Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes and some Baseboard Love

What do a couple of newlyweds do on a Sunday afternoon when they are in the middle of house renovations?? Cut & paint baseboard together. Romantic, huh? The couple that sands together stays together, right?….Ok, maybe not. But that is what JD & I found ourselves doing last Sunday afternoon. We had loaded up on baseboard from the local Kent earlier in the week and JD spent the afternoon measuring and cutting them to size while I painted them with a fresh coat of white paint. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon and SO rewarding to see our apartment reaching the final stages of renovation. Jd had painted the apartment the previous weekend (while I brought in our wood…that is how much I hate painting. I’ll take hard labor over cutting in any day!) Just look at the difference some color and baseboard make!

Before- boring white and naked

lilac and baseboard. Such an improvement!

I was also so excited to share my apple-ginger pork recipe yesterday that I completely neglected to tell you about the awesome sweet potato side that accompanied the pork- sweet & spice roasted potatoes from cinnamon, spice & everything nice. And it is not a side dish to be neglected. It was sweet with a little bit of heat and a lot of carbs…..a perfect combination!

Sweet & Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (mine were massive costco size.)
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Preheat your oven to 400. Peel & chop up the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a large bowl and pour the olive oil over them. Mix together all the spices in a small bowl and mix in well with the potatoes ( the potatoes should be covered in spice mix. If you want a lot of flavor I would double the spice recipe.) Arrange the potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes (longer=crispier. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.)

Crockpot Apple Ginger Pork

I am one proud kitty-mama this morning. The hubby finally got around to installing the cat door we bought for Ernie about a month ago and my fat cat fit through it! From the day JD brought it home I was pretty skeptical that Ernie would be able to squeeze himself through such a tiny opening- but he did it!! I have never been so happy. (Well, that is probably being a little dramatic, but I am happy to cross another item off our house reno to-do list.)
While JD was laboring away drilling a hole in our new door (I admit- it made me a little nervous!) I was in the kitchen testing out another new recipe from a new website I stumbled upon (PaleOMG) that is just perfect for anyone interested in a Paleo lifestyle. I have been doing lots of reading on Paleo and love most their recipes because they are, by nature, gluten-free. However, this woman likes carbs WAY too much to commit to a fully Paleo lifestyle- but I highly recommend almost every recipe from PaleOMG- I went a little nuts pinning her recipes on Pinterest and cannot wait to try more of them since this first one turned out so delicious. It is especially perfect for this cooler weather- the apples & spices combo made it a really great comfort food. I slightly modified her original recipe.

Crockpot Apple Ginger Pork

  • 6 boneless, skinless pork chops
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 medium sized apples
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Chop up the onion & garlic and layer it in the bottom of your crockpot and pour the chicken broth on top. Place the porkchops on top of the onions ( I did not even defrost my pork chops first- just threw them in frozen). Peel the skins of the apples & layer them on top of the porkchops. Sprinkle the ginger, cinnaamon, paprika, bay leaf and honey on top. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. The top layer will get a little brown but it is not burnt-trust me!

 

Happy Fall Y’all!

Fall is definitely here! The cooler weather makes outdoor exercise so much more enjoyable, the leaves are starting to change color and I have been drinking apple cider like it is going out of style! So in celebration of my favorite season I decided to pull out all my fall decor and get to decorating. First of all my kitchen table got a little makeover ( we scored this tablecloth for only $4.97 from Walmart!)

Before- Summery Blues and Neutrals

After- Fall has arrived! Now I only need to find some Fall cushion covers…or maybe DIY some?

Next I headed into our living room- where we spend the majority of our time at home ( whenever I’m not in the kitchen!) Our living room is massive and to me, a little awkward because it is so long. The previous owners had it divided into two and used one half of the room as a dining room and the other half as their living room. We just use the whole area as our living area but use half of it for tv watching/ lounging on the couch and the other half we have our desk & some comfy chairs set up by the bay window for reading. Our eventual plan for that end of the room is to put in a window seat in the bay window and some built-in shelving all around it. Unfortunately, there are a million other projects that have to be completed before that one. The reader in me cannot wait to have my own library & window seat.

