Sunday, December 30, 2012

Turn A Sick Day into a Prep Day

It's another chilly day here on Christmas vacation. Only 8 days left. My little one has had a bad cough for the last couple days so we are staying inside. But I was feeling a little like Old Mother Hubbard, and despitly needed a grocery store. All I had in my fruit & veggie drawers was half an onion, a wrinkled carrot and a very sad looking apple. My husband looked after the boys for a bit while I wandered the aisles of the grocery store.

Being stuck at home is not necessarily a bad thing. You can take the opportunity to prep the meals that are planned for the coming week. This is also a good habit to get into on shopping day. Wash and trim your fruits and vegetables, discard any questionable leftovers, blanch any vegetables you need for the next day or so, freeze meats into mealsized portions and mix any sauces you may require. Today, I made a batch of meatballs. Once they cool, place them in a freezer bag. They are now ready of a quick sauce for a quick dinner. I also cooked up a pound of bacon for our Sunday morning pancakes. You could also make a pasta sauce, cook up some meat for tacos or assemble an entire casserole (like mac & cheese) and freeze for future use.

Prep day can be an easy way to get ready an entire week of meals in just a couple hours. Prepping the night before is also an option. If you've put in the time prepping dinner before work, you'll be less likely  to choose take out or over processed meals. That's not to say you can't eat take out. But make a resolution to make it an exception, not a rule.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Slow Cooker Arroz Con Pollo

I have some leftover rice in the fridge, so am using the slow cooker to make this Cuban classic.

2 T canola oil
8 - 12 chicken legs
Salt & pepper
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 lg can diced tomatoes
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 T oregano
1/4 C sherry
1 C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 t achoite paste (or saffron, or paprika)
2 C cooked rice


In a skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken legs, seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to slow cooker. Add onions and garlic (both minced) to the skillet and saute then transfer to the slow cooker. Add the diced tomatoes, half the peppers, celery, sherry, chicken broth, oregano and achoite paste. Cook on low 5 - 7 hours. Add remaining peppers and rice. Stir and cook for 1 hour.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

As Seen on TV...

Well last week I had a very unique and fantastic experience when it comes to my culinary life. I appeared on a local morning news/ magazine show called Breakfast Television.( The segment was a holiday cookie exchange. I submitted my cookie recipe and was selected with 5 other recipes to be shared and exchanged on the air. That's me beside the cute blonde with the red t-shirt.

I didn't actually get to demonstrate my cookies, but it was so much fun.   Hey, BT: how about a segment featuring local food bloggers?!? I made 8 dozen cookies for this exchange, on top of the 12 dozen I made for my regular one. That is A LOT of cookies.  To see the segment as it aired, click here.

My recipe hasn't yet been posted on the Breakfast Television web site, but I can share it with you here. I love this recipe because it is so wonderfully simple. One of the things I look for in a cookie exchange recipe is to my egg-free, as the husband of someone in our exchange has an allergy to egg, and it is also gluten free. These are no-bake cookies - so anyone can make them, even if you don't like baking.


2 cups rolled oats
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
1/3 cup finely shredded sweetened coconut

In a food processor, pulse the oatmeal until a fine crumb. You should get about 1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups ground oatmeal. Place in a bowl and add peanut butter and honey. Mix well.

Form into balls and roll in coconut. To freeze, place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and put in the freezer. Once they are frozen, transfer to a cookie tin.

Makes about 3 dozen.

The variations for this recipe are practically endless. You can substitute 1/4 cup of the ground oatmeal for cocoa powder. You can use any nut-butter you wish, including the chocolate-hazelnut spread. You can roll in chopped nuts, chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

As an additional note, I used local honey for this recipe, from a farm near Treherne Manitoba. For more information contact:

Now, its 2 days until Christmas and admittedly I'm not as organized this year as in past years. My shopping was only done last week (usually done by dec 1) and my Christmas cards are late as well. The tree is finally up and I'm about to start wrapping. This year, as with most years we are having Christmas Eve dinner at our place; my brother and his family host Christmas morning brunch and my mom cooks this big turkey dinner Christmas night. So with all this work left to do, and several big meals on the horizon, one may ask...

What's for dinner tonight?

