Quick and Easy Shepherd’s Pie

This recipe is not a traditional Shepherd’s pie. It’s a variation for a quick and easy dinner that kids gobble up! I usually plan this meal to follow a night we have had mashed potatoes. I make a bigger batch with dinner the night before so prep for the Shepherd’s pie is so fast and easy. The key to this one? The cheese topping. Once I added that, it was like the kids couldn’t get enough! This recipe was tested with my own kids and my daycare gang with great success. This recipe can be frozen very easily and cooked from frozen or after defrosting in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef

Mashed potatos (about 4-5 medium sized potatoes worth)

500G bag of frozen mixed vegetables

2 cans condensed tomato soup

2C shredded cheddar cheese

Garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste

1/2C diced onion (optional)

Casserole dish (I used 2.5 qt)

Directions

As I said in the introduction, the easiest time to make this is when you’ve had mashed potatoes and have leftovers. It makes preparation so fast and simple.

Start by browning the ground beef in a pan. Add the seasonings and diced onion. If you’re unsure how much to add, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, 1 tbsp of garlic powder and 2 tsp of paprika is a good measurement. Cook until brown all the way through and drain any excess grease. If you don’t have any mashed potatoes ready to go, start by peeling and cutting the potatoes to make mashed as they will take longer than your beef.

While the beef is cooking, warm the mashed potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the cooked beef to the casserole dish. Add enough frozen vegetables to suit your preference. I add about 2/3 vegetables to beef. Stir in 2 cans of condensed tomato soup. Stir all 3 ingredients together until mixed well. Top with the mashed potatoes. I add a hearty spoonful in various places over the top of the beef mixture, then spread evenly with the back of a spoon until about 2 inches thick. Sprinkle the grated cheese over top. My kids prefer marble cheese on almost anything, but you can use any cheddar you like.

Cover the casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes longer. The sauce will be bubbling up the sides and the cheese melted and golden on top. If you are cooking from frozen, it will take an hour to an hour 20 to cook all the way through. Cover for the main portion of cooking, then remove the cover for the last 20 minutes if cooking from frozen. Again, the side will be bubbling and the top melted and golden.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Soft and Sweet Sugar Cookies

Mini cut outs for our tea party

I LOVE sugar cookies! Just the right amount of sweet, soft and delicious and they go with any occasion! We have quite a few cookie cutters for any holiday and season. My favourite is topping them with sprinkled sugar. My kids prefer icing and bigger sprinkles. My husband just likes them plain. We have big cookie cutters and mini ones. This was the first time we tried minis and they turned out so well I figured it was about time to post the recipe I have been using for over a decade. The key to these is to not over flour or over mix and to refrigerate for the solid hour or so that it calls for. That will help them keep shape and bake well.

Ingredients

1 1/2C Butter, softened (real butter is key here, not margarine)

2C Sugar

4 Eggs

1tsp Vanilla (real vanilla is best in these, not artificial)

5C All purpose flour

2tsp baking powder

1/4tsp salt

Extra flour for your work surface

Parchment paper for baking

Sprinkles, sugar or other options for decorating

Directions

Start by beating the butter until creamy. Soft butter helps the sugar to incorporate better. Next, add the sugar. Beat until fluffy and light. Beating the butter and sugar long enough is key to really good dough. Add in the eggs, one at a time, careful to not get any shells in the mix. Then add in your vanilla. Beat until combined. Ideally, you mix your dry ingredients separately then add slowly, but I don’t love doing extra dishes, so I tend to add my dry ingredients right to the bowl. While I have the mixer going, I add the salt, then the baking powder. Then, I slowly add the flour, one cup at a time so it can mix in well. I usually have to scrape the sides of the bowl down half way during adding the flour. Mix the flour until combined, but don’t overdo it. If the flour is worked too much it can make the cookies a bit tougher. If you want a smaller batch, you can half this easily.

Once all mixed, separate the dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to chill for an hour. Fridge, not freezer even if you are in a rush. You can chill for longer than an hour, I often do. I’ll start with this dough, do a few other things, then come back to it well after an hour. If it has been a few hours, I will let it sit on the counter for a few minutes as I get my space prepped.

You will need flour for dusting the counter so the dough doesn’t stick, a rolling pin and any cookie cutters you like. I have a marble rolling pin and it has been the best tool ever! It makes amazing pastry dough and rolls cookies out so smooth.

