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Meals have been a bit of a rushed affair around here for the last thirteen months or so but a bit of time has been shaved off my meal prep now that Kate is eating most of the same meals as us.  It takes some careful planning up front but it assures that we’re not eating too many grilled cheese with a side of cookie meals and it’s fun to see her try new things.  Another result of her being ready for more complex meals is that we decided to introduce a little wild salmon and humanely raised chicken back into our diet after six years as vegetarians.  It was a really tough decision and we thought about it for months but in the end I think it was the right one for us.  Neither Chris or I is a fan of seafood but this Thai Salmon was a modest hit with the adults and went over really well with Kate.  My second attempt with some previously frozen fillets from a discount supermarket almost ended with both of us throwing up from the fishy smell but I’m going to keep on trying.  If anyone has any recommendations for non-fishy, mercury free and fish friendly fish recipes I’m all ears.

I’ve also been thinking more about including less refined flours in our diet so before Good to the Grain came in the mail yesterday I thought I would try tweaking a run of the mill blueberry pancake recipe to make it a little more hearty and they were really, really good. I thought I should write it down for easy recall on early Sunday mornings.

Healthier Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

1 large egg

1/2 cup all purpose flour*

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup low fat buttermilk

1 tbsp. white or brown sugar

2 tbsps. vegetable oil

3 tsps. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground flax seeds

finely grated zest of one lemon

a splash of pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh blueberries**

Butter, for the pan

 

Beat egg in medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients except butter until smooth. Heat pan or griddle to medium. Grease with butter if desired.  Pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter into hot pan.  Cook pancake until bubbly on top and dry around the edges. Turn and cook the other side until golden.

*You could try using a higher ratio of whole wheat flour if you’re so inclined.

**I usually use frozen and I hate to be a snob about it but these really were way better with the fresh berries.

 

I also made french toast for the first time after a bit of a hiatus because I’m never happy with my results but after reading another great post from Dinner: A Love Story  on the topic I realized what I had been missing all these years was just a teaspoon of sugar in the batter.  It makes a huge difference.  Huge.

Perhaps not the healthiest meal of all time but one of the tastiest is this Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter.  Another Kate favourite.

Any recipes floating your boat lately?

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After years of wanting it is finally mine!

My parents got us the pasta roller attachment and fettucine cutter for our Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas and I lurve it.  I considered exchanging it for the newer pasta shaper attachment but then I realized that whenever I’ve bought fresh pasta I’ve bought ravioli or fettucine not macaroni and I’m probably not going to make fresh macaroni or rigatoni every time I make soup or a casserole.

I’ve made this recipe twice now, once for us to try the machine out, and once for guests this weekend and it’s been a great success, despite its odd ingredients.

I used jarred pesto because the one in the recipe didn’t get great reviews and I knew it would be a cold day in Manitoba before I found fresh basil and pine nuts at our town grocery store.  This made it beyond easy.

Also, I’m hoping to make these donut muffins as soon as I possibly can. Who says January is for light foods?

I finally made these cheese straws on New Years Eve and they were easy to make, tasty and addictive.

 

It has been snowing here for at least two weeks straight so I’ve decided to hunker down and make a whack of Christmas gifts and what I can’t make will be delivered to my door by the kind folks at Canada Post.  I’m planning a few things for Kate, one of which is almost done, and since I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this I’ll give a peek soon but for now here are some things I’ve been distracting myself with when I should be sewing / knitting / embroidering / baking / childrearing:

  • I’ve always been dismayed by my lack of snowflake making ability.  Mine always look like some weird Aztec symbol.  So this video on how to properly fold a paper square and these templates opened a whole new world of paper cutting fun for me.
  • I printed this latke recipe over two years ago and finally made them this week and they’re super delicious.
  • This series on modifying a sweater have me itching to go to Value Village.  Maybe in the new year.
  • I have eggnog bars setting in the fridge from a back issue of Living and I think they’re going to be phenomenal.
  • I’ve been really lazy with meal planning these last few months which has resulted in me coming home from the grocery store with a carton of milk, a bunch of bananas and no meal ideas but this little meal planner print out inspired me to sit down and spend literally hours with my cookbooks and plan the next two weeks of dinners.  I think I even saved some money at Sobeys.
  • This handmade nursery totally knocked my socks off.  The rug alone made me feel like such a crafty loser.

After a pretty massive food slump I’ve been spending lots of time in the kitchen thanks to a third member of the household requesting a variety of specially prepared dishes.  So far soft tofu and sweet potatoes are acceptable but lentils are gag worthy and therefore get sneakily enfolded in sweet potatoes.  I figured I might as well feed us while I’m in there and have had some surprising successes.

