Weekly Meal Plan – Another Solo Week

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Well I managed to make it through the first week of my hubby away. It’s been a big adjustment but one that we’re doing pretty well with. I’ve actually been able to get to some of the projects I’ve been putting off for ages. Boredom is a good motivator.

Last week’s meal plan worked great for getting dinner on the table quickly so this is another week of super quick and easy meals. Hope it works for your family too.

Monday

LunchBagel with cream cheese and cut veggies

DinnerDinner at my parents house. We didn’t do Easter dinner this weekend so I get ham and scalloped potatoes tonight instead.

Tuesday

Lunch – Picky plates
Since I go grocery shopping today, lunch will be an assortment of whatever is in the fridge. I try to make sure I have a few veggies, a little fruit, some cheese, crackers and maybe some yogurt.

Dinner – Chicken Burgers
I’ll use the same recipe as my Mediterranean chicken meatballs but make them into patties. I’ll serve them in pitas with tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and some tzatziki.

Wednesday

Lunch – Tuna sandwiches with carrot sticks

Dinner – Breakfast Burritos
Scrambled eggs, sausages in warm tortillas, topped with shredded cheese, diced tomatoes and some hot sauce on mine

Thursday

Lunch – Veggie sandwiches with cheese and veggie chips

Dinner – Meatball subs
Sub buns filled with meatballs and sauce that I made and froze last week then topped with grated cheese and toasted under the broiler. For the meatball or sauce recipe click HERE.

Friday

Lunch – PB and J paninis with yogurt and bananas

Dinner – Chicken pesto pizza with diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts

Saturday

Lunch – Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches

Dinner – Veggie Hash and poached eggs

Sunday

Lunch – Leftovers of some kind
Guaranteed that there is something in the fridge that we can eat

Dinner – Masala Sloppy Joes
My hubby will be home so I’m looking forward to something yummy and that takes a little more time.

There’s one more week of dinners and easy lunches. Hope this makes your life a little easier and tastier. If you’d like to see how I create my meal plans click HERE

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Spaghetti and Meatballs with Veggie Fortified Sauce

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One of my favourite meals is spaghetti and since my son is a meaballaholic this dinner is a guaranteed hit in our house. This is not a super fast dinner, even with a few short cuts so I save it for a night I have lots of time or a weekend and then freeze the leftovers for a meal later on. The sauce freezes fabulously so I divide it up into dinner size portions with the meatballs in it. I find the meatballs are slightly dry if frozen on their own so a brilliant person (my mom) suggested freezing them in the sauce, Genius!

The sauce has lots of veggies in it so it can also completely stand on its own as a vegetarian spaghetti. I start with a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions, which is the base of any good sauce and sounds extremely cooky when you can throw it into a sentence, and then add zucchini and peppers as well. I have shortcutted the long cooking time a truly spectacular sauce needs by adding pre-made jarred sauce to the mix. This gives the sauce that ‘I’ve been making this all day’ flavour in a lot less time. I haven’t included it in this recipe but if you have any leftover red wine (leftover???) it brings a little more depth to the sauce  if you add it after the veggies and cook it for a few minutes before adding the tomato sauce.

Meatballs

400-500g ground beef
400-500g ground pork
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup shredded parm
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 cloves grated or finely diced garlic
2 tsp salt

Before beginning making the meatballs let the meat sit out for at least 15 minutes so your hands don’t freeze mixing the meat

Preheat your oven to 350

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Form into balls using your hands to form the shape. These can be browned first in a saute pan over med heat and then placed in a baking dish or if you have children running around they can be placed directly into the baking dish. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 if browned or 45 if not. I usually “test” one to make sure they are cooked through.

 

Spaghetti Sauce with Veggies

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup grated zucchini
1 diced yellow or orange bell pepper
1 large clove crushed garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 398 mL can of tomato sauce
2 cups of your favourite pasta sauce

Warm the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium low heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and saute until the vegetables are softened and have some colour. Stir in the crushed garlic, zucchini, pepper and herbs and cook until it all smells wonderful, (about 4-5 minutes). Pour in both types of sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the meatballs and warm through. Serve over your favourite pasta and top with a little parmesan cheese.

