The Leeky Casserole

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

Let’s start this post by going back in time a little bit to Valentine’s Day 2015. In general Valentine’s isn’t a massive deal in our house- We don’t exchange gifts, we don’t go out on extravagant dates, in fact, we rarely even go out for a simple dinner. A special date at home, that I put Simon in charge of arranging, is more typical for us. One year Simon attempted to make heart-shaped pancakes for dinner {and then went a bit wrong so I had to take over}, another time he surprised me by taking me to an outdoor skating rink.

I’m getting off topic. ANYWAY.

Valentine’s Day 2015 we decided to do something totally different. My sister heard that a local golf course was doing an exclusive 4-course dinner and it sounded pretty — well, extravagant— but we decided to go for it. We booked a table with my Sister and her Now-Husband and set off for a fancy Valentine’s night out.

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So, we ordered some wine and we’re sitting at the table looking over the evenings menu {drooling– it all looked amazing}. Each course had two choices. An outburst of laughter comes from my left followed by “I don’t get it.. why do they call it a leak?” And more laughter. Huh?? “Right here, it says “Smoky bacon, potato, leek soup… what, is it leaking out of the bowl?!”.

OMG.

Dear Darling Husband; a leek is a vegetable.

He hasn’t lived it down.

{Neither has my sister for asking moments later if there were scallops IN the scalloped potatoes}

Yup, we eat at fancy places a lot. Can’t you tell? The soup was divine, by the way.

{… What has this got to do with Thanksgiving….?}

So, fast forward to last weekend. I made the commitment to host my very first solo Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve hosted before but I’ve had a lot of help. I wanted to really do it alone- I’ve really been wanting to check that off my bucket list.

I settled in for a hour of downtime and tuned into my girl, Ree, and it just happened to be a Thanksgiving episode {surprising considering American Thanksgiving is more than a month away} said in which she featured a Potato Leek Casserole. It was a sign from above that this was a side dish that was destined to be on my Thanksgiving table.

Some may say it’s risky to try a new dish for company, let alone a Holiday dinner, but Ree has never failed me. Everything I’ve ever made by The Pioneer Woman has been excellent.

So, I put together my feast for 7 adults, plus 3 that needed care plates, and the littlest Kochie. I chose, purchased, prepped, stuffed, basted and roasted that beautiful bird solo. On the side I served 2 kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, Potato Leek Casserole, broccoli casserole, carrots and buns.

It all went perfectly! I accomplished the feat by myself, with the exception of my potato mashing Mother In Law and my gravy making Mama. Oh, and also dessert- I delegated that to the Kuchen lady at the local farmers market, and my Mother In Law for her amazing pumpkin pie.

I was pretty darn proud of myself. If I do say so myself.

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The Potato Leek Casserole was delicious {I reassured Simon that no leaking would occur}. The only substitution I made was the cheese on top. I couldn’t find Fontina so I looked up suitable substitutions and used a combo of mozzarella and Monterey Jack. Scrumptious. You can find the recipe HERE

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Happy Thanksgiving! What did you make for dinner this weekend?

❤ Kochiemama

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Apples Apples Apples

It just wouldn’t be late August without the rolling in of harvest season. I think it makes the idea of crisp chilly mornings just a little more bearable knowing that the best produce of the year is also right around the corner.

Last summer I was lucky enough to get to pick some apples from my friends backyard tree and I was so hopeful she would offer the same again. She did! Last week I spent the morning with her and came home with about half a big diaper box full. Ooh the possibilities!

These apples aren’t sweet and are made for cooking so I knew I had a busy afternoon of apple prepping ahead of me. Last year I made some apple crisps but I didn’t have any of the ingredients on hand to whip those up. I decided on apple pie filling and apple sauce that I would stash in the freezer until needed. I make my apple pie filling the way my Mama does and it doesn’t seem to be the way any of my friends here do theirs. It must be a British method! I start by stewing my apples on the stovetop before getting them in to my pie crusts, as opposed to filling the crusts with raw apple slices. Is this odd? I’ve never met an apple pie I didn’t like.. but I must say my Mama’s pie is my very favourite.

First things first- I had to peel, core and chop the apples. The apples were small so this took me forever! To keep the apples from getting brown throughout the process I kept them in a big pot of water. When I had gotten through about half the apples I rinsed the apples in the pot and then filled the pot with water until it was about an inch below the top of the apples.

