Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese with Cajun Chicken

Claudia's Cookbook - Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese with Cajun Chicken 15

Every time I hear the word “carbo load”, I always think of Michael Scott from The Office. You know, that time where he thought carbo loading meant that you eat a huge bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo immediately before running in the office 5K ‘Race for the Cure for Rabies. Yeah, things didn’t turn out so well for dear Michael. Made me laugh though. So much, I bought the run shirt!

I’m trying to find this balance between working out and eating healthy (yet not starve). It’s tough. When you increase your workouts, you also increase your appetite. With increased appetite, I also find I have increased cravings for all things delicious and terrible for me. Case in point, I decided to do a 2 hour workout this week, and the first thing I wanted to do after I completed it was sit down and have a beer. I’m quite the athlete. Don’t even get me started on my chocolate cravings after dinner. They are off the chart.

Pasta is one of those foods that tends to get a pretty bad rap. For the most part, it’s pretty terrible for you. That is unless you are a little creative and come up with healthy ingredient alternatives that are not only nutritious and full of protein and energy, but also taste great too. That is why I absolutely LOVE this recipe. The only thing terrible for you in it is the cheese – and even then you can use light cheese, or argue (like me most days) that it’s dairy, and dairy is a food group and if it’s a food group, I should eat it. The Greek yogurt is full of protein and creates a nice creamy texture. The key that I want to also mention is that you need to use 2% or full fat Greek Yogurt. I know, I know – fat free is healthier. Sure, maybe. But you still get all the protein with the full fat yogurt and a way better taste. Fat free Greek yogurt tastes very tangy and sour. The full fat version does not. Trust me on this. I also use a higher fibre macaroni (Catelli Smart Pasta) as well. It actually has all the same nutritional content as whole wheat pasta, but has a white pasta texture and taste. It’s pretty fantastic (and no, they are not paying me for this product placement shout-out – but I seriously think they should!)

To add a bit more protein, I threw in some flavorful Cajun Chicken. I find added protein is important for me on hockey game days. You even have some veggies (spinach) in this dish. This is truly an absolutely delicious and guilt-free Mac & Cheese recipe. You really cannot go wrong. Well, unless you are Michael Scott and eat this dish 10 minutes before running your first 5K.

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Slow Cooker Turkey Chilli

Claudia's Cookbook - Slow Cooker Turkey Chilli 3 (1) copy I am in desperate need of some summer weather. We had the worst winter in over 100 years here in Winnipeg. I wish that was an exaggeration. It’s actual fact. Now that we finally have some above freezing temperatures, we have yet to be anywhere close to average for this time of year. The trees are still bare and gardens remain empty. We have seen more rain than sunshine in the last couple weeks and I am starting to think I should move to the West Coast and at least have the ocean if I have to put up with all this rain.

Because of the cooler weather, I am still in the comfort food zone. I am still trying to eat relatively healthy, which is proving to be challenging with the lack of spare time I seem to have between my ice hockey and ball hockey schedules. That is why I really love this recipe. It makes a ton of delicious, healthy chilli, and I can easily bring it to work for lunch or have it a few nights in a row as leftovers when I’m shuttling between work and hockey.

The flavours are very complex and rich. There is a hint of sweetness from the cinnamon and cocoa powder. It also has a bit of heat with the jalapeños and cayenne spice.  I love adding beer to my chilli recipes, but you don’t have to if you aren’t a fan of the flavour. I used a nice Pumpkin Ale in this recipe, but you can use any light or amber ale. To be honest, you can’t really taste it that much in this recipe since there are so many spices. However, feel free to substitute chicken or vegetable stock if you choose. Also, because you can do this recipe in a slow cooker, it’s insanely simple. If you don’t have 6 hours, you can easily make this on the stove in a large pot. You just need to brown the turkey with the onions and garlic, then simmer with the rest of the ingredients on medium low for about an hour. Super versatile and delicious.

