Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Early Bird Gets the Cinnamon Roll

I woke up at 0530 this morning.  I couldn't get back to sleep.  I got up, played Sims on Facebook, watched a DVR'd episode of  Extreme Home Makeover and then decided I had time to make a really great Sunday Brunch.  I got out my bread machine and made coffee while the appliance kneaded my dough.  I made quite a few modifications to an existing recipe that I need to record them so I can make these again.  They are really, really good.

I started with this recipe.
I then made the following modifications:
  • I subbed out 1 1/2 cups of white flour  and used whole wheat instead.
  • I mixed the sugar, butter, and brown sugar together to make a paste.  I added about 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum to the mixture.*
  • I sprinkled a few cinnamon flakes* and finely chopped pecans over the bun dough before rolling up.
  • I was out of cream cheese so I blended a mixture of soft margarine (three tablespoons?  I didn't measure), the juice and zest of half an orange, a splash of vanilla extract and enough icing sugar to make it spreadable (2? 3? cups) to glaze the warm rolls.
 *I found xanthan gum and cinnamon flakes at my local health food store.  I am sure the cinnamon flakes are not crucial to the success of the buns, but I felt like there was not quite enough filling so I added them since they were in my cupboard already.  The xanthan gum is a food thickener that worked really well to keep the filling from melting out of the buns during the baking process.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maple-ish apple butter


6 1/2-7 lbs apples, cored and quartered
4 cups apple cider or apple juice (try to use the cloudy, not from concentrate juice)**
2-3 cinnamon sticks and or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup white sugar
1 cup real maple syrup

Place apples and juice in a very large pot. Add cinnamon sticks. Place on stove and bring to a boil.  Decrease heat and simmer, covered for 1/2 hour, until apples are tender. Remove cinnamon sticks.  Run apple mixture through a food mill or strainer to remove peels. Return mixture to pot (you should have around 12-14 cups of applesauce)   Add sugar, maple syrup, allspice, and ground cinnamon if you didn't use cinnamon sticks.  Return sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer, uncovered for 2-3 hours, until mixture is very thick and mounds on a spoon.  Stir frequently. (alternatively, you can put the apple sauce mixture in your crock pot, set to LOW and let it simmer overnight.)
This is my food mill set up.  One of the best wedding gifts I received!

Ladle into sterile jars, add lids and rings, and process in boiling water for five minutes.

I filled 6-250 ml* jars  and one 500 ml jar around 2/3 full.  (that one was not put in the canner, and was set on the counter to cool for immediate consumption.)

*Yes, my recipe uses imperial mesurements to fill metric jars.  That's what happens when you live in Canada sometimes.

**The next time I make this I will probably reduce the apple juice by half as I had very watery sauce that took until suppertime to cook down.

***If you are new to canning, you can freeze this apple butter in containers for future use, or check out this website to get more information.  I used a combination of my grandmother and a  book they published to teach myself how to preserve food 9 years ago and haven't looked back.  (I also really love their slogan:  "Because you can!")

***In case you don't read the comments, my friend  Carolyn (and giver of the apples I used in this recipe) offered these helpful tips:  When using the crockpot, you should prop the lid open using a wooden spoon or something. It takes about 12-14 hours that way.   A 500 ml jar is about a pint (2 cups).

I swirled a spoonful of this butter into my oatmeal this morning with a dollop of vanilla-flavoured greek yogurt and had one of the best breakfasts I have had in a very long time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Here is my menu plan for the week, in no particular order

Healthy Breaded Shrimp with warm vegetable salad
Meatloaf with Feta Apple Salad (and probably mac and cheese for the rest of the family too)
Steak Sandwiches with vegetables and dip
Slow cooker Pizza Chicken with garlic toast
Big pan of nachos for the family, taco salad for me

*if you are just joining us, Buffet is my code word for laying out the leftovers on the counter and letting everyone choose what they want.*

Monday, June 27, 2011


"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." -- John Bingham 

I am back on the Couch to 5K plan.  I missed running.  I found out that over a winter of back to back illnesses I lost my conditioning and didn't know how to run without triggering my asthma.  I am now on week 3 of this program and am feeling good.  I have an app for my phone so I just chug along until the little bell dings in my ear so I don't even have to watch a clock, which is great.  I can zone out and just go.