I feel like I’ve been searching for a truly great macaroni and cheese recipe for years.  I’ve tried ones with four ingredients, ones with fancy cheeses and crumb toppings, stovetop ones, ones with synthetic cheez but I they were all bland and didn’t reheat well at all.  I’ve finally found the holy grail of mac and cheese, though it doesn’t actually use macaroni.

Here’s the recipe.  I just use old cheddar and it’s been great every time.  Just looking at this photo makes me sad that it’s all gone.

I also bought a slow cooker despite having some of the worst meals I’ve ever had courtesy of our old one.  I broke it in with some lasagna and though I had low expectations I really enjoyed it.  I combined a couple of recipes but basically I added some garlic and herbs to a can of crushed tomatoes, then mixed a container of ricotta with some baby spinach, mozzarella and parmesan and Chris layered it all with uncooked lasagna noodles and left it for three and a half hours.  It was creamy and delicious.

Also: I’m not a big apple person but Honeycrisps really are as delicious as everyone says they are.  I believe I even chose one as a mid-morning (which is often eight a.m. lately) snack over Halloween candy the other day.

May I introduce you to my new special summer lunch:

Pleased to meet you

This has been my mid-day meal of choice for house guests and for a very special Sunday when Kate napped and we we ate it on the front step, followed by a rousing game of ladder ball.

I have also been making batches and batches of my new favourite cookie for a few months now.

It’s the chocolate oatmeal cookie (with raisins!) from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar except that my chocolate chips come from Costco and are not vegan. I don’t recall a dessert I’ve been more obsessed with.  They’re soft and chewy and because they have oats and no egg I like to fool myself into thinking they’re not terrible for you.

********end of food talk********

  • A quick update to the baby review series: back when I posted about making Kate some receiving blankets a helpful reader Melanie directed my attention to the Miracle Blanket.  I ignored her advice until Kate’s squirming was really starting to drive me mental, then I broke down and ponied up for one.  It finally arrived last week and I’m pleased to say that she’s been sleeping one longer block in her baby straight jacket.  She still flops around like a docked fish from three a.m. onward but I’ll take any improvement I can get.
  • Also, I really want this sling because it is gorgeous, not because it is necessary.
  • Alicia is obsessed with Citronille patterns and now so am I.  I need to get Kate into Thadée.
  • We are leaving for Kitchener on Friday where I will be celebrating my 30th birthday by splurging on a new sewing machine.  I am preparing by cutting out all the fabric and patterns I own so that I can sew like crazy when I get it home.  I’m on a jersey dress kick but I am not enjoying cutting out the slinky stuff. The info in this link makes the process a little more bearable.
  • Erin got me a subscription to Frankie magazine.  Seriously.

I picked up a Cuisinart ice cream maker on sale at Home Outfitters ages ago and attempted a few mid-winter batches with dismal results. It was gathering dust at the back of the cupboard until the arrivals of warm weather, our dear friends Erin and Braden, and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop coincided.  I can’t wait to try almost all of the recipes, even Goat Cheese Ice Cream despite Chris thinking it sounds gross.  First, Erin and I whipped up some Vanilla Frozen Yogurt.

I swapped vanilla bean for extract since I had some hanging around. It was refreshing but a bit tangy for my taste. If I were to make it again I would perhaps add more sugar.

The real winner was the Cheesecake Ice Cream. I’m not even a big cheesecake fan but it was so delicious and so simple to make. We polished it off before I snapped a photo. It was that good.

Next I might even venture into tempered egg and custard territory.  Excitement!  Now I require some cute ice cream dishes.

I’ve been hoarding food like there’s a natural disaster on the horizon.  In this case the looming chaos is bringing home baby and I want to be prepared. I think the only cure for living on three hours sleep while caring for a screaming baby and hosting visitors is the possibility of having baked goods on hand.

In an attempt to not use up organic eggs like they’re going out of style I bought Veganomicon and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and the first recipe I tried from the latter, these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, were successful.

They have a different texture than your standard Oatmeal Raisin cookies, wetter and chewier, which I enjoy.

Right now I’ve got some Strawberry Banana Muffins baking and they smell great.  I’m planning on making lots of muffins because they make a great breakfast, snack or dessert.  If you’ve got some tried and true favourites, vegan or not, lay ’em on me.

Before I started mixing and freezing I did something I’ve dreamed about for months. In perhaps a sad example of how pathetic my life has become it wasn’t a trip to Maui or a spa day but a session of kitchen cupboard cleaning and organizing.  I picked up a pack of Ball jars and a dozen mason jars in the city and I finally got rid of all those unmarked bags of bulk goods that all seem to look like cream of tartar.

