December 28, 2013

Week 51 - Christmas Traditions

I don't have a meal plan to share this week since we've basically just been making the rounds to family gatherings.  It's been a BIG week of eating!!   So many delicious dishes... I'm related to a lot of great cooks!

We're probably all a little too full to talk much about food this week but it would be mean of me to not share this.

Honey Cranberry French Toast with Brie

The one meal I did prepare this week was our traditional Christmas breakfast.  This is at least the 8th year that we've had this and from the minute I have my last bite I start to anticipate having it again the next year.   It's so tempting to have it at other times but I resist because it would take away from the specialness.  I know this is being posted too late for you to have it on Christmas morning but if you're looking for a special New Years breakfast look no further...

Honey Cranberry French Toast with Brie

 I knew when I was taking this picture that it wasn't going to be my best work, but you get the idea... layers of french toast, sweetened cranberries, brie cheese and a drizzle a real maple syrup.  Seriously, how could that be bad??

Turkey Leftovers

And for those of you who hosted turkey dinner.... What are you doing with the leftovers??  I love to make toasted turkey sandwiches with leftover dressing and cranberry sauce.  Hot turkey sandwiches and turkey soup are some other typical uses.  Last year I was on the ball and made slow cooker stock.  I don't have leftovers his year but I have a turkey in my freezer I'm planning to cook in the next few weeks so I'd love to hear some ideas!


December 20, 2013

Week 50 - The Everyday Salad

PDF Version of Meal Plan

This week turned out much like last week.  We had Christmas lunches and suppers and really just didn't need a complicated menu.  I pulled out the slow cooker and we did three recipes in it, all of which provided multiple meals.  So not a lot of time was spent in the kitchen this week.  Kind of felt like I had the week off.   Merry Christmas to me!

Recipe Quick Links:

Spaghetti & Meatballs, Dave's family recipe
Walnut Crusted Salmon, Taste of Home
Asian Noodle Salad,
Quinoa Salad, Zoe Cuisine
Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Budget Bytes
Easy Overnight Oats, Marin Mama Cooks
Almond Milk, Oh She Glows
Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Zucchini Muffins, Weelicious

Spotlight on...

Our Favorite Everyday Salad

It all started with Marin Mama Cooks Lacinato Kale Salad.   Then it got adapted a bit when we were introduced to a simple arugula salad this summer.  Basically we've been eating this salad, with slight variations, for months now.... almost daily.  The funny thing is that when I first ate it I thought is was good for sure but wouldn't have raved about it.  But it was easy so I kept making it.  Now it's turned into almost an addiction and I literally crave it.  In fact, I'm writing this post at 9:30pm and I just polished off a bowl for an evening snack.  So even if you don't see it on the menu, chances are we ate it at that day anyway.  Marin loves it too, if she sees me eating a bowl she'll ask me to make her one too.  The best part... it's the easiest thing ever!  Every week I buy arugula and kale and I've been pre-washing and de-stemming the kale in advance ever since I read this tip from Marin Mama Cooks.  It's such a great time-saver through the week!  Here's the salad "formula":

Start with greens - either Arugula, Kale or a mix of both.
Drizzle with Olive Oil.  If using Kale massage the oil into the leaves (ie.  get right in there with your hands and really work the oil in).  
Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the greens.
Top with salt, pepper, shaved Parmesan or Vegan Parmesan 'Cheeze'.

So simple, so delicious!



December 13, 2013

Week 49 - Pretzels & Pomegranates

PDF Version of Meal Plan

We were hit with a little bug this week... luckily nothing too severe but as a result the menu was altered slightly.  I'm posting it as it was planned.  Also, because we were busy decorating, shopping, making treats for work, etc... I had planned a week that included mostly standard fare - ie. food that I could make quickly and without having to refer to recipes.  

Recipe Links

Almond Milk, Oh She Glows
Mushroom & Beef Barley Soup, Our Ohio
Simple Turkey Chili,
Easy Overnight Oatmeal, Marin Mama Cooks
Chia Jam, Eat Good 4 Life
Pretzel Chicken Bites, Kirstin Schell
Kale Salad, Marin Mama Cooks
Vegan Parmesan, Oh She Glows
Pumpkin Spelt Muffins, 100 Days of Real Food
Freezer Chocolates, Practical Paleo

Meal in the Spotlight


Pretzel Chicken

Since the menu this week was filled with meals I've made and reviewed numerous times I'll just talk about the one new recipe we tried that happened to be a big hit with everyone.  My sister sent me a link for this recipe saying she tried it last week and really liked it.  Marin's been loving pretzels lately so it was definately worth a shot.

A couple of modifications I made to the recipe:
  1. I cooked mine in a skillet using just enough coconut oil to coat the pan and added a little more after I flipped the chicken so that each side was nicely crisped... but not quite deep-fried.  My sister baked hers and said they turned out great that way too. 
  2. I used only about 1/8 cup of Maple Syrup.  I couldn't justify using 1/2 cup of my precious maple syrup for dipping raw chicken.  I thought they were still plenty sweet, but the coconut oil may have helped with that too.
The results - awesome!  We all loved them.  The chicken was moist and tasty, with a nice crunchy coating.  I ate one cold and it was great that way too so double the recipe and pack leftovers for lunch!

And since I didn't plan to write my post this way I didn't even pause to think about taking a picture. But speaking of pretzels... I fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) realized this week how easy it is to make soft pretzels!!  That could be dangerous!  I made this batch of pretzel bites to share at work.  Yummm-mee!

