Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweet Potatoes

How do you feel about sweet potatoes? Do you love them? Hate them? Or just feel indifferent towards them?

I have yet to decide how I feel about sweet potatoes. Back in 2010, when I was pregnant for the first time, I craved sweet potato fries like mad. Which resulted in me eating way too many of them and now when I think of them, I kind of gag/cringe. Sad isn't it? But I do still kind of like sweet potatoes when they are mixed into a recipe and I do buy them on occasion.

Which brings me to the next part. Over a month ago now, I picked up a couple sweet potatoes from the farmers' market. I used probably three small ones with a meal and then promptly forgot about the rest. About a week ago, I noticed that they were starting to look a little sad and shrivelled so I decided that it was time to use them up. Like I've said before, I'm trying to not waste food.

So I pulled out one of my favourite sweet potato recipes. It's a photocopy of a recipe that a coworker brought back from The Royal Winter Fair held in Toronto each year. I guess she had seen a cooking demonstration and this is what they made, handing out recipes at the end.

Honey Mustard Chicken and Sweet Potato Casserole
Serves 4

1 lb. chicken breasts, cubed in 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, cubed in 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp. honey
2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
1 c. peas (or other green vegetable)

Heat oil in a pan. Add cubed chicken and brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. 

Add garlic, sweet potatoes, mustard, honey and 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock to pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add browned chicken, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock with cornstarch and add to pan. Add peas and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice and enjoy!

It's not really a casserole though. More like a one pot meal. We like to double the saucy part so that it isn't quite as dry. Although this time I went a little overboard with the chicken broth and it ended up being a little too liquidy. So we made up some rice to serve it over, which ended up being really tasty and actually stretched the meal! So I will probably be doing that again.

I love the simplicity of this meal. There aren't many ingredients and not many steps. Plus, I love a meal that only dirties one pot! Unless you make rice, then it's two pots.

Overall, I like this meal and I like the sweet potatoes in it. I'm still not a fan of sweet potato fries or a meal that is overpowered by the sweet potato taste, but I can have them on occasion.

So, what's the verdict? Tell me how you feel about these happy little orange vegetables!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family Day Weekend

I realize I'm a little late in this post but oh well. Better late than never, right?

February 18th was Family Day here in Ontario and we had the day off work. We decided to go visit Dan's family for the weekend and I'm so glad we did. We had lots of fun and did some pretty exciting activities.

We went skating on the Sunday afternoon. Which is the first time I've been skating in two years, so I'm really glad we got to do it.

Then on the Monday, we went on a sleigh ride. It brought back memories of sleigh rides as a child, with our big black horse Buster.


Other activities included eating good food, playing Dutch Blitz and Euchre, watching home videos of Dan when he was little and spending some quality time with his parents and younger sister.

We had a good family day weekend with family.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dog Shaming & Goodbye Book

In case you haven't heard of dog shaming before, check out this tumblr site for some laughs and to give you an idea of how popular this actually is. ----> As in, we didn't make it up.

I got home from work on Friday and was met at the door by Dan. Mia was locked in the sunroom and Dan didn't look happy at all. I immediately knew that Mia had done something bad but I wasn't prepared for what it actually was.

Remember back in November when I posted about attending my very first book signing? Remember how excited I was to meet John and Sherry from Young House Love? How excited I was to have a signed book? How we drove 2 hours to get there and then waited 3 hours in line? Remember that book? Let's look back shall we.

So excited to finally have it in my hands
Meeting John and Sherry!
Ah, such good memories. Such a beautiful book it was.
Yes, I said was.

Can you believe she did that? Does she not realize how precious this book was to me? I was so mad.

Excuse the weird face. It's my sad/mad face.
My first reaction was shock. Then anger. Then an overwhelming sadness. This book was one of a kind and had meaning to me. Yes, I can technically replace it but this one was signed by John and Sherry themselves. I had met them, talked to them and they had signed THIS book.

I called my mom and offered her a free black lab, full bag of food included. She said no, so instead I just vented away at how mad I was at Mia. Once some of the anger and sadness faded away, we decided to put a little bit of humour into a crappy situation. We decided to dog shame Mia.

It did make us smile a little bit. Only a little bit though.

I DESTROYED my mom's special book that she had signed by the authors.
- Mia
At least she looks guilty.

Since we're on the subject of ruined books and dog shaming, I'll share the other thing she did at the same time. I guess it was a two for one deal on book shredding.

 Dan and I had just finished making a photo book of our home projects. We had received a $20 gift certificate to MyPublisher so we made up a book and were excited to show it off to friends and family when they stopped by for a visit. We thought it would be nice to have a book of our projects to just flip through instead of wandering around the whole house.

We had it for less than a week.

So we dog shamed her again.

I chewed up a brand new photo book my owners made. :(
And here's a bonus dog shaming. I think we're going to make a habit out of this. :P

I ate two boxes of granola bars and a package of Sidekicks (all while my owner was in the basement).
Sometimes I don't like being a dog owner. Mia has ruined so many things and it makes me so sad to think of them all. But honestly, I think that her destroying my Young House Love book made me the saddest. My heart just sank when I saw it lying there on the table.

