Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fast and Simple Weekday Dinner

Sometimes all we need is a fast and simple dinner after a long and tiring day. Derek and I've had a lot on our plates recently and we've been on the go almost everyday from morning 'til night. By the time I get home at night I am whipped!!! Last night was one of those nights. I worked all day, had an appointment after work and then I had to hitch a ride home from my grandma (yep, still no vehicle!).

By the time I got home, let the dogs out and got them fed, I was in no mood for a big elaborate dinner. It was a perfect night for something easy, but I didn't want to sacrifice health for ease. Lucky for me, I found a kick-butt deal on avocados this weekend and got 5 for $3.29. I'd also picked up a guacamole mix by Simply Organic.

All I needed was 2 cups of chopped avocados, which I mashed with the seasoning. The result was incredible - I absolutely loved the flavour of this guacamole and the fact that the ingredients are organic is definitely an added bonus.

While the guac was 'resting' in the fridge, I stirfried up a bunch of veggies - I used sweet onion, peppers, zucchini, garlic, crimini mushrooms, celery and a tomato. I stirfried my veggies with some chili powder, cumin, sea salt and some crushed chili peppers. I served the veggie mixture on top of 1/2 a cup of brown rice and finished it off with a big ol' scoop of guacamole.

Oh my gosh, this meal was fast and simple and absolutely delicious!

Do you love guacamole - do you buy store bought, a mix or make yours from scratch?
What's your favourite easy weekday meal?

Have a great day my friends,


Monday, January 30, 2012

Butternut Squash Fries

I've been having alot of lonely girl meals lately. Derek went from working 26 hours per week to working 55 - 60 hours per week. The only nights he's home during the week are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We've also went from having two cars to one car to no car, so when Derek's at work, I'm pretty much stranded at the homestead.

I think it would be safe to say that I have had A LOT of time to experiment in the kitchen with some fun new  vegetarian recipes.

I recently bookmarked a recipe posted by Angela for crispy breaded tofu strips and sweet potato fries because to me that is one of the most perfect lonely girl meals ever! Before I became a vegetarian, chicken fingers and sweet potato fries were one of my favourite meals. I don't cook much with tofu normally, so I was excited to try out her recipe. Derek is absolutely not a fan of tofu (read: he hasn't and won't try it) so it was all the more perfect to have on a night when I was home alone.

Instead of making sweet potato fries, I decided to try making fries out of a butternut squash. I was a little unsure whether the squash would hold up in fry sticks, but I was really pleased with how they turned out! They are really easy to whip together and they are an awesome healthy alternative to the normal fries you would buy in the store or order at a restaurant.

Butternut Squash Fries
Serves 2 or 3

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" x 3" fry sticks
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
approximately 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a mixing bowl, place your cut up squash. Pour the coconut oil over the fries and sprinkle with sea salt. Mix well to coat the fries.

Place the fries out on a baking sheet. I used a baking mat so they wouldn't stick and I would suggest using a mat or some parchment paper or some really good non-stick spray.

Bake for 10 minutes. Flip the fries and cook for an additional 15 minutes. In Angela's sweet potato fries recipe, she suggested putting the fries under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I found that the squash crisped up nicely without having to do that, but if you like crisper fries, throw them under the broiler for a just a minute or two per side.

I'd like to say I peeled this bad boy myself, but I didn't. This is how I bought my squash, which made for a really quick prep!

Why yes, I do often use my favourite mugs for melting coconut oil :-)

Baking mats are awesome for baking sweet veggies that get sticky and caramelized as they bake!

I'm a dipper of all finger foods and my go-to when I had chicken strips and fries was always honey mustard. All I did was mix 1 1/2 tbsp each of my favourite dijon mustard and some local unpasteurized honey and voila! I had an awesome dipping sauce. It was awesome with the tofu strips and the fries!

I have to tell you that this dinner was utterly fantastic! I loved it and will definitely be enjoying it again on nights when Derek doesn't get home until late.

I used the leftovers as salad toppings! They were an awesome change to my normal green salad and as a dressing I used a combo of apple cider vinegar/extra virgin olive oil and dijon mustard.

Have you ever experimented with making different veggies into 'fries' before?
Are you a tofu lover or hater? If you have some great recipes, link it up, so I can check them out!!!

Have a great day!!!

PS - I've recently signed up for a Twitter Account. If you want to follow me, click the button in the right margin. If you have anyone amazing that you follow that you think I'll love (including yourself my darlings), let me know!