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World’s Best Homemade Pizza

Claudia's Cookbook - The Best Homemade Pizza in the World 31

First things first – I am back from visiting Claudia in Arizona and I didn’t get the flu. High five! If you follow our Facebook Page you would already know I went to town at Trader Joe’s yet again. So much chocolate, so little time. The cashier even made the comment, “You got a sweet tooth, don’t ya?!”. I just nodded at her with a perma-grin on my face. I’m fairly certain she thought I was insane. That’s cool, I had a basket full of chocolate to keep me sane on these cold Winnipeg nights. I actually already devoured my 1 bag of Ruggedly Adventuresome Cowboy Bark and have put in a request for Claudia to return home with a couple more for me. Yes, I’m obsessed. I may even try to replicate it. Stay tuned on that.

My fiancé and I have been making this pizza recipe for years. I honestly feel like it is the best pizza on the planet. Hands down. I’m not being biased either. I try to like other pizzas, especially when I go to Chicago and try their glorious Deep Dish pizzas. Somehow, I always manage to crave this one we make at home. The dough is so easy to make. I’ve tried tons of different dough recipes, and I always end up coming back to this simple one. I cannot stress enough – the key is using Bread Flour. Regular All Purpose Flour simply does not work as well. Trust me. It makes a huge difference. The crust turns out soft but has a perfect level of crunch to it. It’s not too thick and not too thin. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s seriously the World’s Best Homemade Pizza. I’m featuring the toppings that we love and put on our homemade pizza each time, but feel free to play around with your favourite meats and veggies as well.

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Ukrainian Christmas 2014…And a Tribute to Baba

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Ukrainian Christmas is just around the corner – January 7 to be exact. My love of cooking, and ultimately this blog, was inspired by the two ladies that are in the photo above with me (I’m the one in the middle). The one on the left is Claudia, and the one on the right is my Baba, Claudia’s Mom. And yes, we’re wearing the same sweater but in different colours. This photo was taken almost 10 years ago on Christmas Eve. It is one of my favourite photos in the world. Claudia and Baba were cooking up a Ukrainian food storm in the kitchen and I was trying my best not to get in their way – hence why they are wearing the aprons and I’m not. Food, especially Ukrainian food, is such a big part of my life. A lot of the memories I have of growing up or the holidays has to do with Claudia and Baba cooking in the kitchen.

It gives me great pleasure that the most popular recipes on this blog are the ones that are Ukrainian. I also love hearing all the stories and comments that you, my followers, post here about your childhoods and how these recipes remind you of your family. It really does bring me to tears at times because this was truly a huge part of why I started this blog.

After a long and tough fight, we lost Baba this week. She was by far the strongest lady I have ever met in my entire life and I will miss her dearly. She left behind a legacy of love, humour, and most of all – zest for life and cooking. This post is dedicated to her and the delicious Ukrainian dishes she passed on to Claudia and to me.

Cabbage-Rolls

Nothing beats Holopchi. I mean, nothing. They are the most amazing comfort food ever. Rice, ground beef, and onions all wrapped up in a cabbage leaf. Cabbage is healthy, right?

Find the recipe on our blog here —–>  Cabbage Rolls

Perogies

My Baba used to stand in her kitchen and make dozens upon dozens of perogies in one day for coworkers, family and friends. Claudia makes a ton of different fillings for perogies. Some of our favourites are potato and cheese, sauerkraut, prune and raisin. Blueberry is also amazing as well.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Perogies

Borscht

I actually eat more Borscht in the summer months than I do any other time of the year. Reason? Garden fresh beets make the most amazing Borscht in the world. I am so thankful for my parents huge garden in Saskatchewan where they plant tons of beets for this delicious soup.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Borscht

Nalysnyky

Dill, cheese and butter. I don’t think I need to say anything else. Nalysnyky is rich, savoury and dreamy. This was my very first recipe post on this blog! Again, total comfort food.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Nalysnyky 

Kutia

The attachment that I have to Kutia is not because I love it. I actually don’t like it at all. It’s because my entire family adore this dish and rub it in my face every Christmas. Guilt trip central. I get such a kick out of it. This dish is very traditional and different. It’s almost like a sweet grain pudding. Tradition is that you eat this first before your other courses on Christmas.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Kutia

Pyrizhky

Pyrizhky are little balls of sunshine to me. The dough is so incredibly soft, and the sauerkraut has just the right amount of tang to cut the richness of the dough. I could eat a plateful of these any day of the week. They’re very addicting.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Pyrizhky

Enjoy and Kristos Razdayetsya!

