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.