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Happy St. Nikolaus Day!

Today is St. Nikolaus Day!!

It’s the day we celebrate gift-giving in our house for the holiday season.  It gives us more time on Christmas Day to focus on Jesus!  You can read more about our traditions here.

We woke up and did our stockings filled from “St. Nik” and got some wonderful items:

Mine are on the L: leg warmers, yummy chocolate bars, bamboo kitchen tongs, stainless steel spoons, an “I Owe You” for baking lessons at a local place, and a book called “The Half Sky” which I was curious about reading.  Peter’s are on the R: “The Passage,” a new watch, “gift certificate” for music lessons, paper sunglasses because I couldn’t find the right pair, a toque, a notice that his fave magazine is renewed, a chocolate bar and his favourite gummy bears.

Then we ate our usual St. Nikolaus Day breakfast: bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles (the good European kind!) and a side of a mandarin orange (which we got in our stockings).

Based on the ingredients of this delicious breakfast we enjoy each year, I created a handy-dandy muffin recipe (because why would one orange-coloured muffin recipe be enough this week?!) for you to enjoy.  They remind me a lot of this holiday tradition of ours!

St. Nikolaus Day Muffins:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp. chai spice mix
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Mix the flour, chai spice, salt and baking powder together.  Add in the butter and mix with your hands until you have the consistency of sand.  In another bowl, mix together the honey, egg and milk.  Add the wet mixture to the dry/butter mixture.  Mix well.  Separate your mandarin orange segments and cut each one in half with clean kitchen scissors.  Mix 1 and a half of the orange segments into the dough, leaving the rest aside.  Add in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the mixture into a muffin tin and add a piece of the remaining orange to the top of each muffin cup.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  Makes 8 muffins (because 6 or 12 is so overrated…).

Later today we’re having friends of ours over for a St. Nikolaus Day dinner!  They’re from Saudi Arabia so it’s all pretty new to them.  We’re going to enjoy a delicious dinner of…

Have a lovely day!

Don’t be a turkey; cook one instead!

In honour of my American friends celebrating Thanksgiving soon, and Christmas being just over a month away (YES!), I thought I’d break out my turkey recipe along with an awesomely delicious stuffing recipe.

To be honest, there’s nothing amazing about the way I cook a turkey.  I’m sure it’s pretty standard.  However, perhaps you’ve never cooked one?  Maybe you’re looking for a new spice/herb combo?  Either way, here it is… But the stuffing is SUPER tasty and cooked in the crock pot – how much better can it get?!

Roast Turkey:

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika

PRE-HEAT your oven to 325F.  Allow your turkey to THAW in its original wrapper in the fridge.  It will take approximately 5 hours per pound.  If you don’t have that much time cover the turkey (still in its wrapper) with cold water, changing every 30 minutes.  This will take 1 hour per pound.  Once the turkey is thawed, REMOVE the giblets (usually in paper) and the neck from the turkey.  RINSE out the cavity.  PLACE the turkey, breast side up in your roasting pan.  Lightly COVER your turkey with olive oil so that it is evenly coated.  MIX together the spices and use a brush to spread them evenly over both sides of the turkey.  ROAST in a covered pan for 20 minutes per pound.  REMOVE the cover for the last hour of cooking.  The turkey is ready when the juices run clear.  PLACE the cooked turkey on a platter and cover with tinfoil, letting it sit for 20-30 minutes.  CARVE, enjoy!

Crock-pot Cran-Apple Pecan Stuffing:

  • 1 loaf of whole wheat multi-grain bread, toasted and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups celery, diced
  • 2 green apples, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of pecans, chopped
  • 1/8 cup dried parsley
  • 1 T ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup apple juice

CHOP up the onion, celery, and apple.  ADD them along with the cranberries and pecans to 6-quart crock-pot.  MIX the seasonings together and add melted butter.  POUR over vegetables/fruit/nuts.  Stir well.  Add the toasted bread cubes to the crock-pot.  TOSS well with the butter, vegetables/fruit/nuts, and seasonings. When the bread is fully coated, POUR in broth and apple juice.  COVER and cook on high for 2 hours.  After cooking for 2 hours, you can turn it to “warm” to keep for another 2 hours or so before serving.  If you’d like it more moist, add an additional 1/4 cup water, apple juice or broth.  Serves 10-12.

