Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes

This deliciously easy side is a staple for family gatherings! 

I can't tell you how many casserole dishes of these I've made in the past couple years, but I know I bring one to every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas gathering, plus the many times I bring it to other family gatherings or other communal meals with friends. I've started making mine in the slow cooker so I can have them without heating the kitchen in the summer or a great way to make more room in the oven for busy holiday meals, but it works great in the oven too! 

Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes (Slow Cooker or Oven)

1/2 cup Butter (melted)
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced or your favourite garlicky seasoning (like Johnny's from Costco...yum)
1 can cCondensed Mushroom Soup
1 cup Sour Cream (substitute Greek Yogurt for some or all)
250ml container of Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese
7 cups Frozen Hashbrowns (one of the smaller sized bags)
2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Corn Flakes

Slow Cooker: I like to brown my onions before tossing them in the slow cooker, but it's not necessary, just adds more flavour to the dish. Combine the melted butter, diced onion, garlic, soup, sour cream, cream cheese together in a saucepan and heat until all the cheese melts and everything mixes together in a gooey sauce. Add Hashbrowns to the slow coker and pour cheesy sauce over. Mix well and cook until potatoes are heated through, about 2-3 hours on high. Top with corn flakes before serving (you can put them under the broiler for a few minutes if you want the top to be golden brown.

Oven: Melt butter in a saucepan, add onions and cook until slightly browned. Add garlic, soup, sour cream, cream cheese together in a sauce pan and heat until all the cheese melts and everything mixes together in a gooey sauce. Mix with hashbrowns and pour into an oven safe dish. Top with corn flakes. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes until sauce starts bubbling and the top is golden brown.

This recipe freezes really well, perfect for a big cook/freezer meal and makes a great alternative to Mashed Potatoes!


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Ravioli Soup

I haven't posted with any regularity since February 2015. Life happened - big things. We had another little Ladybug (I'll introduce Little Bee later), we moved, we changed careers. Life kind of went upside down for a while, but I'm feeling the inspiration and need to return to the things that bring me joy. That and I keep having to unsuccessfully try to remember how I made that recipe that I didn't write down here in my virtual cookbook!

So here's the inspiration that has changed things as I lay awake in the dark well past my bedtime last night, thinking about food...mmm...that would taste really good, I need to make it and write it down! Time to find the camera and blog again! This ravioli soup is inspired by the classic hamburger soup with a little italian pasta twist. A lovely hearty cozy meal, an easy crowd pleaser, and perfect make-ahead/freezer meal for busy people.

Ravioli Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 lb Ground Beef
1 large Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Carrots, diced
1/2 cup Celery, Chopped
4 Cups Beef Broth
4 cups Water (or beef broth if you want more flavour)
28 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1/4 cup Bread, cubed in small pieces (add more if you like it less soupy and more stewy)
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (the good kind, or substitute honey, sugar or another sweetener to taste)
2 tsp Italian Seasoning Mix (or 1 tsp dried Basil, 1/2 tsp dried Oregano, 1/2 tsp dried Thyme)
1/4 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
Fresh Ravioli, Family Sized packaged (I used beef for this recipe)

Brown Beef in a large soup pot. Once brown, add onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until tender. Add in beef broth, water and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil, lower temperature to a simmer. Add in bread, parmesan cheese, maple syrup, seasoning and parsley and let cook for 5 minutes until all the flavours combine.  Just before serving add fresh ravioli to the soup base and cook as long as the package instructs.

This soup is perfect for a make ahead meal or to have in the freezer. If freezing this soup, don't add the ravioli until serving time as it soaks up the liquid and becomes mushy. Better to add fresh ravioli just before serving.

mmm. Perfect make ahead meal with Aged Cheddar Biscuits or Grandma's Dinner Buns!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

20 Fall Slow Cooker/Freezer Meals

Life has been busy and different over here at the Ladybug House! 

Between juggling the demands of a new baby and navigating the change from full-time at home to full-time school for Lady and Bug, while still trying to keep the house running and managing several businesses, I need to get organized and plan meals. 

Here is my fall list of slow cooker freezer meals to make life a little easier!

 Easy Rootbeer Pulled Pork

Enjoy the beautiful fall colours! It's nice to be back sharing my kitchen with you!


Friday, 13 February 2015

Essential Oil Rice Bags

Tomorrow is Love Day!

One of my friends posted a picture of these little rice bags that she made for her kids for Valentine's Day...I thought they were so cute that I had to whip up something and share it with you! They were easy to make and used things I had on hand.

It was a huge hit, Lady said, "awe momma, you're the bestest momma ever". Who gets tired of hearing that!?

Supplies needed: fabric (I used some leftover fabric from their baby blankets but a nice flannel or thick cotton would work well), needle & thread, rice, and essential oils.

