Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spinach Egg Cups

Mornings are very hectic, whether it is a school day or on the weekends.  Especially when we need to get the kids up, changed and washed, breakfasts eaten, snowsuits on, lunches packed, backpacks... 

I'm very lucky.  Hubby takes the older kids to school on his way to work, so I can clean up the morning's mess with the Baby, who is already 2 1/2 years old!  Then *I* can finally sit down to breakfast (with coffee, of course) and peruse the Internet while Baby finishes her milk while watching Dora.

The plight of almost every mother is that they take care of the children first and themselves (almost) last.  I am starting to realize that a happy mom really sets the mood in the household.  A grumpy and hungry mom is really not pretty.   

Mommies need to start the day off right too. I make Spinach Egg Cups in advance and then heat them up in the microwave in the mornings.  They are like mini omelets or quiches baked in silicone/Silpat muffin cups.  I make a dozen at a time and I have 1-2 of these egg cups for breakfast each day.  Normally, I heat 2 egg cups and Baby eats over half of one.  With a glass of V8 juice and a cup of coffee, my day is off to a great start!  Easy.

This recipe uses a box of thawed, drained frozen spinach.  I usually stock up on boxes of them when then are on sale for $1.  

After following the recipe a few times, I just grab several handfuls of different fillings, but the base is always:  about 1/4 cup onions, 1/4 cup diced bell peppers (any color), 4 eggs, 1 cup liquid egg whites, 1 box thawed, frozen spinach (squeezed dry), 1/2 cup chopped ham or any leftover meat that would be good in an omelet.   Also, I put in 1/2 cup of reduced-fat shredded cheese (mozzarella, 4-cheese, pizza blend) and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese for extra flavour.  

I have to share another "freezer" tip.  I freeze shredded cheese.  If I don't freeze it, after a few days, I see mold growing in the middle of the bag.  What a waste.  One day, I realized that if cheese is OK on frozen pizza, then I can freeze a bag and take out what I need!  With carpal tunnel syndrome, I really don't like to grate cheese so it is a nice convenience food.  

This is my silicone muffin pan.  It has the similar texture to silpat and I got it at my local kitchen specialty store.  It was about $30 and worth every penny. 

For a normal muffin pan, I think you could put 2 paper liners in each cup.  Scoop the mixture into the muffin pan.  I use a small ice cream scooper, which is also good for cookie dough.

Into the oven for 25-35 minutes.  It will be done when it smells amazing and looks golden brown and yummy.  

I guess I shouldn't complain if all 3 children insisted on having "Mommy's Spinach Egg cups" for breakfast this morning! 

Spinach Egg Cups

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3/4 cup liquid egg substitute (I use 4 eggs + 1 cup liquid egg whites)
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese (I use 1/2 cup cheese, 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese)
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced ham

Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil or 2 paper baking cups. Spray the cups with cooking spray.  Combine the spinach, egg substitute, cheese, peppers, onions, and ham in a bowl. Mix well. Divide evenly among the muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

- Adapted from Allrecipes - Vegetable Quiche Cups to Go
  and Kalyn's Kitchen - Egg Muffins

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Oatmeal Cookies - Gluten Free, Vegan and Nut Free

Tomorrow is my middle child's snack day for preschool.  Each child gets an opportunity to bring a snack to share for the rest of the class once or twice a month.  It is a nice way enjoy another friends' goodies and helps foster good will when sharing. 

My older 2 children have severe peanut and nut allergies and I think the youngest has it too, but not confirmed (and I don't want to find out anytime soon the hard way!). 

Other kids bring veggies and dip, fruit, mini croissants, etc.  There is a new girl in Nessa's class where she has a sensitivity to eggs, dairy and wheat. 

I have always wanted to make a baked treat but did not want anyone to feel left out due to dietary restrictions.  The past few times, I made fruit skewers, which was popular with the kiddies, but it was time to try something new.  When I found these gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free oatmeal cookies, I just had to try them! 

