Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tips and Tricks Tuesday

I use chicken broth frequently when I cook. It's a simple way to add great flavour to dishes - from rice to spaghetti sauce to soups. A simple way to cut down on the cost of buying is to make your own and freeze it. My favourite way is in ice cube trays. Most trays are 2 tbsp, making a perfect size for throwing a couple in a dish. Once they are frozen, I simply throw them into a ziploc freezer bag for more practical storage. I'll also freeze them in 1 cup bags for when I make things like soup. 

Making your own chicken broth is also super easy, here are a couple different ways:

With a turkey neck
You'll need: 
1 turkey neck
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp to 1 tbsp peppercorns
5 cups water

Place all of the ingredients in a pot and simmer on low for 2-4 hours. Strain. Broth will keep in fridge for up to a week, longer when frozen. 

This is my favourite way to make broth. I always make it when I cook a turkey, I just combine the broth from the actual turkey then freeze. The more broth the better!

When cooking a turkey or chicken
Place the same ingredients as above in a roaster with turkey (or chicken). Use less water, about 4 cups.  For a really flavourful tasting broth (and gravy), use chicken broth instead of water. Dress the bird as you wish. Cover to cook - you don't want all those juices evaporating!

Alternatively, you can cook a chicken in a crockpot. I use approximately 3 cups of water since the crockpot really traps all moisture. 

Making broth from chicken bones
You can do the same as the neck method with the carcass. Simply use enough water to almost cover the carcass, you may want to double the vegetables though. Since the bones are already cooked, this method takes considerably longer - approximately 8 hours. 

Whichever method you choose, taste test the broth to ensure it has the desired "strength". 

Happy simmering!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

This Week's Menu

Last week turned out really good. The turkey was amazing, as turkey always is. The mustard sauce for the pulled pork was really good, the pork was ok. I don't *love* pork shoulder in general, so it's hard for me to rave about it.

This week's menu is all about freezer diving. We cleaned out / organized our freezers yesterday and realized we have a ton of food in them. 

Saturday: We went out for supper at the fancy restaurant with friends.

Sunday: Shepard's pie

Monday: Porchetta with rice
We bought this back in November from the fancy grocery store in the next city over. We cooked half and froze the other. It was delish and I can't wait for Monday!

Tuesday: Whole chicken with mashed potatoes
Yes, we vacuumed sealed a whole chicken. I'll throw it in the crockpot in the morning with an onion, some garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, thyme and a couple broth ice cubes. The skin won't get crispy, but it'll give me a really good broth.  

Wednesday: some sort of burritos

Thursday: Finger foods and spicy fries.
The only processed food in the freezer. We have it on hand for the desperate or lazy nights. I foresee Thursday as being a lazy night. 

Friday: We'll be travelling back home for Annabel's baptism Sunday, so Wendy's?

Monday, January 20, 2014

This Week's Menu

We have a renewed sense of living on the cheap here at Our little Northern Life. So as a result, our weekly menus are even more simplified. We only buy meat if it's on sale (and at a good price) and frequently freezer dive. But here's the thing with freezer diving in our house - we freezer dive for real food. We've stopped buying processed food and we've noticed a big difference on our grocery bill. That's not to say that we've stopped striving for low bills though. If our bill is under $100 per week - I consider that a huge success! 

With that said, this week's flyer was uninspiring. (Yes, flyer, singular - we only have one grocery store.) We bought a pork roast for pulled pork and some sausage, that's it in terms of meat. So we decided to cook the turkey we had in the freezer on Sunday, which would give us 2 additional meals, plus lunches, plus at least one freezer package. We also have some wild meat in there, so we had that with a relatively new recipe - barley and vegetables. So good, so easy. Anyway, enough with the jibber jabber, onto the menu:

I made a few alterations on these recipes since I didn't have all the ingredients on hand. For the peppercorn sauce: thyme sprig = dried thyme, green peppercorns = fresh cracked pepper, grainy dijon mustard = regular dijon mustard and I skipped the brandy altogether. For the barley, I simply made it with carrots, celery, onion and beef broth for the liquid. 

Sunday: Turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy. 