My advice would be "Keep it Simple"; and that's just what I'm doing. I've defrosted a little ham nugget that I'll heat in the oven for 30-40 minutes; with some potatoes and green salad. No recipe needed. This should give us enough leftovers to keep my kids in ham sandwiches until after Christmas.

Time to "Wrap it up";

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Early Snow Brings Soup for Dinner

It's been an odd week for weather here on the prairie. Last week, it was 26C and sunny with no end in sight, today cold and wet; dare I say SNOW. Yes, there IS snow falling today. Needless to say the Family BBQ that was planning with the Boy Scout Group was cancelled due to the impending winter storm so I needed to come up with something using what I had on hand. We've had ground beef a couple times already this week, and I used up my leftover chicken.

This blustery day called out soup to me, which in my house means "slow cooker". But what kind of soup to make? Googled a couple things, and flipped through a couple slow cooker magazines until I came across "Sante Fe Sweet Potato Soup". I didn't have sweet potato, but I had an acorn squash. This could be good.

So, at 7:30 this morning, I'm sauteing onions and garlic, roasting peppers and peeling squash, trying to get everything in the slow cooker before getting to school as today was the day I was volunteering in Jack's kindergarten class.  Well, it seemed to have worked out, for when we came home at lunchtime, the house smelled great! I pureed and added my last few ingredients and there's nothing left to do until dinnertime, except maybe make some biscuits... and apple crisp. (I love the fall)

In the midst of this, I also made the mash potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Don't worry. It's the "Make Ahead" Mashed Potatoes. Not only do you make them ahead of time, but you heat them up in the slow cooker. Ingenious! The last time I made them the recipe said to heat them in the oven in a casserole dish, but who has the room in the oven when making a turkey? This will save some much work and mess.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Sante Fe Acorn Squash Chowder

It's probably worth a note, that this would work with almost any winter squash.


1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 acorn squash, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 T New Mexico chili powder
1 potato, peeled and diced
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste.
1 roasted red pepper
1/2 C pumpkin puree
1 can (approx. 10oz) evapourated milk


In a pan, saute onion, garlic and celery in oil until softened. Transfer to a slow cooker. Place acorn squash, potato, broth, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 2-3 hours, until squash and potatoes are soft.  Add the red pepper. Using an hand held (stick) blender, puree the entire mixture. Mix int the pumpkin and milk.

Cook on low 2 -3 hours. Mix in lime juice and garnish with cilantro and sour cream.

As a note, do not use the slow cooker liners for this recipe if you are blending in the slow cooker. It WILL get chewed up. Remove the contents to blend in a traditional blender or food processor, or opt not to use the liner for this recipe.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Preparations

For us Canucks, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This year, my uncle from New Brunswick is coming for a visit so my mom is having a traditional dinner. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce... the works. Also this year is my turn for hosting the in-laws. My husband of course wants the traditional set up as well. Being a week before his birthday, sure why not. And I never complain about having turkey leftovers. (Turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey BLTs....)

Being true to myself, I wanted to add something a little different this year, but still staying traditional. I picked up an Acorn Squash at the store today and thought I would test run a side dish for Thanksgiving. I threw a chicken in the slow cooker and voila! Sunday dinner on a Tuesday.

The squash I chose to make is Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash and Carrots. I diced them (acorn squah and baby cut carrots) up and place in a bowl, then dressed them with a simple vinegarette of balsamic vinegar, rosemarry, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. (I used regular balsamic but next time I think I'll try the white balsamic) I then placed them in a baking dish (with the chicken to crisp the skin from the slow cooker) for about 40 minutes, flipping once or twice. It was easy as pie and tasted almost as good.

Now, I had offered about a month ago to make dessert for my mom's thanksgiving dinner, so I was trying to think of something I can make ahead of time and freeze. So, I think I'll double my pumpkin gingerbread swirl loaf recipe and turn it into a bundt cake and serve it the sweetened whip cream. The other dessert, I think I decided on a carrot roll cake. It will be everything we love about carrot cake rolled around cream cheese icing and topped with walnuts. I will share my recipe as soon as I work out the details. Did I mention my husband loves carrot cake?

Overall, I feel pretty organized, but will feel better once I get in the kitchen. Before you know it, we get to do it all again for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Love Fall

Yes, I really do love fall. I love the crispness in the morning air and the leaves when they change colour. And I love getting back into our regular routine. Admittedly, the meal planning has fall off the back burner in the lazy summer months, but no more. The kids are back at school (yeah) and the activities have started. Such is the life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom. My little one has started kindergarten and loves it. My 8-year-old can take it or leave it.