If you have a bit more time I would suggest adding one cup chicken stock and continuing to simmer until the sauce has reduced and become thicker, about 45 minutes. The flavour will be intensified and that much better.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

 

I hope this becomes a staple in your house too. It’s not a difficult meal to make and the sauce and meatballs can be used in other dinners as well. If you would like to see how spaghetti and meatballs fits into my weekly meal plan please click here

Weekly Meal Plan – Daddy’s away

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Having a husband that works away can be a real challenge at times and dinners are for sure a part of the struggle. Keeping the kids out from under my feet for longer then 15 minutes is unrealistic plus you never know when you’re going to get called away from supper just to have it all go up in smoke. Last week I did a little planning ahead and froze a few ingredients to use this week. If you want to see that post click HERE. Please keep in mind this meal plan is only feeding me and my son so the recipes included here may need to be adapted for your family

All in all I’ve kept it really simple without it being a menu only my two year old will like. You may notice I’m relying heavily on the tortilla, but nothing is better for making a quick meal. There was some interest in meals for the entire day so I’m including lunches this week too. Breakfasts are usually cereal or frozen waffles from the weekend, but I have some more creative options in the works and I’m looking forward to sharing them soon.

Monday

Lunch – Bagel sandwiches
Toasted whole grain bagels with a spread of cream cheese, mustard, deli ham and all the normal sandwich fixings. Especially pickles.

Dinner – Chicken Pesto Quesadillas
This uses chicken that I made last week and froze in portions. Spread one side of a whole grain tortilla with about a tbsp of pesto, layer with shredded chicken, slices of red pepper and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Top with a second tortilla. In a non stick pan over medium heat place the quesadilla and let it sit until golden brown, flip it over and brown the other side. Remove from heat and cut into wedges. One of these will feed both me and my son. Serve with guacamole, salsa and plain yogurt for dipping.

Tuesday

Lunch – Peanut butter and Jam Paninis
A peanut butter and jam sangie on whole grain bread that I toast in the sandwich press, served with slices of banana.

Dinner – Chicken Fingers and Veggie Fries
I’m using whole grain crusted chicken fingers and am serving them with the root veggie fries from this POST.

Wednesday

Lunch – BLT sandwiches
Bacon, lettuce and tomato on whole grain bread. I bought some cool veggie chips, Terra Chips, that I’m going to try with them.

Dinner – Spaghetti and Meatballs
I’ll be using the meatballs I made last week and a half home-made, half store bought sauce with whole grain pasta. I hate it when I don’t have the recipe ready before the meal plan but I’ll have it up right away!

Thursday

Lunch – Quesadilla
Same as the pesto quesadilla but I’ll leave out the pesto and serve with salsa.

Dinner – Fish Tacos
I’m using about 8 whole grain fish sticks. While cooking the fish sticks according to direction, prepare the following. Chop 1/2 cup of red cabbage and 1/4 cup cilantro. Mix together 2 tbsp mayo with 2 tbsp plain yogurt and the juice from half a lime, season with a bit of salt. Warm 4 flour tortillas. Layer in the fish, cilantro and cabbage and top with the lime yogurt sauce. I also like a little hot sauce on mine.

Friday

Lunch – Leftovers
Even though my dinners aren’t meant this week for leftovers there is always something in the fridge that needs to get eaten.

Dinner -Ham and Pineapple Pizza
I like to use whole wheat Naan for a crust. Spread a layer of sauce on the crusts then top with slices of deli ham, diced pineapple and a layer of mozza cheese. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes and serve. We might have carrot and celery sticks too. I use jarred spaghetti sauce for my pizza, I’ll be using some for the spaghetti and meatballs so it seems a great way to use the rest.

Saturday

Lunch – Ham Sandwiches and Cut Veggies

Dinner – Greek Wraps
I’m using my Greekish salad and Tzatziki, topping it with some shredded chicken and wrapping it in a warm tortilla. Healthy and really easy.

Sunday

Lunch – Picky Plates
This totally caters to my two year old but I love it too. I got the idea from a friend and basically just go through my fridge and cut up bits of everything: veggies, cheese, meats, pickles and serve with some crackers.

Dinner – Smokies and Coleslaw
I found some great looking preservative free, local smokies and I’m super excited to try them. The little just likes ketchup, mustard and maybe a little diced tomato on his but I love sauerkraut, diced onion, diced tomato and all the condiments. For the coleslaw, grate one carrot into a bowl, add about 1/2 cup shredded cabbage (sliced as fine as you can do it). In a small jar mix together 1 tbsp of mayo with 1 tsp vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and sugar. Mix the dressing with the slaw at least a few minutes before serving.

