new food | baked oatmeal

In the ongoing effort to expand our food repertoire, I wanted to try some new baking options to help fill the kids lunches with filling and healthy snacks.

I’m trying to use my cook books more, but it’s hard not to default to the repository that is Pinterest. I had some apples that were nearing the end of their life so I peeled and chopped them and set out to find a recipe that would best use three cups of apples. I landed on Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal. I love a recipe that lets me use ingredients that I always have on hand.

This was also the first opportunity I had to test drive my new Cadillac muffin tin. Did you know that 24-hole muffin tins are a thing?! How did I not know this? I was planning to pick up a new muffin tin at the store recently because my old one had taken on a well-loved film where the non-stick coating used to be. I threw one in the cart, but then took a double-take when I saw this beauty:

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For someone who bakes as often as I do, and muffins in particular, it’s quite ridiculous that I’ve only just discovered this now. Obviously, I had to have it.

For a recipe like this that takes 30 minutes to bake, being able to do 24 at a time instead of 12 is a real time saver.

The recipe came together quite wet, which the writer warned about, so while it seemed weird to me, I rolled with it. I used a measuring spoon with  a handle to ladle the contents into the muffin tin, trying to keep the moisture level even in all of the cups. The directions worked perfectly and I’d definitely make this recipe again. I’d also consider swapping out different fruits. Next time, I’ll also cut back on the sugar. With 3/4 c of brown sugar in the mix, these were much sweeter than they needed to be.

Tip: Store in the fridge. Not ON the fridge. These moist little muffins and the warm surface did not mix and we had mildew within two days. Next time, I’ll definitely freeze them in portioned containers for quick nuked breakfasts or to throw into lunch bags.

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marriage monday: time alone

Last month, Mike and I got to spend a few days alone. Which might not seem like a big deal, but we could count on one hand the number of nights we’ve spent without our kids since the first one was born nearly eight years ago, so yeah, it was a thing. The kids were with my mudder and not only did I take a couple days off work, but we even went away overnight for a complete refresh (aka to escape the never-ending laundry pile that is our home).

At first, it was kinda weird. The house was too quiet. Rooms we tidied stayed tidy. The laundry even seemed to stop multiplying. But we quickly settled in and started to remember what it was like when it was just us. We definitely wouldn’t want it to be just us ever again, of course, but for a day or two at a time, it’s not too shabby.

We dressed up (and took a selfie because omg we never get dressed up to go out and if I’m going to put on pantyhose, I’m going to document it), enjoyed several meals in which we talked to each other without being interrupted — and chose restaurants that were not based solely on kid friendliness, we pretended to be fitter than we are and went on a hike (and then whined to each other about how sore we were the next day), we did quiet things like read and listened to a podcast. We even went to the spa for massages.

Mike’s going to be super excited when he sees these photos of him that he didn’t know I took.

Planning and anticipating the time away was part of the fun. We tucked away gift cards and spare change to give ourselves a little extra room to splurge. We tried to do things that were just about us because the rest of our lives naturally revolves around the boys.

It felt good to just be husband and wife for a few days and take off our mom and dad hats (we needed to throw those hats in the washer anyway). It reminded us that taking care of ourselves and our relationship is good for the whole family.

sick kids

I really hate it when my kids are sick. I always tell them that, if I could, I’d take the aches from them and take them on myself. That’s the honest truth. I hate it when they’re suffering.

But.

The kids are getting a little older and while they’re still fairly lovey, getting them to sit still, snuggle in and spend any amount of time with mum and dad is getting trickier. But when they’re under the weather, there’s no place they’d rather be. We spent four solid days at home recently as the three of us (dad managed to avoid the plague, thank goodness, so he could be our caretaker) working through a bout of the flu/cold bug.

While I’d prefer it if we were all healthy, it was super nice to spend a few low-key days snuggling, watching movies and justifying any kind of snacks we wanted. It’s kinda like when the power went out a couple times this winter. It forced us to unplug and tune into each other. So much so that the kids even wanted to “play power outage” when the electricity was still on. I wonder if they’d take me up on the idea of “playing sick” even when we’re healthy?

jumping on (and off) the hello fresh bandwagon

Surely you’ve seen it around. Hello Fresh is one of several home-delivery meal services out there that takes the guess work out of meal planning, cuts down on your grocery store time and promises healthy meals in short order. I know lots of people who have tried it, but few who use it regularly, mainly because of the price point. But when a friend offered me a $40-off coupon code, I thought it was worth a go.

I ordered the veggie box, which comes with three different meals that promise to feed two adults. I’ll start by saying that my three meals fed me about 10 times, so off the top it was a better value for me. I chose veggie because I’m guilty of making meat-centric meals for my family and leaving my own meal planning to late/never, so I thought it’d be an easy way to have healthy, vegetarian meals on hand with quick and easy turnaround.

I’m not much of a prepper when I cook. I don’t measure everything out in bowls before I begin. If I did, I might be less of a whirling dervish and may actually make less of a mess, but it’s just not who I am. So when I took everything out of my first Hello Fresh pack and laid it all out, I felt like I was hosting my own cooking show.

