Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm hearing a lot about the harmful effects of Teflon lately (the slippery, not-stick coating on your pans). Usually, I take these scare tactics with a grain of salt and use my own instincts on what the media and government tell me is harmful.

But after looking at all the numbers, I have decided to switch to Cast Iron.

Dupont (the manufacturer) states that with Teflon, "significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C)".

But studies conducted by a university food safety professor revealed that the same non-stick pans reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds.

I don't know about you, but when it comes to my health, I have a tendency to not put my faith in the manufacturer of the product. Call me crazy.

Why is Teflon hazardous? Dupont themselves have discovered that at least six toxic gases that include two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA (a chemical lethal to humans at low doses) are released from their Teflon material. (Okay, I'll believe them on that one...)

This synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene releases toxic particles and gases which contribute to a number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). (I'm not even going to get into the fact that our every-day cookware kills hundreds of household birds each year who are very sensitive to the fumes - weird.)

Also, the FDA has NO restrictions relating to this matter when it comes to cookware. Not good.

For now, I'm switching to Cast Iron which, if anything, may add more iron to your diet. If you have high iron levels, perhaps you'll want to switch to Stainless Steel.

Bought one yesterday for $30 and had our first meal with it last night. I loved it! Reminded me of my Auntie Alice and all of the cottage breakfasts she'd serve up with her heavy-duty cast iron pan. Not to mention the workout you get lifting one of these babies, wow!

Other pluses with cast iron:

  • Retains heat. Awesome for searing.
  • Heats evenly.
  • Nonstick if seasoned properly (I bought mine pre-seasoned)
  • You can pop it right in the oven
  • Awesome for pancakes (thanks, Auntie Alice!)
  • Inexpensive and lasts forever
cast iron photo by Trader Joe Omelette photo by sweater muffin on flickr

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Stroganoff

photo by gopic on flickr

Quick and Easy Chicken Stroganoff

This was nice and easy for a super busy day. It turned out pretty good and I'll definitely be making it again when I need the slow cooker to come to the rescue. Enjoy!

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 cup unsalted butter (thanks, Spanky!)
1 package dry dressing mix (I used ranch)
1 package light cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
Whole Wheat Egg Noodles

Melt butter then add dressing mix. Stir to combine. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Pour butter over top. Set on lowest setting for 6 hours.

When chicken is done, chop in small pieces (I shredded mine right in the slow cooker). Add cream cheese and chicken soup and cook for additional 1/2 hour or so. As cream cheese melts, stir to combine.

Cook the noodles how you like and serve stroganoff over noodles.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Missing My Bike

I'm really missing my bike today. He's strapped to his wind trainer; quiet but I doubt calm. He keeps looking over at me with this angry stare, wondering when his tires will see dirt again.

It's not as though I haven't taken him out lately. He's been to Joyride hangin' with his buds, but he tells me it's not quite the same. So in honour of my Giant Anthem, I am re-posting from the days when he and I were out frolicking in the forest. Good times. And they'll come around again.

Snakes and Ladders Pasta Salad

photo by susancvineyard on flickr

I just came back from an awesome ride in the forest. Two hours of climbs and fast descents but now I'm starving and it's too late at night to eat anything. So hungry!

It must have been a great ride because I'm craving a carb-filler like pasta. So here's a recipe that is extra yummy. It's got lots of flavours and colours that'll keep your taste-buds intrigued; including a grilled head of radicchio. You heard me! Grilled! It's awesome. Throw in some baby bocconcini with fresh basil and grilled sausage -- you can't deny that this is a winner.

So I've named it after one of the trails I just came from that also keeps the senses stimulated. Enjoy the ride!

Snakes and Ladders Pasta Salad

3 cups whole wheat penne; cooked and drained
1 clove garlic; minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp pepper
4 mild Italian sausage
1 each of red, yellow and orange peppers; sliced
1 head radicchio lettuce
1 container of mini bocconcini cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

In bowl, whisk garlic, salt, oil, vinegar and pepper. Set aside.

Place peppers in a grilling basket for the BBQ. At the same time, place sausages on barbecue. Cook peppers until tender and charred and sausages run clear.

Cut sausages into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Toss peppers into dressing you had set aside earlier.

Cut head of radicchio lettuce in half, remove core and place on grill. Turn often until leaves are tender and slightly charred. About 5 minutes. Remove from grill and slice. Add this to the dressing and peppers.

Toss peppers, radicchio, pasta, sausage, bocconcini and basil together.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Laundry Grievance

photo by kathleen hennessey on flickr

With this household running about 80 loads of laundry a month, I must state a grievance with my family.

