Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie

Sheperd's Pie?  I remember loving it many years ago and somehow it landed into retro culinary. I'm eating so little red meat that the memory of sheperd's pie was a more interesting memory than anything.  That was until I saw a recipe for Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie over at One Ingredient Chef

Bonanza!!! I had all the ingredients and that was the end of that.

4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/12 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
4 1/2 cups prepared lentils
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I used 1 large 28 oz)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp basil and more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped spinach
2+ Tbsp non-dairy milk
Sea salt to taste

1.  Peel and chop the potatoes and boil on medium for 15-20 minutes.
2.  Prepare the onions, celery and carrots and add to large skillet with two tablespoons of water (I used the water that I was cooking the lentils in)  Heat on medium to soften the vegetables.
3.  Add the prepared lentils to the vegetables and cook together  for a few minutes.
    NOTE:  You can use any lentil you like.  I used about 2 cups of dry lentils with 4 cups of water;      bring to a boil and simmer to soften the lentils (about 30 minutes); drain
4.  Add diced tomatoes, basil and spinach together with soy sauce.  Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium low.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

5.  Mash sweet potatoes with a couple of tablespoons of non dairy milk (I used coconut milk) until smooth.
6.  In a 9x13 casserole, add the lentil filling mixture and top with mashed potatoes.

7.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown slightly.

I did add a little garlic and some chopped red pepper to suit my taste and I believe you can either boost or minimize this recipe however you like.  Both delicious and nutritious.  Your body will thank you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


About 7 months ago, R found out that he had credits with Porter Airline that were going to expire that evening.  We had to either book a trip or let them go.  Not ones to make quick decisions, we were both caught off guard with having to decide if and where to travel.  

We took a look at Porter's flight locations and narrowed the list down to Boston, Burlington (Vermont), Myrtle Beach or Chicago.  We decided to go with Chicago because we had both been to Boston (albeit not recently for me and only for work for R), Myrtle Beach was further and far more expensive than our credit and Burlington seems like a place we could drive to from Ottawa with stops in various small towns along the way.

So, Chicago it was!  We picked spring hoping that we'd have nice weather and in consideration of other summer plan.  Turns out, April is a bit hit and miss for nice weather.  But, it was an enjoyable trip none-the-less.

We got a good rate through Hotwire for the Kinzie Hotel.  We were both quite pleased with the place -- they have a large continental breakfast set up on each floor and evening happy hour, with a small but fresh buffet of appetizers.  

On the first day, we went for deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's and walked down the Magnificent Mile. E was quite happy to play in the Disney Store and Lego Store.  

Don't be fooled by this innocent expression.  This is the face of someone who is about to start throwing overpriced little pieces of lego all over the place.

The next day, we got out early to walk to the Navy Pier.  

The pier itself is under construction, so it wasn't much of a draw at that time.  But, our main reason for visiting was to go to the Children' Museum.

The busload of school kids arriving around the same time was a bit scary.  The museum was definitely packed.  But, it is probably the nicest children's museum I have seen.  They have several distinct theme areas that are really nicely developed.  E's favourite was the bubble area.  It reminded me of something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

After grabbing bubbles for a long time, E had tonnes of fun "painting" a mirror with soapy water.  This would be an easy craft to replicate at home.

After the museum and a nap, we spent some time walking around downtown and visiting the famous Cloud Gate.

The next day was a Saturday and we were warned that the lineups for Willis Tower might be long, so we got there early.  

Even still there was an hour long line up.  But, it was much shorter than the line up when we left.

The place was packed.  But it was a nice clear day with good views. 

E perfectly timed her nap and passed out from the time we walked out of Willis Tower, through our walk around downtown and train ride to Wrigley Field.

It was colder than we expected (note to self: get seats in the sun early on in the season).  R was thrilled to be able to include a ball game in our itinerary.

On our last full day in Chicago, we had great weather.  So, we decided to walk along the waterfront to the aquarium.  When we got there, the line deterred us, so we opted for the Field Museum instead.

The building itself is very impressive.  The quality of the exhibits varies, in my opinion.

After a full morning of walking, I was ready to be transported back to the hotel for a break.
Of course, E had other plans in mind about how quickly we should get back to the hotel.  Ever try to walk what is normally a 45 minute walk with a toddler?  Here she is below pointing out what direction she thought we should go in (i.e., the direction we had just come from).

Overall, a great trip!  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change much.  Maybe just move the date of our trip back by a month (we went early April) to catch warmer weather.  


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Steak Fajitas

My Pinterest boards are beginning to overwhelm me.  I love going through it all the time and finding dishes that I would, under normal circumstances, not think to cook.  I'm also not a big fan of beef but when I happened upon a recipe for Steak Fajitas by Apples and Sparkle, I had an inspiration and memory of smell that motivated me.

Do you ever go to a restaurant, wonder what to order and then see a server walk by with these sizzling fajitas that smell so delicious?  More than once when I didn't order the fajitas I thought I really should have and tried to think of what made me change my mind.  I don't have an answer other than it felt safer to stick with what I know.  Not this time.. I took the quantum leap and decided to give it a shot.

1/3 c. canola oil
1/3 c freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 c. low sodium soya sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. cumin
1 t. chile powder

about 2 lb. skirt steak or flank steak
2-3 bell peppers, ends trimmed, cored and seeded, cut into a couple large pieces
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-3/4-inch slices (keep the slices intact)
18 6-inch flour tortillas
lime wedges 
toppings of your choice such as, cilantro, salsa, cheese, sour cream, avocados or guacamole

1. Get the marinade prepared: Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve about 
1/3 cup of marinade for the vegetables. Place the steak in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the remaining 
marinade. Seal the bag, pressing out any excess air, massage the marinade into the meat a bit. Refrigerate 
anywhere from 3-10 hours. 

2. After meat has finished marinating, remove steak from marinade and wipe off excess marinade with
paper towel. (I also cut the steak into a couple of more manageable sized pieces, for easier turning on the
grill). brush the vegetables with reserved marinade. Heat your grill to high. Scrape the grill grate clean 
and oil the grate. Add the steak to the super hot grill and grill, covered about 2 1/2 minutes per side
(for medium/medium-rare), or until steak reaches desired doneness. Remove steak to a clean plate
and cover with foil ,let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Why was I so reluctant to make these at home?  They're so delicious and just as good as leftovers.

3. Add the peppers and onions to the grill and grill, turning occasionally until cooked, peppers should 
take about 5 minutes and onions will take about 10. Remove from grill. Briefly add the tortillas to the grill, 
a couple at a time and grill until warmed and lightly charred around the edges. Wrap the tortillas in foil 
to keep warm.**

** I put them in a cast iron skillet to brown (vegetables too) and then into the oven for 10 min. at 425 F)

4. Thinly slice the steak, against the grain. Slice the onions in half and

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