Take your baking tray and line it with parchment paper. This helps remove the cookies from the tray easier and avoids melted sugar or sprinkles on your baking tray! Preheat the oven to 400F.

Start by unwrapping one ball of dough. Knead it a few times on your floured surface to make sure it holds together well and it’s warmed up a bit. Don’t overwork it, especially on the flour or it will make the dough more tough once cooked. Once the dough seems more pliable, start rolling it out. Roll it evenly until it’s 1 inch thick. You can see this thickness well in this picture, and don’t worry, I wash every surface the dough touches!

Take your cookies and evenly space them on your baking tray about 2 inches apart. They will spread a little when baking, and puff up, but they shouldn’t melt too wide. This is why we chill the dough! You can add sprinkles, sugar, chopped nuts, cherries whatever you like to the top, or leave them plain for decorating with icing later.

Once you have cut all you can with the dough you rolled. Gather it back up, and roll it again, repeating the process until all of your dough is used up. I tend to do one round with each ball of dough, then combine them. It helps to keep them at similar temperatures and makes it easier to cook and bake with.

Bake your cookies at 400F for 6-8 minutes. Take them out once the bottom edges turn a golden brown. Watching for that perfect colour is key to keeping them soft and light. They are ok a bit crunchier, but the best way to enjoy and keep them is when they are just golden. The tops will look a bit dry too. Let them cool for a couple minutes before moving to a cooling rack. If you want to use icing, let them cool completely then you can use royal icing which dries or softer icings if not stacking. For easy icing, I happily buy the small Wilton tubes in the grocery store so my kids can easily handle them and do designs. These will dry a bit, but not as hard as royal icing. You can add decorations or sprinkles or sugar with the icing when it’s wet as well.

The cookies can be frozen plain or decorated in a tightly sealed container. To defrost, just let them sit on the counter in the container for a couple hours and they will soften. I do this especially at Christmas when I make dozens and dozens for various friends and family. Of course, as with any cookie, they are always best fresh from the oven! Once you have one bite, they will be hard to resist not taking another!

Fish in a Bag

Weird title, right? But that is LITERALLY what this meal is. Fillets of fish, on a bed of vegetables, wrapped up in a parchment paper “bag” and baked. The veggies steam and give the fish such a fresh flavour, there is nothing better! This meal can be done with almost any type of fish, it is so quick to prepare and cooks within 30 minutes. The fish is tender, flaky and moist. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked. This was a menu item when I worked at Red Lobster and although I never knew the recipe, the method was easy enough to test out and love!

Ingredients

These will be the loosest ingredients I have ever listed, so bear with me! You will need enough fish fillets for the group you are feeding. Anything as small as 1 or 2, to a few bags with 5 or 6. Depending on the size of fillet, I would do 1-3 per bag. I usually use Tilapia, Salmon or Trout, skinless is best. The pictures I’m posting feature a larger trout fillet which fed our family of 4.

Vegetables! You can use any vegetables you like, anything that will steam or roast well. Think about what fish you’re using, how the fish will absorb the flavours and what you like to eat.

Butter, salt and pepper to taste, lemon wheels, garlic cloves and any herbs you want to use to add flavour. I suggest dill, thyme or even sage or basil.

Parchment paper! Key to the cooking process!

Baking tray to lay the bags on

Directions

Start by deciding how many bags you are making. Is everyone having their own individual serving? Are you making a big bag for everyone to serve from? Plenty of options for this recipe. I’m going to focus on making one big family bag today. Put your baking tray in front of you in your work area, then lay the parchment paper over it.

Wash and cut any vegetables you are using. I tend to wash and cut as I go and make layers. I put my heartiest vegetables on the bottom. In this case, I went super simple and laid baby carrots as my first layer

First layer on parchment paper

Next, I chose celery and mixed cherry and grape tomatoes. The tomatoes were great because they were already in a perfect size. The celery I cut into bigger pieces so they wouldn’t get too soft while cooking.

Adding more vegetables

Next, I added squares of bell pepper and cut about 4 garlic cloves in half, tucking them in amongst the sides of the vegetables. The garlic cloves aren’t pictured below.

Finished the vegetables

Now it’s time to lay the fish fillets over the bed of vegetables. Lay the fish over the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then thinly slice some butter and lay over the fish. Add any fresh herbs you would like to use. I had chives on hand, so decided to Last, lay the lemon wheels on the fish. All the flavours will steam together with the fish and the vegetables creating such a delicious, fresh taste!

