Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Kickoff starts today...

The Kickoff to the theme of my 34th year on this Earth starts today: This is going to be my healthiest year EVER!!

Okay there I've said it and now actions will have to speak louder than words...

How did I come up up with the theme?
I've been subscribing to a daily inspiration email message from Neale Donald Walsh, the author of Conversations with God. The last one that I received that really drove me to a plan of action was this one:

On this day of your life, Helena, I believe God wants you to know...

...that taking better care of yourself is not merely a matter of good health, it is a measure of spiritual evolution.

Some people take better care of their car than they do of their body. Most people, in fact, pay little attention to their body until something goes wrong. Yet why create that kind of situation?

Look at what you are eating. How much and how often do you exercise? When was your last check-up? Are you treating your physical vehicle as if it is Divine? Good for you if you are. If you aren't...why not?

That is not to say that there won't be some potholes on the roadway and not all fuel going into this theme over the next year will be all no carbs, high protein, low fat, limited calories but I will aim to find a balance so that the goal of healthyness is rewarded with ultimate prize of happiness and fulfillment.

First plan of action: celebrate my birthday today with my girls and hubby. We're heading out to the closest Olive Garden. Their salad and breadsticks to die for... (never mind all of entrees on their menu). How do we plan to burn off this meal... A huge shopping spree at the Walden Galleria across the street :) It's a win, win situation for all... Second item on our to-do list: purchase a double jogging stroller so that the girls will join me on this year's new summer activity of choice: rollerblading along the waterfront...

So here I go and hope you will join me too... Enjoy!

Our Italian Themed Bridal Shower

In preparation for my brother in law's upcoming wedding, this wweekend we threw his beautiful bride-to-be a bridal shower with an Italian theme to honour her heritage. Here is a summary of what we did:

Our Italian Inspired Bridal Shower

Red and white checkered tablecloths with small potted herbs as centerpieces. Great background music includes: Il Divo

Serve up a traditional Italian feast with a variety of pastas, variety of sauces (white, red, marinara), fresh Parmesan Cheese, antipasto salad, garlic bread and tiramisu and gelato desserts, iced tea and a good Chianti.

Top off the bridal shower with a homemade cookie buffet of cannoli, pizzelles, Mostaccioli, Pignoli, tiramisu, biscotti, and amaretti cookies.


Door Prize
When the guests first arrive have them fill out a piece of paper with their wedding date or, if they are single, their birthday. The person with the date closest to the bride's wedding date wins the prize.

Name the Pasta
Created 10 bags with each bag holding a different variety of pasta. Number each bag from 1-10. Whoever guesses the most correct names win.

Trivia about the bride
Guests had to complete 10 trivia questions on the bride-to-be. The person with the most correct answers wins a prize.

Guessing Game
We played this game during our lunch. We filled a large glass jar with uncooked pasta. Have each guest guess how many pieces are in each jar. The person who guesses the closest to the true number of items in each jar gets to takes the goodies home and the fabulous recipe attached to it (or an Italian cookbook).

Read his Mind

Then we tested the bride-to-be on how well she knew her fiancé by asking her the following 12 questions.
1. What is his favorite pizza topping?
2. Where did you go on your first date?
3. What is his favorite drink?
4. If he could star in any tv show, which tv show would he pick?
5. If Steve were spending an evening at home, what would he most likely be doing?
6. What is the first movie you saw together?
7. If Steve were a superhero, who would he be?
8. What animal would Steve compare you to?
9. What is his grandmother’s names?
10. What was Steve’s first job?
11. How many clocks are in Steve’s room?
12. Name one thing Steve own’s that you will throw out the first chance you get?
13. Name one activity your fiancé does with you ONLY because he loves you?

We asked all the guests to write on a piece of paper a number from 1-12 to represent how many questions the bride-to-be would get right. The bride-to-be’s answers would have to match the pre-recorded answers from her fiancé, that we played off a host laptop. Her punishment for wrong answers was based on her own personal vice… red wine. We made red wine jello shots instead of the hard liquor variety for her to spoon out every time she got a question wrong. For all our guests who didn’t guess correctly how many the bride-to-be would get correct, also had to take a jello shot

Roll the Cannelloni
You need a pair of pantyhose, an orange and a cannelloni. Put a cannelloni on the floor and an orange in one leg of the pantyhose. Tie the other leg (of the pantyhose) around your waist. The object is for you to swing your hips and hit the cannelloni (that you placed on the floor) across a designated area in the best time. You could also have 2 teams and have a relay.

