Archive for April, 2013

Growing Our Own Mushrooms – What A Cool Experience

Tips and News

kids with mushroom kit

 

I already went on and on about the amazing Food Bloggers Conference I took part in. Also, I mentioned we all got to take a pretty sweet swag bag home. One of the conference sponsors was Mushrooms.Ca and what they gave us, in my opinion, was so incredible (and food related) that I had to share.

You see, as you may have already noticed browsing through my blog, I am a strong believer and supporter of healthy eating. I don’t like food colorings, processed foods or food additives and try to avoid these whenever possible. I like knowing where my food came from and know that it went through as little as possible before it got on my plate, and this is exactly why the mushroom growing kit I received at the conference was amazing to me. First of all I must admit, that I’ve never witnessed the growth of a mushroom. I mean, I know how it works in theory but I’ve never really had the chance to actually see how mushrooms grow, and second, I was beyond thrilled just knowing that I can share this with the kids. Thrilled to have the opportunity to show the kids and experience with them where our food comes from. So yeah, to me this mushroom kit was pretty awesome. Not to mention we love mushrooms at home. Really, my kids literally eat them as is, like a snack.

You’re probably asking yourself “what is this kit she is mumbling about?” well, it’s a kit where you grow your own oyster mushrooms. You get a mister with the kit and of course the instructions and you’re all set. Apparently mushrooms adore water, so we had to spray water on them using the mister at least twice a day. We also had to make sure they get enough light, so I placed the kit on my kitchen window, which made it really convenient since I’m mostly there anyway and can easily remember to water the mushrooms.

For the first 3 days after we opened the kit there was nothing, but then on the 3rd day the mushrooms started growing. By the 11th day they were so big and beautiful. We cropped our mushrooms and prepared a real nice and yummy brunch. The kids were thrilled. They grew their own food, how cool is that?

Now we found out that the kit is double sided and that we can grow the 2nd batch of mushrooms on the other side of the box. Can’t wait for the fun ahead!

 

Mushroom Kit Front and Back

Mushroom Kit Day 1

Mushroom Kit Day 3

Mushroom Kit Day 5

Mushroom Kit Day 6

Mushroom Kit Day 9

Mushroom Kit Day 10

Mushroom Kit Day 11

Mushroom Kit Day 11

  I already went on and on about the amazing Food Bloggers Conference I took part in. Also, I mentioned we all got to take a pretty sweet swag bag home. One of the conference sponsors was Mushrooms.Ca and what they gave us, in my opinion, was so incredible (and food related) that I had […]

Read More

Mini Chocolate Brownie Muffins

Cakes and Cookies

Weather is starting to get warmer and we definitely see a bit more sun these days. While most normal people would prefer spending a sunny day on their decks just soaking in vitamin D, I would probably prefer to work in the garden or surprise- surprise, bake something.

So the other day I went to Wal-Mart with my girl to buy some cupcake decorating supplies for her birthday. They had a Mini Muffin Pan (Clickable link) on sale and once again, I just couldn’t resist. Bake and cookware on sale immediately turn me into a kid in a candy store. So of course I purchased my new toy and rushed to the kitchen.

I didn’t feel like baking the traditional fluffy muffins, I wanted something sweet and chocolaty. The solution was crystal clear – Brownies!

How fabulous would it be to bake brownies in mini muffin cups? Very cool! Not to mention super convenient and pretty. So that’s exactly what I did. I also added some almond extract because as I mentioned in the past, I just LOVE the smell of almond extract, it kind of adds sweetness without the sugar; it’s just so good.

I ended up making 16 mini brownie muffins which ended up being eaten in about 30 minutes. That’s about one mini brownie muffin every two minutes – pretty impressive don’t you think? Oh yeah – they were DELICIOUS!

