One of those weeks

It’s been one of those weeks, where everything creeps up on you faster than you realize. Where a smooth morning routine suddenly falls apart because, a) sissy sat to close to her when she was waiting for breakfast, b) the little spills her entire smoothie on the floor and the highly allergic dog is eating it, or c) pants don’t feel good on their legs.

Yes, this is our morning sometimes. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all the above on one morning, but they are few and fleeting, and they seem to coincide with busy work weeks. This week, actually year, has been particularly busy at work. Some days I make it home by 5, some days, 7 p.m. at night. On those days I am extremely thankful for a husband who goes to work earlier so he can pick the girls up from dayhome early and spend time with them. I am also thankful that we meal plan.

Meal planning isn’t my favorite thing to do, but to maintain a grocery budget, eat healthy and minimize the amount of times we eat out, it’s necessary. And a god send on busy weeks, especially when I’m on the ball and prep things way before and leave them in the fridge. This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

But this week, I had something right, well, one night anyway, which was awesome because it also happened to be the night I stayed at work the latest. To say this meal was a hit in our house, is an understatement. Both girls gobbled it up, when I got home, there was just enough for my supper. No leftovers for lunch. Fail.

These Sesame Ginger Lettuce Tacos actually remind me of a Korean chicken rice bowl I use to eat in Calgary. It’s not too spicy, but lots of great flavours. I think this would also be good wrapped in a tortilla, rice paper wrap, or served over rice or noodles. This really is just a base waiting for creativity.

Sesame Ginger Chicken lettuce tacosSesame Ginger Lettuce Tacos
1 lb. chicken cut into strips
1 Tbsp. Sesame Ginger dressing
1 Tsp. Asian Stir-fry spice (more if you like it spicy)
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Soy sauce (low sodium)
¼ cup apple sauce

Directions:
1. Slice chicken into about ½ inch strips. Place in a ziplock bag.
2. Dump all spices into the bag on top of the chicken.
3. Fumble it like a football, if you don’t know what that means, google it, or pass the bag to someone who does.
4. When chicken is all covered in mixture and sauced. Put in the fridge, and forget about it for at least two hours. Or freeze for another night. (This recipe would be great for a freezer meal.)
5. When ready to cook, take out of the fridge and toss in a low to medium hot skillet. Toss around until cooked through. There will be charring as the sugars caramelize.
6. Serve on lettuce cups topped with Wasabi Mayo, a squirt of Sriracha, avocado, and broccoli slaw. Shake Sesame crunch topping over the taco. And enjoy.

My husband was the one who discovered the Wasabi mayo when he opened the cupboard and thought it would be a good edition. I’m proud of him, he’s getting more adventurous and taking risks, which is easy with Epicure in our cupboard.

Friday Night Meatballs -Flattened

Also known as Hamburgers.

Friday night Meatballs.jpgA few months ago, the greatest neighbour instituted a weekly event called Friday Night Meatballs. If you haven’t heard of this before, you can read about it here. It’s simple,  the host family makes the meatballs, and all us meat heads(friends) show up at her door with our kids in tow and maybe a side, appie, or dessert. The adults chat, play with the kids, the kids run around the house, we just come together as a community. It is simply fantastic.

Here’s the write-up/ Facebook invite description we use on our Friday Night Meatball e-vite. Feel free to host you’re own.

So here’s what Joe and I have decided to do, in my 33rd year, to make our lives happier: we are instituting a new tradition we call Friday Night Meatballs. Starting next Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family—along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table.

We’ll just ask folks to let us know by Thursday night so we know how many meatballs to make. You can bring something, but you don’t have to. Kids, vegetarians, gluten-free types, etc. will all be taken care of. The house will be messy. There might be card and/or board games. There might be good scotch. You might be asked to read picture books. You might make new friends. We’ll just have to find out.

This is our little attempt to spend more time with our village.

This Friday night tradition has quickly become our family’s favourite thing to do to connect with our friends, and our girls love it because they get to stay up later and play, play, play. This week, we chose to host Friday Night Meatballs – flattened. With summer around the corner and working till 4:30, hamburgers were easier.

We barbecued some hamburgers, sliced some buns, set out some condiments and our friends brought salads, fruit, veggies, and appies. It was great to just sit around and chat while the kids destroyed the basement, which I didn’t even care about because it was already a mess, however, during the chaos a beloved blankie went missing. Thank goodness for back ups.

