St. Patty’s in pictures

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Our tasty stirfry turned out great!

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An unhappy fevered boy was comforted by his sleepy papa.

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A cranky tired mama was comforted by a tasty hot chocolate with Baileys.

Soup Day

I’ve been fighting a nasty cold for a couple of days now. It’s mostly just a sinus thing, but I feel like my whole body is 80 years older. My mind is foggy, my body is sore and my head feels so full of crap. I’ve managed to get out and play with L despite feeling like ass, but I knew I needed a day to center myself after getting only 3 hours of sleep last night. Poor Liam is more than a little bored, but in the end it’ll be worth it. The fall weather has inspired me. I want a tasty way to get all the veggies from our CSA into my belleh. What’s a good way of doing that while hunkering down at home? Soup of course!

 

My first batch today is from this recipe: Roasted Tomato Vegetable Soup. 

 

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

 

So many pretty carrots

So many pretty carrots

Ready to simmer

Ready to simmer

I made a few changes to the recipe. Firstly, I Carnivore-d it Up by using chicken stock (instead of half of the water) and chicken bouillon cubes (instead of veggie bouillon). This is partially for the flavour, and partially because I firmly believe that chicken stock is mandatory in fighting illness (At least in my home). Also, I didn’t have fancy basil oil (Tracy, I can feel your sad head-shake from here.), so I just used olive oil with dried basil sprinkled over the tomatoes instead. I was pretty generous with my veg, so I may have ended up with a thicker soup than normal. I’m ok with that.

So good!

So good!

My second batch is Grandma J’s Borscht Recipe.

My mother’s recipe book was pretty vague, so I did the best I could. My understanding of Borscht is that it is a soup to use whatever veg you have at the time. For me, this included green beans, instead of yellow, and a variety of beets, rather than just one basic kind.  Pat doesn’t like peas, so I nixed those. Again, I used chicken stock instead of water. My poor grandmother would be grumbling disapprovingly, I’m sure. I kept all my chopping chunky and rough. I took half of the soup and blended it smooth, then mixed in the chunks. I think fall soups are yummy thick beasts, so I went with that.

The recipe:

Grandma J’s Borscht

grandmajsborscht

  • 1 2/3 cups yellow beans
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3/4 cup carrots
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 pint tomatoes
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 5-6 small potatoes
  • 3 cups beets
  • 1 tblsp salt
  • 8-9 cups water

Put all together and simmer until tender.

Getting started

Getting started

So pretty!

So pretty!

Tasty!

Tasty!

I have one more planned for tonight, but we’ll see if I burn out before then. I’m freezing half of all of this, and only keeping half of that. The rest of the frozen portions are going to my bestie, S, and her family. Baby Bobby just joined the family, so I want to treat them to some tasty meals. The rest is for dinner tonight :D

 

Who needs a market? Not me, today!

One of Liam’s favourite books is the fantastic “To Market, To Market
by Anne Miranda. For those who don’t know it, it’s a cute story about a woman who buys a bunch of animals with plans for making lunch (with them as the meal), however each of these animals escape into her home, so she gives up on eating them and decides to make veggie soup for herself and the critters.

Today I threw together something similar in the crock pot for dinner tonight and I wanted to share.

I based the recipe on Get Off Your Butt and Bake’s Traditional Stew recipe, which is a good base recipe for a basic stew. While I don’t currently have a bunch of animals running around my house instead of being a tasty meal, I did have a grumpy tired husband, a cranky teething baby and work tonight. We get our next box of CSA veg later today, so I wanted to make room in the fridge. It was a bad week for cooking, so I have a lot left over from last week. Luckily for us, that included some stewing beef, so its not exactly like the story. The whole time I was chopping the veggies, I couldn’t help but think of the story. Here’s what I put together:

Heather’s No Market Needed Stew:

