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Dreaming of Summer Salad

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Mango, Cilantro, Lime Juice & Corn – the tastes of summer!

Cooped-up inside with Sweet Pea as the – 29 degree celsius winds howl outside, I’d give anything for summer. Here is a simple salad recipe to give you a taste of warmer days. It’s also pretty healthy – so a great way to prep your summer-time bikini bod!

Dreaming of Summer Salad

Ingredients:
1 Bunch of cilantro washed and chopped
1 Mango diced
1 Small can of corn, drained
1 Red pepper diced
1 Small red onion finely chopped
¼ Cup olive oil
3+ Tbsp lime juice
1+ Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

Toss all the ingredients in a bowl.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Eat while wearing sunglasses and California Dreamin’

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Savoury Korean Pancakes (Pa Jun)

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These scallion pancakes are a great twist to the traditional sweet breakfast food. They make a great brunch dish and can be served up with salad for lunch.

Ingredients:

2 Cups flour

2 Eggs, beaten

1.5 Cups water

1 Bunch of scallions, quartered and cut into 2-3 inch lengths

½ Cup corn

½ Cup frozen peas, thawed in boiling water

¼ Cup grated carrots (water squeezed out)

1 Cup cooked shrimp, finely chopped (optional)

1 tsp salt

Oil for cooking

Dipping Sauce:

1/3 Cup soy sauce

1/3 Cup rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp chili pepper flakes

1 Tbsp scallions, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients together in large bowl and let sit for about 10 minutes. Check consistency before cooking – batter should be a little bit runnier than regular pancake batter, so that the Pa Jun cooks quickly and evenly.

2) Heat frying pan over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil.

photo 1-33) Spoon batter into pan to create individual pancakes. (You can also pour batter to fill entire pan in a thin layer and then cut giant pancake into wedges)

4) Cook until set and golden brown on bottom.

5) Turn over to finish cooking other side 1-2 more minutes, adding more oil if needed.

6) Combine all dipping sauce ingredients and serve with pancakes.

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Slow Cooker Nutella Bread Pudding

photoServes 8 to 10

This thanksgiving we were invited to my aunt’s place for turkey dinner. When invited or dinner I usually make desert but with Sweet Pea around these days, my time to be creative in the kitchen is rather limited.

A delicious and non-complicated desert recipe was in order so when I came across several online desert recipes that can be made in the slow cooker I couldn’t wait to try out my own version of crockpot bread pudding.

This year I am thankful for this chocolaty hazelnut delight that’s like a warm hug on a crisp fall afternoon.

IngredientsNutella Bread Pudding

– Cooking spray
– 1loaf of bread, crust removed and cut into 1‑inch cubes (enough to yield 12 cups) (any white bread will do – I used what was left in my fridge, some challah, country bread and regular white bread)
-1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
– 1/4 cup white chips
– 1/2 cup chopped & toasted hazelnuts (or any other type of nut you want) – optional
– 5 cups heavy cream
– 5 cups milk (1%)
– 9 large egg yolks
– 1 cup Nutella
– 3/4 cup plus 1 tbs granulated sugar
– 4 tsp vanilla extract
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 2 tbs light brown sugar

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees (to toast the bread)photo 2photo 1
  2. As oven heats, prep the slow cooker. Place a tin foil “collar” around the sides of the crockpot and then line it with a foil sling by pressing one horizontal and one vertical piece of foil into the slow cooker. (This will allow you to easily lift the bread pudding out of the crock once it is done. Spray tinfoil sling with vegetable spray. (I actually forgot to do this – and it turned out ok – just some of the gooey goodness was left on the foil)
  3. Spread cubed bread over two baking sheets and toast in oven until dry and crisp (about 40 minutes) – this step can be omitted – but your bread pudding will be more watery if you don’t dry out the bread first.
  4. In a large bowl, mix chocolate chips and nuts into dried bread then transfer to prepared slow cooker.photo 4
  5. Whisk together cream, milk, egg yolks, Nutella, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl, then pour wet mixture evenly over bread. Press on the bread with a spatula to submerge it.
  6. Combine the remaining tablespoon of granulated sugar with brown sugar and sprinkle this over the top to form a sweet crust.
  7. Cover and cook 4 hours on low (until the center is set.)photo 5
  8. For extra decadence you can serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

 

 

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Killer Quinoa Salad

photo 2I have this Food Network quinoa salad recipe that I’ve been making for years. I’ve tweaked the original recipe to suit my own tastes so I don’t go by measurements when making it anymore. People often ask me for the recipe so naturally I go online to try and track down the original recipe with its measurements.

But a couple of years ago when I was trying to dig up the online recipe to give to a friend, my web search came up empty. The recipe and the Food Network show it came from had vanished from cyberspace. I then googled the name of the food Network chef whose recipe it was and found out why the recipe had been wiped from cyberspace. 

Juan-Carlos Cruz, the former host of Food Network’s Calorie Commando was sentenced to nine years in prison for trying to hire two homeless men to murder his wife.

Thankfully the men went to the police instead of taking Cruz up on his 1000$ offer.

I am not one to make light of domestic violence – nor attempted murder but as justice was served in this case, I’m posting my version of the “Convict Commando’s” recipe and aptly re-naming it Killer Quinoa Salad.

Killer Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

1-cup quinoa (cooked according to packaging instructions)
2-3 green Onions chopped
1 handful + of dried cranberries
1 handful + of toasted and chopped walnuts and/or almonds
1 cup of green beans or asparagus chopped and blanched
¼ cup Olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Cook quinoa according to packaging instructions (I add 1 cup of dried quinoa to 2 cups water and boil in saucepan on the stove until the water is completely absorbed/evaporated) – let cool to room temp.

Mix all the other ingredients together in a large salad bowl and fold in the quinoa.

Let sit in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour for flavour to soak-in to quinoa.

Taste the salad and asjust olive oil & vinegar as needed.

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Long Live Brunch

Easy High Tea Scones

Easy High Tea Scones

One of my favourite things to do is host weekend brunches with friends. I’ve got a couple go-to recipes I can whip up in my sleep that make brunch super easy.

My aunt gave me this super easy scone recipe that I’ve been using for years. I tweaked a couple of things like adding less sugar (to make them slightly more healthy) and adding more milk so I can just drop the dough on the cookie sheet instead of rolling it out.

Below is my tweaked version of the recipe. I like to make a batch of sweet and a batch of savoury ones to satisfy everyone’s tastes. These are a hit at brunch – and also a great way of pleasing your colleagues as work.

Plus now that Sweet Pea is here and my time is very limited – I can still whip these up during naptime – so long live hosting brunch!

Easy High Tea Scones (makes 14)

Ingredients Scone Base

3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar (If you have a sweeter tooth you can add ½ cup of sugar)
5 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup margarine or butter (for drop-scones I like to use margarine or room temperature butter – easier to cut into flour)
1 egg slightly beaten
1 ¼ cup of milk (for rolled scones only add 1 cup of milk so dough is thicker)

Cranberry Lemon (Ginger) scones (add to scone base)

1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries
Zests of 1-2 lemons
**Option to add ¼ cup of diced candied ginger

Rosemary Cheddar Scones (add to scone base)

1-1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (can also used dried)
***Optional brush-on glaze: 1 tsp. garlic powder combined with 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter (brush scones before going into the oven)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl

photo 13) Cut in margarine or butter (a pastry cutter makes this super easy – if you don’t have one, you can use 2 knives or your hands)

 

photo 34) Add milk to slightly beaten egg and stir into dry ingredients. Your base dough is done. You can simply bake this up and serve with an icing sugar glaze, lemon curd or clotted cream & jam…or you can add your own flavourings to the base dough…

photo 3photo 15) Stir in flavour ingredients (I’ve listed the flavours I usually make – but you can experiment with anything here: lemon & poppy seed, currants, blueberries, sour cream & chives etc… the possibilities are endless.

photo 2photo 56) Drop scones onto a greased cookie sheet (they puff up quite a bit so each scone should be approximately 1/3 cup in size) – if you are doing the rolled-scone version, roll dough out onto a floured surface so it’s about an inch thick and use a cookie cutter or glass to cut out circles that you’ll place on the cookie sheet.

7) Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy!

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DIY organic baby products – if you can make Kraft Dinner, you can make this!

photo 3Admittedly I am a first time mother and, like all new parents, my husband and I are probably a bit over protective of Sweet Pea.

If we do have another baby I’m sure we’ll allow our second child to lick the floor, sleep with our cats, and spend all day in a dirty diaper…but for the moment, at least, we’re your stereotypical over-protective, over-eager & over-tired parents.

With all the “how to be paranoid while expecting” type books and articles on the web, can you really blame us!

Before Sweet Pea was born, I did a lot of online research into making your own organic baby products. We had read all sorts of articles about the dangers of chemicals in baby wipes, diaper rash cream and detergents, plus we had also spoken to many of our friends whose little ones got severe diaper rashes from the perfumes and synthetic substances in the various store-bought baby products placed upon their skin.

(Cue the eye-rolling here…) Yes I know that we all grew up and survived just fine when our moms used these products on us, but they also used to prescribe Lysol for douching – just because something was done in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice now. I am also not claiming to be an organic zealot – yes my baby will someday come into contact with store-bought shampoo, regular baby wipes, and your everyday diaper rash cream… but if I can find an easy way to make healthier products for my child why not!

My desire to make my own organic baby products was two fold.

1) I was concerned about the chemicals we’d be exposing our baby to

2) I’m rather cheap and can’t necessarily afford trendy organic products at the health food store

After finding some simple online baby product recipes, making a few tweaks of my own, sourcing economical places to purchase the supplies and containers, I whipped up a batch of Diaper Rash Cream, Foaming Baby Wash/Shampoo, and Baby oil.

Coop Coco is where I soured most of my ingredients – they sell organic soap making materials in bulk and ship all over Canada. Plus they have a storefront if you’re local. Many of their prices were cheaper than my local health food stores. I love this place!

