Friday, December 31, 2010

MPM--Happy 2011

Well, that took longer than I thought. Long story short: I took my MacBook to the Apple Store because it wasn't backing up and was starting to malfunction. "Genius" at Genius Bar said, "Your hard drive is crashing but no time soon; order this item from Amazon and come back next week." Me: "Can I just buy it now and back it up so I know I have my irreplaceable photos?" "Genius:" "No, that'll take too long and cost you $30 extra dollars. It'll be fine." Insert me asking in two other ways for him to pretty please back up my stuff, and him blowing me off. Next time I turned on my computer? Gone. Dead.

Back at Apple, I got the same "Genius," whose response was "Who would have known that it would happen like that?" Answer, "Genius," I think, is ME, which is why I was there, asking three times for you to please back up my stuff so it was safe. He gave me lousy advice and knew it, so next thing you know, my entire computer was upgraded and spiffified (new cover to the keyboard, etc.) for nothing. But all those new things would have cost maybe 1/3 of what it will cost for data recovery, if my data even can be recovered. And I was so bitter, I didn't get on the computer for a month. And I still can't open the MacBook without feeling like I've been stabbed in the heart, so I'm back on my Dell, which is less than ideal but doesn't make me want to cry.

So. My resolution for 2011 is to back up my photos. I'm looking at SmugMug.

But it's also to spend less time on the computer. While I was completely web-free, I read seven books, used my cookbooks (though I really did miss some of my favorite food blogs), called and texted more, and wow, was my house cleaner.

I'm not sure how I'm going to continue this blog. I might just use it to mention new favorite recipes. Because I did have some pangs with big successes or failures, thinking, Oh, I need to blog this. And it has become an awesome personal favorite recipes bank. (Newest favorite: this crockpot pork and sauerkraut recipe is cooking right now so I can take it to my father-in-law's birthday party tomorrow; I used the non-vinegar CSA sauerkraut for a slightly milder flavor, and shredded an apple in there too).

Finally--it's not too late to make an even better resolution for 2011...be inspired at Resolution11! Mine: stop throwing out leftovers. Buy less, give more to our local food bank, and be serious about making Aid for Friends meals. How about you? Please check it out. And may 2011 bring you all that you dream.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MPM--Better Late than Never

That was last week, too, I suppose. Things have been busy around here. There has been a plan, but alas, "Post the Plan" didn't make it past the planning stages. Main issue: my dearly beloved laptop died. Please say a prayer to the saints of data recovery for my photos, which were backed up but not daily, and I'd just downloaded a bunch. So clearly, I'm out of NaBloPoMo this year. Which is ok.

Monday: turkey breast, cauliflower, roasted carrots, leftover "baby bat" (mini bow tie) noodles with butter & parsley

Tuesday: I thought I'd make mushroom lasagne, but the call went out for crabcakes, and I am no one to argue this great idea. Salad, beets.

Wednesday: Mushroom lasagne. Which translates to "hot dogs or chicken fingers" for kids.

Thursday: Leftovers.

Friday Last football game--woohoo! Well--the team is going in to the playoffs, but we are not.

Last week was good--nothing really new--lots of finishing the old. This was fine. I'm too distracted on the not-my-computer to do a good job with this post, but wanted to let you know--I'm fine, just my computer isn't. Hoping your life, cyber and otherwise, is going better this week. See you on the other side of a new hard drive...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

MPM--Something Fallish This Way Comes

Something about the colder temperatures is so inspirational for cooking, isn't it? I had really lost my mojo there for a while and a few fall days brought it right back. I set off to use use use what we had, and made some lovely things. You must know, I have a new resolution: whenever Catherine Newman posts a pork recipe, drop everything and make it immediately. The pork roast with cider-cream gravy tasted like something from a restaurant and is super-easy to boot. That's the "best of" in a sentence from last week. But there's lots more reviews after the new menu.

This week is crazy with something almost every night, so this will be a little dull:

Monday: JV football night! Hoping the hot dog stand is open. If not--chicken nuggets for kids, DAF meal from freezer for grownups, CSA veggies for all. Though I am having a big craving for a cheesesteak, so we might scrap the freezer stuff.

Tuesday: Even crazier gymnastics-then-football-then-meeting night. Can't be any more grateful that this is the last one of these. Back to Bittman for the turkey breast with cabbage two ways, beets, salad.

Wednesday: I hate to say no to the WRH but I can't pull off a night out right now. Leftover turkey, sweet potatoes (by request!), salad.

Thursday: Miraculously, the last football practice. I have really been glad that my son had the opportunity to play, and there's not really a better time. But wow, getting evenings back will be nice. Chinese carnitas, rice, cauliflower.

Friday: Town Halloween Parade--we'll be going to hear my kids wonder why, again, their store-bought costumes don't win. Trying to use veggies and making this curry, with potatoes. And the kids will get pizza, and we might too, but the curry is happening to finish the crisper.

Last week was a really fun one, food-wise. Maybe it's the weather, or that both kids are back in school, but I'm finally getting things back in gear.