All ready to bag and bake

Now it’s time to make our parchment paper bags. Pull a piece of parchment paper that is as big as the bottom piece. Next, fold the corners over together to help keep the pieces together. Now, slowly start to roll the edges together and in towards the centre. Keep rolling along the edges, squeezing them tightly to form a “bag.” Once you have finished rolling and the edges are sealed together, you can put the tray in the oven.

Bake at 375F for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how many fillets you have in. Once cooked, remove from the oven. Carefully take a knife and cut along the middle length of the parchment paper. Steam will be escaping, so watch that you don’t burn yourself. Serve and enjoy! If doing individual bags, you can plate and open at the table for extra flair. With individual bags, you can eat right out of the bag!

Voila! Dinner is Served!

Hearty Lasagna

Look at those layers!

Every year when I ask my husband what he wants for his birthday dinner, nine times out of ten, his response is lasagna. Not take out, not a big, juicy steak, all he wants is a giant, homemade lasagna. It is a fantastic family meal, easy to make and share with a large group, or freeze for an quicker meal another night. Today I’m posting the recipe for our giant lasagna, but I will include modifications for smaller ones and at the end a quick recipe for a super fast lasagna you can make in a pinch on nights when you may not have a lot of time or energy!

Ingredients

1 box lasagna noodles

2 lbs ground beef (use 1 lb for smaller lasagnas, 2 lbs for a giant or 2 lbs if making 2 smaller ones)

2x 24oz cans pasta sauce

1 yellow onion

2 bell peppers

6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 x 500g container of cottage cheese

1 1/2C grated parmesan

1 egg

4 C uncooked baby spinach leaves (optional)

1/2 tbsp olive oil (only if adding spinach)

1 400g of mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions

This recipe uses a 9×12 glass dish to build the lasagna. If you would rather make smaller portions, adjust the ratios based on your pan size. I often use my 3qt glass pyrex casserole dishes to make one lasagna for dinner and one for the freezer which works wonderfully.

Start by bringing a pot of water with a tsp of salt to boil that will be big enough to hold all of your lasagna noodles. Once the water comes to a boil, add your noodles and reduce heat to low. Cook until noodles are tender, about 10 min. Once noodles are cooked, empty into a colander and rinse with cold water until you are able to handle the noodles.

While the water heats, dice up your peppers, onions and garlic and set aside. Place a skillet big enough for your ground beef and diced vegetables on the stove top and start warming it on medium. Once heated, place your ground beef into the skillet. Use a spatula to break up the ground beef into small pieces. Add your diced vegetables. The beef should contain enough fat that you won’t need to add any additional oil to sautee the veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste and your italian seasonings so the beef cooks and absorbs the flavours of all the seasonings.

Place another skillet on the stove, turn to just under medium heat and add the olive oil. Once warm, add the spinach, salt and pepper and sautee until the spinach is cooked. It will reduce quite a bit. Remove from heat and let cool. If you don’t want spinach, skip this step.

While the noodles and beef cook, take your casserole dishes and pasta sauce. Place enough sauce in the bottom of your dish to cover the bottom in a thin layer. This will prevent the noodles from sticking. Pour a bit in the center, then gently turn and tilt your dish until the bottom and up each side a bit is covered. As the noodles and beef continue to cook, take a bowl and place the cottage cheese in it. Add the egg and 1 C of parmesan. Add pepper and salt. Stir together until fully blended. Add the spinach once it’s cooler.

The noodles should be done by now and under water cooling. The beef should be cooked until it is fully brown and cooked all the way through. Drain the excess fat. Place it back on the stove and add the rest of the pasta sauce. It should be enough to cover the beef and veggies, but not enough to make a soupy sauce. Stir the pasta sauce in and remove from heat once warm. It shouldn’t require much time on the stove to get warm enough.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Assemble all your layers (noodles, beef, cheese and spinach mix) around your casserole dish for easy access. Start by placing the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the casserole dish. Shingle them slightly so there are no gaps. Next, place half the beef on the noodles. Spread it out so it covers corner to corner and is flat. Place another layer of noodles, again shingled so there are no gaps. Now pour your cheese and spinach mixture. Repeat again with noodles and beef, then noodles again. All your filling should be used up, so now it’s time to top the lasagna. After your last layer of noodles, sprinkle of the grated mozzarella cheese over the top. Spread it out evenly so every inch of noodle is covered and there are no big clumps. Take the last 1/2 C of parmesan cheese and sprinkle it over the mozzarella. Time to bake! (If you’re doing two smaller lasagnas, separate your beef into 4 portions and your cheese into 2.)