That’s my week for food. Hope this helps your family eat a little easier too. To see how I plan my meals click HERE. I’d love to hear how your family gets through the busy weeks, so please leave me a note.

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A Curry for My Sister

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In our family and I think in most families, birthday dinners are kind of a tradition and expectation. So when my step-mom’s (or other-mother as I prefer to call her) birthday came around we needed to make the usual decision of going out or staying in. Out of a desire to actually enjoy the evening we decided to skip the restaurant meal this year and stay at home.

Eating in a restaurant with two small kids just isn’t all that fun sometimes, either for the parents or for other diners. It’s not that dinners out are impossible but  there is the potential for chasing small bodies around crowded restaurants, coaxing them out from underneath tables and the guarantee of either not tasting the food or sort of enjoying it cold. So instead I made dinner at their house. The kitchens bigger and the kids are entertained playing with their grandparents leaving me to happily play in the kitchen.

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Curry spices meeting an onion

I made a fish curry because OM loves fish and good Indian food is hard to find where we live. The Island is an amazing place to live but if you’re looking for wonderful, diverse ethnic eats you may find yourself a little disappointed or have to drive really far. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we have on occasion driven an hour just to have good dim sum and I would consider flying back to Edmonton just for my favourite Indian buffet. But, it’s given me a good reason to expand my culinary wisdom and I can honestly now say I make a damn good curry. And this one isn’t just for special occasions. It is quick enough to be good any night of the week.

When my sister (who unfortunately still lives too far away) heard what I made she was bummed she missed out but was excited she might see the recipe on my site. She hasn’t had the time to try out a bunch or different recipes looking for a good one. Fortunately, she trusts my cooking skills and I hope when she tries this one out she will be as happy with this dish as we all were.

Curry from scratch may have seemed daunting before but I promise you will feel completely comfortable making this dish and your friends and family will all be suitably impressed. I love the sweetness the bell peppers and the coconut milk bring combined with warm Indian spices. It’s also really pretty when served which I always think helps too. I didn’t make this a spicy dish, but if you like a little more heat I would add a seeded and diced jalapeño when the spices are added.

While writing the recipe for this curry I didn’t have time to grab fish so I adapted it for chicken. To keep it a fish dish follow the same directions for making the sauce and use a hardier fish that can stand up to the flavours and cooking, like the wild pacific cod I tried.  Add palm (like your hand) size pieces of fish directly to the sauce. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the fish is happy. It should flake with a fork when it is ready.

Curry Recipe

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A thumb of ginger

3 Tbsp canola oil
1 sliced medium sized onion (about 1 cup)
1 clove diced garlic
1 thumb of ginger finely diced
1 seeded and finely diced jalapeno (optional)
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp medium curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 large can diced unsalted tomatoes 28 oz
2 sliced red, yellow or orange bell peppers
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp salt (if you used salted tomatoes season with salt to taste)

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup chopped cilantro

Over medium heat warm 2 Tbsps of the oil in a large sauce pan or dutch oven. Add the onions and cook until they are softened and translucent. reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the next six ingredients stopping at the tomatoes. Cook the spices for 2 minutes, reducing the heat if the garlic begins to brown. Add the sliced peppers and cook until they have begun to soften, about 5-7 minutes and then pour in the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a simmer and then stir in the coconut milk, and salt.

Aren’t those beautiful spices!

Over medium heat in a separate pan, heat the last tbsp of canola oil and brown the chicken thighs on each side. About 3-4 minutes a side. Rest the chicken in the curry sauce without submerging and cover. Increase the heat to medium and leave it alone for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the cilantro and remove from heat. Allow all the flavours to get to know each other a little better, about a minute and then serve.

I like to serve curry over basmati rice. Add 1 cup of basmati rice to 2 cups slightly salted boiling water (1 tsp). Cover and and reduce heat to low. Ignore it for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a for before serving

If this is the first time you’ve attempted to make a curry from scratch I hope you feel ready to make this on a regular basis. I know my family will happily have this in their meal rotation for quite a while.

