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recipes

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Super Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread {recipe}

With the coming of cooler temperatures, I do a lot more baking. Thankfully, my family are happy to eat what comes out of my oven, so I guess I must be doing an ok job at it. I had a few over-ripe bananas on the counter, so yesterday I whipped up one of our favourites – chocolate chip banana bread. It’s great with my coffee in the mornings, or for a snack at any time. And there’s no nuts, so it can go into school lunches too. We like to spread a little butter on ours.
The base of this recipe is from my Dad. Banana Bread was one of his specialties, so I had to get his recipe from him when I moved out oh so many years ago. The only change I’ve made is to add the chocolate chips, for an extra special touch.  Enjoy!

Super Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 ¾ cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup bananas (2)
1/3 cup salad oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Combine bananas, oil, sugar, and eggs in bowl. Beat until foamy.
Mix remaining dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix until well blended.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. Top should be browned and loaf should be pulling away from the sides of your pan. Let sit in pan for 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
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Easy BBQ Side Dish: Hashbrown Casserole #BornOnTheFarm

Hashbrown Casserole

I make it a goal to use the grill as often as possible in summer. We have a nice sized one with a rotisserie and a side burner, so there’s a lot we can do out there. Plus it’s natural gas, so we never again have to run out half-way through a roast to pick up more propane! (Been there, done that. Not fun.) I also make it a goal to either entertain here or get invited out to as many BBQ celebrations as possible. Our warm weather lasts for such a short time, I want to make the most of it and enjoy cooking and eating outdoors with family and friends. Agree?

For those occasions when you are invited out and are wondering what to bring along, I present this super simple Hashbrown Casserole. Potato, cheese, sour cream – how can you go wrong? And it goes so well as a side with BBQ meats – pork chops, ribs, steak are all great matches. I prepared this one in our oven, although in retrospect I could have done this on the grill in a foil pan, with the lid down. Hmm. Will try that another time and let you know how it goes! You really can cook almost anything on your BBQ. Remember our pizza experiment?

Hashbrown Casserole Ingredients

Hashbrown Casserole

Ingredients
1 pkg frozen hashbrowns
500ml Gay Lea Original Sour Cream
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups shredded cheese (I use a Tex-Mex blend)
1/4 tsp garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Press into the casserole and bake for 40-50 minutes, until nicely browned.

Make this a day ahead of the party and store it in the fridge over night. If you’ve used a glass, ceramic or stoneware dish, heat it up in your host’s microwave when it’s time to serve. If you’ve done it in a foil pan, cover with foil and see if they have room on their grill to re-heat.

I served this up with some grilled Ontario pork chops and fresh, local asparagus. So good!

Gay Lea’s Sour Cream makes it into a lot of our summer meals – and year round for that matter.  We use it as a topping on soups, nachos, tacos, and more. And of course it’s vital to my guacamole and forms the basis of many quick dips tossed together when company drops by. I offer some more ideas in this post from April.  We opt for the Original version, as Hubs prefers that flavour, but Gay Lea makes a range of sour cream varieties, including a lactose free version. Which one is your favourite?

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Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Rich Lasagna Made with Gay Lea Cottage Cheese #BornOnTheFarm

My husband is really a meat and potatoes kind of guy, although he surprises me with some of the spicy dishes he enjoys. But one thing that drives me a little nuts is his dislike of casseroles. As a category. He’s not big on soups either. Generally things with lots of ingredients mixed together just don’t do it for him. But I LOVE them. It’s sad, because with no one to share these dishes, I just don’t make them that often. 
One of my all-time favourite meals is lasagna. I can’t get enough of it. But my husband hates it. Boo won’t eat it either. But they both love pasta. And Hubs loves a meaty spaghetti sauce. When you get right down to it, lasagna is really not that different, taste-wise, from spaghetti, just baked with cheese, so I don’t understand. Oh well. I still make a pan of my delicious, creamy lasagna from time to time and portion it up to freeze for my lunches. 
What makes my lasagna so special? I make it with love? I’m not sure really, but I think it has something to do with my generous use of cheese, including a layer of cottage cheese for creaminess and flavour. I include a good portion of vegetables as well; any casserole presents an excellent opportunity for sneaking in fresh veggies and all the health benefits they bring. If you have veggie-averse family members just chop the veggies up super-fine so they disappear – their health benefits remain.
A more traditional lasagna option might be ricotta, but I grew up with cottage cheese, so that’s what I use. My go-to is Gay Lea’s Nordica 2%. It’s not the highest fat, but it’s not fat free either, which works for me. You can choose the version that you prefer of course – fat-free, 1%, 2% or 4% are all available. All are great sources of calcium and lower-fat protein, and Gay Lea uses 100% Canadian dairy milk. Plus is tastes great. Hubs actually will eat a bowl of this cottage cheese for breakfast, as-is. With 15 g of protein in a half cup serving, it’s a great energy boost to start the day.
But back to my lasagna. First off I will admit that I have never really used a recipe for this, so I had to pay special attention to figure out how I make it. I learned to cook primarily from my grandmother, and she rarely used a recipe for anything. When I cook I sniff and taste and go with my gut, but these instructions will work 🙂 Enjoy!!

