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Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

We suck at mornings, chez Em. None of the household humans are keen to be up before 9, while both pets are predawn level morning people. I'm the most AM-averse, so to mitigate the ill-effects of my suckitude, I try to streamline our morning routines.

Simplifying breakfast is a good start. It makes Jake's day easier, and I know he's not leaving for work on an empty stomach. This muffin recipe makes a tasty breakfast treat, stuffed with lots of fibre to leave you feeling full for hours. They taste good on the go, or warmed up and paired with a cup of strong coffee and a proliferation of groggy swear-words. They're simple and unassuming looking, but well worth a try. If you're a multi-batch baker, they freeze nicely.

Pictured: twice as much muffin as you will likely need to eat. These little hockey pucks are filling.

A note on apples: conventional wisdom suggests Granny Smiths for baking, and conventional wisdom knows what it's talking about. However, I made these with Red Delicious apples, and the extra sweetness was lovely. I suggest leaving the peels on for extra fibre and nutrition. Also, if you have access, when grating apples a food processor is your best friend. It's totally possible with a cheese grater (use the largest grating option), but it's a messy business.

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12 - 24, depending on size.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2 medium sized apples, cored and grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1/2 to 2/3 tsp salt
  • Brown sugar, for topping

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Grease muffin pan, or use paper liners.
  • Mix milk, oats, and apples, let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Whisk together egg and oil, then mix in with oat mixture.
  • Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add slowly to wet ingredients, stirring until mixed.
  • Spoon mixture into muffin pan, and sprinkle the top of each muffin with brown sugar.
  • Bake 25 minutes, or until muffins are golden and springy to touch. Err on the side of baking too long, as the oats hold a lot of moisture and you don't want the centres to be soggy.

Optional:

Experiment with adding dried fruits or nuts, or skip the apples and try peaches or another tasty fruit. These muffins are like little handheld bowls of oatmeal, so experiment with the same types of ingredients!

Look at all that cheery sunshine. When this happens I feel like the morning is taunting me.

My favourite way to serve these is cut in half and warmed up for 20 seconds in the microwave, then topped with butter and honey ...aaaand now I'm hungry.

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The Magic of Meal Planning

Two of my goals for this year were to make more food from scratch and to save money. I've had encouraging success with both goals over the past two months, and I owe it all to meal planning. I've read so many blog posts about wonderful stay-at-home-mums who save a bajillion dollars by making month long meal plans and hoarding coupons and grinding their own flour, all while homeschooling and bicycling and gardening and sewing all their clothes from upcycled organic cotton. Honestly, I feel defeated in the face of these women's incredible efforts. As much as I'd like to emulate the enthusiasm and discipline of the hippie super mamas, I know my limits. I had to come up with a method that worked for my family and allowed considerably more lazy internet browsing time.

Here are my basics. I hope they help you find realistic inspiration!

The notions bag I got at our knitting group's holiday party has already come in handy! I knew it would!

I plan our meals weekly. Every Friday I sit down for 20-40 minutes with the grocery flyer and the contents of my fridge, pantry, and freezers to come up with seven days worth of lunches and dinners. I make sure easy meals are planned for busy nights and Jake-friendly cooking is planned on nights I'll be out. I ask if there's anything the family hopes to see on the schedule and include requests if at all possible. My main goals are:

  • Use all perishables before they go bad so no food is wasted.
  • Plan purchases around the meat and produce that is on sale or earns extra loyalty points. This cuts the food budget down considerably and encourages creativity.
  • Make sure our diet is varied, healthy, and delicious, with lots of fresh veggies and as few processed or ready-made foods as possible.
  • Try new recipes and flavours. I knew I was pinning tasty things on Pinterest for a reason!

Because I know what's for dinner ahead of time, the rush and stress is gone from cooking. I am much less likely to make "put all the things in the fridge in a sauce over pasta or rice" on tired nights when inspiration refuses to strike. We order less takeout. Produce doesn't rot. Cooking is fun again. Jake's lunches are planned ahead of time (and are usually based around the previous night's dinner) so I can pack them up at night, saving money that he would otherwise spend on fast food. Knowing what's for dinner ahead of time also allows me to make things from scratch - If I know I need tortillas I can allot an extra half hour to roll and cook them.

It's amazing.

I use a few tools to keep track of things and I thought they might help you too:

  • Pepperplate app: this awesome free app stores recipes and has a monthly calendar for meal planning. The in-app shopping list allows you to move easily between your calendar and recipes for efficient grocery planning. It has timers you can use while cooking, and can multiply your recipes for you (so you never double the baking soda but not the flour ever again. Yuck). The interface is sleek and intuitive, and the same account can be synced to multiple devices so you can send your partner to shop, or plan on your PC but use your phone as a shopping list. Love it.
  • Mint.com app: I use this free budgeting app to track all my finances. I just checked now - before meal planning we spent $550-$725 monthly on food to feed a family of three (including restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, alcohol, everything). This month we have eaten better food and will be spending less than $400. I think we'll continue to spend even less as I gain more experience and self control. I'd love to get it to $300.
  • PC Plus app: this is only relevant to you if you do your groceries at a President's Choice affiliated store (we go to Real Canadian Superstore). Their points program follows what you regularly buy and offers you points based on those items. It's a little hit and miss (no, Superstore, I will never buy crackers stop trying to make me) but still useful. If you're going to buy potatoes anyway, and they want to give you extra points, plan two meals with them instead of one and save a little money!
  • Pinterest: I know, Pinterest is a giant time suck full of ridiculous, impractical hot glue projects, Taylor Swift quotes, wedding dresses, and obnoxious thinspo photos. It's also a Mecca of craft inspiration and delicious recipes, depending on who you follow. I follow some amazing boards and I've tried several delicious recipes. Check the blog sidebar if you want to follow me or check out my friends. I haven't seen a thinspo image or a popsicle stick craft on Pinterest for months, all because I carefully curate the boards I follow. Don't knock it unless you've really tried it.
  • Costco: if you stay away from name brands, don't overbuy, and watch for sales, Costco is an amazing resource. I pay $13 for 20 kg of flour and store it carefully in sealed buckets at home. Suddenly, baking bread is actually cheap. Large cuts of meat (I'm looking at you, 4kg pork loin) that you can cut and freeze can be a great deal too. My amazing local fair trade coffee company costs less than half the grocery store price, making it actually reasonable. Grain free cat food with an excellent ingredient list costs barely more than WalMart Purina and might save you a fortune in vet bills. As always, beware good deals on things you don't need. The membership costs money, but you can split it with a friend or family member and shop together.

