A better Chicken Broccoli Divan

When we travelled across our beautiful country in 2010 (was it that long ago!?), food was one of things I often recorded because food plays such an integral role in our daily lives. Food can bring back memories like nothing else. As a mom of three young ones, I am often observing how other families do mealtime and what kinds of foods are hits and misses. When we stayed with J’s cousin in Ottawa, I have a very clear memory of one particular day when their children came home from school and one by one came through the kitchen to ask what was for dinner. The answer was “chicken broccoli”. Each child smiled and said “yum!” at the answer. It was a wonderful thing to witness! Dinner that night was indeed chicken broccoli and it was really good, being a recipe I hadn’t had or cooked before.

Then I saw that Campbell’s commercial where two children are talking about their favourite meals and the boy says something in praise of Chicken Broccoli Divan. What is a divan? Could this be the same dish I have such a fond memory of? In searching for the recipe, I inevitably came upon many that were indeed including a can or two of condensed soup. We don’t eat a lot of canned soup in our house, preferring instead to make our own soups and sauces from scratch and wholesome, identifiable ingredients. Then I stumbled upon a recipe that doesn’t use canned soup. I had most of the ingredients on hand and with a few modifications came up with our own Chicken Broccoli “Divan”. It was easily doubled to make a second casserole to pop in the freezer. Gotta love that!

Chicken Broccoli and Rice Divan

adapted from Hundred Healthy Dinners

Chicken – whatever you have on hand (we used thighs)
4 cups chopped Broccoli – about 1 large head (my kids like the stem so I use that too!)
2 – 3 cloves of garlic (I used dried since I didn’t have any fresh!)
1/2 chopped onion
Bit of dried shallot – use fresh if you’ve got it!
1 yellow bell pepper – diced
Salt & Pepper and other spices to taste(ie dried basil and oregano)
A double recipe of cream of chicken soup (see below)
3(ish) cups of sharp cheddar – grated
1/2 cup bread crumbs or wheat germ or cracker crumbs


Cook rice according to directions. (I had leftover rice from the Hawaiian Beans)

Cook the chicken in a pan with a bit of butter and/or olive oil until no longer pink. You can season it with salt and pepper too. Remove it and set aside. Leave the drippings. If needed add a little more oil to the pan.

Add garlic, onion and shallots and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli, peppers, salt and pepper, and any herbs or spices. Splash a little bit of water and stir.

Cover for about 5-8 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened and flavorful.

While it’s cooking dice up the chicken and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cooked rice and chicken with the vegetable mixture along with 2 cups of the cheese and the soup.

Put it into a greased casserole (or two!) and top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the cheese is melted and a little golden.

Enjoy a great oven to table meal sure to please even your pickiest kids!

Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup

from The Kitchn
makes a little over a cup, equivalent to one can of soup

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons white flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat then add the flour. Cook, stirring rapidly, until the mixture is thick.

Add the chicken stock and whisk until smooth, then add the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

This will keep for a couple days in the fridge, but it’s best to use it the day you make it.


Feeding a crowd with multiple dietary restrictions

I’ve been amazed lately at how many people I come across that have some sort of dietary restriction. It seems like in the past decade, food is more and more the culprit of a myriad of negative things that people suffer. In J’s family alone (in-laws included) we have a vegetarian, a gluten-free, a low-fat, and a low-sodium. On my side I have a diabetic and a recent vegan. Which means that when it comes to something as fun and festive as a child’s birthday party, feeding a crowd of dietary restrictions isn’t easy. E’s 6th birthday party last night a party which combined both families (minus the diabetic) which means no less than five different diets. Granted, vegan and vegetarian are similar, but it’s amazing how many vegetarian recipes have eggs, milk or cheese in them!

Enter one of my favourite recipes: Hawaiian Baked Beans. This is a go-to recipe for us. It is healthy, nourishing food that pleases the palate, the waistline, and the many diets of our combined families! We first had a version of this dish when I had E. A woman from church dropped off a meal one day and it was a sweet, tangy, saucy, baked bean dish. By simply searching for “Hawaiian Beans” I found many, many different versions.

