Sunday food for thought

…just  a few hours late…

Wow, only the first of the four weekends before Christmas, and already I am feeling waaayyyyyy behind!  Last week’s menu was bumped into this week (as you may notice!). And that is not a good start, given how busy the next four weeks will be.  So, I am going to try and bit somewhat proactive going into this week…

  • Sunday: Lasagna, salad and bread (we had chowder on Saturday night!)
  • Monday: Baked pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli!  (I can hear my 10 year old cheering now!)
  • Tuesday: out for dinner…There is a birthday in our house, and the request was the Chinese buffet, so healthy eating begone!  Let them eat Sweet and sour pork and white rice (oh and chow mein noodles!), and all the chicken wings they want.
  • Wednesday: Baked Salmon with rice and Greek Salad (off season, but Rob brought a whole box of tomatos home from Costco…at least they are BC grown!)
  • Thursday: Shepherd’s pie and salad
  • Friday: Dad’s night to cook: Pancakes!
  • Saturday: I am leaving this one open.  

When I look at the calendar, I just shake my head.  There are two meetings this week (School and skating); an extra soccer practice (why?), Christmas show practices for dance and for skating, Showcase for skating down South Island, volley ball practices (and Provincials), and Friday night is card night (no, not poker…Christmas cards!).
Everyone’s house gets crazy around the holidays, what are your tricks to keeping a balance and making sure everyone is on track?  Love to hear your tips!

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

Happy packing!



Grocery shop prep for a New Year

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

Happy Packing!


Double Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

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

Double Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread: 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350F, spray or grease two 9×5 loaf pans.
You will need:
2 cups mashed banana (about 4 large bananas)
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or olive oil
1 cup plain low fae yogurt
2 eggs + 2 egg whites, beaten.
Place bananas in large bowl or that of a standing mixer.  Cream sugar with bananas, add oil, yogurt and eggs.  Continue mixing until well combined.
In medium bowl, combine :
1 cup natural cocoa powder
2 cups fine grind whole spelt flour (you could use regular whole wheat, but I like spelt in banana bread)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt.
Stir well with a fork.  Add slowly to the wet ingredients, mix until just combined.  Add 1 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (about four 1 ounce squares, chopped coarsely), and let beater go around 3 or 4 times.

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

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

Happy Packing!


Linked up to:

Baked Rigatoni

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

First start with a big batch of Spaghetti sauce

Then, spray your lasagna baking dish (the old 9×13 one).  Preheat oven to 375F.

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

Spinach and cheese mixture

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

Serve with your favourite green salad or Caesar salad.

And make them really happy by adding dessert…

Lemon Cranberry Loaf

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

Find more yummy goodies at :

Happy Packing!


Seafood Chowder

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

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

Vancouver Island Seafood Chowder for 6-8

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

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


And one more to make seven:

 Happy Packing!


    Sunday Food for Thought

    Another weekend almost done, and it is time to plan those meals again…

    • Sunday: Baked Rigatoni and salad
    • Monday (Meatless): Potato and Kale Soup
    • Tuesday (should be Turkey): Chicken Curry with veggies and rice
    • Wednesday: Baked Pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed carrots & broccoli
    • Thursday: (Dad’s night to cook, I have a skating club meeting!) Whole Wheat Pancakes and (hopefully) fruit salad
    • Friday (Fish!): Seafood chowder with green salad and homemade bread
    • Saturday: Lasagne and Ceasar Salad with homemade garlic toast (and the big girls night to cook!)

    A tip for making a budget friendly menu: after you have reviewed what you already “own” (for example we have fish and prawns in the freezer, as well as pork chops and chicken thighs for curry), then browse your favourite grocery store flyer before you make your menu.  Once in a while for fun, I will pick a new recipe and shop for the ingredients (in spite of the price!) afterwards, but on a weekly basis, I work from both what we already have and what is on sale for the week.  Typically, I buy our meat on a monthly basis and supplement it with what the butcher has on sale each week, but I also have the bonus of driving past the butcher shop (and passing his sign advertising the specials) four times a day, five days a week.
       Lunches area also planned this way…yogurt on sale (Olympic Organic 650 g, for $2.99, as well as the 1.75 kg size for $8.99) means yogurt in lunches, in banana bread and muffins and also Raita for chicken curry on Tuesday.  Roasting chickens on sale last week, means there is chicken for sandwiches and also homemade stock.  And Gala apples as big as my ten year old’s head on sale .99/lb, means apple crisp for Sunday dessert.   So, this week, our grocery dollars went to Thrifty foods but only because everything was on sale.

    Happy Packing!


    Honey Whole Wheat, makes three loaves

    What We ate Wednesday

    Turkey Taco filling
    Add the tomatoes

    I love Jenn’s “What I ate Wednesday” over at Peas and Crayons.  At our house, we ate Turkey Tacos (I know, I messed with the menu a little, but hey!  It’s my kitchen!).
    Turkey Tacos are always a big hit and so easy (as long as you remember to take the ground turkey out of the freezer!).

    Turkey Tacos (for 8)
    1 kg ground turkey
    1-2 small sweet peppers chopped
    1 small jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed), diced
    1/2 medium onion, chopped
    1/2 cup Taco seasoning (see recipe below)
    2 cups tomatoes/tomato sauce (I use unsalted canned tomatoes, crushed with the hand blender)
    brown turkey, add veggies (not crushed tomatoes) and cook until soft 5-7 minutes.  Add seasoning, and 1 TBSP salt.  Cook another 7-10 minutes on low.  Add tomatoes, continue cooking for another 10 minutes on low.
    Serve on warmed tortilla shells(heat oven to 250F, wrap flat tortillas in foil and place in oven for about 10-12 minutes), with grated cheese, salsa, lettuce, diced tomatoes and plain yogurt.
    Avocado Salad

    We also had avocado salad with our tacos.  This is a recipe I first came across when we were visiting family in Ottawa this past summer.  My Aunt and Uncle took us to The Green Door vegetarian restaurant, and both my hubby and I fell in love with the avocado salad (my kiddos thoroughly enjoyed the lasagna, but not the chocolate cake …I also really liked their cheese cake!).
    When we got home from our trip, the first thing I wanted to do was figure out the recipe for that salad.  I searched the internet but came up empty handed.  Except for a restaurant review that included a comment about the avocado salad:  “It’s basically just avocado, tomatoes and red onions with a bit of lemon juice.”  So, I started with that…And eventually, got the seasonings right.
    So yummy!

              Avocado Salad (leave one of the pits in the salad to keep it from turning brown)
    2-3 ripe avocados, coarsely chopped
    2-3 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
    1/2 medium red onion , sliced thin
    the juice of two lemons
    1/2 tsp salt flakes (Maldon is what I use)
    Toss together and serve at room temperature.

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

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