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Around 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes. I had less than half that, so I added more veg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 3 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 Knorr Beef Bouillon packets
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Chunked Veggies of your choice (This time, I used heirloom baby carrots, chopped CSA carrots, CSA red pepper, CSA Patty Pans, CSA fingerling potatoes, CSA red potatos, CSA beets)
  • A few shakes of Mrs. Dash original
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup broth (I had some organic chicken broth left. Yes, it seems weird to add chicken broth to a beef stew, but I’m working with what I have)
Coat meat with flour in a large ziploc bag. Set the leftover flour aside.
In large skillet heat oil (I used vegetable oil). Brown meat on all sides
In slow cooker, combine browned beef, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, shallots, garlic, bouillon cubes, seasoning, and vegetables.

stewPour water and broth over top, enough to mostly cover the meat and veg. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hrs.

Set slowcooker to high and thicken with 1/4 cup of the flour left over from coating dissolved in a small amount of warm water. Cover and cook on high 10 to 15 minutes until you are happy with the thickness.

Feeds 2 adults and a toddler, with plenty left for lunch tomorrow.

It’s a perfect way to use up those CSA or fall harvest vegetables. <3

A Responsible Sandwich

I’ve been meaning to share this for a few days now, but due to life getting in the way, I haven’t been able to take the time to make more of these sandwich buns and photograph the process. As I mentioned in my first post about responsibility, one of the changes we made was making some items at home, rather than buying. Here’s what went into that decision.

!. When attempting to work on our finances, we wanted to make some easy changes to our day to day lives. We looked at where money was going, and pin pointed areas where we could save. In this case, Pat was buying lunch Monday-Friday (usually at Subway, though occasionally at a local deli/sandwich shop). The average cost spent was 8$/day or about 160$/month, with no prep required.

2. I then tried a less labour intensive solution: Purchasing ready-made sandwich buns from the local store. The cost break down is this:

Buns: 1.99/sandwich

Meat: 1.70/sandwich

Condiments and other toppings: 0.35/sandwich

Total Sandwich cost for the month: About 81$ (about 50.6% of the Subway cost)

Prep Required: About a second or two more to my grocery shopping time, and about 5 minutes to make the sandwich.

As you can tell, there was a significant price difference here. We started on that route. We did, however, notice that the buns purchased were rarely available the day they were made (ie: they were already a day or two old when we bought them), and as a result, wouldn’t last the week, resulting in either a day of purchased lunch or dipping into other groceries for a different meal.

3. In an attempt to save a bit more money, force myself out of my comfort zone, try to make something that would last longer and to try something new, I decided to make my own buns. Here is the cost breakdown:

Buns: 0.74/sandwich

Meat: 1.70/sandwich

Condiments: 0.35/sandwich

Total Sandwich cost for the month: 56$ (35% of the original subway cost)

Prep Required: This is where there is a major difference. While the actual work involved was maybe only 10 minutes of actual effort, the buns took the better part of the day to make and require staying close to home.

So, is it worth it? Depends. When I have time – Absolutely. I found the process of making the bread extremely soothing. I felt proud that my efforts yielded such tasty results. Having said that, I will definitely rely on store-bought when we have a crazy week. On a personal level, I really love the challenge of getting back to the basics. Homemade bread, homemade sauces, etc… I feel better about what my family is eating when I know every single ingredient in each part of their meal – because I made it myself. As a bonus – There is nothing better in this world than a slice of bread, hot from the oven, smothered in butter and honey with a cup of tea. Seriously.

And now for the recipe itself. I found it here. It really is a perfect fit for the delicious po boy bread of New Orleans (squishy soft inside, thin crunchy crust). I won’t re-write it all, but rather share my experience with it (if you haven’t made bread before, please don’t be nervous! This is seriously my second time ever, and it wasn’t hard in the least.)