Monday: Turkey Quesadillas

Tuesday:  Pulled pork with mustard bbq sauce and macaroni salad
Again for this pulled pork recipe I didn't have all the ingredients, such as the bacon, thyme, jalapeno and grainy mustard. I just skipped them, except the grainy mustard where again I used dijon. 

Wednesday: Fettucini alfredo with turkey

Thursday: Sausage and basmati rice

Friday: Pizza!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wonderful Two

It's happened. My baby boy is two. TWO! Where has time gone? It seems like just yesterday he was this itty bitty baby, now he's a robust toddler, full of energy and laughter.

To celebrate his birthday, we had a small party with his grandparents, my aunt, uncle and his girlfriend. 

We picked up some helium balloons and I've got to say, best money ever spent. He was so excited when he woke up to discover them in the hallway. Then it was an all new excitement when he saw the regular ones on the ground!

We decided on a train theme since he's still in love with Thomas. I didn't go overboard though, just the cake and his shirt. Speaking of cake, I got a little ambitious this year. I followed the Betty Crocker tutorial and it turned out quite well. It tasted good too!

We kept supper simple too, homemade lasagna, ceasar salad and bread. My lovely husband spent the entire day cooking, but it was so worth it since it was so good!

Kaleb's birthday was a wonderful evening and I'm so glad to have such wonderful family and friends! Now onto the terrible twos....

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Year in Review

Well, what can I say, 2013 has been quite the year for our family. Our baby blossomed into an active toddler and we welcomed a new addition.

January saw me going back to work after been on maternity leave for a year. That was very difficult for all of us. It meant that I had to leave my baby boy at the babysitters every morning, me fighting tears, him in a full out freak out. After almost two months, he was able to be dropped off with no tears shed! It was also an adjustment for family life and dynamic. I was no longer able to get laundry, vacuuming, even supper done in the same way as before but by the end if February, we had our new schedule down. In January we also found out that I was pregnant!

The rest of the winter was pretty uneventful, Kaleb went to swimming lessons, Jason and I worked, I kept the new baby safe and warm.

May brought warm weather, meaning Kaleb could go out and play more, and we could start yard work and the gardens. We were lucky enough to receive a play set from the neighbours and Jason built a sand box for Kaleb.

June and July brought us beautiful weather, which means camping! It was a little different this year since Kaleb slept in the bunks, but he loved it. We were also able to enjoy outings at the splash pad in town.

The end of July and beginning August was very rainy this year making things sucky. We did however still go camping for a week at Jason's parent's campground, followed by our annual weekend camping trip with our friends. I also went on sick leave in the middle of august so I was able to enjoy the end of summer relaxing in the shade.

September was exciting, we welcomed our baby girl Annabel! We were so overjoyed to have her, we now have the perfect millionaires family as they say. We also welcomed a hockey player from the local team into our home for the season. He's actually one of Jason's students and has been a great guest.

The fall was all about adjusting to life with 2 under 2 for me. It is both rewarding and challenging. I truly believe we had her at the right time, Kaleb is old enough that he likes to help, but young enough that he doesn't get into too much trouble playing on his own when need be. He also loves his sister to pieces, showering her with kisses.

December was full of fun. Annabel's tummy troubles subsided, I got her sleeping on track and she became so chill, the world's best baby. Kaleb became potty trained at the beginning of the month and has been doing so well. We also celebrated 3 different Christmases, meaning Kaleb got thoroughly spoiled, as did Annabel.

If the way 2013 is ending is any indication on what 2014 is going to look like, we are going to have an awesome year, full of family, friends and laughter.
Wishing you all the best in the coming year.

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Here she is! Little miss Annabel 

Born September 17, 2013 at 6:22 a.m.
8 pounds, 2 ounces and 21.5 inches long.

Obviously it's been some time between her birth and this post. This photo was actually from when she was a month old and is quite possibly my favourite photos of her. 

Her birth was very long. Very very long considering it was my second time in less then 2 years. I was in early-labour for 3 days. In real labour for 20 hours. It's all but a distant memory now though, as she lights up our life in more ways then we could have ever imagined.