Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

A whole new "sugar-shack" experience

As the newest member of a group of Montreal food writers and bloggers (Uh-huh... me... Andrea... a "food blogger"... huh? Actually... it helps that I'm tight with one of the groups founders... but hey - whatever works!) I had the opportunity to jump in on a reservation that was made MONTHS ago for 25 of us to check out Martin Picard's new sugar shack - a spin off of his original and decadent restaurant Au Pied de Cochon which is located in the heart of Montreal's ever trendy plateau.

Not only is a sugar shack meal/outing an annual tradition for most people living in Quebec, maple syrup has this amazing quality - it makes anything and everything taste that much better. We are big fans of maple syrup in our house. BIG. FANS. So although I'm not used to eating things like chicken feet (yes. chicken feet) and cow tongue (!) I was up for the full and genuine "experience" of Au Pied de Cochon and I went it with the motto "try everything once". I have to add here that Brandon (who is not so adventurous when it comes to food) totally impressed me by going in with the same motto!

So... It was a beautiful but chilly March day. Reservations were for 11 a.m. and we arrived with some time to spare. The location was charming, a much smaller venue than I'm used to, rustic and in need of a little TLC. The service was excellent - absolutely no complaints, there was no rushing us in and out, but it was definitely not slow. The food was... interesting, unique, decadent (a little scary at times) and so completely different from what I'm used to.

We started with coffee. I had a regular one, but Danny's was much prettier to photograph! The waitress explained that there would be 3 rounds of food. I'm not sure that the "rounds" fall into the typical categories but each round was bigger and better than the last (dessert was incredible!). Everything was served typical sugar-shack style (or dim sum if you've never experienced a sugar-shack meal) with a couple of main dishes for everyone at the table to share.

Round 1:

Pea Soup w/ pieces of ham and foie gras
Unfortunately this wasn't the best pea soup I've ever had. Maybe I like cheap pea soup, maybe my palate is not sophisticated enough for the likes of foie gras' icky texture... either way, I finished my bowl and moved on to the next dish! When in Rome...

Buckwheat Pancakes
I had to remind myself that these babies were "meal" pancakes and not intended to be sweet - until that is - they were soaked in some excellent maple syrup!!

Fried pork rinds and salad
When this dish was brought to the table all we could see were the pork rinds (which in passing were the best pork rinds I've ever had). I actually think I was the first person to notice that the green was not simply lettuce leaves used for presentation - there was an actual salad under there! The salad was very good. A nice mix of fresh greens, walnuts, cheese and a light dressing. In case you're wondering - NO, I did not cover the salad in maple syrup :-)

Salmon Gravlax
I love salmon. I love smoked salmon. It turns out I also really like Salmon Gravlax!
A little thick for my liking, but definitely tasty.
I don't remember if I poured maple syrup on it or not. I just remember enjoying the fish!

Chicken "claws" coated in BBQ sauce
From a distance these looks amazing and tasty. As a big fan of chicken/rib combos at restaurants like the Keg, I actually got a little excited when I saw them coming. Upon closer inspection I realized that this meat was shaped funny. Aaak. Chicken feet? Huh? I'm still not sure I understand why these were on the menu. Although the BBQ sauce they were slathered in was incredible, the chicken feet were bonier than frog legs. Where's the meat? Come on!

Home-made Creton
If you're not from Quebec, you probably aren't familiar with this fatty paté that is served alongside eggs & bacon at almost any restaurant that serves breakfast. There was nothing particularly special about the Creton served here, but it was good.

Round 2:

Omelet with smoked sturgeon and pulled pork
I was so glad to see the eggs come to the table. Eggs are after all a necessary component of any sugar shack meal. They taste so good drenched in maple syrup! I wasn't, however, expecting my eggs to be "fishy" and unfortunately the smoked sturgeon kind of took over the flavour of the omelet. With that said, I still had seconds of this particular dish so I must have like it!

Beef tongue served with celeriac remoulade
This was one of the "huh?" dishes on the menu. While I didn't think twice about trying the chicken claws, this one was harder for me. I reminded myself that it was about the "experience" and that my motto was to try everything at least once. Still I was hesitant. Until Brandon went and tried it first. Sigh. What choice did I have if even he was willing to step out of his food comfort zone? The result? If one could get past the fact that they were eating tongue, the meat was incredibly tender and very tasty. I'm serious. With that said, I still only had a few bites. That's all I could stomach.

