Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast

My favourite season has finally started ... FALL! Time to get out the mighty crockpot! If you don't own one I highly recommend getting one. They are so easy and the meats you cook in them come out 'fall off the bone' tender.

This is one of my favourite 'go to' recipes. It's easy and I love that I can have a lot of dinner prepped before I even sit down to breakfast! I also get some bread ready to go in my bread machine so the only thing that I have to do around dinner time is make some mashed potatoes (which are a must because the gravy this roast makes is unbelievably yummy!) and a vegetable.

1 (3lb) boneless pork loin roast
1 (16oz) can jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberry juice OR apple juice
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cloves

2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water
To taste salt and pepper

Place pork roast in slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mash cranberry sauce; stir in sugar, juice, mustard and cloves. Pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast from slow cooker and keep warm. Skim fat from juices; measure 2 cups, adding water if necessary, and pour into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into gravy. Cook and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with slice pork and mashed potatoes.

Tip: Any leftover pork can be used with my Harvest Pork Stew.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Bacon Cheeseburger Lasagna

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cans (15oz each) chunky tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 large egg
1 (15oz) container ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled (1/2 cup) -- divided
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Spray 13x9" baking dish with cooking spray. In a 12-inch skillet, cook beef, onions, salt and pepper over medium-high heat until beef is brown; drain. Stir in tomato sauce and water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat egg with fork. Stir in ricotta cheese, Swiss cheese, parsley and 1/4 cup of bacon.

Spread about 1 cup of the beef mixture in baking dish. Top with 4 uncooked lasagna noodles. Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture, 2 cups of beef mixture and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese over the noodles. Repeat layers once, starting with 4 noodles. Top with remaining 4 noodles, beef mixture, cheddar cheese and bacon. Spray a 15-inch length of tin foil with non-stick cooking spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down. Refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat oven to 350F. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes longer or until bubbly and golden brown. Cover and let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

Siblings Without Rivalry

Title: "Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together so You Can Too

Authors: Elaine Mazlish & Adele Faber

Type: Parenting

Pages: 207

Synopsis: This book sheds light on sibling rivalry and states that the rivalry is to be expected between siblings. But that doesn't mean that we, as parents, just sit back and let it happen. This book gives parents practical, easy advice to use with our children when conflicts arise. It teaches how to empower our kids to solve their conflicts on their own; shows us how we put our kids into unhealthy 'roles' and often increase the conflict between our kids without even knowing it.

My Thoughts: This is a very easy to read and enjoyable parenting book. It is well written with easy-to-use advice for parents. It focuses on actively listening to our kids. It's easy to relate to the examples given and I love how the advice maintains the dignity of the parents and the child. I also love how it states for parents to stop being fair (something I've already started to do with our 3 kids) and instead focus on meeting each child's individual needs. Highly recommend it.
My Rating: 4.5/5 (aka awesome read)

The Good Sister

Title: The Good Sister

Author: Diana Diamond

Type: Mystery

Book Type: Paperback

Pages: 300ish

Synopsis: Two sisters who have been rivals since they were young children are working together at there father's company Pegasus Satellite and they each have different roles in the company. Jennifer is the smart one who runs the technical side of the company. When she agrees to go to the Cannes Film Festival it is there that she meets Padraig the Irish movie star who sweeps her off her feet, but when Jennifer finds her life in danger she leaves Padraig.
Catherine is the prettier and more social sister who is out to take Hollywood by storm with the company. It is in Hollywood that Catherine finds her mark and starts to work with Padraig in a movie company. She is also the one who manages to screw things up in everyone's lives.

My Thoughts: This book is from the Kelly Ripa's book club. Apparently Ms Ripa and I have vastly different book tastes. This book started out promising with a decent premise but then died a very slow and painful death. The characters were boring and I couldn't find one character that I liked or even believed. The author used stereotypes (ie the smart sister was plain and boring and the beautiful sister was outgoing and very popular). The storyline progressed at a snail's pace; so much so that I didn't even care who was the 'bad sister'. I'm very glad I borrowed this book from the library and didn't buy it. Drivel. Think of a really badly written soap opera (yes, they're bad to begin with) with dull characters and you've got "The Good Sister".

