Fall is back. Back with all things I love: slow cookers, back to school, scarves, the desire to get cozy and a new sense of routine (with a few bumps along the way). When I was asked if I would like to try out one of Ricardo’s slow cooker recipes I jumped at the chance. When I saw slow cooker rice pudding I was sold. I used to think both rice pudding and tapioca pudding were gross. Once I tried rice pudding I quickly changed my tune. Rice is normal food, tapioca ball things are not. Still in the gross category for me.
Now that my oldest is in school I have more time with my middle, Sawyer. He was the perfect assistant to help with this recipe. Middle children are sneaky. They grow up when you aren't looking. Everything is anticipated with the oldest: walking, talking, school. The middle is who they are right now, I am so much more in the moment with him. So he surprises me when I notice the passing of time. My husband picked him up yesterday, he was so long. We were both gob smacked. So sneaky. The third is a whole other story. He has three molars. We just noticed them. Yikes. We catch on, eventually.
On a side note: moving forward most of my blog posts will feature iPhone snaps. I realized that I was blogging less because in the chaos of my life the simple act of grabbing my digital SLR camera was too much. I don’t think you are here for the beautifully styled food photos anyways. You are here for ideas and my undeniable wit and charm, right?
So onto the rice pudding recipe...
1 cup (250 ml) arborio or other short-grain rice
1 cup (250 ml) 10% half and half
4 cups (1 litre) 3.5 % milk
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup (125 ml) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Cinnamon to top
In the slow cooker, combine the rice, cream, milk and salt. Cover and cook on high heat for 2 hours. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool partially. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, or cover and chill.
Turned out beautifully; creamy, perfectly sweet and cozy. I prefer it a little warm, it is easy to reheat in the microwave. All my kids liked it and I may of even converted my husband to the “not the gross food I thought it was" category. Of course you can add raisins or nuts or whatever you feel like. I took it to work for breakfast one morning with almonds and raspberries thrown in. I played around with the milk and cream in the recipe to use what I had on hand. I also decreased the sugar a bit, because why not. As you can tell by the brief directions, this is simple. Great chance for your kids to help out.
So I hope the start of your fall has brought good things with it.
Braden and I are both officially back to work. Braden's paternity leave is over. He was an amazing stay at home Dad. I am pretty sure he was better at it than I was. Maybe not better, but he enjoyed it more. I kept asking about breakdowns, tough days, challenges. All greeted with a blank stare. I was always sure the kids would be well taken care of, but thought the house would be in total disarray. Nope. This guy can cook dinner, fold laundry and coordinate play school drop offs and naps. The kids might of eaten more hotdogs and Kraft Dinner than I would have liked, but all survived. I am so grateful the boys and Braden got to spend this time together and feel so lucky to have such an incredible husband.
Up until now we have needed very little outside child care. My work has become more regular and with Braden back to work we need care three days a week. We have had so many discussions around what is best for the boys and best for us. Tough decisions to make. In the end we have chosen to go with a live out nanny. I like the idea of the boys being in their own space. I love the idea of not rushing them out the door in the morning. It also allows us to keep one vehicle. Braden can continue to ride his bike to work (Mr. Active) and I can take the trusty Versa.
I sort of forgot that we would be getting home at 5:00 and that we are all used to eating dinner at 5:30. I have been doing more meal planning, making double batches to freeze and making an extra meal in the slow cooker on the weekend to have later in the week. So far, so good. This recipe was a weekend slow cooker. It is kind of a combination of a few recipes. I have been calling it Butternut Squash Red Lentil Quinoa Curried Stew. Kind of long winded.
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp curry paste or powder (or more to taste) I used this.
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie stock
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup quinoa
1 butternut squash peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 cups greens of your choice (I used spinach)
Fresh grated ginger, to taste (optional)
Salt & black pepper, to taste
Rinse lentils; set aside. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Add squash, stock, lentils, quinoa and curry paste. Cook on high for 4-6 hrs or low for 7-8 hrs. Add greens and stir until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Adapted from here.
This was so good. I loved all the flavours. We had enough for two dinners (one eaten the next day and one in the freezer) as well as a few single serve portions in the freezer for quick lunches. The boys liked it too. Everything sort of melts together so no weird textures.
I have to mention that it is Sawyer's first birthday today. My sweet, sweet baby is one. Everything with baby number two flies by. He has a tooth, he is sitting up, eating, walking, yelling, dancing, feeding himself, sleeping through the night (that one was hard earned this time around). I sniffed, savoured, photographed, videoed, stared, loved but nothing slowed it down. We have come so far, yet I know we are still so close to the start. Happy Birthday sweet boy....