A Responsible Sandwich Bun

1. Following the recipe from The Galley Gourmet, mix your ingredients on low until bread pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add salt and then set to knead for 10 minutes on medium. (Note: I used a blend of white bread flour and multigrain bread flour)

bread5

2. Form a ball on a floured surface. Place in a greased bowl, cover with clingwrap and set in a warm, draft-free place to rise (about 1hr 1/2. I used this time to put the baby down for a nap, eat all of the left over Apple Crisp from the Farmer’s Market and watch some Weeds)

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3. Deflate the dough on a floured surface. Divide into as many “loaves” or buns as you would like (recipe recommends 6-8). Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 15 minutes

bread2

4. Form rolls, place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover with damp cloth, let sit for an hour.

bread1

5. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375.

Let buns cool completely for tasty sandwich bread, or, dive right in like me and enjoy the hollow tasty (and cheap) goodness.

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When in doubt, nap and dice.

I had grand plans this weekend of starting on a new blogging project. The wonderful Kaitlin over at Handmade Freedom has been helping to inspire me to get back to writing. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing reviews on some products that I’ve had the good fortune to try over the last two years. Unfortunately, our son had other plans.

The day started out innocently enough. Tidying (I have to recommend the UfyH app, available on iphone, for making cleaning amusing. Yes, vulgarity amuses the crap out of me and anything that can inspire some laughs while cleaning is a good thing) made me feel accomplished, followed by a great trip to the local dog park, Bruce Pit. Came home and Liam started acting like he needed a nap. Literally seconds before I was about to scoop him up to bed, he took a dive and bashed his head on our IKEA expedit (We use it for toy storage).

He lost consciousness for a few seconds, and then was seriously out of it for a while. We whisked him off to the ER and spent our evening receiving unsolicited parenting advice from our fellow patients, and making nice with a very sweet Meth addict who was in with a sketchy looking rash (She really was sweet until she decided to kiss my son right on his boo boo. Did we ever disinfect that sucker. A parental barrier was then formed between the crays and Liam). Around 10pm, we were sent home with instructions to watch him closely and wake him every 2 hrs (Oh! Teething finally comes in handy! He’s up every 2 hours normally anyway!).  A mild concussion scared the crap out of me. I am going to have to tough up my skin with this kid, I think. I have a feeling we’re going to become very familiar with all the local urgent cares and ERs in the area.

Quite the bump

Quite the bump

Pat and I got Mister into bed, and then finally ate around 11pm. We got to bed around 12:30 and I finally fell asleep around 1-1:30. Yeah, so, needless to say, this weekend has been a bit of a write off. To cope with the stress of all this, I’ve been taking it easy today. Liam and I had an epic two hour nap together while Pat video-gamed his stress away. Right now I am cooking up a batch of local heirloom tomato pasta sauce. I’m plotting some zucchini bread too, but we’ll see how productive I actually am. My hands are stained yellow and red and I can finally breath without tightness in my chest.

Tomatoes in the CSA haul

Tomatoes in the CSA haul

So, thank you Kaitlin for the kind words and link on your Saturday edition of Friday Faves. Welcome to my new readers that have found me through her. Things are a little in transition here, but I do intend to write more frequently. Please feel free to check out my About page to learn a little more about me and my little space here.

xo

 

Responsibility, Part 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about parenting lately. How raising a child is very much about raising yourself beyond your childhood. One of the things I struggle with is responsibility. I grew up with almost no responsibilities until suddenly, I was the primary caregiver for my terminally ill mother, a home owner, a fiance, a pet owner and an employee all at once. While the topic of responsibility is a huge one for me, I want to focus that topic into that of money for a second.

 

When I was a child, I had an allowance. Usually, allowances are a payment for chores done around the house. In my house, chores were few and even more rarely enforced. We were given money without having earned it. My mother and father weren’t great with money. My mother had a bit of a gambling problem, and my father liked to collect everything he was interested in to the absolute extreme. They had limited savings and kept up the appearance of being stable.

When I was a teenager, I stole from my father’s wallet to fund my anime obsession, and when caught, he increased my allowance so that I could afford it myself. When I threw myself into a substantial credit card debt in my 20s, my parents bailed me out without asking for any pay back. When my living arrangements didn’t work out, they always welcomed me back home. I never know how tight things were until after my mother died and I learned that she had borrowed against her life insurance policy simply to pay for her groceries and utilities.

