Saturday, July 17, 2010

upswing + a few extra bucks + bulk barn = FALAFELS!!!!

in case you haven't noticed, i've been expanding my culinary repertoire lately. i have discovered the pure and simple joy of fish, made the yummiest french toast the world has ever known (chocolate. 'nuff said.), and improvised pasta sauce with cream cheese.

yesterday was no exception.

i took the kidley-winks to bulk barn yesterday for some grocery shopping. i anticipated getting some flour, cereal and maybe some bird seed. we got bird seed... and several things, none of which were flour or cereal. but that's how i roll. especially lately, in the middle of an up-swing and after three weeks of insomnia. and now you know why i usually go shopping with a list, written out in the order in which i find it in the store: because i tend to shop impulsively.

i was meandering through the store, and i spotted something i hadn't seen there before: falafel mix!! so of course i just had to get some. (see up-swing/insomnia comment above.)

now, i just want to make this clear: i avoid "mixes" like the plague. i just don't like them. i'd much rather make something from scratch, thank-you very much! much tastier and more satisfying. besides, mixes are usually filled with ingredients i can't pronounce, and in my world, that's just not right. ingredients should be REAL FOODS and not something concocted in a laboratory. but when i looked at the ingredients, it was all actual ingredients!!! chick peas, garlic, spices, and something else i can't remember, but it was REAL!!!!

i was tempted to just go home and make it myself, having all those ingredients in my kitchen right now. but then i thought, "you know what? the kids have never had this before. do i really want to put all that work into something they may not even like?" so i got a scoopful, and decided that if it went over well enough, i'd make it for real on my own one of these days.

well!!! this was one of the coolest things i've done in a while! you take a cup of mix and 1 1/4 cup of water and mix them together. let it stand for at least 15 minutes. then you just form it into patties and fry in about an inch of vegetable oil until the patties are golden brown and crispy (aka, what you'd expect when deep-frying).

and just how did the little darlings react, you ask?


they want these more often! which makes me very, very happy. so i plan to make them again, using the mix (i still have enough left for probably 2 more batches), and then i'll make them myself from scratch. i know how to do it (meaning: i read the ingredient list, and now i'll just wing it), so i can't wait!!!

and no, there was no pickled turnip (which sounds disgusting, but apparently i've loved it for years without realizing it!!). but, for the likes of hope and diane, i looked tonight at the superstore for some, but alas, couldn't find any. i'll keep looking. :)

yes, i'm a pescavore. (which is my way of saying "i like fish" but all smart-sounding.)

that's right. i like fish. a lot. and i'm ok with that. because

i think it's delicious.

and quite possibly, the most versatile food on the planet. (yes, yes, eggs, blah blah blah. but fish!!!)

what inspired this confession? well... [looks sheepishly at feet]

we had fish for supper. yes, again. but it's good!!!!!!

this afternoon, we headed to the grocery store for catfood, because poor Smokey is almost out. we picked up:

  • a pair of shorts for bram and 2 tops for yours truly (blithe and asher have plenty of clothes already)
  • a watermelon
  • feta cheese
  • fresh mint
  • milk
  • plain yogurt
  • salmon. and no, not the kind in a can. ew.
and please don't notice that catfood is not on that list! neither is diapers, of which asher only has 3 left. don't notice that. [note to self: after church tomorrow, stop at loblaws for diapers and catfood. then maybe, meander michaels for a few minutes. because it's right there, and what's a trip to south london without going into michaels???]

so i picked up some salmon because i was craving fish today for some reason. it's just that i've begun to see how marvelously easy and tasty and cheap and wonderful fish actually is, and now, when i'm not craving lentils and sausage, i crave fish. ok, sometimes i crave chocolate, too, but that's just because i'm female. (as an aside, chocolate + bread + fried = heaven. just sayin'.) so, i found a nice big piece of salmon (for sligtly less than the price of two decent-sized chicken breasts, actually), and brought it home. ok, first i paid for it, then i brought it home. i might be hypomanic right now, but that does not mean i shoplift. nope. when i'm up like this, i impulse shop. hence the fish. anyhoo...