And might I humbly suggest that you consider making a flavourful, yet wholesome apple pie or some apple zucchini squares with cream cheese icing for dessert?  YUM!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

We’re not really big celebrators of Thanksgiving.  I mean, we definitely did it growing up, but as adults, since being married, we’ve celebrated it by being in soup kitchens and having a couple of potlucks here and there, but never really on our own.  This year won’t be much different!  And I’m totally okay with that.

In fact, last year we were on a plane from L.A. to San Francisco to Victoria!  So we definitely weren’t cooking up a turkey that day.

I’ll save the turkey and stuffing recipes until closer to Christmas, but instead I’ll hi-light some other yummy fall dishes that might work for however you’re celebrating this wonderful day.

Oh, and don’t forget to give thanks, k?  It’s kind of the point, afterall…

Cinnamon Buns

Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake

Apple Zucchini Squares

Flavourful Wholesome Apple Pie

Pioneer Woman’s Baked Fudge – With a Twist!

Corn Chowder

Gourmet Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Cinnamon Quinoa

Creamy Carrot & Apple Soup

Lentil Hummus

Roasted Chickpeas

So what are you thankful for??  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Typically we don’t eat a ton of pasta around here.  We both like it, but I guess it’s just not something we think about too often!  We were having a bunch of people over for dinner though, and I knew that spaghetti would be easy.  Plus, I had an abundance of tomatoes still to use up (this is just 1/3 of what we had!):

We also had some fresh parsley, courtesy of our awesome neighbour’s garden.

If you’ve got a TON of garden tomatoes I suggest making some sauce and freezing it for throughout the fall/winter!

I took notes on what I threw into my pot so that I could share my very own pasta sauce recipe with you!  Truly, I’m convinced you could pretty much throw in whatever you want and come up with something delicious!  However, this is the tasty sauce that we enjoyed…

Homemade Pasta Sauce:

  • 2 cups liquid (I used 1 cup water, 1 cup beef broth)
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cups diced zucchini (fresh or frozen)
  • 11 roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (or 2 tbsp. dried parsley)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil (or 2 tbsp. dried basil)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 lbs. cooked ground beef (see below for directions on how to prepare) – or use chickpeas  or lentils if you want vegetarian.

Combine all ingredients except ground beef into a large sauce pot and cook on medium heat until all vegetables are softened.  Then, using a hand blender, blend the sauce.  Once everything is sufficiently blended add in the ground beef.  Stir, and simmer on low heat for an hour.  Alternatively, once everything is blended and the beef is added, you could put it in your crock pot on low for a few hours to really simmer and blend the flavours.

Cooking Ground Beef:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tsp. each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper

Cook together in a large frying pan until browned.  Drain if necessary, and set aside to be used in pasta sauce.

NEW! Recipe Index

My long-awaited dream of having a RECIPE INDEX is now here!!!!!

My wonderful husband helped me figure it out, and I spent a couple of painstaking hours putting it together.  But now you can easily find all my recipes conveniently in one spot!

Some of the recipes date way back to the beginning of my blog and I still use them frequently.  Others I don’t use as much anymore because of the way we’ve changed out eating habits, but they still might appeal to you!

So click on “RECIPE INDEX” over on the left ( <– ), under my photo, and you’ll be directed to the full listing.

Happy Cooking!

Easter Weekend Eats

Over Easter weekend we were rather busy!!  But it was all good busy.  We hosted people in our home every night of the weekend as well as earlier in the week for gardening in our backyard {more on that later this week!}.  Needless to say a lot of laughter, great conversation and FOOD was in abundance in our home.  I thought I’d hilight some of the recipes we ate as well as a view of our table on the one night we had a large potluck.

See how we used wild flowers from our backyard and tea lights both in small canning jars?  It was very simple and yet it brightened up the table without taking up a ton of space!  Very frugal but pretty.

Homemade Rolls:

The original recipe comes from Finding Joy in My Kitchen, but I took it and made a few adjustments that worked for us.  Here is the recipe variation that we use:

  • 1 C lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 T unsalted butter or coconut oil, cut into pieces
  • 3 T honey
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 T arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 T butter, melted (optional for a topping)
Combine all the dough ingredients into your bread machine and set it on the dough cycle until it’s done.  Place in a bowl and cover and place in the refrigerator for either an hour or even over night!
Remove dough from fridge and punch it down a few times.  Then, divide the dough into 12-16 round balls and place in a lightly greased 9×13 pan but be sure that they don’t touch each other.  They will grow while they bake.
Bake the rolls at 350 for 23-25 minutes. The tops will be a light brown at this time.  Brush on melted butter if you desire.
These are so fresh and wonderful and who doesn’t love a homemade dinner roll???

Crock Pot Roast Chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/4 of an onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. each of oregano, sea salt, cracked pepper, parsley, garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. of paprika
  • A dash each of cayenne and chili powder

Empty the cavity of the chicken and fill it with as much diced onion as you can.  If you still have onion leftover, sprinkle it around the bottom of the crock pot.  Mix all the spices together and rub them all over the outside of the chicken.  Place the chicken in the crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours.  It’s so simple and you can do it at the last minute (like I did!) and still have a really yummy dinner.

Apple Zucchini Squares:

I’ve just linked up the recipe because it’s one that I’ve posted before!  It’s a DELICIOUS but nutritious dessert that we love around here.  It was a big hit for those who shared in Easter Sunday dinner with us!  Go and make it – NOW!!  Oh, and don’t forget the cream cheese frosting.

Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese:

We have our favourite recipe for mac ‘n’ cheese thanks to our friend Tammy, but I vamped it up for Easter weekend by adding in pureed squash and some herbs to add some extra nutritional oomph!  Here is the recipe after we adjusted it a bit:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. basil
  • 1.5 cups of milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 cups of pureed squash (cooked of course!)
  • 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups of small pasta, cooked
  • 1.5 cups of additional shredded cheese for topping

Melt butter and blend in flour and seasonings.  Add milk and squash and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and add in cheese.  Stir until smooth.  Meanwhile, cook pasta and drain.  Mix the pasta and sauce together and pour into a 2 qt. baking dish.  Top with additional cheese and bake in 400F oven for 20 minutes. It tastes just like mac ‘n’ cheese and no one is the wiser because the colour of the squash looks just like cheese! Tricky…  :)

Monday Dinner Menu Planner

Last week Peter was away, and so I didn’t plan a menu because I knew I would be eating lots of leftovers, making simple meals and hanging out with friends!  And I was right.  :)  However, now that’s he’s home sweet home (I missed him!!!), I’m doing another menu plan for this week.

I’m seriously lacking in new and creative dishes for vegetarian meals this week, though. Hence the boring account for Monday and Thursday.  I’m also getting low on vegetarian “necessities” (we’re trying to use mostly what’s in our pantry/fridge/freezer), so I can work with black beans, quinoa, couscous and generally the veggies I have are zucchini, bell peppers, hot peppers, mashed squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and brussels sprouts (it’s all what we have from our garden).  If you have a recipe idea, PLEASE leave a comment!!  I’d really appreciate it.  ;)

Monday: Vegetarian Meal

Tuesday: Chili with black beans and ground beef (and many veggies).

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Ribs with roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Vegetarian Meal

Friday: Lamb with curry and dates, Couscous with raisins, onions, garlic and almonds.

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Leftovers

For more menu plans, go here.

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