Monday, November 25, 2013

Live on Rogers Daytime York Region!

Today was an exciting day! I had the pleasure of joining Jacqueline from Rogers Daytime York Region for a live segment about Sunday Soup Kitchen!  I thought I would be exceptionally nervous, but turns out I had no nerves at all!

Check out the links below :)  There are two five minute segments.

Sunday Soup Kitchen this weekend was all about preparing my meals that I was going to demonstrate live on air. The two dishes I chose were the balsamic chicken and vegetables in the slow cooker, and a red pepper, black beans, corn salad with a lime/cilantro vinaigrette.

Yesterday I prepared and made a batch of the balsamic chicken dish so that I would have a "finished product" to bring with me.

I spent most of the day prepping my dishes for the show, so there wasn't a lot of cooking going on around here.  Good thing, as my freezer has a lot of cooked meals in it that desperately need to get used!

I did make a chicken dish yesterday, that I have wanted to try for a while.  I've seen a recipe floating around that involved chicken, green beans and red potatoes.  I put my own spin on this so here it is:

Oven Baked Chicken, Green Beans and Red Baby Potatoes

3-4 bonesless, skinless chicken breasts
red mini potatoes quartered or halved
Green beans (about 2 cups)
Seasonings of your choice (I chose rosemary and basil)
2 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
Fresh lemon juice

Lay your chicken down in the middle of an ungreased glass baking dish.  On one side lay the chopped baby potatoes, and on the opposite side the green beans.

Drizzle with olive oil and add the minced garlic on top of the chicken.

Season the entire dish with your choice in spices. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over top of all of it.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 covered with foil.  Then take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes.  SO SIMPLE!

Happy last week of November!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Getting over a cold and struggling with cooking...

Has anyone else been plagued with a cold twice already this season?  Or is it just me!  I'm slowly getting over the second "back to school" cold of the season.  The amount of germs brought home by children during the first four months of school is outrageous.

We had a busy weekend  with a slew of family gatherings.  Between running around town to various events and trying to get over this cold, I knew that I wouldn't be able to pull off a typical Sunday cook-a-thon. Luckily my freezer is fully stocked with meals so it's actually a good thing to use a couple of those meals for this week. I took out greek marinated chicken and a batch of potato and leek soup.

Chicken Cacciatore

Earlier this week my sister was telling me she made chicken cacciatore.  I instantly wanted to make it as it has been years since we've had it in this house.  I really don't make pasta dishes in this house very often, but figured spaghetti with this deliciousness served over top would be awesome!

I set out on a hunt for a chicken cacciatore slow cooker recipe and found this one from a blog that I've frequented in the past.

Chicken Cacciatore

I used her "quick method" set on low heat.  This took a total of 13 minutes to prep, and into the slow cooker it went! 

Follow the tip at the end - after 8 hours remove the lid, crank it to "high" and cook for another hour.  It helps to thicken the sauce.

Ground Beef Pot Pie

I had some ground beef in the freezer and set out on trying to find a recipe I made a couple of years ago.  Ground beef pot pie.  It's easy, calls for minimal ingredients and always turns out right.  I don't think I found the exact recipe I've made previously, but this is a close match.  It calls for half a cup of tomato sauce and thankfully I had a stash of my homemade batch in the freezer :)

Beef Pot Pie

I don't know about you, but I don't have time to make homemade pie crust.  So I'm completely satisfied with purchasing store bought.  My fave is the Pillsbury brand pie crust.  It's a great price, and very easy to work with.  I highly recommend it.

I'm sure my son will freak out when he eats this tomorrow night.  He's what we call a "picky eater".  Often when dinner is served he moans...LOUDLY.  Thankfully I don't take any insult to this :)  I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't make another meal for the picky eater.  That just feeds into the issue.  He eats what we eat.  He may not enjoy it at all, but he eats it.  It's healthy, well balanced, and gets in his belly!

Signing off to make the kids lunches for school...bento box styles and all :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can Santa bring me a second slow cooker??

Lately I have been debating getting a second slow cooker.  Is that ridiculous?  I ran it by the husband yesterday and he even thought it was a great idea.  Since he’s usually the first one to point out when I sound insane, I think I just may start looking for another!  Ultimately, if I could get two slow cooker meals going at once on a Sunday the extra meal would go in my freezer! BONUS!

Balsamic Chicken & Vegetables

The first recipe I got ready on Sunday morning was one of the slow cooker kind!  I had pinned this balsamic slow cooker chicken recipe I found on Pinterest a few months ago, and I was really looking forward to trying it out. 

