Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Takes on the Gingerbread Man

My daughter's gingy, with cute little Santa hat.
 99¢ kits at Trader Joe's. So fun! They're about 10 inches tall, so look substantial enough to hop off the pan and run away.
My son's gingy, with fangs.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Menu in progress

Bone-in ham
Sweet potatoes
Pear + feta salad
Some nice toothy wheat bread, sliced
Dessert: port + Cherry pie + ice cream
Chocolate cream pie

Sound good, Matt?

Post-meal update:
This was ultra-easy to make, and everything was fabulous. (Hey, it's my blog. I can brag to the 4 of you that read it, right?) If you need a reliable, easy holiday menu, you can't go wrong with this. The potatoes got great reviews from everyone, including mini-marshmallow snobs. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are you a freegan?

One thing I love about my work (when wearing the graphic design hat) is coming across niche info. For example, I hit on an article tonight that discussed the existence of the Oxford English Dictionary's "rejected words" vault. This word is apparently among them:


Someone who rejects consumerism - usually by eating discarded food

Read more:

I never would have thought this, but I am probably closer to being vegan than freegan. Interesting idea, though.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kitchen Refuge

My son was standing in the kitchen the other day sticking his tongue out and making horrible faces. I asked him what he was doing. He said, "The elf can't see me in here."

Back story:
We have an "Elf on the Shelf" who was hanging out in the dining room that day. My son had been making faces at his sister who informed him the elf was watching. He sought refuge in the kitchen where he could express himself without risk of being reported to Santa.

The kitchen really is the soul of the house!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week 108—Salmon are swimming

Mon – Spaghetti, bread, and edemame 
Tues – Steelhead, broiled, with roasted fingerling potatoes and edemame (popular lately!)
Weds – Chicken enchiladas w/tomatillo sauce and corn soup (Simply Mexican)
Thurs – Potroast something with large chunk of beef recently purchased (crock pot?)
Fri – Personal pita pizzas with feta, toms, etc and couscous
Alts – breakfast; Cuban rice and eggs
So many culinary things happening right now, so little time to write. Child joyfully shooting edemame across the dining room tonight will wake to find St Nick Pez dispenser full of soybeans in his shoes. Cannot wait. And yes, I think I'm a day late on the whole St Nick's day, but the kids don't care.

Happy cooking.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pie. Yum.

I wonder if it tasted good? This one was bakesale bound. I love making pie.

My mom considers pie about the easiest dessert to make, and we had them (usually apple) relatively often growing up. Like store-bought jam or jelly, I was probably in high school before I tasted a store-bought pie. Exception to that being Bishop's chocolate cream pie with chocolate swirls on top, which I thought was the height of pie-dom. I still like that stuff.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pies! Chickens! Chicken pot pie?

Between a sick kid and needing foil pie pans, I've found myself a day late and just barely in time to bake  2 pies I volunteered to bring to my kid's preschool fundraiser winter bazaar. So, I'll be baking pies tonight. One apple, one cherry-strawberry. No idea how the latter will combine, but couldn't find canned un-gooped cherries, so decided to try a strawberry variation. Whatever. It's pie. Can't go too far wrong.

I saw my first "12 Days of Cookies" recipe in my inbox today. Shortbread dipped in chocolate. I've made shortbread before, but the photo just makes this look so appetizing. Getting me in the holiday cooking-baking mood.

Pies for tonight. Visions of shortbreads can dance through my head later....

p.s. we had a chicken in our house over Thanksgiving. Confusing? Here's a photo to illustrate. She was NOT consumed, but rather returned to my son's preschool the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, minus a feather or two. Yes, she does have a bald neck. Has for years, apparently.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 107—Italy. No, Mexico. No, Italy.

Tues – Linguine w/artichokes in white sauce (Viva Italia)
Weds – Chicken enchiladas w/tomatillo sauce and corn soup (Simply Mexican)
Thurs – Spaghetti (from freezer)
Fri – Pizza
Alts – breakfast
Modified the black bean soup recipe by adding chicken, blending all the beans to keep suspicious kids at bay, and using twice the tomatoes. It turned out great, and I learned that I now have at least 1 child that will eat soup. That's 100% increase over previous years.

We have a babysitter that likes to cook, so we put her to use a few weeks ago when the majority of her stay was going to be when the kids were sleeping. She made a batch of our favorite "Grandma Barb's Spaghetti Sauce" which was originally attributed to someone named Kay Zantow, but in my kids' memories will forever be ascribed to Grandma. We'll thaw that sauce for an easy Thursday dinner.

