Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chocolate Truffles

Another Christmas favourite of mine to give away as gifts are these Chocolate Truffles. They are not difficult to make, although getting the chocolate mixture at the exact right temperature is imperative to forming the balls correctly.

2 2/3 pkg (16 squares) Baker's Premium dark chocolate, divided
1//4 cup whipping cream
1 T butter

Chop 8 chocolate squares; place in double boiler. Add cream and butter, stir on low heat until blended. Remove from stove. Cover. Refrigerate for one hour, or until firm.

Shape into 24 balls. Place on a wax-paper tray.

Melt remaining chocolate squares. Using a fork or toothpick, dip the truffles in the melted chocolate until they are covered, and return to the tray. Sprinkle with nuts, crushed peppermint candy, sprinkles, icing sugar or cocoa. Refrigerate again, at least an hour or more until hard.

You can really get creative with what you sprinkle on top - use anything you like!

I tripled this recipe so that I had enough to give out for all my gifts (teachers, bus drivers, dog groomers, neighbours, etc.). We are even lucky enough this year to have some extras at home!

Nuts and Bolts

This recipe originally came from my mom, although I tend to change it a bit every year. I also like this variety from Kellogg's Crispix cereal. There are several good ones on the Chex website as well. I give this recipe as gifts every year, and people always come back asking for another bag.

7cups cereal (Chex, Crispix, Cheerios, Shreddies, or a mixture of all of them)
1cup nuts (I use cashews and peanuts)
1cup pretzels
3tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
1/4teaspoon garlic salt
1/4teaspoon onion salt
2teaspoons lemon juice
4teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a roast pan, mix cereal, pretzels and nuts together. In a saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Pour over the cereal mixture. Mix until coated. Bake for 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Keep in a sealed container.

* I sometimes add Bugles or cheese sticks, or whatever I have around.

Peanut Butter Slice

Peanut Butter Slice

Easy, fast, deadly. Tastes like rich fudge, but with a kick.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 pkg butterscotch chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

Melt butter, peanut butter and chips in top of a double boiler. Cool briefly and add marshmallows - cool enough that the marshmallows don't melt when you add them, but not too cool that it starts to harden and thicken too much. Put in 8x8 pan, refrigerate, then cut into squares.

Grandmother Cookies

My grandmother's Sugar Cookies

These cookies are truly divine. They are a bit crispy, yet still soft enough to just sort of melt in your mouth. I absolutely loved them when I was a little girl, and I counted the days to Christmas each year, when I knew my grandmother would be baking them again!

1 cup shortening (I have used butter sometimes)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp Cream of Tatar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almost extract (sometimes I use two)

Sift flour, baking soda, Cream of Tatar and salt. Cream the shortening. Beat in sugar, and add the egg. Beat well. Add the dry ingredients, mix well. Add vanilla and almond extract.

Divide the mixture into two rolls (like long logs). Place dough in wax paper in refrigerator for at least an hour. Then slice cookies off log and place on a greased cookie sheet. Cook at 350 until just lightly coloured (8-ish minutes).

I also roll the dough out sometimes and cut shapes out with my holiday cookie cutters. Then sprinkle a few red and green sprinkles on the top and bake!! The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 2/3 weeks - great for making last minute cookies when company stops by!

My grandmother's Ginger Snaps

These cookies are also divine. What made them exceptionally special for us was the fact that my grandmother somehow managed to slice the cookies so thin, they were almost like paper. These really and truly melted on your tongue as you slid one into your mouth.

1 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup of molasses
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
3 cups flour

Cream the shortening, then add sugar and molasses. Beat this well. Sift the dry ingredients, add to the shortening mix, and mix well. Divide the dough and shape into two logs. Roll into separate pieces of wax paper, store in refrigerator. When needed, slice cookies and press down with a fork on a cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lunch Idea - Basil and Cheese Wedges

I found this recipe at the Kraft Canada website. I made it today for lunch and it was delicious, fast and EASY.

Basil and Cheese Wedges

It is an appetizer, but I decided it looked good for lunch, and I had some fresh basil I wanted to use up. I didn't have any of the Kraft Italian dressing, but I used olive oil and a bit of pepper on the top and fresh parmesan cheese instead of the Kraft kind.