Maple lacquered roasted chicken with beans
This dish was a big hit at our table. The beans melted in your mouth, the chicken was divine.
So simple, yet so good. (& yes I had seconds of this one too!)

Cabbage head stuffed with porc, foie gras AND lobster.
(above picture by
The presentation of this dish elicited the response "what is that?" from both Brandon and I. While he refused to try this one (a long time hater of cole-slaw he really wasn't down with eating cabbage no matter what it was paired with, no matter how decadent). Decadent seems to be the best way to describe this one. The word everyone is using. And I have to admit that I liked it. A lot. I would have liked it even more without the big chunks of foie gras. I'm officially not a fan of foie gras.

Also known as "meat pie", this is a traditional Quebec dish. I've had it more times than I can remember but never (EVER) have I tasted such incredibly mouthwatering, delicious, YUMMY tourtiere. I'm not kidding.
I'm totally kicking myself for not buying an extra one to bring home!

Round 3: if I wasn't already bursting at the seems and unbuckling my belt...
This final round (DESSERT) was the best round of all - making the $49/pp brunch well worth the $ and trip!

Tire a l'erable (Maple Taffy) served on ice
This is an absolute must for all visits to the sugar shack. The syrup is boiled and then poured on ice to chill and harden, then everyone digs in with popsicle sticks and rolls up a nice big ball of taffy to suck on. Extremely sweet. Incredibly good. It's a one-time a year kind of treat in my books.

Fried pancakes drenched in maple syrup
These were incredible - moist, light and fluffy on the inside, a little crispy and drenched in maple syrup on the outside. They reminded me doughnuts, really really good doughnuts.
Unfortunately they were served sparingly with only enough for one per person... so we ordered a second round at our table.

Maple mille-feuilles
Somehow I missed trying the mille-feuilles. That won't happen next time as they were a big favorite for others in our group.

Maple ice-cream banana split
with with maple cotton candy AND maple marshmallows
Do I really have to say anything here? Don't the title and picture speak for themselves? Ymmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about this dessert. First - the ice cream was amazing. Second - the chocolate sauce was perfect. The bananas cut the super sweet taste just enough. I think I even heard someone say - "this is like heaven on a fork" :-)

So that wraps up my very first Au Pied de Cochon dining experience. The bad, the weird, the good and the am-A-zing! I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've never made it to the Montreal restaurant but you can bet that it's on my list things to do!

Critters in my basement...

When I tell people about the range of "pets" that we keep in our house, I always get funny looks. So before I tell you a little more about the critters that live in my basement (and that I don't consider MY pets- thankyouverymuch) I figured that I should start back at the beginning. Back when I met then man who would one day become my husband...

When I started dating Brandon back in High School, he was many things - popular, athletic, smart, good looking - pretty much ALL the things you're looking for in a guy when you're 16! As I got to know him a little better, I learned that he also had a few rather geeky attributes... (1) He was a "closet" D&D player (uh... yeah... Dungeons and Dragons!?!?) - something I found out totally by accident as he never offered the information on his own (the game books were hiding under his bed... if you can imagine that!). And (2) I've never met anyone as interested in animals as he is (which is no doubt what led him to complete a Bachelors degree in Zoology and a Masters in Biology).

Shortly after we started dating, he somehow convinced his parents to let him have a fish tank. Not just any fish tank though - he had to have piranhas. They were really just the beginning... after the piranhas, it was a gerbil. After the gerbil it was a lizard (or two? I don't remember). Somewhere along the way, he developed a pretty big interest in reptiles - and particularly in snakes. Yes. Snakes. His first snake was your basic ball python, a pretty small and calm snake that you can find in almost any pet store. Since then he has bought and owned and traded a number of different types of snakes. Yes. Snakes. (in case you missed that). Since then I have learned more than I ever thought I would about the creatures!

You wouldn't think so - but it turns out that snake keeping is like any kind of "collection" hobby or interest. There's an incredible range of what is available, what is special or unique and what they're worth ($$) There are snakes for $30 and there are snakes for $30K. I'm not kidding. $30K!

Before I go any further, let me just say that "yes" it's all a little creepy to me too. When the interest in snakes started - all I could picture was this stereotypical image of a greasy/creepy guy with longish hair, leather pants, unkept facial hair and tattoos. I've since learned that there are a lot of normal-looking people who own, breed, or are simply interested in reptiles. All the same - I still have trouble removing the stereotype image from my mind.

