Tag Archives: make ahead

Vietnamese coffee creme brulee in white ramekins on countertop

This Easy Make-Ahead Vietnamese Coffee Creme Brulee is the Dessert You Need

Coffee + condensed milk + creme brulee — need we say more? This Baking Therapy dessert combines the sweet delicious flavours of Vietnamese coffee with the silky smooth creme brulee we all know and love. An easy make-ahead dessert you’ll make again and again!

Vietnamese coffee creme brulee in white ramekins on countertop

Vietnamese Coffee Creme Brulee

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 2 hours or overnight
Bake Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Rime: 2 hours, 55 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup dark roast coffee, coarsely ground
4 large egg yolks
1 (300 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar for tops

Vietnamese coffee creme brulee ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place 6 (3 ½ oz) ramekins in a baking dish. Set aside.

2. In a heavy bottom saucepan on medium-high heat, heat the heavy cream, half-and-half and coarsely ground coffee. As soon as the mixture begins to simmer, remove from the heat. Steep for 15 minutes then strain through a fine sieve.

Vietnamese coffee creme brulee ingredients steeping in pot

3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and condensed milk until pale yellow in colour, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the salt and vanilla extract. Slowly add one ladle of the hot cream to the egg mixture, whisk to combine so the eggs don’t scramble. Continue adding and whisking until well incorporated. Pass through a fine sieve again to ensure a smooth mixture.

Related: Tropical Desserts That’ll Make You Forget It’s Still Winter

4. Ladle evenly into the 6 ramekins. Carefully fill the baking pan with about ½ inch of boiling water and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges are set, but the centre is still jiggly. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Vietnamese coffee creme brulee on cooling rack

5. When ready to serve, working with one creme brulee at a time, sprinkle about 1 Tbsp of sugar over the top. Using a kitchen blowtorch, melt the sugar until it gets golden and bubbly. Let sit for 1 minute so that it hardens. Enjoy immediately!

Like Sabrina’s Vietnamese coffee creme brulee? Try her matcha and raspberry mochi doughnuts or her 7-ingredient Basque cheesecake.

duck ragu on serving plate

This Pappardelle Duck Ragu is the Winter Comfort Food You Deserve

What is the most delicious comfort food you can make at home to fight the dropping temperature outside your cozy kitchen? This pappardelle duck ragu! With luxurious fall-apart duck legs, yummy pasta and plenty of veggies, this may be your go-to recipe all winter long. Also, this is a hearty make-ahead dish: it improves over time and lends a richness to the noodles that keep you wanting more.

duck ragu on serving plate

Pappardelle Duck Ragu

Prep Time: 5 minutes (but you can prep all your ingredients while the duck is browning)
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
2 duck legs, pat dried
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1 can (796 ml/28 oz) San Marzano tomatoes or plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
400 g pappardelle pasta or other pasta
Grated Parmesan

duck ragu ingredients

Directions:

1. Sprinkle duck legs all over with 1 tsp of the salt. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat and arrange the duck, skin side down. Cook and render the fat for 10 to 12 minutes so the skin browns and crisps, flip and cook until browned on the other side. Transfer to a plate and drain all but 2 Tbsp fat from the pot.

Tip: The remaining rendered duck fat should be saved and refrigerated or frozen to make the most gloriously crispy potatoes or brushed on a whole chicken for a succulent roast chicken.

2. Add the onion and cook on medium, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, remaining ½ tsp salt and pepper; cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

duck ragu cooking in pot

3. Push vegetables to one side and stir in tomato paste, cooking for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine and cook for 1 minute to allow alcohol to evaporate. Add the tomatoes and broth. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and return the duck legs (with any juices) to the pot.

4. Cook partially uncovered over low heat, making sure the sauce is simmering until the duck meat falls off the bone, about 1 ½ hours. Skim excess fat using a spoon if desired.

Related: Quick and Easy One-Pot Recipes

5. Remove duck legs and using two forks, shred the meat off bones, discarding the skin if unwanted. Stir shredded duck into the sauce.

Tip: Make the ragu up to 4 days ahead of time, refrigerate covered and warm in a pot over medium-low heat.

duck ragu cooking in pot

6. Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain and stir into duck ragout. To serve, sprinkle pasta with Parmesan.

Like Soo’s duck ragu? Try her pan-fried pork chops and Chinese stir-fried eggplant.

This Black Sesame Coconut Cream Pie Will Be Your New Favourite Make-Ahead Dessert

Cool off this summer with a large slice of black sesame coconut cream pie. It has an intense nutty flavour thanks to the black sesame, and is layered with a dreamy coconut filling before being topped off with lots and lots of whipped cream. Long story short: this pie will be your new favourite make-ahead dessert!

Black Sesame Coconut Cream Pie

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Rest Time: 4 hours
Bake Time: 25 to 28 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours, 10 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8 slices

Ingredients:

Pie Dough
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
4-5 Tbsp ice cold water

Black Sesame Paste
½ cup black sesame seeds
3 Tbsp honey

Coconut Cream
1/3 cup cornstarch
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 ¼ cup half-and-half
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut

Topping
1 ½ cups heavy cream
4 Tbsp icing sugar

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and rub between your fingers to break into small pea-sized pieces.