I cut 2 matching pieces of fabric into a heart (make any shape you want), using small stitches, sew the "wrong" sides together, leaving about 2 cm to pull the fabric through. Pull the fabric through the opening to reveal the finished heart. 

In a bowl or mason jar, mix rice & 5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil (I used 1 cup of rice for each of my bags and 5 drops of oil). With a funnel, pour the rice into the opening of the bag. Sew up the opening of the bag. 

Freeze for a great alternative to an ice pack for ouchies or heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes for a nice calming warmth for bedtime or sore muscles. 

The essential oil you choose will provide added benefit - promote relaxation with lavender or a calming blend or help with breathing by using eucalyptus or a respiratory blend.  Other great options could include wild orange, peppermint, citrus blend, a balancing blend or a sleep blend. I used Doterra's Serenity for mine because I absolutely love the calming aroma.

This project took me about 10 minutes to make and I hand stitched the hearts. 

My happy children packed them off to bed with them and are sleeping soundly as I write!


Friday, 5 December 2014

Peppermint Cookies

Peppermint cookies are a Christmas classic in our house, the first of the holiday baking and usually several batches later January 1st rolls around and we finally stop stuffing our faces!

My first introduction to these wonderful cookies was the special mommy care-package that would arrive frequently to one of my college roommates - a bucket of beautiful pink, soft, pepperminty cookies that I'm sure were a significant contributing factor to my "freshman 40". They were so good that it was one of the first recipes I sought out when I had my own kitchen and they've stuck with me since. They're a traditional Mennonite cookie, made by many an Oma - usually made with baking ammonia, but I've tried to update the recipe to use baking powder & baking soda instead.

Peppermint Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies

1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
2 cups Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
2 tsp. Peppermint Extract or 2 drops Pure Peppermint Essential Oil
5 & 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch

Long Shredded Sweetened Coconut

Cream the butter. Add sugar and eggs, beat well. Add remaining wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients and add to wet. Refrigerate in plastic wrap for 2 hours - overnight. Roll dough about 1 cm -1/2 inch thick for a soft fluffy cookie, thinner if you like a crisper one. Cut in circles and bake at 375 for 6-7 minutes or until the bottoms start to brown.

Cool on a wire rack then ice with Peppermint Butter Icing. Sprinkle tops with coconut and serve.

These cookies can be adapted to any holiday, just change the colour of the icing or the shape of the cookie. I make mine round, but shapes work well too. These cookies freeze really well (I actually prefer them frozen).

Happy Baking!


Roger's Butter Icing

I don't normally post other people's recipes, but today I couldn't find my usual icing recipe for sugar cookies because they changed the this is just a record for me and for anyone else who likes the Classic Butter Icing from the back of the Rogers Icing Sugar bag in Canada.

1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Icing Sugar*
2 tsp Vanilla**
2 Tbsp Milk
1 cup Icing Sugar
1-2 Tbsp Milk

*for chocolate icing, add 1/3 cup Cocoa Powder with the 1st addition of icing sugar.
**to change the flavour of the icing, replace Vanilla with peppermint, almond, coconut, etc

Combine butter and 2 cups of icing sugar with a mixer. Add vanilla and milk and mix until smooth. Add remaining icing sugar and 1-2 Tbsp of milk to desired consistency. Add food colouring as desired.

Makes enough icing for 2-8" round cakes.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Slow Cooker Pho Ba (Beef Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Pho is my FAVOURITE meal in the whole world - really. If I ever have a chance to go eat out by myself, I alway choose Pho, Indian is a very close second.

Last week I went for a lovely Pho lunch with a friend. She suggested that I post my homemade version, so I dug out the recipe I got from a Hoi An cooking school and made some updates so I could make it from things available here (with some searching), so here you are!

Pho is a labour of love and takes some plan ahead! 

Pho Ba (Beef Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

3 lbs Marrow and Knuckle Soup Bones*
2 Onions, cut in half - leave skin on
1 fresh Ginger Root, about 4-5" long, cut in large pieces
5-6 Star Anise
1-2 Cinnamon Sticks
6 Whole Cloves
2 Whole Cardamom Pods
1-2 large chunks Rock Sugar** (to taste)
2-4 Tbsp Fish Sauce (to taste)
Sriracha or chili paste (optional)
Salt (to taste)

To get a nice clear broth, parboil soup bones. In a large pot, cover soup bones with water, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove bones and rinse with water. 

Add rinsed bones to the base of a large slow cooker and fill with water (about 8-10 cups) and cook on low for 8 hours. Skim off any impurities that float to the top.

While broth is starting to cook in slow cooker, place onion halves & ginger pieces on a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil in oven for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through until all sides are charred black. Remove outer charred skins and smash ginger flat to help release the flavour. Add ginger & onion to broth.

