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