I surprised myself by having a big bowl of the nutmeg version of this 101 Cookbooks cauliflower recipe, which, with the nutmeg, was just right for fall and so nice and warm on a just-turning-cold day. (And I like cauliflower but am not in general a fan...making a small portion helped, so I didn't feel swamped under a mountain of cauliflower.) I used our CSA leeks and freezer peas and leftover sauerkraut to make my wierd soup again. I was inspired to try other soups, not that my kids eat them, but others do, and we had some people to cook for this week, so I made Alton Brown's potato leek, and Crockpot 365's spinach bisque. Yep, I even bought Velveeta for this one. (Despite my skepticism that you can call a soup with Velveeta "bisque.") It must be fall. Well, that and we're desperate to get veggies in to our younger son and so were trying this recipe, so I bought one block and split it between. The soup was ok. I served it as a dip to my husband with corn chips during the baseball game and it went well. But the broccoli bake? Total fail. My older one won't eat cheese. My younger sobbed that he was afraid that the taste of the broccoli might never, ever leave his mouth again if he allowed it to cross his lips. And yet he'll eat sand at the beach. My husband and I enjoyed the taste of our childhoods with the Velveeta and butter-soaked Ritzes. But we really try not to eat like that much, so I don't think we'll try that tactic again anytime soon.

We jazzed up spaghetti night with Trader Joe's garlic bread, which, alas, was meh. I was hoping for a home run here but really--this is better done ourselves. Sigh. I know, it's so easy I have no reason to complain. But a girl can dream of saving even one MORE step.

As for the brunch...it was fun! In an "I don't even know who I am anymore" moment, I made my own pumpkin puree (thank you Pioneer Woman) and made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins with them. Next time I'm going to put some demarara sugar on top, and I did add a whole cup of chocolate chips, but otherwise I followed it exactly.

I made the Ina Garten peach-raspberry yogurt. I drained it overnight and laughed when I saw that this meant instead of four cups of yogurt, I now had two. It was pretty funny but good--and in another I-don't-know-who-I-am-anymore moment, I used the whey to make no-knead bread. (Not for brunch--not enough time, but we all love that bread.) With the whey, the bread was excellent and devoured by all in 24 hours. Alas, the yogurt wasn't nearly as good and I don't know why. Not sweet enough, for one thing, but the honey was overwhelmed and I couldn't add any more peach juice without totally overwatering it. I can't believe Ina let me down but it appears to have happened!

That's it for this week. Tune in next week for still more pumpkin muffins, that's for sure! What are you making? Go share with I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Monday, October 11, 2010

MPM--Fall Fest

Happy week everyone!

Finally, we're settling in to fall. School, football, soccer, Phillies playoff games, all in a bit of a rhythm here. I made a bit of a breakthrough last week and skipped the pork roast because we still had lots of grilled meats. I made a steak salad, and we all had a very iron-rich week.

This week:

Monday: pork roast, finally, mashed potatoes, something from the CSA box

Tuesday: baseball playoff night so football is switched. I'm working this night so boys' night in, which will mean spaghetti, whether I plan anything or not. I found some Italian sausage in the freezer so I might make my husband happy and throw that in the crockpot with some tomato sauce all day.

Wednesday: Tonight is football night so something fast. Probably leftover pork for all with roasted potatoes (less hands-on time than mashed).

Thursday: Freezer meal for football again. Nuggets for boys, not sure for grownups. We'll see how the week goes.

Friday: Fall Fest at the elementary school! Woohoo! Learning from last time: bring change. It's a fundraiser. We ordered pizza and will buy from the bake sale for dessert.

And just for fun...one of the last football games for my son is this weekend in the district where his cousins all live (that is, the ones who don't live in ours). So I'm hosting a football tailgate brunch in our car. I'm making granola, Ina Garten's peach-raspberry yogurt, crockpot breakfast casserole (vegetarian), and, if I'm feeling ambitious, sausage sandwiches (easy-peasy--get the little teeny soft Pepperidge Farm rolls, and tuck a sausage in each--and I'll make the sausage the night before and store in the thermos). That plus coffee and cocoa and we'll be ready to roll!

In my epiphany about too much food in the fridge and freezer, I really focused on not following whims (yep, pork roast, I'm looking at you), and just making what's there. We revisited lots of old favorites from the CSA I made a carrot and turnip mash, which I liked and no one else touched (OK, not fair, my husband is on board and had some). I forgot to copy the recipe except it was close to this one, though I just boiled them all together. I also roasted a bunch of CSA potatoes and did the lemony smash for some of them and left the rest as ersatz French fries. My son who eats potatoes had both. Finally, the apples were overwhelming so I found a recipe for an easy apple pie, using pie crusts from the freezer. I skipped (ok, forgot) the butter and lemon juice and it was still awesome. My kids were happy just dipping the raw apples in cinnamon and sugar, which I have filed away for less enthusiastic apple days. But I was really excited; frozen crusts or no, it was my first apple pie, and it felt like getting a mom badge.

Given all this, I'd love to say I didn't buy anything, but that's not true; I didn't need much, though, and stumbled in to some awesome sales ($1 for my favorite elbow noodles, half price cheddar = cooking for holidays time! Woohoo!) and was giving myself a pat on the back for walking out of the store with $65 of groceries for $40. I know people can do much better but I'm usually in the 10% range, so that felt great. I'm feeling like we've emptied the freezer a decent amount so I can start filling it with things for the holidays, and make the call then about whether to keep it going through the winter.

