The Lettuce Wrap

Good morning, blog readers! Guess what? I actually cooked a dinner this week! Yes, amid my very busy schedule of late, I finally managed to make a meal. It was delicious!

At our house, we love lettuce wraps. I didn’t even have to search for a recipe on Pinterest, because this one is already a family favourite.

Ingredients:

– 1 head lettuce
– 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
– 2 packages of lean ground turkey meat (or beef, if that is your preference)
– Hoisin sauce
– Soy sauce
– Ginger (peeled and minced from chunk no larger than the pad of your thumb)
– 2-4 large carrots
*Note: This recipe is also very good if you add chopped water chestnuts – we just didn’t have any)

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Directions: (for the crockpot – I will write about doing it in a pan instead at the end)

1. Lightly coat the bottom of the crockpot with sauce (both a dab of hoisin and some soy sauce).

2. Put ground meat into the crock pot. Mine was partially frozen still, but thawed would be better.

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3. Top the meat with dribble of sauce.

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4. Add ginger (I used a chunk no larger than the pad of my thumb, peeled it, and used my special mincer to mince it) and garlic.

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5. Put crockpot on high for several hours (could be 5 or 6, even longer, depending on when the meat is cooked). I opened my crockpot up several times throughout the day and “chunked” up the ground meat, though I suppose this could be done at the end.

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6. I added more sauce throughout the cooking process and also scooped out some of the liquid from the thawed meat after it had been cooked. When you know the meat is done, have a taste of the mixture to make sure the spices are to your liking. Add more soy or hoisin if needed.

7. Once it has been cooked, clean a head of lettuce and peel off the layers, trying to keep each layer in tact to create little lettuce bowls.

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8. Peel and shred 2-4 carrots (I peeled four in the photo, but only grated 3).

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9. Add carrots and mix.

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10. Serve. I put the meat in a large bowl and place in the centre of the table with a serving spoon. Each person can take a “bowl” of lettuce and fill with meat mixture.

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**How to cook this in a pan:

Mix all ingredients (except carrots) in a deep pan and cook until meat is done. Add carrots at the end and serve.

*Note: This can get really messy, so I would eat over a plate or bowl.

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This is a delicious meal that my husband and kids love. I like my crockpot version, but it is faster in the pan. Over all a favourite in our house!

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Enjoy and thank you for reading!

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How I Started Writing

Good morning, everyone! As I mentioned in my previous blog, I haven’t been doing any real cooking lately. Last night for dinner we had scrambled eggs, hash browns, and cheesy sausages. So, naturally, I haven’t had much in the way of material for food-related blogs.

Alas, I thought I would share something about myself. As most of you probably already know, I began writing as a young child, mostly scribbles in notebooks that I claimed were novels. But what actually began me wanting to write true stories was a book that I had read by Betsy Byars called Beans on the Roof. It is about a young boy wants to write a story.

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After I put down that book, I picked up a notebook and began to write in earnest. I have countless notebooks filled with short stories that I had written as a child and throughout my adolescence. I believe that at the time I preferred mystery and adventure stories, as was evident from my writing.

By the time I was in my pre-teen and early teen years, I found that my writing turned into poetry; mostly sappy love poems or angry teen poems. Once my office is set up and I have unpacked all of my boxes, I will gladly share some of these with you. Honestly, they’re laughable.

If you have read any of my bios or my webpage, you will know the rest of my writing story. By the age of fifteen I was at the grocery store with my Mom and I asked her if I could pick a book to read. She said yes, but, because she was in the lineup to pay, I had to be quick. I ran to the book section and picked the book with the cover that caught my attention the most. That book was Blue Moon by Jill Marie Landis.

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This book brought me into a world I had never known existed. The world of historical romance. I was in love. Since then, I haven’t stopped reading the genre.

The rest is pretty simple; I started wishing that I could find novels with very specific plot lines. I read the backs of books, searching and searching for the exact novels that I wanted to read. At the urging of my husband (thank you!) I began to write plot outlines for novels, pulled up my computer, put my hands to the keys, and wrote. I was finally able to have books with the exact plot that I loved and wanted to read.

It is likely that I will write further blog posts on the subject, but these are the basics on how I got started.