I have also added in a boot camp-style training program to build up some muscles.  It is a hard three-day-a-week program that goes on for six weeks, so some weeks I drop my third weekly run and only manage to get two in.

For me, managing a workout program involves walking the tightrope of pushing myself hard enough to see results, but not too hard to trigger an asthma attack.  I also have to leave enough in my tank to carry groceries and laundry during the rest of the day.  (A great reason to do my workout first thing in the morning:  the rest of my day keeps me moving enough that I can "actively recover" and not be too sore the next day)

I am not getting on the scale.  I am watching my biceps blossom and my legs get sculpted.  I find I crave healthy food when I am active so I am letting my body tell me what to eat.

I think it's working.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Menu Plan Tuesday: Summer Food!

The temperatures are climbing here.  The sun has shown it's face a few times.  Here is my summery meal plan this week:

Taco Pasta Salad (I cooked the onions with the beef and added black beans and corn.  It was a hit)
Grilled Italian Sausages with Panzanella salad.
Marmalade-soy marinated chicken wings with rice?  mashed potatoes?
Crab quiche
Broccoli beef stir fry

Monday, March 28, 2011

I have a lot of talents....

....Pastry is not one of them.  Today I decided I wanted to try a recipe for home made Pop Tarts I had been eyeing up for quite some time.

Suzanne McMinn
Deb Perelman

make it look so easy and delicious.  They fooled me into thinking I could strike a truce with Pastry.  Pastry and I have never gotten along.  I cannot roll a pie crust out in one piece to save my life.  I usually leave it up to the experts:  Grandma Jean and Richard.  Maybe I am a bit crazed because Spring Break has started and it is still cold and snowy outside and the thought of having the kids home with me for the week has me panicked.  Maybe I still haven't recovered my marbles from losing them to sleep deprivation at the Sparks sleepover this past weekend.

I chose Deb's recipe and dove in.  I could get the dough rolled out (with many breaks outside to let it firm up while rolling) but when it came time to transfer my little squares (measured with a RULER, people!!!) they folded up and got all mushy.  I quickly lost patience with all of this.  I decided to make mini pop tarts and tried to put a dab of filling at one end and then fold the pastry over, pirogi-style.  (Pirogi dough and I are not best friends either, for the record)  The dough didn't co-operate.  After fiddling with this for a the first few squares, I gave up and decided that free-form jam tarts were the order of the day.  I smooshed the uncooperative dough into a circle, put a dab of filling in the center and then smooshed the edges in.  They sure aren't pretty but the kids don't care.  I am quite disappointed.  I probably overworked the dough or something, but the pastry is crumbly and turns to mush in my mouth.  It is too salty.

I am not going to make these again.

PS:  Please click the links I provided at the beginning of the post to find out what my culinary creations were supposed to look like.

Before baking
They don't look much better after!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Here we are again, another Monday, another Meal Plan. I chose two tried and true cookbooks from my expansive collection this week, plus took one recipe from the new Kraft magazine that was sitting in my mailbox this morning.  The books used are:  Taste of Home New Slow Cooker: The Best Recipes for Today's One Pot Meals and Looneyspoons by Janet and Greta Podleski

Slow cooker Hamburger vegetable soup with biscuits
Sausage pepper sandwiches
Mandarin orange chicken (or maybe lemon dill chicken...I have the ingredients for both in my pantry)
Weenies and Beenies from the Looneyspoons cookbook
Tuna topped baked potatoes
Garlic and herb linguine

As always, these recipes are in no particular order.  We are having the hamburger soup tonight since Monday is almost always a slow-cooker day because of our tight schedule around dinner time. 

