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.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

BC Chicken & Homemade Chicken Nuggets

This weekend, I thought it would be fun to go to a new store to do our weekly grocery shop. While the grocery shopping experience was a bust with two major meltdowns in the store (yes I was the meanest mom in the world and wouldn't let them buy popsicles on a very cold day), we managed to learn something new in the process that quite honestly blew my mind and I'm sure I'm not alone, so I thought I'd share what I learned.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've been working to reduce additives, chemicals, and sugars - trying to live a more natural & healthy life. It's been a long process of learning to make more from scratch and making healthier choices in the store. I've been slowly changing us over to organic, local, and homegrown/homemade food. 

While we were shopping at Save On Foods, we saw some local chicken farmers called the Chicken Squad working to dispel some myths about the chicken farming industry. I don't know about you, but I've always understood that the meat & poultry available in my local store is full of hormones and steroids and that the chickens are force fed to get really fat. This has influenced my decision to buy mostly organic, thinking it was the healthiest choice for my family. I've been researching and learning about where my food really comes from and discovered that I've been given some misleading information. Did you know that the use of steroids and hormones has been banned in Canada since the 1960's? Really! I had no idea. This discovery has really made me think and I'm reconsidering my choice to not purchase regular chicken from the store.

The Chicken Squad even made a great little movie trailer to help spread the word (check it out at! Lady & Bug thought the action packed trailer was funny, especially the growing chicken! Bug even asked me if we could do that at home (of course I said no!). Instead I managed to calm the popsicle meltdowns with the promise that we would go home with our chicken and make our own Chicken Nuggets.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

4 Chicken Breasts
1 Egg
3 Tbsp Milk
1 Sleeve of Crackers (your favourite of course)
1 Tbsp Flour
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut chicken breasts into 1-2" bit sized pieces.

In a shallow bowl, combine egg and milk. Beat well to mix.

Crunch up crackers using a food processor or a plastic bag and a rolling pin. Add Flour, thyme, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, pepper & salt and mix well. This recipe works best if crackers have been crushed very fine (like cornmeal).

Coat a few chicken pieces at a time in egg mixture and then toss into a bag with the cracker mixture. Twist bag at the top and shake to coat. Place chicken on a baking sheet at least 1/2" apart and repeat until all the chicken has been coated with the cracker mixture. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F. Turn chicken over and bake for 5-10 more minutes until chicken reaches at least 165F internal temperature.

Yum! Lady & Bug (and Daddy Ladybug) approved.

Thanks BC Chicken Farmers for helping our family learn something new and for all your hard work so that we could have some really yummy chicken to make nuggets.


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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Decadent Mushroom Soup

We've been sick and soup is so cozy and comforting. I got tired of chicken noodle, so decided it was time to make a grown up soup.

If you love mushroom soup, this one's for you! Chunky pieces of mushroom and a wonderful decadent broth. It's easy to make, but feels fancy.

Decadent Mushroom Soup

2 Tbsp Butter
8 cups Mushrooms, Sliced (any kind)
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 cup Flour
3 cups Vegetable or Mushroom Stock
1/2 cup White Wine
1 cup Milk or Half & Half

Sour Cream & Parsley for garnish

In a large saucepan or skillet, melt butter. Add sliced mushrooms and onions and cook until they start to brown. Add garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and flour and cook for 1 more minute. Slowly add 2 cups of stock and stir until boiling and thick. Add remaining stock & wine and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. For a thicker soup, remove and blend 1 cup of soup and add back to the soup. Serve hot with cream and parsley.

Happy November!


Monday, 27 October 2014

Eggnog French Toast (Holiday Breakfast)

I found my first container of Eggnog in the store this week (it's mid-October), so I couldn't resist a nice glass of Eggnog and rum before bed. Yum, it just sends me to a happy place instantly. I know...a little early for holiday cheer to be starting...

This morning we were all feeling a little under the weather with the lovely cold that is making it's rounds and when we're sick we get to eat comfort food (this SO doesn't fit into my clean eating program). Lady & Bug love French Toast (but we have to call it square pancakes because they're  4 and crazy) and I thought I'd spice my usual recipe up with some nog - it was yummy, so I'm sharing it!

