Veggie-Loaded Meatballs

I know, that sounds a little oxymoron-ish, doesn’t it? But trust me when I tell you that these here meatballs are the actual bomb. It’s truly amazing how many veggies you can hide in these suckers, yet kids GOBBLE them up like crazy. Bonus points for all the flavor you can pack into such a small package. I usually make a large batch of these, about 3 dozen, cook them all up and then separate into 2-3 large Ziploc freezer bags. Once they are all frozen, it’s easy to take out what you need for a meal and they make great finger foods for older babies and thermos lunches for bigger kids.

Win/win.

Before I list off the recipe for these bad boys, I feel like I should add a disclaimer that I usually eyeball measurements for them, so the ones given are rough estimates. I will also note that my proven method of getting the mixture together is to use my bare hands and get into there myself. So plan to get messy. I hope you enjoy these as much as my family does.

meatballs

Veggie Loaded Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1/2lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2lb ground turkey (I’ve also used veal or pork)
  • 1 package regular Italian sausage
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup crushed crackers (get creative! I’ve used sour cream and onion flavored ones or pretzel ones.)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 orange pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, grated (I just use a cheese grater)
  • 1/2 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/4 Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meats. Using the tip of a sharp knife, slice open the casing of the sausages and remove the raw meat, placing it into the bowl. I use my hands to knead the meats all together.
  3. Add in all remaining ingredients and once again, use your hands to really combine the ingredients. IMPORTANT: Do not over mix! This shouldn’t be a paste when you are done. You should still be able to see pieces of ground meat.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly, you were just handling raw meat.
  5. Lightly grease two baking sheets with olive oil.
  6. With the mixing bowl on one side, and the baking sheets on the other, begin to form your meatballs. They should be roughly the size of a golf ball, and spread out evenly. Tip: Lightly coat your hands with olive oil before you start rolling the meatballs. This way they will not stick to your hands. I usually keep a small bowl with a bit of olive oil in it off to the side, so I can quickly dip my fingers in and re-lubricate my hands. You will thank me later for this tip, it’s much less messy.
  7. Wash your hands thoroughly, you were just handling raw meat.
  8. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the meatballs. I have been known to top them with mozzarella as well.
  9. Bake on the middle rack for 20-30 minutes, until they are starting to brown on top and are cooked through.
  10. Enjoy!

*If you are planning on freezing some of these, wait until they have cooled completely before packaging them up. To reheat, I usually put them in the microwave for 2 minutes, or you can use the oven.

 

French Onion Soup

No one was more surprised than I was, when the first time I tried French Onion Soup, I fell in love. You see, for the most part, I HATE onions. I cook with them a lot, because they are the base for so many great recipes, and add great flavor. I love chopping them up, I find that kind of prep work therapeutic. But 9 times out of 10, I will ask for no onions in my food, ESPECIALLY raw ones. Gross.

French Onion Soup was one of those things that I kept seeing people make/eat and always wondered about it. Who doesn’t want all that gooey cheesey goodness? But I simply could not wrap my head around eating a soup compromised mostly of onions. It terrified me, and pretty much made me gag on the spot.

Then I spent some time with my Uncle Pete, and he was pretty famous for his French Onion Soup. We were hanging out one afternoon, and he asked if I wanted to help him make some for dinner. We sliced onions until tears were rolling down our faces, we had a glass (or two) of wine, and chatted while he showed me the tricks to making the best FOS. He was adamant and determined that I give it a try and keep a open mind, he knew I would love it.

So we finally came to the beautiful, aromatic, rich, cheesy, final product, and I had to admit, I was dying to try some. It was calling my name, loud and clear. We all sat around the table, and dug in.

How did I do? I had to put the onion fear out of my head, and just get into it. Boy, did I ever. It was instant love, the balance of flavors and comfort of the whole experience solidified my love for FOS. I am completely picky about it, and usually prefer my own method (that Uncle Pete taught me), and find most restaurant versions disappointing. The recipe he taught me is not fancy, it’s not complicated in any way, but there are some key things to making it a good soup.

