Saturday, December 31, 2011

Catching Up and Moving Forward

Lentil Loaf
This recipe would make for a great stuffing. I would also add more vegetables like grated carrot, zucchini and spinach.
Spaghetti Pizza
This one was pretty tasty, but the recipe vas almost completely void of vegetables. We added olives and a side salad, but you really could top it with any regular topping you wish.

Molé Pork with Coconut Mango Rice
We did a bit of substituting on this one because of the ingredients we had on hand. I have made a molé chicken before but this recipe was way better. I also made it using my slow cooker rather than letting it simmer for over 2 hours on the stove. 4-6 hours in the crock pot worked great. I did add more water at some point.
This was Jesus' Birthday Cake. I make all our children special birthday cakes, so I thought what a great way to remind us all what we are really celebrating at Christmas. Here is what all the layers and decorations symbolize:

This week I am planning some French Onion Soup. The stock is simmered and ready to go. I am so excited. My husband has also picked my theme ingredient for January. It was too tough for me to decide. It was down to Lychee Fruit or Quinoa...

             And the winner is....

Heather Nolan "wins". I think I'm gonna have to think us some real prizes. Maybe a dinner made, by me, using the theme ingredient???

I found a good site that I think I will draw most of my ideas from this month: Cooking Quinoa Check it out and keep checking in to see what we come up with!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How To: Make Perogies

First of all, Merry Christmas! I am getting so excited for Christmas morning with the children. I think that making the perogies yesterday and staying up until 2am wrapping really got the excitement flowing.

This was my very first attempt at video blogging. It was more fun that I thought and I think I might do this again sometime. It's hard to teach someone to make perigees in under 15 minutes when it takes at least 2 hours to make. After cutting out my intro... I did it! So here it is.

Here is my recipe (or my best estimation at this point). To make approximately 48 perogies

12 potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
6 strips of nice bacon, chopped small, cooked
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped (cook with bacon)

Cook all and mix together well. Cool before handling.

5-6 cups whole wheat flour (or half & half with white)
500 ml sour cream (14%)
3-4 tbsp olive oil (if you use only white flour you don't need oil)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

January Theme Ingredient Search

December has been a lot of fun. I have learned so much about lentils. Most recipes were liked by all and a couple well loved.

But, it's time to start taking in ideas for the next month's theme ingredient. 

Post your suggestions...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu: Dec.19-24th

This time, I think these might actually be in order:

Chicken Mole w/Coconut Mango Rice
The original recipe recommends papaya rice, but I have mango, so I will go with that.
Baked Spaghetti Pizza with Basic Salad
I have mixed meat toppings of pepperoni, ham and salami

Lentil Loaf with Mashed Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables
This one looks pretty good.
Dominoes Deal, unless I have time to make my own crust, we will be ordering out.

Pomegranate and Citrus Broccoli Salad with Citrus Grilled Chicken
I might change the chicken to bass or tilapia, we'll see what I have that day. I prefer the fish though.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Adobo Chicken Panini

This tasty treat went on the menu this week by request. Our eldest son Owen, put this family favourite together tonight. It's not too often that we use french bread, but this was a nice treat. We have made this sandwich with more wholesome grains and it was just as yummy.

Ingredients (makes 4+ sandwiches):
  • 1 loaf of french bread, sliced at least 1" thick
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cut into even sized pieces and thicknesses, marinated then grilled
  • 1-2 tbsp adobo chilli, in sauce, some seeds removed and puréed (I have also used chill garlic paste, tomato paste, any smoky chilli, like chipotle)
  • 1/4 c mayo (or plain yogurt if you prefer)
  • butter
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 mango, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 6-10 slices, monterey jack cheese (I only had sharp cheddar, but havarti is also nice)
Marinade Chicken (for at least 30 min):
  • 1 tbsp adobo chili, rubbed over chicken
Adobo Mayonaise (make at least 10 min in advance)
  • 1/4 c mayo
  • 1 tsp adobo chilli (or more if you like more heat)
Sandwich assembly (as seen above):
  • bread
  • spread
  • chicken
  • red onion
  • mango/avocado, alternating
  • cheese
  • butter outsides (like grilled cheese)
  • grill in panini press (or in oven between two very hot cast iron pans)
Hope you enjoy this one as much as we do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Breakfast Made Simple

With four children and a husband who eat cereal most every morning, I am always trying to find ways to do breakfast simple, healthy and cheap! I have already put a limit on how much cereal I buy on an average month to help cut costs. Some of our other options are a bit more time consuming for me and in the mornings I just don't always have it in me to pull out the mad kitchen skills.

