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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [March 19, 2020] - Effective Mar 17, this blog will no longer accept advertising. The reason is very simple. If I like a product, I will promote it without compensation. If I don't like a product, I will have no problem saying so.
  • [March 17, 2020] - A return to blogging! Stay tuned for new tips, resources and all things food related.
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures! [Update: 4ever Recap appears to be out of business.]

Popular Posts

Friday, January 30, 2015

Superbowl Prep Underway

It's that time of year!   The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the NFL, first played on January 15, 1967.  Super Bowl parties have been part of the tradition.  Typically, finger food type snacks like chicken wings and chips with dip are served at these parties.  Super Bowl XLIX will be played on February 1, 2015.  We are hosting our annual Super Bowl party, expecting about 20 guests so preparations are underway.

devil eggs
I have a tentative menu:  deviled eggs, Mexican layered dip, nachos & cheese, loaded tater tots, chili, veggie tray with hummus, chili dogs and pulled pork buns.  There is a bit of overlap in the ingredients which lessens the prep while increasing the versatility.  For example, green onions will be used for the Mexican layered dip, loaded tater tots and the veggie tray.  The chili can be served as is, with nachos, as chili dogs or on the tater tots.  Most of the food prep will be done on the Saturday, using slow cookers on Sunday.  The only cooking on Sunday will be the tater tots.

My husband requested the deviled eggs.  I put out a tray for game day last week and they last all of about two minutes.  They were a huge hit!

Deviled eggs are inexpensive and easy to make.  The only problem with making deviled eggs is peeling.  The fresher the eggs are, the harder they are to peel with the shell pulling off chucks of the egg white.  The reason being, fresh eggs are more acidic than older eggs so the shell sticks.  The good news is you know your eggs were fresh.  The bad news is, the resulting peeled eggs are aesthetically unappealing for deviled eggs.  The easiest way to get perfectly peeled eggs with no sticking is to add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water when cooking the eggs.  Baking soda will reduce the acidity of the eggs so the shell doesn't stick. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Pantry and Freezer Cleaned Out Continues

I'm doing some basic cooking as the pantry and freezer cleaned out continues.  It's basic by choice because we are working on a couple of projects on the house so creativity is out the door.  So far I've used up the rest of the moose meat, made a lovely meatloaf (ground beef) and quick stew in the pressure cooker.  In addition to the meats from the freezer, I've used up a few jars of home canned foods (stewed tomatoes, green beans, whole kernel corn) as well.   While the meals have been basic and easy to prepare, they have been delicious.  There is no real plan of action as to what to use.  It has been more or less I pull a piece of meat from the freezer look around in the pantry to complete the meal.  Tonight made bacon wrapped scallops and spaghetti squash from the freezer, and steamed fresh spinach and potatoes.  Funny story about the bacon ~ I had $50 worth of coupons for Maple Leaf products that had to be used by the end of December 2014.  Since we had away, I hadn't used them so had no choice but to use them all at once when I did my groceries for New Year's Day.  No Frill had Maple Leaf bacon on sale so that's what I bought.  Even after giving the kids a couple of packages, I still have several in the freezer!

Overall, I have made a slight dent in the pantry and freezers.  There's at least a bit of wiggle room now so if I keep up at this pace, both storage areas will be under better control in no time!   The past week's progress has been encouraging.  Even though there is still a lot to be used up, it is quite doable.  We are hosting games night and a Superbowl party so that will help reduce a few things too.  Next week, I plan to get a bit more creative with both the slow cooker and pressure cooker.  It's time to put a bit of fun into the cleaning out process!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Joy of Cooking (2006) Cookbook

Joy of Cooking Cookbook

Cookbooks have always been my favourite gift to give as well.  I've had an interest in food since I was knee high to a grasshopper!  I grew up in small town Canada, population less than 2,000.  There were no fast food restaurants or take-out but there was a variety store with a very small lunch counter.  My Mom, like all the ladies there knew how to cook and can.  I likely borrowed every cookbook our small library had, often begging my Mom to make one of those fancy recipes.  To make a long story short, I loved cookbooks especially my Mom's old Betty Crocker.  I can remember being so excited when I got my first copy of Betty Crocker cookbook, the first Christmas we were married.  It's still my favourite cookbook!

Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it and I can find a suitable cookbook as a gift!  Every bridal shower I have gone to, I have gifted the Joy of Cooking.  It has always been a cookbook I wanted but never bought for myself.  This Christmas, one of our kids gifted me with The Joy of Cooking (2006), 75th Anniversary edition.  There are 4,500 recipes to discover, 500 new recipes and 4,000 classic recipes.  I am so excited!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Creamy Turkey Bake

We are in food crisis mode here!  Our pantry is overflowing, both chest freezers are stuffed and things are falling out of the refrigerator freezers.  Part of the problem stems from us being out of country for three months last year so we are using our pantry stores in the manner we were accustomed to.  My husband wants to extend our time at our vacation home to four months this year so for the foreseeable future, we will not be needing a full year's supply of food at home.  The bottom line is, I need to pare down the pantry and freezers so that means meals from both supplemented with fresh produce and dairy combined with reduced stocking.  I have a plan so we'll see how successful it is.

turkey bake ingredients
It is quite cold here so extra heat from the oven sounded good.  Last night's dinner used the rest of the milk, turkey and last roll of puff pastry from the freezer, a jar of home canned beans and mushroom soup from the pantry, two potatoes and Old Bay Seasoning to make a simple yet tasty casserole.  The bulk of the meal's ingredients came from the freezers and pantry, not bad for a start.  It doesn't seem like a lot but using something from the freezers and pantry to make a meal should make a difference.  It will be important to do this for every dinner so ideally five days a week since we eat out twice a week.  Some meals will use a bit more from both but others less.

assembling the turkey bake
There really isn't a recipe for this casserole.  I used one sheet of the puff pastry and about 2 1/2 c of cooked turkey cut into bite sized pieces, and a can of milk.  I cooked the potatoes in the microwave oven until just tender, then let cool enough to cut into bite sized pieces.  I drained the beans then mixed the turkey, potatoes and beans in a casserole dish.  I mixed the soup, milk and about a teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning in a separate bowl.  I poured the soup mixture over the turkey mixture as pictured then placed the sheet of puff pastry on top.  The puff pastry didn't fully cover the top, leaving about an inch open on each end.  I baked the casserole at 400°F for about 30 minutes until the filling was bubbly and the crust golden brown.

turkey bake
This casserole did not cut into neat, tidy squares.  Cutting through the crust then scooping out with a large spoon worked well.  The yield was 6 generous servings.  The turkey bake topped with the light, flaky crust was rich and creamy, warm and steamy just perfect for a frigid winter dinner.  Overall, I was pleased with the casserole.  It was just a bit higher in sodium than I would like but other than that the nutritional values were good. 

The sodium came from the puff pastry and soup, mainly the soup.  This is a problem with all commercially canned soups, one reason I seldom use them.  However, cream of mushroom soup is a pantry staple I use for quick sauces.  I will have to rethink that plan once I've exhausted my supply.  Thank goodness I only have a couple more cans left!

Nutritional information per serving:  518 cal, 47 g carbs, 17 g fat, 34 g protein, 1,046 mg sodium, 8 g fiber

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Great Lose Weight New Year's Resolution

Here we are a week into 2015 so raise your hands if you, like many made a New Year's resolution to lose weight?  According to University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology losing weight was the number one new year's resolution in 2014.  This resolution dropped to number 3 in 2015, right behind spending more time with family and friends (1) and getting fit (2) according to most sources. Many folks will jump onto the newest fad diet, join gyms, buy exercise equipment and go all out for all of about a month if that before they return to their normal diets and activities.