Adding sugar is an important part of this process. I can’t offer you a measurement, it’s all by judgement depending on the amount of apples. Start with a quarter cup and taste test once the stewing down has started. You can always add more if needed. If you like cinnamon with your apples go ahead and add some here, also. I chose not to as I wasn’t sure what my end result of these apples would be.

Stir the apples from time to time, keeping them over a low heat. The goal is to soften the apples, but you don’t want to turn them to mush. Once you’re happy with the tenderness you want to get them out of the hot water. I spooned them into a strainer with a slotted spoon and reused the flavourful water for the second batch of apples. Once cooled I divided the stewed apple chunks into 3 portions to use as pie filling at a later date.

The second batch of apples I stewed longer to a much more tender state, then drained and mashed them to make apple sauce. I divided this into 3 portions and got into freezer bags to use at a later time.

Label and date your freezer bags and get them into the freezer only when fully cooled.

And there you have it! My weekday apple adventure. By the end of the process the house smelt absolutely amazing. No essential oil or scentsy could come close to that smell!

What would you create with a box of apples?

Until next time, friends. ❤ Kochiemama

Hello September

“Don’t you just love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name & address” – You’ve Got Mail

This morning we woke in September, can you believe that?! The first day of September is bittersweet; I am oh so sad to see another Summer come to an end, but finally my favourite time of year has arrived! Those long warm evenings are drawing to and end to make way for those cool crisp mornings. You know what that means? Sweaters! And, boots! And, scarves, cardigans, cute jackets, pumpkin spice lattes (yes, I already had one today!), comfort food, and baking season!

September first is my reset button. January is a great time for reflection and envisioning where I would like to new year to take me, but when it comes down to getting myself and my life back into routines and focused on resolutions then September is my jam.

With four months left in the year I’m setting myself some resolutions:

  1. MEAL PLAN
    This is something I used to do really well at. I’ve become pretty lazy in the kitchen department over the last few months. Summer is a difficult time for cooking because it’s hot and, let’s face it, no one feels like turning on oven when its +30 degrees. All one really feels like doing is sitting around eating ice cream treats (or is that just me?).
    I resolve to meal plan the month as a whole for the next four months.

  2.  CUT THE GROCERY SPENDING
    How I spend SO much on groceries I don’t understand. I have spent over the budget every single month this year. Two months totaling more than $200 OVER the budget. How! I admit to being lazy with meal planning but I haven’t entirely given up. I stock up when my needs are on sale, I buy in bulk, I don’t buy an awful lot of “packaged” foods and snacks, and we rarely order in or take out. Even better planning and some more frugality will hopefully curb this one.
    I resolve to save $50 from the grocery budget each month. 
  3. EAT BREAKFAST
    I would say overall my nutrition since becoming a parent has declined to an all time low. Most days I’m running on caffeine and the occasional cookie or cracker snack until suppertime. The problem with breakfast is that I use the time that the Little Man is eating to throw myself together for the day or get a chore taken care of while he is occupied. But, I can’t continue this way.
    I resolve not to have coffee unless I’ve had breakfast.
  4. RECONNECT WITH YOGA
    I haven’t been to yoga since early in my second trimester (so, almost two years ago!). I miss it.
    I resolve to go to yoga at least four times each month.
  5. CATCH UP ON PHOTO ALBUMS & VIDEO COMPILATION & BABY BOOK
    Liam turned one in March. Everything got so crazy with getting back into work and regular life that I didn’t get the chance to ever sit down and finish filling in his first year milestones and fun things in his baby book. I must do this- As time passes I know I am forgetting things. Hubs and I need to pull all our videos off our devices and get them into a movie to keep these precious moments safe. I haven’t printed photo’s for our baby photo album since before last Christmas so I need to update that. Come to think of it, I never printed our wedding (3 years ago) photos either.
    I resolve to catch up on family multimedia. 
  6. MOVE
    Our house has been for sale for more than two months now. We thought we would have been moved and settled somewhere new by the end of the summer but that has now passed and we are still here. My new hope is that we have moved before Halloween, or, at the very least, before there is snow on the ground. This one is out of our hands until the right buyer comes along. So, here’s to hoping!
  7. MAKE SOME ME-TIME
    One of the biggest things I need to start making some time for is myself. Its hard juggling moming, wifeing, working, friending, and just regular everyday lifeing. It’s hard some days just to find the time (and the energy) to shower. I need to make self care a priority. And, you know what? I think I’ll start by sitting down to watch “You’ve Got Mail”- my favourite movie for this time of year.
    I resolve to take some time for myself once a week.