I've shared the Baked Oatmeal in the past. I have begun to prepare it the night before and just get my hubby to throw it in the oven when he gets up. A half hour later to so the smell of cinnamon and oatmeal fills the house. A nice way to wake up actually (not as good as fresh coffee though).

We will also make Red River Cereal or Cream of Wheat. I mix it with the children's favourite jam or yogurt. They love it, but some mornings this is too much for us all. They are anxious to get food in their bellies. As it is, they all get a banana (or half) every morning, but that's not enough for them on non-cereal mornings.

Today, I brought back an old favourite from the days when Graeme (now 3) was just born. It is so simple and takes only a few minutes. I think Owen (almost 7) might even be old enough to learn how to make this goodie. This one also travels well and can be warmed up the next day in the toaster, oven or microwave.

French Toast w/Maple Yogurt

10 slices of your favourite bread

4 large eggs
1 c milk
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

plain yogurt
maple syrup

  • Warm up pan or griddle. I use my panini press, which makes this even faster and more easily warmed in a toaster.
  • Just like any other easy french toast, blend the eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a shallow dish large enough to lay a slice of bread into.
  • Coat bread in egg mixture and put on hot pan to cook until egg is done, flipping once. Cut into strips for the little ones to dip into their maple yogurt.
  • Mix plain yogurt with honey or maple syrup. This makes the syrup last longer and keeps the sugar under your control. Also good for pancakes.
We sometimes do smoothies as well. If you've ever had an avocado bubble tea, this is very simpler in taste and texture to that. I really like this smoothie recipe:

Like Avocado Bubble Tea Smoothie

1 avocado
1 can good quality coconut milk
1 cup ice
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (we use Nature Pro brand)

Blend the 1st three ingredients in your blender until smooth-ish. Add protein powder and pulse a few times until mixed through. Not too much after the powder is added. There you go. The powder has great vitamins etc. and the avocado has good oils to get that brain & body going (and more potassium than a banana without all the sugar). Better than coffee!

Now to tackle out granola bar issue. One for each child and hubby a day. We go through 3 large boxes a month easy... 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Week with Lentils...

Tonight's supper was Awesome!
Well, I am thoroughly impressed tonight. I made the Red Lentil Curry, Brown Basmati and Chapati and it turned out so well that I am speechless really. The whole family liked it, especially the chapati (but there are bread lovers).

So on to this week's menu: (in no particular order)

Filipino Pork Adobo

Moroccan Chicken with Olives

Singapore Noodles and Pork
2c        pork loin, sliced (can use chicken or beef if you prefer)
1          tbsp olive oil
1          leek (or sm onion if you don't have), sliced
1          each red, yellow & green pepper, sliced
2          garlic cloves, minced
2 c       chicken stock
1/4 c    oyster sauce (or 2 tbsp soy sauce)
1 tsp    ginger, grated (I keep it in the freezer & grate in as needed)
1 tbsp  curry powder
1 tbsp  corn starch
1 tbsp  cold water
1/2 c    parsley or coriander, chopped
1 tsp    chilli garlic paste (or to taste)
1         small box whole wheat spaghetti

  • Cook spaghetti as per box instructions.
  • In a large skillet, stir-fry pork in heated oil until browned. Remove & set aside. 
  • Cook leek (onion), peppers, garlic for a minute. Add stock, oyster sauce and curry powder. 
  • Blend corn starch with water; stir into skillet, adding pork. Bring to a boil until heated through and sauce is thickened. Stir in parsley and chilli garlic paste.
  • Drain pasta and toss with meat mixture. Serves 6-8

Classic Meat Lasagne (right from the freezer, PC sale)

That's pretty much it for this week. I did come across this recipe while surfing on Pinterest. It just looks so neat that I think it might be on the Christmas dinner menu...