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Weekly Meal Plan – Freezer Stocking and Hubby Faves

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Well our hopes of hubbers staying in the same province fell through. The job we were all excited about is no more and I have a week to get ready before he leaves us for 20 days. We’re disappointed but on the positive side, it gives me another meal plan to create. It’s a stretch but I’m trying to make a little lemon curd from the lemons the universe is pitching our way lately.

My plan is to get my freezer filled so that I can pull together a quick meal for me and the kids. Freezer meals are a little tricky, some things don’t freeze well and end up just gloppy messes when you reheat them. I’m hoping by freezing a few key ingredients instead I’ll be able to make quick and yummy meals. Funnily enough I don’t need a lot. A few frozen items will go a long way and I like to keep dinners pretty simple when hubbers isn’t around. I’ll be making some baby food too so that I can have a couple good purées for the littlest one in between other stuff. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll post about those.

Monday Night

WafflesWe eat a lot of waffles because they are so easy and versatile. I use whole wheat flour and cut up cooked sausage into the batter, then top them with fruit, yogurt and a touch of syrup. They are great for dinner and reheat awesome in the toaster. I’ll make a double batch and freeze half.

Tuesday Night

Roast ChickenI’ll make us a week night roast chicken dinner and cook up three more breasts for the freezer. These will be great for easy dinners and with it being just me and my 2 year old eating them, they go a long way.

Wednesday Night

Meatballs and spaghettiMeatballs freeze well but get a bit dry, so they need to be used in saucy dinners where they can absorb some yumminess. I’ll make a shwack of them and then I’ll have them to use for soups or spaghetti.

Thursday Night

Chickpea tacosHubby’s request. Not a freezer meal but since he’s going and will miss my scrumptious cooking how can I say no to the guy. A great vegetarian version of something that I think is a staple in a lot of homes.

Friday Night

BBQ Chicken PizzaAnother hubby request. It’s one of his favourites with spicy bbq sauce, pineapple, peppers and cilantro. I’ll use the chicken from the roast chicken dinner so we’ll have lots of time for a last family movie night.

Saturday Night

Romantic DateThis may not fit into your meal plan but maybe it should;) I’m hoping my parents will take the kids and we can enjoy a quiet evening together.

Beef Roast with mash, glazed carrots and asparagus A last treat for my honey before he goes. With just the kids we eat a lot lighter so this will be a special dinner for all of us. I like to rub my roasts with a combination of 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 clove smooshed garlic. Brown every sides of the roast in a dutch oven over medium heat and then move the roast to a 350F oven until a meat thermometer reads 145. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting.

I cube my potatoes with the skin on and add to boiling salted water. Cook until tender when poked with a fork. Drain and add 1 tbsp butter, 1/4 cup milk and 1 clove of smooshed garlic, season with salt and pepper. You may need more milk if they aren’t coming out as creamy as you like.
Peel and roughly chop the carrots into equal sized rounds about thumb size. In a sauce pan over medium low heat melt 1 tbsp butter, add 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp ginger powder. Stir in the carrots and cook until fork tender. Season with salt and pepper.
I like a quick sauté on my asparagus with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

I hope this helps make your meal planning a little easier. If you have any questions I’d love to hear them. If you’d like more information on how I create our families meal plans here’s my guide, Meal Planning Basics

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Green Bean and Ham Casserole

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A good casserole is something everyone needs to have in their cooking arsenal. It can be an easy meal for a big crowd, a meal for a family that can’t think about cooking or a week night dinner that can be used for lunches. I’ve loaded it with green beans and used yogurt in the sauce so it’s healthier then many casseroles while still being rich and creamy.

Finished casserole in dish

I made this recipe for the first time years ago. It was for a close friend who had a new baby and one of my gifts to them was dinners that they could just heat and serve. If I remember right, her and her husband finished it off immediately and were both super happy not to have to think about cooking. I still make this regularly, sometimes reducing the recipe so we aren’t up to our armpits in casserole.

1 450g box of farfalle pasta

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup softened cream cheese
1 cup milk
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove crushed garlic
1.5 cup grated extra old cheddar cheese
3 cups sliced green beans (I used frozen, fresh works too)
2 cups cubed ham
pepper to taste

Cook the pasta al dente (still a little bone to it) and set aside. Whisk together the first six ingredients. Mix in the cheese and then combine with all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together well and pour into a large casserole dish. Top with bread crumb mix and bake in a 350F oven for 1 hour.

