Mom, the invisible servant

Something interesting, and most likely quite unintentional, happened to me on Friday night. And it made me realize there is something really, really wrong with me.

But not in the way that you may think. This is actually a positive message I have received, one that will change my perspective (and actions) slightly in order to improve my state of mind somewhat. Continue reading

One step closer to fall…and fresh salmon on the BBQ

The checks for hockey school have cleared the account.

We are one step closer to back to school and activity and routine and schedules, and it makes me hyperventilate.

It’s JULY. I’m in vacation mode here…

Sigh.

* * *

In other news, I made this for dinner the other night:

fresh salmon with herbs

fresh salmon with herbs

I have lemon verbena, lemon thyme and orange mint in the garden. I wrapped the salmon tight with foil after sprinkling it with sea salt, pepper and dill seed, and bbq-ed it for about 10 minutes. Then I decorated it with fresh herbs including parsley. The hint of citrus was very appealing and the entire family ate it. Delicious!

BBQ salmon with herbs

BBQ salmon with citrus scented herbs and parsley

 

Bad mood

Like some other people, I don’t bake much. (Andrea @missfish comes to mind, I think Sharon @SharonDV too said something to that effect at some point)…it has to do with measuring and exact amounts. Not me, at least not in the kitchen.

But I am in a blah, horrible, depressed, icky mood so I baked cookies. Then I ate one, and it wasn’t baked long enough (even though I followed the instructions exactly).

So then I ate another one. And stuck the rest of them back in the oven. Continue reading

What’s to eat mom – planning for the week ahead

I have decided to try my hand at weekly meal planning. In order to determine whether this is a viable option for me, and whether this is something that will actually help, rather than irritate and slow me down, I decided to jot down my thoughts on meal planning he

First impressions: the good and the bad Continue reading

Healthy eating with meat

The problem with the Paleo diet is that we are in endless need of meat.

He’s the one on the diet, but since I have to feed him AND us, I may as well cook accordingly…

Sure we have a freezer full of venison, some of which I do eat even though I’m not crazy for venison in general, but really I can only eat so many beef/pork/venison burgers or meatballs before getting bored (or sick of it).

We used to have a butcher. He died. We no longer have chicken from the Mennonite farm he used to get it from, nor eggs. We no longer have his awesome sausages. We have to shop for meat at other stores that serve organic, or at least pasture-fed, humanely raised meat-animals.

Beretta Organic Farms sells at Wholefoods and at Loblaws, even. So that’s one option, but that means get in the car and drive a distance. I’m a local kinda gal. I prefer doing my shopping close to home, if possible. So I either make the trip once or twice a month and spend a small fortune to fill the freezer, or I order via mom who passes Wholefoods on her way to visit us once a week.

Once upon a time we knew a guy whose parents had a hobby farm. They sold us a half a cow and we were happy! They also had a few chickens, eggs and a bunch of yummy squashes…but that freezer full of various cuts of beef was heavenly. So easy to plan meals! I will have to make the effort to find someone who sells us half a cow again.

While trying to accommodate his paleo needs, I have found that eating less grain in general (even though most of our grain is whole grain) has helped me in terms of battling mid-afternoon fatigue. But to say it’s challenging to cook this way in winter when most of the fruit and veg is imported, greenhoused, and mediocre at best in terms of taste, is pretty much an understatement.

Which brings us to the fantastic weather we’ve been having over the past few weeks. WARM, sunny, and if I stick my finger in the soil of my garden beds, I can feel it move. The soil! It moves! This normally doesn’t happen until May in these parts. Usually the soil is cold and clumpy, frozen even.

So the itch to sow a few seeds that can handle frost has taken me over. I’m thinking arugula, which can be eaten both raw in salads or cooked. The parsley and chives are poking through already too, and are ready for snipping to add to salads and sandwiches. Or on top of eggs.

In the meantime, I dug out a package of chicken and two turkey legs out of the freezer. The turkey legs are bigger so I put them in the crockpot with some orange slices, and the chicken will be defrosted in time to bbq later. Dinner for tonight is covered.

Don’t ask me what to make tomorrow.

What to cook for dinner?

When you think there’s nothing in the house, all you need is a moment of peace and quiet to get those creative juices flowing and the next thing you know you have a casserole ready to shove into the oven.

(Tip: use duct tape on kids if they won’t allow for the above-mentioned peace and quiet).

Here’s what I had in the house:

  • frozen chicken breast, boneless and skinless
  • frozen edamame beans in pods
  • jar of ready-made tomato sauce (which I rarely use but boy are those jars welcome in a pinch)
  • head of cauliflower and 5 mushrooms
  • wine (or water, stock or soup)

Recipe:

  • place defrosted (microwave) chicken pieces in an oven proof dish
  • season with what’s around (I used garlic and onion powder, sea salt, cracked pepper and oregano)
  • chop cauliflower and place in between the chicken pieces
  • chop mushrooms in half if big and scatter across the dish
  • spoon a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce in and around the chicken pieces
  • a few sprinkles of the liquid (I used a very light red wine)

At the very end, just prior to shoving the entire thing into the oven at 400 degrees F I placed a bit of butter on top of the cauliflower, and sprinkled bread crumbs on top.