Deb’s Delicious Lasagna

1lb extra lean ground beef
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1 19 fl. oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 750g container Gay Lea 2% Cottage Cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan
9 lasagna noodles
Brown ground beef in a deep pan & drain. Add seasonings, mushrooms and peppers to pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and paste, stir to combine, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the meat mixture is simmering, prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions.
Assemble the lasagna in layers in a 9×13 glass casserole dish. 
1/3 of the meat, 1/3 of the shredded cheese, 3 noodles; 
1/3 of the meat, a bit less than 1/3 of the shredded cheese, cottage cheese, 3 noodles; 
1/3 of the meat, 1/3 of the shredded cheese, 3 noodles; 
top with remaining shredded cheese and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.
*Note: you can drain some of the liquid from the cottage cheese before adding to the lasagna.
Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes or so before serving, or make a day ahead and re-heat for the best flavour.

Get Social

Want to know more about the world of Gay Lea? You can connect with them on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Comfort Food Goes Modern with Lobster Mac & Cheese #BornOntheFarm

When the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, do you find that you turn to comfort foods for your family table? This time of year just screams for hearty soups and stews and baked pasta dishes. And I know I turn to tradition as well. When I’m feeling cold or dreary, I want the foods I grew up on, prepared just like Mom used to make.

Or maybe not exactly like Mom used to make. A couple years ago I tried lobster mac & cheese at a cocktail party. It was a taste explosion! And so I decided to amp up my game and make some for myself at home.  And today I’m sharing my recipe with you!

When I make a traditional mac ‘n’ cheese, I use a mild or medium cheddar. Something kid-friendly, with a subtle taste. But once you add lobster, you need to kick it up a notch and go for a more mature flavour. I still use cheddar, but I go for a well-aged old cheddar. There’s a great sharpness in the taste, and it works wonderfully with the sweetness of the lobster tails. And I prefer to use a white cheddar, just for aesthetic reasons. The result both looks and tastes more grown-up and makes a great dish to serve to your adult friends.

For this recipe I used Ivanhoe Extra Old Cheddar Cheese. Ivanhoe has been a part of the Gay Lea family since 2008, but they’ve been making award-winning artisan cheeses since 1870. There’s so much experience and knowledge in that history. They are actually the oldest Canadian artisan cheese company, and they have a factory outlet store in their town of Ivanhoe, ON, just north of Belleville, that is quite the tourist attraction. They see over 75,000 visitors each year who come to learn about cheese making, sample the wares, and do some shopping. Antiques, gift baskets, old fashioned milk shakes, and or course their own cheese. I think I may have to visit!

The extra old cheese is fairly dry and crumbly, with a distinct, nutty flavour. It’s the perfect flavour for this dish. Because of its dryness, though, you may want to add more milk to your recipe than I do. I like a fairly dry mac ‘n’ cheese, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese Casserole

Ingredients

¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 300g pkg Ivanhoe Extra Old Cheddar Cheese (about 2 cups), grated
2 cups dry elbow pasta
4 3-4oz lobster tails
Salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.
Prepare the lobster: Drop the lobster tails into a pot of boiling, salted water. They will cook quickly, in about 3 or 4 minutes. The tails are done when the shells turn red and the meat is white. Remove the tails and allow to cool.
Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour. Whisk constantly until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture is thick and lightly browned, with a toasty smell. (About 2-3 minutes.) Add the milk gradually. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and continue to whisk for about 4-5 minutes, until thickened. Add the cheese. Continue to stir or whisk until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat. Salt & Pepper to taste.
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and place in a buttered casserole dish.
Remove cooled lobster tails from their shells and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with the pasta. Pour the cheese sauce into the casserole dish and mix to combine thoroughly. Top with the bread crumbs and bake for 20-25 minutes.
To remove the tails from their shells, use kitchen shears to cut through the underside of the shell, then break apart with your fingers.