Give it a try!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week of December 7, 2008

Things are extremely busy and festive around the Crafty Mom household, so no big meal plans this week. I am baking and cooking up treats for the holidays, and had my parents visiting for the weekend, so suppertime cooking is not high on my list this week I'm afraid. Time to head for my fully stocked freezer for some meals!!!

Sunday: Out to dinner with Nana and Grandad
Monday: Baked Ziti (freezer)
Tuesday: Cayenne-rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa
Wednesday: Pasta with Sausage and Mushroom Sauce (freezer)
Thursday: Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie (freezer)
Friday: Soup and Sandwiches
Saturday: Christmas Party

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Week of November 30, 2008

I did make it through last week without spending any extra money. And now that I purchased Quicken and am tracking my groceries more carefully, I'm hoping to be able to save more and more money each week.

I'm on the look out for a really good recipe for baked spaghetti. I have one I make but it's plain and boring - noodles, tomato sauce from can, cheese - and bake it. If you know of a really tasty - but easy - recipe, please let me know! I found the link below and will try it mostly because it is really cost-effective and I wanted something with no ground beef.

Last week's Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon, Tomatoes and Pecans (which I found completely by accident) was possibly the best salad my husband and I have ever eaten. We are not huge salad eaters and this was just amazing - seriously the tastiest salad I've EVER had. He's begged me to make it again. Not exactly low-fat with the bacon, but full of spinach and the flavours are truly perfect.

The Grilled Salmon with Citrus Sauce was also a surprising big hit. I'm not always an expert at cooking salmon from the freezer - obviously I would have preferred it fresh - and this worked out very well. The sauce was light, tangy and just subtle enough not to be overpowering.

My parents are coming to visit next weekend from Nova Scotia, so I'm planning to do another roast chicken on Friday for my dad's birthday. Hope I can impress him.

Sunday: Sausage and Bean Casserole
Monday: Potato Leek Soup
Tuesday: Lemon Chicken from Rox
Wednesday: Baked Spaghetti
Thursday: Turkey Soup with fresh bread (freezer)
Friday: Roast Chicken, potatoes, vegatables
Saturday: Out to dinner with my parents!

I got this recipe from my friend Rox, who says it's very kid-friendly and her son liked it!

Lemon Chicken

Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 T honey
A little soya sauce
A little grated ginger
3/4 cup chicken broth (or more to make the sauce less zingy)
generous tsp of cornstarch

Pound out the chicken breasts and add salt and pepper and lightly cornstarch both sides.
Heat a little EVOO and butter in a non-stick pan, when quite hot cook chicken. Brown chicken on both sides, put on plate. Remove hot pan from heat, add lemon slurry - whisk quickly and then pour over chicken. She also added that she might try adding some garlic before the slurry, maybe fresh parsley or some toasted almonds.

You can tell from her description that she is a real cook, and not someone just learning like me. I stumbled upon an episode of Jon&Kate+8 last night and Kate was telling Jon he was "not a real cook because a real cook doesn't measure the ingredients". That is SO me! I measure everything and follow my recipes like they're scripture. I am a long, long way from having a real knack for foods and ingredients, so for now I will continue to happily follow others' delicious recipes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Basic Banana Bread

I was hoping not to bake this week, but a bruised, over-ripe bunch of bananas were staring me in the face this afternoon. Screaming at me, really. My new "don't throw out any morsel of food" forced me to make alternate plans. I hadn't made banana bread in a long time, so I searched through several recipe books before settling on this method, which I pulled from my Dietitians of Canada "Cook Great Food" book.

Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed banana (2-3 med bananas)

1. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, blend sugar, egg, egg white, yogurt, oil, and vanilla. Blend in bananas. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in centre of loaf comes out clean.

This is the recipe I used, although I halved the flour with whole wheat flour, and I added a couple teaspoons of ground flaxseed. And of course I added 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, just to ensure the boys would eat it.

And they did. They loved it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week of November 23, 2008

I was appalled at my grocery bill last week. I was short on a number of staples, but still, it was over $200. So I am determined not to spend money this week, and that will affect my menu plan. I'm also currently out of ziploc freezer bags AND tupperware and containers of all shapes and sizes. THAT is how much food is in my freezer right now!!

