Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Menu: Week of February 18 to 24

Ham and Potato Soup with a Salad
This soup was really hearty and what I would definitely call comfort food.  It would have been great with a baguette for dipping, but alas, wheat and I have parted ways. Here’s the recipe.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans
I love a good one-dish meal and this one was fabulous!  I made it for Sunday dinner but as long as you have 50 minutes to bake it, it was quick to throw together.  I might go a bit lighter on the lemon next time by not putting the slices in the bottom of the baking dish.  I will be adding this to our regular dinner rotation!  Find it HERE.  

Chicken Asparagus Penne and Caesar Salad
This pasta dish is a favourite in our house and one we’ve had on rotation for several years.  It is super-quick and delicious.  I don’t have a formal recipe for this one, but this is what I do:

Cook a bag of penne pasta (I use brown rice pasta).
In a large skillet (I use a wok-like deep frying pan), cook 3 or 4 chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces in some olive oil.  Add in a few cloves of minced garlic (to your taste), some salt and pepper and add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional).  Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces and add it to the chicken once cooked, but only when the pasta is cooked and you’re ready to mix everything… nobody likes mushy asparagus!  Add the pasta and drizzle some more olive oil to coat it.  Grate a bunch of FRESH parmesan cheese, stir it up and cook just till the cheese is melted.  YUM!

Easy Crockpot Fiesta Chicken with Rice and Broccoli
I found this recipe on Pinterest!  Very good, would definitely make it again.  I used 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts, but would cut it to 6 at the most next time, as it made a LOT for just the three of us.  I served it over rice with some grated cheddar to garnish and steamed broccoli.  Here’s the recipe.

Mexican Pulled Pork and Pinto Beans (Crock Pot) with Roasted Cauliflower
See THIS post!  For the cauliflower, I toss it with some olive oil and salt and pepper and roast it in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or till it’s done.   

Pork Stir Fry
This is also a repeat – click HERE.

Pita Pizzas
As simple as it sounds!  Pitas make a great thin pizza crust.  I buy a can of pizza sauce, some mozzarella, pepperoni and use whatever veggies we have on hand like onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.  They cook up very fast in the oven – 5 minutes or so at 400 then I usually broil them for a minute or two at the end. 

Happy cooking!



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our Menu: Week of February 11 to 17

This week I tried four new recipes ,three of which I found on Pinterest (my newest obsession!). 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Feta
This was quick, easy and delicious! I would definitely make it again.  I used brown rice spaghetti and we had a salad with it.  Make sure to buy pitted Kalamata olives!
Click HERE for the recipe.

Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken with Red Beans and Rice
I am not a fan of coconut at all, but recipes with coconut milk are usually delicious, and these two didn’t disappoint!  I used chicken legs, but next time I'd use breasts.  Both recipes also call for a scotch bonnet pepper, but I used a jalapeno and it didn't add any heat at all.  I cooked this on a Sunday because the recipes were not quick and required more time and work than I have on a weeknight.  We had steamed asparagus and a salad with it.  Here are the links to the recipesChicken and Red Beans and Rice 

Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos and Steamed Green Beans
This was delicious!  I served the pork in corn tortillas with sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, tomatoes and green onions as toppings.  I used a pork loin and it was so tender and pulled apart easily. YUMMY!!!  Here’s the RECIPE.

Crockpot Honey Sauced Chicken
This is cooking right now as I type this and oooooh it smells good!  It tastes good too!  I had 2 chicken breasts and 4 chicken thighs in the freezer, so I put them all in the crock with this sauce.  The recipe says to cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, but I shredded it with a fork.  We`ll have it over rice with some steamed broccoli and a salad.  Click HERE for the recipe. 

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Salad
I try not to make pasta more than once a week, but I wanted something quick and easy for Friday night, so pasta it was!  I cook up some Italian sausages (hot or mild), cut them up into bite size pieces when they are cooked and put into some pasta sauce.  Again, brown rice spaghetti and a salad complete this meal.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Menu: Week of February 4-10

Fajitas and Steamed Asparagus
Chicken breasts, peppers, onions, a fajita “kit” if you like, and there’s dinner.  I make my own fajita seasoning, use corn tortillas and add salsa, sour cream and grated cheddar for toppings.  Steam some asparagus on the side and there you have it!