My Little Helper!
Ready to bake.

Take aluminum foil and place it over the top of your lasagna, tenting it up in the middle. Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Bake until the sauce is bubbling up the sides and the cheese on top is melted and browning.

Remove from the oven, cut, serve and enjoy!

Quick Lasagna

Ingredients

1 lb Ground beef

Garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

1 kg package fresh Cheese and Spinach stuffed ravioli

1 24oz can pasta sauce

320g bag of shredded mozzarella

Directions

Place the ground beef in a skillet to brown, add in your spices to taste. 1 Tbsp of each garlic powder and italian seasoning should be a good amount, less of the salt and pepper. Cook pasta according to directions on the bag.

Just like above, place the pasta sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish to prevent the ravioli from sticking. Once the beef is fully browned, drain the fat and add enough pasta sauce to cover the beef without making it too dry or too soupy. Once the pasta is cooked, as above, drain it into a colander and rinse with cold water until you are able to handle it.

Preheat oven to 400F. Start to assemble your lasagna in the casserole dish. Begin by placing a layer of ravioli on the bottom, tight enough that there are almost no gaps, but not too tight that they are squished together. Add half the meat mixture. Repeat the noodle layer and another layer of meat, then a final layer of noodles. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Place foil over the dish, tenting in the middle. Place in oven and bake covered for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling. If the top isn’t melted enough, turn the oven onto broil at 400F and cook until the cheese starts to bubble.

Quinoa Summer Salad

When the weather gets hot, I find we like to eat lighter meals. Trying to find meals that aren’t too heavy, but still pack a lot of nutrition can be harder, especially when we’d rather be playing in the backyard or park with the kids than cooking. Quinoa is such a healthy grain, full of vitamins, minerals and protein and so versatile. You can eat it hot or cold and add so many different ingredients to it. The weather here this week is like an early blast of summer, so grilled chicken on the bbq was on the menu for last night. I had a day off and had been working on moving a garden all day, so a fast dinner was in order. What better side to grilled chicken than a light, fresh, citrusy summer salad full of nutrients!

This salad can be made in the morning, or right before you’re ready to eat. It’s quick and easy enough you can bring it to a potluck or make a bigger batch to have for lunch throughout the week.

Ingredients

1C Uncooked Quinoa (Cook using the instructions below)

1 medium size bell pepper (red, orange or yellow

1/3 cucumber cut into circles then 1/8’s

1 plum tomato, diced

Chives and cilantro to taste

Dressing

1/8 C white vinegar

1/8 C Lime juice

1/4 C Olive Oil

2 Cloves of garlic, diced fine

1/4 tsp sea salt

Pepper to taste

Preparation

Start by cooking the quinoa. The easiest way for this salad is boiling on the stovetop. Start by rinsing 1 cup of uncooked quinoa for about 30 seconds until well rinsed and the water runs clear. Place into a small to medium pot with 1C of water. You may need just under 1C, but can drain the excess if the quinoa doesn’t absorb all of the water. Turn the element on to med-high and bring the pot, uncovered, to a soft rolling boil. Keep the water at a slow boil until the water looks absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes. The remainder of the water should absorb and the quinoa become fluffy. Remove the lid, take a fork and fluff the quinoa. Put into a fine colander and rinse in cold water to cool. Place the quinoa into a bowl.

As the quinoa cools, start by combining all the ingredients to make the dressing. Whisk together and let it sit so the flavours infuse into each other. Put the dressing aside.

Cut the cucumber into circles about 1cm thick, then cut the circles into 1/8’s. Dice the tomato into small cubes. Cut the top off the pepper, remove the seeds and slice into small squares. Add the diced veggies to the cooled quinoa.

Finely chop a small handful of cilantro and about 6 chives. Add to the quinoa and vegetables. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This will last up to 5 days fresh in the fridge. You can pair with chicken, fish or other light meats to make a full meal.

