Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend's Here

Yes, another weekend. At first it seems like just a lazy Saturday but then you realize it's lunch time and it's time to get ready for football.

It was a cold autumn afternoon at the football field. Many parents, siblings and grandparents huddled in blankets while the players huddled on the field. We arrived home just before 4:00. It's a good thing we have a plan for dinner.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Sweet Mustard Pork Chops, Rice and Corn

The rice and corn are a given because it's my husband's favourite, but the recipe for the pork chops came from my sister-in-law many years ago.

1/4 C brown sugar
3 tbsp mustard (I use dijon)
1 tbsp lemon juice
pork chops


Preheat oven to 350F. Season pork with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish lined with foil.

Mix together brown sugar, mustard and lemon juice. Pour over pork chops. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

For those keeping track, yesterday I made Chicken Chili Verde which is what I used the chicken for from the roast on Sunday.

Now it's time to start the next meal plan. Let's see what it has in store for us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Danny's Best Day

Today was deemed "Cross things off my list" day. Now that the end of the month is near it was time to finish the jobs I put on the list at the beginning of the month.

After dropping my son, Danny off at school, I did a little Christmas shopping at the home improvement store. They didn't have the main thing I was looking for, but ended up with some good deals none the less. (Including a Cuisinart Chef Knife for $7... score!) I picked up some pictures I had developed. (I needed them for tonight's Beaver meeting)

Jack and I came home. I cleaned up what was left of breakfast, made the beds, did some laundry and knocked 3 or 4 things off my to-do list. I prepped the craft for tonight's Halloween Beaver meeting (spiders made from egg cartons), prepped Jack's school book order, finished the name tags for the newly inducted Beavers, canvassed the neighbourhood for the Canadian Diabetes Association, and put the Christmas lights in the garden. As it turns out, the 10 replacement bulbs weren't enough to finish the garden lights, so have to make another trip to the home improvement store... but not today.

Now, almost dinner time and the question remains...

So, what's for dinner?

Danny's Favourite White Fish

This really couldn't be easier. I've defrosted some sole fillets. I'll season some flour with a little salt, a lot of pepper and some paprika and parsley. I'll dredge both sides in the flour and brown it in a skillet with a touch of canola oil. I'll serve it with some rice and a salad.

Both my kids LOVE this dish and ask for it by name.

This morning, Danny told me this was the best day because...
1. He got to stay for lunch
2. He had choir practice
3. He has a Halloween party (with snacks)
4. He got to wear his Harry Potter costume
5. White fish for dinner

So I shall continue on my list diminishing journey for the day is NOT over yet. But I have to agree with my son. It was a great day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Ode to My Freezer

Tonight's dinner inspiration has come from deep, deep within my deep freeze. That is - let's use up "this" to make room for "that". Its probably twice a year when I actively make an effort to use up what I have in the freezer.

The first time is after Christmas. You are so tied of shopping, and spending money and you just can't take another bite of leftover turkey. You can take those pork chops or lasagna and make a feast, or at least it feels like it.

The second time, is when we close up the cottage for the winter. We'll have some odds and ends that will end up in the freezer. Two or three packages of hot dogs, a lone chicken breast maybe even a piece of salmon.

So this is where we are at today. This morning I spent some quality time Christmas shopping, and this afternoon was in the kitchen prepping the ground turkey for next week's turkey meatballs (now in the freezer) and Pumpkin Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Icing for tomorrow's Halloween party at Scouts. (I found the pumpkin... in the freezer) So, yes, I am the Freezer Queen!

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Cheeseburger, oven fries and salad.

Simple yet important because it will use up many of the hamburger buns brought back from the cottage.

Now, being the reigning queen of the freezer, I've learned a trick or two. One of the best tips I can give is: when using freezer bags to preserve your food, freeze it so it is FLAT. Why? It thaws faster. I use this mostly for ground meats and marinating but also works for things like pumpkin puree. Save what is left from making Pumpkin Muffins in the freezer. Don't let it go to waste. Oh yes - don't forget to label it.

So I send you to go forth and dig to the depths of the freezer, past the shortbread from last Christmas and find a buried treasure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shrimp & Vegetable Stir Fry

This morning, my youngest had swimming lesson; which is at the exact time when you can't get anything else done. Before that, the stores aren't open yet (most of them) and after, it's time to pick up the older one from school for lunch.

This afternoon, got away from me a bit too. I cleaned up from lunch, did a little laundry and work on the computer, all of a sudden it's 3:30. So all in all, not too much going on.

Today's dinner is a recipe I found in a Taste of Home magazine many, many years ago. We hadn't add it in a while so thought it would be nice to dig it out again.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Shrimp & Vegetable Stir Fry

This one is simple even as far as stir fries go. I took the shrimp out of the freeze this morning and removed the tails once they were mostly thawed. Very important. The first time I made this, I didn't remove the tails and we spent half the meal picking them off. Not very graceful.

I did change the vegetables a bit to use what I had, and also built on the Italian side of the dish. Italian side? Yup - The main ingredient in the sauce is Italian salad dressing. Great shortcut!

Here's the original...

1/3 C Italian Dressing
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp oil
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 C fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
1 lb shrimp

Mix dressing, soy sauce and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the carrots and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining vegetables. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add the shrimp and sauce. Cook until shrimp turns pink.

