Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

On What Grounds Would You End an Imaginary Friendship

Little break from cleaning here to share this story with the world.

My seven year old gained an imaginary friend when he was 4. I don't blame him. His mom went in hospital for an extended time, his family split up for 3 months before everyone moved to a different country, his baby brother was born 2 months premature, and then just after he gets settled into his new home in a whole different country, his Pappap died. So, several enormous life events in a row and here came a slew of imaginary friends. One was around for awhile, then he was twins, then it was twins and their buddy.

We didn't make a big deal of this. It was obviously a coping mechanism and an outlet for a VERY active imagination. Our son would tell us tales of how he and his imaginary friends went out joy riding in a moving truck, working on farm equipment, driving a train. Harmless fun really.

Stories about the imaginary friend(s) started tapering off a year or so ago. They'd come once a month, then every several months, and until the other day I hadn't heard about "Kyle" or his twin in about six months. Well, my little guy informed me that he has given up his imaginary friend.

"Oh?" I said, "And how did you come to that decision?" Fully expecting he'd tell me he's growing up and doesn't need any imaginary friends.

"He was mean, so I don't want him to be my friend anymore." Dear son tells me. I ask him to explain.

"Well, I was falling to sleep and Kyle asked me if I was thinking about Kiara" Kiara's a pretty girl from school "and I told him 'no.' So he said, 'I'm gonna te-ell, I'm gonna te-ell, I'm gonna te-ell Kiara that you weren't thinking about her!' So I decided that I'm not his friend anymore because that was mean!"

Now you know what exactly is grounds for ending an imaginary friendship.


Apple Puff Pancake

We almost didn't get to have this tonight. My daughter was taken to the hospital from school with chest pains and we didn't get home til almost 7PM! Turns out my daughter is fine, a little stressed apparently, but otherwise fine. It's March break next week so she'll have a chance to unwind from the rigors of the seventh grade!

Tonight's meal was so worth the wait! This is SO good! I have tried many recipes for this, but this is the one that is best! My kids were so pleased with tonight's meal. My 2-year-old was the quietest at the table he's ever busy taking one bite after another!

You need:
2 T stick margarine or butter (I used soft and it was fine!)
2T brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour (I use 1/4 whole wheat, 1/4 all purpose)
1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 baking apples (I used McIntosh)Peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Set the oven to 400F. Put the margarine in a 9" pie plate and set it inside the oven to melt the margarine. Remove the pie plate and spread the margarine over the sides and bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon on the bottom of the pan. Spread the apple slices over the bottom of the pan.

Beat the eggs slightly in a medium bowl with a wire whisk. Beat in the rest of the ingredients until just mixed. Pour the mixture over the apples. Bake 30 minutes or until pancake is puffy and a golden brown colour.

Immediately loosen the edge of the pancake from the pan with a thin knife. Set a plate on top of the pie pan and carefully flip the pan and plate over. The pancake will come out onto the plate upside down. That's how you want it. If you don't flip it, you'll never get apples onto each person's plate without a struggle. Flipped, the apples and caramelized sugar mixture is on the top when served. Also, the puff deflates soon as you cut it.

Serve it as is. The kids will add syrup to it if I put syrup on the table. But they'll eat it without, too! I like it as is!


Green Goodness Smoothie

It's a HIT! WOW! I was hesitant to try this recipe since I have a child who won't eat green things. He saw the spinach leaves go into the blender and I was sure I'd lost him at that point. Wrong! He LOVED it! It's quite sweet and refreshing. Everyone loved it. It has a fibrous texture, but no one seemed to mind that at all. They have renamed it to "Monster Mash" and asked that we have some floating eyeballs (grapes) next time.

This served the five of us with some to spare! The two youngest got 6 ounces each and the rest of us had 8 ounces.

  • 2 bananas sliced if fresh (I used frozen bananas)
  • 2 cups fresh grapes, washed
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, washed
  • 1 whole apple cored, peeled and sliced
  • 12 ounces plain yogurt

Add the yogurt and banana first, then all other ingredients. Blend until smooth. You'll need to push things down a couple times to get it all blended, but it all will.

Pour and serve!

I'm making this again tomorrow at the kids' request. How's that for getting the green leafies into them? Works for me!


