Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Bacon's a Food Group... Right?

I know I'm not the only one out there that has a love affair with bacon... Is it one of my favorite foods? YES... Yes it is! There, I said it! (Hangs head in shame). In a world where dieting, healthy lifestyle and being fit is always on one’s mind, this is not the type of food all people (especially women) are willing to admit they love. Is bacon something I indulge in very often? Nope... And for obvious reasons that need not be talked about. While I'm not one who obsesses over what I eat, I do keep it in check... Usually1. We buy turkey bacon from time to time...and it's an ok substitute... But nowhere near as yummy. So many people obsess over healthy eating to a point where they're depriving themselves of those small indulgences. And I can appreciate that dedication... on some level. But constant deprivation will sometimes lead to falling off the wagon all together. (Insert empty ice cream tub and chip bags watching Bridget Jones’ Diary image here). Sound familiar? (Now you hang your head in shame… Just kidding.) Give yourselves a break for heaven’s sake and enjoy the foods you love... in moderation. I guarantee you’ll be happier and mentally stable enough to continue your quest for the best beach bod. So, obviously, my weakness is bacon (hence the entire post dedicated to it)... Mmmm, Bacon! You just did that in a Homer Simpson voice, didn’t you? No? Ok, moving on...
So, I've never made a carbonara sauce, I've seen it made on TV and had it at restaurants before, but never really thought about making it at home… until I met Pinterest. (Stayed tuned for my next post about this horribly wonderful website). The thought of bacon, in a creamy dreamy sauce poured over pasta definitely peeked my interest, I’m not gonna lie. I gave it a whirl, making it up as I went along and it turned out fantastic! My husband who is not a pasta lover really enjoyed this dish and said it was the best he's ever had...  And that's good enough for me. So, bon appetite my fellow bacon lovers, bon appetite.

(1And by “Usually” I mean about fifty percent of the time, I opt for a healthier version)

Creamy Chicken Carbonara
6-7 slices bacon
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2-3 cups Fettuccini noodles
2-3 Chicken breast, cubed  
1 cup Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful Spinach (sorry… still getting rid of the stuff)
1 cup Milk or cream
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup Fresh Parmesan cheese (not the fake Kraft parmesan )
Directions: Fry or broil 6-7 slices of bacon till crispy. Chop and set aside, reserving some for garnish. Boil pasta as per directions. In another large skillet, add olive oil and sauté garlic till browned. Add Chicken and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Add tomato and spinach and continue cooking over med-low heat till vegies are softened.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour one tbsp. at a time and whisk frequently (about 1 minute). Slowly and add milk. After a few minutes this will thicken. Keep stirring until consistency is creamy. You may need to add more flour or milk to get the right consistency.

Mix all together with cooked noodles and top with reserved bacon.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