Who Wears the Pants
The groom joined us before we began to open gifts and included him in our next game. Give each of the future bride and groom a roll of toilet paper. The first to completely unroll the toilet paper "Will be the One Who Wears The Pants in the Marriage". Everyone was laughing so hard and routing them on. It goes quickly once they figure out how to unravel it the fastest.

Prizes included pasta bowls, wooden spoons, cheese shakers, gourmet olive oils, glass containers filled with pasta, red and white checkered place mats & napkins, Italian cookbooks and the Godfather movies on DVD.

Departing guests went away with delicious chocolate and white chocolate dipped biscotti cookies packaged in pretty bags tied with red and green ribbon with a tag that read “Amore Dolce: A love so sweet” Other sayings could be: “Sweet Beginnings!” or “How sweet it is that you could celebrate with us”

When guests arrived they participated in the door prize game and were also able to sign a Guestbook of photos of the bride-to-be and her fiancé. Alternatively, the guest book could be empty, have the guests sign it and then add pictures of the shower later on.

Kids Games and Activities

Cannelloni Bowling
Have the children colour their cannellonis and leave one white. Roll the white one into the centre of a room and take turns to see who can roll their cannelloni closest to the white one.

Cannelloni and Spoon Races
Cannelloni, a spoon and an area to run are all you need for this game. Variations could include relays and obstacle courses. To make it easy for younger kids, place the cannelloni lengthwise on their spoon or give them a smaller tubular pasta piece on their spoon. For the older kids place the cannelloni standing up on their spoon. If it tilts or falls over the kids have to start all over…

Find your Name Pasta
Write the name of each child on a cannelloni piece of pasta. The person that finds their own name wins a prize. Bigger pieces of pasta for small kids and smaller ones for the bigger kids.

Duck Walk Race
Have the kids line up at the Start Line, squat down and grasp their ankles with each hand from behind. On GO, they waddle to a designated Finish Line. They can't let go of their ankles or the are disqualified. The first child over the Finish Line wins a prize.

Dress Up Activity
The kids were asked to make with all the leftover pasta hats and necklaces for themselves and the bride-to-be. Once completed all the kids and the bride-to-be posed for photos.

Kids Prizes and Favors
Kids Prizes included: princess, Hannah Montana and Pirates of the Carribbean temporary tattoos. All kids left the day with animal-shaped collapsible tote bags filled with giant sidewalk chalk, that I found for $0.49 at a post-Easter sale.

I'll post pics soon but in the meantime enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Filipino Fish... mmm...

The original recipe that I used came out of a Learn how to cook Filipino Homestyle Dishes book that I have at home, although I did find an almost identical recipe at Pinoy Recipe. I’m not familiar with cooking fish but I couldn’t get myself to fry this fish, so I cooked it in the oven in a cup of white wine with some salt and pepper. I really don’t know what type of fish this is as I got it from our local grocery’s store's fish monger and it was very yummy! Reminder to self next time… ask what the fish is called :)

(Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)

1 red snapper or grouper fish, cleaned and scaled (about 2 lbs)
½ cup plain flour mixed with ½ tsp salt, for dredging
½ cup cooking oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2” chunks
1 medium green pepper, cut into ½-inch strips
1 medium red pepper, cut into ½-inch strips
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds
2 boiled potatoes, quartered
Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), to garnish

Sweet and Sour Sauce
½ cup sugar
½ tsp of salt
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
½ cup vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in ½ cup water


Score the red snapper with slits all over and dredge in flour.

