My Favourite Fall Things

September 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

I LIKE Fall. I LOVE Fall! No, wait, I ADORE Fall!

Fall is my favourite time of year, always has been and always will be. Used to be it was my favourite because my birthday is in November and who doesn’t love their birthday?  Family, friends, presents, cake…birthdays are the bomb!

Well, they used to be and then I turned 40 and frankly, it’s just not the same anymore. So even though I’m no longer crazy about my birthday, I still love this time of year.

Here’s a list of my favourite Fall things:

1) The cooler weather…I HATE humidity and we get it pretty bad here in the Valley. It can be stifling and make a person, even one with as sweet a disposition as mine (Hubby, you can stop laughing now), cranky and irritable. By the end of Summer I can be a full on biotch and right quick to snap.  Believe me, by September, a cool Fall breeze is most welcome around here.

2) The changing leaves…well, darn it they’re just so pretty, aren’t they? Hues of red, yellow and orange decorating the trees are almost as nice as Christmas time in these parts.

3) Returning to the sanctity of my kitchen. I really do LOVE cooking but not so much in the Summer…see article 1).  If we’re camping, that’s one thing and I’m pretty good with a Coleman stove but to cook indoors during oppressive humidity, well, no thanks.

4) Yard work…I know, I know…normally, I’m not a fan of yard work or gardening in general. As some previous posts can attest, I have tried very hard to grow a green thumb and have made several attempts at veggie gardens, flower gardens and even gardening in pots. Meh, not for me. But Fall yard work is different and more like cleaning and organizing than actual gardening. Trimming hedges, turning beds, putting my gnomes away for the winter and cleaning up the deck, I’m all for that.

5) Down time…ahhh, blessed boredom. Summer is a hectic time around here for the same reasons as everyone else but I’ve got the added busyness of 7 family birthdays between the middle of July and the first week of September.  That’s a lot of dinners, presents and way more cake than my waistline needs thankyouverymuch.

So, I suppose that’s it…my top 5 favourite things about my favourite time of year. Stay tuned as I plan to start posting my favourite Fall recipes over the next few weeks.

Cabbage Rolls, Pulled Pork, Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce, Chicken Pot Pie and Beef Stew. Oh heaven’s, now I’m hungry.



Food is NOT Fun! – A Rant with A Recipe

August 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

Seriously, does that head of cauliflower look like a barrel of laughs? Will it, at any moment, crack a really funny joke or break out into a silly song and dance? No, right?

So why do advertisers feel the need to describe food as “fun”?  Food is necessary, tasty and, for some, even fun to prepare. But by itself, just sitting there, the last word that would come to mind to describe it, is fun. How silly. Worse yet, the word fun is most often used to describe prepackaged, loaded with preservatives and chemicals and totally unhealthy snacks or meals marketed to kids.  And that’s not silly at all, it’s a darn shame.

From the ridiculous singing wheat cereal to people breaking out in a highly choreographed dance routine while eating a chocolate bar, marketers are trying to create and sell an idea that wouldn’t otherwise exist in reality. So what else is new? (Believe me, you don’t want to get me started on anti-aging products aimed at women of *ahem*, a certain age.)

My question of why is mostly rhetorical.  I know that what they’re trying to do is sell their snake oil product. They know this shit is bad for you, they know that their regular consumption leads to health problems and lends to the ever growing issue of obesity. Still they peddle the idea that this *insert pretty much anything sold in the middle aisles of any grocery store* is really crap in pretty wrapping but hey, it’s fun, fun, fun. Meh, it’s the bottom line that counts, right?

Thankfully though, the trend of people being conscious about they are putting into their bodies is growing just as fast as people’s waistlines.

Food is NOT fun. Especially healthy food, like veggies. I mean, really, is there anything more boring than a head of cauliflower? YAWN.  But good food IS good for you and if cooked well can taste really yummy.

Case in point, this recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower (of course!)

1 small or 1/2 a large head of cauliflower chopped into bite size pieces
2 tblsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp of finely chopped garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat Oven to 350F

Spread cauliflower in a shallow baking pan
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper
Stir to incorporate

Bake for 15 to 20 mins (stirring part way to avoid sticking) or until cauliflower starts to brown just a little.