On my meal plan for tonight is written "Slow Cooker Chicken". I have a whole fryer chicken in the freezer, so I could make a roast slow cooker chicken, but was really not in the mood for that. I was pretty brisk this morning, so I knew I still wanted to dust off the slow cooker from months of neglect. I had a pound of ground chicken in the fridge, so how about.... meatballs. The kids love meatballs and I love creating something new with ground meats. (It's something about making the ordinary, extrordinary)

So, What's for dinner tonight?

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken Meatballs

I had found a recipe online, but it used chicken breasts, which from the pictures, looked like it was shredded; and there were no vegetables in it. So, in my version, I used my lean ground chicken and added a ton of vegetables. The kids loved it.

1 lb ground chicken
3 tbsp ground flaxseeds (or breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
1/2 onion, diced

Form into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to slow coooker with diced onions.

3/4 c honey
1/3 c tamari
1/4 c ketchup
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Asian hot sauce - or more to taste
2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 1/4 c chicken broth

Mix together and pour over chicken in the slow cooker. Cook on low 5-7 hours.
Add the vegetables:
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can baby corn, drained
3-4 oz snow peas

Give it a mix and cover for another 30-40 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
I particularly like this dish because there is so much you can make ahead of time. You can have the meatballs made and frozen in the freezer, you can make the sauce the night before and prep all the vegetables. Not only is dinner ready for you, but most of the cleanup is done too.

This would also work with ground pork, diced cooked chicken  or even browned pork chops.


Breaking the Picky Eating Cycle

I had a friend ask me the other day how to deal with her picky eater. Now, I am fortunate that this is not an issue I have to deal with. Both my boys are great eaters but I like to think it's because that's the way we trained them. But, I do have some tips for changing your picky eater. The quicker you catch it, the easier the transition.

I think the first thing you need to do is lead by example.It sounds simple enough, but you wouldn't believe how many adults I know that are picky eaters. If there is something you don't like, say in front of the child that you don't like it, and don't make faces. Try to keep a positive attitude. Make dinner a family event, not hitting the drive through between activities. Of course, in today's hustle and bustle lifestyle, that is not always a possibility but make dinner a priority, not an afterthought. Family dinners should be the norm, not the exception.

Another tip for picky eating is the one bite rule.In our house, when we are trying a new food, we have to have at least one bite. If you don't like it after that, then this time you don't have to eat it. The next time that dish is made, that one bite may turn into two. As an additional caveat to the rule, is always have something on the plate that they do like. If you know your child like raw carrots with dip, then you can make that part of the meal. But that meals everyone eats the carrots and dip. If after the carrots, and the one bite of the new food, they are still hungry I recommend offering them a "whole food". That is, something healthy and unprocessed. That could be an apple, glass of milk or yogurt... something along those lines. After all, I'm a mom, not a short-order cook.  If they are still hungry after that, then I hope they like breakfast. (Yes, a little old-school) I have tried to steer away from bribery and deal making. "If you eat your peas, you can have a cookie" sort of thing. As someone who deals with a weight issue, I didn't want my kids to have food as a reward.

Getting you children involved in cooking is a good idea for many reasons. When my kids were really little, we had a toy barbeque and microwave with a big box of toy food right in the kitchen. My 5-year old still loves to play with it, and will often play restaurant or create some wonderful dish and serve it to us. At the grocery store, have your children name the different items in the produce aisle. Maybe even bring one home to try. Let them know that trying new foods is fun. As the children get older they can have more input. Let them rip up the lettuce for the salad, measure the tomato sauce or crack an egg into a bowl. Let them tell everyone what "they made for dinner".You can let them pick one part of the meal... "Sally, would you like to have peas or carrots with dinner?" Older ones can start to cook. My 7-year old will make his own scrambled eggs and flip pancake. By the time they are teenagers, full responsibility for a meal could be a weekly occurance. After all, dinner is a family event.

As parents, we are always creating habits for our kids, good and bad and this is one of them. When toddlers start "terrible-twos" some of it is a control issue. Giving your child a little age-appropreate control when it comes to food will work wonders. As with everything set expectation and follow through.