Crispy Potato Roast

Monday, December 5, 2011

This Week's Meal Plan Plus

First of all here's a photo and recipe link from the lentil dish from last week's menu. We added turkey sausage to round out the meal as a main dish. My husband and I really liked it, but the children weren't feeling the lentil love. It was an off day for us though, so I wouldn't write it off. We'll try again with another recipe this week, as seen below.
Honey Baked Lentils with Turkey Sausage
These are all new recipes this week and I am excited! A couple recipes are from my favourite Canadian chef's website; Chef Michael Smith. I started following his Chef at Home series years ago before Food Network came into my life. I can't believe it took me this long to look him up on-line. Check it out He makes simple home food that tastes great!

As usual these are in no particular order:

African Chicken Stew (served over brown basmati rice)
I plan on making this for two families. It seems an easy one to make a large batch of and like many stews, I'm certain it will get better the longer it cooks.
Smash Burgers with Wasabi Potato Wedges
For the wasabi potato wedges, I plan on just mixing some wasabi paste with olive oil salt & pepper and roasting in the oven like any other wedge.
Red Lentil Curry (served over brown basmati rice with Chapati Bread)
Last week, I visited a friend who lived most of her life in India and I was inspired to bring curry (which my children love) and lentils together. She also said that chapati bread was pretty easy to make so I looked it up. I'll give it a try.
Spinach and Beef Enchiladas
I don't have spinach on hand, so I will replace it with the beet greens I have stored in the freezer from the garden this summer. Beet greens can be a bit more bitter, but if mixed in things I don't think it will matter too much.
Fish Stew with Anchovy Toast
This will be my 1st time tasting and using anchovies (that I am aware of anyway), but I expect I'll like them. I will make sure to make plain garlic toast for the children just in case.

I am also amazed at how inexpensive this menu really is. I will be making the bread & buns from scratch, but all these ingredients cost less than an estimated $150. There is no reason healthy eating can't be for all income levels if you plan ahead.

Happy eating... pray all goes well for us this week as we try new things.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Baking 2011

I share so many of our weekly dinner meals, that I thought it might be nice to share with you some of the baking recipes I use. Since I don't actually do too much baking on a regular basis (aside from birthday cakes), I figured Christmas baking recipes might be a nice expansion.

While we don't have allergies, I leave out the nuts to keep it allergy friendly for the bulk baking I do every year for Bethlehem Live. Which is coming up this week. Come on down and check it out!

Butter Tarts
This is a recipe from a good family friend (thanks Mrs. C). I will make 6 to 8 dozen at a time. This quantity is for 14 tarts. I use store bought shells (usually from Costco). By no means are these healthy, so watch how many you eat at once. I don't wanna support diabetes here...

1/3 c      butter
1/2 c      corn syrup
1/2 c      brown sugar
2/3 c      raisins (or more if you like)
1/2 tsp   vanilla
1/4 tsp   salt
1 egg

  • Melt butter in a small saucepan, stir in everything else but raisins and egg. Heat slowly until sugar is dissolved and smooth. Take off heat, stir in raisins.
  • Beat the eggs slightly (not foamy). Mix into sugar mixture.
  • Spoon/pour into tart shells until 2/3 full. Bake at 425˚F for 15 minutes, or until pastry is lightly golden.

Unbaked Cookies
I've been making this recipe since I was 10years old. This is one I will make a 4x batch.

1 c         sugar
1/4 c      butter
1/4 c      milk
3 tbsp    cocoa
1 1/2 c   oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 c      shredded coconut
1/2 tsp   vanilla

  • Bring first four ingredients to a slow boil. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Turn off heat. 
  • Drop onto wax paper lined cookie sheets and chill until set.

Peppermint Patty Sandwiches
makes 40 cookies
This one is good if you can only spend small amounts of time at once because there are stages of refrigeration required. So if you have half hour blocks of time you can do a little bit at a time.

