Wednesday, December 23, 2015

iced over

Since we have uncharacteristically warm weather for the holidays, I figured we might as well embrace the fact that we will have a green Christmas, and I've added a twist to my holiday desserts to reflect the weather.

Using extra gingerbread cookies, here's the only cold and white stuff we'll see for a while.

Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwich
(makes approximately 6 sandwiches)
This uses a quick gingerbread recipe, which makes the cookies slightly softer in texture, making this cookie more ideal to use as an ice cream sandwich.

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 pkg.  (3.4 oz.) Butterscotch Instant Pudding
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp.  ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp.  ground cinnamon
  • Ice cream, flavour as desired (I used vanilla)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  • Mix the butter, sugar, dry pudding mix and egg in large bowl until well blended. 
  • Mix in the flour, baking soda, ground ginger and cinnamon, beating well after each addition.
  • remaining ingredients. 
  • Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
  • Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness.
  • Cut into desired cookie shapes, preferably all the same size and shape to make sandwiches.
  • Place cookies on baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 min. or until edges are lightly browned. 
  • Cool on baking sheets.
  • Spread desired amount of ice cream between two cookies.

Friday, October 09, 2015

the comfort of thanksgiving

Now that it's officially autumn, relaxed beach visits of the summer are a distant memory as we start to seek the warmth and comfort of the season.  If the beginning of September is a symbolic way to hit the restart button as we dive into new school routines, then October, especially during the Thanksgiving season, is when we start settling into the comfort zone.  It's when we really reflect our home, and our busy world surrounding it.

It's been an interesting time as I've started spend more time offline than online.  The summer was a refreshing start to cleanse any old baggage and start the school year with fresh eyes and settle into a new routine.  The quest to disconnect for most of the summer meant that I could enjoy much more deeply, what is most meaningful in our family.  And I think I like this new focus.

The heart is where the home is, and there is something very comforting about the food made for holidays like Thanksgiving that speaks to my heart.  Certain scents like turkey in the oven that make a house smell like a home, and all the love of family gathered together for this special time.

I generally don't make stuffing as it's on the list of things that my Mom brings for our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  (she makes an excellent rice/sausage/bread stuffing...I need to get that recipe!).
However, on a whim, I decided to make this corn bread stuffing to go with a chicken dish.  It's a hybrid of various dressing recipes, and although I love my Mom's rice stuffing, this is quickly becoming a favourite too (especially since there are many corn bread lovers in this house).

To all my family, friends and Canadian readers...

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!!!

Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread Sausage Stuffing

You can purchase premade cornbread for this recipe.  I made two batches of cornbread from scratch in my cast iron skillet (using this cornbread muffin recipe, here). One batch was used for this recipe and the other one I froze to enjoy at a later date.

  • 1 pan cornbread (8-inch square), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 slices white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 3 dinner loaves...white, pumpernickel and whole grain).
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used honey garlic maple sausage 500 g package or one or two 375g package of breakfast sausages)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, diced medium (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used roasted garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves (1 tsp. dried sage)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken broth (I used turkey broth)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup of dried cranberry (to taste...I used about ¼ cup)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Spread cornbread and bread on two rimmed baking sheets and bake until dry and golden, about 20 minutes. (you an do this ahead of time...just place toasted bread in a sealed ziplock bag for up to 2 days).
  • Meanwhile, in a 10" cast iron skillet, cook sausage over medium until fat is rendered and meat is browned, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add onion, roasted garlic and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in sage and transfer to a large bowl. (I used a stock pot...didn't have large enough bowls!)
  • Add toasted cornbread & bread, eggs, broth, parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to bowl and toss until combined. Let sit 5 minutes, then toss again, this time with the cranberries (if using).
  • Spoon stuffing back into the cast iron skillet. 
  • Bake until top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

happy canada day

the simple five: crowd pleaser

Last year we visited Ottawa during Canada Day, where the nation's capital hosted approximately 10,000+ visitors to celebrate in one location.  With many free events, concerts and museums to see and visit, fighting through an exceptionally large crowd (especially at night during fireworks) can be a daunting task (and at first, slightly overwhelming) especially when you have young children.

