Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Meatballs

 No, we don't have meatballs as part of our Christmas dinner, or even part of our Christmas eve dinner (which is usually mostly seafood and fish)...But they are part of our Christmas traditions.  A number of years ago, when the kids were still very little, we began having spaghetti and meatballs for supper on Boxing day.  Tthe Holidays can be full of very rich food and while much of it tastes good to children, it isn't what they are accustomed to on a daily basis.  Celebrations during other times of the year include rich foods as well, but few of them go on for days and days like the week between Christmas eve and New year's day.  Multiple turkey dinners, or other rich meals can leave little ones fed up with eating.  Or (as has been our case more than once), they pick and choose and only eat what they recognize...Our daughter one year, at nothing but blueberries and chocolate on Christmas day...I am sure you don't want the details of the end of the day.  (altho she will gladly tell you if you ask her!)

 When my daughter was one and my son three, we made Boxing day a family day.  It didn't mean that out of town guests couldn't join us, but what it did mean was that we were doing Kid Friendly activities (that our children were accustomed to doing) and eating Kid Friendly meals.  It has become an almost annual tradition: a walk around Pipers Lagoon, and some time on the Beach and then home for movies and spaghetti and meatballs for supper.
Since then, we have added a couple more Family oriented activities that we do over the holidays, including an evening of bowling with our very close family friends, that involves an early evening of bowling (usually Boys against the Girls) followed by dinner at a Kid Friendly restaurant.  We also try and include a trip to the ice rink (because we don't spend enough time there already!) or the swimming pool.

After 7 years of making other people's meatball recipes, this year I spent some time perfecting my own recipe.  I don't like the taste that can come from using bread crumbs, so I use a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread torn into small pieces.  I find that using milk makes the mixture mushy and it adds nothing to the flavour.  The addition of ricotta cheese, mixed with fresh ground parmesan is awesome.  Even my kids appreciate it ("ooh Mumma, they taste all creamy and cheesy and yummy" according to my daughter).  
And inspite of the fact that I have spent 35 years avoiding eating veal (yes, anyone who has known me that long will attest to that, even my husband who once witnessed me send back my plate at an Italian restaurant, because it didn't say on the menu that there was veal in the meatballs...Poor Rob!) 
I still don't use veal...I just couldn't bring myself to.
So instead, equal parts ground sirloin, medium ground beef and ground pork.  This recipe uses 1lb of each.  And of course, some good olive oil.  Yes, my children may never get to Disney Land, but they know what good Olive oil tastes like and they know that parmesan cheese doesn't come from a can!

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchement paper.
  • 1 lb each: ground sirloin, medium ground beef and ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice whole wheat sandwich bread , torn into small pieces.
  • 6 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp rubbed oregano
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil chopped
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley chopped

Combine ground meat, eggs, bread pieces, ricotta cheese, parmesan, and spices in a bowl and set aside.  Put olive oil in medium skillet and heat until just shimmering.  Add onion and cook over medium heat for three minutes, add garlic and continue cooking, carefull not to burn the garlic (otherwise start all over again), for another 3-4 minutes.  Once onion and garlic and soft and fragrant, remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil.  Add onion mixture to meat mixture.  (some at this point may want to use gloves).  Mix, by hand the meatball mixture, ensuring even distribution of the onion mixture and
the bread.
If making ahead, at this point, you could stop and refrigerate up to overnight.
Using a food scoop (I use the 1/4 cup size), scoop out meatball mixture and place on prepared cookie sheets.  My cookie sheets (I have large ones) hold about 15-18 large meatballs.
Bake for about 20 minutes.  I usually check the first batch after 18 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheets to platters lined with paper towel.  Let sit on platters for 5-7 minutes, then either use with your marinara sauce or freeze for later!
Makes up to 65 meatballs, depending on the size of scoop you use.  (I get about 48).

These can be used for spaghetti and meatballs, or for meatball subs or they go great in soups for adding protein.

Happy packing!


This post is linked to 33 Shades of Green Tasty Tuesdays

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Countdown

At this point, December 10th, I would say we are officially in "Countdown mode" in our house.  Especially since everyone (except for me) is off for a two week Christmas Break as of this coming Friday.  So they are all walking around the house, counting down, "5 more days"..."5 more days"!
   Argh!  Five more days and they are all off and then I am tripping over them for full week while still getting ready for Christmas.  Not sure why the school district couldn't have kept them in until the 23rd.  That would give us a week to recover, after the holidays, before sending them back to school.  Maybe next year.