Thank you all so much for reading!

Very Exciting News!

Good morning, blog readers! I apologize for being absent for a few days; I’ve been very busy. In fact, I’ve been so busy that Hubby has been cooking all the dinners this week *gasp!*.

Today, I’m celebrating. And by celebrating, I mean drinking a big mug of my favourite tea and enjoying a little bowl of semi-sweet chocolate chips. … and by that, I mean, watching my children crowd around me to steal my chocolate chips and distract me from my tea long enough that it gets cold. But hey, cold tea is still good!

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Why am I celebrating, you ask? Well, that, my friends, is something I’ve been bursting to talk about for several weeks now… I’ve been picked up by a publisher! Talk about one of the most exciting things ever (besides getting married and the birth of my children, of course)! I am beyond excited; I’m thrilled, I’m overjoyed! Honestly, there isn’t the right adjective to describe what I’m feeling.

I’ve been welcomed with open arms into a family of authors, editors, publicists, and all sorts of other wonderful people at my new publisher, Pandamoon Publishing. So far my experience has been fantastic. I’m loving every minute of it!

There will be lots of news to follow, I am sure!

Thank you all for reading! Happy Thursday!

Like an Author in a Bookstore

Good morning, everyone! Yesterday I went to a wildly exciting bookstore in Downtown Vancouver called MacLeod’s Books. Let me tell you something… it was fantastic!

There’s something utterly magical about going into a bookstore. Particularly one filled to the rafters with old books. To me, the feeling is indescribable. Adrenaline pumps through my veins as I anticipate the hunt for the perfect find that makes my heart sing. Absolutely wonderful.

These are photos of MacLeod’s that I found on Google:

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Yes. This is actually what it looks like inside the store. In fact, I’d wager that it’s gotten more crowded in there since these photos were taken.

I could have spent days going through the teetering stacks of books, but sadly, I hadn’t that much time. At first, I walked through their “main” store and then I inquired about older books (I love my antiquarian books!) so they led me to a “holding” place across the street that held a bunch of their older books.

I would have taken pictures, myself, of the inside of this store, but I can honestly – and unabashedly – say that I was completely distracted by all the beautiful books.

These were my finds:

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English Ballads (A selection from Percy, Ritson, and other sources). Printed in 1848.

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Rory O’More by Samuel Lover. Printed in 1839.

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Ben-Hur by Lew. Wallace. Printed in 1888.

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A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, J.E. Austen-Leigh. Nearly new.

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Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. 100 years old.

I found the ones that stood out to me… and that were of a price I could stomach. There was a set of books of poetry by Lord Byron printed in London in 1814 that I desperately wanted… but just one volume was $2,500.00. And, well, let’s face it, there was no way I could afford them. Generally, however, I prefer older books, preferably printed in the 1700s and very early 1800s.

I look forward to going back there to do some more book hunting. Hopefully one day I’ll have a collection of antique Jane Austen’s works on my shelves! (What a dream that would be!)

Alas, these were my picks! I have more antiquarian books in my collection, which I will be happy to share once I’ve unpacked them and put them on shelves in my office (whenever the shelves get done). Let’s hope it’s soon!

Thank you all for reading! Have a fantastic weekend!

Edit/addition: Thank you, Mom, for taking me and watching my kids! You’re the best! Happy Christmas to me. xo

The Fabulous Nuts and Bolts

Good morning, blog readers! Today should be a short entry, because, well, let’s face it, nuts and bolts are pretty simple to make.

This was another case of “how can I fit as much iron into my diet as possible” type moments. I know that the cereal Shreddies is really high in iron, so I wanted to incorporate it into my daily intake of foods. So here we have it.

I followed both this recipe and this recipe for this food project. Though with slightly different cereals and theirs has nuts and mine didn’t.

The ingredients:

– 1/2 cup butter
– 3 cups pretzels
– 2 cups cheese sticks
– 2 cups cheese squares
– 3 cups cheerios
– 3 cups shreddies
– 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
– 1/4 teaspoon cumin
– Splash of soy sauce
– Dash of garlic powder
– Dash of onion powder
– Shake of seasoning salt

*Note: in my original photo of the ingredients, I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce and I had the wrong type of shreddies. A special thanks to my husband for running to the store for me! xo

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The directions:

1. Melt butter in saucepan.

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2. Remove from heat and add all sauces and spices. Mix well.