My Rating: 0/5 (aka drivel; didn't even finish it)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Marinated Brie

I'm heading to the cottage for a "Girly weekend" tomorrow and this is one of the appetizers that I'm bringing. It's very easy and you can easily double it and use a bigger wheel of brie for larger crowd.

This easy dish can be baked in the oven or on the BBQ. You can dress it up with different coloured peppers. Make sure you marinate the brie long enough for the flavours to mix together.
1 tbsp Lemon juice
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 Red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1 tbsp Fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 oz wheel Brie or Camembert cheese
Serve with Crackers or French bread

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients except the cheese and crackers. Mix well. Place cheese wheel in a small, shallow glass dish and poke it full of holes with a fork. Pour marinade over cheese. Cover and let sit in the fridge over night, or at least for 3 hours. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese just starts to bulge around the edges and centre is soft. Serve warm with crackers or French bread.

Marinate brie as per instructions above. Preheat BBQ to medium (350F0. Place a piece of foil on the grill and poke holes in the foil with a skewer. Place cheese on foil. Heat just until cheese starts to bulge around the edges and centre is soft (about 15 minutes). Serve warm with crackers or French bread.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

My Favourite Chocolate Cake

Updated: August 2, 2013

Attention chocolate lovers! This moist cake is the best -- especially topped with the chocolate glaze! It’s actually low in fat but you’d never know it!

This is a very easy cake to whip up if company pops by unexpectedly. Or if you just have a craving for chocolate cake! The applesauce greatly decreases the fat content in this recipe which in turn should decrease your guilt about eating chocolate cake! I've also been out of plain unsweetened applesauce and have used apple-strawberry applesauce in it's place and couldn't tell the difference. When out of an ingredient, improvise!

1 cup Buttermilk (see Note below)
½ cup Unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup Vegetable oil
1 Large egg
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Flour
1 cup Sugar
½ cup Cocoa
1 tsp Baking soda

1 cup Icing sugar
2 tbsp Cocoa
1 tbsp Corn syrup
1 tbsp Hot water

Optional Garnish
Smarties candies, chopped or cake sprinkles

Note: Instead of buttermilk you can substitute 1 cup of milk + 1 tbsp. white vinegar.  Let sit for 5 minutes or until chunky looking.

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch round spring form pan with vegetable cooking spray. Or, if using a 9-inch round baking pan, trace the bottom of the pan on a piece of parchment paper.  Cut out the circle of parchment; place it in the pan and spray paper with cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, applesauce, oil, egg and vanilla. Mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda. Stir to break up lumps. Add buttermilk mixture; whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes.  Your cake should look something like this delicious little fella!

Run a knife (or, I prefer a plastic stone scraper from Pampered Chef) along the sides of the pan. Loosen sides and turn cake onto a plate. {Remove parchment paper circle, if used}

Before cake completely cools, prepare glaze. In a double boiler over simmering water, stir together glaze ingredients until sugar dissolves. Add 1 tbsp of hot water if glaze seems too thick. Pour over warm cake. Garnish with chopped Smarties or cake sprinkles, if desired.  Let stand for 30 minutes until icing hardens. 

Tip: Adding the icing while the cake is still warm makes it so much easier to spread the icing evenly without damaging the cake.

From: “Healthy Meals in Minutes” recipe cards (#20)

Lemon Bundt Cake

This is a very moist bundt cake that is really easy to make!

1 (520g) Lemon cake mix
1 (106g) Lemon instant pudding mix
½ cup Vegetable oil
1 cup Water
4 Eggs
1 cup Icing sugar
2 tbsp Lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. With an electric mixer, mix cake mix, pudding mix, oil, water and eggs for 2 minutes on medium. Beat for 1 minute more. Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 25 minutes in pan. Turn out onto a cake plate. Let cool completely. Combine icing sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle over cake


Chocolate Bundt Cake

Substitute chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix for the lemon cake mix and pudding mix. Omit icing sugar and lemon juice. Serve with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

BOOK DISCUSSION: Trying New Genres

Are you the kind of reader that doesn't like to venture outside of their tried and true genre?? Are you strictly a "chick lit" buff? Or do you only read "mystery"?