Raw, the shells are green and the meat is almost translucent.

Cooked, the shells are now red, and the meat is white and opaque.

Have you ever tried this mac ‘n’ cheese variation? Do you make it yourself? I admit that my kid won’t eat this, but then again, it’s really for me anyway 🙂  Both lobster and aged cheese are more adult tastes, so I’m not surprised a 10 year old isn’t impressed. The grown-ups though love this! And a more adventurous kid than mine could as well.

Get Social

Want to know more about the world of Gay Lea? You can connect with them on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign, and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Best Creamy Guacamole for the Big Game

I like my guacamole with a rich, creamy texture. And Hubs loves my recipe, so I thought I’d share. With the Superbowl coming up, it’s the perfect time of year to experiment with some new dip ideas. I hope you like this one!

Nachos, wings, guacamole, Buffalo chicken dip, salsa, and toss in a veggie tray – my idea of a perfect football feast!

Guacamole

2 large or 3 small ripe avocados
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon chipotle seasoning (or you could use chili powder)
salt & pepper to taste

generous dash cayenne (optional – you can omit if you want a milder dip)
1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped (optional)

Cut avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Mash well.
Add garlic, lemon juice, sour cream, and seasonings. Combine thoroughly.
Toss in chopped tomato and mix to distribute.
Have a taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

Serve with tortilla chips or crisp veggies. Or use as a side for a big plate of nachos.

Tip: Save one of the avocado pits to press into the guacamole. This will help to stop the guac from darkening. If your guac does darken, just give it a really good stir to freshen up and bring back the gorgeous green.
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BEST Pumpkin Pie {Recipe}

Ok, maybe I’m a little too excited about how this recipe turned out, but my whole family loved it and I was so pleased with the combination of flavours. This is a nicely savoury pie that is simply delicious with a big spoonful of sweet whipped cream on top. I made this for Boo, because he’s a huge fan of pumpkin pie, and I thought it was about time I made one from scratch.
When I say “from scratch,” I do not include pastry. I have made pie pastry, and I do a pretty good job of it, but it’s work I don’t enjoy. When there are such great frozen pie shells out there, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use them. For the record, I use Tenderflake.
I do not, however, use canned pumpkin. For any pumpkin recipes I either steam or roast pie pumpkins for the puree. I think it’s worth the extra step there.  Roasting, I think, gives the best flavour for pie. I steam for my cookies. One average sized pie pumpkin will give you enough puree for this recipe. Rinse the pumpkin outside, cut in half, and roast face down on a cookie sheet at 350 for approximately 30 minutes. Cool and scoop out the insides, then mash, and you’re ready to bake!

Best Pumpkin Pie

slice of pumpkin pie with whipped creamIngredients

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
Single pie shell

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour into pie shell. Bake in middle of oven for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 30 minutes or until set.  Cool and serve with a big dollop of fresh whipped cream.
Enjoy!
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Busy Nights? Have #DinnerIn15 with Maple Leaf Prime

It’s happening again. Traffic was crazy, it’s 6:00pm, and you still have to make dinner. Do you stop and pick up take-out? It’s tempting. But maybe you can whip up something tasty and healthy just as quickly at home.

That was my life for a lot of years, and too often we stopped to eat on the way home, or ordered pizza from the car. I gradually got better at planning meals, pre-cooking, and having quick options available in the fridge.  Things like bagged salad, frozen chopped vegetables, and leftover pasta are lifesavers, as are the wide variety of pre-cooked meats that are available these days. When you have the base of your meal ready to heat up and season, dinner can be ready in no time flat.

Maple Leaf Prime has created a line of fully-cooked, sliced chicken and turkey strips in a variety of flavours. These are healthy, lean sources of protein, low in fat and sodium, contain zero trans fats and have no nitrites added. They provide a great base for a quick meal on a busy night, since your protein is already cooked and ready to go. The packaging is even re-sealable, so you can safely store whatever you don’t use right away.

