Monthly Menu Planning

Quite awhile ago, I sat down to plan a monthly menu. There were a few reasons for this.
One, I needed something to help keep me from falling into the ‘what’s for dinner’ and ‘I don’t feel like cooking’ trap where you scramble last minute and end up making bad food choices. If the idea is already there and I don’t have to think about it, it’s easier for me to achieve. At least in theory it is.
Two, it’ll help with the baby led weaning process to keep us all eating healthy. Three, it’ll help with my weekly grocery shop. I’m trying to avoid us popping in to pick things up as we need them (other than fruits and veggies). I don’t have the time right now since I’m watching my sisters kids. Plus, we always end up buying more than we need, spending more money than we have to.
And finally, four, to make meals with leftovers so that A can bring lunch to work. Healthier and cheaper for him.

I’m on week three of my four week rotation and so far I’m loving it! There have been a few nights I’ve skipped or switched around, but overall I’ve stuck to it.

To make my plan, I first made a list of all our favourite meals. I had wanted a monthly plan but this list confirmed it! I have a lot of ‘staple’ dishes in my repertoire that I didn’t want to leave out πŸ™‚
I then drew out a grid with the days of the week down the side and weeks 1-4 across the top. I filled in fixed meal days (see below) and then filled in the remaining spaces with the rest of our favourite meals. It took a few tries to make sure I didn’t have back to back protein (ie chicken two nights in a row) but I finally have a plan that seems to work for us.

The rough draft is a mess (see below), so I transferred it neatly to the monthly calendar I use. I should probably use a computer for all this but, and call me old school, I prefer paper still for a lot of things. This calendar tells me at a glance when I have the kids, get togethers with friends, any appointments I have, reminders to pay bills or when automatic withdrawals will be made etc.

Fixed nights:

Monday – leftovers/freezer night. Mondays suck, even when you’re on maternity leave and so I’m going to take the easy way out on dinner this night every week. It could be leftovers from the night before, leftovers I’ve frozen or something from the freezer. We keep a box of perogies and a box of toquitos on hand for such occasions. Just add sour cream and some raw veggies and we’re good to go!

Wednesday – new recipe night. I love recipes. It’s the board most pinned on my Pinterest account and I have oodles of recipes in my binders that I’ve saved over the years. I decided to dedicate one night a week to making something new and different. I chose Wednesday rather than the weekend because I need that oomph of creativity and excitement of doing something new mid week. Each week is a different protein: beef, chicken, pork and fish. So far I’ve made Pastitsio (Greek pasta casserole with ground beef) and Chicken Paprikash (Hungarian chicken dish). Both were amazing! I’m going to try and get my act together and blog about what I make πŸ™‚

Thursday – pasta night. A lot of our favourite dishes are pasta based so I thought it prudent to dedicate a night to it.

Every other Friday – pizza!! We’d have pizza 24/7 around our casa but healthy eating is key with Molly eating what we eat. Still, there’s no point in denying ourselves, so every other week we’ll indulge, either with frozen or take out.

Once a Month – eat out!! This is getting trickier with Molly. She’s at that in between phase where she needs to be on the go and isn’t eating a full meal yet. We took her with us to a restaurant last week (on a night I skipped my plan) and she wouldn’t sit still! We might just make this date night from now on and recruit someone to babysit.

Have any of you implemented a meal plan? How’s it going?

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Weekend Wind-Up

I’m wiped after a busy weekend, a teething baby (I think) who wants to nurse all the time and a Monday filled with three kids, so this will be short!

Some highlights from the weekend…

– breakfast out on Saturday morning with A and Molly

– a visit from A’s sisters and nephew after we got home

– off to my sister’s for CK’s first birthday party

– visited with three of my aunts visiting from Newfoundland, along with my cousin and her fiancΓ© who live in Toronto

– post party dinner at my sisters…we ordered Chinese!

– Sunday afternoon we headed to Once a Upon a Child where we found an amazing Peg Perego double stroller for $100!! It’s in fantastic shape.

– dealt with an incredibly upset baby, so upset that she puked. Funny enough I tried to catch the puke in my hands. Why I don’t know. It was a knee-jerk reaction. We think she’s teething. Tylenol made things better πŸ™‚

– made a roast beef dinner even though it sat for two hours in the oven with no heat. I forgot to turn the oven on!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Banana Carrot Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

When I saw the recipe for Banana Carrot Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting on one of my favourite food blogs, How Sweet Eats, I knew I would be making them. When my mom asked me to make dessert for Easter dinner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a try!