Chicken Vegetable Cobbler

Yet another frequent flyer on my menu. This is wonderful in the winter for a one dish meal as it's hearty, warm and flavourful. This one's also an original of mine. I have several variations, but this is how I prepared it tonight:

2c cut up cooked chicken
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 can evaporated fat-free milk
3 c frozen mixed vegetables
1 batch drop biscuit dough (recipe below)

I cooked two 2-quart baking dishes of this tonight. I'll freeze one for another day.

First I place the chicken, cream soups, and milk in the baking dish and stir to get the soup thinned out and fairly distributed. Then I add the mixed vegetables and stir again. It seems like a dry mixture, but the water from the frozen vegetables will moisten the mixture more as it cooks. For the biscuits:

1/2 c shortening
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup all purpose)
1 T sugar (I use Splenda and nobody knows!)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c milk

Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the milk. It will be a sticky mixture. Using a tablespoon, spread one table spoon of biscuit dough at a time onto the top of the vegetable-chicken mixture. I thin these out as I've found if they're very thick used this way, they don't cook all the way through. These will not completely cover the mixture -- you'll have spaces between each biscuit.

When my husband makes this recipe, he reduces the milk to 3/4 cup and rolls out the biscuit dough to about 1/4" thickness and then places it directly over the mixture. We know I'm a lazy cook so I don't make that particular extra effort.

I bake this at 350 for 35-45 minutes until the biscuits are cooked all the way through and no longer doughy on the undersides. Allow the pan to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

If you halve this recipe, your choice of cream soup will be fine. You don't need two different ones for a good flavour. You'll have extra biscuit dough, so just drop the leftovers by spoonful onto a baking sheet and allow them to bake next to the cobbler. They'll be done in about 20 minutes when they're a nice golden brown on the outside.

Prep time is 20 minutes. Not bad for an entire meal in one dish!


Chicken, Rice and Cali Mix

This meal shows up so frequently on my menu it's a staple in this house! It's true I decide how to cook my chicken on the day we're having it. I ended up being pressed for time due to teacher interviews and an incredibly obstinate toddler (how one so small can have so much to fight about I'll never know!) So today I used Knorr's herb soup mix in my rice and over my chicken. This would probably work well as a marinade with white wine or vinegar. I will try that out next week and see how it works. Once again I baked the rice and chicken in the oven altogether. 2 cups water, 1 cup rice, 4 tablespoons of the dry Knorr soup mix (3 in the rice water, 1 over the chicken) and baked at 375 for 40 minutes, until the chicken tested done on a meat thermometer.

We use California Mix frozen vegetables frequently, too. It's a nice blend and steams well in the microwave. I use a large serving bowl which I cover with a lid or a plate and steam for five minutes, stir, and steam some more if needed. I then add a handful of shredded cheese (about 1/2 cup when serving five) replace the lid and let the cheese melt. Amazing what a very small amount of cheese will get a child to eat! All my kids love this vegetable mix. The veggies are al-dente so I know they've retained most of their nutrients and while the cheese adds fat as well as flavour it's not much with a fairly low-fat meal.

While I would prefer to have the apple pancake and smoothies tonight as I still am craving a very light meal after the dense chalupas yesterday, I will go ahead and make the chicken veggie cobbler. I am going to make two small casseroles tonight and freeze one of them for another day.


Just How Were Those Chalupas

Monday evening my beans were as hard as if they'd only been soaked. There were no acids in the mix so I couldn't understand why they hadn't softened. I wound up removing all the beans and running them through the food processor as I wanted them to be more of a paste than a whole bean. Hours later and even this didn't help. I ended up serving a Knorr frozen dinner and some leftovers for dinner. I decided to leave the chalupa mixture cook all night in hopes of saving five quarts of food from the compost bin!

Cooking all night did the trick. I did add more spices Tuesday morning as the aroma was spicy, but the flavour was not. My husband and daughter really enjoyed the chalupas. They were served on tortillas with some shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream. They were messy, too! While I liked this recipe, I do believe I'll use chicken to make it in the future. The pork was just too fatty. Tuesday morning I scooped most of the broth and about 1/4 of the mixture into a big bowl which I placed on an icepack in the fridge so that I could easily skim the fat from the top. It didn't seem to be that much, but as I continue to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, my mouth's fat tolerance decreases.

Using just the chalupa mixture and a bit of cheese in each wrap, I froze 30 wraps for future use -- half of them the 12" size. They'll be good for lunches or a quick heat and eat meal when I don't feel like cooking (or have a dinner catastrophe like hard beans!) This is quite hardy and filling, too!