Friday, January 27, 2012

High Five For Friday

When it's cold and gray out and winter is starting to wind down, my initial reaction is to grab my big ol' comfy sweats and hibernate on the couch with some good flicks. It's easy to find myself in a wintertime funk. When I feel like I'm falling into the 'winter blahs' I like to focus on some of life's little pleasures to perk myself up. Sometimes all it takes is a new lip balm or a new scented candle. Nothing says fabulous like the scent of citrus or berries!

I found Lauren's blog a couple of weeks ago and I love that she focuses on her favourite things from the week each Friday. It was fun to reflect on this past week and to scroll through some of the random pics that I snapped and realize that even when I'm feeling blue that there are lots of things in my life that bring me joy.

So here are a few of my favourite things (I am totally singing like I'm in the cast of Sound of Music right now hehe)
Andrea's High Five for Friday

My top 5 highlights of the week are...

Essie Nailpolish!!!
I've been a nail painting machine lately. Lotioned hands and manicured nails are a fabulous way to freshen things up when everything seems to be gray and drab. My two new fave colours are from Essie. If you know me, then you know both of these are quite girlie for my tastes because I usually migrate towards the browns and the blacks, but I've been wanting a nude polish for ages and the purple/gray tone caught my eye right away. Let's just say that I HAD to have it :-) With a good top coat, these polishes last a good 7 days and I have my hands in dish water daily. I've gotten into a very bad habit of buying one nailpolish per week...I already have a new Essie brown tone that I'm planning to pick up on Saturday :-)

Merino Cool

Eternal Optimist

The Hankster
This crazy guy makes me smile every single day. Don't let this picture fool you because he is a maniac 99% of the time. In fact, he gave Derek a fat lip yesterday...but we still love this big goofy dog!

Chocolate Brownie Pure Bars
I won my first Chocolate Brownie Pure bars last year in a giveaway. I love them! Most bars have such a strong date flavour that I can't finish them, but these are delish! They really do taste like brownies and they are scrumptious! Unfortunately I'm out of bars and am currently planning my next trip into Michigan so I can get more. Lots more.

Chocolate Brownie Pure Bar
P.S. - They're organic and they're vegan {swoon} {double swoon}

Pumpkin Roasted Veggie Quesadillas
Are you sick of hearing me talk about the best quesadilla combo ever?

We are heading to Disney World in May and this outfit will be in my suitcase.
...and let's face it, I love Pinterest and that's where I found this.
Pinterest is my happy place :-)

Pinned Image
From: Pinterest

So what do you think? Now that you've had a chance to think about it, what cheers you up when you're having an 'off' day?

Have a great Friday and enjoy your weekend!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday - Repeats

Happy Wednesday!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been more adventuresome in the kitchen and have come up with a bunch of delicious little meals that have been uber successful on the very first attempt. A couple of my recipes from this past week are going to peek their lovely little heads out in this WIAW post, because I frankly loved them so much that I can't stop eating them!

For breakfast, I'm back on the green smoothie train. I recently read The Beauty Detox by Kimberly Snyder and I've been using her recipe for my early morning eats. I've been loving this recipe and my morning energy has been absolutely through the roof!!!! I've also found that I'm not hungry for snacks in the morning, which is very unusual because my normal routine is to have a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack every day!

I haven't snapped pics of too many lunches this week. I've mainly been eating lots of vegetable soup and veggie chili. My last batch of chili made enough for a bazillion lunches so it's been easy to pull a bowl out of the freezer each morning!

My afternoon snacks have consisted primarily of fruit. Navel oranges have been on sale for the past couple of weeks and now that we've gotten a taste of them, we crave them all the time - I guess it's a good time of year to be amping up our Vitamin C! If I'm craving something a little more decadent, I've been chopping up an apple, adding a pinch of cinnamon and Truvia and nuking it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. It's like the inside guts of an apple pie - pure comfort in under 5 minutes!!!

For dinner, I am absolutely in love with pumpkin & roasted veggie quesadillas and my veggie quinoa pilaf. I can't get enough of them and I keep eating and eating and eating them!!!!

...and one last sweet treat that's repeat from Jenn, not me. I am LOVING these Red Velvet Cake Cookies! I saw them and decided that I was going to make them for V-Day. By the end of last weekend, a batch was cooling on my kitchen counter ;-) They are fantabulous --- so much so, that I ended up sending most of them with Derek to work because I just couldn't keep my sticky little fingers out of them!