Post a comment with specific questions about picky eating and I'll do my best to help.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bring Out Your Inner Child

It all started Tuesday last week when the boys and I came in from outside to see water on the kitchen floor. The dishwasher had leaked. By Friday it was fixed (corroded coupler) and we were off to the cottage for the long weekend. Saturday was rainy but it was nice to finally be at the cabin. We built a fire in the wood stove to stay toasty warm, and watched a couple movies. My boys have taken to the movie "Caddyshack". They laugh at the gopher everytime. Sunday we spent a beautiful day landscaping and was settling in for the boys' bedtime routine. In the middle of our movie, the TV died... just died. I did what I could, but I'm afraid she's lost.

We made an early escape Monday and started the chore of unpacking, laundry and re-packing for the following week. Tuesday my youngest woke up with a sore stomache and was sick shortly thereafter. And to top things off, my van didn't start. My darling husband came to the rescue and came home from work to boost the car, then I was off to the mechanic for a new battery.

While driving with white knuckles all the way to the garage, all I could think about was all the things I needed to get done that day. Groceries, laundry, dinner and soccer snack. Luckily Jack was on the mend. So what's for dinner. I need something easy. I need something I could make with what's in my house already. But most importantly, I need something that will make me feel better. Yes, mom's need comfort food too. Today was a Mac & Cheese day!

My mom didn't make scratch Mac & Cheese. I don't know why. She just didn't. Probably because her mom didn't. So, this recipe is a variation of my mother-in-law's Mac & Cheese. I made it in the afternoon so I could just through it in the oven when it was dinner time, and I could have the mess cleaned up before we left for soccer. You can certainly make this the night before. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Baked Mac & Cheese with Bacon

2-3 T butter
2-3 T flour
1 can evaporated milk (skim or low-fat)
2 C sharp cheddar, grated
1 T dry mustard powder
1 t smoked paprika
1 package elbow macaroni, cooked- I use whole wheat
4-5 slices cooked bacon, chopped

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and mix for a couple minutes. This creates a roux and will thinken the sauce. Add the can of milk and whisk until smooth. I like to use the canned milk because some of the liquid has already evaporated and makes the sauce that much quicker.

Once the sauce is smooth, add the cheese gradually. Add the mustard powder and paprika. I'm using smoked paprika because I am adding the bacon. It just adds to the smokiness. You could use regular paprika too. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Pour into a greased baking dish and top with chopped bacon pieces.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until bubbly. If you are cooking it from the fridge, it may need a little longer. Serve with a salad. This isn't the healthies thing I've made, but I have made ingredient choices to make it less sinful. After all, they don't call it comfort food for nothing. This classic dish gives you a hug from the inside to make you smile on the outside. The stresses of the day (or week as it were) are melted away and replaced with cheesy goodness.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Iron Chef's Dinner Solution in 5 Minutes Flat

I was watching a bit of The Chew this morning and I was intrigued by Michael Symon's Italian Goulash he made during the segment "5 in 5". That is, 5 ingredients in 5 minutes. Tonight is soccer night and after homework, we have to get out the door pretty fast, so I thought I would give it a try. I have almost everything on hand, and it will be better than the chicken fingers I had planned. (Yes, even the best of us use chicken fingers on occasion)

I have a busy afternoon planned, getting ready for my sister-in-law to visit from California on the weekend. We are having a family dinner on Friday when we are planning grilled chicken, grilled asparagus, baked potatoes and spinach salad. (Strawberry Crumble Pie for dessert) More about that meal another day.

I'd been a while since I've tried a recipe from a celebrity chef, but it did look easy enough for a weekday meal and something my family would actually eat. It's based on a classic Italian dish, sausage and peppers, served over egg noodles. I think I'll add some extra vegetables to mine, like tomatoes and zucchini. Also, I don't have fresh basil at the moment - I'll probably use a bit of dried, or some pesto.

So, between loads of laundry and other chores, I'll get my prep done - chopping vegetables etc. You could do this part the night before and either wrap in plastic wrap, or place in a resealable container if you are unavailable during the day.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Michael Symon's Italian Goulash

This is exactly the kind of recipe I like for those nights during the week when time is precious. I like to have my prep and clean up done in advance for easy assembly.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Planning Dinner around the Weather

It's been a busy spring so far. They boys' swimming lessons changed to Monday nights, and starting next week they both play soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The weather has also been unseasonably warm for the most part. Even though it's April, we are able to use the barbeque on several occasions. I like to barbeque during the week as often as I can. So here's a quick tip to make it an easy transition.

