October 25, 2014

Fall Favorites and School Lunch Update

Last week for supper we had one of our favorites – Feta Stuffed Chicken, Lemon Roasted Potatoes and what I call ‘Greek Salsa’.  Marin declared ‘Yum is all I can say!’  That reminded me that I haven’t posted in a long time and that I could definitely come up with a week of our fall favorites.  I’ve tried to put together ideas that are not only yummy but are quick to throw together on busy weeknights and can also be reinvented to use leftovers for lunch.   Win, Win, Win!! 

Feta Stuffed Chicken,Lemon Roasted Potatoes and Greek Salsa


Fall Favorite Meal Plan




Overnight Oats - This is my go-to overnight oats "formula".
Spaghetti & Meatballs -This recipe comes from Week 1!  An oldie and a goodie.
Mini Quiche - This recipe is really just a guide, you can add what ever add-ins you like. 
Feta Stuffed Chicken - In this post I link to the chicken recipe and give instructions for the greek salsa.  For the lemon roasted potatoes I just dice potato, toss with olive oil and the juice of a lemon and roast at 450 until crisp.
Greek Quinoa Salad - I've posted this recipe a gazillion times (give or take) - it's so good!!  I actually made it with brown.rice instead of quinoa a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious!
Grilled Steak & Kale Salad  - For the steak I've linked to my favorites page where you'll find the marinade we use most (under dressings and spice blends).  I had this on the menu one night when the weather wasn't the best so I sliced the marinated meat and stir-fried instead.  We all really enjoyed it that way.
Naan Pizza - I make a batch of this naan every few weeks and freeze leftovers.  You can use it in various ways but I love to use it for quick and easy pizza lunches. 
Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork - This pork was so delicious!  One of my new favorite slow cooker recipes and the leftovers worked great with fried rice.
Arugula Salad with Maple Walnut Dressing- This link is for the dressing.  The salad I made up with what I had on hand and would say it was as good as any salad I've had at a restaurant.  It was arugula, roasted beets and cauliflower, pear, walnuts, cranberries and I shaved some parsnips and fried them until crispy.  I had to note this one so that I remember to make it again!

Bonus Recipe - Avocado Chicken

I didn't have room to put this one on the menu but it should also be noted as a quick and easy weeknight meal.  I made this up one night trying to use up some odds and ends.  I cooked chicken cutlets in a lightly oiled pan, a few minutes per side until cooked through.  I then transferred the chicken to a baking dish and topped each with a spoonful of salsa, slices of avocado and some shredded mozza.  This was baked at 425 until the cheese melted and then broiled for an additional minute.  A hit with everyone in the family!

Avocado Chicken

School Lunch Update

And I know you’re all wondering… how are school lunches going??  I’m happy to say I’m still finding it fun.  For the first couple of weeks I would ask Marin as soon as I picked her up what she thought of lunch - did she like it? Was it too much or too little?  It’s not our first topic of conversation anymore but I do unpack her lunch bag as soon as I get home and I’m happy to say “most” days she eats well.  To be honest, I really don’t find its been much of a change – as mentioned, I was packing lunches for Dave and I anyway.  Packing Marin’s lunch has actually added a level of fun to the task because I bought her special containers (the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox) in fun girly colors.  And I pack hers completely the night before so that I can make sure it all fits in her lunch bag and is well balanced.  This has made me more habitual with also planning and packing snacks for Dave and I, which I wasn’t always the best at.

Admittedly my “Lunch Plans” are not being followed however.  My snack bins are ineffective.  I don’t have enough reusable containers to pack days in advance, I don’t want to reply too much on baggies and ultimately I just find I’m fine with packing up the snacks each night.  I’ve also not gotten Marin involved as much as I had planned.  She’s been eating most of what I’ve sent so other than the odd time I’ve given her the choice of a couple of options, I’ve been doing all of the planning and packing.  If she starts rejecting my choices I'll revisit that one.  I have referred to my School Lunch Ideas printout though and find that very useful!  I also refer often to my School Lunches Pinterest Board for inspiration when I’m meal planning.

Here are some examples of what I’ve been packing:

Leftover chicken, cheese cubes, crackers and sour cream with avocado mixed in.  Carrots, apricots and a Friday juice pack treat.

Mini quiche, kale salad, apple sauce and Wow Butter rice cake.

Felafel patties, veggies, fruit salad and homemade granola bar.

Pizza on Naan, kale salad, mini cucumber, mandarin slices, homemade granola bar and a yogurt.

Black bean and avocado salad, crackers, cheese string, mini cucumber, mandarin slices and homemade granola bar.

Ham and Cheese roll-ups, veggies, apple slices and chocolate muffin.

Whole wheat pancake with cream cheese and jam, tofu bites, peach slices, Wow Butter energy balls and a yogurt.