They were crunchy and sweet, very much like those Dad's cookies from the store.

As per the recipe, I dumped all the dry ingredients in a food processor and processed it until it was finely ground.  Then I added the wet ingredients and then ran the food processor til the crumbly mixture became a wet and sticky mass.  I am happy that this recipe does not require xanthan gum or other exotic ingredients associated with gluten-free baking. 

Because this is also vegan recipe, there are no eggs and dairy (milk, butter).  I did not have coconut sugar, so I used 1/3 cup white sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar instead.  Another substitution was that I used cold vegetable shortening instead or virgin coconut oil.  Next time, I will look for vegan margarine as a healthier alternative.  

The dough was a little sticky but still fun to work with.  I think I put in too much applesauce.  I tried to roll it out but it kept sticking to the rolling pin, so I just used my hands to pat it down and gently rolled it for a smoother surface.  

I used several kinds of cookie cutters but as the cookies puffed up so much during baking, I couldn't see the points on the maple leaf cookies. Circles and hearts turned out the nicest.  In my convection oven, I baked them for 13 minutes at 350F.  The time is dependent on the size of your cookies, so it can vary between 11-15 minutes.  They turned out nice golden brown and crunchy!

Next time, I would try add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  I do miss the taste of butter but the surprisingly light and crunchy texture makes up for it, much like a homemade graham cracker.  

[Edited to add:]  I tried the cookies with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and it was so good!   


Gluten-free, Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

3 cups quick oats
3/4 cup coconut sugar (I used 1/3 cup white sugar & 1/3 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup arrowroot starch/flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I used cold vegetable shortening)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the dry ingredients into a food processor fitted with the "s" blade. Process until very finely ground (not as fine as oat flour, still a little coarse).

Add wet ingredients, process until the mixture forms a cohesive ball. It may take a few minutes but it will happen. Pulse the processor if needed. 

Remove dough, finish forming into a ball with your hands. Chill the dough if it is too soft for 20 to 30 minutes. Then place on parchment or waxed paper for rolling. Roll out dough. Cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter.

Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 to 16 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. 

Optional:  Dip in a glaze made from about 3 ounces dark chocolate, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon sweetener. (Melted and whisked together over low heat).

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Roast Chicken

What could be more classic than roast chicken for a Sunday family dinner? 

Being a doctor's wife, there is a certain stigma attached with being the perfect hostess and cook.  Maybe that was what I thought when I was growing up when we went to a dear family friend's place for dinner on numerous occasions.  Their family dinners were always so warm with wonderful food and great company. 

Maybe subconsciously, I am trying to relive the good childhood memories and give my children a piece of that warmth and comfort.  Living here in 100 Mile House, we are away from my large Chinese family, where a family dinner consists of at least 15 people that included my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma.  Our dear family friend has passed on but never forgotten.

Roast chicken has always been a great family favourite.  About 10 years ago, I discovered this amazing roast chicken recipe and it has been my signature dish for entertaining visiting doctors and simple family suppers. 

As a busy mom of three, there is nothing more gratifying than an easy dish that can be prepped in minutes, roasted in the oven for several hours, and then devoured by children and savoured by company alike.  The house smells amazing too. 

Now is the time to look forward and make more wonderful memories with great family and friends.  Tonight is no exception, especially with a yummy dinner! 

First, I made the spice mix.  The original recipe included cayenne, black and white pepper.  I toned it down for the sake of the kiddies and only used black pepper. 

I defrosted my 4.5lb organic chicken yesterday.  I usually buy 2 smaller chickens (whatever they sell at the store) and roast them at the same time.  Better use of the oven and the leftovers are very good the next day.

Butcher's twine/cord is also a great tool in the kitchen!  I was able to stuff the chicken with the onion and use butcher's twine to tie up the legs to keep everything together.  I think it cooks more evenly and looks nicer tied up. 