Mini Chocolate Brownie Muffins

 

Mini Chocolate Brownie Muffins
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Sweet Treats
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 mini muffins
 
So easy, so fast and so yummy! These Chocolate mini brownie muffins have amazing almond fragrance and are just impossible to resist.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Almond extract
  • ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup butter – melted
  • Icing Sugar – for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
  2. Place mini muffin cups inside mini muffin baking pan
  3. Melt butter and set aside
  4. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and then add the melted butter. Mix well until batter is smooth.
  5. Pour into mini muffin cups (about ¾ full) and place in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes
  6. Sprinkle with icing sugar or cover with icing

 

Mini Chocolate Brownie Muffins

Weather is starting to get warmer and we definitely see a bit more sun these days. While most normal people would prefer spending a sunny day on their decks just soaking in vitamin D, I would probably prefer to work in the garden or surprise- surprise, bake something. So the other day I went to […]

Read More

Birthday Party Aprons OR Letting My Inner Crazy Person Loose

Tips and News

When it comes to my children’s birthdays I admit it, I am a bit of a lunatic. Not in the bad sense, in the best sense; for them anyway.

I will go out of my way to make any birthday memorable. If it’s the cake, the candle shape, the present, the presentation of it all, the party, the decorations, everything!

So every time the kids decide they want a birthday party I buckle up and dive into my next birthday project. I mean, hey, if it’s not going to be perfect it’s just not worth it.

And no, I am not encouraging my kids to be perfectionists or unbelievably competitive, they are not really aware of everything going on behind the scenes; they just like it when mommy is super engaged in the planning of their birthday and comes up with fun ideas.

So after making sure my son had a perfect “Mario Bros” birthday party, my daughter decided she wants to have a cupcake party. So we’re planning on baking cupcakes, getting cupcake decorations, having a cupcake table cover and of course the cupcakes treat bags. So I thought it would be pretty awesome if the kids get to take something home with them; something they can actually use later on and then it hit me; why don’t I make cute aprons? So I did.

Now, keep in mind that I am a full time employed mom with endless responsibilities, so I had to keep it simple; I had to think of a way to make these aprons fast and furious.

I’m not a seamstress really, and the only true sewing learning I ever took was in grade 4 when my mom (thankfully) sent me to sewing classes (I actually loved it!) so keep in mind that any knowledge I have of this craft is really super basic, but still, I think it’s a pretty useful craftsmanship.

What I did was go to the dollar store, buy a few kitchen towels (for what I have planned I needed them to be as plain as possible), get a few rolls of ribbon (fabric one) and a few buttons, that’s it. To make the aprons here’s what I did:

 

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

 

Birthday Party Aprons OR Letting My Inner Crazy Person Loose
Author: 
Recipe type: Fun Aprons
Cuisine: Crafts
 
Ingredients
  • Kitchen Towel
  • Ribbon
  • String
  • Needle
  • Buttons
Instructions
  1. Fold 2 triangles on the back of your towel (Figure #1).
  2. Run a few stitches along each triangle’s sharp point (just to make sure the folds hold)
  3. Measure the ribbon length you will need to go around the waist to wear the apron, add 6 more inches and cut the ribbon in two.
  4. Connect (stitch) the ribbon halves to the sides of the waist line on your towel/apron (on the back – so the stitches are hidden), one on each side (so when you’re done you can tie them together around the waist)
  5. Same goes for the ribbon that goes around the neck (I used buttons to stitch the neck ribbons, just looks cuter)

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

 

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

You can use whatever towel design you want. I chose the plain ones because what I plan on doing is using the aprons for an activity where the kids will decorate their own aprons with permanent markers and thus personalizing them.

It takes patience and some sewing skills (minimal) but hey, the results are all worth it!

