One year while in college I lived with 3 roommates. We shared a 2 bedroom suite and it was one of the best years of my life.
Every Sunday I'd make "Sunday Soup". Whoever was around could come and eat soup. Sometimes it was just me, sometimes it was my roommates, sometimes guests. It always started with a package of ramen noodles and enough eggs just dropped in to poach for however many people were eating it. Whatever leftovers I could scrounge from the fridge went in there, and sometimes a handful of vegetables. The specifics are long gone, because that was 22-23 years ago, but I remember loving my soup tradition. Plus it was cheap, a very important consideration for broke college students.
Nowadays I don't make soup every Sunday, though I'm thinking I may want to revisit the idea for the fall and winter. Last night we enjoyed Sunday Soup for dinner. It's the time of year when our people are starting to catch colds or just feel under the weather. It's warm outside, but there's still a bite in the air, especially when it's windy. And I worked hard all day and was too tired to really think. Like I said on my interview with Carrie Ann, soup is my all time favourite meal to cook, especially the last week of the month when we're on the end of our fridge food.
Growing up with a mom who didn't usually waste anything, soup is one of those things we ate often. I don't remember her ever using a recipe. I got my Sunday Soup idea from her, and over the years I've cooked periodically without following a recipe as well. I like to know I can stay a little more free-flowing with my ideas, something that's a challenge for me sometimes.
This soup started with some meal starters pulled from the freezer, flavour added to with fresh onions and carrots, and enhanced with basic herbs and spices. It was gentle on the taste buds and delicious.
And sadly I will never be able to recreate this particular soup because I used some of my meal starters- a bit of this and a bit of that from my freezer- some leftover gravy, a baggie of roasted pork drippings, some turkey stock I made last Thanksgiving, and the rest of the pork loin I cooked last winter. A handful of pasta left in the bottom of the box filled it out, and voila! Dinner was served.
We saved money cooking in rather than ordering in. We used up leftover bits of food from the pantry and freezer, and took advantage of meal starters I'd been keeping track of and organized. This meal was more nutritious then anything we could have brought home and was less expensive than ordering food for the family from any local establishment- and as an added bonus, we get to enjoy the leftover soup for lunch.
What's your go-to homemade meal when you're at the end of your energy? Do you have a favourite Sunday Dinner tradition?
Enjoy your week, friends.
My Baked Savoury Oatmeal turned out as tasty as I anticipated! Check out the recipe here. There will be more #testkitchen and other meal starter meals to follow!
Enjoy your week, friends!
It was a busy week, and with school in full swing again, it's going to be another busy week. We ran to Costco one day this week to get a few things ready for cooking ahead, and one of those things was a package of breakfast sausages. Today was the day we cooked ahead to fill our freezer with meal starters.
I cooked a lot this morning, but started with the sausages because they take the longest- 30-35 minutes to reach their internal temperature of 160*F. The quickest way to cook a lot of sausages at once is to line a cookie sheet with foil, and then put them in a 375*F oven. After about 20 minutes, flip them and poke them with a fork. After another 15 minutes or so and confirming internal temperature, place them on paper towel to allow them to drain as much grease as possible.
While sausages aren't the best food to eat nutritionally, they add an enjoyable flavour punch to many dishes, and a little can go a long way. My philosophy is to enjoy them in moderation- the sausage won't be the focus of my meals, but an interesting flavour component.
Some of the meals I'm able to make with these sausages:
I also cooked a double batch of oatmeal...but that was because I accidentally added too much salt to my first batch. I cooked a second batch to mix with half of the first batch, and half the first batch will be used to #testkitchen a meal I referenced above, baked savoury oatmeal. I've got some good ideas stewing around in my head, and tomorrow morning I hope to try them out. #wastenotwantnot!