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3. Mix cereals, pretzels, and cheese crackers together in large bowl.

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4. Pour butter and spice mixture over cereal and cracker mixture.

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5. Mix well.

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6. Spread over 2 cookie sheets and place in the oven at 250 degrees F for one hour, stirring around every 15 minutes.

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7. Let cool and enjoy!

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These went over really well with my kids. Seriously. This was all gone within the day.

Final thought: There’s no question. These were fantastic. I plan on making another batch this weekend. I highly recommend these for yumminess factor. Mmm…

Enjoy and thank you all so much for reading!

Food My Husband Makes

Good evening, everyone! Tonight I’m going to share some photos of food that my husband has made. I believe I’ve mentioned before that he is an excellent cook, but perhaps these pictures will prove it to you.

My husband has made such things as: peach cobbler, cinnamon buns, eggs Benedict, beef wellington, crab, lobster, home-made pizza (including the dough), homemade bread and buns, weekly crepes, cakes, cupcakes, homemade lasagna, pizza pretzels, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding… the list could go on.

This is an example of a flawless meal of prawns and broccoli with hollandaise on top.

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This is an example of my husband’s weekly crepes. He sometimes makes whipped cream to go inside with berries, and sometimes with custard… but my boys always have theirs with Nutella inside.

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This is a photo of my husband’s roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

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And lastly, these are photos of our dinner last night. We had some king crab legs in the freezer, so Hubby cooked them up and used the meat in some eggs Benedict. Absolutely delicious!

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Again, my husband is a superb cook. His meals put all of mine to shame. But I keep trying!

Thank you for reading! Good night, all!

The Green Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

Good morning, blog readers! This morning I’m writing about my second attempt at the Banana loaf. While my last attempt was delicious, it broke apart while coming out of the pan. After receiving some excellent suggestions (thank you!) I used parchment paper at the bottom of the pan, which worked beautifully!

Also, because my eldest son was opposed to eating this in “loaf” form, I separated the recipe into two sections, one loaf, and one tray of muffins. He loved it!

You may be wondering why I chose to add “green” to my banana loaf. Well, allow me to tell you. I recently learned that I was iron deficient, so I am making an effort to eat more greens. While I understand that boiling spinach isn’t the healthiest (versus eating it raw), I wanted to experiment.

So there you have it, and here it is!

I followed my previous recipe:

– 3/4 cup of room temperature butter (again, I got impatient, so I popped it in the microwave for 15 seconds)
– 1 1/2 cups of sugar
– 2 cups flour
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk
– 3 ripe bananas (one of ours was rotten, so while I had originally thought I’d had enough, I only ended up with two)
– 1 teaspoon of baking soda
– Chocolate chips (the original recipe did not have a specific measurement here, so again, I guessed at the amount)

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Here are the steps I took:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine, in a large bowl, the butter and sugar. Again, I used my mixer, which I love.

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3. Add eggs and blend.

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4. Add in the bananas and milk and mix well. It’ll be lumpy because of the bananas.

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5. Add baking soda and flour (I mixed the two together before I put it in my mixture) and stir. *Note: remember, if you are using an electric hand mixer as I did, to switch to a mixing spoon because it will get too thick for your mixer.

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6. Stir in chocolate chips. (I had helpers to add in the ingredients).

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7. Next, I spooned the dough out into my muffin tray (a silicone one, which in my opinion, isn’t the best).

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8. Put the tray in the oven and I cooked it for about 15 + minutes. *Note: I had to put them on a cookie sheet about half way through the cooking process because I noticed my cups overflowing.

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9. While my muffins were cooking, I boiled my spinach.

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10. Once my spinach was cooked and strained, I tried putting it in my nutrabullet, which, let’s be honest here, didn’t do what I’d hoped it would in this particular case. So I took it out and chopped it.

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11. Add spinach to the remaining dough, and mix. I don’t know why I decided to do it, but at first I mixed it with a smaller amount and put some of the spinach-free dough in the bottom of the bread pan. It made no sense, so I mixed the rest and put the whole amount in the pan.