In the living room I decorated my favorite spot in the room- the fireplace. It is non-functional (because we put in a wood furnace so the chimney is being used for that now.) but it makes the room oh-so-cozy.And I love to change up the decor on the mantel for each season. We put candles in the fireplace and when they are all lit up at night it looks magical. Unfortunately for this picture,  all you see is burnt down candles..please excuse the mess.

I promise- my fireplace does not look that dirty in real life. I guess I know what I’ll be cleaning today. Now here are some close-ups of the mantel decor and a few other Fall Touches.

That last picture also show off my newest purchase- the wrought iron planter I scored at Winners for only $9.99! I plan on planting some of my most commonly used herbs in there. Have I mentioned how much I love an end-of-season sale? That is pretty much how I do all my seasonal decor shopping- wait for it to go on sale at the end of the year and put it away for next year. And by that time I have always forgotten what I put away so it’s like Christmas when I pull out all my decorating boxes.

Thank for checking out my Fall decorating- I think I am going to go buy some pumpkins to put in the fireplace this afternoon.And drink some more apple cider.

Gluten Free Baked Raspberry Pancake

Another cozy Fall morning curled up with my favorite four-legged furballs.  The comfort and love a dog  brings into your life is just indescribable.  Our oldest dog, Rally, is 11 and has been quite sick for the past couple years. He has a tumor in his esophagus that is inoperable so we know our time with him is limited. He can only stomach very small meals at a time and has to be on high doses of steroids for the rest of his life but he is still so, so happy. He has always been an extremely loveable dog but knowing his years are numbered makes us value our “cuddle time” with him even more. Don’t you just love this face?

And yes- my dog does use an armrest. Is that not the cutest thing ever? Not to say I don’t love my puppy, Ozzy- because I do! I love them both equally with all of my heart. I’m just feeling a little sentimental about the old man this morning.

Today I want to share the new recipe I tried for breakfast yesterday- Baked Raspberry Finnish Pancakes by blogresipi. I altered it a little to make it gluten and dairy free ( I do not eat dairy free all the time but try to limit my dairy). The result was delicious! It is more moist than a regular pancake…almost reminded me of an oversized, gooey muffin. I think it would taste good with any fruit- not just raspberries and does not need any syrup or topping- tastes perfect just as is.

Gluten Free Raspberry Baked Pancakes ( serves 3-4)

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 cups GF all purpose flour ( or regular flour if it doesn’t need to be gf)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ( I actually omitted this-accidentally-and it turned out fine)
  • 2 tbsp coconut nectar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • Raspberries (or any fruit topping of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 375 and mist some single serving baking dishes with olive oil.Mix all ingredients except the raspberries together in a large bowl and pour into the individual baking dishes- being careful not to pour too thick or else it will take longer to cook. The batter will seem very liquid- this is normal. Sprinkle some raspberries onto the top of the dish and sprinkle with some more coconut nectar. Bake for 20-30 minutes (mine took a little longer than 30 minutes) and Enjoy! I can’t wait to try it with a different fruit topping next time!

Mustard Chicken

I love weekend mornings. In particular the weekend mornings when neither JD nor I have anything we have to do and can spend the morning just relaxing in our PJs. It is a cool & rainy Fall morning and I am snuggled up on our couch with the two dogs curled up at my feet, a cup of coffee in hand, reading blogs and could not be happier. There is no better feeling that enjoying a leisurely morning after a hectic work week and I am savoring every moment.

I have a new recipe baking in the oven for breakfast ( Raspberry Baked Finnish Pancakes- coming to la Casa Creighton any day now!) but the recipe I wanted to share with you today is one of my favorites. In fact, that was exactly what JD said to me yesterday as we were sitting down to eat “I think this is your favorite supper meal, isn’t it?”. And it is. I got it from the Everyday Cooking “Fresh Flavors Fast” cookbook a couple years ago and it has become part of our normal rotation ever since. It is quick to prep (less than 30 minutes) so is perfect for the nights when JD & I have both worked a long day and I don’t have my usual enthusiasm towards cooking dinner but always tastes delicious.One warning though- it does contain quite a bit of whipped cream so it isn’t exactly a low calorie dish. I have tried making it using skim milk or almond milk instead but in this case it is definitely worth the extra calories to use real whipped cream.

