Easy Pot Pie

When the weather gets colder, it’s all about the comfort food. Pot pie is one of our favourites because it is quick and easy to make and tastes so simple and delicious!

I make this after we have had a roasted chicken or turkey. I’ll cut up the leftover meat into cubes and freeze in a tightly sealed freezer bag. I love when I can make a bigger meal and turn it into two (or more!) easy meals after. This recipe will have variations as I tend to use what is on hand for simplicity.

Ingredients

3-4C Cooked, Cubed Chicken or Turkey 3-4C Frozen, Mixed Vegetables 2 Cans Campbell’s Mushroom Soup (Or 1 Can Mushroom soup and equivalent of 1 Can poultry gravy) 1 Package defrosted Tenderflake Puff Pastry (They come in 2’s, so break and defrost one per dish)

Directions

Start by preheating your oven to 400F. I use a 2.5 qt casserole dish to make and bake this in. If I’m not making this dish within 3-4 days after I have roasted my chicken or turkey, I will cube and freeze the poultry for later use. You can mix this dish with either refrigerated or frozen poultry.

Take the poultry and spread it out in the casserole dish. Then add your frozen vegetables. Top with your soup or soup/gravy combination. Stir it all together. I use a heavy wooden spoon to mix well. Mix until everything is fully covered.

Take the defrosted puff pastry and gently press it out on a floured surface, or stretch it out gently in your hands until it reaches the size of the dish you’re using. It can tear, so be gentle. If you are pressing it out on a floured surface, I recommend using a piece of wax paper with flour on it to make it easier to lift off the counter and onto your dish.

Cover the dish and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 10-20 minutes. The pastry will turn a golden brown and sauce will be bubbling at the edges. Covering it will help anything frozen to steam and cook well inside. The pastry does need to be cooked without a cover to give it that light, crispiness for the perfect finish.

Once cooked, remove, let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve. It will be hot as the pastry traps heat, so be careful before taking that first bite!

I often make two of these at once and freeze the second for an easy pull and cook meal. Make sure you freeze in a tightly sealed casserole dish that is safe for the freezer and oven. I will let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes first or pop it in as the oven heats so it’s not such a temperature difference for the dish. If you choose to do this, the cooking time will be greater as everything will be quite frozen. Add another 15-20 minutes to the initial covered cooking time, then remove the cover as directed above.

Refrigerate any leftovers and consume within 3-4 days. Enjoy!

Apple Spice Cake

I want to bake everything pumpkin and apple in the fall, not surprising, right? I have made many different versions of muffins, loaves, cakes, etc. over the years but I wanted to try a different recipe for an apple loaf. I have a rich, dense pumpkin loaf I love. This time I wanted an apple loaf that that fluffy, light and full of fall spices. Instead of reading recipes, altering and combining to find what I wanted, I decided to make something up on the spot and hope for the best. The results? An airy, apple filled loaf, with just a touch of sweetness and exactly what I was looking for. I brought the loaf into work to test on staff and hear their thoughts. It barely lasted long enough for me to get a piece, so I decided this recipe was a keeper! This recipe made 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1C Butter (softened)

3/4C Sugar

1/2C Brown sugar

1C Milk

2 Eggs

4 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/4 tsp Allspice

3C Flour

1C Skor pieces, walnuts or pecan (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix softened butter until it’s smoother. Add both sugars and mix until light and fluffy. Add in your eggs and combine. Then slowly add the milk and mix. Add in the baking powder and baking soda, then your spices, mixing throughout. Slowly add in the flour, combining each cup before adding the next. Once all the ingredients are well combined, add in your skor bits or nuts and gently mix until combined. Be careful to mix well while not overdoing it as over mixing the flour will cause your loaf to be more dense and hard then fluffy.

