Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

16 Jul 2013

Breakfast For Dinner Birthday Party

My little girl has turned 2! What? How did that happen???  Seriously, time is flying and I feel like I can't keep up.  If you saw The Week's End post on Sunday, then you saw a little glimpse of the party we had for Fin to celebrate her second birthday.

Breakfast for Dinner Party @

We threw a big party with friends and family for Fin's first birthday last year (don't judge the photos in that post...yikes) so this year we decided to keep it super simple.  We had her grandparents over for dinner, and as much as I was tempted to go all out with a Pinterest inspired crazy themed birthday party, I decided to save my sanity and keep it easy.  Sometimes easy is the way to go, isn't it?  She's 2, she didn't notice that I didn't have a consistent theme going on.  She was just happy that she had some of her favourite people all in one room to hang out with her and eat cake. 

Breakfast for Dinner Party @

I pulled out streamers that I had left over from the birthday party last year and strung them across the ceiling in our kitchen.  Then I went to the dollar store and picked up some balloons.  Fin has a thing for bunnies, so I bought some balloons with bunny ears.  Bad idea...they were the hardest balloons ever to blow up, but after about 4 of them Mr. Swell got the hang of it (even if he was about to pass out).  I also bought some balloons with 2 on them and we just hung them from the ceiling fan and the curtain rods.  A bit ghetto, but it worked.

Breakfast for Dinner Party @

Fin's favourite foods are anything breakfast related, so we went with a Breakfast for Dinner theme for the food.  We made baked french toast using a Pioneer Woman recipe and it was SO delicious.  I ate it for lunch for 2 straight days after the party and was so sad when it was done.   We also made shredded hasbrowns and scrambled eggs, and had a big fruit salad.  It was really easy and most of it could be made ahead of time.  Sorry, I wish I had some pictures of the food for you, but I was too busy eating!

Breakfast for Dinner Party with Pancake Cake @

To carry on the breakfast theme through to the cake, we made Fin a pancake cake.  Keeping with the whole idea of an easy party,  I used a boxed cake mix (Betty Crocker Vanilla).  I made the cake exactly as the directions and then added a couple handfulls of multi coloured sprinkles.  We heated up 2 frying pans and then poured 1/4C of batter into each frying pan, just like cooking a pancake.  The cake was a bit trickier to flip than a regular pancake, but once we figured out to cook low and slow then it started to get easier.  Once each pancake was done we stacked it up and started cooking another one in the pan.  I made a quick glaze using icing sugar and water with a bit of red food colouring and poured it over the top.    

When Fin woke up from her nap she saw the cake sitting on the counter and was so impressed.  That made us pretty happy!

The cake was really easy to serve as each person just took a pancake and then we added a scoop of ice cream.  

Breakfast for Dinner Party with Pancake Cake @

Overall I'd say the party was a big hit.  The one person who mattered most loved it to death, so that was good enough for us. 

So tell me, am I the only one who is sort of revolting against fancy parties?  Have we lost track of what's really important, which is celebrating the person who has reached another milestone?  

In other news.....our rental house is officially sold!  Conditions were removed last week and now we are just waiting for the new owners to take possession, which is at the end of the month.  We feel so relieved to have that stress off of us.  Once conditions lifted on the rental house, then we were able to list our own house.  Our house went on the market Friday morning, hence why it has been a bit quiet around here. We were busy doing odds and ends to get it ready to list and were then out of the house much of the weekend for showings, so we have been busy little bees.  I don't want to jinx anything, so I have promised myself that I am not going to blog much about selling this house until it's all done.  Hopefully I will have some more good news to share soon. 

Linking to: The Shabby Nest

26 Oct 2012

Pinterest + Dinner = New Recipes in the Rotation

I've mentioned here before that we struggle with dinners.  Honestly, I can say that I find it to be the most challenging part of the day.  I almost dread it.  But, I refuse to just give up and eat out all the time.  First, we don't have the money to eat restaurant food for days on end, and second, I get tired of eating 'healthy' fast food (i.e. Subway).  So, we've set out on a mission to try and eat real dinners (not eggs or oatmeal) for dinner at least 4 nights a week (Mon-Thurs).  That means that we have to be org-org-organized.