“Schlop” and Salad
This is something I’ve been making for Brayden since he was really young and it’s still one of his favourites.  It started as kind of my own version of “Hamburger Helper” since I prefer not to buy packaged, processed foods like that and it’s really simple.  Brown some ground chicken (or beef if you like) in a large pan on the stove with some olive oil.  Sprinkle in some dried oregano, basil, and salt and pepper, all to taste.  Mince a couple of fresh garlic cloves and add to the mix.  When the chicken is cooked, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes then grate a bunch of fresh parmesan into it.  Sometimes I add mozzarella too, if I have some.  I don’t know measurements, I just keep grating until it looks cheesy enough! Cook a bag of pasta (penne or rotini) and when it’s done, drain it, add it to the mixture and stir it up. Let it all simmer for a bit to let the cheese melt and that’s it.   A note:  I use brown rice penne or rotini, which honestly doesn’t hold up as well in this particular recipe as wheat pasta does, but I use it anyway.  Served with a salad.

Butter Chicken and Cauliflower with Basmati Rice and Salad
See this post!  I skipped the Chana Masala this time as I didn’t have time to make it.

Pork Stir Fry
Jason likes to make a stir fry, so he cooked this one.  He used a pork tenderloin sliced really thin and whatever veggies we had on hand.  A little sesame oil, fresh garlic and an onion for seasoning, along with a splash of Teriyaki sauce and you have a delicious stir fry. Served over sticky rice.

Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese and Salad
Love this!  See this post

Baked Chicken, Mushroom and Rice Casserole and Salad
This is a new one out of a cookbook I borrowed from the library called Not Your Mother’s Casseroles.  We really enjoyed this and I would make it again.  The recipe calls for 1 cup of rice, but I used 1 ½ cups and it was just enough to cover the bottom of my casserole dish.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but I’d try it with chicken breasts next time.  I should also mention that this isn’t that quick to make so it would be best saved for a weekend or a day when you have more time. 

Casserole Dish:  9-13 inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole
Bake time: 1 hour

1 cup cooked rice (white or brown, see my note above)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary (I used dried and just sprinkled a bit in the bottom of the dish)
2 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
½ pound white mushrooms, sliced
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 2/3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (I used regular paprika)
¾ cup plain yogurt (I think sour cream would work well too, but NOT light – too runny)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease the baking dish with olive oil.  Spread the rice in an even layer in the dish, place the sprig of rosemary in the centre (or sprinkle a bit of dried over the rice).

Cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces, season with S and P, and cook in a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Sauté until brown, remove from pan and place on top of rice in the baking dish.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and let them cook until they are nice and golden brown.  The longer you let them cook, the better and the more flavourful they will become.  If necessary, add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook till he onion is translucent (approx 5 mins).

Raise the heat to high and add the broth.  Bring to a simmer scraping brown bits from the pan.  Remove from heat and stir in the paprika, 1 ½ tsp of salt and the yogurt.

Pour the broth and mushroom mixture over the rice and chicken. Cover the dish tightly with foil or a lid and bake for 55 minutes.  Remove the foil or lid and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Things I’ve Learned after Baby’s First 6 Months

These are my best pieces of advice for new moms and moms-to-be.  Enjoy! 

Meet other Moms!  Join Mom groups, go to mom and baby classes and activities, socialize with other moms, even if it’s just online.  It is so important to talk things out, learn from each other, and to have people to bounce ideas/frustrations/etc. off of.  It will truly make you feel less alone, and I can tell you there will be days when you feel like you are the only person in the world going through whatever new challenge your baby has thrown at you!

Breastfeeding is worth it.  It is not easy at first, but it gets easier as time goes on.  Not to mention it’s free and it’s convenient.  It really does take a good 40 days to establish breastfeeding, so don’t give up.  At times I found it physically and emotionally draining, but now it’s a piece of cake and I’m truly glad I stuck with it.  If you’re pregnant now, considering getting pregnant or have a newborn, READ READ READ about breastfeeding now.  I still refer to the book I bought before O was born all the time – The Nursing Mother’s Companion.  

Get out of the house!  Go out every day if you can, even if just for a 20 minute walk.  I’ve been super lucky to be off during one of the best winters on record and have been able to get out daily.  Buy a good stroller, put your runners on and just go.  Your baby will be happier and YOU will be happier. 