September 05, 2014

School Lunches - The Plan

The day has finally come!!  I get to pack school lunches!  I realize I'm in the honeymoon phase with this and I'm sure I'll have the odd day that I'll wish I didn't have to pack a school lunch... I may even become like many of you who loathe this task.  But right now I'm going to enjoy this honeymoon phase.  I've been thinking A LOT about this for the last several weeks... and several years if I can be honest. 

I was a bit obsessive about what Marin ate for her first year when I was home with her.  To the extent that on her first birthday that vision of a one year old digging into a sugar laden, artificially colored cake was too much for me.  I made her an organic white cake and frosted it with cream cheese, sweetened with apple juice.  It was extremely cute, shaped and decorated to look like her beloved 'Spotty Dog', but ultimately a colossal fail!  I redeemed myself the following week with a chocolate cake and have the pictures to prove it. 

Cake #1 - didn't taste as good as it looked!

Take 2 - Success!

Shipping her off to daycare where I lost control of her snacks and lunch was also a big adjustment and caused a fair amount of anxiety at times.  I have since 'Let it Go!'... in fact, I let it go long before the Frozen craze.  But I must admit, I'm a little stoked to be getting some control back and I've come up with some strategies that I'm hoping can make packing school lunches the fun and easy breezy task I have envisioned.  (I hear you all snickering)

Here's my plan:
1) Have a go-to list - I am on the constant lookout for lunch/snack ideas and I have compiled multiple lists and have a Pinterest Board to keep track of ideas.  However, I was finding I had too many ideas and it was getting a bit mind boggling.  So I've made a master list of go-to lunch and snack ideas that I'm going to laminate and post on the fridge.  I know I won't stick strictly to this list but it's concise and contains foods that Marin is familiar with and I know she likes.

2) Document success - If I come up with a combo that's a success I'll save a picture of it.  I feel if I can come up with 10 hits, that's a fairly decent variety to rotate through.  My biggest challenge in the beginning will be packing the right amount of food, so having a visual of serving sizes will be a help.

Here's two from this week...

Couscous with soya sauce, cherry tomatoes and leftover chicken.  Vegetables, peach slices and Love Grown Cocoa Power O's and Pretzels

Pizza on Homemade Naan, Cherry Tomatoes, dried apricots and chocolate chips, juice pack and yogurt smoothie.

The pizza and smoothie lunch was the winner of the week.  I was immediately asked if she could have it again.

3) Pre-pack snacks - I have placed a bin in the fridge and pantry for easy to grab snacks.  Every 2-3 days I'll restock them.  This will be great for work snacks as well.

4) Stock the Freezer - Last year I did a freezer makeover and started to really see the value in using my freezer wisely.  I recently gave them another clean and I'm going to start restocking some of our basics like tortillas, naan and muffins. 

5) Get Marin Involved - Another benefit of taking pictures of lunches and using Pinterest for inspiration is that I can get Marin involved in meal planning by choosing a few ideas from a lunch 'menu'.  She's also old enough to help restock the snack bins and choose her own snacks.  I hope I can have her take over the majority of this task before I become a lunch packing hater!

Have a great school year!


July 11, 2014

From CFF to QSS

For those of you who have been following me for awhile you've probably heard me use the term 'CFF', short for Convenience Food Friday.  Because by Friday I'm so fried that even saying 'Convenience Food Friday' is just too much of a mouthful.  Before my meal planning journey, this often meant 'FFF' (we would say "triple F" in our house) or Fast Food Friday.  We eat out a lot less now that I'm in the routine of planning ahead but I still like to make sure Friday takes minimal effort - leftovers, make-ahead, or quick and EASY! 

This summer has brought us a new acronym theme night, QSS... Quick Soccer Supper.  Prior to this summer Marin's activities were always on the weekends but we now have soccer on Wednesday evening... at 6.  So I have a 30+ minute commute, pick-up from daycare, and have to squeeze in a meal before getting changed, snacks packed and out the door in time to make it to the soccer field... all with a tired 5 year old.  This gives me about 15 minutes max to get supper on the table.  We could hit a drive-thru on the way to the field (it's an option, and I judge no-one who takes that route) but so far we've managed.  Here are some 'QSS' ideas if you're faced with the same challenge, or even if you just want to spend less time in the kitchen so you can get out enjoy your evening!

Slow Cooker

It's not just for the winter!  Last week we had this Chicken Coconut Curry, served over couscous.  I loved it the most but everyone ate it and as a bonus, most slow cooker meals will leave enough to pack up for a leftover lunch, meaning you have nothing to do when you get home from soccer!  And this meal was actually better as leftovers.  This week we had Lasagna Soup - another hit and extremely easy!!  For more slow cooker ideas check out my Slow Cooker Favorites on Pinterest.


I love having homemade tortillas on hand in the fridge or freezer, and if you make sure you have some fillings at the ready this can be a really quick meal.  One of our favorites is sour cream, avocado, black beans, cheese and cherry tomatoes... but the sky is the limit here, anything goes really!  As a bonus, this is an assemble yourself meal, so all you have to do is haul everything out of the fridge.  You could also wrap the wrap to eat on the go if you're really pressed for time.