There is all kinds of genius mixed into these cupcakes…bananas…carrots…coconut…cream cheese…

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It’s banana bread meets carrot cake but in cupcake form. And since they’re made with coconut oil, a fat that has exceptional health benefits, you can probably even say they’re good for you!

I tried my hand at decorating using my new cake decorating kit, but discovered that cream cheese icing is rather heavy and doesn’t hold it’s shape well. Still, I managed to get a bit of the swirl effect I was going for.

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I had wanted to tint the icing in other Easter colours (blue, green and yellow), but realized that I would need to make a lot more icing in order to push the icing out of the icing tube. So I went with pink and used Cadbury Mini Eggs in the other colours on top.

Delicious seems like a tame word to describe these. Amazing seems inadequate. I absolutely loved them and they were enjoyed immensely by everyone but my niece, who I guess is used to plain chocolate or vanilla. She licked all the icing off but when she tasted the actual cupcake, she turned to me and said “Aunt Chrissie, I think you used the wrong recipe!”

I beg to differ CJ. I beg to differ. These will be made again. And soon! A has requested chocolate chips be added next time…sounds like a plan to me!

P.S. A very happy first birthday to my nephew CK!! I love you buddy!

Friday Ramblings

March 15th, the Ides of March. It was this day in 44 BCE that Julius Caesar was assassinated. He changed the world! There’s a little history to enlighten your day πŸ™‚

On The Baby…

Despite the fact that she’s not quite crawling (I liken it more to a one-legged frog hop), Molly is everywhere! She had half a dozen tumbles yesterday, which I guess is what we’re in for from now on. Kids get bumps and bruises. And as hard as it is for us parents, they have to learn how to fall. I can’t hover over her every second of the day. A hard lesson for us all. It doesn’t stop me from giving lots of cuddles to help her feel better though πŸ™‚

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7 months! Can’t believe it!

On A Yummy Burger…

Look at this creation:

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It was delicious! My hubby requested burgers and so burgers we had! I dressed mine up to the nines, which I don’t normally do. I’m usually a ketchup only kind of girl, but you see mayo (Miracle Whip), cheese and avocado as well. I loved the addition of the avocado. I need to work on my hamburger creation recipe though. I mixed ground beef, an egg, some oats and added some Worcestershire sauce. Next time I’ll get a bit more creative πŸ™‚

On The Great Conditioner Mix Up…

The other day (Tuesday), Molly and I went to Walmart. Diapers, shampoo and conditioner were on my list, amongst other things. The trip was successful, if a little pricy. It’s impossible to spend less than $50 there. Anyways.
Flash forward to Wednesday morning. Molly was down for her morning nap and I’m in the shower. I reach for my new shampoo, lather and rinse. My hair is a wreck if I don’t condition it, so I reach for that next. I apply and realize that it’s lathering too. Did I grab the shampoo again? No….But conditioner doesn’t lather…it’s a white bottle whereas the shampoo I had just used was clear. It appears to be conditioner…pull the bottle up to my face (I have ridiculously terrible vision) and realized my mistake.
Silly me had bought the 2 in 1 version of the brand I use instead of conditioner. Oops. Baby brain strikes again!

On Chopped…

I’m addicted to watching Chopped on the Food Network. The combinations of foods they’re given to work with are amazing and I’m astonished with what the chefs come up with! I particularly love the judges and the lyrical, almost poetic descriptions they give what they’re eating.

On Pinterest…

I’m inviting everyone to follow me on Pinterest! I’m on there almost daily discovering fabulous DIY projects, yummy food creations, activities for kids and so much more! I’m trying to figure out how to put a follow me button on the sidebar. The link from Pinterest isn’t working properly and it’s not showing up as it should. In the meantime, you can find me HERE.

On Coconut Banana Bread…

I’m trying to follow in my mom’s homemaking footsteps and have some sort of dessert every day. It doesn’t seem to be affecting my waistline, which is a good thing! This week I made Coconut Banana Bread using this recipe. I love anything with coconut and it turned out really well! I serve it spread with a bit of butter (or a healthy slathering for mine…I think I shocked A with how much I put on…what can I say? I love butter!)

And that’s it! A bit more substance than usual…could it be that the baby brain is improving??

Happy Friday!

