Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feeling frazzled, how about you?

Today, I am not doing a thing!!  Well, maybe baking.....but that's it.

Well, maybe a little menu planning and grocery list making....but that's it!

Well, maybe doing a bit of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge and wrapping presents.....but that's it!

See even when I try to do nothing, I just can't help myself.

Hope you are all having fun and into the holiday spirit!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies for Santa

I am not a big fan of sugar cookies, because after all, if chocolate isn't involved, what's the point?

So, I really don't make them or eat them, and for that, my jeans are thankful!!!

However, I thought it might be fun to try to make them, and ice them, and let the boys do all the dirty work.

So we did it, we made the cookies and I just had to eat a couple.

I mean, who am I kidding, butter and sugar just calling my name like that!

Besides, I am weak and have no willpower.

I am a firm believer that willpower is for January, not December!

Here's a photo of how ours turned out.

One question, how much red food colouring does it take to get red icing?

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar, then add egg and extracts and mix.  Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Dough will be crumbly, so knead it together to form a ball, for rolling.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes.  Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the freezer for 5 minutes before baking.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and cool completely before icing.

Royal Icing

4 tbsp merinque powder
scant 1/2 cup water
 1 lb icing sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp light corn syrup
few drops of a clear extract

Whip together to form not quite stiff peaks, shouldn't take long.  I had to add more water.

Divide icing into bowls for colouring.  Then place some of the coloured icing in piping bags to outline your cookies.

Once the cookies have been outlined, thin the remaining icing with water for "flooding" or filling in your outlined cookies.

Decorate with sprinkles or coloured sugar

Enjoy (your jeans may not be happy, but you will)!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I found this link this morning and thought it was really cute.

I think my boys will love it.

Perhaps even my 9 year old,  non-believer, just might like it!!!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

Mother Nature not helping you out?

Then give her a hand and create your own.

I am not sure where I found this idea, but I just wanted to share with you a fun and easy decorating project, that the kids will love to make.

Instead of making paper snowflakes for your windows, why not create snow flurries!

All you need is some strands of dental floss, sticky labels and a hole circle punch.

Punch circles from the sticky labels, peel the label halfway and insert the dental floss, press to stick.

Before you know it your strand of floss will be filled with little "snow" circles, ready to hang in your windows.

With the slightest breeze they will flutter and create a beautiful little snowy display.

Just in case you don't get enough of the real stuff that is!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December 1st!!!!

December 1st this year has two special places in my heart.

The first being the beginning of the Advent Calendar.

The second, being the start of my December Daily album.

I have always loved an Advent Calendar and don't think I have ever had a Christmas without one.

Each year I try something new, searching for the perfect one.

I have had the paper calendars where you lift a flap and there's a picture underneath.  Those remind me of my childhood.

The others have a little chocolate inside.

Then when I had kids of my own I bought  beautiful cloth calendars with tiny pockets to hide a treat, and could be used over and over as the years passed.

Last year I bought a paper house Advent kit from Martha Stewart in which the treats were hidden behind tiny flaps all over little house.

With a few arguments and some tears, the boys assembled the houses themselves and I filled them with candy once they had gone to bed.

This year darling hubby found hockey advent calendars for the boys, and even though I told him I was making a special Advent Calendar, he bought them anyway.

After all, they were $1.69 and filled with hockey shaped chocolate.  Sure to be a hit!

All that aside I still continued upon my quest for something new.

I decided to go completely different and make little envelopes to hang from my mantel.

Each envelope contains a little task for the boys to do each day, no chocolate, just fun things to help build their memories of Christmas.

Today was Day 1.

It began at 6am.

Ciaran woke up and said to me "its December, it's December"  "We get to do the envelopes now".

So there would be NO ARGUMENTS as to who opened the first one, we agreed to flip a coin.

The boys were in full agreement to allow chance to play a part.

Ciaran won the coin toss.

It will be Connor's turn tomorrow.

Today's task is to plant Paperwhites and Amaryllis bulbs.

I thought this would be fun for the boys to get their fingers dirty and watch the bulbs grow into something beautiful.

What do I know!

The sweet words out of my darling Ciaran's little angel lips were, "that sounds boring".

Yes, I know I spent countless hours making handmade envelopes, printing Ali's Advent Boxes, filling out each card making sure there are no conflicts in our schedule so we can actually do the tasks, placing each in the appropriately numbered envelope, looking high and low for my stocking hooks to hang the ribbon from the mantel, cutting the ribbon ( too short), cutting the ribbon (too short, again), hanging the envelopes one by one, distributing the weight of the envelopes accordingly so they don't bring my stocking hooks crashing to the floor, standing back and finally admiring the fruits of my labor and loving the way it turned out......

All for my little darling, angel, sweetheart of a 5 year old say to me.......

that sounds boring!!!

