Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giveaway! Muffin Tin Lunch Tools

3 year old's lunch today

Wow, I was overwhelmed at how well the Muffin Tin Lunch post went over yesterday. I certainly can't take credit for the idea, but I was happy to pass it on. I know how frustrating meals can be!

By far the most common question I got asked was "Where did you get your cutters?". Well, I got 1 set from Pampered Chef (seasonal cutters, a leaf, pumpkin, heart, shamrock, apple, jalapeno pepper). They were part of their Entertaining line a while back, cutters for fancy cheeses, but I don't think they make them anymore, ask your local Pampered Chef rep though, I might be crazy.

The other set (farm animals) I got at ThinkKitchen at Ottawa's Trainyards. But I'm sure any kitchen or baking supply store (Like Michaels) would have a set.

But as luck would have it, I took a run to the Bulk Barn (they have a great selection, and you can buy individual cutters) today and picked up a set for my lucky readers! I've also thrown in a few other helpful Muffin Tin Lunch accessories to help making lunch fun and easy!

The Giveaway!

What you get:
2 red silicone muffin tins, 1 apple shaped cutting board, an apple corer, a melon baller and 6 micro cutters in various shapes!

The Cutters
1. Piggy, 2. Heart, 3. Teddy Bear, 4. Airplane, 5. Hippo, 6. Triceratops

How you win:

1. Leave a comment on this post about what you would put in the 6 muffin compartments for your kids... or yourself.

Additional entries

2. If you RT'd yesterday's blog post on Twitter you're already entered!
3. If you haven't, RT the Muffin Tin Lunch post on Twitter or this Giveaway and you get an entry.

The Rules
1.) Open to Canadian and continental USA residents only.
2.) One winner will be chosen on 05/02/10 by using
3.) Make sure that I have a way to contact you when you leave a comment; either through your blog or an email.
4.) I will contact the winner via email or commenting on the winner's site.
6.) You have until 05/04/10 to claim the giveaway, or I will have to choose another winner.

This giveaway is brought to you by me. All items were purchased from The Bargain Shop, Canadian Tire & the Bulk Barn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Muffin Tin Lunch!

When I first got on Twitter I followed lots of different kinds of people, 1. cause I had no idea what I was doing, and 2. cause I loved seeing all the different points of views and the variety of tweets. (I still follow lots of different kinds of people by the way!) One fine day, someone posted a picture of their Bento lunch and I fell in love with Bento! The artistry and creativity that people had with food just blew my mind.

I started researching designs and looking for Bento items on eBay (there are thousands!). I had visions of creating these elaborate designs for my oldest's school lunches, you know, when she was old enough to go to school, and her lunch being the envy of the class. Then I woke up.

I haven't the time nor the energy to spend an hour sculpting rice into bunny shapes, and tomatoes into roses, especially with another little on on the way (I gets no sleep yo). But the idea of the variety, fun shapes and all the colours stuck with me.

As I was clicking around in my Bento haze I happened upon a blog post about using muffin tins to make kids lunches. It was genius! I loved all the little compartments, most kids don't like their food to touch anyways so it was a perfect vehicle for kids' meals.

A Typical Muffin Tin Lunch for My 3 Year Old

1. Peanut Butter Star Sandwiches, 2. Grape halves, 3. Pretzels, 4. Celery Smiles, 5. Peach Animals, 6. Cucumber Flowers

The muffin tin forced me to come up with a variety of different foods to fill all the compartments. I had fallen into a rut lunch-wise and I was excited to try to come up with fun things to include in her tin. I raided the fridge and pantry looking for colour and lots of different textures. I pulled out cookie cutters and got to work.

Kids will eat almost anything if you cut it into fun shapes.

I couldn't get my big girl to eat sandwiches until I started turning them into stars...

... and fruit? She wouldn't move past bananas until little peach bunnies started showing up in her tin!

And who doesn't love flowery cucumbers? Now she gets excited to see what's in all her little tin circles when she sits down to lunch.

