Monday, January 30, 2012


I like to read. And I'm not big on fiction (I've tried.). I tend to pick up books on economics, history, politics, culture and in this case parenting (my third parenting book). I guess the review that it was 'the Freakonomics of parenting' is what caught my attention. I love Freakonomics and whole-heartedly believe in it. I appreciate that often the most obvious answer is the correct one.
Nurture Shock is insane. Insane. And it is actively changing the way I parent before I am even finished the book. I've read parenting magazines and articles that have offered up loads of great advice. And often, I have applied it to mommyhood, but never has it pierced me so deeply that I didn't need it to be consciously implemented. This book is unreal. How unreal? I pulled out a high-lighter. BUT.... I didn't have to, I remember every word I read. Maybe because it (true to freakonomic fashion) is so obvious. Maybe because to parent the way the book suggests is actually easier than the parenting style society suggests?

I can see this book, 20 years from now, on my book shelf. It is tattered and the pages have been highlighted, dog-eared & photocopied. I will have lent this book to friends, quoted it to no extent and stormed PTA meetings with it, siting the thousands of studies it refers to.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Something to Stew Over...

I hate winter produce. The grocery store never looks as genetically mutated as it does in January. This morning for brekkie I had a grapefruit the size of Mollys just try tell me that's a natural occurrence. It's not.

Anyway, as I surf through tmy regular 'mommy sites', I can't help but notice all the chatter at 5pm each night. Moms all around town last night were looking for new ideas on how to cook their ground beef. And the suggestions that get thrown out there are just delightful: Tacos, Hamburger Helper (Barf!), Spaghetti (Yawn) and other *yummy foods that usually require a can of cheese soup or jar of Prego. It's disappointing to say the least. And yet when someone mentions that ground beef might not be the best ingredient to start a healthy meal, almost every single mom says "It's cheap."

So is Kraft Dinner. And my kids have it weekly (and sometimes Tacos, and Spaghetti too). But I can do that guilt-free knowing that most other nights (6 out of 7) I am putting in the effort to make sure they eat well. You can eat well for for cheap, you just have to put forth the effort. And I want to shake some of these women who are consistently cramming garbage into themselves & their children's bodies. I see it online everynight, at 5pm. And if you are just deciding what to have for dinner at 5pm then I am pretty sure the effort just isn't there (It sure isn't when it happens to me).

I start "supper" every day at 4pm. Almost

I start prep, so that if I get interrupted & have to stop to put a wheel back onto a firetruck (5 times!) then we will still eat at a reasonable time. It was something I started last year & it has worked so well for me (us).

I suggested to a lady online that she make stew the other day. She said she didn't have time and money for "fancy" foods like that. .... Ummm, pretty sure my dads farming family of 9 didn't grow up on stew because it was fancy. What is with people???

Here's the stew I made tonight. Something to think about while you are chopping your onions is how much effort you are putting into your family's meals.

Kraft Dinner for a family of four- $2.50 & 15 minutes time.
Stew for a family of six (with leftovers for lunches!) - About $11.00 & 20 minutes prep.

easy Greek Bean Stew

Stewing Beef Cubes (About $4.50. You only need one package because you are going to add so much more to this stew. You'll pay $7 at the farmers market for natural beef, you decide how important that is to you.)
Baby Potatoes - scrubbed, not peeled. (Often go on sale for $2 a bag)
1 Onion - Peeled and diced (3lb bag is $2. That's .25 cents for your onion.)
2 Garlic Cloves - Grated
1 Can of Diced tomatoes (We buy organic for $2.69 You can buy regular ones for half that.)
1 T, of Tomato Puree (Paste)
2 Bay leaves
2 T. parsley (Buy fresh for $0.49)
2 T. dill
1 t. sea salt (Winners & Homesense often have great deals on Sea Salt in cute packages)
1/2 t. of pepper (We use more)
1/2 t. paprika
1 T. Sugar
1 Rinsed can of Mixed Beans (About .70 cents. Seriously.) (We love beans so we usually add another can of chickpeas and a cup or two of dried lentils. So cheap.). Rinse your lentils before adding them.

The Beef and potatoes are optional. This stew is great without either.
If you own a spice rack you should have all of these spices. Bay leaves can be purchased at a farmers market for about $4/bag. They last forever. Take them out when you are done cooking - don't eat them - don't reuse them.