Pretzel Bites

Tip of the Week 

De-seeding Pomegranate

I just happened to stumble on this tip this week and seriously... it blew my mind!  I used to de-seed pomegranate by breaking it in pieces and pulling the seeds out.  Messy and time-consuming.  Then I came across the "bowl of water" tip... basically the same technique but you pull the seeds in a bowl of water.  Less messy but still time-consuming.  When I watched this video I was skeptical that it could be that easy but I tried it and it worked exactly like it did in the video!!  Seriously.  Fast, not too messy and actually pretty darn fun.  Another bonus is the seeds fall out really clean.  Plus the guy in the video is pretty cute so it's worth a watch even if you don't like pomegranate.  Here's a festive looking treat you can make to test this out... Dark Chocolate Pomegranate and Ginger Bark.  Sounds delicious!

Pomegranate - before and after de-seeding

Happy Weekend!


December 06, 2013

Week 48 - Dairy Free, No Problem!

PDF Version of Meal Plan

Wow... Week 48 already!!  I've been spending a lot of time lately contemplating where to go with this blog at the end of 52 weeks.  It's had so many personal benefits that I can't see giving it up, yet in it's current format it's a bit too time consuming to keep up while working full time.  I have some ideas that I'll share in a recap post at the end of the year but I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have!  Feel free to either comment or send me a Facebook message if you have ideas or would like to share what you felt worked or didn't work.

Recipe Quick Links

Almond Milk, Oh She Glows
Granola, Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations
Raspberry Chia Jam, Eat Good 4 Life
Avocado Corn Salad, Sobey's Inspired
Whole Wheat Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Maple Soy Salmon, Chatelaine
Vegan Parmesan, Oh She Glows
Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken, Skinny Ms.
Ginger Mushroom & Kale Beef Stir-fry, Gimme Some Oven

Week in Review

The dairy-free trial continues and I didn't find it so hard this week.  Here are the highlights...

Almond Milk - I would drink this over dairy milk anytime and trust me when I tell you, it's really simple to make and far superior to store-bought!

Granola & Raspberry Chia Jam - I made the granola to use up some almond pulp and paired it with So Good Coconut Yogurt and Raspberry Chia Jam.  Awesome replacement for my typical Greek yogurt & berry snack.  This raspberry jam is ridiculously easy to make and really delicious!!  Making homemade granola happens only on rare occasions in this house... this is my latest favorite store-bought variety.

Love Grown Granola

Black Bean & Avocado Salad Wrap - This was basically the Avocado Corn Salad that I've made numerous times, with the addition of black beans to make it more of a meal.  Then I scooped it up with a warmed fresh tortilla.  Mmm, mmmm....

Quinoa & Pomegranate Salad with Arugula - This was a simple recipe.  I mixed quinoa and bulgar, added pomegranate seeds and a mix of peppers and sugar snap peas.  For the dressing I used a pomegranate vinaigrette.  To pack it for lunch I laid arugula in a bowl and topped it with the quinoa and then mixed it up just before eating.  I think the arugula was a key ingredient.  It's a bit strong and peppery so it's a good balance for the sweetness of the pomegranate.  I mention this one because it was quick, easy and made lunch for two days, and also because we were able to reinvent it so it wasn't just a repeat lunch.  The first day it was paired with black beans and the second day with leftover pineapple chicken and worked well with both.

Maple Soy Salmon - It was so good last week we had it again.  This recipe is a winner!

Vegan Parmesan -  Our typical Arugula and Kale salads have Parmesan cheese (I typically use shaved fresh Parm).  This week I substituted with Vegan Parmesan.  I would say it more closely replaces grated Parmesan but I thought it was really good and was able to totally enjoy my favorite salads.

Kale Salad all dressed up with Vegan Parmesan

Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken - This was one of those "super-easy-do-all-the-prep-the-night-before- leave-it-for-the-day-and-come-home-to-a-fully-cooked-delicious-meal" slow cooker recipes.  And it used just a few basic ingredients.  And it made enough to have leftovers for lunch.  Love!

Slow Cooker Totally Awesome Pineapple Chicken

Ginger Mushroom & Kale Beef Stir-fry - I actually thought this was just ok but Dave totally enjoyed.  I'd say it was his favorite from the week.

So basically I loved everything this week!

Note:  Dave and Marin did not eat dairy free - they had things like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese.

Happy Weekend!


November 29, 2013

Week 47 - Eating Dairy Free in a Cheese Loving Family

Printable Version of Meal Plan

Sooooo, remember way back in my first post I said....

"this is not a ‘diet’ nor am I a trained dietician! No one in my house has allergies, it’s not gluten-free, dairy free or anything else free – although it is free to follow me!!" 

Well that's mostly still true, but after more than 3 decades of living with Eczema I'm attempting to get to the root cause of my flare-ups.  First test is to eliminate dairy for 3 weeks.  I can't lie... my first reaction was that this was going to be torture.  I mean, no cheese???  For 3 weeks??  But then I thought to myself, "Self... this is only for 3 weeks (for now anyway) and I will see this as a fun challenge".  So instead I'm going to concentrate on all the delicious things I can eat, instead of what I can't.  Isn't that very "glass half full" of me??  I am however secretly hoping this is one test that I'll fail miserably.

I had planned out this week prior to this dairy challenge so I ended up just tweaking the plan for myself only.  The Week in Review includes notes on how I de-dairy'd (yes, I totally made up that term) my planned meals.

Recipe Quick Links

Easy Overnight Oats, Marin Mama Cooks
Ranch Dip, 100 Days of Real Food
Almond Milk, Oh She Glows
Maple Soy Salmon, Chatelaine
7 Vegetable Soup, Oh She Glows
Vegan Caesar Dressing,
Freezer Chocolates, Practical Paleo
Pumpkin Spelt Muffins, 100 Days of Real Food

Week in Review

Breakfasts - We typically do our own thing for breakfast anyway so this wasn't a biggie.  Although I think for me this was the biggest challenge since I didn't have a chance the first few days to research what my options were or even to get to a store to get a milk alternative.  So I stuck mainly to overnight oats, eggs and of course, fruit! Mid-way through the week I made a batch of Almond Milk which helped.