I got the coconut oil from the grocery store (I found it was cheaper there than any health food place) and most of my bottle & glass jars are from the dollar store. So are the labels I put on the jars – but these are really not needed.

The ingredients and supplies cost me around 60$ – but I’ve got enough diaper cream to last 5 months and enough supplies for baby wash and oil for at least a year – so I think it was money well spent.

A Month in, I’m happy to report that even while sleep deprived, I’ve easily whipped up my second batch of Baby Wash, the Diaper Rash Cream is working, and my little one loves the calming Baby Oil I apply after his bath.

So here are the recipes and methods I used.

photo 1DIAPER RASH CREAM

  • 1 cup shea butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp beeswax pellets (if you can’t get pellets just melt a natural beeswax candle)
  • 3 tbsp Zinc Oxide (Some people have issues using this ingredient, but I did a lot of research and felt that it’s moisture repelling properties were needed) – you can omit this if you’d like – especially if you are using cloth diapers.
  • 15 drops Lavender essential oil (optional) (I also used this to make padsicles – so it’s worth investing in a bottle)

Directions:

1) Clean & dry your cream containers. (I used dollar store glass jars, but you could use mini jam mason jars, or Tupperware containers – anything with a well-sealing lid. Keep in mind that the cream sets thick – like a pomade, so you need to place it in a wide mouthed container as opposed to a squeeze one. The recipe filled 5 of my small jars.)

photo 22) Melt Shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax in bowl placed above a pot of hot water (double boiler). It should only take a couple minutes for everything to melt together.

 

photo 33) Add the zinc oxide to the bowl and mix with a hand blender/mixer for several minutes until the powder is completely incorporated with no clumps.

4) Add 15 drops lavender essential oil and mix to incorporate.

photo 45) Pour mixture into containers and allow to set.

*** Zinc oxide is water repellent so as soon as you’re done pouring your mixture into jars, you’ll want to wipe down your bowl/mixer with paper towels and wash right away.

photo 2FOAMING BABY WASH / SHAMPOO

I used this simple online recipe you could also  add 3-5 drops of Lavender and/or Orange essential oils to the wash.

The recipe calls for distilled water to prolong the shelf life of the Baby Wash. In the first couple of weeks I used this soap for diaper changes so I went through quite a bit of it. My next batch I’ll probably just used regular water and eliminate the distilling step.

This was a useful link for distilling my own water.

photo 1BABY OIL

  • 6 oz Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil

Directions:

1) Clean and dry your containers. (I used dollar store travel shampoo bottles.)

2) If needed melt your coconut oil – then pour into container.

3) Add lavender drops and shake bottle to incorporate.

**Depending on the coconut oil you use, the oil sometimes solidifies. I just soak the bottle in a bowl of hot water while I’m bathing my little one – so the oil is ready to go for the after-bath massage.

I haven’t yet ventured to make my own wipes (I bought a boat load of these rather pricey organic ones)…but there are a ton of online resources for making these too so maybe I’ll give it a try.

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My Crockpot saved my life…

crock pot freezer meal food stash

crock pot freezer meal food stash

My latest work contract ended a couple of months before my due date and although my finances certainly took a hit, I was able to really clean and organize the house for the arrival of Sweet Pea – which in retrospect was time really well spent.

Of all the things I organized or prepared, easy to cook meals were by far the most useful and life-saving thing I did ahead of time. I know that some people throw “casserole” baby showers where each guest cooks the mom-to-be a casserole that she can keep handy in her freezer, but I was having an August baby and the thought of turning on the oven to cook dinner each night was frankly too hot to handle. The solution: prepare freezer meals that could be cooked in a crock-pot.

I won’t take much credit here other than to say that I actually did all the legwork to prepare a month’s worth of freezer meals – and when Sweet Pea arrived and things got crazy in our household boy was I glad that I did! All we had to do each day was pop a block of frozen meal into the crock, put it on low and 5 to 8 hours later we had a home cooked meal.photo 5

Most of the recipes I used came from http://whoneedsacape.com/ an awesome website that has a whole collection of crock pot freezer recipes. What I liked most about the site was that they also give you, pre-prepared grocery lists for all the meals so you can buy and prepare everything at once.

I mostly stuck to the 20 meals in 2 hours recipe list because I’ve got a small freezer but they’ve also got a list of 40 meals in 4 hours, 30 summer meals or 7 meals in an hour that I’m sure are equally great. I put each meal into a freezer zip lock bag, wrote the date, recipe name and instructions on the bag, and stacked them flat, one on top of the other in the freezer compartment of my fridge.

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Not all the meals are h aute cuisine or dinner-party worthy but they’ll certainly satisfy for family dinner and are much better than ordering out for pizza every night, which I would have ended up doing when newborn sleep deprivation set in.

My only warning is that if you are also shopping for your ingredients the same day, 20 meals takes more like 6 hours. Sounds like a lot of time yes, but believe me when life gets crazy, these meals are a life saver!