Not I! I guess I've always been the kind of reader to 'try something new'. I do go through my phases of chick lit or historical fiction but after a few books of the same genre I need to throw in something new. I'm not one to pick a genre and stick to it for too long. Life is too short (and the library has WWAAAY too many books) to limit myself to just one genre.

As a teen I used to read books like "Flowers in the Attic" but I'd also throw in a few classics (ie. "Emma" by Jane Austen, "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte, "The Count of Monte Cristo" by A. Dumas ....). I think it's because I wanted to see what all the hype was about 'the classics'. I'm so happy that I did because if I hadn't I wouldn't be able to add "The Secret Garden" to my list of "All-Time Favourite Books". :) Granted, not all were my cuppa tea but I'm happy that I gave them a try.

A few years back I decided to try a new kind of book. I frequent the Todays Parent book forum (an AWESOME place to go if you're looking for a new read) and many posters were talking about supernatural books. My first thought was that it was too 'out there' for me -- all these books about vampires, werewolves and the rest of their bretheren. But, I'm happy to report that I gave Kelley Armstrong's "Bitten" a try and haven't regretted it. She is an amazing author and has motivated me to read more and more supernatural books. Yes, I have read the "Twilight" series (enjoyed them all -- even though I go against the grain when I side with Jacob and not the pasty-faced slab'o'ice that is Edward lol. Ahhh, Charlene, I await your retort!).

My point is that I think it's important to try out different genres. You never know what you're missing if you don't! So if you're only into historical fiction, try picking up a mystery. If you're a supernatural buff, try picking up a biography! So many genres, so little time!

Mary Mary

Title: Mary Mary

Author: James Patterson

Type: Suspense/Mystery

Book Type: Hardcover

Pages: 392

Synopsis: FBI agent Alex Cross is on vacation with his family at Disneyland when he gets a call from the Director. A well-known actress was shot outside her home in Beverly Hills. Shortly afterward, an editor for the Los Angeles Times receives an e-mail describing the murder in vivid detail. Alex quickly learns that this is not an isolated incident. The killer, known as Mary Smith, has done this before and plans to kill again. Suddently A-list celebrities are in fear for their lives. Dr Cross finds himself in the middle of solving the case.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book. Patterson is one of my 'go to' authors that rarely disappoints (the only book I abhorred of his was "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" -- let's just say I think that Patterson should stick with suspense and leave the romance to other authors). "Mary Mary" has lots of plot twists and turns that keep it interesting.

My Rating: 4/5 (aka - a very good read)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze

I'm always on the lookout for quick and tasty fish dishes. It's a great way to use the underused broiler -- and is perfect for when you don't have the heart to send your hubby out into a winter blizzard to BBQ some fish for dinner. ;)

1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced

1lb salmon fillet

In a small bowl, mix together marinade ingredients.
Place salmon, skin-side down, in a shallow glass or plastic dish. Pour marinade over salmon. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes but no longer than 1 hour.

Set oven to broil. Remove salmon from marinade; reserve marinade. Place salmon, skin-side down, on rack in broiler pan. Broil with top 4-6 inches from medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, brushing 2 or 3 times with marinade, until salmon flakes easily with fork. Discard any remaining marinade.

Originally from: "Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today"

Monday, 21 September 2009

Roasted Balsamic and Parmesan Asparagus

I adore the three main ingredients in this recipe ... asparagus, fresh Parmesan and balsamic vinegar. This is a simple recipe that can easily be doubled for a large group.

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (I used black pepper)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (the higher quality, the better in my opinion)
3 tbsp FRESH Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425F. Place the asparagus in a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper and garlic; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Bake for another 2-7 minutes -- until asparagus is al dente. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

BOOK DISCUSSION: Giving up on a book

This week I feared that I had lost my Book Mojo. It is a mightly sad thing to lose when you're an avid reader. Once in awhile I'll pick up a book and feel that I'm wasting my time with it either because I hate the storyline, there is no storyline to be found or it just isn't 'my cuppa tea'.

This week I had 3 (yes, THREE!) books, in a row, that were so bland and boring that I gave up on them. Typically, I like to finish a book but if, after about 50-100 pages, the book doesn't grip me I move on to something new. My reading time is much too precious to waste on a stinker of a book.

