Monday, November 30, 2009

Farewell November. I'll miss you.

Treats from cuzzie Margo - they make my kitchen!!

'Twas the night before December 1st. 
The house is semi decorated, the lights are all a glow.
I've been drinking iced tea to quench my thirst. 
The candy jar is full of chocolate, I have been saying 'no, no,no'.

Oh my. Can you tell it's been a long day?
I ended up staying home from work today - I was so bagged last night, and I think that I was too tired to sleep - ever have that happen? Anyways - it was a treat to have a bit of a sleep in. I spent quite a bit of time with Jules today - she is doing better. Still lots of pain and still issues with the bandages - but she has an appt. with the doctor on Thursday - so hopefully he'll set things straight.

I spent a big chunk of the evening trying to decorate the house. I'm almost done - still lots to do before my brother and his kids come for the weekend. Stress! Oh god - Halloween costume sort of stress. It's going to be a great visit, I just want to make sure that everything is organized for when they are here. They always stay with my mom, so I am looking forward to having them stay with us.

I thought that I would share one of my favourite Christmas decorations. I found this little tree at SuperStore about 4 years ago - and wasn't sure what to do with it. I decided to put it in the kitchen, and decorate it with little balls and mini cookie cutters. Since it's in the kitchen - it seemed appropriate. So, it sits in the corner - and I love it! 

On Friday when Chris was looking through my new Cooking Light cooking magazine, he came across a recipe for roast and potatoes - and he was a little 'colicky' because I don't make roast for him. So, I promised that I would make him on Sunday. And that's what I did. I didn't follow a recipe - I had an idea of how I wanted to make it. I have to say, that although I don't eat red meat, I had tastes of it and it turned out to be deeelish!

Roast Beef Sims Style

2 - 1 3/4 pound Top Sirloin Roasts
4 cups of potatoes - I used fingerling potatoes - no peeling or chopping
2 bunches of small carrots - peeled and cut into halves lengthwise
Fresh thyme
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400.

In a large roasting pan, add vegetables, and fresh thyme sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil - maybe 2 tbsp, kosher salt and pepper. With your hands, toss it all up and ensure that everything is coated. Add to the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 mins.

While the vegetables are cooking, you can prep your roasts. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet, or whatever type of skillet you like to use. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Pat the roasts with a paper towel to dry them off. Season one side of each roasts with kosher salt and pepper - place that side down in the skillet. Season each of the other sides just prior to putting that side down in the skillet. Don't forget each of the ends. Basically brown each side. By browning each side, this will ensure that all of the juices stay inside while they are cooking. This should only take about 10 minutes.

After the 30 minutes are up, place the roasts in the roasting pan with the vegetables. We cooked our roasts for about 45 minutes. During this time, we added 1/2 cup of water twice - at about 15 minutes each time. 

When the meat is as rare or well done that you like it, remove it from the pan, place on a plate and cover it with aluminum foil. Let all of the lovely juices sit inside before slicing it. 

To make the gravy - so super easy. Remove the potatoes and carrots from the roasting pan. Pour the meat juice into a small sauce pan. Heat at medium heat. In a measuring cup, add two tbsp of flour and about 1/2 cup of the juice from the meat. Whisk vigorously. Add this to the saucepan and whisk to prevent any sort of clumps. And that's it - so juicy, so delicious.

So, on this last night of November 2009 - I can't believe how time has gone by so fast. I just know that December is going to come and go so fast. Parties, presents, visiting with friends and family, lots of goodies, time off, and so much more. I hope that I can soak it all in and enjoy all of it. 

Good night.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Up Update.

Day 2 of Jules' recovery. Bless her heart - she is doing well. It was a bit of a long night - and a bit of an early morning - but I can't complain as I don't have 2 major wounds on my body that will take some time to heal. We had to head to Emergency this AM - and spent 'some' time there - her bandages were covered in blood and I was nervous about taking them off to replace them - so after a call to 811 (they are fabulous there) we headed to Emerg - and after a wait, her leg bandage was all cleaned up. 

I will be so happy once she heads back to the Surgeon for an appt to take off all the bandages and then have them changed on a daily basis. 

I know that my mom is loved (not just by me and my family) but all of her neighbours have been so fantastic - they have been dropping by bringing flowers, plants, cards and worrying about her. It's been nice for her, but also for me to see. It is reassuring for me to know that she has support nearby if needed. Her sister is visiting for a couple of days - which we will be a huge help.

Throughout the past couple of days, I have been doing what I like to do best - cook. Last night I made a couple of baked spaghettis. I wish that I had taken a picture. I love baked spaghetti. It's a super easy dish, and freezes nicely too. I made this at my mom's so I didn't have all of the spices that I normally did - but it turned out delicious. Try and envision it as I write up the recipe. This recipe made enough for 2 large casserole dishes.

Baked Spaghetti

Pre-heat the oven to 400

1 and a half boxes of whole wheat spaghetti - cook to el dente 
3 lbs of ground chicken
1 large onion - chopped
2 large peppers - chopped
1 small zucchini - chopped
2 cups of mushrooms - sliced
3 cloves of garlic - minced
2 (small) cans of diced tomatoes
2 large jars of spaghetti sauce - try and find flavours that you like - Healthy Choice makes some delicious brands
Grated cheese - enough to cover the top of the dishes 

In a large skillet saute the onion with a sprinkle of kosher salt (Jules has kosher - heyoh!). Saute until translucent - about 8 minutes. Add the ground chicken. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add all of the fresh vegetables and garlic. Continue to cook for about another 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and add any spices that you like. I added dried basil - it made the dish really fragrant. Then add one of the jars of tomato sauce. When the sauce is at the consistency and the taste that you like, the dish is almost ready. I like to add a pinch of sugar - it helps take some of the acidity of the tomatoes away. 

Use the other jar of spaghetti sauce (right from the jar) to cover the bottom of the casserole dishes. Then add the spaghetti to the dishes - evenly distributed to both dishes. Then top the spaghetti with the spaghetti sauce. Cover the spaghetti sauce with the shredded cheese. Then spray some cooking spray* on a piece of aluminum foil, and cover the dishes with the foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes. 