I went to the store this morning for milk, eggs and a couple other things and it came to $30. I refuse to spend another penny until after next weekend, so we'll see what we'll be eating this week.

I'll mention how good last week's Roast Chicken turned out! It was far easier than I thought, and I was able to make 2 meals with leftovers and loads of chicken stock. I'll definitely be doing that again - it was much tastier than the roasted chickens I buy at the supermarket.

And tonight's beef stew was simply to die for. While it wasn't perfect because I made a couple small errors, overall it was completely amazing. It's not a quick or easy meal, but totally worth the effort we decided. It was the perfect ending to a crisp, cold fall day.

Sunday: Beef Stew
Monday: Apple and Butternut Squash Soup (I have two squash so I'm planning on making a double batch and dropping some off at a friend's house)
Tuesday: Mexican Style Slow Cooker Chicken (freezer)
Wednesday: Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon, Tomatoes and Pecans (I googled spinach and found this and actually have all the ingredients on hand)
Thursday: Pasta with meat sauce (freezer)
Friday: Grilled Salmon with Citrus Sauce (need to use salmon in the freezer)
Saturday: Sandwiches or soup

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I made the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins from a Chick in the Kitchen today and they were fantastic. The kids ate them up, I thoroughly enjoyed every last bite and even my muffin-disliking husband savored a morsel or two. I mean - there's CHOCOLATE in them, right? I threw in some flaxseed and they are still amazing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week of November 16, 2008

Last week's Crock-Pot Pasta Fagioli was enjoyed by our family and our good friends who came over for dinner that night. Everyone emptied their bowls and asked for seconds of this hearty, filling and rich-tasting soup. We simply served it with a warm breadstick and grated parmesan cheese on top, and it was amazing.

Monday: Baked Ziti (from freezer)
Tuesday: Quick Meat Sauce
Wednesday: Soup and Sandwiches
Thursday: Sausage and Bean Casserole
Friday: Roast Chicken
Saturday: Out to dinner with friends

Now that I have some fresh pumpkin puree on hand, I'm planning to make these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins this week as well.

And I'm hoping to get to a batch of granola, it's been a few weeks since we had any.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Week of November 9, 2008

This is a busy and a short week for me . . . I'm headed out of town in the early morning hours on Friday, so the boys will be on their own for dinner for three nights while Leah and I party it up on the East Coast. Life with children seems to ebb and flow like the tide - up and down dramatically. We are currently barely treading water around here at dinner time so I need to pre-make my meals earlier in the day or have something ready in the slow cooker. The baby has seemingly overnight become a fast-as-lightening, curious, and demanding little force to be reckoned with. She needs her dinner at exactly the same time every single night - or else. I'm struggling to problem solve and fix our current dinner-time chaos. I swear a month ago things were running smoothly at 5:00 pm . . . now you would swear our house is something out of a horror movie.

Sunday: Crock-Pot Pasta Fagioli (only meal I didn't get to last week)
Monday: Weekend Leftovers or Freezer dinner
Tuesday: Chicken Enchiladas (where it calls for taco sauce I use a can of enchilada sauce that I buy at Loblaws here in Ottawa)
Wednesday: Creamy Noodle Bake
Thursday: Garlic Scape Pesto with Pasta
Friday: Boys On Own
Saturday: Boys On Own

The Creamy Noodle Bake is a favourite here - I found this recipe in the middle of the night on the Food Network when I was nursing Leah, and the family loved it. I usually make a few changes, so I'll try to document it so I can add it next time.

I made tons of this Garlic Scape Pesto this summer, and froze it in small batches so we could add it to pasta as we wanted. I actually didn't know what a garlic scape was before it arrived in one of our food baskets a few months ago. They are delicious.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dark-Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting


That's what my husband calls Pretty Damn Good!

Not perfect, but quite tasty. I'm not much of a cake-baker, so this was quite the daunting task for a non-culinary expert such as myself. My biggest error was that it was a tad dry, maybe just in the fridge too long before eating. Very rich, so don't cut yourself a big huge slice . . . unless you have a gargantuan glass of milk to wash it down.

