Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

This is my weekend off. Which means I have time to cook a new recipe and take pictures!

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for the perfect Chicken Alfredo recipe online. Unfortunately most Alfredo recipes are either too plain for my taste, or else try to keep it light by cutting heavy cream or using low fat cheese. Heh.

I LOVE this alfredo dish. I was inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s Bowtie Chicken Alfredo, but as I tend to do with recipes, I changed it up quite a bit. I don’t know why, but I always have an urge to change a recipe I find on the internet. Maybe it’s because I like making it my own in some way.

Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

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Ingredients

  • 300 grams of Penne Pasta (1/3 bag)
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup White Wine (we had Brazos De Los Andes Blend)
  • 3/4 cup Cream (18% M.F. is what I usually have on hand for cooking)
  • 140 grams Parmesan Cheese (I used Zerto’s mixed cheese with Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, and Asiago)
  • 1 Broccoli crown, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used a mix of Cremini, Shiitake, Portabella, and Oyster)
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Chicken Broth, for thinning

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown on both sides and done in the middle. Remove and slice into strips. Set aside.

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Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan and minced garlic. Stir continuously for one minute and add the mushrooms. Cook for another minute and add the wine.

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Let it bubble and reduce for the next 2-3 minutes. Add cream and broccoli florets.

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Allow to heat and thicken for a few minutes. Add the cheese, leaving a few tablespoons in the container for topping later, and stir. Add the chicken and continue tossing until combined. Add salt and pepper as desired, and chicken broth it you feel it needs thinning. Mine did need thinning, but I just added a bit more cream… *cough*.

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Top with some remaining cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy with a glass of wine ;).

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Things Loved This Week

It’s been an eventful, stressful, and busy couple of weeks. After being sick with the flu for more than a week, I was finally feeling better but completely out of the habit of cooking. This was followed by a particularly stressful week at work & home (so much happening!) and as such our eating habits suffered. We ate out more than I care to admit and when we did eat at home it consisted largely of cereal and different kinds of eggs.

I’m happy to report that we’re seemingly back on track! I made a really delicious curried chicken and wild rice soup this week, which we ate up fairly quickly. I also I made some healthy and delicious Banana Breakfast Muffins, which turned out fantastic.

So here are my things loved this week!
1) Healthy Banana Breakfast Muffins

Mini MuffinsI kind of used the recipe linked in the heading as a guideline, but I mostly made it up as I went along. While it could’ve ended in disaster, I will say they turned out rather scrumptious! I made 36 mini-muffins.

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of oats
  • Âľ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ÂĽ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ÂĽ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ÂĽ brown sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas, peeled (the riper they are the sweeter they’ll be)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • Âľ cup vanilla Greek yoghurt
  • Dark chocolate chips*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the oats until they’re largely broken up.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, oats, flax, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
  4. Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and drop in the eggs, melted butter, syrup, and yoghurt. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
  5. In a small bowl mash the two bananas together with the back of a fork. Carefully fold the bananas, walnuts, and dark chocolate chips into the muffin batter and distribute evenly into muffin cups. Bake until they begin to brown on top and a toothpick comes clean when inserted in the center, which took about 15-18 minutes for my mini-muffins.

* I don’t usually use a measuring cup when I add chocolate chips to recipes. I start with a handful and add more until I’m satisfied with the batter. This time around I added 2 small handfuls.

2) Panera Bread

When I was sick with the flu, David took me out to Panera Bread. It was delicious. Their soups are really tasty! Although they can be expensive, we enjoyed eating there when I was sick. I particularly liked their Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup (can you tell I’m really into rice in soup?!).

3) itFit Bands

Pictures taken from itFit website.

Pictures taken from itFit website.

I don’t usually pay attention to Facebook ads, but recently there was an ad for itFit bands. They had a deal – buy 3 get one free, free shipping, and 25% off. So I ordered 3 headbands and I’ve worn them pretty regularly since they’ve arrived! They fit really well, come in a range of patterns and colours AND they’re made in Canada!

4) Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

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I’ve done Family Story Time 4 times at the library in the last ten days and have used this book at all of them. The kids (and parents!) always laugh at the pictures and story. The text rhymes which means it’s fun and easy to read and flows very well. It’s funny, witty, and cute! It’s quickly become a favourite!

Pig was a Pug

and I’m sorry to say,

he was greedy and selfish

in most every way …

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And with that, we’re on to another week!

A Long Overdue (and Lengthy) Update!

It’s been a busy couple of months!

Christmas with the Robinsons was fun and super eventful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves :). All Christmas pictures were taken by my sister-in-law, Laura! 

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First all the siblings got together in Burlington. And we went grocery shopping! That’s a lot of food, right? There was a lot that we put away, so that’s just a small portion of food ;).

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Laura, Sarah and David – The Three Amigos!

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Watching videos on YouTube.

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Picking up Mom & Dad at the airport. We brought Laura’s ukulele so we could play for them as they exited the arrivals gate.

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The family together at the airport!

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Love it.

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Laura’s friends visited with us for Christmas. Two ladies with red lipstick :).

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How you doin’?

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David looking concentrating during a board game.

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Knitting a hat while watching the traditional Christmas movie – It’s a Wonderful Life.

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Making breakfast!

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Dad with one of his gifts – Edna from The Incredibles!

Once Christmas was over, life went into high hear. David and I are preparing for our big Europe trip this year – we’re leaving on May 5! We renewed our passports first. I really like the new Canadian passports!

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We’ve done so much already, but there’s a few things left to do, so we’ll be pretty busy in the coming months before we leave! I’m dreading all the packing…

Nonetheless, I’ve still had time to do some knitting. I’m working on a hood for my nephew right now. IMG_5636 IMG_5637 IMG_5638I’m going to add some ears to the hood, so he will look like a cute little bear when he wears it! 🙂

I bought some yarn to knit David a pair of socks. He’s always complaining I never knit him anything. I think he’s going to love his socks. I haven’t started them yet, but seriously, check out this yarn! Malabrigo Sock may be my new favourite sock yarn.

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Beautiful, right!? I love the colours.

I’ve also been reading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series on my new Kobo Aura! I love my Kobo, and it’s great for reading larger books. You can change the font, text size, margins, line spacing, and there’s a built-in dictionary! And best of all, there’s a back light, so I can read in the dark before bed (you know, while your spouse is sleeping). It’s pretty fantastic.

The A Game of Thrones books are huge, so I’m really enjoying reading them in eBook format. I’m currently on Clash of Kings. I know the series isn’t for everyone, but I love it.

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As for this week, I’ve been pretty sick. We did go see a townhouse for when we come back from our trip, but I think going out made me sicker :(. There are tissues strewn all over the floor by my bed, as well as Ricola wrappers, and water bottles.

This weekend David and I are planning to go to The Keg for Valentine’s Day. Hopefully I’m no longer sick, and David hasn’t gotten sick!

That’s it for now, happy Thursday, everyone!

Farms & Forks Review

Recently I’ve been trying out different grocery stores in an effort to eat healthier and save money. I’ve tried Loblaws, No Frills, Food Basics, and Freshco. My regular grocery day is Tuesday, and every single time I shopped at one of these stores, at least one food item (usually meat or tomatoes) went rotten in less than 24 hours. I put a pack of chicken legs in the fridge FOR THE NEXT DAY and they were gone rancid before I could cook them. In one day. Seriously frustrating. Especially when the food that hasn’t gone bad doesn’t look that appetizing to begin with (which is always the case with tomatoes).

David and I shopped at Loblaws a couple of times. The last time was particularly bad (we haven’t gone back since!). We wanted to pick up a few fresh food items – bread, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas and some meat. We didn’t make it past the broccoli. I picked up one head of broccoli and the entire underside of the broccoli was slimy and really stank. I was so disgusted we didn’t buy anything and drove to a nearby Longos (the only grocery store I’ll actually buy anything at now) to pick up our few groceries.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends from church recommended Farms & Forks. I also heard about it on my workplace’s intranet page and decided to give them a try.