We all like a grilled burger, but it's not an "everyday" food. If you want to switch it up and still make use for the outdoor grill throughout the week try marinating your meat. My trick takes a little planning. When the large packages of meat are on sale, I take what I am not using in the next couple days and place what I need for a meal the whole family (e.g. For 2 adults & 2 kids I use 3 skinless boneless chicken breasts) and place it in a resealable freezer bag with a marinate. You can use your own or store bought. You can even use a salad dressing. Lay it flat and remove the air. (labeling with a marker is also helpful) Place it in the freezer until the day you are ready to use it. Take it out of the freezer in the morning you are planning to use it. By the time dinnertime rolls around, the meat is thawed and full of flavour.

I do this a lot during cottage season. I'll bring up with us my frozen marinated meat. It is perfect portioned, the mess is already cleaned up since I did all the prep at home, and I don't have to stock the cottage pantry with tonnes of spices, oils and vinegars.

For a basic marinade you only need a couple key things. The first is an acid. This can be citrus juice, vinegar or even a can of ginger ale. Next you want some supporting flavours. Things like garlic, herbs, spices and/or chilies. The last thing is some liquid to allow the flavours to surround the meat. I like to use an inexpensive, neutral tasting oil, like vegetable or canola oil. Although you could use your best olive oil, it seems like a bit of a waste to me. Then like most recipes, a pinch of salt and pepper.

There are some great store bought marinades and I do use them on occasion. But the beauty of making your own is that YOU control the ingredients. You can make it just the way you want and you can control things like fat, sugar and salt.

I'll add one more tip to make dinner a little easier... grill your vegetables! Really, there is nothing better. Corn, zuchinni, peppers, asparagus all work wonderfully. A little olive oil, salt and pepper and you are ready to go. It's less dishes to clean and less running in and out of the house to make sure everything get on the table hot and at the same time.

And girls... don't be afraid of the grill! It's not just for the men. Be your own GRILL MASTER.

Need a recipe to get started? Here's what's for dinner tonight.

Grilled Tarragon Mustard Chicken
This recipe came to be because I had leftover tarragon from another recipe for a recipe contest. (Lobster Mac & Cheese made it to the finals) Doing a quick search, I found that tarragon was often paired with mustard.  I'm not a huge mustard fan; so you can add more if you like. I find that the way it is, you can taste the mustard, but it is not overpowering.

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don't have sherry vinegar)
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large freezer bag place the chicken.

In a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. Pour over the chicken.

All to marinate in the fridge for at least hour.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Sear each side (bottom grill) 3 -4 minutes a side then most to the top rack and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Original Mardi Gras

When planning my weekly dinners I always try to incorporate any "special days" into the schedule. Things like Sp-BOO-ghetti and meatballs for Halloween or enchiladas on Cinqo de Mayo help to create family tradition as well as learning opportunties.

This week was one of those days. Although not well known, it was always a treat in my house when I was growing up. I'm talking about Pancake Tuesday, of course.

The pancake can go by several names. Pancakes, flapjacks, hot cakes, griddle cakes, crepes. Similiarly, as you may not have heard of Pancake Tuesday, I can all but guarentee you have heard of one of it's other names... Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras literally translates into "Fat Tuesday". It is the day before Ash Wednesday, and Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent... a period of fasting and self sacrifice to prepare the soul for Easter, as Jesus did for 40 days in the desert. In the days preceeding Mardi Gras, Christians would be trying to use up all the non-essential items so they wouldn't go to waste. By the time Fat Tuesday can, typically all that was left was flour, eggs and milk - so what they made was pancakes. I can't be certain, but I believe this started in Canada with the Acadians and followed them to Louisana when they were expelled from Canada by the British in 1755.

So I can imagine in the days preceeding Ash Wednesday, great feasts and parties being prepared to empty the cupboards for Lent. And through evolution, transformed into the New Orleans festival of Mardi Gras.

So, pancakes for dinner? Sure. Why not? It's quick, easy and kids love them. I added a little bacon and a fruit salad to round things off.