Eggnog French Toast

4 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Eggnog (or milk for regular French Toast)
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
8 slices Bread
Confectioner's (Icing) Sugar (optional)
Butter (optional)
Maple Syrup (optional)

Combine eggs, eggnog, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl wide enough to fit a piece of bread in the bottom (I use an 8" x 8" casserole dish). 

Preheat a griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Coat each side of the bread with the egg mixture and place on the hot pan to cook until it browns (about 2 minutes per side) then flip.

Serve with a dusting of confectioner's sugar, butter or maple syrup.

A great Christmas morning or New Year's Day breakfast.


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Natural Cough Candies for Kids (Happy Throat Pops)

Cough, cough, cough. Sneeze, drip, drip, drip. Mommy, I have "BOOGERS"!

Ugg. I am tired of the non-stop cold that seems to circulate around my house in the winter, anyone else with me? It starts a few days after school begins and ends a few days after they finish. Kids and germs - yuck. 

I've scoured my local pharmacies many times late at night trying to find something I can give my kids, but there's almost nothing for kids under 6. Seriously, why is it so hard for a company to come up with a safe solution on a stick so our kids have something to soothe a sore throat?

Well nothing commercial seems to exist, so I decided to make my own (plus then I get to make them with ingredients I want my kids to have). 

Happy Throat Pops

4 bags Lemon & Ginger Tea
1 cup Hot Water
2 cups Honey* or Agave (you can also use sugar)
1 Lemon, Juice and grated peel
4 drops Lemon Essential Oils**
candy thermometer (or skills at using the candy test with cold water)
popsicle sticks
Popsicle molds

(*Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age. **Please make sure your essential oils are safe for ingestion, Click here for my recommendation.) 

Brew a strong cup of Lemon & Ginger tea using hot water and 4 tea bags. Let sit for about 15 minutes before beginning to make your pops. In a large pot, add tea, honey, and the juice/grated peel of 1 lemon. Stir until mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and bring mixture to 150C/300F or Hard Crack Stage (this takes a while as the water boils off). Let cool a bit until mixture starts to thicken and stir in 4 drops of Lemon Essential Oils. Pour into oiled (cooking spray works well) candy molds (or make your own with cornstarch or confectioners sugar) and insert sticks. Let cool until fully hardened then remove from molds.

Happy throats, Happy kids, Happy Mom.

It's nice to finally have a natural solution for the cold & flu season.


Turkey Tetrazzini

I still have lots of leftovers from Turkey Day in my freezer so here's my yummy easy alternative to turkey sandwiches or turkey soup.

Turkey Tetrazzini

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Sliced Mushrooms
2 cups Milk
1 cup Herb and Garlic Cream Cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Peas, frozen
4 cups Turkey shredded or chunked (or substitute chicken)
1/2  package of Spaghetti, cooked (about 450g)
2 cups Mozzarella, shredded

In a large saucepan, heat oil and brown onions & garlic. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to get watery. Add milk, cream cheese, parmesan, peas and turkey and cook for 5 minutes until cream cheese is melted, but not boiling. Add cooked spaghetti and toss to combine evenly.

Pour spaghetti mixture into an oven safe dish and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes covered and an additional 10 minutes uncovered. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Perfect way to use up leftover turkey or substitute chicken for an easy family friendly dinner. This recipe freezes well too.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Halloween Sparkle Slime

It was raining cats and dogs today...well not really, but I'm pretty sure the sky was falling. We were not going out for any reason, time to pull out the inner creative mamma and find something fun to do.

Lady & Bug & I decided to make little gifts for their preschool classmates for halloween treat bags instead of sending candy along. If you're 4, what could be better than getting a little container of slime?

So we searched Pinterest and I tried out a bunch of recipes that didn't quite work and we ended up adjusting a few to make the right consistency.

So here's the recipe we used, it made it a bit less stringy and more solid, which was exactly what I was looking for (to keep things a little cleaner)!

Slime Recipe

1 cup Warm Water
1 tsp Borax
1/2 cup Liquid School Glue (we used clear)
1/2 cup Warm Water
Food Colouring
2 separate containers for mixing (I used measuring cups)

In one container, combine 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp Borax, stir well until borax is dissolved.

In another container combine 1/2 cup of warm water and glue. Add any colour and glitter you want to the glue mixture. We made orange with 2 drops of red food colour and 7 drops of yellow along with 1 tsp of glitter and mixed well.