*Cooking spray - something that I never have in my kitchen - but one of those treat type of things that moms always have.

And that's it. It's a delicious dish - kids will love it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the roast beef dinner that I made tonight - a quick trip home to make Chris his favourite feast that I never do.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Good end to a stressful day.

Jules update: All went well. She is recovering nicely in the hospital overnight, and is set to hopefully go home nice and early tomorrow morning. It was a bit of a long day waiting for news, but happy that it all went well. Thanks to everyone's well-wishes - it means a lot.

Shopping and dinner with the boys was fantastic. We had a great time. They got what they wanted (I hope) and we had a great dinner. Callum had a FULL rack of ribs - not sure how he downed them all, but he managed. 

And now for the best part of the night, Callum is having a sleep over. We should probably be in bed soon, but whatever, we're going to stay up as late as we can - watch tv that we shouldn't, eat so much chocolate and run around the house with scissors. JUST KIDDING!!! But we will have time.

To show how much fun we have been having (Chris included) I posted some pics (thanks to Tracy for showing me that I had this feature).



Our Jules.

What do you see wrong with this pic? Cooking Light - 3 magazine purchase this week!!! Yipes

Where oh where has my baby* been?

Ok, Wednesday night - I went to post my new Mushroom Soup recipe and corn bread muffins - and I couldn't connect to the world wide web. Last night - too busy hanging with my beau and going to bed at a time that school kids go to bed - 9:15. Whaddup with that?

And... what am I writing mid-morning for? Crazy!! Don't worry, I'm not at work slacking off. 

Today my mom, the lovely and so generous Jules, is going in to have a malignant melanoma removed off of her back. It's going to be not a very serious operation, in the sense that she will just have to spend the one night in the hospital, but the incision on her back and the recovery, I think, will be quite a bit for her to endure. I know that she will make it through, she is a strong woman - and she just needs to remember that.  The surgeon will test her lymph nodes and bones to see if anything has spread.

She was told that her surgery was for 8 AM this morning and that she needed to be there for 6. They failed to let her know that the actual surgery wasn't until 11:15 and that she didn't actually need to be there until 8:45. Neat. Thankfully there was a Starbucks nearby - so we took a nice walk - for some crisp fresh air and something to warm me up. Jules was wearing some black slip on, open-toed sandals with white socks. Oh. When I picked her up - I had to comment - who wouldn't?? So when we were walking - and trying to rush across the street - she was yelling 'don't run, my shoe will fall off and someone will drive over it'. I just about wet them - can you just see it?

Anyways - Chris and I will sit at home, try and keep busy (me more than him - his idea of keeping busy is watching 'Band of Brothers'), walk the pups - and wait until 3 when we can go and see her. I miss her. I don't like not being able to call her anytime of the day and talk about nonsense and expect her to listen. Must keep busy. Must interrupt Chris' movie and talk about anything.

Ok - let's move on to other things. Wednesday night - homemade mushroom soup. I love mushrooms - raw, sauteed, baked - you name it. And for some reason, when I am at the Root Cellar and I see packs of fresh button mushrooms and sliced mushrooms and they are 2 for $5 - I feel it necessary to buy 2 of each. Not sure why. Anyways - I did that this week and realized that it was quite a bit of mushrooms. So, soup it was. I also 'doctored' up a box of Organic Corn Bread muffins with shredded cheese and hot pepper flakes. 

Mushroom Soup Sims Style

1 large onion - thinly sliced
7 cups of mushrooms - either sliced, or button mushrooms that have been quartered
2 tbsp of flour
3 cloves of crushed garlic
5 cups of stock - I used low fat, low sodium chicken stock
Fresh thyme - around 2 tbsp
Sour cream for garnish

In a large pot, saute the sliced mushroom in olive oil with pinches of kosher salt. Saute for about 8 mins. Add mushrooms. Continue to saute over low-medium heat for another 15 minutes. Add garlic. Then add the flour and mix so that the flour is coating the mushrooms. Add in 2 cups of the stock and stir. It will slightly thicken. Then add the rest of the stock, and let it simmer for about another 30 minutes. Before you blend it all together, add the fresh thyme and some fresh cracked pepper. Then with a hand blender or a blender, blend the soup all together. Serve it warm with a dollop of sour cream on top. I am confident that you will love this.

For the corn bread muffins - I used a box of organic mix that I picked up at the Superstore. I added a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and crushed pepper flakes - how ever much you like. I used my big muffin tins - so instead of making 12 it made 6 large ones. And let me tell you, they were delicious. I think that you could definitely use the same measurements - 1 egg, 1 cup of water and 2 tbsp of vegetable oil with just regular corn meal to make the same recipe. That is definitely on my list to try. So good.

Well - that's it for me for now. I have plans this evening to take out C&C and spoil them and treat them to dinner - Moxie's - Callum's choice b/c 'they have chicken wings' - whatever he likes - it's their night.

Alright - please keep positive thoughts for my mom. 



Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Monday!

I'm around. Not sure where the time has gone from last 'How to cook a frozen pizza' for dinner night. Always amazed at how time does really go by so fast. 

Last night we were over at my sister's for dinner. Her and the boys are going to Australia for Christmas, so we did a little sort of 'Christmas Eve' dinner in November. Debbie usually does Christmas Eve dinner - we eat appy's, clam chowder, my mom's amazing baking and chocolate (well mostly just Debbie and I eat the chocolates). So we did that type of meal last night. So good. Such a treat to not have to cook dinner and visit. Jules did their Christmas presents - spoiled them. 

I am so proud of my nephews. They have turned out to be such amazing, young men. I feel truly blessed to be a big part of their lives, and I am really going to miss them this Christmas. I am taking them out on Friday night - we'll shop for a Christmas prezzie for them and then go to dinner. It should be a fun night. 