As seasoned travellers, we managed to cut through the crowds and enjoy visiting many attractions without melt downs or anxiety (well, at least not too much anxiety!)

The streets of downtown Ottawa on Canada Day.  A sea of red and white!

Here's a few tips to prepare yourself so you can maneuver through the crowds a little easier during the holidays (or any amusement park or popular destination) and make the day with the family more enjoyable.

1)  The early bird gets the worm.
Wake up early.  Yes, it's a holiday and it's your day off, but if at least one parent starts early, the organizing of the day begins, and the family doesn't seem rushed in the morning. Chances are, if everyone wakes up early, you'll beat the breakfast crowd and you'll get to see everything you wanted because you had a head start in the day.

2)  Pack for the day, the night before.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but often while travelling, our normal routines are thrown out the window.  Plan a rough schedule the night before (look at the maps, figure out where you'll eat and set out your clothes).  Pack all the blankets and towels in the backpack ready by the door.  Morning "rush" will be eliminated, and again you can start your day early and seamlessly.

3)  Do the "back nine" first.
I always joke about this with my husband.  He's an avid golfer, so when I tell him this, he knows exactly what I want to do.  When you enter an amusement park, museum or attraction during a time when it's very busy, go to the back of the park or exhibit first, then work your way backwards towards the entrance.  This usually works for us, and sometimes there are moments when we go "upstream" through the crowds, but it gives the children a chance to really observe each exhibit without the chaos.

At the National Gallery of Canada.
With free admission on Canada Day,  this is one of the most popular destinations.
(you can see we missed the crowds here too!)

4)  Figure out your meals in advance, especially on holidays.
If we're travelling, I like breakfast packages that are offered with hotels. The hassle of walking around with hungry kids to find a place to eat, makes breakfast packages a no-brainer for me.  Even if one parent goes and grabs muffins from the local bakery or coffee shop to bring back to the hotel room (getting up early helps here) saves time and aggravation. The same logic goes with dinner...there are many apps where you can book restaurants a few weeks in advance.  Especially on statutory holidays, not all restaurants are open, book quickly or there are long wait lines to get a table.  Plan ahead.

5)  Always bring an extra bag.
I know this is a strange concept that most people think is unnecessary, but I can never have enough bags and I like to carry those foldable travel totes that can fold into your purse or backpack. Whether you've made unforeseeable purchases when you've stumbled upon a vendor or market or need a makeshift picnic bench cover if you're stopping to grab a quick bite, foldable travel totes are really handy and take up very little space.  It has saved me countless of trips back to the hotel to "drop stuff off".

Most importantly, go with the flow and enjoy the day. It is almost a guarantee that travel schedules don't always go according to plan, but if you're prepared, it's easier to be flexible and you can make the best of the day.

Happy Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


A few weeks ago, I participated as a panelist to provide my thoughts on brand and digital marketing, and their role in the customer journey in today's retail environment. I was amongst a group of smart, professional women who all fit different demographics (age, marital status and life stage) and came from various backgrounds.

Fitting the "Parent" demographic in our group, the retailers at the conference were keenly interested in my point of view as the primary purchaser, hoping to unlock the mystery of what marketing tactics appeal to me, and get a glimpse of how I maneuver through all the messages and products that we are bombarded with, to make the best (purchasing) decisions for our family. 

I think as a society, we are so bombarded with messages everywhere we turn, that it is even difficult for those who are sending these messages, to decipher.

As I listened to each panelist speak about their experiences in their role as a "consumer",  there was one common theme that seemed to resonate with all of us (a notion not relegated to only females).  We are all seeking BALANCE within the constraints of time. Time can be measured within a work week, trying to complete a project.  Or a school year, trying to accomplish specific academic achievements.  Or just trying to balance all the errands of the day before you tuck your kids into bed.

Listening to everyone's familiar sentiment confirmed what I've been seeking and sharing here on this blog, and made me realize that more than ever, we are seeking answers of simplicity.  To simplify our lives.  