Welcome, September. I’ve been waiting for you.

❤ Kochiemama

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me

IT’S THE BIG DAY

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Well, here we are. Hello THIRTY! I must say, I have been dreading today for.. Well, if I’m being really honest, the last fifteen years. I remember very well that on my fifteenth birthday I had an emotional breakdown over the idea that I was halfway to thirty. My mid twenties were full of anxieties over “What if I’m not married by the time I’m thirty…. What if I’m not a mother by the time I’m thirty… What if I don’t have a career by the time I’m thirty…”. I was consumed by these ideas. In fact, I was under the impression that I would be considered a failure if I did not check all of these boxes by the time I was thirty. What nonsense! Who is society to tell me that I am, or I am not, enough.

Yet, the last few days I have to admit I have been mopey. I’d like to blame it on the lovely winter weather we’ve been having, my tired haze thanks to the 5:30am wake ups we’ve had for the past few weeks, or lack of caffeine due to the fact that we have been hibernating and I haven’t visited a coffee shop in at least a week. Yesterday I just couldn’t shake it. I was treating the last few days as if they were a funeral- An ode to the death of my days as a twenty-something. Last night, after baby was in bed, I ran myself a bubble bath, poured myself a glass of bubbly, and settled into the tub for a much needed dose of reflection. Did I check all the boxes? Did I fulfill the dreams the twenty year old me had hoped for by now? Well, you know what? The last ten years have held some of the most important and defining moments of my life. My life has been bigger and better than my dreams ever would have thought it could be, at twenty. In fact, regardless of what society may have expected from me by today, I can hold my head high and know that my twenties have been the very best years of my life and I am proud to be the woman I am today.

THE TOP TEN EXPERIENCES OF MY TWENTIES

I Am Canadian

My family moved to Canada when I was 14. Ten years later, in 2011, we were officially sworn in as Canadian Citizens. This was one of the most memorable and special days of my life! I am so proud to belong to this great nation.

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The Day I Was Debt Free

When I was twenty I bought a brand new condo. Yes, me. I worked for barely more than minimum wage and somehow qualified for a mortgage. In the beginning it was all rainbows and butterflies, but when the keys became mine I was in for a reality check. Unanticipated expenses quickly started coming in. I had no savings behind me. My monthly expenses suddenly exceeded my income. I started to fall behind on bills, I couldn’t afford groceries, and I missed out on all the fun my friends were having. I started to live on my credit card just to be able to buy food and gas for my car. I drowned in this financial nightmare for a couple of years thinking there was no way out. At rock bottom I decided to rent a room for some extra income to start digging myself out of the hole. One room rented then became two rooms rented and I finally was getting somewhere. Did I want to share my home with strangers? No. But, it was my only choice. A choice that I did not regret, either. I made some life long friends in the process! It took me an awful lot longer to get out of the debt pit than it did to get into it, but little by little I got there. It took a LOT of financial discipline in both paying down the debt and building up savings. The day that I made the last payments and owed nothing (other than my mortgage, of course) was freeing. What a relief. I once again had control over my income. No one was ready to take it before my paycheck had even been deposited.

Committed To Community

I started volunteering when I was twenty one. I had been interested in the Big Sister program and decided that I wanted to invest some time into this. I was matched with a Little Sister and we started spending time together. When we met she was only six and I have had the pleasure of watching her grow into the feisty fourteen year old she is today. We are truly sisters by heart.

Namaste, India!

A few years after I started volunteering I had the chance to apply for a once in a lifetime opportunity. My volunteer experience matched the “Committed To Community Award” criteria and I eagerly applied for the chance to travel to India to work with Free The Children building a school.  On a December morning in 2013 I got the surprise of my life.. I was chosen as the award winner! I was an overwhelming honor.

I spent ten days submersed in the rich Indian culture. It was the trip of a lifetime.I learned to lay brick at the school site and now the smell of wet cement fills me with nostalgia!