Marin's masterpiece


I had Layered Nacho Dip on the menu a few weeks ago to use up leftover Re-fried Beans I had in the freezer.  Everyone seems to have their own method of assembling a layered nacho dip but this is mine from bottom to top - re-fried beans, sour cream mixed with a small amount of Mexican Spice Blend, salsa, avocado and diced peppers, shredded cheese.  Dips can be made ahead and ready to go when you walk in the door.  Hummus is another good choice... perhaps hummus, cheese cubes, pre-cut veggies and pita triangles?  Who said supper had to be warm?


Eggs cook up pretty quick, so you could make an omelette if you had time but perhaps some hard boiled eggs that you made the night before would also do the trick.  Serve with veggies and dip.  I have Ranch Spice Blend on hand at all times for a quick dip.

Entrée Salad

Many salads can be made ahead of time and if you top them with things like leftover diced chicken, beans, nuts & seeds, quinoa, bulgar, etc... they'll also keep a little soccer player full of steam.  Check out my week that was dedicated to salads or my Favorite Salads on Pinterest for more salad inspiration.  I also have a handy Salad Dressing print-out!

Summer Berry Salad - we had this with Raspberry Vinaigrette and Shrimp

Cold Pizza

Make it the night before and grab a slice on the way out the door!  That's actually quicker than a drive-thru!  As a twist this month I made Naan and we used the leftovers as a base for pizza.

A Naan Pinwheel


Plan ahead and make enough the night before to get you through two nights.  Or even throw on an extra piece of chicken to dice up and throw in the salad, on top of that pizza or in that wrap we've already talked about?  My favorite leftover chicken for this purpose is this Maple Dill Chicken - delicious warm or cold and would go great diced up and tossed in this Arugula Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing!

Hope you're all having a great summer!


June 06, 2014

The Best of May

I enjoyed putting together the April Wrap Up post so much I thought I'd do the same for May.  It's fun and easy to talk about just the best of what we ate for the month!  Sorry it's a bit late though... I truly have no idea how I found time to post once a week all last year!

Before I get into the meal plan I hope all the Mom's had a great day!  Mine was one of the best yet, just a really nice relaxing day including an awesome breakfast in bed and a feed of these tasty crustaceans...

Mother's Day Lobster

Best of May Meal Plan


The only breakfast I'll highlight this month is the Breakfast Tostada.  Early in the month I made re-fried beans in the slow cooker but on my way home from work, got stuck in traffic.  I reluctantly popped into the store and picked up some corn tortillas to make up a bit of time.  These tortillas got a thumbs down from all three of us.  So the next night I made a fresh batch to have with the leftovers - yummy!!  What a difference!  With the leftover tortillas I made up a tostada for breakfast the next morning.  I fried the tortilla on a lightly oiled skillet to warm and crisp, then I topped it with a fried egg, cheese, avocado and salsa.  I'll be making extra tortillas from now on!

Breakfast Tostada


Loaded Salad - There's a market style grocery store in Halifax called Pete's Frootique and they have a really awesome salad bar.  It's a bit far from home though so I couldn't justify trekking over there on the weekend. But it was on my mind so I did my best to recreate a fully loaded salad at home.  I started with kale and topped it with every veggie in my fridge, sesame seeds, chickpeas and this Orange Ginger Dressing.  The only thing Pete's has on this salad is that someone else does the chopping. 

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches - This was my favorite find this month.  I requested the Oh She Glows cookbook for Mother's Day and I must have been a good mommy this year because I got it!!  I've read it cover to cover.  Totally recommend it, even if you're not vegan.  This recipe is on her website but I don't think I would have found/noticed it had I not seen it in the book.  Deelicious... and easy... and basic.  It will be in regular rotation.

Taco Mac & Cheese - We reinvented taco leftovers by making a Taco Mac & Cheese Casserole.  I simply mixed the leftover meat with macaroni, salsa and topped with shredded cheese.  You could use a can of diced tomatoes instead of salsa and crushed tortillas chips would be great too.

Orange Ginger Chicken Stir-fry w/ Rice Noodles - I had leftover Orange Ginger Dressing from my salad on the weekend.  I added a bit of soya sauce and used it as the sauce for a chicken stir-fry that I served on top of rice noodles.

Broccoli & Quinoa Burritos w/ Cashew Cheeze - Another awesome find from the Oh She Glows cookbook!  Marin had some of the filling and it got an 'mmmm... Mommy, this is delicious' and when I asked if she'd like to take it for school lunch she said 'Definately!'   And the Cashew "Cheeze" sauce was so good, I would just dip chips in it.  I can't link this one since it's not on her blog, but all the more reason to go buy the book!