Mobile devices are designed to save us time but as a society, we are quickly discovering that these same devices are the very culprit that distracts us from what we need to do to stay on task. We are constantly distracted with whatever interesting headline appears in our Twitter/Instagram/Facebook scroll.  Let me preface by saying this is not a scientific study (so I'm not 100% sure on it's accuracy), but according to someone (who did the math) on Reddit, we scroll on our devices on average 250km over a two year period. (That's about 125 km a year of strenuous thumb workouts!).  Even if we only do half of this amount of scrolling, that's a monumental amount of time and energy searching for/consuming information.

I think the need to find ways to save time resonated with the retailers but I think there is still disconnect...retailers want to know how to make it faster for me to buy something but often work in a bubble when it comes to customer service and not understanding other factors in that are in our lives that influence and help us make more informed decisions. There was so much to discuss beyond the 45 minutes of stage time we had.  It is a discussion that could be moved further to a wider audience as more and more access to more global brands than we've ever had, sifting through can become increasingly difficult.  As someone who spends most of my time researching on finding the best products for my family as well as myself, trying to balance between economics and time as well as many other factors such as environment, health, and goodwill is a full time task.

As many of my readers know, I have on occasion, written posts on products and services that have worked well with our family.  And earlier this year, I introduced mySimple Five series~ a series focusing on how to simplify a few of our our daily tasks, starting with recipes that are easy to make. With the many recent requests to speak further about what works for our busy household (and inspired by many of those who seek my advice), I will launch a spin off to my blog, starting with my Simple Five  series, showcasing my top five picks of various products, apps, services, how-to's and even companies (charity ones too!) that are SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL and can help balance the need for NOW.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

the simple five: chocolate hazelnut fudge

Fudge is one of those sweet pleasures that taste rich and satisfies a sweet tooth with just a small piece.
The sweetness of fudge often evokes that feeling of homemade treats.  I love visiting countryside bakeries that serve homemade treats. One can often find handmade fudge wrapped in saran wrap with a handwritten price sticker, offered on the counter.

When I make fudge, I like to switch the ingredients, using a variety of flavours (like maple or butterscotch).  However, this chocolate hazelnut recipe is a favourite in our house.


Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge
(makes approximately 12-16 servings).

  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate (you can use baker's chocolate or chocolate chips).
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter (optional, if you prefer a buttery fudge).
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (150ml)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (organic, homemade or Nutella)
  • Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper leaving about an inch hangover on each side.
  • Chop chocolate (or use chips) in a microwave safe bowl with the butter (if using) and the condensed milk.
  • Microwave on high, stirring every minute, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove and stir in vanilla and chocolate hazelnut spread
  • Spread in the lined baking pan.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. 
  • Using the parchment paper overhang, lift the fudge out of the pan, and cut into squares.

Friday, April 10, 2015

the simple five : chocolate toffee crunch

Every year, I seem to miscalculate how much chocolate I should purchase for Easter.  My eyes are larger than my stomach (and wallet), and with other chocolates collected from the Easter Bunny, family and friends, our house can rival Willy Wonka.  I'm not complaining though.  It just gives me a reason to consume use up whatever is in the house.

Here's a quick way to use up some of that overabundance of chocolate.  This recipe is a variation of the "crunch" bars found on the back of those "Baker's chocolate" packages, using ingredients I already have in my cupboards...including all the sweetness left behind by the Easter Bunny.


Chocolate Toffee Crunch
(makes approximately 12 small servings)

  • 35  whole wheat saltine crackers
  • ½ cup  butter
  • ½  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chocolate, chopped in small pieces.  (I used 3/4 cup milk chocolate left over from Easter and ¼ cup white can use chocolate chips).
  • 1 cup of a variety of the "crunchy topping".  (You can use crushed candy, nuts or even dried fruit. I used ¼  cup finely chopped toffee bits like Hershey's Skor Chipits, found in the baking section and 3/4  cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped).
  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  • Place the crackers in single layer on a parchment covered baking sheet.
  • Heat butter and sugar in saucepan on medium-high heat until butter is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring occasionally. 
  • Bring to boil; cook 2 min. (Do not stir.) 
  • Spread onto crackers.
  • Bake for approximately 7 min. or until topping is golden brown. 
  • Immediately sprinkle with the chocolate chips; let stand 5 min. or until melted.  
  • Using a spatula, spread the melted chocolate chips evenly over the crackers.  
  • Top with the white chocolate chips, and swirl onto into the chocolate to make a marble design.
  • While the chocolate is still soft, top with the crunchy stuff...toffee pieces and or peanuts.
  • Cool, then break into pieces.