When people find out that Brandon keeps snakes as pets in our house (YES - IN MY HOME) the reaction is usually a questioning look followed by "You LET him have snakes?" "What about the girls?" "Isn't it dangerous?" "What do they eat?" "Where are they?"."Are they poisonous?". And when I got pregnant with Layla I was surprise how many people just assumed that the snake would go. Yeah... not so much.

People are funny though and most are actually very interested in the critters (as long as they stay at our house). I can't tell you how many visitors have asked for a "tour" of Brandon's "collection" or (worse) asked to watch a snake eat (uh huh... we're weird for having snakes, but you want to watch it eat... just for fun?!?!). On occasion, Brandon has even brought a snake or two to school to show his science class. He always comments on how much more attentive and captivated the kids are - proving that the allure of "show & tell" doesn't die off after grade school!

When we bought our house and started the renovations, we built a small room (to be fair it is actually more of a "walk-in-closet" than a room) for Brandon to keep his critters. Before you gasp or sigh or roll your eyes... let me just say that it works for us. I'm serious. I forget that they're there. The door has a lock on it so the girls can't get in. And Brandon is happy to have the space... and to pursue his hobby with no interference... or almost no interference from me.

Last summer he (we? I'm still not sure) decided to take the whole snake-keeping thing to a new level and try to start a small business. He (we?) borrowed some $ from our savings and bought a few "special" ball pythons to breed and hopefully make some babies that are worth more (hopefully MUCH more) than their parents.

We're currently in the "snakes doing it" phase of this process and don't know if or how this is going to pan out, but it makes for some rather bizarre and interesting dinner conversations - "the mojave ball is ovulating", "the spider ball won't eat", "the male and female are locked-up"... Only time will tell if there are babies being made... and if the babies are "special" or not (ie. worth a lot of money or not). Then we just need to find buyers. Are you interested?! ;-)

So... in case you're curious, the current head count in our basement reptile room is (as far as I know):

- 6 ball pythons (1 spider, 2 regular, 2 mojave, 1 pastel)
- 1 Suriname boa constrictor
- 2 green tree pythons (mother and son)
- 2 milk snakes (the only ones with names, Fan and Heater, named by Layla!)
- 2 leopard geckos (with babies on the way)

...oh... and the most recent addition is a praying mantis egg case (housing up to 100 babies) - GROSS. But not as gross as the cockroach colony that he had living/breeding in our walk-in closet at the old condo. ICK ICK ICK. That was bad. That will never happen again. That is another story for another day...

What can I say? I love him. If this isn't love (and by this I am referring to supporting his interests, no matter how different from my own) than I don't know what is...


...So which are you? Grossed out? Interested? Neither?

Wordless Wednesday - Fun in a Box!

I love my girls. Like most kids, all it takes is something as simple as a cardboard box to make them smile....

As you can probably see... I'm playing around with lighting in these pics. Just for fun. I totally love the effect, especially on the last 2 shots!
So much for "wordless" :-)


a.o.k. "trial" gourmet (18 & 19) Just add steamed veggies!

Thanks for stopping by a.o.k.
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For an introduction to my "trial" gourmet series, click here.

This week I’m sharing not one, but TWO recipes with you.

The first is for super easy “no hassle” Creamy Tarragon Chicken (House and Home claims that it is one of their readers’ faves)

The second is a “…need to get started more than an hour before you want to eat…” recipe for Baked French Potatoes from my trusty copy of Jamie’s Food Revolution.

I have to start by saying that I am not the type of woman/wife/mom who picks meals that take a lot of time and several steps to prepare. Especially on week nights. Although I’m still off work (for another 2 weeks…eek.) and technically have more time for household tasks, I think that evenings are busy enough to begin with – without adding a complicated (or simply time consuming) supper prep. In short, I like to keep things simple and I like my food to come together quickly.

With that said… the chicken recipe definitely meets my weeknight dinner prep criteria – it’s simple, it’s quick, it’s yummy AND the chicken is cooking in the oven just long enough to steam some veggies and prepare some simple potatoes or rice. If you're going for "quick", I do NOT recommend the baked French potatoes that I’m about to share with you. These potatoes, while simple enough to put together (and yummy for sure), ended up taking more than 90 minutes to make. I don’t care how you want to turn that one, 90 minutes or more is simply not quick enough for a weeknight meal. Not now and definitely not when I’m working until 4:30 p.m. and want to have supper on the table by 5:30 p.m. (!) I’ll just have to save the potatoes for weekend meals. And I will.