Not too much to report. I haven't really been cooking - not sure what we've been eating. Tonight was a pasta dish, very similar to what I made HERE - it just wasn't baked, it hand ground turkey sausage, and bow tie pasta. It was quite beautiful and reminded me of Christmas - red pepper, pink swiss chard stems and green swiss chard leaves and then little bow tie pasta - I should have photographed it.

I have a new favourite song - Alicia Keys and Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind - I love Alicia Keys voice. 

Alright friends - that's it for me. I have to read my book club book before Wednesday and I am on page 2. Help!!!!!!



Thursday, November 19, 2009

How do you build an American Quilt?

Remember how I was elated by having such a wonderful day yesterday? It was probably b/c of the extra caffeine jolt that I had during the day. Well  you know what - payback's a bitch. That caffeine came back last night and kept me awake - that and my ongoing saga with WestJet. Without getting into too much detail - b/c I haven't been able get a hold of them via phone during the day - I thought that I would try calling them in the middle of the night if I had to use the loo*. Well - I did and after over 3.5 hours being awake at 1 AM - a good day turned into a long night without a lot of sleep. 
* = at least twice a night. 

Writing this blog, and posting what I'm cooking up each night for dinner - on the rare occasion causes me a bit of angst. Sometimes I really don't feel like making dinner. And sometimes I worry that I am may be posting a dinner somewhat unhealthy, unimaginative, unentertaining dinners. Well tonight, I knew what we were going to have for dinner when I woke up this morning (my official wake up - not the 1AM wake up) - it would be a frozen dinner kind of night. 

The other night I took a trek out to Superstore and I picked up some good finds. I found some 'Blue Menu' pizzas - that looked relatively healthy - and easy. So tonight's dinner is dedicated to those nights when you just don't feel like cooking - when you want a treat - when you don't want to wash a whack of dishes and when you want feel like you're ordering in at 1/4 of the cost.

How to Cook a Frozen Pizza

When I thought of this tonight - as I was heating up the oven - I thought it was so funny (I guess that is what a lack of sleep will do to you) I thought that it was a title like 'How to build an American quilt). Oh my.

Superstore's Blue Menu - 'healthier' options. 
Roasted Vegetable and goat cheese & Roasted chicken, red pepper and goat cheese.
Check the pizza box for baking instructions - read thoroughly.
Pre-heat oven to temperature stated on the package.
Remove the pizza from the box.
Remove the pizza from the plastic packaging and off of the cardboard.
Take a look at the masterpiece before it's ready for the oven.
Place them in the oven and bake according to the instructions.
With a sharp knife - slice the pizza to the size that makes you happy.
Serve it up.

Must eat pizza.

For a more healthy version - check out my summer pizza recipes.

Keep your eyes and ears open - the weekend is coming!!



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcome to the clan, little one.

On this wickedly wet and windy Wednesday, there is very exciting news - my cuz Marsha and her husband are proud new parents to a wee baby boy! Congratulations!!!! Mom and baby are doing well. I actually had a dream the other night that she had a baby boy. And just before I found out she was pregnant, I had a dream that she had just had a baby girl. Psychic? Well maybe just a bit. Wink. Anyways - welcome to the world you little bundle of hope, joy and love. We are so proud to have you as a member of the family.

Great day today! Not sure what it was - perhaps the lack of rain? Perhaps b/c they didn't have any Passion Tea at my local Starbucks so I had a non-fat, half-sweet Caramel Brulee Latte - the caffeine might have given me the buzz that I was needing. If you have a chance to try one - I recommend it. Oh god - don't look at the calorie count - thankfully I did the half-sweet. 

The pups and I have been having great walks around the hood lately. I need to do a day walk and bring my camera with me - and capture some of the great shots that I am seeing. Tonight's walk was exceptional. Even though there is a wind warning in effect - and half way through the walk I realized that falling branches or roof shingles could fling off and hit me in the head - I was very excited to see Christmas lights slowly going up on the neighbourhood houses. I LOVE Christmas lights. I love how they flicker, I love how they can make the worst house on the street look like a million dollars, I love the colours, I love the anticipation of the Christmas season among us... oh how I love. 

When I was 12, I came home one very snowy night after being at Gail Dray's for supper. Her dad drove me home, and as we turned onto our street, I saw the most beautiful house on the street. It had alternating blue and red Christmas lights going around the front and sides of the house. The large pine tree on the side of the driveway was lit up with multi-coloured lights. It was amazing. And best of all, it was my house. I seriously thought it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say - that I can remember that night like it was yesterday. And as I write this, I have chills remembering how proud I was to have the most beautiful lit up house on my street. My dad had spent a good portion of the day switching up the lights and stringing them.  It was pure art.

I am not sure if my dad ever knew the impact of that winter night. I hope he did. It was so special for me. I think that because of that night, and because I can remember it so clearly, that this is why I love all the lights at Christmas. It's also probably why, when I drive through town and see houses lit up, or walking through my neighbourhood and see the colourful lights - they bring tears to my eyes. And as I write this, and I picture my old house's lights, and think of my dad surprising us, I have tears in my eyes. 

See Christmas - you do this to me every year.

Tonight's dinner was a Slow Cooker special. Chris was home today, so I hooked the 'ol girl (or is it a boy) up and started dinner at 7:30AM - to have it ready for me when I got home. 

Slow Cooker Pork Sirloin
5 pork sirloin (steaks) - cut in half - season with kosher salt and pepper
1/2 bottle of Diane's Original BBQ sauce 
1/4 cup of sweet chili sauce - if you don't have any on hand - omit it - no worries
Dashes of hot sauce - how hot do you like it?
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce  
3 cloves of garlic - peeled and coarsely chopped

Add all of these ingredients together, place them all in the slow cooker turn it on and let it do all the work for you.

I served the pork with rice that I 'doctered' up.

I had left over rice that I put in a pot and then added the juice from the slow cooker. I then added a can of white kidney beans, corn and peas. It turned out to be a hearty dinner.