Here are some handy tips for this recipe:

  • I used 16 chicken thighs which is more than the recipe called for. I did not add any extra liquid, as the vegetables give off enough liquid of their own during the cooking process.
  • It calls for 8 hours on low in the slow cooker.  I would suggest checking it around the 6 hour mark.  Mine were definitely done at that point, so I was glad that I checked or the chicken would have dried out.  No one likes dried out chicken right?

Chicken and Cilantro Taquitos

I was super excited to try out the recipe that I didn’t get to make last week – chicken and cilantro taquitos!

In this house we love a good Mexican inspired dish.  We’ve travelled with the kids to Mexico for the last 5 years, and every time we come back home we miss the sun and their amazing food!

I follow Once a Month Meals on Facebook and caught this recipe on my news feed one day so was excited to give it a whirl.

The taquitos were simple to make, and do not require many ingredients at all.  The recipe serving size is for 8, so I doubled the ingredients and I ended up with 20 taquitos.  I have enough for a dinner this week, and the rest of them went into the freezer!

We had them last night and they were a hit!  I served them with homemade guacamole and sour cream.  From the freezer I pulled out the red pepper, corn and black bean salad (from the double batch cooking post earlier) to go along with it.

Mushroom Soup

Next on the list was a soup.  Leading up to the weekend I still hadn’t decided on what type of soup to make, and was really struggling in finding inspiration.  Thankfully a blogger that I follow on Twitter helped me out and gave me her mushroom soup recipe to try out.  

You can check out her blog over here: .

She makes her soup with a mixture of wild mushrooms.  Of course the grocery store didn't have a great selection of mushrooms when I went this weekend, so my soup isn't as "wild" as I would have liked.

I made a few modifications to the recipe so here goes:

5 cups of sliced mushrooms (I used cremini and white button)
1 onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk (I used lactose free)
1 cup water
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp ground thyme

Heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion and garlic.  Saute until they are soft (approximately 5-7 minutes).  Add in the butter and allow to melt.  Stir in the flour.

Slowly add the chicken broth and the water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Whisk in the milk.  Remove from heat.  Once cooled, puree in food processor.

This recipe did NOT disappoint.  I took some to work for lunch today and it was amazing!

Ground Beef Chili

I can never resist a sale when it comes to meat, and this week I picked up ground beef at a great price.

Since my mother-in-law came by earlier this week with two shepherd’s pies for my freezer, I decided to make chili.  I’ve been making chili for so many years that I don’t even use a recipe anymore.  Most chili recipes call for multiple tablespoons of chili powder, which is way too spicy for me.  So I’ve always put in the level of spice that I can tolerate.  Which by the way is MUCH less than 4 tbsp!!  Who can handle that?! 

I thought I should actually write down my chili recipe so feel free to try it out.

1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion diced
2 stalks celery sliced
1 large carrot diced
1 large leek sliced
1 red pepper diced
2 garlic cloves minced
3-5 mushrooms sliced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz tomato sauce (I used my homemade sauce that you can find the recipe for a couple posts back)
2 cans of kidney beans undrained (I usually use one can red/one can white)
4 tsp chili powder
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Cook the ground beef and all of the veggies in a large pot over medium high heat.  Stirring occasionally until the meat is browned (approximately 10 minutes).  Drain off the fat.

Return to heat and stir in all of the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a full boil (about 4-7 minutes).  Reduce to simmer and continue cooking for 45 minutes.

You can't go wrong with this recipe!  

One more recipe I'll leave you with...

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash, Leek & Apple

We had company on Saturday night and I made this amazing veggie dish I had pinned a little while ago on Pinterest.

Honestly, this recipe was simple.  The only part about it that I can't stand is cutting butternut squash.  Or any squash for that matter.  Why are they so darn hard to get a knife through!!  Anyways, dig deep and try and get past that and make this dish!

I have a really good friend who despises all things VEGETABLES.  I'm going to make her come over one day soon and try this dish out.  The maple glaze makes it taste like candy.  How could she not like it!

Now go on and get your cook on!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let's talk about my GUT..

I'm lactose intolerant.  When I was 18 that's what the doctors told me.  Not a big deal right?  That wasn't the only news I received in the hospital that day. 

After a year of being extremely ill, months of arguing with my doctor that I just KNEW what I had (by Googling my symptoms of course), I was finally given the news - I have Crohn's disease.

For those of you who don't know what Crohn's disease is, I'll give you a quick (and non-graphic) explanation.

Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract causing a wide variety of symptoms.  I won't get into the gory details, but some of the symptoms include extreme abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and a lot more. 

There is no cure for Crohn's…YET.  Even though many organizations such as the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada have completed excellent research over the years, they still do not know exactly what causes it, and how to rid a body of it.

Throughout the years I have tried a cocktail of various medications, from Prednisone to Pentasa to Imuran and more.  Each time the drugs would work for awhile, whether it be a month or years, but ultimately none of them were the long-term solution that I was looking for. 