It's cold out there. Stay warm. Happy cooking.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bad dinner guests

Never bring your child to someone's house for Thanksgiving dinner when they were sick earlier in the day, no matter how healthy and recovered they look.

You might end up being really really bad dinner guests.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving carrots

Other than some appetizers, I am only responsible for carrots this Thanksgiving. Blessings! Think I'll try these: Carrots with Shallots, Sage, and Thyme.

Hope you have a great holiday with lots of tasty eats.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hot Dogs, Big Pretzels, Roasted Peanuts, Pizza

These are a few of our favorite things...when traveling in NYC, anyway.

We have a Little Critter book at our house, I think it's called "Just Me and My Mom." Critter and his mom visit the city and a museum that looks a whole lot like the Met. They get kicked out of a finer eating establishment due to Little Critter's frog, and end up eating hot dogs outside the Met. Frog incident aside, my kids shared an equal thrill at eating hot dogs from vendor carts outside the Met this past weekend. As a result of this, my 18 month old now says "hot dog!" every time he's hungry. No bun required.

I noticed 2 trends in vendor stands since my last trip to New York:
1) Where are all the doughnut vendors? Has everyone gone anti-trans-fats??? What is the world coming to?
2) Gourmet vendor carts are everywhere. That's no ordinary giant pretzel being eaten in the photo below. It's special. Special because it sits next to pretzel flavors like "bacon and scallion" and "rosemary garlic." Special because it costs ya' an extra buck. My take? It's probably worth it. It was really good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

votes are in

Skipping the weekly meal plan this week. Actually, there is a plan called "Let's empty out the fridge" since we're headed out of town for a few days. Always a good chance to reclaim some old plastic containers that have harbored long-forgotten left-overs a few days/weeks too many.

On another note, I have learned two lessons so far this week:

1. No amount of persuasion will convince your 4-year-old boy that wearing his sister's old dark purple and black winter boots is cool, or even just ok. He's used to hand-me-downs, but purple is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

2. Same 4-year-old boy that breaks down in tears upon learning sweet potato pancakes are being made instead of the usual Bisquick follows up by single-handedly eating almost half the batch.

Tally: Purple boots, 0 / Sweet potato pancakes, 1.

Louisiana Sweet Potato Pancakes recipe, from So sweet you almost don't need syrup. Almost.

Friday, November 11, 2011

If I do this a THIRD time, send help.

I hate these crackers. No one in my house likes these crackers. So why have I bought them twice now, only to have them go almost completely uneaten?

I must be attracted to the colorful package and exploding cracker. A weird image by all accounts, but I do appreciate that it's not a tarted up image of cheap crackers staged on a shimmering serving platter near a casually laid cloth napkin.

Or maybe it's my desire to actually be eating some "Vermont White Cheddar" as the package flavor tells you you'll taste inside. What I really want is the cheese, and believe me, the crackers do not deliver.

I guess the point of all this is...
does anyone want a box of crackers?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Be honest.

Who has eaten more of your kid's Halloween candy? YOU or YOUR KID?

(probably not relevant for parents with kids ages...7 and up?)

I'm confident I am crushing the youthful competitors in my house. We're running out of chocolate though, so I'll be slowing the pace.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Week 106—Cupboard Follies

Mon – Chili on baked potatoes w/feta
Tues – Some kind of pasta-something w/stuff found in cupboards/fridge (UPDATE: alfredo w/squash)
Weds – Beef stir-fry w/rice
Thurs Sloppy Joe's w/pear, gorgonzola salad kit
Fri Pizza out
Alts – omelettes
I've tried those bagged salad kits a couple times and kinda like the convenience when I'm feeling exceptionally lazy. Which made me think what a product of our time "salad in a bag" is. Which then made me think, does anyone buy a head of iceburg anymore for their typical salad? That's what I grew up on.

My grandmother had a special Tupperware container onto which you'd stab the cored iceburg head to keep it extra fresh and flavorless. It was pale green with a translucent plastic lid. We had no such kind of high-end Tupperware products like this in my house growing up, so I pondered what this meant about my grandma's kitchen.

She wasn't a gadget collector. Did it make lettuce last a long time? Did it taste better this way? I wonder where that container is now. Probably neatly stacked on a shelf in the basement of her house where just my grandfather lives now, nestled with hundreds of other pale green, yellow, pink, and orange Tupperware from decades back.

Happy cooking.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Banned? Really?