Grease or line your loaf pans with parchment paper. Equally fill both pans. I like to sprinkle some skor bits on top if I didn’t put in the batter. It gives an incredible crust. Place the pans in the oven and cook for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool fully before slicing. Cutting too soon will make this loaf fall apart because it is so soft and fluffy. This loaf can be frozen and defrosted for future use. You can freeze as a whole loaf, or slice first and portion into smaller containers. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola

I love making granola! It is so versatile, easy and delicious! I often use whatever seeds and nuts I have on hand to keep it simple or use up items that have been sitting for a bit. Add a little cinnamon, nutmeg and you have a quick snack or addition to yogurt for a more filling breakfast. This recipe can be altered for how many or little you like of different nuts and seeds, but keep the honey the same or it will lead to too dry or too sticky granola. The amounts listed made one larger baking sheet of granola.

Ingredients

5C large flake Oats

1/2C unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2C pumpkin seeds

1/2C chopped pecans

1C slivered almonds

1C honey

2tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients, except honey into a bowl. Stir together. Add the honey and using a silicone spatula stir until everything is well coated in honey. Once fully covered, pour out onto baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Place baking sheet into oven. Bake for 20 min, turning half way through. If the mixture starts to look dark brown remove before 20 min is up. Let the granola cool. The mixture will harden as it cools. Store in an airtight jar in the cupboard for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in an airtight container or bag for longer.

You can add grains, puffed quinoa, different nuts to add more fiber or protein based on what your nutritional goal is. Granola can be great sprinkled on bananas or apple slices with peanut butter or honey for the stickiness. You can add it to yogurt with fruit for a parfait. Grab handfuls for a healthier, filling snack, or put it into a bowl, add milk and eat like a cereal. However you decide to enjoy it, once you start making your own, there is no going back to store bought!

Peach Blueberry Muffins

This time of year there is so much local, fresh produce I can’t help but want to buy it all. It’s the first thing I see when I go into the grocery store, or farmer’s market and I want all the juicy peaches, plums, cherries, pears and more! This always leads to having way more on hand than we can consume before the fruits start to ripen too much and go bad. The perfect solution? Baking! This week we had somehow accumulated an abundance of blueberries. I had a basket of peaches just on the cusp of being too soft and school is back in. A soft, sweet, fruit filled muffin was exactly what I needed to make.

I knew the flavours I wanted to bring out, and started searching through my recipes and online for new inspiration. I couldn’t quite find the exact recipe I wanted to work with ingredients I had on hand, so decided to experiment using a base to create one more in line with what I was looking for. I love a crumble on fruit muffins. It gives that sweet crunch on top. I wanted brown and white sugar in the muffin as brown sugar adds a bit more depth of flavour, along with cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the fruit just so. Last but not least, if I’m making a fruit muffin, I want it FILLED with fruit. Not a little in each bite, I want to taste the fruit as the main feature. The changes turned out fantastic and I had to put some muffins in the freezer so my family wouldn’t eat them all up in a couple days! I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Ingredients

Muffins

3/4C Softened Butter

1C White Sugar

1/2C Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Vanilla

2/3C Milk (I used 2%)

2 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

3C Flour

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 1/2 C each Blueberries and Diced Peaches

Crumble Topping

1/4C Cold Butter

1/4C Each Brown and White Sugar

2/3C Flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

Directions

This recipe makes approximately 24 muffins.

Start by rinsing and drying your blueberries, then peeling, and dicing your peaches. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 400F.

Fruit diced and ready to go

Mix your butter until it is light and smooth. Add in both sugars and mix until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, vanilla, then the milk. Once combined, add in the baking powder. Add the flour one cup at a time, allowing it to mix in before adding the next cup. Finish with the spices. Let everything blend well, remembering the scrape the sides of your bowl. Don’t over mix once the flour has been added or it will make your muffins too dense. Once all the ingredients are blended together, add your fruit, and fold into the batter. The easiest way to fold your fruit in is to use a spatula and gently scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over top of the fruit. Do this a few times until the fruit is covered in batter. This method will help avoid breaking and bruising the fruit, keeping the pieces intact for big flavour bites.

So much fruit! Fold and cover by the batter

Make your crumble by using a fork to break apart the cold butter. Then add your flour, sugars and cinnamon. Still using the fork, alternate between stirring and slicing the mixture to help it form a sand like composition. The butter needs to be well broken up so there are no big clumps, but the mixture will not be perfectly smooth.

