5 Steps to a Successful Taco Night


taco night

If there’s one meal that is sure to cause a unanimous chorus of approval around here, it’s taco night. And we all know how much that sound is music to the ears for the meal planner in the family. The fact that I put taco holders ahead of Tiffany’s on my Christmas list tells you just how much I love to hear it.

In honour of National Taco Day (yes, it’s really a thing), here are my top 5 tips for a successful family taco night.

Find your wrap

We have different preferences for the taco base at our house. Some of us prefer a tortilla, while others of us prefer a nice crunchy taco shell. Either way, we always warm them for a few minutes before serving. For tortillas, I cheat and use the microwave, but there are other methods for warming, which also work well for slightly stale tortillas. I warm the crunchy shells on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

Fill it up

This is your chance to think outside the taco. Although taco night is a weekly occurrence, we switch up the filling to keep things interesting. We will use a ground turkey or extra lean beef, shrimp (grilled on the BBQ with olive oil and seasoning), or if it’s Meatless Monday on taco night, we will use the lentil and brown rice mix from Eden Organic (as recommended to me by a wise vegan friend).

 taco night

 Sauces and Sides

If your family has varying spice preferences, make two batches of filling. Go crazy with the hot sauce and taco seasoning in one batch and keep it mild in the other. I use a tablespoon of low-sodium taco seasoning and a few tablespoons of sweet chili sauce when making the kids’ version (when I don’t have sweet chili, I will substitute with ketchup). You can also amp up the flavour with different types of salsa!

Don’t forget a good taco night needs its side dishes. We will add a flavourful rice dish or some refried beans. I’ll also put a bowl of tortilla chips on the table with some fresh guacamole [insert Jeni's guac]. In the summer, I make my avocado and black bean dip to go with chips.

Textured and tasty

One of the best things about a taco is the mixture of flavours, textures and temperatures that land in your mouth with each bite. Get creative with your toppings. Mix up the cheeses and types of lettuce. Put out bowls of beans or corn. Pump up the veggies with avocado slices, shredded carrots, and julienned bell peppers. And, don’t forget the sour cream, Tabasco sauce and fresh cilantro!

taco night

Lunchbox leftovers

A taco is just as delicious in a lunch box the next day. I often make extra of everything and put it together as a make-your-own-taco in the lunch boxes. Keep the salsas and sour cream separate to avoid the dreaded soggies. And put down a layer of lettuce to protect the wrap from the meat while it’s waiting to be eaten. I find the tortilla wraps are better for school lunches. I poke a skewer through them to keep them together and avoid big messes.

Go ahead and celebrate National Taco Day at your house.

The cheering will be music to your ears. 






Be a Domestic Superhero With This Slow Cooker Bolognese

I don’t know about you but I always feel like a domestic superhero whenever I make a slow cooker meal. Dinner made before 8am? Yeah, that’s right, this kitchen in my bitch. Booyah! Now when I can make something like this Slow Cooker Bolognese that provides us with two meals, well then, watch out because there is simply no getting past my big fat head for a couple of days. I am woman, hear me cry, “Dinner is READY!”

slow cooker bolognese

So here’s what I love about this Slow Cooker Bolognese, it makes two meals PLUS you can make part of it one day and then the next morning all you need to do is throw it in the slow cooker. When you get home from work, your rich and hearty Slowcooker Bolognese is ready to be served. Get the kids to set the table and the husband to cook the pasta while you snuggle with the dog on the couch. Well, that’s what I would do at least. After all, I already rocked the kitchen with with this incredible sauce and when I’m done I’ll have enough left over for the freezer.

slow cooker bolognese

That’s right, this meal comes complete with a whole other meal ready to go. It’s like the Shamwow of kitchen recipes. Transfer leftover sauce to a glass container when you’re done (I love Glasslock), and let cool slightly before transferring to the freezer. And there you have it, another night with the kids setting the table and the husband cooking pasta, ready to go.