Mustard Chicken (serves 3-4)

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  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into thin pieces so they cook up fast)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook in olive oil until cooked all the way through (about 10 minutes). Remove the chicken and add the chicken broth to the skillet and cook until the liquid has been reduced by about half. Add the whipping cream and mustard and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and this is where the magic happens- the sauce will thicken up a little. Pour the sauce over the rice and chicken and Enjoy! I usually serve with a side salad as the dish is fairly rich & salty itself.

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Infertility &Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I mentioned in an earlier blog that my hubby & I have been trying to get pregnant for almost 4 years now. We have been going to a fertility clinic for over 2 years and have exhausted every option except for IVF- which is between $10,000 and $12,000. Needless to say- we do not have that much extra money just lying around (especially when we are in the middle of renovations!) so our current plan is to save up for about a year and aim to give IVF a shot next Fall.

The issue for us is me- I have PCOS and severe endometriosis ( which has been thankfully asymptomatic until we started trying to conceive!) Last summer I had surgery to remove as many endometrial adhesions as possible and then received monthly injections to induce “menopause” for 5 months thereafter. Even after all that my CA-125 levels (how they measure active endometriosis) were still double what they should have been. Nevertheless, we gave 2 IUI cycles our best shot but it just wasn’t meant to be. Almost 1 year exactly after the surgery we had a follow-up appointment with our fertility doctor to discuss the next step (IVF) and he suggested running another CA-125 level just to see how much worse it had gotten over the past year and to see if I would have to have surgery or induce menopause again before trying IVF. Miraculously…my CA-125 levels came back COMPLETELY NORMAL! I had changed NOTHING! Except for my exercise & eating habits. Facing infertility for several years had taken a hard toll on me and I had become very depressed and had put on quite a bit of weight and quit exercising.  In the couple months leading up to my most recent bloodwork I had begun running  regularly with a friend ( doing the couch-to-5k plan) and had cleaned up my diet. This might be completely coincidental- I realize this. But being a very Type-A person the part of infertility I find the hardest is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix it. There is no magic cure for infertility and I have a very hard time with something being completely out of my hands. So when I read that cleaning up my diet, exercising regularly and dropping a few pounds might help I decided I would give it 110%.

 

However….I LOVE FOOD. I love everything about it- cooking it, baking it, shopping for it and mostly EATING it! And now that Fall has definitely arrived what I have been craving most of all in the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. So when I stumbled across a recipe on Pinterest  from the blog “Averie Cooks” that showed me how to make a healthier version at home at a fraction of the price ( = more money in the IVF fund!) I couldn’t wait to try it. And let me tell you- it did not disappoint. This homemade version is quick and easy to whip up, much better for you than the Starbucks version and tasted just as good.

Pumpkin Spice Latte At Home

  • 1 cup coffee ( I just made a cup in my Tassimo machine)
  • 1&1/2 -2 cups milk
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice ( I found 1 tsp perfect…2 and the flavor was a little overpowering)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 heaping cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2tsp coconut nectar ( I prefer this sweetener but any will do!)

First make your cup of coffee. Next  mix all the other ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and warm it up (either on the stovetop or in the microwave for 2 minutes.) Next pour half the pumpkin mixture into one cup of coffee ( the other half you can share with a friend OR store in the fridge for tomorrow’s treat.) I added a little bit of extra coconut nectar to mine at the end but I’m warning you all I like my coffee sweet. Now go wrap yourself up in a fleece blanket with a good book (or good blog!) and Enjoy!

One warning: On her blog, Averie warns that because this recipe uses real pumpkin puree and not the artificial flavor syrup that Starbucks uses, the puree form a sediment at the bottom of the mug. This does occur but I think the knowledge that the drink contains all real ingredients far outweighs this small inconvenience.