Well that is it for me for tonight. I hope that you dream of Christmas lights - and they trigger happy memories for you.



Monday, November 16, 2009

I think that soup and sandwiches can cure the rainy blues.

Rain, blah, rain, blah, rain, blah, rain, blah.....

That's how I'm feeling today. I am really tired of the rain. There are parts of the rain that I love: being in the house and hearing the rain on the roof; being inside and not having to go out in it - and that's about it. What I don't like about it: being wet; wet dogs; wet dog towels all the live long day; wet shoes; walking wet dogs; driving in the dark on a wet night; wearing a hood; trying to carry an umbrella a bag and a Starbucks all at the same time. Ok, I realize that I am sounding like a bit of a baby - a bit of a wet baby. It's just, I'm tired of it. I want some cold, crisp sunny days. Cold - cold as in need to wear a toque and a scarf - no more galoshes and rain gear. I know that the rain is good for us - it fills up the reservoirs - and there are places all over this world that would give anything for an hours worth of the rain that we are having - and I would gladly give it to them.

Did y'all survive the weekend? I survived mine - mostly b/c it was very, very un-action packed. I spent all day Saturday indoors (except for two dog walks) tidying, organizing... Ended the night by going to bed at 9. What??? I know - crazy - but it was just one of those days. Sunday - I had big plans. I was so excited - I bought new bedding in the summer and had planned to finally take it out of the packaging - and with a clean room - it was going to be so nice to have new, fresh bedding. I took the duvet cover out of the packaging - and it was COMPLETELY different from what I thought it would be. I thought it was a grey colour with little designs that were a dark smokey purple, cream and silver. It wasn't. It turned out that it was striped with white and chocolate brown. Hideous. Sigh. So... hopefully they will take it back - even though I don't have the receipt any longer. My own fault - I should have taken it out of the bag as soon as I got home. Grrr.

Anyways - let's get on to what's for dinner tonight. I had a bunch of tri-coloured potatoes - beautiful yellow, red and purple. I also had some bacon left over from Friday night's dinner - and because of the downpours we're having - I thought soup was a good choice for dinner. I also found a recipe a couple of week's ago for pulled chicken sandwiches - so it was a Soup and Sandwich sort of night. 

Potato and Bacon with chives soup

1 onion
1 1/2 cups of chopped bacon - into small pieces
5 cups of chopped pieces of potato - chopped into small pieces - I had the small nugget potatoes that I cut in half, then in half and then in half again.
1/2 tsp pepper flakes
1 carton of chicken stocks - @ 3 cups
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup of chopped chives
Shredded cheese for garnish

In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add the bacon and continue to cook, stirring often.  Cook for about another 10 minutes. Add potatoes and heat thoroughly for about 10 minutes. Add pepper flakes. Add the chicken stock and let simmer until potatoes are soft. With a hand blender, or blender, puree the potatoes - puree it until the consistency that you like. I like to try and puree it fully with just small pieces of potatoes. Add the milk, stir, and then add the chives - and that's it! It's all ready to serve. 
I added a small amount of shredded gruyere - it was extremely tasty!!

Pulled chicken sandwiches

3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground pepper
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs - cut into 2 inch strips

Add all of the ingredients (except the buns) into a medium sized saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan - leave the juice - and use two forks to shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the sauce and mix thoroughly. Serve with a whole wheat bun - with a slice of pickle - and you have a delicious sandwich. If you love cumin - you will love this.

I didn't add the sauce to the chicken - but did when I made Chris' sandwich - so if made 'correctly' the chicken has a lovely sauce with it.

After this hearty and warm dinner - I felt better. I couldn't hear the rain over the furnace. I couldn't see the rain b/c it's too dark on our street. And I wasn't wet - just full from a delicious dinns!

Well folks - that's it for me. I am going to go and dry the last dog blanket, dry off Jozie's jacket (don't ask - she hates it - I will ask her if I can post her pic - she does NOT like it), hang with Christoff and then hit the hay.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Me Love Friday

Oh how I am excited to start this weekend. I feel like the weekend starts at 4:01 - right when the work day is about to end. Today's start of the weekend started with a BANG!!! Whoop whoop. 

It started with a bang for a couple of reasons. It started because I splurged and had Monique come and do a very much needed house cleaning for me. I have been stressed b/c of a messy house and no time to do much about it. I find that taking some time to myself takes away from taking care of the abode. Well - this week - b/c toilets don't need to be scrubbed and floors don't need to be washed, I can do some much needed organization.

It started b/c I won $50 worth of lotto tickets - a fundraiser for the United Way at work. Wahooo!!! We have scratched 3 tickets so far - and have come up with nothing. C'mon Set For Life - momma needs some new shoes!

It also started b/c I cooked up a lovely dinner - something that I have been so excited to try all week. Polenta. I haven't made polenta before, but I watched Michael Smith make it on Chef At Home. I love all his recipes. He does healthy, manageable dishes. So, his polenta dish from the other day - was something that I wanted to try. I didn't have a recipe, so I had to go by memory and alter it a bit. I served it with a roasted tomato - that was also very delicious - not a Michael Smith recipe - a C. Mitchell Presents :)

Well I'm not really sure what to call it. I hadn't tried polenta this way before - but the texture and the flavours within it - to me (and Chris too) - found it absolutely incredibly delicious! It's easy - and despite the instructions on the bag - this method is super, super easy. Polenta - according to some online research - is low in calories, has zero fat, low in sodium, low in sugar and has some fibre benefits.

Creamy Polenta
1 onion - cut into very thin strips 
1 cup of diced bacon - I used a chunk of smoked bacon and cut into tiny chunks
1 cup of corn meal
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of corn
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp crushed pepper flakes 

In a large saucepan, heat a couple of tbsp of olive oil and add the sliced onion. Saute for about 8 minutes, until onion is golden. Add bacon and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the polenta and then the chicken stock, corn and pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to low - and stir - but it does not have to be stirred constantly. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, it should start to thicken. At that time increase the heat to medium-low and stir more often. The consistency will become thick, kind of like a porridge consistency. At this time, add the shredded cheese and continue to serve. Once the cheese has melted, it is ready to serve. 

