Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 112—Husband shops. Wife zones out.

Mon – Chicken tortilla soup (Best-Loved Crock Pot Recipes)
Tues – Dirty rice (box mix)
Weds – Chicken nuggets (Deceptively Delicious)
Thurs – Batman and Robin Soup and buttermilk biscuits ("ChopChop" magazine)
Fri – Rigatoni Isabella
Alts – chip plate; pancakes
Have no idea what I was doing at the time, but my husband got groceries this week. Before he left, I explained some potentially confusing shorthand on the list. He called me once from the store for a point of clarity about onions.

When he got home, we concurred that it is vastly more difficult to follow a grocery list someone else has made. You have your own structure, handwriting, shorthand, and organizational methods. And you're familiar with the recipes you have in mind, so you know when it's ok to substitute or fly off the list if the store doesn't have exactly what you need.

So, with drumroll and a rolling-pin salute, we co-present this week's menu plan. Happy cooking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bran Muffins

I think these are 3rd generation now. As far as I know, this recipe originated with my grandmother, Inez Holmes. I don't know where she got it, but it's great. Cereals have changed a little over the years, and sometimes the bran doesn't break down the way it should. If you have trouble with your bran cereal not breaking down, thereby looking like cat kibble, try two things. A) try a different type of bran cereal next time (the recipe isn't that fussy) or B) try mixing the heck out of it to get them to break down after a day or two of sitting in the mix. It won't make the muffins tough.

There's a reason this recipe starts by listing the sugar first. They are moist, sweet, and multiples better than any other bran muffin out there. If you like bran muffins that taste and feel like bird seed in your mouth, these are not for you.

Bran Muffins -- Inez Holmes
2 1/2 c sugar
1 c crisco
2 t salt
1 qt buttermilk (fresh or powdered, just follow package directions if powdered)
5 c flour
5 t baking soda
4 c eggs
4 c bran buds
2 c wheaties/bran flakes
pour 2 c boiling water over cereal before adding to mixture.

Mix all together. 375 degrees for 10 mins. Increase cook time to 20+ minutes if cooking from the refrigerator. Err on the side of slightly under-baked for best texture. Batter keeps up to 6 weeks if refrigerated (according to my grandma. I've never made it past a week).

Can cut recipe in half.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Headline: Peace at Bennett's

Just had a memorably peaceful dinner out with the kids. I looked at my husband toward the end of the meal  with an eyeball message that conveyed: Wow. Is this really going this well?  

He eyeballed back: Incredible! One for the record books.

I think it was nearly an hour of sitting, ordering food, and eating calmly. No trips to the bathroom. No dumped milk. No arguments. Nothing but compliments about the food (none of which was what they'd asked for -- pizza/hot dogs).

Heaven. Absolute heaven.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 111—Roughed in

Mon – Beef stir-fry with soba noodles (the kids love soba, don't touch rice)
Tues – sack-dinners taken to all-school volunteer night
Weds – Grandma Barb's spaghetti
Thurs – something chicken...tbd
Fri – Beef tacos w/Xmas gift mix
Alts – omelettes/breakfast
This week's menu plan is a sketch generated with the knowledge that I have a lot of groceries and fresh veggies in the house that I need to use or lose. Happy cooking.


My husband was staff chef this weekend, specializing in all things bread. On Friday he made a pizza with the Mark Bittman crust recipe, on Saturday, he made cinnamon rolls (see cinna-man in the photo), and Sunday he made chili with cornbread.

Household favorites were in order of sweetness, with cinnamon rolls being the clear winner.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


For nearly 3 horrifying weeks in December I was without a dishwasher.

Long-time followers will know that I was loathe to bring a portable dishwasher into my already small kitchen, and within 2 days of doing so, fell completely in love with the thing.

Here's an action-shot of a heap of drying dishes as I worked like mad to keep dirty dishes from piling up. I did pretty well, but was oh-so-happy to have the new dishwasher arrive just in time for Christmas. Joy to my world!

Regarding the new dishwasher purchase: if you are in the market for a portable dishwasher, there are essentially 2 models out there. The expensive one, and the cheap one. Don't buy the cheap one. We did initially, and within 2 hours of it being in our house my youngest had cut his hand on the rough edge of the plastic, just opening the door! What a piece. We returned it. Expensive model=worth every penny. No bandaids required.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 110 — Hours slaving in the kitchen?

