Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mid-week Meal Must Try: Gourmet Steak Sandwiches

I love these sandwiches for dinner! They are easy, healthy, and absolutely delicious. The best thing is you can have them as basic or as fancy as you wish. Its also economical as you only need thin minute steaks which can be very inexpensive. Serve with a salad and you have a complete meal. This should make about 4 large sandwiches. Normally I only make the sandwiches for my hubby and I and because they are too big for a toddler to handle. For my daughter I take a few steak slices, cut them up into small pieces, and serve them to her with a plate of veggies.

3 Large minute steaks (inexpensive thin cuts of steak)
1 small Onion, thin slices
BBQ Sauce (your favourite kind)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup water
Long crusty buns or baguette

1. Melt butter in pan.

2. Slice steaks into thin slices. Add the salt and pepper to steak at this point

3. Add steak slices into the pan with the melted butter. Fry steak until brown on both sides (5 minutes at most).

4. Once steak is almost brown (approx. 3 minutes), add a handful of onions slices (keep some of your sliced onions for later to top sandwich).

5. Once steak is ready and onions have softened a bit, remove meat and onions from pan.

6. There should now be the remaining juices in the pan from the steak. Add 1/2 a cup of water to pan and bring mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. This will create a light gravy that can be used as a dip with the sandwich.

Place generous servings of steak on long crusty buns or baguette. Top with fried onions, raw onion slices, melted swiss cheese, BBQ sauce, or any other topping you like. Place the gravy in individual bowls and dip your sandwich in between bites.


Till next time,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mid-week Meal Must Try: Tex-Mex Chicken & Rice

This is an easy way to add some spice and flavour to a boring chicken dinner.

4 Chicken breast (bone-on or boneless)
3 Cups of your favourite salsa
4 Cups of cooked rice

Once you have cooked your chicken, cut into bite-size chunks. Heat salsa in large pot until simmering and add chicken chunks and cooked rice. Spoon into bowls and enjoy. I usually put a small bowl of Tortilla Chips on the table so every one can dip a few chips into the salsa that is left after the rice and chicken are gone :)


Till next time,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Avoid The Malls: and still shop for gifts

You may think I am nuts, but really it can be done, gifts can be bought at reasonable prices at the following places: online stores even in the month of December(most can usually deliver in stock items before Christmas right up until a week before the holiday), drug stores, and grocery stores. These stops help avoid the nightmare of overcrowded shopping malls, parking lots that resemble rush hour traffic during a blizzard (even on the sunniest of days), and the complete meltdowns our kids are known for when they are overtired, board, and hungry!

One of my favourite online shopping sites is . Sears Canada makes it easy to return items if necessary by being able to return items to actual stores, avoiding the cost of shipping and the hassle of repackaging to send returns back to the company.

Drug stores are a great stop because they have one stop shopping for all your needs. While you pick up a Prescription, you can also get chocolates and cookies. But if you go to a larger location, the variety and selection increase dramatically. I go to one that can rival any Wal-Mart or Target. The items vary from electronics to books; to high end cosmetics, skincare products, and toys! As a teenager I always would get my mother her favourite perfume from the drugstore because it was the only place I could afford it, the big department store counters never discounted it.

I have noticed that even grocery stores are starting to get into the gift selling business. Since everyone needs to stop there at some point or another during the holiday season; why not pick up a a set of wine glasses, a gift card to a local restaurant chain, or a beauty gift basket. Yes, I can get all three items at my local grocery store. Some of the larger chains even sell home decor and clothes! I read in the newspaper the other day that Loblaws, a major grocery chain here in Canada, has the most popular line of clothing in the country, Joe Fresh. And I can see why, its fashionable, inexpensive, and good quality. Right there is a chance to pick up your weekly groceries and a sweater for all those on your list.

But wherever you buy your gifts remember ... it really is about the thought behind it, not the cost!

Till next time,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-week Meal Must Try: Tomato Sauce From Scratch

This is a simple way to make Tomato Sauce from scratch. The longer you let it cook the better it gets; I like to make it around 1 or 2 after the kids and I have returned from the park and they are down for their naps. Let it cook until about 6pm; but when I feed the toddler at 4:30 its already very tasty!

I large can of whole tomatoes
1 can of Tomato Paste
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup of water
Pinch of pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Pour enough Olive Oil to cover bottom of medium size pot.

