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Crazy for Cast Iron!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I got results back from my doc and I am anemic. :( I’ve been researching way to get more iron in my diet without having to eat too much red meat. Oatmeal is surprisingly good, as well as good ol’ lentils. But I had forgotten about one neat little trick – cooking in cast iron can increase the iron content of your meal by up to 20 times! And it’s heat retention is legendary. Last night I made a chicken stir-fry for my daughter’s birthday dinner and it was so good. I was saying to Mr. M that I wish I had measured everything because I don’t remember what I did to make it so yummy, then it clicked! I had used my cast iron skillet! I am a true believer now :)

I’ve been collecting information and recipes and adding them to a Pinterest album so if you’re curious or you want to request that I try a particular recipe, here’s the link: Crazy for Cast Iron 

Vegetarian Salade Niçoise

We’re having a bit of a heatwave here in Ottawa. For the last couple of days it’s been plus 40 or more Celsius with the humidity (104 Fahrenheit). Yesterday my buddy Mr. M came over for dinner as a thank-you to him for taking a look at my washer. The darn thing wouldn’t spin and I was stuck hand wringing my daughter’s clothes the other night. He wasn’t able to figure it out so I ended up shelling out nearly $200 to have the coupler replaced. Anyway, the weather was crazy hot yesterday so Mr. M requested something cold and vegetarian. Our taste in vegetables defers greatly. I actually can’t digest cucumbers very well at all and can’t quite stomach fresh tomatoes. Weird I know. So I tried to find a compromise on a salad (he doesn’t like tuna) and discovered this recipe through the New York Times. I modified it a little by adding a few handfuls of canned mixed beans and substituted the greens with pre-washed “spring mix” from the grocery store. The salad dressing wasn’t as impressive as it sounds, though I did cut down on the thyme. Same goes for the potato mixture, but overall I would make this again. With the addition of the beans it was a satisfying summer meal. Even the little miss liked it! (Minus the dressing).

photo (22)

Vegetarian Salade Niçoise

Yield 4 servings  Time 45 minutes

For the dressing (makes about 2 1/4 cups):

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

For the salad:

2 to 4 baby Yukon Gold potatoes

3 cloves garlic

5 whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

1/4 pound haricots verts or other very small green beans

1 1/2 large or two medium heirloom or other tomatoes

1 heart of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

2 cups arugula

3 cups baby greens

12 niçoise olives, pitted.


1. For the dressing: In a mixing bowl, combine Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend, add 1/4 cup water, and whisk again. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

2. For the salad: In a medium saucepan, combine potatoes, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and one tablespoon of the sea salt. Cover with cold water. Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand in saucepan; do not drain.

3. While the potatoes are simmering, place the eggs and two tablespoons salt in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand in saucepan; do not drain.

4. In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups water and 1 cup ice cubes; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine 3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil, add green beans, and blanch until crisp-tender, 1-2 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and transfer to ice water. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then drain.

5. Cut the tomatoes into 12 irregular chunks, and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt. Drain and peel the eggs, and cut each egg lengthwise into quarters. Drain the potatoes, and cut into 1/3-inch rounds.

6. In a wide, shallow serving bowl, mix romaine, arugula and baby greens. Add 3 tablespoons of the dressing to the greens and toss, adding additional dressing as needed. Arrange the tomatoes, eggs, potatoes and green beans around the greens, and sprinkle with olives. Drizzle with some of the remaining dressing. Refrigerate leftover dressing and reserve for another use.

Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag

Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag

I was so disappointed when this show was cancelled.  :( It was so much fun to watch these ladies try to make recipes from selected cookbooks and serve them to top chefs and cuisine experts. Every time I think about buying a new cookbook I go to their website to see if they’ve already rated them. Either it’s a definite no, yes, or it’s a split decision and they give you the reasons why. But their website is a pain in the butt. Sorry ladies. Every time you open a season and then a cookbook but then push your back button it brings you back to the Season 4 page, no matter what season you were actually looking at. It takes forever to find anything. I was procrastinating about doing actual “work” and decided to put all their approved cookbooks in a list for easy reference. It’s a little long but all you have to do is scroll down or do a search, which is so much easier. I also categorized them by theme. Here they are:


Episode 66

100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

By Cindi Leive

From the editors of Glamour Magazine comes a provocatively titled cookbook, “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know – Engagement chicken and 99 other fabulous dishes to get you everything you want in life.” The entire cookbook is based on the claim that the recipe for Engagement Chicken has actually led to many, many marriage proposals. So of course, being who we are, we had to test it!