See recipe below.

p.s. see that little tiny hand in the picture???? That is Thing 2 trying to nab himself a chunk of frosting!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

4 cups chicken stock
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup light cream (10%)

1. In a large pot, combine stock, squash, apples, onions, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Allow soup to cool slightly.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree soup in batches until smooth, transferring each batch to a saucepan. Bring to a boil before serving.

This is amazing. I'm shocked that a simple recipe can have such a rich, deep taste. We all loved it. The baby is eating bowls and bowls of this stuff . . .

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Week of November 2, 2008

Our family ate a large amount of pasta last week, but no one was complaining (except maybe my thighs). Beth's Quick Meat Sauce and the Pasta with Sausage and Mushroom Sauce were both tasty and satisfying. I made enough both times so I could freeze some for later, and we all thought it was a pleasant change to the other types of sauces we normally eat with our pasta. It was the first time I had cooked with sausage, and the flavour was unmistakable . . . and so good!

I didn't get to the shepherd's pie on Friday - I had forgotten it was Halloween and we were far too busy for cooking that afternoon. I'm doing it tonight and it's good timing because it's a chilly day. We received three bunches of leeks in our veggie basket this week, so I'm hoping to do a few batches of the leek soup and freeze some. In my hopes to do one crock-pot recipe a week, I found this one that looks simple and tasty.

Another goal of mine is to experiment with simpler, easy recipes that are very kid-friendly. I still have one very picky eater who regularly doesn't eat what the rest of us do at meal time. To cut back on the number of meals I'm preparing per night, I'm hoping to lure him in with some very basic recipes I found in my "Better Baby Food" book published by The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. It's full of amazing baby and toddler recipes, and it's where I found the Sloppy Joe recipe.

Thursday is Paul's birthday. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for dinner, we may go out or order his favourite Indian food in. Just didn't want you to think I was eating cake for dinner! The cake is for his birthday.

Sunday: Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie
Monday: Potato Leek Soup
Tuesday: Freezer dinner (Baked Ziti or Turkey Soup)
Wednesday: Crock-Pot Pasta Fagioli
Thursday: Dark Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting
Friday: Freezer dinner (we have so many it's not funny)
Saturday: Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joe Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 T vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 T ketchup
Hot dog or hamburger buns

1. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, cook ground beef. Drain off fat. With a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a paper towel-lined plate or colander to drain.

2. Add onions to frying pan and saute until soft. Return beef to pan, along with tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire Sauce, mustard and ketchup. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until thick (about 45 minutes).

3. Serve on hot dog or hamburger buns!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple Flax Muffins

I made these Apple Flax Muffins today and they were excellent. I did change things a bit from the recipe, because I had too much applesauce leftover from my crockpot adventure last week, so I substituted the four cups of apples for four cups of my crockpot applesauce. Since I hadn't made the muffins the other way, I can't comment on how it affected them, but these muffins came out moist and delicious. The kids loved them, and so did I. The recipe was easy - I think I whipped these up while the kids ate lunch.

I religiously bake all my muffins in my Pampered Chef stoneware muffin pan. I bought it years ago at a Pampered Chef party and have never looked back. It bakes so well, and I swear the muffins taste better. They are so moist and perfect on the inside, with just a slightly firm and crispy outside and bottom. LOVE IT.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stress-buster peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Really had a bad day and need to dive into a plate of hot, steaming, melt-in-your mouth cookies?

Check out my very favourite cookies here.

Week of October 26, 2008

When planning a menu for the upcoming week, one should always include all seven days. Last week I omitted Wednesday. Whoops. I couldn't believe it when I checked my computer for Wednesday's dinner and found it blank.

Last week's chicken chili tacos were EASY and delicious. Thing 2 gobbled them up, and Thing 1 picked at his a bit. They were great and we had lots of leftovers for dinner (on Wednesday) and a couple lunches. The baked ziti was also very good - and very filling. I made so much I froze enough for at least two more dinners. Everyone ate it so I think I'll be making it again. I think I overdid it on the ground beef and went too easy on the cheese - it didn't have enough tang for my liking, so I'll play with it and adjust it a bit next time.