So I've shown you mine and now it's your turn! What's the best thing you've eaten all day?!

If you're looking for more meal & snack inspiration head on over and say howdy to Jenn and check out all the fabulous posts that have been linked up for this week!

Have an awesome day!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Veggie Quinoa Pilaf

Happy Tuesday! How is your week treating you so far?

Yesterday I told one of my co-workers to have a good weekend as I was leaving for the day ~ yep! That pretty much sums up how my week has started out.

So what do I do when I'm having a bad day? Head straight to the kitchen my friends! Nothing says bliss like some amazing and delish comfort food :-) The old Andrea would have reached straight for the Doritos or KitKat bars, but this new gal cooked up an awesome quinoa pilaf full of delicious fresh veggies. It was HEAVEN....and I didn't have any 'morning-after' regret from over-indulging ;-)

Veggie Quinoa Pilaf
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 tbsp coconut oil (or canola)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
12 baby carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 c chopped crimini mushrooms
1/2 c broccoli, diced
2 c vegetable broth
1 c uncooked quinoa
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder.

After about 5 minutes, add the veggies to the onion and cook an additional 5 minutes. Once the veggies are softened, add the quinoa and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lemon over the entire dish. Remove the skillet from the heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and serve.

This is such a tasty dish! I had to resist the temptation to eat it right out of the skillet with a spoon!

I've been craving lemon on everything lately!
It really added a little pizazz to the pilaf! 

I served my quinoa pilaf with a side of roasted sweet potatoes. It was definitely a mood boosting meal!

Have you ever tried quinoa before? What's your fave way to cook it?
What do you do to unwind after a loooonnnggg day at the office?

Have a great day!


PS - what do you think of my nail polish colour??

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pumpkin & Caramelized Veggie Quesadilla

Happy Friday!!! How's the weather in your neck of the woods? Winter has finally arrived in Southwestern Ontario - it's snowy and cold out there! In fact, I had a heck of a time getting in the house after work yesterday. The handle of our screen door was frozen solid and I could not get it to budge to unlatch. It was dark, it was windy and it was darn cold out there! I whacked and whacked at the handle and finally it came loose. My poor dogs were inside when all this was going on and they were going nuts when I finally got in!

When it's blustery outside, I love nothing more than to hunker down at home with the fireplace going and a nice comforting meal in the oven. Warm winter comfort food really is good for the soul! This recipe isn't only comforting, but it's also the perfect meal to make for one or two. Derek went from working 25 hours a week after he was unexpectedly laid off to working 2 jobs and being gone ALOT. This was an awesome lonely-girl meal for just me! It was so good, I just might make it again tomorrow :-)

This dinner idea just sort of came to me. First I started thinking about what I could do with some leftover pumpkin that really needed to be used up. I don't know how I came up with a quesadilla, but once it came, my mind went wild with what I could pair it with to make a most fabulous meal. My initial plan was pumpkin with caramelized onion and mushrooms. I had half a yellow pepper that needed to be used so I threw it in and the sage was a last minute thing that I spied at the grocery store and then I just couldn't leave it behind!

Pumpkin & Caramelized Veggie Quesadilla
Serves 1

2 small whole wheat tortillas
3 tbsp pumpkin (I used some leftover canned pumpkin. You could roast pumpkin or a winter squash and mash it up and it would be perfect!)
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped finely
2 tsp butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 of a sweet onion, thinly sliced
3 crimini mushroom caps, diced
1/4 c yellow pepper, diced
3 tbsp shredded mozzrella cheese

Preheat your oven to 400.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet. Once melted, add the onion and sea salt. Cook the onion for 7 - 8 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly because you want the onion to carmelize and turn a golden brown. You do not want to let it burn!

Add the pepper amd mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, mix together the pumpkin and sage in a small bowl.

Once the veggies are cooked, you're ready to assemble your quesadilla. Start by placing one tortilla flat on the bottom of an oven-safe baking pan. Spread the pumpkin mixture evenly over the tortlla. Add the veggies followed by the cheese and then cover with the second tortilla.

Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes. Flip the quesadilla over halfway through the cooking time.

Once the tortilla has been heated through and is starting to brown around the edges, remove from the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes and then cut into wedges.

There are more veggies than you need for one quesadilla. I used the leftovers to top a veggie burger!

