Thursday, November 4, 2010

A breakfast of Champions!

This morning I woke up to my cute little daughters' faces, excitedly telling me there was a party downstairs waiting for me.  Well once I finally rolled out of bed I went down to see a lovely breakfast spread.


I'll explain, in case the picture is unclear.  A tall glass of milk, perfect for an empty stomach.  A bowl of candy, because they know I have a sweet tooth.  One whole bagel with cream cheese, one half blueberry bagel with garden vegetable hummus, and a few neatly sliced banana bits.  Mmm, mmm, yum!

They are so sweet, and offered to make breakfast for me every morning!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sweet White Bread

I love this bread!  It reminds me of something an old-fashioned grandma might make.  Sweet, warm, soft and perfect with jam and butter.  It is my husband's favorite choice for bread, and my kids prefer it to whole wheat.  It's like a treat for us.

I found the original recipe several years ago, and since then I've made it my own.

Sweet White Bread


2 c. warm water (really warm!)
2/3 cup white sugar or honey
5 Tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil (olive oil works great)
6 cups all purpose flour

Dissolve sugar or honey in water.










Add yeast, give it a quick stir with a whisk to get all the yeast wet.  Let that sit for 5-7 minutes until the yeast is foamy.










Add salt and vegetable oil.  Stir just enough to mix.












Gradually add flour.  I start with three cups.  Mix that with a spatula, and then add my dough hook and stir on low speed adding one more cup at a time.










Knead dough about 5-7 minutes, or until it is smooth, elastic and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Remove dough hook, and gently form dough into a ball.  Add 1 tsp. oil to the bowl and roll the dough ball in it to very lightly coat it all around.

Allow dough to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a warm kitchen towel until doubled in size.










Once the dough is risen, remove it onto a floured surface.  Cut the dough in half for two loaves (I did one full sized loaf and two half sized loaves baked in an 8x8 cassarole dish.)  It is important to cut the dough rather than to tear it.  Tearing it can make the finished dough tough.










Shape your loaves by gently kneading into a tube shape, or rolling flat and then rolling it up like you would a jelly roll.  Place seam side down into a greased bread pan.  (I always use parchment paper to prevent the middle from sticking.)











Let the dough rise again until doubled.  Covering once more with plastic wrap or a cloth.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.  Let the top get to a medium brown, and tap on the top crust to make sure it sounds hollow before taking it out.

I sometimes like to spread honey butter over the top as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Immediately remove from pans to a cooling rack.  Let sit at least five minutes before serving, as it's best to let some of the moisture evaporate before cutting. 

Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Sick kids and a cold day made this the obvious choice for dinner on Friday.


Chicken noodle soup is pretty basic.

2 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
10 baby carrots (or three whole) cut into large chunks (we like a LOT of carrots.)
2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
2 servings (whatever it says on the box) noodles.  I prefer egg noodles, but this time I used spaghetti.
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. Poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I boiled the chicken in 6 cups chicken broth (made from water and bullion, but you could use a can.) for 15 minutes.  I find that for soup, boiling is easiest and keeps the chicken moist and easy to shred.

Remove chicken from pot, remove fat and cut into small chunks or shred.  Return to pot.  Add the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 9-10 minutes or just until noodles are cooked.

Taste the broth and adjust ingredients to your liking.  I added 1 more cup of water because my broth was a little too salty.

With dinner rolls this would have been perfect.  For us it was just the soup and off to bed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Four Pack Abs

You may recall my post a while back, about how I was going to get a six pack, because I wanted one.  Well, I'll spare you the bare belly photo of myself, but I have a four pack now.  Those elusive lower two may never show up.

I've been working out daily for at least an hour, and eating better.

I cannot seem to follow a strict diet.  I think part of that reason is that I am one of the lucky few who needs to get toned, but I don't really need to lose weight.  Most diets are just designed to shed pounds.  For me that's not good.

Here's what changes I've made:

Whole grains (whole wheat, wild and brown rice, etc.)
Half a plate of veggies with every meal.
Fat from natural sources like fish, avocados and nuts.








A lot less sugar (probably time to take my Jelly Bean jar off the counter though.)

I'm pleased with my results so far.  It's been a lot of hard work, but to see a change makes me really happy.  My competitor in this six pack race has won, but I'm a happy second place.  Now I think I'll actually take "before" pictures and start all over again.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I'm not a huge fan of soup, as a rule. Actually, I'm just not a huge fan of soup as the main course of a meal. It never really seems to fill me up. This one was an exception.  Serve it with homemade dinner rolls and it's meal.
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Here's the original recipe (from Allrecipes.com):

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, shredded
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) package quick cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine broth, water and chicken. Bring just to boiling, then stir in rice, reserving seasoning packet. Cover and remove from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium heat until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.


I changed it a little, because I didn't have everything on hand.  I used whole milk, instead of cream.  Next time I may even use skim, because I don't think it would change the finished product the way it is used.

