5 Steps to the Perfect #PizzaNight!

February 9, 2017

Tell me, when was the last time you celebrated… pizza night?
_DSC1088I know, I know. The script usually looks like this:

OMG I’m working late and junior has hockey practice… let’s make it a pizza night.
We have no food! We need to do a grocery run – but not tonight. Let’s do pizza.
I literally CAN’T. Too tired. Won’t cook. Pizza night it is.

See? Pizza is normally treated like a second-class citizen; universally relied on for its deliciousness, broad appeal and affordability… yet never fully given the appreciation it deserves.  (more…)

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New Year, Old Traditions: Cooking with Turmeric

January 18, 2017

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Turmeric. No, I did not just sneeze… although inhaling this peppery spice may have that effect!

If you’re not familiar with turmeric – what I consider one of the most effective nutritional supplements in existence – make 2017 the year you get turned on to its unique flavour.

And if you know someone of East Indian descent, like my mother? Well, they put that yellow stuff in EVERYTHING.
_DSC1055I find it amusing that turmeric is often identified as a new food trend, since I’ve been exposed to it since birth. Every stir-fry, vegetable dish and curry my mom has ever created always included a pinch (or punch) of turmeric. My mom will say she adds it for colour, but a brief online search will show the properties of this herb go well beyond its cosmetic use.

(Remember, always consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting a new regime – even when it includes natural foods!)  (more…)

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Potluck Perfection: Cranberry, Pear and Bacon Stuffing. (Mmm…)

December 21, 2016

With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I’m regularly asked to provide tips for tackling the holidays with ease. For the most part, my suggestions can vary from creating homemade decor to trying the Secret Santa method of gift giving. However, one tip that appears on all my lists – and at the top of most – is to share the workload and have a potluck dinner.

A potluck, people! It’s the perfect way to celebrate togetherness, one dish at a time – especially if that dish is this Cranberry, Pear and Bacon Stuffing. Recipe below!
_dsc1011Now, often A-type personalities will argue, “It’s too complicated to coordinate a potluck. I’d rather make all the dishes myself; I have more control over the menu that way.” Touché. And I say, “Have fun in the kitchen!”  (more…)

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A Recipe for Happiness: CHIPITS + Christmas

December 19, 2016

Bake on, friends, bake on.

This holiday season, don’t worry if you don’t have an arsenal of Christmas-themed recipes. (Although you could try my Santa Baby! Bars. Super easy!) Don’t worry if you’re not a domestic goddess; if you don’t have coordinating tableware or if your home is only half decorated. There’s only one thing I want you to do: grab an apron, a cookie sheet (or pan) and a few staple ingredients. And bake on.

Bake delicious chocolate chip cookies or decadent brownies. Know that regardless of the time of year, comforting homemade goodies are always perfect for the occasion.
20161203_111345Recently, we attended the Lakeshore Santa Claus parade in Etobicoke. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto’s parade; here, there was a feeling of community, and many of the floats included local residents, businesses and of course, children. We staked out a great spot along the front of the route, and my boys had a wonderful time taking in their favourite floats and characters.  (more…)

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Season’s Cravings! A Holiday Experience at McDonald’s Canada

December 16, 2016

It’s the holiday season, which invariably means three things:

1) The boys are really, really excited. About everything. They’re excited about Christmas cookies and concerts, presents under the tree and stockings hung over the fireplace. There’s a real sense of urgency to usher in the all things festive, merry and bright.

2) I’m really, really busy. The holidays are my “crazy” season; I’ve got year-end deadlines to meet while finding time to bake cookies, volunteer my time, trim the tree and buy presents.

3) We both need a break. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we often need to just sit down and recharge, if only for a short while.

This month, we’re satisfying our Season’s Cravings at McDonalds.
_dsc0915Now I *could* go straight to telling you all about the deliciousness of the Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger pictured above, but that’s only part of the narrative. You see, stopping into your local McDonald’s is no longer your typical “fast food” experience.  (more…)

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Ayurveda: Find Your Balance

December 12, 2016

I don’t just “pop in for a quick spot of tea.”