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menus on Monday, and have a great week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MPM--In Which Mark Bittman Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars

Happy Monday all!

Remember last week, where, inspired by Mark Bittman's appearance at our city's library, I was using my freezer to make dinner?

Good thing, as it turned out.

Whether the last person in the freezer (who could have been anyone, really) didn't close it all the way, or whether it pushed itself open from freezing over, I'll never know.

But yes, my freezer defrosted itself again.

It wasn't a total tragedy this time. I really think it was the permafrost just gently tipping it open, because it was only the stuff on the doors and the popsicles that were lost. For the most part, the meats (thank goodness) were still frozen completely solid. But it did change the meal plan last week. The shrimp--I was unwilling to take the chance. But some tilapia were still frozen, so we ate those, plus some sides, and a Trader Joe's pizza for the kids, and since many of the Dinner A'Fare meals all said "Defrost" anyway, I just cooked 'em up and ate 'em all week. So it wasn't what I thought I was doing, but it's a good exercise.

I'm ready to write the thing off. My husband wants to give it one more try. I have the feeling if we got rid of it, I'd miss it, because my kitchen one is so small. BUT it might be a worth experiment as there would be less impulse buying. Plus, there are probably ones out now that are far more energy efficient.

But this week continues the theme: Things We Can Eat from the Fridge.

And as you might guess, I never made it to Mark Bittman. BUT--thank you to the Free Library of Philadelphia--you can listen to the podcast here. (It's free, though I try to donate to them once a year in the annual giving campaign at work to keep it coming!)

Happy Columbus Day to all!

Monday: Grill leftovers (primarily steak) with CSA veggies

Tuesday: Happy birthday to my oldest! The traditional birthday tacos will be squeezed between gymnastics and football.

Wednesday:Can't resist a good pork roast recipe: must try this one. Mashed potatoes, and something else from the CSA box.

Thursday: Leftovers in a hurry before practice.

Friday: Game night!

So in the cooking frenzy that was last week, in addition to the freezer eat-down, I tried a new soup with the delicata squash that were hanging around (really, I just like an excuse to use my immersion blender). I went with this recipe because it was easy and I have everything but the cream. Now, let's be honest: Anything with that much cream should be frozen and served on a cone, but it does make the soup awesome too. This was a little bland, though, so I experimented (! shocking for me, but there was a ton of soup) with herbs. Rosemary was ok but a little overpowering. But still--on the chilly cold damp days--bliss. I also made the sauerkraut soup with the defrosted peas and the CSA leeks. I never thought I liked sauerkraut except with tons of molasses under a pork roast. But that was the fakey stuff in a bag. I'm really addicted to the "just cabbage and salt" old school versions in the glass jars. Yum.

And of course it wouldn't be a week if I didn't try a new DALS recipe, so there I was, raiding the canned goods (see, I'm keeping the theme here) to try the Six Kid Crowdpleaser of chicken in creamy tomato sauce. For some reason, both of my chicken eating kids flat out rejected this one, but I thought it was amazing and rediscovered mascarpone ... oh, yum.

Here's to a better week all around...go see I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menus!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

MPM--Welcome October

Wow, last week had it all. In addition to the wonderful adoption finalization, we had business trips, death, hospitalizations, floods, and a raft of friends with their own calamities. It was a nice September in parts but now overdue for departure, so I was glad to see the new month roll right in on time.

This week:

Monday: Mark Bittman is speaking at the Philadelphia Library. I don't think I'm going but in his honor I will Use My Freezer and make things that are already in there. I found shrimp and corn and will probably make my favorite skillet meal from that, augmented with the CSA box.

Tuesday: crazy gymnastics/football day. With great trepidation, I'm trying "homemade" pizza again, this time with a tube of dough I'm hoping is already flattish enough that I don't end up with a glob like the last several times. Regular for the kids, sauteed red onion for us since they are piling up from the CSA (which is fine).

Wednesday: a little easier. Chicken tacos, since I'll have the time to cook and I found ground chicken in the freezer.

Thursday: back to school picnic! We ordered a (fundraiser) pizza, and will augment with bring-along carrot sticks, chips, dip, and fruit leathers.

Friday: probably a football game but we'll see how the weather goes. (yeah, we're that kind of fan, now that we only have one nephew in the band, and it's his 6th year).

Here's hoping your week brings you smooth fall sailing! Go visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more meal planning inspiration!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

MPM--Indian Summer

Happy fall, everyone!
We had a string of perfect days--74 to 77 degrees, lovely sunshine, cooling breezes. Then on Wednesday, it suddenly popped back up to 88 and humid, right when the the calendar should have said fall. I'm still not quite ready to let go so I had lemonade, a bacon and tomato sandwich, and a peach for lunch. But by dinner, I was trying the Dinner: A Love Story challenge and braising chicken with bacon and brussels sprouts. If I'd only had the apple cider to do it with, it would have been an ideal welcome to fall, but even with the white wine, it felt like closing a door and opening a window, even as we closed the windows and turned on the AC for what I hope is the last time. I also officially waved the white flag and made the first batch of applesauce in the slow cooker. I used this recipe, but it turned out way too watery. Plus I realized I had no pumpkin pie spice so I faked it. Still, it tasted great, even before the brown sugar, and that was nice.