Line your muffin pans with muffin cups or grease the muffin pan. I use both paper and silicone liners to make life simple. These muffins are cooked at a high temperature and are fairly compact so I was able to fill the cups to just under the top. Once filled, take a spoon and gently spread the crumble topping on the batter.

Crumble topping added

Place the pans in the preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let the muffins cool and enjoy! They can be frozen in a freezer bag or tightly sealed container. To defrost, remove from freezer as needed and let sit at room temperature until fully defrosted. I can pull a muffin in the morning, put it in a container and it’s often ready to eat by the time my kids’ morning snack time rolls around. Super easy!

School Years Storage

Every parent reaches that point; do I keep the craft, hide it, throw it away? How do you deal with the never ending crafts, poems, colouring pages, paintings? When your kids are younger you want to keep it all! You feel so guilty not holding onto something your beautiful child created. As the years go by, the stash of crafts gets bigger and bigger before you have no idea what you will do with everything. It is ok to let some items go. As the adult, think about the childhood momentos you held on to. What was your reaction? One day your child will be you. Let go of the guilt, and the clutter and get organized!

My kids are older now at 11 and 13. The crafts have definitely slowed as have the finger paintings! Neither of them look at their collections and ask where a specific art piece is. I promise, as parents we are much harder on ourselves than our kids are. I started minimizing and sorting their artwork years ago. This is a system that keeps things under control, but also allows for memories and storage solutions.

I started with an accordion file folder. Each section has a year and that is all the space the year gets.

Each year is labeled so it makes for easier storage and sorting. I put the crafts that come home up on our big cork board. Each piece is named by the child and dated as it is put up. This makes sorting so much easier as some years it was hard to tell who did what!

Whatever fits in that year in the file is what they get to keep. They can look back at years past and see how they have grown. By keeping all the items in one simple folder it means less clutter, easy to find and organized! Bonus, the files have a handle so the kids can take their old art pieces with them when they move out!

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are perfection! Crispy outer edge, soft, fudgy center perfect on their own or as the base of the most awesome sundae. Such a simple recipe to make and they bake perfectly every time. This recipe involves a lot of butter, eggs and sugar but it is so worth it! This recipe makes a 9×9 pan or ~48 mini muffin cup size brownies.

Ingredients

1C Butter

2C Sugar

4 Eggs

2 tsp Vanilla*

2/3C Cocoa

1C Flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

*I will do 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp peppermint extract for mint brownies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add in the sugar and stir. Add in the eggs. Stir until all three are well incorporated. Mixing the sugar in well will help with the final product. Add the vanilla (and peppermint extract if making mint brownies). As usual I prefer less dishes and one bowl baking. If you prefer traditional methods, mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. If one bowl baking, add the cocoa to the mixing bowl. Once incorporated, add the salt followed by the baking powder. Last, add the flour slowly so it can mix in without clumps. If mixing dry ingredients in a separate bowl, gently whisk them together then add slowly until fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl once to ensure all ingredients are blended together.

Take your pan and if using a metal or glass pan, line with parchment paper or grease and flour. I used a silicone pan for the batch pictured and it turned out fantastic. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven for 25-30 min.

Test the brownies with a toothpick in the center to check for doneness. Once fully cooked, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently remove from pan and let continue cooling on a cooling rack if you have one.

These brownies can be sliced and eaten, or frozen for a treat at a later date. I love to add the mint for a different flavour, especially at Christmas! They make wonderful one bite treats when baked in a mini muffin tin. I add a squeeze of icing and a Hershey kiss on top for a simple baking exchange item. This is such a quick and simple recipe it’s enjoyed all year round!

Vinaigrette Potato Salad

My husband tried this style of salad at a friend’s house and loved it, so requested I try my hand at it. He had a general idea of the ingredients, so I guessed portions and found a balance we like. It is super easy to make, tastes best after it has sat at least overnight to absorb the flavours and because it’s not dairy based, you can easily serve it in warm weather without worrying about it spoiling as fast. It’s full of fresh flavour and light, so you don’t feel as heavy after eating it.