2. Once oil is hot add chopped onion, lower heat. Cook onions until soft and translucent. This takes about 2 - 3 minutes.

3. Add Italian Seasoning and tomato paste, stir for 1 minute to let paste cook.

4. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

5. Add water and stir. (If you wish to serve the sauce in less than 2 hours use only a 1/2 cup of water)

6. Bring sauce to a boil, cover pot, lower heat to lowest setting on stove, and leave to cook until you are ready to serve.

You can easily add meat to the sauce by browning mince meat or chopping up sausages. Add cooked meat to sauce at the same time you add the tomatoes. Pour sauce over your favourite noodles and serve with a fresh garden salad and crunchy bread.


Till next time,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mid-week Meal Must Try: Sloppy Joe Wraps

I am going to start posting some easy and healthy meal ideas that you can try when you want to serve something different for dinner. I have come up with most of these ideas by taking a fast food meal my family likes and I coming up with a homemade version that I can easily cook from scratch. It saves money and I am able to maintain taste while at the same time adding a few fresh ingredients.

Today's recipe saves the mess and grease that you normally can associate with Sloppy Joes. I made this for the first time last year and it is now a popular dinner that my Hubby will request when I plan our weekly menu. Why did I use a wrap ... I ran out of buns one night and all we had left were wraps ... :)

1lb lean mincemeat
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup Water
1 teaspoon Worchester Sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Brown beef in pan on high heat. Drain excess fat before adding any other ingredients.

2. Once beef is cooked add chopped onion, lower heat. Cook onions until soft and translucent. This takes about 2 - 3 minutes.

3. Once onions are soft add water, ketchup, Worchester sauce, and salt and pepper to beef in pan. Mix together and raise heat to let mixture simmer for 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

4. After simmering turn heat low and let sit for another 5 to 10 minutes allowing sauce to thicken.

5. Take your choice of flat bread and fill with beef filling. Top with your favourite burger toppings and close wrap.

Our family likes lettuce, onions, and a bit of ketchup on ours :)

Can fill aprox. 6, 10" tortilla wraps.


Till next time,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Meal Out: our adventures with kids continues

Is it possible to go out and eat at an actual restaurant with a 2 year old and 7 month old (and I'm not talking fast food chains here),the answer is YES. Just make sure you take a few precautions and as I found out yesterday; Hubby and I can actually eat out with the kids and enjoy!

Of course you want to go to an eatery that is family friendly but it also helps if you go in off-peak times. We like going around 2:30-3:00pm. You get there in between the lunch and dinner rushes so if the kids are a little loud, there are fewer people for you to worry about disturbing.

It is also a good idea to make sure you go when kids have just had a nap. Its never fun to try and eat when tired little ones are making it known that they are sleepy and your main course has yet to arrive at the table.

One last tip, never feel you need to order toddlers a meal. The kiddy menu in many restaurants are geared more toward a school age appetite, so unless your preschooler is really hungry, they may never be able to finish what is on the plate. My DD usually gets a sampling of what everyone else is having and she seems to really enjoy the variety.

The days of slow leisurly meals may be on hold for now, but nothing beats an occasional meal out (one that I DO NOT HAVE TO COOK)!

Till next time,

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Want To Make A Difference

As Christmas gets closer I feel a tinge of stress and excitement. For the second time in 3 years I get to celebrate a baby's first Christmas and at the same time this will be the first Christmas my 2 year old will really be aware of what is going on.

I am stressed over trying to make it perfect for the kids while not increasing my family's debt load, a problem most mom's will face this season.

I know how fun it will be to see my little girl's face when she sees the tree for the first time on Christmas morning and the awe in my son's eyes when his 8 months of wisdom try to figure out what all the excitement is about. Even if I think that there is not as much under that tree as I wish there could be, I try to remind myself about the purpose of the holiday, which can be pretty hard when walking through the stores at this time of year! Yet I know my kids will be happy with the fact that there are gifts of any sort, as they are not at the stage of expecting certain things and in certain quantities.

However, I did have things put in perspective the other day when I received a Christmas catalogue, not from a retail outlet, but from a charity. The gifts included livestock, food, medication, and other necessities of life. The organization, Chalice, is a Canadian Catholic organization that provided live changing items to people in developing countries. No matter what your budget (there are items for as little as $10, one even $5) you can make a purchase that will help improve the life of a child, family, or community.