Apple & Goat Cheese Salad

Today I thought I would share with you one of my favorite lunches of all time. Ever since going gluten-free I find lunch the most challenging meal of the day- breakfast is easy and most supper dishes (meat, carb, veggies) are naturally gluten free but lunch is difficult. Everything quick & easy (sandwich, canned soups, frozen dinners, fast food) are glutenous. So my solution is trying to always have leftovers or homemade soup or salad. My wonderful sister-in-law made this salad for us when we went to visit her a few years ago and ever since it has become a staple in the Creighton household. Mr.Creighton is not a huge fan of salads and he LOVES this one. It is quick to prep, full of healthy ingredients and very versatile. I give you- Apple & Goat Cheese Salad.

Ingredients:

  • an apple (can substitute any fruit-pear, strawberries, mandarin oranges
  • spring green mix (or baby spinach)
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • walnuts (or almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, basically any seed or nut or a mix. I usually aim for 1 type or seed and one type of nut)
  • Raspberry vinagrette (popyseed is also delicious)

It makes a perfect side to a summer dinner and is filling enough to be a lunch on all on its own. Channeling my hero Julia Child- Bon Appetit!

La Cocina Creighton

Hi Guys! Sorry about the week-long absence- I have been working 12 hour days and then a friend and I are attempting todo the couch-to-5k program after work so my days have been extremely busy.

I have been wishing I had thought to start this blog years ago- when we started all the renovations on our old home. I regret not taking any “before” pictures from when we moved in because, trust me, although our home has some beautiful bones- it was definitely needing some decorating TLC. The last time the previous owners had done any major decor changes had definitely been in the 70’s or 80’s and I honestly think it could have won an award for world’s ugliest bathroom or kitchen contest. With the kitchen being so outdated and it being the room I most enjoy to spend my time in, it was a logical starting point for our renovations. My dear hubby did the majority of the work  himself (with A LOT of help & instruction from a dear friend who is also a contractor) but we did hire a company to build us new cabinets. What did I help with?? DEMO!! Honestly- the best stress reliever I have ever found is knocking down a wall with a hammer. If you ever have the opportunity to help demo a room- DO IT!!

I would like to share with you some pictures of our country kitchen as it is now- I am absolutely in LOVE with it and nothing makes this gal happier than spending my day cooking, baking, or even folding laundry in the heart of my home. I hope you like it as much as we do! (Keeping in mind that even 3 years later there are still unfinished projects in the kitchen. But it is the most complete renovation to date.)

We chose a blue-grey stain for our cabinets to make it stand out a little from all the white/brown/traditional cabinets that you see. We both loved this moody blue hue as soon as we saw it and think it goes with our “country kitchen” theme perfectly. My absolutely favorite upgrade was the wall oven, cooktop and over the range microwave/convection oven. I LOVE them!!I am also in the minority of people who do not like stainless steel appliances; I find them too cold/modern for my taste. I love my black appliances but d not  how hard it is to keep them clean & smudge free. If anyone has some tips on how to do this Please share!! I also highly recommend the deep drawers as opposed to cupboards. They make finding your pots & pans & casserole dishes much easier.

I have to give my hubby huge props. Even though he did not build or install the cabinets he was responsible for the whole kitchen layout/design and one of his best ideas was this stained glass corner cabinet. It is the masterpiece of Kindred Spirits Stained Glass in Hillsborough, NB and this picture does not do it justice. (Blogging has made me painfully aware of my lack of photography skills!). All the different parts of the pineapple are done in different textures of clear glass and it is the focal point of the kitchen. We chose a pineapple because it is a symbol of welcome to our kitchen- where we do the most of our entertaining.

This backsplash was my birthday present 2 years ago. I went off to the gym in the morning and came home to find Mr.Creighton putting this up to surprise me. Now is that the best birthday gift ever of what?? (PS: Ignore the dirty dishes…just keepin’ it real!)

For the finished touches in our country kitchen we scour all the antique shops & Kijiji looking for one of a kind pieces that call to us and these are a few of them. The island comes from Wheatons and defines country charm to us. If you have never been to Weatons you must check it out- they have gorgeous country themed home decor and make their own wood furniture. This island not only stores our small kitchen appliances and most importantly our wine- but I use is every single day for food prep and/or folding laundry. It has been a lifesaver. The hutch is also made by Wheatons but was a steal off Kijiji where Mr.Creighton found it listed for only $500! It houses all my crafting supplies, cookbooks, baking supplies and acts as a place to show off our pictures of our nieces & nephew. It is hard to see but the last picture is to show the old church pew (another Kijiji find!) that serves as extra seating around the kitchen table. My next kitchen purchase is going to be a new dining set- I envision a large farmhouse table here someday with lots of mini-Creightons surrounding it.