Why, why, why must you people leave your clothes turned inside out as you undress?? I don't really understand the manner in which you take off your pants. When I strip down, my pants are still turned the right way, hence, when I do my laundry, they are easily able to be folded/hung.

With five people living in this house, turning pants and shirts inside out turns this mountainous chore into Everest. It takes two seconds to turn one pair of jeans inside-in and outside-out as you undress.

I started to leave these people's clothes turned inside-out, thinking as the kids wore each item, they would correct each article of clothing. Nope. They just wore them inside-out. Sheesh. At least this system would work with my husband, right? Wrong.

My husband devised a new strategy: leaving one pant leg inside-out and one pant leg outside-out. Can't fold it. Can't hang it up. He hates me.

I know what you're thinking. Why don't they do their own laundry?

Now that my children are approaching that age (one down, two to go), I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

With my husband, it all started when we first got married. He proved his incompetence with laundry after leaving 1,211 piles of clothes washed, dried and unfolded -- a wrinkled mass of crumpled cotton -- so I forbid him to enter the laundry room. After thirteen years, I'm starting to see I am the fool in this equation. Very well mapped out, Jeremy. It seems I suffer from a demented version of Stockholm syndrome. I just can't relinquish control of the laundry room to him in any way. So there it is. Very well played, indeed.

I have to ask: does anyone else empathize out there?

In honour of this post, I will share this great recipe. All five laundry-hazing people ate it and loved it. Of course they did. Because it's called:

Inside-Out Turkey Burgers

garnished with homemade pickles - yum!

5 slices turkey bacon, broken in pieces
1.5 - 2 pounds ground turkey
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons mustard (I used dijon)
1/4 cup old, sharp cheddar (I used Imperial)
1 tbsp olive oil
iceberg lettuce; chopped
tomatoes; chopped
dill pickles; sliced

Cook bacon in frying pan until crisp (4-5 minutes). Set aside.

Place ground turkey in mixing bowl with salt, pepper and mustard. Mix together then divide into four patties. Make a divot in each patty. Place some crumbled turkey bacon and cheese into each well. Seal these ingredients by working the meat around them. Be sure to completely cover them so they don't ooze out during frying.

Fry each burger until cooked through and no pink is showing.

Arrange chopped lettuce on plate and surround with sliced tomatoes. Place burger on top and garnish with sliced pickles. Serve ketchup and mustard on the side if desired.

I really thought my kids wouldn't like this without the buns, but they loved topping each bite.

dryer photo by 'mugglesdontscareme' on flickr

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chicken Marbella

This is definitely worth sharing. In fact, my Mother came begging at the door for helpings of this one. Begging, I tell you!*

*very slight exaggeration

This post is attributed to a friend's dinner party (you can visit her yourself at Black by Popular Demand). She filled a casserole dish with ingredients that definitely love to party together. The sun-dried tomatoes were slam dancing with the olives and the chicken was skinny dipping with the wine and spices.

I will note the changes I made to her version, only due to the fact that I was short on some ingredients. It turned out just as good, but feel free to assemble whatever version you like!

Chicken Marbella

photo by lulu at home on flickr

6-8 Chicken Breasts; skinless/boneless
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed (I use pre-chopped in the jar)
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I used aged white wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil)
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives (I used whole Kalamata olives; pitted)
6 bay leaves
1 cup white wine (I used cooking sherry)
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
(I used dried coriander; about 3 tbsp.)

I also added 1 can artichoke hearts; quartered (they were stupendous!)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for chicken. Place chicken in shallow casserole dish; arranging in single layer. Pour marinade over chicken, cover and marinate in refrigerator overnight.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices.

We served this up with sauteed mushrooms and roasted red peppers on the side.

photo by laura pants on flickr

You're Welcome.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pumpkin Cheddar Chipotle Soup

photo by Dustin Lewis Images on Flickr

This recipe called out to me on a day that started with -25 temperatures. Brrr! It really hit the spot. You can use real pumpkin but I saved a lot of time using the canned puree. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheddar Chipotle Soup

1 small pumpkin or small butternut squash or 1 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
4 cups chicken stock
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups milk
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (I used half cheddar and half imperial)
2 small chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (found in Mexican section of grocery store)

Roast Pumpkin or Use Puree:

If using fresh pumpkin or squash, pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Peel, seed and chop the pumpkin or squash, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until tender (apx. 45 minutes). If using canned pumpkin puree, skip these steps. Set aside.


Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in soup pot over medium-high heat. Sautée the carrot and onion for about 10 minutes. Season with nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, a drizzle of honey, salt and pepper, to taste. Toast the spices, about 1 minute.

Food Processor:

Add the carrot and onion along with the roasted pumpkin or squash to food processor and puree with a splash of chicken stock. If using canned pumpkin, puree the onion and carrot together with some stock and stir in the canned pumpkin to combine. Set aside.

Make Cheese Sauce:

Wipe out the soup pot and return to heat. Melt the butter; whisk in the flour, then milk. Season with salt and pepper and thicken to coat a spoon. Stir in the cheese to melt, then add the chipotle peppers.

Final Step:

Stir in the remaining stock and squash or pumpkin puree mixture to the cheese sauce. Let simmer to thicken the soup.


It called for tacos to garnish with. I actually like to buy egg roll wrappers (in the produce section), slice them up in strips, drizzle with olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet until golden brown. They worked great in this soup!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Early Morning-Itis

I have been cursed with early morning-itis.

Ever since I was a child (and perhaps a baby?), I would wake well before the rest of the household. I would search around for a silent activity that would keep me occupied while I waited for others to rouse from their slumber.

Take this morning, for example. I’m tiptoeing around my aunt’s somewhat familiar home, rummaging around the kitchen trying to find the necessary items for a bowl of cereal. I’ve been up for nearly an hour and a half while my aunt and uncle still dream soundly under their comforters.

I am visiting my Mom's hometown where she grew up before breaking free to the big city; leaving behind her siblings and parents. Fifty years later, a gaggle of relatives still reside here and even though I grew up bunking at Grandma's during my visits, staying at my aunt and uncle's house feels like coming home again.

As I shuffle over to what I'm guessing is the light switch, I give the lever a flick. The serenity of the morning calm is broken by the hungry blades of a garborator; its motor screaming loudly while its internal network waits in anticipation for a feeding.

With stress, I realize my mistake and quickly flick the switch back to its off position. Once again, the house returns to its original, undisturbed conditions. I decide to forgo the lights and brave my task in darkness.

As I pour myself a bowl of Raisin Bran (after scavenging for a bowl and spoon), I squint to decipher how many raisins have blessed my bowl this morning.

Once again, my morning-itis brings me to a dark kitchen -- the sound of crunching cereal between my molars the only noise to keep me company. The loneliness of the early morn wraps itself around me like a familiar, tattered blanket.

As a child visiting this small, prairie town, I remember awakening under dark skies in my grandparents' little yellow house that rested on the corner of 1st Street. After lying in bed for as long as I could stand, I would creep down the hall and into the living room, envisioning my grandmother’s French toast and hot chocolate that would be placed in front of me an hour or two from now.

And there he would be, my grandfather, sitting in his recliner reading a newspaper and smiling at my entrance into his day.

To me, waking up to his company was as thrilling as Christmas morning for I was no longer alone in the dark, waiting for daylight. He too, was an early riser, and I was grateful to have found a kindred spirit.

On these mornings, I would sit beside him; our two recliners arranged in Archie Bunker fashion, and we would enjoy the sunrise as it displayed itself in the big picture window. He in his burgundy robe, me in my fuzzy pajamas.

I asked him why we were made the way we were, to greet the day before most people we knew. Did I inherit this trait from him? He answered that he was just programmed to rise early from all those years of working and that I, like him, must be a hard worker too.

We talked of many things; his uncanny memory for historical facts wrapping around his own life's stories. His words entertained me as the sun took its time reaching its place: stories of the depression, building the town's Church and arena, leaving home at the age of thirteen to find work, his love for pumpernickel bread. And how important family is and to never be afraid to tell a loved one that you're sorry.

I listened with an open heart as his words filled my young mind. As the tenth child of twelve grandchildren, I was blessed with this one-on-one time with him.

As we both grew older, I began to lose my morning mate; his body asking him to stay under those covers a few hours longer. I missed him in those moments and during my last visits to my grandparents' home, it was just me sitting in his chair watching the sun come up on my own. Alone, waiting for the day.

I've been quite resourceful over the years. I have turned the wee morning hours into my most productive time; often exercising along with the sunrise. Sometimes tackling chores. People who have lived with me just shake their heads when they enter the kitchen, turn on the light and find me in my jammies, scrubbing the outside windows before dawn.

Despite these activities, nothing would be more appreciative than someone's company during those dark hours. And just like those precious moments with my grandfather, I once in a while would come across temporary circumstances that would cure my morning loneliness.

