Saturday, September 18, 2010

Salsa - my first canning experience

We bought a pressure canner!  Canning is a venture that my husband and I had long talked about but never did anything about.  I have fantastic memories of helping my mom can peaches and cherries and antipasto when I was a kid.  (mmm, home canned peaches!). 
Getting the canner was more my husband's doing than mine.  He really is searching for a great tomato sauce.  And he wants to can it.   Last week we went to a local farm and got a bushel of roma tomatoes.  He used half of them to make a large amount of tomato sauce with the intent to can.  He was disappointed with the recipe and decided to freeze his sauce, rather than canning.  I happened upon a salsa recipe at one of my favorite blogs,  Mennonite Girls Can Cook.  I figured that the recipe would be a keeper because I grew up in a town full of Mennonites.  I know they really can cook.  I've bought their baking and canning at local events.    Delicious.  This salsa was too.  It is a mild salsa and now that I know I can make it, I know I can play with it a bit for next time to turn up the heat.  The recipe originally called for water bath canning, but I pressure canned it as pressure canning is a much safer form of canning (no need to make anyone sick on my first canning venture!).  I'm really excited about this and look forward to other kinds of canning in the future.

15 lbs Roma tomatoes
3 lg onions
6 - 8 sweet peppers in a variety of colors
6 - 10 jalapeno peppers, seeded, chopped fine
12 garlic cloves, crushed - (I upped this to 20)
2 - 10 oz cans tomato paste
2 cups vinegar
1 cup lime juice (bottled)
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp oregano
3 tsp cumin
1 can black beans
1-2 bunches cilantro, chopped - (I used 3 bunches)

  1. Wash and chop tomatoes, adding to pot as you go.
  2. Finely chop onions and peppers, adding to pot.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil on medium heat.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Ladle into (sterilized) jars, using canning funnel, cover with lids and screw rings.
  6. Place into hot water bath in large canner, bring to boil and process for 20 minutes. (I pressure canned instead, following the instructions with my canner
  7. Remove and allow to cool at room temp. Keep in cool storage.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pizza Pinwheels - School Lunch Idea!

The search for a great lunch for my first grader is officially on.  I answered the challenge with help from Jean Pare.  Jean Pare is the founder of the Canadian company Company's Coming.  I happened upon one of their book collections called Kids Cook.  It is a 3 in 1 collection (Bag Lunches, After School Snacks and Weekend Treats).  These cookbooks were designed with kids in mind.  It is geared to teach kids to cook (ages 8 - 15), but my 6 year old can do a lot of it with a little help from me.  We sat down together and looked through each recipe with him ticking off the ones that appealed most to him.  We decided that the pizza pinwheels would be the first recipe that we would try.  They were quick and easy and tasty.  He's had them in his lunch as the main part each day this week with no complaints.  This will be a repeat recipe for us.

2 1/4 cups Biscuit mix
1/2 cup water
7 1/2 oz can pizza sauce
2 sliced green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped pepperoni
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 tsp dried oregano

Preheat oven to 400*.  Stir the biscuit mix and water in a medium bowl until the dough forms a ball.  Turn dough onto a counter that has been dusted with flour or biscuit mix.  Kneed the dough 20 times.  Roll out to a 12 x 12 inch square.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 6 ingredients.  Spread over the dough leaving an inch space all around the edges.  Roll up the dough from one side to the other (like a jelly roll).  Pinch the edges to seal.  Cut into 12 1 inch slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Back for 12 minutes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf - Amazing!

I thought I had an amazing chocolate zucchini loaf recipe posted on here, but I was mistaken (until now!)  So I visited one of my favorite foodies who always posts good baking, Monica at Lick the Bowl Good.  I was right.  She has a fantastic chocolate zucchini recipe.  Hers is for a bundt cake, but she posted that she has made it as a loaf and muffins before, so I took her word for it and used her recipe.  Thank you Monica!  This was so delicious.  My 3 year old just thought he was eating chocolate bread all week.  He had no idea that there was veggies inside.  Monica's original recipe can be found here.  Take a look.