This week, I chose to make a Peanut Butter Pie. I originally saw a commercial for Chef Micheal Symons show that featured a Peanut Butter Pie, and thought, “I can re-create that.” So off we went. I made it the first time for a meatball friday, but that pie was too sweet and rich. And only sampled by a few because someone decided to have her baby that day. The parents were ok with Meatball Friday being postponed…the kids not so much.

The second time it was made, it was altered and perfect.12822537_588847874606934_1631208506_n

Peanut Butter Pie

For crust:
  • 1 package Oreo cookie crumb
  • 6 teaspoons melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For filling:
  • 2 cups heavy/whipping cream
  • 1 cups icing sugar
  • 1 and ½ cups peanut butter
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 and ½ cup Reese Peanut Butter cups chopped or mini cups
Crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Butter a 12-inch springform pan, and set aside
  3. Melt butter, and pour over Oreo Cookie crumb.
  4. Stir with a fork until completely moistened.
  5. Evenly press crumb mixture into pan, on bottom and up sides.
  6. Place in freezer for 10 minutes.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Filling:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  2. Add ½ cup icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  3. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl, and place in refrigerator until needed.
  4. Use the same bowl, but replace whisk with the paddle attachment.
  5. Beat together cream cheese and remaining ½ cup of confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
  6. Add peanut butter and milk, and beat until completely combined. Scrape sides as needed.
  7. Remove bowl from mixer.
  8. Add about ¼ of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture. Use a spatula to fold the cream into the peanut butter to lighten the mixture. Do not stir vigorously, carefully fold the mixture so you don’t deflate the whipped cream.
  9. Add the remaining cream in two batches, using the same folding method, until all of the whipped cream is completely incorporated.
  10. Add the peanut butter cups and gently stir to combine.
  11. Pour batter into the cookie shell, and smooth top. Top with Reese Peanut Butter cups if you desire.
  12. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 30 minutes.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate an additional 4-24 hours before serving.

This is one of the easiest desserts we’ve made in a long time. Perfect for a Meatball Friday. Enjoy and let us know how yours turns out.

 

Junior Chef

A few years ago, when I was on maternity leave with the Mini Cupcake. We would attend a program called Junior Chef. The Cupcake loved Junior Chef. It was her favorite day. They made apple crescent rolls, and some other things. We only really remember the apple rolls, because Cupcake still asks to make them.

AG CookbookFast forward two and a half years and the Cupcake still loves everything about baking and cooking. Williams-Sonoma  hosts kids cooking sessions every month. So far the cupcake has attended an American Girl Madeline cookie class, and a Cake Pop class. This month they held at Mommy and Me American Girl Cookbook club class. As soon as I saw it, I knew we had to attend.

The menus was simple, Cheesy Garlic Bread, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and for dessert – a S’mores Cupcakes!

This is the second Cookbook club event I have attended at Williams-Sonoma. The first featured Chrissy Teigan’s Cravings cookbook. A WS Cookbook club presentation includes a culinary demonstration from one of their culinary specialists, your own copy of the cookbook and a generous tasting of all the recipes prepared. After the American Girl cookbook club, I signed up for next months Cookbook Club and will be taking my mom as a Mother’s Day gift.

While this cookbook club was great for the value, meal and cookbook, the Cupcake stated she wished she got to help make the food rather than just sit and watch. She then promptly asked if she could sign up for the next Junior Chef class.

The cupcake is growing fast, she’ll be six in two months, before she fell asleep I asked her what the best part of the day was, she said, “spending time with you at the cooking class.” Yes, we will be doing more cooking classes, just to spend time with each other, because that was my favourite part too.

On Sunday’s, we bake and play

We try to keep Sunday’s a bit slower when we can. Today was one such day. On days like this we have a family Starbucks coffee (for mom and dad), and hot chocolate or iced tea for the Cupcake and mini cupcake.

lobster tea partyWe didn’t have a lot on the go today, as we were walking around the grocery store picking up a few things, the Cupcakes’ saw the lobster tank – and in walked dinner, literally… Back in university, I worked at Red Lobster and maybe that is why the girls enjoy Red Lobster, in fact the Cupcake told me she is going to work at Red Lobster when she is in university. The girls enjoyed their two hour pet, playing with the lobsters, petting them, getting them to colour/ write their name, and wave – yes Lobsters can wave and colour, next time your at Red Lobster, ask your hostess for a demonstration, also ask them to educate you on the lobster. It was part of our training. Lobsters, not only for eating – also a great tool to entertain children.

bread and muffinSunday’s in our house also means meal prep day. Meals are planned, muffins, bread, rice, protein, and veggies are chopped and ready for the week. We’ve been making bread for over eight years. We got the bread maker as a wedding gift and we love home made bread. It just tastes better, and cheaper. Bread making is a science, we haven’t perfected kneading, so we use Robin Hood Flour’s multigrain bread maker recipe. We omit the raisin’s and cinnamon for everyday bread. We don’t bake the bread in the bread maker because it always comes out funny shaped and a hole in the bottom from the paddle. To bake in the oven, we use the dough cycle, and transfer to a bread pan to raise in a warmed over for one hour. After it’s doubled we bake it in a 375ºF oven for 30 minutes.