Serve over rice

My changes...

Change the vegetables to
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb chopped
red pepper flakes are optional

Sauce was the same

There is a similar one on the Kraft Canada wesbite. Search sizzling shrimp stir fry on

Monday, October 24, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Well, things didn't turn out today as I expected. Our activities were light today, so I had planned Breaded Baked Chicken Breasts, Rice and Steamed Brocolli.

Today is Monday, which is generally the day I do my grocery shopping. My youngest has school this morning so I usually take the opportunity to go to the grocery store unemcumbered. BUT today was the day I was to sort out the book order for his school. A job that I thought would take 30 minutes, actually took 60. This definately cut into my shopping time. So my shopping was rushed, but managed to pick both boys up on time.

We had such a beautiful day today - unseasonable for October, that I changed my breaded chicken to grilled chicken. Yes - barbequeing in October! Glorious! Except, of course, for running out of propane half way through cooking. DOH! No problem - I finished the cooking in the oven. Which goes to show, that it is good to have a plan, but always be flexible.

So, what for dinner tonight?

Grilled (sort of) Chile-Lime Chicken

Marinate chicken in:

3-4 tbsp oil (I use canola)
1/4 C fresh cilantro
zest of 1 lime + 4 tbsp juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
cayenne pepper to taste
pinch of salt and pepper

Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes. Grill on medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

My biggest time saving tip for marinating takes a little forethought. I do this all the time in the summer when we head to the lake. I freeze the meat in the marinade. For example, for this recipe I would take 3-4 chicken breasts and place them in a medium-sized freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bad, label it and freeze. On the day you want to serve it, thaw it (I usually take it out that morning). The meat marinates as it thaws! This way, I can have all our favourite marinades without carrying all the ingredients back and forth. Trust me, it works!

You can use any store bought marinade as well, but why when this is so easy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Well, it's Sunday and the end of another busy week. This also means for me, time to start next week's meal plan.

The first thing I consider when making a meal plan is time. What activities do we have on a particular evening? How much time do I have to prepare during the day, or in some cases, the night before. I know next week, the kids have activities Tuesday morning, Wednesday and Thursday nights and sometime on Saturday which hasn't been annouced yet.

One of the meals I plan to make next week requires leftover cooked chicken.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken & Roasted Root Vegetables

I have a fryer chicken in the freezer and a few potatoes, carrots and turnip left from the stew I made this week. The chicken I bought is something new from a local producer, it's a Ginseng Fed chicken.

The best way, that I found to cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker is a two-step process. First, cook the chicken on high 4-5 hours in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a little water in the bottom. Second, to crisp up the skin, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and place on a baking sheet lined with foil (for easy clean up) rub with a little butter and whatever herbs you like. We like sage, parsley and summer savoury. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes.

After dinner, I'll remove the remaining meat from the bird and place in a resealable container in the fridge so I can use it later in the week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Creating a Meal Plan

Hello and welcome.

You've heard it a hundred time... "Hey Mom! What's for dinner?" and I'm here to help answer that question.

I'm a busy mom, just like all the other moms. I have 2 small boys, a husband, a house and all the joys that go with it (grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry). I drive the kids back and forth from school, swimming lessons, soccer, football, piano lessons, homework. Just a regular mom.

I have to tell you, what makes my life easier when it comes to answering that eternal question "What's for dinner?" is having a plan.

Nowadays, it's easy to grab a processed pre-prepared meal or hit the drive thru on the way home from work, but I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way. You can make healthy meals at home for a fraction of the cost and all it takes is a plan. Now, I have been know on occasion to "make" chicken fingers, or grab a frozen pizza from the freezer. But this is an exception rather than the rule.

As part of this blog, not only will I share my own meal plan and the recipes I use, but will share tips on creating a meal plan for your own family. Say good bye to the teenager in the drive-thru and the frozen TV dinners. You won't be seeing them for a while.

So what's for dinner tonight? Chicken Fajitas

Now, in the summertime I do make by own fajitas, where I marinate the meat, grill it and grill the vegetables. Well, it's October and my oldest son has a football game that will end at 5:30. So, I'm using a shortcut. It may seem contradictary to use a fajita kit and reducing the amount of pre-processed meals. To that, I have 2 answers. Number one: I won't really classify it as a pre-processed meal, as I am adding all my own meat and vegetables. Number two: I am a great believe in the 80/20 rule. If we do the right thing 80% of the time, then the other 20% we can be a little bad. (Just a little)

Now, because we won't be home until 6:00; and my boys (being 7 & 4) go to bed fairly early, I want as much of the prep done before we leave for the football field. I will grate the cheese, slice the vegetables, even slice the meat. If I have time, I may even make my Jalapeno Pesto.

When we get home, all we have to do is heat everything up in a skillet and eat.

Jalapeno Pesto:
In a food processor, add
1 bunch fresh cilanto
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Buzz the mixture for a few seconds, and while the food processor is running drizzle in about 1/4 c of olive oil, or enough to reach your desired consistacy.

Scoop the pesto into a mason jar or small resealable container. This will keep in the fridge for at least a couple weeks. It is great on steaks, steak sandwiches, burgers and of course, fajitas!