Yes, folks there you have want to start your holiday season with lots of good cheer?


Buy the $1.69 Advent Calendar......Amen!

Monday, November 29, 2010

3 Weeks til Christmas!

I just had to share with you a really great article I just found on one of my favorite sites.

It's all about making the month of December a little easier for the master chef in your house, which would be me, in this case.  See how I manage to make things all about me!

The concept is you make a meal, double the recipe and freeze the second one to have on another day in December.  That way, when real life takes over and you are busy running from Christmas concerts, to hockey practice to volleyball tournaments to hockey games, to work, to the mall, there will be no excuse for 'take-out'.

Then the only thing you will need to do is remember to 'take-out' your already prepared meal from the freezer!

Keep the recipes simple, and comforting, like chili and stew.

Essentially you will cook for a week or two and eat for a month!

That, my friend, sounds like a great plan to me.

Here's the link:  if you want to see for yourself how it's done.

I will be posting my version, once I get around to figuring out my menu.

Oh and by the way, the Kraft challenge was a bit of a flop.  Not only did it cost quite a bit more, but the recipes weren't all that great.

Some did pass the "picky person" test.    However, the rest of us had to suffer a bit.

I did however, like the lunch ideas.

I think I have mentioned before how much I can't stand making lunches.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I can't stand making lunches!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are you looking for a quick snack, or feeding a growing athlete (or 2).   But sometimes measuring and chopping and hauling out the blender is just too much work?

Here's an easy solution I came up with and it's been working really well of us.

My kids love me, I mean them, they love them.

They are smoothie packs.

I admit the photo isn't too appetizing, however having these little packages ready and in your freezer, will soon become your friend.

What I do is measure out about a weeks worth of ingredients in little ziplocs.

In each bag will be a couple of fruits (I use varying combinations of frozen mango, raspberries, strawberries) and a  chopped banana,  1/4 cup of wheat germ, 1 tbsp protein powder.

The boys just grab a bag out of the freezer and I blend the contents with 1 cup of yogurt and 1/2 cup of orange juice and sometimes a drizzle of honey.

The juice and yogurt can also be poured into ice cube trays and when frozen they can be popped out of the trays and added to the bags.

Then blend baby, blend!

There is no need to thaw, but if you prefer to throw the contents into the blender so they thaw in there, that way you don't lose any of the juices.

I set up an assembly line on my counter and make enough for both boys for the week.

A quick, healthy snack, packed full of goodness and provides lots of energy.

My little hockey players love them!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Well Hellllllooooo Big Dollop!

What better way to start your Monday morning, than with this!!

I have to admit I am a chocolate lover, but this little beauty is tangy and sweet and soft and a bit gooey and just fabulous.

I just had to share the recipe so you can start your week off right!

Raspberry Citrus Bars


1 cup butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
2 cups all purpose flour


4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (blueberries would also be good)
Sifted icing sugar

For the Crust

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.  Add icing sugar and beat until combine.  Beat in flour until crumbly.  Press mixture on to the bottom of parchment paper lined 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.


Meanwhile, beat eggs, granulated sugar and lemon juice.  Combine flour and baking powder, stir into eggs mixture.  Add lemon zest.

Sprinkle berries on the crust.  Pour filling over berries, arranging the berries evenly with a spoon.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and the centre appears set.  Run knife around the edges.

Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

To serve, dust with icing sugar.

Shown here with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 32 bars

Is it just me, or is that one little crumb annoying anyone else?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

December Daily 2010

 I have downloaded a closer view of all my transparencies for each day of the December Daily album.

As you can see each page acts as an introduction to the day and on some of the pages you can see the date peeking through.

The front and back covers are pieces of cardboard, which I painted white and glued a piece of the vellum with the white circles on one side and gold pinecone patterned paper from Anna Griffin on the inside.

I will be using 3 binder rings to secure the album once it's finished.

 For this page I used a piece of white cardstock, with embossed polka dots.  I used a chipboard ring and covered it with glitter.
 This was one of the transparencies that I created using a tin can as a stamp and white paint.  The Special Delivery circle is from a pack of paper from last year.  It's actually a gift tag.
 I bought the rhinestone word JOY at Michaels and printed the number 23 from Designer Digitals, designed by Ali Edwards.
Circle vellum paper with a glittery ring and glitter Thickers for the numbers.
 This is a photo album page protector that I stitched little pockets.  The tags are both from Ali Edwards.  Our last name is hyphenated.  So I have the H on one side and S on the other.
 This is one of the overlays I downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by K.Pertiet.   The number is Ali Edwards.
 Painted circles again, on a transparency.  Once it was dry I stitched two transparencies together to make it more sturdy.
 Once again the circle vellum and the number from Ali Edwards.
 Circle transparency again with a Game card downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by K.Pertiet
 This is just a piece of vellum with a gift tag attached.  The tag is from Ormolu.
 Circle transparency again and the number circle is also from Ormolu
 This is one of the overlays I downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by K.Pertiet
 This was one of the transparencies I created.  I made a document with various Christmas words.  I just changed the font style and size, then printed it on a transparency.  I love how this turned out.   I stapled one of Ali's Christmas boxes to a piece of black card stock and stitched it to the transparency.
I bought the rhinestone words HoHoHo at Michaels and printed the number 12 from Designer Digitals, designed by Ali Edwards.

