My Turkey Helper

On Saturday I had two of our children help with baking: Saturday Baking with My Kids. Yesterday I had our middle child help with our turkey dinner.

We had a lot of fun preparing the bird. I love teaching my children the art of cooking. Giving explanations to the “hows” and “whys” when cooking is always important. From temperatures to spices- it’s all important.

Once the bird had been cooking for a few hours, it was back to making the side dishes. Vegetables and mashed potatoes were about to be prepared. Our daughter thought her helping out was over after the bird so she had gotten changed into some nicer clothes. Little did she know that making a feast takes a lot of effort! But she willingly assisted.

Our dinner turned out delicious. We now have plenty of leftovers to last the week. From soup to sandwiches- we will be eating turkey leftovers until we are sick of them. Much like everyone else who is celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.

So enjoy your meals with family and friends. Don’t let the Tryptophan knock you down. I’m ready for a nap just writing about it.

The Fixin’s

Our friends invited us out for dinner a while back. A dinner that I won’t ever forget. Chili. But chili with “The Fixin’s

As if homemade chili wasn’t good enough, our friend took it to the next level. Now when I make chili at home it has to come with more than just a dinner roll.

Slower cooker chili is pretty basic to make. Brown some beef, add some tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, peppers, onions, and of course spices; then let it simmer.

The Fixin’s:

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Chives
  • Corn Chips

It’s that easy. And that amazing. So much so that my family goes for seconds almost immediately.

Chicken And Rice Done Right

Some days you just have no idea what to do for dinner. what do you do?

The fridge door opens. Leftover rice. Ok. Seems like a good side dish. Open the freezer. A package of frozen spinach and chicken breasts. Now we’re getting somewhere. Why not combine all of these?

Josef- you are a genius.

After the thawing was done, the chicken was cubed and fried up. Throw on some spices during the cooking- because- spice up your life! Aromatic. Next step? Toss the rice into a cast iron pot. Because Cast Iron cookware is AMAZING! From the stovetop to the oven or open flame- cast iron kicks ass.

But I digress, the fridge rice needed to get mixed with the thawed spinach. Old rice needs a pick-me-up otherwise it stays crunchy. Why not add some water? Still missing something. A-Ha moment ensues!

In the pantry is that fantastic staple for last minute dinner plans- a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup! It adds exactly what you need to fill out a meal like chicken and rice. As I said- using cast iron is the best. A quick mix of all the ingredients and toss in the oven to heat it up. Let’s try 350° for 30 minutes covered. Seems reasonable.

Boom! Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Dinner was delicious. Everyone was happy. *pats self on back* Great last minute plan.

Enchilada!

For the past few days we’ve been planning on having lasagna. Today I started to brown the beef and went to the cupboard to get the lasagna noodles. You know, the noodles my children said we had in the cupboard? Ya. Let’s try feeding a family of five…

With two noodles?!?!

Okay. Time for dad to improvise. Google- help me! What do you do with ground beef that is already getting browned? You make enchilada pie of course.

Taco seasoning, salsa, frozen corn, some tortillas leftover from the other day, shredded cheese, and a can of black beans (thank goodness we always have canned goods in our cupboard!) As I started making our new dinner, everyone came in asking what I was putting into the lasagna. When the new dinner was announced- smiles came to their faces.

We will be topping the enchilada pie with sour cream and avocado. We have been really enjoying those avocados lately. I have been making poached eggs on avocado toast for my wife quite a bit. But that’s for another post.

Mexican inspired food is always a favorite in our home. I love the inexpensiveness of making these meals for the family. As well as the ease of creating tasty meals. It’s amazing how ground beef and shredded cheese can be spread out significantly.

Dinner looks and smells delicious. 20 minutes of prep and 30 minutes cooking makes this a relatively easy dinner.

Here’s the link to the recipe for tonight’s last minute meal: Kraft Enchilada Pie

No, I don’t get any kickbacks from Kraft. Or any other companies. I just love to share ideas that work.

Joey At Play

This evening I’m going out with a couple of friends. No kids or wives will be joining us. I rarely have a Saturday night like this. I have to plan these “play dates” well in advance. Mostly to prepare my family for the fact that I won’t be home.

