Apple-Pear-Sauce and Pleasant Memories

Anyone else love fall? There’s something about it that just makes me happy. Spring is delightful, but fall is the season of my heart. I think a lot of this has to do with comfort food, and most of my comfort foods are perfect for the cooler nights and seem to feature fall harvest produce.

Growing up, as far back as I can remember, my Beppe (grandma) has canned for her family. I can never decide whether her green beans are my favourite or her applesauce. They’re both delicious and evoke those warm childhood memories that a bite of comfort food often kindles.

Some of my relatives have taken the initiative to become more self-sufficient in a home-steading type of way and have taken her wisdom and put up jars of produce for their families as well. I think there must be a special kind of satisfaction in that. Alas, other than some small-scale canning I did years ago when the boys were toddlers, I have not been as successful in stockpiling for the winter months. I have been known to freeze my rhubarb, though. It’s a start.

Despite my lack of garden this year, we’ve been blessed with fresh produce. People literally leave portions of their harvest on my desk or outside my office door, and it makes me feel so cared for and appreciated! We’ve enjoyed carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and more recently garlic, pears, and apples. I’m pretty sure food is one of my love languages.

My pile of pears and apples, while valued, weren’t at their perfect prime. A few were good for snacking, but the rest required peeling and some heavy paring to make them suitable for use.

So what’s a girl to do? Dig deep into her happy food memories and whip up a batch of apple-pear-sauce. Not traditional, but with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and dash of brown sugar, it oozes comfort food charm (not to mention, my house smells amazing!)

While not Beppe’s recipe at all (and one day I’ll ask for her applesauce recipe, among others) it still brought a smile to my face, warmth to my belly, and pleasant memories to mind. It’s a perfect tatste of fall and happiness in a bite. In my books, that’s cooking done right!

Meal Plan Monday: April 8th Edition

The week has gone by pretty smoothly and I’m feeling much more human. This translates into a full grocery shop ($$$) and an actual meal plan. Home cooked meals with a little bit of thought will be happening – no excuses.

Except… I have to drag the boys to the mall tonight and bribery helps us all stay sane. They’ve been given the choice of food court dinner as a treat. One will mostly pick KFC and the other will go with Taco Bell. (Why? I don’t know – there are so many better options!)

The rest of the week looks like this:

  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • French Dip Sandwiches
  • Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers (using the leftover beef)
  • Cheddar & Broccoli-stuffed Chicken Breasts
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Soup & Salad (variety to be determined)

As the weather hovers above zero, I’m antsy to use the grill. Unfortunately it needs more maintenance than I’m capable of or knowledgeable about. It’ll be a task added to the honey-do list. As soon as it’s ready, I’ll be throwing on a flatbread, some red peppers, and eagerly waiting for peaches to be in season!

What are your favourite summertime barbecue recipes beyond the burger?

Meal Plan Monday: March 25th Edition

My kids are home and they snack a lot. So much. I do groceries (carefully planned out), put them away, and poof, the food is gone. I suspect some growth spurts are to blame. Youngest son is currently eating melba toast, after he packed away an apple, a greek yogurt, and a Tim Horton’s cookie treat. He’ll demolish a full plate of food at dinner too. My metabolism doesn’t understand this. At. All.

This week’s menu was pre-planned and I kept in budget. That’s hard to do for me…especially with extra people shopping alongside. My secret was using the PC Express shopping option. I paid for convenience, but my cart didn’t contain impulse buys. Score 1 for Lindsey. Left on the list:

  • cashew veggie stir fry
  • breakfast for dinner (Kaleb’s pick)
  • tortellini with pesto, spinach and broccoli
  • corned beef, potatoes, carrots
  • corned beef on rye with tomato jalapeno soup
  • chicken, steamed broccoli, waffle cut carrots, and scalloped potatoes (Justin’s pick)

I also have a package of peameal bacon in the freezer and soup ingredients on hand for backup. Kev suggested I pick up a skillet freezer meal because he knows there will be at least one day that doesn’t go to plan where I’m home later than expected and have to rush out again shortly after dinner – anyone can pull it out and prepare it. It’s a cheaper option than pizza… plus easy to include extra veggies! I appreciate that he doesn’t *need* me to cook all the time and that he recognizes that my time is important too. #teamgoals

What are your quickest healthy meal options for the days you forget to take something from the freezer or don’t find time to prep?

Meal Plan Monday: February 18 Edition

Ignore the fact that it’s Tuesday… I scheduled this post wrong.  No excuses…

We’re not doing anything too exciting this week as far as meals. I am going through one of the spurts where I don’t want to be creative in the kitchen. I want quick and easy and as few complaints as usual. Some of the recipes are new-to-us but still fairly basic.