One of the reasons I don't sweat it when I don't like a book is because the majority of the books that I read I get from the library. I absolutely hate it when I buy a book and find out that I don't like it. With the library, if you don't like a book you just take it back. I'm always surprised when people don't take advantage of their local library.

This week I started reading "Talk Before Sleep" by Elizabeth Berg, "Spooning" by Darri Stephens and Megan DeSales and "Designer Knockoff" by Ellen Byerrum. All three books had very blaw storylines (if there was actually a storyline to be found) and the characters were bland. "Spooning" seemed like it wanted to be a 'Sex and the City" wanna-be but just couldn't muster enough of a storyline to grab my interest. "Designer Knockoff" didn't have enough momentum to get the mystery suspense going enough to keep me wanting to find out 'who dunnit'. Plus, I just couldn't buy a fashion writer getting involved in a big mystery based on the fact that she was wearing a designer suit. Puleeze.

So, what do I do go get my Book Mojo back?? I go to an author who has never disappointed me. I am currently reading "Mary Mary" by James Patterson. I love his short chapters (2-3 pages each) and it's non-stop action with Patterson. I believe I have found my Mojo! Phew!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Pretend Wife

Title: The Pretend Wife

Author: Bridget Asher

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 274

Book Type: Novel

Synopsis: What would happen if you could find out how your life would have been with the boyfriend who got away? Gwen Merchant has a very safe life. She has her father, her husband, Peter and a quiet life.
Then along comes her college sweetheart Elliot who invites himself back into Gwen's life by asking Gwen to pose as his 'pretend wife' for a few days to please his dying mother. Gwen gets the unique chance to see what her life would have been if she had stayed with Elliot. She also starts to question how she's viewed love and when her own family secrets start being revealed she suddenly finds herself viewing this 'pretend love' as the most real love she's ever experienced.

My Thoughts: This book is all about 'the one who got away'. While it was an interesting premise this book didn't grip me. Although I felt the same way with this author's other book "My Husband's Sweethearts" which I read last year. This book had a very obvious ending.

My Rating: 3/5 (aka - Meh, an OK read)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Black-Bottom Banana Bars

I had 3 sad looking bananas in my kitchen so I went on the hunt for a new recipe so that I could put said bananas out of their misery. Note: I can no longer keep adding said bananas to my freezer for later use. When we moved last year I cleaned out my freezer and found .... 33 frozen bananas. Eeks! I swear they multiplied on their own! ;)
I came across this recipe on one of my favourite sites, http://www.tasteofhome.com/. These were very easy to make and are great in the kids' lunches.

When I made them tonight I wasn't paying attention and put the 'black-bottom' on the top. They still tasted good. :) I guess mine could be called "Black-topped Banana Bars". :) No worries ... my hubby offered to be my guinea pig and gobbled a few of them down and said they were 'real good'.
I also changed the recipe a bit by adding some chocolate chips too. If you like nuts try adding some walnuts to the banana bread layer. Enjoy!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup baking cocoa

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in the bananas.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Divide batter in half. Add cocoa to half. Add chocolate chips to the chocolate batter; spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Spoon remaining batter on top and swirl with a knife. Bake for 25 minutes or until the a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool a wire rack.

Yield: 2-1/2 to 3 dozen.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Title: "Spooning: A Novel"

Authors: Darri Stephens and Megan DeSales

Type: Paperback

Style: Chick Lit

Synopsis: Charlotte "Charlie" Brown is a recent grad and new to NYC. Together with her friends she starts up a "cooking club" to learn new recipes and catch up with her friends once per month. Charlie lands a dream job as an assistant to Jane Dough (think Martha Stewart's clone). As Charlie gets better and better in the kitchen she decides to use her culinary skills to woo J.P. Morgan, a man she's had her eye on but who remains aloof around her.

My Thoughts: I like reading the occasional Chick Lit but this was drivel. I read almost 100 pages and was still waiting for the storyline to do ... something ... anything remotely interesting. The main character was very dull. I think the authors were going for some kind of "Sex in the City"/ "Martha Stewart" thing ... but just didn't do it. Nothing seemed to jive together well.

