Small Towns and Easy Beef Goulash

Today was the Fall Fair here in Amherst. One of the best things about living in a small town ( besides the fact that you never, EVER have to wait in traffic and can get anywhere you want underin 10 minutes) is the whole “community” feel of the town. I love it so much I actually participate in the town activities for both Amherst and the town of Sackville, just a 10 minute drive away. Between the two we have a Fall Fair, Christmas Fair with midnight madness shopping and free apple cider and horse & carriage rides, Canada Day Festival and fireworks, and a music festival at the end of Summer. We have the Amherst farmer’s market on Fridays and the Sackville Farmer’s market on Saturdays and being in the middle of all this farmland means there is always an abundance of local produce in the Summer and Fall. I love leaving my house to get groceries or run an errand and always know I’ll run into someone familiar. Yes, we don’t have a huge selection for shopping or restaurants but the city is only 40 minutes away. And if I actually lived in the city I’d have to wait in traffic for about 20 minutes to get anywhere anyways. I’ll take my country living over the city life any day.

With the cooler weather here to stay I have been craving comfort food, soups and stews over the salads and barbecues of summer. Last week I found this awesome recipe for beef goulash while perusing the blog “Salad in a Jar”. If you like food blogs you should totally check this one out- almost every recipe had me drooling. But this beef goulash just completely hit the spot for my comfort food craving and with a little modification I made it gluten-free and delicious!

Gluten Free Beef Goulash

  • 1 box Gogo Quinoa macaroni pasta (it’s gluten free, better for you than wheat pasta and delicious!)
  • 2lb extra  lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic (I LOVE garlic, so a little less if you don’t)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Bring the pasta to a boil and cook until al dente in a separate pot. In a large skillet brown the ground beef, remove from pan and set aside. Next brown the onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Add the green pepper, carrot and tomato and simmer until soft. Next add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, water and ground beef and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in macaroni  and shredded cheese & mix all together. Yum! And the best part? this makes tons, so you’ll have lots of leftovers!

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Vegan Coconut Carrot Soup

The countdown is on to Thanksgiving. A long weekend, turkey dinner and time with loved ones- does life get any better than that? Yes, in fact, it does. I don’t even have to cook Turkey dinner! The only thing I love more than being in the kitchen and whipping up a great dish is my mother’s cooking and turkey dinner is one of her specialties. So this Thanksgiving I don’t have any responsibility other than showing up to eat dinner. I can’t wait!

In preparation for the calorie overload that is inevitable with Thanksgiving dinner I have been trying to make some lighter meals these past few days.I also bought an enormous bag of carrots this week because they were on sale and local produce so I knew I had to find some new carrot recipes to try. Then my husband sent me a text message with a link to this recipe for creamy coconut carrot soup. The man knows the way to my heart- a recipe that is both gluten free and dairy free? I’m hooked.

Vegan Coconut Curry Carrot Soup

  • 4-5 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1&1/2 tsp ginger
  • salt & pepper to taste

Brown the onion and carrots in some olive oil. Add the chicken broth, ginger and curry powder and let simmer until carrots are cooked through. Puree the carrot/broth mixture in a blender until smooth. Return to saucepan and add coconut milk and simmer until heated through. It’s that easy!

Gingerbread Muffins

Today is one of those days where I am reminded of everything I have to be thankful for. Somewhere during the last 4 year struggle to get pregnant I seem to have fave forgotten to appreciate what I have instead of long for what I don’t. I used to be a very happy, very positive person and somehow with every negative pregnancy test and every failed fertility treatment I lost that. But over the past 2 days two beautiful beings (one human, one canine) passed away and their passing reminded me how short life really is and how important it is to let the people you care about know how important they are.

A 90 year old friend of the family passed away yesterday and even though she had lived a good, long life and had been sick for awhile her death still got me thinking as to how short life really is. Then this morning my sister had to make the terrible decision to put her beloved dog to sleep. She also was old, had cancer and we all knew the time was coming but I was shocked and devastated to hear the news. They were both absolutely beautiful beings who brought nothing but love and kindness with them wherever they went. So I have decided to learn from this experience and find my old, positive self again. I will not let infertility define me anymore.

So here is a start at some of the things I am thankful for (and the whole list is a big one- I am a very lucky girl!)

  1. My hubby. He is loving, understanding and can make me laugh even when it’s the last thing in the world I feel like doing.
  2. My doggies. Their lives are so short and they give me such unconditional love. Seeing them is the highlight of my day every day.
  3. My job. I love being a pharmacist and feel excited to go to work every morning. And I get paid well to do it- with the economy the way that it is today this is something to be extra thankful for.
  4. My old home. It might need A LOT of work, it might seem like a money pit at times, but it is OUR money pit and we love our old home. It has such character and really feels like “home”. And the hubby and I actually like working on it together- another bonus.
  5. Gingerbread muffins. I know this post has been quite serious so far so I have to end it up something extra special. And these muffins are IT. The recipe is another Pinterest find from “Back to the Cutting Board” and I tweaked it just a little to make if gluten and dairy free. It is the perfect Fall treat. Proof? I baked a dozen on the weekend and they are already gone.

Gluten & Dairy Free Gingerbread Muffins

  • 2&1/2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1&1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup molasses (I used 1/4 cup molasses & 1/4 cup coconut nectar)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 and spritz a muffin pan with olive oil (or I highly recommend using cupcake liners if making this GF as the batter is very sticky.) Mix all the dry ingredients together with a whisk then add all the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 20-22 minutes. If not using liners, let the muffins cool before trying to take them out of the muffin tin or else they will crumble. Also- Emily from Back to the Cutting Board advised that the muffins taste best the next day- after the flavors have sat & mingled for awhile. At first I did not believe her-how could muffins not be best piping hot straight from the oven? But it’s true. They taste great straight from the oven but they taste AMAZING the next day. Enjoy!

 

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!