Monday: dinner with friends with a new baby. I love the two-grownups-to-six-kids ratio--should be fun! I'm making the slow cooker carnitas again; it's a good fall dish and easy to transport, which is key.

Tuesday: back to football so easy dinner night: chicken nuggets from the freezer, broccoli, maybe some potatoes if I feel up to it.

Wednesday: Finally, the pork roll ups I made a few weeks ago. Rice.

Thursday: Forever Family Day for our newest nephew--yeah! We're bringing fruit salad, probably this one, just to eke out the last bits of summer that we can.

Friday: All good things must come to an end: the Friday night soccer days are over, so we'll probably head our first football game of the year.

Not a heavy cooking week--not a bad thing. I'm still kind of hunkering down here. My son was sick, I have a few friends I'm worried over, and in between I'm trying to figure out if I can spent one more year at home, or whether it's time to go back to work. Not really the moment to be focused on meals.

Hope your week is less angsty! For more meal ideas, as ever, go see I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

MPM--Finally Fall

Happy week, all. Things are falling in to place here (pardon the pun) but it's a busy week, so an uninspired menu. I'm also feeling unsettled, as all the new elementary school experiences rolling along, there are job interviews percolating, and health issues for one of my closest friends. I'm really just trying to cut to the basics and let this be a week where dinner is not on the list of things I worry about.

Monday: Boy Scout meet-n-greet picnic. I'm not sure scouting is a fit with our family, but we won't know unless we try, right?

Tuesday: pulled pork sandwiches, smashed potatoes, carrot salad

Wednesday: leftover grilled chicken or hot dogs, CSA vegetables, quick pickles

Thursday: pizza and salad--we're going to back-to-school night (#1) so this is for the sitters and the kids too

Friday: either football game (high school) or a Dinner A'Fare meal from the freezer

The good news from last week: we hosted the end of soccer season party at our house and it went well. I kept it deliberately low key for me because getting the house in shape for an onslaught was critical. I took a page from Wednesday Spaghetti and didn't go in to a cleaning frenzy (though I of course gave the bathrooms a good swipe), but mostly I just picked up to make room for everyone in the house, put the too-easy chili in the crockpot (doubled the meat and beans, plus pack-and-a-half of spices) and it was GONE. I'm glad I put out noodles to stretch it further. But it was so fun I am recommitting to doing more entertaining. We all loved it. I was thinking about the vestiges of the "When you entertain as a grownup, you use the good china and candlesticks and all sit down to a large meal" idea that hangs out in my brain from the house I grew up in, with the little voice saying, "This isn't a grownup party!" But it is. I'm keeping the china, just in case things change, but for now--this is working for us.

What are you up to? Post your menu with I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not to Scare You But...

It's that time of year.

I am of course sitting here wishing I could forget last month's electric bill so I would be willing to turn on my AC to clear the humidity...but no go.

And I'm thinking...if I start now...maybe... MAYBE ... I'll feel somewhat ready.

Doubt it will work. But hope springs eternal.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

MPM--Relearning the Basics

Happy week, all!

The school year is off and running, and I am lunch planning around this year's constellation of allergies in my son's classroom. So: no nuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, pears, cucumbers, or ranch dressing. Noted.

And in getting ready for the school year, I found myself distracted, with some varied results...see below...meanwhile, the menu for the week:

Monday: leftover chili, noodles, CSA veggies

Tuesday: football night, again, so back to the freezer for hot dogs for the boys and a Dinner A'Fare meal for the grownups

Wednesday: defrosting the pork or the chicken from a week ago for either pork rollups or bbq chicken, with potatoes or rice on the side

Thursday: leftovers, or something else from the freezer

Friday: the final soccer blowout of the year...and due to a field change, we're hosting. Hold me. I am not a carefree entertainer. In some ways I can't wait and in others, I'm having tremendous anxiety. So I will figure out something...maybe chili again, maybe pizza (always a crowd pleaser) and definitely chips & salsa, snacky things, a birthday cake, and the hot pizza dip.

I have to remember: making a recipe once does not make me an expert. For our Best of Summer Dinner last week, I used the last of our plums with the plum crumble that we (I) loved. All went well until the topping, when I grabbed Five Spice Powder instead of cinnamon. Oops. At least cinnamon is one of the five spices, right? Then I mixed the butter in instead of drizzling. All went well. It didn't look as pretty but it did work, and the five spice powder, while I wouldn't do it again, didn't ruin it either. My husband even said it made it taste Christmasy, so I'll keep that in mind when the time comes.

I did the same thing with my so-easy chili when we had unexpected guests on Friday. I took a deep breath and a page from the hostess with the mostess and did what I could and mentally let go what I couldn't. But the chili smelled not-quite-right and I realized: I forgot almost everything that adds flavor. No extra onions or garlic. No chili mix either. But I fixed it with plenty of time to go and we had a lovely evening.