A year ago today, I was two months into my fitness journey which by default led to weight loss.  I have maintained my weight loss hovering within 0.5 lb of 108 lb.  During my weight loss phase, I heard over and over again that for every 6 lb lost, 5 lb of those are from dietary changes and only 1 lb from exercise.  The rule of thumb is:  dietary change is for weight loss, exercise is for fitness.  I think it is more complex than that because exercise can reduce stress with reduces cortisol so you lose weight, especially fat easier.  You also sleep better with exercise, another factor that is important for weight loss.  However, the primary factor in losing weight is your diet. 

That does not mean you cannot enjoy good food or your food has to be bland.  It doesn't mean you have to give up bread or eat a steady diet of salads.  What worked and continues to work for me, may help you achieve your New Year's resolution.  Here's are a few things that work for me:

  • set goals -  Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) then eat 20% less for weight loss.  Do not eat less than your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the amount of energy expended while at rest.  Females should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories; men should not eat fewer than 1,500 calories.
  • calorie tracking - There are numerous calorie counting apps, websites and software.  It becomes a matter of personal preference.  I like and still use My Fitness Pal (MFP) for tracking calories consumed and burned.  MFP feeds into Health (Apple) in addition to a number of fitness apps that I use.  I'm also testing Lose It! 
  • fitness - You do not need to spend a penny to get fit.  Search for "you are your own gym" for ideas.   I do a lot of walking with a goal of 10,000 steps per day.  I highly recommend a pedometer (under $20) or a fitness tracker.  My current fitness tracker is Misfit Shine ($120).  Many of the fitness apps I use are free with upgrades to low cost, feature enhanced paid versions.  I really like the Runtastic apps, Sworkit, Hot5 and 7M Workout.  I also use fitness videos on YouTube.
  • carbohydrates - A lot of diets put an emphasis on cutting carbs.  Carbs are not the enemy because your body requires a certain amount for fuel.  However, many women find they lose weight quicker on lower carbs.  The default MFP setting is 50% carbs.  I reduced mine to 40% which made a huge difference in my weight loss without me feeling deprived.  Simple sugars can be a problem in that they cause insulin spikes and water retention.  I tend to limit simple sugars.
  • fats - Fats get a bad rap but fats do not make you fat, eating too much makes you fat.  You need fats as part of a healthy diet.  The recommendation is to get 20% to 35% of calories from fat.   I have my fat macro set to 30%.  Fats are calorie dense at 9 cal per gram.  Choose unsaturated fats, minimize saturated fats and avoid trans-fats.
  • protein - Recently there has been a huge emphasis on the importance of protein.  Protein minimizes the loss of lean muscle when losing weight and it keeps you full longer.  I eat protein with every meal and quite often snacks include protein.  I eat a lot of clean protein, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs and cheese.  I continue to use protein powder but gave up on commercially made protein bars except when traveling.  Many commercially made protein bars are too high in carbs so I make my own.
  • artificial sweeteners - I don't use artificial sweeteners but there is new research that indicate they can actually prevent you from losing weight.  I use stevia if I want to reduce the calories in something sweet.  In general though, portion control works well for me for sweets.
  • diet foods - In general, I avoid anything labeled as 'diet' like the plague.  These foods tend to be highly processed, over priced and poor nutritional value.  
  • whole foods - This is nothing new for me but I really push whole foods especially fruits and vegetables.  
  • grazing - I am a grazer, from about 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM seldom eating before or after that time period.   This is my natural eating pattern which actually falls under intermittent fasting, a successful dieting method for some. 
  • the apple test - Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?  If the answer is no, then I'm really not hungry.  That means I'm reaching for a snack for any other reason besides hunger. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Smoked Rump Roast

I have been wanting a smoker for quite some time so in 2013, I borrowed a friend's small electric True North smoker for The Great Smoker Experiment Part 1 and Part 2.  I prepared a batch of sliced beef for jerky.  Half was prepared in my traditional method using my dehydrator and the other half prepared in the smoker.  I liked the results so set out to find a suitable smoker. While another friend is getting excellent results with a variety of smoked meats especially summer sausage using the True North smoker, I decided I did not want an electric smoker.  The price of electricity in Ontario is the highest in Canada and threatening to go higher plus electricity is not the most efficient way to cook anything to begin with.

dyna glo smoker assembled
When we were at Sam's Club in January of 2014, I spotted a Dyna-Glo smoker that I thought would work nicely.  We went back in lat February and they no longer had it so I went online to and found the same smoker with free shipping to my door!  The smoker arrived then sat in the box on the lower level while we spent the month of May in Florida and Aruba.  Finally, back home and settled, my husband put the smoker together for me.