So deeply satisfying and yet so economical!

I also have to give a shout out to our new favourite meal.

Wilted Kale and Roasted Winter Potato Salad may not look or sound like much but Chris literally cheered when I made it again this week. It tastes just as good reheated or eaten cold.

I think it may be obvious that the coinciding of my first trimester with the first semester of school left my creative life a vague past memory.  As school and morning all day sickness settled down, however I slowly returned to doing the things I love.  Unfortunately, one of the last pursuits to get any attention from me was cooking and baking.  I always told myself that when I did get pregnant all of my bad eating habits would be a thing of the past and I would be a totally responsible, quinoa-eating, yoga-practising mom to be. What actually happened was I would crawl home from work, collapse on the couch in front of the tv and call Chris at work demanding that he bring me nacho chips and queso for dinner.  Poor, malnourished little fetus.

Over the last few weeks I really feel I’ve gotten back into the swing of things. One major dietary victory was kicking my recent secret shame, a raging Pepsi addiction.  Pepsi is like a religion here on the reserve and I was bowing down to it’s sweet shrine on a much too regular basis.  Then I read in the newspaper about a new study suggesting a link between pop and pancreatic cancer, you know the cancer that kills everyone who gets it, and I finally decided I needed to kick the habit.

I also felt a little more energetic at the end of the day and started making bread again.  I’ve been lazy about finding a better storage method than a Ziploc freezer bag even though I totally know that plastic is not a great choice.  I read Amanda’s post about searching for her own solution and her research suggested fabric was the way to go.  Less that twenty minutes later, even with totally screwing up the drawstring’s buttonholes I had a bag of my own, just like some fancy French lady.

I love it in the towelling that I bought at Fabric Depot when I was in Portland. The twill tie is a lesson in why you should always save everything forever because I believe it came from a pair of my pyjama pants.

I would be lying if I were to say that it stays as fresh as it does in plastic but we tend to cut the loaves in half and freeze one and use a lot of the bread for toast so it’s really not a big deal.

Chris also got me this book for Christmas and when I read it this week I realized I need to stop being so lazy and be a lot more cognisant about where my food is coming from.  I had been pretty vigilant about buying organic dairy from humane farmers in Ottawa when probably the best health food grocery store in the city was two blocks away but there are a lot more food choices in an urban area.  Here I’m lucky to find milk that hasn’t expired already.  But it’s important to me that any farms I support are treating their animals humanely not only for the animal’s sake but because the alternative is making people sick from pollutants they produce and diseases that develop so rapidly in such an unnatural environment.  So, we’ve decided to only buy organic dairy when we have access to it and if we can’t get it we go without.  All of this is a long way of saying that I made a vegan cake for Valentine’s Day that even had whole wheat flour and no refined sugar and it was super delicious and did not turn us into dirty hippies.

The recipe is from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.  A lot of his recipes are actually vegan and they’ve all turned out really well.  This cake had a healthy dose of cinnamon that I think made all the difference.

  • We found a great home in the city for the puppy.  We thought it was going to be heartbreaking to turn her over but once we met the owner and saw her home we felt really great about it. Phew!
  • Chris and I tried making these ornaments yesterday and they were a total disaster from start to finish. Crafter beware. Now we need something to make to give as little gifts with a limited palate of Martha Stewart glitter.
  • Friday night we went to the little Santa Clause parade in town and then I made the annually much anticipated Newfoundland Cheese Biscuits.  If you haven’t tried them yet please do.  They’re totally addictive.
  • I keep meaning to apologize for not responding to everyone’s comments but WordPress has once again changed their commenting system and has made it a major pain.
  • My blanket is half finished!  I can’t wait to bind off.  I’m aiming to have it finished by December 10th when we have our big twenty week ultrasound where we’ll find out the baby’s sex.  Then I can really start cranking out the baby clothing.
  • We’re trying Tofurky for the first time tonight.  I have low expectations but Chris is intrigued so we’ll see.

Guess what!?!

We actually ate something from our sad little garden!  That lettuce is Black-Seeded Simpson heirloom variety that I lovingly reared.

And by lovingly reared I mean cruelly neglected.  We didn’t put much effort into the garden after all the false starts from weeks and weeks of late Spring frost.  We (and by we I mean Chris) weeded a rectangle in the front yard, stuck the seeds in and let them be.  We didn’t use fertilizer or top soil or food or anything that would have resulted in us having more than some sickly looking shoots sprouting now.

My fantasies of eating fresh, free vegetables all summer are dashed but this greek / fatoosh salad hybrid was still the highlight of my day.  That, and homemade falafel and homemade pita with amazing homemade garlic sauce.  Thug life!