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!