Since Uncle Pete passed away this fall, I have made this recipe a few times, and each time I feel his presence with me. I hold that day near and dear to my heart, and thank him for forcing me out of my comfort zone. I will continue to make this for my family, and teach my children how to do it as well. Sometimes the most simple things, really are the best.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 med/large cooking onions
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 carton (or 4 cups) of beef broth
  • 2 tbsp liquid beef bullion (I use this one)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp veg oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package Cesar croutons
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese

Directions:

  1. THINLY slice the onions. I mean thin. You can use a mandolin to slice, if that is easier.
  2. In a large pot, over medium heat, add the veg oil and butter, until melted.
  3. Add in all of your onions, reducing the heat to med-low. It looks like a TON of onions, but trust me, they go right down. IMG_5833
  4. Stir the onions occasionally, they should be simmering slightly. The key to this step, and the most important IMO, is to let the onions caramelize over low heat, over an hour or so. You do NOT want to burn them, or rush the caramelizing process.
  5. Add in salt and pepper to season, stirring to mix.
  6. Keep an eye on the onions, they will start to brown and get gooey, and that is where you want them to be.
  7. Add in minced garlic, and give another good stir.
  8. Add in the beef bullion liquid, stirring to incorporate. Allow the onions to cook down a bit more.
  9. Once they are good and cooked down, very soft and caramelized, you are ready to go on. You might think they are too ‘mushy’ now, but trust me, it’s perfect. IMG_5834
  10. Add the beef stock to the pot, scraping around the bottom of the pan to get the good stuff into the mixture.
  11. Cover the pot, and let simmer for an hour or so. IMG_5835
  12. Turn your oven on to ‘Broil’.
  13. Using french onion soup bowls (like these. I found mine at the thrift store for $1!), ladle the soup into the bowl, filling to 3/4 full.
  14. Add in a hand full of croutons, on top of the soup. You want to add a single layer, to cover the top. IMG_5836
  15. Cover the remaining top with the cheese.
  16. Place bowls into the oven, on top of a cookie sheet to catch spills.
  17. Heat until the cheese is all melted and bubbly. Keep an eye on it, because the broiler does a quick job of this.
  18. Remove from oven CAREFULLY, they will be HOT. IMG_5838
  19. Give them some time to cool down, as much as you want to dive in asap, or you will burn your mouth off.

ENJOY!

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Cavendish From The Farm: french fry addict approved

If you know much about me, you probably already know that I have a slight french fry addiction. This is a love that goes back to my toddler years, and has been carried with me well into adulthood and even been passed on to Miss Marley.

I mean, what’s not to love about a great french fry? Crispy, golden, tasty, salty. yum.

So when I was asked to take part in a program with Cavendish Farms, and their From The Farm products, I quickly jumped at it. I was quick in my responce for a few key reasons: I have been a big fan of Cavendish Farms as a company, they have a rich and proud Canadian history and have always stood behind their product 100%. Their dedication to always making a quality, Canadian-made, product, is something that I really cherish. The kicker for me though, is seeing the steps that they have been taking, as a company, to use green and sustainable methods to produce and grow their products.

Another reason I was intrigued to try out this new line, is because I had stopped buying french fries to make at home, because I was always disappointed in the results. I wanted to find something that wasn’t loaded full of preservatives, that would be equally good baked, as they would be fried. One look at the website for the From The Farm line, and I thought we might have a winner. PEI grown potatoes, skin on, 100% pure canola oil and a touch of salt. That’s it, that’s all. Simple, easy, clean!

I went about planning how and when we would test them out, knowing that I couldn’t go wrong with giving them to Marley any time, but wanting to get Jason’s approval as well. Deciding that I could quite literally add the From The Farm straight cut potatoes that I chose to any dish and any meal, I let it ride until it seemed to fit with us.

Cue the cozy, snowy, lazy Sunday afternoon we were having. I took out some chicken breasts, pulled out some fresh Brussels sprouts and went about putting together a fun, easy and nutritious dinner. The actual preparation of the potatoes was quick and easy, approx 20 minutes in the oven, flipping them halfway through, while huffing in the heavenly scent of them baking and stealing one to try out. For done-ness, I swear… Hey, a pregnant woman has to indulge…

Anywho…

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For a house that doesn’t usually make french fries in-home, imagine my toddlers delight when a plate full of them is placed in front of her for supper. Got that mental image? Good, because I totally missed it with my camera. But the exclamations of happiness and surprise were nothing short of adorable and priceless.