Heat oil in a wok and fry the fish and fry the fish about 10 minutes on one side and 7 to 8 minutes on the other side, until completely cooked and fish flesh is no longer glassy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. (Alternatively, I placed the fish in a glass baking dish, with all of the vegetables, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked it in a cup of white wine & a cup of water, for 30 minutes at 375)

To make the sauce, combine sugar, vinegar, water and tomato ketchup in a saucepan. Add carrot, cook for about 5 minutes, then add peppers and cucumber. Simmer without stirring, for a further 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm. Stir in cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Arrange fish on a serving platter and arrange vegetables around fish. Pour sweet and sour sauce over fish.

Garnish with fresh coriander.

A Casserole...

I know, I know. This may sound like your typical family meal but I've never made a casserole before, so when I came across this recipe and tweaked it to make it a little more healthier :) it seemed easy enough...

Since hubby and I have gone overbudget this month (we both aren't sure how or why), I decided the only ingredient that would be cost efficient in this recipe would be tuna. On a side note my mom would kill me to be serving fish with dairy... But I have to admit this dish was yummy...
My Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole


3 cups Farfalle noodles, prepared according to package directions
3 tablespoons butter
227g (8 oz) of mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 cans (3 oz. each) tuna, drained and flaked
1 can (10 oz. each) low-fat condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can (6 fl. oz.) evaporated Milk
2/3 cup crushed ranch potato chips


Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease small square baking dish.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add musrooms, peas and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in noodles, tuna, soup and evaporated milk; mix well. Pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with potato chips.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until chips are golden brown.

Next time, I might try one of the following substitutions for a little twist on a good thing:
  • use codfish instead of tuna (I am Portuguese afterall)
  • add 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese before adding the chips
  • add 3/4 cup shredded mozz and 1/4 cup taco cheese.
  • add 2 stalks of celery and ½ cup of onions instead of peas and mushrooms
  • use whole wheat noodles and wheat crackers instead of chips


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Baked Treat of the Week...

...a caramelized pear tart recipe I had found in last week's grocery flyers... At a cost of less than $5.00 to make as I had many of the ingredients already at home, it was going to help me stay on budget too... but was it yummy??? oh yes, it was heard over Easter dinner as I had taken the tart to my in-laws for dessert.

The original recipe can be found on the Loblaws website. I didn't find that 3 pears was sufficient for this recipe so next time I will double it and use 6 pears. I also added 2 apples and substituted a tablespoon of vanilla extract for the pear brandy, as I didn't have any handy.

Caramelized Pear Tart


3 pears, peeled and quartered (next time use 6 pears)
2 apples, peeled and quartered, optional
2 tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 pie shell
2 eggs
2/3 cup 15% table cream
5 tbsp powdered almonds
1 tbsp vanilla extract (or pear brandy)
vanilla ice cream, to taste


1. Preheat oven to (350°C)

2. Caramelize pear and apple sections in butter with sugar, approximately 10 minutes.

3. Arrange pears in pie shell. Mix together eggs with remaining sugar, cream, powdered almonds and vanilla extract, if using. Pour mixture over pears and apples.

4. Bake in oven for about 25 minutes. Let rest 3 minutes prior to serving with vanilla ice cream.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Words of hope, love and inspiration...

As many of you know, I have been truly blessed to have married into a BIG wonderful, religious, supportive and loving Filipino family. To this day I sometimes still feel challenged at trying to remember everyone's name and where they fit in our family tree. But every day I seem so in awe of them all and today was going to be no exception. Here is a little excerpt of an email that came through my inbox from one of our uncle's who wanted to provide a little message of hope to the young couples in our family regarding marriage and the challenges they may or are facing:

"We’ve been married for 31 years but our marriage is not perfect, no one’s is, nothing is
and nobody is. For that period of time, we fought/argued so many times, some serious, some silly, some petty; over finances, about our beliefs, values, about our careers, about raising our children, other people we’re jealous of, over almost everything. We said words you wouldn’t imagine we’re capable of saying, words that hurt, words that are hard to take back. But each time, we’re able to reconcile, one of us or both of us would say ‘Sorry’ (a lot of people say, saying ‘Sorry’ is a sign of weakness, a sign of surrendering something or giving the other party a blanket “you-can-do-whatever-you-want-from-now-on” authority but it’s not, it’s actually a sign of courage, of maturity and of love and respect- we believe in that) and then, there’s forgiveness…..and…… we moved on and each time, our relationship got more resilient, our bond got stronger. We became more mature and understanding to each other, more open and yes,….. more loving and forgiving… So our marriage lasted this long….. not because of me, not because of your Auntie but because of our love and respect for each other, because of our children, because of you, our family….and most of all, because of us…and God, the third party in a marriage."