This version is adapted from the one at www.ecomii.com – I usually modify it according to what I have on hand. It’s such a hit that we’re serving it at a school fundraiser next month! We got many compliments on it last night from several people including the meat eaters!. My grandmother even asked for the recipe.

Photo Credit: Juan Carlo via ecomii

Hawaiian Beans

8 Servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoons crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup sliced scallions
few slices of bacon, chopped
1 2/3 cups shredded or finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup Mirin
2 (15 ounce cans) pinto beans
1 (14 1/2 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce can) crushed or tidbit pineapple, packed in juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
squirt of ketchup (optional)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

Heat oil and crushed pepper in a large pan for 1 minute. Add garlic, celery, scallions, bacon and saute 3 minutes.  Add carrots, cook 2 minutes and add Mirin. Cook mixture 5 minutes and add beans, tomatoes, and pineapple. Lower heat to medium low and add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and yeast.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with rice.

This can also be done in a slow cooker. Simply do the sautéing and then dump all the ingredients in the cooker. Yesterday I set mine on low for most of the day.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it is very adaptable. Vegetarian? Omit the bacon. No pinto beans? Use another kind. Need more kick? Add more spices. It is easily doubled for a large crowd, freezes well, and can be made fairly quickly on the stove or slowly in the crock pot.

We serve our Hawaiian Beans on whole grain or mixed grain rice. I cook up whatever rice is in the cupboard. Last night it was the end of the wild rice package and a bunch of brown basmati.

Enjoy this wonderful meal and you’ll feel like your on a beach even though it’s snowing outside! (at least it is at my house!)

Cookie Cutter as: Sandwich Shaper

Since I’ve not had time to bake anymore I just went with another sandwich, but really that’s fine because my daughter LOVES them in shapes. Today I present: un petit bonHAM de neige!

What a cutie! He’s made with doughy French bread, ham, cheddar and mayo, and decorated with edible food markers. E liked him so much (and she’s been eating a lot lately!) she asked to me to make her another one, so he is joined by his girlfriend today. Her lunches are mostly packed in a Goodbyn that she decorated herself. Love this lunchbox!

Well, that concludes National Cookie Cutter week, but I still have the cookie tree to post. I’ll have to get to it later. I didn’t have time to get it together before J’s party on Sunday so the cookies are in the freezer and the icing is in the fridge ready for the next get together.

Cookie Cutter as: Sandwich shaper

We’ve been having rough nights with Mr. T waking up a lot due to his cold and growth spurt, so the last 2 mornings J took E to school and let me sleep in while the other 2 kids were sleeping late. Thank you, love of my life! Yesterday, he did what I did last week and cut E a PB&J boy, so that counts as Day 4 of Cookie Cutter week. Today was CRAZY again so tonight I’ll post the cookie tree and other things…

PS: You moms of three (MOTHs) and four (MOFOs), do you ever get “back on track”? I feel like each day I get further behind in life! Some days it’s all I can do to get everyone fed and dressed and keep a moderate semblance of tidiness in the kitchen plus referee the sibling screaming.

Cookie Cutter as: Sandwich Shaper

Day 2 of National Cookie Cutter Week brings us my 5 year old’s lunch: PB&J boy!

Using delicious Trader Joe’s peanut butter and some Crofter’s Strawberry jam. I was going to pack it in her Theodore Tugboat lunchbag but ended up tucking him into a bento box with the rest of her lunch. Thankfully, J drove her to school because, unbelievably, THE BOY IS STILL SLEEPING!

Yes, my friends, it is 9am and he has been sleeping since about 10pm. THAT’S 11 HOURS!