And here are a couple of the little details JD put into our kitchen design that have made our life easier. Built in spice rack= awesome. And those vintage spice bottles? Another kijiji find- and these ones were FREE! And the pull out garbage/recycling combo is a godsend- now all we have underneath the sink is our compost & cleaning supplies. Do you guys have any kitchen ideas that you love??

Apple Cider Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker

When I first started this blog I had no idea I would be posting recipes so often but that is what I find myself doing. I have always loved cooking & baking so it feels natural for me to share my passion. I also had no idea that so many of my recipes include chicken thighs- I swear the Creighton household does not discriminate against the other parts of the chicken, or against other meats for that matter. We eat it all here at la Casa Creighton- white meat, red mead, fish, vegetarian…there is almost nothing I wouldn’t try once. Chicken thighs just happened to be on sale for an awesome price at Sobeys last week. And when I woke up this morning there was a definitely Fall chill in the air and this recipe came to mind immediately. Apple cider, sweet potatoes and a slow cooker- if that doesn’t have Fall written all over it then I don’t know what does. Plus it is made with all basic ingredients you would find in my cupboards on any given day- always a bonus.  I cannot take the credit for this delicious recipe- I found it at Simple Nourished Living and make a couple little tweaks. Here is what you’ll need:

  • 1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 & 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider ( I had to substitute apple juice because I was all out of cider)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste

Place the chicken thighs on the bottom of the slow cooker & season with salt & pepper. Then add the chopped up potatoes & sweet potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients & pour over the chicken, potatoes & sweet potatoes. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6 hours and Enjoy! So easy!

 

The Heat is On!

Well, not literally….but the heat could be on if it were cold enough to warrant it. Why?? Because we finally got the pellet stove hooked up in the apartment! YAY! This is a big moment for la Casa Creighton as our biggest problem when we were renting out our apartment before was heat. More specifically, the cost to heat that apartment. I love, love, love my old home but I do not love trying to heat it. When we first moved in it only had oil heat and I have no idea how the previous owners were able to heat their home and still have enough money left to buy groceries…because let me tell you- we relied on oil heat for one winter only and that was it. Three years ago we installed a wood furnace on our side and it completely changed our lives (and bank account!). The main reason we had not been renting out the apartment was because we were concerned about their heating bill. The solution?? We bought a second hand pellet stove off Kijiji and had it installed in the apartment. Now we do not have the worry about the heating bill because the tenants can buy their own pellets and I could not be happier. Here is a look at the stove- isn’t she a beauty?

 

And here is another view just a little further back. Not only will it solve our heating dilemma but I also think it adds a little bit of charm to the living room. Although my opinion is biased, I think this little apartment is starting to look pretty cozy.

And the pellet stove is not the only change in the apartment this past week…we also have new carpet on the stairs & in the closets. We opted to carpet the stairs to save some money on installation as it would have been much costlier to do laminate there. I think the carpet we chose looks pretty good and the price to carpet the stairwell & all the closets came in under $800- a price we can live with!

It is so encouraging to see the place finally start to come together and know we’ll be able to rent it out again in the next few months. Left on the to do list:

– paint ( everything is primed but not painted

– remove the outdated wallpaper border in the entryway

– replace the outdated closet door in the entryway

– replace the kitchen sink

– replace the windows. ( They are all the original windows= not very energy efficient)

We would also like to replace the cushion flooring in the kitchen & entryway ( we are thinking tile) and paint the kitchen cabinets & update the hardware but  due to budget limits it looks like those are going to be phase 2 projects. I have not mentioned this yet but we are also struggling with infertility and are currently saving up to for an IVF cycle in roughly 1 year. That gives us 365 days to save $12,000! ( On top of trying to complete the house renos in the same time frame so that baby C has a perfect house to call home.)