Posts for Tips & Tricks Category

Christmas Shopping Tips #CTChristmas

Holidays, Tips & Tricks - Chief Cook - December 11, 2015

Greeting card with new year

Only 14 days left until Christmas, which means only two more weekends to get your Christmas shopping done. If you’re like me and have barely started (or not started at all) you may think it’s time to start panicking. But fear not, I have some tips to help you relax and tackle your to-dos in an orderly fashion:

  1. Make a list and stick to it. There’s nothing more stressful than the guild of feeling like you over spent. Do your research before hand so you know what you’re in for and shop within your means. What’s everyone getting? What is it going to cost approximately? Where can I get it?
  2. Shop online. Many online shops have a quick turnaround time on shipping. Just to be safe though, I’d recommend ordering by the end of this weekend. Otherwise, you might find yourself on December 21 beginning to wonder if it’ll show up on time.
  3. Go into stores early. No one likes a crowded mall – it’s stressful trying to fight through the crowds. Find out what time the store opens and get there early. It doesn’t have to be right at 9 am, but after lunch is a bad time. Plus, going early gives you the rest of your day to sit back and enjoy a cup of spiced eggnog.
  4. Give experiences. Not sure what to get that person who has everything? Consider tickets to a concert, play, or an upcoming wine or scotch fest. Give them something they can go do rather than have. And make sure there are two tickets so they can take someone along (hopefully you!).
  5. Wrap it up! A lot of malls have wrapping services that donates the money to a charity. Save yourself some headache and time by dropping the gifts off with them while you go enjoy a latte.

Continue Reading

Halloween Treats

Halloween is favourite holiday around our house- as soon as one is done our daughter is thinking up a costume for the next year – this year she is going to go as the wicked queen from Once upon a time.  Can’t wait to see her all dressed up!
Along with dressing up she loves all the wonderful Halloween treats that go along with it.  One of My best go to places for great desserts any time of the year is Kraft Canada [well for pretty much anything] their website is filled with so many great tips and information.
The Kraft Canada website even has a page specifically dedicated to Halloween, it is full of amazing recipes, party ideas, decorations  and tips for a great Halloween party! They also have some great stencils that we can use on our pumpkin.

Halloween pumpkin stencils
After  they go out trick or treating, the kids will be coming back for some Halloween treats at our house. I took   a quick look at the site and I found some great snacks for them to have when they come back with loaded bags.  This is a Mummy cookie balls recipe I found that looks great and will be a hit with the kids. It is also one that I can easily make gluten free, so my daughter can enjoy along with her friends.

There are also some great games available  on the site that they can play! I think this will be a fun one:
Mummy Wrap:
Divide kids into teams of 3 (1 mummy, 1 wrapper, 1 un-wrapper). Each team gets 1 extra-large roll of toilet paper. This is a timed event, so instruct the kids that on your signal, one team member must wrap the “mummy” in toilet paper. When the roll is complete (and the mummy is mostly covered) the 2nd team member unwraps the mummy (no tearing the toilet paper, it has to be unrolled). The first team to finish, wins. This is a great activity, especially when you play it to fast-paced Halloween music.

Whatever it is that the kids have or play afterwards, make sure that they are safe when they are going out; have some reflective tape on their clothing [I get the glow in the dark neon bracelets and necklaces for them to wear  that way they also have  bit of a light source] and make sure there is a group of them going out together [teens don’t like you going with them] as well as making sure that they are carrying a cell phone to call if they need picking up or feel threatened in any way.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!  :)


Continue Reading

Weekend Breakfasts

Weekend Breakfasts

I don’t know about you but when the weekend rolls around I don’t always feel like getting up early to make up big weekend  breakfasts, I like lazing in bed as much as everybody. :) That is why it is great to be able to make breakfast ahead of time.  Whether you make up a strata or a fabulous French toast casserole the night before, whoever gets up first just has to take it out of the fridge, pop it in the oven at the desired temperature and have it ready for when the rest of the clan wakes up; no fuss, and no mess!

This works really well even for early mornings like Christmas, when the kids [so that means you too] are up early and they want to get to opening presents – you can pop it in the oven and just sit and enjoy the mayhem while breakfast is getting prepared.

Here is an easy brunch strata from Kraft Canada– If you are gluten free you can use GF bread instead of the regular bread.

This is a recipe that I have used in the past and has been a hit at Christmas time; it is very sweet and gooey, but oh so good! So if the kids aren’t hyper enough from all the unwrapping they have done on Christmas morning, they can get jump started on this recipe from  :)


Enjoy, hope you get those extra zzz’s 😉



Continue Reading

Summertime fun with President’s Choice

I love summer, and when we get weather like we have had this past week- well, it only makes it so much more enjoyable!