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12. Remove muffins from oven and let cool.

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13. Put loaf pan in the oven and cook for roughly 40 minutes.

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14. Take it out and let it cool. *Note: The parchment paper worked wonders here. The loaf slipped right out of the pan with no issues. I am definitely doing it that way again!

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The loaf sank a little bit after it had cooled, but it still tasted wonderful.

The muffins were really difficult to remove from the sheet… but that didn’t diminish the taste at all. My kids loved them!

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Final thought: I’ve got to say, that adding spinach to my loaf didn’t change the taste one bit. It had a fun colour that my kids liked, which also made it entertaining to eat! I will definitely make this again.

Thank you all for reading!

The Strawberry Cinnamon Buns

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today I’m writing about my experiment with strawberry cinnamon buns. I found the recipe on Pinterest (where else?) and wanted to try it instantly. They didn’t turn out exactly how they look on the recipe I followed, but I’m blaming that on my yeast. I think that perhaps it’s a little old… or it’s the salt in the recipe. But I figured that if this person makes them all the time, then they know what they’re doing, right? So it must be the yeast. Anyway…

This is the recipe I followed:

– 3/4 cup milk
– 1/3 cup softened butter
– 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
– 2 tsp instant yeast
– 1/4 cup white sugar
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 egg
– 1/4 cup water

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For the filling:

– 1 cup strawberry jam
– 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
– 2 cups sliced strawberries (all we had were frozen strawberries, but I used them anyway)

*Note: The recipe says to add ingredients separately here, but I’m terrible at “sprinkling” things because it always ends up in clumps. I didn’t want anyone biting into a cinnamon clump, so I pre-mixed the strawberry jam and the cinnamon.

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Icing:

– 1 cup powdered sugar
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1-2 tbsp milk

1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it gets warm. Then mix in the butter until it’s nice and melted. Take it off the heat and work on the rest of the recipe while it cools (mine was still pretty warm/hot when I added it, but as my husband says, it’s better for the yeast to be warm)

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2. In a lage bowl, combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt (the recipe said to only put in 2 1/4 cups of flour in at this point, but I clearly didn’t read that, as I dumped the whole thing in). Mix well.

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3. Stir in the egg and water. Mix well.

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4. Stir in the milk mixture (probably still warm/hot) until dough forms.

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5. This is where the recipe says to add in the extra cup of flour. Then dump the dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed until smooth.

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6. Put the dough ball back in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

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7. Roll out dough into a “15-10” inch rectangle (the recipe seemed very specific here, but as I didn’t have measuring tape around, I guessed at this size).

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8. Spread the strawberry jam mixture over the dough then evenly cover with chopped strawberries. It looks like a sweet pizza!

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9. Roll up the dough and pinch the seam to seal. (This didn’t really work for me, as the jam  made it goopy).

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10. Cut into 12 equal size rolls. (Again, this didn’t work. My knife wasn’t sharp enough and the dough just got squished. I did my best, though, and it didn’t end terribly.) *Note: Watch out, it can get really messy.

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11. Place rolls on a “greased 11×13” baking dish. Cover with a cloth and let rise until doubled (30 minutes). Ok, as I said above, my yeast clearly isn’t working… or there’s something else wrong with this recipe, because mine did not rise until doubled. They pretty much just stayed the same.

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12. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

13. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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The icing:

1. Mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon with 1 tbsp of milk and mix. Add other tbsp of milk or until you reach the desired consistency.

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2. Drizzle over finished rolls.

*Note: I found the cinnamon a little overwhelming in the icing and there wasn’t nearly enough for all the rolls (we like lots of icing). What I would suggest, is adding perhaps 2 cups of icing sugar to the listed amount of cinnamon and add milk based on that.

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Final thought: These were delicious. They were perhaps a little more dense than they were meant to be, but I liked them anyway. My older boys weren’t as taken with them as my twins and my husband and I were, though. It was an interesting experience, and the end was yummy, but I’m not sure I’d make them again.

Thank you all for reading!

