Monday, February 24, 2014

A Year in Pictures

Occasionally I blog about my other passion:  Scrapbooking!  My dilemma was that life was getting so busy, that I really haven't had time to indulge my creative scrapping side.  Meanwhile however, photos of all that we do in a year were piling up.  I decided that there had to be a better way for me to create beautiful pages of all these events without taking up a ton of time.

As our main living area is open concept, we have one large wall that sits between our family room and the kitchen.  I have had a variety of plans of what I would like to display on this wall, but nothing seemed to pan out.  I was shopping in Walmart one day and came upon these beautiful frames for only $10 each in the clearance section.  They were the approximate size of a scrapbooking page (12" x 12") once the matting was removed, and there were 12 left.  A plan instantly formed in my mind as I hurriedly loaded these into a cart!

Employing the help of my husband Greg and using his laser to ensure the nails were lined up perfectly, we created 4 rows of 3 frames each.  Then I set to work creating pages!!!  I chose mainly one big event per month and framed it.  Now I have 12 completed pages that cover pretty much all we did in 2013, and have since gone on to create other pages for the months where we had lots of events.

My biggest fear as I was halfway through this endeavor was that the wall would end up looking messy with the explosion of colours and variety of photos all in one space.  However, once they were mounted on the wall, the neutral colour served as a perfect backdrop to highlight all of our family and friends that are featured on these 12 pages.  Everyone enjoys revisiting the past year's events by looking at the pages, and now that we have completed January 2014 and almost February 2014, I am going to replace the two months up on the wall with the current year so this acts as a perpetual calendar!!!

What I love most about this is that we all get to enjoy my scrapbook pages since they aren't shelved away in albums.  When we finish a month, then the page gets taken down and placed into an album for the year, but not without being thoroughly enjoyed first!  The only thing I worry about now is that the pages might fade out with the indirect sunlight...but the benefits far outweigh the negatives in my mind!!

Mexican-Style Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I love my slow cooker and the freedom it affords me to create healthy homemade meals for my family without slaving over a stove for hours!  There's nothing like coming home at the end of a long day to smell the delicious scent of dinner fully cooked and ready to serve.  This is a variation on a traditional beef stew that yielded yummy results.  I served cornbread alongside this dish to sop up the flavourful gravy!!!!

4 carrots, cubed (or 1 small bag of baby carrots)
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 lbs stewing beef, cut into 1" dice
8oz can of tomato sauce
1 pkg dry taco seasoning mix (I used low sodium)
2 cups water
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
  • In the bottom of the slow cooker pot, layer carrots, potatoes, onion, and stewing beef.  Pour the tomato sauce over top.
  • In a large 2 cup measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup water into the cup and stir in the cornstarch.  Stir in the package of taco seasoning, and then add the rest of the water (stirring to ensure it is smooth and combined evenly).  Pour the taco mixture over the ingredients in your slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours.
  • Uncover and stir, season with salt and pepper after tasting.
  • Serve either on its own, over rice or with a side of cornbread.  ENJOY!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kale & Quinoa Rolls

I spied this recipe in "Fresh Juice" magazine and decided to whip it up one evening expecting mixed results from the family.  As expected, India didn't even want to try the kale (she only likes it in chip form), but loved the quinoa.  Devon had 3 rolls and Greg and I finished up the rest!!  This is similar to cabbage rolls and I have pictured the dish without the sauce topping the rolls, so you could see how they look in the baaking dish. This is not only super nutritious, but easy and tasty too!

12 large leaves of kale
2 tsp grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup diced mushrooms (I used porcini as they're "meatier" in texture and have great flavour)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup quinoa (rinse to remove the bitter coating called 'saponin')
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups no salt added passata di pomodoro (crushed tomatoes)
  • Remove the stems from the kale by grasping the base of the stem in one hand and running the thumb and forefinger up the stem.  It will break off where the stem is more tender.  Discard the stems.  Add kale to a large pot of salted, boiling water.  Cover and cook until the leaves are softened - 2 minutes maximum.  Place leaves in a sieve and run under cool water.  Remove leaves and lay out flat to drain on paper towels.  Set aside.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil.  Saute onions, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, and thyme for 5 minutes (or until onion is softened)  Stir in quinoa.  Add broth; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in carrot, zucchini, salt and pepper.  Let cool to room temperature.  Stir in egg*
  • Preheat oven to 350F.  To assemble the rolls, spoon approximately 1/3 cup of the quinoa mixture onto each kale leaf, just above where the base of the stem would have been.  Fold bottom up over filling, tuck sides in and roll up.  This is quite a bit trickier I found than using cabbage leaves for traditional cabbage rolls.  Take your time!
  • Line the base of a 13"x9" baking dish with half of the passata.  Arrange the kale rolls on top of it and cover with the remaining passata.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for one hour.
  • Remove and ENJOY!