That’s it. If you think you don’t like cauliflower, I dare you try this recipe and see if you don’t change your mind.



MacNCheese Veggie Casserole

July 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Wow, it’s been six months since I posted my last recipe.

Truth be told, I’m not doing a whole lot of cooking these days especially in the last couple of months. We’re experiencing oppressive humidity added with a record breaking dry spell, so far the hottest and driest July ever recorded for our area. Lawns are brown and crunch beneath your feet, flower beds and gardens need watering twice a day; still limp more often than not and fire bans are in place for miles and miles around. *UPDATE: No kidding, while I was writing this post it started to rain and even better, it still is and might be for some time. Yay!

Needless to say, inside a house without air conditioning, the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove or oven. Not only is it not fun, it is not practical because the heat of the oven or stove just increases the temperature inside the house. We’ve actually busted our budget at restaurants the last month just to be somewhere we can eat that has air conditioning.

Anywho, today Hubby sent me a text that he had a craving for pasta and even though we’re kinda sorta Paleoish (I can see you rolling your eyes Shady, stop it.), this recipe immediately came to mind. It’s always been a big hit and makes a great main or side dish. You can dress it up anyway you like or use any kind of pasta, veggies and cheese you have on hand.

I’ve been making this for years and it is no more time consuming or hassle than opening a box of mac and cheese. But the taste is miles apart and don’t get me started on how much better for you it is than all those chemicals.

MacNCheese Veggie Casserole

I cooked about 1 and 3/4 cup of macaroni until just before not quite done (it will cook in the sauce while in the oven later and I prefer my pasta firmer). Then it was rinsed and set aside. We’re only a family of three so use more if there are more mouths to feed.

The rest of the casserole is…

The Cheese Sauce

3 tblsp of butter
3 tblsp of flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk (depending on your desired consistency)
1 cup grated medium cheddar (old or sharp is really good too)
1/3 cup of grated  Parmesan cheese (I know, I’m using processed, sue me.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

In the same pot that I cooked the macaroni, obvious by the hangers on in the pot, I melted the butter on medium low and whisked in the flour until I got a consistent rue, I then poured in some of the milk and continued to whisk until I got a nice paste.

I know it doesn’t look very appetizing but that’s the beginnings of a really nice basic sauce, assuming you ignore the floating macaroni. Whatever, this isn’t Hell’s Kitchen, it’s mine.  😛

Next, you add your grated cheddar and stir, being sure to add milk as it thickens. It will thicken nicely so don’t be tempted to add too much milk.

Turn the heat down to low and continue whisking, add the Parmesan and keep stirring until well incorporated. Turn heat off and add salt and pepper. Add rinsed and drained pasta and stir until well mixed.

Now, taste it!  Go on, you know you wanna…hehe.  Seriously, this stuff is amazing by itself but it’s even better when covered in a bed of fresh seasonal veggies which is then covered in a layer of bread crumbs (I said stop it Shady!) and even more cheese.

The Veggie Crumb Layer

1 sliced medium zucchini (even better if you can walk outside and grab it from your own garden)
Fresh blanched green beans
2/3 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

I layered a glass baking pan with the mac and cheese, added the green beans then laid out the zucchini slices on top. In a small bowl I mixed together the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper and sprinkled it on top. I threw it in a 300 F oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese bubbled, the breadcrumbs browned and the veggies softened.


When Life Gives You Winter Blues Make Blueberry Sauce

February 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Hey, if it works for lemons and lemonade…

Life for the last few weeks has been…well, its been rather strange. Between the Paleo Challenge, looming tax bills, recurring issues with Son and the inevitable winter blues, I’ve been stretching myself.

So yesterday I made blueberry sauce.

3 cups of frozen blueberries
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of salt

Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes. Let cool completely.  Transfer into jars and keep refrigerated.


Cauliflower – Who Knew?

January 7, 2012 § 3 Comments

Did you know you can cook cauliflower to get the same consistency as mash potatoes?  That’s cool, right?!  But did you know you can also chop, grate or process cauliflower to get the same consistency as rice?

I had no idea. Thanks Shady!

There is the giant head of cauliflower Hubby brought home from the grocery store today. I used about 1/5 of it for tonight’s stuffed pepper dinner.