2. Create a well in the centre and add 4 Tbsp of ice cold water. With your hands, toss the flour until the dough starts to come together. If there are dry bits, add an additional tsp at a time. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

Related: Which Pie Are You, According to Your Zodiac Sign?

3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into circle about 1 ½ -inch larger than your pie dish. Tuck the edges under itself and crimp the edges to create a scalloped edge.

4. Dock the crust all over with a fork to create vents, cover with a sheet of parchment and add your pie weights (you can use beans or rice). Bake for 25-28, removing the pie weights after 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

5. Grind the black sesame seeds in a spice grinder or food processor until finely ground. Mix in the honey.

6. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and salt to break up any clumps. Add the coconut milk, half-and-half, eggs and whisk to combine. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes.

7. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and butter. Strain through a fine sieve and fold in the shredded coconut.

Related: Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake is Your New Favourite Birthday Treat

8. Divide the coconut cream in half. To one-half add 3 Tbsp of black sesame paste and mix until well incorporated. Wrap with plastic directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.

9. Layer both halves of the coconut cream into the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Add the black sesame cream on top, cover with plastic and chill for another hour.

10. When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream and icing sugar together until firm peaks. Spoon or pipe on top of the pie, sprinkle with toasted coconut and enjoy!

Love Sabrina’s baking? Check out her easy recipe for soft rolls, along with her gooey overnight cinnamon buns and fudgy gluten-free sweet potato brownies.

This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (And Major Food Waste)

Your freezer is your friend in the fight against food waste. But have you ever opened the freezer to retrieve a carefully prepared meal or frozen item only to discover ice crystals blanketing the container? Or meat that looked a little too “off” in colour? If you’re nodding in agreement, you’ve encountered a simple case of freezer burn.

Many people don’t realize that they can burn frozen food. It sounds wrong, doesn’t it? How can something that’s frozen burn? Freezer burn is damage to frozen food caused by moisture in the food evaporating, leaving dry “pockets” of air and/or ice crystals. The good news is that, while the food won’t taste all that great, it is still edible. The better news is that freezer burn is totally preventable!

Related: Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada with These Recipes

The One Thing You Should Always Do to Prevent Freezer Burn

The most important thing you can do to prevent freezer burn is to reduce the food’s exposure to air: make sure you have an airtight, moisture-proof barrier between the food and the container it’s in. Simple tricks like wrapping foods in double layers of wax paper or aluminum foil before storing them in freezer-safe containers or bags will go a long way to making sure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Note that no food will last indefinitely without developing freezer burn, so another way to make sure you’re avoiding those pesky ice crystals from developing is to rotate the food in your freezer so you’re eating the oldest items first, which are the most at-risk of catching freezer burn.

Related: How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Top Tips for Avoiding Freezer Burn on Commonly Frozen Foods

1. If you’re serious about keeping frozen foods as fresh as possible, buy a vacuum sealer. This is a surefire way to make sure the packaging is completely airtight.

2. Buy too much bread? Slice loaves and store the slices in a large plastic freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. You’ll have fresh bread to toast for weeks to come! 

3. Found yourself with too much produce? It can be frozen, but most vegetables benefit from a quick blanch or steam prior to freezing. Once cooked, shock with cold water, then dry and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Related: Effortless Instant Pot Freezer Meals for Easy Weeknights

More Tips to Keep in Mind When Freezing Food

1. Never freeze hot food. Instead, allow it to come to room temperature before you freeze.

2. If you’re freezing liquid-heavy foods (think soups and stews), make sure you leave some room in the containers, as liquid expands when frozen. Place plastic wrap touching the liquid/food before you close the lid to avoiding potential freezer burn.

Related: The One Healthy Soup That Should Always Be in Your Freezer

3. Broth and stock are super useful things to have on hand, but how often does a recipe call for a small amount, leaving you with leftovers? Solution? Freeze it in ice-cube trays! As soon as it’s frozen, transfer to an airtight bag or container to ensure a constant supply that’s practical in size.

4. Do you have slightly past-their-prime produce lingering in your crisper? Put your freezer to work. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, and frozen vegetables can be used in cooked dishes. No one will ever know they were anything other than fresh!

freezer-bag-of-pumpkin

5. Many people don’t think to freeze butter, but if you have a few sticks about to expire, pop them into the freezer to keep it fresh for longer. Note that it’s best to use quickly once thawed, making it perfect for baking!

Related: Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

6. Cookie dough is a perfect candidate for freezing, so you’ll never be far from a freshly-baked treat! Scoop dough and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the dough in airtight bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many you need. The dough will last in the freezer for up to three months.

Related: Anna Olson Explains How to Properly Freeze Just About Everything

7. Portion items when you freeze them so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, avoiding unnecessary waste.

8. Label all foods with the date you froze them, and don’t forget to rotate items and use older foods up first.

Related: How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

While freezing items is a great way to avoid waste, there are some other foods that you should never freeze.

5 Foods That Never Belong in Your Freezer (And Why):

1. Open packages of coffee beans (and ground) will absorb freezer smells. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container, not the bag you bought it in.

2. Cooked pasta, like spaghetti, will not hold its structure when frozen and thawed, it will turn to mush (baked pasta dishes like lasagna, however, are perfect candidates for freezing).

3. Raw potatoes turn black when frozen due to a chemical reaction, so make sure to quickly blanch chopped potatoes before you freeze them.