Easy Overnight Oats

Feta Stuffed Omelettes and Roasted Sweet Potatoes - Totally enjoyed this lunch, the roasted sweet potatoes were an exciting addition to my lunch box! 
Dairy-Free Option: Omit the Feta and don't add milk to the eggs (you can simply omit or add water instead)

Salmon w/ Steamed Vegetables - This was dee-licious!  I've been wanting Salmon for weeks but haven't been able to find it at a decent price.  This week I found trays of salmon pieces (the bits they trim off the "pretty" pieces) for a very reasonable price so I stocked up.  I made Maple Soy Salmon.  Mmmm.... so good!  Actually I think the small pieces worked great for this recipe because it really soaked up the flavor.  Definitely my winner this week... and dairy-free.

Tuna Salad Sandwich on Whole Wheat Kaiser with Veggies & Dip - Tuna Salad was on my mind because a friend mentioned she had made sandwiches with tuna and goat cheese.  I had some goat cheese to use up so I was going to give it a try... but then goat cheese was put on the 'do not eat' list.
Dairy-Free Option:  Use avocado and lime for the Tuna Salad instead of mayo.  Omit the dip.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs w/ Salad - I didn't follow a recipe for the chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs).  I really just cooked them in a skillet with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and rosemary.  For the salad I used the Organic Supergreen Mix from Costco, a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, aged white cheddar and apple.
Dairy-Free Option:  Use Nutritional Yeast in place of Parmesan.  I mixed Nutritional Yeast with a small amount of olive oil and used my fingers to blend.  The result was crumbly. 

Turkey "Dinner" - In honour of American Thanksgiving we had a mini version of Turkey Dinner.  This was turkey cutlets served with cranberry sauce, a celery root puree (in place of mashed potatoes) and a mix of roasted vegetables.
Dairy-Free Option: No butter on the veggies.  No milk in the puree.

Salsa Shrimp with Couscous - This was another meal I was totally digging this week and as a bonus it could not have been easier to make.  In fact I'm going to write out the recipe so that I remember to do it again sometime.  And I think I can safely say that this would be even better with some feta crumbled in.

Salsa Shrimp with Couscous

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Minced garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • 1 Cup Salsa
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • Cooked & Peeled Frozen Shrimp (adjust amount based on servings required.  I used about 2 cups)
  1. Heat the oil over med-high heat in a skillet
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 min
  3. Add the salsa & lime juice to the skillet, stir
  4. Immediately add the shrimp (frozen or thawed) and cook until heated through
  5. Serve over whole wheat couscous.

7 Vegetable Soup with Pumpkin Seeds and Croutons - This is a vegan recipe from Oh She Glows (awesome blog - go check it out!) so no Dairy issues here.  I would say this soup was good and I enjoyed it for lunch but found it lacking on its own for supper.  I skipped the croutons because they weren't dairy free so I think a side of garlic bread would have nicely rounded out this meal for me.

Kale Chicken Caesar Salad  - We don't do this meal often but it's a tasty and quick supper - Cook a couple of chicken breasts and then dice up and toss on top of a Caesar Salad.  I typically make the dressing found on my Salad Dressing Printout.  I highly recommend using Kale instead of the more traditional Romaine for a nice twist.  Tip: Massage the kale with a little olive oil and lemon juice before adding the dressing.  This will help the Kale absorb the dressing better.
Dairy-Free Options:  Use this vegan Caesar salad dressing; Check ingredients on croutons or omit; Replace the parmesan with nutritional yeast or this Vegan Parmesan (which I have not tried but most certainly will be!!)  Note:  I found many recipes for vegan Caesar dressings, I chose this one because it used ingredients I had on hand.

Pumpkin Spelt Muffins - I had to make a batch of dairy-free muffins to get me through the week. I modified this recipe replacing the butter with a 50/50 split of applesauce and coconut oil.  Honestly, couldn't tell the difference.  In fact I often replace butter or oil with applesauce in muffin recipes with only a slight difference in texture.

And I leave you with this.... it might not look like much but I assure you this is what I would call "a darn good snack!".  And it's dairy free!

Freezer Chocolates and Almonds

Happy Weekend!



November 22, 2013

Week 46 - The Favorite Food Diet

Printable Version of Meal Plan

The "diet" plan continues.  And by "diet" I mean we're making a conscience effort to eat healthy food in healthy amounts.  The last few weeks have been a success... My favorite pants are fitting perfectly.  So we continue.  After a couple of flops last week, I've added in some of our favorites.  Success!  Dave says that compared to last week this week was like eating on a cruise ship.  hahaha. 

Recipe Quick Links

Easy Overnight Oats, Marin Mama Cooks
Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Budget Bytes
Chickpea Burgers, Marin Mama Cooks
Kale Salad, Marin Mama Cooks
Creamy Pasta Bake, Simple Balance
Feta Stuffed Chicken, Chatelaine
Applesauce Muffins, Weelicious
Primal Fudge, Practical Paleo

Week in Review

Easy Overnight Oats - My new morning obsession continues.  Will be trying some new flavor combinations in the next few weeks.  yummm.....

Overnight Oats

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken - I know I throw around the word favorite a lot but this truly is a tried, tested and true favorite in our house.  I served it on a bed of romaine lettuce with our favorite fixin's.  Ok, confession... we used a few nacho chips for scooping but it was Sunday!  Totally allowed!  The next day we had it with brown rice for lunch.  Note: I replace all the spices in the recipe with 2 Tbsp of Mexican Spice Blend.  That's always premixed in my cupboard making this quite possibly the easiest thing I make.

Fish w/ Golden Beets and Arugula Salad - Fish is becoming another family favorite and it seems the plainer we cook it the better.  This week I simply baked it with lemon juice and salt and pepper.  On the side we had boiled golden beets (these are soooo good!) and arugula salad.  In case you've missed it this is just arugula, a drizzle of both lemon juice and olive oil, shredded or shaved Parmesan and pepper.  A ridiculously fast and easy weeknight supper.  Marin loves fish.  A kid hit every time.

