Raspberry-Cantaloupe Salad

In this hot weather, the last thing I feel like doing is standing over the stove and cooking. (Well, actually, I’d rather cook than go for a run in the heat, but you get my point.) Usually by the time 5 o’clock rolls around, none of us has much of an appetite. On days like this, I am super thankful for my veggie garden. I love just going out to the garden and cutting some fresh lettuce, picking a couple snow peas, and grabbing a few Swiss chard leaves.

I toss it all into a salad, with whatever else I have in the house, and cook up some chicken to complete the meal. If you have teenagers, or very large appetites, this probably wouldn’t cut it, even on a hot, humid, appetite-less day, but it works for us, and we love it!

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For whatever reason, I used to despise making salads. Lettuce or spinach would regularly go to waste in the fridge. A big part of my increased interest in salad is the fact that I can get many of the ingredients right from my backyard.
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For this salad, I included:

~cantaloupe
~raspberries
~coined baby carrots
~chopped red onion
~cucumber (home grown from Dan’s parents!)
~baby romaine (from our garden!)
~a few leaves of Swiss Chard (from our garden, variety is called ‘Bright Lights’)
~the last of my snowpeas (not many)
~simple pan-fried (in a generous amount of butter!) chicken breast, cut into strips, lightly seasoned
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Top with croutons and salad dressing of your choice! The raspberry vinaigrette went extremely well with the salad, adding a nice amount of acidity to complement everything else. Next time, I would probably add a touch of feta cheese as well, but alas, I was out!
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And this is my new little frame and print beside the kitchen table, just ready to remind the kids (and us) especially at mealtimes when they are ready to say, “I don’t like that!” (We are getting nearer and nearer that stage, although our kids are generally excellent eaters.)
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The kiddies’ version of the salad πŸ™‚ As a side note, this is a nice meal for toddlers to feed themselves: little mess, and lots of sweet flavours.

Anyway, that’s my idea of a low-prep, fresh summer meal! What do you eat on these hot, sticky days?

Move Aside, Dutch Pancakes

A few weeks ago, I stumbled acrossΒ thisweekfordinner.com.

Among other delicious recipe ideas, I found a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding. I’d read about it in James Herriot books, but never thought to try it. It is more commonly eaten with roast beef (I believe) than the way I’m going to share, but trust me, this is delicious stuff.

All you do is take your basic Dutch pancake recipe, and blend the ingredients together. (Don’t quote me on this, but the ratios seem very similar. The ingredients are identical.)

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Cut a chunk of butter (salted is best) a little small than 1/4 cup and toss in a 9×13 pan. Put it in the hot oven.
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When it begins to bubble, like so ^^^ πŸ™‚ pour your blended ingredients into the pan.
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Now it looks like that ^^ and you are wondering (I was, anyway) how this is all going to work out..
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Ta-Da! It worked out! The true colour is a lovely golden brown, not the bland stuff you see in the picture.
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For best results, top with homemade Ontario-strawberry jam! It’s a hit all around. Serve with fresh fruit to round the meal off a little. It’s probably more of a dessert, but no one here has any problems with letting it pass for dinner every once in a while. πŸ˜‰

Not the healthiest, but hey, you can’t beat the deliciousness. So much less work than Dutch pancakes and (sorry, Dutch heritage) much better tasting. Plus no smoking up the house. Or maybe that’s just me. The smoke alarm going off at dinner time is a sure sign I’ve been making pancakes.

Anyway, that’s my version of the recipe. The real one I followed is here. As she notes, the recipe is easily halved. I have usually done it in an 8×8 pan, but last time did a 9×13. We had leftovers, so I’m curious how it will reheat.

Baby prep: freezer meals

This isn’t usually the nature of posts on My Red Leather Notebook.. but oh well, the nature lately has been nothing! Enjoy my long-winded explanation of my freezer meals.