There’s a great selection of food online and it was a lot of fun to sit on the couch and pick out my groceries! I was a little dismayed at the prices, but for organic local food, and after reading their food criteria, this is simply the price you pay for organic and higher quality food anywhere. It makes me a little sad that good food costs so much more money, but I was ready to try something a little different!

Our first food delivery was a bit rocky. Despite my instructions, our food box was delivered to our landlords who promptly dug into the food. They told David later that they thought it was a promotion. Oh the joys of living in a basement apartment!

I personally think any rational person with tenants living downstairs would look at the box first and see if there’s a name, so I didn’t blame Farms & Forks entirely, but obviously it wouldn’t have happened had the instructions been followed.

I wrote to the Farms & Forks team, and they replied with sincere apologies, spoke to the driver to find out what happened (there was a plow coming by and he was in a rush to get out of the way), and reimbursed me for the food that had been eaten. They later gave me a call as a follow-up to our e-mail exchange to see if there was anything else they could do. That’s good customer service!

So, after all that, I decided to give it another shot. And yesterday was my second food delivery! The driver was extremely apologetic and arrived promptly during the delivery time hours. He came right to the back and delivered a Christmas card to us in addition to our grocery box. Who knew groceries could be so exciting!

All the food is packaged in a sturdy box, which they then collect at your next delivery. And the food looked (and tasted!) glorious!

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For this food delivery I ordered a container of baby spring mix & spinach, broccoli, 2 lbs of grapes, 2 lbs of clementines, 1 lb of bananas, 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, 2 lbs of yellow potatoes, 2 yellow onions, 3 pears and a loaf of bread! I had ordered meat and milk with my last order, but didn’t need to purchase any this time around.

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I love food pictures.

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The food looked, smelled, and tasted delicious. I am super pleased! I must admit, there is actually a noticeable difference in taste with the bananas. While I wouldn’t say the bananas at the grocery store taste bad, the organic bananas delivered by Farms & Forks were creamier and sweeter.

While I don’t think Farms & Forks will be my sole grocery provider (I’ve started buying several items from Longos), I can definitely see purchasing produce boxes regularly from them, and I really like how their meat is packaged. It’s already vacuum-sealed for the freezer!

It’s also a solid choice if you’re looking to get some groceries on a busy schedule, or want to stay holed up during the cold winter months. It’s always worth trying if you, like me, are a little exasperated by the big grocery stores.

And my philosophy is, if there’s anything worth spending your money on, it’s good food!

Gladiator 2: Gods and Kings

Start with an epic battle and a respected general leading the charge for the king. The battle ends with a great victory. We quickly learn that the general is like a brother to the spoiled prince, and like a son to the king.The king tells the general that his own son is not fit to rule, and it would’ve been better if the general were his son so that he might rule. The king dies and the spoiled prince becomes the new king.

If you think this sounds like Gladiator, you’d be correct. But it also describes the first 30 minutes of Exodus: Gods and Kings. 

In some ways, you could call Exodus: Gods and Kings a Gladiator sequel. And as many sequels tend to go, they’re not as good as the original.

There are so many parallels between these two films, it’s a little grating. The plot structure, the characters, the action. Even when Moses goes back to Egypt to free his people, we see him training the Hebrews to be badass soldiers, much like Maximus does with the slaves in Gladiator. 

Let’s face it, Joaquin Phoenix’s as Commodus was absolutely brilliant. He created a creepy, yet believable, character – a man never loved by his father, always striving to impress, always begging for his father to be proud of him. You understand Commodus’ motivations even if you hate him. And Phoenix’s acting is just inspiring. He is seriously an amazing actor.

Maximus is a genuinely humble character. He is a talented warrior and general, and you really root for him. He is a good person with good intentions, but who is wronged and wants revenge. He loves his family, he’s intelligent and he’s more “common”. You really want him to see justice.

Ramses and Moses are only poor echoes of these characters.