3/4 c    butter, softened
1/2 c    brown sugar
1/4 c    white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp    vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 c white flour (though I tried whole wheat)
2/3 c    cocoa powder

  • Beat butter and sugars until fluffy; beat in egg, vanilla & salt. Blend flour & cocoa and slowly add to butter mixture until smooth. Shape into two discs; wrap in saran and refrigerate for about an hour.
  • Roll out each disc (between wax paper) unit layout 1/4 inch thick, refrigerate for about 1/2 hour.
  • Using a round/oval 1 3/4 inch cookies cutter, cut out shapes (re-rolling and chilling scraps). Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze until firm (15 minutes).
  • Bake  in 325˚F for about 10-12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Peppermint Buttercream:
1/4 c    butter, softened

1 1/4 c icing sugar
2 tbsp  whipping cream
2 tsp    peppermint extract

  • Beat butter with sugar until fine crumbs; beat in cream and peppermint extract. Fill piping bag or plastic bag with corner snipped. 
  • Pipe about 1tsp icing into centre of half the cookies, using remaining cookies as the tops. 
  • Press gently, pushing icing to edges of the cookie.

2 tbsp    peppermint candy cane, crushed

  • Pipe a dab of icing onto centre of cookie
  • Sprinkle with crushed candy cane
  • Chill for about an hour or until set

If I have time, I will also tackle the classic Linzer Cookies. My Mom always made Jam-Jam cookies, but I was never a fan of the molasses, but really liked the jam. So this is my choice for a revised family favourite.

These recipes below, I am actually not making this year because of time, but will share because they are just so good and easy to make.

Sour Cream Cranberry Bars
I will make it for my diabetic friends, replacing the traditional sugars with splenda and agave syrup.

Deluxe Holiday Fudge
Crazy easy to make and good for the sweet and salt lovers in the family.

Monday, November 28, 2011

December's Theme Ingredient Is...

Since I am always looking for a new and interesting way to challenge myself in the kitchen, I thought it might be a neat idea to create a monthly theme ingredient. So, I put out a call to my friends on Facebook for ideas. Here are the responses (some more realistic than others): black truffles, saffron, sausages, apples, squash and lentils.

Aside from truffles and maybe saffron (that silly cousin of mine) these all seemed like real possibilities for me and our family. Since December is only a few days away and my menu this week is already planned, I figured starting with an ingredient I haven't used often, but would like to learn more about, and was already stocked in my pantry was a very budget friendly idea (key this time of year).

So here it is folks...


Thanks Twila for the idea. You can bet that I will be calling on you if I am in need of ideas. I will try to make one lentil dish a week; hopefully my family can handle that. I will post recipes and photos as I go. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know. Having only cooked with lentils a handful of times, I am very open to input from others. So keep checking in...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some New and Some Old Recipes

Well, I have been following a blog called Erin's Food Files and she has some great stuff. This week's menu showcases two of her recipes. Here's what's on the menu this week...

Murder Mystery Dinner Menu (this Saturday)
The setting is Tuesday, October 20th, 1987 at a penthouse suite in New York City. Mega-rich financier Jon K. Bonds has called high eight closest investment associates to an urgent meeting at his apartment to discuss the situation. The outlook is bleak – and gets worse when murder is discovered and the participants must decide who among them had committed the crime.

  • Sushi Rolls: California, Philadelphia, Spicy Tuna, Ginger Beef and a Mango Shikai-Maki
  • Asian Appetizers: Sweet & Spicy Sugar Snap Peas, Honey Heat Chicken Wings, Steak Bites w/two sauces
  • Chocolate Fondue: Creamy milk chocolate with strawberries, bananas, marshmallows & apples for dipping
Regular family menu (in no particular order):

Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs
Honey Baked Lentils with Sausage (thanks to Twila V. for the idea)
Swiss Chard Quiche
Italian Chicken, Bean & Tomato Soup with fresh Honey Oat Bread
Quick Chicken & Dumplings
Yin Yang Salmon with Rice & Broccoli

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chaos in the Home

This week I was feeling completely taken over by my "life". Between doctor appointments, Christmas baking and picking up after 4 children, this photo illustrates well how I feel like by the end of my days. I've always known that being a Mom was a full-time job, so I have no reason to feel caught by surprise. Yet, I felt completely out of control of our home; until yesterday. Yesterday I decided to stop the chaos train and get OFF. Truth is, my life was in chaos because I created that chaos. Because I was so busy doing my extra tasks, I wasn't holding firm to the original tasks that were set before me. My children were running like wild beasts through the house, leaving lovely trails of their adventures strewn everywhere. They were not being made to clean up after themselves or treat each other or myself with respect. I was failing at my job. If I don't teach them to respect the space we all live in who will? If our home is in chaos it's my fault, not theirs, but they are the ones who will suffer for it in the end. Justice MUST prevail! 