All Hail the Muffin Tin Meal

If you've got youngsters, you’re probably familiar with feeding fiascos. I've gotta say... I've been pretty lucky in that department... I cooked and pureed her baby food, taking extra care to make sure she was getting all the right foods - and she loved it. Yes, my road to becoming the perfect parent was being paved and I was awesome.
Naturally, I was dreading the terrible twos... Keeping my eyes open for those first signs of resistant, food-slinging tantrums. I waited with baited breath for those moments... But they didn't come. Boo-ya! Mom 1 - Kid 0! Again... I was bathing in Awesomeness.
I would sing this child's praises to everyone who could stomach to listen. I must be doing everything right... Those Moms who have picky eaters are surely filling them up with garbage and letting them eat whatever and whenever they pleased. (Shame on them) I have a gem and it's because I read all the books and did exactly as they said, right?
Early last fall, a couple of months before her third Birthday, we started getting "I don't wike supper!" and "I don't wike chicken"... And so on. Hmm, where was this coming from? She eats pretty much everything with a few exceptions. Strange - I didn't read THIS in any of the books... I haven't changed anything.  WTH? My record for mommy-hood perfection was becoming tarnished.
Then the supper-time battles ensued... with a vengeance. Hubby and I were at our wits end and no one was enjoying this time of day. (I was failing) It was a constant battle of the minds.  We used airplanes, trains, cars, ATV's... You name it and that vehicle was going into her mouth. It was horrible and I had no patience for it. My daughter was developing a mind of her own and fully exercising the little control that she had - Food. On second thought, maybe those bad parents I talked about before weren't so bad after all.
Then, one day I came across the muffin tin meal idea.
It was an A-Ha moment, to say the least and still works great when I think she'll be difficult during dinner. The concept is so simple - why didn't I think of this? Fill each cup (I use a 6 cup tin) with food - Duh. With my daughter, it wasn't that she didn't 'wike' the stuff, she just wanted a choice - Eating on her own terms. I'm not going to say this has solved all of our mealtime dilemmas.  It's definitely helped, but I'm not a miracle worker. There is still loads of room for improvement. (And I'm ok with that…now).
Not only did I learn to relieve some dinner stresses (most days)... But I've learned an important lesson myself: Being judgmental toward other parents is just plain wrong. Who am I to judge? Because doctor what’s his name wrote that book that says so and so, doesn't mean squat. The point is to raise happy, healthy children picking your battles along the way and using some common sense. I’m beginning to learn that raising children is not a contest; it’s a life learning experience with its fair share of bumps... and smiles. No two children are the same and no parent is perfect.
So...  give these MTM's a whirl if you've got kids. Even if your mealtimes are perfectly blissful, (Ha) it's kinda fun!

While I’m discussing other ways to use muffin tins, I’ll throw in a to-die-for recipe for oatmeal peanut butter banana muffins that I made last week. Definitely kid-approved and oh so delicious!

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins:

1½ cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. applesauce
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp. peanut butter
1 cup smashed banana (aprox. 3 bananas)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt


Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and stir together with a fork to blend. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, banana, peanut butter and yogurt until smooth. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Fill muffin tins until ¾ full and bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes.
You can use peanut butter straight from the jar and top with a banana slice or use the following quick recipe: Mix together peanut butter and 4-5 tbsp. of icing sugar. With an electric mixer, beat on a high setting for 1-2 minutes. Add 1-2 tbsp. of milk to soften.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bulk Spinach Anyone?

Am I losing my mind? Well, the short answer is no... But I just realized that my last three recipes have included spinach... What? Sorry peeps – But because I've decided my family needs an extra-large tub of the greens stuff, we all get to experience the versatility of this hearty leaf. Nothing gets a preschooler to the table faster than a heaping spoonful of spinach, huh? (I’ll write about the melt-downs later). But that happens to all of us, right? You buy a huge bag of whatchamacallits and have to eat it up before it spoils. Usually bought from... You guessed it, Costco! Or "Da Price Club", as many of us here in Newfoundland call it.
Costco is a curse and a blessing all rolled into one... One big gigantico roll of cellophane, probably! I've had mine for at least three years.  Is it strange that I want it to run out so I can buy a new one? Why? Why does the thought of needing to buy a new jumbo roll of cellophane turn me on? Am I alone here? Weirdo.
Anyways, this place... God help me, is insane! Try going down on a Saturday afternoon. We've all done it... And we've all sworn never to do it again... But there we go... Making plans to go this weekend because those triangle Ciabatta buns are deadly... And I simply can’t live without my 16 pack of Mister Clean Magic Erasers. Seriously? Is that really necessary?
If the size of the average family goes down, why are these bulk food places so popular? Hmm... Something's not right here. It's consumerism on bust! But, I digress, mainly because I love the damned place. It's kinda like a clothing outlet inside the grocery store... All located in the psychiatric ward on an episode of Canada's Worst Drivers.
So here's to all you bird-flipping, dilly-dallying, aisle hoggers, (like myself) who'd gladly offer up a digit for the last 36 pack of Cozy Shack rice puddings... (That will also spoil before you can eat them).