Breakfasts this week are oatmeal, toast, muffins, or eggs.  I decided last week to stop buying cereal for breakfast because two of the kids will only eat half of their serving, no matter what the serving size.  I was literally pouring money down the drain every morning since cereal is so expensive!  As much as I am loathe to buy it, Charlotte is loving instant oatmeal right now and there was a good sale at the grocery store this weekend so that is what she is eating.

Lunches are a combination of dinner leftovers, mac and cheese, sandwiches and soup, and giant salads for me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I know this is terrifically boring blogging, but I am finding it nice to have all of my weekly menus in one spot.  So, in no particular order, here is what is for dinner this week in the Knitwit House:

 Vegetable Stew over Mashed Potatoes (I am sure the kids will hate this, but a girl has to try)
Beef Burrito Skillet*
Asian Beef with Baby Bok Choy
Capn' Crunch Chicken Fingers and Butternut squash fries **
Baked Chicken Penne 

* To make up for the veggie stew and baby bok choy
** Do you think the kids will notice they are eating squash if they chicken coated in Capn' Crunch to distract them??

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Menu Plan Saturday

I woke up this morning and looked at the half carton of milk we had in the fridge and realized I would have to go to the store today.  After a cup (or three) of coffee I suddenly remembered the long weekend we are at the start of.  That meant I probably needed to get more than just milk today.

I hate buying groceries on a Saturday more than you could know.  Added to my stress was the fact that the grocery store I shop most often at is under renovations so every trip there is like a scavenger hunt where they keep moving the clues around on you every time you go.  I sucked it up.  I put on my big girl panties and trekked out since I knew the "nice" grocery store in town would cost me a lot more money.  Richard stayed home with the kids so that made things a bit easier.  I also spent enough to get the "free" gift this week which was a nice bonus.  (Who doesn't need an extra 30 rolls of toilet paper?  OK, maybe households with fewer people than mine, but really.  Our toilet paper consumption is crazy)

Anyway, this is a long story for a short menu plan!

Here goes:
Saturday:  Buffet**
Sunday:  Oven fried cod fillets and potatoes of some sort
Monday:  Sausage stuffed spaghetti squash
Tuesday:  Lemon Chicken and rice
Wednesday:  Pasta fagioli soup
Thursday:  Hamburgers and Sweet potato fries
Friday:  Who knows?  It's my birthday and I am not cooking!  (OK, it might be buffet for the kids and husband, sushi with the girls for me)

**Buffet is code for leftovers in my house

Friday, February 18, 2011

Toffee Apple Oatmeal cookies

I whipped these up today.  I adapted another oatmeal and cereal cookie recipe to fit what I had in my cupboard.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature
2 cups unpacked brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
1 cup toffee chips (like Skor chips)

Preheat oven to 350 F, line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together fats and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Mix flour with baking soda and salt.  Blend into sugar mixture.  Stir in oats.  Carefully stir in cereal and toffee chips (you don't want to break the cereal up too much)

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on racks and devour with a big glass of milk, hot tea or coffee.

Yield:  approx 3 - 4 dozen cookies

**I am going to try adding chopped dried apples to my next batch to get even more apple flavour into the cookies**

Monday, January 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Hello again!  This menu is brought to you by Hub's freakout over our recent credit card bills.  I am not saying these meals are especially budget-friendly, but I am saying that this week I have to make my shopping list and stick to it.  There have been too many impulsive trips to the grocery store lately.  As we all know, a "quick stop for milk" can sometimes end up turning into several bags of unplanned things.  I am going to try very hard to make my list and stick with it.

Chicken soup with dumplings and brownies for dessert
Hamburgers with raw veggies on the side
Tuna Noodle casserole
Beef stir fry with brown rice
Spaghetti and sauce
Hawaiian-style slow cooked ribs

If you need some more ideas to spruce up your family meals check out some other Menu Plan Monday posts at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Check in Wednesday.

Hello everybody!  So, let's just get the bad news out of the way:  I am up two pounds this week, which cancels out my entire loss so far.  It is a good thing I am not using this challenge to lose weight as much as I am using it to get me into a regular workout routine.  That, I did fantastically on.