We spend a lot of time outside – so it only makes sense that we do a lot of our eating outside too!  Evening BBQs, family get-togethers, picnics and of course, the beach!

The other thing I look forward to is seeing all the summer edition of the President’s Choice Insider’s report.

There are always so many great articles inside as well as recipes, and of course all the great new products they have come with for the summer.  Pick up yours next time you head into the store, or sign up for their insider’s club online so that you can  browse through the archives for more recipes and articles.

As I mentioned, grilling is big  in our house, and I found this great article on all the different types of grilling you can do – love some of these and am going to try them – Direct and Indirect Barbecuing, –(I use indirect for most of my BBQing) Smoking, Brick Cooking, Wood Plank Grilling and Aromatic wood chips.

A great product for  summer grilling- the PC Angus Sliders – Mini-burgers – great as appetizers for small gatherings, or for snacks for the kids!

Take a look at all the great new products that President’s Choice has to offer for the summer – those PC Blue Menu Swirl Smoothies look really good – will have to make a trek down to Loblaws to get some for the w/e.

Summer fun with President's Choice pruducts

Mmmm...look so refreshing! Image courtesy of President's Choice

Oh, perfect timing too – this Sat, July 14th PC is having its Customer Appreciation Day at Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstore Ontario, where you’ll pay NO TAX on almost everything in the store! Some restrictions apply, see in store for details.

Enjoy, maybe I’ll see you there! 😉

Don’t forget, our weekly #summerfood chat on Wednesdays at1pm EST, see you there!

Continue Reading

My Sweet Corn Prefers to Bathe in Bud

Barbeque, Non-meat dishes, Tips & Tricks, Vegetables - Jennifer - July 7, 2011

Have you ever been to a block party? So much fun! My parents’ block has one every summer, and it’s a can’t miss event for us. It’s tons of work, but the girl who puts the whole thing together is a genius, and we’ve never had a bad time. Each family contributes a set sum for the purchase of grillables and accessories, and then one side of the street is responsible for salads and sides, while the other side of the street handles desserts, and everyone brings their own beverages. The block has a good mix of generations, so the potluck is everything you could hope for, a mixture of deliciously reliable standards and fun new food presentations.

One of my most favorite tricks I’ve picked up from attending is a creative method for preparing corn on the cob for roasting on the grill. The same neighbor does it every year, and after one bite I had to know her secret for achieving such juicy, flavorful summer-nirvana. Believe it or not, it’s all in the beer. The night before the party, she fills a large cooler with water and dumps in three or four cans of beer. She snips off the end of the corn tassel so the liquid can better penetrate the husks, and soaks the corn in the beer/water overnight. When she’s ready to grill, the moisture steams the corn from within the husk, and the results are perfection, every time!

Continue Reading

Kobo Reading Life Gives Me the Validation I Crave!

Cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, Product Reviews, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - February 1, 2011

I never thought an eReader would become such an integral part of my life.  But since I acquired it, I have been happily using the Kobo eReader app on my iPhone to help with a particular domestic problem of mine.  I’ve mentioned before that my husband is the primary grocery shopper in our household due to my, ahem, impulsive shopping habits.  Add to that my general failure to bring make a list, and I’m not the most efficient shopper out there.  Further, I often used to find myself guessing at recipes when inspiration would strike and then racking up some unnecessary expenses.  But with Kobo on my iPhone, right in the middle of the store I’m able to consult those very cookbooks that would normally be standing ineffectually at home on a shelf.  I can buy what I need and get out of there!

And now I can take it a step further with Kobo Reading Life.  Launched back in December for the iPad, Kobo Reading Life is an app that enables users to do all of the following:

∙ Connect your Reading Life with friends on Facebook
∙ Discover and share your favorite books, passages, characters and places
∙ Celebrate reading and earn fun & exciting awards
∙ Track your personal reading history, and learn about your own reading habits

Well, as of today, the Reading Life app is available for iPhones and iPod Touch devices.  So when I’m standing in that grocery store, bursting with pride over getting everything I need (and nothing I don’t) to make Rick Rodger’s Pear Coffee Cake with Streusel Crust, I can post that recipe instantly to Facebook, and give myself an “award.”  I can even check my personal stats.  Ahh, I thrive on validation!

Continue Reading

What Do You Mean I’d Only Need to Cook Once a Month?