Rather than wasting any more precious time complaining, it is time to get on with the list!  There is still so much to be done, and I am really hoping there might be someone else interested in doing it...I have enough to do.   The Dance show (finally!) is today, but there are still skating practices, the Bethlehem walk, a skating Christmas party, Christmas cards for school and skating friends, Teacher presents, Family Christmas cards (and I discovered this past week I have misplaced the kids' school pictures)...Oh well, I still have next weekend to get things in order.....No, I don't...Somehow Grandma's Christmas party got left off the calendar.  So, that means there are officially no weekends left before Christmas to get things done...Okay, Rob, get ready, your list is gonna be long!  Typically, he gets the Costco Run and the Seafood Market Run and the Liquor store run...I think there just might be some Christmas Card writing on that list, as well as at least a dozen other things I cannot remember at this very moment...
   In the midst of all this chaos that is approaching, we still need to eat!  I have to say, this is where the Freezer comes in handy!

  • Sunday: This is Dance show day...I am really hoping we are going out for dinner!
  • Monday: Cheese tortellini and spaghetti sauce(all from the freezer!) with spinach salad
  • Tuesday: Vegetable Soup and sandwiches before heading off to the Bethlehem Walk
  • Wednesday: Ginger Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry (except for the little kids, who will be having hot dogs at the skating club Christmas party!)...such a great and easy recipe, I had to share
  • Thursday: Slow cooker Chili and salad
  • Friday: Sushi, Pizza and Brownies (the only homemade item on the menu) and the first sleepover of the Holidays!  Welcome, Tracy and Hailey!
  • Saturday: Skating show we get to go out two nights in one week? 

However, the last week of school before the Christmas holidays deserves some fun lunches...

  • Monday: Turkey, spinach and cream cheese pinwheels , with fruit salad.
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti sauce Shepherd's pie
  • Wednesday: Eyeball soup (because my 10 year old asked) Your favourite meatballs in any clear soup, but its fun to use Udon noodles or rice noodles that are really long as it makes the meatballs look like they are "peering" out of the bowl.
  • Thursday: Buffalo Chicken wraps with lettuce and ranch dressing (instead of blue cheese)...This is an Eating Well recipe, and the only change I make to it, to make it more kid friendly is replacing the cayenne pepper with Chili powder and a tbsp of brown sugar.
  • Friday: Appetizer Lunch (what we used to call "bits and pieces"), inlcuding veggies and dip, rice cakes and salsa and perogies.

Turkey and Cream Cheese pinwheels are kind of fun... Basically a roll up, but because they are cut, they look "different" and somehow with kids, when things look different, they taste different.  If your kids don't like spinach, you could use regular leaf lettuce.

  • 1/2 of 1 package (3 ounce) cream cheese
  •  1 teaspoon cream-style horseradish 
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • 1 green onion sliced lengthwise and then chopped fine
  • 1/2  cup spinach leaves
  • 3 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 slices Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

  1. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onion and  horseradish in a small bowl.  Mix well. Spread cream cheese mixture onto tortillas.
  2. Cover each with 2 turkey slices. Spread the spinach leaves on top. Roll up jelly-roll fashion. Refrigerate 2 hours or until serving time.
  3. Slice each tortilla into 8 pieces.

    This makes enough for 3 lunches.

    Happy Packing!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday food for thought

...just  a few hours late...
Wow, only the first of the four weekends before Christmas, and already I am feeling waaayyyyyy behind!  Last week's menu was bumped into this week (as you may notice!). And that is not a good start, given how busy the next four weeks will be.  So, I am going to try and bit somewhat proactive going into this week...
  • Sunday: Lasagna, salad and bread (we had chowder on Saturday night!)
  • Monday: Baked pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli!  (I can hear my 10 year old cheering now!)
  • Tuesday: out for dinner...There is a birthday in our house, and the request was the Chinese buffet, so healthy eating begone!  Let them eat Sweet and sour pork and white rice (oh and chow mein noodles!), and all the chicken wings they want.
  • Wednesday: Baked Salmon with rice and Greek Salad (off season, but Rob brought a whole box of tomatos home from least they are BC grown!)
  • Thursday: Shepherd's pie and salad
  • Friday: Dad's night to cook: Pancakes!
  • Saturday: I am leaving this one open.  
When I look at the calendar, I just shake my head.  There are two meetings this week (School and skating); an extra soccer practice (why?), Christmas show practices for dance and for skating, Showcase for skating down South Island, volley ball practices (and Provincials), and Friday night is card night (no, not poker...Christmas cards!).
Everyone's house gets crazy around the holidays, what are your tricks to keeping a balance and making sure everyone is on track?  Love to hear your tips!

And lunches...well, there just might be quite a bit of peanut butter on the menu!