PB & Banana Sandwich - I've mentioned before that I run out of steam by Thursday, so I added to the menu this classic easiest lunch ever.  And you know what.... there's really nothing like a good ol' PB Sandwich.


Tacos on Soft Corn Tortillas - what can I say?  We love Mexican food.  I use Mexican Spice Blend in place of Taco Seasoning.  As mentioned above I also make homemade corn tortillas... really very easy and so worth the effort!  Best part of tacos is that it makes lots!  We had this two nights in a row for supper, used the leftover meat in the Taco Mac & Cheese for lunch and the leftover tortillas for Breakfast Tostadas.  That's 4 cheap, quick and easy meals.

Fish Cakes & Kale Salad - I often find that I can buy trays of salmon pieces (the little ends trimmed off the pretty pieces) at a pretty good price.  Those trays are perfect for fishcakes!  This is our favorite recipe - love the dip!  And of course, Kale Salad because a week wouldn't be complete without it.

Sticky Chicken w/ Broccoli Salad - I love this sticky chicken recipe for chicken pieces.  We had this with a side of classic broccoli salad.  Great summer meal.  I would think these would turn out great on the bbq.

Sesame Baked Tofu w/ Peanut Dipping Sauce & Asian Coleslaw - This in one of the few meals that Marin consistently will ask for more of.  Another one is the Panko Tofu... it's always a toss up which tofu recipe we all like best.  For the Asian style coleslaw I use a coleslaw mix and Asian Sesame Dressing.  Easy Peasy.

Chickpea Nuggets & Home Fries  - Sorry for two chickpea recipes in one post but this was another big winner this month and had to be included.  Plus I really love chickpeas.  I actually just made these for supper again tonight and enjoyed them just as much. 

Pizza - I included Pizza because I came across this recipe for a thin crust white pizza dough.  I typically make a whole wheat crust but on this particular night I was really more in the mood for something thin and crisp.  This crust turned out perfectly.  I actually made it twice in one week, the first time letting it rise for about an hour, the second time I let it rise for an hour and then left it in the fridge overnight.  Both were great.  Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! 

Pizza Dough on the rise.

Now bring on summer!!


May 01, 2014

April Wrap Up

I've had some hits and misses this month so I thought, "what would happen if I put together one meal plan of all the hits?"  That would result in one crazy good meal plan, that's what!  So this isn't a plan that we followed but it's full of stuff we did eat over the month that made the whole family happy.

April Wrap Up Meal Plan

Noteworthy Breakfasts

Overnight Oats continue to be my absolute favorite breakfast.  This month I've been back and forth between raspberry and peanut butter.  My basic formula is:

1/2 cup Steel Cut Oats
1 cup Almond Milk (I use homemade which I think is of secret ingredient to real fabulous oats).
1.5 Tbsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Maple Syrup

Peanut Butter: add a generous spoonful of natural Peanut Butter
Raspberry: add frozen raspberries

Blueberry and Almond Overnight Oats

I single serve my oats and mix in the add-in's the night before so that they are literally ready to go in the morning.  But you could easily big-batch the basic recipe and add-in the flavors of your choice in the morning.  Also, you may want to adjust the amounts of oats, milk and chia seeds based on how thick/thin you like your oats.  Most recipes call for old-fashioned oats but I much prefer the texture of Steel Cut!

Red Beet Pancakes - I made these on a weekend and Marin was so excited!  She's been asking for them off and on since the last time I made them - for Valentine's Day in 2013!  We had them for Sunday breakfast, leftovers for Monday breakfast and there were two little pancakes left that Marin and I had for a quick snack after work/daycare one day.  These could easily be made ahead of time for a weekday breakfast and pancakes also freeze well and can be reheated right in the toaster!

Cottage Cheese & Vanilla Yogurt with Fruit and Nuts -  I haven't been eating this since I'm still dairy reduced these days but Dave loves this combo.  He eats cottage cheese like I eat oatmeal.  You can totally customize this one with whatever yogurt flavor, fruit/berry and nut combo you like.  It is delicious!


This was a month of seriously easy lunches.  We've been on a kick of wraps, hummus and boiled eggs - not necessarily together but together works as well.

Homemade Tortillas - aka, the best thing EVER!

Veggie Wrap with Cheese & Ranch Dressing.  This happened on a weekend.  I had tortillas in the freezer, veggies that needed eating, ranch spice in the cupboard, leftover black beans & cheese... I put everything on the counter and we all came up with something a little different.  My version... tortillas with a generous scoop of ranch dressing, broccoli, orange tomatoes, red peppers and shredded cheese.  It was so good I had the exact same thing the next day.  I made one for Dave too and he agreed, delicious! 

Pork Fried Rice - I love making fried rice for lunch to use up leftover meat and vegetables.  My formula is to saute whatever vegetables I have on hand, add in the cooked rice and shredded meat, add a splash of soya sauce and mix it all up.  At the end I'll sometimes crack in an egg and scramble that in too.