And that's it. The flavour of the smokey bacon, the slight spice of the crushed peppers, the sweetness of the corn - yum!

Roasted Tomatoes
4 tomatoes - slice the top of them off 
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp of parmesan cheese
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tbsp Verde Vinaigrette or any dried herbs

Pre-heat oven to 400. Mix all of the ingredients together - sans tomatoes. Gently top each of the tomatoes with the dry mixture and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. These turned out really well. They were delicious, light and super easy.

I did a quick trip to the Gap tonight. I had a 30% off coupon - so picked up a beautiful sweater a cute pair of plaid slip on shoes and a little tank. I love winter just because I can wear turtle necks. I love them.

I am grateful for so many things today - I am grateful that when I feel that things are tough - I am able to realize that they really aren't. I am thinking of those that have stuff going on in their lives - I am here if anyone needs me.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I remember.


Another special Remembrance Day.  Although I don't really participate in any of the ceremonies, I did recognize the minute of silence at work today. I remember my great uncle Rob (secretly my favourite uncle) who was in WWII - who had a very difficult time when he came home and strongly relied on my grandma, his older sister, to nurse him back to a healthy state. I think of Chris' dad - who lied about being 18 at the age of 16 so that he could join the army. He was without parents, on his own and a career in the army was what he thought would be his best choice at a future. Without any sort of formal education, he received the highest rank for an enlisted man - obtaining CWO - Chief Warrant Officer. He was in the army for 36.5 years. If I get the chance to sit and talk with him - he has the most amazing stories. Chris has always been so proud of his dad - the army provided him with a stable and great life for him and his family.

I feel blessed to know men that helped with the freedom that we have today. 

I will always remember.

We had dinner with Jules tonight. Oh how I love being treated to one of my mom's dinners. Chris and I both love it. We always leave feeling like we've gained 10 pounds. We had one of her specialties - Stuffed Turkey Breast - check it out HERE. It was served with sweet potatoes that were topped with italian bread crumbs and a stir fry of wonderful vegetables.

She also treated us Rhubarb Cake. Hello!!! So delicious. I have made this recipe quite a few times - it's a lovely dessert. It's a great dessert to use for that frozen rhubarb taking up room in the freezer. It can also be made ahead and then put into the freezer for a later date. And... you can also switch rhubarb with apples - another delicious treat.

Jules' Rhubarb Cake

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp of baking powder
1 beaten egg
Mix the baking powder into the flour and cut in the butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture so that you can use it for the topping. Add the beaten egg into the remaining flour mixture and flatten it into a 9x13 pan*.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup melted butter
2 beaten eggs

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Spread the mixture onto the crust. Sprinkle the reserved flour mixture on top. Then sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. 

Bake at 359 for 50 minutes. 

*It is easy to double the recipe (and worth it, trust me you'll love it) and it will end up making 3 - 8x8 or 9x9 pans.

That's it!!! Mom, Chris rated this a definite 5!!!

Well my sweet friends - I am going to embrace the rest of the evening with my best friends and rest up for another couple of days that are left in this week. Can you hear that??? It sounds like a train, or a plane or a sleigh - but it's really the weekend...



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For my first 'roommate'.

Today is the birth date of my Grandma B. - my mom's mom. It seems like forever since she passed  - I really miss her. She passed away in February the same year that my dad passed. My poor mom - two major losses in the same year.

Today's blog is dedicated to my Grandma. It's not meant to be sad - she wouldn't have liked that. My Grandma was awesome. She was a real character - a real 'no nonsense' kind of lady. She meant business. She was a huge sports fan, she was incredibly independent, she was an amazing singer, she was an important member of her community, she was a loving mother, sister, grandma, aunt, she was very thoughtful, she was very creative, she was a talented artist, and so much more.  

I have a lot of fond memories of her. Growing up we were really lucky. They lived in Prince George so she and my Grandpa visited often. Some of my earliest memories: when I broke my femur and she came to visit me in the hospital - when she popped into the room I asked her what she brought me (can you say spoiled? that's what happens when you're in the hospital for 2 months) when she said 'nothing' - I told her that she couldn't come in. Harsh! I remember one time when they came to visit us, my brother and sister were watching for them out the bedroom window and when they arrived we were all dancing and singing 'For he's the jolly good fellow'. I also remember her taking my brother to church one Christmas Eve - when the singing started she started singing in her operatic voice and my brother and I got the giggles - we started laughing (as quietly as possible) and we made the pew shake uncontrollably. Bad kids! When she came to visit, my mom always bought tonic water in the cans b/c she loved a Gin and Tonic. I remember being so excited that we had pop in the fridge, learning very quickly that it wasn't pop and tasted similar to something gross. She also loved ginger chocolate - I am pretty sure that none of us have picked up that love. I think that ginger chocolate is probably the only chocolate that I don't love.

In the spring of my graduating year, my Grandma had a stroke. She went from literally one of the most independent woman that I knew - to a woman that needed help. She was no longer able to drive, or stay on her own. For my first year of college, I went to Prince George and lived with her. We became roommates. I had a lot of responsibilities, I managed, we survived, and through it all I had to learn how to cook. 

This was my Grandma's pastry cutter - I love using it - it is very old - and I feel that when I am baking that I am really doing it the proper way

When I arrived to live with her, I didn't really have one dish in my repertoire. I hadn't yet mastered Minute Rice, I could make toast and chop vegetables for a salad - oh and make chocolate pudding with bananas. My Grandma wasn't a picky eater, but she was specific and knew what she liked and didn't like. She didn't like uncooked rice :)

Over the year, I perfected Sweet & Sour Meatballs, pork chops done in cream of mushroom soup and spaghetti. Living with my Grandma, she taught me how to grocery shop, how to buy what you needed so you didn't waste food and how to make a mean banana loaf.

