! :)

    • 2 cups flour 
    • 1 tbsp baking powder 
    • 1/2 tsp salt 
    • 1 cup sugar 
    • 1/3 cup butter, softened 
    • 1 egg 
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup of vanilla or raspberry yogurt
    • 3 cups fresh raspberries
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9-inch spring form pan.

    2. Cream together butter, egg, sugar, vanilla, milk, and yogurt. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix just until moistened.

    3. Spoon batter into pan and cover the top of the cake evenly with raspberries. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    4. Mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Once the cake has cooled, brush the glaze on the top of the cake. Refrigerate for an hour, then glaze again.
    Serves 8-10.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Soft Pretzels

    When I was younger, there was a place in the mall that sold soft pretzels and slushies. I used to get them all the time. I must have been the only one because I haven't seen traditional soft pretzels for sale anywhere since. So here I am, attempting to re-create a fond childhood memory.

    I looked for an easy recipe that didn’t require a ton of time, which means no boiling before baking and no yeast. Normally I would be a skeptic but my cinnamon buns without yeast were awesome, so here goes nothing!

    • 2 cups of flour
    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/3 cup of milk (I used skim)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 egg for egg wash
    • course salt

    1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees, grease a large baking sheet.

    2.  In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles a course meal.

    3. Add milk slowly, and until a dough forms (You might need a little more flour or milk depending on your batch) dough should not be too sticky or too dry.

    4. Divide dough into small equal sections. I made one pretzel to judge how much dough was needed per twist. Roll out dough with fingers into a snake, and form into shape.

    5. Place each twist onto the baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle salt onto each one. Bake for approx 10 minutes or until tops are golden.  Serve warm with cheese sauce, or by themselves. Makes approx a dozen pretzels.

    Thursday, September 05, 2013

    Strawberry Shortcake

    Strawberry shortcake is something I have been wanting to make for a long time. Last weekend we went to a family dinner so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try it out while strawberries are still in season.

    Unfortunately the first attempt at making these resulted in the smoke alarm going off, the animals being locked in a room so we could open the doors to air out the place and Andrew sitting on the patio with a beer because "the house smells like smoke". In his defense, this was after he used a towel to clear the air by the detector for a good 5 minutes. But believe me when I say this, THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT! My oven and I have a history. It has been "fixed" twice before for this exact problem. It likes to over heat at random times, usually when I'm baking something with lots of ingredients. Luckily, it decided to work the next morning. That being said, I have come to the conclusion that my oven is definitely female.
    Round 2 was successful, which is a mixed blessing as I vowed to buy a macaroon cake if they didn't turn out. :)
    My biscuits didn't puff up as much as thought but they were still yummy!  I used two biscuits for each "shortcake" instead of using one and splitting it into two.

    • 2 cups of flour
    • 1 tbsp of baking powder
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 cup of sugar
    • 1 stick of cold butter
    • 1 cup heavy cream

    1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Rub in the cold butter with your fingers until it resembles a course meal.

    2. Add in heavy cream, stir or mix with hands until a dough forms.

    3. Flour your working surface and roll out dough into a large sheet. Use the rim of a glass or cookie cutter to cut out circles. Mine were about the size of your palm and this recipe made 10 biscuits.

    4. Place onto greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are slightly golden.

    5. Once cooled, you can assemble your shortcakes. Best right before consumption. Mix sliced strawberries with a small amount (1 tsp for 4 cups of strawberries) of sugar and let sit for about an hour. Then alternate biscuit, strawberries and whip cream.

        Tuesday, September 03, 2013

        Oat Bars

        Starbucks makes the best Oat Bars! This statement holds true even after this recipe. Not that this recipe isn't amazing, but there's good and then there's great and I guess that's why there is Starbucks on every corner.

        • 1 cup of large oat flakes
        • 3 cups of large oat flakes ground in a food processor
        • 1/2 of oat bran
        • 1/2 tsp of salt
        • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
        • 1/2 cup of butter
        • 1/2 cup maple syrup
        • 1/2 cup of honey
        • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
        • 1/2 tsp of vanilla

        1. Mix the dry ingredients together. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

        2. In a large pot, melt the butter and add in the remaining ingredients and allow it to bubble gently. Stirring to avoid burning.

        3. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into the pan and keep into the fridge. Cut into squares once cooled and store in an air tight container.

        Monday, September 02, 2013

        We made it!

        29 days, 3 trips to the vet and 31 blog posts later Andrew finally came home. We were both so excited to see each other! It’s been tough for us both in different ways. I struggled to find a new routine, adjust to being alone again, and become the primary caregiver for Oscar while Andrew pretty much worked 12 hours days and had to live out of a hotel room. This may not be the most ideal living arrangement for either of us but we got through it.

        We lucked out because we were able to spend the entire long weekend together. I had everything planned out before he even stepped foot in the door.
        We went for lots of walks with Oscar. And we went to a movie, which is something we haven't done in a while. We also checked out a possible venue for our wedding. And we made sure Andrew got in lots of tasty home-made meals! (Recipes to come)

        All in all it has been a great weekend! Unfortunately Andrew has to head out for another job today.
        But this new experience has taught us both to appreciate each other more and we both really value the time we do have together.

        Oscar, Sprinkles & I miss you already! <3

        Sunday, September 01, 2013

        Pumpkin Loaf

        Loafs have always been tricky business for me. I start to fret when the top get's dark but the middle is still gooey. I've been known to  take my banana loaf out of the oven prematurely only to find out it's undercooked. And this time was no different. My first loaf (without raisins) wasn't all the way cooked in the very middle of the loaf. So I cut off the ends and started loaf number two (with raisins just to mix it up) I made a promise to myself to not even check the thing until the 40 minute mark. Luckily loaf number 2 was perfect!

        • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
        • 1 cup of white sugar
        • 1/2 cup oil
        • 2 eggs
        • 1 cup of flour
        • 1 tsp of baking soda
        • 1 tsp of baking powder
        • 1 tsp of cinnamon
        • 1/8 of tsp of ground ginger
        • 1 cup of raisins or walnuts (optional)

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a loaf pan.

        2. Combine pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well.

        3. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.