Growing up, I observed tea to be a ritual – never rushed. Tea leaves were selected by the season, the temperature, and sometimes, even the time of day. Aromatic spices were added for fragrance and flavour; the blends customized with cooling herbs or spicy roots.

The focus was never on tea as a beverage – rather, a cup of tea was a means of achieving nourishment, comfort, and most of all, balance.

Tetley Ayurvedic Balance teas were inspired by one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, Ayurveda. Developed more than 5,000 years ago, the word Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “science of life” – its practice teaches that holistic well-being is achieved through the balance of the mind, body and spirit.
_dsc0843aToday, as much as I’d love to continue the rituals from years past, I realize my restraints on time. That’s why I look to Tetley Ayurvedic Balance teas; each tea addresses a common situation or need state related to one of the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha. (more…)

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Santa Baby! Holiday Bars Your Family will Love

December 3, 2016

Years ago, when I worked in the corporate world, I was a willing participant in holiday potlucks.

“I’ll bring the Christmas cookies!” I’d declare with glee, enthusiastically sacrificing a weekend to bake goodies around the clock. For years, this tradition continued – me, offering a variety of sweet treats in whimsical holiday colour and shapes, and the others, oohing and ahhing over my baking prowess.

Until one fateful year, when she-who-will-not-be-named brought in the most decadent, most delicious holiday bars I had ever tasted.
_dsc0861a“What are these?” I asked in wonder.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied modestly. “I’ve always just known them as Santa Baby! Bars.”

From then on, her bars took top billing at the annual holiday potluck. Defeated, I swore I would never bake again. (I’m kidding, of course. But it really was a shot to my ego!) However, not one to let a good thing go, I cornered her before I left for maternity leave, practically begging her to share the recipe. (more…)

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EGGcellent Hacks with EGG Creations

November 22, 2016

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I am keenly aware of three things:

1. It’s my busy season. No really, I know I say that all the time, but the holidays bring about a special kind of chaos that is simply unmatched at any other time during the year. And, being a workaholic, this means that I’m more stressed than usual (it’s a good kind of stress, I promise!), fighting to meet deadlines and balancing work and family life.

2. Meals around here are optional. Working around the clock means that I’m not always eating the way I should, which leaves me vulnerable to falling ill during cold and flu season. There’s a certain go-go-go attitude that propels me through the week, but when I’m down, I’m out for the count. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for me to choose healthier meal options and make eating regularly a priority.

3. When it’s cold outside, I crave comfort. While I’m multitasking and juggling and trying to survive the season, I’m also craving those cold-weather foods that bring me warmth and comfort. Spaghetti and meatballs. Chicken stew with dumplings. Spicy chili. And my very favourite, Stracciatella Soup.
_dsc0797aStracciatella (egg drop soup) is high on my list of comfort foods because it has a little of everything I love: a garlicky soup base, bright green baby spinach, creamy eggs and salty Parmesan cheese. In fact, whenever I feel myself coming down with a cold, I always crave this soup with a dash of hot pepper sauce. However, working around the clock leaves little time to make comfort food from scratch, but I’ve found a few EGGcellent hacks to make it in no time.

This recipe only calls for five (5) ingredients. If you always keep them on hand, you’ll always be able to make Stracciatella in a hurry!  (more…)

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Perfect Party Appetizers and #BretonForEveryone

November 21, 2016

Getting the girls together is no easy task.

There are schedules to juggle and babysitters to hire (Or, husbands to bribe). There are missed calls, apologetic texts and my personal favourite: “Was that THIS Friday?”