Tonight's dinner was one of my first dishes that I mastered. It is one of my mom's dishes that I always loved growing up and was so pleased when I learned how to make it.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs 
Pre-heat oven to 400.

1 pound of ground meat - I used ground chicken
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cups of cracker crumbs - I used panko bread crumbs
1 egg
Mix all of the ingredients together and form into small meatballs. Place them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. 

2 tbsp of corn starch
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 can of pineapple chunks - drained - save the juice
1/3 cup of vinegar - I used a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 pepper cut into thin strips

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, heat the pineapple juice and corn starch. Whisk together. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the pepper. Cook over medium heat. The sauce will thicken and become silky smooth.  Let it boil for one minute stirring continuously. 

Remove the meatballs from the oven and place in the saucepan with the pepper. Stir it all in to incorporate. Place it in a baking dish and bake for another 15 minutes. 

It's a super easy dish, and it is super delicious. 

I served this with brown rice (I've almost mastered it) and I added fresh spinach and mixed it in when the rice was cooked - so the spinach cooked slightly. I also roasted up a bunch of brussels sprouts - from my brussels sprout branch I got on the weekend. BS - something I never would have cooked when living with my Grandma.

Chris rated this a 5!

I like to think that my Grandma played a big part in my cooking 'career'. I only wish that she was here so that I could cook her Yam and Butternut Gratin, Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Homemade spaghetti sauce right from scratch... 

We miss you dearly - and I am so grateful to have the relationship that I did with you. 



Monday, November 9, 2009

Oops - cajun cooking in the house!

Picture a delicious, healthy baked pasta dish. Picture it having whole wheat penne in a tomato sauce of diced tomatoes, fresh button mushrooms, swiss chard, garlic and italian sausage. All topped with some shredded mozzarella and a bit of parmesan cheese baked in the oven until the cheese is gooey golden brown that melds the pasta and the sauce together. 

Are you picturing it?

Well... now picture this:

It's a good lesson on: A. Reading a recipe through; and B. Paying attention to dinner when it's in the oven instead of reading another cooking magazine. It turned out a bit cajun - that's what Chris calls something a little overcooked. 

Thankfully in the end the pasta turned out very tasty. I typically wouldn't have pasta the next night after having potatoes - but I saw this recipe, and needed to make it, and I bought swiss chard and it was already starting to wilt a bit.

This recipe is from November's Canadian Living. I am a pretty big fan of Canadian Living. I really like their recipe ideas - some of them are quite simple and easy to follow. They have a ton of recipes so you will definitely find a recipe that you like in each edition. 

It turns out that after making this, this is very similar to other dishes that I make. I haven't used swiss chard in a recipe before, but will definitely use it again. You will like this one, I guarantee.

Sausage and Swiss Chard Rigatoni*

4 tsp olive oil
5 italian sausages - removed from casings
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 can of diced tomatoes - I like the ones that come with herbs
Kosher salt
Pinch of sugar - it helps minimize the acidity from the tomatoes
1 can of rinsed navy beans
5 cups of rigatoni - * I used penne b/c I wanted to use whole wheat pasta and I haven't found rigatoni in whole wheat
1 large bunch of chopped swiss chard
2/3 cup of shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan

In a large skillet drizzle the olive oil and add the sausage. Break up the sausage with the spoon and saute for about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, salt, sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Add beans and swiss chard.
In the meantime, boil your pasta until it is el dente. Drain the pasta and add the pasta to the sauce. 
Transfer this to a large glass casserole dish. Top with mozzarella and then the parmesan. 
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue to cook for 10 minutes. 

And that's it. Voila it's done. Please don't overcook. :)

Jenny posted commented last night that she loves Rachel Ray - I do too! It's a great magazine - lots of awesome recipe ideas. It's also on my regular magazine addiction list. Jenny also talked about Pyrex's new magnetic measuring spoons - I found them HERE - check them out. Thanks Jenny!!! She mentioned that she was going to add this to her wish list - which got me thinking of my own wish list - sigh. Well... I have so many wishes... Chris and I are going to do things differently this year - I'll tell you more about it in a bit. I'm quite excited.

Ok - over and out. 

Enjoy the night.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yumma yams.

Our cuties - cuddling - Magnum loves it - Jozie is wondering if she should stay or go.

It seems like Friday night was just last night - why do weekends go by so fast?

I have had a great weekend - it's been a full one. Action packed. 
Yesterday - Jules and I hit the mall - and I found my dress for my work Christmas party! I was so excited. I wasn't looking for it at all - which is the best time to buy something. Typically I would be stressed out to the max (similar to Halloween) struggling to find something the night before. Here a sneak peak!
This is not a colour that I would ever consider - but I actually really love it. It's a little too big in the boobie area - so I'll have to have it altered. So, now I just have to think of shoes - any suggestions? 

Matthew Good last night. Meh. I like his music - but in all honesty Chris and I found the show to be lacking energy. He came out - barely spoke - sang his songs - and that was it. It was at the McPhearson Theatre - so it was an intimate setting - but it just wasn't the best show. There was a woman in front of me that I pretty much think was wearing a bottle of perfume - and her bf was trying way too much PDA (gag).

This morning I was up early for a dog walk - it was a gorgeous morning. Unlike yesterday's dog walk - we got caught in a torrential down pour - and got soaking wet. After that, Jules and I headed to the Root Cellar, then to watch a bit of Callum's hockey game, and then off to Broadmead Village for a bit of shopping. I found a few things - some Christmas decorations (it's just around the corner), a new Epicurean Cutting Board, a new whisk and another wooding spoon. It was a great day - full of adventures - lots of laughs - thanks Mom!!

Tonight's dinner was taken out of November's Cooking Light. I found the recipe on Friday night - and was very excited to try it. It wasn't a hard recipe - but it did take a bit of time. Your multi-tasking will come in handy. It was a delicious dish something that I will definitely make again.