Hope it provides you with a source of inspiration too. Enjoy!

Hoisin sauce...

Since I had to go out of my way to purchase a bottle of hoisin sauce for the previous recipe, I thought I would look for a side dish that also used hoisin sauce too...

Funny the things you can find online when you are doing a simple search ;) but luckily I came across this Chicken and Hoisin Fried Rice and I was so happy with the end result. The only change I made to the recipe was to eliminate the chicken and made the rice earlier in the day in the rice cooker.

Chicken and Hoisin Fried Rice


1 cup long-grain rice
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 cup diced snow peas
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2/3 cup chopped carrots
2 green onions, chopped


1.Bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the rice. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Cool.

2.While the rice is cooking, preheat the barbecue or a non-stick grill pan to medium-high and spray with cooking oil. Cook the chicken for 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center. Dice and set aside.

3.Whisk the stock, soy sauce and hoisin sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.

4.Cook the carrots in a pot of boiling water until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain.

5.Spray a non-stick wok or large skillet with cooking oil, add the vegetable oil and place over high heat. Add the red peppers, snow peas, garlic, ginger and carrots; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cooled rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the stock mixture and the chicken. Cook for 1 minute longer, until heated through.

6.Serve immediately, garnished with green onions.


Chicken Thighs... Thai style...

I was browsing through the canadian living website the other day and came across this Thai Thighs recipe. Always looking for a new way to do chicken, this one caught my eye. Plus, it helped that it used one of my favorite ingredients of all time: peanut butter! I didn't make any revisions to the original recipe. Hubby and I were quite impressed and now this will be a new dish in our rolling monthly menus.

Thai Thighs


1/3 cup (75 mL) Minced green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp (50 mL) hoisin sauce
2 tbsp (25 mL) peanut butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) Minced gingerroot
1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) hot pepper sauce
2 lb (1 kg) chicken legs or thighs
2 tbsp (25 mL) Chopped fresh coriander or parsley


In bowl, combine 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the onions, garlic, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Arrange chicken in shallow baking dish. Spoon sauce over chicken and bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Sprinkle with remaining green onion and coriander.


P.S. Sorry for no pictures this week but life has been too hectic... I know cheap excuse for a photography student :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bananas in a brownie...

I love bananas as much as the next guy but with bananas ripening by the minute in our dry and hot apartment, the thought of making another banana bread or breakfast shake just didn't get me going. So when I came across this recipe that used bananas in a "brownie" on meals.com, I jumped right in... Gosh these were delicious!! I wonder if these bars count as an extra serving of a fruit ;)

Banana Mini Morsel Bars


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium mashed ripe bananas
1 large egg
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels
Powdered sugar


PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease a 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan.

COMBINE flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in bananas and egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture; stir in morsels. Spread into prepared jelly-roll pan.

BAKE for 20 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

My tips: The variations made to the original recipe above included using butterscotch chips instead of the mini morsels (I really enjoy that combination) and eliminating the powdered sugar altogether. Next time, I will line my baking sheet with parchment paper to add an extra element of protection from the bottom of the bars burning.


Spinach leftovers...

As much as hubby and I are trying to be healthy and staying on our grocery budget for the month, salads and greens always seem to be items that we don't "get around" to using very often although we always include them in our weekly grocery lists :) But I was refusing to throw a pound of spinach away and came up with the following recipe. Although the base of this recipe was from a recipe on meals.com, I've included below my changes to it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did...

Spinach Pie


1 tsp olive oil
3 green onion, chopped
8 cups of loosely packed spinach
1 pie crust
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/2 orange sweet pepper, chopped
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh dill
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Stir in the spinach and then turn off the heat. The spinach will start to wilt down, but not much. Let cool slightly.