Friday, March 27, 2015

the simple five: anchovy infused orecchiette with broccoli

Orecchiette is a uniquely disc shaped pasta that originates from Southern Italy.  Once cooked, this pasta creates little "bowls", making it ideal for light sauces, as most of the flavour is retained within the hollows of the pasta.

This recipe is an easy adaptation a traditional Italian dish, but as usual, uses only five ingredients (and easy to find ingredients).  Tuna would work well with this dish, but I chose anchovies to add flavourful depth, as the saltiness of the anchovies are balanced out with the broccoli. Anchovies are an acquired taste, but if you like food that with has a salty "bite" in flavour, this is your dish.


Anchovy Infused Orecchiette with Broccoli 
(makes approximately 4-8 servings)

  • 450g box of orecchiette pasta
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil, chopped (reserve 1 tbsp oil)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tbsp (about ½ of a lemon, juiced)
  • 1 small broccoli, cut into florets
  • Cook the orecchiette according to the package. 
  • Mince/chop the anchovy.  Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil and 1 tbsp of the oil from the anchovies in saute pan/pot. 
  • Add the garlic until the garlic is slightly golden. 
  • Add the anchovies and lemon juice, and cook for 1-2 mins more until the anchovies "dissolve" and become part of the sauce.
  • Toss with the pasta.
  • Add the broccoli and toss with the pasta until the broccoli is bright green.
  • Season with salt, pepper or parmesan (if desired), and serve.

Friday, March 20, 2015

the simple five: grilled gouda and smoked salmon baguette

While we approach the finish line of March Break and school lunches are on the back of my mind (very back), here's a really lovely grilled cheese sandwich geared for adults (although my kids love this too) that slowly gets us back to making sandwiches.

Enjoy the remainder of March Break.

Grilled Gouda and Smoked Salmon Baguette
(Makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 4 slices of french baguette bread
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks and allowed to soften
  • 150g package of smoked salmon
  • 4 oz Gouda, thinly sliced
  • Extra butter for the pan; if needed

  • Heat a large pan or griddle over medium-heat. 
  • Place bread on a clean surface
  • Layer 1/2 of the cheese on one side, and 1/2 of the salmon on the other side
  • Repeat for all the slices of bread.
  • Spread each side of bread with one tablespoon of butter.
  • Place sandwich in the prepared grill and heat on each side for about 3 minutes each, or until the bread has crisped and the cheese has melted.

Friday, March 13, 2015

the simple five: garlic roasted eggplant dip

I usually make this eggplant dip at the spur of the moment (when eggplant is on sale or when it looks so appetizing in the store), and I end up trying to recollect the recipe as I put the eggplant in my grocery cart.  Tahini is the ingredient that I forget the most often.

This recipe is a slight modification on the traditional "Baba Ghanoush", a middle eastern
dish, but I replaced tahini with general pantry staples.  Makes a great vegetarian dip for pita breads, crackers or crudites.  Perfect for healthy snacks over the March Break.

Happy March Break!

Garlic Roasted Eggplant Dip 
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

  • 1 eggplant, large
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seed oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • Place eggplant on baking sheet, and make holes in the skin with a fork. 
  • Take the whole garlic and wrap it in tin foil.
  • Roast both the eggplant and garlic for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. 
  • Remove from oven.
  • With a knife, slice the eggplant down the middle and scoop the contents in a bowl.
  • Place eggplant, lemon juice, sesame oil, and garlic (amount of cloves to taste) in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Transfer eggplant mixture to a medium size mixing bowl, and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

the good from the bad

I recently read an article about a 90 year old widow in China who had sadly lost all of her children and spouses and has lived on her own without any surviving family for the past 30 years. (read the article, here) While planning for her final days, she had a simple request when she was planning her funeral...for people to come to it.  This request was published in her local paper, and a heartwarming response ensued from readers, giving her a glimmer of happiness as they decided to spend some time with her now while she was alive, instead of waiting for her death.  .