Crispy Bean Tots - So Marin starts school in less than 5 months and I'm going to have to start packing her lunches.  I'm already super excited about this and putting a lot of thought into it.  I came across this recipe and wanted to give it a test drive.  When I taste tested one the night I made them I was less than enthused... found them kind of bland.  But for lunch the next day I dipped them in a little ketchup and thought I found a winner!  I think this will be school lunch approved.

Hard Boiled Egg, Veggies & Dip, Crackers and a slice of Avocado.  I found out one night that Dave didn't need lunch the next day.  I came very close to kicking up my feet and taking the night off but the image of a hard boiled egg came to mind.  And so I got off the couch and put together this almost no effort lunch for myself.  And totally enjoyed it!  This was what started my hard boiled egg craze this month. 

Greek Quinoa Salad - This is nothing new for us, we have it regularly.  I always make extra because if Marin comes anywhere near the kitchen when I'm making this she will make it her bedtime snack and before I know it it's half gone.  This will also be on the school lunch rotation.  It's simply quinoa, tomato, cucumber, feta and some Greek salad dressing.  I add either chickpeas or diced chicken to make it a meal.  If you're a black olive fan (we're not) throw those in too.

Greek Quinoa Salad

Hummus Wrap, Veggies and Cheese - Tortilla or Pita filled with hummus, veggies and cheddar cheese.  Yummy!  I actually usually pack everything separate for this one and just dip the pita and munch.  I find it easier to eat and pack that way.  It's like being at a party and making a meal out of the appetizers.


Slow Cooker Maple and Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin - This met all of my Slow Cooker criteria - 1) Easy to assemble the night before; 2) Can be left for 9 hours unattended; 3) No time-consuming extra steps before serving.  I did thicken the juices as suggested which took about 10 minutes at the end of the day.  I would say this step is optional though because I taste tested using the juices before I thickened and it was still really good. 

Fish in Parchment Packets - this is such an easy, no mess way to cook fish.  Plus it's fun to have your own little packet.  I didn't follow this recipe exactly, but it's a good guide on how to prepare the packets and cooking time.  Just substitute with whatever vegetables and herbs (and they don't have to be fresh) you have on hand.

Panko Crusted Tofu w/ Soy Dipping Sauce - This meal is a huge hit in our house every time!  In fact I think next time I'll use two blocks of tofu.  It's one of the few things Marin always asks for more of.  Note: I omit the chili pepper from the sauce because we're not bit on spicy food.  I usually serve it with a stir-fry and/or rice.

Panko Crusted Tofu

Chicken Skewers with Kale Greek Salad -The chicken was marinated in a yogurt lemon sauce that gave the chicken a really nice flavor.  If you can do this step in the morning it would make for a really quick weeknight meal as well.  I made a Greek Salad using Kale and our favorite homemade Greek salad dressing.  A hit!  Lemon roasted potatoes wouldn't be wrong either.  haha.

Spaghetti w/ Mushrooms, Garlic and Oil - We don't often have pasta for supper but Dave wasn't going to be home for supper on this particular night and I was just in the mood for something really easy.  I find every week needs that one recipe to make on the night that you're just out of steam.  For me that's usually Thursday.  Plus we both really enjoyed this!

BBQ Steak, Baked Potatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms and Arugula Salad with Vegan Parmesan.  Winter is OVER!  Hurrah! And we just bought a new grill so this is what we made to test it out.  Always fabulous, I LOVE this meal!  The steak marinade we use can be found on my Favorites page under 'Salad Dressings and Spice Mixes'.

Since I was only posting one plan for the whole month I added a lot of variety.  Many of these meals could stretch over a couple of days making this a two week meal plan.  Hope some of our favorites become your favorites too!

Now bring on those May flowers!


March 21, 2014

Slow Cooker Sunday

Long time no chat!  Not much has changed here, meal planning as usual since signing off in January.  Truthfully for the first couple of weeks I took a bit of a "meal planning vacation" and just loosely planned.  I ended up feeling totally lost and am now totally back to the regular routine.  But one thing that IS new is Slow Cooker Sunday!!  For the last two weeks I've prepared Sunday supper in the slow cooker. I typically save Slow Cooker recipes for mid-week when I'm starting to lose steam.  I love coming home to a fully cooked meal when I'm feeling too tired to cook.  But using this method of cooking on a Sunday has it's virtues as well.

1) I find that weekends come and go so quickly that I sometimes feel that all I've accomplished is getting my chores done. Blah!  A slow cooker meal makes for an easy supper and usually enough leftovers to pack up for Monday's lunch, freeing up time to enjoy other things.  It's a walk in the park... literally!!
2) If you are home doing chores you get to enjoy the smell of supper cooking all day long!
3) I often come across slow cooker recipes that are tempting but don't fit with my weekday requirements.  During the week I'm limited to recipes I can prepare ahead of time and then turn on and leave unattended for 9 or more hours.  Since I have more flexibility on the weekend I can attack my Slow Cooker bucket list.