Another satisfied customer!

Muffin Tins: Not just for kids?

As I was preparing my daughter's favourite muffin tin lunch one day, I thought to myself, this could work for me! I had been trying to lose my baby weight and as I looked at the 6 muffin compartments I saw an opportunity for variety and portion control! I lost 10 lbs in a month once I started using the muffin tin to control my lunch time feast.

A typical muffin tin for Mommy: 1. Dessert! Fat Free Jell-O with light Cool Whip, 2. Celery with light Cheez Whiz, 3. Raspberries, 4. Fat Free Ham & Light Cheese skewers, 5. Salsa, 6. Multigrain Tostitos

You're only limited by your imagination. Include fruits, vegetables, crackers, sandwiches, nuts, mini muffins, deli meats, cooked chicken, jell-o, pudding, yogurt, dips, cheese, mini bagel pizas, popcorn... anything your child likes, and maybe a few they don't like cleverly disguised as dinosaurs or piggies and see if they're gobbled up by a happy kid.

I'm about to start trying the muffin tin with my youngest, but she's still in the "turning her plate upside down and throwing everything on the floor" stage so I might give it a month or two, those fruit animals take time, I'd hate to see them fly across the kitchen!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chocolate Toffee Coconut Squares

I'm not a huge fan of coconut. I'll have a small slice of coconut cream pie once or twice a year but other than I tend to avoid it. Until now. The past week I've been CRAVING coconut. I've actually toyed with the idea of buying a coconut and just going to town on that sucker while I watch TV after the kids go to bed.

Being too lazy to venture out to the store last night, I raided the pantry to satisfy my crazy pregnancy craving. I found 2 cups of shredded coconut and went hunting for a recipe. I found a recipe on that was a layered bar with a graham crust, creamy coconut filling and a chocolate coating. In getting the ingredients out of the cupboard I found an open, half-empty bag of toffee pieces and decided to use them up too.

Can I just say, even if you're not a coconut fan, these are a must try! The coconut/toffee/chocolate combination is just beyond yummy. I had a total foodgasm when I tried them! Just look at that filling... heaven!

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Chocolate Toffee Coconut Squares

2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. flaked coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. toffee pieces
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted


1. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter and press into a 9 x13 pan. I actually used a 9 x 9 cause I didn't check the recipe. They turned out great, just thicker!
2. Bake the crumb crust for 15 minutes in a preheated 350˚F oven.
3. Combine the condensed milk, coconut and vanilla and spread mixture over the cooked graham crust.
4. Bake for another 15 minutes.
5. In the last 2 minutes of cooking time sprinkle the top with the toffee pieces and the chocolate chips.
6. When you remove the squares from the oven use a spatula to spread out the melted chocolate chips.
7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then put in the fridge for 20 minutes or until set.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Benefits of Meal Planning

A week or so ago on twitter some of us were having a discussion about how much we spend on groceries in a month. This conversation somehow morphed into meal planning and @somekindofmom gave me the idea to do a blog post on meal planning. (thank you by the way!)

I am an avid meal planner. If I didn't plan out our weekly meals I would never have the complete ingredients for anything and every night at 5pm I'd be standing in the kitchen like a deer caught in the headlights wondering what to make. And I'm a stay-at-home mom, I can't even imagine what it's like for working moms to get home exhausted from a long day's work, with kids that are hungry and cranky. Not having a plan must make that time very stressful.

I thought I'd share with you all some tricks and tips I've come up with on meal planning and how it can help you become more organized and less stressed out about what to for dinner every night!

The Benefits
Having your week's meals planned out makes shopping a lot easier, and cheaper. If you have a list you're less tempted to buy stuff you don't need. It also keeps you from forgetting items and buying duplicates of things you might already have in your pantry. I display our meal plan on the fridge, which also cuts out the usual "what's for dinner?" question I would otherwise hear 50 times in a week.