It is a lesson I've tried to teach the kids as we go through life on dealing with the ups and downs of it. With trials and tribulations, the obstacles and disappointments that greet us only can make us stronger and help us strive for and appreciate, when the good times come.  Our son recently said that he noticed how light seems to glows brighter when it's dark, like it's showing you the path out of darkness, toward the light. Understanding this metaphor, a light seemed to really shine as he realized that sometimes he might not win a game (or a swim meet) but the lessons he learns when he doesn't win only makes winning later on, much sweeter.

It's a fine art to balance the emotions between the two and to remind ourselves that there are lessons in our mistakes.  Sometimes falling can only make you stronger, and that's where the "good" comes from the "bad".  

Bacon, Spinach and Mushroom Pasta
(makes approximately 4 servings)

This pasta has elements that are both good and "bad" for you...I tried to reduce the amount of the "bad"  (bacon) by using organic, reduced fat bacon.  The spinach provides a good balance of nutrition, and makes this dish "good".

  • 1 cup low sodium, organic bacon, sliced (about 8 slices)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped and removing stems
  • 1 ½  cups 2% milk (or cream if you wish for a creamier sauce)
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • Pepper to taste (I don't add salt to this dish as most of it derives from the bacon and parmesan cheese, so I don't usually add to the sodium content).
  • 450g pasta (penne or linguine works nice here).
  • In a cast iron skillet, sautè the onion & bacon together until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.  Drain the oil/fat. (no butter is necessary in this dish as the oil from the bacon, even when drained, is enough to coat the cast iron skillet to do the job!).
  • In the meantime, cook the pasta according to directions.
  • Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute until the garlic is browned.
  • Add the spinach, and sautè until the spinach is wilted.
  • Add the milk then top with parmesan and simmer, stirring until the sauce is thickened. 
  • Toss with cooked pasta.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

tomorrow is a new year

My brother bought this incredible egg waffle maker from Williams Sonoma, and was eager to test to see if the recipe that came with the product would be similar to the popular Chinese "Eggette" (otherwise known as "egg pops" or  "egg waffles").  With Chinese (Lunar) New Year tomorrow, I thought I'd try this recipe...with a twist.

Using a cake pop maker (a previous Christmas gift he gave to my daughter), I made these little cake "pops" that are reminiscient of the street food, "Hong Kong Egg Waffles" that are sold by street vendors.

Not exactly the same in presentation... these are more round than in the shape of little flat "eggs" of the original version, and the egg waffles in HK are attached to each other to form a waffle.  However, this is the closest that I was able to get without running out to buy yet another kitchen gadget or to the local Chinese market (although I encourage anyone to try these at the market at least once!).  They're soooo good.

Cheers to my family and friends.

Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year!

Hong Kong Egg Waffle Inspired Cake Bites
(Makes 24 bites)
Adapted from: Ginger & Scotch

  • 1 cup (4 oz or 120 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch with 1 tsp. vanilla extract (to replicate custard powder)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. almond extract
  • Melt the butter in a mixing bowl.
  • Stir in almond extract, condensed milk and eggs.
  • Add the sugar, vanilla extract and cornstarch.
  • Stir until mixed.
  • Stir in the baking powder, then the flour (slowly).
  • Spray the cake pop maker with oil.
  • Pour batter into each of the cake pop holes, only filling half way.
  • Close lid and let it bake for approximately 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove and let cool.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the simple five: slow cooker cheese potato soup

Nothing is better than spending a full day outdoors enjoying winter activities, and then being welcomed to a home filled with comforting aromas indicating that dinner is ready and waiting for you. I love using my slow cooker, and this particular recipe is a nice hearty soup, especially if you're feeding a crowd.  Fun to serve in bread bowls, and perfect to feed a large group or family (maybe for Family Day this weekend?)

This recipe makes a large batch but can be halved if you're not consuming this all in one night. Half can be served right away, and the other half placed in a container (once the soup is cooled) and frozen for up to 3 months. This recipe is quite adaptable, and you can replace the green onions with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, dill or shallots.  I've even used left over Garlic Roasted Cauliflower with good results.


Slow Cooker Cheese Potato Soup (for a crowd)
(makes approximately12 servings).