4. Melon will turn mushy when frozen and thawed due to its high water content, so while it’s fine to use frozen in drinks, for example, it won’t be any good for a fruit salad.

5. Raw eggs in their shell will explode when frozen. If you find yourself needing to freeze eggs, crack them and lightly beat them before freezing them in an ice cube tray or muffin tin. When completely frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag where they will keep for up to six months.

Want to make the most of your freezer? Watch this video on how to prep food for freezing.

How to Make Vietnamese Bun Cha, The Rice Noodle Salad Your Lunch Bowl is Craving

This vibrant rice noodle salad boldly features Vietnamese-spiced pork patties, thin rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, spring rolls and a salty-sweet sauce. It’s the lunch bowl you’ll be returning to again and again. The best part? You can meal prep all the components on the weekend, pack them up and enjoy throughout the week. You’ll be the envy of your co-workers!

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls (Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Pork Patties
1 lb ground pork (use regular or lean for the most flavour, not extra-lean)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lemongrass paste
1 Tbsp honey

Nuoc Cham Dressing
½ cup warm water
¼ cup honey
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
1 small red chili pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced

Noodle Bowl
Approx. 4 cups cooked rice noodles
4 large (or 8 small) cooked spring rolls, cut into small pieces
1 lettuce head (like Boston), with some leaves intact, some shredded
1 large red pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
approx. ½ cup chopped, unsalted peanuts
large bunch fresh cilantro, for garnish
large bunch fresh mint, for garnish
limes, quartered, for garnish

Directions:

Pork Patties
1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix to make sure ingredients are well combined.

2. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to make 16 patties, flattening them slightly with your hands.

3. Place patties on a plate, covered in the fridge, until ready to cook.

4. Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan (preferably one with griddle marks) over medium heat.

5. Cook patties until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle reads 160˚F.

6. If not using straight away, set patties aside to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Nuoc Cham Dressing
1. Whisk all ingredients in a small jug until combined. Some honey will produce a dressing that’s a little cloudy – that’s fine! Set aside until using (can be refrigerated).

Noodle Bowl Assembly 
1. Gently reheat pork patties and spring rolls in a slow oven or microwave.

2. Line the bowls with one large lettuce leaf each.

3. Add shredded lettuce, cooked noodles, vegetables, pork patties and spring rolls.

4. Sprinkle over peanuts, cilantro and mint.

5. Serve with the lime quarters and dressing on the side and allow people to season with these to taste.

Tip: You can prepare all ingredients in advance and simply assemble when you’re ready to eat. For an amazing desk lunch, pack separate containers with noodles, vegetables, dressing and pork patties/spring rolls, and simply assemble for a meal to remember.

Here, we reveal the healthiest meal-prep lunches that won’t get soggy, plus our best no-heat lunch ideas to avoid that dreaded office microwave line.

Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

Whether you want to be more eco-friendly, save some cash or you simply like having a little organization in your life, there are plenty of reasons to move towards a waste-free kitchen. The good news: even if it sounds a little overwhelming at first, it’s a whole lot simpler to achieve than you’d think. Here’s how to make it happen.


Related: Recipes to Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada

10 Easy Steps to Creating a No-Waste Kitchen 

1. Invest in reusable containers, wraps and bags

One of the easiest ways to eliminate extra waste is to ditch the plastic wrap, single-use containers and plastic bags in favour of reusable containers, Mason jars and beeswax wraps. And, if you’re already taking tote bags or baskets with you to do your shopping, consider upping your game with produce-friendly mesh bags. It’s a pain-free start to making some pretty big changes, and it also sets you up for better long-term food storage and less waste at the grocery store.

2. Buy in bulk and buy whole

For basic goods that you use often, like oats, flour, beans and grains, head to the bulk food store and fill up your own containers. You’ll save money and even potentially extend the shelf life of some of those products by storing them in glass jars. Meanwhile, when it comes to meat, select whole chicken and fish rather than pre-cut trays, and in the produce aisle, don’t fall victim to pre-packed greens, cut beans, or other “handy” items that have already been prepared for you. When you take full items home, you can portion and use them how you wish, plus you can use the leftovers to whip up a nifty vegetable, fish or chicken stock.


Related: 18 Freezer-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas to Prep This Week

3. Use a meal plan

Is there anything more dangerous than doing your grocery shopping while hungry? That’s when you tend to fill the cart with wants, rather than needs. Fill up before you shop, but also make sure to put together a meal plan and a grocery list first. That way you can avoid overbuying and tossing food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to healthy choices when you plan ahead. Double win.

Related: 10 Ways You’re Destroying the Planet From the Comfort of Your Own Home

4. Make things from scratch

We’ve covered stocks, but there’s a whole world of basic condiments you can also whip up with things you already have in the fridge or pantry. There are tons of recipes for everyday salad dressings out there, mayo is pretty simple to throw together, while ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce always taste better when they’re made in-house. Need some more inspiration? Check out these tasty condiments that are worth making from scratch.

5. Regrow your vegetable scraps

If your veggie scraps aren’t worth transforming into a stock, why not give them a whole new life by planting them and starting your own veggie garden? If you’ve never done this before, it’s actually shocking how many things you can plant and regrow in the kitchen, while eliminating how much waste you produce. Green onion roots turn into new shoots, pepper seeds will grow into the real deal, and even celery bases get a second life if you plant them. If you’re just starting to explore your green thumb or you need some more inspiration, here are 15 vegetables you can regrow in your kitchen.