Slowcooker Bolognese
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  1. 1 tbsp butter
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  3. 1 rib celery, chopped
  4. 1 carrot, chopped
  5. 2 lb lean ground beef
  6. 1 cup whole milk
  7. 1 1/2 cups red wine
  8. 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. Pinch of nutmeg
  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened about 5 minutes.
  3. Turn heat to high and add beef and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and pinch of nutmeg.
  5. Pour in 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of wine (reserving 1/2 cup for later).
  6. Lower heat to medium high and let simmer until most of liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer mixture to slow cooker, stir in tomatoes, and reserved 1/2 cup of red wine.
  8. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  9. Remove lid, stir and let sit for 30 minutes more until slightly thickened.
  1. I make this on a Sunday then I have dinner for Monday and another meal for the freezer. You could also complete the recipe to the part where most of the liquid has evaporated. Store in a container in the fridge and then the next morning add to your slow cooker with tomatoes and wine and it will be ready when you get home from work.
  2. After dinner throw your cape over your shoulder and declare "My work here is done....for today anyway."
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
slow cooker bolognese


The “I’m Getting Lucky” Beef And Beer Stew

First, let me preface this by saying, you may not get lucky if you make this Beef and Beer Stew. I can’t guarantee that your amour won’t have a headache that night, or that maybe they’ll be doing their nails. What I will tell you is that your odds of getting laid are significantly higher if you make this stew than if you don’t. That is the only promise I’m going to make, alright?

beef and beer stew

Okay, let’s talk about this stew for a second because it’s downright orgasmic, damn it. What? I’m just keeping with the theme here. The beef is so flipping tender it practically melts in your mouth and the gravy? Don’t even get me started about the gravy. It’s a rich, sweet and savoury sauce that would be good enough all on its own. In other words, if you allow plate licking in your house, then this is the dish that’ll do it.

I’m pretty sure the secret here is in the beer. You definitely want to use a Stout beer for this dish. If you’re Canadian, then you’re in luck because Beau’s Brewery makes the best, called Sleepy Time (although you and I both know there won’t be any of that). If you can’t get your hands on Beau’s then try to find an all natural stout beer and that ain’t that Irish beer everyone loves so much. With so many craft breweries popping up, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time finding a great locally brewed stout in your area.

beef and beer stew

Okay, so we’ve established the beer is important. Now what about the beef? Shoot for Double A at a minimum and Triple A if you can. After all, you are setting the mood here, so go for the best. Finally, I used my cast iron casserole dish to cook this in. If you don’t have one, you can also use a Dutch oven to cook it in.

Beef and Beer Stew
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  1. 2 lbs of stewing beef
  2. 3 tbsp of flour
  3. 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  4. 4 large yellow onions, sliced thickly
  5. 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  6. 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  7. 2 cups hot beef stock
  8. 2 cups stout beer (such as Beau's Brewery, Sleepy Time)
  9. 3 tbsp brown sugar
  10. 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  11. 2 tbsp olive oil
  12. 2 tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Mix flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Toss beef cubes in flour.
  3. Heat butter and olive oil in casserole dish over medium high heat. Add beef and brown outside but do not cook through. Remove beef from pan and set aside.
  4. Add onions to pan and cook until slightly softened. Add the garlic and thyme, then add the beef stock, stout, beer, sugar and mustard, scraping up brown bits from bottom of casserole.
  5. Return beef to casserole.
  6. Let stew come to a simmer then place lid on top and place in oven for 2 hours, stirring once halfway through. Remove lid and cook for 30 minutes more to allow sauce to thicken. Watch closely though so that it doesn't dry out.
  1. Serve with baby potatoes and carrots.
  2. Shave your legs before you make this.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/

Big Ass Pot O’ Chili Recipe

There are certain recipes that I simply can’t see the point of making only enough for one meal. Recipes like Marinara and Meatballs  or Banana Bread just scream to be doubled, or tripled for meals on another day. If it can be frozen, then I always make enough for another day, like this Big Ass Pot O’ Chili Recipe. Why do I call it that? Because  I easily get three meals for my family of four out of this recipe. It’s also a fantastic recipe to make for a crowd. Just make sure you have a cross breeze going in the house to air out the after effects of all those beans, if you know what I’m saying.

chili recipe

 Speaking of beans, you do know that they’re incredibly good for you, right? Aside from the *ahem* extra air they create, they are loaded with antioxidants and fibre. So not only does this chili recipe bring the goods when meal planning, it also packs a nutritional wallop. In addition to the wonder beans, it also contains tomatoes which are rich in lycopene and onions and garlic which are part of the allium family and you know what that means, right? Yeah, neither do I,  but you can read all about it over here.