Pinterest has become my new best friend in Project: Dinner Organization.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see me pinning recipe after recipe.  Many of them are crock pot recipes, and others are ones that I can either do super quick or that I can have all ready and freeze ahead of time.  Pinterest can be a bit of hit and miss though.  We've tried many recipes that are total flops, or are just so-so...nothing to write home about, or to blog about for that matter.  But then there are others that are total winners.  Some of the Pinterest recipes are super delicious and have made it into our regular rotation.


Through all of our trial and error, I have kept a board on Pinterest entitled Recipes We Have Tried and Love.  Since we love them, I thought I'd share the board with case you also find dinner on week nights next to impossible.  I don't just post anything on the board, I can assure you that we have actually made and eaten the recipe.  I also add my little notes to the pin with any changes that we have made or modifications that could make it healthier, etc.  And since it's my blog, I guess it's ok to play favourites.....the Singapore Street Noodles and the Cauliflower Chocolate Cake are our current faves.

Do you have a pin board with your favourite recipes?  Leave me your link in the comments, as I'd love to follow you and find new recipes.  It's just a lot of recipe love around here today.

On a totally unrelated side note, I wanted to just make a couple of quick comments about advertising.  You may have noticed that over the past few weeks I have integrated some advertising onto the blog.  I struggled with the decision to start adding ads to the blog, as I want to maintain the integrity of my posts.  But, blogging isn't entirely free, and although the costs are small, they are still there (domain name, blog design, etc).  I love writing and sharing, but if I can recoup some of my out of pocket costs, I will.  And to be honest, having a few extra dollars doesn't hurt :)

I only show display ads that I think fit with what I have going on around here.  They are stores that I enjoy, and that you may too.  The little section on the right hand side titled "Swell Goods I am Loving Right Now" contains affiliate links.  If you click on one of the items from this blog and then purchase it, the store sends me a small percentage of your purchase.  It's like a little bonus for me scoping out cool things.  You may also see sponsored posts every once and a while.  These are posts that I have been paid to write on behalf of a company.  The words are all mine, and I only write about things that I believe in or use myself.  I've passed up quite a few sponsored posts that I just don't think are the right fit (like white bread and car insurance....).  I know most of you won't care too much about any of this, but it's important for me to be honest with you.  I often get question on how you can make money blogging, so hopefully this will answer some of them.  And just to prove that blogging isn't a good way to get rich, I have made a total of $19.84 since I started blogging almost 9 months ago.  I think I'll use it to buy lotto tickets.

Have a great weekend!  Any big plans?  We have Halloween craziness this weekend.  Can't wait!

3 Aug 2012

Make Ahead Meals for a Month

I know that we aren't the only family that struggles with making dinner every night.  By the time I get home from work it's usually 4:30, and then Mr. Swell is usually home at 6.  That gives me an hour and a half to get dinner ready, but with a 12 month old who likes to cling to my pants and pull everything out of the cupboards, I can sometimes only get a pot of water on during that hour and half.  Then Fin goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:00, so we have half an hour to finish cooking and shove in dinner before she starts losing her mind and is ready for her bath.   The days of making risotto standing at the stove stirring for half an hour are long gone. I have hope that one day they will return....

I have run across many websites and blogs that have tons of make ahead meal recipes, but almost all of them seem to involve the slow cooker.  In the middle of the summer I have absolutely zippo desire to pull out my slow cooker and eat pot roast.  I wanted the ease of make ahead meals, but without the slow cooker.  Oh, and they also needed to be semi-healthy and be easy to cut up into bite size pieces for  the kiddo.  

Leave it to Rachael Ray to come up with my solution.  After much Googling, I found a page on her site that has a one month make ahead meal plan (see it here).  Basically you spend one day making some of the building blocks for the recipes, and then each meal only needs a few more ingredients and is super quick.  