Pour water/borax container into glue/colour/glitter mixture. Stir until the mixture starts to become thick and gloopy.

Pour the extra water out and squeeze the slime a bit until it becomes dry.

Lady wasn't so interested in helping so Bug and I worked on it together.

Oh and look who decided to join in on the fun...

And after an hour of making slime snakes we finally finished our task.

Voila....little containers of orange halloween sparkle slime.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Coconut Soup

Looking for something to do with those Thanksgiving/Halloween Pumpkins?

 I'm a huge fan of Indian food and this lovely soup is a great way to use up pumpkins (or just buy the canned pumpkin if you don't have one handy). 

Creamy Pumpkin Coconut Soup

1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Mango Powder*
1/4 tsp ground Coriander
3 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
2 cups Chunks of Fresh Pumpkin or canned Pumpkin Puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) 
1 cup Coconut Milk 

In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion becomes soft and translucent and starts to brown. Add spices and cook until it starts to become fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add broth and pumpkin puree and bring to a boil (if you are adding fresh pumpkin chunks you can boil them until they are soft). Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Carefully blend hot soup using a hand blender or a stand blender. Serve with coconut milk and fresh cilantro if desired.

I think of Indian Autumn when I eat this soup and how wonderful it must be, but I really don't know what that's like because I've only been there in the absolute blistering heat of July! 


*Mango Powder can be hard to find if you don't have an indian market nearby. It can be omitted if you can't find it. I have also used Epicure's Mango Curry seasoning to make this.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Maple Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a staple at many holiday family dinners. I love their flavour and my favourite way to have them is with extra sweetness and cinnamon, almost like dessert.

Maple Sweet Potatoes

10 cups Sweet Potatoes, diced in bite sized pieces
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Boil sweet potatoes in water for 10-15 minutes until they are tender. Drain and combine with remaining ingredients in a bowl, coating the sweet potatoes. Pour into an oven safe dish and bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes until they start to brown.

A sweet kid (and adult) pleaser at Holiday meals.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Slow Cooker Stuffing

This year I managed to make our entire Thanksgiving Dinner without using my oven! I used Nana Ladybug's electric roaster for the turkey and the stuffing was made in my crock pot. Not only less to do, it turned out to be much faster and left me wondering what I forgot!

Slow Cooker Stuffing

3/4 cup Butter
1 Onion, diced
2 stalks Celery, diced
1 cup Fresh Mushrooms, diced
3/4 tsp Poultry Seasoning
1/2 tsp dried Sage
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1/4 tsp dried Marjoram
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 loaf bread, cubed & dried overnight (about 10 cups of bread cubes)
1 Egg, beaten
3 cups Chicken Stock (add another 1/2 cup if you like your stuffing really moist)

Melt butter in a skillet. Cook onion, celery and mushrooms until onion is translucent and celery is tender. Remove from heat and add seasonings, chicken stock and egg. Stir well. Fill slow cooker with bread cubes and pour vegetable/broth mixture over bread. Toss carefully to combine and cook for 45 minutes on HIGH. Turn down to LOW and cook for an additional 4-6 hours.

Serve with your favourite roast, turkey dinner, or instead of packaged stuffing in casseroles like Creamy Swiss Chicken.

I love turkey day. Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, 10 October 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Oooh, this is my 200th post! I can't believe I made it this far, I'm not normally someone to keep going with things, I hardly ever finish projects, but this has been so fun and so fulfilling for me. Thanks to all my readers for your support in the last 2 & 1/2 years.

It's fall, although you'd never know it  by the thermometer outside (22 C right now!), so I'm in full on autumnal mode. Time for my favourite Autumn soup, Butternut Squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
1 large Onion, diced
4 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Butter
2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Cream or Sour Cream

On a baking sheet, arrange butternut squash, onions and garlic in a single layer and coat with Olive Oil & salt. Roast in a 350 F oven for 10-20 minutes until soft and a little golden coloured.

In a saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add squash, onion, garlic and cinnamon. Cook for 2 minutes until vegetables are coated in cinnamon and butter. Add Chicken stock and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to combine flavours.

Let cool for a few minutes then use a hand blender (carefully) or a standing blender to blend the ingredients. Top with cream or sour cream and extra brown sugar if desired.