Yam and Butternut Squash Gratin
Ok - before I get into the recipe - the recipe actually called for 'Sweet Potatoes' - but any time that I am watching a cooking show - when they refer to sweet potatoes it's yams that they are using - the orange ones. So, b/c it is an American magazine and it said sweet potatoes, I thought that it would use yams. I guess you could use yams or sweet potatoes. The yams were delicious. I tweaked it a bit - here is my version.

2 tbsp butter
1 shallot - 1/4 cup chopped
3 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 cup flour (and 2 tbsp separated)
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 cups skim milk
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 bakers potatoes - around 1 pound
1 yam - around 1 pound
1 butternut squash - around 1 pound
1/3 cup gruyere cheese

Pre-heat oven to 375. In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter. Add the shallots and garlic. Heat over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and whisk thoroughly - cook for two minutes. Add they thyme. Slowly add the milk - continue to stir - then add the parmesan - it will thicken into a nice creamy sauce.

At the same time (we're women, we are multi-tasking divas) boil the potatoes and yams. I cut them into medium size pieces that I could cut into thin slices after they were boiled. You could slice them first and then boil - this way would probably take less time. When they are soft, put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with 1 tbsp of flour. Do the same thing for the butternut squash. 

In a 11x7 broil safe dish, do a layer of potatoes and yams, and then a layer of butternut squash and repeat this one other time. Cover the vegetables with the cream sauce. And then sprinkle with the gruyere cheese.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes and then broil for about 2 minutes. And that's it. 

Deliciousness and loveliness is served. This will impress anyone - I dare you to give it a try.

I served this with a roast chicken. I used my mom's method. Super easy and super moist. I just put it in a roasting pan, drizzled a bit of olive oil and rubbed it all over. Added kosher salt. Covered with aluminum foil and baked it in a 350 oven. The rule for cooking it Jules' way is 1/2 hour per pound. Very delicious.

Well - I am calling it a night. I hope you all had a weekend full of the adventures that you were wanting.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Healthy addictions.

Well, our Friday has arrived. TFIF. It's been a typical week - some ups, some downs, but it's over - and the weekend is going to be full of goodness. 

To start this fine weekend off - even though it took me over 30 minutes to get home - a typical 7-10 minute drive - took way longer - I have put on my 'cozy clothes' - pretty much any sort of relaxation clothes - we had chicken wings and spinach and artichoke dip from M&M b/c I just didn't feel like cooking. Chris and I are loafing about, watching the hockey game, hanging with the pups and taking it easy. 

For the rest of the weekend - we are going to the Matthew Good concert tomorrow night at the McPherson - really looking forward to that. I have plans to do a little shopping with my mom tomorrow morning - and Sunday visiting the Root Cellar and a new kitchen shop that she has discovered - and a bit of a hockey game. 

I think that I have talked about some of my addictions before: chocolate, Mark Wahlberg movies, chocolate, kosher salt, chocolate. Well another addiction - cooking magazines. I love them. I love the different varieties that there are, I love the ideas they give me, I love the new techniques that I've never tried, I love the pictures, I love the new gadgets, I love it all. So... it's probably an expensive addiction - but I like to think that it could be worse. I could have an addiction to Gucci shoes, watches, perfume or china ponies that I would have to fill each room with. The only problem that I see with my addiction is what to do with them? How can I stop from filling my kitchen desk, and my coffee table - and the large baskets in my spare bedroom with them? WHAT???? 

Tonight I started looking through November's 'Cooking Light' (oh how I love thee) I used a little bookmark on each of the pages that I liked the recipes for - and as I was doing this, I thought that it would be good to remove those pages from the magazine and recycle the rest of the magazine. Oh hello Miss Magazine Organizer. I have started step 1, and hopefully I can go through the rest of my magazines and pull out the faves, which would be step 2. 

Now, once I get through step 2, I would need to go on to step 3. I know - step 3!!!! I think that step 3 would be 'filing' the pages somewhere - or trying to type them up and storing them somewhere on my wee little laptop - aka - my cooking sidekick. 

I will work on this 4 step program. What is stop 4 you ask - cooking the recipes! I will work on it and give an update as to how it is working.

I have two cookbooks to go through. 

Cookbook 1 - 500 Pizzas & Flatbreads. This was a gift from my co-workers for my 9th year anniversary. Each of them wrote up a nice little thing about me and they were put in as book marks sporadically throughout the book. They all made me cry. There are some great recipes - and some dough recipes that look pretty easy.

Cookbook 2 - The Pioneer Woman Cooks. So excited for this one. I would recommend this one - not just for the recipes - but the photos are beautiful and her dedication to cowboys - ooh lala. I ordered it on and it arrived in 2 days!

So, hopefully with some hardcore recipe mag and book reading this weekend - it will inspire me for some new recipes.

I hope you're all enjoying your Fridays - live it up this weekend. Go out and smash it - let go your guard - jump off that sofa.... 



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh Winter is on it's way!

Day 4 of November - already. Only 26 more days and it's December. That will come fast - just like October came and went. Do you ever feel like time just passes by way too quickly? And when you look back on a period of time - it seems like you did too much of what you didn't like doing and not enough of what you do like doing? November is an 'off' month for me. I think that it's the transition from Fall and then Halloween and then all of a sudden it seems like it's already time to think of Christmas.

Vacation update:
We had a great time. U2 was AWESOME. They put on such an amazing show. They played a lot of new stuff, but a lot of old stuff - the stuff I heart. The Edge - he has always been my favourite. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I mentioned him in my grade 12 year book write up. The Black Eyed Peas were also fantastic. They were so entertaining. There were 13 of us that gathered in our hotel room for a little pre-concert party and had a few libations - so all in all it was a great night.

We spent the Thursday at Point Roberts. I kid you not - after having lunch I planted myself on the comfy couch and napped and watched tv for about 4 hours. 4 frickin' hours! So lazy - but oh so fabulous.