Panko topping

1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle over your casserole before baking.

Casserole with Dinosaur

I hope you find lots of use for this casserole and your friends and families enjoy it as much as mine have.

If you want to see how this dinner fits into my weekly meal plan check out my post, Weekly Meal Plan – Meals That Bring a Little Love to the Table

A Taste of Newfoundland

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My sister in law came into town this week and when I looked at our dinner plan, it was fried egg sandwiches. Not exactly a dinner I want to serve to out of town family. Since hubbers is feeling homesick and the theme for the week is comfort food, I decided to try my hand at making a traditional Newfoundland Jiggs Dinner. This is a Sunday supper/special occasion kind of meal with Irish roots. The meal consists of a roast chicken/turkey or beef roast, mashed potatoes, salt beef , an assortment of vegetables that are boiled in the water the salt beef is cooked in, dressing or stuffing as I call it, peas pudding (it’s like a really thick pea soup) and gravy. It’s accompanied with mustard pickles, pickled beets and sometimes cranberry sauce. Some regions of Newfoundland have their own unique variations but this is a pretty typical Jiggs dinner where hubby is from.

This is not a meal I have any experience in making and I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. Unfortunately, cooking is not my SIL’s (sister in laws) favourite so we had to make a few calls back East and check out a blog, A Cook’s Life, to get it all figured out. I wasn’t able to replicate my mother in laws dressing but other than that I personally think I did a lovely job. I was even happier that my hubby and his sister liked it.

There isn’t a lot of prep to this dinner but at the end there is a huge hurry of activity to bring it all together. I would suggest either having a partner to help you pull it together or have a tight plan to get it on the table before it gets cold.

This meal will serve 4-6

Salt Beef and Vegetables

3-4 pieces navel salt beef
1/2 a large turnip
1/2 a green cabbage
4-6 carrots, peeled
1 cup yellow split peas

Normally you would need to soak the salt beef in water overnight, changing the water at least once. Since I got a late start my father in law suggested that I boil the beef and then change the water and let it soak. I have always found salt beef too salty (funny that, it starts with 226% of your recommended daily sodium intake) so I boiled it twice and then soaked it hoping to reduce the salt more.

After again changing the water I put the water to boil with the beef about 2.5 hours before supper time. Place the split peas in a peas pudding bag, if you don’t have one it can also be tied up in a tea towel or cheese cloth, (My husband told me his cousin has used a sock). Don’t tie the bag so tight that the peas are packed tight against each other. I made this mistake and the pudding wasn’t able to cook.

Cut the vegetables into large chunks. I cut the turnip in three, the cabbage in three and the carrots in half. About 30 minutes before dinner I added the cabbage and turnip and about 15 minutes before I added the carrots. The cabbage and carrots are served as is, the peas pudding is mashed with a bit of butter and turnips are also mashed with butter and pepper to taste, no salt:)

Roast Chicken and Dressing

Since it was just the four of us I decided to do a small chicken, that was too small to stuff. I rubbed olive oil on the skin and generously seasoned it with salt and pepper. It then went into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. I used my meat thermometer to make sure the chicken reached 165.

Like I said this wasn’t my MIL’s dressing but more similar to what I grew up eating. If you have Newfoundlander’s coming to dinner you may want to check with them for their recipe.

1/2 stale loaf of French bread
1 finely diced onion
1 finely chopped stalk of celery
1 tsp Savoury
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup melted butter
salt and pepper
hot water

Buzz the bread in a food processor until it is broken down but not crumbs. Add the onion, celery, seasoning and melted butter. It should be moist and clump together without being wet. If it doesn’t stick together use the hot water to moisten the bread mixture until it does stay together. Since I wasn’t able to stuff the chicken I then put the whole mixture into a baking dish, covered it with tin foil and placed it in the oven and the same time as the chicken.

Gravy

Drippings from the roast
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup liquid from salt beef
up to a tbsp of flour
pepper to taste

In a sauté pan combine the drippings with the stock and salt beef liquid. In a small cup mix 1 tsp of flour with a bit of the liquid to create a lose slurry. Over medium heat bring the liquid to a simmer and stir in the slurry. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer. Stir regularly with a whisk to prevent lumps. The gravy should begin to thicken, if it is not thickening or not thickening enough make another slurry with an additional tsp and repeat until the consistency is gravy like. Season with pepper and serve immediately.