You could use a pancake mix - that is totally acceptable. In fact, most times I make pancakes that's how I do it. To add a little healthy kick to it, I'll add a little ground flax seeds and oat bran to the mix. Just adjust the water to the right consistancy. But, if you wanted to make "From Scratch" pancakes here's a recipe that was given to me by my friend's mom several years ago.

Homemade Pancakes

2 cups flour

2 cups milk

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

You can substitute different flours, use buttermilk instead of regular, even soy milk would be good. But this is a good place to get started. If you want to try a traditional Acadian pancake (ployes) here's a recipe I found. It used buckwheat flour instead of all-purpose.

For something extrordinary, try this Cinnamon Bun pancakes. They are truely worth it.

If you have never cooked a pancake or are unsure; here are some tips.

1. Start with a hot pan

2. Use butter or some sort of fat to coat the pan. This will help the pancake not to stick, but also help to carmelize it.

3. When adding things like bananas, chocolate chips or blueberries, I like to add them in the pan. Pour the batter to the desired size, them sprinkle your additions on top. This way you can ensure even distribution.

4. Watch for bubbles. When the bubbles come to the top, and stay; and the edges of the pancake start to look dry, it is time to flip.

Whether you call them pancakes, hot cakes, johnny cakes or flap jacks flip your family's dinner over with this original Mardi Gras tradition.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stepping Out of the Weekly Rut

Last spring, when my boys had swimming lessons at 5:00, we had a pretty good routine. I would pick up my son from school and we would go right to the pool. The pool had a little sitting area where we would could have a snack (I usually packed something) and do homework. We finished up around 4:30, which gave us enough time to change without rushing and maybe watch the diving team. When we got home, we would have a quick dinner, which on most nights was scrambled eggs and toast. If you ask my kids, they'll tell you that this is their favourite dinner. So, eggs for dinner became synonymous with swimming night.

This year, the lessons start a little later which allowed us to eat a light dinner (eggs, toast and raw veggies) before we left, then a piece of fruit and glass of milk when we got home. This week, I had another idea. Something I thought the kids would like, that would give them enough protein and vegetables to make it through swimming, and not be starving by breakfast. I made Sloppy Joes. Too make it even easier, I used the slow cooker but in a short time you could also make it in a skillet. Or as a faster alternative, make the meat with sauce the night before. Place in some Tupperware in the fridge. Simply toast the buns and heat up the meat mixture in the microwave. (Nice lunch idea too)

To my surprise, I only found a couple cookbooks with recipes for Sloppy Joes, none of which jumped out at me so I came up with this one. But if you have a favourite recipe, call your mom or dig it out, and reintroduce your family to a busy-night, quick dinner solution that will have them coming back for more.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Chipotle Ranch Sloppy Joes


1 T vegetable or canola oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground beef (pref. extra lean)

1/4 C ground flaxseeds

1 pobano pepper, finely chopped

1 small can chopped green chilies

1 T chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pureed (or more to taste)

1 C chili sauce

1 t cumin

1 T red wine vinegar

1 C coleslaw mix

1-2 T ranch dressing


4 burger buns


In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic. Once the onions have cooked a couple minutes, add the meat; breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. When the meat is almost completely cooked, add the flaxseeds. Mix well.

Transfer mixture to a slow cooker. Add the pepper, chilies, chipotles, chili sauce, cumin and vinegar. Mix well. Set to low, and let cook 6 - 8 hours.

In a small bowl, mix together coleslaw mix and ranch dressing.

When you are ready to serve, butter the buns and toast in a skillet. Place 1/4 of the meat mixture on the bun. Top with 1/4 of the coleslaw mixture.

As a note, if you have never bought chipotle peppers before, they are smoked jalapeno peppers in a tomato/ vinegar sauce and are usually found in the Mexican food aisle in a can. When I bring them home, I place the entire jar in the food processor and puree it, then place it in a freezer bag or container and use it as I need it. You can also substitute it for Chipotle Chili Powder.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Sunday is more than Football

I don't think there is anything more "American" than Superbowl Sunday. But as a Canadian, I too can appreciate the signifigance of this institution known all over the world as "Superbowl Sunday". But the Superbowl is more than just about the game... who wins, who loses, how many fumbles. And even more than the halftime show or commercials. It's about getting together with good friends and having good food.