We also made Skinny Strawberry Chocolate muffins. The recipe is adapted from Fresh April Flours. We incorporated extra protein and Epicure’s Summer Berry Sweet Dip Mix to give the muffin an extra berry hit. This is third time we’ve made these muffins. The first time the Cupcake dog ate seven muffins. We were not impressed, especially as she is allergic to gluten!

Skinny Protein Strawberry Chocolate Muffins

  • 1 and ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 scoops Epicure Protein Powder (or protein powder of your choice.)
  • 2 Tbsp Epicure Summer Berry Sweet Dip Mix
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅔ cup diced strawberries
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (we use Epicure chocolate chips, but any chocolate chips will work.)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF degrees. Spray a cupcake/muffin pan generously with nonstick cooking spray.Do not use liners as stated by Fresh April Flours. You will not be able to separate the muffins from the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, protein powder, sweet dip mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sugar, unsweetened applesauce, Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract until smooth. Whisk in the egg until fully incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the diced strawberries and chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin cups (we use a large scoop, which gives up equal portions).
  4. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until muffins just turn lightly golden on the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Allow muffins to cool in pan 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

    Muffins will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature up to one week. If they last that long. Enjoy these protein packed, flavourful muffins as a snack for school, or a quick on the go breakfast.

Happy Birthday

Across the internet people are sharing their Man Crush Monday’s. Well it just so happens that this Monday also coincides with my man crush’s birthday.

kyle helmet

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for 10 years.

us

So what does our family do for birthdays…cupcakes of course – Black Forest Cupcakes to be exact, my husband’s favorite and actually the first cupcakes I took a risk with five years ago. Since then, well, cupcakes in our house have never been the same.

Now baking is a science and all measurements are to be exact. Sorry, you actually need to get out dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. This chocolate cake is vegan, and was adapted to accommodate the Cupcake’s friend who is allergic to eggs and dairy. This chocolate cupcake also happens to be one of my most requested cupcakes.

Cupcake finishedBlack Forest Cupcakes

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart.
Makes 12 regular sized cupcakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp coarse salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup coconut oil, measured in liquid form
1 ¼ cup water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp cherry syrup

1. Measure all ingredients together till incorporated and batter like. Similar to pancake batter.
2. Measure 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake well.
3. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
4. Cool, on counter while you prepare filling and topping.

Vanilla Mousse filling 

This is a quick and easy mousse when you’re short on time.
1 cup cold milk
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1 cup cool whip topping

1. Mix vanilla pudding with 1 cup milk and whisk until thick.
2. Add in cool whip topping and fold into pudding.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Vanilla Whipped Cream Icing

2 cups Whip Cream
¼ cup icing cugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Beat cream on high speed until stiff peaks form when pulled up.
2. Add sugar and vanilla and mix until incorporated

To Assemble cupcakes.

1 jar cherry filling

1. Cut a hole into your cupcake and cleave off the top.
2. Fill cupcake with vanilla mousse. Replace cupcake top.
3. Pipe a ring around the cupcake.
4. Spoon on cherry pie filling.

Enjoy with your friends and family, or just eat them all yourself. As for my friends, you know what happens when I make cupcakes…watch Facebook later this evening…there may be cupcakes up for grabs…maybe. Wink wink.

Not so slow Sunday

Sunday’s around here are usually a bit slower. I get to sleep in, win, and we hang out, bake, craft and play outside. But today was a bit different, Cupcake’s friend from dance turned six and had a fantastic birthday party at the West Edmonton Mall’s Sea Life Caverns, and then cake on the Santa Maria Pirate Ship. Cupcake had a great time – even though the birthday girl was not feeling well. Poor thing broke her arm, but she is a trooper. Strongest, now 6 year old I know.