Two weeks ago I made Deli Style Chicken. For Sunday's supper we served it with baked potatoes (microwaved) and raw vegetables.  "Easy peasy lemon squeezy" as Marin would say. The next day we had the leftovers with a side a Greek Orzo salad.  Last weekend I made Mexican Style Chicken which we had on tortillas with cheese, sour cream and quacamole on Sunday night and scooped over brown rice for a super easy Monday lunch.  (Note:  I replace all the spices in this recipes with a couple of tablespoons of Mexican Spice Blend)

I may just keep this Slow Cooker Sunday ball rolling... at least until grilling season is in full swing anyway!

This is the menu from last week.  I also slow cooked some Cabbage Rolls through the week. This recipe was one of the best we've come across in the last little while. I've never made cabbage rolls before always thinking they were too labour intensive.  On the contrary!  This recipe was quick, easy and the perfect mid-week slow cooker recipe since you can easily prep it the night before and leave it unattended for 8-10hrs.  Dave and I both devoured these and agreed they tasted just like the cabbage rolls we each grew up on.  Marin liked them too. 

Recipe Links

Raspberry Chia Jam, Healthy Happy Mom
Vegan Overnight Oats, Oh She Glows
Greek Dressing, from my salad dressing printout
Balsamic Vinaigrette, Goodness Gracious
Broccoli & Shrimp Stirfry, Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Slow Cooker Deli Style Chicken, 100 Days of Real Food
Hearty Tuscan Soup, Chatelaine
Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls, Canadian Living

The coconut oil toast I have on the menu for Sunday breakfast is simply toast with coconut oil instead of butter.  This is my latest obsession since having this Avocado Coconut Toast a few weeks ago.   The avocado toast has become a go-to quick weekend lunch and the coconut oil toast with raspberry chia jam a new favorite breakfast.  And in fact, coconut oil toast on its own it not too bad either!

This week we're following Week 46 (mostly).  I love having the blog to refer back to when I'm menu planning on the weekends!!  Which begs the question... what's going on with this blog anyway??   I'm making (slow) progress on a new look and hope to implement the changes soon.  I don't plan to return to weekly posting anytime soon, but will try to pop in a bit more frequently with posts like this.  I'm amazed that the page views have not slowed down.  Thanks to everyone who's still popping by!  Also, I am faithfully using my What's Cooking This Week board on Pinterest, so check me out there as well!!


January 11, 2014

Year in Review

Bear with me, this is long post!

I started this blog to help stay on track with my resolution to meal plan for 52 weeks.  I was never able to find a meal planning website that worked for me so I figured if I was creating meal plans I might as well put them out there for anyone else who was interested.  I also knew that if I put it out there publicly that I would be MUCH more likely to stick with it myself.  I'm guessing without the blog I wouldn't have made it past week three.  I also think the blog enhanced my meal planning experience in that it really made me strive to put together interesting plans, not just the same old same old.  I mean without it I probably wouldn't have made tortillas - gasp!  I can't imagine my life without fresh tortillas!  So for that reason alone I'm calling this year a success!!

I'm calling it a success for a few other reasons as well...

Goals Met... 


1) Save time - the time I was talking about was extra trips to the store and wasted time spinning my wheels trying to decide what to cook, typically at 5pm while gazing blankly into the fridge.  In these terms I've definitely saved time.  However, I've probably spent more time in the kitchen overall because I've substituted a lot of packaged, store-bought items with homemade (eg. Tortillas, granola bars, fishy crackers and almond milk).  But to me preparing food is leisure time and well worth the effort.

2) Save money - even I can't believe how much money we've saved - it's ridiculous!  If you missed my "Money Matters" post it's worth a read.  I was talking to a couple of friends the other day and in that conversation I realized I've had a shift in how I meal plan and grocery shop.  At the beginning of the year I would still meal plan around the sales in the flyers and I was still cruising each grocery aisle for deals I might have missed.  I've started to plan more around what's seasonal, ignoring the flyers, and if I don't have anything on my list for a specific aisle I skip it.  This really cuts down on impulse buys and stocking up on items you may never need.  I will still check the flyers before I head out to the store but mostly for staples I know I will use (eg. chicken, olive oil, etc...) 

3) Reduce waste - money aside, it really kills me to waste perfectly good food.  And it was happening more than I'd like to admit.  We've greatly reduced our waste which I feel really good about.

4) Improved diet - this wasn't a primary goal because I didn't really think we were eating horribly to begin with but I knew if I was planning out our meals that our diets would benefit.  What I didn't really anticipate was just how much processed food I would cut from our diets.  There was more room for improvement than I had realized.  The two areas that have changed the most are prepacked snacks(eg. granola bars) and salad dressings.  These items have almost completely been replaced by homemade versions.  If you missed my salad dressing printout, here it is again!  I find this extremely handy and will be doing a second one with some new favorites.