There is a storm brewing here today. The wind is picking up and there is a wind warning. Crazy wind storms remind me of when Sawyer was born. He finally decided to make his exit on March 11, after eight days of overstaying his welcome. The following day was the once in 30 years storm. We were fairly sheltered from it all. The hospital has generators to maintain electricity and the building is big enough not to notice much of the noise and chaos (plus it is hard not to stare at your new baby all the time). We were told our midwife was unable to discharge us due to trees down on the road. There was some talk that the power may be temporarly off at our house. Another midwife in the practise was able to come in and send us on our way. As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, we realized the true magnitutde of the storm.
We headed to my parent's to pick up Hudson. They were hudled under blankets with jackets on to stay warm. According to BC Hydro's website we weren't scheduled to get back on the grid until the following afternoon. Super cold, dark house and one day old baby = no way. After a few quick phone calls it was determined that the Coast Discovery Inn had power. We booked in for the night. Our new family of four headed downtown. I remember thinking that if this had of been my first baby, and I was spending the first night out of the hospital in a hotel room, I would have hyperventilated.
It ended up being a great night. I had a nice, hot shower and got cozy in the bed I shared with my sweet, sweet baby boy. The breakfast buffet the next morning was perfect. Our midwife Sheila came to the hotel the following afternoon for Sawyer's first check-up. By then my parents had power again. We stayed with them for a few more nights until ours was back on. It was so nice to finally return to our own house with our two boys.
For a while we referred to Sawyer as Thor; the god of thunder, lightening and storms.
Stormy weather makes me want comfort food. Warm, hearty, make your house smell good, food. My Mom's side of the family has been making Beans 'N Stuff (yes that is what we call it) for as long as I can remember. It is a slow cooker staple at casual family gatherings in winter and summer. I decided I needed to make it, and of course make it a little more healthy. I have no idea where the original recipe came from.
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 onion, chopped
2-3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup vinegar
19 oz. canned stewed tomatoes (low sodium preferrably)
16 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
14 oz. baked beans with pork (or baked beans on tomato sauce)
1 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Tabasco sauce to taste
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Brown ground turkey with celery and onion. Combine with remainig ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. You can do this on the stove top as well. The longer it simmers the better.
The best way to describe this is zesty, it isn't at all the flavour of a chili. Use any combo of beans you have on hand or that you prefer. I have tried chick peas, black beans, kidney beans and navy beans, all great. This can be made with extra lean ground beef if you prefer or vegetarian. The beans provide more than enough protein with added fiber bonus. I found I didn't need to add any salt as the beans in tomato sauce provided more than enough. It is great the next day and freezes well. Of course I loved it. Hudson ate around the beans (so turkey) and Sawyer loved it (we have yet to find something he won't eat).
Grab a blanket and light a fire (or in my case turn on the fire), Thor is at it again. Stay warm and dry.
The main thing I miss about living in the city is the availability of ethnic foods. Both restaurants and groceries. I can shop for clothes online (free shipping anyone?!), catch up with friends via email and watch sports events on TV. We have added a few local ethnic restaurants to our favorites list, but have yet to find a great Indian restaurant. When I worked in Surrey there were endless amazing Indian restaurants due to the large South Asian population. Soon I am going to be asking random Indian families to take me home for dinner. When ever I am over on the Mainland heading out for Indian food is a top priority. I end up gorging myself, which is never a good idea as the food tends to be pretty heavy.
I have made a few Indian dishes as home. They all turn out well, but are never as good as the real thing. I am back at it again due to lack of options. This time I tried slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala adapted from Real Simple. It fits my very easy and fast, I have two small children, recipe requirement. I think slow cookers are like magic...insert food, turn on, leave for a few hours, dinner is done. I don't like recipes that call for some kind of cooking before adding to the slow cooker, what is the point of using a slow cooker? It should be all in as far as I am concerned. Again, this recipe passes.
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 can tomato paste (about 4 tablespoons)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 and 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup low fat milk
1/2 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, garam masala to slow cooker and stir.
2. Lay chicken pieces on top
3. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with the lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high 3-4 hours
5. Just before serving, whisk together yogurt and milk and stir into chicken.
6. Garnish with cucumber relish.
I served it over basmati rice with a slice of PC Blue Menu Naan (which is very good for store bought in my opinion). The first time I made it I just garnished with fresh cucumbers. It seemed a little strange but added a really nice freshness. I modified the recipe by using a Greek yogurt and milk combo instead of heavy cream...worked great. This really reduces the amount of saturated fat and calories, while increasing protein and calcium. I also increased the amount of garam masala I used. It doesn't add much heat just a lot of flavour, so don't be shy. You can buy garam masala spice mix at most grocery stores. I found the one I used at Thrifty Foods. Watch your rice portions if you are going to have naan too, gets a little carbohydrate heavy. The recipe as written has been doubled by me to make extras for the freezer. It was really tasty. 100% authentic tasting, no....but close.