My Rating: Zero/Nil/Bupkis (aka. Didn't even finish it)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookie Cake

This is a wonderful cake that looks just as great as it tastes. The best part? It's very easy to make! I found this recipe on the Kraft Canada website. It's one of my favourite cakes to bring to big parties because it feeds a lot of people and looks pretty impressive. Who doesn't love a giant Oreo?!?

1 pkg (2-layer size) devil’s food chocolate cake mix

4 squares Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup Butter, cut up

1 pkg (250g) Cream cheese, softened
½ cup Sugar
2 cups Cool Whip whipped topping, THAWED
12 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare and bake cake mix as directed on package in 2(9 inch) round cake pans. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Invert onto wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely.

Prepare Glaze
Melt chocolate in small microwavable bowl on medium for 3-4 minutes or until chocolate is melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Blend in butter. Set aside to slightly thicken; about 5 minutes. OR, melt both butter and chocolate in a double boiler until melted them let sit for 5 minutes.

Prepare Filling
Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping and crushed cookies. Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate, top-side down. Spread top of layer evenly with cream cheese mixture. Place remaining cake layer on top, top-side up. Spoon glaze over top of cake only.

1. This is a rich cake so keep portions small. It should feed 16 people.
2. If the chocolate glaze becomes too thick, microwave it on medium for 40 seconds to 1 minute or until smooth when stirred.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Change of Heart

Title: Change of Heart

Author: Jodi Piccoult

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 453

Book Style: Fictional Novel

Synopsis: This book focuses on a convicted killer's desire to donate his organs. June Nealon's life was shattered 11 years ago when her family was murdered by Shay Bourne. Now on death row, Shay wants to donate his heart to June's 11 year old daughter, Claire because he sees it as his only way to salvation. While Shay is awaiting his execution, odd things begin to happen on death row leading many to believe that Shay is the new Messiah. Picoult addresses and debates prisoner rights, the death penalty as well as religion in general. .
My Thoughts: I didn't love this book. It had an interesting premise but it lagged in so many spots that I felt like I forced myself to finish it. There was a lot of debating over whether or not the death penalty is right. The theological arguments throughout were interesting ... but got a bit much after awhile and bogged down the storyline, in my opinion. It does give one a lot to think about ... I just don't think Picoult is an author that I'll be itching to read again.
My Rating: 3 (aka an OK read)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins

I came up with this recipe because I had a HUGE zucchini sitting in my fridge -- although I love zucchini I have to hide it in recipes for my kids (and sometimes my hubby) to eat it.

I started with a muffin recipe that I had found on-line but then made so many changes to the original recipe I figure I should get the credit. :) Originally there was an entire cup of vegetable oil (ew) so I cut the oil in half and used mashed bananas to make up for the rest of the oil. I also played around with the spices and sugar too. If you don't have any dying bananas on your counter you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for half of the oil in a baking recipe.

I baked these as an after school treat for my kids and their friends ... and I got 5 thumbs up! After they were cooled I froze 2 sets of muffins (3 in each bag) for my kids' lunches in the weeks ahead -- for those days when I just don't have the energy to bake. :)


Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup mashed bananas (approx. 2 small bananas)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 cups zucchini, grated (see Tip below)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease or line 2 muffin trays with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the white and brown sugars and oil. Add the cocoa and vanilla; stir well.

In a medium bowl, mix together: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips (if using). Mix until just moist.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling 2/3 of each cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool. store loosely covered or freeze for later use (making sure to suck out the excess air from each freezer bag).

Tip: Make sure you squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the zucchini. I lay a couple of layers of paper towel on a plate the put the zucchini on top. Place more paper towel over the zucchini the press down. You'll be amazed at how much moisture is in zucchini!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hot Broccoli Dip

This has been one of my favourite dips for years. The original recipe is from Pampered Chef and is considered a 'light' dip but since I don't buy low fat sour cream (evah!) mine can't be considered 'low fat'.  I have made some other adjustments to the original recipe based on our own tastes (namely more Parmesan and garlic) because one clove of garlic is so very cute but not nearly enough.  This dip is full of flavour, creamy and delicious. It's also a very easy dip to make and can be made ahead of time.