My Wedding Day

My Husband and I met in High School. We’ve certainly had our fair share of ups and downs over the years. In fact, at times we barely made it through the growing pains. People often have this idea that if you’re High School Sweethearts then life will be magical for you. That is far from true. Just like all relationships, it takes hard work to stay together. After a ten year journey together he finally proposed and we were married in 2014. As it should be, our wedding day was one of the most memorable of our lives. In every way it was perfect. We exchanged vows in the park that was our special place back in the early days. I wore my Grandmother’s lace wedding dress (circa 1954). We had our very closest friends beside us. I even surprised my groom with a Lego themed wedding cake. I never thought I would be so lucky to have such a perfect day.

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My Retail Career

I do not have a formal post high school education.I am the classic example of not being able to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up and then got too comfortable in real life to do anything about it.  I have passionately worked in customer service since before I graduated high school. I’ve had the pleasure of working for a wonderful company that has allowed me to build a career in the retail world. I have been given many opportunities to develop my leadership skills. I have been lucky to travel to new store openings and assist in the development of management teams in other locations. At home in my own store I’ve not only sold clothes but confidence and self-love to women. I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing some lovely young ladies along their life journey.

So many times I have encountered the opinion of “Oh, so you just work at a store?”. No, I do not just work at a store.

The Test Was Positive

I always wanted to be a Mother. Always. There has never been a doubt about that. We had made the choice to leave it in God’s hands and trust that he would know when the time was right. The morning I took the test I entirely expected it to be negative. I was really taking it to assure myself that I was imagining things. I held the stick as it did its magic… first line appeared- ok it’s working… a SECOND line appeared.. WAIT, WHAT?! The world, including my heart and lungs, stopped. “No, no. I must have read the instructions wrong” I thought and read through them again. All the little pictures showed that two lines was positive. The test was positive. THE TEST WAS POSITIVE! I couldn’t believe it. I had never felt such overwhelming joy. I took a second test just to be sure. Then I went and purchased a third test from a different brand just to make sure that the first two weren’t just a fluke. We were going to have a baby!

I was blessed with a great pregnancy and enjoyed every minute of carrying my baby boy.

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35 Weeks Pregnant. My last day of work before maternity leave. 

 

I Can’t Wait To Meet You, Grandma!

Telling my Mama that she was going to be a Grandma was absolutely priceless. At the time she was six months into cancer treatment and I knew this news was just what she needed to hear. I had just returned from a long weekend in New York so I whipped up a pretend souvenir mug that said “I had a great time in New York with Mommy… And now I can’t wait to meet you Grandma! See you in March 2016”. She kept reading out the first side of the mug and saying “But, I wasn’t with you in New York”. When she finally turned the mug around and read the rest there was hysterical joy filled tears. I have it on video. A moment I will always treasure.

 

Becoming A Mother

The day my son was born. I can’t put this experience into words.

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Family of three

Seeing The World

I have been so lucky to have had opportunities to travel. I have also been very lucky to have wonderful people to travel with. My BFF, April, has been my travel partner in crime and we have been all over the place together.

A few highlights of my travels include…

Dipping my toes in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean sea. Snorkeling (not well) for the very first time in The Bahamas. White water rafting in Glacier National Park, Montana. Standing on top of The Space Needle in Seattle, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and The Rockefeller Center in New York. Witnessing my husband seeing a real sandy beach and seashells for the very first time. Shopping at a market in Udaipur, India. Enjoyed a Chai Tea Latte from the original Starbucks in Seattle. Snow tubing at Mount Norquay in Banff. Seeing the Statue of Liberty in both New York and Paris. Hiking to Cameron Falls, North West Territories. Watching Chicago and Phantom Of The Opera in New York and Once in London. I ate a toxic hotdog in a baguette in Paris and got terrible food poisoning. Experiencing Old Delhi, India. Dancing my heart out to Taylor Swift on the 1989 Tour in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Discovering airport spa’s in Amsterdam. Enjoying a $38 glass of sangria 38 floors above Times Square, New York. Riding a sea-doo in Antigua. Laid bricks at a school being built by Free The Children in Rajasthan, India. Walking across The Brooklyn Bridge (desperately needing to pee!) in New York.

… I could go on and on! I have had some amazing experiences in the world. I value each and every one of them.

 

I can’t wait to see what the thirties will bring for me.

Lots of love,

Kochie Mama x