I’m looking forward to tonight. But it won’t be like the days of yore. I won’t be getting crazy drunk or having a late night. Just a couple of hours spent in North Vancouver. Some tacos and a couple of beers are the extravagant plans. It’s the company that I will be with that shall make the evening enjoyable and memorable.

I may share a photo or two on social media, but I am hoping to not to pull out my phone at all. That is until I leave to come home. At which point, I’ll call my wife to let her know I’m on my way. Which is a courtesy that my wife and I have for one another when not together.

A call to say, “Hey! I’m on my way. Love ya.” Even a few hours away from her means I’ll still miss her company. She has become an extension of my personality. So have my kids. And as I make memories and experiences, I love them to be with me as often as possible.

But tonight is a “Guy’s Night” where we will talk about our families and work. This gents are similar to me in many ways- where they put their family’s needs first. These are the kind of guys I prefer to associate with.

Meal Prep For Five

Meal Prep isn’t a part of my lifestyle.

However, I took a few hours yesterday to work on some dinner prep for the family. Our 12 year old son helped out last night and really enjoyed it. I don’t usually prepare foods in advance unless we are going on a road trip or camping. But I figured I’d give it a try.

We bought 6 pounds of ground beef earlier in the week. So I divided it into meatloaf, seasoned fried beef for burritos and an amazing recipe for cabbage roll casserole. The meatloaf got eaten last night and the cabbage roll casserole is for tonight. The fried beef will be mixed with refried beans and rice for another family favorite. This was all made last night within an hour.

Today I went shopping at the grocery store because they were having a “Caselot Sale“. Besides canned soups, tuna and toilet paper, I also stocked up on about 18 pounds of pork loin. We now have a couple dinners of schnitzel, pork kebobs, and thin sliced Japanese bbq style pork. I divided it into six different meals and tossed those into our big freezer. Labeled and packed away, I’m glad that I did it now instead of trying to thaw a large pork loin later on.

Over the Christmas break, our dinners weren’t planned out. There was a lot of what we call “Fend For Yourself” nights. Where the kids would eat bowls of cereal, Mr. Noodles or toast and sometimes leftovers. It took this week for my wife and I to realize we need to get back to a routine of planning dinners and buying the appropriate groceries ahead of time. I have gone through the freezer in order to use some of our older meats first. All the pork I bought today will go to the back and get used in the upcoming weeks. Having a family of five with three teens is expensive when it comes to foods.

Buying processed or prepackaged foods may be easier, but it is not the healthiest of options. The time it takes to prepare meals or divide up large quantities of meat is minimal. Plus it messes the kitchen up really bad only once.

Here’s to healthy choices! And here’s the Cabbage Roll Casserole recipe if you want to try it:

Cabbage Roll Casserole

1.5 lbs Ground Beef

2 medium onions

1 clove minced garlic

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 – 14oz can of tomato sauce

1 – 14oz can of water

1/2 cup of uncooked long grain rice

4 cups of shredded cabbage (1 head)

Sour cream

Directions:

Brown beef, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil. Then stir in the rice. Cover and simmer for about 20 mins stirring occasionally.

Place 1/2 of the shredded cabbage on a greased baking dish. Cover with 1/2 the beef and rice mixture. Repeat layers. Cover and bake in 350° oven for one hour.

Serve with sour cream. Casserole may be refrigerated before baking.

Serves 6.

Enjoy!

Where’d The Day Go?

I lost my day today.

It wasn’t like it didn’t happen. On the contrary, lots happened which is why I’ve lost my day. More like lost control of the day.

First was an early morning Speed Skating Meet. It was the first one at our club for the season. So at least it was close by. In between my children’s races I was trying to finish a book- Aramada. So I often got lost in the story while waiting.

On the way home, I had to stop and put in my vote for a Mayor, some township councilors, and some school trustees. This opened up a healthy discussion about politics with my 12 and 14 year olds. They asked who and why I was voting for certain people. As much as I don’t want to create a bias in their future plans- I couldn’t very well not talk about it with them.

At home we had a late lunch and the kids showered up. We had bought a large picnic pork roast, so I carved it into four different meals. A big hunk for tonight’s dinner in the slow cooker. Some got cubed and tossed in the freezer for future use. I sliced a bunch for breakfasts later this week. That left the bone- which will go towards a split pea soup later this autumn.