 Circle transparency again with a gift tag attached to a glittery circle.  The number peeks through from the card below so I didn't attached another number to the transparency.
 This was the one and only transparency I could find at Michaels.  It came as a 12x12 sheet and I just cut it down to size.
 This was one of the transparencies I created.  I made a document with various Christmas words.  I just changed the font style and size.  I love how this turned out.  I found glittered cardstock and mounted one of Ali Edwards Christmas boxes.  This was stapled to the double layered transparency with green staples.
 This is a piece of vellum and I mounted one of Ali Edwards Christmas boxes onto red cardstock, a red felt number and then stitched it all together with red stitching.
 This is one of the overlays I downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by K.Pertiet

I stitched little pockets into a regular photo album page protector.  My son Ciaran painted the little wooden stars.

 The circle number was downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by Ali Edwards
 Circle vellum paper with glittery number 4 from Thickers.

 This page was made by using spray glue to attach the cutout tree paper onto a transparency sheet.

This is one of the overlays I downloaded from Designer Digitals, designed by K.Pertiet

The store bought transparency again.    The saying inside the little frame is from Ali Edwards.  I painted the frame gold and attached it with brads.

When I first saw Ali's album I wanted to create it exactly the way she had done.

I love everything about her album and it was my taste to a "T".

However, I was a little heartbroken when I couldn't find any of the supplies.

I am really happy how it's turned out in the end.

Considering  I was "supply challenged" at times, it really forced me to use what I had to get a little creative.

After all, that's what it's all about.  Right?
So it's Wednesday.  It's payday.  Which means the dreaded trip to the grocery store.   Hubby's turn! 

Actually, going to buy groceries doesn't bother me as much as unloading groceries.

I really don't enjoy that job!!

Anyway, for this weeks menu, since I am lacking in inspiration, I thought I would cheat, a lot, and print off  one of the 1 bag, 5 meal wonders from the Kraft Canada website.  

I haven't done this before, usually because I am not a fan of pre-packaged foods.  I prefer to make everything from scratch.

That said, this week is an experiment.  Not only to save money, but also to test my family.   Little do they know they are going to be part of this little experiment.  

That is, is it worth spending a ton of money, a ton of time in the kitchen preparing something fancy for a 5 year old to have a hissy fit every single night.  I am thinking Mac and Cheese it is!

Well actually, it is a bit better than Mac and Cheese.

Here's the menu for dinner and lunches (there's a 1 bag, 5 lunches menu too).


Asian Beef Stir Fry - Chopped salad (should go over well with Ciaran, who am I kidding???)


Homemade pizza - Cheddar-Veg. tortillas for lunch






Garlic Steak and Onions - Cheddar and chicken club for lunch


Pork Medallions with Cranberry Stuffing - hot lunch at school (man, I love this day)


Mediterranean Chicken - Italian Sub Sandwiches for lunch

I can't wait to see how much this costs.  I will be picking up staples like eggs, butter, bread, milk, fruit and egg whites (can't live without those). 

Remember $200 is the budget.  

I think I will do well this week.  

I will let you know.  

Oh, and I am going to be making Cranberry Bliss Bars too, you know....the ones from Starbucks!!  

Can't wait, I love them!

Nothing says Christmas to me more than a Cranberry Bliss Bar and a Gingerbread Latte, ah.....heaven!!!

Hope you find a little piece of heaven today!

Some days are just like this aren't they?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I love this!!!  Just had to share it!


Monday, November 15, 2010

I have been working on my December Daily 2010 album.  I think it's ready for December to roll around and I can't wait to start filling it with goodies!!

Here's a photo of my transparencies.  I couldn't find any of the ones that Ali Edwards used in her album.

So, I had to get creative and make my own.

With a little paint,  some overhead transparency sheets and my printer, I was able to come close to what she did....oh,  and a fistful of glitter, because that makes everything better!

The transparency sheets that I had were pretty thin so I stitched two together, this made them a bit sturdier.  

I ended up using a combination of thick vellum sheets and transparencies for my pages.

The transparencies will act as an introduction to the day and will be followed by a 6 x 8 printed photo or series of photos using Ali's templates, which I talk about later.