Some weeks were more popular than others...


By a landslide "Week 7 - Kid Friendly Meals" was the most popular post.  I cringe a little because the photos on this post were terrible.  But poor photos aside I do like the meals and think it is a good family friendly meal plan.

Exhibit A:  A fine lunch but I'm sure there was a better way to food style it!

My favorite posts...


Over the last week I've reread the entire blog and some weeks stand out more than others.  Here are a few that I thought were useful and noteworthy.

1) Week 28 & 29 - Short Term Meal Planning.  This was a two week period that we were going to be back and forth between home and cottage.  So instead of planning out a week of meals like I typically do (or not bothering at all like I would have done in the past) I made a list of meal ideas so that I could easily plan just 2-3 days at a time.  This method worked really well for me in that situation and I think having a go-to list of meal ideas is great to have at any time.

2) Week 34 - Freezables.  My freezer makeover was long overdo and has really changed the way I meal plan.  Just having a few easy to grab lunches, suppers and/or snacks ready to go can be a real time saver.  And money saver too!  In Week 38 I spent $60 in groceries and only $22.50 in Week 41, thanks mostly to a well-stocked and organized freezer.

Freezer Before - what a mess!

Freezer After - happy to report it still looks like this!

3) Week 36 - Fast Fix Suppers.  I liked this week for the format. Instead of talking about what we thought of each meal I walked through the steps to prepare each meal, including prep that could be done in advance.  I think reading through this post could convince you that a little planning goes a long way!

4) Patty Cake - This was kind of a silly theme but I really enjoy shaping my food into patties.  I can't explain it really.  But you take grains, protein, vegetables and seasoning, form that into patties and lightly fry and the result is always a tasty little treat that's easy to pack and eat.  And the combinations are limitless!

Quinoa Cakes

Best recipes found...  


One of the unplanned benefits of blogging was that it really pushed me to try new things. I didn't want to be posting the same old things week after week.  As a result I found some real gems!!  It's hard to narrow this down to just a few but I'm going to attempt to just mention the best of the best.  For more see my Favorites page (which I'll be updating soon) or follow me on Pinterest

1) Whole Wheat Tortillas -  Hands down this is my favorite new recipe.  I was surprised by how easy they were to make and they are way waaaay better than store bought.  And they are extremely versatile.  Fajitas, quesadillas, wraps, tuna melts, tortillas pizza.... I sleep better at night knowing I have a stash in the freezer.

Whole Wheat Tortillas

2) Almond Milk - This is probably the thing people ask about the most.  Usually the question is something like this -  "So Sandra tell me the truth.  Is Almond Milk really that easy to make???'  And the answer is "really truly it is!!"  Soak, blend, strain... that's all there is to it!  I'm using a nut milk bag now but until recently was just using a fine mesh sieve.  I also have a basic blender.  You don't need any fancy equipment.

3) Freezer Chocolates -  The perfect little after supper nibble.  We've had a bag of these at the ready for the last several months.

4) Kale and/or Arugula Salad - What can I say?  I dedicated a whole post to this salad a few weeks ago that's how much I love it!

Kale Salad

5) Oatmeal - I was never a big oatmeal eater, I liked it but it just wasn't on my radar most mornings.  Refrigerator Overnight Oats (I prefer Steel Cut Oats in this recipe) and Easy Overnight Oats have totally changed that!  I love that you can prep them ahead for a grab and go breakfast.  Oatmeal is now in the regular breakfast rotation!

Refrigerator Overnight Oats in a mason jar.  The ultimate grab and go breakfast!

Warm bowl of Easy Overnight Oats

Best timesaving/prep-ahead tips...


1) Storing kale (or other greens).  See above - we eat a lot of kale and this makes life so much easier.  Plus it takes less space in the fridge.

2) De-seeding Pomegranate - if you missed this video go check it out.  Then go buy a pomegranate and try it because you won't believe it until you do.  Hint: it's not the water trick.

How to seed a pomegranate - so easy you'll be amazed!

3) Lasagna Sheets - so much easier to work with!!  And lasagna is a great prep-ahead meal!

Lasagna Sheets

4) Refer to your meal plan each night and do any prep you can ahead of time even if its as simple as measuring our spices or taking out ingredients and leaving them by the stove.  Your future self will thank you the next day!

Best Meal Planning Tips...


If you're trying to start meal planning more here are a couple of easy things I would suggest to get you started.

1) Have at least one or two theme days on your template.  For example, I always plan suppers first and Monday is fish night and Friday is what we call CFF (Convenience Food Friday) which is something easy and "pubish".  Once I have suppers filled in I figure out what days I can use leftovers for lunch and then I just have a few blanks to fill in.  Having the regular theme days gets the ball rolling.  Meatless Monday and Taco Tuesday are themes I've heard... whatever works for you!  That reminds me, I need a catchy phrase for Fish Monday.