Oatmeal is one of the greatest breakfast foods of all time, in my humble opinion. You can dress it up or down for whatever mood you're in, and leftover oatmeal reheats beautifully and tastes wonderful. Dress it up right and you can make yourself a satisfying meal that keeps you full for longer. It gives you fibre to help lower cholesterol and keep you comfortable and provides iron and protein. It's easy to make and my goal is to get my boys to try it a few times before Christmas. I'm under no illusions that they'll actually love it or ask for it anytime soon, but eventually their taste buds and bodies will acquire a taste for it, hopefully sooner than later.
Some of my favourite ways to enjoy oatmeal are:
I'm sure as I play around with flavours and moods I'll find more ways to enjoy oatmeal. I definitely prefer to cook it plain rather than add flavours to the pot, because I like to cook enough for a few meals and I don't know what kind of mood I'll be in when I'm ready to eat it. Mental and emotional states definitely influence what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat, so cooking ahead in this way gives the best chance possible to eat well no matter what our emotional or mental state happens to be.
I toasted sunflower seeds and almonds today too. Toasted nuts make the most amazing flavourful topping to anything from yogurt to oatmeal to salad. I enjoyed a bowl of fruit salad this morning with a sprinkle of toasted almonds on my fruit as well as on a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. As with any food, it's easy to overdo it with nuts- pay attention to portion sizes- but the health benefits of nuts make them valuable to add to your daily routines. If food allergies are an issue, don't forget to read the labels.
I hope your Sunday was excellent. Enjoy your week, and keep watching for my #testkitchen meals!
Questions, comments? I can't wait to hear them. Feel free to hop over to my facebook page and start a conversation there, add me to your email subscriptions, comment here, or email me!
September this year seems to be firmly planted in fall. Not only are the daylight hours obviously less, but some of our morning lows have felt suspiciously chilly. As have many of our daytime highs.
This week I'm going to give you all our meal ideas, not just dinners. I won't be planning what we're eating on what specific day and when because this week is a pretty busy one and it will depend on who is home and when. We've gone grocery shopping and have all the ingredients on hand and most of these meals are quick to prepare and relatively quick to cook. The soups will be made on Tuesday morning and warmed up as needed.
Scrambled egg, pepper, and sausage wraps
Pancake, sausage, and fruit salad
Beef and Bean Chili
Baked chicken with pasta and vegetable platter
Turkey Meatball Soup
Mini Hamburgers with cheese and fresh fruit
Spring Green salad with feta, nuts, and chicken
Thai Sweet Chili Turkey Wraps
Grilled Cheese and Ham Sandwiches with fresh vegetables
Beef, pepper, and onion grilled sandwiches
I'll be adding some recipes to my website this week! Check back soon for Turkey Meatball Soup (in Soups) and Scrambled Egg Wraps (in Breakfast).
I hope your Labour Day weekend was an enjoyable one!
And that's ok.
There are days when all there is left in the pantry and fridge is ingredients for breakfast. There are days when the only energy left in me for cooking is something simple, like pancakes. Sure, they aren't the most nutritious of foods, but they are a crowd pleaser. And when the plague hits your house the very last thing you want is to do engage in a complicated what's-for-dinner dance with your whiny, cranky, sick family. I did make it slightly more nutritious...half whole wheat flour. And look- there is fruit. In fact, we ate a lot of fruit that night. Vitamin C, baby.
Or Rice Pudding for Breakfast...
Rice pudding for breakfast sounds decadent, right? And it is. It's been the best part of my week, this week. It's crafted in the slow cooker, so all you have to do is mix everything together, turn it to high, take a nap, top it, and eat it. My recipe made a good 5 cups of pudding, so I did share a little with a friend because I am the only person in the house who enjoys it.
My recipe uses my favorite brown rice, and the best is topping it with a drizzle of milk, sliced fresh bananas and toasted walnuts. SO good, so filling, and very nutritious. It feels decadent, but there are all 4 food groups involved, and it's very satisfying. If you don't have that much leftover rice, use what you have, and cut the recipe in half. Or make more rice!