First I sauteed some onions, celery and garlic in butter until soft. I then added some lean ground beef and cooked until brown. I added canned (drained) diced tomatoes and let that simmer on med low for about 20 minutes.

Then I grated raw cauliflower until I had about 2 cups and added that to the mixture and continued simmering. After another 10 minutes I added leftover meat sauce and turned the heat down letting it simmer.

I cored and cleaned four large green bell peppers and stuffed them with the meat/cauliflower mixture. And put the tops back on for the picture.  😛

Then I took the tops back off, added cheese and put the tops back on.

I used the remaining meat/cauliflower sauce to line the pan and baked them at 325 F  covered.  After 40 minutes, I turned the oven off and removed the cover and let stand until we were ready to eat.

*Update: When I wrote this post the peppers were still in the oven and I never did say how they turned out. Well, they were awesome! Satisfying and filling, we only ate one each and were stuffed. The last one is in the fridge and calling my name.  😀

Camp Food – Leftover Hamburgers Make Awesome Stew

August 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

I absolutely LOVE cooking outdoors, I always find the food tastes better when we’re camping.  But then, I like airplane and hospital food too.  😉   Seriously though, I think it’s the lack of walls and the sheer abundance of fresh air.  Standing over a hot stove outside when it’s humid is a lot better than behind stuck inside a house doing the same thing.

As we were going to be gone for less than 48 hours, I had only one major meal to concern myself with and that was Saturday’s dinner.  Preferring to use something we already had instead of going out and spending money, I found some leftover cooked hamburgers in the freezer.

Not sure what exactly I was going to do with it, I relied on my creativity and tossed them into the cooler.  I then went through the pantry and fridge and found a can of diced tomatoes and a couple of small green peppers.  Aha! I knew what I was going to make…

Leftover Hamburger Stew

In a medium size pot on low heat I melted about a tablespoon of butter and cooked 1 small diced onion and 2 small chopped green pepper.  I added 1 tablespoon of homemade Italian Spice Mix* and continued cooking until the peppers were tender and then added the large can of diced tomatoes.

While that continued cooking on low, I cut up the (now thawed) cooked hamburgers into small cubes and added that to the sauce.  I turned up the heat and cooked it for about 20 minutes and then added another tablespoon of the spice mix and a small can of tomato paste, mixing well.

I let that simmer for another 15 minutes then covered and let stand.  It sat for most of the afternoon so I heated it up on med high and brought it to a boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly and then turned it to simmer for another 10 minutes.

It was amazing!  Somehow I know that it tasted all the better for being outdoors…and that I used leftovers in such a clever and tasty way.   😀

*Italian Spice Mix – Instead of bringing along a whole lot of different spices for camping which can be a pain to store, I put some oregano, basil, thyme, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder all in one container and shook it up.  Tada!  Instant all-purpose spice mix.

Zucchini Muffins

February 23, 2011 § 9 Comments

Though it’s warmed up some, thank goodness for small miracles, it’s still very much winter around here and I found myself baking up another batch of warm and yummy goodness this morning.  As you can see by the pic, three disappeared before I got out my camera.   Mice!  (No, not really…just me and Daughter.  I’m sure another three will disappear as soon as Hubby gets home.)

To make these you’ll need:

2  1/2 cups of grated zucchini
2/3 cup of melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
2 tsp of vanilla
2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of salt

Optional:  1 cup of walnut pieces, 1 cup of dried cranberries and 48 – 1/4″ cubes of cream cheese (4 pieces per muffin).

Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl mix the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.  Add the zucchini and melted butter and stir well.  Add the salt and baking soda and incorporate.

In a smaller bowl mix the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg until well mixed.

Mix the dry ingredients (in thirds) to the wet and mix well.  Add the walnuts and cranberries stirring gently but be sure to not over mix the batter.  Muffins are funny that way.

Fill buttered or paper lined muffin cups half way and then add two cubes of cream cheese to each cup. Fill up muffins cups until they are full.  (They should be heaping.)  Add two more cubes of cream cheese to each one.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes until muffins are golden brown.

If you’ve never heard of using zucchini to bake, you’re not alone.  This is a relatively new idea for me and the first time I’ve ever tried it but if you like banana bread or muffins, these are very similar.

They are really very good.  Enjoy!

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