They were that good.

If you decide to make both recipes, you’ll see that you have to start with the potatoes. A good 90 minutes (or more) before you want to be sitting down to eat.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put 3 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile: peel and finely slice 1 ¾ lbs of potatoes, 1 lb of medium onions and 3 cloves of garlic. (*I recommend starting with the onions and garlic so that you can do the next step while you’re working on the potatoes) Pick the leaves from small handful of fresh Italian parsley and finely chop.
  4. Pour a couple of lugs of olive oil into a large hot pan. Add onions, garlic and parsley. Slowly fry for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and lightly golden. Add pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. In large baking dish place a layer of potatoes, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a layer of onion mixture. Repeat until you’ve used everything up, but try to finish with a layer of potatoes.
  6. Pour in hot broth to just cover the top of potatoes, break up 2 pats of butter and dot over top.
  7. Rub some aluminum foil with olive oil; place it, oil-side down, over the dish, and seal tight.
  8. Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes, remove the foil, push the potatoes down and return to the oven for 20 – 40 (more like 40 in my experience) minutes until golden and crisp.

…Just after you remove the aluminum foil and put the potatoes back in, it’ll be time to start your chicken (about 30 minutes before you want to eat supper)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if you haven’t already got it going for the potatoes)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Pat down 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken supremes (*I used 8 drumsticks… because they were on sale this week and cost me only $2.50) with paper towel; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add chicken to skillet skin-side-down and cook 3-5 minutes, or until deep golden. Flip and cook another 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer chicken to large baking pan and bake 20-25 minutes (or until cooked through).
  6. Meanwhile: to make tarragon sauce: slice 3 large shallots and mince 1 small clove of garlic. Add them to the skillet and reduce heat to medium, cook for 4 mintues or until shallots have softened.
  7. Add ½ cup dry white wine and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half.
  8. Add 1 cup chicken broth, bring to boil and cook 3 minutes.
  9. Strain, reserving liquids and discarding solids. Return liquids to skillet or small pot, bring to boil and whisk in ½ cup 35% cream and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
  10. In a small bowl, mash 1 tablespoon butter or margarine with 1 tablespoon of flour. Add ¼ cup of hot chicken broth mixture and stir until combined (it will be very thick).
  11. Add mixture to hot chicken broth and stir until combined.
  12. Add 1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon and season with salt and pepper.
  13. Spoon sauce over chicken to serve.

*Just so you know... the sauce is also EXCELLENT over the potatoes and steamed veggies, but if you’re counting calories, don’t do it!

And there you go... another 2 "trial" gourmet recipes that I think are worth trying... and might just become a part of your regular meal rotation!



Making it Home (part 2)

Last month I shared a first "Making it Home" post with you. I recounted the barely believable list of renovations that we managed to complete in the first few weeks of owning our home. I posted before and after pictures of our kitchen, playroom and the girls rooms...

Now I'm going to skip over a lot of work that we did (outside) and simply say that about a year ago our focus shifted to the yard. Over the Spring and Summer months, we fixed our deck, had a small pool installed, built a deck for that and put up a pretty unique toy structure for Layla.
We had intentions of getting back to the basement renovations and completing them before the end of the summer. But for one reason or another those "plans" never really panned out.

Then the plan was "by Christmas"... mmm... that didn't happen either.

Then "over the Christmas holidays"... not so much.

Sometime in February I made a call to the plumber to get an estimate for plumbing costs if we wanted to have a shower or bath put in to the laundry room and THAT kick-started our latest phase of renovations - less than a month after the deadline to claim the expenses on our income taxes (pfff... who wants to save $$$ on a several thousand dollar project anyways?...Right?... sigh...).

So this is what the laundry looked like a few days after I saw the plumber. It's really too bad that I don't have the real "before" pictures to show you. The old wood windows, the filfthy wood panelling on the walls, the hot water heater in the corner of the room... it was quite the laundry room. Needless to say, it was due for a make-over!

About a month later - we've hit a wall in our basement renovation. Literally.

In the t.v. room and hallway we've managed to install the new laminate flooring and prime and paint the walls and doors. All we have left to do on that "side" is the mouldings and we'll be ready to set up our t.v. and move the furniture in.