Cookbooks, Product Reviews, Timesavers, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - January 6, 2011

Who only cooks once a month?  Someone with a personal chef?  A person who works in a restaurant?  Certainly not a busy mother of four Bottomless Petes who routinely insist that I, you know, feed them!  Well Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson insist that it can be done.  According to them, you can grocery shop one time, do all your prep work at once, and stock your pantry and freeze enough to feed your family every day for an entire month.

Does anyone else remember those meal prep places that were all the rage a few years back?  I went a couple of times, and it was pretty neat.  You’d gather a bunch of friends, choose from several menu selections, and read off of a recipe card as you dumped ingredients into plastic bags and containers to take home and freeze for future consumption.  Everything was prepped and ready for you to assemble.  My friends and I discussed the possibility of getting together on our own to do something like this, maybe once a month. How great it would be, we imagined, to have a ready supply of pre-made meals to draw from on those crazy evenings when baseball practice, Cub Scouts, and gymnastics all seemed to converge at once, resulting in exotic dinners of peanut butter and canned soup!  Alas, we never figured out how to do it.

But now I’ve discovered Once-a-Month Cooking:  Family Favorites, and I’m newly inspired!   The aforementioned Lagerborg and Wilson have even trademarked their Once-a-Month Cooking system, so it must work, right?  I’m learning all about their cycle method, whereby you shop for either monthly, bi-weekly or seasonal cycles, do all your prep in one day, and voila!  A freezer full of well-planned and balanced meals!  I can’t wait to get started.  The way I see it, buying in bulk for these mass prep sessions will not only save us money because we’re buying in bulk, but also because we won’t be making gratuitous trips to the grocery store, where we’re naturally tempted by all kinds of costly impulse items.  But the absolutely best part is that I don’t have to figure out how to do any of this on my own, because I have the book to lead me, every step of the way. Who’s with me?  C’mon!

Continue Reading

I Feel a Stew Day Coming On

Dinner, Recipes, slow food, Soups & Stews, Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized - Jennifer - December 28, 2010

I can’t even imagine making beef stew in the summer. Seriously, I don’t think the idea would even occur to me between the months of May and September. But come October, when the midwestern weather turns crisp and cool, a lightbulb goes on inside my head, and I say to myself, “Aha, stew!”  To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food, with the added appeal of slow-cooker simplicity.

Now, I do absolutely nothing fancy when I make beef stew.  I use probably the most elemental recipe out there:  beef stew meat, veggies, beef bouillon.  But my children still balked, every single time I made it.  Luckily, I figured out how to trick them, and the secret is . . . soup.  For whatever reason, they’ll eat it if I call it soup instead of stew.  I use onion soup mix for the broth, so now I just add a little extra water and, voila, beef stew soup!  Here you go:


Layer ingredients in Crockpot in the following order:
chopped carrots, celery & onion (enough to cover bottom of Crockpot)
4-6 large potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 c. hot water
1 pkg. instant onion soup mix, dissolved in 2-3 c. hot water

I usually set my slow cooker on high for the first four hours, and turn it down to low until we’re ready to eat, 7-8 hours total.

Continue Reading

Kobo eReader Solves Kitchen Storage Woes!

Desserts, Dinner, Recipes, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - December 26, 2010

When we first moved into our little 1920s Craftsman bungalow, I thought the teeny-tiny kitchen was quaint and cozy. I soon discovered that it was also short on storage, shorter on counter space, and generally a nightmare in which to work. My supremely talented husband has tried hard to eke out some extra storage in that space, even creating a cabinet in the soffet above the pantry so that I would have somewhere to stash my cookbooks. The problem? I had to stand on a chair and still reach over my head to get at them, so I wasn’t using them at all anymore. Then we added some shelves to the end of a lower cabinet, and I was able to move a few of my most-used books there, where they would be more accessible.

We’ve been in our home more than five years now, and my dreams of blowing out the back of the house to create a dream kitchen and master suite have been stored practically away in the “20-years-from-now” file. But when I recently started working for shesconnected on a Kobo project, my foray into ereading unexpectedly led me to a workable solution for one of my kitchen storage issues.  There are over 500 cookbooks available to download onto my Kobo eReader, where I can read them, store them, access and search them, anytime I want!  Some of them are even free, and none of them will take up any additional space in my kitchen, thank goodness.