However, when the stars align and we can find some time to reconnect, I’m always left deeply fulfilled – both emotionally and literally, because we eat a lot of good food and drink a lot of great wine. Of course, the hostess is always tasked with putting together a spread that everyone will love… which may sound simple, but it’s not. Our little tribe is made up of vegetarians, calorie-counters and health-conscious girlfriends, so creating a quick menu that suits everyone’s needs is always top of mind.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over these Greek Salad Bites, featuring Breton Sprouted Grains Sea Salt Crackers.
_dsc0557aThey couldn’t be simpler to make and are chock-full of wholesome ingredients you likely already have in your refrigerator and pantry. Plus, Breton Sprouted Grains crackers contain 5g of sprouted whole grains per serving (sprouted grains include whole wheat flour, cracked rye, cracked wheat, buckwheat and quinoa). The crackers have no artificial colours or flavours, and both the Sea Salt and Caramelized Onion varieties are only 80-90 calories per serving.  (more…)

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Discover the Fresh Taste of Fall.

November 2, 2016

I love fall. I love walking with my boys in the morning, hearing the sound of freshly fallen leaves crunching under their footsteps. I love stopping by my local coffee shop, chatting up my favourite barista as she prepares a foamy, spiced latte.
_dsc0459aMost of all, I love scrolling through my Instagram feed, smiling at photos of children posing in a pumpkin patch, families picking apples and grandparents joining in for hay rides at a nearby farm. It reminds me that even as generations pass, the harvest is a time of togetherness.

I’m not sure if it’s by design or coincidence, but I tend to entertain more often in the fall months. The bountiful fresh produce offerings make it easy to create one-dish meals and rustic desserts, and my local Walmart is the perfect place to find colourful squash, earthy root vegetables, tree-ripened fruit and crunchy, cruciferous favourites. There is always a large selection of high-quality, locally sourced produce that is refreshed daily. (more…)

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Celebrations Made Remarkable!

October 22, 2016

Note: The following contest is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area only. 

‘Round here, we used to take celebrations very seriously.

I’m the daughter of a perfectionist. Growing up, my mother did not serve a single appetizer, meal or dessert to dinner guests unless she had made it, purchased it, perfected it ahead of the celebration. She believed in triple-testing her menu before it was presented to company, and her tenacity and unwillingness to settle for anything but the best earned her “entertainer extraordinaire” status among friends and family.
_dsc0375aToday, I’d like to say I follow her lead, but the truth is, I’m more willing to live on the edge. I don’t mind trying new meal ideas for guests, and if it doesn’t turn out the way I intended, there’s always wine in the cellar and a La Rocca cake waiting in the fridge. You see, to me, getting together with family and friends is more about spending time together and less about achieving culinary perfection. And while I’d like to be taken for a domestic goddess, I also want to be known for my humour, wit and willingness to welcome others into my home.  (more…)

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Kids in the Kitchen? Oh Yes! Look What We Made (This Time!)

October 14, 2016

Last week, I invited y’all into my home as I shared a very special cooking session with my favourite little 6-year old. Reid and I made a flavourful Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole that the whole family loved! And, the most important thing is that we made it together – from reading the recipe to preparing the ingredients, Reid was a fixture in the kitchen.

Teaching children to cook is an essential life skill, and if you’re looking for inspiration, Ben’s Beginners activities and recipes are a great place to get started. You’ll find interactive activities that teach basic cooking skills like peeling and stirring, as well as easy and delicious recipes for kids and parents to cook together.

This past weekend, look what we made! Turkey Meatballs & Rice!
_dsc0405
While Reid is an enthusiastic sous chef, his older brother, Ryder, is more reluctant to help out. He’s at that “awesome” age where things just aren’t cool enough for him. Plus, he has very specific, healthy preferences that aren’t a bad thing – not by any means – but we normally have to alter recipes to suit his tastes. Thankfully, the Ben’s Beginners recipes allow for simple customization, and in our case, we used ground turkey in place of ground beef, and opted for Uncle Ben’s 100% Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice(more…)

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Look What We Made!

October 5, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

When kids learn to cook, they build healthier eating habits for life.