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

Kitchen towel DIY Aprons

When it comes to my children’s birthdays I admit it, I am a bit of a lunatic. Not in the bad sense, in the best sense; for them anyway. I will go out of my way to make any birthday memorable. If it’s the cake, the candle shape, the present, the presentation of it all, […]

Read More

Couscous Stuffed Tomatoes

Home Made Cooking

Last week I ended up with 25lbs of tomatoes on my hands. They were leftovers from an event and I just couldn’t say no. I mean, big, red, fresh, sweet tomatoes. Yes, 25lbs may seem a bit too much for a family of four but I figured I either try to cook with them or they end up in the trash, and I don’t like to trash good healthy ingredients, so I took the whole case and was now left with the challenge of making something with the tomatoes.

The first thing that comes to mind is Pizza sauce. Easy. You make it, freeze it, and use it when you need it. Bur really, if I had to eat pizzas with sauce from 25lbs of tomatoes I would probably need to replace the door in our house. I wanted something different, fresh. So the first thing I did was stuffed tomatoes. True, stuffed tomatoes do not look as sexy as you would think in a photo 🙂 but hey, they were delicious.

Also, I stuffed them with couscous so really, the process was very fast and unique – just the way I like it. And now, I need to think faster because tomatoes, apparently, don’t live forever.

Tomatoes stuffed with couscous

 

Couscous Stuffed Tomatoes
Author: 
Recipe type: Main, Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 People
 
A vegetarian delight, a no fail recipe. Stuffed tomatoes are something you can always find the ingredients for. Delicious.
Ingredients
For the Stuffed Tomatoes:
  • 4 medium size tomatoes (not too soft - preferably firm)
  • ⅓ cup Couscous
  • ⅓ cup Warm Water
  • ½ Zucchini – Grated
  • ¼ Bell Pepper – Chopped
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Parsley
  • 2 tsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Garlic Clove – Chopped
  • ½ tsp Ground Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Sauce:
  • 2 cups Hot Water
  • 4 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 3 Garlic Cloves – Diced
Instructions
  1. Cut the top off each tomato and using a teaspoon carve the inside, leaving a hollow tomato (leave about 1cm thick tomato walls)
  2. In a bowl, place couscous and ⅓ cup water, mix and let stand for 5 minutes
  3. Once couscous is ready, add zucchini, pepper, parsley, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and mix until combined.
  4. Stuff each tomato with the couscous mix (the filling). Each tomato should be about ¾ full with stuffing.
  5. Place the stuffed tomatoes in a cooking pot (make sure it is not too big and that you can fit 4 tomatoes in)
  6. In a separate bowl, mix sauce ingredients and using a ladle pour sauce between the tomatoes. You can also pour a little bit on top of the tomatoes but only about ¼ ladle max on each tomato.
  7. Cover pot with lid and cook everything over medium-low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
Notes
**Serve with yogurt or your favorite topping**

 

Tomatoes stuffed with couscous

Tomatoes stuffed with couscous

Last week I ended up with 25lbs of tomatoes on my hands. They were leftovers from an event and I just couldn’t say no. I mean, big, red, fresh, sweet tomatoes. Yes, 25lbs may seem a bit too much for a family of four but I figured I either try to cook with them or […]

Read More

Mamaliga with Shiitake Mushrooms – That Yellow Goodness

Home Made Cooking

Directly from Wikipedia: Mămăligă is a porridge made out of yellow maize flour, traditional in Romania and Moldova. It is similar to the Italian polenta.

It so happened that I am apparently the luckiest girl in the world when it comes to Mamaliga. My dad is from Moldova and my in-laws are from Romania, how lucky am I? I get to taste every possible variation of this super awesome dish! Why is it awesome?

1. It’s so basic and easy to make

2. It goes well with almost everything; try it with your favorite topping

3. It tastes so good

4. It is gluten free

5. It brings back sweet childhood memories that I love so much

Ever since I can remember myself, my dad used to make us this special Mamaliga treat. He still does, only I’m not there all the time these days. He boils the water in a special rounded iron cast pot, adds the cornmeal and stirs it with his big wooden spoon. After he’s done (and he never takes shortcuts) he turns the pot upside down on a thick wooden cutting board and lifts it up. On the board remains this magnificent Mamaliga! Yellow, round and smells so good! Then he uses a sewing string to cut it into slices because if we use a knife it’ll stick. I always take two plates; the first one is a mamaliga slice topped with sour cream, grated cheese and salt and the second is my dessert, a slice topped with sour cream and sugar! I eat Mamaliga with the same toppings until this day and I just love it. It makes me smile when the kids ask for extras like mommy, it’s like it goes without saying that you need to have two plates of Mamaliga, one as main dish and one as dessert.