This is based on a smaller portion as we didn’t want many leftovers, so if you are preparing it for a bigger crowd, double, or triple the size.

Ingredients

680g Bag of Mini Potatoes

1/8C Olive Oil

1/8C White Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

1/4C Fresh Dill

1/3 Yellow onion diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Start by boiling the potatoes. Once fully cooked, strain the pot and fill with cold water to cool the potatoes faster. I usually leave the tap running a bit for the first few minutes as the heat from the potatoes will warm the water. Leaving it running help keep the water cool.

Once cooled enough to touch, cut the potatoes in half and place in a container you can seal. This is where I love the anchor dishes as they have a tight seal but also with the clean glass are great for serving.

Pour the rest of the ingredients over the potatoes and mix until each potato is well covered. You cna use less or more for the dill, depending on your tastes. Store in the fridge overnight and enjoy! It’s THAT simple.

English Muffin Pizzas

I usually start my posts off with a picture of the finished meal. This time, I featured a picture of the Chef! This week we started having our daughters each pick, prep and cook dinner once per week. They are 11 and almost 13 now and becoming quite adept in the kitchen. We wanted to increase their cooking knowledge and give them a better appreciation for all the work that goes into getting dinner on the table each night. So starts the “Kids Cook” blog posts.

This week my eldest chose English Muffin pizzas with Caesar Salad. She used; English Muffins, Tomato Sauce, Pepperoni, Marble Cheese, Roma Tomatoes and Red Peppers. Preheat your oven to 400F. She started by cutting the tomatoes and peppers for toppings. Then she grated the cheese. Next, she cut english muffins in half and laid them on a baking sheet. I suggest using parchment paper on the baking sheet as it is much easier to clean if any cheese or sauce gets spilled.

Take a soup spoon and scoop one spoonful of tomato or pasta sauce onto the english muffin. Using the back of the spoon, spread the sauce to the outer edge by moving it in small, gentle circles. Next, sprinkle the cheese over the sauce. Now, time to add your toppings! You can add whatever you like, whether it’s as simple as plain cheese or fully loaded, the best part is each person can choose what they like!

Once the pizzas are ready, place the sheet in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just about to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool before eating. These are the perfect size crust for kids and they love that they can create their own pizzas by choosing their own toppings. Easy for lunch or dinner, these are a hit every time!

Healthy Tuscan Chicken

Many of our meals are decided on by ingredients that I need to use up. This one came along because I had peppers and tomatoes that needed to be eaten. We had chicken breasts in the freezer and I had been watching a cooking show, Wall of Chefs, with my eldest the night before which inspired my taste buds. Italy and Tuscany were on my mind and I really wanted roasted veggies! An idea started forming and this was the result. I wasn’t sure how my kids would respond, but both cleared their plates and the youngest kept asking for more, which is ALWAYS a good sign! The chicken was so tender and juicy and kept the tenderness even as leftovers. This dish can have ingredients substituted based on what you have on hand, or to suit your vegetable preferences. The ingredients listed is for a four people, you can lessen or increase depending on how many people you are serving!

Ingredients

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Bell Pepper

4 Roma Tomatoes

1 small yellow onion

6 cloves of garlic

1/2C Basil sliced into ribbons

1/2 a lemon

1tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2C Chicken broth

Directions

Start by prepping your vegetables you want to as a base. I used cauliflower and grape tomatoes. Next, cut the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion for the chicken and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400F and place a heavy bottom pan that is oven safe on the stove top at slightly higher than medium heat.

Diced and ready to add to the chicken!

I cut half a head of cauliflower and sprinkled the tomatoes throughout, then drizzled olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400F for about 10-15 min, turning once in between. If you have more dense vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes, your cooking time will be a little longer. Other great options are artichokes, asparagus, even brussel sprouts.