Before I show you what we did, I must mention that this post is in no way sponsored by Rachael Ray. She has no idea who I am  (hahah, as if!!).  I just found the whole thing helpful for my family and thought I'd share in hopes that it might also help yours.

Over the course of a weekend (when it wasn't sweltering and we could tag team) we put our chef hats on and cooked all of the building blocks.  It was one pork roast, a bunch of chicken breasts, butternut squash, roasted peppers, tomato sauce and a rice pilaf....and it was a lot of everything.  We had food everywhere.

Once everything was cooked, we then measured out portions (as per the meal plan) and sealed in plastic freezer bags.

After the weekend of cooking, our usually barren freezer was looking fully stocked.

As for the meals themselves - they were really quite delicious.  Usually Rachael Ray stuff is.

One Meatless Monday we cooked spinach, veggie and ricotta calzones. It was way too hot to turn on the oven so I used the BBQ.  A slight disaster with a lot of smoke blowing towards our neighbour, but they still tasted delicious (even if they were a little charred).

 Our other favourites were the chicken and polenta (we are a polenta lovin' family).

Using the building block freezer bags, most of the meals took about 15 minutes to cook/assemble each night.  I'll admit that some were definitely better than others, but they were all better than eating egg sandwiches every night, which is usually our 'in a pinch' meal.  

The other bonus to this meal plan is that it seemed to save us money.  We have a budget of $240 every week for groceries.  Some weeks when we have to buy diapers, shampoo, etc, that budget can be a challenge.  When we decided to try this meal plan for a month we bought all of the building block food, took that total and divided it by 4, and then subtracted that amount from our weekly budget for a month.  Hang in there with me, I didn't sign up for math today, did you? We spent just over $80 on all of the building block foods, so we lowered our budget to $220 for the 4 weeks.  Using the recipes in the plan, the $220 was a breeze.  We had money left over every week.  Who knows if that was from that actual food we bought, or because we ate out less (since we had a plan and all), but whatever it was I liked it.  It left extra money at the end of the week for me to go garage sale shopping - which is always a win-win for all parties involved.

So, would I do it all again? Yes, but probably not for another year.  Although the meals were good, they weren't as healthy as I would have liked all the time. I also like to rotate what we eat quite a bit, so I wouldn't want to finish the month and then start right up again.

How about you? Do you have any awesome make ahead meals that you go to in a pinch?  Please share!

30 Apr 2012

Just Another Meatless Monday

I wish it was Sunday 'cause that's my fun day. 

You're welcome. 

Just another 80's song to get stuck in your head. Go ahead, sing out loud....pretend the windows are rolled down and the sun is shinning, and the guy sitting next to you at the red light isn't starting at you like you've lost your marbles.  Oh, maybe that's only me they stare at? I sing louder now that I have a kid. Sometimes it works to stop her from yelling (she's yelling out loud about how the heck this crazy woman could possibly be her mother) and other times it just drowns her out.

Ok, getting back on topic.. Meatless Mondays. 

We meal plan in our house.  We have to, or we will be eating Wendy's salads and PB&J sandwiches all week long.  We usually sit down on Sunday and make out a plan through to Wednesday or Thursday, and then attempt to do all of the groceries for the week some time on Sunday.  We have a board in our kitchen that is dedicated to our menu for the week, so everyone knows what's what for the week ahead.

Meal Planning Chalk Board

I know of some families that find it helpful to follow a formula for meal planning (slow cooker Tuesday, chicken Wednesday, etc) but that's a bit too much for us.  We still like to at least pretend like we are go with the flow people some of the time.  What we have tried to stick to every week though is Meatless Monday. We are too carnivorous to commit to the whole day, but we do a veggie dinner every Monday night. It's a good excuse to try a new recipe or two every month and to explore some ingredients that we don't tend to use on a regular basis.  

