What I did on my summer vacation and Freezer Jam

This gallery contains 35 photos.

Summer is officially over *sob*…. I know a lot of you out there love fall, the changing leaves, pumpkin flavored everything, the crisp morning air. I enjoy those things too, but I still need a little time to mourn the … Continue reading

Honeymoon in Villefranche Sur Mer and Mushroom Risotto

This gallery contains 14 photos.

As promised in my previous post (https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/honeymoon-in-nice-france/), here are some photos from one of our day trips to Villefranche Sur Mer. This quiet little place was only 15 minutes away by train, it offers a great beach, lots of restaurants … Continue reading

“The Question” and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I originally started this blog to share some tasty recipes, my VERY amateur photography and some other little tidbits. I decided early on not to include any topics that would be too personal or that would be seen as “politically incorrect”. I don’t like to ruffle anyone’s feathers and I believe in different strokes for different folks. But there is a more personal matter that has got my gears grinding and I feel like sharing my opinion with you guys.

So here goes, most of us who have reached adulthood and are in a romantic relationship have heard this question before “so when are you having kids?”. This summer I will be getting married and turning 30, so you can imagine I have heard this question many, many, many times. And of course, being the woman the question is mostly directed towards me, since society expects me to get married, get pregnant and have children. Little girls grow up dreaming of the day when they become proud mommies and get to take care of their sweet little angels with cute little toes and adorable button noses.

See, I was never really that little girl. I have actually known from a young age that I don’t want children. There, I said it. I’m a almost 30 year old woman, in a committed and stable relationship, who is getting married, and I (we) do not want to have children. To my close friends and family this revelation will not come as a shock, it’s not something that I’ve kept hidden from them. But when I do have this conversation with strangers or acquaintances, it’s actually quite uncomfortable. Not only because its not usually a subject you would discuss with strangers, but mostly for the simple fact that most of these people can not seem to understand its MY choice.

As a child I was the youngest in the family for a long time. I was not used to being around young children and babies, and for some reason they always seemed to be crying when I was around them. I came to the conclusion that my combination of dorky glasses and mouth full of shiny metal braces scared them. As I grew older and began babysitting I thought my relationship with babies would get better, but no, they still terrified me. I would only look after children who were old enough to talk and poop in a toilet on their own. When I entered my early adulthood, I felt a little more comfortable with babies and actually enjoyed being around children. I realized that they are the most honest people on the planet and have lots of interesting things to say if you give them a chance and listen. But I still did not have the urge or the need to have any children of my own. In my mid twenties I met and fell in love with my husband to be! I thought, maybe now that I am in a loving, stable relationship I will finally come around to this hole baby thing. Quickly enough my fiancé and I figured out that we BOTH did not really want kids. I was actually relieved when this matter was discussed, I couldn’t imagine how things would of went if he told me he wanted lots of children, like 5! And that’s when I realized I REALLY didn’t want children, because no matter the circumstances my mind seemed to be made up.

I’ve gathered numerous reasons over the years as to why we don’t want children. First, my fiancé works outside of town most of the week, which means I would be on my own for a large part of the time. I know LOTS of families have this arrangement, but it’s not something we are prepared to do. Second, I am actually terrified of being pregnant. I know, this sounds crazy… I’ve heard many women say that they felt great while being pregnant, in fact it was the best they ever felt! Of course I can not know this for sure, but I’m convinced I will be one of those unlucky pregnant ladies who will be plagued with morning sickness, several ailments that I will not be able to remedy and I will be bed ridden by month 7. And don’t get me started on the whole LABOR thing… I know they have epidurals now, but just the idea of pushing something the size of a watermelon out of my hoohaa is mind blowing… I know, it’s only a few months of pain for a life time of love. I’ve heard this several times. Of course there are the super selfish reasons, like the simple fact that I love my free time, sleeping in and my small left over spending money once all the bills are payed.