This propane gas smoker has a 15,000 BTU burner, heavy duty enameled steel wood chip box, heavy duty steel water bowl, 4 adjustable smoking racks and electronic ignition.  The temperature can easily be adjusted.  There is a thermometer making it easy to keep an eye on the smoking temperature. 

The smoker was assembled on our old deck.  Two days after I seasoned and experimented with this smoker for the first time, my husband moved it to the garage where it sat during the tear down of the existing deck and construction of the new deck.  The main portion of the new deck is 20' x 30, the attached lower pool deck is still being worked on as are portions of the main deck.  It has been a huge project!

prepared rump roast
Smoking adds a lovely element to foods.  The flavour is very much dependent on the kind of wood chips used.  There is a wide range of smoking chips available wherever grilling accessories are sold.  I used sugar maple chips for the rump roast experiment.

I rubbed a 3.6 lb rump roast in garlic pepper.  It was an easy prep, simply making sure the roast was well covered.  As I get better at smoking, I will be experimenting with rubs but first things first.  My goal with this roast was putting the smoker through its paces and getting an edible result.  Don't laugh!  Sometimes, a goal of edible is all it takes to get a bit creative in the kitchen.

rump roast in the smokerI seasoned the smoker then it was ready for its maiden run.  Smoking differs from other methods of cooking in that you really do need to keep an eye on it.  There's no running to the store or leaving the smoker unattended for any length of time.  It is important that the water bowl does not run dry.   If it does, the meat will be dried out instead of moist and tender.  It is also important to keep the smoker at the proper temperature.  Too high of a temperature will result in dry, over cooked meat while too low of a temperature will allow pathogens to multiply that can result in food borne illness. 

Once the smoking begins, the smoking chamber is left closed tightly.  The lower chamber houses the burner and water bowl.  It can be opened briefly to add water if necessary.  While it is called a water bowl, you can actually use other liquids like stock to impart more flavour to the food being smoked.

smoked rump roast
Larger chunks of meats are smoked according to weight.  I smoked this rump roast at 225°F for 5 hours 24 min (1.5 hr/lb).  I did run the water bowl dry briefly but caught it before any excessive drying occurred.  I simply added more water and noted it in my kitchen journal as a lesson learned.

The resulting smoked roast had developed a lovely, hard crust with a nice smokey aroma.  I thought the crust was a bit dark but checking online saw that it was fine.  I wanted nice slices for lunch meat.  Once the smoked rump roast was cooled, it was ready for slicing.  Cooled meats always slice nicer than warm meats. 

slicing the smoked rump roast
I bought a Hometrends Food Slicer on sale at Walmart while waiting for the smoker to arrive.  I have also wanted a food slicer for homemade lunch meats for quite some time.  This food slicer is premium coated steel and die cast aluminum housing featuring a heavy-duty 130 watt motor, adjustable and removable 7.5” (19 cm) hardened blade, adjustable thickness control knob, removable carriage system for easy cleaning and suction feet for stable, non-slip operation.

I adjusted the thickness to quite thin then placed the smoked rump roast on the food slicer bed.  The slicer made quick work of slicing the meat into thin slice of uniform thickness perfect for lunch meat.  My only complaint is the sliced meat falls onto the counter at the back of the slicer so it is necessary for the counter to be squeaky clean before using the slicer then cleaned again after but other than that, I'm pleased with the results.

sliced rump roast
The true test of a successful smoking is the pinkish smoke ring.  I actually had a smoke ring!  The next test of course is the taste.  I was pleasantly surprised at the flavour.  My husband declared the slice smoked roast delicious as he pile his ciabatta bun!  I packaged the rest of the slices into Ziploc bags then popped them into the freezer.  The packages were for lunch meat while camping with the kids and grandkids the following week.