So, that's what's doing here. I hope your Septembers are hitting their strides...go visit I'm an Organizing Junkie! to see what others are making!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MPM--Summer Must Be Over

because...
...all my short sleeved shirts have butter stains from corn on the cob.
...despite the best efforts of SPF 50 sunscreen, my boys have farmer tans.
...that "sentinel tree" at the pool is blindingly yellow.

OK, here's the sad thing: I wrote this on August 31 of last year, but it's true (again, or still, depending). The sad thing is, my sentinel tree is gone this year. I guess the bad winter got it, which makes me melancholy, because at least I had the trickled-off post to remind me: yes, it should have turned by now. But...nothing. And another of my childhood markers is gone.

I am still having my end-of-summer blues (can you tell?), still wishing the Days Away lyrics weren't so apropos right now. (And boy, did that song need to be released in May to coincide with graduations! but I digress. Again.) I did continue to attack the list as though finishing it would prolong the season, but that didn't work at all. We did have a great time, doing all kinds of things on there, from museums to free bowling to the zoo. But all good things and all good seasons must come to an end, and with any luck, they bring a whole new kind of good season. Right? Right???

Monday: Labor Day grillathon! I was not kidding, I'm making about 20 of those yogurt-marinated chicken breasts, maybe some filets, and probably my favorite corn-zucchini-tomato pie, and a salad. I have to say that Tony's Steak is very tempting. So is this Cuban one.

Tuesday: First day of school! Tacos in honor of my first grader.

Wednesday: Grilled meat from Monday, potatoes roasted with rosemary, roasted carrots

Thursday: CSA veggies, grilled meat, and the potato pizza from Time for Dinner.

Friday: the final soccer blowout! I'm bringing Roxane's sangria, recipe below, among other things yet to be determined. And that takes us neatly in to football season, and booster dinners at the snack bar. Woohoo!

We basically followed last week's plan, except I couldn't resist the chicken in plums from Time for Dinner, because I had the plums and they needed to be used asap. Personally I would like more veggies in it but it was very good as is. Also, my sauce came out a little gloppy and not as subtly tasty as I thought it would be but it was still way better than greasy takeout. On our unplanned Saturday, since most things went well and there were few leftovers, we tried to make pizzas on the grill but yet again, can't get the dough to cooperate. I don't like most of the pre-baked. I have made my own and it doesn't seem to proof. Friends rave about Trader Joe's but as my husband said, it's like working with rubber cement. (I'm sure it tastes good, but texture-wise it was almost impossible to get it thin enough without it springing back.) The toppings for two cook pizzas are ready to go, if I find dough I can work with. When the pizza plan literally fell apart, I pulled together the corn for the dentally challenged. The corn mixture was awesome but it didn't really go with pasta very well. But what's to not like about corn, bacon, and onions? This won't go on top of noodles again here but we will make it for a side dish. I also finally made the beans and kale salad with canned beans, of course. I liked it, didn't love it, but I continue to have issues warming to kale. But it's so good for you, I just keep trying.

Not as good for you: sangria. But I love this and was thrilled to find the passionfruit juice to make it right, and just in time for apple season, too. Hat tip to my friend Roxane for sharing this among many other awesome recipes with me!

White Wine Sangria

2 c passionfruit puree (I just use passionfruit juice or tropical juice that includes passionfruit)

2 bottles dry white wine

3/4 c simple syrup

1/2 c triple sec

3/4 c brandy

3 lemons

2 oranges

3 granny smith apples

It is best to mix it up early in the day and let the fruit absorb the drink for a few hours.

Enjoy!!

How are you celebrating the end of summer, food-wise? Share your ideas at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MPM--The Dwindling Days of Summer

I know, I know--few will have sympathy when my kids are still home, when the pool is still open, and the weather is warming back up. But I'm not dealing with this season change well. Should I send my youngest to kindergarten? Should I go back to work? These are definitely first-world problems and ones I am lucky to have, but I can't find peace with them.

I bury my worries in our summer Wish List. I should be thrilled--it was a wonderful outline to the summer, and we said from the start we wouldn't possibly get to them all, but I find myself trying to squeeze in the last ones I can. (Maybe if I rearrange *this* refrigerator shelf, we can do the Jello Jigglers? And if we go to the zoo early, hit the Please Touch in the afternoon...?) Seriously? A little deranged. Especially considering all we did that wasn't on the poster: go to the longest Phillies game in four years, and stay to the bitter end, cheering on the pitcher in left field. Maybe not the Academy of Natural Sciences, but three other natural history museums across three states. Touch a piece of Mars, a piece of the moon, and a meteorite. Two of us learned to ride two-wheelers. And so, so many great visits with friends and family near and far. It was lovely.

That said--finally, this weekend, we were home, my husband was home, and we had a good weekend at home. No neighbor kids, not much pool time, just being here, enjoying each other and our house. Laundry was pushed through, the dog was walked, and my husband got out the grill. We took a page from Kristen and grilled all kinds of things. So I am actually, miracle of miracles, set for the week.

Monday: this menu from Dinner: A Love Story. Our butcher sells "Italian style" (very thin cut) cutlets, and they were fantastic in this marinade. (I sneaked a bite on Saturday when he made it.) The double-mustard potato salad was already a hit in our house, and the asparagus will be replaced with something from the CSA box.