6. Get creative with food scraps and compost when necessary

If you don’t compost, now is a good time to start — it’s a smarter alternative to recycling, and if your city doesn’t have a program already in place, then it’s something you can easily start doing at home. Meanwhile, reconsider the food scraps you may currently be tossing into the bin. Broccoli stems make for a delicious slaw, veggie pulp from a juicer can be tossed into a pasta sauce, and carrot tops transform into a surprisingly delicious pesto (more creative pesto ideas here!).


Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

7. Find a second use for your leftovers

Don’t just get creative with your food scraps — get creative with your leftovers before they go bad and you’re forced to toss them. While meal planning definitely helps eliminate unexpected leftovers, if you find yourself with extra food, don’t be discouraged. Your freezer is always your friend in terms of extending an item’s shelf life, or get inspired with some of our ideas for leftover chicken, leftover steak or leftover rice.

8. Ditch the coffee pods and tea bags

Coffee pods may be convenient and easy-to-use, but they’re also expensive and they create so much unnecessary waste. If you insist on a single-pod machine, invest in a reusable filter that gives you the further benefit of adjusting the amount of coffee per serving to individual tastes. And when it comes to tea, buy a diffuser and stock the pantry with loose-leaf tea to avoid extra staples, strings, and plastic-coated tea bags being tossed into the rubbish bin.

9. Clean your kitchen the smart way

As you’re ditching disposable kitchen-storage products, consider eliminating unnecessary one-time-use cleaning items like paper towels and sponges, too. Dish towels and clothes can be thrown into the laundry and used over and over again, which might feel like more work, but it also saves you more money in the long-run. And when it comes to cleaning products, consider making your own. A solution of vinegar, baking soda and water will clean most household items.

Related: 12 Ways You Can Organize Your Kitchen Like Marie Kondo

Related: 17 Kitchen Gadgets That’ll Be Extinct by 2025

10. Think quality, not quantity

If you get excited by new tools and gadgets, we feel you — it’s always fun to try out a new toy in the kitchen. But, if the goal is to create a waste-free kitchen then sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you really need an item, or if it just sounds like a cool thing to have. Cast-iron pans will produce quality food for a longer period of time than a Teflon-coated one, for example, while most pressure cookers also double as a slow cooker these days. Garlic presses are handy, but sometimes it’s quicker to just mince a clove or two yourself. Take stock of needs versus wants, and then begin living your best minimalist life from there.

If you’re looking to take your zero-waste kitchen one step further, find out where to take your used appliances and cabinets (by province) or check out the best zero-waste restaurants and food stores across Canada.

How I Cooked for My Family of 4 for a Week on Less Than $100

Let’s be real — if you buy in bulk and stick to a budget, it shouldn’t be hard to feed a family of four for a week, right? Right. Except that’s without considering any of the things life throws at you. I’m talking about picky toddlers, a packed schedule, and those nights where the last thing you want to do is putter around in the kitchen soaking your own beans, despite your inherent love for culinary adventures. Or is that just me?

Regardless, as a working mom with a husband who travels and two toddlers that would be content eating nothing but bread and cheese for the rest of their days, I decided to purge the fridge and cupboards to start fresh for a week. The goal? Feeding the entire family three nutritious meals a day (plus snacks) without breaking the bank. Here’s how it went.

The Overall Plan

Full disclosure: I love grocery shopping. There’s something calming about walking up and down the aisles and planning what I’m going to create next. Unfortunately, when you’re cooking on a budget, that doesn’t necessarily translate.

Instead, I used a grocery app to determine the best deals of the week, and then created a meal plan based on what was on sale. I started with dinners, because that’s where the bulk of my budget was going (we like leftovers, y’all), and then I went to a store that price-matched. We eat meat in our house, so I wanted to include some animal protein, but we also try to include healthy plant-based dinners at least two-to-three nights a week.

The other thing I had to consider was stocking up on staples. I was in good shape for things like olive oil and nutritional yeast (more on that below) but I needed some basics like flour, rice and quinoa. In the end, I thought it was going to take hours gouging my eyes out with an excel sheet, but it was actually pretty painless. I’d say 30 minutes of planning, tops.

Cost Savings Vs. Convenience

When I’m feeling rich, I’ll buy pre-washed, boxed spinach or mixed greens, because I absolutely hate running salad greens one by one under the faucet and then drying them. Not hate, loathe. I loathe it. But I’m obsessed with doing it properly, because let’s just say I’ve had plenty of experience accidentally ingesting “extra protein” in the past. For this experiment, however, I got four times as much fresh spinach and lettuce for less than a box would have cost me. So I was okay with it.

Then there are the beans. Usually I’ll buy dried beans for less and stock the pantry, but because I wanted to prep once for the entire week, I didn’t want to pressure cook beans and then have them sit there for seven days. It was a lot easier (and not that much more expensive) to buy the canned stuff, so I splurged a bit in that department.

The Grocery List

You probably want to get to the goods, right? Without further ado, here’s everything I bought to stock up the fridge and pantry.

