Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mini Meat Loaves... what a perfect portion size too!

I've been making this recipe for years but for whatever reason never seemed to have written it down until today. I had some leftover ground beef from the tacos we made for the kids sleepover and this was the perfect and easiest recipe to use it in.

Note: Please don't mind the paper plates but I was determined to not do any dishes that night! LOL!

Mini Meat Loaves

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ chopped yellow onions
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tray with nonstick cooking spray.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, garlic, seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a bowl, add egg, worcestershire sauce and red wine vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and egg mixture, and mix lightly with a fork. Don't mash or the meatloaf will be dense. Divide the mixture into 6 muffin tins, filling the remaining muffin areas with water to prevent any burning. Spread about a tablespoon of ketchup on the top of each portion.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Serve with mushroom mashed potatoes and steamed carrots


Great side dishes...

Determined to not have any of the veggies in the fridge go to waste, I made the following 3 side dishes to go along with the Crock Pot Spare Ribs. All 3 recipes can be found in the Canadian Living magazine Make Ahead Meals Boy, was I impressed...

Green Beans and Sherried Mushrooms (p.68)

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 package mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
1 tbsp each dry sherry and butter


In skillet blanch beans in boiling water, until tender-crisp and colour deepens, about 5 minutes. Drain and chill under cold water, pat dry.

Wipe out skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; sauté mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper until golden all over, about minutes.

Add sherry; cook until evaporated. Add beans and butter; cook, stirring, until beans are hot and butter is melted.

Basmati Rice with Pesto (p.70)

Added 1 ½ cups of rice to 1 ¾ cups of water in the rice cooker and once done added 2 tbsp of pesto… Stir well. Yummy alternative to just your plain rice.

Crunchy Coleslaw (p. 48)


1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1 ½ cups (375 mL) shredded cabbage
½ cup (250 mL) grated carrots


In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Add cabbage, and carrots; toss to coat.


Spare Ribs... and still on budget...

Okay so I've fallen behind already with trying to keep up with my weekly list of updates but I have been cooking regularly so that's always a bonus right? With a goal this month to really try to stay on budget and not to waste food, I'm so excited to say that we've been really good about it (even with hosting a birthday party and a sleepover for 10 kids) . Yes, there is always room for improvement but we are in much a better position than where we were a couple of months ago. With only a couple more days left in the month, we'll see if this month will be a success or a learning experience :)

In the meantime, while at the grocery store a couple of days go, I came across a sale with 2 racks of sideribs for the low price of $6.00. With only a mere 24 hours before meeting the expiry date, threw these ribs into the crockpot and dinner was ready in just a couple of hours with some yummy side dishes too. The original recipe can be found using the link below as I've made changes to the recipe that are reflected already below.

1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Water
1/4 cup Vinegar
1 tbsp Brown sugar
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Dehydrated onion
2 racks of side ribs, (cut in 4 ribs)


Combine all ingredients in crock pot and stir well. Add the spare ribs. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Once ready, pour crockpot liquid into a pan to thicken sauce. I added a tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup of cold water to the liquid, put it to heat until it reduced and thickened to my likening. I then took the sauce and poured it on the ribs in the crockpot, although you could serve it on the side with the ribs.

Serve with pesto rice, crunchy coleslaw and/or green beans with sherried mushrooms.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Picture of the Week


Setting: Aperature Priority
Lighting: Natural
ISO: 560
Shutter Speed: 1/30


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Picture of the Week

Here's my favorite picture of the week...

Our new addition

Setting: Aperature Priority
Lighting: Natural
ISO: 500
Shutter Speed: 1/30


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mini Quiches...

I'm a Quiche Virgin...

This was my first time making a quiche, don't know why but I've always shied away from them. I made them as minis as I wasn't sure how they'd turn out. Didn't realize how easy and delicious they could be... The original recipe came from the Better Homes and Garden website but not having enough time to make my own dough I bought ready-made unsweetened tart shells for my base. The original recipe can be found by following the link below but the recipe below reflects the changes I made to the original recipe.