I recommend this recipe especially if you'll have a large gathering of folks who like the spicy stuff! It makes quite a lot, so if you had 15 people to feed you could easily do it with this recipe.

Thank goodness it's chicken breasts tonight! After the heavy denseness of last night's meal I'm looking forward to something light and unfatty!


Crock Pot Chalupas

Ah! Yet another crock pot meal! I happen to have a wealth of dry pinto beans in my pantry and found this recipe while looking for ways to use them that might please the whole family. Pork roasts went on sale this week so Chalupas it is! We did, however, have to spend nearly an hour removing the giant slab of fat from our roast. Yuck! Next time, we'll have the in-store butcher do it.

For crockpot chalupas, you'll need:

3lb pork roast
1lb dry pinto beans
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T ground cumin
1 T dried oregano
2T chili powder
1 T salt (we added a teaspoon)
4oz can chopped green chilies (I used red)

Last night I ran my pinto beans through my food processor as I would prefer the beans be more like refried than solid beans. After grinding them, I soaked them in water just to cover them, adding a teaspoon of baking soda to help soften these old beans of mine. I rinsed the beans this morning and added water to cover them again.

Into the crock pot went the roast and all the other ingredients. I did chop the chilies in the food processor as well to better disperse them through the mixture. Once everything was in, I added the beans and their water. I moved the roast a bit to make sure some of the liquid got underneath it.

This will cook on high for one hour then low for six. After six hours, I'll remove the roast, shred it with a fork and return the meat to the mixture. Then it will cook one more hour on high.

I will serve this in tortillas with lettuce, green onion, salsa and light sour cream (plain yogurt for me.) This is a very large recipe and we'll have two meals from it this week. Tomorrow, I will take what is left of the mixture and make wraps that I'll freeze. My husband and daughter will be able to pull one out of the freezer and reheat or add to their lunchboxes. I'll let you know how many I end up freezing!

I know that my youngest two cannot eat the spicy foods, so I have a bean salad for my two year old (who adores beans) and leftover pork chop, apples and sweet potatoes for my seven year old.

One day all the planets and stars will align just so and I'll find myself preparing one thing for everybody! A girl can dream, can't she?


Easy Slow Cooker Pork Chops

I love crock pot cooking! I got started with it when I was a single working mom and got sick of the low-quality 30 minute meals I'd make for us when we got home around 5:30 in the evening. It was always such a mad dash to get dinner for us, while I had a hundred other things to take care of. The crock pot became my friend. I'd start a meal cooking in the morning and come home to roasts with potatoes and carrots, whole chickens, chili, etc. It gave me more time with my children who needed and deserved as much of me as they could get since I was the only parent in their daily lives.

This recipe is similar to one I bake frequently and since that one is a family favourite, I decided to try this one out as well. I'll report tonight on its success. I modified this for a family of six:

6 1 inch thick pork chops (fat trimmed)
1/2 one large onion
3 T chicken soup base
30 ounces apple pie filling (I make my own, but a can will save you about 20 minutes' work)
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks.

While my pork chops were defrosting in the microwave, I peeled and sliced 8 medium McIntosh apples. One of my handiest kitchen gadgets has got to be my apple peeler/corer/slicer. My apple pie filling was done cooking and removed from the heat before the pork chops were done defrosting. How I make my filling: 8 peeled, cored and sliced apples, 1/4 c water 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon instant tapioca granules, and cinnamon and nutmeg to cover them. Cook and stir on medium high heat until sauce thickens. I wasn't fussy on the perfection of the pie filling as it's going to practically disintegrate in the crock pot. I could have mixed it all together and put them in raw, but I wanted the flavours to blend so that they season the pork chops.

I sliced one half of a large onion and after spraying the bottom and sides of the crock pot and layered it on the bottom of the crock pot. Next I sprinkled 1/2 the soup base over the onions. Once the pork chops were thawed, I browned them lightly on the stove and lay them on top of the onions. I sprinkled the remaining soup base over the pork chops and piled the apple pie filling on top of that. This will cook on low for 4 1/2 hours, at which time I'll add the sweet potatoes. I'll lightly sprinkle the sweet potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg because I like them like that. Then it will cook another hour and 1/2.

It's called easy, but I might have made it a bit more labour-intensive. Still, 30 minutes' prep time is as much as I do for chili or other ingredient-rich crock pot meals.


About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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