Produce

● Broccoli, $1.27
● Cauliflower, $1.99
● Bagged carrots, $1.49
● Bagged onions, $1.49
● Grape tomatoes, $2
● Bagged beets, $1.97
● 2 bunches spinach, $4
● 2 bunches red leaf lettuce, $3
● Garlic, $1.49
● 2 cucumbers, $4
● 6 bananas, $1.63
● Bag of apples, $4
● Strawberries, $2.5
● Bagged peppers, $2.98
● Bagged mandarins, $2.97
● Celery, $3
● Frozen peas, $0.99

Meat, Dairy & Deli

● Fresh olives, $5.12
● Bagged milk, $3.97
● Brick marble cheese, $3.97
● 18 eggs, $2.99
● Ground turkey, $2
● 2 fresh, whole chickens, $13.62

Pantry & Bakery

● Brown rice, $1.27
● Pasta (my daughter picked “little shells”), $0.88
● Yeast packets, $1.97
● Peanut butter, $3.77
● Flour, $3.99
● Quinoa, $3.47
● 2 cans salt-free chickpeas, $1.58
● 2 cans salt-free black beans, $1.58
● 2 cans diced tomatoes, $1.96
● Tomato paste, $0.59

Total: $93.50

 

Meal Prepping

If you love devoting an entire Sunday afternoon to meal-prepping, raise your hand. What, no one? I’m shocked. While meal-prepping often feels daunting, I’ve discovered several ways to make it less painful over the years. Sometimes I’ll get my kids to help out and we make it a family affair. Other times, I consider it “me time” and I’ll put on a TV show or listen to a podcast. The bottom line is that I consider it a necessary evil if I want to save time during the week and still eat healthy, so I try to find a positive spin.

For this particular menu, my meal-prepping included:

● Hard-boiling eight eggs
● Washing and drying lots of lettuce and spinach
● Cooking a batch of quinoa
● Roasting beets (to add to salads)
● “Ricing” cauliflower in a food processor
● Peeling and cutting carrots
● Washing and cutting celery
● Making a giant vat of homemade tomato sauce
● Roasting both chickens, cooling them and removing the meat
● Making stock from chicken bones (once this was simmering, it pretty much made itself over the course of the night).

Was this work? Very much so. But it saved me so much time during the week on lunch and dinner, as you’ll see below. I should also note that I added nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan, which I didn’t buy) to the tomato sauce for an extra hit of cheesy, vegan fibre and protein. I also threw in an entire pepper and a few handfuls of spinach, before blending it up with my immersion blender so my kids would never know. I then froze half the sauce, which means sometime in the near future, I’ll have instant tomato sauce for pasta, lazy cabbage rolls or even pizza.

The Meal Planned Menu

Breakfast: I wanted to leave breakfasts fairly neutral, since my kids and husband are perfectly content with toast and fruit, or eggs. On busier mornings, we’ll whip up peanut butter banana smoothies (with spinach thrown in there), which my kids can drink in the car. I also bought English muffins so that we could make egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches on Saturday morning before we all ran out the door to dance class, and I planned for our lazier, traditional Sunday morning pancake breakfast, too.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Lunches: I figured a combination of leftovers, salads and sandwiches would do. The kids love peanut butter and jam sandwiches or a plate of cut up veggies, cheese and fruit, while my husband and I are happy to concoct a variety of salads with different proteins in them, like beans, a scoop of quinoa or hard-boiled eggs. Because I found chicken on sale, I also factored in leftover chicken to make a multitude of dishes.

Snacks: We’re trying to get away from sugar-laden and expensive pre-bought snacks, so that’s why I stocked up on apples, mandarins, carrots, celery, tomatoes and cucumber. I thought about making hummus with one of the cans of chickpeas (I have some tahini still in my cupboard), but ultimately passed because sometimes it’s so much easier to pair produce with a pre-bought healthy dip, peanut butter or even cheese. At least it is with my kids.

And that brings us to…

Dinners

Sunday: Roasted Chicken and Broccoli with Rice

Because I was already roasting the chicken, I figured it would make for a good Sunday night family dinner. I paired that with steamed broccoli in the microwave, which my kids either love or hate depending on the day. This particular night, the dog seemed to eat more of it than the kids thanks to their scheming, but that’s why I feed the dog last. I also cooked a big batch of brown rice (factoring in leftovers), and both kids devoured that.

Monday: Cauliflower Fried Rice

We’re typically out the door by 5:30pm on Monday nights to make the kids’ activities, so I needed something simple. Enter cauliflower fried rice! While the “healthy” me would prefer to just have cauliflower, that’s not possible with kids. Instead, I masked the cauliflower rice by adding in actual leftover rice from the night before. I stir-fried it with onions, garlic, egg, soy sauce and mushroom oyster sauce, which I bought about six months ago at an Asian food store for a couple of bucks. I also added frozen peas, but I wish I hadn’t, because both kids basically threw them at each other. Everything else was eaten, so I’ll take that win.

Tuesday: Pasta with Ground Turkey

This quick dinner was super simple thanks to the pre-made sauce, and I could have made it vegetarian, except I found that amazing $2 deal on ground turkey. So I cooked that up quickly on the stove as the pasta boiled, and then threw it all together for a veggie-filled dinner that my kids devoured. Yes, I did a devious happy dance, and maybe even high-fived my husband as we did the dishes afterwards.