Well, that's all I can think of today - I'd love to hear from you! Do you plan meals? What are your favourite recipe sites? Are you an amazing couponing flourgrinding home sewing organic super mama with the secret to how you can do all the things in only 24 hours a day? (Is it amphetamines?) Tell me!

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A Tasty Thing: 5 Minute Udon Soup

Guess what I am eating RIGHT NOW? This!

That was it about 3 minutes ago - now it is in a bowl because I'm fancy like that.

Udon soup is filling, tasty, healthy, and extremely quick and easy to prepare. It's perfect for those days where you need something warm and substantial but don't have the time.

Want some? Make some!

  1. Get a pot. Put some water in it (1 - 2 cups, depending on your serving size). Put it over heat and mix in a bouillon cube or - my personal favourite - a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon (a disgusting looking goo that makes really tasty low-sodium stock, is made with all the good stuff, and comes in Vegan Certified versions. I got it at Costco but I've seen it at the grocery store too). You could, of course, use nice homemade stock, but I'm puts-her-soup-in-a-bowl fancy, not always-has-homemade-stock-on-hand-because-she-lives-in-a-cookbook fancy.
  2. While you are waiting for it to boil, go through the fridge and find a few vegetables that are suitable for boiling (carrots: good, cucumber: bad). Break them into chunks (I'm to lazy to cut things up) and throw them in. Today I used broccoli, mushrooms, and bok choi.
  3. Bring to a boil, and let it cook for a minute. Add a single serving package of soft udon noodles (I get mine for about 50 cents a package at my Asian grocer) and add a handful of frozen cooked shrimp or leftover meat, if you want to. I want to. Yum.
  4. Boil for 3 minutes.
  5. Put it in a bowl, garnish it with a squirt of Sriracha or if you like it spicy (I do!) and arm yourself with a fork/spoon/chopsticks. Dig in.

This makes a big bowl of soup - enough for a hungry person's dinner - and it beats the pants off the Cup-O-Noodles you were planning on eating.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go finish my lunch.

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Free Printable - Vintage Recipe Card!

I've been a horrible blogger lately. I don't want to only blog about my shop, but it's pretty much the only crafty thing I'm doing that isn't Christmas knitting. Seeing as I can't go showing everyone their Christmas presents in October, I just have to bite my tongue.

However, with the approach of fall comes the irrepressible desire to cook ALL THE THINGS. I don't know if it's the bountiful harvest that gets me, or the innate urge to gorge myself in preparation for hibernation, but whatever it is, I can't stop thinking about recipes. In honour of my hibernation urge I'm going to be sharing a few favourite recipes in the coming months.

You know what recipes need? Cute cards to write them on. We found this adorable recipe card with my grandmother's cookbooks last winter. I LOVE this recipe card. So, I'm sharing it with you. Use it to store your favourite fall recipes, or print it off and give it, with the recipe written down, with a batch of cookies as a frugal but thoughtful holiday gift.

Just click on the photo to be taken to a full-sized downloadable image. Enjoy!

The original, complete with delightful aged paper.

Cleaned up, for your black-and-white printing needs.

While we're at it, check out some of my older recipe posts!

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Links: Veggie Recipes to Fall in Love With

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In honour of the vegetable garden that I spent my weekend building and planting, I thought today I'd link some delicious vegetarian recipes that I love, or would love to try. All but one are easily made vegan.

Get the links after the jump (or stay here and drool, it's up to you).

  1. This is my very own Curry Coconut Squash Soup recipe. It's best used in fall when squash is cheap and fresh, but I won't fault you if you can't wait that long. It's AWESOME.
  2. I've used this Falafel recipe with great results. Falafel are so wonderfully filling and really very easy to make from scratch. Cheap too!
  3. Ricotta Gnocchi With Red Pepper Sauce. I don't need to say anything more, do I?
  4. I just learned about this Russian recipe - baklazhennaya ikra - the other day. It translates to 'eggplant caviar', and is supposedly just about the most delicious thing ever. Use it as a spread on crackers, hearty breads, or baked goods. I'm told it's killer with goat cheese. Here's a recipe I found!
  5. A dear friend of mine has just started a fantastic vegan food blog at Veg Jenski. Here's her delicious looking herbed home fries recipe... yum. Go send her my love, and check out her other tasty offerings!

If you aren't starving and dying to make at least one of these by now, I respectfully suggest there might be something wrong with you.

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