  • Meatless: rice noodles with veggie stirfry and veggie spring rolls (I’ll shortcut these with a box of frozen PC spring rolls)
  • Green chicken & rice (from The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids – I was given a digital copy to review via NetGalley in exchange for my reviews – hard to review without testing out some recipes!) We’ll serve with steamed mixed veggies
  • Kaleb’s pick – soft tacos or burritos or something similar
  • Justin’s pick – salmon burgers (from the Yum & Yummer cookbook) with cucumber mango salad (these are a holdover from last week that we didn’t get to!)
  • Teriyaki boneless chicken bites, hand cut fries, veggie sticks
  • leftover ingredient day – mashed potatoes or twice baked potatoes with whatever meat and veggies we still have hanging out in the freezer and/or fridge – a pretty basic variation of meat & potatoes

At some point in the week, I’ll also make a pear & cheddar crisp (recipe also from The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids.) We don’t often do dessert, but it’s a nice treat once in a while.

What are your go-to classics or shortcut (but still healthy-ish) meals when you’re just not wanting to put in extra effort?

Meal Plan Monday: February 11 Edition

Meal planning was soooo boring this week. I actually love trying to decide what to feed the family (in advance – not the actual day of. I hate trying to decide the day of.) This week, however, in an effort to stretch the paycheque a bit further (ahem, bathroom reno!) I took stock of everything left in the freezer. We didn’t need to buy any meat… so that’s good, but I don’t think I was as creative as I might usually be.

New cookbooks!

This disappointment may be spurred by the fact that 3 new cookbooks made it into our home over the last few days. I ordered Justin the Kid Chef book off of Amazon, I impulsively bought the Yum & Yummer one at Costco, and found a $2 copy of the Country Living Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook on the clearance rack at HomeSense over the weekend. We have new recipes to explore for days and weeks and months!

Our meal plan this week is leaving an exception for food court food on Tuesday (dentist appointment at the mall right at the dinner hour) and a possible Valentine’s excursion with Justin & Kevin if Kaleb actually makes it to ski club this week. (Praying it won’t be cancelled again!)

Here’s our menu in no particular order:

  • grilled cheese & salad (possibly some broccoli cheddar quinoa bites with these. I had plans to make them yesterday, but plans went awry!)
  • eggs, toast, bacon, and fruit salad (Kaleb’s meal)
  • broccoli cheddar soup, salad, and fresh bread (Justin’s meal)
  • Ribs, hand-cut potato wedges, and veggie sticks (“Kevin’s” meal – I made him pick this one!)
  • Jerk pork quesadillas with salad (I have jerk pork left over from Saturday to use) – our meatless Monday meal will not actually be today
  • Asian salmon burgers (the recipe is the Asian Tuna Burger from the Yum & Yummer cookbook, but Justin read that you can substitute for salmon and decided he wanted to tackle two meals this week! I think we’re on to something!)

We still have some turkey strips and some bacon-wrapped medallions in the freezer if at any point we change our mind… plus, the remains of the 15lb bag of potatoes that doesn’t seem to be getting smaller! Options… so many options.

I ran out of time to do a full grocery shop… and again, am trying to stick to a food budget of sorts. I decided to use PC Express for our shopping. Our local grocery store has some amazing staff picking and packing and it just makes life so much easier in a hurry. Another bonus is that I strictly shopped from my list without the temptation of all the sales, end caps, and clearance racks. I loaded my cart online before bed one evening and picked up the next day at a set time in a designated parking spot with a quick phone call. I opted for no bags and just made sure I had laundry baskets in the trunk for easy unpacking of the cart. Bonus, they gave me a valentine and some chocolates as thanks! (Grocery shopping is always better with a Lindor at the end…)

Meal Plan Monday: February 3rd Edition

How is it February already? Last week it was so cold and I didn’t want to leave the house. Today it’s plus 8°C and it feels absolutely spring like! It makes me want to garden… mmm, rhubarb, lettuce, and zucchini, oh my! (Pretty much the only things I grow with any success… plus the crazy walking onions that do their own thing!)

Yesterday after church we had some brocolli cheddar soup that I had picked up from a local restaurant that I love. (They freeze and sell their soups!) We paired with a fresh cheese loaf from a local bakery. So good! Comfort food…

One of my goals lately has been doing the whole meatless Monday thing… but only at breakfast and dinner. Lunch still tends to involve meat for both kids. Baby steps. My decision has more to do with hiding things like beans in food and getting more veg in without complaints than any real altruistic motives. Whatever works.