Slow Cooker Lasagne

Claudia's Cookbook - Slow Cooker Lasagne 11

Ah, November. It’s a time where I find myself “getting real”. Summer is long gone, Thanksgiving is over (at least here in Canada), and the excitement of Halloween and candy everywhere is slowly fading like my sugar coma. I now start to pay attention to all those Christmas displays that have been slowly popping up since September. Now they are in full force – the holiday season is only a mere 52 days away you know. I get more used to the task of warming up my car and scraping the frost off my windshield every morning, wearing mitts, a scarf, and reluctantly, a winter coat. I find the older I get, the less patient and tolerant I am with winter here. To tell you the truth, it’s a pain in the ass. Shovelling, plugging in my car (for real, we do that here), and layering my clothing so much that at times I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Winter can be very unattractive and depressing to a lot of people – myself included.

I recall as a kid absolutely loving winter. There was no day too cold, no snow bank too high to climb and no ice rink without kids on it to play a game of hockey. Claudia would spend her days pulling me and my brother in a sled down our back lane to the park on the corner of our street. She would bundle us both up in our ski pants, parka, toque, mitts, scarf and boots – probably a 30 minute ordeal in itself. She would then bundle herself up and pull us both in one sled. We absolutely loved it! It was such a short trek to the park, probably a block in distance. But it felt like forever because it was such an adventure to us. I look back and have no idea how Claudia did it…trek two hyper kids in the freezing cold to go jump into snow piles. She actually probably just wanted us to wear ourselves out so we could crash in the afternoon and she’d have some well-deserved “me” time. But no matter how cold it was outside, I never felt it as a kid. My home was always filled with such warmth and wonder.

I try to recreate that feeling of comfort and warmth that my parents gave to me when I was a kid in a couple different ways. In the plush blankets that I keep close to the couch, to the mugs of hot tea I drink on a nightly basis, to the savoury scented candles I light, and to the comfort food I cook in my kitchen (like this delicious Lasagne dish!). All these things help me get through those tough cold days and allow me to feel more like an adventurous, protected (and spoiled) kid.

How do you create comfort and warmth in your house?

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Quick and Easy Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Claudia's Cookbook - Bruschetta Chicken Bake 8

I can’t believe it’s already the end of October. Where did this year go? I don’t think I’m ready for winter. Where I live, winter lasts about 6 months and is brutally cold. Today, I see the leaves all on the ground right and breathe in the damp cold air and I long for the days a mere 2 months ago of hot sun, warm wind and drinks on the patio. We are actually pretty lucky right now as we still do not have snow on the ground. I recall when I was a kid in the 80’s that every single year that I went Trick-Or-Treating on Halloween I had to trudge through knee deep snow! I have photographic evidence. My brother and I had to squeeze our costumes over our large parkas and ski pants.  It wasn’t a very good look, but it did the job and kept us warm when we were out yelling at houses for candy for hours on end. My Dad always escorted us around the neighbourhood, while Claudia stayed at home in our warm house and handed out candy. It was either chivalry on my Dad’s part or he was terrible at coin tosses. I honestly don’t feel sorry for kids these days when all they have to do is jump through a pile of leaves.

I’ve been craving comfort food more and more these days. This Bruschetta Chicken Bake is one of my favourites. It’s super simple. Like 6-ingredient simple. I actually found it in one of my old Kraft Canada magazines about 8 years ago. I once brought some leftovers to work for lunch and my former corker, and now best friend Carly, smelt it and immediately had to try a sample. She fell in love with it too and made it for dinner the next week….and brought leftovers for lunch! What I also love about this dish is that it’s kind of like having breaded chicken, without the heavy breading. The Stove Top crumbs become incredibly moist when combined with the stewed tomatoes. Tons of flavour in this dish. Total comfort food.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

Turkey

If you were following our posts on our Facebook page last night you would already know that we are celebrating Thanksgiving here in Canada this weekend. Our family dinner was actually yesterday and I’m still full from all the delicious food that Claudia made. I mean, look at that turkey above! I’m excited for my lunches over the next few days which will consist of all the delicious leftovers.

