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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.

  • [January 2, 2015] - It's that time of year again! I'm doing a bit of tweaking then blogging. Enjoy!

  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese

Despite being Canada's favourite, I have never been a fan of Kraft Dinner aka KD.  Years ago our youngest who was about seven at the time, came home from a friends and proceeded to tell me about the wonderful macaroni and cheese his friend's mother had made.  It was in a 'really neat' blue box!  After I pulled my eyes out from the back of my head and picked myself up off the floor, I carried on making dinner while listening to him go on and on about this fantastic 'meal in a box'.  Occasionally, cave in and I would buy a couple of boxes of KD for the kids but our staple macaroni and cheese has always been from scratch, oven baked.  KD did find its way into our pantry during the y2K scare as part of our emergency preparedness

making easy mac and cheese
We were on the topic of food as we often are and the discussion turned to macaroni and cheese.  One of our kids swears by one pot, stove-top, creamy mac and cheese as her tried and true, kid approved family favourite.  Essentially this is an easy, versatile one pot method for cooking macaroni and cheese on the stovetop.  I've also heard of this method called the one-to-one because the portions are simply a 1:1 ratio.  I decided to try this method to see how it compared to the boxed and oven baked versions.

I did not follow the Todd and Diane's recipe exactly nor did I do an actual one-to-one.  I started with 1½ cup of half & half because I was out of milk then stirred in 1½ c of uncooked elbow macaroni and 1 tbsp butter.  I heated this mixture slowly while stirring adding in just enough extra half & half to keep the mixture runny while cooking.  When the macaroni was al denté, I stirred in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese was melted, the creamy macaroni and cheese was ready to be enjoyed!

easy mac and cheese
KD and other boxed macaroni and cheese dinners are not exactly health food.  Even if the organic brand is still a heavily processed food item.  There are preservatives but more importantly tartrazine, a synthetic lemon yellow azo dye derived from coal tar.  This synthetic dye has numerous side-effects ranging from allergic reactions to heart palpitations, OCD, and in severe cases, anaphylatic-like reactions.  The Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese, has just four ingredients: milk, pasta of choice, cheese of choice and butter (optional).  That's it!  There are no artificial ingredients.  The result is rich, creamy macaroni and cheese that is even easier to make than the boxed version with no extra packaging either.  It isn't a lot but that packet containing the powdered cheese mixture in boxed macaroni and cheese can't be recycled so ends up in the landfill.  The Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese tastes better than boxed and it definitely has a creamier texture.  It is just as quick to prepare.  Oh, and this macaroni and cheese actually works out less per serving than the boxed version!

Any milk can be used although milks with a heavier cream content will give a bit creamier flavour.  The butter really is optional.  I know it is supposed to be added to boxed macaroni and cheese, and I added it as well but the butter is really just for added flavour.  Any shredded cheese or combination of shredded cheese can be used.  I have it on good authority, aspiring chefs Little Miss C and Little Master A that aged white cheddar is the cheese to use!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Using the Cup Drawer on the Bunn My Cafe Single Cup Multi-Use Brewer

Last week I excitedly wrote about our new Bunn My Café MCU that replaced our failing Keurig B60.  The new Keurig 2.0 will not allow you to brew any other coffee except that packaged in their Keurig licensed K-cups despite their original hoopla that you could have the convenience of a single brew while enjoying your own coffee by using their My K-cup filter.  Unfortunately, that decision has turned a lot of faithful users against Keurig.  It doesn't help that the old machines are simply refusing to brew.  It also doesn't help that Keurig is getting a lot of negative publicity from the manufacturers of K-cup like pods and environmental groups.  At any rate, the Bunn My Café MCU has a drawer designed to use K-cups and off brand cups meant for Keurig machines. 

I have very few Keurig licensed K-cups.  The reason being both cost and recycle-ability.  I do however, have a several non-licensed K-cups especially the soft bottom cups that are 97% recycle-able. It's nice that I will be able to use these cups in the Bunn.