Yes. While there were no marriage proposals as a result of our Engagement Chicken (yet!), we found this cookbook to be accessible and simple. Perfect for a young woman starting out on her own.



Episode 30

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

By Ina Garten

Ina Garten prides herself on serving up recipes that make cooking and entertaining a breeze. Back to Basics contains over a hundred new recipes that are supposedly easy to follow and made up of easy to find ingredients. We give it a whirl to see if this cookbook delivers an A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes, yes, yes! This is one cookbook we strongly recommend for beginners and advanced cooks alike. We are in love with this book! {I have a feeling this is their favourite }

Episode 22

Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)

By Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

Selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important and influential books of the twentieth century, Joy of Cooking has taught tens of millions of people to cook, fed and delighted millions beyond that, answered countless kitchen and food questions, and averted many a cooking crisis. We take the 75th edition into the A&K Test Kitchen to make sure it holds up its promises.

*Yes. Joy of Cooking is a must-have cookbook and reference guide for anyone who cooks. If you already have an earlier edition, you may want to stick with it. But if you don’t have Joy of Cooking yet, you should!* (Everyone’s all time favourite)

Episode 3
Cook With Jamie
By Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s 7th cookbook aims to teach readers the basics of cooking in over 175 recipes. Jamie emphasizes flavour and freshness in his local, organic, and natural philosophy. Can Cook with Jamie really teach us to be better cooks?
Yes. Cook With Jamie unquestionably gets our A&K Stamp of Approval. Jamie’s cooking and food philosophies, as well as his instructional lessons, make this book a definite buy for a wide range of skill levels.

Episode 36

Gourmet Magazine

By The Editors of Gourmet Magazine

Cooking magazines can be an enticing alternative to a book, especially when you’re standing at the checkout counter looking at those appetizing cover shots. We test a few monthly issues of Gourmet Magazine to see if it can deliver on its promise: to continually offer something new to readers and produce gourmet results. All those slick glossy beautiful photographs can make many drool over the magazine. But are its recipes beyond armchair chefs like us?

Yes. We both agree that this magazine has something for everyone. You may not want to pick it up every month, but it’s definitely a worthwhile magazine full of substance, along with some great recipes overall.

*Note: This episode was filmed in 2009. Since then, Gourmet Magazine has discontinued its monthly printings, but offers information online at Cookbooks are available for purchase, as are special edition printings (e.g. holidays).

Episode 21

Oprah Magazine Cookbook

By Editors of Oprah Magazine

From the editors of O Magazine comes this 75-recipe collection that promises something to satisfy everyone. From simple treats to luxurious yet economical meals to comfort food, this cookbook has some lofty goals, and we find out if it stands up to our cooking day test.

Yes. We both feel the Oprah Magazine Cookbook delivers on its promise to provide a recipe for everyone and every occasion. It’s simple to read, with lots of pictures, and the recipes are accessible and easy to make for the at-home chef.

Episode 27

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes

By Jennifer McLagan

Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. These days, fat is a bad word, but author Jennifer McLagan is on a mission to convince people that it’s actually good. We dive into this mouthwatering book with both excitement and a little apprehension. Will it earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. Both of us agree this book has some fantastic and delicious recipes. While we’re not going to use it as an everyday meal, it’s definitely a good source for tasty recipes that are easy to make.

Episode 54

The Pleasures of Cooking for One

By Judith Jones

According to author Judith Jones, one doesn’t have to be the loneliest number at the dinner table. In fact, it can be downright decadent. An accomplished chef herself, Jones has worked with some of the world’s greatest chefs, including James Beard and Julia Child. Can this cookbook really make cooking for one pleasurable?