I also added large chunks of carrots, because I LOVE cooked carrots.  They added a nice change in texture and a sweet counter to the savory flavor of the soup.  I would have liked to add celery, but alas the only celery I had was molded and smooshy in the bottom of my vegetable bin.  (I've since cleaned and replaced the bin :-)

I didn't have Wild Rice with Seasoning Packet so I just used 1/2 c. wild rice (4.5 oz. is 1/2 plus 1/16th cup), and to taste (probably a quarter tsp. each) garlic, onion powder, fresh ground pepper, and poultry seasoning.  I let it boil a little longer than called for, because it wasn't a quick-cook rice.  Next time I'll cook the rice separately and add it in for the last five minutes.  I may add more rice too, I like wild rice's a lot!


One more thing to do differently, I would omit the salt.  Because I used chicken soup base with water, instead of chicken broth.  It was a little bit too salty.

I give it four stars, because I really liked it.  The fifth star will come with my changes next time.  It was really filling and stored well.  I'll be finishing it for lunch today.  Totally restaurant quality soup.

Do you have a favorite soup?  
Do you serve soup as a side or main dish?

Thursday is our scheduled Soup day, so this will be going on my Thursday menu.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

I am determined to get good at yeast bread

As a result of that determination, I have been making a lot of bread.  See...
Potato Buns
Cinnamon Rolls
Sweet White Bread
French Bread
Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Biscuit Dough



I have learned a lot.  First of all, I really like the taste of home made bread.  Secondly, when I am good about thinking ahead, I'd rather bake the bread than buy it.  And thirdly, bread making is an art form!

I recommend reading about the process of sponging.  That article is pretty in depth.  There are plenty more.  Sponging the dough basically allows the process of fermentation to occur before the bread rises.  It adds a distinct and stronger flavor than just letting the bread rise by itself.  It also leaves you with only the need to rise the finished dough one time.  If you've ever had Amish Friendship bread, this helps make sense of the process a little bit.  A long time to ferment changes the taste.  Think in terms of beer.  A better fermentation, a better brew (or so I've heard, though nobody has been kind enough to spike my drink yet, so I may never actually know.)

This process is good for breads like sourdough, and French bread.  It is also helpful in a bread that takes a long time to rise because of a stiffer grain, like whole wheat flour.

My favorite new bread recipes:
French Bread (she has another of the same recipe, without sponging.  Do the sponged one!)
Honey Whole Wheat Bread (again with the sponging)
Perfect Cinnamon Rolls
Potato Buns
Sweet White Bread
Biscuits

I made the buns, following the recommendation to leave overnight.  This was the most time consuming of the recipes I tried.  Totally worth it!  They came out perfect both in looks (aren't they pretty?) and texture and taste.  I made some into hot dog buns, some into sandwich rolls, and some into dinner rolls.  They kept for four days and were really good every time.  I don't know how much longer they would have kept, because we ate them all!

I'll follow with a post on the Sweet White Bread and the Biscuits.  I can give pictures and step by step instructions.  These are both recipes that I've altered and tweaked so much over the years, I couldn't tell you where they came from or what the original looked like.  For me, they turn out perfect just about every time.

Do you like to bake bread?
Are you good at it?
What is your favorite yeast bread recipe?
Have you heard of sponging or tried it before?
Wanna see any of these in a step by step pictorial?


Go to Allrecipes.com, dealstomeals.blogspot.com, and pioneerwoman.com to find most of my favorite recipes.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby Food 101

I have three children.  All of them have been babies at one time or another.  Feeding a baby is like feeding a bottomless pit.  A tiny, needy, chubby, likely to throw it at you, bottomless pit.  I find that all quite adorable.

With my first two, I just bought Gerber until I could give them smaller versions of what the rest of the family ate.  #1 Didn't like baby food until she was eight months old.  #2 Loved it.  In order to feed a baby what they need, you go through nearly six ounces of pureed stuff every day.  More on days they don't nap, or you're out on the town, or they throw an unusual number of tantrums.  Those amounts double by the time they are a year old.  I figure if I buy it all, I spend about $1.50 per meal just on the purees and cereals. That adds up fast, and doesn't include formula or milk, snacks, crackers, etc.

So...I bought a food processor.  Not this one which I use for much bigger, family friendly things.  This one
 (only I wish I knew they came in so many colors! Mine is just silver and black.  Sur la Table has it in brights like yellow, green, orange and red)  It's three cups and cost me only $25.  That's the perfect size to puree a serving or two of whatever we're eating.

So my first lesson on making your own baby food is to use what you already have.  If I'm serving pasta, I just take a serving spoon and scoop up enough to feed baby.  Puree it for about twenty seconds, add water if needed for consistency, and voila!  Dinner for Baby Chef.

Next lesson comes next Monday, if I have time.

Baklava

Around my eighteenth birthday, I took a trip with my parents to Greece.  We spent about two weeks traveling through Athens and the nearby islands.  It was wonderful!  One of my favorite things was eating massive amounts of pastry and a dessert called baklava.

If you've read my blog much, you know that I don't approve of baking nuts into dessert.  This is my one exception.  You can't make Baklava without nuts, and you wouldn't want it any other way.

It's a layered dessert, and it's as simple to assemble as lasagna.  I used this recipe.


Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
  • 1 pound chopped nuts
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
  3. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

  4. Make sauce while baklava is baking (Remember, I made this ahead, and used it cold.) Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

There's really no point in copying the nutritional information, it's sad and depressing to look at the calories of such a beautiful dish.

I followed the directions almost exactly, because I'd never made it before.  I did however take three days to make it.  I'll explain.

First, I chopped the nuts in my food processor.  I used the nuts I had in my cupboards.  Peanuts, Candied Cashews, and Almonds.  Then I realized I hadn't thawed my frozen phyllo dough, and left the nuts on the counter until the next day.  Then I put the dough in the fridge to thaw.

Then next day, I prepared the honey sauce.  Then, because some of the All Recipes reviewers suggested using a cooled sauce, I put that in the fridge and waited until the next afternoon to assemble to whole thing.  I also took another reviewers suggestion and roasted the nuts with the cinnamon.  Do that.  

I tried a piece directly after the honey shower while it was still warm, and it was not nearly as good as the cooled version a few hours later.

Hubby didn't like nuts, even in this.  He's might be culinarily challenged.  It made about 30 large pieces. I could have halved each one again.  I froze all but two plates (ten pieces), one of which I am not ashamed to admit I ate.  The other went to a friend.  I took another two plates from the freezer later that week and served them at a church meeting.  Another went to someone's birthday party.  A hit every time!

Failed Enchildadas

So I make chicken enchiladas a lot.  I also make Pineapple Enchiladas from here.  They are delicious, and a great meatless substitute.  So, being the culinary genius that I am, I decided to mix the pineapple enchilada recipe, with chicken.  How could that go wrong?  Glad you asked...

To destroy an enchilada:

Step 1 - Combine Pineapple juice, with the already very acidic enchilada sauce.

Step 2 - Add cooked chicken.

Step 3 - Cook them together for 35 minutes or longer.

The result should be a disgusting mush of enchilada flavored chicken pulp.  Really it's an experience I'll never forget.

I was in a wonderful mood that evening.  It was pushing seven o'clock by the time I even got the enchiladas in the oven. The children insisted that they were starving, and I'm just mean enough to make them wait until the food comes out.  I can't eat with them, the baby needs a bottle.  So I serve them up generous portions of my delicious smelling creation.  Li'l Chef says "Mom, this has a weird taste."  I say quit complaining and eat what I made you.  Li'l Chef continues, "It's really weird.  Something's wrong with the chicken."  I'm sure I said something like "Oh Sweetheart, I'm sure you're right.  Why don't you find something better to eat."  Somehow, whatever that last comment really said, made her cry.  "It's gross."

So she waits, patiently, being a keen observer of my mood and the point of my rope by which I was holding on.  It was the end, in case you were wondering.

Baby fed, girls not eating, I decide to eat anyway.  Serve it up with a big dollup of sour cream and take a large bite to prove how delicious it was.  Said bite is immediately spit into the sink.  I spit out my own dinner.  I apologize for being a mean-o.  That was in fact gross.  As it turns out, chicken can be dissolved by pineapple juice.  This chicken was a weird chalky mush.  The weird chalky mush mixed with the weird chalky mush of cheese.  DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

We had cereal and went to bed.  Li'l Chef laughed as I kissed her good night, "You were mad, but I knew it was gross.  I wasn't just being rude."  I conceded.

Tortillas

Who knew it was so easy to make your own tortillas?  My friend Hilary told me the other day that she was making her own, and I thought "Wow, Hilary's got a lot of time on her hands."  And then I gave my children cereal for dinner.

After I read on her blog how easy it was, I followed the link to the recipe she used.  On a side note, I ended up signing up for the food storage and shopping service that blog provides.

The tortillas took a little more time than I thought, I used the second recipe called Texas Flour Tortillas.  Yummy!  Really it took like an hour, but that might have been because I was multi-tasking and just let them rest a long time while I prepared the rest of dinner.

We loved them, they were great for tacos.  It makes a good flatbread.  I might use them for other flatbread stuff too.  Today I plan to try the first recipe which is supposed to make a thinner tortilla.  Try it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sour Cream Enchiladas

These are my favorite enchiladas.  I do so many different things to them that they always seem like a new dish.  The original recipe was from my friend Julie.

Recipe:

Sour Cream Enchiladas

Cook diced chicken breast (I usually use 2 or 3 breast halves) with garlic and onions (if desired.) Or just season with your favorite dry rub.

Mix together:
2 cans cream o soup (I use cream of chicken)
1 pt. sour cream
1 sm can green chilies
1 cup grated cheese (at least)


Add chicken to sauce
 and fill corn or flour tortillas.
  Roll tortillas like a burrito or layer like lasagna for casserole. 
Place in pan and top with any remaining sauce and extra cheese.
  Bake at 350° about 40 minutes or until bubbly.
  Makes about 10 enchiladas


I like to add some petite diced tomatoes to the sauce.  I also like to add half a bottle of Chile Verde sauce.  Usually I leave out anything "verde" because hubby prefers it without.


We always use the uncooked flour tortillas from Costco. 
 Once you've had them, you'll never go back to the supermarket bagged ones.


There is no picture of the finished product, because we ate them too fast.  They do save well in the fridge for a few days and make great leftovers for lunch or dinner.

Enchilada Meatballs - by the Li'l Chefs

This one was a hit in a couple of ways.  First, the kids really did make it themselves, sans the oven part.  Second, it tasted great.
















Recipe:

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 cups cornbread, crumbled
3/4 cup enchilada sauce
3/4 cup enchilada sauce, again

In a large bowl, combine beef, cornbread and enchilada sauce.  Combine, but do not over mix.  I recommend using your hands or a potato masher.  Shape into about 1 inch balls.  I use a small melon baller/ice cream scoop to make them all uniform.  Place into oven safe dish, or on a lined baking sheet.

I didn't have cornbread, so I used corn meal instead, and only 1 cup.  The cornbread would have left the finished product more moist, which would have been better.

Then bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.  Place on serving dish and top with remaining enchilada sauce.
We also topped with shredded cheese.

We served it in bowls over rice.  We all liked the taste of it, and would have preferred more sauce on top.  Next time I think we'll serve it with more sauce, and maybe in a soft taco shell or corn tortilla.

Pillsbury Cinnamon Monkey Bread

The original recipe is here.


I changed it by leaving out the Hubby hated walnuts, and using Pillsbury cinnamon rolls instead of Grand's biscuits.  Instead of adding the cinnamon sugar coating in a bag, we stirred it in a large bowl.  I think that was easier. Then when it was done, we used the icing that came with the cinnamon rolls over the top.

I also added 1/4 cup of raisins.  We don't believe in adding nuts to baked goods around here, but for those of you who would do something so ridiculous, an additional 1/4 of chopped nuts would probably be nice too.

It was devilishly delicious!

Try it.  It's so easy and totally worth it.  Plus your house will smell good all day.

You could prepare it in the evening and then pop it in the oven in the morning for  quick breakfast treat before church or something.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Catching up

I've made so many fun things in the last six weeks, so many that I haven't had time to put anything on this blog.  I'm that good at this blogging thing.

So, I'll be catching up, with pictures for the most part.

My list, so you can look forward to the posts that are coming up:

1:  Pillsbury monkey bread, with my own little twists
2:  Enchilada meatballs, by the li'l chefs
3:  Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
4:  FAILED Pineapple chicken enchiladas (this one's a doozy!)
5:  Mom's beef vegetable soup
6:  Baklava
7:  Baby Food - A very basic tutorial
8:  Curried Chicken Salad
9:  Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
10:  Chicken Pot Pie

What are you excited to see?
Do you make any of these?

Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our Easter Traditions, Food Wise

Growing up we had two traditions that I can remember for Easter.  First, we would die hard boiled eggs on Easter Eve, with a few wrapped in shrink wrap with money inside.  Secondly, we would always celebrate with our family friends the Peterson's.

Now, with my own kids we have developed a few traditions.  We do not die eggs.  I hate the smell of vinegar, and twice I've been sick and pregnant over Easter and the very idea of vinegar made me ill.  We love the convenience and color of the plastic eggs that come in a dozen for $.69 at Target.  Reusable, and easy to fill.  Smell free.  Honestly though, the main reason we don't die them is because one year we were out of town until late on Easter Eve.  As we were driving home, our oldest daughter screamed from the back of the car, "Oh no!  We forgot to make eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide!"  Hubby and I replied "No silly.  We do that on Easter."  Then we pulled into the closest Walmart parking lot and bought the plastic eggs and candy which we would fill and let the Easter bunny hide that night.  We died six eggs the next day.  Never more.

To make up for the missed family time, we have developed a tradition of making some other egg shaped dessert for Easter.  This year it was chocolate dipped Rice Krispie Treat eggs.  That was SO much fun!  The girls loved shaping the eggs, the mom loved eating spoons full of chocolate.  Win win win!

In other food areas:

I like ham.  Ham is the Easter meat where I come from.  My husband doesn't think he likes ham.  He's so sure he doesn't like it that one year in his mother's kitchen I heard him ask "Mom, do we like ham?"  He was young then, like twenty-seven, and so he didn't know.

Some things I've come to love are dinner rolls, and my Mother In Law's funeral potatoes.  She makes them like nobody else, and they are divine!  I have spent much time trying to master a duplicate version.  I'm still working out the kinks.

Also I think we started a new tradition this year with a caramel monkey bread for breakfast.  It will probably shave a few days off of my life, but it's so delicious!  Instructions to follow for that one.

What do you do for Easter food?
Do you die eggs?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Menu Wednesday

We're Scottish around here, at least my husband is, and therefore so are his children.  No green dinners on St. Patty's day for us.  Though the lil' chef did wear a green skirt to school today for fear of being pinched, or worse (what's worse?) if she didn't.

In the spirit of not being Irish, our menu starts out with a favorite Scottish dish:

Thursday - Mince & Totties
Friday - Chinese Chicken Salad (It's just so fresh and crisp outside.  Time for lighter dishes.)
Saturday - Pizza (been on the menu several times lately, and has managed to elude us still.)
Sunday - Beef Stew
Monday - Pineapple enchiladas
Tuesday - Tortellini
Wednesday - Biscuits and Gravy (one more time before summer hits and it's just too heavy.)

Recap last week:
Thursday's beef stew, ended up being chili.  I didn't get a chance to go shopping, and in an effort to find something else that simmered in a pot and used beef, I made a quick chili.  Yummy as always.  Friday's Thai Peanut chicken was good, only I still hadn't gone shopping so it included the last few carrots I had in the fridge and no snap peas (which really can make or break the meal.)  A good hearty meal for sure, but lacking in the color and variety arenas.  Saturday instead of chicken pot pies, we ended up ordering Thai food from a place nearby.  It was delicious.  If you haven't tried Thai, or at least not recently, I recommend this detour from your normal routine.  The yellow curry with sticky rice and chicken is an easy favorite.  Baked potatoes didn't happen yesterday because it was warm outside and we went for a walk while I forgot about doing anything productive.  Today's pizza sticks are a maybe.  Depends on whether I can muster up the strength to get the dough rising in the next five minutes.  The chicken enchiladas were delicious if you ask me, but if you ask my husband not so much.  I included all the wonderful tatsy things he hates.

I'm not mean, I just didn't think he was going to make it home in time to have dinner with us, so I made it my way.  He was home in time and suffered through it for me.

What's on your menu for tonight?  Surely you have time to include the name of your dinner dish in a comment.  How do I have six devoted followers now (I'm sure you are devoted) who don't comment?

Monday, March 15, 2010

And the winner is..

Kristy,

Thanks for following me.  I will make you a gift.  You'll have to wait to find out what it is, but could you send me your two favorite colors and Summer's dress size?

A

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Menu Time

So usually I do this on Wednesday, but that didn't happen because I was too lazy.  Or I had too many other things to do.  Either way, it's here today.

Thursday - Beef Stew and Easy Cheese Bread
Friday - Thai Peanut Chicken with Snap Peas and Carrots
Saturday - Chicken Pot Pies with Puff Pastry Crust
Sunday - Sausage Corn Chowder with corn muffins
Monday - Chicken Enchiladas with rice and black beans
Tuesday - Baked Potatoes with a garden salad
Wednesday - Pizza Sticks (breadsticks with pizza toppings, with sauce to dip)

I'm considering switching up my Tuesday (Comfort Food) and Wednesday (Italian/Leftovers) nights.  Tuesday we don't get home from gymnastics until 5:30, and that limits time to prepare anything.  In order to make that switch, I'll have to change the headings on my menu columns in my spreadsheet.  That seems like a lot of work.  I'll put it on my list of things to do on Tuesday when I have my "Ironing/Ironing out paperwork" chores.

Shopping List:
Beef for stew.  Whatever's cheap.
Block of cheddar cheese
5 lb. bag russet potatoes
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch celery
Thai Peanut Sauce, dry packet
Coconut milk
Snap Peas
Puff Pastry
Frozen chicken
1 10oz. bag frozen peas and carrots
1 can creamed corn
1 can corn niblets
2 lbs Jimmy Dean's breakfast sausage (I plan to make some for breakfast, as well as the chowder)
1 box cornmeal
1 bag uncooked tortillas from Costco
3 large baking potatoes
1 bag salad greens
1 packet active dry yeast
1 jar marinara sauce
1 bag pepperoni slices
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 tub sour cream

Many of these items I'll "shop" for in my kitchen first.  Then if I still need them I'll get them at the store.  I always assume I have the essentials like flour, sugar, beans, rice and condiments.

Now off to look for some coupons that match my menu (I know some of you probably do it the other way around, but I'm not that savvy or good at matching my menu to what's on sale.)

Last on my list today would be to finish Wednesday's chores by cleaning out my fridge and making room for the groceries that will come home with me this afternoon.  (And also folding the laundry that has been in a massive pile on my bed/floor/back to bed since Monday.)

What are you eating this week?
Are there any meals on my menus that surprise you?
Any recipes you'd like to try?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Follow Follow Me

You don't have to do as I'm doing, just read about it.  To follow me, you have to actually click on "Follow" on the top left of my blogger page.  Adding it as a bookmark on your internet browser doesn't count, though this is not a practice I would discourage.

I LOVE comments.  They offer validation.  When I see a comment to a post I wrote it makes me think "wow, I have friends who cared to read and/or were bored enough to actually stop by my little blog."  Then I feel happy.  I'm a better friend when I'm happy.  I also bake more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

When the cat's away...

So, I know my husband isn't my boss, but somehow without him here I find little motivation to do normal things.  Usually around four o'clock I start thinking "I'd better get things cleaned up, Hubby will be home soon."  "I should start dinner, I don't want him feeling like he would rather eat a bowl of cereal than wait for me to make something once he's here."

Today, I feel more like offering the kids a bowl of cereal in paper bowls, all of us eating on the couch, and then throwing the mess away and going to bed when the kids do at eight o'clock.  I can't do that though, because the smallest chef only naps at eight o'clock, and will wake back up as soon as I get asleep if I attempt it.  Maybe I'll take a bath instead.

On my menu for today is fajitas.  I can go as far as saying that will not happen.  I didn't buy the meat.  But maybe I'll make something like that anyway.

So, these mice will play and hubby will probably have a really nice dinner on the client's dime.  I like to live vicariously through him for those dinners.  I could go for a nice steak and baked potato right about now, but only if someone else were to make it and feed it to me.  Also they'd have to clean up.

I did make a cake last night, which still needs to be frosted and eaten.  If we have that for dinner does it count?  It's homemade and has eggs, flour, and milk in it, so it's healthy.

I also made two loaves of sweet white bread, which is delicious.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Menu Time

This will be a tricky one, we have suddenly made plans to host lots of family this weekend.  There will be twelve eaters.  I don't know how to cook that much food well, so we will likely eat out a lot.  I'll try though.

Thursday - Baked Potato Soup
Friday - Hawaiian Haystacks (we had this last week, but with company it's easy and makes a lot for cheap)
Saturday - Pizza, made here or ordered out, we'll have to see
Sunday - BBQ Pork shoulder (again, easy and makes a lot)
Monday - Fajitas
Tuesday - Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
Wednesday - Chicken pot pie

I'll probably make a few desserts too, since I do love to fatten up my house guests.

Apple Pie
Glob (rocky road bars)
Brownies

Off to shop today because tomorrow I'm sewing until my fingers hurt.  Gotta narrow down some stuff on my list.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bajio Style Salad

If you haven't been to Bajio in Utah, I'm sorry.  It's delicious food.  There are many restaurants with that style of salad, like Cafe Rio, etc.  So I make a version of that at home.

The uncooked tortillas from Costco are essential.  It's the only way to get the fresh restaurant taste.  Then I make rice in my rice cooker.  I use the normal amounts of water for my rice, and then add a tsp of lime juice and about a T. of cilantro paste.

To the ranch dressing in my fridge, I add a tsp. of cilantro paste, a squeeze of lime juice, and some milk or buttermilk.

I used the same meat as from the BBQ pork this week.  I didn't change anything about it, it was perfect just reheated in the microwave.

I made black beans by using the canned beans and adding a few pinches of garlic salt, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder and onion powder.

Dice some tomatoes and use crushed tortilla chips, or tortilla strips (which I can't find anywhere.)

Layer starting with the tortilla, then I like my bed of lettuce first, rice, meat, beans, toppings.  Of course cheese on top.

Another yummy dinner!  I didn't take any pictures.  By the time I got it cooked and served, my right bicep was aching from holding the baby and he needed to eat or I believe he might have melted away.  I ate mine cold, half an hour after preparing it for everyone else.  It was still good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hawaiian Haystacks and BBQ Pork Shoulder

Hawaiian Haystacks were yummy as usual.

I had intended to use the leftover chicken from the dumpling dinner for the Hawaiian haystacks, but alas after that didn't work out, I resorted to my usual method of just throwing three frozen chicken breasts into the crock pot.  Recipe:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, frozen
1 or 2 cans cream o' soup (I used chicken this time, sometimes I use half chicken half celery)
Season to taste, I use about 1/2 tsp. onion powder, garlic salt, and pepper, and then a dash of cayenne pepper.

Put ingredients into crock pot.  Turn on low for 4-6 hours, until easily shredded with a fork.
Voila!  Cooked chicken in a gravy.  It's amazing how the soup changes in the crock pot.  It would be a totally different thing if you just used the cooked soup over cooked chicken.

We put this sauce over jasmine rice and top with pineapple chunks, diced tomatoes, chow mien noodles, celery and whatever other veggie sounds good at the time.  Delicious!

BBQ Pork shoulder worked well too.

I used a 4.5 lb. pork shoulder.  Put that in the crock pot on lowest heat for about 4.5 hours (from when I woke up, until we returned from church.)

 Then I removed the pork, poured out the disgusting fat that I didn't want mixed in with my sauce, and returned the pork to the cooker.

Over that, I poured half a recipe of this bbq sauce from scratch.  I didn't pre-cook that part of the sauce since it would cook for so long in there anyway.  I did cook what was left, and just let it sit out until the pork was done, about 5.5 hours later.

It cooked for a total of 10 hours on lowest heat (my crock pot has 4 heat settings, and one of them is 10 Hours Low.)

When it was done, it pulled off the bone very easily and shredded with just the wooden spoon.  This one had only one large bone, so it didn't cause me the hardship that the chicken did the other day.  Phew!

We had it on top of toasted sesame buns with a side of fruit salad.  Awesome! Looking forward to lunch leftovers.




Friday, February 26, 2010

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I used a new recipe, which posted a link to on my Menu post Wednesday.  Really I only used the recipe for the dumplings, and made my own soup.  I rate it 2.5 out of 5.  The dumplings were gross and soggy.  Sorry Bobby Flay, but in this throw down, I win. My usual dumplings are much better.  Although the addition of nutmeg to the batter was surprisingly good.  I thought it would taste funny but I liked it.  I'll add that to mine next time.

To make the soup, I first did what I said I would, and roasted a chicken in the crock pot for about 5 1/2 hours.  This made a very tasty chicken.  I found a major problem with this method though.  The chicken was so "fall off the bone" cooked, that I spent nearly twenty-five minutes searching through the colander (where I had poured the chicken so the stock would go in the pot, but the bones would not) for bones.  I didn't get them all, I just gave up when my husband got home and dinner wasn't ready and my idea for a quick and simple meal had flown itself out of the window.  I took some of the stock from the crock-potted chicken, added a little more water and spices, and assembled a soup.  The dumplings were easy enough to make, but I'll say again, I don't recommend them.

I usually make dumplings by using a homemade biscuit dough, sans the kneading, and drop it in by the large spoonful.  Much tastier.


There's a small fat man sitting on my lap and screaming in a most unpleasant way, so now I'll retire for the evening and see how the Hawaiian Haystacks turn out.  The gravy is slow cooking downstairs...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Menu

Thursday - Chicken & Dumpling Soup (trying this new recipe)
Friday - Hawaiian Haystacks
Saturday - Manicotti
Sunday - BBQ Pork Roast on buns
Monday - Restaurant style taco salad w/ shredded pork
Tuesday - Hamburgers
Wednesday - Pizza

Here's how it all goes together - a whole chicken is $.99/lb at Costco.  I'll buy the two pack and freeze one for later.  I'll crock-pot the other one tomorrow morning so it's ready for soup in the evening.  The rest of the soup takes about 10 minutes to toss together and the roasted chicken tastes a lot better than just a quick few pieces of grilled chicken breast.  I'll use the extra chicken for the hawaiian haystacks on Friday, and just toss it back in the crock pot with a can of cream of chicken soup for a few hours to make the gravy.  Saturday's Manicotti is just a fun one to make with the kids.  They love squirting the filling into the shells.  I will be buying buns for Sunday's pork roast, but we'll only use four.  So the other buns will go for the hamburgers on Tuesday.  That way we'll finish a whole package of buns.  We'll use the extra pork for the meal on Monday.  Tuesday's burgers are fast, perfect for our arrival home at 6pm after gymnastics.  Wednesday pizza is super easy.  Dough made in the am, brought out of the fridge at 3:30, ready to cook by 5:00pm. Voila!

Now if only I can stick to it.

I want to report back here every night and detail how it worked out so I know what to do better or what to keep for next time.

Also, since this blog is about validating me, you should know that I'm working with a broken toe, which I'm blaming on my husband.  I also made two couch pillows last week, including the button holes which my machine does like magic (it just took me several hours to figure out how.)  Plus, I actually finished my Monday chores by Tuesday night.  Seven loads of laundry washed, folded, and put away.  I'm a rock star.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Musings

Today I made Mince & Totties.  That's Scottish for mashed potatoes and ground beef gravy, with a side of peas.  It got me to thinking.  Somewhere, on some unknown afternoon a long time ago a Scottish woman had three things left in her pantry, and decided to make dinner out of them.  She used up those potatoes and maybe overboiled them and decided to mash them.  Added a little starch to her minced meat, and some color with the peas.  Now it's traditional Scottish comfort food.  Her kids made it for their kids, and now no one is left who could tell you where it started.

I wonder if there will be any legacy I leave that touches that many people.  I wonder if my legacy might be a little more noteworthy than an inexpensive dinner combo.  Will there be something I do or say that my kids pass on and credit to me because I was just always that cool?

What do you remember from your Mom?  My mom made grits.  My mom can sew anything.  My mom's food always tastes better than anyone else's mom's food.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Six Pack Abs

Before long folks, I'm going to have a six pack like that lady in the bowflex commercials.  I know this because I always get what I want --- (sorry, just choked myself with laughter.) ---  I've been challenged by this amazingly handsome man I know, to beat him to a six pack.  I believe that the odds are stacked against him already.  You see, I have the upperhand here, I have already stretched my abs to the extent that they can be stretched, shrunken them down to where my mid-section looks like a giant-previously-full-now-deflated-balloon, and done it again, two more times.  I've got definition on my abs no man can match.  My only goal really is to change the pattern from resembling an abstract Sun, to a washboard.  Shouldn't be too hard, I've actually washed clothes on a washboard, so I know what it's meant to look like.  Plus, he's only been going to the gym five days a week for the last several years.  I've been running up and down the stairs several times ALL day, and chasing toddlers for at least 6 years.  I win.

How does this fit into my food blog?  Well, I've heard it said that a lot of looking physically fit, actually has to do with your diet.  Go figure.  Something about consuming fewer calories than you expend, replacing fat with protein and complete carbohydrates, etc.  I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT!  I like to eat food that tastes good.  Finding anything to eat during my day is challenging enough.  Finding food to eat, at regular intervals, feeling full, and eliminating all cra* from my fridge is going to be really hard.  After only one day of making a real effort, I feel hungry, cranky and unfulfilled.  Any advice?  Is this even possible?  Should I just say I'm nearly thirty (yes, I'm incredibly young) and my time has passed?

I did, however, work out for an hour today and I feel rather pleased with that.  Now I'm starved!

Help!  I have to make a new dinner menu tomorrow and I have no ideas besides salad without dressing, fish and lemon juice, and celery sticks.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February's First Menu

Here goes:

Thursday: Santa Fe Salad with Cilantro Ranch dressing
Friday: Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani) with homemade Naan bread
Saturday: Biscuits and Country Gravy w/ Sausage
Sunday: Slow cooked bbq chicken wings, butter rolls and potato salad
Monday: Fajitas with steak strips
Tuesday: Baked sweet potatoes
Wednesday: Spaghetti w/ meatballs

Already made the Salad.  Tasty!  Next time I'll make more dressing.  It would have gone well with lots of things.  1/2 c. ranch dressing, 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1 tsp. mild taco sauce (from Taco bell.) Salad was just romaine hearts from a bag, roasted corn niblets and black beans, grilled chicken - chopped, cheese, diced tomatoes, crushed tortilla chips.

Going to start tomorrows dinner tonight by marinating the cubed chicken in tomato based butter sauce, with spices, and plain yogurt overnight.

Should be a tasty week.

Goal: make these favorite dishes a little healthier.  Less butter, lower fat ingredients, etc.  Gotta keep my arterial walls in mind.


Last week went well.  Made most dishes as planned, although the order was mixed up a few days because I didn't go shopping when I thought I would.  Didn't get around to soaking my own beans for chili.  Next time I really want to try that.  Plus using my own dry beans would save a lot of money over buying all the different types of beans in a can.  I think I'll buy the varieties I like in my chili, and put together bags of the different combined beans to just dump and go on chili nights.  Crock pot usage would save time and several pots.  We'll see.


See ya!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Orange Chicken, twice

It is on the menu, just not like this.  Because I didn't buy the meat and come up with something for dinner last night, hubby requested Panda Express.  I bought it.  We'll have Orange Chicken again tonight when I make it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shopping Today

Today I went shopping.  About half grocery, half impulse/need for other things.  I bought fabric.  So excited to make a blanket for my soon-to-be new nephew!  Bought enough to make a matching nursing cover I think.

First Walmart:  I always go to Walmart for canned goods unless the grocery stores are having a major sale. Cans of most thing at Wally's are around $.88, even brands like Campbell's, which I prefer to generic soups.  For those of you living in more reasonably priced places than the Bay Area, cans of things like cream o' soup at the regular grocery store are usually closer to $1.50.  Dry goods, cereals, etc. I only buy on sale, so today I didn't pick up any of those.  I also bought a set of cooling racks for cookies.  I have some really old, really small ones and it limits me.  I don't appreciate limits in my kitchen these days.

Second: Costco.  Love Costco.  Wanna Marry it some days.  Yes Hilary, they sell the stuff for Orange chicken, they were even demo'ing it today.  It is delicious and you do need it.  I believe I will no longer be able to survive without it.  Also bought a couple of whole chickens for $.99/lb.  So many options there.  Plus, it gives me a chance to use my new roasting/serving dish from my mother in law.  On a completely unrelated note to groceries, I bought a rather expensive pair of jeans here, expensive by any standard, and am sad to find that even at my pre-baby weight, my waist size is never going to be that small again.  We'll be returning those promptly.

On the menu today, Beef Stew.  Not happening.  Didn't find the right meat at the right price, so I'll be making some other kind of dinner.  Stay right there on the edge of your seat.  I'll fill you in when I've decided what that other kind of dinner will be.