  • 4 cups of stock (chicken, vegetable or beef.... I generally use chicken or vegetable, but have used beef stock when I'm not adding crumbled bacon as a topping).
  • 8-10 russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 stalk green onion, (thinly sliced green and white parts)
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (depending on taste).
  • 2+ cups of milk or heavy cream.
  • Place potatoes in an 8 quart crock pot.  Add stock until it just covers the potatoes, approximately 4 cups or so.
  • Add green onion.
  • Cook on low for about 8 hours or high for 4.
  • Turn slow cooker off.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the contents in the crock pot until it has the consistency of very thick soup (or place contents in batches, in a blender).
  • Add the cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.  (I used about 1 ½ cups of cheese).
  • Add milk or cream until the soup thickness is to your liking (I use about 2 ½ cups of milk...use more if you want a thinner consistency).
Garnish with sour cream, crumbled bacon, chopped green onions, or dill, if desired.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

soaking up the sweet

This past week an expected storm resulted in a snow day.  School was closed and the kids were cheerfully home.  We took this extra day as an opportunity to pack, prepare and finalize any school work before our son was going to embark on a snow adventure for an overnight school trip.   

It's amazing what a year of maturity can bring, as he demonstrated by packing his bags wisely, not just according to the weather, but also in an orderly fashion based on his travel habits.  Daily items in an easy access backpack. Extra snow gear at the bottom of the bag.  Everything placed according to how he's accustomed to travelling. After packing, we spent time chatting while shovelling the driveway, then he took a break and basked in the emerging sunshine.  Work is done!

I guess our family trips have surprisingly taught him lessons beyond cultural and geographical ones.  Although I am often frustrated (like any parent has experienced) when he loses or carelessly forgets his belongings, it seems like he has transformed overnight into a young adult....self aware of his own habits and abilities.  

On the morning of his trip, we woke up early to ensure we were prepared. As I anxiously went through his packing list one more time before we left, he smiled his big warm smile and reassured me that everything was "in the bag" (figuratively speaking).  

He was right (and for a brief moment I realized we were having a parent/child role reversal moment). I stopped micromanaging and let him take charge. It's a lesson to remember at times like these, to stop and see his warm smile and like this bread pudding recipe below, soak up as much of his child-like sweetness for as long as I can. For it will not be long before my young boy will be transformed seemingly overnight again, into an amazing, reassuring, sweet young man. 

Apple Crumble Raisin Bread Pudding
(makes approximately 12 servings)

This recipe combines the traditional tastes of bread pudding combined with the sweet as pie tastes of apple crumble on top.

  • 8 slices of raisin bread, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½  cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, peeled and sliced
For the Crumble topping
  • ½  cup of flour
  • ¼ cup of oats
  • ⅓ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg (to taste)
  • 6 tbsp. butter, cubed.
  • In a small bowl, mix the flour and oats.  Add the sugar and cinnamon. Add the cubed butter, and mix with a pastry cutter or fork until it resembles crumbles (the size of peas).
  • Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, scramble the eggs
  • Add the vanilla and half and half.  Mix well.
  • Add the cubed bread and mix until bread soaks up the egg mixture.
  • Press bread mixture into an 8x8 square pan
  • Layer the sliced apples on top.
  • Sprinkle the crumble topping (recipe below).
  • Cover with aluminum foil.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes more.
Top with ice cream, caramel syrup or enjoy on it's own.

Friday, January 30, 2015

the simple five: easy guacamole

Since Super Bowl is this weekend, many people are preparing "game day" foods (staples such as nachos, chips, chilli...basically anything comforting).  While some of those foods aren't exactly the most healthy, here's an easy and delicious way to add some nutrients to your game day menu.


5 Ingredient Easy Guacamole
(Makes about 3 to 4 cups)

While storing in the refrigerator, a trick to prevent the guacamole from turning brown is to place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture.

  • 5 ripe avocados
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped.
  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • Cut avocados in half, remove seed and and scoop into a bowl.
  • With a fork, mash the avocado, leaving it slightly chunky in texture (if desired).
  • Stir in the juice, garlic, salt and red onion.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with tortilla chips (or as a condiment for game day foods like chilli, nachos or burgers).