Isaiah 32:16-18

New Living Translation (NLT)
 16 Justice will rule in the wilderness
      and righteousness in the fertile field.
 17 And this righteousness will bring peace.
      Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.
 18 My people will live in safety, quietly at home.
      They will be at rest.

If I want a peace filled home, I must set the tone for it. Justice will rule in the wilderness. So to get this going, I lined the boys up and laid down the law. There will be no more leaving little messes all over the house and I WILL be spoken to with respect and honour or there will be consequences. This meant I had to stop doing my other tasks and get back to be the hands-on mother my children need. It was a lot of work, but there was peace. A lot more peace.

Isaiah 61:8-9
New Living Translation (NLT)
 8 “For I, the Lord, love justice.
      I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
   I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
      and make an everlasting covenant with them.
 9 Their descendants will be recognized
      and honored among the nations.
   Everyone will realize that they are a people
      the Lord has blessed.”

When my children are all grown and on their own, all this hard work will pay off. They will not live like others live. They will conduct themselves with honour and respect. They won't live for the immediate gratification that this world brings, but for the eternal rewards of heaven. All this starts with justice in their childhood.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butternut Squash Muffins

When I saw a recipe on Jamie Oliver's web-site I was inspired to use up a butternut squash I had left over from last week. I didn't feel like making soup and having my children say "YUCK". What do they know anyway; so I thought muffins! Since Jamie's measurements were in weight, I was challenged to convert. I always use the online converter from It is VERY helpful, however, as I was making the batter, some things just didn't feel right, so I made my own adjustments. Below is the recipe I used...

4c               raw, butternut squash*
1 3/4c         light, brown sugar
4                 large, eggs
1/4 tsp        sea salt
3c               whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp     baking powder
1 tsp           cinnamon
3/4c            extra-virgin olive oil

* wash the outside, cut open & remove seeds, roughly chop, keep skin on, finely chop with a food processor

Mix all together and fill muffin cups. Bake at 350˚F for 20-30 min. depending on your oven. Cool completely on racks before frosting (see below).
Makes about 20 large muffins.

zest of 1 lemon & juice of 1/2
1/2c         icing sugar
3 tbsp      sour cream

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Old School Menu

Much more organized this week. Was able to look through flyers & see what was on sale.  I found asparagus, broccoli, avocado and frozen lasagne. We had a ham in the freezer so I am looking forward a traditional ham dinner (and then soup from the left-overs). So here is the actual menu (no particular order):

  • Adjusted from good old Betty Crocker, Pan Seared Basa with Lemon Butter Sauce
  • Ham, Scalloped Potatoes and Carrots
  • Meat Lasagne & Caesar Salad (frozen, not fresh)
  • Beef Burritos
  • Classic Slow Cooker Chilli
  • Chicken Alfredo Pasta with Spinach Salad

Well, I hope they all enjoy this but if they don't... 
oh well, I'm not a make to order cook! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Stranger

My Dad sent this to me in an email. I thought this was pretty interesting and worth sharing...
A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger... He was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home - not from us, our friends or any visitors. After our long time visitor stayed longer he became more daring however, and even got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked...  And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His  name?....

We just call him "TV".
He has a wife now....we call her "Computer".
Their first child is "Cell Phone".
Second child "iPod".
What would our family look like if we didn't have this stranger in our house? While I haven't paid attention to him lately, I am finding his brand new wife all too interesting; her name is Mac Book Pro and she seems to ba making my life easier, but is she really??? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Curry with Lemon Chutney

This one is inspired by Jamie Oliver. I only saw him make this on TV and did not find a recipe. I thought it would only be fair to pass on the way I made it (his fancy added touches I did not do). Anyway, here it is. Serve this over some hot brown basmati rice and a side of cool yogurt and yum. For my kids I also added a side of raisins. They LOVE the sweet with curry dishes.