Let’s not get our hopes up too much about nights to come. The night before last he was up most of it with a stuffy nose and sore throat. On the other hand, the doc says he’s doing great. He’s a little 6 months, at just under 13 pounds, but since starting solids (mostly avocados) he put on a pound in 2 weeks! The month before that he only gained a pound,  so he’s twice as fast since the solids. We call him Fatso sometimes:

Super hilarious to us because we do not have fat kids. We don’t even had chubby kids, nor slightly round. Neither are they plumb or cherubic. In fact, lil C seems to be in a holding pattern just under 30 lbs at 3 1/2. Here she is in her fashionable glory at Anthropologie (love the new one in Vancouver!):

And E’s pretty much a ballerina without the training. Oh wait. She’s wearing a snow suit here so you can’t really see it. Oh well!

Cookie Cutter as: Stencil

For Day 1 of National Cookie Cutter week, I started simple. I used a plastic star shaped cutter as a stencil to make shapes for our Jesse Tree

No fuss, no muss. It also happened to be that we were out most of the day and then the dinner hour was wonky and I didn’t realize until 8pm when I was feeding Mr. T his nightly avocado that I hadn’t done anything. But hey, we’re into creativity here! I traced both the outside and inside of the cutter to get the different sizes.

The yellow fat one reminds me of the Super Mario Bros star. Now that brings back memories!

Here’s a pretty photo of our Jesse Tree. The girls do simple colouring of symbols from here and we glue them onto construction paper and hang them up with bent paper clips. We also do the devotions from here at dinnertime. This is the first year we’ve done it and it’s been a lovely and meaningful way to celebrate Advent and anticipate Christmas. It’s reminiscent of Resurrection Eggs at Easter.

And just for fun here’s a picture from J’s birthday cake on Sunday. It’s a Reese peanut-butter cup ice cream cake. Yumo! In the picture right before this one, Mr. T is staring at the candles ready to pounce. Someone gave him pencil crayons to distract him:

National Cookie Cutter Week

Tomorrow kicks off the first day of National Cookie Cutter Week. Didn’t know there was such a thing? It’s one of those weird random “holidays” that you find out about by reading random magazines and following random blogs. I saw it in Real Simple’s Family magazine. I also happen to love making cookies in all sorts of shapes. So I’m going to make some cookies this week with my new cookie tree set. It’s J’s birthday (Happy Birthday, love of my life!) party on Sunday afternoon so I need a nice table centrepiece.

Also I’ve got ideas to do it in sugar cookies, ginger bread, and even Rice Krispie treats and make a little winter forest. I think we’ll decorate that this year instead of a gingerbread house. This is the Rice Krispie house (from Rachel Ray) we made when E was not even 2 and I was pregnant with lil C:

How cute and little is she!? And to think that now she’s a first grader. And lil C is even older than E here. And Mr. T is eating avocados. Boy it goes fast…

Anyway, I’ll attempt to do something with cookie cutters each day and post with pictures what I come up with.

What kind of holiday eats are you going to do this year?

Breaking up is hard to do

I just read this at Small Notebook and made a long comment on it. Then I realized it was long enough to be a post and really is what I am thinking these days so here it is!

I am going through the same thing as Rachel is right now – her post is all about breaking up with hobbies. Before last Christmas I decided I wanted to make my own knitted stockings, like these:

photo from StyleatHome.com

So my mom got me needles and yarn. Then my grandma bought me some needles and more yarn for Christmas this year. And while I love the idea of knitting my own stockings, and the yarn I’ve been given is really pretty … that was over a year ago and I have yet to even cast on a stitch.

I think now that we’ve bought a house that we’ll be in for many, many years (hopefully!) and our family is growing (like my belly…) I yearn for some handmade, and customized decor. I realized, in deciding how to finish off the girls’ room, that what I would truly like to take up (from my youth) is sewing, so I invested in a new machine yesterday. And material. And ribbon. And pillow forms. And I’m going to do it because it actually is something I like to do. The making of the thing is as exciting as the finished product. With the knitting, I just wanted beautiful stockings. But I can buy those.