To the spinach mixture, add eggs, feta cheese, milk, flour, dill and pepper in medium bowl; pour into pie crust. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set; let stand for 10 minutes.


Easter has come and gone...

...leaving tons of leftovers in our fridge, lunch and dinner is taken care of for today which gives me some spare time to blog of some fun recipes I have tried recently :)

I'm always interested in adding veggies to my daughter's dinner plate and came across this recipe on the back of a Rice Krispies cereal box for Savoury Sweet Potato fries. She likes the cereal and fries is a favorite too, how about combining the two?

My daughter didn't take to the fries very well but hubby and I couldn't stop ourselves from enjoying each and every one of them and since they were baked and not fried, it didn't leave us with a guilty after taste ;)

Savoury Sweet Potato Sticks

3 medium sweet potatoes (about 750 g/1 1/2 lbs)
3 cups RICE KRISPIES* cereal crushed to 375 mL (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 tsp each: garlic powder onion powder and salt (or seasoning salt)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 egg whites
4 tbsp water


1. Wash sweet potatoes (or peel if desired). Cut lengthwise into 1 cm (1/2-inch) slices. Cut slices into 1 cm (1/2-inch) sticks.

2. In large plate or shallow pan, mix together crushed cereal and seasonings. Place flour on second plate. In medium bowl, beat egg whites and water.

3. Coat potatoes with flour, shaking off excess. Next dip in egg mixture, then coat with cereal mixture. Place in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

4. Bake at 200°C (400°F) about 25 minutes or until lightly browned and tender when tested with sharp knife. Serve hot with salsa or roasted garlic mayonnaise if desired.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taco Leftovers

A couple of weeks ago for March Break we hosted a fun sleepover for the kids in our family and a Doggie Birthday Party for our little jack russell Dumbo who turned 13 years old. Where has all the time gone. A quick and easy dinner for the kids of soft and hard tacos became a quick Taco Pizza lunch for me the next day.

Taco Pizza

I had some Lebanese flatbreads in the fridge, mixed it with mild salsa, then spread the meat mixture on the bread and topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. I placed it in a preheated oven of 350 and baked it for approximately 12 minutes until the cheese had melted and it was heated through.
Enjoy! I know I did :)

Baked Leftovers...

I found this great recipe for pumpkin bread on Meals.com. I had some leftover pumpkin that I really wanted to use and needed to bake a recipe for the week so this one was it :)

We froze some of the leftovers in little freezer bags with 2 slices. The night before we would take them out to thaw, butter the slices in the morning and it became a great alternative for breakfast. Even our little toddler loved it which makes any recipe an added bonus in our home.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons ground allspice or pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Apple NESTLÉ® JUICY JUICE® All Natural 100% Juice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

SIFT flour, allspice, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Combine pumpkin, sugar, Juicy Juice, eggs, oil and vanilla extract in large bowl; stir well. Stir in flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

BAKE for 65 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.


More Leftovers...

So hubby and I tried very hard last month to stay on budget and for the first time in a year we both actually made RRSP contributions (who would have thought especially with being on mat leave). Although the temptation was there to go out to eat (many times!) we had to think twice in most cases. This day was going to be no exception so I looked very quickly in the fridge to find something I could throw together I came across some leftovers from our Slowcooker Pot Roast

Visiting my handy dandy Canadian Living Magazine, I found this great recipe for the beef leftovers. Not having had any pizza dough, I used the fresh Portuguese buns I had picked up that morning for my base and turned them into an open-faced sandwich... Wow was this every quick and delicious!!

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza

1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet green pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half sweet onion, sliced
2 cups (500 mL) sliced mushrooms
1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1 lb (500 g) pizza dough
1/2 cup (125 mL) pizza sauce
8 slices provolone cheese
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced cooked roast beef

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; sauté green pepper, garlic, onion, mushrooms, oregano, salt and pepper until onion is golden and no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to fit 12-inch (30 cm) pizza pan. Spread with pizza sauce. Arrange half of the cheese over sauce; spoon vegetable mixture over top. Top with roast beef and remaining cheese.

Bake in bottom third of 500°F (260°C) oven until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes.