Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quinoa update

Not so tasty. Like hominy grits with a hint of canned spinach. Digestible, but not desirable. Hm. Maybe an acquired taste?

Shoveling out the Grill

These steaks are from a December 20 evening meal. I had some steaks ready to broil when my husband got home from work. He suggested that they'd be better grilled. Mind you, our grill was under nearly 28" of snow, untouched since late fall, and it was only about 12 degrees out. Since my husband rides a bike to work everyday, these factors are apparently insignificant to him. 30 minutes later we had grilled steaks for dinner. Not bad for late December in MN.

(yes, that's a Barbie in the photo. I don't know what she was doing there, but at least she was a quiet dinner guest)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Week 82--Food fit for a Chilean

Tues –  Lasagna and mandarin salad w/garlic bread; burgers for lunch
WedsStir-fry beef (or 5/8 Club for Juicy Lucys)
Thurs Chicken tortilla soup (Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes) / open house chow for PM
Fri Road chow
Altseat out; salmon & greens; steaks
I got a mass-production size waffle iron from my mom-in-law for Christmas, so we tried it out tonight. Fabulous. It even came with a husband to make the waffles, at least on this initial run.

Our old exchange student comes from Chile tomorrow before starting an exchange semester at Iowa State University. We're thrilled he's with us this week and know, if his tastes are at all like they were 5 years ago, that meat and Coco Puffs should be on the menu and in the cupboards. Celebrating New Years with family this weekend. I think I have a little more room for sugary carbs. Happy cooking.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Menu plan this week is not to be.

While I'm planning what we eat next week, we will subsist on cupboard findings this week. Bon appetit!

50 Cent

We enjoyed some holiday parties this weekend, complete with entire meals made up of cookies and marshmallow kabobs. After a gathering last night, we attempted to end on a semi-healthy note by taking the kids to IKEA for "real" dinner and letting them pick a gift for their siblings while we were there (they had been asking each other for things like electric trains and helicopters with real working winches).

Unfortunately we learned they were closing 20 min after we arrived and the restaurant was already closed. Hark. At 7PM The IKEA angels announced buy-one-get-one hot dogs. 50 cents for 2 hot dogs. Desperate for dinner and to not cook, we went for it.

So if you're on a budget and can get yourself to IKEA, you could get a whole lotta hot dog at closing time each day. If you get in line quickly enough, there's pizza as well.

Of course, there are always plates of Christmas cookies...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hope Santa Likes Them

Tried a new sugar cookie recipe this year. I should have known it would make a lot as it called for 7 cups of flour. I don't even know how many we made, but I think it's in the neighborhood of 10-12 dozen.

I baked the first half of the cookies with my 3- and 5-year-old. You have to be in the right frame of mind to bake with people that age. I'm not sure I was completely there, but I did notice that when I finished baking the rest of the dough that night, it was a bit too quiet.

It made me think of my mom, and how she loves it when the grandkids help decorate her Christmas tree. Even if it looks awful or things get broken along the way, their excitement is contagious. What would the holidays be if you celebrated by yourself?

And dull.

So, dig in, Santa.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 81--Shopping for pants results in clementines

MonChicken noodle soup* & dumplings
TuesBeef stir-fry
WedsLemon-pepper chicken & couscous
Thurs Spaghetti & homemade meatballs (make extra to freeze)
Fri Chip plate*
Alt freezer goulash*
A foot of snow is forecast for tomorrow, so I decided to go pants shopping tonight. Sadly, my beloved consignment store was already closed. I regrouped and headed to the grocery store with seemingly everyone else. The menu plan is based on meals I don't need a recipe to follow. It is a very short list. Ah--and I had no luck finding quinoa in a plain form at my usual store. Trader Joes this week perhaps. Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Late Feast

I dedicated myself to making the butternut squash soup tonight, so when I was just starting dinner at 6:15, I knew bedtime would be late. At 6:45 I decided I really wanted to try an onion cheddar biscuit recipe to go with the soup. Fortunately, my husband was on board with the plan, or at least not offering commentary to the contrary.

We ate at 7:15, and both the soup and biscuits were keeper new recipes. Love when that happens. Bonus: no one melted down even though things got late. Admittedly I came really close at one point when there were 3 balloons, 5 people, and 3 chairs set like picks in the middle of our 10x12 kitchen while I was trying to assemble ingredients for biscuits. I managed to use some calming techniques I usually offer my kids. Deep breath. Find the humor. Kick everyone out.

Week 80--

MonFried chicken & mashed potatoes
TuesCreamy Butternut Squash Soup with Onion & Cheddar Biscuits (Taste of Home)
WedsSlow cooker steak fajitas (Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes)
Thurs Pizza out 
Fri Breakfast*
Alt freezer goulash
It's Monday. Should get some groceries for the week since they aren't magically appearing in my kitchen. Happy cooking.
* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Saturday, December 4, 2010


It sounds reminiscently like the FungWah bus I used to take from NYC to Boston or DC for $35 round trip. Run by a Jewish family. FungWah. Jewish. Naturally.

This stuff sounds like a miracle food. My sister forwarded this article about the wonders of quinoa to me. Must get some when I shop this weekend. It sounds so easy and healthy. Anyone have a favorite use, comment! I'll let you know what I try.

Friday, December 3, 2010


You know there's a baby in the house when your freezer door looks like this!

I've been making simple applesauce lately. So good. Peel, core, boil in some water, put through a food mill. Done. I'm thinking I could leave the peels on. Might try that next time. I believe that's how my mom makes applesauce.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 79--Hours Cooking

TuesTapas Meatballs with Orange Glaze (Taste of Home) with mashed potatoes
WedsTacoritos (Taste of Home)
Thurs Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Onion & Cheddar Biscuits (Taste of Home)
Fri Beef and Bacon Stroganoff (Taste of Home)
Altseat out; pancakes
I have no idea what's wrong with me, but I'm choosing longer prep-time recipes this week. I'm sure this will be regretted by Tuesday at the latest. Taste of Home was my resource of choice this week since it just looked tasty up there on my kitchen shelf.

On the baby-food front, I was reluctant to serve yet another dish of barely eaten breast-milk-barley, squash, applesauce, or chickpeas to my 6-mo-old, so I ran some of our goulash through his food mill tonight. He ate with keen interest. Then we soaked some crackers in water and fed him bits. He went bonkers for this new taste temptation. Fun to see him excited about exploring new foods. Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good Vibes

For all of you hosting this week, may the turkey gods be with you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 78--Thanksgiving

MonChicken stir fry
TuesAlfredo or One-Pot spaghetti* (Better Homes)
Simple fridge-cleaning meals this week as we'll travel for Thanksgiving. I'm discovering that stir-fry is my version of the "Mom's Casserole" I grew up with. Give my mom fridge odds and ends, a pound of hamburger, and a can of creamy soup. Dinner's served. I do the same with left-over veggies, beans, chicken, steak, etc. for stir-fry. It's like a hot salad. Toss stuff in, add the dressing (ok, a stir-fry sauce), and a side of rice or soba noodles. It's hard to mess up and kids love an excuse to eat with sticks.

I wonder if I'll develop a reputation around this type of meal as my mom did. "What's for dinner, Mom?" "Stir-fry!" Groans. Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bake Sale

At 11PM Friday night, I found myself musing. Musing about the fact that I was making a bake sale item for my kid's school. Musing about the fact that I would like to be in bed. Musing that I don't really know how to make chocolate dipped pretzel rods because it's taking me a lot longer than it should. Musing about how many unusable bits there will be and how much chocolate left over so I can have a snack once I'm done.

For the 8 packs of 3 chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks I made, each pack selling for I believe 50 cents, that's a whopping $4 for the school. My ingredients cost roughly twice that. Quaint, but not economically savvy. Maybe half the point is community building? Making sure we all have enough dessert in our homes? Whatever the result, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the Irish soda bread that I picked up at the sale. And I have a feeling this is only the beginning of the "things for the benefit of school" tasks that lie ahead.

Week 77—Where's the Menu Plan?

MonFish tacos (Simply Mexican)
TuesChili and corn bread
WedsHam and sweet potato hash w/eggs (Epicurious)
Thurs One-Pot spaghetti* (Better Homes)
Fri Jerk ribs and mashed sweet potatoes (Crock Pot)
Altspizza; falafels
We made a menu plan on Friday. My husband shopped (with the kids, no less!) Saturday AM. Love. The menu list hit the recycling or trash some point after that. So now, to remember what it is we're supposed to make with all these ingredients. We'll see how close I can get. Happy cooking.

Update: menu found! helps to clean off the kitchen counter-tops now and then.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Fairest One of All

We've been playing Snow White at our house these days. One particular scene from the movie stuck in my son's head: Snow White is baking a pie for "the little men" with the help of her animal friends, just before the evil stepmother, transformed into an old peddler, stops by with a poisoned apple. 

He wanted to take our Snow White play to the next level by actually making a pie. Here's the result, complete with gingerbread cutouts for the crust.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Week 76--Lots of options

MonMonte Christos (Taste of Home)
TuesBlack bean and pumpkin chili (Taste of Home, stove or crockpot)
WedsChicken fajitas/chicken fingers
Thurs –  Left-over pasta puttanesca*
Fri Pizza
Altsspaghetti; pulled pork sandwiches
Is it only Thursday? I have groceries on the brain since I never made it to the store this week. Friends visiting this weekend with kids, so we have lots of options built into the menu. Maybe enough to get us through the next 2 weeks if I'm lucky! Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 min or less

Monday, November 1, 2010

Week 75—Food for Fall

TuesBlack bean and pumpkin chili (Taste of Home; can be made in crockpot)
Thurs –  Falafels* (box mix)
Fri Spinach souffle
Lots of work time, minimal cooking time this week. In fact, the fridge is a little echo-y since I haven't shopped. At least we have Halloween candy to sustain us. I like that the recipe names this week align with the amount of time it will take to make each corresponding dish. Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Treat, please.

Halloween isn't even technically here yet and I'm already raiding the kids' trick-or-treats they collected today. Gotta make sure they're safe, you know.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

turkey bats

Saw a cool idea to press cookie cutters into cheese slices to make fun shapes to eat. We did that today with turkey slices for lunch. Bats, cats, and pumpkins. Fun!

My favorite comment: "These are really good, Mom." Like we'd just made a recipe or something.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baby food is a hit, with non-babies

I moved beyond rice and barley cereal tonight and made a thin rice cereal-acorn squash tonight for our 5-month-old. I made a big bowl of it and told my older two kids that they could eat baby food tonight too, if they wanted. They loved it! My husband and I exchanged smiling glances as the kids kept asking for more. It was completely unseasoned squash that I had roasted in the oven. They just enjoyed eating "like a baby." Wonder how long it will take before the novelty of this wears off?

As for the baby? He wasn't so impressed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 74--Texas Inspiration

Tues – Fideo con Pollo (new recipe from my sis in Texas--see below)
Wedsbeef stir-fry
Thurs stuffed peppers and mashed potatoes
Fri fish w/cornbread and greens
Extras chip plate

Quickly assembled. I believe "comino" in the recipe below is cumin if my bits of Spanish serve. Happy cooking.

Fideo con Pollo
1 cut up chicken
1 small bag fideo or vermicelli
1 small diced onion
1 TBSP consomme (chicken bouillion)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp comino
2 TBSP oil
1 tsp salt
Fry chicken in skillet and set aside.
Stir-fry noodles in oil until golden.
Drain oil.
Add onion, stir until clear.
Add 3-4 C water with bouillion or chicken broth
Add garlic, pepper, comino, salt.
Add chicken and simmer, covered.

Rubber hits the road

Menu planning (for me) is done in order to make life easier. I will now put this to the test. It's after 10PM, and really, I just want to go to bed after a busy weekend away.

How quickly can I put a menu together? Let's start the clock:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feasty Fast Food

Caution: Infomercial.

Imagine a fast-food restaurant that a group of guys sitting around one sunny Saturday afternoon would create. That's Five Guys. We tried one out tonight in the U of M campus. Truly, a great hamburger. No trans fats. Beef and 'taters au naturale. They even posted on a chalkboard where their potatoes were from that day. Nice. The music was too loud and lights too bright, but I enjoyed my burger so much I didn't really mind. It's also the first hamburger our "selective" son fully consumed. I'm not sure his little body knows what to do what that many calories.

Peanut allergies? Run away! You can scoop yourself a handful of in-the-shell peanuts to munch while you wait for your burger. If you need a fast-food fix, but don't want to suffer fast-food regrets ("Why did I order this? It's so nasty.") they're worth a try.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 73--An Italian, a Mexican, and a Jewish guy walk into the kitchen...

Mon – Steak and potatoes*
Tues – Enchilada casserole (Taste of Home)
Weds – Falafels* (box mix)
Thurs –  Pasta w/fried eggs and cheese* (Pepin: Fast Food My Way)
Fri Grandma's house
Here's the plan. Now to shop at some point. Interestingly, I think owning a hamster has made us eat more veggies. We have fun seeing what she likes, so we all get into taste-test mode w/carrots, broccoli, and other foods. Somehow my kids think the idea of feeding her cookies, ice cream, or other treats is totally ridiculous. It's interesting to me that they understand there is a difference between foods that a body requires, and those that it sometimes just desires. We don't spend a lot of time on this topic, but apparently it doesn't take much for them to get that there is some sort of difference. Happy cooking.

* indicates a meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less

Baby food reference

I found this list online for when to introduce certain foods to babes. My days of instant meal-prep a la breast-feeding are soon coming to an end and I needed to brush up on what to serve when. It's interesting to glance through just to remind yourself of options out there. I keep hearing about how fantastic quinoa is, but have yet to try it. Any good recipes you've tried?
Iron-rich Foods*
Beans & Legumes
-Red Kidney Beans-9-11 months
-Lima Beans-9-11 months
-Edamame-9-11 months
-Silken Tofu-9-11 months
-Cannellini Beans-9-11 months
-Butter Beans-6 months
-Navy Beans-9-11 months
-Aduki Beans-9-11 months
-Barlotti Beans-9-11 months
-Pinto Beans-9-11 months
-Chickpeas-9-11 months
-Reduced Sodium and low sugar canned baked beans-9-11 months
-Red and Green Lentils-6 months
-Peas and Split Peas-6 months
Artichokes-9-11 months
Potato with Skin-6 months
Pumpkin-6 months
Sweet Potato-6 months
Mushrooms-9-11 months
Figs-7-8 months
Prunes-7-8 months
Dried Apricots-7-8 months
Peaches-6 months
Raisins 12-15 months
Blackstrap Molasses-9 months
Whole-Grain Breads and Pasta
-Couscous-6 months
-Millet-7-8 months
-Barley-6 months
Leafy Green Vegetables
-Spinach-6 months
-Kale-9 months
-Swiss Chard-9 months
-Collards-9 months
-Turnip Greens-9 months
-Bok Choy-9 months
Fortified Formula and Cereals-6 months
Egg Yolks (well cooked)-7-9 months
Nuts & Seeds (finely ground)-6 months (if no history of family allergy)

*Absorption of Iron is improved by serving Iron-rich foods with Vitamin C-rich foods or Protein-rich foods.

Protein-rich Foods
Egg whites (well cooked)-7-9 months
Yogurt 7-9 months
Greek Yogurt 7-9 months
Cottage Cheese7-9 months
Ricotta Cheese 7-9 months
Mild Cheddar 7-9 months
Pasteurized Goat Cheese-9-11 months
Beans (see list above)
Legumes (see list above)
Amaranth-7-8 months
Quinoa-7-8 months

Vitamin C-rich foods
Kiwi Fruit-7-9 months (later if concern of sesame seed allergy)
Citrus-9-12 months
Berries-9-12 months
Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers 9-12 months
Cauliflower-6 months
Cantaloupe-6 months
Peaches-6 months
Nectarines-6 months
Broccoli-6 months
Zucchini-6 months
Butternut Squash-6 months
Pumpkin-6 months
Sweet Potato-6 months
Juice-7-9 months (diluted 1 part juice 10 parts water)

First Meals By: Annabel Karmel
Cooking for Baby: Lisa Barnes
Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Rachael Anne Hill

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Star in the Apple

After reading a story about a star in an apple at school this week my kids have been apple-crazed. Here's a picture of a slice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secrets to Quick Meals

I read this in the newspaper (which we received a free copy of a month ago and I'm still reading, if that gives you any sense for how unlikely I am to actually subscribe). Here are ones I liked:

— skip measuring spoons and practice eyeballing
— gather all ingredients before you begin (I love doing this. It's a close as I'll get to having a prep chef.)
— use quick-cooking proteins (chicken, fish, flank steaks)

 The biggest "duh" suggestion:

— multitask

Hello! If you're female this is instinct. Does anyone not multitask while waiting for the water to boil? Really? You just sit there and patiently wait, never mind chopping the onions or helping your kid find a piece of her Pinkie Pie Princess Pony Castle that's missing? Please.

Week 72—Storytime

Mon – Beef and noodles, cornbread (we were supposed to have fish, but it was bad after forgetting about it all weekend)
Tues – Pepper lime chicken, green beans, couscous/rice*
Weds – Pasta puttanesca, salad, crusty bread (Viva Italia)
Thurs –  Pork kebabs w/grilled plums and couscous (Real Simple)
Fri Chili
Extras steak & potatoes*; pancakes & smoothies*
It happens sometimes, when you get into a really interesting book (Book Thief—thanks, Colleen). You somehow manage to carve out all kinds of time in your day to read it. So much time, in fact, that you forget about feeding people until 10 minutes before dinnertime. This week's menu, therefore, is centered around prioritizing reading time. And I've modified my fast meals to be 20 min. or less. We'll see if it helps increase my list. Happy cooking. 
* indicates a meal that can ideally be made in 20 minutes or less

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Menu-plan breakdown

Went to cook this evening. No steaks. No seafood. No anchovies for the pasta dish. Nearly had to go out to eat (tragedy!), but tacos saved the day. Menu plan ≠ shopping list this week. Other than losing the hamster, thank goodness this is the greatest crisis we faced today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jumbo Broccoli

Just read a research finding in Parents mag that when kids were served larger portions of veggies, they ate more veggies. Maybe that's why a jumbo portion of broccoli went over so well in my house recently.

I had cut off small portions for each of my kids. Then they saw the gigantic piece left on the serving plate. My son asked for it. I thought, why not? Looks fun. And it was. Both kids ended up eating giant pieces of broccoli, and ate more than I've ever seen them eat before. Cool!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pasta Party

You know you need a night out when your Freudian eyeballs read "party pack" on the side of a box of dried pasta when what it really says is "pantry pack."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 71—From the Archives

MonPasta Puttanesca w/crusty bread (Viva Italia)
TuesChinese cashew chicken (Crock Pot Book)
WedsSteak and mashed w/corn on cob
Thurs Chicken fingers (Epicurious)
Fri Tilapia fillets w/spinach salad & cornbread
Alt Ham & barley stew

Remember Week 20, anyone? Neither did I, but it looked tasty so I'm reusing it with a little modification for this week's menu.

Every now and then you get into a food groove. I went through a time when I bought hummus every time I went to the store. Then it was Pirate Booty. Sun Chips. Avocados. My current food groove, going strong through most of the summer, has been spinach salad with strawberries, sunflower nuts and poppyseed dressing. They're not always that healthy. Hope it lasts! Happy cooking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Am I alone in hating crock-pot recipes that require pre-cooking? This defeats the entire purpose of a crock-pot to me. If I have to brown chicken beforehand (yes, getting that nice crispy texture and browned flavor isn't going to come any other way I know), I'm probably not making it.

It's a rare day when I have the foresight to get the crock cooking early enough for the evening meal, let alone getting the meat browned as well. What I should do is buy a rotisserie, shred it and freeze it for those recipes. Should do. Will do is another matter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week 70 - Cooking w/o Grocery Shopping

Mon –  Chicken Tomato Stew (Opaa!)
Tues – Vietnamese Meatball Soup* (Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press)
Weds – Spaghetti, garden beans, crusty bread*
Thurs –  Blue cheese burgers and oven fries
Fri Pizza
Extras breakfast
Since I had extra meatballs in the freezer, the Vietnamese soup is on the menu as an ultra-fast recipe this week. Also be/c I have not been to the grocery store, so I'm using this week as an opportunity to purge cupboards.

To make this soup in its most pared-down form (be/c I don't have the 1T fish sauce it calls for), simply bring 4c chicken broth to a boil with a dozen pre-cooked meatballs, 1T soy sauce, 2t Asian sesame oil, and some black pepper. Simmer 5 min or until heated through. Serve over noodles or rice. Add green onion, cilatro, chopped spinach, on top, or nothing. Happy cooking.
* indicates a meal that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Loose End

So, what ever happened with that little food-making service project you  had planned for Habitat for Humanity, Nicole?

Well, the short of it is that my kids were not interested. When it came time to help mix the snack mix together, my 3-year-old son kept asking if HE could keep any of the snacks. Ownership is important when you're 3, likely more so than knowing that some stranger is having a house built and the workers might like a bite to eat when they're not pounding nails. My 5-year-old was busy with her own projects/toys/cartoons/interests and could not be bothered. Which brings me to Mom Lesson #197: let your kids choose the service work they'll do.

I ended up making it solo, although they did come along for the delivery. The valentine cards they made for a nursing home in Feb went great. It's a matter of picking the right thing, and trying different things until you find something that clicks. Like so many things in life. I'll have to remember this when they're choosing careers. "A poet? Full-time? Really? Remember when you wanted to be a builder or an OBGYN?" And they'll say, "Go make some snacks for Habitat, Mom."

Fair enough.

Week 69—week 68, resumed

Mon –  Vietnamese Meatball Soup (Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press)
TuesSeared Halibut w/Black Beans, Avocado & Chile Sauce (Nancy Silverton "A Twist of the Wrist")
WedsGrill dogs and squash*
Thurs –  Dolmates* (a la freezer)
Fri Pizza
Extras chip plate/tacos
I have 2 recipes left to make from last week's newspaper plan. Last night we had the Vietnamese meatball soup. These recipes are running 100% keepers so far. Fast, delicious. I just picked up some halibut so I'll make that tonight. We got to pet a lobster while at the fish store. I even touched its little bottom claws—they don't hurt at all, to my surprise. I'm such a land lubber. Happy cooking.
* indicates a meal that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm impressed

So far, the first two menu items of this week's newspaper plan have knocked my why-do-new-socks-only-last-two-wearings-before-they-look-permanently-grubby-from-my-floors-socks off.

The grilled pork, plums, and couscous was one of the best meals I've had in recent memory. Only took about an hour start-to-finish, complete w/kid-stractions. The pasta w/gruyere and egg is a new addition to my 15-minutes-or-less recipes. Three cheers! Easy, and extremely good. Don't bother asking about fat content. It was a rare dish in that it went over as well with the kids as with the parents.

I am too lazy to track down the online recipes for you, or to write them here. If you want them, they can likely be found online (St Paul Pioneer Press 9/9/10 issue "Eat" section) fairly readily.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 68—Newspaper Plan

Mon –  Pork Kebabs w/Grilled Plums and Couscous (Real Simple)
TuesBow-tie Pasta w/Fried Eggs & Cheese* (Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way)
WedsSauteed Chicken w/Mashed Potatoes (Mark Bittman "How to Cook Everything")
Thurs –  Vietnamese Meatball Soup (Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press)
Fri Seared Halibut w/Black Beans, Avocado & Chile Sauce (Nancy Silverton "A Twist of the Wrist")
Extras freezer follies
A free St Paul Pioneer Press landed on our steps last week, along with a 5-night menu plan in the "Eat" section. It's the Thursday edition, if you want to track down these recipes online. Some different foods than I normally make, and all I had to do was jot down the grocery list. Nice. Hopefully we'll make some new good discoveries from this. Happy cooking.
* indicates a recipe that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Homemade Jam

One of the treats from our recent trip to my sister's house in Iowa was coming back with homemade raspberry jam.

Within 2 hours, my sister had picked the raspberries from their bushes, mixed them with cups of sugar and whatever else it is you put in to make jam, and canned them.

What a pleasure it was to sit around a sunny kitchen table having spoonfuls of fresh jam on bread. Delicious!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lemonade Stand

I feel like fall is here, so I wanted to post this picture from my daughter's first lemonade stand as a final toast to summer. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Birthday Week

August means birthday season at our house. My daughter wanted a Barbie cake -- the real deal with a doll she could pull out at the end. My husband said it was feminism hell. A tank-top clad Barbie leaping out of a cake. Perfect. What I didn't realize is that most cakes apparently assume you're using a Barbie topper. The cake dissection photo I'm including (be forewarned, it ain't pretty) shows my 3-tiered attempt to make this thing tall enough to accommodate Barbie legs. They are LONG.

The recipe called for the bottom two layers (seen here in chocolate). Ok. They reached maybe up to Barbie's kneecaps. At this point, my mom said, "I remember making about 5 little cakes to make it come out." Me thinking, "Hm."

The second layer, in yellow, was salvaged from part of her brother's cake. He was going to have 2 turtles. Now there is only one. Cake now reaches Barbie's thighs. Hm indeed.

The final layer is the fattest muffin I could find at Target. I essentially glued it together with frosting after carving a hole and jamming Barbie into it. It was touch-and-go for a time, but came out ok. It meant that I had to frost the whole thing w/my fingers be/c it's the only way I could get a consistent look AND keep the cupcake pieces together. Happy for you readers, you probably didn't eat it. I kind of like the streamlined (as in 1930's Art Deco) design of the dress. And the slugs I put on for icing to decorate it. They DO look like slugs, don't they? Or Medieval holy spirit flames. I guess my mom used to put little dots all over. That would have been pretty. Anyway, it was truly fun to make and the birthday girl loved it.

The turtle cake was a simple operation. Bake cake in bowl. Frost. Insert Snickers bar legs/head. Decorate "shell" as you wish. I made cupcakes to supplement since the other cake went into Barbie's dress. Result: a happy birthday boy.

Week 67--On the fly

Mon –  Matt's pizza
TuesBeef brisket sandwich (Crock Pot)
Wedschicken fajitas
Thurs –  pasta w/crusty bread and sister-provided homemade sauce. Mmm.
Fri left-overs/Cuban rice*
Extras chicken stew (O-paa!)
Tons of food in the cupboards to use up, and less time for cooking w/a couple freelance deadlines this week. So, here's this week's insty-plan. Happy cooking.
* indicates a recipe that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 66--belated

Mon –  Grandma Barb's spaghetti (requested for 5th birthday meal)
TuesPancakes (requested for 3rd birthday meal)
Weds to Friout of town the rest of the week

Consider this a retrospective, considering it's Friday and I'm posting this. Anyway, it was a fun birthday week, celebrating my kids turning 3 and 5 years old. Cake photos to come. We spent the latter half of the week in Iowa, visiting my sister. So many blog-worthy treats to mention from that trip. Hopefully I'll get around to that this weekend. As well as a plan for next week's meals. Happy cooking.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sweet Lies

I begin assembling a recipe for no-bake bars that claim to take 20 min. You're on.

I've finally finished crushing Chex cereal and measuring dry ingredients. There is no way this is going to take 20 min.

Marshmallows and butter are melted and ready to combine with the dry ingredients. 24 minutes and counting.

Currants have been added, the pan prepared, and the bars have been pressed into the pan. 20 minutes. I think not. I take this as a personal affront. My time is precious. If you're telling me it takes a certain amount of time to make your recipe, then assuming I've done my prep work and have the ingredients on hand, IT BETTER NOT TAKE ANY LONGER!

Time for bed.

By the way, this is what I made: Snack Bars
This is part of the service project effort that my kids, possibly others, were to participate in. More on that later.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week 65--Roasty

Mon –  sloppy joes w/squash (Deceptively Delicious)
TuesBeef brisket sandwich (Crock Pot)
WedsPita pockets w/tuna salad (Deceptively Delicious)
Thurs pesto pasta* w/chicken fingers
Fri Beef roast w/carrots and potatoes
Extras chicken stew (O-paa!)
Feeling very uninspired this week for some reason. Left solo in the house, I'd probably eat cereal all week. Happy cooking.
* indicates a recipe that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Juice Box Au Naturale

It didn't work. But they really REALLY hoped it would.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Service Project Snacks

I'm always interested in finding service opportunities my kids can understand and enjoy. Our church is building a Habitat for Humanity House next week, so I asked if we could help with food prep for the crew. They suggested we make snacks for the builders a couple of days--whatever we want to bring.

The project is next week, Thursday and Friday. We'll probably prepare the snacks on Wednesday, since they need to be delivered to the site Thursday and Friday by 8:30AM. The kids are interested in this topic and have asked questions like, "Why do the people need a home?" and "Who built our house?" It opens up some great conversations. They're excited and curious about the idea of making snacks for builders and I think it will help them to see the site when we deliver them.

If anyone would like to join our "team" making snacks for 15-20 builders next Wednesday, let me know! I haven't decided what to make yet, so ideas are welcome. Maybe snack mix. Maybe the kids can wash and cut grapes into quick-grab portions. Anything goes, as long as it's manageable for kids in some capacity.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 64—Pasta, Packs, and Pesto

Mon –  pesto pasta* w/grilled chicken
WedsBest of Show Tomato Quiche (Taste of Home)
Thurs grilled foil packs (sausage + garden veggies + onion)
Fri Grandma Barb's Spaghetti
Extras grill steaks and summer squash
I enjoyed making those foil packs on the grill so much last week that we're doing it again. We have a slightly different mix of veggies now, so that will offer some variety. We've already had the pesto pasta as I'm posting this a bit late, but it was so good. I'd never made it before. Easy, when you've got the pesto made up already. I told my husband he shouldn't take it for work lunches though, unless he wanted to be avoided. It is a garlic fest. Happy cooking.
* indicates a recipe that can ideally be made in 15 minutes or less

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday Night Pesto Party

I had hoped to join my husband making pesto Friday night from our huge basil harvest, but instead he delivered a dish of pesto and crackers to my upstairs micro-office, hot off the food processor. Delish. It's now Saturday noon, and I can still taste the garlic. Fortunately my only meeting today is via telephone!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fun with Foil Packs

I made these for dinner the other night, using a 14oz package of smoked chicken kielbasa, a couple of potatoes cut into wedges, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cooked on the grill (medium) for 30 minutes.

They were fun to make and I liked that everyone got their own pack to eat (the kids split one). I didn't even use a bowl, just chopped and dropped straight onto the foil. It made an easy weeknight meal, even if the format might be more familiar at the campground.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Week 63—Tomato, Tomahto

Monhalibut tacos (Taste of Home)
Wedsburgers with lots of fresh tomatoes
Thurs Best of Show Tomato Quiche (Taste of Home)
Extras pizza; omelettes

More of our tomatoes are ripening by the minute. This week is all about finding ways to use these things while they're at their best. I got a recipe from my sister for homemade spaghetti sauce. I'm a little dubious that I will actually get around to doing it, but we'll see how the week goes. I might have all these things eaten up with salt and pepper by the slice before they even reach a pot of boiling water. And I haven't been to IKEA for almost 2 weeks. Have to plan a night out there while the free-kids deal is still going on. Happy cooking.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Leafy Bag Closure

 I found these at Kitchen Window, although I'm sure other places have them. They are fun bag closures that really work well. They could even make a nice gift closure (e.g. bread/kitchen gadgets/kitchen towel/etc).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Garden Goodies

Tomatoes, zucchinis, basil, spinach and more are ready for picking from our backyard garden. Yum. I need to make some pesto as the basil is already flowering. Summer in full bloom!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 62—Repeats & Jerk Ribs

Monpotato sausage foil pack (Taste of Home)
Wedschicken stir-fry
Thurs halibut tacos (Taste of Home)
Fri pizza
Extras IKEA!
Have had a lot of evening activities come up that have taken our dinner plans in other directions recently. Thus, there are a few items appearing for I think the 3rd week in a row. Made a giant crock-pot of jerk baby back pork ribs over the weekend when family was visiting. I love BBQ pork. Happy cooking.

Sweet and Spicy Jerk Ribs  
(courtesy of Taste of Home)


  • 2 racks pork baby back ribs (about 4-1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Caribbean jerk seasoning
  • 3 cups honey barbecue sauce
  • 3 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons honey


  • Cut ribs into serving-size pieces; brush with oil and rub with jerk seasoning. Place in a 5- or 6-qt. slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients; pour over ribs.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender. Skim fat from sauce before serving. Yield: 5 servings.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Upside-down Cake

 My husband made me a great cake last week. He said the key step was to cool it completely on racks--preferably not the oven rack as he accidentally did! Good save by flipping the entire oven rack over to get the freshly baked cake back into the pan it had just flipped out of. I probably would have tried lifting it with a spatula only to have it crumble. Frosting conceals all!

Week 61--Eggs on the sidewalk

Monenchiladas (freezer left-overs)
Tuesalfredo* with carrots
Wedsbrats and corn; potluck (picnic with neighbors)
Thurs halibut tacos (Taste of Home)
Fri potato sausage foil pack (Taste of Home)
Extras IKEA!
Lots of menus went uncooked last week due to birthday celebrations and IKEA's kids-eat-free through Aug 15 deal. Definitely taking advantage of that a couple of times before it ends in this hot weather. A cool place for them to play, and someone else cooks. I'm there!

This week we start on our step and patio project. Let me rephrase that. Someone else starts on our project while we write checks and offer input from the sidelines. Hopefully this means we'll be grilling and picnicking out in great style in a couple weeks. Happy cooking.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Plate Facials

Always trying to make mealtime enjoyable for my oft reluctant toddler. This meal was composed, literally, of grilled chicken and squash (very easy way to prep squash, by the way -- slice and plop on the grill!), and cornbread squares for eyes. It kind of worked. Lots of eyes were eaten that night. And it was fun to ask if anyone wanted more noses or lips.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Had a scattered AM trying to get out the door to the Children's Museum. I was working on packing a lunch to avoid fast-food temptation after the museum visit. Kids were needy at clashing moments, someone, then another, was wanting to be held for various reasons, which slowed things down. Spreading cream cheese on a mini bagel with one hand anyone? You've been there, I know.

So, I finally get a reasonable lunch packed, get the kids loaded into the van. We arrive at the museum to find that the rest of the city has also decided to attend on this day. Then I remember I'm supposed to meet my 90-year-old great-aunt for lunch in Burnsville in 2 hours. Argh.

We made it through enough of the museum to satisfy, then to a cafe in Burnsville where my kids ordered: broccoli, cream of chicken soup, and pancakes. How much easier the morning would have been if I'd remembered that we had lunch plans! Better luck next time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week 60--All creatures great and small (for dinner)

MonBBQ chicken* and corn bread, greens (crockpot cut up chicken w/bbq sauce on top)
Tuesalfredo* with carrots
Wedspotato sausage foil pack (Taste of Home)
Thurs curried apricot pork chops (Taste of Home)
Fri grilled salmon and asparagus*
Extras halibut tacos (Taste of Home)
Returning to my original weekly menu count this week since I was continually confused by the new naming convention. That said, the menu plan itself is all about variety.

I am also pursuing my "dinner in 15 minutes" query and trying out a few recipes this week that might fit this description. I'll mark them with an asterisk, then plan to log the ones that work out for future use. These will hopefully become part of a substantial list I can reference for fast ideas down the road. I created a list of 15- 20- and 30-minute meals for toddlers when I was first learning what to feed a little person. I suppose I'm just advancing that now to family-oriented recipes. Happy cooking.

*Indicates this dish will be ready within 15 minutes. I hope. If not, well then sad news for the chef.

At-Home Creamy Sweet Tastilicious Latte

Fill cup 1/2 way w/coffee
Top off with vanilla coconut milk (not the kind you cook with, but rather the kind you can now get at Target or maybe Whole Foods that's used for regular drinking)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dinner in Neverland

We did it. We officially had the most hedonistic dinner ever served tonight. Husband not at home. Freshly back home from a 5+ hour car trip from Grandma's house. It was basically bedtime. Menu? Lucky Charms.

The kids were utterly unphased and didn't even regard this as a particularly special treat. I expected wide eyes and giggles. They just sat down and ate. Interesting. Very interesting.

By the way, I did initially pick up a bag of frozen veggies and some cheese and bread. But I put them all back. Sometimes you just need to be bad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week of 7/12

Mon –  Grandma's house
TuesGrandma's house
WedsGrandma's house
Thurs goulash
Fri – bbq chicken (crock pot)
Extras fish sandwiches
The chicken enchilada recipe from 2 weeks ago was fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Jody. We had a great dinner with it, plus left-overs the next day for lunch and enough to freeze for another meal. We're traveling part of this week, so not much to plan. Happy cooking.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Truly 15 Minutes to Dinner?

I've been thinking lately that I need to write a cookbook that is an honest-to-goodness 15-minutes-to-dinner cookbook. How often do you start a recipe that says "30 min to prep and cook" to find yourself shoving snacks at the kids to hold them off another 45 min until it's actually done?

The thing is, I know there must be dozens of these out there. The key is having the right ingredients on hand. So while many of those promised quick-recipes are out there, if you don't typically buy pre-shredded cheddar or you have to thaw and cook your chicken breast before chopping and tossing in, well, they might as well just be honest about it.

30 min to dinner if you're using a prep chef that has conveniently laid everything out in little bowls like a tv cooking show. 2 hours for the rest of you sad sacks.

In the meantime, if anyone does have REAL 15-minute start-to-finish recipes, share! I'm not talking box mixes for the most part, unless they're special somehow. I'm holding out hope that fast homemade cooking isn't an oxymoron.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pepper Mill Love

When my pepper mill of the past 7 years broke this spring, I went on the prowl for a new one. They're not cheap and you have them for years, so I wanted one I wouldn't wish death upon after purchase. This style is one I've wanted to work really well, but didn't believe actually would. My sister was shopping with me and had purchased this for her husband over the winter. They love it. Now, I do too! It's a Minosharp, purchased at Kitchen Window.

- pretty cheap as far as pepper mills go (around $20)
- one-handed action is convenient, especially when you have a baby in the other hand
- obvious how to use it--nice with visitors that don't necessarily want to be schooled in pepper milling when they just want to spice up their taters a bit

- can't adjust the grind. Not that I care about adjusting my grind. But if you do...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Explosive Friendship Bread

Just a heads up that if you're ever gifted some Friendship Bread, it WILL explode if you don't let some air out of the bag as it expands. Or maybe this is somehow a comment on the relationship between giver/recipient? Uh oh...

Monday, July 5, 2010

By the way...(Week of July 5)

After prepping lots 'o food for a semi-spontaneous July 4th gathering, this week's menu is something like this:
chicken fingers

Happy cooking.

Comments Made Easy

FYI, I've now made it easy to comment on the blog. If I find that I'm getting random bizarre spam-ish comments, I'll use the login process again. For now, comment away, anonymously if you prefer! I love hearing from you.

On that note, this comment was made on the sidelines/off-site about Choco-Hoto-Pots:
Out of curiosity I googled Choco-Hoto-Pots.  Would you believe there are MANY entries/images, and this actually looks like something I'd love to try.  Apparently Nigella Lawson has a recipe that accounts for most of the google results, including a link on  You'd think a better name would probably help this recipe's popularity, though.

Let me know if anyone tries these things.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Something I Will Likely Not Ever Make

Found in my Hy-Vee Cookbook tonight:

Some sort of dessert. I guess.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week of 6/28

Monpasta w/vodka (Viva Italia)
Tuesfish, cornbread, greens
Wedsbbq pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, edemame or salad, cherry pie
Thurs chicken fingers or grilled breasts and squash
Fri chicken enchiladas (Jody's recipe -- see below)
Extras pizza; goulash
Back in the swing of things this week after not shopping last week. Even at that, the cupboard isn't totally bare. Hot, humid weather is here of late, and it makes me want to eat watermelon and drink lemonade all day. Happy cooking.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Make: 10 servings ( I think it's more than that -- more like 14 to 16, depends on how big you cut the pieces)
Prep:  10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Bake:  28 minutes at 350 degrees

3 cups shredded, cooked chicken (can use a precooked rotisserie chicken)
1 packet (1.25 ounces) taco seasoning
1/2 cup water
2 cups salsa verde
9 fajita-size flour tortillas
1 can (15.5 ounces) refried beans, warmed in the microwave
8 ounces sour cream
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix chicken, taco seasoning, 1/2 cup water and salsa verde in a skillet.  Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes.