Pantry Peace

We have a smaller, galley style kitchen. I made an earlier post about how we added 2 Ikea Kallax shelves in to create more counter space and storage. It worked out fantastic and has been functioning well for our house. With such a small kitchen and a crazy me who loves to cook and bake so much, cupboard space is used to a maximum. We have one tall, deep cupboard meant as a pantry. That one cupboard barely functions. We also rent, which means adding pullouts in the cupboard is not really a viable option. We bought and added a cupboard when we first moved in which has acted like a second pantry. I have redone and switched storage in the cupboard over the years, based on what we most used, what my kids needed to reach and what my husband needed to find.

I had seen many posts about tupperware systems, storage containers and thought this will never work for my cupboard. Then, strolling through Costco one afternoon they had 3 packs of the big Rubbermaid storage containers that I swore would never work and I figured whatever, let’s try it! Worst case, Costco takes EVERYTHING back. A couple containers quickly turned into me pulling everything out of both pantries, a cupboard and a drawer and completely changing things. It’s been a few weeks, I have baked, cooked, the kids have made lunch and hubby has made dinner all with success! I have gotten a few texts from him asking which cupboard I moved certain items to, but otherwise with everything spaced and in clear jars and containers it has made things much more functional.

With baking a lot, I tend to buy bigger bags of sugar, flour, etc. With 2 growing kids who seem to always be hungry we buy dry goods in bigger bulk sizes too. Pulling everything out of the cupboards helped me assess what we needed big sizes of containers for and what could be put into smaller ones. Which items I needed fast access to and which could be towards the back of the cupboard. Other than the Rubbermaid containers, everything else I used I already had at home. That was the best part, completely redoing my cupboards for such minimal cost.

I utilized the Rubbermaid containers for sugars, flour, chocolate chips. I used a few for cereal, but found for the most part they were too big for the boxes we buy. I used some for pasta which was a great thing because it has prevented having 4 or 5 bags open at the same time! Rice was already stored in a smaller version of these containers, so it worked out well to upgrade the size.

I raided my Mason jar collection for breadcrumbs, cornmeal, smaller pasta bags, dried fruits, nuts, granola, seeds. I can see exactly what is in each jar, which means I didn’t need labels for everything. It also helps me see when they need to go on the the grocery list to be replenished. I did put labels on the back of jars with expiry dates because one thing I learned is that some items definitely got forgotten in my bigger bins.

I was running out of jars and still had grains to figure out. I started looking around my kitchen for ideas when my eyes saw the empty wine bottles waiting to go out to the recycling bin. Lightbulb moment! I soaked and removed the labels, then hand washed and let dry. Arborio rice, quinoa, couscous all fit in so well and pour with ease!! No bags collapsing or pouring too fast out of big jars. I WISH I had of used bottles years ago. Those are labeled and have cooking instructions on them. Everything at my fingertips. I used chalk labels so I can change things up, and fix spelling mistakes!

The bottom shelf holds all of my vinegars and oils. Big jugs, smaller bottles, infused oils, specialty ones with singular purposes, ingredients for salad dressings, marinades and even the odd deep fry need when we’re craving fish and chips. I used to have to stretch and move things grab a chair to reach my special oils and spices. Now they are so much easier to grab when I’m in the midst of dinner and need access quick.

The top shelf holds spices, sushi making items and that silver tin holds smaller baking items like small bags of chocolate chips, vanilla, honey, extracts and shortening. I still have my big spices in a bottom drawer, labeled to find easily and they have continued to work the best there.

I moved cans, ziplocs, straws and backup pantry items to my cupboard pantry.

Tope shelf has breakfast items, cereal, PB, oatmeal, etc. Second shelf has snacks towards the front, with extra cracker boxes at the back. Below that I have ziplocs, straws and a container we only use in the summer filled with popsicle making items. I have the open ziploc boxes facing forward, with back up behind them. Cans are on the bottom shelf, just incase they fall when someone is grabbing one. Everything is easy to access, store back ups and avoid having too many of one item open.

This drawer used to hold my food wrap, ziplocs, measuring cups and spoons. I always have to climb on a chair, stretch to the back of the cupboard and pull down bins to find my sprinkles, so decided to try something different and make a baking drawer. I love that I can see all my colour gels, the measuring spoons and cups fit easily and everything stays more organized. This should also help me avoid buying double of sprinkles as I found I had quite a few when I moved everything around. I put my smaller baking containers and liquid measuring cups in a small, awkward cupboard above the microwave. It’s not as deep, so I can reach everything on my tip toes. Baking soda, powder, icing sugar, cornstarch all within reach.