Bad dog.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Halfway There

Today is another double post day. Lucky you.

I just have such exciting news that I feel like screaming it from the rooftops. But since I can't literally do that (especially at work), screaming it from my blog will have to do.

I weighed myself this morning. I try and weigh in every Monday morning and each time I do so, I stand on the scales, close my eyes and cross my fingers. Each time I hope that I will have either gone up or at the very least, stayed where I was the previous week.

I am happy to report that as of this morning, I weighed 112lbs.


The other super exciting thing about this new weight of mine, is that it marks the halfway point to my goal. For the past year and a half, I have been stuck at 107lbs. No matter how hard I tried, the scales wouldn't budge. Which means, that since I started this gluten-free diet and new supplement regime, I have gained five whole pounds in three months time.


Yes, all these caps are completely necessary.

This is such an accomplishment for me and I am so so happy. I am almost in tears, that is how relieved I am. Something is actually working and I am feeling good for the first time in so long.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me along this journey, listened to me whine and complain, celebrated each small victory and just been there.

But the biggest thank you of all goes to my amazing husband Dan, who has been there for me every step of the way and who has been such a rock of support. I could not have done this without you. I love you Dan.

In case you don't know my story (I really need to put all my health info in a handy-dandy little tab along the top of the blog), you can read about it here. And if you want to read up a little bit about my weight gain, you can do so here.

"Dates in a Jar"

I know that when I wrote about our Valentine's Day last week, I promised to write up another post on the gift I made for Dan. I think I even said it would be up later that week. Oops. Hopefully you aren't all dying of impatience and will be able to forgive me.

About a year ago, I pinned this idea of making a date jar onto Pinterest. It looked cute and affordable but I never got around to making it. I think that's the way it is with a lot of Pinterest ideas. Well this year, I decided that I would make it for Dan for Valentine's Day.

So I picked up my supplies. Popsicle sticks, paint and some ribbon. I had an extra jar at home, as well as some paint brushes.

I had come up with a list of 35 different date ideas, broken down into categories. So I had to paint 35 popsicle sticks. Which is way more time consuming and tedious than you would think.

I finally finished painting them all and took a break while I got the cramp out of my hand. Dan did see me painting them since I couldn't find any time to do it when he wasn't around, but he had no idea what I could possibly be making. I told him it was a going to be a picture frame. :P

The next step of the project was done when he was gone, since it was a little more obvious as to what I was doing now. I had to write down each date on each stick.

The different colours are for different categories.

White = $$$ and planning

Red = Some $$$ but more spontaneous

Pink = At home or cheap

Once all the sticks were ready, I put them in the jar and tied some ribbons and put a tag on it.

The legend for the different colour categories is on the back of the tag but I forgot to take a picture of it. I gave it to Dan like this, but I might take it back and add some cute paper around the jar. I don't like that he can see the dates ahead of time, it's supposed to be a surprise.

So there you have it, my Valentine's Day gift I made for Dan. We haven't used the jar yet but I'm hoping to in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Financial Stuff Update

So remember back in January when I wrote up this post about budgeting and using cash for groceries? Remember how I told you to stay tuned for more posts on our financial goals and how the cash system is going?

Well here it is! Let's start with some of our financial goals. And when I say financial goals, it's more like where we would like to see our money going over the next couple of months. Also keep in mind that we made up these goals back at the end of January so some of them are already done, hence the reason why some things are crossed off.

It's divided up into a couple different categories: short-term, long-term and things we want to buy/save for.

Short-term Goals
  1. Pay off Mastercard balance
  2. Use cash/envelope system for groceries
  3. Pay off Mastercard regularly (this is an ongoing thing so it can't exactly be crossed off)
  4. Top up emergency fund
  5. Start to tithe more
Long-term Goals
  1. Transition to one income (we are in the process of doing this. February was our first month living off Dan's income and using mine for savings/expenses)
  2. Put extra money towards paying down the mortgage
  3. Put money into savings account to go towards yearly expenses
To Buy/Save For
  1. Furnace installation costs (in garage)
  2. Freezer (scored for $100 cheaper than we originally thought!)
  3. Quarter cow from local farmer (we are in the process of getting this ordered)
  4. Hedge
  5. Split rail fence
  6. Surround sound system
So that is where were are at with our financial goals. I will try and continue to do updates on how we are doing.

As for cash for groceries, I've kind of stopped doing that. It's too much hassle for me to withdraw the cash and make sure I keep all the right amounts all the time. But, I have been doing REALLY well with sticking to my budget each week.

I've been sitting down Friday night or Saturday morning and making up my meal plan and grocery list for the next week. Then I bring a calculator to the store with me and keep track of the prices as I shop. Which definitely helps me from impulse buying.

I'm doing my last grocery shop for the month of February tonight and according to my calculations, I should be under budget! I'm so proud of myself! I will try and do a post focused more on my grocery budgeting next week so that I can let you know how I stuck to it and what works for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simple Pleasures - February

I didn't do a full week of simple pleasures this month. I tried but I missed a chunk of days in there. Oh well, I still found things to take pleasure in and I thought I'd share.