Pick a shopping day
I plan my week on Friday mornings cause that's the day the weekly sales start at my grocery store. It's also one of the mornings my 3 year old is in preschool so I only have one kid to drag through the store. I try to get 90% of the items I'll need for the week, but I usually have to make one pit stop at the store later in the week to get items we've run out of, like bananas as I don't like to buy 20 at a time cause they'll be brown before they'd all be eaten (but our family does eat about 20/week!). I'll also pick up items I want to be as fresh as possible when we eat it, like kaisers for our Wednesday night burgers.

Get organized
First, I made a list of all the meals we enjoy, including breakfast foods (more on that to come), that I refer to when making my weekly meal plan. I have them organized by categories like Poultry, Beef, Pasta, Pork, Fish and Miscellaneous. I also roughly assigned food categories to the days of the week, like every Tuesday I plan a pasta dish, and every Friday is "fun meal" (pizza, tacos, etc...) night. Doing this helps me make sure we don't have too much overlap from the different categories. It also helps me ensure that we make a rotation through all our favourites and we're not eating the same 10 dishes over and over.

The next thing I do is take a quick inventory of the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what I have on hand that I can use for that week's meals.

Plan your week
A lot of people just plan their dinners, and if that's all that you need help with, then by all means do that. I plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? I can't tell you how many times we've woken up on the weekend with a hankering for pancakes, or bacon and eggs only to discover we're out of maple syrup or bread. Planning out breakfast also helps to keep my kids from having toast with Nutella 7 days a week (which they would have NO problem with, but I do!). When I wake up I'm already in gear with my plan and get right to work, even if it's just toast and cereal there's no standing around trying to guess what they want. I just make it and they eat it and everyone is happy... usually (more on THAT later too).

I plan lunches for the same reason. Being prepared cuts down on the repetition. My husband takes leftovers in his lunch so I like to make sure I make a dish or two a week that reheats well and is easy for him to eat at work (ie doesn't involve a steak knife or he won't make too big a mess with).

Do your shopping, but be flexible

This week's meal plan included Pulled Pork on Sunday night. However, when I got to the store they were out of the cut of pork I use. BUT, they did have pork back ribs on sale so I did a quick switch in my head from Pulled Pork to Slow Roasted Ribs for Sunday night. Being flexible like that will help you with your shopping.

Another way you need to be flexible: "Aww, I don't want spaghetti tonight!". I sometimes find myself switching nights if we're busy and need a less complicated dish, someone is against that night's meal selection, or even on account of weather (who wants to BBQ in the pouring rain?).

When I shop I keep an eye out for deals on items that are not needed for the current week's meal plan and will pick them up to use the following week. But I try to avoid the pitfalls of the snack aisle and the cereal aisle whenever possible. I will blow my budget on cereal if I don't watch myself! Stick to your list for your core items though, no need to buy 4 bags of cookies just cause they're on sale.

If you're a working parent
Back in the days when I had a paying job, I used to prep some meals on the weekend. Things that could keep in the fridge for a few days like casseroles and lasagnas. I'd also marinate meats and wash and prep veggies. Doing this on the weekend saves time mid-week and makes it less likely you'll abandon your meal plan for fast food if you had a crazy day.

Here's this week's meal plan at our house, some of the recipes can be found on this blog, but as you can see, we keep it simple, we have a lot of little palates in our house, simple is best for now!

you can click on the image to see it larger

* "pb dinosaurs" are peanut butter sandwiches cut into dinosaur shapes with a cool sandwich cutter I have. "at party" refers to the fact we were going to be at a baby shower over lunch.

Recipes in this week's plan:

Taco Bake
Mediterranean Risotto

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sausage and Pepper Penne

Pasta is my absolute favourite dinner. There are dozens of varieties, shapes, colours, whole wheat, whole grain, etc... And then there's all the sauces that you can add: cream, tomato, rosé, smooth, chunky, spicy, etc... The combinations are endless and you're only limited by your imagination.