1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 onion, sliced (stir-fry style)
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c curry paste (for speed, I used Patak's Mild Curry)
4-6 cups  water, heated in kettle
1 bag spinach
salt & pepper to taste
*opt. 1/4 c heavy cream (or whipping cream) if you like
*garnish with fresh coriander (I didn't have, so I used flat leaf parsley and added ground coriander for flavour)

• In a large skillet over med/high heat, melt butter. Add the cauliflower and cook until lightly browned (3-5 minutes). Add the butternut squash, onion and 2 cups or so of hot water to start cooking the vegetables. 

• You will slowly add more water as it cooks down. If you like a less saucy curry, then add less water overall. It's totally up to you. You only need just enough water to cook the vegetables.

• After about 10 minutes you can add the curry paste, working it into the vegetables as you add more water. Turn the heat down to medium and let is simmer until vegetables are easily pierced with a fork. At this point you can wilt in the spinach and add any cream should you like it that way (I only added cream because I had no plain yogurt to serve along side).

Lemon Chutney:
2 lemons, finely chopped1 shallot, sliced into thin rings
1 tbsp tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
drizzle of agave syrup (or pinch of sugar/honey)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Heat oil in a pan, adding shallots, lemon & tarragon to hot pan. Drizzle with agave and s & p to taste. Once tossed and warmed up a bit, pour mixture into small serving bowl.

This only takes about 30 minutes to make and this amount served 3 adults and 3 children with two adult portions left over for lunches. I hope you enjoy this one, most of the children said it was a keeper.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Life with Boys

I find myself really noticing the contrast between girls and boys so much more now that I have a girl. While I have always known they were different, I find myself taking more moments in the day to appreciate this difference. Since I am a very visual person, I thought that it might be a neat idea to create a picture gallery to let you all see what I am seeing.

Here is my 1st instalment. So much of my day revolves around a variety of superhero action (music, toys and imagination play).


Throughout the day I will often find little treasures like these from the imaginations of my boys. Sometimes I find them under my feet, quite by accident. I prefer this type of discovery. Spidey should be swinging from my cupboards; how else could he save the cheerios from the Graeme monster?

See No Evil, Hear No Evil & Speak No Evil
This is one my husband took a while back. I found it while downloading the images from our camera and I knew this one was worth sharing. Makes you think though doesn't it? Do they really understand what they are doing?

Another peek into the mind of my boys is the sweeter side. This photo shows just how much they love their sister. "We don't want her to get lonely."

Quality time with the boys playing... Mamma Gamer

No matter how you look at it, my life sure is richly blessed to have three little boys reminding me to slow down, take a look around and play once and a while. And if I get lonely, grab an action hero and take a good nap.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

This Weeks Menu

Well this one ought to be interesting and I'm working it all out in my head as I type. Our budget was small this week and I didn't make my menu before doing my shopping. I am relying on inspiration from the FREE Food Network channel, my brain and what was on sale at the store. When I saw that they had 50% off cauliflower, I was reminded of a curry recipe Jamie Oliver had done earlier this week. It was a butternut squash and cauliflower curry over rice with a pickled lemon chutney. I don't have a recipe so I will just go by memory (which is what I do most of the time anyway). Once it's done I'll post my version. Watch for the update.

We have left over minestrone soup & buns. I have a lot of meat & frozen garden vegetables stocked up in the freezer, so I've pulled out chicken legs for the BBQ or roasting depending on the weather. There were also some steaks left in there and I have some potatoes left from the garden; a classic steak & potato dinner. I planned for salmon burgers last week that we didn't get around to. I have some basil pesto, pasta and cream cheese so that will make a nice side dish or I can add chicken & make it a whole meal. Here's one that most people don't care for, but it is such a nice source for iron; liver & onions. Pair those up with some of my Mom's perogies and we're set.