The cup drawer for the Bunn is easy to use.  Open the lid but do not try to remove the lid from the hinge.  Place your desired K-cup or similar into the cup holder (1).  Close the lid down onto the K-cup (2) then give it a firm push to puncture the lid on the K-cup (3).  When seated properly, the lid of the cup drawer will rest neatly against the bottom of the cup drawer.  Place the cup drawer onto the Bunn, snapping firmly in place (4).  Add water to the Bunn then press brew (5).  When finished brewing (6) remove the cup drawer and empty.  Rinse so that it is ready for the next time you want to brew.

I took this short video to show how the Bunn brews slightly different than the Keurig.  There is an option of the Bunn to use a pulse when brewing.  This is used when brewing loose tea or if you want a stronger flavoured coffee.  When the pulse is turned on, the bottom light is indicated by red.  I didn't use pulse for this cup of coffee.  Once the cup drawer was in place with the desired K-cup, I hit brew.  The most notable feature about the brewing is the final burst of hot water.  This results in a more flavourful cup of tea or coffee.  It does cause a small amount of splattering.  The important thing to remember is to not add too much water to the reservoir.  Make sure you leave enough space to account for this final blast of water!  This final blast of hot water occurs with all of the drawers although it is not as pronounced with the plain water drawer.

I remove the brewing drawer and rinse out after each use.  This way, the Bunn is ready for the next use.  Unlike the Keurig, there is no issue with your tea having a little coffee off-taste.  The reason being, the only time the puncture needles come into contact with coffee is when using the cup drawer.  Everything else is brewed using a different drawer.  I was concerned that there would be a bit of coffee off-taste in my herbal teas using the ground coffee drawer but so far that has not been a problem.  If you switch to the Bunn and have the My K-cup or other reusable filter meant for the Keurig machines, there is no need to use them.  Simply use the ground coffee drawer.  It is a lot easier to clean than the reusable Keurig filters!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Baked Salmon with Buttered Caper Sauce

Food like fashion follow trends.  Currently there is a trend towards healthy eating with a strong emphasis on anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants reduce or eliminate the damaging effects of free radicals in the body and the best source for anti-oxidants is your food.  The superfood for 2015 is capers!

Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial bush indigenous to the Mediterranean.  The dark green buds are sun-dried then packed in vinegar brine.  Their tangy, briny, pickly flavour is best balanced against smooth, buttery or velvety flavours and textures.  My favourite way to enjoy capers is with cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bagel. 

salmon with buttered caper sauce
Capers are only 2 calories each (23 cal per 100 g).  They are rich in antioxidants (rutin, quercetin) , phytonutrients and vitamins.  Research suggests that quercetin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.  They may reduce risk for cancer, help with circulation, may lower blood pressure and reduce rheumatic pain. 

Capers are salty due to the brine.  This can be reduced by rinsing the capers in water before using if desired.  Capers pair beautifully with salmon as pictured in this simple buttered caper sauce we recently enjoyed.

Method:  Melt about 2 tbsp butter in fry pan.  Stir in 2 -3 tbsp chopped red onion, and cook until just translucent.  Stir in 1 - 2 tbsp rinsed capers. Warm through.  Spoon over baked salmon filets as desired.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Goodbye Keurig, Hello Bunn

Like many people we embraced the concept of a single cup coffee brewer.  A single cup brewer can save a significant amount of money.  We bought our first single cup coffee brewer, a Melitta One:One that took special coffee pods.  At that time, the only place we could buy the pods was Zellers and Sobey's but then Zeller's discontinued them.  We found Sanka pods at Meijer's in the US so were still able to use the Melitta when Sobey's closed.  Finally, we bought a Keurig Special Edition (B60) to replace the Melitta.  The selling feature of the Keurig was we could use our own coffee rather than relying on the environmentally unfriendly K-cups.  In fact, I was so impressed with Keurig that we bought a mini for the office, and another larger unit for our vacation home.  All was well until, the only four year old Keurig B60 started acting up!