On the Friday we were off to Dallas. We had a great time. We had a few 'issues' with directions - I had to yell 'red light! RED LIGHT!!!' a couple of times, and had to say stuff like 'oh, I think that we should have turned there' - but all in all we found our way around ok. Our hotel - The Magnolia - really was great. They offered a beer and wine reception every night, a cookie bar in the later evening and a big breakfast every morning. The location - kind of strange. All reviews mentioned it was in the 'heart of downtown', which I'm sure that it was, what they didn't mention was the heart didn't have a heart beat. Seriously, it was a bit of a ghost town. There were so many enormous sky scrapers, lots of restaurants - but barely any people around. 

The game was fun! The stadium is unreal - so huge. I mean huge!! Our team, the Seahawks, didn't win - but it was still an awesome experience. We had a group of 3 drunkens sitting in front of us - and when Seattle came on the field they yelled 'go back to Canada!'. Rrrright. I didn't have the heart to tell them that Seattle was part of the US. 

Will we go back? - probably not - but we're so happy that we did have the experience and the chance to go. Anytime I travel outside of Canada - I am reminded just what a wonderful country we live in.

Dog walking stories for today:
I have two. The first - since winter is among us and the days are shorter (which I secretly love) I can't do the usual park walk with the pups b/c it's too dark. Instead we venture out and tour our hood. Tonight we started at the baseball parks by our place so that the dogs could get in a little bit of running and sniffing. A woman entered the baseball diamond with a beautiful Australian Shepherd - my pups sniffed it and followed it around for a bit. Then another woman entered with a Springer Spaniel - the two women I think knew each other - and went past me and walked away talking to the other woman so that she would follow. The SS owner said to the AS owner - 'I like my dog to play with the big dogs b/c then it runs more - I don't like the small dogs'. I was thinking 'WTF?' - ironically - the AS just wanted to chew on a beat up frisbee that they found in the park - and my dogs were playing tag and running like crazy - the SS wanted in on the action - but it's owner kept calling it 'Biscuit. Biscuit' . Then the SS ran out of the diamond and the SS owner couldn't get her dog back. Karma!

Second story - as we started our walk after the field - a man and a woman were approaching us. The man yelled out 'Oh look - here come two guinea pigs on leashes!' Then he bent down to try and pat them and said 'Oh hello little guinea pigs on leashes'. Good thing that it was dark - b/c I had a very disgusted look on my face - and I wished that I had said something like 'Kujo, don't attack! KUJO DON'T ATTACK' and then started to pretend to pull Magnum back. Oh well. He is probably a dumb dumb anyways. Isn't there a song - 'Oh the people that you meet in the neighbourhood, in the neighbourhood...' - I think it's from Sesame Street.  

Now let's get on to making some dinner. I did a bit of a shop last night - but am trying to hold off until Sunday - so my mom and I can do our weekly vegetable shop at the Root Cellar. So this evening's dinner is dedicated to what I think that my life would be like if we lived on a farm.

If you don't know that I would like to live on a farm some day - you should. I really want to. My cuz Margo and I have talked about living on a farm for years. Years ago, we did a road trip to Plato, SK, with my grandma - so that she could visit her sister-in-law and nephew and family, and the farm that my great uncle had worked for years. It was an amazing trip - and I will definitely have to dedicate a blog or two to that trip. It was so memorable - every bit of it.

Anyways, back to farm cooking. I pulled things out of 'my root cellar' - which is basically this basket that I bought years ago when we had a rental house and very little cabinet space. I bought the basket to sit on the counter so that I could put onions, potatoes, yams... in it. I still use it to this day and it sits in a little nook in the corner of the kitchen - in the area which I am sure is supposed to be filled with fancy appliances like mixers, blenders, etc. 

So tonight, I pulled out yams - a lot of them and an onion. I dug in my 'pantry' and found some canned goods - and I think that I pulled off a pretty good dinner that turns out to be very healthy too.

My Interpretation of Farmer's Winter Chili
1 onion
6 small yams 
2 packs of ground chicken breasts 
1 can of Heinz beans in tomato sauce
1 can of white kidney beans - drained and rinsed
1 large can of diced tomatoes 
1 cup of mushrooms - sliced (that's all I had left)
3 stalks of celery - thinly sliced (that's all I had left)
1 cup of frozen corn - I love the O brand at Safeway - it's Organic and always seems fresh even though it's frozen
Chili powder - as much or as little as you like

In a large dutch oven - saute the onion in olive oil until golden. Add yams - that have been sliced into very small pieces. Continue to saute. In a separate pan - I used my cast iron, brown the ground chicken until it is fully cooked.
Once the yams start to soften, add the rest of the ingredients - and the meat to the dutch oven. 
And that's basically it.
Let the chili simmer until the yams are softened and the flavour is where you want it.

I am just about to dig into a bowl, the smells are making my mouth water. 

Sorry for the novel. Lots to say.



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Home sweet home, alas.  We're home - we're done our quick whirlwind - it's good to be home. I seem to struggle after getting back from a trip - I feel like I need a couple of days to unwind - I just have no rush to get things done. Oh how I hope that the luggage on the spare bedroom's floor doesn't stay there for too long. Please wish me luck.

We really had a wonderful trip. We loved the U2 concert - LOVED IT!!!! - we enjoyed Dallas - I think that we both thought it would be different, but nonetheless, we had a great time. Alright I have lots of stories - but just don't have that energy tonight - need another day or two. But, I did download all of my pictures and I thought that I would share some of my favourites. I don't have any recipes to try from our trip - unless I ever get the courage to make onion rings - I had them twice. What??? I was on holidays :)

Ok, here are some pictures, I hope that you enjoy. 

Our best friend - without 'Castro' we would still be driving around the car rental garage.

Loved this sign.

Deep thought for the day.

There's the boots!

Unreal stadium. We were really high up!

Love this pic. 
And this one too - I dislike getting my picture taken A LOT - but I liked this one. 
Ceiling in our hotel lobby - 100 years old. 
View from one of our windows - Chris spotted the moon - so lovely.

Our hotel sign.
Chris - oh Chris. And, I think that my nose is getting bigger - it's the Cumiskey coming out.

Alright friends - until tomorrow. I hope you're all well.