Which brings me (finally) to my rant, people who think I’m an ogre for not wanting to procreate. The most popular reactions are that:
– I will change my mind
– having children will change my life for the best
– I would make a great mom
– don’t I want someone to take care of me when I am old
– a child’s love is the most powerful and unconditional love I will ever experience

All of these are valid responses, but some people are not very good at hiding their facial expressions when they hear my response. Also they seem to forget that deciding to bring a child into the world is a HUGE decision. It’s not something you decide to do because it looks like fun, or because everyone else is doing it, or because its what others and society think you should do. I chose to take this decision very seriously because I know that it’s a life changing one for myself, the little person I decide to bring into this world and every other important person in my life. I have little doubt in my mind that my fiancé and I would make great parents, in fact I can see myself being an over protective mother (the embarrassing kind). You should see the way I act with my two dogs, it’s pretty sad. My fiancé and I have stable jobs, a house to call home and enough funds to give a child everything it needs. But we still chose not to have children, and I think people see it as a selfish decision because we COULD but WON’T. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the baby conversation with people who are very understanding and don’t feel the need to judge me or feel that they need to change my mind. Some of these people have children of their own, but still respect my decision and tell me it’s ok, it’s ok to NOT want to have children.

There is a very small part of me that keeps thinking I might really be missing out on a very important part of my life, I have a great relationship with my parents. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them (obviously), but they also wanted to have children and took a lot of thought and time before they brought myself and my brother into this world. And that little voice in the back of my head that speaks up once in a while is usually silenced very quickly when I hear the sounds of a screaming baby.

Luckily over the last few years I have met other people, friends and couples who have come to the same decision that we have. It’s nice to know that there are others out there who feel the same way we do and have encountered some baby enthusiasts of their own. I’ve also read a few posts recently about this very subject, and they are the reason why I decided to make one of my own. I have in no way written this to offend or anger anyone. This is simply my lighter way of talking about a touchy subject that seems to be popping into my life more and more frequently. I have a great amount of respect for parents, it truly is the most difficult job out there, it takes an insane amount patience. And I have a little 5 year old niece who is adorable and smart and makes me smile every time I see her. I’m not a heartless person who is incapable of loving another human being, and I don’t see myself as a overly selfish person. I try to be generous, patient and understanding with others, because everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle. I just seem to prefer the company of my dogs and a select group of people. Lets face it, dogs are way better than people, but that’s for another post.

Now for the recipe, I thought since I brought up a touchy subject I would smooth things over with chocolate chip cookies. Everyone loves warm, gooey and chewy chocolate chips cookies, they’re like cute little babies (wink, wink), you can’t resist them! The trick to this recipe is the cornstarch, it sounds odd, but it really makes the cookies soft and chewy. So if you like crunchy chocolate chip cookies this is not the recipe for you.

Ingredients:

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.

3. Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper). Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. (The tops will not brown, but do NOT cook longer than ten minutes.)

5. Let cool, on the sheet, on a wire rack for five minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely if you can before eating a bunch with a tall glass of cold milk.

Once again this is a recipe I found on Pinterest so here is the link to the original recipe: http://kelseysappleaday.blogspot.ca/2011/08/best-ever-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookies.html?m=1
I promise you will never want to eat store bought cookies again and you will discard all other chocolate chip cookie recipes after you try this one.
Enjoy!

Smash Book and Shepherds Pie

I’m finally back with a new blog, I had to take a few days off to take care of my poor little Layla Bean (yes I’m one of those annoying dog people)! She broke a nail on one of her front paws last weekend, and I had to wait till Monday to bring her to the vet. They completely removed her nail and any available funds left in my bank account. But it was worth it, she seemed to feel a lot better then next day and they made her a neat little doggy cast/bandage thingy. After a few days on pain medication and a little limping she is now 100% better 🙂

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I’m excited to share my next project with you guys! I’ve been reading up a lot on Smash Books lately (yes, on Pinterest) and they have really caught my attention. Smash Books are like scrapbooks but a lot less fancy, you basically just cut and stick whatever you want where you want. I had done some scrap booking in the past but I was never any good at it. I had a difficult time making things look pretty, uniform and put together. I like to colour outside of the lines and Smash Books are exactly that! The part I like the most is that you don’t have to limit yourself to photos, you can add ticket stubs, post cards, pamphlets, news paper clippings and the list goes on. I have a shoe box FULL of little mementos that I have been hanging on to for years, things I have gathered over time and can’t seem to part with. Now I finally have a place to put them on display so that I can look at them anytime, and they won’t be hidden away in a dusty old shoe box anymore.