There’s no doubt about this. Developing a respect and appreciation, for both the ingredients and process of seeing a meal through to completion, is paramount for making wise food choices. As a young girl, I loved being “invited” into my mom’s kitchen to learn about foods, discover cultural traditions and of course, sample the ingredients along the way. (Though “licking the bowl” is now considered taboo! Boo hoo!)

Today, I have a young, enthusiastic sous chef who shadows me in the kitchen. Together, we tackle meal planning, work together to prep the meal and often, he’ll help me serve. (He’s great at garnish.)
_dsc0307However, I know that this isn’t the norm; many parents aren’t teaching cooking skills because they lack the confidence to do so. In fact, less than half of Canadian parents feel highly skilled at creating a balanced meal, and even have trouble with the most common kitchen tasks, like seasoning, chopping and pan frying. At the same time, 98% of Canadian parents think it is important to cook with their children.

So, we’ve got a situation where we know it’s important to teach our kids these essential life skills, but we simply don’t have the confidence to carry out the instruction. Here’s where Ben’s Beginners comes in.  (more…)

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I’m a Mom and I #ApproveThisLunchbox

October 3, 2016

“Good. Really good. I actually think I may like them more.”

Remember that quote. Because it came from an 8-year old kid who tried a different version of one of his favourite snacks – this time, made with the goodness of brown rice. And he really, really liked it.

Meet Ryder. He’s no stranger to Rice Krispies Squares. Having enjoyed them since he was in kindergarten, they’re one of his preferred lunchbox snacks. He loves the crispy and chewy texture; I love that they’re portable, enriched with essential nutrients and are trans fat free.

However, I recently discovered NEW Rice Krispies Square Bars Brown Rice. They’re made with no artificial colours, contain 8 g of whole grain per serving and offer the same ooey gooey taste that Ryder knows and loves.
_dsc0294aSo, I did what every mom would do – I switched them in my son’s lunchbox without telling him. Ha ha.

Okay, so I’m joking. First, I wouldn’t do that to Ryder – he loves to eat and his lunchbox always comes home empty, but that’s mostly because he has a hand in packing his lunch. We select the fruit, vegetables, protein and snacks the night before, and he lets me know what he prefers and what he’ll eat because he knows it’s good for him.  (more…)

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Discover Fresh. Live Better.

October 2, 2016

Welcome, fall.

A season of changing leaves and warm layers. A time to swap swimsuits for sweaters; a chance to indulge in pumpkin spice and everything nice. And the very, very best time to shop for fresh, local produce.

My local Walmart is brimming with crisp apples, sweet peaches and earthy root vegetables. Squash in vibrant hues of yellow, orange and green beckon to be added to comforting soups and stews. Concord grapes, perfectly symmetrical and ripe off the vine, sit tightly packed in small baskets. Bartlett pears, soft and fragrant, offer versatility in the sweetest way.
_dsc0114aOf course, one of my favourite things to do is cook with nature’s bounty, creating flavourful meals I know my family will love – while showcasing the best of the fall harvest. These Pear, Brie and Walnut Crostinis are a delicious way to pay homage to locally grown Bartlett pears (my favourite!) and couldn’t be simpler to make. I found convenient 5-lb packages at Walmart, in addition to all the other ingredients for this recipe! (more…)

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It’s Time to #EndMomGuilt.

September 29, 2016

Oh, it’s a thing. And it’s time to put it to rest.

My first experience with mom guilt took place three days after my first son was born. Being a new mom – overtired, overwhelmed and overly emotional – I gave up on breastfeeding and bottle fed my son. *Guilt.*

My second son was exclusively breastfed. However, he also demanded a lot of my time and attention, so I felt that I was favouring him and not spending enough time to nurture his older brother. *Guilt.*

That’s how it started… and eight years in, it hasn’t really stopped. From battles over breakfast to screen time negotiations, from dinner dilemmas to bed time rituals, I always feel that I’m falling short in some way. That somehow, what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Can you relate to this?

