An Early Taste of Fall

It has been a crazy week in the residence…a crazy week of food. Five days, five snacks (three of which were birthday snacks).

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… The people who give you their food give you their heart.” -Cesar Chavez

Coming together in the evenings for a celebration and a snack has allowed the girls an extra moment in the day to bond, chat, ask questions, get to know each other more, and most importantly, just be with each other.

It is so easy for teenagers today to retreat to their rooms, throw in a movie on their computer and just disconnect from the world. These evening moments bring the girls together and just let them enjoy being themselves, surrounded by supportive and loving friends.

Tonight’s mini autumn cheesecakes are the perfect combination of silky smoothie cheesecake with a warm vanilla taste, and topped with season-perfect stewed apples with cinnamon and brown sugar.


Mini Autumn Cheesecake

Recipe adapted from Life, Love and Sugar

Crust

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Topping

  • Apples, peeled
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F. Add cupcake liners to a regular-sizes cupcake pan (not mini).

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners (about 2 tablespoons per cup) and press into the bottoms.

Bake the crusts for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Reduce oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl (or in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment) mix the cream cheese, sugar, and flour until just combined (use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sour cream and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Divide the filling between the cheesecake cups until the cups are mostly full.

Bake the cheesecakes for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the door closed for another 10 minutes.

Crack the oven door and allow cheesecakes to cool for 15-20 minutes, then put in the fridge to finish cooling.

To prepare apple topping, chop apples into half-inch pieces. Add apples to melted butter, and add cinnamon and brown sugar. Stew apples until they are soft and golden brown.

Cool, and top the cheesecakes with the apple mixture.

Lemon, Ricotta, Mint Pasta—A Fresh Summer Dinner

K is off at summer camp, and I’ve been thinking all day about if she’s making friends, is she having fun, did she sleep well, is she liking the food? Of course I’m sure all the answers are yes, but I can’t help but wonder. After putting together a care package for her (and of course the girls in her cabin), it was time to decide what to make for dinner…

A craving for pasta came across me…and when that craving comes on one of the hottest days of the year, this lemon, ricotta, mint pasta turned out to be the perfect fresh summer dinner.

I prefer to use spaghettoni noodles as they’re slightly thicker than the usual spaghetti noodles, and tend to grab a lot of the (super easy) sauce. Add together mint from the garden, creamy ricotta, peas that pop in your mouth, fresh lemon and spicy lemon pepper, and you get the perfect summer-fresh dinner.


Lemon, Ricotta, Mint Pasta

  • Spaghettoni, or your preferred long-noodle pasta—cooked as directed, reserving 1/4 cup water when draining
  • Peas—add to the pasta for the final two minutes of cooking to warm through
  • Ricotta—a couple of spoonfuls, enough to coat the pasta
  • Mint—roughly chopped
  • Lemon—zest and juice of one lemon
  • Lemon Pepper, my favourite is from Trader Joe’s—add a healthy amount to add a nice, spicy flavour to the pasta

Combine the ingredient together and top with more mint, lemon zest and lemon pepper. Serve warm.

Lunch and Learn

I am aware that as K grows older, there will be more difficult things to deal with — but one of the worst things right now, aged 10, is making lunches. It’s the on-going, never-ending process of making what she wants, what is nutritious and what is quick as inevitably she ‘never has time to finish!’.

This morning, after we finished our traditional Sunday breakfast…K shredded the cheese, cut the ham and mixed the 6 eggs with oat milk (our new fave!), and then I finished by pouring the mixture into mini tart shells. 15 minutes later (at 375ºF), we had two-bite quiches… and they are kid approved! This last week of school lunches are going to be a breeze!

We celebrate the end of June when school lunches end…but wait, there are lunches to be made for day camps. Today, I think we made real progress with the lunch trifecta—yummy, nutritious, and quick!

Organization Isn’t About Perfection…

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Everyone has a “junk drawer” in their kitchen…right? Well, I don’t. The closest I had was a disorganized corner in my main utensil drawer. And while it was only a small corner—and nearly everything was useful—it brought my stress every time I opened the drawer for a knife or spoon.

This weekend I bought a few connecting containers and after about 20 minutes this drawer now brings me some joy.

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I find it is always easier to keep things organized if you have a simple system to follow, but when does it go from being organized to being over organized? A system that improves your life is okay, but when it takes more time to use your organizational system than if it weren’t there—you may be over organizing.

The containers in my drawer allow each item to have a home, and it now takes very little thought when putting away cutlery, or when finding something to use.