I was delighted to come across a pint of Ben and Jerry's Limited Edition Schweddy Balls ice cream a couple weeks ago after reading about all the quaint folks who were protesting its existence in their supermarkets. Happily, my local grocery stop was not too Puritan for this product. It is funny. It is tasty. And for parents who need some adult humor in their lives while little kids who don't know about Saturday Night Live sleep softly in their beds, it's a nice late-night treat to share. Go get some Schweddy Balls to share with your loved one. Make it a date and watch the SNL outtake at Ben & Jerry's website.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scenes from a Halloween Kitchen

I think my son was secretly delighted that he stained his hand green w/food coloring while mixing frosting for our Halloween cookies.  

A few days before Halloween he declared that the kitchen was not creepy enough. So we brought in some newly obtained seasonal lighting (bottom photo). Thanks, Colleen! Creepiness attained.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 105—Pumpkin time

Mon – Halloween mummy dogs (see previous post) if we aren't full on candy
Weds – Steak, potatoes, green beans
Thurs – Beef stir-fry
Fri – Tomato soup, salad, sandwiches
Alts – eat out; falafels
Hope you all have a fun Halloween, and happy cooking.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mummies on a Stick

Think I'll make these for Halloween. They look pretty cool!
Mummies on a Stick

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 104—A hint of bat's tongue

Mon – Thai chicken w/couscous, greens 
Tues – Fish w/chips, guacamole
Weds – Pumpkin and sausage pasta
Thurs – Goulash
Fri – Turkey sausage and veggie fry
Alts – pesto pasta w/squash; eat out
I wrapped meal-planning directly into my shopping trip today to save some time. Crazy innovation, I know.

One of the benefits of doing meal-planning over the past couple years is that I seem to slowly (very slowly) be acquiring a list of meal plans and recipe ideas in my head. I even–gasp–have begun to veer from recipes with substitutions that work out ok. This is a tremendous step for someone who was once involved in using Cheerios as a substitute for bread crumbs when making (inedible) crab cakes.

Thursday and Friday evening we have school Halloween parties. I'll make a dessert for a cake-walk one night. Have to find some time to sew up some bat wings for a costume. I ran into a friend at the fabric store today who was working on assembling shark and eagle costumes for her kids. I felt pretty good about the bat wings considering her challenge!

Happy cooking and costume-assembling.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thanks Mom, but we've got it covered

The kids have enjoyed making their own cocoa and lemonade for the past few months (note there is cocoa powder lightly dusted on the floor here too, to further the effect).

I love this interest in self-sufficiency. Now to refine the clean-up process!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Watch your step!

This just makes me happy. Downtown MPLS 10/11/11

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 103—Transition to Fall

Mon – Stir fry beef (I know this keeps showing up, but I haven't actually made it in 3 weeks)
Tues –  Spaghetti and meatballs (goulash if no time to make meatballs)
Weds – Best of Show Tomato Quiche
Thurs fish tacos w/spaghetti squash, chips, and guacamole
Fri – pizza
Alts – Cuban rice
The Bobby Flay fish taco recipe listed here says it takes 1hr 45min. I think it's more like 45 min. Not sure what corners I cut, but it doesn't take nearly that much time. Fish soaks in marinade while the grill heats up. Perfect. Also very forgiving recipe if you need to make substitutions. Lemon for lime, dried for fresh cilantro…all much better as written I'm sure, but it turns out well regardless.

With the "warmest October on record" thus far, we're still enjoying tomatoes as they ripen in our little garden. The quiche recipe is one I've been making since it was published 10 years ago. Takes a little planning w/a cornmeal crust to make, but love the 2nd stage where you just toss everything into the crust and bake. A last nod to the summer garden.

The Italian meatloaf from last week was a new recipe for me. I really liked it. It was like lasagna without the noodles. Made a good sandwich too because it was so moist. I used feta for half the mozzarella be/c of what I had on hand. Happy cooking.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steamy Green

Typically, I toss frozen veggies in a bowl in the micro and have instant, if slightly unloved, instant side veggies.

Last night I made a steak-potato-broccoli salad for dinner and took the rare step of getting out my steamer insert. You know, steaming how you're supposed to. Starting with fresh broccoli. Removing while still crisp-tender. I felt I owed it to the salad, to make it really really good.

The shade of green that broccoli took on practically made me weep. I hung out in the kitchen with my toddler snacking on freshly steamed broccoli bits the way a kid might gobble Halloween candy in his room before dinner.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bittman Favorite emergency pasta go-to meal plan

Saved this page from Parent's magazine. I've made these pasta dishes several times and love how simple and fast they are. Nice variations. Photographed here for your use and my digital reference. Kinda hard to read, but less time than typing it in.