Combine anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom & rock sugar in a cheesecloth square. Tie in a little bundle and add to the stock. Add fish sauce, hot sauce and salt to desired taste.

Once stock has finished cooking, remove bones and seasoning pack. Strain broth through a fine strainer to remove any remaining impurities.

Serve piping hot over bowls filled with your favourite Pho ingredients:
Rice Noodles
Rare Beef (sliced thin will cook in the hot broth)
Bean Sprouts
Thai Basil
Lemon Wedges
Hoisin Sauce
Fish Sauce

This broth recipe freezes well.

Yum. I think I'm going to go make another bowl...all this writing is making me salivate!


* The marrow and tendons in these bones make the specific flavour of pho, regular soup bones don't seem to taste as good. Ask your butcher!
**Rock sugar is hard to find, I found mine at an asian market. You could just add regular sugar to taste instead, but it's not quite the same flavour.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Slow Cooker Herbed Roast Beef

I'm madly trying to use up my stash of local grass fed beef from last year as my new happy beef is expected to be ready really soon. I still have a few more roasts in the freezer, so it was time to make a big hearty meal for my family. Here's a nice roast with an Italian flair. Great with a  big glass of red wine!

Slow Cooker Herbed Roast Beef

6 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1/2 tsp dried Basil
1 tsp Fresh or dried Rosemary (Chopped)
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
2-3 lb Round Roast
1/2 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Beef Broth
1/2 onion, sliced thin

Make 6 incisions in roast on the top with a knife and insert garlic cloves.

In a bowl, combine vinegar, oil, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, pepper and salt in a bowl. Pat on the outside of the roast to coat.

Heat a skillet and sear the outside of the roast on all sides. Remove roast once is is nicely browned and place in a slow cooker.

While the pan is still hot, add onion and cook for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add wine & beef broth and boil for about 5 minutes. Pour over roast.

Cook for 2-4 hours on high depending on desired doneness.

Serve with delicious mashed potatoes!


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cheggnog (Chai Eggnog Latte)

This week we remembered and honoured those who are and have served their country. An emotional day for many especially with the death of 2 soldiers at home in the past few weeks. Although I have never served, many people around me have - both of my grandfathers, several friends from Canada & around the world, and my neighbours (I live near Canadian Armed Forces base) have served their country in peace and in war. 

I am grateful and I remember.

It seems like the day after Remembrance Day I get in the Christmas Spirit! I love Christmas. I start thinking about gifts and decorating. I feel free to get the eggnog rolling and the Christmas tunes pumping (Daddy Ladybug is not so happy about this). Holiday Joy is steaming out of my diffuser making it smell amazing and with the beautiful weather we've had this week the outdoor lights are even up (I promised to make the tree wait a few more weeks).

I thought I'd start the celebrations by sharing one of my favourite cozy curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire drinks. 

I worked at Starbucks last year and at Christmas my co-worker introduced me to my new favourite holiday drink - the Eggnog Chai Latte. I loved it so much I had to make it at home (of course!). So here's my homemade version of their Eggnog Chai Latte (aka cheggnog).

Cheggnog (Chai Eggnog Latte)

Per mug:
1 1/2-2 cups Eggnog
1 oz (2 Tbsp) Vanilla Syrup
1-2 Chai Tea Bags
Nutmeg and Sugar (optional)

For each mug, add vanilla syrup and tea bag(s) to the mug. Heat Eggnog using a steam wand, microwave, or stovetop to desired temperature. Pour in the mug and let sit for 2-3 minutes to allow the chai time to steep.

Sip & enjoy (add a little rum if you want!). 


Friday, 14 November 2014

Nana's Noodle Soup

Lady & Bug ask for Nana's Noodle Soup every time they want something comforting. At first I had no idea what this was and kept making my version of Chicken Noodle Soup, but they were never satisfied, then I happened to have Nana's version one day and I's all about the noodles and the surprising Anise!

Here's my attempt at Nana Ladybug's Noodle Soup, it's probably not the way Nana makes hers, but Lady & Bug are happy with it!

Nana's Noodle Soup

1 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
1 Chicken Breast, cooked & diced very small
1/2 Onion, diced very small
1 clove Garlic, minced
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups Water
4 cups Cooked Spaghetti, Chow Mein, or German Noodles crunched into spoon sized pieces
2 Anise Seed Stars (or 1/2 tsp anise seed)

Heat oil or butter in large saucepan. Add chicken, onion and garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add Chicken stock and water and anise. Bring to a boil (remove anise stars if used). Add pasta, heat through, and serve hot.

So many noodles with a slight anise flavour, so comforting and so yummy.