2.  Coat 13x9x2-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Cover bottom of pan with 3 flour tortillas, overlapping.  Pour half of the chicken mixture on the tortillas.  Cover with 3 more tortillas.  Spread with warmed beans and sour cream.

3.  Sprinkle half the cheese over the beans and sour cream, and cover with the remaining 3 tortillas.  Top with remaining chicken mixture, followed by remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes, until bubbly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

p.s. Baptism chow

The dishes we made for the baptism were excellent to the last. I am unabashedly claiming this since all we did was follow directions. And there were hardly any left-overs. So, if you're wanting to try any of the recipes, I recommend them all.

Menu plan 6/21

Monleft over pizza; mac-n-cheese for kids (solstice pj-party at toy store after swimming -- eat fast!)
Tuesrotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes 
WedsBBQ sandwiches, beans, slaw (pulling from our freezer--dwindling backstock, boo hoo)
Thurs chicken fajitas and peppers
Fri steak/brats/grilling eats
Extras fish sandwiches and slaw
Trying to get by without much shopping this week. We had fun celebrating last weekend with our baby's baptism, and really haven't done much in the kitchen since.

The convergence of mealtime and evening swimming lessons has been going well, oddly enough. We have a snack before leaving, and I've more often than not gotten dinner prepped or organized enough  in advance that we can eat shortly after being home. We caught a turtle on the way home tonight so that threw everything off meal-wise, hence the mac-n-cheese. A worthwhile diversion, though.

My mom asked if I felt like I was more organized with 3 kids. I'm not ready to claim a higher level of organization, but I do think I'm honing my prioritization skills. Having meals ready is high on that list to keep things flowing smoothly at night. Hungry kids = mayhem!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Is there a bagel in the house?

It occurred to us last night that we have been doing an okay job of prepping for our Baptism brunch on Sunday. Too bad we've totally neglected to consider that people will be visiting throughout the weekend and there's hardly a crumb of other food in the house. Think we'll do a Sam's trip tonight and get some steaks for grilling, a side salad, and sun chips. I'm making those dolmates as well to have on hand.

Or maybe we'll just be GONE at every mealtime. Think anyone will catch on?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Instant Fondue

Dried apricot + jar of Nutella.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Menu Plan Week of 6/14

Monleft over spaghetti
Tuesbeef stew over noodles or mashed (new baby food-gift from a friend)
Wedspancakes & smoothies 
Thurs sloppy joes or chili, if it stays cold outside
Fri Cuban rice
Extras pizza; domates (still have not made these, 2 weeks and counting)
We'll see if we eat any dinner this week as planned. We start swim lessons M-F for the next 2 weeks, and they're held right at dinner time. Not sure how I'll prep 2 kids and myself for the pool, a sitter for the baby, and get dinner ready so it doesn't take an hour more prep after we're home, but I'm confident I'll have it figured out by the end of the 2 weeks. Frankly, it's probably similar to how dual-income households go through every evening. Michael Phelps, here we come.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baptism Brunch Menu Plan (work in progress)

I'm typing this with a warm cozy baby on my lap. Is this technically multi-tasking, or just wasting time be/c I'm spending more time on this than I otherwise might so I don't have to move?

Anyway, here's what I think we'll do for the brunch. Thank you, This weekend we'll work out a schedule since a lot of these items can be made in advance. Think there will be about 15 people here to eat.

Hot crab dip with veggies (peppers, carrots, radishes--from our garden-woo!)
Guinness Stout Ginger Cake (from "Desserts of Gramercy Tavern")
Bagels (onion recommended w/the trout-egg dish)
Watermelon slices, bowl of blueberries or some sort of fresh fruit
Hash brown brunch casserole

Creamy scrambled eggs w/smoked trout and green onions
Baked french toast w/cardamom and marmalade  My brother made this last recipe for my neice's 1st Communion last month. It was great. Ultra-sweet.

Sparkling agua
Actually, why not mix the sparkling agua with the OJ? Nice variation, not so sweet, a bit fresca. Sounds good.

I'm debating ordering a cake, or making a double of the recently much-practiced Tres Leches. I'm looking at this list thinking there's a lot (too much) here both to do, and to eat. Will review w/the hubby before writing the final shopping list.

Fast and Slow

Coming out from Subway last night, I heard a car race by on the street. I thought, "Wow, that's pretty fast for an area w/so much pedestrian traffic." Then I thought, "I sound like a parent." As a child, you think racing a car down a residential street is daring, cool, or at least curious. As an adult PARENT (I do think that's an important factor), risk is foremost in your mind.

So. This is how aging happens.

Which brings me to a lot of thinking the past 24 hrs about things fast--and slow--when it comes to parenting and kids and cooking in particular.

Youth:fast food; parent:slow cookers
Youth:dinner preferably consumed in less than 10 min; parent:dinner preferably consumed over an hour
Youth: the faster to make, the more likely to be liked; parent:hours in the kitchen promises a special meal
Youth:no time to put my dishes away, it's playtime!; parent:it's always time to put something away
Youth:things that have fast-moving parts mean fun food prep (i.e. blenders, beaters, whisks); parent:things that have fast-moving parts mean my kids want to help make it which means it's going to take at least 2x as long to actually make

I'm sure you can think of many more, but for my part, I've got to go put something away.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Week of June 7

MonGramma Barb's spaghetti
Wedsdolmates--double batch (Opaah!)
Thurs rotisserie chicken
Fri fish sandwiches w/sweet potatoes
Extras chip plate
Starting to pull together ideas for a baptism brunch on June 20. Any suggestions for recipes that are good to make in advance, or that just came out really well for you? We're serving about 15 people and I want to keep things easy, but special. As I type, my second Tres Leches cake in a month is cooking in the oven. Mmm.