The first thing I did when looking through this catalogue was what most do, wish I could help then move on to whatever else I was busy doing at that moment; then I picked it up again to recycle it but I stopped. I looked at it and saw that there were items I could actually afford to donate (and I am on a very small budget), I spoke to my hubby that night and we decided to purchase a couple of items in the name of some family members for Christmas. We want to make a difference in whatever way we can, instead of buying another mug for someone who has a hundred already or a box of chocolate for someone who doesn't eat candy, the recipient of the card knows that their gift (made in their name) is going to make a difference.

After checking out the website I thought to myself ... how can I worry about how many gifts I can buy ... when I should be so thankful that I can get gifts for them. I am so thankful that I am not worried that my kids will contract Malaria while they sleep tonight. I am so thankful that I can pour my daughter a glass of water and know that it is not contaminated. I am so thankful that my big baby can drink all the formula he needs to satisfy his big appetite.

So if you are getting stressed over the holiday season do a quick Google search for charities that you may be able to help out this holiday season. Whether you can donate money, items, or even some of your time through volunteering; you'll remember what is really important in life!

Until next time,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creating Memories: Baby's First Halloween

Pictures, albums and home video may be the only way children ever know they even participated in trick or treating as a baby. Who are we kidding? We all know the fun of baby’s first Halloween or two is more for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Here are some suggestions for saving money on baby’s first trick or treat experience as well as safety tips to make the night as fun as it can be.

Be Frugal with Baby’s First Halloween Costume

The first Halloween costume should be special, but that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank? Before you go crazy spending out of your budget for a Halloween outfit for baby, try networking with other parents. Many parents save their own children’s first costumes. They may be open to swapping costumes with you or willing to sell their little one’s old costume at a minimal cost. If this isn’t an option for you and you find you need to purchase your baby’s costume, there are lots of children’s thrift stores and boutiques that carry precious Halloween outfits in the month of October. Another option for sure baby’s first costume is to check eBay.

Safety Tips to Keep Baby’s Safe and Sound

• Pass On Inhibiting Costume Items

Babies do not like to wear masks and most will fight and cry in discomfort if you put them in costumes that restrict their movements.

• Avoid Scary Masks and Costumes

Don’t be surprised if older babies are frightened by other people’s masks and costumes as well. This is not a time to instill fear into your baby. Sometimes adults and older children find it funny to show babies "the ropes" without realizing they can inadvertently scare infants.

• Keep Weather Conditions in Mind

When choosing your costume, keep in mind what your weather will most likely be that time of year. Don’t over or undress baby.

• Give Family & Friends a Call Ahead Before Visiting

You have special people in your life that you’ll want to share baby’s first Halloween with. A phone call ahead to these people to be sure they are going to be home will help ensure that pictures (or videos) of baby with this special someone can be taken. Try and make your plans up to a week ahead. You don’t want to be disappointed later when trying to scrapbook your child’s first trick or treat experience and someone is missing.

Celebrate Baby’s First Halloween Again and Again

Just like every other first for your little one, you’ll want to keep record of his or her first Halloween with pictures, video and other keepsake items. One way you can do this is by creating a scrapbook that will preserve these items for years to come. Get creative in how you layout your album. Don’t be afraid to take pictures with props that symbolize the holiday and the season. Hay bails and pumpkins are just a few ideas; you can also check with your local craft store for other embellishments such as stamps, stencils and more.

Memories are something we all have. With some extra care and planning, Halloween and your baby’s first trick or treat experience can be most memorable for everyone involved. Who knows, that adorable first Halloween costume might find its way into the senior year book later.

No matter what costume you choose or how you remember the day, keep the tips and suggestions above in mind for a safe, happy and fun Halloween.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breakfast Isn't Just For Kids

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, many of us neglect breakfast, just because we stay at home with your kids doesn't mean we have time (or at least we don't think we have time) to eat breakfast. And there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that your body and mind will suffer unless you have a healthy breakfast each morning. You spend six to eight hours sleeping (or at least trying to sleep). After that time, your body needs fuel to keep going.