Cabbage Rolls

It would not be Thanksgiving in our house without Cabbage Rolls. Claudia decided to make an entire roaster full! When I asked her why she made an entire roaster full when she was only cooking for 6 people, she replied “Well, why not?!”. I love my mother! You can find our delicious Cabbage Roll recipe by clicking here!

Gravy

While Claudia and I were preparing dinner, I learned yet another valuable food lesson. She always uses potato water mixed in with the turkey drippings to make her gravy. It gives it a little added flavour rather than using just regular water. Brilliant, right? It blew my mind anyways.

Pumpkin Pie

We finished off the evening with the Claudia’s delicious Pumpkin Pie, and the standard family debate: whether pumpkin pie should be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I take ice cream every single time. There is nothing better in my opinion.

Whether you are celebrating this weekend, or in a few weeks, Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!

Quinoa Burgers

Claudia's Cookbook - Quinoa Burgers 7

Reason #852 why I love being on vacation: I have the time to meal plan and grocery shop.

This past week I have been enjoying my vacation immensely. I’ve actually been to the grocery store 3 times in 3 days. I love it. I also finally have the time to look through all those cookbooks that I own and am able to meal plan some healthy dinners. This is huge people, huge. This recipe is one of my all-time favs in the healthy department. These Quinoa Burgers are so simple and insanely delicious. Even my Dad loved them. Again, that’s huge! They are filled with warm flavor and crisp veggies. They are also very light. My Dad liking “hippie food” is your biggest reason to try this recipe out in a hurry.

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Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Stir Fry

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Tonight I participated in my last TRX training class. It was a little bittersweet for me. The 10 weeks of classes totally kicked my butt on multiple occasions. I won’t miss the weeks where I couldn’t walk properly for 5 days after. However, I will miss the huge sense of accomplishment after each class was over. It was also extremely gratifying to notice progress from week to week. I realized halfway through the sessions that I no longer felt dizzy…or the urge to roundhouse kick the instructor for following up our gruelling strength training exercises with the likes of burpees.

I find being on a healthy eating plan is way easier than being on an intense exercise plan. Maybe it’s because I was never a true fan of exercising for the sake of getting in shape. As a kid, my parents decided to put me in a ton of team sports. Therefore, at a very young age, I didn’t correlate sports with actual exercise. Sports meant fun times with friends and perfecting my stick-handling and batting skills. The fact that sports were actually good for me physically was a total added bonus. But I digress…

Don’t get me wrong – clean eating, although easier, can get pretty damn boring. I am always looking for ways to add flavour and spice but not calories. This recipe is perfect. It is absolutely delicious. The amount of veggies creates a great texture, paired with a spicy (but not too spicy) sauce and fluffy quinoa…you simply cannot go wrong with this dish. I Instagramed this dish a few weeks ago and had multiple request for the recipe. So here it is!

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Red Wine Braised Beef Ribs

Claudia's Cookbook - Red Wine Braised Short Ribs 21I may have a food blog, but I am definitely not the best cook in my house. If you haven’t already noticed, I am more of a baker. I love to bake! Cooking? Not so much. Part of the reason why I find cooking a little frustrating is because I am one who likes to follow a recipe. Precise measurements and ingredient lists are something I can get behind. I have learned that the best chefs are the ones that can take any ingredients you have in your house and come up with an amazing dish. They love to improvise because they understand the elements of cooking and flavour profiles. I am not so smart in this department. My fiancé, on the other hand, is a genius! He is truly at home when he is food experimenting in the kitchen.

One evening a few months ago, this delectable rib dish greeting me when I came home from a long business trip. The house smelled absolutely amazing when I walked in. A rich, savoury warmth that lingered for a day after we dined on this meal. The meat was beyond tender. It literally slid off the bone. I was in shock – this recipe is so easy! Surely this had to be a joke? Lucky me (and you), it’s not!  I guarantee you will love this recipe. Even though I am not a huge meat eater, I still can’t stop thinking about these ribs.

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