Yes. As singletons ourselves, we really like the concept of this book as a whole, and Judith Jones brings some unique ideas to the table. If you’re a family of one (or even two) and are tired of boring meals from a can, bag, or freezer, this book is a great one to have on your shelf.* (Great for singletons or a couple)

Episode 57

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

By Michael Ruhlman

In this cookbook, ratio is the proportion of one ingredient to another. Providing the simple ratios behind basic dishes in everyday cooking, author Michael Ruhlman claims that by knowing a few ratios, you have thousands of recipes at your fingertips. If it’s that simple, then you only need one book on the shelf, right? Or wrong…

Yes. Though we don’t recommend it for everyone, we found the information in this cookbook very interesting (give it a chance!) and see it as an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to improvise in the kitchen and try their hand at creating their own recipes from scratch.

Episode 56

The River Cottage Meat Book

By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Dedicated to meat, this cookbook is definitely much more than just a collection of steak and burger recipes. The River Cottage Meat Book covers responsible animal husbandry, the artistry of butchering, and understanding what eating meat means to our world. Can we create a carnivore’s delight or will it be an awful pile of offal?

Yes. We both strongly agreed with the core message of this cookbook about being a responsible meat eater by learning more about where your food comes from and how it is raised. While the recipes needed tweaking, we both felt this cookbook is a must-have kitchen resource, especially for carnivores.


Episode 75

The Family Meal

Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià

The Family Meal is a tradition among restaurants whereby the cook staff makes a meal for all staff before the restaurant opens. El Bulli, where this cookbook comes from, was rated as the best restaurant in the entire world. We tackle a small menu for a “family” of 75 savvy diners. Will it be a family meal or a family feud?

*Yes. We both learned a lot from this cookbook, not just about “Family Meals”, but also cooking techniques, and we found answers to many of the things we often wondered about in other cookbooks. It’s a great, hands-on instruction book to have in your kitchen library, and most of the recipes are quite tasty too!* (One of the best general cookbooks)


Episode 65

My Father’s Daughter

By Gwyneth Paltrow

You wanna hate her, but she’s just so darn nice! Sure, Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow can act and sing, but can she write a cookbook? Our final Grocery Bag season 3 episode takes a look at Gwyneth’s brand new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter” to see if we can finally find something to dislike about this Hollywood darling. (Don’t worry, we’ll be nice.)

Yes. We have to hand it to Gwyneth. She’s definitely a triple threat! This is not just a cookbook that’s endorsed by a celebrity, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal collection of family favourites. We definitely think My Father’s Daughter is worth your money.

Episode 50

Gordon Ramsay’s Family Fare

By Gordon Ramsay

We’re getting back to the table with a cookbook that encourages families to eat dinner together at least three times a week. And when Gordon Ramsay tells you to do something you’d better listen up! Will his cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. It’s not your average cookbook, so expect some unique and creative ideas. And after reading through his cookbook, we agree with Gordon too. Stop watching TV while you’re eating dinner. (Unless, of course, you’re watching our show!)**Note: We’ve since learned from some lovely British viewers who have written in to our website that “seal” (e.g. seal the meat) is a commonly-used term in British cuisine. It essential means the same as sear. Thanks for writing in and clearing that up, everyone!

Episode 20

Deceptively Delicious

By Jessica Seinfeld

Mother of three, Jessica Seinfeld packed this cookbook with kid-friendly recipes to help parents who struggle to feed their kids nutritious and balanced meals. We find out whether her recipes, filled with hidden veggies, can pass a taste test with a group of picky young eaters.

Yes. Our hungry pint-sized testers proved that you can be successful at getting kids to eat more nutritious meals by craftily hiding vegetables in the food. Though making purees is labour-intensive, if you’ve got the time and a picky eater, it’s definitely a good book to have on your kitchen shelf. (Great for kids)



Episode 11

Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes

By Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis had a cooking show for many years, but this is her first cookbook, and it’s actually a New York Times bestseller. It promises to show you how to cook delicious, beautiful Italian food with minimum fuss and maximum flavour. We find out if it really is that fast and easy for everyday cooking.