After I married my husband I got acquainted with the Romanian version of Mamaliga as well. That’s when I learned that you can have it with beef stew, potatoes, feta cheese, mushrooms and basically anything that comes to mind!

A few days ago, I noticed we still have a pack of Shiitake mushrooms in the fridge. It was very obvious to me how I’m going to use it.

Mamaliga topped with Shiitake Mushrooms

 

Mamaliga with Shiitake Mushrooms - That Yellow Goodness
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
 
Gluten Free, Easy and goes so good with any topping. This Cornmeal delight is one of mine and my family's favorites.
Ingredients
For the Mushroom Topping:
  • 6 Cups Sliced Shiitake Mushrooms (about 350gr)
  • ½ Onion – Chopped
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ Cup Hot Water
  • ½ tsp Bouillon Soup Powder
  • 1 tsp Red Wine
For the Mamaliga:
  • 2 Cups Cornmeal
  • 6 Cups Boiling Hot Water
  • ½ tbsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Butter
Instructions
Mushroom Topping:
  1. In a wok or a wide pot, preheat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion and mushrooms for about 8-9 minutes until mushrooms soften.
  2. Add in the salt, pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg and mix.
  3. Add in ¼ cup of the water (half of what you put aside) along with the bouillon powder and mix in.
  4. Add the remaining ¼ cup water and the wine, stir together for about 2 minutes (it will boil) and remove from heat.
Mamaliga:
  1. In a large pot, bring water to strong boil
  2. Make sure the heat is on Medium-High and gradually add in the cornmeal. Use a pitcher or a very large mug to gradually pour the cornmeal in while constantly stirring. If you don’t stir you will get lumps of cornmeal and that’s not good. You can also add in a little bit cornmeal and stir and then some more and so on. Be VERY careful because while the water is boiling with the cornmeal in it you can easily get burned.
  3. When you notice the mix is boiling and bubbling, lower to medium heat and continue stirring and adding in the remaining cornmeal.
  4. When the mix starts boiling again, lower to low heat.
  5. Stir for additional 4 minutes until cornmeal becomes a bit more solid.
  6. Add in the butter and stir until it melts.
  7. Serve on a plate with the mushrooms on top
Notes
**Be super careful preparing the mamaliga. When it boils with the cornmeal it may come in contact with any exposed skin, stick to it and cause a burn**

 

Mamaliga with Shiitake Mushrooms

Mamaliga topped with Shiitake Mushrooms

Directly from Wikipedia: Mămăligă is a porridge made out of yellow maize flour, traditional in Romania and Moldova. It is similar to the Italian polenta. It so happened that I am apparently the luckiest girl in the world when it comes to Mamaliga. My dad is from Moldova and my in-laws are from Romania, how […]

Read More

FBC2013 – Food Bloggers of Canada Conference – Been there, Done that, Loved it!

Tips and News

When I entered my “Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe to the “My Cookies Are The Best” contest with “Manitoba Canola Growers” I didn’t really think I would win. Not that my cookies are not the best, don’t get me wrong, I just figured they are going to have so many entries that my chances are slim. Also, I only entered one recipe and some contestants entered more than one, but really, I’m a busy mom so I only had time for one entry, oh well I believe in just letting life lead you, and that’s what I did.