Mon – Salmon, sweet potatoes, snow peas
Weds – Steak, squash, salad
Thurs – Chili and cornbread
Fri – Greek meatloaf (Opaah!), potatoes, green beans
Alts – pizza/go out
I had a friend who liked to ponder how much more we could do with our time and money if we didn't have to eat. He liked a good holiday feast or gathering of friends around a meal as much as I do, but he does have an interesting point.

I don't spend hours making lovely meals at this time of life, but I do spend hours in the kitchen each day taking care of the necessity of eating and preparing food for a family of 5. Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, after school snack, dinner. Late night snack for myself once the kids are in bed. What does that add up to? I have a sense for what it costs, but I'm not sure I've ever tracked the time.

Let's try it out. Poor methodology, but to ballpark this I'm going to estimate a "normal" day's time spent on meal prep through clean-up:
45 min—breakfast
15 min — snack
30 min — lunch
15 min — snack
90 min — dinner
15 min — late night snack/additional clean-up
3.5 hours

Wow. That seems like a lot...and seems fairly accurate. No wonder I love those pizza party nights—they're a gift of 1 hour of time back. In not too much longer the kids will be more self-sufficient with snacks. However, long breakfasts will always be enjoyed in our house. It's our favorite meal of the day. Admiration for those prairie women who were baking bread, hand-washing clothes, pumping water. I truly live a luxurious lifestyle compared with that reality!

Happy cooking.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Art of Cooking

My daughter was in the kitchen with me as I tried out one of my fun new kitchen tools. I was chopping some ingredients for a stew using my new hand-chopper (thanks, Mom!), and was struck by how photogenic the little squares were with colorful bits of veggie poking through. The light-dark (yes, the chiaroscuro, having recently read Despereaux), the symmetrical pattern of the squares, the unruly vegetables. 

I looked at it for a moment, and my daughter, reading my mind, said, "Mom, we should take a picture of that."

She then wanted to find some beauty of her own, with camera in hand. Here's a photo of some celery she found alluring. Isn't that green hue delicious this time of year?

I hereby dedicate myself to finding beauty in the kitchen this year. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

This is probably my most-made recipe. I like it because it's easy, reliable, and the muffins have a nice slightly crisp texture that makes them less cake-like and overwhelmingly sweet than some.

Blueberry Muffins--Blue Willow Inn Cookbook
1 egg
1/2c milk
1/4c salad oil
1 1/2c flour
1/2c sugar
2t baking powder
1/2t salt
1 cup fresh or 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Mix all together very lightly, adding blueberries at the end.
400 degree oven, 20-25 min

Makes about 12 muffins

Friday, January 6, 2012

Toddler Lunch

Confirming once again that I am the only person in our house that eats mac n' cheese.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Week 109—Oldies

Mon – Pizza party (1 day until back-to-school)
Tues – Alfredo, smoked salmon, left-overs
Weds – Tomato soup and grilled cheese
Thurs – Pasta puttanesca and crusty bread (Simply Italian)
Fri – Polynesian meatballs, mashed potatoes, greens
Personal note: double the tomato soup recipe, but not the fats (per reader reviews). I'm not familiar with Michael Chiarello, but love that one reviewer called him a "hot bowl of soup." Fabulous!

Read a tip about new year's resolutions: make 12, one for each month of the year. I'm doing this, and my first month is: Eat More Veggies. It's January in the upper Midwest, but it's sunny California in my local produce aisle so there are no excuses for not loading up on colorful veggie sides.

Happy new year, happy cooking.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I have no memory of this blob.

In a hasty pre-holiday fridge clean out, I discovered a container with a white blob inside. I approached with some hesitation, as one does with items recovered from the forgotten depths of one's fridge.

It was odorless, colorless, and just the tiniest bit wiggly. The texture was quite smooth.

I asked my husband if he had any clue what it might be. He had no memory of it either. I scooped it into the trash, with the smallest bit of curiosity over what it might taste like.

A mystery best left to 2011, I think.