My Crohn's disease is typically brought on by stress.  For me, any major life event or change gets my body all wound up, and then I have a "flare up" and get ill.  For the past 6 years I have been on a drug that has literally allowed me to have a normal life!  Since starting on Remicade, I have not had a single flare up.

So you may be asking, why is she telling me all of this?! 

Living with Crohn's disease means that I have to watch and monitor everything that I eat.  I’ve had this disease for almost 18 years (nearly half my life), and today with the help of drugs and a special diet, my Crohn’s is much easier to manage, though it definitely wasn't always.

I lead a lactose free life, I can't eat spicy foods, and I can't eat greasy foods (okay sometimes I cheat and do it anyways, but pay for it LARGE).  I always have to be cognizant of what is in meals that I didn't make myself.

I still drink milk, cause it does a body good! It just has to be lactose free.  When I was first diagnosed 18 years ago, there was no such thing as lactose free milk. There was only Soy Milk, which I really do not like.  Today, when I go to the milk section in the grocery store I am amazed at how far we have come!  Seriously, the other day I saw lactose free CHOCOLATE MILK!!

I cannot have cream of any kind, so all of my recipes are modified to exclude this ingredient.  If a recipe calls for cream, I substitute lactose free milk in its place.  Extremely spicy foods and me also do NOT mix.  My gut can tolerate a little bit of spice, but I have to be the one who controls just how much is going into the recipe.  Otherwise I will pay for it for DAYS, and it's really just not worth the pain.

I've always been envious of people that can eat anything.  I would give my right arm to be able to eat any type of ice cream, cheesecake, brie cheese, just to name a few :)

I watch my children eat anything under the sun.  They love ice cream, cheese, milk, and all sorts of other things that my gut could never handle.  My wish for them is to always have that luxury, and to never suffer like I have in the past.  When I was 18 years old, Crohn's defined me.  It took over my life, shattered my last year of high school, and made me change so many aspects of my life without my permission.

Throughout the years I've shared my Crohn's disease experience with others, counseled friends and strangers who had just been diagnosed, but above all, have managed to lead a normal life that I didn't always believe was possible. 

And for that, I am thankful :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cooking and some nice family time!

I had an ambitious Sunday Soup Kitchen on the menu for today...but it didn't quite all happen like I thought it was going to.  That's okay though - thank goodness for a freezer filled with dinners!  I went in there later today and scooped up a couple of meals to thaw and use for this week.

We had a family gathering this afternoon, and between that and the kiddies swim lessons I only had time to pull off three meals today.

Oh - and did I say how much I love daylight savings time?! Nothing like an extra hour on a Sunday :)

As soon as I got up this morning I started out with a recipe that I pinned from Pinterest a couple months ago and have been wanting to try for awhile now.  It looked simple enough and it's from this great blog called "Budget Bytes".  This blogger will actually break down the price that it costs to make the recipe, and each of her dishes are CHEAP!

Greek Marinated Chicken

Thankfully chicken drumsticks were on sale at Loblaws this week and I got two flats for a total of $10!

I followed the recipe to a tee, and it turned out awesome.  Since I made a large batch I got to freeze half of it too!

Next up is a favourite of mine to make in the Fall and Winter - potato and leek soup!  There are many recipes out there but I've made up my own over the years to suit our taste (and also my lactose  of intolerance) as most of them call for heavy cream which I never cook with .

Potatoe and Leek Soup

4 medium potatoes
1 large carrot
1 celery stalk
1 clove of garlic
1 onion
3 large leeks
4 cups of chicken stock
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup of milk (optional)

Peel the potatoes and carrots and chop roughly.  Chop the celery and garlic.  Take off the green stalky part of the leek and then slice.

In a large pot on medium heat melt the butter, then add the vegetables and let them "sweat" for about 8 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil then immediately reduce to simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from heat.  At this point you can add the milk, or choose to leave it out.

Let the soup cool completely, then I blitz it in the food processor for a smoother consistency.

Serve with fresh chives and/or grated cheddar cheese on top!

The last meal of the day was a slow cooker kind of dish - another Pinterest find!  Apple cinnamon slow cooker porkloin.

Decided to try this out since I had two pork tenderloins in the freezer.  This dish was easy, and only requires 3-4 hours in the slow cooker.  Talk about minimal ingredients too.  Pork, one apple, one onion, honey and cinnamon!  And it looked very pretty going into the slow cooker :)

Apple Cinnamon Slow Cooker Porkloin

My house smells amazing right now!

I also wanted to make another new dish this weekend but ran out of time - chicken taquitos!  That will be on the menu for next Sunday Soup Kitchen for sure.

What's on your meal plans for the week ahead?