Sunday, December 30, 2012
Being stuck at home is not necessarily a bad thing. You can take the opportunity to prep the meals that are planned for the coming week. This is also a good habit to get into on shopping day. Wash and trim your fruits and vegetables, discard any questionable leftovers, blanch any vegetables you need for the next day or so, freeze meats into mealsized portions and mix any sauces you may require. Today, I made a batch of meatballs. Once they cool, place them in a freezer bag. They are now ready of a quick sauce for a quick dinner. I also cooked up a pound of bacon for our Sunday morning pancakes. You could also make a pasta sauce, cook up some meat for tacos or assemble an entire casserole (like mac & cheese) and freeze for future use.
Prep day can be an easy way to get ready an entire week of meals in just a couple hours. Prepping the night before is also an option. If you've put in the time prepping dinner before work, you'll be less likely to choose take out or over processed meals. That's not to say you can't eat take out. But make a resolution to make it an exception, not a rule.
So, what's for dinner tonight?
Slow Cooker Arroz Con Pollo
I have some leftover rice in the fridge, so am using the slow cooker to make this Cuban classic.
2 T canola oil
8 - 12 chicken legs
Salt & pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 lg can diced tomatoes
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 T oregano
1/4 C sherry
1 C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 t achoite paste (or saffron, or paprika)
2 C cooked rice
In a skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken legs, seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to slow cooker. Add onions and garlic (both minced) to the skillet and saute then transfer to the slow cooker. Add the diced tomatoes, half the peppers, celery, sherry, chicken broth, oregano and achoite paste. Cook on low 5 - 7 hours. Add remaining peppers and rice. Stir and cook for 1 hour.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
This blustery day called out soup to me, which in my house means "slow cooker". But what kind of soup to make? Googled a couple things, and flipped through a couple slow cooker magazines until I came across "Sante Fe Sweet Potato Soup". I didn't have sweet potato, but I had an acorn squash. This could be good.
So, at 7:30 this morning, I'm sauteing onions and garlic, roasting peppers and peeling squash, trying to get everything in the slow cooker before getting to school as today was the day I was volunteering in Jack's kindergarten class. Well, it seemed to have worked out, for when we came home at lunchtime, the house smelled great! I pureed and added my last few ingredients and there's nothing left to do until dinnertime, except maybe make some biscuits... and apple crisp. (I love the fall)
In the midst of this, I also made the mash potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Don't worry. It's the "Make Ahead" Mashed Potatoes. Not only do you make them ahead of time, but you heat them up in the slow cooker. Ingenious! The last time I made them the recipe said to heat them in the oven in a casserole dish, but who has the room in the oven when making a turkey? This will save some much work and mess.
So, what's for dinner tonight?
Sante Fe Acorn Squash Chowder
It's probably worth a note, that this would work with almost any winter squash.
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 acorn squash, peeled and diced
As a note, do not use the slow cooker liners for this recipe if you are blending in the slow cooker. It WILL get chewed up. Remove the contents to blend in a traditional blender or food processor, or opt not to use the liner for this recipe.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I think the first thing you need to do is lead by example.It sounds simple enough, but you wouldn't believe how many adults I know that are picky eaters. If there is something you don't like, say in front of the child that you don't like it, and don't make faces. Try to keep a positive attitude. Make dinner a family event, not hitting the drive through between activities. Of course, in today's hustle and bustle lifestyle, that is not always a possibility but make dinner a priority, not an afterthought. Family dinners should be the norm, not the exception.
Another tip for picky eating is the one bite rule.In our house, when we are trying a new food, we have to have at least one bite. If you don't like it after that, then this time you don't have to eat it. The next time that dish is made, that one bite may turn into two. As an additional caveat to the rule, is always have something on the plate that they do like. If you know your child like raw carrots with dip, then you can make that part of the meal. But that meals everyone eats the carrots and dip. If after the carrots, and the one bite of the new food, they are still hungry I recommend offering them a "whole food". That is, something healthy and unprocessed. That could be an apple, glass of milk or yogurt... something along those lines. After all, I'm a mom, not a short-order cook. If they are still hungry after that, then I hope they like breakfast. (Yes, a little old-school) I have tried to steer away from bribery and deal making. "If you eat your peas, you can have a cookie" sort of thing. As someone who deals with a weight issue, I didn't want my kids to have food as a reward.
Getting you children involved in cooking is a good idea for many reasons. When my kids were really little, we had a toy barbeque and microwave with a big box of toy food right in the kitchen. My 5-year old still loves to play with it, and will often play restaurant or create some wonderful dish and serve it to us. At the grocery store, have your children name the different items in the produce aisle. Maybe even bring one home to try. Let them know that trying new foods is fun. As the children get older they can have more input. Let them rip up the lettuce for the salad, measure the tomato sauce or crack an egg into a bowl. Let them tell everyone what "they made for dinner".You can let them pick one part of the meal... "Sally, would you like to have peas or carrots with dinner?" Older ones can start to cook. My 7-year old will make his own scrambled eggs and flip pancake. By the time they are teenagers, full responsibility for a meal could be a weekly occurance. After all, dinner is a family event.
