Friday, January 9, 2015

Quick friday night supper

So the first week back to school has been rough. Mostly its been tough getting back into that routine. The super cold temperatures hasn't help either. Getting out of bed in the morning has been challenging to say the least. And Ollie has a 8:30am soccer game tomorrow morning so no sleeping in tomorrow morning. Bummer.

But its friday and we were looking so forward to the end of this long, cold week. But at the end of a long, cold week I didn't feel like over exerting myself in the kitchen. In fact I felt like doing the bare minimum but as always we wanted to eat good healthy food.

Pasta is always a huge hit with the girls. Always! In fact they would eat pasta every day if they could. What can I say - the apples don't fall far from the tree. Pasta is a top 5 favourite food for me too. Pasta is also quick and easy to prepare and tonight quick and easy fit the bill. But with a few pantry items you can have an awesome supper on the table in no time with very little effort.

First up the pasta....

I usually shop at the Italian Centre for my pasta, olive oil, crushed tomatoes, etc.They have a great selection of high quality ingredients at a good price. The kids get super excited over different shaped pastas and this spelt ditali is a crowd pleaser in this house. Cooks in about 10 minutes and taste great.

But of course great pasta needs a great sauce. And I've certainly used a jarred sauce from time to time but our favourite sauce is so simple to make its rare we have to open a jarred sauce.

Behold the ingredients to a simple tomato sauce that tastes fantastic! Tomatoes are of course the main ingredient so you need great tasting tomatoes and really you can't get better than Pomito tomatoes (unless its July/August and you have your own roma tomato plant). These tomatoes taste so fabulous you could eat them out of the box - no joke! Also in my last post I mentioned that BPA is a big deal at this house. We really try to stay away from canned items, especially tomatoes. These tomatoes are in a carton and are BPA free! No salt or sugar either - just 100% italian tomatoes. Add them to a pot with 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic that are cut in half only. You let the large pieces of garlic simmer in the sauce then you pull them out at the end. I let the sauce simmer for about an hour while I was folding/putting away laundry and doing dishes. At the end I fished out the large pieces of garlic and added some salt (depends on how much you like, a few pinches for me) and a swirl of olive oil (the olive oil really adds a lovely mouth feel to the sauce) and a handful of chopped fresh basil and your done! 

And the finished product.....

Doesn't that look good?! I'm telling you it tasted fantastic, the kids were literally cheering when they came to the table. They are excited to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I served it with a nice big green salad and with really minimal effort we had a really tasty and relaxing supper to end the week.

I had to sneak an extra picture of my salt bowl in - its it pretty! When we were in Langley this summer for a wedding we stopped in the old district near Fort Langley to shop around the little stores and I found this little gem by a local pottery maker. I love the metallic sparkles in the paint. Its perfect for putting my pink himalayan salt in. So easy to reach in a grab a pinch of salt! 

Stay warm everyone and Happy Friday!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Saving money!

Anyone else have a resolution to save more money this year? I know lots of people are kinda down on making New Years resolutions but I always kinda like the idea of making a list of things to focus on for the year. One area of focus this year is cutting back on expenses. I feel that eating well is very important and that what it cost is what it cost and YET....I feel like our spending on groceries is sometimes (many times) excessive. Yes we are will to pay what it cost to eat well for us and our children but I think that with better planning and a little more work we could cut our cost by quite a bit.

So I have a few ideas that I want to put into play this year that I think are going to bring our cost down somewhat. I actually started working on this in the late summer/fall when I wanted to start making as much as possible from scratch. I started with salad dressings. Now I sometimes make a homemade salad dressing but often we would grab 2,3 or 4 bottles out of the fridge when it was dinner time to go with our salad. Now even though our dressing were always vegan I wasn't terribly happy with the ingredient list. It was ok and usually organic but it always seemed to contain a few things I wasn't crazy about. So I picked up some small mason jars, bought the best olive oil and vinegars I could find and then I found 2 or 3 really great vinaigrette recipes and got shaking. And you know what - everyone loved them! And they take about 2-3 minutes to make - measure out your ingredients (vinegar, oil, dijon, salt, pepper, garlic, etc) and put the lid on a give them a good shake for about 30 secs and your in business! A few months after exclusively making our own vinaigrettes we found a bottled on in the fridge and gave it a taste. And you know what - it tasted awful! It fact it didn't taste like much at all - it had no tang, no nothing! We tossed it in the garbage and haven't looked back. The girls really look forward to deciding which vinaigrette we are going to make for our salad. I love when they say things like, " that new vinaigrette recipe is a little tangy but its really good!". Their taste are so much more adventurous than mine were at that age. They are so will to try things, anything really and even if they don't like it they are willing to give it a second try, prepared a different way. I respect that there are things they just don't like (Gabbie doesn't dig onions at the moment and Ollie is seriously wigged out by mushrooms) but they know that their taste will probably change as they get older and so they are always will to try at least a taste of something with an open mind. And if they never like something - well don't we all have something we don't like. I discovered that I hate parsnips. I know - hate is a strong word but in this particular instant its not nearly strong enough!

So back to the saving money - we are saving money on vinaigrettes for sure ( as well as having a superior salad dressing both in quality and taste!) but another area I wanted to cut back on was beans. Not eating them - buying them. I always buy the Eden Organic brand of beans because they use a bpa free lining in their cans and bpa is an issue that we take pretty seriously. But you guys - a small can of Eden Organic beans at my local grocery store is $4.29 a can! Not for a case - per can! If I make tamari roasted chickpeas my kids can eat a cans worth in about 3 minutes flat. If i make them for supper for all of us (to go along with whatever else we are having) I have to make 3 cans worth. And thats just for supper. If I make a quinoa, mango and black beans salad, a pot of monkey minestrone, some white bean and garlic dip/spread, hummus - thats a lot of cans of beans in a week. We eat a lot of beans and lentils and I love that but at $4.29 a can - its just not affordable anymore.

Enter this.....

Meet my Instant Pot!You guys this machine is awesome and such a money saver! I got it on for $99 and I'm serious when I say it paid for itself in a month. The other day I bought a huge bag of dried local, organic chickpeas for $5.16. I soaked and cooked half the bag and it made 6 cups worth of chickpeas. 1 can of Eden Organics chickpeas is 1 1/2 cups of beans for $4.29. The homemade chickpeas are so cheap to make and so good! No comparison taste wise - they blow canned beans out of the park! I've also made plenty of black beans and pinto beans in it. It usually takes about 40-45 minutes to get the machine up to pressure and cook the beans. Then you can release the pressure manually or let it de-pressurerise itself automatically. I usually let it do its own thing while I'm busy doing other stuff. The beans come out perfect every time. Oh and I almost forgot to mention that the pot or liner in the instant pot is stainless steel - bpa free!

I do still buy a few cans of Eden organics beans when they go on sale (2/$4) to have on hand for an emergency (sometimes we run out of dried beans or dinner plans change on the fly and we need beans like yesterday) but for the most part we are doing our beans from scratch and are super pleased with the results. I can't recommend this machine enough - its well worth the purchase price and I've heard they customer service is fantastic (I haven't had any reason to call them I did read that on reviews on amazon). 

I haven't made and soups in it yet but I will report back when I do.

What are your New Years Resolutions? Anything your focusing on this year?