It’s like baking for me. I could just go and buy some lovely brownies/cinnamon buns/biscuits/cake/whatever-we-feel-like-eating but I like the process and the anticipation of the baking as much as the eating. And sharing. Because if something is that good, you should share it. Plus who can eat 50 cinnamon buns? (BTW I have lots in my freezer if anyone wants to come over for tea!)

Then there’s the scrapbooking/craft supplies we all seem to get consumed by. I used to scrapbook a lot. Then a little bit. Now hardly ever. But I got overwhelmed because I felt pressured, like I HAD to scrapbook EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. OF. EACH. FAMILY. MEMBER. But from where was that pressure coming? FROM ME!

I’m over it now. I only scrapbook the really special and beautiful photos and just put then rest in albums (when I actually get around to printing them.) That’s because my other favourite photo hobby is photo books. So much easier than scrapbooking. And all our photos are digital anyway! I still have a lot of my scrapbooking equipment and supplies to do the special pages, and also make cards and some paper crafts. My next paper project is to make a birthday banner like this one, except a little less primary coloured:

photo from thepickyapple.com

I could go on. I loved reading so I make time for that, a little every day. I don’t do crafts with my kids but I sometimes sing and dance with them. I don’t run, jog, play soccer, or tennis. But I do yoga regularly (or I do when I’m not 6 1/2 months pregnant and just trying to GTD) and we go for walks. And now that the weather is perking up we have (just) started to go for bike rides. We don’t watch TV but we watch movies, both as a family and as a date night.

It’s all about the balance.

Have you broken up with any hobbies lately? Or fallen in love with any new ones? I’d love to hear about it!

Snapshot of the last month

The last month or so has been a lot of fun. Here’s a peek at what I’m up to and a some pics for you to enjoy too!

On My Nightstand: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. If you’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book, you must go do it right now. I recommend Neverwhere. That’s where I started. And I truly never want to be without a Neil Gaiman book close by again. He also writes graphic novels (Coraline) and children’s books (although those are a bit too out there for my girls so far.) I just finished a “space opera” called Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross. It was one of those books about the robotic future that seemed kind of close to home and kind of unbelievable at the same time. It also made me laugh out loud. A lot. Like on the plane to Mexico. And on the beach in Mexico. And in my room in Mexico. I did a lot of laughing in Mexico, but nobody knew why I was laughing.

Want To Read: Lord of the Rings again. We watched the movies again over Christmas (hooray for Blu-ray) and it made me miss the books. But they’re a bit heavy for my liking right now. I’m also really into cheap or free books right now. We go the library a lot and I just pick something from the feature shelf or buy something from the sale table. Seriously, 25c for a book? That’s just awesome. Thinking about the Kindle too. J’s cousin had one on the beach in Mexico and I have to say it’s was pretty slick.

TV Worth Watching: Don’t watch too much lately but I’ve always liked Rachel Ray. J and I have started to watch the original Battlestar Galactica series because we liked the new one so much. But it is so terribly bad that I’m not sure if we’ll get far in it. I’m also taking out a lot of old movies from the library. Especially Audrey , my all-time favourite girl to watch. I often put something like that on when I fold laundry in the evening (yes I spend some evenings folding laundry. I know. Great date night.)

Movie I’ve Seen (in or out of the theater): Tangled 3D with the girls was awesome! What a cute movie. And the two movies on the plane weren’t bad: Life as We Know It with Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl was better than I expected (even though it was predictable) and Going the Distance with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long (and a great portrayal of a mom by Christina Applegate) was cute. And one day in my hotel room while I was futzing around before heading to the beach I ended up watching Inspector Mom 2 – totally cheesy but I couldn’t get over Danica McKeller – Wonder Years, anyone?

super epic rainbow cakeIn My Kitchen:Before we left for Mexico I went on a let’s-eat-everything-in-our-house phase. So we bought very few groceries and tried to eat what was in the freezer and cupboards. So it made for some interesting meals and combinations. But I did make a “super epic rainbow cake” for E’s fifth birthday (thanks to Whisk Kid for the recipe!) and it was a total hit. I also made some delicious fried fish (kids love it), steaks (hubby loves it), and mini lemon bundt cakes (I love it).