Baby Led Weaning

I first heard the term ‘Baby Led Weaning (BLW)’ around the Internet and my curiosity was piqued. After some web based research and reading the book on the subject by Gill Rapley, I brought the idea to A and we decided to try this approach to start Molly on solids. (FYI, the term weaning doesn’t mean replacing breastfeeding with food, rather it means that breastfeeding is no longer the only source of nourishment).

The basic idea of BLW is to let your baby decide when they’re ready for food. Starting at six months, you begin offering your baby foods (not purΓ©ed but soft enough for them to handle) and allow them to feed themselves. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. If they don’t eat, don’t force it. Try again at another time. In the meantime, continue breastfeeding (or formula feeding).

_DSC3314 (1280x848)I love the idea of BLW for several reasons:

  • It’s a natural extension of on demand breast feeding. Since I trust her to tell me when she’s hungry for and when she’s full of milk, it stands to reason that once she realizes food is filling, she’ll be able to do the same in that situation.
  • There’s less prep work for me. She’ll eat what we eat!
  • It teaches her to manipulate food herself
  • We’re letting her decide developmentally when she’s ready to eat.
  • It promotes a healthy attitude towards food and allows her to figure out for herself when she’s full, rather than us telling her when she’s done
  • She gets to explore texture and colour of food in it’s original form

There are of course concerns surrounding it. There’s the fear of baby choking to contend with. But from what I read and have seen when watching Molly over the past few months, babies are equipped with natural mechanisms in their mouth to prevent choking, such as a gag reflex that’s not as far back as an adults and the tongue thrust reflex if they’re not ready for anything in their mouths yet. By allowing then to feed themselves, these instincts kick in and they learn to recognize what they can handle.

And of course nutritional needs are always at the forefront of food discussions, particularly baby’s need for iron. It’s true that around six months a baby’s iron stores start depleting. But the decline is gradual and as long as you start incorporating foods that are good iron sources and continue breastfeeding or giving baby formula, all iron needs will be met. Iron fortified cereals do not provide an easily digestible source of iron. And take it from someone who needs iron supplementation beyond anything my diet can give me: Iron is tough on the digestive tract!

I’m not opposed to purΓ©ed food, and who knows, we might end up doing that too, but everything I’ve mentioned makes sense to A and I and so on with the baby led weaning!

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A few weeks ago, on aΒ  Saturday, the three of us sat down for lunch, with Molly in her highchair. We’ve been sitting her in her high chair for a few months now while we eat, to get her used to it.Β  I started her off with some avocado, cut into slices. It’s soft, has a mild flavour and is a nutritional powerhouse! It’s one of my favourite foods and I would love it if Molly shared that love.

Molly was stripped to her diaper and I’m glad we did that! As soon as I put the avocado on the tray, she dove in and within seconds her face, torso and arms had taken on a green hue. Despite the book advising not to, I watched her like a hawk, ready to jump in if she got into trouble. But trouble wasn’t to be found. She had no problem getting it to her mouth, since that’s a skill my daughter excels at! Everything goes to her mouth. It was hilarious watching her face as she maneuvered small bits into her mouth. You could see her jaw working as she moved it around with her tongue, wondering at the texture and taste. She wasn’t quite sure what to think. At one point she took a big piece into her mouth and I held my breath…but after a bit of moving around, she spit it out, recognizing it was too big.

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It’s hard to trust that your baby will know what to do with food, but since we trust that Molly rolled when she was ready, will crawl and walk and talk when she’s ready, it seems likely that she’ll eat when she’s ready and handle it just fine. Since avocado she’s tried banana, carrots, apple, red pepper, rice, broccoli and oatmeal. We’re going slow because of food allergies in the family, trying to follow the three day rule where you only introduce one new food every three days so that you can easily pinpoint the cause of an allergic reaction.

This week I’m introducing toast fingers with cream cheese on them, peaches and we’re giving yogurt a go. This is where I’ll be tweaking the BLW concept a bit, as she can’t quite get a full spoonful of yogurt into her mouth. But our trip to the doctor for her six month appointment showed that her weight gain has slowed a bit and my doctor recommended more fatty foods, such as yogurt. I’m not overly concerned about this, knowing that weight gain tends to slow around her age, but it can’t hurt!

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All in all so far we’re doing great! Molly’s having a blast and so are we watching her experience new tastes and sensations. And I still get plenty of quiet nursing time with my baby girl, who is growing up way too fast.