Take advantage of free activities!  The public library is a great place!  We go to Baby Stories and Songs each week and it is great fun.  You should also check out an Ontario Early Years Centre near you.  Not only do they have amazing free programming, it’s a great way to meet other moms in your ‘hood. O just ""graduated from Baby Picasso class with a BBA (Bachelor of Baby Art) from our neighbourhood centre.

If you would like to know about any of the groups or other activities that we do, leave me a comment! 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Pinterest - My Newest Obsession!

Somebody help me, I can’t stop pinning! Pinning, you say?  What the…?

Pinterest is an online bulletin board of sorts.  It’s a way to create visual bookmarks of your favourite things, places you want to visit, recipes you’d like to try, and ideas you’d like to remember.  It’s a great way to organize craft ideas, home renovation concepts, birthday party ideas and many other things. 

What I like about it (other than the fact that I can pin with one hand while the baby nurses or sleeps in the other – haha!) is that you can see what other pinners have been up to and get fabulous ideas from people you don’t even know. This is how it works:  you see something that someone else pinned on the Pinterest home page and you can choose to “re-pin” it to one of your bulletin boards and so on and so on. It is like a chain reaction that can consume hours!   You can also choose to pin something from any website you visit with a quick click.  Later, by clicking on one of your pins you will be lead to its orginating site (i.e.,  the website where a recipe resides).

Pinterest has made me want to become more crafty, bake and cook more, renovate my house, and become a super mom who makes amazing and cute snacks for my kids and gives them the best birthday parties ever!  Maybe some of these things are pipe dreams, but I do find it inspirational and motivational, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

If you haven’t started pinning yet, I warn you, once you start, it’s hard to stop!  If you need an invitation to join, just let me know!

Happy Pinning!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Our Menu: Week of January 28 to February 3

I only have five meals this week since a couple of days sort of fell apart when we started sleep training with O.  Here they are!

Chicken Parmesan

There’s nothing fancy about this one!  I use jarred or canned pasta sauce (I really like Hunt’s Thick and Rich 4 cheese, although there’s nothing low calorie about it) and sometimes we have a bagged Caesar salad with it or a steamed vegetable.  I coat the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in breadcrumbs that I season with S&P, garlic powder and oregano and bake it on a parchment-lined baking pan.  When the chicken is cooked, I spoon some sauce over each piece and grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top then broil for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Served with brown rice pasta (spaghetti, penne, whichever you like). 

Easy-peasy!  I always use ground chicken (I don’t eat beef) and sometimes buy a taco kit.  Occasionally I make my own taco seasoning using this recipe and now that I’m gluten-free I buy corn tortillas.  Shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, salsa and diced tomatoes for toppings.  Served with a salad and/or a steamed vegetable.

Jen’s “Jambalaya”
Traditional jambalaya has shrimp and smoked sausage, but I don’t like either, so I use mild Italian sausage (a package of 5 or 6) and 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Here’s how I make it:

Cook the sausages (whole) in a big skillet (I use a wok-like deep frying pan).  When they are almost cooked, I cut up the chicken breasts into large bite size pieces and add them to the skillet.  Once the sausages are cooked, take them out and slice them into 1 inch pieces and put them back in the skillet.  Add in two chopped peppers, three stalks of chopped celery, and one chopped onion.  Occasionally I add mushrooms if I have extras on hand.  Saute this all together till the chicken is cooked.  Sprinkle in 1-2 tbsp of dried thyme (depending on how much you like thyme) and a PINCH of cayenne pepper.  Add a can of diced tomatoes, plus half a can of water.  Add 1.5 cups of uncooked rice.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.  This really is a complete one-dish meal but we also have a salad with it.

Coq au Vin

Jack Tripper’s specialty!  I loved Three’s Company.  RIP John Ritter. 
I have made this one twice, once in the crock pot using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and once on the stove top in a large pot using skinless bone-in chicken thighs. I actually preferred it on the stove top with the bone-in thighs.  I let it cook for about 2.5 hours on the stove top which was plenty of time. The chicken all fell apart in the crock when I did it that way.  I skipped the fresh tarragon too.  This is not a throw-it-in-the-crockpot-before-work kind of recipe.  It does take some preparation and pre-cooking, so I save this one for the weekend.  It is good over rice and I have tried it over rice stick noodles which was nice too.  Click HERE for the recipe. 