Big Ass Pot 'O Chili
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  1. 2 lbs lean ground beef
  2. 2 medium onions, chopped
  3. 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 small cans green chiles
  5. 2 tbsps pickled jalapenos, chopped fine
  6. 6 tbsps chili powder
  7. 2 tsps salt
  8. 2 tsps cumin powder
  9. 3 28 oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
  10. 1 19 oz can chickpeas
  11. 1 19 oz can blackbeans
  12. 1 19 oz can red kidney beans
  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom stainless steel pot, cook beef with chopped onion and garlic until no longer pink.
  2. Drain fat.
  3. In a blender, puree 2 of the of the cans of San Marzano tomatoes and add to pot. Turn heat to medium. Add can of whole tomatoes and as chili simmers break up tomatoes into smaller pieces.
  4. Rinse beans well and add to pot. Add chiles, diced jalapenos, chili powder, salt and cumin. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with chopped green onions, shredded cheese and sour cream.
  1. This chili has some heat so if you like it less hot, then add fewer jalapenos and a tablespoon or two less of chili powder. If you like it hotter than add more.
  2. Freeze in Glass Lock containers. To reheat, thaw chili overnight in fridge and warm over low heat in a heavy bottom stainless steel pot.
  3. Feel free to use any ground meat you'd like for this recipe.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
chili recipe


Creamy Crockpot Chicken

I really don’t use my Crockpot often enough. Usually it sits in the bottom of my cabinet, lurking, until it’s time to make a pulled pork or something else that you must braise unto oblivion, then tear apart and slather with BBQ sauce.

The poor Crockpot is misunderstood. It just wants to be loved like the rest of our kitchen appliances. Sure, it has some quirks like the fact that it hates green vegetables and it’s impossible to make a pretty photo of a slow-cooker meal. But it has its merits too.

Crockpot Chicken and Potatoes with an Easy Rich Delicious Sauce

“Use me,” it begs. “You can leave me unattended while you go play at the park! I can have a hot meal ready at home for you, smelling up your apartment with my fabulousness, when you come home from work!” And you’re like, “yeah, but the only thing you seem to be any good for is cooking chili and some sort of weird version of beef stroganoff. Why else would my Crockpot recipe books have that many chili and stroganoff recipes in it?”

The slow-cooker has magic skill with chicken breasts, too. Most people think only thighs and legs will do well, but when timed right, your chicken breasts will be moist and fall-apart-tender delicious. You may actually need a spoon to get them out of the liner. The best part about this Creamy Crockpot Chicken recipe is how it whips together quickly. I can prep it the night before and set the liner in the fridge, ready to pop in the morning before I go off about my day. There’s always plenty of leftovers for days to come, and with the potatoes, onion and carrots cooking below the breasts, all I need to do to make it a complete meal is serve it with a side salad.

Slowcooker Creamy Chicken and Potatoes

Creamy Crockpot Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dry white or rose wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups baby carrots (about 30)
2 LBs new potatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

Place the potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms in the bottom of a 5QT slow cooker. Top with the chicken breasts.

Combine the seasonings, wine, soy sauce, sour cream and condensed soup until well-mixed. Spoon over the chicken and spread edge-to-edge in the slow cooker.