While Cupcake was at the party, Mini cupcake got a Mommy-Daddy- Mini Cupcake date at Galaxyland rides. Woo hoo. She had a great time riding the dragon roller coaster, solar spinners, balloon ride, little space shot and all the other rides she was tall enough to get on.

It was a very busy, and we knew a very busy day needed some good meals before we had cake and candy and what ever other sugar filled treats they would get at the mall. Mind you, we did score FREE Nutella snacks from a promoter at the centre of the mall. We are big Nutella fans in this house.

Back to our morning meal – a couple of weeks ago I signed up for the local Williams Sonoma Cook Book Club, which was featuring Chrissy Teigen’s Craving’s cookbook. OH MY GOODNESS! Amazing cookbook. Chrissy if you ever read this blog – THANK YOU and John for this sandwich. So amazingly delicious. I really hope you give these a try, after we made it at the cookbook club, I was so excited to share them with my family – which was a hit on our kitchen.

Breakfast sandwich

I know, you’re thinking, brussel sprouts for breakfast…you have to be kidding me. Try them. You will be a convert. So let’s get to making this breakfast sandwich.

John’s Breakfast Sandwiches
Makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 pound ground pork (or turkey)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground sage
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil for frying
4 english muffins
4 slices cheese
4 eggs cooked over easy

  1. Prepare sausage patties by combining first eight ingredients.
  2. Form mixture into four evenly formed patties. I like to do these the night before and let them sit overnight in the fridge. The ingredients will mingle and get happy and really bring the flavour.
  3. When you’re ready to make your sandwich, heat a skillet with oil. Add the sausage patties to the skillet and fry until browned and cooked through.
  4. A tip I picked up at the cookbook club was regarding melting cheese. Once the sausage patty is cooked through, add your cheese slices to the patties and place a lid on the pan. This will steam and heat the cheese evenly. Score melty cheese. Now you can transfer the patties to a place and keep warm while we preparethe eggs.
  5. Toast your english muffin, and stack your cheesy sausage patty, then the egg and the top of the english muffin. Delicious.

As for the brussel sprouts. These have seriously been a game changer in our house. I’ve made them three times, green beans, brussel sprouts and with asparagus. That is how good they are. Again Chrissy has hit a nail on the head.

Chrissy Teigen’s Buttery Glazed Green Beans
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound green beans, asparagus, or brussel sprouts
2 Tbsp butter
black pepper
1/4 toasted almonds

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add vegetable of choice and heat vegetable and water till a thin syrup appears as water boils down. Toss vegetables periodically to coat, about 18 minutes. As syrup appears add butter and transfer to a plate, top with almonds and enjoy.

If you think these recipes are good, check out Chrissy Teigen’s blog and cookbook. You will not be sorry. I hope you try these recipes.

ABC Pasta

Cupcake and Mini Cupcake are not huge fans of chicken fingers, so when I asked them this evening if they would like chicken fingers and fries or pasta for dinner I wasn’t surprised when they agreed to pasta.

Cupcake, the oldest, tends to favour pasta carbonara, but we didn’t have any bacon, so I opened the fridge and found some inspiration.

Inspiration

Some kids may not be fans of brussel sprouts, ours love roasted fresh brussel sprouts. But give them frozen ones and they will not eat them. If you are not a fan brussel sprouts, substitute with asparagus, broccoli or any green vegetable you prefer…or really any vegetable you prefer.

ABC Pasta 

1 pound Brussel Sprouts, stemmed and cleaned
1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
3 cups arugala
Spaghetti
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp Epicure’s Pesto Sauce

1. Heat oven to 425 C, and boil water for pasta.
2. Cut and clean brussel sprouts. Toss brussel sprouts with 1 Tbsp of oil a dash or pepper and salt. Lay them on a pan in a single layer and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
3. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and cook in 1 tsp of oil on medium heat in a heavy bottom pan. I use a cast iron pan as it heats more evenly.
4. Hang out and toss chicken until cooked – not burned!
5. Put spaghetti into boiled water, boil until al dente. Reserve 1/2  cup of pasta water and add to the pesto sauce.
6.  Take out brussel sprouts out of the oven after you’ve drained the pasta and add pasta and roasted brussel sprouts to the chicken pan. Add pesto cause to the pan and toss to combine.
7. Add arugala to the pan and toss for one minute to wilt a bit.
8. Serve with a little parm cheese. Enjoy.

served

Cupcake and the husband enjoyed this meal so much they ate two plates each. Pretty good for a thrown together pasta dish. I guess simple is best and easy. Enjoy and take risks by opening in your fridge and trying out a different combination.