I'm trying a couple of Beth's recipes this week that I've had my eye on for a while - both are pasta with sausage in them, but it just so happens that I have a ton of sausage I need to use up so I'm going to do both in the same week anyway.

Sunday: Quick Meat Sauce and pasta, salad and garlic bread, birthday cake!
Monday: Leftovers or dinner from freezer/turkey soup
Tuesday: Dinner out for David's birthday
Wednesday: Pasta with Sausage and Mushroom Sauce
Thursday: Chicken with Goat Cheese and Arugula
Friday: Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie
Saturday: Pizza

I'm anxious to try the shepherd's pie because although I have been making shepherd's pie for years, I have yet to perfect my recipe or find one that I am truly in love with . . . I'm holding out for Martha so we'll see what she comes up with. The picture in my EveryDay Food Magazine was divine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crock Pot Applesauce

Just a quick mid-week update!

I made the pot roast on Sunday - it was to die for! Paul loved it and even David ate some and like it. It couldn't have been any easier, so that means I will surely make it again.

I also tried this crock pot applesauce recipe that I found at Beth's and it turned out so well! I had a bunch of apples and wasn't motivated enough to make a pie, so I made the applesauce. So rich and delicious, the cinnamon adds such a wonderful flavour. It was good timing as I had run out of my nine-month-old's applesauce anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week of October 19, 2008

You may notice I *missed* my Menu Plan Monday entry for last week. Thanksgiving being on Monday and having a houseful of guests sort of threw me for a loop. So no meal plans last week, but I had tremendous success cooking a delicious turkey soup from the 22 pound turkey I had cooked.
With a turkey carcass that large, I made A LOT OF soup. The stock came out so rich and flavourful, I simmered it for most of a day, then drained it all and added veggies, spices and lots of shredded turkey. We will be eating this for months to come!!! I threw in some potatoes this year to make it a little extra filling, and they added the perfect touch.

All the meals I made for our guests seemed to be a hit. The Mexican Style Slow Cooker Chicken was easy and doubling the recipe easily fed 12-15 people plus lots of leftovers. The turkey and stuffing were amazing too, and my husband's cousin Anne did basically all of the side dishes. We were a good team and we fed about 17 people . . . who all left satisfied and pretty darn full.

Here's my menu this week:

Sunday: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast
Monday: Meal from the freezer (we have quite a few from last weekend!)
Tuesday: Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos
Thursday: Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa
: Baked Ziti
Saturday: Pizza or take-out

Baked Ziti
I got this recipe from my mother

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 jars spaghetti sauce (or we use home-made)
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 T Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain.

2. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, simmer 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and then remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Bake for 30 minutes in the oven, or until cheese melts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week of October 5, 2008

Last week's Hurried Goulash was well-liked at our house. My husband said it was one of his new favourites and that I could make it "any time" for him.

This week is a little crazy for me, as we have family arriving for the long weekend. Not only is it Canadian Thanksgiving, but we are getting Thing 3 baptized next Sunday (along with her cousin) and will have loads of family visiting, needing to be fed. I'm hosting dinner on Friday at my house, so I wanted to try an easy slow-cooker meal that I could make with few problems and that would feed a large group. My sister-in-law is vegetarian, so I need to come up with something that I can also make for her at the same time. Any suggestions?

I'm also doing the Thanksgiving turkey for Sunday, and I made this exact recipe last year and it turned out amazing.

Monday: Leftovers from freezer
Tuesday: Spaghetti
Wednesday: Quesadillas
Thursday: Something easy like pizza before family arrives tomorrow
Friday: Mexican Style Slow Cooker Chicken
Saturday: Indian Food
Sunday: Roast Turkey

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Family Sunday Pancakes

These pancakes have become a tradition in our family. I make them every single Sunday morning. They are a hit with everyone, every last morsel is eaten every single week.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 3/4 t double-acting baking powder

1 or 2 slightly beaten whole eggs
3 T melted butter
1-1 1/4 cups milk.

Mix the liquid ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients. When griddle or pan is hot enough, pour from the tip of a spoon into pan. When bubbles appear on the surface, lift with a spatula to see if they are ready to turn. Flip when ready.