A very special thank you to Ali Edwards, Ormolu, KPertiet and ArtWHSE for their wonderful creations that assisted me greatly.

Have I mentioned today how much I love Ali Edwards????

Speaking of Ali, these are her 6 x 8 template overlays for each day of December.

They can be purchased and downloaded from Designer Digitals.

She also released this weekend, a series of 6 x 8 layered templates to help create your layouts.

Check out her website at for a tutorials if you plan to use her templates.

The overlays can be printed as I have done and your photos can be adhered to each page.  Or they can be used as an overlay on top of your photo, using Photoshop Elements and then printed at home or your local photo lab.

I will be doing a hybrid album, meaning some days I will print the photo and adhere to these pages and some I will be using Photoshop Elements 8.

These templates can be sized depending on the size of the album you are using.

I chose to do what Ali is doing this year and made a front and back cover out of scrap cardboard and adhered patterned paper and will be using binder rings to tie it all together.

This works well as sometimes you can outgrow a regular album pretty quick.  With the printed templates and my transparencies my album is already 2 inches thick.

This is before I include the cotton ball snowman I am sure Ciaran will be making for me this year.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how to get started on your December Daily 2010 album.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

December Daily

December Daily
Advent Calendar

So my Advent Calendar this year will consist of these homemade envelopes made out of patterned Christmas paper, filled with tiny little hand drawn framed cards (tutorial available at, plus there's a link for the download)

I downloaded the link at Designer Digitals, printed the cards on photo paper, glued patterned paper onto the back of the sheet of cards, and punched each frame with a 2.5" square punch.

Then taking a black Slick Writer pen, I wrote little tasks for my boys to enjoy.

They will be planting paperwhites, shopping for real mistletoe, making cards for their teachers, and decorating a gingerbread house.

One little task for each day in December.

I will be hanging the envelopes from ribbon and stringing them across my mantel.

I think the boys are going to love this.

I have to remember to check the calendar and number the cards in such way that the tasks won't interfere with other activities we have going on.

These little cards will be great to add to, and provide a little story for my next project, the December Daily album.  

Thanks again to Ali Edwards for the inspiration.

Check out Ali's album....the foundation is already for her photos and stories.  

I provided a link at the top of my page (little blue square).  The photo didn't load properly, however if you click on it, it will take you to Ali's December Daily link.

Even though December is a busy month, the album comes together quickly, but the key to it's success is to have the foundation pages made in advance.  

Then when the time comes you just have to insert your photos and stories.

Great ideas for the album include:  photos, shopping lists, letters to Santa, artwork, a collage of Christmas cards, program from Christmas concert,  Christmas music playlist,  recipes, everyday stories and traditions.

I made my first album last year and it's great to look back, however I have learned so much this year, and Santa brought me a new camera last year!

So that I am expecting this year's album to be much bigger and better and I can't wait to get started.

Ali Edwards

So, Ali Edwards.

She is a graphic designer who lives in Oregon and she is amazing.  I love her work!  I love how simple her projects are.  Simple in they way they look, perhaps clean is a better way of describing it.

I love scrap booking, but hate all the frills.  I want my photos to tell the story not stickers and buttons and frilly stuff.

Ali Edwards does just that.  She does hybrid scrap booking, which interests me.  Meaning that she does digital scrap booking, as well as the regular type using paper and glue.

Anyway, she always has great photos, stories, downloads of her new designs, workshops, tutorials and lots of inspiration.

One of her projects was a downloadable, self paced class for making a Halloween Mini Album.  I love the concept of a mini album.  I actually did this and managed to get my book completed within a week of the event.  

It's also not so daunting of a task, keeping it small and simple.

The downside I have found it seeing something amazing that Ali creates, wanting to replicate it exactly, but unable to find the supplies here in Canada.....why, why, why!!!

I believe she buys things online, but it seems as soon as she mentions it on her website, it sells out!!!

So, you may have to get creative.  I couldn't find the album Ali used for her Halloween Mini, so I made my own.

I cut cardboard the size I wanted, painted it black, 2 coats of mod podge and a metallic cobweb, 2 binder rings and lined it with patterned paper.  There you have album.

Using everything I had laying around in my basement.

The album consists of 2 pages for journalling, 40 photos, and 20 transparency pages.

The transparency pages were hard to find.  

Ali uses Hambly transparencies.  They are sturdy and not floppy.   They cost $25 to ship 4 sheets to Canada, if buying online....ah....not going to happen.

So I got creative and sewed 2 regular sheets together with a sticker or saying or something in between.  Once again stuff from my basement.

Anyway, here are a few photos of my album and the link if you wish to purchase the download from Ali to make your own.

Let me know if you have any questions, or would like to see more of my album.

Next up:  Advent calendar
Mexican Chicken

So this one really does go down as one of the easiest meals with the biggest bang!