YES We both really enjoyed this cookbook. The recipes were relatively easy and the book was very helpful, with extra tips and recipe shortcuts. A definite buy. (One of the favourite Italian cookbooks)

Episode 15

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

By Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan is an award-winning cookbook author and is widely considered a leading influence of Italian cuisine in North America. This cookbook has almost 500 recipes and is allegedly able to turn any literate being into an Italian cook. We’re up for that, so we test it on Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag to find out if it’s true.

*Yes. This book is overflowing with good recipes, solid information, tips and instructions. And even though we had trouble on our cooking day, we don’t blame the book. We definitely think Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is a must-have for any home chef.* (One of the best cookbooks with great tips)

Episode 69


By Mario Batali

We take on one of the big boys of Italian cooking: Mario Batali. His 3-star restaurant, Babbo, is hailed for dishing out some of the most inspired and acclaimed Italian food in North America. His cookbook presents dishes as served in the restaurant. Will these recipes deliver us a home cooked meal?

Yes. If you’re looking for unique Italian fare that is of the quality of Batali’s 3-star restaurant in New York, then this cookbook is for you. Just be aware that at the restaurant, they make it look a lot easier than it really is!

Episode 58

A16: Food + Wine

By Nate Appleman, Shelley Lindgren

Feels like a textbook, looks like a coffee table book, and reads like a love letter to Southern Italian food and wine. A16: Food + Wine is written by the executive chef and wine director of a San Francisco restaurant of the same name. The book promises beguilingly rustic and approachable recipes. Will we be able to recreate the amazing restaurant dishes in the A & K Test Kitchen?

Yes. We both love rustic Italian food, and we both had a lot of success testing the recipes in this cookbook. And they’re not your typical Italian recipes either. They offer unexpected ingredient twists, and so much extra information. If you like this type of food, it’s definitely a book to have in your kitchen.



Episode 9

How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques

By Steven Raichlen

Steve Raichlen’s How to Grill has over 500 easy-to-make recipes from around the world. Virtually a textbook on everything you need to know about using a barbeque, it has tons of information, and even an index of all the gear you might need. We find out if that’s enough for a couple of novice BBQers like us.

Yes. This book promises to teach you how to barbecue and it definitely delivers on that promise. Without a doubt, a good buy for anyone with a BBQ.



Episode 77

Whitewater Cooks With Friends

By Shelley Adams

Full of simple fresh recipes dedicated to friends and family everywhere, author Shelley Adams says you don’t have to be a trained chef to make healthy, delicious and fabulous food. Can we create summer sizzle or will storm clouds move in to spoil our party?

Yes. This book does as promised – helps you make delicious, fabulous food. The recipes are great for entertaining, both for small, casual summer parties, or for larger or more elegant events. We’ll definitely be making the chicken and ribs again too! {This one seems to be an internet favourite as well}



Episode 55

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook

By Bobby Flay

As a celebrity chef, Bobby Flay has shown the world that Southwestern food is a complex cuisine of North and South American flavours. For those of us who can’t get to Bobby Flay’s restaurants, his cookbook offers 150 of his famous recipes. Smoky, earthy, fruity, and spicy, Bobby Flay is big on bold flavours. Can this cookbook help a couple of Pacific Northwesterners put on a delicious Southwestern spread?

Yes. We’re both going to pull this cookbook out for some future dinner party menus. We think even novice home cooks can pull off these recipes, as long as you give yourself lots of time.

Episode 44

Bon Appetit, Y’all

By Virginia Willis

To most people, southern cooking means mouth-watering fried chicken, cheesy grits, and savory gravy. “Bon Appetit, Y’all” takes these classics and adds a French twist. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval? We head south, to Savannah, Georgia to find out!

Yes. Apart from our fear of frying, we had great success with everything we made from this cookbook. We also recommend everyone visit Savannah, Georgia and the area at least once in their lives, and definitely taste a freshly-picked Georgia peach! (This one seems to be their favourite American cuisine cookbook)



Episode 39

Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City

By Daniel Boulud and Peter Kaminsky

Born in France, Chef Daniel Boulud is world-renowned for combining fine American ingredients with European tradition to create contemporary French cuisine. Featuring 75 recipes from his own restaurants, this cookbook promises to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires this highly creative chef. Will it inspire greatness in our own kitchen?