Christian Bale’s portrayal of Moses does not ring true. The character development was stale and contrived. I found myself rooting for Ramses rather than Moses at a few points during the film. Moses is arrogant and while the movie seems to want to picture him as wise, he comes across as anything but wise. He’s a blundering idiot who can wield a sword, leading a group of very gullible Hebrews. I also feel like Christian Bale was miscast for this role. While I think he is a good actor, he just doesn’t embody a believable Moses character, even with the new interpretation, that the audience can root for or understand. Also, he just looks like an odd duck. He doesn’t look like a Hebrew OR an Egyptian realistically, or as they are visually portrayed in the film.

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On the other hand, Joel Edgerton’s portrayal of Ramses is good. I feel like Ramses is the only character with which the audience can really connect. He’s spoiled, yes, and he’s not a very good pharaoh. He does evil things in the name of power. But he seems to be a genuinely good husband and father. Nonetheless, he is no Commodus.

And even while I appreciate the complicating of the “bad guys”, again the Gladiator parallels distract and really take away from the movie. For example, Ramses at one point says to his young son while he sleeps: “You sleep well because you are loved. I never slept so well.” Seriously? Can the parallels be any more obvious?

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Now, I must say there are some aspects of the film that are truly spectacular.

The plagues are visually stunning.The final plague really makes you feel for the “bad guys.” The envisioning of how the Nile turns to blood is really very creative. The “parting” of the Red Sea is also great (though the ensuing battle afterwards was pretty ridiculous). The special effects are fantastic, the set is grand, the costumes are beautiful and realistic.

I’m not going to go into detail about its Biblical inaccuracies, as I think new (but well-thought) interpretations are always welcome. I really enjoyed, for example, Aronofsky’s Noah. 

However, I will say that I was extremely disappointed that one of my favourite scenes in the Bible about Moses is non-existent (see Exodus 7:10).

All in all, it wasn’t a horrible movie. The main problem with this film is, as Eli Glasner states in the video link below, is “the mix of awe and authenticity.” By trying to focus on two different things, it falls short and doesn’t deliver on either points.

Review on CBC by Eli Glasner – “It’s the Bible bigger and blander.” Glasner has a more critical view of the film.

Review on Christianity Today – “Rather than bashing another not-perfectly-biblical Bible movie, what if we praised its beauty?” A more positive spin on the film.

I’d give the movie 2.5 out of 5.

Now go re-watch Gladiator!

The Rosie Project

This month I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion with my book club at the library and I must say it was a fairly enjoyable read!

The novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when a close friend, in the form of an elderly woman named Daphne, informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I thought it was an interesting characterization of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and in many ways it was reminiscent of my own experiences with those who have Asperger’s.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a funny, charming and light-hearted read. Don Tillman was a believable character, even if I pictured Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory throughout the entire novel.

I suspect it’s possible that the author may have gotten inspiration, or some ideas, from the popular television series. Much of Don’s character is akin to Sheldon Cooper, specifically the description of his physical appearance, his job, and the way he speaks. These things are not a reflection of everyone with Aspergers, but were oddly parallel to Sheldon.

My biggest complaint of this novel was that it’s ending was far too neat and tidy, with a rather predictable outcome. Nonetheless, there were many laugh-out-loud moments and the author delivered some thought-provoking questions about individuality and what it means to be normal.

I’d recommend this book and give it 3.5/5 stars!

To conclude my review, here are a few of my favourite quotes from the book!

“So, to add to a momentous day, I corrected a misconception that my family had held for at least fifteen years and came out to them as straight.”

“A woman at the rear of the room raised her hand. I was focused on the argument now and made a minor social error, which I quickly corrected. “The fat woman—overweight woman—at the back?”

A particularly thought-provoking one:

“Why do we focus on certain things at the expense of others? We will risk our lives to save a person from drowning, yet not make a donation that could save dozens of children from starvation.”

And one of my favourite, when Don talks about sex:

“I decided that ten positions would be sufficient initially. More could be learned if the initial encounter was successful. It did not take long—less time than learning the cha-cha. In terms of reward for effort, it seemed strongly preferable to dancing and I was greatly looking forward to it.”