I used a big platter to serve everything family style. I like the way it looked and then all the different parts kept each other warm as it was getting to the table. One day I’ll get around to buying a gravy boat too and I won’t have to use my measuring cups.

My husband comes from a place that has such a strong cultural identity and more than anything this meal shows how a dinner can bring a person home or to a place that feels like it. I don’t love every part of this dinner but I will make it happily for my family and friends to share that feeling with them and to make sure that my children feel that same connection to the place their dad is from.

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Weekly Meal Plan – Meals that bring a little love to the table

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This last week has been dreary and rainy. We’ve been stuck inside for awhile and, I think, are all going a little squirrelly Add to that a non sleeping baby and I’m pulling every easy card I have for the next week. It’s going to be all about food that makes me feel good, wraps me in a warm blanket and tucks me in, plus that I can make with my eyes closed if I have to.

Isn’t it interesting that food can reflect and impact our emotions and feelings. Certain meals transport me back to childhood and hug me with the warmth of my own mom taking care of me. Others are nurturing to my spirit, either with warming flavours or with hearty ingredients. Both are what we need this week and I hope these meals can be there for you too when you need that little bit of extra food love in your life

 

Monday Night

Fried Egg SandwichesI could honestly eat fried egg sandwiches everyday and have sometimes. I like to use a lovely whole grain bread toasted with mayo, a perfectly fried egg, layers of tomato, avocado, lettuce and cheese. Doesn’t that sound like love between two pieces of bread? My mom is also a huge fan and has been known to serve them to company.

Tuesday Night

Chard, Bacon and Tomato Pasta Easy to make and delicious. I love the green flavour that chard has and I feel like I’m eating something that is both healthy and decadent at the same time.

Wednesday Night

Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs, tzatziki and Greekish SaladEasy fast and makes me think of family. Funny, we’re Dutch, Scottish and English but we seem to gravitate to Greek restaurants for family dinners. I can picture a blue and white checked table cloth and time with family as I think about making this dinner.

Thursday Night

Green Bean and Ham CasseroleFrom an old Cooking Light recipe that I’ve adapted. It reminds me of a chicken and broccoli casserole my mom made, (only because it’s a casserole, all similarities end there).

Friday Night

Italian Chicken Meatball and Pepper PizzaThis has become a staple and regular in my rotation lately. I’ve switched to making my own meatballs from ground chicken and it’s amazing. This dinner just makes me smile with its deliciousness. Definitely a spirit lifting dinner

Saturday Night

Going out nightWe haven’t been out for a single meal since I started this blog, which has been great for our budget and makes it so I don’t feel a bit bad about treating myself to an easy dinner elsewhere.

Sunday Night

CurryI’m going to experiment with a fish curry. I have a general idea in my head and if it works I’ll have the recipe up soon. Even thought experimenting sounds a little out of the comfort food, easy theme of the week, stretching my creative cooking muscles brings me joy and is almost meditative. If you are using this meal plan this week I’d suggest using the Indian spiced sloppy joes until I have it done:)

That’s what comfort food looks like for me. I’m sure your family and friends have their own dishes that bring a little love to the table and I’d love to hear what they are, so please share. If you are wondering how I do my meal plans here’s how: Meal Planning Basics

Italian Chicken Sausage and Pepper Pizza

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I love the idea of sausage and peppers. I see people eating this all the time on The Food Network and it looks so amazing. But it’s not popular around here and my attempts at recreating it have been meh. So, it’s been on the back burner until the pesto I bought at Costco was about to go off.  I’m not sure what made me think that this would all work together but it does fabulously. Apparently Italian sausage, peppers and cheese would all really like to hang out with pesto, especially on a pizza.

Delicous Italian sausage and pepper pizza

The chicken sausage is a newer addition to this pizza and one I think makes it even better. It’s healthier, full of flavour and gives more room for using a little butter with the onions and the perfect amount of cheese. All together I had this on the table in just over 30 minutes and it beats the pants off any delivery pizza I’ve found.

Sausage

1 package ground chicken thighs (about 450g)
1 tsp fennel
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

In a small pan over medium heat, toast the fennel until it begins to brown. Remove from heat and combine with the red pepper flakes in a spice grinder. Grind until broken up but not ground and add to a mixing bowl. Combine with the remaining ingredients.  I used a teaspoon to loosely form small meatballs.