  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cup flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cup sugar (plus more for coating pan)
  • 3 cup grated zucchini (4 med. zucchini)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl combine cocoa and melted butter . Add vegetable oil to cocoa and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
 In a large mixing bowl beat eggs and slowly add sugar, until thick and light in color. Add cocoa mixture to eggs until well combined, then gradually add flour being careful not to over mix. Once mixture is well incorporated add grated zucchini and vanilla.
Butter or spray pan evenly with non stick spray, then sprinkle with granulated sugar to form a sugar crust. Pour batter into pan about 3/4 full. Place pan in a preheated oven for 65-70 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Angela's Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

We have been on the quest for the perfect spaghetti sauce for a long while now.  When I saw that my old college roommate Angela posted her mom's version during a recent visit home, I knew we had to try it.  I remember Mrs. Collins being a good cook.  I know Angela is a good cook too (we used to drive our landlords nuts wondering what delicious things we had cooking in the basement).  This sauce worked for us.  It's quite a large quantity so we made it, took some enough for that night plus a night of leftovers and then divided out the rest, freezing it in the deep freeze.  The recipe is (as all good recipes are) made mostly by instinct of cooking over the years.  Angela did her best to write it out, but it's not accurate as she will admit.  You can find this fantastic recipe on her cooking blog here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Johnny's Hamburgers

One thing we have noticed since living in the big, bad city and not our old small town is the amount of real hamburger joints around.  These are the places that have been open for decades, usually run by the original family whose menus haven't changed, ever.  They sell the real deal: burgers, fries, shakes, and onion rings.  Of course who could resist such places, especially when you see that they are hopping at all hours of the day?  We certainly can't.
This is the best we've found yet.  Arguably the best burger place in the GTA, Johnny's Charcoal Hamburgers looks exactly as you would imagine it did when it opened.  It has the original orange and wood paneling decorating.  There isn't a place to sit (unless you count the rickety picnic table out back).  The prices are cheap and the food is delicious.  Rumor has it that Mike Myers used to hang out here back in the day as a Scarborough youth and I believe it.  I would if I was a teenager in the area.
We took our order to go.  We ordered 3 cheeseburgers for our family.  They are large enough for our kids to share one between them.  You can get it made the way you want.  The kids just had ketchup, my husband added bacon and got everything.  I had mine with fried onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard and relish.  We ordered sides of fries and onion rings to share and everyone had a shake to finish. 
*side note - if going to a place like this get the shake!  They are so much better than anything Mickey D's has to offer.
Everything was just as you would hope for a place like this.  This won't be the last burger we have at Johnny's.

Monday, September 6, 2010

School Lunch Ideas - Day 1

My oldest child starts back at school tomorrow.  He's beginning grade 1, which means full day school.  This also means the start of 187 (give or take) lunches that I will be packing up and sending off to school.  Lunch at home is no problem.  Lunch for a family picnic is not an issue either.  Lunch for school, that's a little trickier.  I know that the lunch I pack has to meet the following guidelines:
-no peanut butter
-nut free
-able to eat in a short period of time
-stay fresh for a few hours out of the fridge
-be interesting enough for my son to eat
-something that doesn't need heating up
-be healthy
The problem with the school lunches for me is the main course part of the lunch.  I'm not a fan of the everything comes in a package kind of lunch.  I know how much salt and preservatives are in those. The only kind of sandwich my son really loves is peanut butter and banana.  Great for home, banned from school.  He doesn't really like lunch meats (though he will eat one of those sandwiches once in a while) so the traditional sandwich takes a backseat.  At home we eat a lot of hot lunches, grilled cheese, tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, macaroni, mini pizzas, etc.  Some of those I know I can make and heat and send in a thermos (provided the thermos doesn't leak everywhere).
I know I'm not the only mom struggling for good solutions here.  I'd love to hear what other moms have come up with.  As we find winning lunches, I'll post them on this blog, hoping to help inspire some of the rest of you.  I'd love to hear what winning lunches you have in the comments section too!

Day 1 Lunch
-hummus and pita bread
-sliced strawberries
-vanilla yogurt
-dried fruit snacks
-orange juice

Saturday, September 4, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This was one of those 'why didn't I think of this before?' recipes.  I love BBQ chicken pizza, but I've never made it.  It's so easy, I think it may become a regular part of my rotation.