This is an exclusive recipe created by The Meals Maven! Please share but give credit!
So when you try it, let me know what you think! And feel free to share your favorite decadent, nutritious meal. All the best to you today, friends.
My friend Lindsey suggested Turkey Pho as a use for leftover turkey. Having never made it, I was game to try it...a little bit of work- separate steps I'm not used to taking- but OH so worth it. So refreshing, with the lime, mint, and cilantro. Using baking spices to flavour the broth was not a usual step I take when cooking, but the end result was wonderful.
I had to drive around to every grocery store in town to find bean sprouts this time of year. For your reference, I finally found some at Co-op.
Try it yourself...I'm going to make this again, and soon.
My first son is in Junior High this year, which blows my mind. It seems like yesterday he was this tiny squalling person who wouldn't rest unless he was held and rocked for hours at a time. However, he's growing up, and despite his younger years being known as the pickiest kid in the class, he now has a great appetite and appreciation for food.
It's almost winter, and hot school lunches mean so much more when it's frigid outside. Our school has a single microwave in the hallway for students to heat their lunches. I personally don't want him to have to make use of it, because there are a lot of students at school, and if he can just eat his lunch without waiting, so much the better. Like most schools around here, there are restrictions about what kinds of foods can come to school, and because he's older I like to provide him with more than just a snacking lunch.
My favorite hot school lunches combine a bunch of food groups into one handy thermos. The food stays hot, stomach gets filled, and it can't be easier because I use leftovers from a night or two before. If I get organized in advance, I can freeze individual lunch-sized portions and thaw them out overnight when I'm down to nothing in the fridge the week before payday.
Some favorite all-in-one thermos lunches?
Some of my favorite cold school lunches also combine leftovers. For example, If we have an extra chicken breast cooked at dinner, he'll have a chicken sandwich with baby carrots and a cheese string. If the main lunch doesn't include at least 3 food groups, I'll add a side of whatever's missing, usually fruit or vegetable.
Some favorite all-in-one cold lunches?
There is a place for snack lunches in our home. Sometimes it's easier to toss a few random foods into the lunch bag and call it done, especially when I leave him to take care of it. Some foods do better in lunch bags than others- bananas tend to get too bruised and beat up to send to school, so those don't usually make the cut.
Some favorite snack lunches?
Some of you may recall that last winter I was sicker than I've ever been since I picked up mono almost 20 years ago. Just in time for my birthday this year, not only did I catch the flu but also developed some sort of sinus infection and pink eye, all at the same time! It was almost a couple of months before I was up and running our household in my usual capable way.
This month the boys had their annual doctor appointments, and blood work was done to check on their overall health. My first son, who was anemic a year ago, is now in good shape, at least as far as his iron levels go. That doesn't surprise me at all, because he's a fantastic eater, and we eat a very balanced diet. My second son, however...you may recall him as "the picky one", isn't quite anemic, but on the way there. Because he will not take vitamins (nope, not even gummies) and has a limited love of iron rich foods, I've started cooking once a week with beef, which is the one consistent thing he enjoys eating. Naturally, I serve it with whole grains, which also contain iron, and the vitamin c helps that non-heme iron to absorb into his system. If I can increase his iron levels slowly and steadily, I'm sure at this time next year he'll be improved. I'm also hopeful he'll be less picky a year from now...we'll see, I guess. Hope springs eternal!
So I'm planning ahead, this year, for the inevitable fall or winter cold that knocks me back a few paces. I've started stocking my own freezer with meals that are basically ready to go, and so far all of them involve beef of some sort. Tonight's dinner was meatballs, started on the stove (to brown) and finished in our slow cooker while we were at swimming lessons. I was able to get 15 good-sized meatballs put away for a future need.