The entire thing baked for approximately 45 minutes (check the chicken to make sure it’s cooked through). You can serve it with either rice, noodles, pasta or simply a salad. The edamame beans were an added bonus because the kids like to squeeze the pods and eat the beans that pop out.

But I don’t LIKE this dinner!

One day I made turkey for dinner. With potatoes and squash, cranberry sauce and salad.

The 4yo wants to know what we’re having for dinner.

“But I don’t like turkey! And I don’t like squash!”

I was not in the mood to deal with the varying responses that are required as part of my parently duties during a situation like this, so I open the fridge, notice some leftover pasta, and heat it up for him.

We sit down at the table. On the table is a large platter full of turkey, potatoes, squash and cranberry sauce.

Everyone helps themselves.

The 4yo sits down, looks at the plate of pasta in front of him, looks at the toddler’s pasta-less plate in front of her, and then looks at the platter of food.

Tears well up in his eyes.

“But, but, I want to try some of THAT too”, he wails.

I hand him a serving spoon.

He has two plates full of everything except the squash.

Sigh.

The crockpot saves the day. Again

It’s super easy. It saves time. It cooks food while you yell at ignore play spend quality time with the kids. My crockpot is an improved version of what I had before in that it heats things so thoroughly so quickly that the “low” dial actually has the food ready by lunchtime.

I learned to improvise. It’s easy with this thing because it has a timer (!) and an automatic option to have it go to a warmer setting (!) when it’s done its slow cooking.

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Cooking with the crockpot is so easy that I use it in the heat of the summer. Not often, but on those days when you just know from the moment the slobby drool of the toddler wakes you up in the morning, and a hair-curling scream follows from the other room, that making dinner in the late afternoon will be nothing but a lovely ordeal.

So I  use my crockpot a lot. It’s easier during the fall and winter because we tend to eat slow-cooked meals more often than bbq-ed ones, but don’t let the seasons stop you.

I don’t use a recipe book anymore. I simply read any recipe I come across and then improvise with what I have in my kitchen at any given moment. Trust me, most of us have oodles of food you can throw into the crockpot at a moment’s notice and have a half-decent dinner that at least the adults will eat. (Peanut butter sandwiches or yoghurt with berries make a fine dinner for cranky kids, not that I approve of making separate meals for them after I spent 11 agonizing minutes planning the crockpot meal for those noisy little schmucks.)

But I digress.

So this morning while sipping coffee I open the pantry and see a jar of dried navy beans. Hm….those need soaking. Or cooking for who knows how long blah-di-blah. I open the fridge…oops, yesterday’s pork chops sitting on a plate, defrosted, and unable to be re-frozen. Below the counter the potatos look….a little soft. But not so squishy soft that they can’t be eaten anymore…

Fast forward to second cup of coffee and children munching on maple-syrup-drenched oatmeal.

Pour some navy beans in a pot (about half a cup or so), add at least double the amount of water, cover, and boil. This takes maybe two minutes.

Once it boils, turn off the stove, leave covered, and go deal with the sticky kids. Have a shower. Putter around with the dishes.

About an hour or so later (this is what I love about the crockpot, you don’t need to cook according to a scientific scenario), drain the beans. Put into the crockpot, add a few swirls of good quality olive oil, some sea salt, and some fresh pepper, and coat to cover all the beans.

Peel two nice cloves of garlic, put in the crockpot. Go out to your herb garden and snip off some fresh savory (EXCELLENT with beans). Use dried herbs or omit all together if you’re not the herby type.

Then I poured what was left of my white wine (less than half a cup) over the beans (you can use water or stock if you wish), covered the crockpot, turned it on low, and left the kitchen. This is at about 9ish (tot woke us up at 6:15 am).

By lunchtime, I stirred the beans a bit more, peeled a few potatos, cut them into quarters, and placed them on the beans. Then I seasoned the chops with sea salt, pepper and paprika, and placed them on top of the potatos. No need to stir the potatos with the beans….just leave it alone.

Sage leaves and more savory can be added now or later.

By mid afternoon you can turn the chops if you wish, but this is by no means necessary. I also found, with my efficient crockpot, that by then the liquid was boiling, and turned the low setting down to warmer. We still had a good 3 hours to go before supper and since the meat was cooked through I did not find it necessary to keep the heat up.

Note: it is extremely hard to overcook anything in a crockpot. You can taste things while it’s cooking to give you a sense of measurement, but I would not recommend you open the lid every 20 minutes. The whole point of the crockpot cooking is to keep all the humidity and flavour inside the pot.

Dinner was a flash. Especially because by the time DH came home the neighbours were here and the kids were playing in every room of the house. It didn’t matter. Dinner was ready. All we needed was plates and spoons.

AND, the kids ate at least some of it. Interestingly, the tastiest part of it was the beans, in my opinion, yet it was the one thing they both left behind.

And UNFORTUNATELY they added ketchup to their potatos. But whatever.

For us, it was delish.

Crockpot pork with beans and potatos

Cooking from scratch – what’s for dinner?

Really, I don’t understand the constant yammering  that cooking from scratch takes more time.

The cooking part is the easy part, if you ask me. I made this Tuna Casserole in about 30 minutes time about two hours prior to dinner, during naptime.

IMG_1497

Recipe for this tuna casserole at the bottom of the post.

It all comes down to the ingredients. Which means you need to have a good grocery list going.

Continue reading