One variation I usually add is some ground flaxseed - it makes them healthier and no one in my family has yet to notice the difference. Chocolate chips are a decadent treat, and fresh berries mixed right into the batter are delightful in the summer time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week of September 28, 2008

I'm proud to say we had some success with our menu last week! I was on the ball for once and actually made everything. The Sour Cream Noodle Bake was delicious - we all gobbled it up (except for Thing 1, who literally eats nothing most nights . . . he is our uber-picky child). It was not hard to make and I doubled the recipe, which afforded me the luxury of putting several containers of it in my freezer. We will definitely be having this again.

The Spicy Chickpeas and Beef were another hit - delicious and simple. If I make it again (which I will) I may double up on the spices since the husband and I are real lovers of hot, spicy food. I served it with warm pita bread because it was mentioned on the blog I got the recipe from - and was all I had lying around that day. When we have some of the freezer stash, I'll likely try it over rice or something like that. Not being an expert meal planner yet, I probably wouldn't plan two heavy ground beef meals in the same week again. But a good and tasty learning experience, nonetheless.

My downside this week was that the weather was unseasonable warm and sunny. I pick up Thing 1 from the school bus every afternoon at 3:15, then we have a quick snack and drink and we head to the park across the street at about 3:45. We often stay until 5:15 or so, because the other neighbourhood kids are also there after school and Thing 1 and Thing 2 have really taken to playing with them. Plus, there is always some young girl there who falls in love with Thing 3 and insists on pushing her in the swing for most of the afternoon. OK by me, I get to relax and potentially chat with another grown up human. The problem lies in the fact that when I get home so late, it's hard to throw together dinner. I've been good about making it early in the morning, or when Thing 1 is at school, but I found this week I was tired and out of time most days, so side dishes were non-existent. No side dishes usually meant little or no veggies. Ugggh. That is not good news. One of my short term goals is to find quick and easy recipes for veggies and salads that all four of us will like.

The Chicken with Goat Cheese and Arugula was so easy and tasty that we're having it again this week. Mostly because I received arugula in my organic delivery basket on Friday, so I want to use it up and we loved this last week. We also received what I assume might be one of the last rounds of fresh, local corn, so we need to use this up too.

Sunday: Corn on the Cob, Crispy Mashed Potato Pancakes (we received a lot of potatoes this week, too, so I may give these pancakes a try to zest up our usual potato fare)
Monday: Chicken with Goat Cheese and Arugula
Tuesday: Savoury Waffles
Wednesday: Eggplant Con Queso
Thursday: Hurried Goulash with Egg Noodles
Friday: Spaghetti with meat sauce (from our freezer)
Saturday: Take-out or pizza

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Week of September 21, 2008

I'm very sad to say that two items from last week's menu were total flops. The Broccoli and Pork Stir-Fry was simply "average". To be honest, I liked it but my husband didn't. Therefore . . . I won't be making it again. Thing 2 had a few bits, but Thing 1 wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. My mother-in-law said she enjoyed it, but she is a very lovely and polite woman, and I doubt very much she would come for dinner at our house and then tell me she didn't like the meal :-)

The Bruschetta Chicken Bake was - I would go as far to say - BELOW average. Not a favourite here one little bit, but I totally got sucked into the picture on the front cover of the Kraft magazine. Kudos to the marketing geniuses over at Kraft (except I didn't use Kraft cheese, so HA!).

Our one saving grace was the Capellini Caprese - it was a hit across the board here. The husband and Thing 2 LOVED it and Thing 1 even put a few bits in his mouth (a success in my book, b/c he is such a picky eater).

So this week's meals look like this:

Sunday: Out at company picnic and BBQ
Monday: Chicken with Goat Cheese and Arugula and roasted mini potatoes
Tuesday: Sour Cream Noodle Bake
Wednesday: Cherry Tomato Cucumber and Feta Salad and Sandwiches
Thursday: Spicy, Sauteed Chickpeas, Beef and Cilantro
Friday: Leftovers (I'm assuming we will have lots . . . )
Saturday: Out at a birthday party and BBQ

I really like Beth's idea of Quesadillas as a quick and cost-efficient meal. We haven't had them in a while, and they are an easy favourite around here. I'm going to keep this in mind when I need a last minute meal one hectic evening.