Yes. Though we were both intimidated at first, this book is quite accessible and we had a lot of success with it. If you enjoy learning about contemporary French cuisine or Chef Daniel Boulud’s creations, we definitely recommend this cookbook. (best French cuisine)

Episode 16

The French Laundry Cookbook

By Thomas Keller and Deborah Jones

The French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley is considered by many one of the best restaurants in North America. Owner and chef, Thomas Keller, has put some of his favourite recipes into The French Laundry Cookbook. We find out if typical home chefs like us can pull off these meticulous and involved 4-star recipes. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. This book is full of gorgeous pictures, it’s well written, and has lots of tips and instruction. However it’s aimed at people who already know quite a bit about cooking, and who are willing to spend time on the recipes. If that’s you, then The French Laundry Cookbook should definitely be in your kitchen library.


Vegetarian Options

Episode 32

The Flexitarian Table

By Peter Berley

Author Peter Berley says he’ll never treat vegetarians as an afterthought again. But instead of cooking separate dishes, Chef Berley has created ‘convertible dishes’, where you make the same basic preparations and then use half for a meat dish and the other half for a meat alternative. We’re excited to put this concept to the test. Find out if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes. We both felt there were many tasty recipes in this cookbook, and the vegetarian ones were innovative enough to get us eating more greens.



Episode 18

Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

By Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless has two of the highest-rated Mexican restaurants in all of North America, and is also the host of a long-running TV series. Filled with translations of authentic Mexican dishes, Mexican Kitchen starts with 15 different sauces Bayless calls the cornerstones of Mexican cuisine. We find out how easy, or hard, it is to Mexican-ize our cooking skills.

Yes. There are a lot of nuances to Mexican cooking. Even though we didn’t fare so well on our cook day, we really think it’s a case of practicing until you get it right. (best Mexican)



Episode 63

Canyon Ranch: Nourish

By Scott Uehlein and Canyon Ranch

Nourish is the companion cookbook to the world famous Canyon Ranch spa in the US, known not only for its treatments, but also for its delicious food. This is not a diet cookbook, nor is it a vegetarian cookbook. Rather, it celebrates big flavours, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes, and promises “indulgently healthy cuisine”. Healthyand delicious? We’ll see about that!

Yes. Though it is labour-intensive at times, we both enjoyed most of the recipes in this cookbook. You may want to make some minor adjustments to suit your tastes, but overall, it’s a great cookbook that helps you eat healthier, without sacrificing flavour.



Episode 60

Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook

By Mark Robinson

Izakayas are a major cultural and social force in Japan, where people gather to share laughter, drinks and small plates of delicious food. This cookbook claims to be the first written in English to peel back the curtain on these boisterous Japanese pubs, which are now popping up all over North America. Can we pull off these tasty yet intricate dishes in the A&K Test Kitchen?

Yes. Though we were both intimidated by it at first, we found this cookbook approachable, and most of the recipes delivered tasty results. We would have liked just a little bit more instruction in some spots, but overall, we’ll both be coming back to this cookbook again.



Episode 40

Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen

By Lucinda Scala Quinn

It took ten years for the head of Martha Stewart’s food division to write it, but Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen claims to include quintessential Jamaican recipes; the kind passed down through generations, and even some forgotten in modern culture. We turn up the heat to see if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes. Though chef Prince Rowe didn’t think many of the dishes we made were authentic Jamaican, most of them turned out delicious, and they were relatively easy to make. We think this is a great book for anyone looking to add some Caribbean spice to their cuisine. Just be careful with those chili peppers!



Episode 72

New Moroccan

By Mourad Lahlou

A melting pot of the native foods of the Berbers, with the seasonings influenced by Arab, Spanish, Turkish and French cuisines, The New Moroccan takes us way out of our comfort zone, to the dazzling and chaotic Marrakech, for an authentic cookbook test!

Yes. While some of the recipes can be quite involved, we both had good results with this book when cooking at home. Our 7-hour marathon cook day in our strange Moroccan kitchen was a challenge, but the recipes still delivered.