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The final verdict? I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and flavor. It’s not easy to come across a home-prepared, baked fry that is both crispy and flavorful. I think Cavendish has nailed it. The skin-on perpetration was also a nice touch adding both extra nutrients and a more rustic feel to the dish. Marley was double-fisting potatoes into her mouth, while Jason tried to steal extras off of my plate. All in all? Success! Bravo Cavendish Farms, your From The Farm line has our seal of approval, we are looking forward to enjoying them regularly in our house.

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Disclosure – I am participating in the From the Farm blog tour by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Cavendish. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Corn Flake Balls

Can you say that 10 times fast? Do I have your attention? These things are AMAZING. I made 3 dozen of them for the day my family photos were done, and the entire batch was GONE before the session was even over. Try them, devour them, thank me later.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 jar (18 oz ounce) peanut butter, crunchy or smooth. (I used crunchy for a extra punch.)
  • 6 cups corn flakes
  • 3 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate.
Directions

  1. Combine sugar and corn syrup in a medium pot, stirring well.
  2. Place over medium heat and stir frequently until the mixture comes to a full boil, and is smooth.
  3. Remove pot from heat and stir in the whole jar of peanut butter (I stuck the jar of peanut butter in the microwave for a minute or so, to make this easier.), mixing until well combined.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add corn flakes and pour peanut butter mixture over the corn flakes.
  5. MIX VERY WELL. Everything should be good and coated evenly.
  6. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
  7. Scoop out and form into 1-2 inch balls, depending on your preference. I used a small ice cream scoop, that I had lightly greased first.
  8. Chop up your chocolate into small pieces, place into a small, heat safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring until desired it is smooth and melted.
  9. Dip a spoon into the melted chocolate, and drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies.
  10. Allow these to cool and set for at least an hour, then go to town, shoving them into your mouth like you are 19 weeks pregnant. *ahem*

Homemade Granola Bars

I have been on a mission lately to cut out as much processed, junky food from our diet as possible. I began to notice how much of it we were eating, purely out of convenience, and I decided enough was enough. I pride myself on my cooking skills, taking time and care to make home cooked meals a few times a week, but even then, the amount of processed food in those recipes is still substantial. Whatever happened to making everything you could from scratch? Most of it isn’t complicated, but we have turned to these things for the sake of saving a few minutes and maybe $0.50 in the long run. In the end, we are ingesting chemicals, and extra junk that our bodies don’t need and the planet doesn’t benefit from. No thanks.

So I have started with the little things; snacks. For Jason and Marley’s lunches, and my own snacking pleasure, I’ve started to seek out home made recipes for the simple things that have become our go-to quick bite to eat. Could I easily make them? Could I make them, and still keep them healthy? We will see!

First thing I tackled is granola bars. Jason will easily go through a box of these in a few days, looking for a pick me up or a quick snack while on the go at work. I dug through Pinterest and Google, looking for recipes that looked good. I finally combined a few I liked and came up with a winner. These bars are super crazy easy, and if you buy your ingredients at a bulk food place, you can also make them cheaply. The beauty of them is that it’s a basic bar recipe, so you can toss in any extras you wish: dried fruit, nuts, protein, candy. Go crazy. I have a feeling I’ll be making these quite often.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp flax seed
  • 3 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup organic honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, flax seed, hemp hearts and peanuts.
  3. Add in honey, and mix thoroughly to combine.
  4. Add in peanut butter, stirring well to get everything moistened and combined.
  5. At this point, you can leave them as is, or add in your other options: chocolate chips, other nuts, dried fruit, seeds, coconut etc. I added in chocolate chips.
  6. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there and work the mixture to get it very well combined! I sometimes add in a little more honey to make it more pliable, you really want everything to sick together, otherwise they will crumble apart.
  7. Line a 8×12 dish with parchment paper, with 2-3 inches of overhang on the ends. Dump in mixture, and press into the dish. I sometimes spread a little more melted peanut butter over the top, just to add some more goodness. You could also drizzle melted chocolate!
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Try not to burn your mouth while scarfing them all up.