In the laundry room, we jack-hammered the floor to be able to add the plumbing needed for a bath drain (and to install a new toilet).

When Brandon started with the jack hammer, it was barely making a dent in the cement. I was thinking to myself "he is going to kill" - especially since it was my idea to complicate the laundry room renos by adding a bath in the first place!

The original pipes were MUCH higher than we were expecting so some of them took a beating from the jack hammer. At least now everything is up to code (back-up valve and all!). But sheesh - with the price of plumbing, I should HOPE that things are up to code!

One more thing about this whole "plumbing" experience. The plumber-dude convinced me that I should have these wall mounts installed for the access to my washing machine water and drain so that 1) it would look nicer and 2) I would be able to push my machine right up to the wall. I am not so happy with them.

First of all, they're ABOVE my washing machine so they don't look very pretty. Second, the way they were installed makes it so that the drywall won't go flat around them. Finally, they could have just been installed lower, at the back of the cupboard under my sink - that way I wouldn't have paid the extra $60 for these little plastic wall mounts AND I would have had easy access to them WITHOUT having to LOOK at them.
So... back to the list of things accomplished in the laundry room.

1. Floor jack-hammered to have access to pipes.

2. Plumbing added for bath and brought "up to code" for everything else.

3. Cement poured into giant hole in the floor.

4. Sub-floor layed

5. Bath installed.

6. Drywall put up.

7. Drywall Joints

... and this is the "wall" we've hit.


Plastering drywall joints is one of those things that you should pay someone to do. Unfortunetly we're already over budget and so we're trying to cut corners where we can. So far Brandon has done 2 coats of putty and sanding. It's starting to look "okay"... but there's still work to be done. The poor guy hates this particular job so much that he compares it to "scratching a chalkboard" and actually gets goosebumps just thinking about sanding.

We're both anxious to move on the next steps (there are oh so many steps to this!)... priming, painting, installing the floor, tiles in the shower, installing the toilet and sink... etc. etc. etc.

We just have to make our walls look good first...

(to be continued)

10 weeks into 2010. Am I healthier?

Last week was week 10 of "Ten weeks to HEALTHY in 2010"...

When I decided to take on the Ten in '10 challenge at the beginning of the new year, I had a few goals in mind.

1. RE-integrate exercise/fitness into my daily routine.

2. Prepare my body for the end of nursing (and potential weight gain that was/is sure to follow if I don't adjust my eating habits).

3. Become the active woman that lives inside my head... that I wish I was...

Well the ten weeks is up and so you deserve an update on my progress.

The short story is this - I FAILED... with a capital F.

The longer story ensues... (it's not that long, you can keep reading!)

I kept up with the weekly blog posts for about 3 weeks. After that it was too embarrassing to post "didn't do such a great job... am I pathetic?... where's my motivation?..." updates week after week. 10 weeks is both longer and shorter than it seems. Sigh.

So I obviously didn't get into a routine of exercising regularly in these past 10 weeks. I do however take comfort in a few things...

1. I walk the dog almost every day. It's not much, but it's something.

2. We've been doing renovations and although it isn't "traditional" exercise - lugging buckets of broken up ceramics or concrete up the stairs and outside has got to count for something. It certainly makes me sweat. It certainly makes me sore.

3. I'm learning things about myself. Where I do (well... mostly where I don't) find motivation. That I'm much more likely to actually get something accomplished if I write it down somewhere. that I'm much better at making plans and setting goals than I am at actually following through. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So what I am I going to do now?

With the nice weather arriving so early this year, it's tempting to start considering something as simple as "jogging". I can't believe I'm thinking this (let alone writing it) seeing as running for exercise is something I've always LOATHED.

At this point in my life, running seems like the only thing that makes sense... and the simplest form of exercise to integrate into my regular life. Why is that? For a few reason...

1) I'm already walking the dog every day, why not run with him?

2) We already have a good quality "jogging" stroller

and 3) It doesn't cost a thing to start (unlike the other ideas swimming around in my brain - buy an elliptical for the basement, join a gym, ...).

More than the simplicity, more than the good weather, more than the economic side of RUNNING - I've found a way to take it a step further. To make my goal to be more physically active something that isn't just good for me or an example to my girls...

What am I talking about?

Well... I've started looking into what I can do to make a difference for people affected by cancer (ever since following the story of Layla Grace) and among other things (Organizing a fundraiser, volunteering at the hospital, making a donation, growing my hair and donating it to locks of love...) I found Team in Training and the wheels in my head are turning...