While your vegetables are roasting, start cooking the chicken. Your pan should be warmed by now. Pour 1tbsp of olive oil into the pan. Olive oil does not have a high temp point, so be careful that you haven’t set your stove top too high or the oil will smoke. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cook for a few minutes until a nice sear develops. The chicken should be starting to brown on the side touching the pan, and you will see it change from pink to white on the outer edges. Using tongs, turn your chicken to sear the other side. Once the chicken has been seared on both sides, turn the temperature down a bit to slightly under medium and add your peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Let the vegetables sautee around the chicken and begin to soften for about 5 minutes. Add your warm chicken broth to the pan. Bring the broth up to a simmer. By this time the roasted vegetables should be done and can be removed from the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375F. Squeeze the half a lemon over the chicken and add half of your basil. Cover and place the whole pan carefully in the oven to finish cooking. Leave in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through, reaching an internal temperature of 165F.

I chose to serve this on pasta, but later had it on rice. This chicken goes well with either starch as a base. Once your chicken is fully cooked, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. I popped my vegetables back in the oven and sauteed some sliced zucchini in olive oil while the chicken sat. The pan will have a delicious chicken broth that can be spooned over the dish. I think the broth was my kids’ favourite part! You can serve this with bread and soak up any remaining broth, or sauce your dish as heavy or as light as you wish.

This dish took a bit of prep work cutting the vegetables, but overall was a very simple dish to prepare with light, fresh flavours that the whole family enjoyed. You could easily prep the vegetables the night before or morning of to save time when you’re ready to cook. If you want to keep it to a one pan meal, you can omit the extra roasted veggies. I hope you enjoy as much as my family did!

Simple Beef Stroganoff

Such a family favourite, this is lunch the next day!

I used to dread this as a kid. I thought it looked awful, didn’t want to eat it and wondered why mom made it for dinner. Fast forward a few years (okay, decades) and I decided to try making Beef Stroganoff for my kids. I looked up different recipes, I wanted something simple, easy, using up ingredients I had on hand. After reading a few recipes and getting the general idea, I came up with my own easy and kid requested, version. I still haven’t figured out why my kids ask for this on the regular, but I do know when I make it, I better make extras! This recipe is so easy, I can make it before I go to work and all my husband has to do is cook the egg noodles. These pictures are from exactly that situation, and lunch the next day.

Ingredients

1 lb beef steak (I usually use fast fry or marinating cuts, thin that you can easily slice)

4 cloves of garlic, diced

1 can Campbell’s Mushroom Soup

1/4C milk or cream

1 large spoonful of sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 package Egg Noodles

Directions

This dish is so simple, and only requires a pot, a pan and a cutting board. I start by slicing my beef into small strips. Thin, but also short enough that my kids don’t have to complain about cutting them. I vary what beef I use, based on what the store has available and at what price. A thinner, fast fry steak is my go to. It is easier to cut and cook. Whichever cut you choose you want to be able to slice it thin and into small pieces to make eating easier. Start heating your water to boil and set your pan on the stove to get it warming. If using a non stick pan, no oil is needed. If using cast iron or steel, add a tbsp of oil.

Once the beef is sliced, add it to your warmed pan. Season with salt and pepper. Salt helps bring out the flavour of the beef and season your dish well. Add the diced garlic and sautee your beef until browned.

Once your beef is browned, add the can of mushroom soup to the pan. Then add the 1/4C of milk or cream and stir together. Once stirred, add the dollop of sour cream. You can add a little more or little less, depending on your tastes, but I find a big spoonful is the right amount.

Not the prettiest looking, but this is how you
know you’re doing it right.

The egg noodles should be done by now, don’t forget about them! Stir the ingredients with the beef until combined and steaming. The sauce will thicken a bit, but will still leave enough to cover your noodles. Plate the noodles first, then spoon the stroganoff mixture on until you have the desired amount of sauce. If your sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of milk or cream at a time and stir until incorporated and you get the desired consistency.

This recipe is super simple, it has mushrooms which my kids don’t like, but for some reason, they LOVE this! If you need a quick, easy meal on a busy night this is our go to. You can substitute plain yogurt for sour cream, depending on what you have on hand.

This dish makes leftovers easy, as you can store together for a quick reheat and enjoy!