Now, for the fun part:  shopping!  I have some good, comprehensive cookbooks that handle the basics, so I thought I’d look for something a little more fun, maybe even quirky.  And I found all that and more when I purchased  The Cooking Club Cookbook: Six Friends Show You How to Bake, Broil and Bond.  Having lived most of my life in the suburbs, I never imagined how metropolitan living can make it so impractical for many city dwellers to cook (efficiency kitchens, hauling groceries up flights of stairs, inconveniently located produce, etc.).  The authors of The CCC are six city-living friends who decided to make cooking fun by getting together for once per month theme dinners.  The book’s sections are broken down by theme, some ethnic (Spanish, Mediterranean, Asian), some fun (Comfort, Spa, Sexy), some practical (Grill, Quick, Brunch).  Each part features an explanation of how the Cooking Club arrived at their choices for the evening, and includes all the recipes that comprised the theme, appetizers, main course, sides and dessert.

One of my favorites, and the one I’m certain to most often revisit since my kids will love it, is the comfort food chapter, “Stealing Home.”  On the menu:  Mini-Me Mac and Cheese; OoohBaby, It’s Chili Outside; Batter-Fried Chicken Bites; Beaten-to-Within-an-Inch-of-It’s-Life Sweet Potatoes; Penny’s Broccoli Casserole; and Cinnamon Raisin Bread Puddin’.  Curiosity piqued?  The Cooking Club Cookbook is available in paperback by fine booksellers, and as an ebook from and

Continue Reading

Picnic Perfection

Today Is a beautiful day! So I am headed to one of my favorite places with my two favorite little friends! An outing to the lake with my boys sounds just about right! But what to bring for lunch??????

In my search to spice up the picnic basket I came across some really great articles & recipes that should help you have an amazing picnic of your own.

In my Basket

  • Juice boxes for the kids
  • Club sandwiches
  • Pretzels
  • Wheat Crackers
  • Cream Cheese
  • My sisters home made canned Bruichito
  • Spring Water for me
  • Grapes
  • Napkins & Baby Wipes
  • Blanky
  • Portable radio
  • Favorite Books
  • Ball & Glove

Mix all these together with the ones you love and enjoy! I try to keep it simple and focus more energy on the time and the people than the meal. I found after many failed attempts to create the perfect picnic scene that the best days will unfold with little planning on your part. AS long as there is a little something for everyone and a fun activity help them work up their appetite you can ensure a wonderful picnic!

From Some Others Baskets


Michael Smith

Courtesy of
Michael Smith
Chef at Home

On Next

Monday, July 26, 10:00AM/7:00AM et/pt

Asian Chicken Salad From The Food Network Canada

Asian Chicken Salad Wrapped in Rice Paper


The Dressing

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Dash hot sauce
  • Dash sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter

The Salad

  • 1 small bundle of rice vermicelli noodles
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 cup snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked
  • 4 large rice paper wrappers, soaked until soft



The Dressing

  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together until they form a smooth dressing.

The Salad

  1. Cover the noodles with boiling water.
  2. Soak until noodles are softened. Drain noodles well.
  3. Place shredded chicken into a large bowl, add noodles, peas, carrot and cilantro leaves.
  4. Add dressing and toss well.
  5. Place a softened rice paper wrapper onto a kitchen towel and blot dry.
  6. Carefully transfer it to a flat work surface and place a large spoonful of the chicken salad at the edge closest to you.
  7. Fold edge over the filling, and then fold in the two ends.
  8. Continue to roll up, securing loose edges so that it is sealed. Repeat for other three rolls.

NY Times 101 Picnic Dishes

I copied a few for you but check the link for all the rest! There were tons


1 BEET SALAD Peel beets and grate them (a food processor will keep the juice contained). Add pistachios or hazelnuts; dress with orange zest and juice, and olive oil. Add bits of goat cheese and chopped parsley.

2 PESTO CHICKEN ROLLS Season and grill chicken cutlets. Brush lavash or any other wrap-type bread with pesto; layer with the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula; roll up and cut on the bias.

3 CURRIED EGG SALAD Make egg salad with hard-cooked eggs, mayo, curry powder, Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, red onion and, if you like, diced apple.

4 TOMATOES AND PEACHES Toss together sliced seeded tomatoes and peaches, along with thinly sliced red onion and chopped cilantro or rosemary. Dress at the last minute with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

5 ROAST BEEF AND BLUE Start with whole-grain rolls. Smear blue cheese on one side and prepared horseradish on the other. Add red onion and thin-sliced roast beef, pork or lamb. Pack! lettuce and tomato on the side. Potato chips are mandatory.

So whether you are headed to the high country or the beach I hope you have a wonderful day and you enjoy the people & your food as much as I do!

 Picnic Blessings

Continue Reading