Sage is a perfect addition to this quesadilla.

To assemble:

Okay, so this quesadilla is a wee bit sloppy and HOT.
Definitely give it 5 or 10 minutes before you cut and dig in!

Serve! I had mine all on its own, but next time I think a little sour cream for dippin' would be fabulous!

This quesadilla is quite different from a traditional quesadilla. The flavours of the pumpkin and sage pair perfectly with the carmelized onion. It just screams comfort!!!

What's your favourite comfort food? Is there a combo of foods that just scream comfort to you?

Take a deep breath and get through the next few hours! Sweet weekend freedom is just around the corner my friends!  


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I Ate for Dinner Wednesday

Hello Wednesday - you sure did come back quick. Where the heck is the time going?! It's already January 18th for goodness sake!

My WIAW post this week is focusing on my dinners because they have been absolutely stellar lately. The sugar cravings are raging less and less and finally my body is starting to feel normal again. I find myself grabbing for an apple or some raw almonds instead of a Toblerone bar or box of Ferrero Rocher.

Welcome back healthy eating machine --- my waistline has missed you!

I've been sticking to the same breakies and lunches, but like I said my dinners have been rockin' the house! I've been whipping up some really quick and easy meals that are super healthy, super delish and really filling.

Here are a few of my fave dinners from this past week:

As you know I made a great big pot of vegetarian chili on Sunday. I love a homemade meal like this that is ready to be heated and served. As a side, I had whole grain goldfish crackers. I will never be too old to enjoy these little cheddar fishies!

There is seriously more snow on the placemat in this pic than what Southwestern Ontario has received this winter so far!! It's been crazy weird weather here.

I'm also totally loving veggie scrambles (this isn't just a breakfast food my friends). All I do is scramble 2 eggs with some unsweetened original almond milk. Add in some of your favourite chopped veggies and scramble away. For me, no scramble is complete without cheese. Usually I reach for goat cheese, but for this one I used some shredded monterey jack. As a side, I had a huge helping of roasted cauliflower poppers. I wish you could see the size of this plate --- my dinner was absolutely massive and I ate every single delicious bite!

The other dinner this week that was  too die for was whole wheat spaghettini tossed with a whopping 3 cups of diced veggies, 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, crushed red peppers, Italian seasoning and a sprinkling of freshly grated parm. Momma Mia - this meal was amazing!

Look at the rainbow of vegetables --- this was soooo gooood!

So there are some of my favourite eats of the week,  what's been on your plate lately? If you're looking for some more meal inspiration visit my girl, Jenn, over at Peas & Crayons. Her weekly eats party is HUGE and there are tons and tons of awesome foodie ideas each and every Wednesday!!!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Poppers

As you know, I`ve been trying to mix it up and amp up the veggie factor in my meals. One of my fave ways to eat vegetables in the winter is by roasting them in the oven. I`ll often chop up a mixture of veggies, toss them with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt and roast them until they are tender crisp and starting to brown at the edges. Mmmmmm.....magnifique!

I`ll eat a big bowl of roasted veggies on their own, but they also make a great side dish, a great topping to some quinoa or as a nutritious filler in a wrap. The usual veggies found in our house are baby spinach, red onion, lots of `shrooms, tomatos, zucchini and peppers. I`ve been trying to mix it up so that I don`t get bored, so I`ve been trying out some new recipes and have been absolutely loving roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

The recipe I`m going to share today was one I got from Weight Watchers. I normally don`t like reiterate someone else`s recipe, but this one is so tasty and easy, I felt like I need to share it with all my buds. It takes cauliflower and adds some pizzaz with the addition of a few of my favourite spices. The result is a healthy, low fat and delicious side dish that`s been making several appearances at our house lately. 

Roasted Cauliflower Poppers
Serves 2 (or if you`re like me 1 ;-)

1 small head of cauliflower
1 tsp olive oil (canola oil or coconut oil would also work)
0.5 tsp cumin
0.5 - 1 tsp chili powder
pinch sea salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray or line it with your fave baking mat.

Break your head of cauliflower into bite size pieces and place into a medium sized mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower and stir to coat. Sprinkle in the seasonings and mix well.

Spread the cauliflower out evenly over your baking sheet.

Roast for 15 - 20 minutes. Make sure to stir the cauliflower up a couple of times during the roasting time. My oven has been acting up a bit, so you`re roasting time may vary slightly. It`s done when it`s tender crisp and starting to brown around the edges.