well, i'll admit, i have never cooked salmon before. but it's my favourite of all the fish. i've had it a number of times in a number of ways, and i've always loved it. (fyi, my favourite is raw. that's right, folks, i heart sushi. so does blithe. and asher. bram, not so much. probably because it's not deep-fried in batter. sigh.) so, once again, i went to one of my favourite websites,, and searched "salmon." i considered a bunch of recipes, but in the end, found one that really caught my fancy. so, i posted it on my facebook... and didn't follow it.

you weren't really expecting me to follow a recipe, were you???

the recipe i found was for roast salmon with balsamic vinegar. sounds absolutely divine, n'est-ce pas? but alas, i lack balsamic vinegar. but when i looked in the fridge, i found PC Memories of Tuscany sauce. it says it's a marinade/grilling sauce for basically everything but fish, but it's balsamic vinegar and fig, so i gave it a whirl. and let me just say...


so, i marinaded the salmon in the sauce for about 30 minutes in the fridge. meanwhile, i loaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen a bit. i preheated the oven to 450F, and then placed the fish on a baking sheet and thew it in the oven. let it bake for about 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. [note to self: clean oven, so as not to run into the other room every 17 seconds to wave a t-shirt under the smoke detector. yeah.]

a note about the cooking time: i ended up leaving it in for about an extra minute, but no longer. the thing is, i'd read that salmon continues to cook once removed from the oven, and i didn't want it to dry out. turns out, 11 minutes was perfect.

REVIEW: the salmon turned out wonderfully! it was probably one of my favourite dishes from the last while... the last long while, actually. i'll admit, i was tempted to skip the cooking process altogether and cook up some rice and pull out the nori and feast on sushi tonight, but i thought, nah. i'm gonna cook it. try something new. and i have to say, i'm very, very glad i did! i inhaled my piece, asher inhaled his piece (i'm not exaggerating when i say that almost half his piece was gone before we even prayed!!), and blithe may have suffered a small stroke from sheer gastronomical pleasure. as for bram? sigh. i swear, i'll convert him one of these days. meanwhile... {tear} he said {sniff} it was {gasp!} disgusting!!! can you believe that?!?! disgusting!!! what is wrong with this kid????? he maintains that he only likes fish if it's battered and deep-fried. and while i can't fault him on that front (having claimed to prefer that, myself, back in the day), still!!! this was such a delicious meal, and he barely touched it!!!

and since i mentioned "meal" in that last sentence, i should probably add that for our veggie tonight, we had green beans purchased just this morning from a very nice amish man at the local farmer's market. delightful!! i sautéed the beans in butter with some lemon juice, and they were delightful! at least, those of us with taste loved it. bram didn't like it at all. i mean, really!! whose kid is this, anyway?!?! sigh.

but i will post in a few minutes about another new food we tried this week, which bram did, in fact, enjoy very much. meanwhile, go out, get yourself some salmon, and try it!!! a. ma. zing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

lentils. yes, again. but they're good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

so, for those of you who don't know yet, by which i mean, those of you who obviously live under a huge rock of some sort, by which i mean, those of you who have never read this blog before (teehee), i love lentils. i know, some of you may think that's weird, but they're delicious and healthy and (just as thrilling for a poor single mom of scottish descent) cheap cheap cheap. soooooo...

i whipped up a little something this evening for supper.

ok, i whipped up a big something this evening for supper.

i give you....

Lentil and Sausage Casserole
1 onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cut into pieces... i don't know what you would call that... diced? does that sound right??
3 italian sausages, sliced into discs
lentils. i just dumped them in. i guess it would depend on the size of your dish, but since they're the main ingredient, be generous.
1 can diced tomatoes (i used the ones specifically for brushetta, since they've already got garlic, oil and herbs in them.)
feta cheese. i like it, so i used about 2/3 of a container, but i don't remember the size of the container.
salt, pepper, bay leaves, chili powder, parsley
water to cover, plus more if needed.