All you need is chicken breasts (I bought skin on, bone in and remove all that nonsense's at least $10 cheaper to buy them this way and takes less than 5 minutes to do it yourself)

No measurements here folks just do it how you prefer.

A jar of salsa

A can of black beans

1 cup of grated cheese

Brown chicken breasts in an oven proof pan
Pour over the salsa
Pour over the black beans
sprinkle with half the grated cheese

Place in a 375 degree oven covered with foil for 20 minutes

Remove the foil, add the rest of the cheese and bake for 5 minutes more uncovered

Enjoy with flour tortillas and s, sc and g (salsa, sour cream, guacamole)

Really easy, really fast (less than 30 minutes from fridge to table) and so tasty!

My picky eater, (I won't mention his name) refused to come to the table.  

He flopped himself on the floor and said "who ever thought of putting chicken in a taco".

We all ranted a raved about how good it was and finally, after much persuasion he took one bite.

By the way, he ate the entire taco and loved it!!

I little bribing with a homemade blueberry muffin didn't hurt either.


Next, onto the braised beef.

My hubby found this recipe in a men's magazine ages ago....and I mean ages!

He held onto it and has said on numerous occasions that I should make it for him.

Like everything else, on numerous occasions, I have just ignored him.

This week though we were doing a little "spring cleaning", he found the magazine, tore out the recipe and it finally made it's way onto my kitchen counter.

Feeling the need for a little comfort food myself, I decided to go ahead and make him the recipe he's been waiting for since May 2009.  (See how it really is all about me)

So it's not really a recipe, it's more about the process of braising meat.

Braising is a great way to feed a hungry family of meat eating men, on the cheap.

Braising takes cheaper cuts of meat that are generally too tough to eat any other way, and turns them into heaven on a plate.

But, it also takes time.   Take the time to enjoy the aroma, take the time to feel the passion that is building in your kitchen, take the time to go redecorate a bedroom....because it's a long process!!!

First, THE MEAT!

The recipe, or should I say, the process, says to pick sinewy cuts such as pork shoulder, lamb shank or beef chuck.  Once you have mastered this process you can substitute whatever meat of veg you want and the end result will be a crowd pleaser.

I chose an Inside Round roast at the recommendation of the butcher.  It cost $18, which to me, was not cheap.  Anyway, it cut into 2" chunks nicely and did provide an great end result.

So first, chop 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, and 1 onion and place in a large pot (with a lid).  I used my cast iron dutch oven.

Add, springs of fresh thyme, a bay leaf, parsley some peppercorns and a whole head of garlic, cut in half.

Then add a cheap bottle of red wine.  The whole bottle!!!  No sneaking a swig, it's too early to drink!

Simmer until all the wine has evaporated and you are left with syrupy glazed veggies

Add another carrot, onion and stalk of celery and set aside.


Cut into 2" cubes,  pat dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.  The flour keeps the meat dry, because wet meat will not brown in a pan, and the browning gives it a lot flavor.

Add a few tablespoons of canola oil to a frying pan and brown the meat cubes on all sides.   Don't burn the meat, but you really want a rich dark brown color.

Once browned, placed the meat on top of the vegetables and add enough beef stock to surround the meat, do not cover the meat, just surround it.

Bring the pot to a simmer and place the lid on, not to completely cover the pot though.

Place in a 350 degree oven.

Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

Once done, remove the meat and discard the vegetables.   Strain the liquid over top of the meat and once cooled, place it in the fridge for 2 DAYS.  Or longer, because braised meat gets better with age.  So the longer it can still in the juice the better the flavor will be.

After 2 days, skim off any fat that has congealed on top, heat up your pot just enough to loosen the meat from the juices and remove the meat.   Heat up the juices until it's a syrupy consistency.

Put the meat back into the juices and place in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes to warm the meat through.

The meat is soft, tender, full of flavour.....hardly any chewing required.

I served the meat with Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.

It was amazing, truly amazing!   Heaven on a plate!!

We only had enough for 2 servings of leftovers the following day.

It is a long process, a lot of back and forth with the meat, makes a bit of mess as far as dishes (but that's what husbands are for).

It's not difficult,  and really does make a comfort food that you will crave!

Alright, so I have so much to get caught up on here.

First, my shopping trip last week cost me $247.  So that meant $47 over budget.  Not good.

I have to say though, in my defense, that there's been some pretty tasty meals served around these parts this week.

The braised beef.....big hit!!

The mexican chicken....big hit!!!

I will share those recipes with you since they are worth sharing.

I have also been hitting the craft room lately.

I have made a Halloween mini-album.  Which I will show you and explain how, plus provide a wonderful link over at the Ali Edwards website (have I mentioned how much I love her?)