As parents, we are always creating habits for our kids, good and bad and this is one of them. When toddlers start "terrible-twos" some of it is a control issue. Giving your child a little age-appropreate control when it comes to food will work wonders. As with everything set expectation and follow through.
Post a comment with specific questions about picky eating and I'll do my best to help.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I have a busy afternoon planned, getting ready for my sister-in-law to visit from California on the weekend. We are having a family dinner on Friday when we are planning grilled chicken, grilled asparagus, baked potatoes and spinach salad. (Strawberry Crumble Pie for dessert) More about that meal another day.
I'd been a while since I've tried a recipe from a celebrity chef, but it did look easy enough for a weekday meal and something my family would actually eat. It's based on a classic Italian dish, sausage and peppers, served over egg noodles. I think I'll add some extra vegetables to mine, like tomatoes and zucchini. Also, I don't have fresh basil at the moment - I'll probably use a bit of dried, or some pesto.
So, between loads of laundry and other chores, I'll get my prep done - chopping vegetables etc. You could do this part the night before and either wrap in plastic wrap, or place in a resealable container if you are unavailable during the day.
So, what's for dinner tonight?
Michael Symon's Italian Goulash
This is exactly the kind of recipe I like for those nights during the week when time is precious. I like to have my prep and clean up done in advance for easy assembly.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
We all like a grilled burger, but it's not an "everyday" food. If you want to switch it up and still make use for the outdoor grill throughout the week try marinating your meat. My trick takes a little planning. When the large packages of meat are on sale, I take what I am not using in the next couple days and place what I need for a meal the whole family (e.g. For 2 adults & 2 kids I use 3 skinless boneless chicken breasts) and place it in a resealable freezer bag with a marinate. You can use your own or store bought. You can even use a salad dressing. Lay it flat and remove the air. (labeling with a marker is also helpful) Place it in the freezer until the day you are ready to use it. Take it out of the freezer in the morning you are planning to use it. By the time dinnertime rolls around, the meat is thawed and full of flavour.
I do this a lot during cottage season. I'll bring up with us my frozen marinated meat. It is perfect portioned, the mess is already cleaned up since I did all the prep at home, and I don't have to stock the cottage pantry with tonnes of spices, oils and vinegars.
For a basic marinade you only need a couple key things. The first is an acid. This can be citrus juice, vinegar or even a can of ginger ale. Next you want some supporting flavours. Things like garlic, herbs, spices and/or chilies. The last thing is some liquid to allow the flavours to surround the meat. I like to use an inexpensive, neutral tasting oil, like vegetable or canola oil. Although you could use your best olive oil, it seems like a bit of a waste to me. Then like most recipes, a pinch of salt and pepper.
There are some great store bought marinades and I do use them on occasion. But the beauty of making your own is that YOU control the ingredients. You can make it just the way you want and you can control things like fat, sugar and salt.
I'll add one more tip to make dinner a little easier... grill your vegetables! Really, there is nothing better. Corn, zuchinni, peppers, asparagus all work wonderfully. A little olive oil, salt and pepper and you are ready to go. It's less dishes to clean and less running in and out of the house to make sure everything get on the table hot and at the same time.
And girls... don't be afraid of the grill! It's not just for the men. Be your own GRILL MASTER.
Need a recipe to get started? Here's what's for dinner tonight.
Grilled Tarragon Mustard Chicken
This recipe came to be because I had leftover tarragon from another recipe for a recipe contest. (Lobster Mac & Cheese made it to the finals) Doing a quick search, I found that tarragon was often paired with mustard. I'm not a huge mustard fan; so you can add more if you like. I find that the way it is, you can taste the mustard, but it is not overpowering.
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don't have sherry vinegar)
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a large freezer bag place the chicken.
In a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. Pour over the chicken.
All to marinate in the fridge for at least hour.
Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Sear each side (bottom grill) 3 -4 minutes a side then most to the top rack and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
You can substitute different flours, use buttermilk instead of regular, even soy milk would be good. But this is a good place to get started. If you want to try a traditional Acadian pancake (ployes) here's a recipe I found. It used buckwheat flour instead of all-purpose.
If you have never cooked a pancake or are unsure; here are some tips.
1. Start with a hot pan
2. Use butter or some sort of fat to coat the pan. This will help the pancake not to stick, but also help to carmelize it.
3. When adding things like bananas, chocolate chips or blueberries, I like to add them in the pan. Pour the batter to the desired size, them sprinkle your additions on top. This way you can ensure even distribution.
4. Watch for bubbles. When the bubbles come to the top, and stay; and the edges of the pancake start to look dry, it is time to flip.
Whether you call them pancakes, hot cakes, johnny cakes or flap jacks flip your family's dinner over with this original Mardi Gras tradition.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Saturday, February 4, 2012
I don't think there is anything more "American" than Superbowl Sunday. But as a Canadian, I too can appreciate the signifigance of this institution known all over the world as "Superbowl Sunday". But the Superbowl is more than just about the game... who wins, who loses, how many fumbles. And even more than the halftime show or commercials. It's about getting together with good friends and having good food.