Episode 29

The Cake Bible

By Rose L. Beranbaum

From the woman who wrote her master’s thesis on the effects of sifting on the quality of yellow cake, The Cake Bible is a scientific exploration behind melting chocolate, preheating ovens, the merits of sifting (or not), and more. With very precise, detailed instructions, we find out if this book should be left to the pros.

Yes. Even though we came close to out-challenging ourselves by making a real wedding cake for a real bride on her wedding day, we both feel The Cake Bible is a definite buy for people who like baking cakes, both professionals and amateurs.

Episode 67

Absolutely Chocolate

by the Editors of Fine Cooking Magazine

This cookbook seems like it was made just for us! From cakes to cookies, brownies to mousse, it’s got everything a chocolate lover could hope for. In fact, it claims to have recipes that will satisfy any chocolate craving. We’ll see about that!

Yes. We love chocolate and can’t live without it. This cookbook’s claim to satisfy any chocolate craving stood up to the rigors of the A&K Test Kitchen, even when trying to impress a picky French pastry chef! (Seems to be their favourite dessert cookbook)

Comeback Sauce

We were at the mall the other day and I was tempted to buy an A&W Mozza Burger but managed to resist the temptation with the promise to myself that I would make an even better burger at home. I didn’t bother with homemade patties but bought organic store bought patties instead and topped them with mozzarella cheese and “comeback sauce”. I had never heard of this before but the name was certainly seductive. As with many of my not so common recipes I found this on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try. It’s quite good. It could be called “everything but the fridge” sauce because you basically combine every condiment you have in the fridge to make it. I’ve never tried chilli sauce before so I had to buy that as well as some hot sauce. After reading a couple of comparisons on the internet between Frank’s Red Hot and Sriracha I decided to go with Sriracha instead because it seems to have more depth of flavour. The comeback sauce was creamy and tangy with a enough heat to make it interesting. I can’t wait to try it on onion rings!



Mississippi Comeback Sauce

Makes a pint jar full.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon

Mix all ingredients well and store in refrigerator overnight.  It needs to sit to let the flavors become “acquainted”.

Adapted from

Skinny Cheeseburger Casserole

I’ve been wooed by SkinnyMom recipes yet again. Most of them are made with simple ingredients you can get at the grocery store and aren’t too adventurous for little tastebuds like Miss M’s. I saw this recipe for Skinny Cheeseburger Casserole and knew it would be a hit with both of us. I made it in the evening so that I could reheat it the next day for dinner, but in my rush to get it done before bath time I forgot to add the Dijon mustard. I added about 1/4 tsp to my own serving the next day and it was fab! Don’t skip it and don’t use regular mustard – trust me, it’s not the same AT ALL. This recipe overall is not what you would call gourmet but it’s a good go-to weeknight recipe for the whole family. I’ll be making it again soon. And, I used regular cheese (measure it out so that you don’t add too many calories). See what the nutritionist at Shape Magazine says about low-fat cheeses here.

Oh, and I had no idea what “burger seasoning” was. Maybe it’s a U.S. thing? Anyway, I did a search and found a recipe from Emeril which I have included below. For this dish I just added a shake of this and 2 shakes of that, etc. and it turned out just fine.

photo (21)

Skinny Cheeseburger Casserole


2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, diced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
½ tsp burger seasoning (see recipe below)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 — 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups reduced-fat, shredded cheddar cheese
Optional*: ¼ cup hamburger dill chips, chopped *Optional ingredients are not included in nutritional calculations.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spray a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large stock pot, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
In a medium skillet, add olive oil and cook onions and garlic for 1-2 minutes.
Add ground beef and cook until browned. Add salt, pepper and burger seasoning to ground beef while cooking.
Add in tomatoes, tomato paste and mustard. Allow the mixture to cook and thicken until bubbly. Add the pasta to sauce and mix to cover evenly. Transfer mixture to casserole dish. Top with cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with chopped dill pickles before serving (optional).