They taught me I was loved. They lifted me up when I fell. They showed me I always had a home and could always count on them. They didn’t, however, show me how not to fall in the first place, or how to pick myself up. They didn’t tell me what to do when that home was no longer mine, or what to do when they were gone.

It may seem odd, talking about this. Especially because finances are one of the true taboos of our society, I think even more so than politics or religion in some ways. It’s important though.

Having a son and trying to figure out how to raise him has made me realize that so many parents miss an important step. They raise their chicks into birds and teach them to fly, but they don’t follow through. I want my chicks to not only fly, but to be able to feed and care for themselves and their own families.

When Pat and I decided that I wasn’t going to return to work full time after Liam was born, I was scared. I was scared about being able to afford our home and our life. I was scared about budgeting. Recently it occurs to me that Liam needs to see this. He needs to see and understand the struggle. He needs to understand its importance. I want him to see it, to participate in it and learn from it.

A few recent changes:

-Try to live more simply. I am guilty of shopping when sad, disappointed, etc… It’s a major lesson for me to only buy what we need and not what I want. We have so much stuff. Too much stuff. (Follow my efforts here)

-Eat healthier foods. In the long run, it’ll save us money and make us healthier. Instead of buying random veg at the grocery store, I joined a CSA and make more of our plates full of veggies instead of carbs and more expensive meats. I want Liam to try new foods and new flavours.

Our first CSA haul

Our first CSA haul

New meals this week included grilled summer squash and zucchini with haddock, grilled chicken breast with local steamed beans, local boiled potatoes and corn. Local salad greens with roasted local beets and heirloom tomatoes.

-Make more, buy less. Pat has been eating at subway and local sandwich shops every work day for lunch. You can imagine the cost of this. So, I suggested making subs. Well, the sub breads we were buying weren’t lasting the week and were expensive, so I decided to try making my own. It was a huge success! Not only was it cheaper, but it was a fun activity for me and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.

Homemade bread dough rising

Homemade bread dough rising

I’m trying to make more of our meals so that we aren’t eating out as much. I hope to do a bunch of freezer meals for those lazy days that I inevitably encounter.

-Buy second hand when we can. Thankfully, I work at a consignment shop two nights a week so most of Liam’s clothes and cloth diapers are 2nd hand. He gets to dress super cute (which makes me happy), but it only costs me 1/3 of the retail price.

-Reevaluate our needs vs. wants and work within those as best we can. I may not NEED television, but I want it real bad. As a compromise, Pat and I dropped cable and now just have netflix. Our phone costs were high so now we just have our cellphones and VOIP. We love pizza, but can’t afford take out so we enjoy pita pizzas now. Instead of a daily starbucks, we got me a Keurig and some great kcups.

Anyway, I plan on writing a lot more on the subject, and sharing our bread recipe. My kid is chasing our dog with a plastic cup so I need to intervene :)

Happy Valentine’s Day! Food Porn for all!

Still not much time or energy, but I figured I’d pop by with a quick post full of pictures of food, tales of woe and a silly music video.

First, happy valentine’s day!

Next, the sad tail of my failbread:

I attempted the delicious looking guinness gingerbread of Nigella fame. Unfortunately, whether it be my substitution of sugars, agave nectar for syrup or too much vanilla, the bread turned into much more of a warm soggy pudding. It was AWFUL. I had a bite, as did Pat. Then it went to the garbage. So sad :(

 

Baking the Failbread

I am disappoint fo sho. Oh well. From there, we moved on to bigger and better things. What could be bigger and better than gingerbread?

Cheddar biscuits of DELICIOUSNESS!

 

I MUNNA EAT CHO!

Seriously one of the best things I’ve ever made in my life. EVAR. These were accompanied by a pretty decent chili, which was a winning pairing to be sure.

 

Yummy!