Lemon Pound Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting (YUM)

I’ll give you a minute to wrap your head around that delicious title. While I do? I’ll stuff a couple more mouthfuls of this cake into my mouth. Generally speaking, I do not have much of a sweet tooth, I tend to snack on salty snacks instead. Miss Vicki’s Sea Salt and Vinegar chips? YES PLEASE. However, I DO have a minor weakness for lemon cake and anything topped with cream cheese frosting. Whenever I make this frosting, I literally have to make a touch more than I need, because it always finds itself into my mouth before it gets onto any cake or cupcake. Yummy with a capital “Y”.

The following recipe is a ‘doctored’ boxed cake mix, and you can use premade icing if you want to speed things up even more. Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Lemon Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 package lemon cake mix
  • 1 package of lemon instant pudding mix (serves 4 size)
  • 1 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1 cup veggie oil
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Frosting

  • 1 8oz package full fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4cup butter, softened
  • 1cup sifted icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla

Directions:

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a bowl, beat the 4 eggs together.
  3. Add the sour cream and veggie oil and mix until incorporated well.
  4. Add in the pudding mix and warm water, then the cake mix.
  5. Mix well, until smooth.
  6. Pour mixture into a greased, 12 cup bundt pan or loaf pan.
  7. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

  1. In a bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter, until smooth.
  2. Mix in the vanilla, and gradually the icing sugar.
  3. whip until smooth and creamy.
  4. Apply to cake, refrigerating (or eating) the leftovers.

Viola! Awesome, easy, moist, lemon cake. So good for company, to go with coffee or tea and super easy to serve to kids. Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does.

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My (Banana) Muffins Bring All The People To My Yard

By now you should be acquainted with my love of all things food, and if you are not? Perhaps you should click onto my ‘Foodie’ tap up there ^^^.

One of my long time favorite recipes, and one of Marley’s favorite snacks has been banana muffins. A very good family friend taught me this recipe when I was a little girl, and it’s become engrained in my brain since then. I have played around with substituting ingredients (honey instead of sugar etc), and they always turn out fantastic. My latest favorite is to add a small cup of blueberry yogurt to the mixture, not only does it add a blueberry kick, but they come out incredibly moist. I generally double this recipe, and buy a batch of browning bananas for the sole purpose of making these muffins. I keep the uneaten ones in a large Ziploc bag, or Tupperware container on the counter, and you can help yourself any time you want. Marley loves them for breakfast or afternoon snack, and Jason has been known to steal the entire batch to take into work, to which I end up with “Thank you so much, can you email my wife the recipe?” messages.

Yes, my muffins bring all the people to my yard.

Here are a few tips before I give you the recipe: 1.) The bananas must be over ripe. Like BROWN. You can put them in a paper bag over night to brown them faster, but the longer the better. This brings out the really yummy banana flavor. 2.) DO NOT OVER STIR THE MIXTURE. Over mixing will result in a dry muffin, and that is not OK. Mix JUST to combine. 3.) My personal preference on how to eat them: warmed up with a bit of butter or peanut butter on them. You are welcome for that little tidbit. Alrighty, here we go!

Lee-Ann’s Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 OVER-RIPE bananas
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 up melted butter
  • 1 extra large egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1 and a half cups flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 and a half teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and a half teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a medium bowl, peel and roughly mash the over-ripe bananas. Do not over do it, because you do  not want a puree, you still want full pieces of banana in there.
  3. Add the sugar, vanilla and melted butter, combining with a fork. Mix in the beaten egg.
  4. In a separate, large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. You can sift them if you want to be really picky.
  5. Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry. DO NOT OVER MIX. You are just combining the two roughly, not making a cake batter with them!
  6. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, and using a small ice cream scoop, fill each up until it is 3/4 full.
  7. Bake on the middle rack for 18 minutes or until the tops are turning a golden brown.
  8. (Here is a big secret!) TURN OFF THE OVEN. Crack open the oven door to let the heat escape, but do not remove the muffins right away, or they will sink. Remove the muffins from the oven after 5-10 minutes, until most of the heat has escaped.
  9. Set them on the counter to cool, huff the intoxicating scent, and dive face first into them.