I drizzled the chicken with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and then rubbed it around to help the spice rub stick a little better.  I held the chicken by the legs and sprinkled lightly the back first and then the front, drumsticks and wings.  Make sure there is an even coat.  The recipe says to rub the mixture into the the bird, but it was just plain messy.  Sprinkling the mixture turned out quicker and cleaner.   

The chicken was placed in a preheated oven 325F for about 2 hours.  After 1 1/2 hours, I basted the bird with pan juices.  About 1/2 hour later, I checked the internal temperature with a meat thermometer and it was almost 180F, so I took it out.  I tented it with a glass lid from my casserole dish and left some space to vent the steam.  The glass lid worked just as well, as I didn't feel like wasting a sheet of aluminum foil. 

Tonight's dinner was a success!   Easy, moist and flavourful chicken!  We had a nice and simple Asian-style meal paired with jasmine rice and stir-fried garlic & ginger baby bok choy.  

Roast Sticky Chicken - Rotisserie Style

Spice rub per chicken:
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (1 1/2 tsp for 3lb chicken)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 onions, quartered
1 (4-5 pound) whole chicken

In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme,  black pepper, and garlic powder. Remove and discard giblets from chicken. Rinse chicken cavity, and pat dry with paper towel.

Drizzle and rub chicken with extra virgin oil.  Sprinkle spice rub inside and out with spice mixture. Place 1 onion into the cavity of each chicken.

Place chicken in a resealable bag or double wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 to 6 hours. (I usually skip this step and it goes straight into the oven.)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Place chicken in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for 2 hours, to a minimum internal temperature of 180F.  Let the chickens stand for 10 minutes before carving.               

- Adapted from - Roast Sticky Chicken - Rotisserie Style
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Easy Hamburger Soup

After the kids' piano lessons this morning, they were happy to be home. It was almost noon and I needed something hot, quick and easy to feed the kids on a snowy, dreary, winter's day.

Sounds like a day for soup.  Scrambling around all morning, I didn't really feel like chopping a whole bunch of vegetables.  Just wanted to open a can of soup and be done with a meal. 

But then I'm not satisfied with the cans of soup we have in the stores these days.  I find that they are pretty skimpy, especially if I am used to making my meals from scratch as much as I can.   

With a bit of compromise, I was able to use the frozen vegetables and meat in my freezer and pantry to come up with a pretty tasty soup that the kids like! 

I didn't have a chance to defrost a pound of ground beef, so I just fried the frozen chunk of meat and scraped the cooked bits off.  Eventually, it was cooked.  The meat looked pretty greasy, so I drained the meat, scooped it into a metal sieve and rinsed it off with hot water.  Yes, it is an extra step, but it's personal preference.  I don't like greasy soup. I wiped the pot of excess grease and then dumped it back with chopped onion. 

Luckily, I have some frozen onion in the freezer.  (I bought a 10lb bag of onions for $2.99, chopped some of it up, placed chopped onions on a parchment lined baking sheet, froze them for a few hours and placed them into ziplock baggies.)  I dumped about 1/2 cup frozen onion into the beef.  This trick saved me more time!   

Then I dumped everything in the pot, except the pasta.

I recently discovered the beauty of tomato paste in a tube.  A lot of recipes ask for 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  I find it a pain to open up a can for that small amount and the rest of it is unused in the fridge.  Surprisingly, I stumbled across this product at my local supermarket chain and German deli!  I squeezed some into the soup for extra body.  I never expected that a tube of tomato paste would be so convenient!  This is optional, but I thought it would be a nice addition, as traditional hamburger soup recipes call for a can of tomatoes. 

I covered the soup, brought it to a boil and added the small pasta or whatever cooks fast to thicken the soup.  I found some organic alphabet pasta at the store the other day but next time, I will try barley. 

I simmered it covered for 10-15 minutes and stirred it around several times to keep from sticking to the bottom.  The soup is done when the pasta is done to your liking. 