So this is what we're looking at this week (no particular order):

  • Minestrone Soup & Buns
  • Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Curry
  • Maple Glazed Chicken with Pumpkin Risotto (inspired by a Betty Crocker Recipe )
  • Classic Steak & with Pesto Cream Cheese Pasta
  • Salmon Burgers & Carrot & Raisin Slaw (inspired by a Betty Crocker Recipe )
  • Liver, Onions & Perogies

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween: My Ever Changing View

 Well, this can often be a catalyst for many heated debates on the topic of good vs. evil. It's one that I have fought and debated all my adult life. As a child, I went door to door just like any other child and while it was fun to dress up, I remember being a little too scared from time to time. As an adolescent, I would love to have the pants scared off of me and looked for that rush all year long. I loved scary movies and that feeling that you use never know what could be lurking just around the next corner. Now that I am a parent and my primary job is to protect my children from evil, my views are changing. Here are few thoughts we pondered regarding halloween:
  1. Would I allow my children to watch a program with scary images of dead/dismembered people?
  2. Are my children going to "miss out" on a learning/growth experience?
  3. If all year long I teach my children "stranger danger" & never take candy from strangers then why would I encourage them (one day a year) to go to door asking for candy?
  4. What is halloween really about or promoting?
  5. How would Jesus react/deal with halloween if he were here today?
And here are some of my conclusions:
  1. NO, I would never choose to let my children watch any programming that would fill their impressionable minds with fear.
  2. My children dress up a few times a week and, thanks to the influence of Mr. Dress-up, we have a tickle trunk full of many costumes (none scary) for them to choose from. Dressing up with friends happens almost ever week around our house; so I know they are not missing out on the creativity that halloween brings to the dressing up of children. Not participating at all might not be sending the right message either. So where is the line drawn?
  3. For older children I know this can be explained, but I certainly do not want to promote "breaking rules".
  4. My husband has done a bit of research into this "holiday" and it's origins. For the most part we, in North America today, do not recognize this day as a day to worship "pagan" gods as was once done by the Druids years ago. We also don't often see or hear of the celebrations adopted by the radicle "satanists" out there. It really is a day that is marketed toward the selling of candy & costumes (not unlike how modern society has changed Christmas). However, I do feel that in going door to door with our children's goodie bags opened wide "begging" for treats is a bit on the gluttonous side. I know how excited my 6 year old gets about getting candy. The excitement surrounding halloween for him is in regards to the volume and diversity of candy that he can get in one day, or even in a couple hours. He really starts going nuts over it as the day approaches. He's not at the stores buying the candy we give out so he doesn't realize the expense involved and that we could just keep the candy we buy and he would get a much greater "deal" and less "junky" candy. He really enjoys getting home and dumping his "loot". We then get to teach him self-control and I get to learn patience as he asks every day for more candy as I try, in vain, to ration it out as to not send his little body into mad fits of sugar rush and insulin resistance. I hate the candy part now that I am an adult and know the affects sugar has on our bodies. I could rant on this topic alone for days, but the next question is really where I hold my moral compass as my guide.
  5. I am not God and do not pretend to know all he knows, but based on Jesus' actions and words throughout the bible I feel confident in a few things. 
  • He most likely would not dress up as a ghoul and go door to door for sweets. 
  • He probably would not hide in his basement with the lights off, giving this day, that His father made, to the devil on a silver platter. 
  • He would be out in the neighbourhood, with His people whom he loves so much regardless of their religious views or lifestyle choices. 
  • He would try to be a blessing to those around Him and would pray for them, forgiving them and healing them of their pains. 
  • He would cast out demons and break off curses. 
  • Most importantly He would LOVE them.
So this halloween, like so many before, we will open our hearts and our door to serve our neighbours with kindness and love. As we serve the hot chocolate and heat up our fire pit in the front yard, we will talk to them and get to know them, if even for a minute. We will pray for them and bless them. We will pray that every foot that touches our property will be protected from the evil one and that their lives will be richly blessed. Until the Lord teaches us otherwise, we will just love our trick or treaters the best we know how. No our children won't go door to door, but they might visit the homes of the people we have met through the years, at least to say "Hi. Hey stop by our place we would love to bless you and warm your bellies with some hot chocolate and don't worry my daddy will come by to clean up the litter from the cups."

Bless you all for ready my views on the controversial halloween, feel free to share what you think or any ideas you might have on how to bright light to a dark night of the year. Below are some links to information regarding halloween.

Here's the link for the site we got the pumpkin carving templates from: I will update with the finished products.

A brief explanation of halloween & it's origins (there are many out there, this one is brief and sums it all up well:

Focus on the Family: has a podcast that has a neat interview with a gentleman about Christianity & halloween.