I plan on getting started this week, I already picked up a few basics from Michael’s (craft supply store). I went on their website and was able to print a 50% off coupon so my Smash Book only cost 10.00$! Other smaller items that you can buy to add on to your book range from 3.00$ – 10.00$, but you really don’t need much to get started, just a few souvenirs and some imagination. Here’s a link to a blog that I found very helpful and I will surely draw some inspiration from http://www.craftsunleashed.com/index.php/paper-crafts/smash-books-the-un-scrapbook/. This person made a Smash Book about a vacation they took, but you can make one for a wedding, a baby book, one for your pets, the sky is the limit! I’ll post some updates and pictures once I get started 🙂

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Here’s a quick update on my meal plan, the first week was a success! The initial few days of planning, shopping and prepping were well worth it. Everyday I follow the plan and its really nice to know what to make for supper ahead of time. In the morning or the night before I take out whatever I need from the freezer and its so easy to make tasty and healthy meals when I have all the ingredients on hand. This last week also made me realize that the plan can be flexible. We had leftovers a few times and I just skipped the meal that was planned for that night. We prefer eating what we already have instead of making something else and wasting food. I still need to work on my portion sizes, but the freezer is still really full and I only have a few items on my grocery list for next time. This weekend was spent at home (hiding from the snow and rain that won’t give us a break) and NOT at the grocery store 😉

Tonight Shepherds Pie is on the menu, this is a recipe that I have been perfecting for a few years now. I have it worked out to the way that we like it, but it’s a versatile dish, you can add lots of different things to make your own version and here’s mine!

– 1 lbs extra lean ground beef
– 1 onion chopped
– 6 or 8 large potatoes peeled and mashed
– 1 large can corn or creamed corn
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tbsp butter
– 2 tbsp herb and garlic cream cheese
– 1/4 cup milk
– salt and pepper
– grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop the potatoes, while they are boiling heat a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onions for a few minutes and then add ground beef to the pan. Brown the ground beef and cook thoroughly, I like to add a little salt, pepper and garlic powder to the beef while its cooking. Once the beef and onions are cooked set aside and check on the potatoes, they are ready if a fork can cut through easily.
Drain and mash the potatoes, add butter and milk, mix well and then add herb and garlic cream cheese, make sure to mix well again. In a large casserole dish put beef and onions in the bottom, put corn on top of the beef in an even layer, then place an even layer of mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and serve with your favourite veggies as a side. Voila!

Hope you enjoy this dish, it’s one of my favourites and is good comfort food on a cold winter day 🙂 It also makes a lot so you can have some left overs for the next day! Here is the finished product:

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Meal Planning and Meatloaf

Hi everyone! I decided to take a few days off from writing, but I’m back! And I have lots of updates on my meal planning adventures.

Friday was my grocery list prep day, I started off by typing up a list based on the items that were shown in the list already created by the Mealboard app. From there I took inventory of items I already had at home and added items that were not already on my list.

I have decided that I will do most of my shopping at Costco since you can buy lots of items in bulk at very good prices. I will be doing the rest of my shopping at Sobey’s (a local grocery store), they usually have good deals every week AND I can collect Air Miles to help pay for our honeymoon next year.