Chicken and turkey are easy meats to incorporate into many dishes – toss some chicken strips on top of a green salad and add some crusty bread for a light supper; include the pre-cooked turkey strips in a turkey quesadilla made with bagged shredded cheese; or boil some water for pasta and make a chicken alfredo with your favourite jarred sauce. All of these ideas can come together in about 15 minutes or less, from fridge to table.

Have you checked out Maple Leaf’s recipe community, Appehtite? They have a section dedicated to getting your meal on the table in record time. “Dinner in 15” recipes are all ready in no more than 15 minutes, giving you time to prep and eat a healthy, home cooked meal even on your busiest night. Have a look and see what you’d like to try this week!
In the meantime, I’m going to share with you the recipe that I came up with for my own “Dinner in 15” creation. These Chicken Taco Roll-Ups are quick and tasty and would go great with a bagged salad. I tested these out on our 19 year-old this afternoon, and he gave them a big thumbs-up. He ate 5 or 6 I think. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Chicken Taco
Roll-ups                                                                     RaisingMyBoys.net
Serves
4-5
Prep
Time: 5 minutes
Cook
Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
150g package
of Maple Leaf Prime Fully-Cooked Chicken Breast Strips
½ cup
shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack)
½ tomato,
chopped
1/8
medium green pepper, chopped
1 tsp
taco seasoning
3
Tbsp medium tomato salsa
2
pkgs. refrigerated dough for crescent rolls
Directions:
Preheat
the oven to 375.
Coarsely
chop the chicken and combine all ingredients except the dough. Separate and lay
out the dough. Spoon the chicken mixture evenly onto the wide end of each piece
and roll up. Place crescents on a cookie tray and cook in 375 oven or 10
minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with a tossed green salad and some sour cream or dipping.

What are your favourite quick and easy weeknight dinners? Would love for you to share some ideas in the comments. And you can keep in touch with Maple Leaf Prime and get more tasty ideas on their Facebook page.

Disclosure: This post has been brought to you by Maple Leaf Prime. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Easy Rhubarb Pie {Recipe}

It’s getting a little late for rhubarb, but I still have quite a bit growing that hasn’t gone soft yet. I pulled a big harvest on Sunday and chopped most of it up to freeze. But I kept out enough to make this pie. Super easy. Super tasty. And nicely sweet, with that rhubarb tartness underneath. I’m considering having a second slice now.

Easy Rhubarb Pie

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pastry for two crusts or 2 frozen pie shells (Note – although I can make pastry, it’s a bit of work and since great pastry is so readily available in the freezer section of my Metro, I don’t see why I should bother.)

Mix the sugar, flour and spices together. Spread about 1/3 cup of the mixture in the bottom of one pie shell. Add the rest to the chopped rhubarb and toss to coat. Pour coated rhubarb into pie shell, top with another shell. Crimp edges and prick top with a fork.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake an additional 35-45 minutes at 350.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Citrus Kale Chicken Salad {recipe}

I’ve been trying really hard to eat well. I’m making better choices, attempting to eat more regular meals, and being very conscious of portion control. Smoothies with spinach and protein powder, fruit, etc., in the morning, and a solid salad at lunch. At least on my good days. I’ve also been embracing kale. Not such a fan of it cooked, but raw it is amazing. Here’s the salad I threw together yesterday. Delish!!

Citrus Kale Chicken Salad
Ingredients
3 cups raw Kale, stemmed and sliced
Juice of half a large clementine
1 scant TBSP olive oil

Maple Leaf Protinis Chicken with Cranberries and Blueberries
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Freshly-Ground Pepper

Place the kale in a bowl. Add juice and oil. Massage the kale to soften and mix.
Add a full package of Maple Leaf Protinis Chicken with Cranberries and Blueberries.* Crumble a mild blue cheese on top and add pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy!

Serves One


*Or add about half a cup of sliced, roasted chicken breast and 2 TBSP dried berries.

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Creamy Potato Leek Soup {Recipe}

I was in need of some comfort food last week, so I had a look around at what was on hand, and then I threw together this yummy and filling soup. Easy to make and perfect for a hot meal on a cold day.
I think soup feeds my soul.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients
3 medium potatoes
2 medium leeks
1 large carrot
5 cups water
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 cup cooking cream
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Peel and cube the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrot. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and rinse. Trim off root end and trim green tops to about 3 inches. Slice. Place the vegetables in a large pot and cover with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add 1/4 cup chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree. Stir in cooking cream. Return to stove and heat gently until flavours combine, about 20 minutes.