This was my first recipe – Arugula and Pesto Pizza – and it was super delicious. It was unlike anything I’d made before and it was just as simple as the recipe suggested. Here’s the photo on the recipe card and my own version so you can see that it really turned out just as advertised.

My box also included a veggie chili and a cauliflower dahl dish. I was a little annoyed at myself for choosing to try the service on week that included chili because that’s a meal I make often enough on my own, but the Hello Fresh version was super tasty. It came with plain Greek yogurt to dollop on the top and I don’t think I’ll ever eat chili without it again. Overall, all three recipes were fresh, delicious and as easy as claimed. At regular price, the veggie box is about $75, so with the initial trial promotion, it’s only about $35. For 8-10 meals, that’s a really good deal.

Want to try it? Click this link and a $40-off coupon will be automatically added to your first order! After that, it’s up to you if you think it’s worth the money. The quality and convenience are definitely worth it, in my opinion, but my frugal self can’t justify it.

give a hoot, don’t pollute

This photo was from a couple weeks ago. Yesterday, we didn’t even have to wear jackets, let alone hats. Yay spring!

I’m caught somewhere between being happy and proud and being disgusted and gagging right now. Weird dichotomy, I know.

In honour of (belated) Earth Day, we took latex gloves and garbage bags on our after-supper walk last night to tidy up our neighbourhood. The kids have been learning lots about about Earth Day and positive environmental practices at school and they were pumped to have our own little litter cleanup. Their excitement was encouraging and we all set out with a motivated attitude.

Litter rears its ugly head in supreme fashion at this time of year as snow melts and a season full of polluters are exposed. It’s what I like least about spring. Funnily enough, Mike noted that as he drove up the street on his way home, it didn’t seem like there was much trash around. But it isn’t until you’re walking along the ditch that you start to notice it. It’s everywhere! Mashed into the surrounding ecosystem. It started out fairly small — a coffee cup here, a pop can there. But as we went, our bags began to fill more rapidly. I’m sincerely disgusted to say that we filled two garbage bags in less than half a block in what seems to be a generally clean neighbourhood.

The insanity wasn’t lost on the kids, either. “Why would anyone do this?! Throw garbage on the ground?!” was exclaimed more than once as we filled our bags. It was hard not to chime in when they made assumptions that people who litter must all be bad people (because I was feeling pretty furious about it myself). I tried to redirect and suggest that we should instead focus on being Earth advocates and let our positive behaviour set a good example. It helped that as we passed couples on evening walks and moms pushing strollers, everyone cheered our efforts, which only emphasized the experience for the kids (and for us!).

On the way to the bus stop this morning, we walked in the opposite direction and saw more litter so the kids are already talking about a staging a second cleanup this week.

Not only have we shone a light on this for the kids, but for ourselves as well. I can’t imagine going on another walk, in our neighbourhood or elsewhere, without a grocery bag in my pocket for picking up trash. If we all did this, think of how much cleaner and welcoming our communities would be.

new food | recipe #1

Remember that time I said I would try a new recipe each week in March and report back? Well, I did the cooking but failed miserably on the reporting.

Here’s the book I focused my March efforts on:

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Have you ever seen their show? I don’t think it’s on anymore, but it may be floating around in re-run land somewhere. The premise was that the sister duo (one a nutritionist and one a cook) would take a formerly full-fat recipe and give it a healthy makeover. So the book is filled with straight-forward family friendly recipes and I especially love that they’re made with ingredients I almost always have on hand. The best part is the ridiculous punny names they’ve created for the recipes. This one – One Flew Over the Couscous Nest – is a Moroccan-inspired chicken dish.

Prep was straight forward and quick. I usually freeze my chicken as soon as I bring it home, so my personal trick is to thaw it about 80 per cent but cut it while it’s still a little bit frozen. As a vegetarian, I find it much less icky to cut chicken in a somewhat frozen state. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

I cooked the whole thing in one pot, which is also a huge plus. I used my new cast-iron Dutch oven from the Superstore (not an ad; I just really love it) – it’s heavy and heats so quickly. I love that you can scrape the bottom to get up all of the best bits of goodness without worrying that you’ll scratch the pot’s coating. I’ve been using it constantly and can’t believe I went this many years without any cast-iron cookery in my kitchen.

I liked that this recipe included the side. To jazz up the couscous, they suggested adding a couple tablespoons of orange juice concentrate. It smelled lovely.

Mike really enjoyed it, Jacob liked it a reasonable amount and Isaac was put off by the red peppers, but ate it after we eliminated those from his plate. Given how quick and easy it was to put together, I’d give this a solid 4/5.

marriage monday: counting milestones

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This week, M and I have been together for 15 years.

(That’s 5,475 days, in case you were wondering.)

We are each 33 years old.

We’ve been married for almost 9.5 years.

We have 2 amazing sons.

(And 1 moody, yet affectionate, cat.)

We have 3.75 university degrees (only one of which is mine).

We’ve lived in 3 different homes together.

We’ve had 5 different vehicles.

We have had 6 different workplaces (not including jobs we had in college).

We’ve had approximately 7,931 arguments

and we’ve made up approximately 7,931 times.

We are exponentially lucky.