Happy packing!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Grocery shop prep for a New Year

Every week we go through the same routine, there is nothing to eat!  What do we want to eat?  What do we buy?  How come no one ate any of that?  And where did all the (insert this week's yummiest item) go?  And we start again...
When I sit down to make a grocery list, as I may have said before...I try to start at home..
Step #1:What is in the freezer?  What is in the cupboard?  What is in the fridge? (that maybe shouldn't be anymore....)
~For example, there is a big chicken in the freezer, some pork chops and potatoes, carrots and onions in the bins, and lots of frozen veggies.  Dried pasta, and brown rice.  Oh and leftover chili in the freezer (from New year's eve).  If it weren't for the missing cheese, yogurt and bananas, I could likely forgo a trip to the grocery store until at least Wednesday evening. 
Step #2: What is in the flyer?
~I tend to go back and forth between two grocery stores.  Quality Foods is nice and close to home, a small store that isn't too busy...But the big draw for me is that it is right beside the skating rink (a place I go to once in awhile!) there tends to be the place where I go if we have run out of something that cannot wait.  Thrifty Foods used to be my favourite grocery store...Beautiful produce, great fish counter, they usually have the harder to find items and great sales (which make up for the slightly higher prices)...However, the great sales are not so great anymore and the slightly higher prices have gotten a lot higher in recent months.  Take hot chocolate for example: I don't buy a number of the ready made ones (one, I have a problem with some of their business practices and some of the others use cellulose in their hot chocolate, not so keen on the kids having wood pulp with their breakfast in the morning), but I like to have some instant stuff on hand for when I am not making my own, so I buy Murchie's Hot chocolate as it has only what I would be putting in my own.  Thrifty foods price: 9.99...Regular price at Quality foods, 8.99, on sale for $7.49.  Still expensive, but at least I am not paying for half a container of wood pulp.  Cereal is another area where the prices are quite a bit higher than other places...So, for Cereal, if Costco doesn't have it, we don't eat it. 
The one area where Quality foods doesn't hold up to Thrifty's is in their bulk section.  I can get organic dried beans if I want, or regular dried beans, and they are all from the US or Canada.  I can also get bulk Quinoa, and Quinoa flakes (which are great for cookies!)...
So what I do, is I shop the flyers...and compare.  This week's winner?  Thrifty Foods, with $1.00/lb for Gala apples and 7.99 for a 5 lb bag of California clementines (Q.foods has them too, 2.99 for a 2 lb bag, so same price), and $2.00 a box for Nature Valley Granola bars (we go through the roasted almond ones and the Oats-n-honey ones like crazy...oh and the Chocolate ones.  In their bakery section, Thrify's has a 900g (2 lb) loaf of whole wheat-low sodium sandwich bread for $3.69.  And when you go through bread like we do in our house, that is a great price. 
Over at The Poorganic Life she has a great list of tips to getting the processed stuff out of your grocery order and staying on budget.  Here is the link for this week's flyer over at
Thrifty foods
Quality foods
And some great templates for getting started on a New Year's grocery list.
Grocery list template from Not QuiteSuzie Homemaker
Grocery list from Your Printable Daily Planner

Happy Packing!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Double Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Okay, this afternoon, I started a hunt for a recipe for Chocolate Quick bread, or a chocolate coffee cake, and I came upon a great recipe for Chocolate Quick bread with Peanut Butter Cream cheese spread from Dara over at Cookin' Canuck .  Only to discover that it was actually a guest post by Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker .  That however, is  irrelevant, because it was after I had printed off the recipe, and was getting set to make it, that the bananas fell out of the freezer.
Uh huh, so many bananas in our freezer that when I opened it, a bunch fell out.  You see, in the winter time, we go through many many many bananas.  In the summer, it is a different story, and I often end up throwing them into the freezer to keep the fruit flies away.  So, back to these frozen bananas...I tried to get them back in the freezer, but the two bags of blueberries appeared to have been the ones responsible for the eviction and those bananas just weren't going back in.
So, instead of Chocolate Quick Bread (a la Brown Eyed Baker), I made my own banana bread, with a little chocolate twist...

Double Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread: 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350F, spray or grease two 9x5 loaf pans.
You will need:
2 cups mashed banana (about 4 large bananas)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup plain yogurt
4 eggs, beaten.
Place bananas in large bowl or that of a standing mixer.  Cream sugar with bananas, add oil, yogurt and eggs.  Continue mixing until well combined.
In medium bowl, combine :
1 cup natural cocoa powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup fine grind whole spelt flour (you could use all purpose or regular whole wheat, but I like spelt in banana bread)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt.
Stir well with a fork.  Add slowly to the wet ingredients, mix until just combined.  Add 1 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (about four 1 ounce squares, chopped coarsely), and let beater go around 3 or 4 times.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean and bread has pulled away just slightly from the sides.  Cool for a few minutes on a rack in pans, then tip out and cool completely before serving.