Fill me in on your favorite Indian restaurant that is closer than Surrey!
Today Sawyer is one month old. He made his debut in today's paper as Baby of the Month. My husband and I were watching American Idol a few weeks ago when a contestants mother mentioned he was baby of the week way back when. I thought it was funny. Now I realize that will be me. It's my right as his mother to tell one and all (and probably mention it at his graduation, wedding, etc.).
So now that we have made it through the first month I have re-entered the kitchen. I have been making a few dinners here and there. A big priority is easy and fast recipes. I have had a month to adjust, but double header poopy diapers still take time away from meal prep. When you have a baby that eats as much as Sawyer does (gained a pound in two weeks) there is a lot of poop.
This recipe for Tex-Mex Shredded Chicken could not be any easier. If you can't manage this, there are larger issues. There are only three ingredients, not that you would know given the taste of the end product. This recipe is very popular on Pinterest, but seemed too good to be true. I love being proven wrong.
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups of your favorite jarred salsa
1 envelope low sodium taco seasoning
Combine salsa and seasoning in a slow cooker and stir. Add chicken. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. When done, the chicken should shred easily with two forks. Adapted from here.
With half of the chicken we made soft tacos. I froze the other half, which will probably be used for burritos, or nachos, or taco salad, or tortilla soup...endless possibilities! The chicken was very flavorful and tender. I could of ate it by the forkful. You can control how spicy it is with the salsa you choose. We went mild for our two year old. It passed his picky eater test. To keep it healthy stick with whole wheat tortillas, light sour cream and cheese, and lots of fresh veggie toppings.
Simple and delicious...passes my new mom to two test.
To see more of Erin Wallis' photos from Sawyer's newborn shoot look here.
My son's second birthday is fast approaching, which leads me to another date: July 2, 2003. This was when it was announced that Vancouver had won its bid for the 2010 Olympic Games. I remember being at work, sitting ay my lab bench in Victoria, listening to it all on the radio. My line of thought quickly wondered about 2010: where would I be, with who, doing what? So much could change in seven years.
Change it does. As the games inched closer I met and married my husband, moved to Vancouver, finally finished my post-secondary education, was working as a dietitian and was starting to think about babies. There were many announcements on the radio that the organizers of the Opening Ceremonies were looking for anyone and everyone to audition with whatever talent they had. I thought why not? It would be so much fun to be involved in some way. As an aside: I am a huge Olympics fan. I am not a sports watcher in general, but something about the Olympics captivates me and I will watch any sport at any time of the night or day. My husband also decided to audition. He was grouped under the talent hockey player (?) and I was in the dance group. We both had a lot of fun at our auditions, an experience in itself.
About a month after the audition I found out I was pregnant and due February 11, 2010. The Opening Ceremonies were set for February 12, 2010. My dreams of stardom were dashed. It was an unlikely dream as I was not selected anyways. BUT my husband, the tag along auditioner, talent hockey player, was selected. Not only selected, but chosen to be one of the people who leads a country's athletes into the arena for both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, humf. We discussed at length whether he should commit given the fact I was due to deliver the day before. In the end we decided what are the chances? He took the opportunity.
As baby was getting closer to arrival the rehearsals really started to gear up. It was decided that Braden would be bringing in the athletes from Estonia (of course he was hoping for Canada). As a family member of a performer I got to attend the dress rehearsal on February 8th. It was amazing, unforgettable. I have never cheered so much for Estonia. After all the Skytraining, walking, security checks and excitement of the night my water broke at 1:10 am. Hudson William was born February 10th at 3:56 am.
Braden made it to the Opening Ceremonies, no problem. I watched on my tiny hospital TV, cradling our newborn son...enjoying the moment and realizing this is where I was seven years later.
You can watch Braden's big debut here from the 39:58 point to about 40:35.
Now I am finally getting to a recipe...I am sure you sure thinking get on with it already! Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup...yum.
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 skinless, chicken breasts cut into small pieces
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2-6 jalapeno peppers, minced (I used 2 as I am feeding a small person, but this is up to your taste)
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 can tomato paste
1 cup grated monterey jack or cheddar cheese
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
cilantro, chopped for garnish if desired
Tortilla chips, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except cheese and sour cream into a four liter capacity or bigger slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, or 3-4 hours on high. Add cheese and sour cream immediately before serving and stir to melt cheese. If desired garnish with cilantro, tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream and a little cheese. Adapted from here (there are also instructions here a for stove top method).
Perfect for so many reasons: great Mexican flavour, easy in the slow cooker and makes leftovers.
And of course a huge, happy second birthday Hudson.
Tiffany McFadden, RD