1. throw the ingredients into the casserole dish. except the can of tomatoes. open the can, then dump in the contents, and discard (recycle, please!) the can.
2. season as you see fit.
3. bake at 375F until potatoes are cooked. approx 1 hour (but then again, you're reading the woman who never looks at a clock, so just check on it periodically. oh my goodness, why do i bother posting my recipes here, with instructions like this?????)

REVIEW: wonderful! i really just made this up this afternoon because i was craving sausage and lentil, but didn't feel like making soup, and i had the feta and everything else, so i literally just tossed it into a big casserole dish and threw it into the oven. and it was so good, everyone, yes, everyone had seconds. including asher, and he doesn't like eating much anymore. but the kids inhaled theirs, and yes, i'll admit, i inhaled mine, too. i'm not too proud or girly to admit it. because it was just. that. good. i was really quite impressed with this, actually.

i made a huge batch, so even though we all had seconds, there's still a fair amount left. i plan on freezing the leftovers, just like i did with the leftover chili the other night (oh, yeah, i should post that "recipe"... but really, other than my not-so-secret ingredients, do i really have to? chili's gotta be one of the easiest things in the world to make, and it's never quite the same twice... but still, if you're lucky, i'll share.)

this is how i manage to feed us healthy food on very little money. i pick up good deals, shop in bulk, splurge on a couple things when i can... and make enormous amounts, and freeze the leftovers. that way, later in the week (or one some evening when i'm exhausted and/or broke), i can just toss it into the oven for a while to defrost and voila! another supper! or serve with fresh homemade bread and voila! lunch! so many ideas here, and they're all scrumptious!

anyway, that was dinner tonight, and we all loved it. you probably would, too. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

fish. it's what's for dinner. again.

ok, so i have gotten over my fear of fish... or at least of cooking it. i don't know why, but i have always been intimidated by fish, and honestly, until the other week, i had only done fish sticks. you know, the frozen ones you get in a box. yup, did those twice. not too shabby. oh, wait, while asher was on his fat-free diet, we had some white fish kabobs, and those were pretty good, too!

but my recent foray into the world of actually cooking fish for real, you know, following a recipe and not the instructions on the package, was quite serendipitous. you'll recall the tale of the fish that (didn't) get away from last week, that delicious talapia that was thiiiiiiiiiiiiis good! well, i have another tale fer ye, me hearties.

yar, on thursday last, i be wanderin' ye old marketplace (read: superstore), when ahoy! i spy some sole! and a fine fish it be, for it be marked down by 30% (a tidbit about that later on). so i grabbed what i might and tossed him into me bucket (read: shopping cart) and i make way to the blessed harbour that be mine (read: home). yar!

so here is the recipe i tried out tonight:

Crispy Fish Fillets
1 egg
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
1/4 cup oil (for frying)
4 (6 oz) sole fillets

1. in a shallow dish, whisk together egg, mustard and salt; set aside. place potato flakes in a separate shallow dish.
2. heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
3. dip fillets in egg mixture, then dredge fillets through potato flakes, being sure to entirely coat the fish. for extra crispy, dip in egg mixture and flakes again.
4. fry fish fillets in oil for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

ADAPTATIONS: first, being out of eggs, i used egg whites instead. (you'll note, this also reduces the fat content, which can be an important consideration when you're frying anything battered.) also, following a couple tips on the page, i used flour instead of instant mashed potato flakes (which are ew, in my opinion), and i added parsley and garlic powder to the flour. another tip i got was to dip the fish in the flour first, then in the egg mixture, then the flour again. this allows the flour to stick to the fish better.