Voila!  And so yummy!  And your kids can even take them in their lunches!  The teachers will be asking you to send them on special occasions (like halloween or for a birthday) because they are still a "healthy" treat!

Happy Packing!


Linked up to:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baked Rigatoni

After lasagna (did I spell it right, Mum?...), baked rigatoni is my favourite pasta.  Really, it's just lazy lasagna.  So, how do you make it?

First start with a big batch of Spaghetti sauce

Then, spray your lasagna baking dish (the old 9x13 one).  Preheat oven to 375F.

Next, boil your rigatoni noodles, about 600g for 6 people (and if anyone out there has found whole wheat rigatoni, please let me know, because of all the pastas we eat in our house, it is the one that I can never find in whole wheat).
While they are boiling away, steam about 1/2 a package of spinach in the microwave (tip: cut it up into strips with your scissors before you steam it)...put spinach into microwave safe bowl, add about 1 tbsp of water, microwave on high for 1 minute 30sec.  Take out and stir, it should be cooked enough, but if not, give it another 30 seconds.  Add 1 cup of cottage cheese and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to the spinach and stir to combine.
Spinach and cheese mixture

Drain pasta, return to pot with a small amount of spaghetti sauce, like 1/2 a cup (this will help to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot).  Stir to combine, add spinach and cheese mixture.  Add another 1 cup of spaghetti sauce.  And then pour pasta mixture into prepared lasagna pan.  If needed add more sauce, and spread evenly in the pan.
Grate about 1 cup of cheese (mozzarella or low fat cheddar is what I use).  Sprinkle on top of pasta mixture.  Place pasta in oven and bake for 35 minutes(until sauce is bubbling and cheese has melted nicely, maybe a little bit brown in spots).  Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with your favourite green salad or Caesar salad.

And make them really happy by adding dessert...

Lemon Cranberry Loaf

If you are lucky, you will have leftovers for lunch...Today, it went in everyone's lunch bag (the pasta, not the Lemon Cranberry loaf).  Yay, no sandwiches to make!

Find more yummy goodies at :

Happy Packing!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seafood Chowder

   I love creamy soups.  I love seafood.  So playing around with a few recipes to come up with a seafood chowder was just plain fun.

As hard as I tried to not use bacon, that smoky flavour is just part of what I like about a good chowder.  It does not however require jugs and jugs of cream to make a good chowder.  When you look at older recipes for fish chowder or seafood chowder, you will often find they call for evaporated milk rather than cream, and that is because it was often easier to get (it keeps, right!) than regular milk in places like Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.  I started by using a recipe of my Mother-in-law's for Fish Chowder from an old Newfoundland cookbook.
We have since grown from there (since a bowl full of cod and potatoes with evaporated milk isn't really what I had in mind when I think about chowder)...Here is what I finally came up with:

Vancouver Island Seafood Chowder for 6-8
3 strips of bacon diced
3 TBSP Butter
1/2 cup (125ml) yellow onion diced
2 small leeks, sliced (white and light green parts)
Cook bacon on medium heat until  just crisp.  Add butter, onions and leeks.  Cook on medium until soft (3-4 minutes).
2 cups diced red potatoes (not peeled!)
2 medium carrots. peeled and diced
2 tsp salt flakes (I use Maldon)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
3 cups fish/seafood stock or 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup clam nectar (reserved from canned clams)
Bring to a boil over medium heat, let simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Add: 2 cups whole milk, heat through, stirring well.
1/2 lb (approx 250g) of white fish (halibut or pacific cod) cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2lb (approx 250g) wild salmon (either fresh or smoked...If you opted not to use bacon earlier, you would be good to add smoked salmon here)
3 large scallops, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup shrimp meat or 1 14 oz can of clams (I use St Jean's), chopping up any large ones.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat through, being careful not to overcook.
Garnish with 2 TBSP chopped roasted red pepper and 1/4 cup chopped herbs (chives or parsley or scallions).
Serve with good bread or homemade biscuits  or, all by itself!

Vancouver Island Seafood Chowder

 I had fun checking out other seafood chowders, and I am sure you will too!