Delicious, decadent, and easy. The perfect autumn soup.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Country Dill Pickles

I love dill pickles. LOVE. I used to get a jar in my stocking at Christmas and be absolutely thrilled about it (my parents knew me well!). My love for pickles hasn't changed and I've somehow managed to pass it on to Bug.

So, when I was deciding that this would be the year I tried to preserve all the things we buy from the store in canned form and learn to make yummy things, the very first thing on my list was Dill Pickles.

I've never made pickles before, not even as a kid with my mom, so this was an interesting project. I decided to try 3 different variations and have a taste test to see which were the best. 

After a month to make them delicious, the verdict is in, and this is my favourite of the three!

Country Dill Pickles

Prepare water bath canner, 4 quart jars, lids and rims for canning. If you need instruction on canning basics I use this site to help

Prepare Brine: 
5 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 cups White Vinegar
1/2 cup Pickling Salt

In a large saucepan, bring brine ingredients to a boil and set aside.

Fill Jars:
Cucumbers (as many as you can stuff in 4 jars...depends on the size of the cukes, I got about 10 in each)
8 heads of flowering dill (2 for each jar)
4 tsp Dill Seed (1 tsp for each jar)
16 cloves Garlic (4 for each jar)

In each jar, add fresh dill, dill seed, and garlic to the bottom. Stuff as many cucumbers in each jar as you can and fill jars with hot brine leaving 1/2" headspace at the top. Give the base of each jar a little tap (lightly) to bring any air pockets up to the surface.

Wipe rims of jars and place hot lids, hand tightening rims over the lids and place in prepared water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Let cool for 12 hours and check seals before storing in a cool place.

Yum. I love pickles.

This was surprisingly easy, not sure why I didn't do this earlier! I think I'm going to plant a whole bunch of pickling cukes, dill, and garlic next year so I can make my own dill pickles!


Monday, 6 October 2014

Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is pretty much the best thing in the world when you're feeling sick or sad or just need a little "pick me up". My favourite is super chunky and only takes 15 minutes to make. 

Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3-4 Chicken Breasts, in 1" chunks
1 Onion, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Celery Ribs, thick slices
2 Carrots, peeled & Cut in thick slices
3 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Cup Water
1-2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 1/2 cup Egg Noodles, uncooked

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add chunks of chicken breast and cook until slightly browned. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add Garlic, celery, and carrots and cook for 3 minutes to soften. Add seasoning, chicken stock, and water and bring to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender.

Serve with some yummy Biscuits or Buns for a delicious comforting meal.

I usually make a double batch and freeze in 2-3 serving containers for a quick comfort meal when someone isn't feeling well in the Ladybug house.


Friday, 3 October 2014

Slow Cooker Balsamic Onion Roast

This roast was amazing, I wanted thirds on this one! It was really easy and yummy and SO worth the extra steps at the beginning.

Slow Cooker Balsamic Onion Roast Beef

2 Tbsp Oil (your choice, I use olive)
3-4 lb Beef Roast (your choice of cut)
3 Onions, cut in rings
1 cup Beef Stock 
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar (optional)

Heat oil in a skillet. Brown all sides of Roast, nice and brown to add colour and flavour. Remove from pan and place in slow cooker. Add onion rings to slow cooker. Deglaze hot pan using beef stock. Reduce stock to about 1/2 cup then add balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and brown sugar (optional). Stir until combined and heated. Pour over Beef.
Cook on low for 5-7 hours (depending on desired "doneness" and size).
Remove meat and wrap in foil to let rest while you prepare the sauce. Pour sauce and onions into a skillet and reduce sauce until it thickens (about 5-10 minutes). Pour over meat before serving or serve as "gravy". 

Amazing flavour and a nice change from the traditional roast beef.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Delicious, sweet, and full of wonderful spices, this dish is a great alternative to your regular rainy day comfort food.

Moroccan Chicken Stew

2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
4 Chicken Breasts, large cubes
1 Eggplant, 1" pieces
4 cups Yams or Sweet Potatoes or Butternut Squash or a combination, 1" pieces
4 large Carrots, 1" pieces
2 Onions, diced
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Ginger, fresh grated
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
3/4 cup Dried Apricots, chopped
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
1/2 cup Almonds (any kind)
1 Tbsp Honey (Optional for a sweeter dish)

Freezer Instructions: In a saucepan brown chicken in oil, add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until onions start to brown. Add Chicken mixture to freezer bag and remaining ingredients. Freeze. To use, defrost for 24 hours.

Slow Cooker Instructions: Brown chicken and onions. Pour into a slow cooker and add eggplant, yams, carrots and onion with garlic, ginger, raisins, and apricots. Combine broth, tomato paste, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon and pepper in a bowl and pour over vegetables. Top with almonds and cook for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low. Add cornstarch (mix with a little water) if the sauce is too thin when serving.

If you happen to be lucky enough to own a real tagine, use it instead of the slow cooker - I can only dream!

Serve with couscous, rice, pasta or pita or eat on it's own for a clean meal!

Yum, a little taste of North Africa to brighten up a cool rainy day.


Freezer Meals: Big Cook Fall 2014

If you've been following my blog, you know this is coming when you see a whole bunch of slow cooker & freezer meals pop up! This fall's Big Cook was more of a Big Cook week rather than a day.

Life's been a little busy and I haven't really had a whole day to dedicate to this project, so I made 2 meals each day and tucked them away in the freezer. I found this to be less stressful for me than previous big cooks, so I might try this tactic again next time! The best part was that each day I just had to throw whatever I planned for dinner that night into the crock pot and make 2 extras for the freezer. It took a little longer but the freezer's still full!

I bought a bigger freezer this year, but I still keep the old little one just for freezer meals, works great and helps me keep my frozen foods a little more organized.

Here's my this Big Cook's meals for Fall 2014!

3 of each meal make 30 meals in my little freezer and I should be able to survive for a few months without much cooking.

Ready for a busy fall!

If you're planning your own big cook, check out my previous Big Cook posts and freezer meal ideas on my Freezer Meal page!


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Comfort Beef Stew

It's rainy today...really rainy! I'm happy for the rain after several months of hot, dry weather, but that doesn't mean I don't crave comfort food on these days! 

As you probably know, I'm working on making more food for my family that is homegrown, organic or as homemade as possible. This meal almost fits, a family member raised the beef for us, carrots, potatoes, onions, peas, and garlic came from the garden, and the mushroom soup, tomato sauce and onion soup mix are homemade. 

Whew, all that hard work this summer makes a yummy meal!

Comfort Beef Stew

1 lb Cubed Beef Stew Meat
2 cups Baby Carrots
4 Red Potatoes, large cubes
1 Onion, large cubes
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cans Condensed Mushroom Soup (or make your own)
1 cup Tomato Sauce
1 cup Frozen Peas
1/3 cup Onion Soup Mix (or make your own)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Cornstarch & water (add last 1/2 hour of cooking)

Freezer Instructions: Combine all ingredients except cornstarch in a freezer bag (double bag if you want, it will be pretty full!). Freeze. To use, defrost for 24 hours.

Slow Cooker Instructions: Combine all ingredients except cornstarch in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Add Cornstarch and water (make a paste) for the last half hour of cooking to thicken the gravy. 

Serve with delicious warm biscuits - try my Aged White Cheddar Biscuits for a delicious comfort meal on a cool rainy day!


Saturday, 27 September 2014


Not my usual kind of post today, but It's been a week full of joy and sadness. I can't seem to escape it when this week rolls around every year. 

Lady and Bug celebrated their 4th birthday (happy birthday little ones!) on Sunday,

 and today we remember our first child.

Several friend have been grieving this week too and this is a topic that isn't talked about often. Pregnancy loss. We keep it hidden, our own personal pain.

The pain is real and we need to talk about it, so today I'm going to talk about mine.

I wish it was a topic that we could talk about more - we need support from others who have survived the grief before us and know how to support those around us who have lost.


Today I remember.

Five years ago.
I didn't know how I could go on.
20 weeks and no heartbeat.
This little box. 
Memories of those few months. 
Reminder of a little life. 

I'd let my guard down.
Started to plan. 
The worst words possible, "I'm so sorry, there's no heartbeat." 
Confusion, pain, and deep unexplainable sadness. 
Crushed, beyond anything I could have imagined. 

Then began the waiting.
The worst part.
I just wanted the nightmare to be over.

I don't remember much.
Medication to dull the pain. 
That tiny little body
Every little detail was there. 
My little boy.

Then came the emptiness. 
The pain. 
The anger.

Grieving and waiting.

On his due date, new life again.
"hold on a second, I think I see something else in there" 
"It's TWINS!" 