And lastly, a couple of scriptures that I guided my heart in this matter: 

Matthew 22:36-40

New Living Translation (NLT)
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 4:23-25

New Living Translation (NLT)
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns,[a] Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

John 12:46-48

New Living Translation (NLT)
46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.

I Love Soups for Fall

I really enjoyed this one and wished I had made a triple portion. It's from my Williams Sonoma, Food Made Fast: Soup cookbook. I though I might share this one with you. I have made so many recipes from this series, that I could not even count. Hopefully, I won't get in trouble for this... though I did make some of my own alterations.

Lentil & Spinach Soup

4c chicken stock
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper
1c dried lentils, rinsed & picked over
2 tbsp tomato paste
3c baby spinach, chopped (though I used kale, because that's what I have)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered. Add the carrot and onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, thyme and 1tsp salt and sauté until garlic is soft. Stir in lentils.

Add stock, tomato paste and 1c water, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover partially and simmer until lentils are tender to the bite (25-30 min). Add the spinach and simmer until wilted. Season with salt & pepper and serve.

serves 4

Also shown here is a cheddar-chive-biscuits

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did. There are plenty of neat tips in Williams Sonoma books and as usual great photos, making them well worth investing in. Another recipe made from this series is Pappardelle with Mushrooms. We added chicken to make it more family friendly and satisfying for my husband who really doesn't like mushrooms much. It was so good. Since we don't drink that much wine, I just froze the rest in ice cube trays for future recipes. I do the same thing with left over herbs. Put them in a baggie and into the freezer they go.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next Week's Menu

October 31 to November 4, 2011

I was just so excited for some of these options, I thought I might share them in advance. My husband is currently working his night shift a couple breakfast for dinner options are planned. I have included the links to my sources. In no particular order...

Baked Oatmeal

Mantastic Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwiches

Chicken & Dumplings (only I am using leftover roasted chicken & my own biscuit recipe)

Salmon Burgers (served on fresh buns and a side salad)

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese (this is a new variation on a recipe I have made before)

Anyway, these are inexpensive to make, but seem like yummy comfort foods that won't kill us. I might alter the oils & prep to make them a bit healthier for us. I will let you know how they turn out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Stock Pot

There are certain things that I make in my kitchen that inspire me. I know that this just looks like a pool of scraps to most but as we all know there is something wonderful about the smell of simmering chicken stock. As the aroma of this simmering stock began to fill my kitchen it made me think back on the things in my life that bring me comfort. Obviously, there is homemade chicken noodle soup. I loved it when my mother would make chicken soup, especially if she also made those large noodles to pour the hot soup over. Then there is the delightful smell of baking cinnamon buns. It was an all day affair to make, but the pay off was always worth it. Both of these bring back such fond memories of fall at home in the kitchen with my mother.

These times were often uninterrupted by my little brother (because it looked too much like work) or the friends that would often pop in to have coffee. I got to have my mom all to myself, something that was pretty rare at times. I remember her rolling out the freshly risen dough onto the table that I was allowed to lightly flour. My job was to spread the warm melted butter over the surface of the sweet smelling dough. As I got older, I was permitted to spread the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins and even later, to roll and cut them into pieces and leave to rise. This was a right of passage for me and it was a great learning experience that will, thankfully never be unlearned. This time was often used to catch up or talk about anything that came to our minds, but even if we never said a word, it was always a bonding time between mother & daughter.

Clearly food has always played a pretty large role in my life. It's usually the smell of foods made from my childhood that elicit the more intense comfort responses. You can not put enough emphasis on the importance of the time spent with your loved ones in the kitchen. Not only did I learn how to make wonderful, yummy homemade foods, but I learned to take comfort in the conversations and the quietness between loved ones. While my children might still be pretty young I know how important this is and will be to them as they grow. So, as fall comes along, I find myself wanting to make soup and cinnamon buns and even perogies with my children. The conversations aren't deep and their attention spans aren't too long, but they are working side by side with their mother in the kitchen, making foods that they will remember for the rest of their lives and that is really cool!

My mother saved a set of these Campbell Soup
bowls from my childhood of me.