So ten in ten is over but my quest is not. Now it's two-fold... and I just have to decide what I'll do and if this is how I'll do it.

(to be continued...)


A.O.K. "trial" Gourmet (17) Cranberry/Maple Sausage Chili

{For an introduction to the A.O.K "trial" Gourmet series - click here.}

Finally right?

I've been talking about this chili since I made it for the first time a couple weeks ago.

*Cranberry-Maple Sausage Chili*

As much as I am a huge fan of anything that combines sweet and heat, I have to be honest and tell you I had my doubts about this one. I did. The recipe comes from an IGA (local grocery chain) recipe card and it was on Brandon's request that I decided to try it. Brandon. The guy who doesn't like chili in the first place. The guy who won't eat my home-made cranberry sauce. Huh?! I think he saw the word "maple" and got all excited :-)

The card rates the recipe as "easy" and I hope you know by now that if I agree and tell you that it's easy, it really is. I'm a very low fuss, keep it simple kind of girl... kind of cook... and I can't say enough how important it is for me (particularly in this phase of my life, with 2 small kids) to find the place where simplicity, healthy and tasty somehow come together. Not always an easy thing to find, right? Right.

This chili is so easy to make and the recipe gives you the option of preparing it earlier in the day and letting it simmer in your slow cooker OR putting it all together about an hour before dinner on the stovetop. The result is a incredibly tasty (if you like the whole sweet with heat flavour combination) twist on a classic household "go to" meal. It's the perfect comfort food for a cold fall/winter day, and with arrival of Spring and "maple" season - it's great for this time of year too.

Can you tell I'm a fan? Can you tell that I think everyone should try this one?

The Recipe for Cranberry-Maple Sausage Chili
(my modifications in Purple)

6 (4)servings; 15 minutes prep; 1 hour cooking time; easy


- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cranberry-maple sausages (6 mild italian sausages + 2 tablespoons maple syrup)
- 1 each: garlic clove and onion, finel chopped
- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
- 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable cocktail
- 19 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 envelope reduced-salte taco seasoning (I took the shortcut here but it's just as easy to use some chili and cumin instead)
- 1 cinnamon stick
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 sweet yellow pepper, diced


(Option 1: slow cooker)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (I opted for no oil and used a non-stick frying pan. Sausages have enough fat on their own). Add sausages and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until well grilled. Turn sausages once halfway through cooking. Remove from pan and slice about 1 cm thick. Transfer to slow cooker.

2. In the same skillet, cook garlic and onion for about 2 minutes. Until both are lightly golden (I forgot to do this and just through it all in the slow cooker as instructed in the next step. oops.)
3. Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, vegetable juice, black beans, taco seasoning and cinnamon (and maple syrup) to slow cooker. Stir gently to combine. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

4. Add cranberries and sweet pepper and continue cooking on high for 15 minutes, or until pepper is tender-crisp.

5. Remove cinnamon stick before serving. Serve with your favourite baguette and a green salad.

(Option 2: stovetop)

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; cook sausages, garlic and onion according to method given for slow cooker.
2. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable juice, black beans, taco seasoning, maple syrup , and cinnamon stick. Stir gently to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring several times during cooking.
3. Add cranberries and sweet pepper and cook for 7 additional minutes.



Doing the dishes with my little helper

It's about 10 a.m.

The dog is walked. Supper is starting to simmer in the crock-pot. I would say that I'm having a pretty productive morning. Yes!

The little one is down for her first nap (which she desperately needs after her first few days of daycare and terrible napping). This is usually the time I devote to Layla... a craft, an activity, some quality one-on-one time with my "big" girl.

One look around the kitchen... do I clean up now? do I wait until lunch?

"Layla... do you want to help me do the dishes?"

It's really the perfect way to spend time with her and get something very practical done at the same time. She loves playing in the water, within 15-20 minutes all of my dishes are done and I have to convince her that it's time to do something else.

Isn't it true that sometimes it's just easier to include our little ones in the things that we need to do? Instead of sticking them in front of the t.v. one more time... or being irritated by the mess that is growing as we put it off to make sure that we get in enough of that essential one-on-one time?
I'm not saying there's never a time to ignore the house work. I do it all the time (!) I'm just saying that it's neat when we can "kill two birds with one stone".
What a productive morning!

Wordless Wednesday: Mommy and Girls

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