BBQ Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot
This is the second time I’ve attempted BBQ pulled pork using different recipes and I just can’t get it right.  There just seems to be way too much BBQ sauce and it comes out super sweet.  We did eat it though, with rice and steamed broccoli and a salad.  Here’s the recipe I used, but I wouldn’t make this particular one again.

I mention that we have salad often, and thought I should comment on that.  I hate, hate, hate making salad, especially when it means washing lettuce!  The only way we are sure to have salad regularly is to buy pre-washed mixed salad greens.  Throw in a few cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, maybe some cucumber and a crumble of blue cheese and you have an amazing salad!  I also make all my own dressings, which are much better than store-bought.  Salad dressing is simple to make.  A basic vinaigrette is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and sugar.  Just mix it up to your taste!

Bon Appetit! 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Our Menu: Week of January 21 to 27

First, my apologies for not posting this sooner!  I've been a little busy getting little O on track with sleep and naps.  Here is our menu from the week of January 21 to 27, 2012. 

Mexican Pulled Pork and Pinto Beans (Crock Pot) 
This is a rotating favourite of ours in the fall/winter.  I adapted a recipe called “Pork Burrito Bowls”, which was neither a burrito nor a bowl, into this.  I don’t have a ‘recipe’ per se, but this is what I do:

Sprinkle a package of taco seasoning in the crock pot, pour in some salsa (our fave is Herdez, and I use about half the jar), a cup of water (this amount can vary depending on the size of your pork roast or tenderloin) and add a can of pinto beans (don’t drain).  Stir it up so that the taco seasoning gets well mixed.  Then place a good size pork tenderloin or a 1.5-2 lb pork loin roast in the crock. Spoon some of the liquid over top of the pork. Cook it on high for 6 hours or low for 8, or until the pork is done.  Pull the pork apart with a fork and mix it all up.  I serve it over rice with a dollop of sour cream on top and sometimes some extra salsa.  As a side, we will have steamed broccoli and a salad.   You could also make this into burritos and put it in tortillas. 

Butter Chicken with Cauliflower and Chana Masala 
I buy President’s Choice Butter Chicken sauce, cut up boneless skinless chicken breasts and a head of cauliflower and mix it all together in a big pan on the stovetop.  To make more sauce and to use up all of the sauce left in the jar I pour about ¾ cup of milk in the jar, shake it up and add it to the mix.  For the Chana Masala I bought a small box of spice mix at an Indian market and follow the directions. I use canned chickpeas.  Served with basmati rice cooked in our rice cooker (best invention ever, perfect rice every time), and added a salad to this meal as well.  

Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese 
See my post titled Skinny and Tasty.  Love this recipe!  Served with a salad. If your kids (or husband... ahem, my brother-in-law...) won't eat broccoli, this might be a good way to get it in them. You can't even taste it.

Turkey Meatloaf, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus and Salad 
I don’t follow a recipe for my turkey meatloaf, but basically I just mix the ground turkey together with half an envelope of onion soup mix, a good squeeze of BBQ sauce (PC Gourmet is my fave), an egg and about half a cup of bread crumbs.  I always line my loaf pan with parchment paper too (soak the parchment paper in water first for best results).  I also tossed some baby potatoes with olive oil, S&P and garlic powder and roasted them in the oven while the meatloaf was cooking.  Asparagus – just steamed on the stove top.  And a salad.

Quinoa Chicken Broccoli Casserole – from my "Quinoa 365" cookbook 
Love this cookbook so much, but this one was a miss.  Somewhat strange ingredient combination and flavour and not worth talking about.  Wouldn’t make it again!

Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes over Pasta with Caesar Salad   
This is really simple and a nice alternative to your typical spagballs (as they say in the UK!).  I cook a package of Italian sausages on the stovetop (hot or mild, you choose), and then cut them into 1 inch pieces.  Cut up a couple of peppers (I prefer red or orange), an onion and add in a can of diced tomatoes.  Sprinkle some garlic powder or some fresh minced garlic and maybe a tbsp of oregano and let it cook for a bit.  Serve over brown rice spaghetti.  For the Caesar salad, I cheat and buy it in a bag.