2) Have a list handy of go-to lunches, suppers and snacks.  Then if you have one or two meals you're struggling to fill in you can quickly reference you're favorites. I use my Favorites page and Pinterest boards often when I'm looking for a little inspiration.

What's next?


So, what's the plan for 2014?  The truth is I still don't know!  I thought I'd have a clear vision of where I wanted to go with the blog by now but I really don't.  On one hand I've really enjoyed it and have gotten great benefit from it.  But on the other hand I work full time and it can be a bit time-consuming to prepare a weekly post (some weeks admittedly felt like a chore).  I also threw this blog up pretty quickly and the creative side of me really wants to reformat it as it's never had the look and feel that I was after.  But I simply haven't had time to do much more than the weekly post.

So the immediate plan is to take a few months off from regular posting.  Sure I may still pop in to let you know about some great new recipe or tip I've stumbled on or to share a week that really clicked, but I won't be posting a regular weekly plan.  Taking a break from weekly posting will allow me to spend the time making the blog more esthetically pleasing and to come up with a format that will be more manageable to maintain. 

In the meantime I've created a new Board on Pinterest called "What's Cooking This Week" where I'm going to Pin what's on our menu for the week.  I started this last week and really liked it - was so easy to grab the iPad to bring up the recipe I needed!  I'm also planning to follow the blog myself.  I'll most likely swap out a few things based on what we have on hand and/or what we're in the mood for but it should really speed up meal planning on the weekends and it will be great to revisit some meals we loved but never got back to.  I'm excited about this!

So Facebook and Pinterest is mainly where you'll find me for the next little while.  Thank you all so much for stopping by!  I really appreciate every like, share and comment.  I've had a lot of fun, hope you have to and I'll see you back here soon!


January 03, 2014

Week 52 - Happy New Year!

PDF Version of Meal Plan

Happy New Year!!  Wow, week 52???  Did I really just write that?  So I did it... I meal planned faithfully for 52 weeks!!  The benefits for me personally have been well worth it - time saved, money saved, new recipes found, healthier diet, etc, etc.  And I really don't think I would have stuck with it without the blog to keep me accountable.  But more on that in my next post which will be a year in review wrap up and what's up for the blog 2014.

For this week I wanted to finish off with one last meal plan.  This week was a bit "off" for us given that we only had two work days and had more social gatherings than a typical week.  But I've filled in the blanks to leave you with a full week of healthy meals since most of you are now trying to kick off the New Year on the right foot.  I can tell because my stats this week spiked on January 1st and were mostly from Google searches for 'healthy meal plans' :-)

Recipe Quick Links

Easy Overnight Oatmeal,  Marin Mama Cooks
Salmon Cakes, Source Unknown
Kale Salad, Original - Week 50
Feta & Spinach Casserole, Kalyn's Kitchen
Fish Sticks, Attach of the Hungry Monster
Chia Jam, Eat Good 4 Life
Thai Chicken Pizza, The Hopeless Housewife

Since we didn't follow this meal plan exactly I can't really do a week in review.  So I'm going to highlight my favorite recipe from the week - Thai Chicken Pizza.  I've been loving pizza this year.  Last year for Christmas Santa brought me a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  Dave and I were both a little apprehensive about having one in the house thinking it would only increase our cake and cookie intake.  And it has... but what I'm loving it for the most is dough.  I've made biscuits, tortillas, naan, pretzels, and pizza dough... lots and lots of pizza dough.  Prior to owning the KitchenAid I had never made my own pizza dough.  On pizza night we would either order out (greasy), buy frozen (cardboard) or buy the pre-made crusts (meh).  But now I make our own which is quick, easy and so much better!  If you don't own a stand mixer I would highly recommend buying one.  They are a bit pricey but I seriously don't know how I got by without one.  I use it almost daily.

I typically make the Whole Wheat Crust from 100 Days of Real Food.  I like to divide it so that we can make individual pizzas - pizza party supper is fun! 

Personalized Pizza Supper

I've also made pizza and tuna calzones for lunches - delicious!

Pizza dough can be divided into single servings and frozen either before or after baking.  I prefer to shape the dough into personal sized pizza rounds and bake them prior to freezing.  This makes for super quick lunches for nights that I'm feeling lazy.  And lately I've been thinking about using pizza dough to make cheesy bread sticks to dip in pizza sauce.  Wouldn't that be a fun lunch?!  I'll let you know how they turn out.

This week we had Thai Chicken Pizza which was a nice change from the classic pepperoni.  If you like peanut sauces you will love this pizza.  I made this no-rise pizza crust, using a 50/50 mix of white and whole wheat flour, to speed things up a bit and it turned out great.  This may become my new go-to crust.  I topped it with chicken, red onion and carrot and garnished with chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, green onion and a spritz of fresh lime.  It wasn't a quick weeknight meal but much of the prep could have been done the night before.  Plus we had leftovers for the next days lunch so it was well worth the effort!

Thai Chicken Pizza

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2014!