Lala Land

Learned today that in fact, we will be here all week. I got a week ahead of myself somehow. So, meals for Wed-Fri? Hmm....
- pizza
- rigatoni w/sausage and peas
- eat out

Lovely! Done.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 102—Managerial Complaints

Mon – Stir fry beef
Tues –  Italian meatloaf
Weds – Fri out of office
Alts – Cuban rice; eat out; pizza
Out of town a few days next week, so the menu plan is light.

I spent about 10 mins giving my stovetop a good scrub this morning, removing the knobs, SOS padding around the gas burner plates, etc. I cringed when I saw that my husband had cut the pizza on top of the stovetop tonight, dripping cheese, pepperoni grease, and crumbs all over the place. Which brings up the topic of pet peeves. My husband does a nice job in the kitchen, and does the lion's share of cleaning it each night. But I really wish he wouldn't cut the damn pizza on top of the stove. Maybe if we had a glass top. But we don't.

Which brings me to his pet peeve about me in the kitchen. He finally broke last week and told me he thinks I load the dishwasher "like an Egyptian tomb." I had to think about that colorful description, but I think you get the picture. Anyway, this week's menu plan is dedicated to spousal tweaks in the kitchen. Happy cooking.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Not edible, but sometimes a time and mood come together to make for some very tasty music. Tonight I'm enjoying a late evening snack of music from this site:

If you're in the mood, pick something from the buffet and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Menu Plan = 10PM Binge

While we have enjoyed the meals we've made thus far from the "Parent's" menu plan, we've noticed a distinct lack of calories.

Monday's meal was followed by a 7PM Dairy Queen run. Tuesday's meal was followed by a 10PM sushi-apple-cheese run (since the local taco joint had already closed). Tonight was a chili party at our daughter's school, so we ate like the bottomless pits that we apparently are. Yum.

Can you really eat a dinner with incredibly low fat and calorie levels and NOT pig out later? I'm chalking up the menu plan they provided as "this week's appetizers." Tasty, but you better have some supplements on hand.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 101—Parents Mag menu plan

Taken directly from my last issue of Parents, here's this week's menu plan:

It's 5:45 and you've just walked in the door. The kids are starving and you've got 20 minutes to get a nutritious meal on the table before a serious toddler meltdown occurs. If this sounds like your typical weeknight, spending a little time on the weekend to prep some key ingredients will make tackling the weeknight dinner rush simple. We'll point out which components you should make-ahead to simplify your weekday mealtime.
The Menu
Monday: Honey-Hoisin Chicken With Rice
Tuesday: Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage
Wednesday: Veggie Fried Rice
Thursday: Panko-Topped Fish with Easy Greek Salad
Friday: Asian Burgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad
I made the panko fish and Greek salad tonight. It took me literally 20 mins, start to finish. I was stunned. I thought the meal was excellent, as did my husband. The kids were less excited, but I served the meal with some crusty bread w/olive oil and reheated some pasta from the weekend which helped get a few more calories in them before heading off to skating lessons.

Shocking realization today: my kids spend more time ice skating than swimming over the course of the year. You know you live in a cold icy hell when...

School chili-supper on Wednesday this week, so I'll swap out one of the recipes above for a nice cook-free evening mid-week. Happy cooking.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall colors

Lovely fall colors from Fitger's Brewery on a recent trip up north. Mmm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 100 — Let's just eat out every day!

Mon – Steak, corn on the cob, potatoes via grill
Tues –  Tortellini w/red sauce, peas, banana bread
Weds – Italian meatloaf
Thurs – Beef stir-fry 
Fri – Pizza
Alts – Cuban rice; eat out
I'm always looking for the best ways to make dinner easy. Here are some things that are currently working for me:
1. Eat out (my favorite)
2. Make meals that don't involve prep (e.g. toss everything on the grill)
3. Make the meal ahead of time (e.g. crock pot)

Here are things that haven't been working:
1. Making double batches and freeze one for later. It's a rare meal that I want to revisit in frozen form. Homemade spaghetti sauce, ok. Meatloaf? I only want to see that about once a year anyway.
2. Making things that require lots of attention to the recipe
3. Cooking before my husband gets home. I spend 2x the time, 3x the stress, and only have it ready about 20 mins earlier. I still try to do this on days that the household mood allows, but in general I've been cutting myself some slack and waiting to do the majority until he's home. Truly, it's: "Hi! How was your day? Here are the kids. I'm cooking." No slippers and newspaper right now. Maybe in a couple years. God bless you single working moms out there. You are Wonder Women!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Teaching them to eat ugly

This is a photo of a deliciously crisp and juicy apple given to me by a friend (thanks, Amelia, these were FABULOUS!) who first offered this: It's organic, from a friend's farm, and although it doesn't look that great it tastes really good. 