I was never much of a football fan. I understand the game and appreciate it's nuances but it wasn't until my oldest son, Danny started playing when I really got excited about the game.

This Sunday, we are going to the home of good friends of ours. It so happens that our hostess is a wonderful cook, as is her daughter. (Wants to a chef when she grows up). So, there is our trifecta. Good football, good friends and good food. A glorious Sunday indeed. In addition to the flatbread salad (see previous post) I am bringing a Hot Spinach, Crab and Artichoke Dip served with pita crisps and assorted crackers. I can make it ahead of time and bake it when we get to our destination.

Spinach, Crab and Artichoke Dip


1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1 10oz package frozen spinach (thawed, drained and patted dry)
1 can or jar (8-10 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (in food processor works great)
1 can (6-7oz) crab meat, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pinch tarragon


In a bowl, soften cream cheese. Add in spinach, artichokes, crab and garlic. Mix well.

Add in the parmesan, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne and tarragon. Blend together.

Place mixture in an oven proof dish and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until it is bubbly. Serve with chips, crackers or pitas.

And trust me, in the off chance you have some leftover (and you proably won't) it is too good to waste. You can freeze it for a snack later or even use it as a pasta sauce heated in a pan with a little olive oil.

So to all of you - fill your plates and GO PATRIOTS!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Salad Pizza... a new Superbowl tradition

This afternoon we were at my in-laws for lunch. I had offered to bring something as I always do. I was stumped on what to bring. What was planned quite casual. Sandwiches with fresh deli and fresh bread, deviled eggs and the like. It was delicious, by the way.

Earlier in the week, when the menu was discussed I decided to bring something healthy, something that didn't require forks and something that went with the casual theme yet still nice enough to impress the in-laws.

So, I put my thinking cap on and mentally went through some of the options and I flipped through a number of cookbooks. I'll try to explain the best I can the journey my brain takes me on during my "creative process".

My best idea at this point was a cold vegetable pizza. I have made them before, using a refrigerated crescent crust, baked off and spread with a mixture of cream cheese and ranch dressing, then sprinkled liberally with finely chopped vegetables. It is delicious, but hardly impressive and definitely could be healthlier. So, I recalled something I had at a meeting once - something I call bagel bites. A bagel, cut into 6 wedges and spread with cream cheese cand topped with different fruits and vegetables. But, what I really wanted to bring was a nice salad. A salad requires a fork - how can I make a salad you can eat with your hands? So after a few more rounds of mental ping-pong I came up with this salad pizza. Yes, a salad you eat with your hands!

Mediterranian Flatbread Salad


1 12" multi-grain flatbread

1 8oz pkg cream cheese (light), room temperature

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp dried oregano

salt & pepper

1/4 C red pepper, finely chopped

1/4 C green pepper, finely chopped

1/2 english cucumber, peeled & finely chopped

1 roma tomato, chopped

1/4 C red onion, finely chopped

3 tbsp black olives, drained, pitted and chopped

1/2 C feta crumbles


Place flatbread on a pizza pan.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a pastry brush, brush the flat bread with the olive oil mixture and bake according to package directions. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

In another bowl, place the cream cheese. Add 3 tbsp of the olive oil mixture. Mix well.

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the flatbread. Sprinkle with peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and olives. Top with feta and drizzle the remaining dressing.

I can made ahead and refrigerated at this point.

Prior to serving, slice into wedges.

This was a new way to serve salad, and will definitely do it again. I plan to make it for the Superbowl, for the Scout potluck dinner, and even at the cottage.

As an additional note: instead of mixing olive oil with the other ingredients, you can use bottle Greek salad dressing. It would taste (almost) as good. I had a co-worker once from Greece and have me his recipe for Greek salad dressing. I may never use store bought again.

I also wanted to mention, while testing this recipe I cut up WAY too many vegetables, so I plan to make a Greek Salad wrap. I'll use my vegetables with some cooked chicken, the feta and a little dressing; all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just the Flax, Ma'am

It is a cold, blustery day out there. This morning it was -38 with the windchill. A good day to stay in bed and watch the Food Network. Unfortunately, that it's an option today. It is also a good day for a nice hot bowl of slow cooker comfort food! But, I would like to share a little secret ingredient... a nutrional powerhouse that can make any dish, even your favourite comfort food a little healthier. It is FLAX!