And one more to make seven:
 Happy Packing!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunday Food for Thought

Another weekend almost done, and it is time to plan those meals again...
  • Sunday: Baked Rigatoni and salad
  • Monday (Meatless): Potato and Kale Soup
  • Tuesday (should be Turkey): Chicken Curry with veggies and rice
  • Wednesday: Baked Pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed carrots & broccoli
  • Thursday: (Dad's night to cook, I have a skating club meeting!) Whole Wheat Pancakes and (hopefully) fruit salad
  • Friday (Fish!): Seafood chowder with green salad and homemade bread
  • Saturday: Lasagne and Ceasar Salad with homemade garlic toast (and the big girls night to cook!)
A tip for making a budget friendly menu: after you have reviewed what you already "own" (for example we have fish and prawns in the freezer, as well as pork chops and chicken thighs for curry), then browse your favourite grocery store flyer before you make your menu.  Once in a while for fun, I will pick a new recipe and shop for the ingredients (in spite of the price!) afterwards, but on a weekly basis, I work from both what we already have and what is on sale for the week.  Typically, I buy our meat on a monthly basis and supplement it with what the butcher has on sale each week, but I also have the bonus of driving past the butcher shop (and passing his sign advertising the specials) four times a day, five days a week.
   Lunches area also planned this way...yogurt on sale (Olympic Organic 650 g, for $2.99, as well as the 1.75 kg size for $8.99) means yogurt in lunches, in banana bread and muffins and also Raita for chicken curry on Tuesday.  Roasting chickens on sale last week, means there is chicken for sandwiches and also homemade stock.  And Gala apples as big as my ten year old's head on sale .99/lb, means apple crisp for Sunday dessert.   So, this week, our grocery dollars went to Thrifty foods but only because everything was on sale.

Happy Packing!

Honey Whole Wheat, makes three loaves

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What We ate Wednesday

Turkey Taco filling

Add the tomatoes
I love Jenn's "What I ate Wednesday" over at Peas and Crayons.  At our house, we ate Turkey Tacos (I know, I messed with the menu a little, but hey!  It's my kitchen!).
Turkey Tacos are always a big hit and so easy (as long as you remember to take the ground turkey out of the freezer!).
Turkey Tacos (for 8)
1 kg ground turkey (I like to use the mix: 1/2 dark meat, 1/2 breast meat from the butcher)
1-2 small sweet peppers chopped
1 small jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed), diced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup Taco seasoning (see recipe below)
2 cups tomatoes/tomato sauce (I use unsalted canned tomatoes, crushed with the hand blender)

brown turkey, add veggies (not crushed tomatoes) and cook until soft 5-7 minutes.  Add seasoning, and 1 TBSP salt.  Cook another 7-10 minutes on low.  Add tomatoes, continue cooking for another 10 minutes on low.  
Serve on warmed tortilla shells(heat oven to 250F, wrap flat tortillas in foil and place in oven for about 10-12 minutes), with grated cheese, salsa, lettuce, diced tomatoes and plain yogurt.  

Avocado Salad
 We also had avocado salad with our tacos.  This is a recipe I first came across when we were visiting family in Ottawa this past summer.  My Aunt and Uncle took us to The Green Door vegetarian restaurant, and both my hubby and I fell in love with the avocado salad (my kiddos thoroughly enjoyed the lasagna, but not the chocolate cake ...I also really liked their cheese cake!).
When we got home from our trip, the first thing I wanted to do was figure out the recipe for that salad.  I searched the internet but came up empty handed.  Except for a restaurant review that included a comment about the avocado salad:  "It's basically just avocado, tomatoes and red onions with a bit of lemon juice."  So, I started with that...And eventually, got the seasonings right. 
So yummy!
          Avocado Salad (leave one of the pits in the salad to keep it from turning brown)
2-3 ripe avocados, coarsely chopped
2-3 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium red onion , sliced thin
the juice of two lemons
1/2 tsp salt flakes (Maldon is what I use)
Toss together and serve at room temperature.

And I promised to share the taco seasoning recipe...but I can't ...You see, it's taken awhile and well, I can let you see it...And I might even give you some for Christmas, but if I tell you, then it won't be my secret anymore.
The Joy of Cooking has a good basic recipe. 

 I usually finish my day with a banana (mostly to make sure that I actually get one!), so here is the picture of the bananas we go through in our house in approximately two days (some times less).  Yes, we buy 18 bananas at least three times a week.

Happy Packing!

The Bananas this family eats every two days...Yes, 18 in two days

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hamburger Soup

Hello All!

Reading through older posts, I realised that while I have mentioned Hamburger soup more than once (or twice even!) I haven't posted the recipe!

So, here we go (and we had it tonight for dinner, but I also fed it to the younger ones at lunch time as well, everyone loved it!)