True, nature isn't always picture-perfect.

My husband and I visited Costa Rica several years ago. A local told us that in times of heavy rain, plastic bags that were put over each of the thousands of banana bunches growing on the banana plantations would fall from the trees and litter the landscape, ultimately washing into the ocean. We half expected to see plastic bags where we were diving. Either there hadn't been heavy rains recently, or the problem wasn't so bad. Not sure, but I've thought about the use of those bags a lot since then.

Other than a few items, I'm not typically too concerned about whether my food is organic or not. However, it always gives me pause when I see perfect and unblemished bananas in the produce aisle. According to our Costa-contact, the plastic bags they put over the banana bunches makes them sell better in the US market because they're unblemished. It doesn't impact the quality of the fruit for better or worse.

So I try to encourage my kids to be open to eating "ugly food." It's not what it looks like, it's what it tastes like that counts! The apple you see here was sheer perfection.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Whole New Ice Experience! Or not.

When you buy ice, it's not as though you're choosing from a variety of brands. Usually there are some different weights, and maybe block vs. cubed.

When my husband brought home Super Chill ice before our last camping trip, I was intrigued by their package claim to "chill a whole new way."

Really? Are claims like this even necessary in the ice cube industry? How different could one ice experience be from another?

My toddler was pretty intrigued by this ice, but he's only been walking the earth for a little over a year. To me, just cubes. Would have been kind of fun to find a dollar bill or cool ice shapes inside. Maybe some novelty toy frozen in one of them. Missed opportunity for Super Chill ice to become my sought-after brand of choice!

I have to conclude that it still just doesn't matter where you buy your 20lb bag of ice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Week 99—As of Thursday

Mon – Chicken stir-fry
Tues –  Turkey sausage and veggie fry-up
Weds – Grandma's spaghetti
Thurs Tacos (this word means "high heels" in Spanish, which makes me like the food that much more)
Fri – Burgers or breakfast
Alts – Alfredo; falafels
We were supposed to attend a Kindergarten pizza party tonight at my daughter's school. I was personally thrilled, because it meant no dinner-prep, and no subsequent clean-up. Sadly, she got sick this afternoon, so no pizza party. Boo hoo. The party was smartly set-up: if you attend, just bring a pizza to share. They provided drinks and a dessert. How easy is that? Would have been fun. Ah, 2 years and we'll get the chance with our son.

For now, it's nearly the weekend. Happy Friday, and happy cooking.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

five and a half hours

This photo is probably only relevant if you've read or watched 127 Hours. It's my version from a couple weeks ago.

There is a picture in the book that lays out all of Aron Ralston's supplies that he had to use to survive as he was trapped by a boulder for 127 hours. I won't go into his efforts to escape, other than to say it's worth a read and/or watch. 

Last week, I had prepared a nice picnic lunch and tossed in some rare treats (you see above) that were left-over from our Habitat purchases. We visited my son's preschool, then planned to go on a couple hour hike in the surrounding woods, farm, and pond with the kids. 

We had a nice start trekking about, and about an hour into our journey, as we were all getting nice and hungry, we settled on a picnic spot. I opened my backpack to find that somehow I hadn't actually PACKED the sandwiches, veggies, and drinks. The picture above shows what I did have. So, we did what any intrepid hiker in dire straights would do. We made lunch out of Oreos, Skittles, and a shared bottle of water. The kids thought it was awesome. Of course, this also means my 16-month-old youngest child ate this food as well. I wouldn't have even had this stuff in the house when my oldest was that age. No wonder the youngest ones get spoiled. They benefit from older-sibling corruption and more harried parents. 

No limbs were lost, incidentally.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lunch Lady Blues

The good news is, my kid loves school lunch. She told me tonight she wants to tell the lunch ladies that this is the best food she's ever had. I told her to go right ahead, they'd be so happy to hear it.

The bad news is, this is hard not to take personally. What about my Mark Bittman pasta tonight? And the crusty bread and olive oil accompaniment? Nada.

Having eaten lunch where my kid goes to school, I have to admit it is pretty good, fresh stuff. Not the canned green beans of my childhood. In truth, I am mostly just delighted that she eats a good lunch and I DON'T HAVE TO MAKE IT.