Also a great idea for an Advent Calendar...that doesn't involve chocolate.

I know what you are thinking.  How dare I speak such words.  Doesn't involve chocolate?  What is wrong with me????

Seriously though, this year I wanted to do something more meaningful.

What I had decided to do was make little envelopes out of Christmas paper, and fill each one with a little task for the boys to do each day.

For example,  visit Santa, or bake cookies, or donate toys, or go skating or create a Christmas story to read at bedtime.

Just little notes from me, to get the boys doing something to build a memory or perhaps create a new Christmas tradition.

Just like magic as I was planning my idea for this Advent Calendar, Ali Edwards created a download to make the little cards, in which you just have to write your task.

So much to tell you!!

Here goes the first thing.

Recipes for Jam Thumbprints and Whipped Shortbread as promised.

Jam Thumbprints

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat

In a medium bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth

Beat in the flour until it resembles crumbs.

Roll (squeeze) the dough into 1" balls and roll into granulated sugar.

Place 1" a part on the baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and make an indent in the middle of each cookie (use your finger tip or the end of a wooden spoon).

Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 8 minutes more.

Remove to a cooling rack.  Once cooled, fill with your favorite jam.

Thanks to Sugarcrafter for the inspiration and recipe

Whipped Shortbread

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine all ingredients and beat for 10 minutes

Drop onto a cookie sheet using a teaspoon.  I piped mine onto the cookie sheet using a piping bag with no tip.

Bake for 17 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges.

These cookies melt in your mouth and are quite delicate, and so delish.

I mean, butter and can you go wrong!!!

After 12 years of making these for my husband, he finally told me this year that he doesn't like them.

But thats just him, he's odd like that!!!

Anyway, I like them and the cook always wins!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

51 Days Until Christmas!!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!

Well, in my kitchen anyway.

I made a couple of cookies recipes yesterday to put in the freezer.

Here are the photos, recipes will follow.

Jam Thumbprints


Whipped Shortbread

Both recipes are super easy, and pretty much use the same ingredients.

So stay tuned for the recipes, I will post them both later today.

Also, here's the menu for this week.

Menu 3


Pad Thai


Ribeye steak, rice and asparagus


Homemade Pizza


Mexican chicken


Braised beef, mashed potatoes, green beans


Baked rigatoni with spinach and fontina cheese



Got my menu, my groceries list, and I am ready to hit the stores.  Wish me luck.  

Grocery budget for the week has to include pantry staples, household cleaners and supplies, plus food.  

My budget is $200.....lets see how I do!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

I realize I am a bit late posting the menu for this week, since it's already Friday.

I also completely skipped over last weekend it.  

It was Thanksgiving and I am sure most of you were having turkey dinner anyway.

So for this week,  I went for groceries on Tuesday and spent $128 at Farm Boy and another $58 at Sobeys.

I guess I didn't do too badly considering it's already Friday and I am in the process of making all my meals for the weekend.

I will have to make one trip this weekend to pick up more fruit and maybe some eggs, and then I think we will be good until payday!

Okay so here is the menu for this week and I will post photos and recipes in a bit

Week 2 Menu


Beef Enchiladas served with Spanish rice


Grilled chicken with tomato and basil penne


Leftovers with a big salad!


Homemade pizza (we always have pizza and a movie on Friday)  

I am in the kitchen all day today preparing our weekend meals which consist of:


Bacon wrapped meatloaf and mashed potatoes


Beef  (already cooking in the crock pot, with a splash of red wine), served with Yorkshires, and mashed turnip and potatoes...mixed together to trick my picky eater!

I am also making Butternut squash ravioli from scratch today (using wonton wrappers).

Its a first for me, so I will be sure to let you know how they turn out.

This will be a time consuming project and just might freeze the ravioli until we need them.

Yes, that's what I will do, because I think, even for us, we will have plenty to eat to get us through the weekend.

Butternut Squash ravioli can be on the menu for Mondays dinner!!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday I had run out of steam.  I needed a quick dinner with absolutely no prep work.

So, out came the crock pot.

Yes, the good old fashioned crock pot.

In went the pork loin and half a bottle of BBQ sauce.

BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.  

Dinner done!!

No photos for this one.

As for dessert,  I figured I should do something!

I had a fresh pineapple that was begging to be eaten.

So, I chopped it up into spears.

Rolled it in brown sugar

Then introduced it to my panini grill.

Drizzle with homemade chocolate sauce.


Chocolate Sauce

1/4 cup of whipping cream (heated in the microwave, don't overheat)  
A handful of chocolate chips
Stir until melted


Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday

This is when things started to go a little sideways.

That's okay though,  I lived to tell!

Instead of Spaghetti, I decided to make cannelloni.

A little more work, but it was fun to make.

Messy, but fun.