Cook on Low for 10-12 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

 Crockpot Creamy Chicken


Easy Taco Salad Recipe

easy taco salad

Sometimes you feel like making a big involved meal and sometimes you just want a break. This Taco Salad recipe is a go-to around here for when I don’t want to sacrifice taste for convenience. For my final Life Made Delicious post, I thought it was worth reminding you that dinner doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. Old El Paso is the star of this show, so make sure you pick some up for the next night you feel like a fiesta without all the work that goes into it.

Easy Taco Salad Recipe

Old El Paso Smart Fiesta Taco Seasoning
Old El Paso Mexican Rice
1 head of romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped
1 medium jalapeno
1 small onion
small can black beans
1 lb ground beef

Cook beef according to package directions on back of seasoning mix. Start rice, and while it’s cooking saute chopped onion and jalapeno until soft. Rinse beans. Just before rice is done add onions, jalapeno and beans and cook through until beans are warm. Layer chopped lettuce in bowl, add rice, then beef on top. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, fresh cilantro and Holy Guacamole on top.

Special thanks to General Mills, Life Made Delcious and Mom Central for including me in this program for the last year. It’s been a great ride. If you’d like too see other amazing Life Made Delicious posts from the last year check out this fantastic Pinterest board with pins from some of Canada’s best bloggers. You’re guaranteed to find some recipe inspiration there for those nights when you have time to dwell in the kitchen and for the nights when you need something fast!

Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Blogger program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


Barbecued Ribs with Cherry Glaze

My mother makes a mean chicken and ribs feast, but I like to think I can hold my own with this recipe for Barbecued Ribs with Cherry Glaze. You have my full permission to lick your fingers after the sticky sweet and tangy sauce gets all over you. You have to get down with your caveman side when eating these and let the typical dinner time etiquette slide a little.

barbecued ribs with cherry glaze

The key to this recipe is in baking the ribs in the oven for two hours before you bring them to the grill. This step is CRUCIAL to ensuring you have fall off the bone ribs. I also highly recommend that you remove the membrane at the back of your ribs. Here’s a video that shows you how to do that and the narrator kind of cracks me up. Finally do your sauce and ribs the day before to relieve some stress the day of your barbecue.

Barbecued Ribs with Cherry Glaze

4 cans of Dr. Pepper
2 cups of cherry jam (2 – 250 ml jars)
2/3 cup of dijon mustard
2 tbsp extra hot horseradish
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps malt vinegar
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce (or more to taste)

7 to 8 pounds of pork back or side ribs.

barbecue ribs with cherry glaze

Pour cans of Dr. Pepper in a large saucepan and let it go flat. You can do this the night before or at least 4 hours ahead of time. Once cola is flat bring to a boil over medium high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. This should take about 45 minutes. Add the next six ingredients and stir well to combine. Over medium heat, simmer until sauce is reduced to roughly 2 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally. Transfer glaze to a large bowl and let cool. To make your life easier, try and make this the day before your barbecue. It can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to week if in a tightly sealed container.

Preheat oven to 325F. Remove membrane from ribs and generously season with salt and pepper. Wrap each rib rack tightly in tin foil, completely enclosing. Place on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for two hours, switching baking sheet positions half way through. If you use convection then don’t worry about this step. Remove from oven and let cool slightly in foil. If making ahead, open one end of foil pack and drain grease out before rewrapping and placing in the refrigerator. Let ribs come back to room temp before placing on barbecue (about one hour).

Gently heat glaze. Cut rib racks into sections. Set aside one cup of glaze for the table. Place ribs on grill and baste with sauce, turning to prevent sauce from burning. Continue to cook until ribs are browned and glazed. About 10 minutes. Serves 6.

barbecued ribs with cherry glaze

barbecued ribs with cherry glaze


Almond Crusted Chicken Breasts With Goat Cheese

Year after year I come back to this recipe in the spring and summer. While the title makes it sounds time consuming, these Almond Crusted Chicken Breasts with Goat cheese are beyond easy to make and I love that I can prep them hours ahead of dinner.

almond crusted chicken breasts with goat cheese

Almond Crusted Chicken Breasts With Goat Cheese

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 small package plain goat cheese (4.5 oz)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices white bread
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg

Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking pan constantly to avoid scorching. Once almonds are browned, set aside. In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese, chives, parsley and 2 tablespoons of the almonds with a fork until well blended. If your chicken breasts are not already split, cut each breast in half, but not all the way through. Dividing cheese mixture into four parts, spoon into pocket of each chicken breast.