Tuesday: candy-coated pork, broccoli (will try in alfredo sauce for young Mr. Picky, and just steamed for the rest of us), roasted potatoes

Wednesday: sweet pork rolls from Time for Dinner, the DALS's author's cookbook. I'm hooked. This smelled so good when I was making it, my husband got up out of bed to come downstairs to see what it was. Essentially ground pork with five-spice powder and a few other spices, it's served in lettuce leaves with other raw veggies. Sounds like a nice meal for a hot night.

Thursday: barbeque chicken, corn on the cob, tomato something (maybe the escalloped ones, maybe just a mozzarella salad)

Friday: the last of the soccer pizza parties of the summer. I'm a little sad about that. With the encroaching travel teams and earlier darkness, the grownups cede the field to the kids again. Our kids will miss the Friday night parties as much as we will, but it was magic while it lasted--outdoor fun, kids of all ages roaming around, friendships made, friendships deepened--exactly what you move to the suburbs for. Already I'm looking forward to next year.

I hope this works, with the week's meals pre-grilled and ready to go. I can live with this. In some ways it feels like double work, but I'm hoping it pays off. I'll let you know.

What are you making? Go to I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and read more.

Again, I sneaked tastes of everything as it came off the grill. I'm not psyched about cooking pork on the grill; I'm never confident it's done adequately. But I am very happy with the "candy" coating. Will let you know how it reheats. The chicken, as I said, was already a winner. Nice and lemony and moist--exactly what you hope for from grilled meats. And I finally, finally made the bbq chicken from the paper (reprinting below because I have found the Inquirer's site to be unreliable in having it when I am looking for it). And I have to say--nothing here was particularly expensive, which was nice. I don't really like chicken legs, so I was stunned to see how many drumsticks were in a packet for less than $3. Same thing with 3/4 of a pound of ground pork--way cheaper than any cuts I usually use. This is a good trend. Last week I didn't follow what was there much, but at least we mostly ate out of our kitchen and pantry, so that was soothing to the pocketbook. And I did try (yet another) avocado and cucumber soup, this one much lighter (no buttermilk, more cuke, less avocado) from the White House chef, no less. Obviously it wasn't as awesomely decadent as the other, but it was quite good and certainly healthier. Still, I think I'll try it with lime next time, but it's a great use of cukes when they come flooding in. I also made the crockpot Chex Mix, but mine burned. That happens with regular Chex Mix recipes and me too, so I'm not surprised. C'est la vie.

One other end of summer note: the appetizer of the summer here has been the margherita stick, with the easiest recipe ever. Poke a fancy toothpick through a cherry tomato with a leaf of basil wrapped around it; then spear a tiny mozzarella ball on the end. These were hits at parties with both the healthy eater and not-so-much contingents this summer, and if you are bursting with cherry tomatoes and basil, it's a fabulous way to use them, and they look so festive.

Wishing you an angst-free end of summer, or start of fall, wherever you are.

Direct from the Inquirer's site, in case it disappears again:

In last week's Food section, a story about a soup-kitchen cooking contest included a photograph of barbecued chicken. We got many requests for the recipe, and we persuaded the reluctant chef, Rosa Stephens, to share it.



Rosa Lee's Southern Style BBQ Chicken

Makes 8 to 10 servings

8 to 10 chicken legs or thighs

2 18-ounce bottles of honey barbecue sauce (Ms. Stephens prefers Sweet Baby Ray's)

1 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 orange

1 lemon

Fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Wash chicken and place pieces in a large bowl. Cover with honey barbecue sauce (about one bottle).

2. Drizzle maple syrup over chicken, ensuring that all pieces are coated.

3. Sprinkle chicken with Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper and basil.

4. Squeeze juice of one-half lemon and one-half orange over chicken. Cut remaining fruit into pieces and add to mix.

5. Transfer chicken and all ingredients into Ziploc bags, seal tightly. Marinate overnight.

6. When ready to cook: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

7. Pour contents of Ziploc bag into glass baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 4 hours.

8. Remove chicken from oven. Drain liquid.

9. Cover chicken with more honey barbecue sauce. Drizzle more syrup over top of chicken. Sprinkle with more Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper and basil.

10. Return to oven, uncovered. Bake for an additional 45 minutes to one hour.

11. Garnish with the lemon and orange slices and fresh parsley.

- From Rosa Stephens, St. Philip's Lutheran Church

Per serving: 403 calories, 24 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 111 milligrams cholesterol, 719 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber



Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/restaurants/51414627.html#ixzz0vkKutzCT

Friday, August 20, 2010

MPM--Settling

I was so worried about the August Camp Mommy schtick that I went a little overboard and wow, we are overstimulated. We've been to the mountains, the beaches, the cousins', the ballparks, the capital...it's been great but it's time to reel it in a little.

This week will look somewhat similar to last week because last week, as I said, we had our niece here, which was great, but unexpected. As we settle in to the last weeks of the vacation, we will have one or two more exciting days but right now, I'm really looking forward to a routine of the pool and other local things. My goal is to not go to the store at all and instead use things we have in the house already.

Monday: corn, tomato sandwiches, beets, the kale and bean salad from (of course) DALS (I need to just order that cookbook already as my lame local bookstores do not have it...boo...)