Individual Ham and Cheese Quiches

2 packages unsweetened tart shells (12 per package)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
¼ cup finely chopped cooked ham
1 tbsp thinly sliced green onion
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ tsp Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup Evaporated Milk


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place tart shells on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7 minutes or until pastry is slightly golden. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

3. In a medium bowl combine cheese, red pepper, ham, green onions, milk, eggs, flour, salt and black pepper; mix well. Spoon mixture into shells, filling 3/4 full.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes minutes or until filling is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cool slightly; lift quiche from cup with tip of knife. Serve warm or cool and freeze for later entertaining.

Kitchen Tip: To make one large quiche: Line a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom with one piecrust (reserve remaining piecrust for another use). Line with double thickness of foil. Bake in 400 degrees F. oven for 7 minutes. Remove foil; bake 8 to 9 minutes longer or until pastry is set, dry and lightly browned. Spoon mixture evenly in shell. Bake in 325 degrees F oven for 30 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy :)

A Christmas Post in March???

I've been meaning to post these cookie recipes since Christmas but haven't had a chance. It's only 9 weeks late...oops...

This Christmas we decided since we were attending many holiday parties that we would create some holiday tins filled with cookies. The "we" ended up becoming only "me" but hubby took care of the kids while I baked, so it was definitely a collaborative effort :)

Since I didn't have any favorite cookie recipes I decided to try the following new ones and they were a hit! The Ranger cookies were very easy to make but keep an eye on them as they can burn very quickly around the edges. The Gingerbread cookie recipe came from a company that does alot of holiday fundraising at Sherway Mall during the Christmas season and they were very happy to share their recipe. They make tons of these cookies and at the mall children can come up and decorate them and they are sold to the public to raise money for local charities. I found this recipe needed a little tweaking for next time but not sure yet what it will be...but keep tuned for a variation of this recipe in next year's post. The sugar cookie recipe came from Ashlee's website and it was a hit too... although I didn't have time to ice them this time around. Just another excuse to attempt this recipe once again :)

Ranger Cookies (from Betty Crocker)


1 package Betty Crocker Oatmeal Mix
½ cup butter/margarine
1 tbsp water
1 egg
¾ cup Rice Krispies cereal (Vanilla flavored)
½ cup flaked sweetened coconut


Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). In large bowl, stir all ingredients until soft dough forms.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches (5 cm) apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet. Cool completely.

Kitchen Tip: Toss 1/2 cup peanut butter chips, chocolate chips or a combo of both into the dough for extra flavour.

GINGERBREAD COOKIE (The Gingerbread Cookie Factory)


½ cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 egg
½ cup light molasses
2 ¼ cup flour
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp all spice


Cream sugar and shortening.
Add egg and molasses; blend.
Mix in dry ingredients.
Chill dough for 1 hour. Roll out dough to 1/8 in. thickness. Cut into desired shapes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes.

Ashlee's My Famous Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add in vanilla, almond, and lemon zest. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time. Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.

Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away. Bake cookies for 12 minutes.

Ice with basic buttercream if desired.

Enjoy :)

March's Book of the Month...

I love to read anything really from textbooks, magazines to novels and even camera manuals ;) With the pressures of everyday life as a mom of 2, the last couple of weeks found me with very little time and interest in taking on a new book. But when my sister lent me this book I immediately placed it on my bedside table as my next read. Little did I realize that 6 weeks had passed and I still hadn't picked it up...

So when I finally got around to it, I was hooked and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants an easy read and a good laugh...

Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me?

Anyone else read it? What did you think?

Leftovers in a Pie...

With so many leftovers from last night’s Slow Cooker Pot Roast, I was excited once again to revisit my Canadian Living Special Issue magazine… With 3 options for these leftovers, I decided to select The Shepherd’s Pie recipe on page 46. Now if leftovers could taste like this all the time, I’d be in heaven and have way more time for myself. This recipe was definitely a keeper for our family, hope you think so too…

Canadian Living Shepherd’s Pie


1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
4 cups chopped cooked Sirloin Tip Oven Roast
1 cup Porcini Mushroom Jus (recipe below)
1 bag of small potatoes (454 g)
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 cup (250 mL) milk, warm
4 tsp (20 mL) butter, softened
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1 cup (250 mL) leftover peas & corn


In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onion and thyme, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add beef, jus and ½ cup water; simmer for 2 minutes. Spread in 8-inch square glass baking dish.

In saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and cook potatoes (with skin, chopped in ½ ) until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to dry saucepan; mash together with warm milk, butter, salt and pepper until smooth.

