Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekly Menu Retrospective #38

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: pumpkin cranberry muffins, bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese, granola, chocolate zucchini muffins

Lunches: pizza, sandwiches (turkey salad, peanut butter), leftovers

Dinners:

Monday: hamburgers (on homemade buns using refrigerator dough), broccoli, bacon & cheddar salad, potato salad

Tuesday: Leftover Buffet

Wednesday: Cheesy Mac & Beef Skillet

Thursday: Fish Au Gratin, rice, broccoli & carrots

Friday: Perogies with bacon & onions, carrot sticks

Saturday: Black bean chili

Sunday: Lasagna, roast chicken, salad, rolls, Black Forest cake, Rhubarb-Raspberry Crostata (this was my birthday dinner and my dad brought in most of the food so I didn't have to cook - my grandma made the cake and I made the crostata).

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.

P.S. Readers, I need your help! If you've made some of the recipes on this blog, I'm looking for "reviews" for the back cover of my upcoming book. Please check out all the details here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yard Sale Report for May 28th, 2011 (40th Birthday Edition)

Yes, it's my 40th birthday today...and I still got out of bed to go yard sale shopping. That's all part of the fun of having your birthday fall on a Saturday, I suppose! And since it's one of my favourite pastimes anyway, what better way to spend the morning on my birthday?

The weather was looking a bit dodgy, but the rain held off and I came home with a pretty big haul of stuff (mostly for myself, which seems fitting since it *is* my birthday and all!)

Here are the goods:

 Half a dozen vintage tins (Dr. Oetker's, Maxwell House and Bailey's), a corkscrew (backup one in case our present one meets the same untimely fate the last one did), a silicon basting brush, and two baskets, all for $5.00. The tins will decorate the open shelves above my kitchen cupboards (while storing less-than-attractive supplies) and the baskets may be used for gift baskets if I don't find another use for them around the house.
 
 Next up: a dragonfly journal for 50 cents (I keep a stash of journals in my gift cupboard, but this one's for my own personal use!), 3 Christmas tins, a basket, and a Fossil watch with gift tin for $1.25! I really needed a dress watch so this was a perfect find for my birthday. The tins and basket will go in my gift wrapping stash.


I got all of the above items at the same yard sale: a cat-shaped tin (that will be perfect for "wrapping" one of my niece's birthday gifts!), a wide-tooth comb still in the original packaging (for my son, so he can stop stealing mine!), a still-in-the-shrink-wrap box of stationery, a Pyrex dish that's the perfect size for my toaster oven, a makeup bag and three pairs of earrings (one with matching necklace!). I paid $2.50 for the lot!

Grand total for the day: $9.25 for 25 items, or 37 cents an item!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Readers, I Need Your Help!

First, I have a confession to make: I've been keeping a secret from you. But I promise you're going to like it! I've been busily working away on writing a book, and it's going to be published very soon.

Cheap App├ętit: The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) will be released somewhere around the end of June - the exact date is still up in the air as we pull all the final bits and pieces together that are required to launch a book into the world.

And that is where you, dear readers, come in! We're working on the back cover design right now, and we would love to feature some testimonials from real live moms just like you. I have some specific recipes that I'd like to have "endorsements" for and I'm hoping to get your help. If you've made any of the following recipes and they have been a hit with your family, I'd love to include your feedback on my book cover. We won't use your full name, just initials and city (e.g. M.R. in Edmonton). If you're a blogger and would like your full name and blog URL included, I think we should be able to do that (although I would need to check with my publisher about that).

So, without further ado, here are the recipes on my "wishlist":

Aloha Muffins
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Granola
Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake
Pork and Apple Stew
Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding
Lemony Chicken & Spinach Pasta
Upside-Down Apple Oven Pancake
Southwestern-Spiced Barley & Vegetable Salad
Build a Cucumber and Bean Salad
Chicken Enchiladas
Spicy Peanut & Tomato Soup
Baked Pasta
Raspberry Cream Cheese Squares
Thai-Style Peanutty Pasta
Chicken & Vegetable Coconut Curry

I would need your "review" as soon as possible - within the next couple of weeks or so. You can either leave it for me as a comment on this post, comment on the original recipe post, or email it to me directly at karen_mclaughlinATcogecoDOTca (if you don't hear back from me within 24 hrs, your email got lost in cyberspace so please try again). I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A RE-USE IT PROJECT: Hockey Stick Muskoka Chair


You just know you're married to an All-Canadian Hoser Hockey Jock when he spends the Victoria Day weekend building a Muskoka chair out of hockey sticks (for all my American readers, the Muskoka chair is the Canadian cousin of the Adirondack).