In My Ears: Hasn’t changed much lately. I listen to the radio and whatever’s in my iTunes library. I have a lot of old music and I listen to a lot of kids music. Harry Connick Jr. is permanently in my car because the kids love it (ask lil C to sing the Oompa Loompa song for you…) . I did some karaoke in Mexico and got a couple of good cheers too!

Places we went: Huatulco, Mexico. Getting there was alright. Being there was awesome. Coming home was a nightmare. Our flight was delayed 3 hours (meaning we spent 6 in the airport waiting area), then made an “emergency” fuel stop in Abbotsford (10 minutes from Vancouver -were we running on fumes?) which turned into a 2 hour in-plane wait for a new crew (with no food or water offered). Pregnant lady was hungry!

Looking forward to going: nowhere! Baby is due in early June and there are no travel plans between now and then. These days I look forward to going to the bathroom and to bed. And to the fridge 🙂

What I’m Looking Forward to this Month: Valentine’s Day and a night away at a marriage retreat with J. Love you, man!

NOW then.  Your turn!  What are YOU into this month?  Fill up the comment space or borrow this for inspiration on your own blog.

Kung Hei Fat Choy: resolutions & a year in pictures

Happy Chinese New Year! This is the year of the rabbit. Is it ok to make New Year’s resolutions now? Considering that I actually never followed through on my previous 2 years of resolutions, it seems counter-productive to me but here goes.

Lose weight

Well, since I’m pregnant, I will both be gaining lots and losing lots by virtue of baby growing inside and then coming out. Done.

You can see my belly finally! Oh yeah, that's E's fabulous fifth birthday cake. Thank to Whisk Kid for the cake recipe!

Eat healthier

We don’t really eat unhealthy to begin with, but since dark chocolate is good for you, I can eat more of that. Plus I’ll hopefully be nursing. I tend to eat really well when I’m nursing. Done.

crickets and mole sauce. Yes, he's actually eating the crickets and mole sauce. No, they weren't good.

Quit smoking

Never started. Done. Don’t even have a picture remotely resembling anything like this. Except maybe a campfire.

roasting marshmallows. And this photo is almost 3 years old.

Be more organized

I’m going to have a kindergartner (starting in September), a preschooler, and a newborn. I’ll either be organized or be dead. Done.

you can only see part of our luggage here!

the charging station in the prisoner transport – definitely a fire hazard


See above. Done.

decluttering is easy when you have to move your stuff

Exercise more

See above. The average toddler takes 176 steps a minute. She’s not a toddler anymore but still has legs. And we start walking to kindergarten in September. Done.

J diving at Cultus

I think that's a dive

at the Olympic celebration site in Holland Park. Who knew curling was so hot?

Take more pictures

I actually have a problem where we take too many. So really I need to take less. And edit and print more. Oh wait. My last Snapfish order was 700 pictures. Plus I’ll have a newborn. So…Done.


Spend more time outside

Did I mention the walking to kindergarten? Done.

preschool field trip

Read more

I read pretty much every day for myself (novels as well as blogs and magazines). Oh wait. I have kids. They like mama to read to them. A lot. Done.

start 'em young!

Spend more time with family

Again, having a newborn means we’ll probably be at home a lot more. And there’s a family reunion of J’s extended family this summer that we might go to. Done.

in Mexico at the Kasbah

in San Diego


I’m going to stop now, I’m wearing myself out with how resolute I am so far! No, in all seriousness, we don’t really make resolutions. We rely on God to lead us further up and further into life and faith. Hopefully we learn from the last year and enjoy life more this year.

So, Kung Hei Fat Choy to you! And may God be with you too.