Hamburger Soup for 12 (yes, 12)

1 package of Yves Veggie Ground Round (or 1.5 lbs of ground meat of your choice)
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
6 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, diced small

Heat oil in large soup pot, add onion, carrot and celery, cook until soft (6-7 minutes).  Add ground meat now, if using and cook well.  If not, wait until adding the liquid ingredients to add ground round.  Add the following ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least an hour, or all day!
1 medium yam or sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (unsalted)
4 cups homemade chicken stock or 1 l container of low sodium chicken broth
2 cans consomme
1 can tomato soup or 1 1/3 cups homemade tomato soup
1 cup pumpkin or pureed squash
2 cups frozen or fresh green veggies (your choice, I use whatever is in the freezer ...usually peas or green beans, but you can use broccoli or bok choy)
4-6 cups water (depending on the size of your pot)
3/4 cup barley or other grain, I often use spelt (but I soak it for an hour first and then drain it)

Salt and pepper to taste.  I rarely add salt to this recipe, as the consomme adds plenty.  Over the years,  I have increased the amount of veggies and water to dilute the amount of salt in the original recipe, and everyone still loves it.
Serve on its own, or with bread and cheese.  And the leftovers make great lunches!

Happy Packing!


For more great soups and stews for warming the family on a cold winter night, check out
Canadian Living Soups and Stews

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vegetable soup

I love a creamy, pureed "potage" version of vegetable soup, but it appears, for the moment, my children prefer to actually see the vegetables they are turning their noses up at.  I guess that is what I get for telling them there was pumpkin in the spaghetti sauce all along.
So, I have spent the last couple of weeks reading up on vegetable soups.  I keep coming back to recipes for  minestrone and cabbage soups.  And, after four tries, this is what ended up on the table tonight...I think I even heard my son mutter, "This doesn't taste too bad," between mouthfuls.

Vegetable Soup for 8

3 TBSP Butter or Olive Oil
2 small strips of bacon, chopped (optional)
2 small onions, diced
2 leeks (any size, mine were large), sliced thin, white and tender green parts
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 medium or 7-8 small potatoes, washed and diced (I left the peel on)
1TBSP salt, 1/2 tsp pepper

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped with the juice
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
8 cups homemade chicken stock, or low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Tied in a bunch: 1 sprig each, rosemary, thyme and sage

In large dutch oven or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion, leeks and bacon if using.  Cook until onion is soft (3-5 minutes)  Season with salt and pepper.  Add carrots and celery and cook until soft (10 minutes or so)   Add zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes.  Continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Add chicken stock, and fresh herbs.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 25- 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.  Remove herb bunch.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve.

Leftovers make a great lunch, either in the thermos or reheated in the microwave.

Happy Packing!


Check out some other tasty tidbits over at:

Sunday Food for thought

Mmmmmm.  I love Sundays when there aren't a hundred and one things to get done.  Today, I just hung out in the kitchen (listening to hubbie's music choices, most of which were quite acceptable, as he sat at his laptop, marking grade 10 English essays) and got us ahead of the game for what feels like the first time this fall!  Daycare days are longer this year, and the evenings are even busier, which makes the dinner hour seem all the more crazy!  I find if I can at least get two meals done on a Sunday, we make it through the week with a whole lot less stress.
   I took a few minutes this morning to write up our menu for the week (so helpful on a week when Rob has to cook at least twice!).  I thought I would share it with you, just in case you're in need of some inspiration to get you through the week...

  • Sunday: Vegetable Soup and Spinach Salad
  • Monday: Cheese tortellini and Marinara sauce (and salad)
  • Tuesday: Turkey Tacos
  • Wednesday: Beef Stew (one of the things I made today)
  • Thursday: Udon Noodle Stir Fry with Black Bean Sauce (bok choy, carrots and chicken)
  • Friday: Free for all (in other words, Mum is done, fend for yourselves!)
  • Saturday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (and salad!) (with the recipe at Clean Eating Magazine, you'll also find the recipe for Meatball subs, which are awesome as well and a great quick meal if you have already made the meatballs)
Today started with some wonderful inspiration at Simply Life , where her Half Half Marathon entry included a wonderful recipe for Whole Wheat Challah bread.
The Challah dough was a little bit moister than what I am used to working with, but it came out wonderfully.  (and is now, of course, all gone).
   Vegetable soup and spinach salad made the rest of tonight's meal...with the classic Sunday treat my kids have come to expect...Dessert!  I suppose it isn't so bad that they only expect dessert once a week.           
   Dessert inspiration came on Friday by way of my best friend's face book page, when she shared a recipe from Brooke over at  The Flour Sack : Applesauce cake with Caramel Glaze that was absolutely wonderful.  All spicy and warm, the kind of cake that makes you feel like you're visiting with Grandma (yours or someone else's).  I may have been a little more generous with the spices than the recipe called for, but everyone loved it.  Including me!  Often at the end of the day, when I have been cooking and tasting and smelling things all day, by the time we get to dessert, I am not really interested.  That was not the case with this cake.  It will definitely get a repeat performance in our kitchen!
And, I also had a chance to get out a few Christmas things...Couldn't resist, this cake just needed something special!

The kids and I also took a few minutes to brainstorm the lunch menu for the week:
Grown ups: leftovers from dinner
Kids: sandwiches...Turkey, chicken, egg salad,and peanut and banana roll ups with honey (and napkins)
         snacks: peanut butter cookies, banana bread, fruit salad (wonder who is supposed to make that??)

Happy Packing!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Best Muffin recipe yet!

   Yesterday morning, I pulled out my regular muffin recipe and got busy making muffins before I headed out to attend a child development workshop.  In my haste to get things going, I added a little too much yogurt to the mixture (by about a 1/4 of a cup).  Rather than starting over again, I opted to add a little extra to the dry ingredients I already had prepared.  Rather than adding more flour, I added a half cup of quick rolled oats and a 1/3 cup of wheatgerm.  I had already been a little bit more generous with the butter than I normally am, so I figured this would fix things...
And boy did it ever!  They were wonderful (and yes, I say "were" because by the end of the day, they were all gone).  The little extra butter and the wheatgerm gave a subtle crunch to the top.  I love that about kitchen mistakes, sometimes they turn out magnificent!  (other times, they go in the garbage!).

So, for you to try...

Best Muffin Recipe Yet
Preheat oven to 400F and grease 12 cup muffin tin (or line with muffin papers)
2 cups whole grain flour (either whole wheat or whole spelt)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 TBSP Baking powder
3/4 TSP Baking soda
3/4 TSP salt
2 TSP ground nutmeg
Whisk together in a large bowl.  Add: (stirring with a fork)
1/2 cup quick oats (not the large flake ones)
1/3 cup wheatgerm
Set aside.  Prepare wet ingredients.  Combine in medium bowl and mix well:
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 to 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt (I use 3.5 %)
Place one cup fresh or frozen blueberries in a small bowl.  Spoon 1/4 cup of dry ingredients over blueberries.  Shake slightly to ensure berries are coated with dry, and set aside.  Mix wet ingredients into dry, just until combined (you will still see dry and lumps are okay).  Fold berries and 1/4 cup of dry into mix.  
Spoon or scoop into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 24-26 minutes, or until golden on top and toothpick comes out clean.  Place on cooling rack and cool for 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.  

Enjoy!  Great as a quick breakfast grab as you are heading out the door!

Happy Packing!


"Healthy Lunches your kids will love...

...and actually eat."  That is the secondary title of a cookbook I picked up over the summer.  The book's title is:
Good Food to Go It is written by Brenda Bradshaw and Cheryl Mutch, MD.  They are both working mums (one a teacher and one a paediatrician).  120 recipes that offer "creative ideas for balanced lunches and nutritious snacks that will make packing lunches a joy and not a chore."  Well, yes...and no.  The chore part is still there.  The foreward is written by Jeremy Friedman, Head of Division of Paediatric medicine at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Kids..."I have a feeling this book is going to become an invaluable resource for parents for years to come." let's give it a try.  My kids and I chose a few recipes from the book to try out.
   The first one was "Egg fried rice", page 146...this is typically a standard "quick supper" in our house.  We tried it for a saturday lunch.  My kids announced partway through that "its good, but I like yours better".  What I liked were the instructions for making it for one serving.  Most family recipes are for four servings, but what about the times when you are really only cooking for one child?  Even in our house, it out with friends, one at soccer and one at a volleyball game...skating finished and now you are home with only one.
   The next one was Spanakopita, page 87.  This recipe is a bit of work, and it makes a lot (which you can freeze for quick lunches), so if your family doesn't already like spanakopita, I don't think I would bother with it.  After discovering this summer that my son likes spanakopita (one of two things on the menu at a vegetarian restaurant that he liked), we gave it a try.  Really, really good.  Definitely worth the work.   We made our own tzatziki to go along with them.  
   The third recipe we tried was for Mini Banana chocolate chip muffins, page 173.  These were easy, with a very soft crumb.  You could easily use all whole wheat flour rather than half and half whole wheat and all purpose.  My own banana muffin recipe uses yogurt, and I have to say I missed the creamy flavour.  But, the best testers for these recipes are the Under 5 crowd, and they loved them, so that guarantees this recipe will get repeat business for the Daycare set.