It’s been a month and a half since I made the big pantry switch and I can honestly say it has proven to be functional and peaceful. Being able to find everything, knowing how much is left, and keeping items front and centre when I open the door has also helped with meal planning because I know what I need to use up. My whole family can find things easier and I have less of, Mommmmm where is _______? Healthier items are at eye level and everything is more accessible. I don’t have to keep a chair or stool in the kitchen to cook dinner and I can quickly move and find everything. It was definitely worth it to try something new. So take a look, and decide is your pantry working for you, or can something new make it even more functional and peaceful?

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies have always been a favourite, especially fresh out of the oven! My family prefers dipping them in milk for the best treat. These cookies have a crisp outside and, soft tender inside. The flavour is the perfect balance of sweet cookie with plenty of chocolate. Quick and easy to make, and they never last long!

Ingredients

2/3C of butter, softened

1/2C Sugar

1/2C Brown Sugar

1 Egg

1tsp Vanilla

1 1/2C Flour

1tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Salt

6oz Chocolate Chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F.

Start by beating the butter until it is fluffy, then add both sugars and cream together.

Next, add your egg, then vanilla and mix until blended. I keep my mixer going and add in the baking powder and salt. Once combined, I slowly add in the flour to help it mix in well, without it splashing out of the bowl.

When the ingredients are well combined, I start adding in my chocolate chips. You can add a little more or a little less depending on what you prefer. Semi Sweet work the best, but Milk Chocolate chips can be quite creamy and delicious.

Once the chocolate is mixed in, take the dough and using 2 teaspoons, spoon the dough onto your cookie sheet, keeping the cookies spaced about 2-3 inches apart. Push down on the top a little so they aren’t formed to high to help with baking. This recipe doesn’t spread too far, but you still need to give a bit of space in between.

Place in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.

I am never one who is good at keeping track of baking time as I often have a few things on the go at once. The trick with these cookies, is their appearance. When they are done baking, the edges will be a light brown, but the middles do not change colour. They will look dry and not shiny. They may seem like they aren’t quite done, but don’t misjudge them. Let them rest for a minute on the cookie sheet, then remove and cool. Catching these cookies at just the right point keeps them soft on the inside.

Once cooled, enjoy! I always double or often triple this recipe as following the directions will only give you about 18 cookies and that is not near enough with how good these taste!

Banana Bread

Fresh out of the oven

If your home is like mine you buy a bunch of bananas, start with good intentions and before you know it they are turning brown. You go to put them in the freezer, only to realize you already have quite a few in there. What better way to use them up than by making banana bread! You can keep it simple, or add some different flavours. I have added blueberries, raspberries, chocolate chips and even skor bits on top for an amazing caramel crust.

Ingredients

2 C all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C butter, softened

3/4 C brown sugar

2 eggs

2 1/3 C mashed overripe bananas

Cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Berries, Chocolate Chips, Pecans, Walnuts, Skor bits (optional)

Directions

Quick Version: Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter first, then add sugar and cream until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, then the bananas. While mixing, add salt, baking soda and finally flour one cup at a time to help incorporate well. If the bananas are watery add 1/4C more flour. Add 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon for more flavour (optional). Add 1/2C of chocolate chips, skor bits , chopped pecans or fruit if you like. Add more or less depending on your tastes. If adding fruit, add a bit more flour. Grease and flour pans or use parchment paper. Once pans are ready, pour the batter in. Add skor bits or brown sugar to the top if you want to create a caramel, crunchy crust. Place in oven for 60 min until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 min, then remove and continue to cool on the counter.

Detailed Directions:

If your bananas are frozen, make sure they are defrosted before beginning. You can put them in the fridge overnight in a bowl to help with this. Preheat your oven to 350F

Start by creaming the butter, get it nice and smooth to help incorporate it into the batter better.

Add in the brown sugar and mix it until fully blended into the butter

Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Then add in the bananas. If the bananas are watery from being frozen, you’ll need to add more flour to balance the extra liquid. The easiest way I’ve found to get the bananas out of the peel is to take a paring knife and slice down the length of it. The banana will just slide out. Mix the bananas in well to fully incorporate.