Easy Hamburger Soup with Lots of Veggies

1lb lean ground beef (thawed or frozen)
1 small onion (I used 1/2 cup frozen onion)
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cans  vegetable soup (I used Campbell's) plus 3 cans water
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 can mushrooms (optional)
2 handfuls small shaped pasta (alphabet pasta, baby shells, orzo) or barley

In a soup pot, brown hamburger over medium heat. Rinse meat or drain off fat and return to pot.  Add onions and sautee for a few minutes.                 
Continue to add vegetable soup, water, mixed frozen vegetables, mushrooms and tomato paste and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, add pasta and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked and soup has thickened nicely.  

If serving hot soup to (very) anxious, hungry kiddies, add 1-2 ice cubes.  The children love seeing the ice shrink and disappear into the soup as they mix it.  By the time it has disappeared, it would be cool enough for them to eat.  This is great tip for eating out at restaurants! 

The kids would rather eat than pose for the camera! 
[Edited to add - April 12, 2013 ] I am so pleased to announce that this recipe is being featured on SayItCanada's series of recipes for "Parents Who Hate to Cook". is a rich lifestyle resource for communities across Canada.  

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Cooking Frozen Hashbrowns

Hashbrowns are a real treat for us, as it means the kids can have a leisurely breakfast instead of rushing around frantically for school.  It also means that I have the time to start up the frying pan and create something warm, hearty and comforting.

Yesterday, I wrote about freezing hashbrowns for future use.  Today, we try out our frozen hashbrowns to see if they are any good.

I heated up my pan with organic extra virgin olive oil (about 1-2 Tbsp) on medium-high, poured a layer of frozen potatoes, and dotted the top with a bit of butter for flavour. 

The frozen potatoes are only partially cooked, so I added some water (maybe 1/4-1/2 cup?) to the bottom of the pan and cover.  If you look closely, the potatoes are sitting in the water. 

I was able to find a stock pot lid that covered my frying pan!  Bring the water to a boil and simmer covered on medium heat for about 3-5 min to thaw and cook the potatoes completely.  (Can you see me taking this pic with my iPhone?). 

The potatoes should be cooked and the water evaporated after 3-5 min.  Then you can leave the lid off and brown and season your potatoes to your liking.   I always season my hashbrowns with kosher salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp onion powder. So far,
I haven't gotten any complaints from the kids. 

I think they look pretty tasty now!  Now I know that if potatoes are on sale, I can make
frozen hashbrowns for $0.29/lb!  The supermarket sells pre-made diced frozen hashbrowns for at least $2-3 for a 1kg bag.  I made a 1 kg bag for $0.65...well under a dollar.  Nowadays, it's hard to buy that volume of food for under $1, but it can be done if you have a good sized freezer and stock up when then things on sale at the supermarket.   

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Freezing Your Own Hashbrowns

Our family has an obsession with carbs.  LOTS of carbs and my 3 kids are not even close to their teenage years.  One day that will happen soon enough.  When my local supermarket chain had 20lb bags of potatoes on sale, I thought that I could buy a bag and experiment how I could freeze them for future and quick meals. 

My family loves hashbrowns.  Frozen, fresh, cubed or shredded.  Then I thought that I could try make my own hashbrowns and freeze them for later for just a little under $0.30/lb.  I have heard that freezing raw potatoes and fully cooked potatoes are a disaster (either they go black or become a watery mess once thawed).  So after read I countless sites on freezing hashbrowns, I tried to parboil my batch and see how it goes.  It has something to do with disabling the enzymes from the brief cooking.  

I got a big pot of water on the stove and let that come to a boil.  While the water was heating up, I got the potatoes.  

Other sites I have seen, they have shredded it by hand or food processor.  I got a little lazy.  I didn't feel like washing a dirty food processor, so I just peeled the potatoes and chopped them up in chunks.  It was nice and mindless.  Cleanup was also a breeze:  wash knife, cutting board and clean up the peels. 