Directions: Boil potatoes until tender. Sear your beef (helps to seal in the flavour & shorten the cooking time). Throw everything into a crockpot & cook for at least 2 hours (can be up to 8, why not?) or throw it into a cast iron soup pot & cook stovetop on low for an hour or so. Serve with feta sprinkled on top, or not, you decide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Like a Charm

We're sick. But no details on that ( I mean, really, it seems to be everyone's Facebook status right now.) My dad swears by Nin Jiom. I first tried it when I was pregnant (although reading the English instructions on my bottle, I see that's a No-no. Oops.) and couldn't take regular cough medicine. Its a thick brown syrup that looks like it would be vile (think Buckleys) but it's actually pretty good. You leave it to melt in your mouth & slowly drip down your throat. And it works. I mean, really works. Almost instant relief. So I thought I should share it, because I would have never bought it on my own (I mean, look at it). London Drugs $8.99.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Killer in the Kitchen.

Last night I made my first french-style roast. Nailed it! But I really can't take much credit because everyone was complimenting the flavour & I have to admit that it wasn't due to a secret combination. It was Herbes de Provence.

I has been meaning to buy these when I worked at William-Sonoma but even with the staff discount, they were pricey. So I was thrilled to see that Winners has somehow gotten their paws on some for only $8.99. But it was before Christmas, and I couldn't buy them for myself (but couldn't buy them for Brian, he would have known they were secretly for me). So I took a picture of them and added them to my wish list and hoped someone would make it to Winners before they were gone. I was thrilled on Christmas morning to open up a cute little crate in my stocking that had this adorable pot & a refill. (Thanks G&K!)

If you ever come across this, I highly recommend trying it. Its a perfect blend of French herbs that will drive your senses wild. It great for roasts but loads of other recipes too (stew!). From now on, this is a staple in my kitchen...

For Real?

I rarely make two separate meals in my home at supper-time. If the kids don't like what I've decided to make...too bad for them. Sometimes it means that Miles will sit at the tale for 30 minutes after we leave before he even tries it, only to find out....he loves it! I don't make them clean their plates, but I do make them try everything on it. And my mom told me that she read somewhere that kids need to be exposed to foods at least 8 times before they will recognize it as one they approve of.

I digress... The point is, I rarely make separate meals for my kids. But tonight I did. I was planning on trying a new recipe for 'Extra-Green Soup' and knew it would be a hard sell for the kids. So they got left-over roast, potatoes and carrots from last night*. And wouldn't you know, neither of them wanted anything to do with them. But the Extra-Green Soup was a big hit. Maybe the color made it look like something from a story book, but whatever the reason, my kids devoured it. Both of them! So just in case this soup is some sort of hidden phenomenon, here is the recipe for Extra-Green Soup from 100 of my Favourite Easy Recipes by Chef Michael Smith (with a couple minor changes to suit our family).

In a glug of olive oil, saute an onion, 2 garlic cloves (the recipe calls for 4) and the whites of 4 green onions (Sliced. Keep the green parts.).

Once tender, pour in 1 cup of half & half (the recipe called for Whipped Cream) and 3 cups of vegetable broth.  Bring to a simmer.

Add 1 bunch of broccoli florets, 1 cup of frozen peas & 1 tsp of thyme. Simmer until tender (pictured below).

Stir in 6 ounces of spinach, the tops of the green onions & a small bunch of fresh parsley (stems discarded) (I love/hate parsley. So I only used about 8 pieces. But a small fresh bunch is only $0.49 and worth it for all the flavour the fresh herbs provide.). Cook for another minute or so. Season with salt & pepper.

Run through food processor or puree with an immersion blender.

 Enjoy getting Extra-Green mustaches as much as my kids did!

From the book: Green vegetables are some of the healthiest possible foods you can eat, and the darker the green, the better. They're low in calories and fat, high in fibre, and packed with a laundry list of nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and various antioxidants and phytochemicals. A diet rich in green veggies has been proven to reduce the risk of many different cancers, improve vision, and strengthen your bones. Bottom line? Extra-green soup for all!
*See my next post.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Inspiration.

I was lucky enough to get not one, but two new Cookbooks for Christmas.

 Brian bought me a Jamie Oliver book that I have been eye-ing. And my In-Laws got me a Michael Smith book. Needless to say, both of these books played a big part in my meal planning for January.

 1. Greek Stew - It was amazing. I've made this stew before but for some reason this time, it was unreal. Best stew I have ever made.
2. BLT's +A (The A is for avocado)
3. Sweet Potato Chilli (from pg.93 of the Michael Smith book) with Cinnamon Sour Cream
(as illustrated below)  and Chopped Salad (a family fav.)
4. Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes & Glazed Carrots (From Real Simple magazine)
5. Green Soup and Bacon Lentil Salad
6. Home-made Chicken Strips & Split Pea Soup (pg. 132 in my new Jamie Oliver book). The chicken is pretty much for the kids. They love it, so it's a Friday night treat.
7. Quinoa Garden Burgers & Cesar Salad
8. Quinoa Carrot & Lentil Stew with Bread
9. Cauliflower & Broccoli Bake
10. Poor Man Pasta (a family fav) - My moms recipe from her Home Ec class in high school.
11. Pita Pizzas
12. Beef Sliders & Home-made Fries with Spicy Ketchup (pg. 206 of Michael Smith)
I also have on-hand the ingredients to make Red Pepper Soup, Sweet Potato Curry Soup & Italian Wedding Soup for the nights when I just don't feel like cooking. Just because this is the order I make the meals in, doesn't mean we stick to it. Some days I am too tired. And sometimes something is starting to go bad & needs to be used.