Imagine how shocked I was when one day I receive and email from Mardi at “Food Bloggers of Canada”  telling me that I won!! To be honest, I first thought it’s a spam. Not that I think Mardi is a spammer but really, the prize was so big, that I couldn’t believe I was one of two winners. After a couple of emails it was confirmed – “Manitoba Canola Growers” awarded me with the best prize EVER and I got to go on a fully paid trip to the first ever Food Bloggers of Canada Conference. Woohoo!!

So on April 11th I flew out to Toronto airport to meet the lovely ladies from “Manitoba Canola Growers” (Ellen Pruden and Jennifer Dyck) and Jeanine from “The Baking Beauties” who was the second winner in the contest and my roomie at the “Hockley Valley Resort” which is where the conference took place.

I am not going to rave about these girls here because then my post would end up being sooooo long, but I will say in one word that these girls were AMAZING.

The conference started with registration on Friday (April 12th) and that’s when we received our swag bags; and oh boy, we got so many gifts!! The conference sponsors were so generous and wonderful. We got a bag full of cook books, cookies, coupons, tablet stand, mushroom growing kit (will be detailed in separate post), a new Delta® kitchen faucet with Touch2O® Technology and so much more! I was so impressed and felt truly honored to take part in this conference.

Following registration, we had a reception with amazing finger food from all sponsors, great wine and even greater people. So much food and so many food bloggers, lovely food bloggers from all over Canada, it was so great to meet everyone.

Finger Food at reception

 

The fancy dinner after the reception was a hit. Other than having mouth watering food we got to listen to the conference Keynote speaker David Leite from LeitesCulinaria.com.

David is a funny, sarcastic, smart and experienced food blogger. He was full of charm and information and I felt truly inspired when he told us to “Be authentic – be yourself” – so true. Personally I thought it is such a wonderful guideline.

The second day was packed with fun, informative and inspiring sessions and speakers. From technical tips for your blog to monetizing, working with brands and photography 101, everything was covered and all of our questions were answered. We had another super fancy dinner later that evening with a variety of wines from “Wine Country Ontario” and after that, I think I just needed to process everything so I excused myself to our cozy room which ended the evening for me.

Cheese from Photography 101 at food bloggers conference

My Photography 101 Exercise

 

The third and last day was short. Some additional great sessions, lunch and then home. The challenging part was the packing. We had to pack SO MUCH! So many gifts, so many products, so much food! Did I already mention that we had amazing sponsors?

So yeah, I had the most amazing time ever spent with the gals from “Manitoba Canola Growers”, with Jeanine and with all the great people who attended the conference. I had great food, I met great people (food bloggers rock!), I was fortunate enough to get acquainted with Jeanine, Ellen and Jennifer, I was also super lucky to get on a limo with them and go and discover the farm life at Brian and Trudy’s farm right outside Meaford, ON.

Meaford, Ontarion - Farm Tractor

 

Cow - Meaford, Ontarion - Farm

 

I got to learn how Canola Oil is made, I got to understand that farm life is not as relaxing as it seems, I got to meet some cows and enjoy a yummy homemade lunch. I got to get awesome gifts and a new faucet (woot-woot) and mainly I got to relax and focus on what I love doing. Overall it was such an amazing conference and such a wonderful experience.

every farm needs a cat

Hey, every farm needs a cat

 

I can’t thank “Manitoba Canola Growers” enough for making this possible and to FBC for organizing such an unforgettable conference. I feel I made new friends, gained lots of knowledge and expanded my network. Isn’t that what it was all about? Mission accomplished! Well done everyone.

Limo Ride Home

 

 

book at food bloggers conference

When I entered my “Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe to the “My Cookies Are The Best” contest with “Manitoba Canola Growers” I didn’t really think I would win. Not that my cookies are not the best, don’t get me wrong, I just figured they are going to have so many entries that my chances are […]

Read More

Sweet and Simple Coconut Walnut Cookies

Cakes and Cookies

I’m one of those crazy people that like their kitchen cupboards as clean and empty as possible. Well, not empty per say, but functional. I mean, I don’t like it when I have stuff lying around, perhaps expired or just no longer usable or needed. I like to know that when I open my cupboard I have exactly what I need and that it’s all tidy. Well, what I want and what I have is sometimes two completely separate things. Keeping that in mind; I was going through one of the kitchen cupboards the other day, and found 1/2 bag of walnuts. Surprisingly enough, there was another one there only sealed. Why would I buy a new bag if I still have the old one? Only god knows. But now I was facing a new “challenge of the day”, what to make with as many walnuts as possible.