Spray muffin tins with PAM – make at 375 for 18 minutes

YUM.

PS Have you liked my Facebook page yet? Please?

PPS I have a giveaway open for my Canadian friends! Win a Skip Hop Zoo Backpack and Zoo Lunchies from Snugglebugz. Enter HERE

Jazzing Up Pre-Made Soup

As I type this, I am literally sitting in my bed with kleenex stuffed up both nostrils and a heating pad against my ear. I’ll give you a second to appreciate how attractive that is…

Anyway, yes, both Marley and I are sick with ear and sinus infections. Don’t even ask  me how that happens in the summer, but it does. I’ve been getting ear infections on a regular basis since I was a youngster, so I am kind of used to it, but it’s pretty brutal to watch your toddler scream in pain at one. Even worse? Sitting in the waiting room at the walk-in clinic as your child sobs and claws at you to “HELP ME MUMMY!”. Rip my heart out, why don’t ya? Fortunately said screaming also gets the attention of the triage nurse, and you are quickly rushed in.

So it’s been a week of a sick toddler, who seems fine (energized even), during the day, but in killer pain during the night, and totally sleepless. Then it happened: I felt that familiar pangs of a ear infection settling in my own head, my head felt like it was poured full of concrete, and then my throat was itchy. Super. If there is anything worse than having a sick toddler, it’s having a sick toddler while you yourself are sick.

Did I mention that Jason has been working super late every night this week? No? Oh, he is.

So one gets creative when put into this position, Marley and I had a PJ party yesterday. I brought the blanket and pillows from her bed down into the living room, loaded up on some new movies, markers and colouring books, and we chilled. I had to figure something out for dinner, and since my sense of taste is pretty much gone at this point and swallowing food sounds just about as fun as digging my eyeball out with a rusty fork, I turned to soup. Pre-made soup, which is something I rarely do since I make it from scratch almost every week. I do try to keep a box of Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup on hand at all times, for cases like this and also because I have found some really great ways to jazz it up. Think outside the box, if you will.

Here is my favorite way to jazz up my boxed Lipton Soup!

You will need:

  • 1 packet of Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 1 cup of frozen veggies (carrots, peas, corn etc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and whisk in soup mix.
  2. Dump in frozen veggies and bring it back to a boil for 4 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and cheese together.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the soup while it is boiling. Stir lightly to separate the egg.
  5. Cook for another minute, remove from heat.
  6. Eat.

Marley will nom this up faster than you can even comprehend, or I can get a decent picture of.

I Have a Cupcake Addiction

No, really. I do, and I am coming forth with it.

You see, the problem really became an isse when this amazing little cupcake store opened up 2 blocks away from me, Cupids Cupcakes. As in they are within walking distance, or if I’m feeling lazier than usual, I could drive there. (yes, I may have done that before, don’t judge me too harshly. You would do it too.)

Ahem

So yah…

Now that it is summer-ish time here, and we are constantly playing at the park, it just makes logical sense to walk the extra block and stuff  my face with cupcakes. That IS smart, right? I feel like I am practically keeping this place in business, as they regularly greet me now, and know Marley by sight. Oh yes, I am passing the addiction on to my little one, the poor innocent soul. It’s practically forced upon me when I walk into the store and see the tiny little Marley-sized cupcakes they also make. I mean, that’s logical as well. I would be the meanest Mummy ever if I denied her the beautiful, yummy, moist, sweet, finger-licking-good cupcakes.

*drool*

So, uh, cheers to cupcakes, and me not gaining 20lbs this summer!

 

How To Get Your Toddler To Eat

If you have a toddler, you know exactly how hard it can be to entice them into finishing a full (never mind nutritious) meal. I’m fairly sure they Egyptians build pyramids faster than the amount of time it takes for the average toddler to make it through a meal. I can say this as a mother to a 2.5 year old who eats relatively well, but lets face it; some days it is a battle to have them eat more than cheerios, goldfish, noodles, cookies and yogurt. Can I get a amen? Amen.

SO.

In a effort to win the seemingly never ending battle to make sure my girly gets the nutrition she needs, and to save my sanity a little, I give in to things like this: