Sunday, October 15, 2017

Easy Holiday Dinner on a Budget

We successfully hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner and now I am eager and inspired to host Christmas dinner as well. Our meal fed 10 and we have a ton of leftovers. Thanks to glass casserole dishes with a lid both prep and clean up were a breeze! In the end we had:
  • a lovely dinner for 10
  • leftover for 8 meals (5 different meals and 4-5 portions/meal) ---> 40 servings
  • All for $30!
  • That's $0.60/serving! 
  • Stress-free clean up -- no clean up the next day! Everything was taken care of in the evening.
Here's how we did it...


The Shopping List:

Most shopping was done at WalMart and all prices are in Canadian dollars. We didn't use everything so this then factors into our monthly shopping as well.

- 1 x 12lb turkey, $15
- 1 package x Ground Pork/Sausage, $2
- 1 x batch carrots, $1.47
- 1 x batch onions, $1.47
- 1 x bundle celery, $1.47
- 1 x box stuffing, $0.77
- 5lb bag of potatoes, $3
- 2 x large yams, $1
- 3 x canned turkey gravy, $3/3
- 1 x canned cranberries, $1
- 2 x canned corn, $1
- 1 x canned creamed corn, $1
- 1 x small bag frozen peas, $1.47
- 1 x red pepper, $0.50

Other ingredients on hand:
- Salt
- Pepper
- Cinnamon
- Brown Sugar
- Olive Oil
- Parmesan
- Rosemary
- Thyme
- Lemon juice
- Chicken stock

The Menu:

  • Roast turkey with Gravy and Cranberries
  • Baked yams with cinnamon and brown sugar
  • Bake potatoes with Parmesan (I was going to add sauteed spinach but opted out at the last minute)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Creamed Corn
  • Corn Niblets
  • Peas
  • Carrots 
  • Rolls/Croissants
  • Raw veggie platter: carrots, celery and peppers
  • We had so much food, I also opted out of a spinach salad but it would have added good colour to the table.

The Dishes:

  • We use glasses dishes with lids to make for seamless prep, re-heating and clean up. These dishes made a HUGE difference for a stress-free meal. They have been worth the investment, for sure!
  • Additional: tinfoil

The prep & "cooking"... 

it was so simple, not sure I can fully call this cooking:
  1. Peel and dice the yams - toss with olive oil, 1tsp cinnamon, 2 x tsp brown sugar; cover with tinfoil; bake in oven at 350F for 60 minutes; remove from oven and let sit until reheating.
  2.  Peel and dice potatoes; dice onions - toss with olive oil, salt/pepper & diced onions; cover with tinfoil; add to oven, bake at 350F for 45 minutes ; remove from oven and let sit until reheating. (Just prior to reheating, add Parmesan). 
  3. Peel and dice more potatoes, boil in chicken stock for the mashed potatoes
  4.  Prep the turkey - remove the innards, scream as you do... cube some onions, add a dash of lemon juice, 2 x tsp rosemary and 1 x tsp thyme.... toss this combo into the bird's cavity; tie the legs and coat the bird in olive oil. 
  5. Once the yams and potatoes are done; remove from oven and let sit. Turn oven down to 300F and let the bird cook.
  6. Pending timing, you can start cooking the sausage meat for the stuffing before prepping the bird. I timed it so one item came out of the oven and the bird went in.
  7. Dice onions and celery; add to the sausage meat.
  8. In a separate pan, prepare the stuffing from a box as per the box instructions.
  9.  Once the sausage mixture is cooked, layer on the bottom of a casserole dish; top with the stuffing form a box mixture. Let stuffing sit until reheating just before guests arrive.
  10. Open the cans/bag and separate out the peas, corn, creamed corn, cranberries & gravy
  11. When you remove the turkey to let stand before carving; turn the oven to 325F and heat up yams, potatoes & stuffing. I microwaved the peas and corn.

The left-overs:

Turkey soup: 

Made 3 x family portions (15 servings):
  1. Cover the carcass with water, brought to a boil on the stove and transferred to the crockpot to simmer overnight.  
  2. Strain the juice; the meat from the carcass as best as you can
  3. Dice some of the left over turkey, carrots and celery; add to soup.
  4. Before serving, I added 1 pack of Lipton chicken noodle soup to a family portion. The remaining was set aside before adding the noodles and put in the freezer.

Turkey Leftover Casserole:

Essentially a reverse shepherd's pie... made 1 x family portion in the freezer
  1. Layer mashed potatoes in bottom of casserole dish; add layer of turkey meat; add layer of stuffing mixture.
  2. I have in the freezer as is; with thaw and bake at 350 for 30 minutes; top with gravy and serve with peas. 

Turkey Enchilada Casserole:

  1. Prep the tortillas
  2. Prep the enchilada sauce -- we always have this homemade version on hand
  3. Layer: turkey tossed in enchilada sauce; cheese; tortilla; cheese; turkey tossed in enchilada sauce; cheese; tortilla; enchilada sauce; cheese. 

Turkey Corn Chowder:

This is a suggestion as I didn't cook up the full 5lb bag of potatoes. If I had, I would have also made turkey corn chowder which is an excellent one-pot meal! Substitute out the chicken from this recipe with turkey for that amazing meal! 

Additional Notes:

  • Our guests brought the rolls/croissants, wine & dessert.
  • We did have dessert on hand as well: $5 pumpkin pie & some cool whip... We sent one of the guests home with the dessert they brought for their family dinner the next day as we just had too much.

Review:

  • The yams were a hit and we will definitely make them again! 
  • I will batch up more mashed potatoes next time to make some turkey corn chowder as well. 
  • The value in products, makes me offering up to host Christmas dinner as well. It was so easy and my freezer is now well stocked for the month.  
  • Having the guests bring the rolls, wine and dessert helped make a huge difference on keeping the meal to a budget and all details accounted for. I need to acknowledge that! 
  • Overall, it was a great success --- most noted but the eager willingness to host the next family dinner.



Monday, October 9, 2017

Cooking on a Budget: Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce is a favourite in our home. It's easy and affordable. Simply toss the ingredients that you likely have on hand in the Blendtec and then portion out to have available any time you desire!


Ingredients:
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 4 tsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • Garlic, optional
  • Chicken stock powder to taste, optional
 Method:
  1. Combine & mix well. I blend in the Blentec for 15 seconds and that's it! 
We use freezer bags to portion out and then add to nearly any Mexican style dish we are making, i.e. enchilada casserole being our fave but also for fajitas, burritos, pork carnitas...YUM!!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Meal Planning 101

We like to enjoy traditional family dinners. Traditional in the 21st century that is. You know - chaotic: music in the form of my 4 year old giggling at the top of his lungs while continuous pretending to "accidentally" burp and make other eloquent noises while simultaneously having to pee every 3 minutes... fortunately though, the chaos is minimized to at the table and not in preparation. My secret: meal planning. Today I am sharing a little bit on how I do it. I will come back to this post and continue to add different meal plans for the week so be sure to bookmark or pin this page... more simple weekly meal plans and plenty of recipes to come!! 



The How:

  •  Schedule it. For me, that's Sunday. Sunday is our reset day for the week. It's time to re-group, get re-organized and re-prioritize.
  • Current stock in house. How can I use up items that may otherwise spoil this week? --- side note: this is a great way to discover new recipes. The acid in over-ripen tomatoes makes an excellent base for a this pasta dish!  
  • What can be batched up on the weekend to stock the freezer and make use for future meals? I survive by batching up recipes and taking advantage or "freezer to oven" or "freezer to crockpot cooking"... stay tuned as I feature more of these recipes on this blog. 
  • How can I add variety in meals while using the same ingredients? --- I find this is most easily accomplishment by cooking "international cuisine" and rotating the theme, or simply alternative the main between chicken one day and pork the next. We also try to avoid two pasta dinners back-to-back.

The Why:

  • Saves time. Front one-two hours and take advantage of batch cooking to have dinners for a month organized over a short period of time. The daily meal prep during the week then becomes 1-2 minutes as opposed to 30-40minutes. Who has 30-40 minutes during the week to spend in the kitchen?! Between work and the kids, their activities and the remote possibility of 15 minutes for myself, I can certainly make better use of that time than in the kitchen during the week. // The greatest timer saver though might actually be with the dishes...
  • Saves money. No need to eat out. A single meal eating out as a family of 4 is easily $40. $40 can make 5 dinners in our house (depending on the ingredients). I will get a post together about eating on a budget as I get asked about this a lot in our real life. We keep our family food budget to $500 including pull ups and cleaning products and always get asked how. Stay tuned and I'll let you in on our secrets. :)
  • Minimizes/eliminates waste. This goes slightly hand-in-hand with saving money but also, I hate the feeling of not making use of all products and food spoiling when there are so many people that go without in the world. This cuts into my ethics and morals... "waste not" is a philosophy we live by. 
  • Less stress. I like some structure and removing the uncertainly of "what's for dinner" support this aspects of my personality and that has a trickle-effect onto the all members of the family. 
  • More variety. Meal planning guarantees we don't have the same thing back-to-back which is lovely for your taste and fueling your body appropriately.

Sample meal plan:

Note: as I get the recipes listed below posted, I will be sure to link back so please stay tuned!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Quesadillas & Spanish Rice Spaetzle, Schnitzel & Veggies Spaghetti & Meatballs Chicken Corn Chowder Chicken, Bacon Pasta Toasted Chicken andwiches & Salad Stroganoff & Veggies


What is on your menu this week? Comment below! Until next time... xo

_____________________________________________________

Interested in learning more about our family? We're on You Tube, too! Watch the video below to hear why we started this journey; stay tuned for updates and join us on our adventure! 




If you are interested in really helping out this small You Tuber gain a little traction, please let our playlist run and enjoy a few laughs along the way! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

5 Minute Meal: Chicken Quesidillas

If you're looking for a quick and easy meal that can be made in under 5 minutes, you've found it! These CHICKEN QUESADILLAS are absolutely delicious and fool proof... my 4 year old makes them, too!

Gather your ingredients:

Shredded Chicken
Graded Cheese
Diced Peppers
Tortilla Shells
Sour Cream (optional)

Method:

  1. Warm a pan on the stove (medium heat)
  2. Fold the tortilla is half to give you "the mid-line". Place a thin layer of cheese, chicken; peppers; a little more cheese.
  3. Fold the tortilla over (half moon shape). Place in microwave for 30 seconds.
  4. Place from microwave to pan for 1 minute; flip for another 30 seconds.
  5. Section into quarters with a pizza slicer & enjoy!
You can serve with a basic garden salad for some fresh crispiness or a side of cucumbers.  The quesadilla is surprisingly filling.

Kid-friendly and even quicker, my 7 year old is a fan of the plain cheese quesadillas made solely in the microwave. Add some cheese to a tortilla, heat for 45 seconds and voila! Your meal is set.

Are you interested in more 5 minute meals? Comment below!

Helpful hints:

  • Keep shredded chicken in your freezer. Place 8 frozen chicken breasts into a crockpot with 1 cup chicken broth, let cook on low for 8 hours or overnight. Shred. After cool, portion out into Ziploc freezer bags so it's ready whenever you need it.
  •  Do the same with cheese. We buy cheese in bulk from Costco and use an electric grater to grate en mass. Portion out for future recipes and it's all set when you need it. 
  • These can also be frozen prior to any heat if you want to batch up a ton and have them on hand straight from the freezer. To freeze, simply wrap in saran wrap tightly and then layer in an airtight container for the freezer.



Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo
_____________________________________________________

Interested in learning more about our family? We're on You Tube, too! Watch the video below to hear why we started this journey; stay tuned for updates and join us on our adventure! 



If you are interested in really helping out this small You Tuber gain a little traction, please let our playlist run and enjoy a few laughs along the way! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Supporting Your Child and Fostering their Passions

Ultimately our role as parents is to guide and nurture the very best in our children. It's so easy in today's society to become distracted and gravitate to the world of comparisons and/or what is within our comfort zone as a parent.

Every child is different.  Every - child - is - different. 

Keep saying that to yourself.  

Each child has different strengths and challenges than their sibling(s).  

Each child has a different strengths and challenges than their neighbour, classmate, friend, cousin, etc.

Ultimately, what is important in raising our children?...  In my opinion, it is that they:
  • are respectful
  • have confidence
  • are happy and healthy
  • can care for themselves and the world around them.


I have two children: one, a natural athlete (this is my comfort zone) and performer - and the second, an artist. My oldest, the artist, has discovered a passion for You Tube videos. This is was a completely foreign world/interest for me. I didn't quite grow up in the pre-television generation but definitely "BC" as my parents always say, "before computers". And, before cable tv in our household... so, the concept of You Tube: video production, editing and the intricacies of You Tube is completely overwhelming for this parent.

My son takes great pride in the story; the creativity; the sharing and; the engagement and interaction within a You Tube channel.  In our case, engaging in You Tube specifically, but regardless of the specific interest/passion, ANY area of interest foreign to a child's parent is a HUGE commitment. The reality of this commitment can be overwhelming but, the investment in time to support and foster YOUR CHILD'S intrinsic passion is rewarded so tremendously. I am writing this to show you just that - and to ask for your help :). Take a few minutes to look at the evolution in his confidence and his development by viewing the videos below and please note:
  • For any child who may be shy, reserved and have developmental delays, I hope these video can show parents some hope and how the efforts made in investing in your child's passion can be so rewarded.
  • You Tube is a beast. It's is amazing and incredible and a remarkable community in itself but --- building a channel and gaining some traction takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and a steep, steep learning curve.  By clicking on a video and/or giving a video a thumbs up and/or leaving a pleasant comment, you can honestly make someone's day. My son is THRILLED to have hit a new milestone in subscribers and seeing this response, knowing he may have made someone else smile, helps to motivate him (and his Momma, too :) )... when you are looking to support your child's passion, having both internal and this sort of external motivation has a remarkable impact. For the latter, I turn to you and am truly grateful for your support.
See the "results" from an investment in a child's passion that is completely foreign to his parents right here...

From this:


to this (over a few - relatively - short months):



Maybe I am bias? I encourage you to share your perspective in the comments on this blog and/or on his videos; what stands out to you?

The reality in letting our children take the lead in inspiring their passions can instill a level of fear in parents. Reflect on this honest statement:
it's human to fear what may be beyond our control and to allow our children's choices, taking such a lead.... letting go of these precious human beings in this capacity and diving into a world of potentially complete unfamiliarity... say WHAT?!?! (This article has some interesting perspectives on this subject that I encourage you to also read.)

Again though, I circle back to my initial statement and reason for this post:
  • A child's passion can foster and nurture critical aspects of a child's development.
  • The impact when you support and foster your child's passion beyond your comfort level can have a significant, positive, impact on their development.
  • My son inspires me every day. He faces what some may see as an uphill battle every day (we have not yet shared, fully, the adversity he faces in this cyber world but that will come - with time) and I firmly believe he has been blessed with a gift to inspire and connect with others. Thanks to technology, this is a platform to do just that. 
With that, until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

_____________________________________________________

Interested in learning more about our family? Now you know how some of the evolution of our You Tube channel but watch the video below to hear about the first spark that ignited our You Tube journey. Stay tuned for updates and join us on our adventure! 




Again, if you are interested in really helping out this small You Tuber gain a little traction, please let our playlist run and enjoy a few laughs along the way! Thanks so much!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Define "that"

Some days you just need to remind yourself to breathe. Today - today is one of those days.

Let's be honest, parenting is hard. Life is hard. We all know there are no "how to" manuals or videos as much as we strive to find them. Or --- potentially strive to create them. Take me for example, here I am writing. Rambling. Sharing thoughts and perspectives, potentially speaking to a handful for people around the world.... why? for what purpose? The good news is that in all this sense of being overwhelmed, it's the outlet and the connection that brings peace. The reality in that "parenting is hard. life is hard." is that parenting brings the greatest peace and perspective to compliment your greatest life worth living.

Becoming a parent was a catalyst in find that for me. As I continue to ramble and circle thoughts, let me define "that". "That" is purpose.

Those who find their purpose without children have the ultimate gift and have earn the utmost respect from me. I am so blessed to know what "that" is for me... "that" is to:
  • live life with a grateful heart.
  • Look for/seek opportunities how you can help.
  • Find peace in yourself. Pride in your values. Be humble.
As I end this week and start this day focused on breathing, I have taken a moment to pause. To write. To speak my mind. To open my heart. When things get overwhelming, know you are not alone. Reach out - whether it be to a person in your circle or to the cuber world. Express yourself. Ultimately, connect with your values. Breathe. Just, breathe.

What is your "that"? How do you get through a tough day" Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time... xo


_____________________________________________________

Interested in learning more about our family? Now you know how some of the evolution of our You Tube channel but watch the video below to hear about the first spark that ignited our You Tube journey. Stay tuned for updates and join us on our adventure! 




Again, if you are interested in really helping out this small You Tuber gain a little traction, please let our playlist run and enjoy a few laughs along the way! Thanks so much!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Parenting Advice No One Ever Tells You


Here's the deal, folks... I am FAR from the the perfect parent and I, in no way, have my act together BUT, I have discovered a few of the ultimate in sanity saving parenting tips that no one ever tells you. Sure, you may have heard that saying before but I promise you, take 5 minutes to experience a few "ah-ha" moments! by reading this post...


1. Stackable plates.

Avoid the sectioned off plates and spend the $2 from Ikea to get their stackable sets. This avoids the Tupperware or random containers tumbling out of the cupboard much like a game of dominos - and with that, also your sanity temporarily crumbling. 

Your kid doesn't like their peas touching their potatoes --- wait! you just read that right, it IS possible for a kid to love peas... make use of 3 bowls. They are cost effective enough and keep things more separated...
Ikea Kids Plates
Available HERE

2. The Crockpot, batch up cooking and/or a good quality blender are your new best friends.

Whenever you are cooking, batch up recipes and stick them in the freezer. This is most significant no only in saving on the cooking later -- but seriously streamlines clean up. 

Take advantage of the freezer to crockpot method of cooking where you dump the ingredients from a Ziploc bag to the Crockpot, set it and forget it! I've link a few simple recipes below.

Blenders are wonderful. Whether it's a smoothly, a sauce or a soup -- Blenders lend to the dump it and press the "easy" button philosophy. Who doesn't love the occasional easy button?!?

FOLLOW the blog as I post more of these helpful recipes in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy THESE easy recipes or, how about this Chicken Cord Chowder?


A delicious Chicken Corn Chowder hits the stop!


3. Avoid the traditional toy bins.

Sure they can be cute for a short while, a VERY short while. Save your sanity by taking advantage of the "out-of-sight - out-of-mind tactic". Add a pictured label if needed to assist with putting away their own toys. On that note, remember that by nature, kids LOVE to clean. We are creatures of habit and a simple label can make this a more seamless process and a process that takes this item off of your "to do" list. 

A system like THIS with basket or fabric storage bins is a great, affordable, option.

4. The vacuum is the most effect means to getting your children to clean their room. An automated vacuum, like the Roomba, is even better. 

No need to raise your voice to get your kids to clean, simply let them know in 10 minutes you'll be vacuuming. Even better, schedule a robot vacuum which regularly turns on when no one if home so their rooom(s) - especially all of their LEGO needs to be clean - otherwise, the robot will pick them up. Voilia! You're not the "bad guy" and they stay on top of keeping their room clean. Win! Win!

5. Get ready to turn up the volume!

Feeling stressed? Don't hit the pause button, turn up the music and enjoy a spontaneous dance party. It resets the energy for everyone... and now you know where my son gets his killer dance moves! ;)


6. It's not about being lazy, it's all strategic and planning for the long-haul. 

Your children offer two extra hands to help you and work as a family-unit. My children know that there are core responsibilities to keeping up the house and the more we work together to accomplish task, the quicker the task gets done AND --- the more time we have to play together. 

So, how many times did you hit your forehead reading this?! Why do these pieces of advice get missed in the "real" parenting books? These are solutions, folks. Give them a go and share in the comments below your best - or worst - parenting advice, strategies and solutions!

Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

_____________________________________________________

Interested in learning more about our family? We're on You Tube, too! Watch the video below to hear why we started this journey; stay tuned for updates and join us on our adventure! 




If you are interested in really helping out this small You Tuber gain a little traction, please let our playlist run and enjoy a few laughs along the way!