Wednesday: Grainy Salad

 My daughter is a weirdo like me and she loves cold beans. My son hates beans, but likes the texture of quinoa, which my daughter doesn’t. So I succumbed to motherhood heck and gave her beans on the green plate and him quinoa on the blue plate, with some cut up peppers, cucumbers, cheese cubes and tomatoes. My husband and I essentially ate an adult version of this (quinoa with roasted beets, cucumbers and peppers) mixed together and dressed with a concoction of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. It would have been even better with feta cheese, but it was still pretty hearty and satisfying. And, thanks to the pre-made quinoa, the whole thing took about 10 minutes to whip up.

Thursday: Chicken Noodle Soup

Once again, my meal-prepping proved to be an amazing decision because I was able to throw chicken stock, carrots, celery, leftover chicken and leftover pasta shells into a pot, heat it up and dole it out into bowls. It was rich, low in sodium and perfect for that day’s colder weather, and there was only one bowl leftover at the end of the night. Oh, and for those keeping track, my daughter ate the carrots, my son ate the chicken, they both ate the pasta and then they asked me for some cheese.

Friday: Pizza Night

Does anyone ever want to cook on a Friday night? There’s no better way to usher in the weekend than with pizza, which is why we tend to order them at least every other week. The thing is though, making homemade dough is super easy. I also happen to have pizza stones, which I find give the crust a nice crispiness. So I planned ahead to whip up the crust after work, then I used the leftover secret-veggie tomato sauce as a base and added olives as a topping, which both my kids freakishly love. There wasn’t a single slice left, and I wasn’t out 20 bucks with the delivery person. Win, win.


Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Pizza

Saturday: Leftovers

The best part about “cooking” all week was that I had ample food leftover for customized dinners on Saturday night. My husband wanted the soup, while the kids clamoured for pasta. Meanwhile, I was craving a lighter salad after the pizza the night before, which I was able to quickly cobble together with the remaining veggies and hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.

The Results:

This entire experiment definitely required planning and a whole whack of prepping, but in the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The kids ended up eating fairly well, and we didn’t turn to takeout pizza or chicken nuggets once, which is a serious feat for our household.

Would I do this every week? No, but I’m definitely going to try and keep up when I can, because on those lazier weekends where we’re not running around trying to fit everything in, getting a jump on feeding the family turns out to be an amazing time- and money-saver… with only a small number of peas and broccoli on the floor.

Looking for more meal planning inspiration? Here’s how a nutritionist meal preps every Sunday, plus 20 healthy meal prep ideas to get you through the week.

Make-Ahead Gory White Chocolate Truffles for Your Halloween Bash

Playfully gory, these adorable crafty treats are just a cake box away from impressing your Halloween enthusiasts, with just the right amount of fun and horror. Make these bite-sized desserts ahead and freeze them for up to one week. You have the choice of serving them cold with a crunchy coating, or at room temperature for a soft, cakey texture. That’s what we call frightful meets delightful!

Make-Ahead Gory White Chocolate Halloween Truffles

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour + 45 minutes (includes cooling, rolling, dipping, decorating and refrigeration times)
Servings: 48 cake pop truffles

Ingredients:

1 box yellow or white cake mix, prepared according to package directions in a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and cooled
3/4 cup prepared vanilla frosting (approx)
48 candied cherries (optional)
450g (16 oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbsp coconut oil (optional)
1 tube red decorating gel
Red food colouring or paste (optional)
Mini royal icing decorative knives (optional)

Directions:

1. Divide the cake into six equal portions. Working with one portion, finely crumble cake into a large bowl (large bits will give you lumpy cake truffles). Repeat with remaining cake.

2. Add frosting and stir into cake using the back of a spoon until evenly combined. Don’t be tempted to add more frosting, it will be too soft to shape into balls.

3. Using a generous tablespoon for each, shape the cake batter into rounds and place on a baking sheet to give you 48 portions. Gently roll each to form balls. If using cherries, open the centre to add, then cover with cake, rolling to shape. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 25-30 seconds, stir in coconut oil (if using). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Working with a fork, dip each cake ball into chocolate, tapping fork on edge of bowl to remove excess; transfer to prepared pan. Repeat with remaining cake balls (refrigerating cake if softening and reheating chocolate if firming up to evenly coat). Refrigerate truffles until chocolate is hardened, about 15 minutes.

Tip: The melted white chocolate will coat and firm up without the addition of coconut oil, but will not be as solid.

5. For the bloody decoration, gently squeeze decorating gel on top of truffle and spread using toothpick. For a deeper red colour, stir decorating gel with red food colouring to desired tint and decorate using toothpick. If using royal icing knives, poke top of truffle with tip of paring knife and gently wedge in cleaver.

For more fang-tastic desserts, make these easy chocolate witches’ cauldron cupcakes and get inspired by these 50 killer Halloween party recipes.

Bento Lunch Boxes: How to Make Colourful Back-to-School Meals Your Kids Will Devour

Packing healthy school lunches that your kids won’t challenge can be just a little stressful, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. The foods you prep need to energize, nourish and keep your child focused throughout the school day. Luckily, gone are the days of the sad brown bag and that same soggy ham and cheese sandwich. That’s partly thanks to the bento lunch box, which has changed the game, giving parents a far easier method for meal prepping, and kids a way more enjoyable way to eat. Read on for eight genius tips on packing the ultimate back-to-school lunch, plus three bento box ideas you’ll be quick to replicate.