REVIEW: three words: a. ma. zing. it was absolutely delicious. blithe enjoyed it, and i actually had seconds. and since the boys were both asleep, i only made 3 pieces. and well, their loss is blithe's and my gain. mwahaha but i still have some fillets left, so i will most definitely make this again. and i was really surprised by one other thing with this recipe: i expected it to taste really strongly of mustard. apparently, i was wrong. the cooking process completely mellowed out the flavour, so that if you didn't know there was mustard in the batter, you'd never know. really, it was delicious and super easy to make and we really enjoyed it. in fact, it's going to become a regular.... especially since i've discovered just how cheap fish is!! which leads in nicely to my tidbit mentioned above...

early. morning. grocery shopping. seriously. i'll admit, i thought annie was insane. until i gave it a whirl last week before picking up the kids, and hokey doodle! i got a week's worth of groceries for $42!!!! i'm not even kidding! i got the 6 sole fillets for about $4.50, i got a huge club pack of honey garlic sausage (that's 12 sausages) for about $6, two fresh pizzas for $3 each, and all kinds of other little deals. just don't go to my store on thursdays, or i may be reduced to violence over a piece of fish or chicken or something. just saying.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

fish. it's what's for dinner.

Garlic Alfredo Talapia

some fish (the original recipe calls for 4 fillets, but i just used a big piece i bought at the store)
olive oil
(the recipe calls for creole seasoning, but lacking that, i just used italian salad dressing instead of the oil and seasoning.)

Alfredo Sauce
some butter
some parmesan cheese
some cream
some garlic, minced (1-2 cloves, if you're gonna use it)

1. pre-heat oven to 425F. place fish on baking sheet and brush with oil (or italian dressing, in my case). bake for about 10 mins, until flesh is no longer translucent (i used skinless. fish flesh = ew) and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
2. meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add garlic. cook about 2 mins until garlic has softened and the aroma has mellowed. add the cheese and cream. (you can use milk, but we're on a high-fat diet here, so cream it is. besides, cream makes it, well, creamier.) stir continously, and do not boil.
3. pour the sauce over the fish to serve and enjoy!

why do i even bother posting recipes here, with quantities this vague?? but alas, this is how i cook, and you must be used to that by now. haha

oh! but a word about the fish itself: i had picked it up a couple weeks ago at the grocery store, but we didn't end up using it at the time, so i threw it in the freezer. i wanted to use it today, but alas, it was frozen! but all was not lost (obviously, or i couldn't have posted this, now that i'm thinking about it). i remembered reading once that if you thaw fish in milk, it takes away the frozen taste. so that's what i did! i took the fish out a couple hours prior to cooking it, and put it in a container with milk, and covered it. and yup! you couldn't taste the frozen. just the fish. wonderful tip!!!

REVIEW: this was, in a word, straight from heaven. i loved it. it wasn't very fishy tasting, but it didn't taste like chicken, either. it was nicely fish-esque, and the alfredo sauce was a beautiful addition. blithe didn't have any, because she was sleeping off her heat exhaustion from yesterday, but the boys had it. and asher loved it. bram, on the other hand, well, let me tell you the tale.

you'll remember from two paragraphs earlier, that i purchased the fish a couple weeks ago. that was an interesting moment. i was looking at the fish, which was actually marked down (one of those "buy it and use it today" things - excellent way to snag a deal, by the way). bram started begging me - begging, i say! - to buy some fish because "i just love fish, mommy, and you never make it! please please please get fish!" then blithe and asher joined it. what could i do, i was outnumbered, and they're the ones i cook for, so give the masses what they want. so i bought the fish, brought it home, and ended up freezing it. today i finally cooked it. and bram, who loves fish and when he goes out for dinner insists on fish and chips because he "loves fish soooooooooo much"... didn't like it. turns out, this wannabe pescavore actually only likes fish if it's deep-fried and battered. you know, like fish and chips. not real fish, apparently. sigh. maybe i can convert him one of these days...

but asher (who can be somewhat picky) and i really loved this dish, and we will be having it again. because i don't encourage picky eating. i give the kids healthy food, grown-up food, real food, and we have never had a truly picky eater in the family. so that's the review i want you to take away from this post: yum.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

oh. my. goodness. i'd forgotten just how much i love planning and list-making!!