Chickpea Burgers - I'm in love with all things chickpea so these burgers are a hit in my books.  I didn't dress them up, just had them along side a kale salad on the first day and leftover stir-fry and rice on the second day.  The Kale Salad on day one was what's become my regular kale salad (from Marin Mama Cooks) with some shredded purple cabbage, leftover beets and pumpkin seeds added in.  Some goat cheese would have been awesome... I even had some, not sure why that didn't happen.
Baked Tofu with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Stir-Fry -  I really enjoyed this tofu, but then again anything dipped in this peanut dipping sauce is going to be good.  I made an Asian marinade and soaked slices of the tofu before baking at 400 for about 25min.  I made the marinade up as I went, not really measuring anything but I'll give you my best estimates:

Asian Marinade
  • 2 Tbsp Soya Sauce & Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp Honey & Lime Juice
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger (jarred)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
The dipping sauce was a bit of a cheat but it was well worth it.  This accompanies a Recipe from the Life's on Fire Cookbook, but we use it for dipping our fingers various things:

Peanut Dipping Sauce (From the cookbook Life's on Fire)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp creamy Peanut Butter, softened in microwave for 20-30 seconds
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or honey)
  • 1 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 1/8 tsp cumin powder, cayenne pepper
  •  Water to smooth
I tried to stick to an Asian theme for the stir-fry - purple cabbage, edamame (organic, frozen), onion, red pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, kale and the leftover marinade from the tofu.  Not sure if I've ever mentioned this but tofu was one of Marin's first foods.  I would just dice up firm tofu and toss it on her tray.  She loved it and still does.  I buy organic tofu - it's a little more expensive but still a cheap meal.

Creamy Pasta Bake - This is such an interesting combination of ingredients... pasta sauce, plain yogurt, peanut butter, nutritional yeast... I just had to try it.  And it was pretty darn tasty!  We had it for lunch twice but I wanted to try it out on Marin as well so she had it for supper on Thursday.  A big kid hit - she gobbled it up!  And I'm totally inspired by Wendy McCallum's story.  She left her job as a lawyer and went back to school to learn more about nutrition and real food.  She now has a successful blog, business and a cookbook (Real Food for Real Families) that I'm dying to check out.  Santa?  You listening?

Pork Tenderloin - I cooked two pork tenderloins at once and we had it two nights in a row.  Once with roasted vegetables and once with mashed (cauliflower, parsnip and golden beets).  I used the following marinade from the Crazy Plates cookbook.  The recipe says to marinate for 1 hour and bake at 350, uncovered for about 40 minutes.  I actually made only half the sauce and skipped the marinating step.  I would recommend marinating if you have the time but unless you want a lot of extra sauce I think cutting back works fine.

Marla's Maple Pork (from the cookbook Crazy Plates)
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp each of Soya Sauce, Ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp Orange Zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp each of curry powder, ground coriander
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Feta Stuffed Chicken and Greek Salsa - A Friday treat without the cheat!  We love this meal.  It's really just a bonus that it's actually pretty healthy.  The Greek Salsa is super easy to make.   Finely chop tomato, cucumber, red onion and anything else you choose (eg. peppers, zucchini, olives).  Add feta and toss with the Greek Dressing found on my handy printout.  mmm, mmm, mmm!

Greek Salsa

My muffin fix this week was leftover Applesauce Muffins from the freezer.  I don't think I did these justice when I mentioned them last week.  These are really good!!  You'd never know they have no oil.  We were also treating on the end of the batch of freezer chocolates I made weeks ago!  The recipe says it makes 10 but I broke them into small pieces so that they could be just a little quilt free treat.  Note, I also added unsweetened shredded coconut.

Hope you all had a great week!


November 15, 2013

Week 45 - Weight Loss Programs

Printable Version of Meal Plan

Last year around this time we dug out our Simply for Life meal plans and followed them pretty strictly for about 5 weeks.  That was what really got the wheels turning about making meal planning a priority and ultimately starting this blog.  I've been mentioning the last few weeks that we've been trying to lighten things up to lose those extra summer pounds.  I feel it's been working but thought I'd give the SFL menus another go.  Note, I made a number of substitutions and I'm not including any details on serving sizes (since this would differ by person anyway) so I wouldn't suggest this in place of actually joining if you were considering it.  If you were to join you would get customized meal plans, among other member benefits.

I debated even mentioning the SFL connection to this week at all because I don't think this plan sticks out as a "diet" or even looks much different than one of my normal weeks.  I know there are various opinions on weight loss programs out there.  I will just say this... we both had success with Simply for Life and Weight Watchers.  While we are not members of either anymore I always find that when I feel my clothes are getting snug or I'm just feeling blah that taking a few weeks to follow either plan helps to retrain my brain on things like what normal serving sizes are and how to snack wisely, until it becomes second nature again. 

Recipe Quick Links

Overnight Oats, Marin Mama Cooks
Apple & Havarti Quesadillas, Teach Eat Love
Whole Wheat Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Kale Lentil Soup, A Spoonful of Sunshine
Kale Salad, Marin Mama Cooks
Fish Tacos, Canadian Living
Corn Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Applesauce Muffins, Weelicious

Week in Review

Sunday - I don't always include what we ate on Sunday but since we knew that we were going to be getting a bit strict with our eating we decided to have a "Last Hurrah" day.  And I enjoyed every bite of every meal!  Overnight Oats with PB & Maple Syrup... ooey, gooey good!  Apple & Havarti Quesadillas on Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas - well really... how could that be bad??  And then Marinated Sirloin Steaks, grilled to perfection served with a baked potato topped with butter and sour cream and a side of sauteed mushrooms.  I think we said 'mmm' after each bite.  This is one of Marin's favorites as well. You can find the marinade we use on the Favorites page.

Greek Quinoa Salad with Chicken - I LOVE this salad typically but there were a few problems... I made the dressing too tart, I forgot to defrost the chicken in advance (so I had to defrost in the microwave which always results in the edges starting to cook and throws the texture/taste off - yuck),  and the biggest problem... I skipped the feta.  I didn't think we'd miss it that much but we did.  Don't let my mistakes deter you, this is typically delicious!  Another enthusiastically kid approved meal as well.  And it's super easy to make.  Quinoa, veggies (tomato, cucumber, red onion), feta (NOT OPTIONAL!) and Greek Salad Dressing.

Greek Quinoa Salad

Pan-fried Haddock and Roasted Veggies - To pan-fry the haddock I simply mix flour and pepper and dredge the haddock through it.  Then I fry it with butter (I used only a small amount this week so they weren't overly greasy).  I roasted a medley of veggies, tossing in olive oil with a little salt and pepper.  Aren't they pretty?  Again, kid approved.  Marin loved the fish!

Roasting Veggies

Pasta Salad with Tuna.  On the SFL menu the dressing is Calorie Wise Italian.  I don't stock that anymore so I simply made some pasta, added veggies, a can of tuna and drizzled on some olive oil, lemon juice and dried dill.  It was fine, just too dry.  I'd suggest mixing up your favorite dressing to give this more flavor.

Tuna Pasta

Kale Lentil Soup.  I really liked this soup but on its own with no roll, biscuit or crackers it left me feeling a little like the meal was incomplete.  Dave was less than enthused and Marin said it was yummy but needed to be reminded about 100 times to continue eating and almost cried when I told her we were having it again the next night.  On night two I gave her just a small serving of the soup and made her pasta with butter and nutritional yeast and a slice of avocado.  I'm willing to bet if you served this soup with a side of garlic bread you would love it!

Shepperd's Pie - I have no recipe for this so it never turns out the same way twice.  This time I used ground turkey and it really killed it for me.  I like ground turkey in chili but there's something about the smell of it that really turns me off.  No amount of seasonings seem to help.  The topping was mashed cauliflower, sweet potato and parsnip which I do enjoy in place of mashed potatoes.

Chicken and Kale Salad - The plan was to bake the chicken but we needed to make this meal super speedy so I cut it into cutlets and cooked it in a pan with a little coconut oil.  The Kale Salad was quick because I had pre-washed and de-stemmed my kale on Sunday... an awesome tip from Marin Mama Cooks!  Marin looooved this meal (she also had a baked potato with sour cream).  This dialog actually happened at supper:

Marin:  Mmm... this salad it TOO good!
Me: I know... I really love it too!
Marin:  Good thing we're not having that soup again.

Funny, but again I stress... the soup was actually really good!  Just not Dave and Marin's "thing" apparently.

Chicken & Rice Salad w/ Creamy Asian Sesame Dressing - Really good, I love this dressing.  This was just extra chicken from supper diced up with a mix of fresh vegetables, black rice (soba noodles would be an excellent substitution in this dish) and Asian Sesame Dressing.  This dressing came from a Weelicious recipe - better than store-bought by far.  Dave rated this meal best of the week!  It was good but he was clearly not counting Sunday as part of the week.

Fish Tacos on Corn Tortillas - I wanted a fun Friday supper that would satisfy and make us feel like we were splurging without totally offsetting our efforts this week.  Fish Tacos fit the bill and I made another batch of corn tortillas (I remembered last weekend how much I liked them)

Corn Tortillas

Late Night Berry Snack - one of the biggest changes for me this week was not snacking in the evenings.  It makes me realize how I rarely snack in the evening because I'm hungry... it's simply habit.  So this week I was snacking on frozen blueberries and raspberries.  A small bowl takes a long time to eat because they're so cold but they're full of flavor and totally satisfying.

Applesauce Muffins - Marin wanted to hold a Monkey Birthday Party on the weekend so we HAD to make cake (or muffins!).  I've become a total baked good addict so we each had one warm out of the oven and then froze the rest so that we can make them a once or twice a week treat... as opposed to what was becoming daily.

Monkey blowing out the candles on his muffins

Happy Weekend!


November 08, 2013

Week 44 - Cook Once, Eat Twice (or three or four times!)

Printable Version of Meal Plan

After a hectic week last week I was looking to relax.  So on Saturday night I put my feet up and without digging out the computer or magazines I made a meal plan with some food that's been on my mind lately.  The result was a laid back week with lots of "double duty" meals/sides that I was quite impressed with and anxious to dig into.  But once again for a variety of reasons we did quite a bit of juggling things around.  I'm posting the menu as I had planned it because I think the flow was better the way it was planned as opposed to how it was executed.  A few meals have been pushed off to the weekend but we have a long weekend coming up so this in fact worked out well for us.

Recipe Quick Links

Overnight Oats, Marin Mama Cooks
Spaghetti Squash Tacos, Marin Mama Cooks
Corn Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Broccoli Lemon Pasta, Marin Mama Cooks
Chicken Meatballs, Chatelaine
Kale Chips, 100 Days of Real Food
Whole Wheat Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, 100 Days of Real Food

Week in Review

Because we didn't follow the meal plan exactly I'll just highlight a few things...

Ham Dinner - We cooked up a HUGE ham this weekend and had some family over for supper.  For some reason I always forget how many servings we get from these ham!  I sent our guests away with leftovers and we still had plenty for the days ahead.  I'm all hammed out to say the least.  We've had it for breakfast, lunch and supper... with mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, salad, on sandwiches, and just to snack on.... This is a true cook once eat for a week meal!  My fave was a grilled ham and havarti sandwich.  Yum.

Pizza - This is on the menu for Friday but Dave and Marin had a special Daddy/Daughter day on Tuesday so I made up the dough Monday night to give them a fun meal to prepare together.  And supper was on the table when I got home - sweet!  And the leftovers were packed up for the lunches the next day so I had the night off - double sweet!  We're loving pizza these days and it's a great one to get the kids involved!

Personalized Pizzas

Overnight Oats - Nope, not my usual no-cook overnight oats.  It's getting chilly here so I gave "cooked" overnight oats a try.  I'm a fan of hot cereal so I might just have to shelf my cold oats for warm oats for the next few months.  I made enough for two mornings.  The first morning I reheated them in the pot, second morning in the microwave.  Microwave worked fine.  First morning was blueberry, banana and maple syrup.  Perfectly good, but predictable.  Second morning was a spoonful of peanut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.  This was "you've got to try it" good!  The peanut butter melt and blends in and it becomes a creamy, peanuty bowl of deliciousness.  I've found my latest obsession.  Oats tend to just be a "me" thing in our house but I think my PB loving family will enjoy this version.

Overnight Oats with Blueberry, Banana and Maple Syrup

Brocolli Lemon Pasta - This is another one that got juggled around.  I ended up making enough for only one day since the mid-week salmon didn't happen.  But I think the plan of doubling this recipe and switching it up with a little leftover salmon is a good one!

Chicken Meatballs - I've been wanting to try this recipe for the last few weeks.  I had planned on this being a "prep ahead" meal but ended up making them during the suppertime rush.  They actually came together pretty quick.  A couple of short cut tips:
  1. I read the recipe through earlier in the day so I was mentally prepared - that might sound silly but I do find that helps alot! 
  2. I used my KitchenAid Stand Mixer for hands free mixing
  3. I used a melon baller to scoop the chicken instead of rolling with my hands - they weren't perfect but that was ok by me.
  4. I had two frying pans going so I could cook them all at once instead of in batches.
Dave liked these, I thought they were just ok.  Marin turned her nose up at them but after forcing her to take a bite she admitted they were good.  But then she went on to take about 1/2 hour to eat one meatball!  So you might have to try this one for yourself.

Chicken Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash - I substituted spaghetti squash for the pasta to have with the meatballs so to make sure the extra squash didn't go to waste I decided to put Spaghetti Squash Tacos on the menu.  This is one of the meals that got pushed off to the weekend so I can't review it but I'm excited to give it a try and really excited to make some corn tortillas.  They've been a bit overshadowed lately by the flour tortillas but they have not been forgotten!

We were also snacking on Pumpkin Buns which I highly recommend.  I substituted half of the white flour for whole wheat and couldn't tell the difference.  They're really moist and mild tasting and easy to make!  And this morning I pulled a couple of Spelt Pumpkin Muffins out of the freezer and they were just as good defrosted as they were fresh.  A well stocked freezer is a beautiful thing!

Happy Friday!


November 01, 2013

Week 43 - Fast Food

Printable Version of Meal Plan

This week was busy busy so I needed supper to be on the table fast to free up our evenings for other priorities.  The solution for me was food that I could prep, at least partly, the night before and both lunches and suppers that were familiar enough that I didn't have to be constantly referring to recipes - ie. I could prepare them in a zombie-like state in the late evenings (pardon the Halloween pun).

Recipe Index


Carrot Smoothie, Real Simple
Caesar Dressing, Recipe on my Salad Dressing and Dip Printout
Asian Salmon Cakes, Chatelaine
Kale Pomegranate Salad, Simple Provisions
Quinoa Patties, Eating Well Living Thin
Simple Turkey Chili,
Whole Wheat Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Pumpkin Muffins, 100 Days of Real Food


Week in Review

Smoothie of the Week - Carrot, Pineapple, Orange.  So good!!



Supper - Breaded Chicken w/ Roasted Vegetables. This is one of those meals that I don't have to refer to a recipe.  I mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese (roughly 2:1) in one bowl and whisk an egg and milk in another bowl.  I dip the chicken pieces in the egg then coat well with the breadcrumbs and bake at 425 until done.  At the same time I roasted some vegetables - for this I chop the veggies and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread them out on a cooking stone.  The veggies typically take longer so I get them on first.

Prep Ahead Ideas
  • Double the chicken to have leftovers for Monday supper.
  • Make the Caesar dressing for Monday salad and store in fridge 
  • Make double batch of quinoa for Monday and Wednesday lunches.  (I prepared 1 cup)


Lunch - Quinoa Vegetable Fried "Rice".  No recipe required again, this was just my regular fried rice with quinoa in place of the rice.  I sauteed a mix of chopped vegetables (use whatever you have on hand), added the quinoa and a little soya sauce.  I push that to that side of the pan once it's well mixed and add a couple of eggs that I roughly scramble.  Once the eggs are cooked I mix it all up.  Done. 

Supper - Speedy Chicken and Kale Caesar - The chicken and dressing were prepared the night before so this supper just had to be assembled.  I chopped the Kale and massaged it with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice before adding the Caesar dressing.  We added Parmesan and croutons.  While I was making the salad I popped the chicken in the oven to reheat and crisp up - totally optional.  This was very popular with the kid in the house!

Prep Ahead Ideas
  • Prepare the salmon cakes up to the step of forming the patties and store in the fridge overnight.  Note:  I used canned salmon.


Lunch - Kale Pomegranate Salad w/ Ryvita Rye Crackers.  I was totally excited to try this salad because I had "attempted" to make my own dried cranberries on the weekend.  I love the tartness of cranberries so I always find the dried versions too sweet.  I won't share my experiment because it was a flop - right flavor, wrong texture.  I'll keep trying.  The salad was good, I added chickpeas to make it a meal but I think I'd prefer it as a side dish rather then the main course.

Kale Pomegranate Salad

Supper - Asian Salmon Cakes w/ Avocado Mayo and Arugula Salad.  I really liked these but they were not as popular with the kiddo as the previous night's Kale Caesar Salad.  As mentioned I used canned salmon.  I also cut way back on the mayo and supplemented with some plain yogurt.  I thought the flavor was great and actually preferred it before I fried them up.  I think it would make a nice sandwich or wrap.  The arugula salad was our new go-to... Arugula, drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and shaved Parmesan.  So easy yet so good!