Went a little crazy with the Instagram filters there, sorry! Anyway, I was detecting a theme here. One disaster, one meh and one OMFG-I-COULD-EAT-THIS-FOREVER. This theme continued on to this weekend.

First, the disaster was my attempt at V-day treats. I attempted these tasties:

I baked the cake, let it cool. It was perfect and DELICIOUS. I found it terribly gratifying and liberating to pick up that perfect cake and DESTROY IT. I mashed in the can of icing with my barehands and had a blast doing it. I cooled it and everything seemed to be going great…Unfortunately, after working out beautifully for 6 balls, the chocolate coating started burning and clumping and being TERRIBLE. I’m going to try again tonight, but overall, I ended up with a ton of burnt chocolate, pots that refuse to be cleaned, a burnt finger and no treats to bring into work today. The ones that did work out were delicious though

 

Yum. If only the others didn't suck.

Next up was the meh. My husband is obsessed with Subway’s Meatball subs, so I decided to give it the ol’ homemade try. I used this recipe. I’m not sure if it was the mix of lean local beef with the lean pork, or the weird tomato sauce I used (Stupid biggest loser recipe), but it just didn’t taste…right. I didn’t even finish it. Meh. There is a crockpot full of meatballs in the fridge and I don’t see either one of us touching it.

No pictures. They were too uninspiring.

Lastly, we have our HOLYEFFINGGODTHISISAWESOME. I made this. When I first saw the recipe, I knew this was going to be amazing. I am a potato fiend. I would gladly trade all the chocolate in the world for a lifetime of fries, chips and hashbrowns. The idea of putting all of that awesome into a bowl and calling it soup, I knew I was in for goodness.

 

Simmering away

I made mine with skins on, yellow potatos, cause that’s what I had. I used three leeks instead of two for extra flavour.

This soup, simply put, was heaven. I had it for dinner yesterday and dinner today. I will have it for lunch tomorrow. Make this soup. Love this soup.

And with that, my dears, I am running off again. Have a great Valentine’s day!

The Noms

Inspired by the lovely and highly entertaining Kate of Elefantitas Alegres, I’ve been doing some thinking about meal planning. I haven’t gone nearly so far as to schedule each day’s meal (mainly because that totally goes against my flighty gemini nature. “Commit to a specific meal FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK?! But what if I’m not in the mood for Delicious Meal #2 and want Delicious Meal #5 instead?!”). It helps that weekends are generally when we do our big shopping excursions (Pay Day Friday FTW) so I like to have a good shopping list in advance.

So, in the spirit of Making Food In My Kitchen, here is my planned list of tasties for this week:

Guinness Gingerbread Loaf (which, btw, I linked wrong in my last post. That cake looks awesome, but it’s not what I’m making. I’ve fixed it here.)

Georges’ Chili with Cheese Biscuits (I have NEVER made chili on my own, and I’ve never attempted biscuits before, so this should be interesting)

Homemade Meatball Sandwiches. The husband is OBSESSED with Subway Meatball subs. Like, would gladly eat them every day.

Baked Potato Soup. Cause, you know, I’m a Irish/Scottish/Ukrainian Canadian girl. I eat potato in EVERY form.

Jane’s Chicken wraps. You know, chicken strips, yummy cheese, lettuce, in a tortilla. YUM.

Wish me luck, dear readers. This home-cooked-meal thing is still VERY new to me. My plan is to maybe also start making a meal from my huge collection of recipe books. Wanna see?

Yeah, I should really start using them.

This week, the Gingerbread recipe comes from Nigella’s Kitchen cookbook. Which, btw, is AMAZING and full of delicious things. I’d also like to start using this more:

Mum's Cookbook

That is my Mum’s recipe book. In there is stuff she gathered from her Mum and her Mum before her. This is all of our family’s recipes. Everything I grew up eating.

For the first time, in my whole life, I’m excited about cooking. Excited about food. My next post might even be later tonight, once the gingerbread comes out of the oven. I’ll let you know how it went. So far, so good!