It is not, however, a favourite among my kids because they have Broccophobia - a severe and unwarranted fear of broccoli.  Normally a dish with broccoli is something that I'd try to encourage them to eat.  Broccoli is good for you.  It's one of the veggies that I personally could eat everyday.  It looks like little trees.  

But, on a more personal note, I really don't relish the idea of sharing this dip (I will make an exception for Brad though).  I won't tell my kids that you can't taste the broccoli in the dip and that the garlic and Parmesan flavours are the main flavours. My man and I will willingly 'take one for the team' and eat this dip together in order to 'spare' our kids the heartache of having to eat this delicious dip filled with their worst nightmare.  

Because that's what parents do.  

We make sacrifices. 

We eat dip because we love.  That's just how we roll.

Hot Broccoli Dip

Blog Post Updated: February 4, 2016

Servings: 4-6
1 cup fresh broccoli florets, chopped
2 tbsp onion, chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, chopped (optional)
¼ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cheddar cheese or marble cheese, grated
½ cup sour cream (I used 14% fat)
½ cup mayonnaise (I have used both low fat and full fat)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Garnish - fresh Parmesan cheese

Serve with: nacho or pita chips

Preheat oven to 375F. 

Chop broccoli.  I love to use my Pampered Chef Food Chopper for this because it works like a charm and you can get your frustrations out at the same time.  A knife will do too.  Dice onion and red pepper (if using); place all veggies in a mixing bowl. 

Chopped green goodness paired with some of my favourite flavours.  Deelish!
Add Parmesan cheese along with the rest of the ingredients to vegetable mixture. Spoon into a small baking dish. Sprinkle more Parmesan cheese over top, if desired.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with nacho or pita chips.

Tip: You can substitute fat-free sour cream and mayonnaise with this recipe if you choose.

Tip 2: Make this dip ahead of time.  After spooning dip into the baking dish cover it with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge, for up to two days.  Preheat oven, remove plastic wrap and then bake according to the directions above. You may need to increase the baking time a bit since the dip is coming out of the fridge.

Inspired by: Pampered Chef’s “Light and Simple” cookbook (p. 11)

Disclaimer: I have, in no way, been compensated for my comments about Pampered Chef's Food Chopper.  I use many of their products because I love them and used to sell their products.

Daddy's Girl

Title: Daddy's Girl

Author: Lisa Scottoline

Type: Suspense/Mystery

Book Type: Paperback

Pages: 416

Synopsis: Natalie Greco is a law professor who is talked into teaching a class at a local prison by her colleague Angus Holt. This decision turns her life upside-down. While there a violent prison riot breaks out. During the chaos, Natalie rushes to help a grievously injured prison guard. Before he dies, he asks her to deliver a cryptic message with his last words: "Tell my wife it's under the floor." This plunges Nat into a nightmare. Suddenly, she (who is a 'follow the rules' kind of girl) finds herself suspected of a brutal murder and encounters threats to her own life.

Now not only are the cops after her, but ruthless killers are desperate to keep her from exposing their secret. In the meantime, she gets dangerously close to Angus which threatens to harm her relationship with her boyfriend. With her love life in jeopardy, her career in the balance, and her life on the line, Nat must figure out how to get herself out of the mess she's in by deciphering the puzzle behind the dead guard's last words.

My Thoughts: I love Lisa Scottoline. She's a wonderful suspense writer who always keeps you on the edge of your seat. She always has you thinking that you've figured it out ... then she throws an ingenious twist at you and gets you thinking something totally different. I highly recommend Scottoline (especially this book) if you're in the mood for some action and suspense.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Monday, 7 September 2009

BBB (Basil, Bacon & Balsamic) Potato Salad

I first found this recipe at least 5 years ago on the Kraft Canada website. This salad looks amazing and the flavours of the basil, bacon and balsamic really compliment each other. It is a new spin on an old summer favourite. I think we still have several more weeks of 'summer weather' to use this recipe, don't you?

3 lb. new potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup thin red onion slices (I prefer to chop it)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. Real Bacon Bits
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup KRAFT SIGNATURE Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard

COOK potatoes in saucepan of boiling water 10 to 12 min. or until fork-tender; drain. Place in large bowl. Add onions, tomatoes, bacon and basil; mix lightly.
MIX remining ingredients. Add to potato mixture; toss to coat.