Prep Ahead Ideas
  • Premix the Pad Thai sauce (see recipe below) and store in the fridge overnight
  • Chop any vegetables you plan to add to the Pad Thai and store in fridge overnight



Lunch - Quinoa Patties w/ Veggies and Dip.  The quinoa was made earlier in the week so this was a quick lunch to throw together.  Last time I reported they had a good texture but were a tad bland.  This time I actually found them to be perfectly flavorful... perhaps I missed an ingredient last time??

Quinoa Patties

Supper - Tofu Pad Thai.  This is a quick meal regardless of how much prep you do the night before.  I actually ran out of steam Tuesday night and opted to make this meal from scratch after work.  No biggie.  This is one of my sister's favorites from this blog. 

Tofu Pad Thai (Adapted from Crazy Plates cookbook)

Cook Vermicelli Noodles according to package.  Drain and rinse in cold water.

To make the sauce, combine the following and set aside:
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp each soya sauce, lime juice, brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
Heat 1 tsp of sesame oil in a skillet and add cubed firm tofu (press out as much as possible), 1 package of coleslaw mix, 1/2 small red onion (diced), 2 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook until tofu is browned.  Add sauce and bring to boil.  Stir in noodles.

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro, green onion, chopped peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Prep Ahead Ideas
  • Complete step 1 of the Simple Turkey Chili recipe and then add everything to the slow cooker and store the crock in the fridge overnight.
  • Make muffins for Thursday breakfast

Thursday (Halloween)

Breakfast - Pumpkin Muffins & Latte.  Since it was Halloween we started our day with Pumpkin muffins.  I made them the night before because there is no way I could get myself out of bed early enough to pull that off!  I also had to save time to make these cute "Boo"-nanas for Marin's daycare class.  Marin was super excited about these!  Thank-you Pinterest!


Lunch - Leftover Pad Thai.  Gotta love leftovers!

Supper - Simple (Slow-Cooker) Turkey Chili.  I think this is going to be a Halloween tradition.  Nothing like nice bowl of comfort food before hitting the streets.  I topped the chili with cheese and sour cream.  Meant to take a picture since this is being added to Slow Cooker Favorites but I was too preoccupied to think about it.

Prep Ahead Ideas


Lunch - Ham & Cheese Wraps w/ Veggies & Dip.  Ham, Havarti, Mayo, Mustard and Arugula all wrapped up in a fresh whole wheat tortilla.  Delicious!  Seriously... go make a batch of tortillas.   You won't be sorry.  We used them as a base for tuna melts last weekend - also delicious!

Freshly made batch of tortillas

Supper - Quesadillas.  Marin and I are on our own for supper tonight and although it will be my second time having the tortillas in one day I can think of nothing wrong with that.  This time will be traditional Mexican style with cheese, refried beans (from the freezer) and all the fixin's....

Tortillas all loaded up!

Can you believe it's November?!!


October 25, 2013

Week 42 - A Salad a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

Printable Version of Meal Plan

I was really pumped that our gradual switch to a more "Real Food" diet would result in us slimming down with no real effort.  Unfortunately, that's not what's happening and I think it's that our sugar intake has actually increased because I see so many "healthy" recipes for baked goods that are just too tempting to not try.  Summer is also our most challenging season.  While there's an abundance of fresh produce available in the summer there's also an abundance of "junk" food.  So fall tends to be the time of year that I crave fruit and vegetables in copious amounts and that's where we are right now.  We ate A LOT of salad this week!  Luckily salad doesn't have to be boring... this might just be my favorite week so far.

Weekly Recap

Lasagna - I had Supper Club with the gals on Sunday night (at Two Doors Down on Barrington St. - Kale Caesar Salad highly recommended!!) so I made a super quick and easy lasagna for the fam before I left.  I used a jar of organic pasta sauce layered with uncooked lasagna noodles, cottage cheese (mixed with an egg and Parmesan cheese) and shredded mozzarella.  Because I didn't bother adding any meat I didn't have to cook anything.  I just assembled and put it in the fridge until they were ready to throw it in the oven.  We had leftovers for Monday lunch and put the rest in the freezer.  Love lasagna!!

Trout, Boiled Potatoes and Arugula Salad - This meal was a winner with everyone.  Dave in particular gave it a strong two thumbs up.  I baked the trout seasoned with just salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.  Easy.  We had it with boiled potatoes (I don't know why but to me fish and boiled potatoes go together like PB & J) and our most favorite salad at the moment - arugula tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper and fresh shaved Parmesan.  We could eat this salad every day of the week! 

Kale Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing (Oh She Glows) - I wanted to give another Kale Salad a try and this one definitely did the trick as a meal on it's own.  I added bulgar to make it a bit more hearty.  Really liked this dressing.  You can't go wrong with any recipe from Oh She Glows - vegan or not!

Marinated Chicken w/ Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots - I'm determined to keep trying Brussels sprouts until my family love them as much as I do!!  And until then... more for me!  I used to occasionally marinate chicken in either Italian or Basil Parmesan bottled dressings.  Lately I've been skipping that section of the grocery store and never have any on hand.  So when I saw this recipe for Italian Herb Dressing from My Whole Food Life I instantly thought of chicken.  I marinated for about 8 hours and then baked it in the oven.  It would have been better grilled for sure but it was too chilly outside for that.  Either way, this dressing was a good substitute for my old standard marinades.

Tuna Salad on Rye Crackers - New favorite lunch alert!!  I mixed a can of chunk white tuna (in water) with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, feta, grape tomatoes and pepper.    We had it with Ryvita Rye Crackers that I worked out to be 1 Weight Watchers point per 2 crackers!!  Low point, full of flavor lunch!

Panko Tofu w/ Kale Salad - Two of my favorites come together!  Not surprising I enjoyed this meal.