1. Pack the Rainbow

Pack as much colour as you can into your kid’s lunch box. This means lots of vibrant fruits and veggies, so they can get the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. Everyone eats with their eyes first, so when something looks colourful and appetizing, the process of digestion begins. Kids also take eating cues from how food looks, rather than from how it tastes.

Main: Chicken salad sandwich with cucumber, carrots, spinach (or stuffed in a pita or tortilla)
Side: Roasted sweet potato cubes
Snack 1: Blueberries with strawberries sliced into hearts or stars
Snack 2: Edamame beans or green peas
Dessert: Mini chocolate chips with pumpkin seeds

2. Get Creative

Many kids like what’s familiar to them, and if they enjoy eating the same thing every day, one way to change it up is to get creative with how the food is displayed. If your youngster love strawberries, cucumbers or melons, try slicing them into stars one day, cubes the next and hearts the following week. Thread their favourite fruit through a stick to transform them into skewers. Take their sandwich ingredients and roll them into wraps, stuff them into mini pitas or thread them through to make sandwich kebabs.

3. Cover Your Macro & Micronutrients

Ensure your little ones remain fueled throughout the day by sending foods packed with fibre, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. If you’re already filling lunch boxes with fruits, veggies, seeds, beans/legumes or animal protein and a whole grain, you’re covered. Packing a sweet treat is also a must, so think of more nutritious options like homemade granola bars, better-for-you cookies or healthier muffins. Remember to limit the refined sugar, which can impact your child’s behaviour, energy, focus and mood.

Main: Pesto pasta noodles with sliced cherry tomatoes
Side: Steamed green beans with sesame seeds on top or raw snap peas
Snack 1: Skewered mango and grapes
Snack 2: Cubes of cheese or crispy chickpeas
Dessert: Mini cookies or strawberries with chocolate chips

4. Repurpose Leftovers

Packing school lunches can be a lot of work, so if you can, repurpose dinner leftovers from the night before. If you have leftover chicken, make the lunch box Mexican themed and pack the chicken with avocado, corn and salsa. If you have extra lasagna, cut a square and pack that. You don’t need to start from scratch if you have foods to work with. Also, do your best to pack the night before, and avoid adding another stressful task to an already busy morning!

5. Be School Safe

Nut allergies are quite common these days, and most schools are now nut-free. Keep this in mind when you’re packing back-to-school lunches, and replace classics with nut-free alternatives. For example, if you were going to pack a peanut butter and jam sandwich, swap the PB for sunflower butter. For something like trail mix, ensure it’s made with seeds. If you’re buying snacks, there are loads of allergen-free options out there.

6. Get Your Kids Involved

Studies show that if kids have a hand in helping grow, prep or cook food, they’re more likely to eat it. So involve your children in the packing process. Have them decide what they want to eat – you can even ask them to come up with a meal plan schedule to paste on the fridge. If possible, ask them to help with the prep: maybe they can skewer fruit, or slice strawberries with a kid-safe knife.

Main: Protein pancakes
Side: Heirloom carrots, sliced + dollop of hummus to dip
Snack 1: Crispy chickpeas or raisins
Snack 2: Raspberries and kiwi
Dessert: Orange slices dipped in chocolate or with chocolate chips

7. Keep it Clean

Don’t pack foods that have a strong, offensive smell, or something that’s going to leak all over the rest of the meal. This will pretty much guarantee that your kid will pass on eating his or her lunch!

8. Lunch as an Afternoon Snack

There may be times when you open your child’s lunch box after school, only to discover the meal you lovingly prepared is still sitting there. When your kids come home, they’re usually starving and desperate for a snack. This is the perfect time to offer up these lunch leftovers to ensure the food you spent time making isn’t wasted.

Here, a nutritionist reveals meal prep tips to avoid a sad desk lunch (plus two 10-minute recipes) – because parents deserve inspiring lunches, too!

Conquer Brunch With This Make-Ahead Veggie Strata and Sourdough Bread

You can never go wrong when serving your guests a hearty, veggie-packed breakfast casserole topped with melted, gooey goat cheese. Stratas are usually reserved for birthdays, Mother’s Day or Easter brunches, simply because they easily feed a crowd and can be fully prepped ahead of time; so no fuss, no muss when entertaining guests. Make this the day before and pop it into the oven when it’s go-time. What makes this strata even more special is that it’s made with sourdough bread, an artisan-style loaf that is easy to digest and adds incredible texture and bite.

Make-Ahead Vegetable Strata With Sourdough Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 zucchini, sliced into thin circles
1 ½ cups chopped kale or baby kale
1 ½ tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
6 eggs
1 ½ cups dairy-free milk
4 cups sourdough loaf cut into 1 inch cubes
4-6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:

1. Place a skillet on medium heat, coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil and add the onions. Stir occasionally and allow them to cook for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
2. Add the cherry tomatoes and zucchini and let them cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the kale, thyme, sea salt and pepper. Stir until the kale begins to wilt.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and dairy-free milk.
5. In a large casserole dish (9×13), coat the bottom with a little olive oil, spread ½ the bread on the bottom, top with ½ of the veggies, then layer the rest of the bread and veggies on top.

6. Pour the egg and milk mixture over and crumble the goat cheese on top, nestling some pieces underneath the bread cubes.
7. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. It can be left in the fridge for up to one day.
8. When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 350°F, place the uncovered strata in the oven for 45-50 minutes until it starts to bubble up and crisp.