Sometimes I’m a bit more of a planner and talker, than a doer. I’ll find these great ideas and be all motivated, but then it gets a bit complicated and my excitement wanes and the project gets ditched. However, with a baby due in a little over 4 weeks, and the memory of baby #1 arriving 3.5 weeks early, I definitely wanted to be prepared. I love lists. So I made piles of lists, down to very minute tasks (because it’s so rewarding to cross this off the lists :P). I cleaned the pantry, kitchen cupboards, linen closet, you name it (except the fridge– still waiting for that bug to bite!). I baked and baked and baked and filled the freezer with delicious things for “after baby” while our “before baby” supply dwindled and nearly disappeared.

During all this, I knew that I wanted to have meals in the freezer, but I kept putting it off because I don’t often enjoy cooking one meal for supper, let alone stocking meals in the freezer. It just seemed like a lot of work. But these little thoughts of practicality kept nudging me and I knew I wouldn’t regret putting the work in now, rather than trying to get supper on the table with a screaming baby in my arms and a tired toddler hanging on my feet.

I don’t remember what I typed into Google. But somehow I came across this website: http://whoneedsacape.com/ and more specifically, this page: http://whoneedsacape.com/2012/11/crockpot-freezer-cooking/

I was intrigued immediately by the 40 meals in 4 Hours idea. It didn’t sound like I needed to dedicate hours and hours of time to stock my freezer, and the meals were quite varied. So after mulling it over, I printed off the master grocery list (see how easy they make it?), and figured out what I still needed. Over two weeks of grocery shopping, I bought my non-perishables. I looked at flyers and called people and finally found a poultry shop where I bought all my chicken for a great price. The beef and pork I also bought on sale over the two weeks before I made the meals.

I made these meals on 4 different days. One night, before I had all the ingredients, I did the easiest part: labeling all the bags. I printed out all the recipes so that I wouldn’t be running back and forth to the computer to see what needed to be added next.

Day 2: We picked up all the meat. I trimmed the fat right away and sorted it into the freezer bags. Dan helped with this, and weighing the meat, so it went quite quickly. This step took about 2 hours. DSC_0483

Day 3: I pulled 11 bags out of the freezer. I set out all the ingredients I needed for those meals, chopped everything up, and then tossed everything into the appropriate bags. (time: +/- 1 hour)DSC_0485

Day 4: I pulled another 12 bags out of the freezer, and while Elijah ran around getting into trouble, I finished those meals off. I took an exhaustion break and went for round 2 and finished the remaining 17 bags. (1 hour in the morning, +/- 2 in the afternoon)

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I figure it took me about 6 hours in total, which was good considering I had counted on it taking much longer. (Yes, it says 4 hours, but I think that’s if you’re ultra organized and have a good system. If I did it again, I think I could trim off an hour. By the end I was working much more quickly.) I wasn’t super particular about measurements either..

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These recipes were large, and we aren’t big eaters, so many of them will be enough for 2 (some 3) meals. So that means we’ve got close to 3 months of weekday meals in the freezer. Of course, we won’t be eating them every day most likely, since I think I’d get sick of crock pot meal after crock pot meal after crock pot meal πŸ™‚ But like I said, there is quite the variety in flavours, plus you can add more variety by changing your sides etc. (Some meals are complete, some are just meat and veggies, and some are just meat). Now I’m hoping they taste delicious! I eliminated/substituted ingredients I know we won’t like, but I was also brave and tried some new things, so we’ll see!

After adding up all of the money we spent on meat, other pantry items, I calculated that the cost will be less than $6/meal. Not bad! (I wasn’t super particular about keeping track of costs since I bought a lot of it with my regular groceries.)

And here’s one of the lovely messes I was left with πŸ™‚ DSC_0494But I’ve now completed the number 1 thing I really wanted done before the baby is born, so I’m happy! That doesn’t mean I’m done though… I’m waiting for another big bout of nesting to kick in so I can get everything else done as well πŸ™‚

p.s. stay tuned for pictures of my latest sewing projects!