Although vegetarian meals usually seem like a healthy alternative, many of them are still quite high fat and are loaded with cream and other unhealthy fats.  We at least attempt to eat a fairly clean diet in our house and try to feed Fin as many whole foods as possible. That means, that as much as I may want to, we try to not eat popcorn for dinner on Meatless Mondays and instead I try and search out new and healthy recipes.  The other bonus about meatless night is that it usually tends to be our least expensive meal of the week.  Free range chicken is stupid expensive these days (dumb birds need to roam around on some expensive land apparently), so if we can get our hands on some tofu for just over a dollar we are a happy family. 

Some of our current favorites in the meatless rotation are Moni's Quinoa Mac & Cheese (check it out, it's so delicious!), Spinach and Feta Frittata (from my head), and Butternut Squash Risotto (from the Eat Clean Diet Stripped).  One of our all time favourites though is Parma Chameleon (decoded it's tofu Parmesan) from the Eat, Shrink & Be Merry cookbook by Janet & Greta Podleski.  I contacted Janet and Greta and asked if I could share this veggie recipe with you readers and much to my astonishment they replied (love it when people reply) and said I could share away.  Ok, before you turn your nose up at it and say "ewww...tofu, I don't eat tofu", just give it a chance.  I actually sort of like tofu. Mr. Swell could take it or leave it, but he loves this recipe and even looks forward to the leftovers on Tuesday.  I actually think Fin is a vegetarian at heart (which I guess is to be expected since she only started eating meat a few months ago) and she loves this dish.  We get out the handy dandy immersion blender and puree it up for her and she gobbles it down.  The sauce and breadcrumbs do a great job of hiding the tofu. I bet you could serve it and some diners would even mistake it for chicken.  

On a somewhat related side note....since we are talking about Parma Chameleon. Does anyone know if Chameleons actually make sounds? Fin's current obsession is our calendar on the fridge. It's a freebie one we got from Telus, and has an animal on each month.  She loves to flip through each month and listen to Mr. Swell and I make the animal sounds that go with the picture. October is Chameleons. 


Seriously? I am supposed to make a Chameleon sounds? I have no idea what Chameleons sound like, so every time we get to October I break out singing Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. Could someone please help a girl out here? If not for me, just think of my poor daughter who is going to grow up thinking Chameleons are actually 80s British pop stars.

But I digress..,

Without further adeu, here is the recipe.

Parma Chameleon
From Eat, Shrink & Be Merry
Makes 4 servings

Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1 lb (454 g) firm tofu (I always buy extra firm if I can find it)
1 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tsp each dried basil and dried oregano
1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of your favorite tomato pasta sauce, divided
1/2 cup packed shredded light mozzarella cheese (2 oz/57g)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a non-stick baking sheet with olive oil spray and set aside.

Drain liquid from tofu and blot dry with paper towels.  Slice block into 6 to 8 equal slices, about 1/2 inch thick.  Lay slices on paper towels and blot again.

Combine bread crumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.  Place egg in another shallow bowl and beat lightly with a fork.

Working one piece at a time, dip tofu in egg and then in crumb mixture.  Make sure both sides are well coated with the crumb mixture.  Place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining tofu pieces. (Don't worry if you have some crumbs left over - you'll use them later.)  Spray the tops of tofu with olive oil spray.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Using a spatula, gently turn pieces over.  Bake an additional 8 minutes. Remove tofu from oven but leave oven on.

Spray a medium casserole dish with cooking spray.  Spread 1/2 cup of pasta sauce over bottom of dish.  Lay browned tofu pieces in dish close together and in a single layer if possible.  Top with remaining pasta sauce, followed by mozzarella, remaining Parmesan cheese, and parsley.  If you have any crumbs left over, sprinkle them over the entire dish.  Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.  Turn broiler on and broil about 4 inches from heat source for 2 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Here's what our version looks like:

Tofu Parmesan - Eat, Shrink & Be Merry
Vegetarian Tofu Parmesan - Eat, Shrink & Be Merry

You can read more about Janet & Greta Podleski, and find more recipes at

Seriously, don't be afraid of tofu. Give it a shot.  

Do you do Meatless Mondays? Do you have any favourite vegetarian dishes? 

I announced the winner of the Lucy Snowe giveaway. Check here to see if you won.

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