This Make-Ahead Veggie Strata & Sourdough Bread

Still salivating? Here are 25 more crowd-pleasing brunch recipes and 15 sheet pan breakfast bakes that promise to please!

Thai Curry Chicken Pot Pie is Your New Favourite Winter Comfort Food

Thai green curry is wildly popular for a reason. It’s rich and delicious with just the right amount of spiciness. But here, instead of its classic rice pairing, we’ve created a comfort food mashup that marries palate-awakening Thai green curry with classic chicken pot pie. The result is anything but ordinary. Whether you whip this up as a vacation from all your holiday feasts or you bookmark this new dish for the new year, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe Notes:
– Spicy food fans can add fresh Thai chili to taste when blending the peas and herbs
– Make this recipe vegan by replacing the chicken with the same amount of extra-firm tofu, chicken broth with vegetable broth and all-butter puff pastry with a dairy-free version

Thai Curry Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 5 to 6

Ingredients:
Thai Green Curry:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas, room temperature
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 lime, zested and juiced (about 3 Tbsp of juice), plus more lime slices for serving
1½ Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
To taste, fine grain salt

Crust:
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, rolled to 1/4-inch thickness
1 Tbsp milk of choice or beaten egg
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
Pinch, flaky sea salt

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add chicken, sweet potatoes and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over very low heat until chicken is cooked through and sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not boil or the chicken will be tough. The sweet potatoes may fall apart and become very tender; this is normal. Stir in coconut milk. Remove 1 cup of the liquid only and place in a medium bowl or blender.
2. To the medium bowl or blender, add peas, mint, cilantro, coconut flour, curry paste, ginger, lime zest and juice, fish sauce and sesame oil. Puree mixture with an immersion blender or blend on high in your blender until smooth and creamy. Stir pea mixture into chicken mixture, taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Add to a medium cast-iron skillet or other deep oven-safe dish.

3. Cool mixture completely (this is important so that the mixture can thicken with the coconut flour and so the puff pastry won’t turn greasy and melt before it goes in the oven). Cooling will take about 2 hours. You can also cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Make sure the mixture is almost room temperature before baking. Alternatively, you can increase the bake time 5 to 10 minutes if the mixture is cold.

4. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
5. Once the curry base is cooled, fit the puff pastry on top, tucking under the sides to fit your pan or baking dish. Using a sharp paring knife, gently slice a few steam slits in the top. Brush pastry with milk or egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and flaky salt.
6. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes, until mixture is bubbling and crust is browned and puffed. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges.

Craving more curry? Here are 22 warm and comforting winter curries.

The Warming Gnocchi You Can Make Ahead of Time

By Cassandrea Gascoyne

Gnocchi has always been one of my favourite dishes. The first time my husband and I tried making it at home, it was on a winter night that was -30ºC, so now making and eating gnocchi always makes me feel warm and cozy. This recipe is a little different than traditional gnocchi in that it is made with a light tomato broth instead of a rich cream or cheese sauce.

When we were making the broth that cold winter night, the kitchen windows fogged up from the steam. The whole house smelled of tomatoes and garlic. The broth is light and complements the gnocchi well.

As we ate our heaping bowl of gnocchi and broth I can remember thinking this is the perfect winter dish! The best part is that the gnocchi and broth are freezable, so you can come home from work during a blizzard and know you can look forward to a warm bowl of comfort food that will be ready in just a few minutes.

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth, Courtesy of Cassandrea Gascoyne, chewsandbrews.ca, Spruce Grove, Alta.

This simple pasta dish is the perfect comfort food for dinner in the depth of winter.

 

888x600_gnocchi-in-tomato-broth

Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: approximately 80 gnocchi and 2.5 cups (625 mL) broth

Ingredients
Gnocchi

4 russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) whole-wheat flour

Tomato Broth
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
12 oz (341 mL) jar Italian tomato purée
handful fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
salt
pepper
Parmesan cheese

Directions
Broth
1. Meanwhile, in large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sauté until vegetables have softened and onions and garlic have started to brown.
2. Pour in wine and stir, scraping up browned bits. Cook until wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, tomato purée and basil; reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Gnocchi
1. Bake potatoes in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool.
2. Peel cooled potatoes and grate into large bowl. (Or use a potato ricer, instead of grating.)
3. Stir in beaten egg and salt. Add all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, mixing until the mixture forms a soft dough that isn’t too sticky.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into a long rope, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter. Cut rope into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces.
5. Place gnocchi on parchment paper–lined baking sheet. If desired, freeze gnocchi on tray, then transfer into a freezer bag.
6. To cook the gnocchi, drop into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook the gnocchi about 2 minutes, or until they float. (If cooking from frozen, let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes.) Drain.
7. To serve, put 10 to 12 cooked gnocchi in each bowl and top with hot tomato broth. Garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Note:
-If you like a traditional-looking gnocchi, there are some neat tools you can use in Step 6 to add ridges, such as the Gnocchi Board or Gnocchi Stripper.
-A slice of garlic toast goes nicely as well, and can soak up any leftover broth at the end!

Chews and Brews
Cassandrea Gascoyne loves to cook and eat, and now has a passion for writing about and sharing everything she cooks and eats. She also enjoys wine, craft beers and good coffee. When she isn’t eating or drinking you can find her camping and hiking with her husband in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Her kids have four legs and are fuzzy and are named Bob and Sam.