So I had oven ready cannelloni shells in my cupboard that had been saved for a rainy day.  Oven ready means you don't have to boil the pasta first.  You can fill the cannelloni and place in your baking dish and bake.  They soften and cook in the oven.    They also sell lasagna sheets like this too.  Fabulous!!!

Okay so here are the steps

The Sauce

I made a meat sauce from scratch, but please feel free to use your favourite jar of sauce.

I am all about keeping things simple.

Saute onion, and brown some ground beef in a pan.

Add a can of diced tomatoes,  and a can of tomato sauce and let simmer and reduce until the sauce has thickened.  

By reducing, I mean, that you are allowing the liquid to evaporate.  What you end up with is a thicker, richer sauce.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and perhaps italian spices (oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, garlic powder).

If you are using a jar of sauce, you probably don't need to add anything further for taste.  It will already be seasoned.

Place a ladle full of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish.

A nice saucey bed for your cannelloni.

The Filling

Place one container of Ricotta cheese in a bowl

Add one egg

A handful of Romano cheese

A handful of grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

A handful of chopped, fresh herbs (I used Italian flat leaf parsley and basil)

A tip for the Basil:

Pull off the leaves and lay all the leaves on top of one another.  Roll into a cigar and then starting at one end, chop the basil.  Making lots of little strands of basil.  This is called a chiffonade.

Mix the filling and get ready to get messy!

For filling the cannelloni.  I took a ziploc bag and snipped one of the corners.  Fill the ziploc with the cheesy, herby filling and then squeeze the mixture into the cannelloni shells.

It does get a little messy but lots of fun!

Place the filled shells in your prepared baking dish and cover with remaining sauce.

Top with parmesan cheese, cover with foil and bake according to the directions on the cannelloni box.

375 degrees for 40 minutes covered.

10 minutes more uncovered to get the cheese all nice and toasty!

Very kid friendly!!!

So Tuesday, as promised,  I made roast chicken thighs and served it with artisan lettuces and grilled mushrooms.

I cheated a little with this one, because I had this chicken in my freezer, so it wasn't part of my shopping list for last week.

I drizzled the chicken thighs with olive oil and lots of salt for tasty, crispy skin, and placed them in a roasting pan.

I set the timer to roast the chicken for 40 minutes at 425 degrees


I almost set fire to my kitchen.

Yes, keeping it real here folks, I almost had a fire.

After all, I am all about sharing, the good, the bad and the ugly of everyday life!

The grease from the chicken was splashing all over inside my oven and I already had something burning on the bottom of the oven from pizza last week (I think), apparently.

Anyway, lets just say this was almost smoked chicken.

I got it out just in time, after about 20 minutes and finished it off on my handy grill.

I removed the chicken after about 7-10 minutes or so,  and grilled the mushrooms in the remaining chicken juices.

For the bed of artisan lettuces.

I found them originally at Costco, but lately at Sobey's.

They are sold in a plastic container and there are 4 little heads of lettuce inside.

Each one different.

One purple, one curly, one crunchy, and one soft.  

Wish I could tell you the names of each lettuce.   Next time I promise.

Wash and chop, and lay on a plate as a tasty colourful little bed for your mushrooms and chicken.

Drizzle with your favourite dressing.

I used Fig Balsamic dressing by Kraft.

Kid approved, they loved it!

I don't know about you, but sometimes my weekly plan takes a nose dive when real life decides to interrupt.  

Last week was one of those weeks.

I did manage to feed my family by sticking to the menu, somewhat.

The good news is, I didn't go back to the grocery store all week, so I made do with what I had and perhaps saved a little money in the long run.

So here is:

Monday's Whole-y Mackerel (sorry, I couldn't resist)
My baby boy and pure fascination!

Mackeral meets grill.

Oh, a little side note here.  I had a blonde moment last week.

I thought I was being clever by cashing in some rewards points from my credit card.

Could have bought a Tiffany bracelet, silver ear rings, a nice watch.

I chose a grill.

A panini grill by Breville.

I have always wanted one, because I love hot, toasty sandwiches.

I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Until it arrived

I started taking it out of the box and realized I had one already.

What was I thinking?

I have a good old faithful George Foreman grill!

So, I frantically searched to see if you can return items bought with rewards points.

It doesn't seem like you can.

So now I have two grills.  Both have their pros and cons.

The cons about panini grill is it's harder to clean.

The grills on the George can be  removed and can go in the dishwasher.

The panini grill relies on elbow grease.

Oh and it takes a lot longer to warm up than George.

The pros of the panini grill are the larger cooking surface,  and you can alter the height of the lid so you don't squash your food flat.

So, I think I will be selling George and keeping my panini grill.

Okay, back to the mackerel

So, as mentioned last week, there are no recipes for this week.  I just had fun!