Go lunch ladies!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 98—Back to School, for the 1st time

Mon – Homemade pizza, salad
Tues –  Chicken stir-fry
Weds – Beef skewers w/cherry toms and mushrooms
Thurs – Pasta, beans, and greens
Fri – Burgers/dogs
Alts – Alfredo; falafels
I've been admittedly lax on the whole meal-planning-grocery-shopping ritual this latter part of summer. It's been a nice break, reminding me of the order that is brought to my life when I do menu plan. No scrapping for meals, no looks of "what's this?" when I set, uh, something on the table.

Tomorrow, 9/12, represents the first time in my 6 years of parenthood that I will officially ship a kid off to school for all-day every day education. Which means one huge thing to me: I have to have 3 kids who are in varying states of neediness (diapers to tricky zippers) out the door by 8AM every day.

Some parents shed tears at the prospect of sending their little ones off to kindergarten. I think my overriding concern is for one of a dictated schedule for the first time in years. What does parenthood look like from here? Should be an exciting week. Happy cooking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flaming Green

I'm packing for a camping trip (sorry, Matt, be there in a sec) but simply had to pause when I came across this book of matches.

Are you kidding me? Did you, oh Diamond Matches-Makers just completely negate the Tremendous Environmental Good that you bestowed on we, the purchasers of your Responsibly Sourced wooden matches by using a multi-color printing process which is without question vastly more environmentally harmful than using irresponsible forests for the wood splinters that comprise your match sticks?

Rich! This makes me want to use TWO matches each time I light up my dubiously gathered wood pile to burn my Responsibly Sourced Jet-Puff marshmallows.

Seriously people. Stick with the 2-color print job and spare me the litany on how green my choice of matchsticks is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Habitat Wrap-a-thon

My husband and I spent last Thursday evening assembling wraps for a Habitat for Humanity crew working in a tornado-damaged area of NE Minneapolis.

Thanks, Becky, for the suggestion to make wraps! So, the photo of them on my car seat (yum) doesn't make them look too appealing, but they looked decent in person. They were pretty fun to put together and it was easy to make a big variety for all tastes. We had chips, cookies, and salsas as well.

By the 40th wrap, I even had a pretty slick deli-style wax paper roll-up going.

The event inspired a lot of wrap-oriented lunches in our house lately, using up left-over ingredients.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cakes, as decorated by the kids

This year, the kids were very excited to decorate their own cakes. The theme for both was basically "stick toy on top of cake" so it was a pretty clean proposition.

My daughter wanted a horse cake, so we frosted it with a lush green pasture, then she put a fence, tree, couple of ponies, hay bale and water trough on top. I'm describing it so thoroughly because I didn't get a picture of it other than in video form.

My son wanted a spider cake. I was pretty excited to make a round cake and give it big hairy spider legs, but he spotted some Spiderman cupcake toppers that he thought were the coolest things ever. So instead, I frosted a web onto the cake and he popped the little Spidermen all over the cake.

Pretty simple cake year compared to the Barbie cake last year, and alligator cake from a couple years ago!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Birthday Week, 2011 Edition

We're in the middle of our annual birthday week. Had a tie-dye-pinata-horse-themed party over the weekend, which marked our first-ever "kid party." A bold step in parenthood for sure.

Today my daughter turned 6. She requested that I make beef stir-fry for dinner. It warmed my heart that she asked me to make something that I learned how to make within the past few years, and that I make without a recipe, varying it each time (very unusual for me). It made me feel a little bit successful as Mom-in-the-Kitchen, which is not an entirely familiar feeling!

My son turns 4 tomorrow. He requested pancakes for dinner, which should make a nice pairing with the cake we'll have for dessert. Syrup, anyone?

Pictures to come of cakes and/or party stuff. For now, I have presents to wrap!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Garden of earthly delights

My mom-teacher-political-sign-poster-working-on-a-green-thumb-writer friend Paysha has a special feature on her gardening blog each Friday that's quite unique. It's called "Plant Porn Phriday." Worthwhile not only for the creative ways which nature shows ALL its colors, but for her great copy. People actually PAY her to write when she's not blogging or gardening or raising a wee lad, so it makes her blog a worthwhile read.

I submitted some ballsy tomatoes to her blog this week, which she was kind enough to post. Take a gander. Look, but don't touch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bow Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Cheese

12oz farfalle (bowtie) pasta 
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1T minced chives 
1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2T unsalted butter
8 eggs
1 1/3c grated Swiss cheese
Bring water to a boil, cook pasta until done. 
Meanwhile, put eggs, oil, chives, salt, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. When the pasta is ready, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the bowl. Drain pasta and toss with ingredients in bowl.
Melt 1/2T of the butter in each of two nonstick skillets. Break two of the eggs into each skillet and cook, covered, over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until the whites are just set. Spoon pasta onto warmed plates and sprinkle on a heaping spoonful of cheese. Place 2 eggs on top of the pasta, add a little more cheese, and then a half ladle of pasta. (The egg yolks should be visible through the top layer of pasta). Cook remaining eggs and plate the same way.