So, yes.  There was a birthday party this week.  There was some unauthorized snacking.  I am not going to let that get me down because this weekend I worked out for an hour (30 min Power Sculpt DVD + 2 mile run on the treadmill),  and then a friend called and invited my family to go sledding with hers.  My legs were already sore and tired but I said yes anyway.  Taking three kids sledding for an hour is hard work!!  So, I feel like that was a triumph in and of itself.  I was sore for the next two days, but I only took one off from my workouts and got back on the treadmill even though I didn't really want to.  That is why I am doing this.  To make my body strong and healthy so I can take my kids sledding, even after I have worked out.

Here are my stats:
Starting Weight:       159.6
Last week's weight:  157.8
Today's weight:        160.0
Gain:                         +2.2
Total Gain:               +0.4

Weekly Accumulated Miles:  7.27 plus 30 min strength training (according to Run Like a Mother 10 min cross training = 1 mile so you could say I "ran" 10.27 miles this week)

I am so proud of myself for finally learning to fit exercise into my day (that almost always means stepping away from the computer).  It is so easy for me to talk myself out of getting on the treadmill, but then once I tell myself "just 15 minutes"  after 35 I am kicking myself because I feel so good.  Why do I always try to sabotage that???  And dude, I ran one mile farther than I did last week!  The 10K I have my eye on this spring is feeling like it could happen.

How was your week??

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Check in Wednesday

 Is it Wednesday already?  I had another good week.  I am getting over my chest cold so I got a couple of good runs in.  I am drinking my water and getting back into the habit of having a big salad for lunch. 

I think in addition to the obligatory weigh in I am also going to record my weekly miles here as well.  I keep track at a website called RunKeeper, and it is very motivating to see the miles pile up under my shoes. 

All right, here are my stats for this week:

Starting weight:         159.6

Last Week's weight: 159.0
This Week's Weight  157.8
Loss                             1.2
Total Loss:                    1.8

Accumulated Weekly Miles:  6.31

 How was your week?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Running with the Sisters.

Yesterday I was supposed to run a Virtual 5K with the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans.  My body had other ideas.  Starting around Jan 1 I came down with the sniffles.  The sniffles got worse and worse and started moving into my chest.  I pushed through my workouts, being careful not to irritate my exercise-induced asthma.  By this past Thursday I was coughing hard.  I barked like a seal all night on Friday, finally giving in to some cold meds so I could get some sleep.  This didn't leave me feeling very strong yesterday (heck, standing up in the shower made me a bit dizzy because I was so tired)  I rested yesterday and took my Vitamin D and C.  I actually had a good sleep last night and didn't cough.  So, today, to show my support for The Sisterhood who has been with me through all of my ups and downs, I got on my treadmill and did 3.52 miles (5.66K) with a little help from my embarrassing play list (Weird Al and Hanson, anyone?) and my salbutamol inhaler.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was also quite inspired by Jim Carrey's recent apperance on the Jimmy Fallon show, where he did his entire interview from a treadmill.
I am SO bummed I couldn't run with everyone else yesterday, but today I stopped the pity party, laced up my shoes and just kept on going.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Check in Wednesday.

Hello everyone!

Today is check in day.  My first week back on the wagon has gone pretty well.  I stuck to my commitment of not snacking pretty well--I fell off the wagon twice, but one night I was SO hungry my stomach was growling.  I reached for a bowl of cereal with milk while my husband plowed through a box of chocolate covered cherries.  Not too shabby!  I have exercised three times, twice on the treamill (named Jillian) and once with a DVD.  I still need to increase my water intake, though.

Here are my numbers:

Last week's weight:  159.6
This week's weight:  159.0
Loss:                            0.6

It is nice to be in a downward-facing trajectory, even if I don't have a weight loss goal in mind.  I am coming down with some sniffles so I am finding it all-to easy to talk myself out of working out today.  I think that pushing the rug shampooer around my boy's room for 45 minutes (after moving all of the furniture out BY MYSELF) will count as today's workout.  I sure worked up a sweat doing it!