The Delicious Second Attempt at Enchiladas

Good morning, everyone! Today I’m writing about my second attempt at enchiladas. I changed a few things in the recipe, and it definitely worked out for the better. The problem I have with blogging it today is that my husband helped by making his own enchilada sauce (instead of my strained salsa idea from my last attempt), but after he’d gathered all the ingredients, his iPad battery died and he couldn’t find the recipe on Pinterest again… so he had to wing it.

I followed my previous recipe.

– 1 roasted chicken, carved and chopped
– 1 rice package (I used Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express Tomato and Herb flavour – different from last time, and much more flavourful) (prepared)
– 1/3 brick of cream cheese
– 2 tablespoons sour cream
– A bunch of shredded cheese (I used aged Cheddar)
– 2 tablespoons lime juice
– 1/4 teaspoon cumin
– Salt to taste
– 1 package flour tortillas
– 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
– Enchilada sauce (Hubby made this from scratch – Photos included below)
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This is what Hubby did: I genuinely don’t know in what order he added his ingredients, but I know he cursed this recipe several times while mixing them. I’m sure it would have been easier had his iPad battery not died, causing him to lose the recipe and directions. It turned out delicious, though. We’ve got a container of it stored in the freezer for another enchilada night!
The ingredients he used:
– Salt
– Pepper
– Cumin
– Chicken broth
– Olive oil
– Garlic
– Brown sugar
– Diced tomatoes
– Tomato paste
– Oregano
– Paprika
– Chili powder
– Some other spices that I can’t read from the picture… sorry!
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The directions I followed:
1. Prepare the rice (I just followed the directions on the outside of the package.)
2. Combine chicken, rice, shredded cheese (half of the amount you’ve shredded), sour cream, cream cheese, cumin, lime juice, & salt, in large bowl.
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3. Put the mixture in tortillas.
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4. Roll, and put in a deep baking pan.
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5. Pour enchilada sauce over tortillas.
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6. Pour whipping cream over the enchilada sauce.
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7. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top.
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8. Loosely cover with aluminum foil.
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9. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and keep in if you want your cheese to keep cooking. I did, so I put it in for another 10 minutes.
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This is the end result: Serve and enjoy!
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This one was a vast improvement from my previous attempt. It was so good, we each had seconds. Hubby took some to work for lunch and I had my left-overs for breakfast. I know… don’t judge. It was just that good.
I honestly can’t wait to make more. Once I find out the directions for Hubby’s enchilada sauce, I’ll let you know.
Thank you for reading!

For the Love of Tea

Hello blog readers! Today I’m sharing a little something about myself. And that something is that I absolutely love tea. English Breakfast tea, to be precise. As a matter of fact, most black teas appeal to me. I also quite like Herbal teas, depending on their flavour.

These are photos of my tea cupboard:

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I love having my own space for keeping my tea, and better still, a whole section of counter in which to prepare it! I’ve actually got 4-5 additional tins which have been emptied and stored in our pantry cupboard, ready to be refilled at the store.

Some of my favourite herbal teas include:

Forever Nuts (smells and tastes like bear claws – apple and cinnamon)

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And Mango Fruit Punch (makes a spectacular iced tea)

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Among my favourite black teas are:

Apple Crumble (yes. It tastes exactly how you would expect it to. Is fantastic with milk and sugar)

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Red Velvet Cake (There are no words… And yes, those are both white and dark chocolate chips mixed in.)

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And then there are my English Breakfast teas. In addition to my Twinnings English Breakfast, I have several varieties of this favourite tea.

Scottish Breakfast (I did not take an individual photo of this)

Harrods English Breakfast (This one was a recent gift from my Mom that she brought back from London for me. Let me tell you… it is fantastic.)

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And now for my absolute favourite, the East India Company’s Royal Breakfast. It is by far the best tea I have ever had. It costs a fortune to have it shipped to me, but in my mind it’s worth it.

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I’ve gone through my share of mugs and teapots, but this is one of my favourites. (Here I’m making some Twinnings english Breakfast)

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I also have a favourite mug. It’s nothing special… but it’s the biggest one I own. And for that, I love it. My teapot serves three large mugs of tea.

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So there you have it. My tea.

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I firmly believe that my love of tea is one of the things that make me me.

Thank you all so much for reading! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog about my second attempt at Enchiladas. Have a great day!