REFRIGERATE several hours or until chilled. This allows the flavours to blend together.

Prepare using Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing and mayonnaise.

Breadmaker Cinnamon Rolls

In order to celebrate the final day of summer holidays (or was it celebrate the 1st day of school tomorrow?) I thought I'd tackle a kind of recipe that I've never done before. Cinnamon rolls are a favourite in our family ... but I've always used the Pillsbury Grands *gasp!*. I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com ("Soft, Moist and Gooey Cinnamon Rolls"). They were A LOT of work (I'm talking 3 hours of waiting, rolling and rising) but they were worth it. These tasted great but I'm going to try to find an overnight cinnamon roll recipe so I don't have to get up so early in the morning to prep these.

1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 tablespoons water
1/2 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 cups bread flour (all-purpose will not give you the right texture. See tip below.)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bread machine pan, place the milk, beaten egg, melted butter, water, vanilla pudding mix, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the Dough cycle.
When cycle is finished, remove the dough (TIP: it will be very sticky so you'll need to sprinkle flour down. If you have a pastry sheet use it! Knead for 3 to 5 minutes. Roll out to a large rectangle.

Mix together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread over dough. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and raisins, if desired. Starting with the widest end, roll the dough into a log. Pinch to seal seams. Cut into 1 inch slices, and place in a greased 9x13 inch pan (you may need another smaller pan if your rolls are quite big). Place in a draft-free space, and allow to rise until doubled. (I will often sit the pan in my microwave to rise -- without turning it on, of course!).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. To make frosting, mix the milk, confectioners sugar, softened butter and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over warm cinnamon rolls.

Tip: You can find bread flour in your baking ingredient aisle. I can only find it in a small bag.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Evermore: The Immortals

Title: Evermore

Author: Alyson Noel

Genre: Young Adult Supernatural

Type: Paperback

Pages: 320

Synopsis: After losing her family in a horrible car accident, Ever is sent to California to live with her aunt. Ever isn't a 'normal' 16 year old girl. Ever since the accident she can see auras, read people's minds and see people's futures just by touching them. In order to hide her 'abilities' and not be constantly bombarded by the thoughts of others she shields herself off from others by avoiding contact with others. That all changes when she meets, Damen Auguste, the extremely handsome and rich newcomer to her school. Ever feels an instant connection with Damen (who appears to be able to be able to read her mind and has some tricks of his own). He is also the only one to stop her from the constant noise of other people's thoughts.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. If you're a fan of P.C and Kristin Cast (mother and daughter Young Adult supernatural authors who wrote "The House of Night" series), you'll like this book. This author doesn't get hung up on all of the teen vernacular and has written an intriguing story. I'm very interested to read the second book in this series that comes out this month ("Blue Moon: The Immortals").
My Rating: 4/5 (aka a really good read)

Friday, 4 September 2009

Meal in a Bowl Soup

This is a wonderfully flavourful soup that I love to make in the fall or for after we go tobagganing in the winter. It's perfect if you have a crowd to feed!

Don't be scared by the number of ingredients. It's one of those 'throw everything in a pot' kind of recipes. This is a very filling soup and this recipe makes lots of it!

1 lb Italian sausage (hot/sweet)
2 Onions, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 cups Celery, sliced
2 cups Carrots, sliced
¼ cup Fresh parsley, chopped
1 ½ tsp Basil
1 (28 oz) Can of tomatoes, undrained
6 cups Chicken broth
2 ½ cups Tomato juice
2 cups Cabbage, shredded
1 (19 oz) Can of kidney beans, undrained
1 ½ cups Small pasta shells or macaroni
1 (375mL) Jar of Bick’s sweet corn relish
To taste Salt & pepper

Remove casing from sausage and cut into 1” pieces. Sauté sausage, onion and garlic in olive oil until meat is lightly browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve with homemade bread and a green salad.

This soup should freeze well. Try cutting the recipe in half.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Garlic Parmesan Orzo

I found this dish on one of my favourite recipe sites, http://www.tasteofhome.com/. It's a great side dish that you can put with most meats. Even my sometimes picky kids gobble this up. The biggest tip I can give is to use REAL Parmesan cheese. Don't use the fake stuff in this recipe. If you use the good stuff you won't be sorry.

