Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Life got in the way, and this blog fell to the back burner!! I'm surprised I haven't gone crazy in the last 6 weeks, or throttled anyone!! 

My youngest started kindergarten, which was nerve wracking alone. Then my husband threw out his back and was on the couch for a few weeks. As he was almost recovered he aggravated his wrist only to discover he broke it back in March, which the doctors missed. My ILs sold and bought a house. And finally I started volunteering at my sons school, and spent most of last week staying up half the night to make a Halloween costume. Throughout it all my parents, who help us out with the kids were gone for almost 4 weeks! 

I still haven't recovered from it all!! Someone please send me coffee.... Because I can't see my schedule clearing up anytime soon. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My $20 Challenge

I went to my veggie store today. I decided to see how much I could buy and stay under $20. I ended up impressing myself with how well I did!

This is what I came home with!

Of course I hit up the discount 'rack' again for my challenge. Over half of the items I bought were $6 in total. Two bags of mushrooms, two bags of apples, and one bag each of broccoli and onions. The rest I paid full price.

When I got home, I settled the kids down with a snack, made myself a snack and a coffee and sat down to do some meal planning. (Does anyone else get excited meal planning or is it just me?)  When I meal plan I don't set dates for each meal, instead I make a list of what I can make with my items, what I can use the leftovers for (if there are any) and go from there.

Here's what I'll be making this week:

Dinner: Minestone Soup (cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, with zucchini and green beans from the garden)
Dinner: Potato and Onion Tart
Lunch: Sauteed Mushrooms & Rice
Side: Roasted veggies (broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes)
Side: Roasted broccoli
Side: Roasted Cabbage

Snack: Apple Chips
Snack: Applesauce

Prep for future meals: Diced Onions (dice freeze on a cookie sheet before transferring to a zip lock bag)

I just found out onions are freezable. I have a TON of onions that I need to use up, now I can prep them for future meals and skip the cutting/crying!

I should have leftovers for both dinners. I usually freeze the leftover soup for another time. The tart we'll eat two nights in a row and any leftover roasted veggies will go into another soup or stew.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Eek! Kindergarten already!!

I still can't believe my baby boy will be 5 in just a few weeks an starting kindergarten (hopefully!) next week. It seems like yesterday he was a teeny tiny little newborn we had to leave in the NICU. I'm sure when I drop him off at his first day of school my heart will be breaking like it did 5 years ago. *sniff* 

One thing I'm not looking forward to is making school lunches. I'd love to be one of those moms who spends time making bento boxes everyday with Disney characters out of cheese and meat, fruit kabobs, and all those other cute fussy things. That's just not for me! 1. I don't think my kid would appreciate it (they want food and want it now!) 2. I'd prefer to throw together nutritious lunch, so I can get back to folding laundry and watching a show before I have to get up deal with my grumpy kids the next morning. (It's not fun being the only morning person!)

In an attempt to ease into the school year I made some Corn Dog Pops (aka Mini muffins) My son will eat practically anything if it's in the shape of a ball, so I used my Babycakes Cake Pop maker. I altered my gf's recipe to our tastes, adding in cheese to keep the muffin less crumbly, mustard for a bit of flavour, and upping hotdogs (the guys love their meat, what can I say?)

Back to School Corn Dog Pop

1-3/4 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp mustard
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 oil
2 eggs
8 hotdogs, quartered and sliced

If you don't have a cake pop maker like I used, preheat your oven to 425. 

In a small bowl mix the dry ingredients, including cheese and hot dogs, set aside. 

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry all at once. 

Bake in the oven 8-10 mins, or in the cake pop maker for 3-5. 

Each mini muffin or cake pop cavity holds 1 tbsp. I was able to get 72 corn dog pops! If I put three in a lunch they'll last for 24 lunches. 

If you plan on freezing them as I did, lay them all out on a cookie sheet to freeze. Then put them on a ziplock bag or other container. They won't stick to each other this way and will make it easier to grab a few out of the bag. 

Here they are all ready to go in the freezer!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Little Girl!

My baby girl turned one a few weeks ago, and we had her birthday BBQ this past weekend. I can't believe how fast this year has gone. So much has happened! And this next year looks even busier!!

Her birthday also kicks off what I've dubbed the Birthday Season. From now until Christmas we have 15 birthdays, in our family alone! (There's also 4 anniversaries, but thank goodness those aren't all celebrated unless it's a milestone)

I know it's convenient to buy the fancy fondant decorated birthday cakes these days. Who has the time to bake a cake, shape it, and then decorate it? I'm a stay at home mom and I still have trouble making the time, but I just can't bring myself to buy a cake. My mom always made our birthday cakes, and Halloween costumes, and those are two things I'll always do myself.  Hubby and I also don't care for the sickly sweet cakes you buy these days, this is just another way we limit the sugar and processed crap for ourselves and the kids. Plus it saves me the $50+ I'd be spending. Before and after decorating I'd gladly tell you I don't mind saving the money, during the actual decorating you might hear me swearing, crying and even yelling. That's when I'd give anyone $50 just to make it look the way I envisioned. 

This time I thought I was going to be smart. I traced a picture from pinterest so I could fill in the lines with icing. So smart and easy right? (Especially while you're holding the screaming squirming birthday girl and trying to decorate!) This is what it was supposed to look like:

Cute, right? I thought so too! I learned the hard way that cream cheese icing doesn't harden when its 25+ out, and that if I try to freeze it, the cake freezes solid while the icing stays soft and gooey! So instead of the cute, perfect owl I envisioned, I got this instead 

Which still isn't too bad, but wasn't the smooth picture perfect owl I had envisioned. The most important thing was that it tasted good. In fact it was DELICIOUS! I adapted a Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing recipe fro Joy the Baker which I'll post below. It made enough for two 8" cakes, a mini bundt cake and 15 mini muffins (for taste testing.....9 of which went straight into my belly) The cake was quick to whip up, and was insanely moist and flavourful. I can't wait to make it again!