The other big hits were Udon Noodle stir fry (page 158) and No bake Chocolate Haystacks (page 171), which were lovely old fashioned rolled oats and cocoa, and tasted just the way I remembered them as a kid...They tasted like "More".

   Now, why did I find the discovery of this cookbook a little bit depressing?  Well, let's just say, "They beat me to it..."  Here's hoping there is room on the shelf for two of these books...

If you don't have a lot of cookbooks in your kitchen, and you are looking for some lunch time inspiration or, if you have some Mums with young children (heading off to daycare or kindergarten) on your gift list this Holiday season, this book is definitely a good buy.

Happy Packing!


Where have you been?

Hello!  I'm back and I apologize to the folks who've been waiting for The Lunch Box to be back online.  And to say a big thank you to everyone who stuck around.
I could use the excuse that Blogger's new face (in August) put me off (and it did!) but that would be whining!
In reality, life got stressful and kind of took over.  Instead of just getting on with things and "gettin' 'er done" (my ten year old's new favourite expression), I let it all happen, without taking the time to remind myself how organized I feel when I actually do sit down to get things done.  I did not, however, let inspiration pass me by!  I have an incredible amount of "entries" written down on scraps of paper, in my notebook and (yes) on the back of grocery lists I happened upon in my purse, while sitting at the arena or waiting in the school parking lot.  Now, if I could just find them all!
Just before back-to-school season hit (so what would that be..June?), I came upon a cookbook that had me both excited and slightly depressed.  I bought it and tested some recipes from it, and promise to share it with you in my next entry!
Thanks for staying!
See you soon!

My new favourite muffin recipe...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Greek Salad (made with mostly local ingredients)

Island Hot House Sweet Bell Peppers
 This time of the year, Greek salad  is a staple on our supper table.  The veggies are fresh and local.  The garlic is from this year (especially if we have been to Salt Spring Island!  The best garlic!  I usually buy two braids and that gets us from September until about April).  The local cheese places all do their own version of Feta cheese.  And sometimes we even get some local goat feta (but it costs twice the price for half as much!).  And the oregano is from our own patch.  Both dried and fresh.
Unfortunately, we don't have local lemons...we don't have local Olive oil and we don't have local olives...And greek salad just wouldn't be the same without it.  Oh well, another reason I have a really hard time with that 100 Mile Diet!
I have read a number of recipes for Greek Salad and some use lemons and some don't.  For me, it just doesn't taste right without the acid added to the dressing.

Long English Cukes, from Port Alberni

Paradise Island Feta Cheese
Fresh tomatoes

Chopped veggies ready for dressing
 The recipe for Greek Salad is very simple:
3 tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 large sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 long english cucumber, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives (from the deli counter, not from a can!)
125 grams of feta cheese, coarsely chopped.
Veggies tossed, ready for dressing

Then you are ready to make your dressing:
Juice of 2 lemons (juice lemons at room temperature, you will get more juice)
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I grate mine)
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste (go easy, you will get salt from the olives and the feta)
Good extra virgin olive oil...1/4-1/3 cup depending on how juicy your lemons were.
Combine all ingredients except for oil.  Mix or whisk until well combined.  While still whisking, add olive oil, in a steady stream.  Whisking while adding, helps to bring the dressing together.
Pour over veggies.  Toss.  Add olives and feta.  Serve immediately.  Usually serves 6-8 people.  Unless one of them is my husband, in which case, it serves 5.

Maybe just a bit more garlic...

local garlic!
Best way to get all the juice out...Citrus Remer

Ready for the feta

Save some for the salad

Ready to serve!

They don't grow them here yet...

Use this salad with chicken breast and homemade tzatziki in wrap.  So yummy!  (if you have any leftovers!)
Head over to What's cookin Wednesday and check out some more delicious eats!

Happy Packing!


What we ate Wednesday...

Wow!  I found a new website/blog today...oh my goodness!  (I am not sure my waistline is going to stay where it is if I make too many of her recipes!)...So I am sharing "What we ate Wednesday" over at Peas and Crayons  with you...
We ate well this Wednesday, that is for sure.  And we finished with some awesome treats from The Picky Palate (Heck, who is gonna be picky when those are on the menu!)  I finished the day by making Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies  ...Thank goodness I have four kids around to eat them!
But first, we had some supper...
Greek Salad...New potatoes...and Chicken breast seasoned with smoked paprika on the bbq...
And that is what crazy skater girls who are on the ice 15 hours a week, need to be eating!  (and I was including the chocolate peanut butter crazy yummy cookies in that!)

And we have a few cookies to take to the skating coach in the morning, but I am happy to say that they ate it all!  No leftovers!

Happy Packing!