In a sauté pan over medium heat warm 1 tbsp of canola oil. Add the chicken sausage and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Onions and Peppers

1 tbsp butter
1 thinly sliced onions
2 orange/yellow or red bell peppers sliced thinly
1 clove of crushed garlic
salt and pepper

Over medium heat melt the butter and then add the onions. Sauté for five minutes and then add the peppers and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Making the Pizza

5 whole wheat Naan or 2 full size pizza crusts
1 cup grated old cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella
pesto

Preheat the oven to 425F. On each piece of Naan spread about 2 tbsp of pesto. Combine both cheeses and sprinkle a thin layer on each pizza. Top with the pepper and onions mix and cooked sausage. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cook for about 12 minutes or until the cheese is beautiful and melty. 

 

Toddler eating pizza

The house is a bit messy, but I’ve got some happy well fed kids:)

 

I hope this becomes a pizza favourite in your house too and encourages you to try to make your own sausage and skip the delivery to make something even better.

Bacon, Chard and Tomato Pasta

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My favourite meal, hands down, is pasta. I would probably eat it almost every night if I could come up with enough ideas. Fortunately/Unfortunately hubster wasn’t raised eating the stuff and will tolerate it only if it’s bloody good. So, since this is a pasta I make on a regular basis I can promise it is bloody good. To me it satisfies all the requirements: creamy, flavourful, has vegetables and of course bacon, which makes everything wonderful. This is also a great pasta to add to. It can completely stand alone and would also be delicious topped with seafood or a grilled chicken breast.Sneaky fingers in Pasta

I like to think it’s healthy, at least mostly. I used Barilla whole grain pasta for the first time and it was surprisingly good. There is lots of fresh chard and tomatoes and only a little bit of bacon per serving. Initially I used whipping cream for the sauce and it tasted fantastic but I can get the same results by using whole milk and cream cheese and reduce the overall calories and fat of the dish without taking away any flavour. I also never have whipping cream on hand and since I don’t like buying things I won’t use, the cream cheese and milk are more practical. It’s definitely not something you should eat every night but I don’t feel a bit guilty eating a huge plate.

I find this a great one when I have tomatoes that are starting to go a little squishy.

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Update

I made this the other day but didn’t even have cream cheese on hand so I came up with a third version. Version one was the fattening reduced whipping cream version that I cannot eat unless I am committed to an hour run, but if you are wanting to try that one just omit any thickeners, cream cheese or milk and use one cup of whipping cream that you allow to cook down and thicken on its own. It will be delicious! Version three uses flour to thicken the sauce. Same recipe just without the cream cheese.

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I thought I’d share both and then if you’re like me and forget something at the grocery store or just decide you want to do the same thing a different way, you now have two options, well three if you aren’t afraid of a little whip cream 😉

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Version 1 (Cream cheese)

1 Tbsp Olive oil
6 slices bacon
1 cup diced onions, about 1 onion
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
2 cups diced tomatoes (2-3 medium sized tomatoes)
4 cups roughly chopped chard (1 bunch)
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 box Barilla (about 200g) whole grain spaghetti or your favourite pasta
Prepare the  following the instructions on the box

Slice the slices of bacon into 1/4 inch bits and cook over medium heat  until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat sweat the onions. Once they have become translucent add the garlic and cook about one minute. Stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking until they are soft. Add the chard and cook until it has wilted down.

Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the milk. Melt in the cream cheese than add the parmesan. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce down until it can coat the back of a spoon. Combine with the pasta, top with the crispy bacon and serve immediately. 

Garnish with additional parmesan at the table

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Version 2 (flour and milk)

Same ingredients but you will need an additional Tablespoon of butter or olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of flour

Follow the same instructions until it’s time to add the milk,

Stir in 1 Tbsp of butter or olive oil. 

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and stir until it is completely mixed in.

Warm the 1 cup of the milk about 1 minute in the microwave and slowly add in, stirring regularly. The sauce will begin to thicken as it cooks

Add the parmesan cheese and serve once the sauce has thickened enough to coat a spoon.

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So now you have two ways of using chard and tomatoes in a yummy pasta that kids and parents will all enjoy.

I hope this becomes a favourite at your table too and I would love to hear what you thought.

If you would like more meal inspiration come check out my Facebook page. I post nightly meals and ideas for feeding your family and friends