'Tropical' Carrot Cake
adapted from Joy the Baker
3-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 allspice
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup coconut oil (melted)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup crushed pineapple (I used applesauce due to an allergy)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350, line cake pans with parchment, spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, soda and spices. 

In another bowl whisk eggs and sugars until slightly thickened. Add oils, mix carefully! Add in pineapple, vanilla and mix again

Add wet ingredients all at once to the dry. Fold together, when almost incorporated add in carrots, coconut and dried cranberries. Keep folding together until blended. 

Bake for roughly 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Cream Cheese Icing 

8 oz.   cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups icing sugar, lumps broken up
2 tsp vanilla

Mix cream cheese in mixer until soft and smooth, add butter. Mix well

Add in salt and sugar, blend until smooth, add in vanilla. 

(In retrospect, I would have added more icing sugar to get it to harden)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bargain hunting: before kids vs after kids

I used to love shopping before having kids. The feeling you'd get hunting for the perfect outfit, the frustration of trying on countless pairs of jeans, the thrill when you found the pair that made your butt look amazing, and then the thrill when you found out they were on sale too! I miss those days...

I wish those feelings could compare to grocery shopping.... Even if I do get a (little) excited when I get great deals, prancing around the kitchen holding veggies to show your husband isn't the same as prancing around in a new pair of jeans. (No matter how hard you try!!)

I'm very thankful that my family loves their veggies, at least showing off my bargain veggies isn't too weird to them. Roasted, baked, steamed, or fried. They will eat them 99% of the time! Because they eat so many I go to the veggie store once a week. On my last trip I spent $16 and bought all this:

I spent $13 for everything to the right including the cucumber, and $3 for the rest! The store I go to has a discount rack, which has bags of produce for $1 each. I love that it's not like other store where their discounted food is pretty much unusable unless you're making preserves.  I still use it up within the first day or too of buying, but most of it is just marked or bruised. 

I used the yellow zucchini to make zucchini and potato pancakes, the summer squash and corn went into a soup, mushrooms were fried up with rice for a lunch, and the potatoes were friend up as a side for dinner today. That's nearly 4 meals for $3!!  And I still have a horseradish I'll use for my first attempt at horseradish sauce. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hubs and his hummus

If I were to buy prepared hummus as fast as hubs ate it, we'd be spending $20+ a week on it. He will eat an entire container in a sitting, by himself! This after four years of telling him he had to try it, and him repeatedly refusing. Then one day while at my parents for dinner he started raving about the veggie dip and how I had to try it! 'Yes sweetie, that's the hummus I'd given up on..... You're pretty...."

So now I make a double batch at least once a week, and so will he! I buy dried chickpeas now, instead of using cans to save even more. It take a bit more planning, as you have to soak them overnight, but he eats so much it's worth it! This is another recipe that freezes well if you make too much, or also go through it so fast you can't keep up. 

Another tip if you're planning on making this a lot, buy your tahini from the ethnic aisle instead of the nut butter section. I spent $6.99 on a big tub of tahini, instead of $5.99 for a jar less than half it's size! It's crazy how much prices with differ on the same products, but different brands and placement with in the same store. I try to make notes as I shop on certain items when I know it could be in a few different areas. 

Hubby's Hummus

1 can chickpeas (or 1 cup reconstituted dried chickpeas)
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic 
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients together until you reach the desired texture. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eat Pizza - Save Money!

This is one of our all time favourite meals. After making this pizza dough I'll bet you won't be ordering in anytime soon. It's a fraction of what it would cost to order a pizza and asides from a few hours of waiting for the dough to rise, it comes together quickly. 

 I got this recipe from an coworker's wife years ago after smelling the most delicious pizza and hunted it down. I'm so glad I did! I make this almost every two weeks during BBQ season, in the winter I'll make it into stromboli's (a rolled up pizza). For those of you who like to prep meals ahead of time stromboli's are great to throw in the freezer. Any time I make it for company I get asked for the recipe, and the stromboli's are a party favourite. 

Some of our favourite pizzas are pretty simple, sauce, 1-2 meat toppings (usually leftovers), 2-3 veggie toppings and cheese. The pizza shown had pesto, chicken, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, and artichokes. Another favourite is BBQ sauce, chicken/beef, corn, and onions.

Italian Pizza Dough
4-1/2 teaspoons yeast 
3 cups warm water (not hot!)
6-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup salt
Optional - 1 teaspoon sugar

1. Let yeast proof in warm water until foamy, about 5 minutes. If yeast is older or isn't foaming as much as I like, I will add the sugar.

2. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, pour the yeast and water into it, and mix together until it starts to form. Dump onto a floured counter and knead 7-8 minutes. Let rest until doubled in size, approximately 2 hours. 

3. Punch down the dough to get out all the air bubbles. Divide into 2-4 balls, and wrap up in Saran Wrap. Place in fridge another two hours. 

4. After two hours let dough rest for five minutes after removing from fridge. Dust counter and top of ball with flour. Roll out to desired size/thickness. Top with your favourite toppings and throw on the BBQ on low heat. Pizza is done when the cheese is melted and dough is crispy. 

If you like a thicker crust try grilling it before adding any toppings. We prefer a thin crust, so we bake it all at once. (Meat is precooked)

If making stromboli's, keep the dough on the thicker side. Roll as you would make cinnamon buns and pinch to seal. Place seam side down on a baking sheet, and bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool 5-10 minutes before slicing, or freeze for a future meal