Tuesday: Vietnamese shrimp, rice, quick Asian pickles

Wednesday: hot dogs, roasted potatoes, tomato & green bean salad

Thursday: black bean and regular tacos for all

Friday: pizza, of course


There were many fun things with my niece last week, but one was lots of baking. We splurged on Star Wars cookie cutters (birthdays are coming up) so we made sugar cookies with those. We ran out of time to ice them, but the cookies were good and very cute. I also had a zillion plums from the CSA so we tried the Wednesday Chef's plum crumble. I don't have a nine inch pie plate so it overflowed the regular dish I had. (If you try it at home--and you should--it was awesome--don't overload with the plums. They give off SO much juice. But, um, YUM.) We also baked bread (bread machine and the 24-hour kind), and a Mounds cake. She gives me great hope as she was another picky eater in childhood but she's branching out now. Alas, the detox soup was a bridge too far but I adored it still; and yummy scrambled eggs with feta and dill. Maybe as my boys get older there will be more of this...

What are you up to this week? Check out other late summer menus at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Monday, August 16, 2010

MPM--Back in the Swing

Hello all!

Now that I'm back, I can tell you last week was lovely; we followed the menu plan pretty closely because we were in the mountains for a visit with the grandparents and that was all we brought! The weather was everything--hot, cold, sunny, rainy--and we hiked and picnicked and swam and had a ball. And here comes reality again...recipe reviews after the jump.

Monday: Vietnamese shrimp, rice, quick Asian pickles

Tuesday: potatoes, steaks, stuff from the CSA box

Wednesday: black bean and regular tacos for all

Thursday: DAF meal or maybe that BBQ chicken!

Friday: pizza, of course

So, last week was a bit of a kerfuffle because we weren't sure who was coming when, how many would be there for dinner, etc. etc., so (alas) I never did get to make the barbeque chicken. But we made lots of other things and had two dinners we really enjoyed. One was an Ina Garten spaghetti with broccoli and shrimp--which was, unsurprisingly, outstanding. The other was surprising for me--I'm kind of not a Campbell's Soup recipe girl but my mother in law fussed with this pork and peaches recipe and it was terrific. She didn't have pecans, but she used fresh peaches and orange juice instead of the canned syrup and it was really tasty.

The other unusual circumstance of the week: my 13 year old niece came home with us this week (woohoo!) so I have another palate to consider now, so stay tuned. We're thrilled to have her, but it means food is really low on my priorities right now; figuring out fun stuff to do with her and my kids is key. Whatever happens dinner-wise, we'll be happy!

What are you up to this week? Go see the menus at I'm an Organizing Junkie! for inspiration!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MPM--All Kinds of Fun

Greetings from Camp Mommy! We had a decent week last week, though the football--practice Monday-Thursday, 6pm-8pm--is totally throwing us off. So this week, I have lots of pre-made things so we can do an early dinner and snacks later....anyone who has done the late-practice-starving-kids shuffle, feel free to ring in with suggestions! Last week I tried to feed the boys early (their preference anyway) and have milk and homemade bread after. (Or on really hot nights, popsicles.) Thanks to Lauren for the bread recipe...the boys feel like they are getting away with something, having bread; I feel like I'm getting away with something, baking it with good-for-them ingredients. Sneaky cooking ftw!

On another note, the biggest success on the Very Hungry Caterpillar so far is the zucchini bread my friend baked for us. "It tastes like a brownie!" the young picky one said, and gobbled it up. Note to self: dig out that Jessica Seinfeld cookbook again. Sigh.

This week, we have lots of cousins rotating through, since there was the big graduation party last weekend, so lots of big-group cooking ahead...

Monday: leftover party food (and to answer my commenters...I have a 6 quart crockpot...I made the pork roast three different times, shredded it, and then reheated them together as one big batch).

Tuesday: barbeque chicken, corn on the cob, salad, cornbread (recipe below)

Wednesday: taco fest (meat, black beans, corn, salsa, taco sauce, lettuce, tomatoes)

Thursday: spaghetti and meatballs

Friday: what else? pizza, of course

We had a good week last week...I tried the corn salad (minus the jalapeno) from Raising Foodies, and I loved it, but really--it's fresh corn, what's not to love? I also followed her link to Weekend, where the quick Asian pickle recipe did me well.

We achieved another of our summer goals by getting out the bread machine and trying two different recipes. The one, alas, did not work because the bread flour had turned (no surprise; it was literally inherited from my sister-in-law, who passed away some time ago, and her husband's new wife found the flour tucked away in a freezer and thought if it were still good, I would use it. True, but the fact that my brother in law is (ahem) already remarried was a big hint that the flour was past its prime. But it was fun to do and the ducks at the local farm were happy with it. And Lauren's oat bread (not that I call it that!) made the adventure a success.