Tears to my eyes

We slummed it tonight and grabbed one of those $5 Hot N Ready pizzas from Little Ceasar's. When we were leaving the parking lot, my daughter asked why the umbrella over the picnic table outside Ceasar's didn't say "Little Ceasar's," have the right colors, or show the little character. They had some cheesy drink company with lime green labeling on the umbrella instead.

I paused as I took in what she was saying. Joy. A budding designer? Just a person who cares? Thank you for noticing these things and asking why.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All Grown Up

I took a momentous step today and purchased a big beverage cooler w/pouring spout. I don't know why, but this is the type of thing that I thought only moms bought for hosting large family events or kid parties.

That was the moment of personal insight. I AM that mom-type. Kinda scary how those things sneak up on you.

p.s. these are only $9 at Walmart. Watch out for the minivan stampede!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bacon grease II

If you read yesterday's post about the mason jar full of bacon grease, you'll appreciate today's update.

I was making yet more bacon tonight (no comments about our arteries here needed) and I dumped a glass full of bacon grease once again, all over the countertop, cupboards, recycling, and floor.


Really nice? Husband cleaned it all up later that evening once it had cooled a bit. My hero.

The telltale mason jar

It looks pretty innocent in the photo, doesn't it? Just a greasy mason jar, ready for a wash or toss into the recycling bin.

Until you know that only moments before this photo was taken it was full of liquid bacon grease.

I walked in the kitchen after leaving my kids unattended for just a few minutes too long to find this empty jar. I asked where all the grease had gone (I collected it here after making bacon for lunch until it cooled enough to toss). My daughter said her little brother had dumped it all out into the sink as part of an experiment. She then said it was ok, she took care of it by draining the sink and putting in fresh water for washing dishes.

Mild freak-out on my part. Drained the sink, ran hot water down it for the next 10 minutes. Crossed fingers that it was enough. By this point, the grease that didn't make it into the sink had started to coagulate and I saw the full extent of the damage. All over the counter, the carton of eggs and tissue box on the counter, dumped in the recycling, down the cupboard front, and all over the floor. Oh, and on the leather chair cushion that my daughter was standing on to wash dishes.

Then my daughter informs me her brother has colored on the living room wall behind the couch. Another freak out on my part, slightly less mild this time. I sweep him up to take him up to a time out/nap, then come to my senses and instead put him to work cleaning up. By the time the living room is cleaned up from crayons, toys, strewn cushions, etc, I take him up for a nap.

My daughter comments, "Mom, isn't it nice we're such good helpers?" I wrench out a smile but don't manage to say anything. She offers to help empty the dishwasher, while polishing her own halo. I take her up on it. While we're working, she says, "Some days are harder than others." I burst out laughing to which she comments, "Well, I didn't expect that reaction!" And I laugh harder.

We finish up and simultaneously wonder what her brother has been up to. I go to check and find him covered in red marker on his belly, writing in his sister's special notebook. He says as sweetly as pie that he's making clues for me to follow. Ah ha. So cute. So maddening. as a parent.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Week 97—Go Fish

Mon – Feta meatballs with orange glaze; fingerling potatoes
Tues –  BLTs (never made last week)
Weds – Brats w/grilled corn and asparagus
Thurs – Tacoritos
Fri – Pizza
Alts – eat out; pasta pot-luck
I've never actually played Go Fish that I remember. But my impression of the game is what I'm doing with menu planning this week. Open fridge. Pull something out. Like it, eat it. Don't like it, go fish. Happy cooking.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Main dish decision

We're hosting some neighbors for a mini-reunion this weekend and I'm trying to decide:
grill meat (brats/dogs/burgers)
enchiladas & tacos
big pan of some tasty pasta dish

I'm looking for easy, but good. We're eating outside, so grilling seems like the obvious direction. Maybe kabobs? They can be time-consuming to string, but lovely to behold. Hm. Any suggestions?