I was never much of a football fan. I understand the game and appreciate it's nuances but it wasn't until my oldest son, Danny started playing when I really got excited about the game.
This Sunday, we are going to the home of good friends of ours. It so happens that our hostess is a wonderful cook, as is her daughter. (Wants to a chef when she grows up). So, there is our trifecta. Good football, good friends and good food. A glorious Sunday indeed. In addition to the flatbread salad (see previous post) I am bringing a Hot Spinach, Crab and Artichoke Dip served with pita crisps and assorted crackers. I can make it ahead of time and bake it when we get to our destination.
Spinach, Crab and Artichoke Dip
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1 10oz package frozen spinach (thawed, drained and patted dry)
1 can or jar (8-10 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (in food processor works great)
1 can (6-7oz) crab meat, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pinch tarragon
In a bowl, soften cream cheese. Add in spinach, artichokes, crab and garlic. Mix well.
Add in the parmesan, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne and tarragon. Blend together.
Place mixture in an oven proof dish and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until it is bubbly. Serve with chips, crackers or pitas.
And trust me, in the off chance you have some leftover (and you proably won't) it is too good to waste. You can freeze it for a snack later or even use it as a pasta sauce heated in a pan with a little olive oil.
So to all of you - fill your plates and GO PATRIOTS!
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I add ground flax seeds to something almost everyday. From pancakes to cupcakes this veratile seed is a staple in my house. There are 3 major nutrional components to flax seeds. (1) OMEGA-3 (2) LIGNANS (3) FIBRE
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means it's a "good" fat that your body requires but cannot produce itself. It helps protect us from heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer as well as increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. It is also aids in retina and brain development in infants.
Lignans are compounds that help protect us against some cancers particularly colon and breast cancer. Lignans also help the body flight viruses and other infections.
Fibre is an important compontent of any diet to help regulate the digestive system and to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
So, to use flax seeds effectively, you need to know a couple things. (1) The flax seeds must be ground to be readily absorbed into the body. Whole flax seeds will pass right through. You can buy ground flax seeds in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or in health food or bulk stores. (2) Since it contains oil, it can go rancid so keep it in the fridge, in an air tight container.
So, now that you know my secret what's for dinner tonight?
Chili Con Carne
You can make this in a slow cooker or large sauce pan. I prefer the slow cooker.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
3 C tomato sauce
1 5.5oz can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C Mexican beer (like Corona) or beef broth
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp New Mexico chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp caynne pepper - or more to taste
2-3 poblano peppers, chopped
1 serrano pepper or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
shredded monteray jack or cheddar cheese
In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and allow them to sweat. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula while it cooks. Add flax seeds.
Transfer meat mixture to a slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beer and spices. Cover and turn on low 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 - 4 hours. PLEASE: DO NOT use pasta sauce, use tomato sauce. Pasta sauce contains extra sugars, salt and other ingredients.
One hour before serving at peppers, stir, cover and place on high it not already.
After an hour, zest and juice 1 lime and stir. Serve with shredded cheese on top.
1 C oatmeal
2 tbsp flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1/3 C butter
pinch of salt
2 tbsp flour
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, salt, flax seeds and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until resembles coarse crumbs.
In a 8" round cake pan, or 8" sqaure pan place apples that have been peeled, cored and cut into wedges. Toss with flour. Sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle topping over the apples and press slightly. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are tender.
Now if that doesn't warm us up, nothing will.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
So, we start a new year and as usually we make promises to ourselves to improve our lives. This year my New Years Resolution is a health related one. Like most of us, I would like to lose a few extra pounds. But instead of the big New Year's Resolution of "I'm going to lose weight this year", I'm making smaller ones that will propel me to my goal. So, here are my New Year's Resolutions...
1. I am going to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, therefore reducing the amount of diet soda consumed
2. I am going to eat 5-8 servings fruits and vegetables a day
3. I am going to go to the gym at least 3 times a week.
You may want to ask... how is a meal plan going to help me? Well, when you make your meal plan you make healthier decision. Plan your sensible meals and grocery shop according to your plan. You keep less junk in the house and fight the temptation in the grocery store. Secondly, when you know you have the chicken thawed when you get home, you are less likely to grab the fast food on the way home.
So, my advice to those making New Year's Resolutions is this...
1. Make small, measurable, obtainable goals
2. Make a plan to reach your goals.
So, what's for dinner tonight?
Well, tonight is swimming lessons and they happen to be right at dinner time. So, what works for us is, a small meal before swimming and a small snack afterwards. So, tonight we are having scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and a tossed salad. After swimming will be yogurt and a piece of fruit. Not complicated at all, but happens to be one of my kids' favourite dinners. (We call it "Scrambies") My husband is working late and has taken leftovers from a previous night. He'll have that and a salad for dinner.
I should mention the importance of leftovers. I will usually make enough of any dinner so I can package them up as lunches or dinners. I place them in plastic containers, label them and place them in the freezer. I keep them as single servings. It's like a TV dinner but made with love, not to mention all your own ingredients. Much healthier than the store bought counterparts.
Good luck everyone with those New Year's Resolutions!