So I got my hands on a flyer from Sobey’s (you can view their weekly flyers online but I’m hands on and wanted an actually copy to look through), and circled all the items that were on sale to make sure I didn’t miss any good deals. For example this week they had a great special on boneless skinless chicken breasts (a staple in my meal plan) so it was less expensive to buy them from Sobey’s and not from Costco. This is when planning comes in handy, some items will be much cheaper when you buy in bulk. But let’s be honest, we’ve all bought something from Costco thinking “this is such a great deal, I’m totally going to eat 48 cantaloupes!”, and by the end of the first week you can’t even stand to look at a cantaloupe let alone eat one. You end up throwing out a bunch uneaten fruit and a valuable lesson is learned. So just take the time to plan out which items you need in a large quantities and how you can store or freeze these items so they will last for a longer period of time. Also if you plan on freezing lots of things, make sure to add freezer bags to your list! Luckily I had a bunch left over but I will be adding these very important items to my next list, I like to use the large and small bags.

Saturday was our shopping day, my fiancé decided he would come along and help 🙂 We headed out to Costco first, I was armed with my trusty list and an empty cart. We hit the fruit and veggies section and loaded up, then moved on to the cold food section, they have great prices on butter and eggs! We then headed over to the grocery isles, the entire time I was keeping track of things on my list to make sure I didn’t forget anything. We saved time by not going into sections of the store that did not sell food items. Costco on a Saturday is insanity plus they always have deals on impulse items, it’s very easy to stray from the plan when everyone is going crazy over 100 batteries for 19.99$! So out of sight out of mind does help in this case and we were out of there in less time then it took to find a parking spot.

We went to Sobey’s next, I made sure to pick up the sale items I had seen in the flyer first and then went back around for the rest of the things on the list. While we were in line at the checkout I went over my meal plan again on my iPhone to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. The hole idea behind all of this planning is to avoid useless trips to the grocery store! So make sure when you’re done and ready to leave that you have all the items you came for 😉

Once we got home I unpacked all the groceries and laid them out on the table. After a few hours of planning and an afternoon of shopping, we have enough groceries for (hopefully) one month, and the approximate cost is about 350$. Hooray for saving money and time! Here is a picture of our goodies.

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Next came the prepping step, since we had gotten LOTS of fruits and veggies from Costco I wanted to prep them and freeze them for future use. I used this website as a freezing guideline http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/. It has lots of great information and really came in handy since I had only frozen meats and leftovers in the past. I started with out the large bags of pre cut and pre washed broccoli and mushrooms. Since they were already prepped I just threw them into some small freezer bags. I then washed and prepped asparagus and bell peppers and made smoothy packets with berries and cut up bananas. These are great when you are in rush in the morning but want something good and healthy. I also froze bread, tortillas and the chicken breasts and other meats that I had picked up, don’t forget to write the name of the item you’re freezing and the date on each bag (I use a Sharpie, works great). When you’re digging through the freezer for something it will be a lot easier if everything is labeled, and if you’re like me and you have a tiny freezer you’ll be glade you did this! Here’s my freezer all stocked up.

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So now we are ready for a full month of meals! In 2 weeks I may need to buy milk and bread, I’m not a fan of freezing milk and I have absolutely no space left in my freezer for another loaf of bread. So I’m not opposed to picking up a few items in 2 weeks time. I’m planning on adding a white board on the fridge so that I can write down things as we run out, this should make it easier when it comes time to make my next grocery list.

Tonight is the first day of the meal plan and that means its meatloaf night! So I’m going to share my recipe, actually my fiancé’s grandmothers recipe for yummy, simple and super moist meatloaf 🙂

Nana’s Meatloaf

– 1 lbs of extra lean ground beef
– 1 medium onion chopped
– 1 can tomato soup
– 1 egg beaten
– 1/2 sleeve soda crackers crushed
– salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, prepare baking dish with butter or olive oil so the meatloaf won’t stick to the sides. I use a normal sized loaf pan. Mix all the ingredients together, don’t be afraid to use your hands! Once everything is mixed and well blended together pour it into the pan and bake uncovered for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The top will come out nice and crispy and the middle will be moist and delicious.

Voila! The best and most simple meatloaf, enjoy 🙂