Our meal plan this week will look something like this.

  • veggie samosas and mango salad (tonight!)
  • double stuffed turkey taco sweet potaoes and salad
  • frozen pizza and veggie sticks (K’s meal)
  • roulades with garlic mashed potatoes and whatever vegetables are hiding in the crisper
  • chicken wings, bacon poutine, veggie sticks (J’s meal)
  • jerk pork, rice, salad
  • jerk pork quesadillas and veggie soup

Because we’ve been doing so well sticking to the grocery list and the plan lately, I am giving myself leeway to do convenience food if I need to. I have some evening meetings to get to right at the dinner hour and other extra commitments here and there in general. No guilt. A fed family is as high as I’m aiming some days!

Mealplan Monday: January 28th Edition

Last week, I did really well sticking to our mealplan with just one big variation. Success! Our mystery meal last night was a thai chili glazed salmon plated with a colorful baby spinach and red pepper stirfry, and a savoury rice & quinoa mix. The youngest cleared his plate in a quick blink of the eye. The eldest chose to eat leftovers from the night before. {Boring!}

This week I’m experimenting a little and have also requested buy-in from the men. They each chose a meal and will be helping to prepare them. Not all the choices are healthful, so I’ll be trying to bring some veg and colour and balance to our plates or making healthier subs where possible.

Our flavour loaded plan this week includes:

  • Creamy White Bean and Tomato Soup (vegan!)
  • Turkey Taco Salad
  • Homemade Burgers
  • Justin’s Pick – Mac n Cheese Bites with Cucumber and Cauliflower Breadsticks
  • Kaleb’s Pick – Turkey Strips, Handcut Fries and Fresh Veggies
  • Kevin’s Pick: Homemade Pizza and Salad

What’s on your menu board this week? Anything new and exciting? Any standby family faves?

Happy eats!

Comfort Cooking: Potluck Favourites

On occasion, our church will decide to host a potluck luncheon. While sometimes this makes my “ick” radar go off, for the most part, it’s never been a problem. My measure of success? No one’s gone home with food poisoning…

These events always leave me a little stressed, however. I’m usually scheduled for something else at the church and the timing issue leaves me in jitters. I don’t want to have to wake up at 5 a.m. to start cooking a casserole or preparing a slow-cooker dish. My go-to is usually a bunch of frozen meatballs & sauce (dump, toss, and heat!) or a salad.

Once in a while, I want something different, and I go to our family comfort foods (meals that 3 out of 4 agree are tasty) and prepare the day before. I’ll let the kitchen staff worry about heating! For some reason, these comfort foods are always rich and flavourful, and maybe not very healthy. For the potluck today, I made a shepherd’s pie yesterday. I’ve always wondered if it’s truly shepherd’s pie though, as I don’t use carrots & peas but opt for corn, and occasionally something else thrown in the mix.

My shepherd’s pies are never actually the same, which is one of the joys of the dish. Today’s casserole includes a mix of peaches & cream corn with leafy greens on the bottom. The next layer includes a flavourful mix of ground beef sauteed with onions, garlic, and steak spice, then tossed in a gravy of choice. (I cheated and used a packet of peppercorn gravy mix from the grocery store this time.) The final layer is a creamy topping of mashed potatoes – seasoned as you wish. I chose to leave them rustic (i.e. I didn’t bother peeling them) and used my beaters to “mash.” I toss it in the oven to bake when I’m ready to use it as a meal – whether it’s immediately after preparing or sometime in the future.

Other potluck favourites include layered nacho dip (super easy!), crockpot meatballs (as stated), Caesar salad (a classic), slow cooker pulled pork (it always disappears), jerk pork bites (not for the faint of heart), slow cooker scalloped or roasted potatoes, and Italian pasta salad (not a family favourite, but again, easy to make.) If it wasn’t a church potluck (the organizers ban soups and provide desserts themselves), I would consider adding my meatball soup or no-bake cherry cheesecake to the mix.

I know there will be extra bodies in the service today, so I’ve also prepared a second dish. It is a Thai Quinoa salad of sorts – peanutty dressing, lots of veg, and quinoa tossed together. I figure it’s {maybe} healthier than my shepherd’s pie and won’t take space in the church ovens.

I’m basing my efforts off these inspired recipes, but didn’t have cabbage on hand so it’s more of a kitchen sink project – brocolli, carrots, cucumber, pepper, and spinach: Ambitious Kitchen Famous Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad and Cookie & Kate Crunchy Thai Peanut & Quinoa Salad. Great way to empty out the crisper!

What are your family’s comfort foods? What is your go-to potluck dish?