I do have to give him credit, this was a great re-use project; he didn't have to purchase a single item to make this chair. He says the original inspiration for the chair came one night when he broke his goalie stick during a game. He looked at the no-longer-useful-for-hockey stick and thought "hey, this is some really good wood - what can I do with it?" He then came home and saw the Muskoka chairs sitting on our front porch (that he built well over a decade ago) and went "Hmmmm - hockey stick Muskoka chair?" and a plan began to take shape. Once he got the idea, he also found other hockey-obsessed guys who'd done the same thing on the internet :) This site has a good materials list, but you need to purchase the actual plans. If you're an experienced builder, you can adapt any basic Muskoka or Adirondack chair pattern to work with this idea.

To make the chair as shown, my husband used about 20 broken hockey sticks (including 2 goalie sticks for the arms). He started scrounging around local arenas looking for busted sticks, and did come up with a few. He really hit the "mother lode", though, when our next door neighbour found out what he was doing and mentioned she had a friend in Brantford (about 30 min away) that built hockey stick furniture and who usually had more busted hockey sticks than they could use. When he contacted this fellow hockey-stick-furniture-building aficionado, he discovered that it was none other than Walter Gretzky (that would be Wayne Gretzky's father for the completely hockey-clueless) who went around gathering up expired hockey sticks and bringing them to this guy! So a good portion of the sticks in this chair came to us courtesy of Walter :)

Busted hockey sticks awaiting a new life


Additional materials used for the chair include about 14 feet of 1 x 4 (from an old wooden futon frame), about 8 feet of 2 x 6 (pulled from a dumpster) and 80 #8 x 1 1/2" wood screws plus 8 #8 x 2" wood screws (these were all in our basic "screw stash", most pulled from disassembling other no-longer useful wood items like the futon frame). You'll also need some urethane for clear-coating the completed chair (this step hasn't been done yet on the chair in the picture). Make sure you get clear-coat that's rated for outdoor use.

Putting the seat together

 Getting the angles for the legs just right is really important!

 Ready to start putting the back together.

The back in progress - probably the fiddliest part of the project.

I love projects like this where you end up with a completely functional, unique product, built completely from stuff that most people would have thrown in the trash!

Have you completed any great "reuse it" projects lately? If so, please share!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yard Sale Report for May 21, 2011

It's the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, and the first really sunny, warm and gorgeous Saturday we've had all spring. It seemed like everyone who didn't head up north for the weekend decided it would be a great day to put all their junk out on the driveway and see what they could get rid of! I started out with half a dozen advertised sales on my list, and must have hit at least that many unadvertised sales along the way in my travels.

Not only did I get to enjoy a pleasant ride in beautiful weather, I came home with a few useful items:

 5 nonfiction books for the kids ($1.25), a "Things Teens Should Know" card deck (50 cents) and a cutlery tray ($1.00). My younger son has a new interest in learning French, so I was pleased to find 3 French books for him. Our current cutlery tray used to be my husband's mother's (she passed away 20 years ago, before we were even married).It's pretty gross and not very sturdy, so I'll be happy to put this replacement to good use!
 
A new backpack for my older son ($1.00), a stainless steel water bottle ($1.00), a stainless steel travel mug ($1.50) , a Christmas gift box (heavy, sturdy cardboard) (25 cents), and a glass mixing bowl with 3 sets of measuring spoons (50 cents). The backpack find was very convenient as my son's present backpack just fell apart (the whole bottom came out) and while I *might* be able to fix it, I'm not sure how sturdy it will be for carrying the heavy loads he often totes around. I'm tucking the water bottle away as a backup replacement in case we lose one (we currently have one apiece). We seem to never have a complete set of measuring spoons around here (someone who shall remain nameless forgets to close the door on the little compartment that holds the small items in place in the dishwasher before running it, and countless measuring spoons have escaped and melted in the bottom of the dishwasher.) Someday I hope to find a good stainless steel set; these will do in the meantime!

I also found a pair of Adidas sneakers in excellent, condition for my husband ($2.00) that I forgot to include in the photos (he was too busy trying them on, lol!)