During our brief three weeks home in the fall between our two longer stays at our vacation home, the Keurig would say it was brewing but nothing happened.  I cleaned it and all seemed fine.  We arrived home in the early morning of December 22 after being on the road for eighteen and a half hours.  With only four hours sleep, I needed coffee!  The Keurig failed but after a lot of opening, shutting, and restarting I finally got it working.  From there it worked sporadically.  I went online and found a site with instructions how to fix.  I cleaned the Keurig with vinegar then cleaned it again, then cleaned the heads with the special K-cup cleaner then cleaned again only to be rewarded with half cups of coffee if and when it would brew.  I repeated including adding in the spanking.  The problems persisted.

In the meantime my temper was rising.  I checked the new Keurig 2.0 ready to buy on the spot only to see it will only take Keurig licensed K-cups and not allow you to brew your own coffee.  This renders the Keurig 2.0 completely useless if you should move to an area where Keurig licensed K-cups are unavailable or Keurig goes out of business.  The one that does allow you to use your own coffee has almost zero features and looks cheap.  We were visiting our kids in January where we used their Bunn My Café MCU marveling at how good the coffee was.  We came home where I cussed at the Keurig a few more times before ordering a Bunn My Café MCU. 

Bunn My Cafe Single Cup Brewer MCU) border=
I ordered the Bunn My Café MCU through on Wednesday and it arrived the following Friday so I was quite impressed.  The total price with shipping and taxes was $231.65.  Consider though that when I looked at the Keurig 2.0 it was $189.99 plus taxes $24.69 for a total of $214.68 and it wouldn't brew the coffee of my choice.

The Bunn My Café MCU is a four in one brewer that uses ground coffee or loose leaf tea,  K-cups (or similar), soft pods or tea bags and hot water.  There are four drawers designed for each specific usage (bottom left).  There is an internal water storage tank but water you need to add water each time you use it.  This is not a huge change for me since I always poured water into the external water reservoir of the Keurig with each use.

The Bunn has a slightly smaller footprint than the Keurig (bottom right).  There is no on or off button, simply brew with optional pulse for stronger coffee and tea.  There is no clock on auto-off.  The Bunn brews at 200°F which is 8°F higher than the Keurig.  The higher temperature does give a better tasting coffee, full flavoured without bitterness.  After 6 hours idle, the Bunn temperature drops to 140°F and enters sleep mode after 26 hours.

Bunn My Cafe Single Cup Brewer MCU set up ready to use
The worst part of setting up the Bunn My Café MCU was waiting for it to warm a bit after being in a cold shipping van.  I felt it best not to plug it in immediately especially since it has been bitterly cold.  So I drooled over the Bunn in anticipation while drinking the last cup of coffee I would make with the Keurig.  Once the Bunn had warmed a bit, I plugged it in and primed it.  I washed all of the drawers.  My reward was a hot, deliciously brewed cup of coffee!

A final word on Keurig:  I was a happy Keurig user until my brewer that was only four years old stopped brewing properly.  The funny thing is, one of my friend's had her Keurig quit the same week except she could not even coax a final cup of coffee from it.  Keurig's selling feature was being able to use your own coffee meaning you did not have to contribute to the landfill.  They took that feature away with the Keurig 2.0 at a time when there is growing pressure as to the damage the K-cups are doing to the environment because they are not recyclable plus their failing brewers will end up in the landfill as well.  To me, that is not good business.  Keurig has lost my business!

Normally I have one kitchen catcher garbage bag per week if that.  That is for the entire house not just the kitchen.  Even though we  use the My K-cup filter on a regular basis we do use the K-cups for company and entertaining.  Last week, almost a quarter of the kitchen catcher was used K-cups!  It quickly became apparent that we have become part of the problem by using the K-cups.  I'll use up what K-cups I have but won't be restocking Keurig licensed K-cups.  I may possible still stock a couple of the soft bottom pods that were working in the old Keurig but not the Keurig 2.0.  These cups have only a small plastic ring that can be re-purposed.