If you are the type to skip breakfast, here is a solution to starting the day with a good breakfast which will help you keep hunger in check as well as give you the natural energy boost to start your day.

1. Oatmeal – This food makes a good hot meal that contains lots of filling fibre to keep you from getting hungry later on in the morning. Depending on your taste, you can take five minutes to fix it on the stove or use the microwave for instant oatmeal.

2. Fruit smoothies – These are good any morning but particularly on a hot day. You’ll have to blend the ingredients together in the morning, but the prep work can be done at night. Cube your fruit and place it into a container. Instead of frozen yoghurt in the morning, use a cup of plain yoghurt. Add ice cubes, a little water and blend.

3. Egg sandwich – The eggs can be cooked the night before and placed in a sealed container. In the morning, warm up the eggs in the microwave. If you want, add some chopped veggies or shredded cheese. Serve on toasted wheat bread.

4. Yoghurt with granola and fruit – Some people like to eat yoghurt. But, yoghurt by itself won’t keep you from being hungry. Add some granola and a few blueberries to the mix. This makes a great breakfast idea for those mornings when you are running late. Keep small bags of granola and blueberries in the fridge next to the yoghurt so you can grab them and run.

Are you fighting the breakfast battle? To get a filling meal you don’t have to opt for too much fat, calories or carbs. These quick and easy breakfast ideas can be made within minutes and are a much healthier alternative to skipping breakfast or grabbing a high fat alternative.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Family Time Without Breaking The Budget

The time we spend with our families is priceless, unfortunately most popular family activities do have prices (high ones at that). A trip to the movies can put a serious dent in your budget by the time you buy tickets, popcorn and drinks for everyone, a dent the at many can no longer afford.
Fortunately, there are ways you can go out and spend time as a family and pay almost nothing, or even nothing at all.

Movies and Music:

Kids are often itching to see the newest releases at the movie theatre. One alternative in some areas is the drive-in. Admission is usually much cheaper than it is at a regular theatre and some let you bring your own drinks and snacks. Drive-ins usually show fairly new releases so you can see something before it comes to DVD.

Some theatres offer reduced-price matinees during the day. Some even have free kid-oriented movies on weekend days. These options offer the theatre experience without the outrageous cost.

Kids often want to go to concerts, but tickets to see the most famous bands are far from cheap. Check your local paper for free concerts in the park. Many areas have them during the warm months. Young children can enjoy the music without the huge crowds and deafening sound systems and older children might gain an appreciation for less well-known bands.

The Great Outdoors:

Nature offers a wealth of possibilities for family outings. Camping is a wonderful activity for families, and it doesn't have to be expensive. It can be as simple as pitching a tent in the back yard, or you can spring for a camper and rent space at a campground. Bring the grill and some hamburgers or hot dogs, or catch some fish to fry.

Parks are great for day trips. Those with playground equipment can keep youngsters entertained for hours on end. Hiking trails offer opportunities for exercise and exploration. Most parks have picnic facilities, so you can pack a lunch instead of eating out.
Other Ideas

Here are some more inexpensive family activities to consider:

* Play miniature golf. Admission is usually quite reasonable, and it provides the opportunity for relaxed yet engaging family competition.

* Visit a petting zoo. These small zoos do not have the exotic animals you see at larger ones, but kids can feed and pet the animals.

* Go to a museum. Some offer cheap or free admission, while others cost more. But the larger and more expensive ones often sell season passes, so if you live close by, you can visit numerous times for one low price. Some even have one day or evening a week were the admission price is waived.

* Go boating. If you're fortunate enough to live near a body of water, boating is fun and relaxing. Canoe and paddleboat rentals are inexpensive, and when you're done boating there are usually other cheap or free activities in the area.

* Attend events at a nearby college. These may include plays, concerts, dance recitals and movie showings. Prices are low, and student discounts usually apply to kids, too.

Having fun as a family doesn't require a six-figure income. If you look hard enough, you can find lots of free or cheap activities that parents and kids can enjoy just about anywhere.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tantrams: How To Deal

Parents get scared when they hear stories about the "terrible twos." Take courage, though, you will survive the toddler stage. It’s not easy to understand why your toddler has a tantrum but at such a young age, a child is consumed with thoughts of themselves. Everything is about them and how they feel. Until they are taught how to share, every toy or piece of food they see automatically belongs to them.