With all the fresh, local apples we have now, I may try a recipe I found in my Everyday Food magazine for Apple-Cinnamon Strudel. The site is down now, so I can't post a link, but if it goes well I will take photos and share.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week of September 14, 2008

Now that life is starting to quiet down *a bit*, I'm back to planning meals again. It's funny, when we were so busy and I was not planning what we eat, we tended to eat less healthy. Getting something quickly is not easy for me, someone who thrives on at least some sort of organization and order. I'm excited to get back in the swing of things.

Sunday: Curry at Granny's house!
Monday: Broccoli and Pork Stir-Fry
Tuesday: Capellini Caprese
Wednesday: Roasted Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese
Thursday: Potato Leek Soup
Friday: Bruschetta Chicken Bake (not sure how I feel about this yet, I may substitute some of the ingredients they suggest, but it looked delicious in the picture!)
Saturday: Take-Out or order pizza

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 small red onion, cut
2 T olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 small head Boston lettuce
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, zucchini and onion with 1 T oil, season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast until vegetables are tender and browned, 20 minutes or so. Toss once.
3. In a serving bowl, whisk together vinegar and remaining oil, season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce and toss. Top with roasted veggies and goat cheese.

* This recipe is for 1-2 people, I will likely add a few more veggies in. I may grill the veggies on the barbecue too, and see how that works.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Week of August 25, 2008

OK, here is my first stab at my new blog, A Crafty Mom Eats. We are far from looking very professional, but my goal was to get the site started this week, and work on the look and feel of it over the next week or two. I decided to dedicate a site just to my weekly menu plans and recipes, so that a) it is all organized in one place, which is easier for me, and; b) so that regular readers of the Crafty Mom's Blog who do not care one tiny bit about recipes, don't need to see them!!

My idea is not original, I give full credit for my inspiration to Beth from From Mommy's Kitchen. I've loved reading her recipe site (and trying *many* of her recipes), and her regular blog, for some time now and decided to jump in and test the waters myself.

Monday: Pesto Tomato Pizza
Tuesday: Pasta with Pesto and Tomatoes
Wednesday: Cayenne-rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa and Cherry Tomato Salad
Thursday: Grilled Lemon Chicken with Garlic Bread
Friday: Out of town
Saturday: Out of town
Sunday: Out of town

Pesto Tomato Pizza

Pizza crust
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Ground pepper

This recipe is perfect with freshly-made pesto and fresh tomatoes from the garden.

1. Use pesto from Tuesday's recipe to coat one pizza crust (purchased or made at home). I use 1-2 tablespoons, just enough to cover the surface.

2. Add sliced tomatoes to cover the pesto. Add ground pepper to tomatoes.

3. Cover pizza with shredded cheese, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Garlic Bread

3 T olive oil

2 garlic cloves

¼ cup fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 ½ pounds chicken cutlets

4 thick slices country bread

  1. Heat grill to high, lightly oil grates. Mince 1 garlic clove and place in a shallow dish. Add lemon juice and 1 T of oil, season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat. Let standat room temperature for at least 5 minutes.

  2. Brush bread on both sides with remaining oil, season with salt and pepper. Grill bread until beginning to char, about 1 minute per side. Cut remaining garlic in half, and rub cut sides over grilled bread. Set bread aside.

  3. Grill chicken until opaque throughout, 1-3 minutes per side. Serve with garlic bread and lemon wedges.

One other item we are eating lots of this week is blueberry muffins.

I found this recipe in abook I found when I was pregnant with Thing 3. It's called “healthy mum, happy baby” and is about how to feed yourself when your breastfeeding a baby. It highlights a number of quick but nutrient-rich recipes that are easy for busy moms on the go. I've been making these since January, although they have now been upgraded to To Die For since I'm using fresh local blueberries!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup canola oil

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 ¾ cups fresh or frozen blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a muffin tin with oil or butter (I use my Pampered Chef stoneware muffin tin, the muffins turn out golden and delicious in it).

  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs, oil, and lemon zest. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in blueberries.

  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and let coof completely.

I have also made mini-muffins in the small tin I have, because the boys love the little muffins they can fit in the palm of their hand!