I made 4 of these to enjoy, so you could make 4 different pizzas at once.  I think we'll do that next time and let the boys each do their own.

4 Greek Pitas (the thick ones)
Your favorite BBQ sauce
1 cooked chicken breast - chopped (this was from a rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion (red onion would have been even better)
grated cheese (I used cheddar, but mozzarella's traditional)

Place the pitas onto 2 baking sheets.  Spread the ingredients over all of your pitas.  Bake at 350* for 15 minutes, or until cheese is starting to become golden.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Rotisserie Chicken

I really think that the rotisserie chicken is one of the greatest gifts that grocery stores have given us shoppers.  Think about it. You get a perfectly cooked, flavorful chicken, usually for less than the cost if you bought a chicken and cooked it yourself.  I get mine at Costco every 2 weeks, only $6.99 (CDN).  You can't beat that.  These chickens are so versatile.  Here's a small sampling of what you can do with one of these.  Please let me know your own uses for these chickens in the comments section - I'm always looking for ways to be inspired.

-chicken dinner
-chicken salad sandwiches
-chicken wraps
-chicken nachos
-BBQ chicken pizza
-chicken for baby food
-butter chicken
-chicken curry
-chicken in salad
-chicken burritos

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Adventures in Baby food

No picture of the baby food because let's face it, my daughter is much cuter than mush. Making your own baby food is so easy that I'm kicking myself that I didn't do it more with my first two children. In fact you probably have instant babyfood around your house already (and much cheaper than commercially made food).

Applesauce - a staple in two forms at our place. I always have a large jar of the unsweetened organic kind on hand for baking as well as the individual apple sauce mixes around for the boys (and now girl too). By mixes I mean the apple/peach, apple/grape, apple/berry combos.

Canned Pumpkin - I usually have this in my cupboard for making pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin bread. You don't need to do anything to it to serve it to baby, just heat it a little and it's ready.

Bananas - this is one I shake my head at. Why oh why do people pay 60 cents or more for a tiny container of baby food banana? This is the easiest and handiest baby food to make. You take a piece of banana and mash it with a fork. That's it.

Avocado - as with the banana, mash it with a fork

Brown Beans/Chickpeas/Kidney Beans etc... - we usually have the canned versions of these in our cupboards. I drain and rinse first and then use a hand blender or food processor to puree.

Peas and other frozen veggies - steam cook, drain and then puree with a hand blender. Add water a little bit at a time to get a nice, fine puree.

Carrots, green beans and other fresh veggies - same as with the frozen veggies. Just make sure you fresh water, not the carrot water when you are puree-ing. That water will have some things in it that isn't good for baby.

Squash and sweet potato - I like to bake these as opposed to boiling them. Bake until soft then puree with a hand blender or food processor. Add a little water to it if you think it is too thick.

Adding Meat - Another wonderful use for those rotisserie chickens. I add some chopped cooked chicken to the sweet potatoes, or squash and then blend it all with a little chicken broth. This would be my daughter's current favorite food.

Mesh feeders - I have a couple of these for my little darling to try harder to puree foods like watermelon fresh apples and cantelope. She loves gnawing away at them and it's great for her teething gums.

That's where we are so far in our food adventures. She does eat the baby food cereals but that's about it as far as commercially sold food goes. It's wonderful to use what we already have around. We're saving money and I think she's getting a better tasting food.

Been Blogging

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce my newest blog: Crafty Kris.  Please take a moment or two to check it out.  It's where I'm being creative when I'm not chasing my kids, or in the kitchen, or reading...


Notice the new design?  I love it!  As much as I loved the Cuppy Cakes design that this blog had been sporting, I was ready for a change.  I checked back in at my favorite blog designer's site and found this.  It is exactly what I was looking for.  The site I get my templates from is Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates.  I love her designs. 
While re-doing the blog I had to remove and then put back all my elements.  I hope that I didn't forget someone along the way on my foodie blog list.  Let me know if I've accidentally left you off.