In a food processor, pulse bread until fine crumbs form. Pour into a pie plate, add remaining almonds and drizzle with melted butter, tossing with a fork as you go. In a another pie plate, beat egg with a dash of salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast into egg and then into crumb mixture, pressing crumbs onto chicken breast. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 375F until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165F.

almond crusted chicken breasts with goat cheese

This chicken is perfect with nothing more than a side salad or fresh grilled vegetables. It’s also impressive company fare. If you’re having a crowd, this recipe easily doubles. Prepare chicken to just before placing in the oven. Once chicken is on baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to four hours. This means that your chicken simply needs to be popped in the oven when your guests arrive and you can raise a glass with them, instead of toiling in the kitchen.


Mushroom & Potato Curry

Houston, we have a problem. Or maybe that should be Delhi, we have a problem. Either way I have a serious addiction now to Indian Food, courtesy of Patak’s bringing me on as an ambassador. On a recent trip to Florida we searched high and low for Indian and had an amazing meal from The Clay Oven in Kissimmee and even found some new dishes to try when we got home. Remember that restaurant I raved about? Coconut Lagoon in Ottawa. Well the owner is planning a culinary tour in India and I’m seriously counting my pennies to go. As a Patak’s Mom I’ve become a full-on Indian Food convert and we’re mixing in a little India all over the place in this house. I’m pretty sure this was all part of Patak’s master plan.

This Mushroom & Potato Curry that we made last night was a raging success and I’m not even going to lie to you. While my husband is out, I’m eating all the leftovers before he gets home. All is fair in love and leftovers, right?

mushroom curry

Mushroom & Potato Curry

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 large potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
500 grams button mushrooms
4 tbsp Patak’s Tikka Curry Paste
150 ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
1 400ml can light coconut milk
Cilantro for garnish

mushroom & Potato curry

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the onion and potato. Stir well, then turn heat to low and cover for 5 minutes until potatoes start to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Stir in the curry paste, pour over the stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce begins to thicken and potatoes are cooked through. Serve with naan bread.

Disclosure: I am part of the Patak’s Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


Curry in a Hurry Pizza

Have I mentioned I’m loving this gig as a Patak’s Mom? Because I gotta tell you mixing in a little India is probably the most fun I’m having in the kitchen this year. So far, I am loving everything we try but most of all I’m really digging the convenience. Like this Curry in a Hurry Pizza I made tonight. I bought store bought sesame flat bread, cooked up some chicken with some mild curry paste, added a few veggies on top and voila…Curry in a Hurry Pizza.

curry in a hurry pizza

There is no doubt that 9 out of 10 times I prefer to make my meals from scratch but December is extra nutty and I just don’t have the time. Nor do you I suspect. It’s December people….it’s Crazyville. But I hate, loathe actually, spending money to eat out. Holy cow, this month is expensive enough! On the other hand, I don’t want to eat food that’s terrible either. You see where I’m going with this right? Exactly. Patak’s. I gotta tell you that so far I’m very impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the price of the pastes and sauces. This pizza was also a huge hit with my family today.

Curry in a Hurry Pizza

1 premade pizza shell OR two Naan from your favourite Indian place OR flatbread
2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp Patak’s Mild Curry Paste
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
3-4 cocktail tomatoes, cut into slices
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 425F. Cut chicken into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat and toss in chicken. Cook until chicken is cooked. Add 4 tbsp Patak’s Mild Curry Paste and chopped tomatoes. Cook until heated through. Spread chicken mixture over dough, place sliced onions and tomatoes on top and cook in oven for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, cut into pieces and serve. Serve Patak’s Sweet Mango Chutney on the side as a dip.

“Disclosure: I am part of the Patak’s Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

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