Let me tell you about these meatballs. I combined lean ground beef with extra lean ground turkey (about 1/2 kg of each), added a couple of eggs, a cup of large flake oats, some seasoning, and some garlic. They were browned on my stove, then put into the slow cooker, topped with some mushrooms and onions I'd stir fried after the meatballs were browned, and cooked on low for just 3 hours. They were moist and perfect when we got home- I wasn't sure how it would work out because I've never done that before, but I definitely will again. We served them with loads of fresh vegetables, and whole wheat whole grain pitas.
Over the next few weeks I'll be setting up daily business hours. Up until now this hasn't been a possibility, because I have had children underfoot for the last 12 years! However, I think I'll get into my business groove pretty quickly. With that in mind, my tech-savvy first son set me up with live chat here on my website! It's just on my home page for now, but since I'll be available more often at set times, you'll have the opportunity to ask me any questions you'd like in real time! Or, if you miss me online, there's a little handy form to fill out and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. I'm working dedicated part time hours this fall, which is really exciting, and I can't wait to see what great things will happen!
If you've read this far, thank you! And I've got a special gift for those of you that have supported and stuck it out with me through the growing pains associated with starting a new business:
I got to spend the majority of my afternoon yesterday in a parking lot, waiting. Waiting for the police, waiting for the other guy's company to come take pictures, waiting for the tow truck. As you can probably tell, my bumper got torn off the car when the big white truck tried to turn left to exit the parking lot...but my car was in the way.
It could have been worse, so much worse. No one was hurt, the kids and I weren't even in the parking lot at the time, we had a witness who stayed until I got everyone's information, and the other driver called me out after it happened (good thing I have The Meals Maven advertising on my car!). It looks pretty cut and dried. I'm hoping I get my car back by the time yoga starts up in September.
That being said, it threw a loop into my dinner plans. Hooray for leftovers! I was way to sun-stunned to even contemplate cooking when I got home, and it was easy to heat up a bowl of soup for everyone. The leftover soup was destined to become a freezer meal for a future need, but it served a present need instead.
So let's talk about why it's important to cook ahead and keep freezer meals. I'm not exactly a pessimist, but I am a realist. As Robbie Burns said, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" (paraphrased). I love planning, and am not a big fan of surprises, but for all the planning I do, life happens, as it happens for everyone.
Without further ado, here are a few good reasons why it's a great idea to cook ahead and use your leftovers.
Here are a few pointers about stocking your freezer. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, or perhaps hard to start, but if I lived for 12 years without a deep freezer and still managed, so can you.
I hope these ideas will inspire you to get started on making the most of your resources, and enable you to eat more at home, eat less fast food, save more of your food budget, and organize your freezer in a way that suits your needs.
I've got a post coming up pretty soon on healthy lunch box ideas. With the kids heading back to school shortly, and the restrictions placed on what we can pack for them, I think it's a timely post- keep watching for it!
Enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer!
Until next time,
I have a confession to make: I haven't kept up with my meal plan for the week.
It's just too hot! In spite of having central a/c, it feels like our house is taking more and more time to cool off. We ran out of propane, so we couldn't bbq, and that night we ordered dinner out instead. I didn't want to even turn on the stove to play #testkitchen, so my meatless meal went away and we ate cereal and fruit. We finished off our leftover lamb and ate it with fresh vegetables another night, and tonight I'm going to make gyros instead of charcuterie, because I want the cool fresh flavours of tzatziki and fresh tomatoes more than I want meat/cheese/crackers/pickles.
It was really tasty. I guess it wasn't technically a gyro, because I didn't have the meat cooking on a rotating spit for the day, but leftover roast beef worked really well, and everything else tasted delicious too. Best of all, I had the stove top on for maybe 10 minutes- just long enough to soften the peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Then I turned off the heat and tossed in the meat to warm up a bit, showed my family how delicious tzatziki is.
Well, my first son and husband enjoyed the experience, though my second son wasn't a fan.
But really, I can't take it personally. He almost never is.
I've posted my recipes tonight as well, so you can start making up your own simple meals on these super hot days.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, friends!