i used to be so organized. i had all my meals planned a week in advance, all the housework (evenutally) got done, we arrived for appointments on time. (lately, it would be an accomplishment to eat, find any clean clothes to wear, and arrive for appointments. period. LOL ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but not much.) spend a few months in the hospital and the whole system breaks down! sheesh!!

well, that changes now. i'm too overwhelmed anymore not to live without my precious lists. to-do lists. grocery lists. appointments. calendars. day planners. menu plans.

oh, yes, folks, this was my life once, and everything got done, on time, without (too much) stress and chaos. appointments were kept, work got done, things were accomplished, and i didn't feel like a complete and utter failure. so i've decided to go back to that. to get organized again. and you know what?? i'd forgotten how much fun it is!!!

here's the list of all the ways i'm a square:

  1. i love lists. i'm even making a list to prove it. seriously.
  2. day planners. {insert choir of angels}
  3. crossing things off my to-do list thrills me in ways i don't care to admit on a family blog.
  4. i have two ways of crossing things off a to-do list: a straight line through the item means that the item has been completed. a squiggly/wavy line through the item means that it's not on the list anymore, for a variety of reasons.
  5. DW gave me a beautiful planner/organizer last week, and i got all teary-eyed. it's just so beautiful!!
  6. i truly believe that a plain ol' papermate pen is one of the most wondrous things in the world. 
  7. i'm actually blogging about all this.
  8. i re-copied my menu for the coming week, so that i can have one on the fridge, and one in my planner. plus i've written the days' meals on the appropriate page in my planner.
  9. i have at least 4 pretty "My Week" pads on my fridge, each for a different purpose. the pale pink with polka-dots is for the menu.
  10. when i do my weekly menu, i don't just figure out supper in advance. nope. breakfast, lunch, snack, supper, all planned out days in advance. which, i'll admit, makes me very, very happy.
and #9 and #10 segue so nicely into the next part of this post: the weekly menu. now, since the kids are with ed from tuesday morning to thursday morning, my week starts today. and because they came back in the afternoon today, i can skip breakfast and lunch for today and go straight to snack and supper. here's what we've got for the coming days:

snack: apple slices
supper: smoothies (they had a huge lunch)

breakfast: Timbits (supplied by my mother)
lunch: grilled cheese with ham, using homemade bread
snack: n/a, since the kids will be with their dad
supper: pasta with tomato sauce

breakfast: smoothies
lunch: perogies with fried onion
snack: roll kuchen (i don't know how to spell it. it's a mennonite deep-fried piece of dough. i'm just guessing at the spelling there.)
supper: lentil and spinach soup, with homemade bread

breakfast: toast with peanut butter
lunch: spaghetti and meatballs. alas, not homemade. nope. chef boyardee. but we're going to be at both services at church on sunday (i'm doing the sunday school thing again), so by the time we get home, it will be late and we (read: I) will be tired and needing something simple and easy. and there's not much easier than opening a can and dumping the contents into a pot for a few minutes.
snack: apple slices
supper: fish, roasted potatoes, corn or other veggie. see? this meal makes up for the chef boyardee, don't you agree? ;)

breakfast: pancakes
lunch: leftover soup with homemade bread
snack: homemade chocolate chip cookies (which we're going to make on monday afternoon)
supper: rice, beans, fried onions

breakfast: maybe.... chocolate french toast

so there we go. the week in food. and don't doubt that i've written in my planner when i need to make bread, too. and allot time to make the cookies. and when i need to start soaking the beans and cooking the rice. and thawing the fish. oh, yes, i'm on the ball. and it feels fabulous!!! i'll let you know on tuesday how this all went, but i'm hoping that this will go well. cross your crossables for me! 

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i like this blog. this is where i write about homelife. my kids, my pets, recipes, natural cleaning products, gardening, cool finds... that's what i write about here. this is the hands-on part of my personal journey. i'm reclaiming myself, a self i lost in a hospital somewhere, among all the meds, plastic, waste and complexity that comes with Special Needs parenting. i crave simplicity, and this is my journey to create it for my family and me.

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