Parmesan Chicken w/ Sautéed Spinach & Mushrooms and Rice Pilaf

Parmesan Herbed Chicken:
4 Chicken breast
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tsp. Bread crumbs
Combine mayo with cheese and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Arrange chicken in a casserole dish or baking sheet.  Evenly top chicken with mixture and bake at 425F for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Sautéed Spinach & Mushrooms:
4 handfuls of Spinach (or 1 per person)
4-5 fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute or until garlic lightly browns. Add spinach and cover for 3-5 minutes.
Rice Pilaf: 
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cup Rice
2 cup Chicken stock
2 ribs Celery, finely diced
2 Carrots, finely diced
1/2 small onion, finely diced (*tip: Chop extra vegies when you have some time and freeze them for other recipes. I usually keep a bag of frozen diced onion in my freezer at all times.)

In a medium skillet, heat oil then add onion, celery and carrot. Sauté vegies onlow heat until tender. Meanwhile, in a saucepan cook rice as per directions substituting water for broth. When rice is cooked, add vegetables.

Besides cutting veggies, this recipe is super quick… especially since the rice and spinach literally take 5 minutes to make. Enjoy... and I promise to lay off the spinach.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fifty Shades…

Ha! That grabbed your attention didn't it? So, I'm reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. It's juicy and scandalous and if you haven't grabbed a copy yet, then stop reading this blog and go grab it at Chapters. Seriously, it's delicious… but more of a chick book, to be honest… so, sorry fellas.
Anyways, in light of this scrumptious book I'm 'wrapped' up in, I've decided to spice up some turkey leftovers with this satisfying turkey 'wrap'. (Afternoon delight anyone?)
We all know the usual leftover turkey suspects: hash, turkey pie, turkey sandwiches and the all familiar... wait for it... turkey soup! (There’s a ‘limp noodle’ joke in there somewhere). I’m not slamming these guys – they all have their good merits, but sometimes we all need a good spanking... I mean change!! Yes, we all need a change. (See what I did there?) Anyways, here's a new way to use your turkey leftovers that everyone will love. I made these last night and they're finger lickin' good, so I bet Christian would like ‘em too! (Oh, my Fifty) Ok, ok, enough with the kinky bloggery innuendos.
Christian's Finger Lickin' Turkey Wraps

Whole wheat flour tortillas
Leftover turkey or chicken, chopped
Handful of spinach or romaine lettuce, chopped
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp. leftover dressing (mainlanders call it stuffing)
1-2 tbsp. cranberry sauce (recipe below)
1 tsp. pine nuts

Slather mayo and cranberry sauce on a tortilla. Add turkey, spinach, nuts and dressing on one end of the wrap, gently folding down each end and roll – making sure to pinch the top. (Oops… forget that last part… wrong directions). If you've got a Panini press (it's on my Christmas list) then now would be a great time to use it. If not, placing the wrap on a hot, lightly greases pan and pressing down with a spatula for a minute will do. Cut on the bias and serve warm.
Cranberry Sauce:
Anyone that's ever had turkey dinner at my house knows I make my own cranberry sauce. Everyone always seems so impressed and believe me, I'm flattered, but it's probably easier than opening that can and getting the slimy sucker out in one piece. Here it is:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp. honey
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. orange or lemon zest
Wash and rinse cranberries. In a saucepan bring to a boil water, sugar and honey, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.
Remove from heat. Add nutmeg, stir and cool completely at room temperature, chill in refrigerator and garnish with zest. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Aphrodisiacs added to this recipe… Because I can.
Honey - In Egyptian times, lovers on their "Honeymoon" drank mead. It was thought to "sweeten" the marriage.

Nutmeg - This spice has been prized by the Chinese as an aphrodisiac for women.

Pine Nuts - Zinc maintains male potency and pine nuts are full of it. These small nuts have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as the Medieval ages… like when they used to tie people up and torcher them. (Gasp)

There… a meal fit for a hot-tempered, sexy, megalomaniac billionaire.