Panko Crusted Tofu

Greek Quinoa Salad w/ Chickpeas - I realized this weekend that we haven't had this quinoa salad in ages!  If you're trying to introduce more quinoa into your diet I would consider this a good "starter" recipe.  Marin helped me make it and then had a bowl and declared 'Mommy, this is the best salad ever!'  She then asked for a second bowl saying 'mmm.... this salad is TOO good!' and then went on to ask for a third bowl!  Kid-friendly?  I think so!  I mix cooked and cooled quinoa with tomato, cucumber, red onion & feta.  Throw in some black olives if you like.  I add chickpeas or tofu if I'm making a meal out of it.  Stir that up with some Greek salad dressing - I recommend this one.  This salad will keep well for a couple of days so double it up! 

Marin's version of "Helping"

Greek Quinoa Salad

Pork Chops w/ Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash - This meal was simple, just a few ingredients and no recipe required so it makes for a good week night meal in that way.  I pan-fried the chops and simple boiled the sweet potato and cauliflower together until really soft and then mashed them with a little butter and milk.  Marin's not a fan of mashed anything so I gave her some frozen peas... sometimes you can't over-think things with kids!

Falafel & Tabbouleh - I've had this one on my list to try for ages and so happy I finally did!  Yummers!  Although I will say while the recipes are easy, this was still more effort than I typically like on a Thursday night.  But definitely worth trying, maybe just bump it up earlier in the week.


Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup - It's Friday!  Slow Cooker is on (hopefully!) and we'll be coming home to Taco Soup.  Can't wait!

This week was brought to you by a full 2 lb bag of lemons.  

Happy weekend everyone!


October 18, 2013

Week 41 - What Happens When Life Gets in the Way of Grocery Shopping

Printable Version of Meal Plan

We were away last weekend for Thanksgiving and arrived home Monday with no grocery stores open.  I was prepared for this and was able to put to the test one of the make ahead slow cooker recipes I had in the freezer.  I am now a believer!  But then it turned out I couldn't get out Tuesday night either so I took another look at our supplies and got us through another day.  Wednesday night Marin went to my parents house for a sleepover and Dave and I found ourselves with an unplanned date night... so again, no groceries.  By this point I felt it was a personal challenge to NOT get groceries for a full week.

This was manageable given that last week I had over planned a bit and had some leftovers.  So I actually started the week with enough milk and some fruit and vegetables.  I did make a trip to a pharmacy on Monday evening and picked up a loaf of bread ($2.50) and mid-week at Costco we picked up a couple of other items for about $18.00.  So $22.50 was my total spent on grocery items for the week!!  Hurrah!  This was also possible in large part to my freezer re-org.  This may sound a little dramatic (or maybe a lot) but having clean, organized freezers has changed my life....ok, maybe not my life but at least the way I meal plan. 

Here's what we managed to find to eat....

Breakfast - We mainly alternated between toast and cereal but I did squeeze in an overnight oatmeal - I can't help myself.

Corn Chowder (Mama Loves Food) with Tea Biscuits (100 Days of Real Food) - I prepared these last week to take with us for the weekend so we were cleaning up on this.

Lentils & Rice (Chef Michael Smith) - This recipe takes only a few ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  It also takes only about 5 minutes of prep time to make two days worth of lunches.  A great recipe to have in your back pocket.

Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken (Kojo Design) - This was prepped and frozen a few weeks ago with this very day in mind.  I knew I would need to have something that didn't require a trip to grocery store for the Tuesday after the long weekend.  Oddly none of us were over the moon about this one the night of but I finished up the leftovers a couple of days later and loved it!  I'd almost recommend making it a day in advance because it seems to take that long for the flavors to really blend.  I served it with couscous though which Marin did love.

Greek Nachos from Palladium Family Restaurant - I'm throwing this out there for anyone from the HRM area.  If you love Greek food they serve some of the best in the city in my opinion.  Maybe not the most romantic setting for a date night but we loooove the food.

Stir-Fried Beef w/ Roasted Vegetables - this was totally one of those meals that was thrown together with whatever odds and ends I could find.  We had cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, beets and onion - which are all vegetables I love roasted.  Then I stir fried some strips of beef I had frozen with a bit of an Asian twist - sesame oil, ginger, soya sauce and honey.  It was actually pretty good.

Squash Soup with Grilled Cheese - I thawed some squash soup and served it with grill cheese.  A fun idea would be to cut the grilled cheese into bite size squares for homemade "Croutons". 

Personal Pizzas - I had whole wheat pizza crusts in the freezer, just enough cheese and toppings to manage a pizza!  Another pizza Friday.

Homemade Chicken Fingers (Rachel Ray) w/ Roasted Potato Coins - I stock up on boneless skinless chicken breasts whenever they go on sale so I had some on hand.  On Friday's I like to do "convenience" food and while these chicken fingers aren't out of a box they don't take much effort either.  I like to mix the breadcrumbs with grated Parmesan cheese.  For the potato coins I simply microwave the potatoes and then slice them into rounds about a 1/4" thick.  Brush both sides with oil and bake at 450 until nice and crispy.  We still had carrots and celery to have on the side too!

Smoothie - Marin's smoothie love continues - this week was Strawberry & Banana (both from the freezer), Kiwi & Kale (both leftover from last week and in need of being used up), coconut water and honey.  One of our best yet!

Your kids don't like eating greens?  Maybe they'll drink them!

Parmesan Popcorn -- Remember last week I said I wanted to try a new popcorn recipe?  Well I found a winner.  Baking the popcorn gave it a nice crunch.  I packed the leftovers as a lunch snack and it was still crunchy the next day.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins - I had four of these gems from last week stashed away in the freezer.

So not too bad for only $20 in groceries!  I didn't even have to break out the KD.  But now I really, truly am out of food!

What are your go-to meals when life gets in the way of grocery shopping?