My husband's favourite pasta dish is my Sausage and Pepper Penne. I used to make it pretty spicy but ever since the kidlets came along I've toned it down to their palate cause they love it too (also, the heartburn was killing me!). Tons of colourful peppers, delicious thin slices of Italian sausage and loads of tomatoes and you've got a huge put of yum!

This is a great, easy, no-fuss dish you can make on a hectic weekday night or for a dinner party with friends. Mmmmm, pasta!

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Sausage and Pepper Penne

4 Italian Sausages, Mild or Hot (your call!), sliced thinly
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 med. onion, cut into 1" chunks
1 green pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 orange pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 red pepper, cut into 1" chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. mushrooms, quartered (I forgot to put them in this time, pregnancy brain!)
1/2 c. beef stock
1 26 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. uncooked penne pasta (any pasta will do really)


1. In a large skillet, cook the sausage slices until done.
2. Remove the sausage and set it aside. Drain the fat from the pan.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the veggies and garlic.
4. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the beef stock, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and salt & pepper.
5. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
6. In the meantime, cook your pasta (according to package instructions) until al denté.
7. Drain your pasta and top with sauce and serve.

Note: This recipe usually makes enough sauce for 2 dinners for 4 people (unless you like a lot of sauce on your pasta!). I freeze leftover sauce for another time.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Corn Chowder

I love the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I had it saved on my PVR and watched it over and over and over... and then something went wrong with our PVR and when the guy came to look at it he deleted everything. So I ran out and bought the DVD, and I watch it over and over and over... as I did today.

One of my favourite parts of the movie is Andy's first day, she heads down to the cafeteria for lunch where she bumps into Nigel in line. As she's ladling soup into her bowl Nigel says "Corn chowder. That's an interesting choice. You do know that cellulite is one of the main ingredients in corn chowder.". I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

All of a sudden I had a craving for corn chowder! Cellulite be damned! So here's my recipe for this creamy chicken, corn and potato rich soup that's great for lunch or dinner. Enjoy!

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Chicken Corn Chowder

2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small carrots, peeled & diced
2 lg. potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 c. cooked chicken or turkey, chopped
2 c. chicken stock
2/3 c. frozen corn kernels
2 c. half and half cream
salt & pepper to taste
1 sprig of fresh thyme


1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes and the chicken and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes.
3. Cover the veggies and chicken with the stock, cover and cook for 10- 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
4. Add the corn, cream and salt & pepper. Throw in the spring of thyme whole. After 5 minutes pull it out and discard. (you want to lightly flavour the soup, not overpower it with thyme.)
5. Serve immediately.

Tip: if you plan to serve the soup the following day or freeze it, leave out the cream and only add before you serve. It keeps better that way.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Ranch Style Deviled Eggs

Yeah, I could have put the yolks into a piping bag and made it look pretty, but who has time for that?

Whoever coined the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" must have been familiar with my kitchen! I often start recipes only to discover I'm missing 1, or 2, or 7 of the ingredients. That's when I hop in my car and make the mad dash to the grocery store, where I invariably still manage to forget an ingredient. (Note to self: get checked out for Alzheimer's)

This past weekend was Easter and we always gather at my sister-in-law's for a big family dinner with my husband's side. Everyone brings something and this year we supplied the turkey and I made my famous Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. But Easter Sunday morning I woke up with a craving (I'm pregnant yo!) for eggs, deviled eggs. So a dozen eggs went into a pot of water on the stove and I went to get ready.

When I went to assemble the eggs I discovered that not one, but BOTH of the kinds of mayo I keep on hand were empty! Argh! I had only minutes before J lost his mind cause I was taking too long and he wanted to get on the road, so I scanned my fridge. I could scrape out about 1 tbsp of mayo but it wasn't enough, and that's when I had what Oprah calls a light bulb moment. Ranch dressing! It's white, and creamy... did I dare?

Oh mylanta, those were some tasty deviled eggs! I ate two before anyone else even got there and then heaped my plate at dinner time. All 24 of those tasty little treats were gone before the call for seconds was made.