After chopping up the potatoes, I put them in a bowl of water to keep them nice and white.  I rinsed off the starches and put the potatoes for 3 minutes only in the boiling water.  They were partially cooked. 

Fished them out, rinsed them in cold water and placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Blotted dry with paper and threw them in the deep freezer, just like you would freeze blueberries.  

Now that they are frozen, I simply placed them in a big ziplock freezer bag to be enjoyed at anytime!  I dont' have to worry about my potatoes going soft, green, sprouting or moldy!  Ha!  Saving money feels good.  Now I have my frozen hashbrowns for $0.29/lb! (minus the labour, but it's easy mindless work). 

Here's a recap: 
  • Boil big pot of water

  • Peel and cut potatoes to your liking and immerse in cold water

  • Rinse potatoes and boil in water for 3 minutes

  • Drain potatoes, rinse starches off in cold water

  • Place on parchment lined baking sheet, blot dry with paper towels

  • Freeze

  • Once frozen, place in freezer bags.  They should keep for a few months, if they aren't eaten up already! 

- Adapted from

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes

Ahhh... chocolate cupcakes... the staple of our family's birthday party repertoire.  I find that whenever someone has a birthday, I end up making several cakes and cupcakes to mark that special day.  If the kiddies have a birthday on a school day, then I make cupcakes.  Then I make a cake to celebrate with extended family members on the weekend for a family party.  On the actual day of the birthday, we celebrate again with the "real" birthday cake.  That's a lot of cake!!! 

We could be eating 3 different kinds of cake/cupcakes for a week!  It gets interesting if we have a 3 birthdays over a period of 2 months when the girls and daddy have birthdays in September and October!  After that binge, we are happy to go without goodies until Christmas.  This gives me a break from cake and we focus on Christmas treats instead.

Last month, my son had just turned 7 years old and wanted chocolate oreo cupcakes to take to his class for his birthday...again.  I made this last year and I guess it was a hit! 

This is the most kid-friendly moist chocolate cake recipe I stumbled across.  It makes a wonderful chocolate cake and for big and small kids, it makes a scrumptious, moist cake.  The batter is very runny, but somehow it works and becomes a beautiful cake begging for frosting, or whipped cream.  It is the perfect base for a black forest cake.  In place of the boiling water, you can use coffee for a deeper, almost black colour and flavour. 

Extreme Chocolate Cake

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water, or coffee (decaf for kiddies). 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans, or 1 9"x13" pan, or  36 cupcakes, half filled (they rise considerably).               

Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans.

Bake for roughly 15-20 min for the cupcakes, 30 to 35 minutes for 9" pan, 40-50 min for 9"x13" pan in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
Split the layers of cooled cake horizontally, cover the top of each layer with frosting, then stack them onto a serving plate. Frost the outside of the cake.

- Adapted from

For luscious, whipped fluffy frosting, I followed a vegan frosting recipe.  For that soft, fluffy frosting that stays the same in the fridge, I used regular soft margarine instead of butter.  Also, the trick is in the beating of the frosting.  I used my KitchenAid mixer and it worked a charm.  Adjust the sugar for sweetness. 

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (I used Western Family Soft Margarine, not light)
1 1/2-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy 
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk (1% or homo, whatever I have in the house)

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add vanilla and milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

 Adapted from

How do I pipe the frosting into luscious, irresistable swirls?  My best friend bought me
a cake decorating kit complete with pastry bag and decorating tips.  I didn't have the classic "1M Wilton tip" for perfect cupcakes but I was able to find it at my local kitchen store.

Make sure it is compatible with your pastry bag.  You may need a coupler or a smaller pastry bag, or just use the tip in a ziplock sandwich baggie.

This is the THE frosting cupcake tutorial that started it all!  It explains all you need to make your cupcakes look amazing!  I've had someone ask me if I bought the cupcakes and boy, was she surprised when I told her I made them from scratch. 

I topped it with a mini oreo cookie, just to finish it off. 


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