Toddler temper tantrums can have a variety of effects. Your first thought might be that everyone is focused on you and your screaming child, but getting embarrassed won’t diffuse the situation. Besides, as a parent, you have many more years of embarrassing situations to look forward to courtesy of your children. So worrying about what others think during this situation is simply going to stress you and make you feel worse.

Here are a few tips to help you cope during tantrums:

1. Ignore the tantrum. This technique works best when at home. In public places, you don’t want to ever leave your child unattended as a form of punishment. Good behavior in public begins at home. Ignoring a toddler is not harsh. If your child is squirming on the floor screaming for a cookie, continue to talk to them as if you never noticed. Eventually, they will get the hint and stop screaming.

2. Avoid instant gratification. In public, toddlers throw tantrums when they are denied something that they want. Some parents give in to keep their child quiet but a child learns quickly. Tantrums will continue if they know you will cave. Simply tell them "no" and keep moving.

3. Don’t get angry. When you scream and they scream the situation is wildly out of control. You’ll end up crying and your toddler will still be screaming. In any situation, raised voices mean civilized conversation has ended in favor of basic primal instincts. Don’t revert back to the days of early man. Keep using the same calm voice you use when they are behaving to get your child to calm down as well.

4. Praise your toddler when they behave well. Positive reinforcement is better than negative. In the absence of positive attention a child will behave badly just to get some attention at all. Acting out and throwing tantrums may be a cry for attention. Don’t let it get to this point. Clap and celebrate when they go to the potty successfully and when they put away their toys. Good manners such as saying "please" and "thank you" deserve a smile and a hand clap as well.

5. Run errands after nap time. Kids get punchy when they get tired. A toddler misbehaves more often if they are dragged around when they are tired.

6. Carry snacks with you. Low blood sugar can lead to tantrums. If you are out longer than anticipated and lunch or dinner time is close at hand, let them eat a healthy snack to keep their hunger pains at bay and sugar levels stable.

7. Be consistent in your punishment. At home, you might use "time out" to deal with a tantrum for bad behavior. In public do the same. Sit your child on a bench for five minutes or take them to the car. Eventually they will learn that you are not a pushover and they will begin to behave.
You will survive the toddler years.

Nip temper tantrums in the bud with the above tips.

Until next time,

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Name is Jen and I am a SAHM

I have been a SAHM (Stay at home mom) for over 2 years and I love it! Right from the start I always knew that once I had kids I would stay home with them no matter what (although it is a lot harder than I could have ever imagined). When I was pregnant with baby number one I began to worry that it would not be possible but by the time my mat leave was up things just fell into place. I picked up a few hours on the weekend at a local retail outlet and that was that! Thankfully it worked out so well because number 2 decided he wanted a much earlier appearance than the 3 to 5 year gap DH and I were planning. He decided to make his presence know when #1 was approaching her 1st birthday. I was so glad that I did not have to return to work as I could just imagine the groans I would hear (even if just under there breath) that I would only be back for another few months. 21 months after the birth of baby #1, I was now a mommy of two. When I brought him home I felt that my family was now complete and that my job as a SAHM was only now REALLY just beginning! There is nothing like the first time you are explaining to your toddler why (for the hundredth time) she cannot really eat her homemade mud pies and while doing so you call her by the name of #2! I blamed that slip up on lack of sleep (a good excuse for many things) :)

While we all love our kids, we are human and the kids are going to get on our nerves at times. But remember its like in any workplace when you are in close quarters with people for 8 hours a day (and you are with yours on average 24 hours a day) people need to have space or they get sick of each other ... at least you love your kids, some co-workers you don't even like. If you are feeling overwhelmed just take a few minutes ... make it a habit everyday. Many articles I read say to really let go you need to leave your house without the kids but I know that this is not always possible, especially not every single day. Here is a list of what I do, it may help you:
  • read for a while each night after the kids go to bed (naps count too)
  • relax in a bath and leave your kids in the watch of hubby or another adult
  • take a few minutes to reconnect with friends via sites like Facebook
  • take up a hobby that can be picked up in short time spans (knitting, writing, sketching, sewing, ect, ect)
  • just chill in front of the TV for awhile ... housework can wait ... and you won't mind doing it if you have given yourself a break

Until next time,