Give these a try for your next BBQ, picnic or shower!

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Ranch Style Deviled Eggs

12 large eggs, boiled hard, peeled and halved
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Ranch Dressing
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. chives, minced


1. Boil your eggs in lightly salted water (it helps with the peeling) until hard, 10 minutes, and then allow to cool or immerse in cold water.
2. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop the yolks out into a bowl.
3. Mash the yolks and add the mayo, dressing, salt, 1/2 tsp of the paprika and the chives.
4. Stir the mixture until thoroughly combined. If the mixture is a little dry, add a bit more dressing at a time until it is smooth and creamy.
5. Fill the egg whites with an equal amount of the yolk mixture and sprinkle with the remaning paprika and diced chives.

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A Bloggy Award... for me?!

A HUGE thank you to Some Kind of Wonder Mom (aka Vicky) for awarding me the Honest Scrap award!

The Honest Scrap Award Rules say that I must:

1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who gave you the award and link back to that blogger.
3. Choose a selection of blogs that you find brilliant in honest content (see below)
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with this award.
5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

………then pass it on with the instructions!

Here are my ten honest things about myself:

1. I hate cleaning with the burning passion of 1000 suns.
2. I dunk 100 calorie chocolate bars in the peanut butter jar.
3. I hate when it's too quiet so our TV is on all day for background noise.
4. I don't eat shell fish, it grosses me out, they're all so ugly!
5. Most days I prefer a glass of milk to a cocktail.
6. I get my hair cut once, maybe twice a year, who has time?
7. I crazy-miss living in my hometown of Ottawa, but I love the beach where I live now.
8. I love the smell of cigars.
9. I want a tummy tuck some day... and maybe a breast lift, 3 kids is hard on the body.
10. I wasn't that impressed with Avatar. There I said it, I feel better now!

I am passing this award onto some really great bloggers that I enjoy reading and that make me laugh, think or just smile on a daily basis.

Life on the Farm in the City - Her open and honest feelings about being the newly married wife of a Canadian Soldier, and being pregnant for the first time while on her own make me laugh and cry.
Lou Lou's Views - the stories about her shopping trips make me envious and the stories about her sister make me laugh until I cry!
See Mummy Juggle - Candace and I share so many of the same feelings on various topics that we might have been separated at birth..
She let them eat cake - Maggie's such an upbeat sparkly woman who strives to make everything healthier and tastier for her family. I admire her dedication and cooking skills!
My Baking Addiction - Jamie's was the blog that inspired me to start my own cooking blog. Her photography and recipes are amazing. How she doesn't have her own cookbook by now is beyond me!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Our family Easter dinner was this past weekend and as usual I wanted to bring a dessert. My nieces and nephews all adore this cheesecake recipe so I made it again for them, cause you know, they didn't get enough chocolate already.

I got this recipe from Kraft years ago, but recent searches for it on their website fail to find it. Weird. Anyways, I have mentioned before how much I love chocolate and peanut butter so I won't bore you with that again, but seriously, this cheesecake is TO DIE FOR. It's very rich and creamy and tastes like heaven.

I like to garnish it with chocolate covered peanuts, peanut butter cups or, since it was Easter, I put some Reese Eggs on top. Give it a try for your next dinner party or book club meeting!

(Sorry about the less than stellar picture, The kids dug into it so fast I didn't have a chance to take any pretty pictures, I shot this one with my iPhone as the vultures were coming back for seconds!)

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

2 pkgs cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
1 9" graham pie crust
4 squares Baker's chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp heavy cream


1. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter until combined.
2. Add the eggs one at a time mixing in between.
3. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes or until the centre is set.
4. Heat cream and chocolate over low heat until the chocolate has melted.
5. Pour the chocolate ganache over top the cooled cake.
6. Top with whipped cream, chocolate covered peanuts, melted peanut butter, peanut butter cups or anything else you like!

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