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Canadian Recipes/ Featured/ Meal Planning

Apple Cinnamon Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

I have a poor nutrition confession to make: We eat a lot of bacon in our household. I’d say we go through 2-3 packages of bacon a week, and that’s a lot considering there’s only two adults in our household! Baby E isn’t exactly old enough to eat her fair share yet. The reason for the bacon overload is that whenever my husband isn’t working, it is our routine to enjoy a big breakfast together, consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, sliced tomatoes, and coffee. My husband works shiftwork (roughly five days/nights on, five days off), so on his days off I enjoy 5 days of big breakfasts with him. On his five days on, I fend for myself for breakfast.

I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about my five day stretches of bacon & egg breakfasts, so I’ve decided that on the five days that I’m on my own, I will eat a super nutritious breakfast to counteract all the grease from the previous five days (I don’t know if that is scientifically/nutritionally possible, but just humour me).

Keep in mind that when the husband is working, I am also home alone taking care of the baby, so I don’t exactly have a ton of time to prepare myself an elaborate breakfast. I need something that is prepared ahead of time, or easy enough to prepare with one hand, if need be. This is where this amazingly healthy apple cinnamon slow cooker steel cut oatmeal recipe comes in. I prepare this in the slow cooker the day before my husband goes back to work, and it makes enough to last me the five days where I’m flying solo for breakfast. All I have to do in the mornings is take a portion out of the fridge, plunk it into a bowl, sprinkle a bit of almond milk on it, and reheat in the microwave!

All the ingredients, dumped into the slow cooker.

I use almond milk in my recipe, but you can use whatever your preferred type of milk is. I use almond milk because I just recently found out that Baby E has a dairy allergy. I’m exclusively breastfeeding her so every time I have dairy, she gets severe eczema on her beautiful little face, digestive issues, and congestion. So don’t expect to see anymore recipes containing dairy on this blog for awhile! We actually found out about her dairy allergy after the seafood chowder recipe I posted a few weeks ago that contained a cup of milk and a cup of cream.

Since the steel cut oats take 7 hours in the slow cooker, you can technically make this overnight and have it fresh in the morning. I have never made it overnight though, only because I don’t like the idea of having something plugged in and cooking while I sleep. I usually make it the afternoon before my husband goes back to work so that it is ready later that night. I portion out individual servings that night so that it is ready to reheat and eat the next few days.

Give this super healthy and convenient recipe a try and let me know what you think! The weather in Regina is supposed to be on the plus side this week, so I’m happy to have this quick breakfast before I take the baby out and about. We have been going stir crazy being cooped up during last week’s -47 degrees Celsius weather! Enjoy the warmer weather, everyone!

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

Print Recipe
Serves: 5 Cooking Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into little pieces (1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 1/2 cups of almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salted butter, cut into 5 little squares

Instructions

1

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray or vegetable oil.

2

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker (except for the butter) and stir.

3

Distribute the butter pieces evenly on top of the other ingredients, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

4

Store leftovers in refrigerator.

5

To reheat single servings: Put desired portion in microwaveable bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of almond milk (or preferred type of milk), and reheat on high for about a minute. Stir, and reheat for another minute if necessary.

Featured/ Frugal Tips/ Meal Planning

Keeping a Tight Grocery Budget

Earlier today I was interviewed on the CJME Morning News radio show here in Regina on how I am keeping my grocery budget in check despite rising food costs.  A study out of Dalhousie University is predicting that the average Canadian family will spend $420 more a year on groceries next year as food prices are expected to rise. $420 a year may not seem like much, but let me list all the discretionary fun things I bought this year for $420 that I would have to give up next year if the $420 had to go to food instead:

  • a pair of Ugg AND Sorel winter boots (I bought these online on Black Friday)
  • a Scotch advent calendar (I bought this for my husband on his birthday)
  • a Peg Perego car seat for my baby
  • a newborn photoshoot

 

Personally, I would rather try to be frugal where I can so that I can spend some of my hard earned money on fun things and enjoy life once in awhile.

To elaborate more on some of the tips that I shared on the radio and in the news article on how to control your grocery budget:

  • Meal planning – for the majority of us, the protein is the central focus of every meal so I recommend meal planning around what protein is on sale. Buying steaks when they are on sale and planning to have steak that week or freezing it to have steaks later is more economical than having a craving for steak one day and running out to the grocery store to buy the meat and all the fixings at full price.
  • Eliminating food waste – Meal plan to use up leftovers. There are so many times I’ve made a roast chicken for dinner one night and had a couple of drumsticks leftover that ended up sitting in the fridge for a week before I had to throw them out. Now, I meal plan for a couple meals in advance – if I’m making a roast chicken tonight, then I’m planning ahead that I’ll be making chicken caesar wraps or chicken salad sandwiches tomorrow using the leftovers.
  • Having a repertoire of “go to” recipes – Make note of what meals your family loves to assist with your meal planning. For example, if I see ground beef on sale I know I can make my shepherds pie or meatloaf.
  • Loyalty programs – Most of us are creatures of habit and usually shop at the same grocery store, so take advantage of whatever loyalty program your favourite grocery store has. Most grocery stores have some sort of points accumulation program that you can redeem for discounts off your bill. And most will also have loyalty cards and digital offers that track your spending and give you specific discounts for items that you purchase the most!