Nutrition Information:  Per Serving: (1 cup) Calories: 258 Calories from fat: 75 Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 5g  Cholesterol: 50mg Sodium: 528mg Carbohydrates: 18g Fiber: 4g  Sugar:5g Protein: 24g  Calcium: 27%  Iron: 10%  WWP+: 6


Emeril’s Burger Seasoning

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use 2-3 tsp per pound of beef, turkey, or chicken.

Vegan Banana Bread in a Mug

Alas my long standing love/hate relationship with sugar rages on. I have become much better at understanding my triggers and listening to my inner voice, which is an important step in breaking any bad habit so I guess I’m not quite as bad off as I used to be. Over the last few weeks I’ve been buying sweet stuff in bulk, or baking whole batches of cupcakes which is the absolute worse thing I could do. I have no self control. :( My excuse for making the cupcakes was to sample a new recipe for my little one’s birthday party. I’ve probably gained a couple of pounds because of it but I’m afraid to get on the scale and confirm it. Tonight I had yet another craving for cake but I resisted and made this single serving banana bread with chocolate chips which gave me that little hit of chocolate without eating a whole row of brownies or something like that. Not that I’ve ever done such a thing ;) This wasn’t too bad. I think you have to make it a couple of times to figure out your microwave’s sweet spot. IMG_1196

Vegan Banana Bread in a Mug

Ingredients: 1/2 banana 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour 1 tablespoon organic sugar 1/8 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil 1 teaspoon dairy-free chocolate chips 1 teaspoon walnuts Directions: Mash the banana in a small bowl. Add all ingredients to bowl, except the dark chocolate chips and walnuts; mix well to form a smooth batter. Save a few chocolate chips and walnuts for the topping, and mix the rest into the batter. Lightly spray a ceramic ramekin with cooking spray, and pour in the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips and walnuts. Microwave for 70 to 90 seconds until the batter is dry — don’t overcook or your cake will turn chewy and tough. The dish will be hot so remove with an oven mitt. Cool for a minute, and then dive in! Nutrition: 196 calories, 6.9g of fat (4.5 of that saturated) fiber 2.5g, sugars 12.6 and protein 3g Source:

Pizza Pasta

It can be a real challenge cooking for a toddler. Miss M was going through a chicken finger phase for the last little while and I had to get her out of it somehow. She hasn’t been eating pizza lately either, which was strange, but she does seem to like pasta. I stumbled upon this recipe while visiting Chef Michael Smith’s website and it sounded so delicious I HAD to give it a try. I was hesitant to buy 4 pints of cherry tomatoes so I waited for canned tomatoes to be on sale at my grocery store. And I’m not a fan of pepperoni so I jumped at the chance when mild Italian turkey sausage was also on sale. I removed the casings and browned them in a large sauté pan then added a large can of plum tomatoes and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or so while I roasted the onions, garlic, and 1 pint of fresh grape tomatoes. Once the veggies were ready I combined everything as directed in the recipe and broiled until the cheese was melted. Mmmm! It’s one of those dishes that gets better the more you eat it. Dangerous! And the best part – Miss M loved it!


Pizza Pasta


1/2 box penne pasta (about 2 cups)
1 pound spicy pepperoni, chopped in 1 inch pieces (I used one pack of mild Italian sausage)
4 pints (or so) Cherry Tomatoes
2 large onions cut in 8
1 head garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons or so dried oregano
4 ounces cream cheese (half a block)
1-2 sprinkles salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
3 cups or so mozzarella cheese, shredded


Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).Toss pepperoni, tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano and olive oil in a large bowl. Turn into a 9- X 13-inch (3.5L) ovenproof casserole or baking dish. After 30 minutes or so stir the works once or twice then keep an eye on things. Bake until the tomatoes soften and the pepperoni and onion lightly brown, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set to broil.Meanwhile cook your pasta in lots of boiling salted water. Drain it well but do not rinse or you’ll drain away the surface starch that helps the sauce cling to it. When the roast tomato sauce has finished cooking toss it with the pasta and stir in the cream cheese. Top with the mozzarella. Broil until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes or so. Your hearty pizza pasta is ready! Call in the gang, serve and share.


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