2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. In a large skillet, saute garlic in butter until tender. Add the orzo, Parmesan cheese, milk, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until heated through.

Yield: 6 servings.

Best Friends Forever

Title: Best Friends Forever

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 359

Synopsis: Addie Downs and Val Adler have been best friends since they were 9 years old. Although they are opposites (Addie a plump, quiet introvert / Val the skinny, rash extrovert) they hit it off right away. When a high school betrayal happens between the friends they lose touch with each other. Val is swept into the popular crowd while Addie becomes taunted and the butt of jokes.

Fifteen years later, Addie is living alone, taking care of her troubled brother while Val has found some fame as a local weather reporter. After their high school reunion, Val shows up on Addie's doorstep with blood on her sleeve asking for Addie's help.

My thoughts: I have loved some of this author's previous books ("Good in Bed" and "Certain Girls") but this, unfortunately, doesn't join that group. "Best Friends Forever" started off well but didn't keep up the momentum. She hit on a few interesting points ... then didn't go more in-depth. I guess I just didn't get why these people (Jordan, Addie, Val) were thrown together in a book. The book jacket refers to this book as "a grand, hilarious, edge-of-your-seat adventure" ... but I guess I have a different idea of adventure :s
My Rating: 2.5/5 (aka not a total waste of time but not a great read either)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Pillars of the Earth

Title: Pillars of the Earth

Author: Ken Follett

Type: Historical Fiction

Pages: 973

Synopsis: A wonderful epic set in the 12-century England. The story follows the lives of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout monk who is driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral in the world. It also follows Tom, the mason who becomes his architect and the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame. It is also the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

My Thoughts: A very long but great read. Kind of like a medieval soap opera. Many storylines converging into a great story! One of those books that everyone should read.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (aka awesome read!)

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

This is a very flavourful dish using a mild tasting fish that is easy and done in minutes. The fish is broiled with a creamy cheese coating for an impressive look as well as flavour.

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 pounds tilapia fillets

Preheat your oven’s broiler. Grease some aluminum foil and line your broiling pan with it. Grease the foil with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, garlic powder and garlic salt. Mix well (it will be thick) and set aside.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for 2 more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover the top of them with the Parmesan cheese mixture. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Keep an eye on the fish so that you don't overcook it.

Originally from: Tasteofhome.com
Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Blood Brothers

Title: "Blood Brothers" (first book in the "Sign of 7" trilogy)

Author: Nora Roberts

Type: Supernatural

Book Type: Paperback

Synopsis: In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends (who happen to share the same birthday) sneak off into the woods one night for some fun. Instead of fun, one of the 'blood brothers' unleashes an old curse upon the small town.

Twenty-one years later those boys have witnessed odd, scary and unexplained things happening in their town ... which only happen every 7 years. A scholar comes to town to study the phenomenon and finds that the odd things are happening earlier this time around.

My thoughts: Except for this book, I have never read (to my knowledge) a book by Nora Roberts. After looking into this author more it seems that she pops out more books than the Duggar family has babies in any given year - which may explain why the quality just isn't there.

For me, this book wasn't worth the read. Started off pretty good but half way through it got really slow. I d000idn't love the characters either, which didn't help matters. Kelley Armstrong's supernatural novels are MUCH better. The ending of "Blood Brothers" was pathetic and didn't wrap up anything. No big finish. Not planning on reading the other two future books in this trilogy.

My Rating: 2/5 (aka aweful read)

Sensational Sloppy Joes

This is a very easy meal to prepare on those busy weekdays. Some of the ingredients sound odd together but taste great.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (10 1/2 oz) tomato soup
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tbsp grape jelly
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 tbsp mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
8 hamburger buns

Brown hamburger and onions, drain. Mix all other ingredients into hamburger. Heat through or put in crock pot.

Layer hamburger buns on a baking sheet. Broil (watching carefully) until they are golden brown. Put buns onto plates; spoon meat mixture over buns. Serve with a green salad.

Originally From: Taste of Home magazine (I did double the amount of tomato soup above because I didn't have a recipe for the remaining 1/2 can of soup and the extra soup just makes this dish a bit saucier).
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