The smoke rump roast slices were a hit while camping.  I'm looking forward to doing a lot more experimenting with smoking.  Smoking a roast for lunch meat is a definite keeper!  I'll experiment with rubs but really the garlic pepper gave good results.  I will be careful to not let the water bowl run dry next time but other than that I am very pleased with the results. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Chocolate Delight Yogurt

In November of 2013, I embarked on my ever evolving fitness journey.  One of the first things I learned was the importance of protein.  It is important to have clean protein at every meal but no more than 30 g per meal as your body cannot utilize more than that at one time.  Yogurt is typically recommended as a good source of protein especially Greek yogurt that double the protein per serving as regular yogurt.  The problem with commercially prepared yogurts is the added sugar regardless of the type of yogurt you buy.  The work around is to buy plain yogurt, plain Greek yogurt or make your own yogurt.  I love plain yogurt but aside of substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, my husband insists on his flavoured.  He also doesn't like the texture of Greek yogurt.  Over coming both the flavour and texture of plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt usually involves adding fruit and/or a sweetener like honey.  The problem is this increases the carbs which may not be desirable for many reasons.  I came up with a tasty alternative.

chocolate delight
I used powdered peanut butter (PB2) and cocoa powder to whip up a delicious flavoured yogurt that is sure to please fussy eaters.  Chocolate is a natural with peanut butter and the texture is more like pudding.  My husband actually liked it!  I'm sure it will be kid approved as well. 

Chocolate Delight Yogurt
100 g (1/2 c), 0% Greek Yogurt, Plain
1 tbsp (6 g) , Powdered Peanut Butter
1 tsp (5 g), Premium Cocoa
1/2 scoop Body Fortress 100% Premium Whey Protein - Vanilla Creme [optional]

Measure ingredients into a bowl.  Mix well.  Serve.

This is a very basic recipe that you can easily tweak to your liking.  If you are counting calories, use the powdered peanut butter.  If not, you can use a tbsp of regular peanut butter.  If you are following a low sodium diet, then substitute peanut flour for the powdered peanut butter.  If you want a higher protein serving use protein powder.  Mine came in at 25 g protein per serving but that will vary depending on the brand of protein powder used.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

I'm a Foodie and Proud of It!

Apparently there is a call to ban the word foodie.  Foodie by definition is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages [1]. The term began in the 1980s giving rise to the Food Network, celebrity chefs, and specialty cookbooks and periodicals.  The interest in food as a hobby has been instrumental in the rise of specialized kitchenware stores and more importantly the food blog.  You seriously cannot be a food blogger without enjoying food!  Despite criticism of the word being childlike, it does no harm and has brought an undeniable awareness to food.  The word aptly describes how many of us feel about food.  As a result of the influence of foodies, folks everywhere are discovering and experimenting with new foods.  They are getting to know local food producers.  They are demanding greater food safety, organic foods, improved labeling, and putting pressure on the food industry to remove harmful food additives.   They have brought social awareness to how our food is produced, how our growers are compensated, improved how animals are treated and how our food production affects our environment.  Foodies are passing their love for food to their children as well.  In short the foodie movement has been nothing but positive.  To those wanting to ban the use of the word foodie, I say hogwash!  I'm a foodie and proud of it!

1. Foodie definition

Friday, January 02, 2015

A Brand New Year for Culinary Pleasure

Dear Readers,

Thanks so much for baring with me during 2014.  It was very much a year of change that oddly affected my desire to blog.  It wasn't like I didn't have anything to blog about it was more that my focus was elsewhere.  I've seen so many food bloggers go down the same path but after much soul searching concluded that this blog is a fundamental part of me.  It is written for my enjoyment and the fact that others enjoy it, is reason enough to keep writing.  So, here I am ready to start another season of sharing our culinary adventures with you.  I have a lot of ideas but in the meantime it is back to the kitchen...

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year! Welcome 2015

Wishing each and everyone of you a very Happy New Year!  Welcome 2015...