Now I am waiting to pick up our 16 year old at school. She participated in a 48 hour Zoom Fest. It started Thursday at 5pm and ended today. The students had that time to create a short film. I hope to see the results at some point, but for now- I’m impressed by her commitment to a deadline and her ability to work with others on such a project.

So my day just went quickly and was filled with a lot of life. Maybe I didn’t lose my day after all.

Rather- I lived it.

Dinner Train

A coworker of mine found out about an upper class dinner train in Squamish. It was for one night only. They offered an 8 course meal and a short ride. I agreed to the idea, because hey- I’m a railroader. So she booked a table for the four of us in the open air car.

As you can see, it was a fancy dinner. So my wife and I dressed a bit more than just casual for this dinner date with our friends. I was nominated to be the designated driver which was a good thing in the end.

We left early in the afternoon to make our way up to Squamish. It was about an hour and a half drive and you never know how the Sea To Sky Highway will be. We arrived early enough that we found a local brew house called A Frame and the ladies each had a flight of beers. Then it was off to the Heritage Park Railway Museum.

We walked in and checked out the old steam engines and enjoyed some hors d’ouvres. Side note: I was one of the last conductors to take the 2860 Steam Train from Squamish to North Vancouver a few years back. Still a great memory.

We met up with some of our other friends and shared a few glasses of sparkling wine and appetizers. The weather had gotten a better, but was still a bit cooler than expected.

Once we boarded, we proceeded to have lots of fun at our table. We were in an open air car, so a nice breeze was coming through. It also gave us a bit more freedom to wander around. We were probably the loudest table because of all the laughs we were having.

Once we stopped for the main courses, a chilly breeze swept over us. You could see the darkness in the sky of a possible storm on the way. Some blankets were supplied to give us some warmth. We enjoyed the views and continued through our eight course meal.

Because we worked at the railway, we knew the conductors and a few other people on the train. Our table ended up being pretty popular- with many people stopping by. A couple of young ladies in their early twenties seated next to us joined us for some more laughs. They kept telling us that we were “cute couples” and could tell that we loved each other very much.

The train arrived back a bit later than planned, but we were still laughing and talking with our new friends. Once we disembarked, the rowdiness of our group began to subside. Since most of the energy was burned off during our dinner train ride- the drive home was fairly peaceful. For probably the last hour or so of the drive, my passengers slept.

It was a great evening and we will probably do it again next year.

Last Minute Date Night

I was about to leave work when my wife sent me a text:

My suggestions of fast food didn’t seem to sway her decision from still meeting me.

So instead of me driving home, after a long day at work, to vegetate before bed; I met up with my wife for a couple beers and a pub style dinner at a place called Mission Springs Brewery.

We were seated out on the patio at a deck couch. A flight of beers and some crazy delicious burgers were enjoyed. We felt youthful again as we giggled and flirted like we did when we had just begun dating. No one else was sitting on the patio, so we felt like we were being treated like celebrities- Off in a comfortable corner, but with people still able to see us from inside.

The evening had cooled off nicely. Our meal was enjoyed as we watched the sunset in peace. This was the evening my wife had wanted. –NOT KFC

I’m glad I was able to accommodate. I enjoyed our spontaneous date.

Crescent Beach Sunset

On Tuesday, we went for a dinner at Crescent Beach as a family. We go at least once a year to eat fish and chips along the water’s edge and watch the sunset.

Each of us grabbed a meal from the Red Baron to go. It’s an older place run by an elderly Asian couple. Their deep fried cod is amazing and their fries are nice and crisp. The restaurant doesn’t look like much, but it sure is satisfying. It’s also a couple bucks cheaper than anywhere else nearby- and it’s in a great location at the end of Beecher Street.

The orange glow brought out our smiles and cheekiness as we finished our meal. We then walked up and down the coastline waiting for the sun to set. We laughed and talked as we strolled along. Minutes before the sun went down, we found a nice log to sit on and watch the day end.

Living in the West Coast is absolutely breathtaking. Taking the time to enjoy the beauty that the world offers is important.

Sharing these moments with loved ones is equally as important.