I add ground flax seeds to something almost everyday. From pancakes to cupcakes this veratile seed is a staple in my house. There are 3 major nutrional components to flax seeds. (1) OMEGA-3 (2) LIGNANS (3) FIBRE

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means it's a "good" fat that your body requires but cannot produce itself. It helps protect us from heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer as well as increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. It is also aids in retina and brain development in infants.

Lignans are compounds that help protect us against some cancers particularly colon and breast cancer. Lignans also help the body flight viruses and other infections.

Fibre is an important compontent of any diet to help regulate the digestive system and to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

So, to use flax seeds effectively, you need to know a couple things. (1) The flax seeds must be ground to be readily absorbed into the body. Whole flax seeds will pass right through. You can buy ground flax seeds in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or in health food or bulk stores. (2) Since it contains oil, it can go rancid so keep it in the fridge, in an air tight container.

So, now that you know my secret what's for dinner tonight?

Chili Con Carne

You can make this in a slow cooker or large sauce pan. I prefer the slow cooker.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
3 C tomato sauce
1 5.5oz can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C Mexican beer (like Corona) or beef broth
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp New Mexico chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp caynne pepper - or more to taste
2-3 poblano peppers, chopped
1 serrano pepper or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 lime
shredded monteray jack or cheddar cheese


In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and allow them to sweat. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula while it cooks. Add flax seeds.

Transfer meat mixture to a slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beer and spices. Cover and turn on low 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 - 4 hours. PLEASE: DO NOT use pasta sauce, use tomato sauce. Pasta sauce contains extra sugars, salt and other ingredients.

One hour before serving at peppers, stir, cover and place on high it not already.

After an hour, zest and juice 1 lime and stir. Serve with shredded cheese on top.

Apple Crumble


1 C oatmeal
2 tbsp flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1/3 C butter
pinch of salt
3-4 apples
2 tbsp flour
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, salt, flax seeds and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until resembles coarse crumbs.

In a 8" round cake pan, or 8" sqaure pan place apples that have been peeled, cored and cut into wedges. Toss with flour. Sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle topping over the apples and press slightly. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are tender.

Now if that doesn't warm us up, nothing will.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Well, the kids are back at school and activities have started up again. Things are starting to feel "back to normal" after the hussle and bussel of Christmas. We had a nice holiday, fairly low key. My dad broke his ribs outside my son's school after the Christmas concert so we simplified things a fair bit this year. It definitly shifts your priorities... makes you remember what's important and what Christmas is really about.

So, we start a new year and as usually we make promises to ourselves to improve our lives. This year my New Years Resolution is a health related one. Like most of us, I would like to lose a few extra pounds. But instead of the big New Year's Resolution of "I'm going to lose weight this year", I'm making smaller ones that will propel me to my goal. So, here are my New Year's Resolutions...
1. I am going to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, therefore reducing the amount of diet soda consumed
2. I am going to eat 5-8 servings fruits and vegetables a day
3. I am going to go to the gym at least 3 times a week.

You may want to ask... how is a meal plan going to help me? Well, when you make your meal plan you make healthier decision. Plan your sensible meals and grocery shop according to your plan. You keep less junk in the house and fight the temptation in the grocery store. Secondly, when you know you have the chicken thawed when you get home, you are less likely to grab the fast food on the way home.

So, my advice to those making New Year's Resolutions is this...
1. Make small, measurable, obtainable goals
2. Make a plan to reach your goals.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Well, tonight is swimming lessons and they happen to be right at dinner time. So, what works for us is, a small meal before swimming and a small snack afterwards. So, tonight we are having scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and a tossed salad. After swimming will be yogurt and a piece of fruit. Not complicated at all, but happens to be one of my kids' favourite dinners. (We call it "Scrambies") My husband is working late and has taken leftovers from a previous night. He'll have that and a salad for dinner.

I should mention the importance of leftovers. I will usually make enough of any dinner so I can package them up as lunches or dinners. I place them in plastic containers, label them and place them in the freezer. I keep them as single servings. It's like a TV dinner but made with love, not to mention all your own ingredients. Much healthier than the store bought counterparts.

Good luck everyone with those New Year's Resolutions!