Serve as a side to your fave dinner.

Last time I had this side was for a lonely girl dinner and I really did eat the entire head of cauliflower myself, along with a veggie scramble. It was ALOT of food, but it was so good, I just couldn`t stop eating!!!

I`ve even made these poppers for a snack when I had a bad case of the munchies.. It`s really good when dipped in a little Ranch dressing ---- isn`t everything better when dipped!!

Do you have any little tricks to keeping the veggies incorporated into your winter meals.

Have a fab day!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Recap

Holy schmokes! Where has the weekend gone --- two days simply don't give us enough time off before the next work week begins. I think I need to start a petition to start having 3 day weekends with only a 4 day work week - who's with me?!

I don't talk alot about our lives outside of our foodie adventures, but I thought it'd be fun to start sharing a little peek into how we live by giving you a weekend recap every now and then.

On Saturday morning, I met up with my friend Jenn to attend a kundalini yoga class. I'd heard of kundalini yoga before, but never really understood what it was. Last week was our first week out to class and we loved it so much that I think it's going to become a Saturday morning tradition.

kundalini-yoga.gif image by CMS523

Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of awareness. It's purpose is to unite the body, mind and soul. It involves sets of chanting, breath awareness, exercise, relaxation and a meditation at the end. What I like about it is that each week is different. There are thousands of different sets each with a specific purpose. Last week we worked on our upper body and this week the focus was on the spine. The meditations have been focussing on prosperity and who doesn't want a little of that! By the end of our 90 minute class I feel stretched out, refreshed and like my lungs and my mind are wide awake and open. It's a really cool experience!

After yoga, a bunch of the students and our instructor head out for coffee and some chatting. For those of you who know me,  you know that coffee and conversation are two things I do very, very well. I love meeting new people and there is rarely a moment when I'm lost for words :-) I had my first ever Skinny Chai Latte this week and it was AWESOME!

After coffee, I had to get a move on because I had the usual weekend errands to get done before Derek & I headed out to our friends' cottage for the night. Dora went to my in-laws and Hankster went to the boarding kennel and Derek & I were looking forward to a fun night with friends and  a 'dog-free' night of sleep!

Have you ever been up to a cottage in the winter? I loved how quiet and peaceful it was. We've finally gotten a little bit of snow and it was so pretty driving up. You would've gotten to see it with your own eyes if I'd remembered to bring my camera! D'uh --- I left it sitting on the kitchen table; right where I'd left it so I wouldn't forget it. The cottage was super cozy and we spent the night enjoying yummy appetizers, great conversation, red wine and some wild games of Euchre. I think my card games skills have gotten a little rusty since university because Derek & I stunk it up. I think I got blamed but how much can you really do when your hands consist primarily of 9s and 10s!!!!

After an amazing sleep (sans dogs!), we packed up our stuff this morning and went to a small little diner for breakie. I LOVE GOING OUT FOR BREAKFAST! Homefries, toasted tomato sammies and coffee --- the best way to start a Sunday if you ask me!

I was planning to spend the rest of today relaxing in front of the TV, but something came over me when I got home and I was drawn to the kitchen. I started out by making two huge batches of chili - a veggie chili for me and a meaty chili for Derek. By 5 p.m., I had picked up Hank from the kennel, packed away our Christmas tree and ornaments, made both pots of chili, made our lunches for work tomorrow, washed 2 sinkfuls of dishes and cleaned up the mess that Hankster made when he got home. Our house was neat and tidy when we got home this morning but Hank managed to trash the living room within about 5 minutes of arriving home <sigh>...

The series of events went something like this.... 

running and jumping on the couch with a very dirty outside toy....

teasing and luring Dora into a wrestling/tug of war match....

leaving the scene of the crime in total disarray!

 Hank is having a very looooonnnnnggg adolscent period. We're hoping he grows up to be a "big boy" very soon LOL!

Now that I've been able to catch you up on all the fun I've been having, I'm off to pamper myself with a mini-manicure. I just bought a new bottle of Essie nailpolish in the colour 'eternal optimist' which is a gorgeous nude shade.

The rest of the night is going to be full of nail painting, chocolate chai tea and hopefully some good TV! I also have some posts I need to start working on because I've got some fun and healthy stuff in store for you this week!!!

So what was the highlight of your weekend?

Enjoy the last few hours of our glorious weekend!