Next add in the salt, baking soda and flour. You can mix the dry ingredients together first then slowly incorporate them, or do the lazy method and add them one at a time, starting with the salt, then soda and finally adding the flour, one cup at a time. If the bananas look like my pictures, you will need to add more flour. The pictures show a double batch. For one recipe size, add about 1/4C flour extra, for a double batch add 1/2C. The batter should be a bit thicker in consistency. If you add fruit like blueberries or raspberries add a bit more flour as well, because the juice from the berries will add extra liquid.

Finished batter

I love adding some spices to my banana bread. For a single batch, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon really add a nice flavour boost. If you want to add chocolate chips, pecans, walnuts or skor bits now is the time to mix them in. Start with 1/2 C and add more based on your sweet tooth.

Grease your pans with a bit of butter and flour or cooking spray. If you’d rather, line them with parchment paper. I prefer parchment paper as I can lift the loaves out and slice them easier. Pour the batter in the pans and shake a bit to even out. If you’d like you can add some skor bits or brown sugar to the top. As they melt and bake, they will create a sweet, crunchy caramel topping on the loaf.

Ready to bake

Place the pans in the oven at 350F for about one hour. The top should be rounded, golden brown and when you insert a toothpick it comes out clean. Once done, remove the pan and let the loaves cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing.

Fresh out of the oven

Pull up the parchment paper, or shake the loaf out and let it continue to cool on a cooling rack. Once cool enough to touch, you can slice and enjoy! A bit of butter, peanut butter or nutella spread on the slice of banana bread can really make for a delicious treat! You can slice the loaf and freeze it easily too. I like making 2 or 3 loaves at once depending on how many bananas I have. Then portion, freeze and pull when needed for an easy snack.

Dense bottom, fluffy inside, crispy top. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cake

I first made this cake when browsing through my cookbooks for new ideas a couple years ago. Tired of making the same cookies and treats year after year, I wanted something simple, full of flavour and different from what I had made before. I stumbled upon an old Chatelaine cook book I must have borrowed from my mom, and who knows where she even got it from! It was printed in 1978 and reading some of the recipes it’s interesting to see the different ingredients and methods used compared to current recipes I use.

Recipe

Ingredients

2 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt

1/2 C shortening

1/2 C sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 C table molasses

1 C hot water

Method

I tend to be super lazy about some aspects of baking. Certain parts still need to be followed, but others I’ve learned I can take a short route. This method is the shorter route.

Start be preheating the oven to 350F and greasing or lining a 9×9 square cake pan with parchment paper.

Cream together the shortening and sugar until blended and smooth. Add the molasses and continue blending until all incorporated. Then add the eggs, one by one until beaten into the mixture. Add the spices one by one, blending into the shortening mixture. I love my Kitchenaid mixer for this exact reason. It keeps going and I can add items one by one without stopping.

Once the spices are well blended, add the baking soda. Once incorporated add the flour cup by cup, leaving time in between for each to be mixed in. Once the flour is fairly mixed into the batter, slowly add the hot water. Be careful as it may splash a bit. Mix at a low speed to avoid this happening and add it slowly so it doesn’t overwhelm the bowl.

Once all the ingredients are mixed together and the batter is smooth, pour into the cake pan. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes.

The end result is a fluffy, flavourful gingerbread cake that isn’t too sweet. It is amazing as a Christmas morning cake as you open the presents, or enjoyed with a cup of tea on a snowy winter day. It can be frozen in a tightly seal container and left on the counter to defrost or warmed in the microwave or oven wrapped in foil.

Easy Freezer Organization

Our fridge freezer gets a lot of use. It’s where we keep our most used items. Ice cream, ice packs for lunch bags, frozen veg for dinners, ice trays, etc. I also portion and freeze lunch meat, shredded cheese, pepperoni, things that we buy in bulk but use frequently. My freezer was becoming a disaster with so many hands in it so often. I had used containers in our deep freeze, so figured why not try in the smaller one. Success!! It’s been 2 months and is still organized. This rarely happens when it’s an area the kids get into!

Some containers have lids, others do not, but because of how the items are organized nothing is getting crushed and everything is staying sorted. I decided on one container for ice packs for injuries, one for frozen bread items like pizza buns, extra burger buns, pancakes. Another had the shredded cheese and lunch meat and the last container frozen veg for dinner and fruit for smoothies. The little shelf that came with the freezer still works well for ice and ice cream. The door also has little containers for lunch bag ice packs and the ever essential frosted glasses for a cold beer.

Quick and simple, but SO EFFECTIVE!

2 months later and still organized!!