Update: Kebobs it is. Tonight my husband and I plan to have a kebob-threading date. Maybe put in a movie or some good tunes and thread away. Woo!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things that would not be in my kitchen were it not for children (an abbreviated gallery)

Fairy wand

Vintage turtle toy

Plate of drying clay creatures

Sticker on tissue box

Cowboy boots

Kick board

Creature made for Mom's Day gift

Week 96—summer stride

Mon – Dogs and burgers, grilled sweet corn
Tues –  BLTs
Weds – Rigatoni Isabella
Thurs Squash soup and cheddar biscuits
Fri Grandma Barb's Spaghetti (thaw)
Alts – eat out; breakfast
I've hit some sort of rhythm with my recent grocery trips, spending precisely the same amount this week as last. I had some pretty good things happen last week, discovering some mature savings bonds yet to be redeemed and getting free 2-day shipping on a book order because of a nice customer service guy. Maybe that good karma will repeat this week as well?

The pepperoni-roll from week 94 was atrocious. So salty it made your tongue feel like it was shriveling up. Gah. Will NOT be using Pillsbury tube-o-french-bread again. You say I should have known just by the fact that it used Pullsbury tube-o-french-bread? True. So true. Happy cooking.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 95--Viva Italia

Mon – Grandma Barb's Spaghetti
Tues –  Seafood Salad and Crostini 
Weds – Stromboli
Thurs – Ravioli w/prosciutto
Fri – out of town
Alts – BLTs/grill something
After trying to place a woman's Spanish accent for half the morning at the park, I finally figured it out. She was Italian. I think our encounter this AM inspired some of this week's selections. Off to the store now. Looking forward to the blasting AC. Happy cooking.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dragons in the Garden

I started to cut this black pepper (variation on a green pepper) from our garden when I noticed it had an eye. Look at this thing! But kind of sideways in case it feels threatened and attacks.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mystery String

If you glance toward the ceiling in our kitchen you'll notice a string between the cupboards on one side of the room.

By mid-summer, there is usually a cluster of drying herbs hanging there.

By mid-winter, the dried herbs have long since been crushed into dark tins inside the cupboards, and we're enjoying garden basil and oregano in our pizza sauce.

So if you're ever in our kitchen, look up and see what season it is by what's hanging on the string. Dust means late winter or early spring.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy birthday to Fuzzyback

We decided, because it was approximately the right date, and because we had a happy passel of kids at our house this afternoon, to celebrate our hamster's birthday today. Anticipation for the event (brainchild of a 5-year-old) has been building for weeks. Potential guests. Gifts. Decorations. Mostly in discussion form, but I did let her spend $3 on some "salty savors" for the little beast. And we got a balloon.

There are children in the world that do not have bdays as nice as the hamster's. I am aware of this absurdity.

We had a table full of snacks that appealed to kids and hamsters alike (peas from our garden, pita chips, watermelon, and so on). We made a rhubarb crisp to have something cake-ish but not so decadent.

A good time was had by all.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week 94—On the fly

Mon – Pulled pork, corn
Tues –  Burgers 
Weds – Chicken stir-fry
Thurs Rigatoni with sausage and peas
Fri Gazpacho, tostadas, Mexican delights
Alts – popcorn?
Went to the store to grab some frozen pizzas tonight and came back with groceries for the week. No time like the present, and my 5-year-old and I were having a really nice time shopping together. Eldest boy sobbing right now (bedtime) so suspect my time here is up. Happy cooking.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dinner plan? Meh.

Not planning meals this week since it's so hot that none of us really seem to be eating much anyway. Doesn't mean exciting things aren't happening on the meal front, however. Highlights thus far this week:

– Having Jimmy John's deliver to my car (complicated tale, but let's just say they provide excellent service)

– Trying out a new local taco shop that offers things like 16 hr brisket and pumpkin seeds in their taco selection. All tacos $2.50. My husband and I tried 5 kinds tonight with a cool beer. Perfect. Rusty Tacos, right next to Trader Joe's for curious local readers.

– Having popcorn for dinner on Sunday. Seems like there was something else too, but all I remember was the popcorn.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bowled Over

Did I already show these? After my littlest babe broke all my mixing bowls (and fortunately not himself) in one fell swoop this winter, we ordered some new bowls online.

I've loved these, even all the ridiculous little sizes they come in. I think I used them all in the first 2 days of ownership, just because of the fun colors and sizes. They made me look for excuses to "need" that tiny little blue bowl or that slightly-larger-but-not-quite-mixing-bowl-category red bowl. The huge one is a pretty putrid shade of green though. 

I like that they are somewhat taller and narrower than my previous very broad, wide set. It makes them easier to handle.

All this is to say I should actually be planning out this week's menu so the bowls have a purpose, other than holding the Cheerios and salad that are currently the only things available.