The mackerel was whole, and so I cleaned it up and made a marinade of olive oil, juice of one lemon, thyme, salt and pepper.   Rub the marinade all over the fish and inside the cavity.

I let the mackerel sit and get happy in the marinade for about an hour.

Make sure to make slits in the skin of the fish on both sides to allow for moisture to escape.   This also prevents the skin from shrinking shriveling in the heat.

Place the mackerel on your grill and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Do not over cook.

There is nothing worse than over cooked fish of any kind.

I served the mackerel with jasmine rice and roasted asparagus.

For the asparagus, I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

Don't over cook the asparagus.

No one wants dull, wilted asparagus.

It should still have a bit of a bite to it, and the salt will help keep the nice bright green colour!

Here's the finished product.

Oh, and by the way, my kids loved it!  

My youngest is a tad on the picky side and he loved it.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu - Week 1

As promised, here is the menu for Week 1.

It may not end up being as simple as I thought last week.  Today I went to Sobey's and for the first time I found fresh whole Mackerel.

So, I had no choice but to buy it.  It cost $5 for 2 fish.  They are small, and you may need one per adult.

I realize Mackerel is not a staple in most of our kitchens, and I may never cook it again, but I have to try it once!

So, it's going on the grill tonight, along with some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and fresh thyme.

So my trip to Sobey's cost $84.

It included the fish for tonight, and a pork loin roast for Thursday night, and a couple of lunch items.

Anyway, here's the menu for this week.


Grilled Mackerel, rice, asparagus


Roast chicken, artisan lettuce salad


Spaghetti Bolognese with The Bread


Pork Loin Roast,  potatoes, carrots


Homemade pizza  (dough made in bread maker)

No cookbooks for any of the above (except The Bread, it's from The Pioneer Woman).

Oh for dessert,  I did make a batch of mini Orange muffins with a brown sugar orange glaze that are truly wonderful.

The Pioneer Woman again!  Do you get the feeling I love her???

I will post photos and the recipe for them later because they would be perfect for Christmas and can be the first of my 12, Christmas Cookie/Cake/Cupcake Countdown recipes.

I am in the process of freezing a batch and will let you know how they turn out before I recommend them.

Wish me luck with the Mackerel!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

So, it occurred the other day, a few weeks back I had mentioned I was having an Indian feast.

A plateful of mouthwatering goodness.

Selfish me, I didn't even share with you.  No photos, no recipes, no nothing.

So here it is folks.  Because, believe me, it's worth sharing.

When you've got a craving for something a little exotic and luxurious, this won't disappoint.

Trust me!

Here is the photo and you can decide for yourself.

Believe me it tastes as good as it looks!

So get the beer chillin, the spices spicing....and get in your kitchen, because here it comes!

Oh, by the way....get in the kitchen the day before,  because the chicken needs to get happy in the lime juice and spice mixture overnight.

Butter Chicken

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 whole lime, juiced
1 whole onion, diced
1/4 cups butter
1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream
1 bunch of chopped cilantro

Combine the first 9 ingredients and marinate overnight.

Saute the onions in the butter until soft.

Add marinated chicken and cook for 10 minutes

Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes

Add whipping cream.

Add cilantro

It's heaven on a plate!

This is another fantastic recipe by The Pioneer Woman.  What would I do without her?

Next up,

Turmeric Potatoes

2 lbs of new potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch or thinner
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt (I don't use that much, half it,  and add more to taste at the end)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 water
5 oz baby spinach (I love spinach, but don't always have it on hand, so I have always cooked this without the spinach)

Heat oil and saute onions until golden brown.  Add turmeric, salt and cayenne, stir well and cook for 1 minute.

Add potatoes and water and bring to a boil.

Gently stir.

Reduce heat to low and cover and cook until potatoes are cooked.

If the potatoes are sticking, add 1/4 cup more water.

If you are using spinach, add and stir for 1 minute, before turning off the heat.

Serve from the frying pan.

I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks,  Vij's Indian Cuisine.  

For any of you Vancourites, or anyone visiting Vancouver, you HAVE to,  TRY to,  go to Vij's restaurant located at 1480 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver.

I say try, because it is always busy.

There is always a line up.   A sign that it really is the best food in town!

Well worth the wait, I tell you, well worth it!!!

The wonderful Vikram Vij, owner and chef, will be there to greet you.   Treating everyone like royality.

For those of us that don't live anywhere near, there's the cookbook!

A great cookbook!

It's easy to follow and the results are tasty!

From the same book,

Cucumber Raita

2 cups plain yogurt, stirred
1 medium cucumber, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup milk (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Thin the mixture with milk if you prefer

Serve with warm, toasty Naan bread.

If you are looking to pair your dinner with a great beer, try an India pale ale, a pilsner or a Scottish ale.