The seconds of lifting other items to get at the ones beneath have been shaved off…and while seconds aren’t huge, the extra thought, the extra movement, the extra…stuff…all adds up.


“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” -Christina Scalise

When you’re green, your growing

The weather is turning colder, and there is nothing better than a house full of delicious smelling foods.

Baking on the weekend always makes me feel more settled and ready to take on the week—knowing that we have a something homemade and yummy to add to K’s lunch, or an easy snack after school,

As I scooped the batter into the muffin tins, K walked over took a look and said “Those look deeeeeelishi—wait, what’s that green stuff?” I quickly told her the muffins were packed full of vanilla, cinnamon and best of all – chocolate chips. She skeptically said okay, and waited for them to be ready.

The delightful smell filled the house, and before the muffins could even cool off, K was diving into them. She seemed to have completely forgotten about “green stuff,” dove right into them, and through a full mouth managed to say “these are the most delicious muffins…ever.” Our favourite lunchbox muffins have been banana—and while we still love banana muffins, these ones aren’t as sweet and have a bonus hint of vegetables!

Another batch will be made very soon—these will definitely not last all week!



Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe from A Life From Scratch.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is formed—fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full.

Bake in a 350ºF oven until lightly browned on top, 12 – 14 minutes.

Glorious Baking

There is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked goodies in the house. This weekend’s baking checked a few boxes:
√ smells delicious, √ tastes delicious and √ great for K’s school lunches.

“Morning Glory” muffins were on this week’s schedule. If you like carrot cake, then you’ll love these muffins…cinnamon, carrots, apple, raisins, pineapple, and if you’re not sending these along to school – walnuts and coconut!

Carrot cake has a special place in my family’s heart—a long-time summer tradition staple at the local coffee shop, a birthday cake flavour favourite—and so these muffins are a nice ode to a family favourite dessert.



Morning Glory Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup nuts (I prefer toasted walnuts – omit if you’re sending these along to a nut-free school)
  • 1/2 cup coconut (I like to toast the coconut – omit if you’re sending these along to a nut-free school)
  • 1 apple – peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 can crushed pineapple – drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, flax seed, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Mix in the carrot, raisins, nuts, coconut, apple, pineapple.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until the batter is just combined – do not over-mix as it will lead to cake-y muffins.

Pour the batter into paper lined muffin pan cups – be sure to fill to the top.

Bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes, or until nicely golden.

This recipe makes 14 – 18 large muffins.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

If you know me, you know that I like things to be organized. My desk at work, my kitchen at home, my handwriting in notebooks, everything.

There has been a problem-spot in my house that has driven me crazy since moving in, but I managed to close the door and not worry about it – until I would open it again and I would go crazy inside.  Our hall closet.  A somewhat organized, yet still very chaotic mess.



After being inspired (and intimidated) by The Home Edit, I thought it was time to tackle this closet (as well as the bedroom and guest closets), and it seems to have settled my insides.



Now, everything has it’s place, and it’s easy to find. No more opening multiple boxes and moving items to find something as small as a bandaid. This was such a great time to throw away the items that were expired or haven’t been used in a while, as well as do a complete restock of medicine and other necessities.

Spring is always a good time to take an inventory of your home – the windows are open, the birds are chirping, and there’s a freshness in the air. Start small…a drawer in the kitchen, then move to the next. Thinking you have to tackle an entire room is too daunting – start small and keep going.

Here are four tips about how I tackled the closets…

Tip One: Remove all items from the space you’re trying to tackle (drawer, cupboard, closet, etc.). You can’t get a full view of the space while there are still pieces in the space, and you don’t know what you need to organize if you can’t see it all laid out.

Tip Two: Create categories for the items you’re organizing – but don’t make the categories too specific. You want to be able to give everything a home without being too constrained. In our hall closet, we have boxes for Allergy and Aches, Pharmacy, Hair, etc.

Tip Three: Label the boxes – permanent marker, paper labels, sticker labels, anything will do.  It frees up the space in your mind (it really does!) when you don’t have to remember what is in each box, and where everything is.

Tip Four: Enjoy. Every time I walk by the closet I take a cleansing breath because everything looks so organized and clean. A few days after I finished the hall closet, I was just looking at it smiling and K said to me You just love organizing don’t you? It really makes  you happy. And I couldn’t help but smile back at her.

I no longer have an uneasiness in the undercurrent of my daily movements, and that’s a result of these closets. Who knew something so small and simple would calm me…even when I didn’t actively know it was causing so much strife inside.