A little time and attention can help you save both time and money at the grocery store. I probably spend an hour every Thursday evening with the flyers for the coming week and plan my grocery shopping and meals. However, that one hour upfront saves me from wandering aimlessly through the store as I go with a detailed list and a plan of attack. Also, because of my careful planning, I only grocery shop once a week. I’m saving time as I rarely have to head to the store to pick up that one thing that I need right away. As for money, I used to spend $600-$700 a month on groceries. Thats just insane for a family of two adults! Ever since I started paying more attention to my grocery bill, meal planning and sticking to a cash grocery budget (no debit or credit for groceries), our grocery costs are now $500 a month. That’s a tangible $100-$200 that I’m saving!

I could talk about meal planning and frugal tips all day! If you have any questions or ideas to share, please leave me a comment, email me at culinarycents@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (links to my social media accounts are on the top left corner of this site).

Here is the link to the article: http://cjme.com/article/1033101/new-regina-mom-uses-strict-budget-sacrifice-combat-concerning-food-prices

 

Beer and Wine Pairings/ Canadian Recipes/ Featured/ Meal Planning

Weekday Pot Roast

Weekday Pot Roast Dinner

One of the hardest things that I had to come to terms with after having a baby is that I don’t run the schedule anymore. Prior to having a baby, I was an extreme type-A person, and my cooking was run on a tight schedule. I prided myself on my ability to time dinner prep perfectly so that I was plating it up just as the husband was walking in the door. Now with a baby, that is completely unrealistic. Dinner prep now is interrupted multiple times with crying and feedings and there’s no guarantee when it will be plated up!

I’ve heard from other moms that slow cooker meals are lifesavers when it comes to preparing weekday meals. You just throw a few ingredients into a slow cooker and let it cook by itself. Admittedly, I have yet to find a slow cooker meal that I love. I find them all to be bland and it literally tastes like you threw a bunch of ingredients together to cook with no technique or finesse. (I know, I kind of sound like a culinary snob there, didn’t I?)

Anyways, I will continue my search for a decent slow cooker meal, but in the meantime, I have this pot roast recipe that I have been making at least once a week. There are three reasons why I love this recipe:

  1. It takes about 10-15 minutes to prep and brown the vegetables and the meat. This is about the maximum amount of time my baby will peacefully sit in her bouncy chair and watch me cook.
  2. I use a cup of red wine to deglaze the pot. This gives me the perfect excuse to open up a bottle of red wine and have a glass. I mean, I could also use beef broth to deglaze the pot but what would be the fun in that?
  3. After everything has been prepped and browned, you toss everything back in the pot and let it simmer for 4 to 5 hours. I just love that wide time range – 4 to 5 hours means that even if at the 4 hour mark, I get derailed by a crying baby who needs to be fed, it’s not that big of a deal.

This pot roast is best prepared in a Dutch Oven (or French Oven). On my Christmas wish list is a Le Creuset French Oven.

On my Christmas wish list – the Le Creuset French Oven, perfect for roasts and stews.

These things are so pricey but would be well worth the investment. However, since I don’t have one yet, I just use a big pot and it works just fine.

For the meat, I usually buy whatever roast is on sale that week. It doesn’t have to be a premium cut of meat because 4-5 hours of cooking will make any cut of meat super tender and flavourful. The meat falls apart when you take it out of the pot. This week at Sobeys, “inside round marinating oven roasts” were on sale so that’s what I used.

I serve this roast with the carrots that were cooked along with it, some mashed potatoes and a quick gravy made with the liquid in the pot.

Browned meat and veggies, swimming in broth and red wine, ready to simmer for 5 hours

It’s the perfect weekday meal for these cold winter nights. Also, I should mention that after 4-5 hours of cooking time, your house smells super delicious – it smells like you put in way more effort to make this meal than you actually did!

As you can see in the photo above, we paired this particular dinner with the Stark Raving red wine. There’s no rhyme or reason for this – the Stark Raving red is the every day drinking wine in our house, so when I don’t have a particular wine preference to pair with a meal, we default to the Stark Raving. It’s an easy drinking red blend that pairs well with everything and it’s a decent price (~$15).

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. Also, if anyone has any delicious slow cooker meals that will convert me into a slow cooker believer, then please share!

Weekday Pot Roast

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 15 minute prep, 4-5 hours cooking time

Ingredients

  • 3-5 lb roast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 whole yellow onions, peeled and halved
  • 8 whole carrots, peeled and cut in half (4 inch pieces)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

1

Season the roast all over and well with salt and pepper.

2

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the halved onions on both sides and set the onions aside on a plate.

3

Brown the carrots in the pot and set aside with the onions.

4

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pot and sear the meat for one minute on all sides until it is brown all over. Remove the roast and set aside with the carrots and onions.

5

Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Place the roast and the vegetables back into the pot and add 3 cups of the beef broth to almost cover the meat.

6

Add the fresh herbs, put a lid on the pot and cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 hours.

7

If you're making a gravy, after the 4-5 hours of cooking time, take a cup or two of the liquid in the pot and strain into a small sauce pan. Whisk together 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water, and then add to the sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.