Well, it was pretty obvious to me, something sweet! So I added some ingredients and hoped for the best and guess what? It worked. Yummy walnut cookies! Tadaaa!!!

Walnut Cookies in a plate

 

Sweet and Simple Coconut Walnut Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Cookies
 
Simple Walnut and coconut Cookies that taste so good
Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 100gr shredded walnuts
  • 100gr Shredded Coconut
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F (165C).
  2. Prepare baking pan covered with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, Whisk egg whites until frothy and stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Combine shredded walnuts, sugar, flour, coconut and salt in a separate bowl.
  5. Slowly stir egg white mix into walnut mix until well combined and form a batter.
  6. Scoop batter by the tablespoon and drop onto prepared baking sheet. Flatten with your fingers.
  7. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until they start to get a golden shade
  8. Let cookies cool on wire rack and store in sealed container

 

Coconut Walnut Cookies in a plate

Coconut Walnut Cookies

I’m one of those crazy people that like their kitchen cupboards as clean and empty as possible. Well, not empty per say, but functional. I mean, I don’t like it when I have stuff lying around, perhaps expired or just no longer usable or needed. I like to know that when I open my cupboard […]

Read More

Chicken Drumsticks and Olives – Kids’ New Favorite

Home Made Cooking

Sometimes roasted or grilled chicken drumsticks simply do not do the trick with my kids. What, Drumsticks again? Mommy, can you peel the skin off? I don’t feel like eating this, and much more creative versions of this is what I’ll be getting If I keep making drumsticks the easiest and most obvious way. Well then, I had to find another easy and fast way to prepare drumsticks. My kids like a good gimmick, an interesting addition, so I figured that if I add their favorite pizza extra topping (olives) they’ll be happy with it. Apparently I was right. So I made the chicken drumsticks with olives, cooked in a super fast sauce. The thing I liked most is the fact that after only a few minutes of preparation I could leave it to cook and come back after 45 minutes to simply serve. The chicken is tender and the olives add their natural saltiness the kids like so much. It also reminded me of a Moroccan dish I used to eat and loved it, so as far as this dish goes I think I did a pretty good job. Kids loved it and mommy was once again the “Kitchen Hero”.

Chicken Drumsticks and Olives

 

Chicken Drumsticks and Olives - Kids' New Favorite
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 People
 
Chicken Drumsticks in yummy tomato sauce and olives. The chicken tenderness and the Olives' saltiness dance well together.
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ Onion (medium) - Chopped
  • 8 Chicken Drumsticks (I removed the skin)
  • 4 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 2 Cups Hot Water
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Cup Green Pitted Olives
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat up the oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Saute for about 2 minutes while stirring.
  2. Add the drumsticks and stir for about 4 minutes until they begin changing color (white layer)
  3. In a small bowl, mix the water and tomato paste well and add mix into the drumsticks
  4. Add in the garlic powder, paprika, cumin and olives and stir
  5. Add the salt and pepper and stir
  6. Lower to medium-low heat and cover with lid. Let cook for 45 minutes.

 

Chicken Drumsticks and Olives

Chicken Drumsticks and Olives

Sometimes roasted or grilled chicken drumsticks simply do not do the trick with my kids. What, Drumsticks again? Mommy, can you peel the skin off? I don’t feel like eating this, and much more creative versions of this is what I’ll be getting If I keep making drumsticks the easiest and most obvious way. Well […]

Read More
Page 1 of 212