Grand total: $9.00 for 16 items, or 56 cents an item.

Did you find any great bargains this weekend?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thrift Store Clothes Shopping Extravaganza

I didn't have a chance to go yard sale shopping last weekend as we had family commitments on Saturday morning; there wasn't much going on anyway in the yard sale department as the weather's been so rainy people aren't willing to chance putting their stuff out on the lawn!

Fortunately, we were able to do some serious thrift store shopping this week as Value Village had a 50% off day on Monday and I also hit the Salvation Army thrift store when I was down in that part of the city at the end of last week.

Here is everything we found: 

At the Salvation Army:


 2 pairs of boxer briefs and a pair of boxers for my boys (I know some of you are thinking "ew, second hand *underwear*?!? - don't worry, they still had the original tags on!!)

 A swimsuit for my 13 yr old son

A pair of long shorts for my 11 year old son

A good quality dress shirt for my 13 yr old son

I also got a pair of Reebok spandex exercise shorts for myself that looked like they'd never been worn, apparently I forgot to take a picture of them, though!.

Total spent at Salvation Army: $14.91

At Value Village:

 Two hoodies for my 11 year old son

 Two button-down shirts - short sleeve for the 13 yr old, long sleeve for the 11 yr old

 7 T-shirts - a plain black one for me; the rest for the boys

 3 swimsuits for the boys 

  6 pairs of shorts - 3 for each kid


6 pairs of footwear: sneakers for both boys and hubby (all Reebok/Nike), a pair of sandals for hubby, flip-flops for the 13 yr old, and (most exciting) a pair of black Mary Janes for me - I've been looking for a suitable pair for what seems like forever and these fit my size 9 1/2 feet perfectly and look practically brand new!

Total for Value Village: $87.84

Grand total: $102.75 for 33 items or an average of $3.11 an item. 

Thankfully I think we now all have just about everything we need for spring and summer so we won't have to go clothes shopping again until fall!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekly Menu Retrospective #37


Breakfasts: rhubarb streusel muffins, granola, peanut butter toast, pancakes, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins (subbed pumpkin for the mashed banana in this recipe)

Lunches: sandwiches, pizza, leftovers

Dinners:

Monday: Apple & Bacon Baked Beans, chickpea & red pepper salad, pasta salad

Tuesday: barbecued pork chops, macaroni & cheese, fresh pineapple


Wednesday: black bean chili, cornbread

Thursday: Spicy Peanut & Tomato Soup, leftover cornbread

Friday: Lemon Garlic Chicken, Southwestern Spiced Barley & Vegetable Salad, roasted asparagus

Saturday: Leftover Buffet

Sunday: Turkey casserole, beef and cheddar pinwheels (made similar to these), spinach and orange salad, Lemon Raspberry Polenta Cake

For more great meal ideas,  visit Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RECIPE ROUNDUP: Spring & Summer Salads

I've gained a lot of new readers in the past year, so I thought I'd start hilighting some of the posts you may have missed if you've just joined me recently. Since spring has finally made it to Southern Ontario (thank goodness!) I'm going to kick things off with a roundup of some of our favourite warm-weather salads. 

It's easy to vary the type of beans and vegetables in this salad to use what you have on hand and what's in season.

There is rarely any of this salad left at the end of a meal; I often toss in a handful of freshly chopped herbs from the garden.

Quite possibly my favourite way to eat broccoli!


Barley makes a great base for a salad with its satisfying, chewy texture. I particularly like it with the southwestern flavours featured in this recipe.


This makes a big batch and keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. There is usually a bowl of this salad in our fridge throughout most of the summer - I can't believe I don't have a picture of it!!

This is my go-to salad when I want something a bit fancier looking for company. It's always a big hit whenever I serve it!