Minecraft Cake

Grrr. I just wrote this whole post then accidentally deleted it. Let’s see if I can recreate it…

I volunteered to make dessert for our joint birthday celebration, where our families got together and had dinner (more on that in tomorrow’s Weekend Wind Up). I wanted to do something special for A. I’m not sure exactly how I came up with the idea, but I decided to create a cake incorporating elements of his favourite computer game, Minecraft.

Minecraft is a really fun game, one that I enjoy playing as well, though post-baby it’s mostly A doing the mining these days. The Minecraft world is made up of blocks that your character mines and then uses to build and craft objects. There are of course bad guys (referred to as MOBS) for you to fight, but you can choose to play peacefully if you like. There is no specific end or challenge to the game. It is what you want it to be, which is the appeal for me.

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My Minecraft home πŸ™‚ Ironically, when I logged on to take this screen shot, a Creeper blew up some of my landscape. Bastard.

I researched, sourcing images and ideas, and then Saturday afternoon, after the baby was asleep and having sent A downstairs, I got to work. The block type graphics seemed like a natural fit for a rectangular cake, and I decided to use water, sand and dirt blocks for my cake landscape.

I used a layer of vanilla cake for the base, cutting it into a 3 x 4 grid of squares (blocks). I then cut the chocolate cake into the same grid pattern and used the blocks to build up one corner of the cake with ‘dirt’ into a hill. Using coloured icing (blue for water, cream for sand and green for grass on the dirt blocks) and a decorating nib, I made the final enhancements to the cake landscape.

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Excuse my dirty table…cake decorating is dirty business!

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As is, this would be a pretty boring cake and wouldn’t really make much sense. So last week I put on my crafting hat and using salt dough (one cup flour, one cup salt and 3/4 cup water), sculpted, baked and then painted a couple of Minecraft characters to place on top of the cake.

First up was Steve, the main character (you) who traverses through the world, mining, fighting, building and crafting. You have the option of changing Steve’s appearance in the game, but I went with his traditional apparel. He’s also sporting a diamond sword, one of the most powerful weapons you can create.

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And of course Steve needs an adversary. Behold, the Creeper. Armless and green, with a serious frown, the Creeper does just that. He creeps up on you and if you’re not paying attention, your only warning is the slight ‘ssssss’ of his fuse being lit before seconds later he blows up, often taking you with him. Annoying little dudes.

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I had a ton of fun creating these figures! They’re not perfect (they expanded a bit in the oven…air trapped inside), but I don’t claim to be an artist. Personally, I think they’re adorable. We’re going to turn them into tree ornaments for next Christmas πŸ™‚

It was a huge hit and A really appreciated the effort I went to. Um, who wins the Wife of the Year award??

I was just happy I was able to pull it off and do something special for my guy. Happy Birthday love!

12 Days of Baking Day 7 – Coconut Lemon Bars

There’s a misconception floating around about me. There is a common held belief amongst people that know me that chocolate is my favourite flavour.

I would like to state for the record that this is not entirely accurate. In fact, if I’m given a choice, chocolate would most likely be the last thing I would choose. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate treats, and I won’t turn one down if it’s offered, but I much prefer vanilla, strawberry and most especially lemon flavoured goodies.

So this next treat I chose to bake for the holidays, is right up my alley!

Coconut Lemon Bars.

Yum!

The addition of the coconut makes for a truly sinful treat, at least for me πŸ™‚

They were really easy to pull together, and I didn’t have to use my mixer! Manpower all the way. The recipe suggests baking for 20 minutes, but true to form, my oven needs a bit more time and I had them in there for 27 minutes in order to get the golden brown top.

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Can’t wait to sample a few more of these after dinner tonight (I did of course sacrifice myself and had to try it to make sure it tasted ok…note to everyone, wait until they are completely cool before you try and take one out of the pan…the bottom layer is a bit crumbly when warm!).

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12 Days of Baking Day 6 – Giant Ginger Molasses Cookies

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is helping my Nanny (my Grandmother) bake bread. She would bake the traditional white but also what we call ‘sweet bread’, a hearty bread made with molasses that was meant to satisfy hungry fisherman out on their boats. The best part about helping her was that we were always given a piece of the dough after it had risen and I can clearly recall the taste of the molasses in the sweet bread. Yum!