The first time I watched the video, I could have cried. I feel you, moms! We’ve all been there, we’ve all done that. (And most of us bought the t-shirt, which was promptly covered with sticky fingers and baby drool, naturally.) (more…)

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A Sweet Celebration! LaRocca Celebrates Thirty Years!

September 26, 2016

I don’t often dedicate an entire blog post to endorsing a cake. I mean, cake is cake, right? Except, when that cake is the single most delicious dessert I’ve ever tried, I tend to make an exception.

La Rocca Creative Cakes is honouring thirty years of Canadian celebrations, special moments and craveable indulgences with a uniquely designed, limited edition Greatest Hits Cake. The layered creation will be headlining at participating grocery stores starting on September 30th, 2016.
14276436_326415501043895_1736987832242667520_nLast Friday I received the sweetest delivery – a chance to experience the delightful indulgence in advance of its release. The cake, which highlights a melange of La Rocca’s fan-­favourites through the years, comes together brilliantly in one layered delicious dessert.  (more…)

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When Granola Bars are this Good, You Call them Great (Value)

September 23, 2016

Every mom has a list of her go-to snacks, and around here, we love a good granola bar.

Think about it: granola bars are small, extremely portable and easily napkin-free, which allows them to tackle a variety of snacking situations. They’re the perfect treat! From long car rides to lunchboxes, as part of a breakfast-on-the-go or in between meetings, we always have a variety on hand. Chances are, you do too! So tell me, are you a chocolate dipped or classically chewy kind of snacker?dsc_0013bLately, we’ve been enjoying Great Value Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. They’re peanut free, made in Canada and have no artificial colours or preservatives. They’re also crammed with granola and chocolatey goodness with just the right texture: not too chewy, not too soft. The boys always grab a granola bar before we head out to run errands, and I reach for them during the dreaded “3PM Snack Attack” when I need a little something to carry me through until dinner.  (more…)

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Back to School with Pulses: “Anytime” Turkey and Bean Chili

September 5, 2016

It’s time! It’s a go. The kids are officially returning to school! Wee!

(Do I sound a little too excited? I’ll tone it down. Maybe.)

Now, I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about back to school fashion, tackling the morning rush and how to pack school lunches with ease. But I realized this weekend that I have one more hurdle to overcome: the weeknight dinner dilemma.

It’s pretty crazy at our house on weeknights. In addition to homework, we also have to juggle speech therapy and tutoring, plus swimming lessons and indoor soccer league for both boys. Therefore, I’m always looking for healthy, hearty and quick-and-easy meals that I can make ahead on weekends.

I think I’ve found the perfect solution to the weeknight dinner dilemma with my “Anytime” Turkey and Bean Chili.
DSC_1480bThis savoury chili is one of my go-to meals throughout the school year for the following reasons:

1. The chili can be made in the slow cooker with minimal prep. Seriously, the most arduous part of the entire recipe is browning ground turkey and diced shallots in a large pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Big deal, right?  (more…)

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How to Minimize the Stress of the Morning Rush

August 30, 2016

I think we’ve all reached the point where we’re done talking about back to school and now we’re forced to do something about it. This may include, but is not limited to:

Shopping. I adore back to school shopping! Crisp notebooks, stylish clothes, the latest in technology and two very opinionated boys who want it all. Our back to school shopping begins in August and is a month-long celebration, loosely known as “pawning off the kids to someone else for 10 months.”DSC_1146aStrength Conditioning. For your hands. Because come September, there WILL be forms to sign. Mountains and mountains of forms to sign. Last year, I briefly considered ordering a personalized stamp with my name and phone number, so I wouldn’t have to fill out my information 1,734 times.

Lunches. For moms of young ones, get ready to make lunches. And with two boys in elementary school, I’ll make 388 lunches before June 2017. Normally this wouldn’t faze me, but then I consider that I’ll actually have made almost 4,000 lunches by the time the kids go to high school. Hold me.  (more…)

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