Do you have a tried-and-true salad that you serve often in warmer weather? Please share!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekly Menu Retrospective #36


Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: banana chocolate chip muffins, granola, rhubarb streusel muffins, waffles 

Lunches: pizza, sandwiches, Toad-in-the-Hole

Dinners: 

Monday: Leftover Buffet 

Tuesday: Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Lentil Soup

Wednesday: Sausage & Potato Hash

Thursday: Apple & Bacon Baked Beans, Spoon Bread, carrots

Friday: Hamburgers, oven fries, creamy cucumber salad 

Saturday: Spaghetti

Sunday: Lemon Garlic Chicken, coconut rice, sauteed red pepper, zucchini & onions 

Snacks & Sides: banana bread, roasted chickpeas, fresh pineapple

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yard Sale Report for May 7, 2011


This morning's yard sale adventures looked like they might get off to a rocky start. Although the weather forecast had been calling for a low chance of rain on Saturday all week long, I awoke to find soaking wet roads and a treacherous-looking sky. It wasn't actually raining, but it looked like it could start at any minute! While I'm game for anything less than torrential rain, many yard sale proprietors are easily deterred by the possibility of rain and I was wondering how many of the seven yard sales I had on my list would actually be running.

Since three of the sales were in my neighbourhood and only a few minutes' bike ride away, I felt I didn't have too much to lose by checking them out. They were all up and running, and I picked up 3 books at one of the sales. The first one, "Food that Really Schmecks", although in slightly worn condition, is one that I've been keeping my eye out for during the last several yard sale seasons.It's a classic Mennonite country cookbook and I'm excited to add it to my cookbook shelf. The Red Green book is getting tucked away in my gift cupboard and may just reemerge on Father's Day :) The last book on the top is a journal in pristine condition that's also going in my gift cupboard. I paid $1.50 total for the three books.

I ended up striking out at the next couple of sales, then found 3 more books at another sale (yes, it was apparently "book day" in the yard sale world!). This time they were all kids' books; the Brainteasers and Armchair Detective books are going to be part of this year's "Road Trip Survival Kit" and the book of mazes is going into the gift cupboard and will likely be a stocking stuffer this Christmas. I paid $1.00 total for this second lot of three books.

Grand total for the day: $2.50 for 6 items, or 42 cents an item.

Did you find any great yard sale bargains this weekend?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

RECIPE: Chicken Enchiladas


These enchiladas have several steps and are a bit of a production; they are SO worth the effort though. Ever since I created this recipe, it’s been one of my family’s favourite meals. The chicken can be poached and shredded a day or two in advance, and the flour tortillas and tomato sauce can also be made ahead if you're going to use homemade versions. If you’ve got all the different components ready to go, the enchiladas can be assembled quickly.

Ingredients:
5-6 chicken thighs or drumsticks

2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp each salt and black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups tomato sauce (I use the same homemade sauce I use in my Baked Pasta)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2-4 tbsp water

six 10” flour tortillas (I use my homemade Whole Wheat & Flax ones)

1½ cups grated cheddar cheese

Instructions:
Poach the chicken by putting the chicken pieces in a large saucepan and covering with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through. Leaving the poaching liquid in the pot, remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Once the pieces are cool enough to handle, shred the meat off the bone with your fingers or a fork. Return the bones to the pot with the poaching liquid, adding more water to fill the pot if necessary. Bring back to a boil then simmer for an hour or so to make stock (the stock isn’t needed for this recipe, so reserve it for another use later on).

While the chicken is poaching, in a medium saucepan, simmer the onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add the flour and stir until well coated with fat. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne and continue stirring until sauce thickens. Add shredded chicken and simmer for a couple of minutes longer.

Mix together the red sauce, chili powder, cumin and water (you want the sauce to be a bit thinner than you’d use for pasta).

To assemble the tortillas, place 2-3 large spoonfuls of chicken mixture in the middle of each flour tortilla, add a couple spoonfuls of red sauce and a sprinkle of cheese (reserve half of the grated cheese for the top of the enchiladas). Roll up tightly and place in a greased 9 x 13” baking pan.

Once all the tortillas are filled, pour the remaining red sauce over the top of the enchiladas, then sprinkle with the reserved cheese.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and cheese is hot and bubbly.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weekly Menu Retrospective #35


Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: aloha muffins, upside-down apple oven pancake, banana chocolate chip muffins, waffles

Lunches: pizza, leftovers, turkey salad sandwiches

Dinners:

Monday: Easter Dinner leftovers

Tuesday: Macaroni & Cheese with Ham & Peas 

Wednesday: Spicy Peanut & Tomato Soup 

Thursday: Turkey & Vegetable Coconut Curry 

Friday: Toad-in-the-Hole

Saturday: Black Bean Chili

Sunday: Lasagna, broccoli salad, homemade whole wheat rolls, chocolate cake (hubby's birthday dinner!)

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.
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