Laters, baby

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

You’re starting a food blog?

I’m not a chef… Never been to culinary school (note to self: add culinary school to bucket list). I’m not a writer either… Never claimed to be, but I do enjoy it. I know a few writers (you know who you are) and if you’re reading this in absolute horror, then I’m sorry… But there are pills for that. Hopefully I can redeem myself with some delicious recipes.

So, I'm a little new to this whole blog business. I know I know... Do I live under a rock? Well, no, but I do live ON one. 'The Rock'... Otherwise known as Newfoundland and Labrador is situated on Canada's beautiful east coast. I've called this place home for most of my life. It's also home to some of the most unique food, culture and people I know. So, of course, some recipes will be infused and dotted with the unique tastes and traditional flavours I've grown up with and truly love.
I decided to start this blog for many reasons. But mostly it's because I just friggin’ love food... All kinds: The bad kinds, the good kinds and the worst kinds. But hey, it's all in moderation; and I think that's the key. Also, I’d really like to inspire other busy momma's out there looking to spruce up their dinners. Not just 'working' moms either. BUSY moms. Rearing children is the hardest job there is. Hands down. Without a doubt. I work outside the home as a graphic designer to get a break, for God sakes. (That’s not a joke). But right now I'm on maternity leave after having my second (and last… pending vasectomy discussion) child. I forgot how hard it was to be home with the chillens. And now that I have a three and a half year-old and a two and a half month-old, it's all coming back to me… like in a dream…  but it’s not a dream… because you have to sleep in order for that to take place… and with a newborn and three year-old… good friggin' luck, missus.  So, here I am, in front of my computer in the wee hours of the night or morning (I forget which), writing a food blog. What? Quick, someone slap me.
Anywho… I've been a little bored lately with our menu at home. Fallen into a rut and totally fed up with the same mediocre meals over and over. Sound familiar? It doesn't help that my three year-old only wants fish sticks! Yes, those breaded (if that's really bread) little mechanically separated rectangles of minced pieces of crap they call fish. Eww. The smell got me turned! 
I've become addicted to the Food Network as of late and it’s inspired me to get a little more creative in the kitchen. Expand my repertoire, so to speak. The following recipe is one I made last week (so I know it’s good) that literally takes ten minutes to make! (Deadly, right?) So it’s perfect after a long day of doing whatever it is that you do.
Berry Spinach Salad & Pan Fried Salmon: I probably don't have to go on and on about the benefits of spinach versus lettuce because it's pretty obvious, isn’t it? Spinach is jam-packed with nutrients and is a definite super food! Plus, it tastes a hell of a lot better and you can add it to pretty much anything... Cooked or raw - So load up on that shiz if you haven't already! Salmon is the easiest thing to cook. And there's a million ways to cook it. One of my favorite ways to eat it is floured and fried... With butter!! Oh, the horror!! Don't be turned off by butter if you're watching your waistline! Those French certainly like to use it and most of them are waifs. Again, moderation is the key – So, Enjoy!


Berry Spinach Salad:
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 pound spinach, rinsed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp blue poppy seeds
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 tsp pepper
1/3 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
Clean and rinse spinach. Pat dry with a paper towel and add to a large bowl. 
In a mason jar, add all ingredients except spinach, berries and nuts. Shake well and add to salad just before serving.
Pan Fried Salmon:

1 salmon steak per person
Flour (1 tbsp per steak)
1-2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse salmon in cold water and descale with a sharp knife. Pat dry and lay aside. On a separate plate add 2-3 tablespoons of flour (average 1 tbsp per salmon steak) add a dash of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, add butter to pan on medium-high heat. (Careful not to burn the butter) Lightly coat the salmon in flour mixture and tap off access flour. Once butter is melted add the salmon and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown.
There you have it, folks! A ten minute healthy meal that's satisfying and delicious… and if you don’t like it, then stop following me… seriously… you probably won’t like anything else either.