There it is. The 1st 1/2 of the month. See any trends? I've blogged about this before, but nothing pains me more than throwing away spoiled food. But nothing is worse than having to eat the same thing you had the other day, just so it doesn't go to waste. So, to make the most of my ingredients, I try to use the thing over & over (but in a different way). This time it was bacon (used 3 times, but I will only buy one pack), sprouts & carrots. I also worked hard to be "light" on the meat this time around. There are 6 meat-less meals, and 2 others that are very light on meat. I love meat, but it's making us fat. And although it is a good source for iron & protein, we get plenty of that from other sources (I am forever grateful that my entire family loves beans, even Miles.). This meal plan is much healthier than the one I created for December.

Last Nights Dinner: Sweet Potato Chilli with
Cinnamon Sour Cream

 I cooked my veggies in a Chilli-infused Olive Oil that Brian ordered for me from Italy a while back. It is good, but I find it hard to use, I don't eat that much spicy food.

 I also don't use Cumin very often. It reminds me of an idiot on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. This woman has two cookbooks published in her name but pronounces Cumin - Come-in. It kills me. She also says Ingrediences instead of Ingredients. Anyway, the cumin and chili powder smelled amazing. And there's a little dried oregano in there as well. So pretty.

Gorgeous colors. It's one of the reasons I whip out my camera when I'm cooking.

With the Cinnamon Sour Cream and some green onions. I added WAY too much cinnamon. It was what was called for, but it was too much for me. I love cinnamon, but it masked some of the Chilli's flavour, so I had to mix in some more plain sour cream. Not a problem for me, sour cream in one of my favourite foods. Condiments? Whatever, I love it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Problem with Resolutions...

The problem with that they must be resolved.
 And its the lack of resolution that leaves me blue when the New Year rolls around. Last year I resolved to read 24 books in 2011. I failed, I read only 14. And that's even less than I read in 2010. That being said, I think the most important thing that became of that resolution was that, despite the busier schedule, I still made time for a hobby I love.
Had my resolution been to Cook More, Keep a Tidy Home, Clean the Basement or Learn to Knit, I would have achieved it. How can I know which goals I will achieve without even setting them?

The reading resolution I set last year was the only one. I look back and wonder why I didn't even consider setting a weight-loss goal? Too hard? Too many failed attempts? Too much pressure? And accountability? Or maybe I was just plain lazy. But why, when I think about my weight so much, did I not resolve to lose weight? I made myself believe that I was alright with being a Fat Girl, when I am not. I am soooo not. I thought it was fine because I am still pretty active... I go for bike rides with my kids, I do work around the yard & take them to the beach (although never in a swimsuit).

This year I put on another 5 lbs. It seems that since I got married, that has been the case. And having been married for 5 years in 2011, that would amount to 25 lbs. 25lbs that bother me of my life, but for some reason never seem to amount to any type of resolution. Could it be as simple as wanting to avoid a resolution clique? Everyone and their dog seems to vow to drop 10 or 20 lbs in January, and by February 14th most are perched on their couch, eating marshmallow hearts while a bi-weekly payment of $22.99 is taken from their account. But what if I made weight-loss my resolution and on February 14th I was 5lbs lighter? What if... It's worth a shot. If I can even un-do the past years accumulation I will be happy. So here it is, the resolution I have been avoiding for the past two years:

In 2012 I will lose weight.
Not just avoid gaining another 5lbs, but also lose some of what I have.

If I am honest, the reading resolution was a scapegoat. It was a way for me to have a goal that I knew (or thought!) I could possibly meet. I like those easily attainable goals, which is why this one scares the bejebus out of me. But there it is, on my blog. Unavoidable now. I guess I might as well try & resolve it. Or at least put-forth the time and effort that I put into reading in 2011. And if I come up short (as I did with the reading) then I am none the worse. I am disappointed that I didn't read 24 books, but not suffering. And in my current body I am suffering, so here goes nothing.

“If you hear a voice within you say 'I can’t run' then by all means run, and that voice will be silenced.”  - Vincent Van Gogh

(Today I replaced the word 'run' with 'climb' and burned a cool 550 calories on the eliptical.)