The creation and birth of Saturday morning cartoons when I was eight years old bribed my brothers into companions for a little while. I was thrilled that, they too, were now early risers; keeping me company while we slurped our Corn Flakes in front of Woody Woodpecker and Friends. Until one fateful morning when I went to wake them to join me in front of the TV, they shooed me away. Their need for sleep winning over animated wonders from then on.

During the week, my Dad left very early for work – around 5:00am. I remember sitting on the bathroom counter, watching him shave before going to the office. I would pass him the toothpaste and hand him a towel when needed. Even if only for a short amount of time, these private little moments each workday became a cherished ritual for me.

On the mornings I would sleep passed 5:00am, I would wake to the sound of the front door closing, my Dad with briefcase in hand heading off to earn his living; our living.

I would scurry out of bed, fly through the door and tackle him with a hug before his responsibilities kept him out of my grasp until nightfall. He would drive away and I would return to a sleeping house where I remained, to my discontent, awake.

So, here I sit in my aunt's house with the necessary elements of a familiar morning. Dark Sky. Check. Empty kitchen. Check. Alone. Checkity-check.

Just as I'm about to spoon my last mouthful of cereal (or perhaps just milk, who can tell? It's still dark), the sun begins its ascent. I feel its warmth on my face as it paints the cloudless sky with purple and orange. I realize that I am only a block or two away from where a little girl sat with her grandfather; their eyes taking in a similar, spectacular glow while chatting about nothing. And everything.

photo by my cousin, Dana Emilson

As the sunrise nudges life on earth to begin for another day, I surmise the countless pockets of time these early hours have granted me over the years. How lucky I am to have my grandpa's words still resonating with me; influencing my life, long after his passing.

Without those early morning moments, I would have lost out on some very pivotal memories that have kept me company my whole life.

As I finish off my breakfast and shuffle over to the sink, I no longer feel alone in the dark, waiting for daylight. And I thank my body for knowing not to trade these hours in for sleep.

And for knowing all along that just because you're alone, doesn't mean that you are.

photo of hands by The Massie Boy on Flickr

photo of dark sunrise by Manitoba Slideshow Directory

photo of Woody Woodpecker by Ramesses Owes on Flickr

photo of raisin bran by lukeluca on flickr

Friday, January 7, 2011

Feta Bruschetta

This weekend is about chillin' after the first busy week back to reality. It's also about a special birthday girl turning 12 who just wants to hang with her buds for the day and have a sleepover. It's about keeping that girl's youngest brother busy with a friend (baking in the kitchen) so that all is well with the world. What can I say? Life is gooood. I think the hubby and I will relax tonight and enjoy some Beaujolais with a few healthy appetizers.

Here is one I always order at restaurants but it's pretty easy to recreate at home. The feta really makes it! Happy Weekend Everyone! Enjoy your busy family time or wherever else this 1st weekend in January finds you.

photo by Baha'i Views / Flitzy Phoebie on flickr

Feta Bruschetta
One slice has 128 calories and 2g fat so it's post-Christmas approved!

8 Slices French Bread, Large
2 teaspoons cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 plum tomatoes; chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil; chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush bread with oil. Rub non-crust side with garlic. Arrange on cookie tray coated in olive oil spray. Bake until bread is toasted (about 3-5 minutes).

In a bowl, mix tomatoes, basil and feta. Divide mixture among the bread slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Clean Eating!

illustration by rashiekaestelle on flickr

Hello all guilt-ridden readers out there! If you feel anywhere near how I do after all the indulging over the holidays, you'll really appreciate this meal.

This is one of my faves that I absolutely love. In fact, my entire family loves it. It's so simple but I can't even begin to tell you in a blog how flavourful this is. So if you're skeptical, it's really worth the try.

If you're looking for a low-fat, clean-eating recipe, this is it. I guarantee you'll find yourself making it again and again.

Tracey's Lentils and Black Beans

Olive Oil
1 small minced onion (I use my food processor)
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
2-3 cans of either Lentils, Black Beans or both (rinsed)
1 Carton Chicken broth


Lemon Juice

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic. Sautee until fragrant and lightly browned. Add all three cans of legumes and about 1 cup of broth.

Turn heat to medium-low and simmer. Once the liquid evaporates, add more broth. Keep doing this over the next hour until all broth is used. I usually use more than a carton sometimes, depending on how much time I have to work with. The longer, the better.

My kids like to sprinkle lemon or lime juice on their servings. I prefer to eat it as is, or sometimes I chop up some fresh cilantro and throw that on top.

Honestly one of my top ten dinners for sure. Enjoy!

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