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I love anything made with molasses as a result and so we’re back on the cookie train for day 6, making one of my absolute favourites, Ginger Molasses Cookies. This recipe comes from do it yourself crafting guru Martha Stewart, though I confess I was never on the Martha train, even in her hey day.

Once again I had to plan around the baby, prepping ingredients throughout the day until I was assured she was fed enough to plop her in the high chair while I worked. Molly and I have a blast baking together…she finds it hilarious listening to me sing the wrong words to songs…finally someone who won’t criticize my lack of that particular skill πŸ™‚

I doubled the recipe and baked them for the full 15 minutes it suggests. They are GOOD y’all. And big! The title does say giant and it wasn’t lying! I fit six per cookie sheet. The taste is really lovely and flavourful. The recipe calls for pepper and it adds a fabulous kick along with the sweet. These will be perfect with a hot cup of tea!

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Friday Ramblings

On The Baby…

My little babushka is just grand! She’s starting to laugh more and is extremely interested in touching mine and A’s faces.

She’s sleeping pretty good, sometimes for an 8+ hour stretch, sometimes not. She’s still quite young and according to what I’ve read, it’s normal for her to wake hungry still. I’m leaning towards a ‘when she’s ready’ approach to sleeping and won’t even consider cutting out any night time feedings right now. We’re OK with how things are going and that’s all that should matter at this point. She’s ‘usually’ asleep by 8:30/9pm and ‘usually’ sleeps until 6-7am. Not too shabby for a four month old! Last night she was awake at 4am to feed and didn’t nurse back to sleep like she usually does. I put her in her crib, wide awake, and after a few minutes of shuffling around, she fell asleep on her own! So she is developing the skills to go to sleep on her own, just at her own pace.

I’m starting to think about introducing solids. I’ve read about the baby-led weaning technique and after discussing it with A, we’re leaning towards it. Basically it means introducing foods cut up into manageable pieces and letting her feed herself, rather than us feeding her pureed food. The idea is to let her decide how much she wants to eat, and that she won’t eat until she’s ready to. In the meantime breast feeding will continue as usual. I’m going to read up on it a bit more, but the concept appeals to me. More on that later…we have a couple of months to develop a plan of action! I’m not going to introduce anything until she’s six months.

On Finding Balance…

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was floundering a little. I just couldn’t find the time or energy to do what I’d hoped to be able to do while on maternity leave: be a true homemaker. I think the culprit was my low iron, because since I’ve been taking my supplements, I feel like I have things under control! I’ve developed a loose schedule that seems to be working well for me and Molly and I feel like I’m in my element! I love being a wife and mother! It’s my dream job πŸ™‚

On Baking FAIL…

Day 6 of my 12 Days of Baking was supposed to be a scrumptious recipe I found: White Chocolate Coconut Truffles. I’m not sure exactly what happened but they did NOT turn out how they were supposed to. Ergo I will not be posting about them. I’m bummed, because white chocolate and coconut are one of my favourite combos! Ah well. I still have plenty on my list to bake, so Day 6 will be coming soon πŸ™‚

Happy Friday all!

12 Days of Baking Day 5 – Brownies with a Twist

I’m going outside the cookie genre for this next day of baking. Waaaaay outside. It kind of borders the obscene in the baking world, with absolutely nothing made from scratch, though I suppose if you were dedicated enough and not dealing with a baby who didn’t want to be put down because of her vaccinations that morning, you could go the extra mile and prepare this treat from the ground up, but alas, that wasn’t in the cards for me.

Have I piqued your interest? Mine certainly was when I first saw this recipe on Pinterest. I was immediately intrigued when I saw the composition:

Brownies? Good
Chocolate Chip Cookies? Goood
Peanut butter cups? GOOOOD!

It’s quite simple really….

Ingredients

  • A box of brownie mix
  • A tube of prepared chocolate chip cookies
  • 12 Reese’s peanut butter cups

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Divide the prepared cookie dough into 12 sections and press into the bottom of a square pan (and by square pan I mean the special pans that are kind of like muffin tins with 12 sections, but are shaped like squares). On top of the cookie dough, place a peanut butter cup upside down. Then, prepare the brownie mix according to the instructions on the box and pour the batter on top of the cookie dough and peanut butter cups.

Bake for 20 minutes and voila! A brownie with a Twist.

There didn’t appear to be a special name for this treat, so I made one up. They were pretty tasty but very, very rich. My favourite part was biting into the peanut centre!

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