Friday, January 23, 2015

the simple five: roasted garlic cauliflower

I've read somewhere in those food magazines that cauliflower is the "new vegetable of the year".  Not sure why it's considered "new", since it's been available at grocery stores longer than kale has.  No matter the reason, I'm embracing this new "trend", using this wonderfully dense vegetable as a great side dish instead of potatoes.  It's quite filling, very nutritious, and easy to make.

What I also like about this dish, besides that it only uses five ingredients, is the fact that you can use the leftovers for soup. I've added this to potato and cheese, or broccoli and cheese soup with wonderful results (can you tell I like cheese in my soups!).


Roasted Garlic Cauliflower
(makes approximately 6 servings)

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 tsp dried thyme (or about 4 sprigs of thyme, if you're using fresh)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼  cup of Parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 425°. 
  • Cut 1 head cauliflower into florets; 
  • Toss on a large rimmed baking sheet (I used my cast iron skillet) with olive oil, thyme, and garlic cloves.
  • Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, about 20 minutes. 
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle the grated parmesan on top of the cauliflower.  Put back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the simple five: five ingredient breakfast sandwich

In order to regulate the salt, sugar and fat intake in our diets, I try to avoid the temptation of convenient drive through/fast food establishments by cooking ahead of time and making use of our freezer. Although it may be convenient to go through the drive through for quick meals (especially in between commutes to work, school, extracurricular activities and social events), with a little planning, this recipe provides a (relatively) healthy and delicious breakfast, ready in minutes and can be taken to go.

I especially like this recipe for early morning commutes.  Usually a large batch of sausage patties are made on a weekend, serving what is needed for that morning, and freezing the remaining for subsequent breakfasts.  It makes the morning rush so much easier.


Five Ingredient Breakfast Sandwich
(makes approximately 8-12 sausage patties)

  • 1 teaspoon each of various spices and herbs to personal taste (I used chopped garlic, ground thyme and sage).
  • 2 pounds organic ground turkey or pork
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Whole wheat english muffins
  • Cheese of choice (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss are good choices).
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix the garlic with the pork.  Add the thyme, sage and maple syrup.  Mix well until very well blended.
  • Using a spoon or your hands, form the meat into patties about 4 inches round.
  • Place as many patties that can fit in a cast iron skillet or glass baking dish.  
  • Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, flipping sides midway, until patties are brown.
  • Toast the english muffins.  
  • Slice the cheese and place with the sausage patties, onto the english muffins (or you can bake eggs in a muffin tin at the same time as the sausage patties).
  • FREEZE FOR LATER:  You can freeze half of the sandwiches that will be consumed at a later date.  Wrap individual sandwiches into paper towels and place in a ziplock bag.  Freeze (good for up to 3 months).  When you want to heat the sandwiches, remove  the number of sandwiches you require and heat in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes, depending on the temperature of your microwave.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Simple Five: Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert traditionally made with cream, egg white and honey, which is then baked in the oven. This version is a simpler, non-bake version than the traditional panna cotta, and is served chilled (similar to a custard or pudding).

I love how flexible this dessert is considering there the basic recipe has only five ingredients. You can add any kind of flavourings to it (vanilla, chocolate, maple syrup) according to taste, and it can be served anytime of the year.  It's a fresh dessert alternative, particularly after heavier meals (or if you want something light after the indulgent holidays). It's easy to make ahead of time and kept in the fridge until it's ready to serve (perfect for dinner parties).


Simple Panna Cotta
(Makes approximately 6 servings)

  • 4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • ⅓  cup sugar
  • 4 cups of half and half cream
  • 1 ¼  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • Pour 2 cups of the cream into the saucepan and sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over top. 
  • Let soften for 5 minutes or until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the gelatin grains look wet (this is called "blooming the gelatin").
  • Warm gently over low heat, whisking frequently for approximately 2 minutes or until the gelatin is dissolved (the cream should not be boiled...remove if you see steam and let it cool down).  
  • Add the sugar into the cream stir until dissolved.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat. 
  • Whisk in the remainder 2 cups of cream, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
  • Pour into small bowls or ramekins and chill for approximately 2 hours. (If you want to un-mold the panna cotta, chill overnight in greased bowls/ramekins).
Serve as is...or topped with any fruit, sauce or or chocolate shavings.