Excited and scared.
Many weeks of fear.
Many weeks of anticipation.
Two of everything.

Beautiful girl. Beautiful boy.
So tiny and thriving.
Joy. Fear. Joy.
Hello my Chickadees.

Life changed forever.
Busy. Overwhelmed.
Heart healed.
So much love.

5 years later.
Pain is less.
I still remember.
It's never easy.

Happy Birthday little one!


Friday, 26 September 2014

Onion Soup Mix

I seem to go through a lot of onion soup mix in recipes, it's an easy way to bring lots of flavour to a dish. It's one of those things that I have no idea what's in it, so I decided to work on making my own.

Onion Soup Mix

1 cup Dried Onion Flakes
1/2 cup Beef Bouillon Granules (I use low sodium)
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Parsley Flakes
1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

Combine ingredients in a food processor (I use my magic bullet) and pulse a few times to mix and grind the onion flakes smaller (mine are huge!). Use 6 Tbsp to replace 1 package in recipes.

I store mine in a jar to keep it fresh, the humid air here makes the bullion clump together. 

Use the onion soup mix to add flavour to Easy Slow Cooker Roast Beef & Gravy, Meatloaf, or Beef Stew.

Off to make Beef Stew and Aged White Cheddar Biscuits for my hungry little ladybugs!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Slow Cooker Pizza Bake

This is a great meal to have in the freezer for unexpected guests or a quick dinner when you forget to plan ahead. The sauce can be used to make a delicious crockpot meal or an oven baked casserole. Best of all it's pretty much a guaranteed crowd's Pizza on Pasta with Cheese!

Slow Cooker Pizza Bake
Serves 6

1 lb Ground Beef
1 lb Italian Sausage (casings removed)
1 Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Sliced Mushrooms (or a can of sliced mushrooms)
2 cups Tomato Sauce
1 cup Pizza Sauce
1 cup Water
1 Tbsp Oregano
3 cups Mozzarella, shredded
3 cups Cooked Pasta

Brown ground beef and sausage. Add onion, green pepper, garlic and mushrooms and cook until onions become transparent. Add mixture to a slow cooker. In a separate bowl, combine tomato sauce, pizza sauce, water and oregano and pour over meat mixture. Stir well and cook on high for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low. Serve over cooked pasta and top with mozzarella cheese.

This can also be made in the oven: add cooked pasta to the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour meat sauce over noodles and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes (or until cheese starts to brown) at 350F.

This meal freezes really well and perfect for those "what's for dinner" days. Just take out of the freezer and defrost in the microwave or pop freezer bag into a sink of cold water for about an hour before using.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken

Daddy Ladybug is a huge fan of wings made with Frank's Hot Sauce from a certain local joint, so I attempted to make him happy today. They weren't wings and they weren't deep fried, so I'm not sure if I succeeded, but I made a few adjustments to make it a healthier meal. Even in it's non-deepfriedness, it was yummy with a nice little kick and a crunch!

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Wraps

6 Chicken Breasts 
1 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce 
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Butter

1/4 cup Celery, diced small
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
1-2 tsp Blue Cheese, crumbled (optional)
Wraps or Kaiser Buns (your choice)

Place chicken breasts into the base of the slow cooker. Melt butter and mix with hot sauce and chicken stock and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours until chicken shreds easily. Remove chicken from liquid and shred. Add celery, greek yogurt and blue cheese (optional). Serve on a wrap or bun.

If you're a fan of hot sauce, this is delicious and easy!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Chicken Provençale

      As some of you know, I'm working on eating a cleaner diet to go with my fitness challenge, so I've been trying to come up with something that is tasty, healthy, and slow cooker friendly. I'm not sure if this would exactly fit in a 100% "clean eating" plan, but it's pretty close.

      Chicken Provençale
      Serves 6

      12 Chicken Thighs
        1 yellow Pepper
          1 red Pepper
            2 -16 oz cans White Cannellini Beans, drained & rinsed
            1-28 oz can Diced Tomatoes (drained about 1/2 cup of juice out before adding)
            3 Tbsp Fresh Basil, chopped
            1 Tsp Fresh Thyme leaves & a few sprigs for garnish
            2 Tbsp Sugar (optional)
            Salt & Pepper to taste

          Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.

          Delicious and healthy.