My happy green Pothos plant soaking in the sun
My Valentine from a dear friend Maddie
Pancake Tuesday!
Pumpkin banana loaf (gluten-free)
Pumpkin Muffins (gluten-free)

What small things have you found joy in this past week?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More With Less

Growing up there was one cookbook on my mom's shelf that you could tell was well loved. It was old, tattered, had burner marks on it and was overall falling apart. This cookbook was called More-with-Less. It is a collection of recipes and suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources.

My mom had the original 1976 first edition copy. When I moved out, she gave me my very own copy, a special 25 year anniversary edition.

I added it to a shelf with my other cookbooks and rarely pulled it out. I used a bread recipe from it and that was basically it for the next seven years.

A couple weeks back, I decided to pull it out and try some new recipes. I've been trying to change how we eat and thought that this book would give me some inspiration.

So far I have tried three recipes from it. Easy Curry, Curried Lentils and Honey Baked Lentils. I have enjoyed all three recipes and Dan has heroically eaten them all without complaining. He really doesn't enjoy eating vegetarian meals but he hasn't complained. I appreciate him and his willingness to eat everything I serve him.

Easy Curry
Serves 3-4
Recipe by Marie J. Frantz, North Newton, Kan.

Brown in small amount of fat: 
    1/4-1/2 lb. chicken or other meat (raw or cooked), finely cut.
    2 - 2 1/2 c. water
Chop and add in order according to cooking time needed:
    2 medium carrots
    3 stalks celery
    1 green pepper (I used yellow)
    1/2 medium onion
    1 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. pepper
    1 Tbsp. curry powder (I added more to taste)
Blend together and add:
    1 c. tomato sauce
    1/3 c. milk
    2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Simmer 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sauce is thick and glossy. Stir frequently. Serve over rice, noodles or biscuits. 


All those above pictures are of the Easy Curry meal. I found that it needed more flavour so feel free to add in extra curry or other spices to help bring it up to your desired taste.

Honey Baked Lentils
Serves 8 
Recipe by Joann Smith, Goshen, Ind. and Larry Gingrish, Monmouth, Ore.

Combine in a dutch oven or saucepan:
    1 lb. (2 1/3 c.) lentils
    1 small bay leaf
    5 c. water
    2 tsp. salt
Bring to boil. Cover tightly and reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes. Do not drain. Discard bay leaf.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine separately and add to lentils:
    1 tsp. dry mustard
    1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
    1 Tbsp. soy sauce
    1/2 c. chopped onions
    1 c. water
Cut in 1" pieces:
    4 slices bacon
Stir most of the bacon into lentils and sprinkle remainder on top.
Pour over all:
    1/3 c. honey
Cover tightly.  Bake 1 hour. Uncover last 10 minutes to brown bacon. 
Serve over rice with a side of vegetables.
Note: I halved this recipe since it was obviously going to make way too much for two people. I would also recommend doing the full recipe for the spice section. We found the finished product was a little bland.

So there you have it, my beginning adventures in cooking more with less.

P.S. I have no idea why that text up there is blue. I couldn't change it back for the life of me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Day of Love (A.K.A. Valentine's Day)

We've never really done anything big for Valentine's Day. Over the length of our seven years together, I think we've only ever done one big celebration, and that was in 2010.

Let's take a walk down memory lane now...

2007 - Dinner cooked by Dan and two other guys for their "girls".
2008 - I was living 7 hours away. He drove down for a visit, bringing with him a dozen red roses. I had the vomiting flu.
2009 - Our first one as a married couple. I went all out with decorations, heart shaped pancakes and a gift. Dan didn't do anything. It was a bit of a flop.
2010 - Dan completely made up for the prior year by sending me flowers at work, taking me out to a fancy restaurant and then surprising me with a night at a local hotel. Where he then gave me more presents which included chips, chocolate and a chick flick to watch together.
2011 - I had put myself on bed rest after being sent home from the hospital with a threatened miscarriage. Dan did buy me flowers and make me dinner though.
2012 - I honestly can't remember. I was sick so we most likely just ate in.

Which nicely brings us to this year. Since we're on a tight budget and I have so many food restrictions, we opted to stay in again. Which I prefer anyways, as going out into the hustle and bustle of Valentine's Day isn't really my thing.

So we made supper together which wasn't anything fancy, shepherd's pie. But it was tasty.

I decorated the table like I always do. Although this year we didn't spread candy amongst the paper hearts. With my restrictions and our new goal to eat less sugar, we decided to skip it this year.

I made Dan a fun gift, which I will do a separate post on later this week. You can catch a glimpse of it in the above picture of our table. He made me a cute card. I told him that he didn't need to waste money getting me anything, since I just got a freezer. I'm happy with my freezer.

After supper and dishes, we headed downstairs to curl up by the fire and read together. Later in the evening, we made ourselves some mug brownies, thanks to recipes off Pinterest.

All in all, it was a very nice relaxing Valentine's Day together. I think this might be our new tradition, stay in and enjoy each others company.