Scrape beef mixture into 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish. Cover with shredded carrots, peas and corn; spread mashed potatoes over top. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven until filling is bubbly and potatoes are golden, about 40 minutes.

Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours; add 20 minutes to baking time.

Porcini mushroom Jus:
1 pkg (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch dried thyme
Pinch salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) brandy or sodium-reduced beef stock
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) sodium-reduced beef stock


Soak mushrooms in 1 cup (250 mL) boiling water for 20 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove mushrooms and chop. Strain liquid and set aside.

In saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat; fry garlic, thyme, salt and mushrooms until softened, about 2 minutes. Add brandy; cook, stirring, until no liquid remains.

Add stock and reserved pan/mushroom juices; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 8 minutes or until reduced to about 2 cups (500 mL).

Note: I ended up using all of this jus in my Shepherd’s Pie as it was that yummy :)


Monday, March 9, 2009

A Birthday Party on a budget...

This weekend I was determined to host a dinner party for 11 guests at our place, to celebrate our special friend’s birthday but I was hesitant to spend anymore than $40 to do it. In the past I’ve never really had a budget and usually found myself stepping into the grocery store and coming out with more than $100 worth of groceries, some of which never got used but this time it would be different. I would schedule and plan out each component of the meal and head to the store only once with my list. I’m proud to say it worked…
Our Birthday Menu consisted of:

Roasted Garlic - Garlic Bread
Helena’s Meat Lasagna
Baked Ravioli in Alfredo Sauce
Caesar Salad
Fresh Fruit Tarts
Ice Cream Birthday Cake (my gift to the birthday boy)

Some of the above are my tried and true favorites but I did try a new recipe that I created from a variety of different recipes I found online and this one was a favorite among all of our guests. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did…

Baked Ravioli in Alfredo Sauce

3 pkg.frozen Four Cheese Ravioli, cooked, drained, as per package
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small red onion, minced
½ tsp minced garlic
1 package of sliced mushrooms
2 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoon bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease an 8-inch-square baking dish.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil then add salt. Add ravioli and cook for 8 minutes to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic. mushrooms and saute until tender. Add heavy cream and cheese, and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pasta. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle cheese and bread crumbs over pasta mixture; cover with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake for additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.


Frugal dinners and yummy leftovers...

..who would have thought...

My husband and I are really trying to make healthier and more frugal choices for our meal. Some months we can rack over $800 on grocery bills and dining out… Lord, forgive us for the amount of food that some months we may throw out due to spoilage or lack of time and ideas as to what to do with all of the food in our fridge.

So during a grocery store run for little essentials, I came across a Canadian Living Special Issue: Make Ahead Meals: Cook Now, Save Time Later. So this month this little magazine of 96 pages will be my inspiration.

Today I start with a recipe from page 45: Sirloin tip Oven Roast with Porcini Mushroom Jus … This basic recipe was to provide for at least another 4 recipes that would use leftovers but of course I had to make a little change to accommodate for my lack of time, placed it into the Slow Cooker with all of my vegetables for a one pot dish…

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

3 pounds outside round roast
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp each dried thyme and pepper
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 cup beef stock
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
12 mini white potatoes
1 stalk celery, chopped


Mix the garlic, oil, thyme and pepper. Rub over top and sides of roast. (Will do this next time: Brown on all sides in a large skillet over high heat)

Place onions in slowcooker. Mix onion soup mix with beef stock and add to slowcooker. Place roast in the slowcooker and sprinkle remainder of ingredients around the roast.

Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures this week but couldn't seem to capture a picture before we all dug into the yummy meals...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Picture of the Week

After having lost my first DSLR camera at the airport on our way back from our Mexican vacation last year, I made a pact with myself when my hubby surprised me with another DSLR camera (Nikon D60) that I would learn how to use all of its features (aside from the Auto feature :)

It's been a year on my own with very little improvement and so I decided to take action out of my hands and enroll in a course... If that's not motivation to get out and do it I don't know what is...

Now I'm learning how to use my camera and taking LOTS of pictures. So I've decided to share them with you by posting them right here. In addition to the photo I'll also indicate details in case you want to replicate the photo with your own camera too.


Title: My protogee
Setting: Aperature Priority
Lighting: Natural
ISO: 800
Shutter Speed: 1/6