Also in the bread department, I am copying my dear friend Doris's trick to yummy cornbread. One of my favorite traditions in the office where I worked before I had kids was our holiday brunches. Doris almost always brought sausages on Pepperidge Farm rolls--so easy, such delish finger food for an office party--and deviled eggs. Then once she brought her famous cornbread, and I really enjoyed it. She laughed and said, "Honestly? It's from the Jiffy box, but I dress it up a little, and you have to use the right technique." And it was easy and kept in my head for forever, and then it wasn't there, and luckily Doris sent it along in an email so I'll never lose it again. And my picky one loves cornbread, and loves to cook with me, so here's what we're doing for the cornbread:

from Doris: Lately, I’ve been mixing my own ingredients and not using Jiffy, but basically:  Drain one can of Green Giant shoe peg white corn or Niblets and stir into cornbread batter.  Pour into lightly greased iron skillet, let rest a minute or two,  and bake per instructions on the box.  Insert toothpick to make sure it’s done in the middle.  Serve right out of the skillet!  You can vary the recipe by mixing in chopped peppers, onions, or other stuff.  Enjoy! I wouldn't think these little things would make a big difference. But they do.

The real trick at this point for me is getting dinner on the table by 5. It's a big switch for us since Dad usually isn't home until 7, and we were trying for years to do real Family Dinners, but clearly, this is not in the cards for us for the near future. The kids are starving by 5, and trying to eke them along to 7 isn't good for anyone. So we'll let go of this dream for now, and work on Things That Work for where we are now. I'll let you know next week whether this plan got us closer to that goal.

How are others celebrating summer in dinners? Go see at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MPM--Why Is July the Longest Year?

Ah, a four year old's sense of time, and a very hot month: Why *is* July the longest year? This year, it was the heat and the humidity, thanks for asking. I am not sorry to see July go. I am sorry to see camp end, but who knows, maybe August will surprise me. Camp Mommy is getting off to a big start, with parties and pizza lunches and field trips--and my latest innovation: the Ice Cream Tour of Our County. Our moms' group has done a "deck tour" of the county, with moms' nights out at places with lovely outdoor seating (though we have alas been chased indoors this summer, it's been so hot). But it seemed like a good time to do something for all ages--hence, the ice cream tour. Some chains, some mom-n-pop places...should be refreshing.

Of course, as soon as I started planning the ice cream tour, the weather suddenly remembered that this isn't Florida and started getting normal. It's summer, so it's still hot, but not crazy hot like it has been since, oh, MAY. But that's ok. Camp ended. Football's starting. The last graduation party is this weekend. And we're just hanging around the house in PJs, building legos and train tracks, and enjoying these "boring" summer mornings.

Football, though, is really throwing off dinner. Practice is 6-8 pm, Monday through Thursday. So we've switched to big late lunches and dinners on the go.

Monday: CSA day--veggies a go go, plus freezer food to augment

Tuesday: sandwiches at the field

Wednesday: chips and salsa, black bean tacos at home

Thursday: hot dogs from the snack stand at the field (yes, the concession stand is open during practices! for me, this is hilarious, but maybe in the rest of the jock universe it's normal)

Friday: soccer and pizza. Can't beat it!

Also up this week: making pulled pork in the slow cooker for 75. Good times!

Have a good week! And check out Org Junkie to see what's up there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WFMW--Mini Photo Album

So, I'm probably the last to catch on to this, but I'm loving how this is working.

My sisters-in-law are awesome about taking lots of pictures, and unlike me, actually printing them. They arrive with some frequency in cards through the mail and envelopes tucked in my bag at potlucks. And I am so grateful to have them, but since I have gone digital, there hasn't been a spot for me to put them. (Ok, full disclosure--there has NEVER been a spot to put them in my house. I have photos tucked all over the place, and wish I didn't!)

One day in the grocery store (of all places) they were having a clearance on smallish photo albums--100 sleeves, one photo each, with a little tab for jotting a note or two.

Perfect! It's small enough to fit in a kitchen drawer or in my mail in-box, so I always have it where I open the mail or unpack the bags, and I can tuck the photos in and jot a note next to them so I know where they came from, and then, they aren't getting lost or ruined floating around the house.

That works for me! What works for you? Go share at We Are THAT Family!

Monday, July 26, 2010

MPM--Summer Winds

Those summer winds...came blowin' in...from across the sea...

Alas, I am not at the beach, but at the almost-end of camp. Which makes me very sad indeed.

Monday: CSA Day, so many vegetables aaand...something. The little one is desperate for pasta, which he has not had in a while, because he was sick, and when he is sick he wants butter and cheese on his noodles, but he is my tummy-problem guy, so that's out. TMI, I'm sorry, but I'm menu planning here. So: veggies and pasta for all. I will probably make the Splendid Table's alfredo to go with it and tie it together like an actual meal. But I also have some buttermilk left and might do buttermilk soaked chicken and bake or panfry. The weather broke also (hooray!) so it's roasting day.

Tuesday: I have a meeting, so it's a Trader Joe's night. For Dad and Little Guy: mac and cheese (and Dad will have leftover filet and veggies with it). For Mom and Big Brother: mushroom flatbread and salads.

Wednesday: I have some of the crockpot Italian beef in the freezer, so beef sandwiches plus veggies from the CSA box

Thursday: I didn't get to the shrimp-tomato-corn salad last week so hopefully tonight. I love that and it's peak season!

Friday: pizza and soccer. Can't beat it!

Last week, I got some of my cooking mojo back. It all started with the tomatoes.

When I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen for the Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons, I needed to make it almost immediately. And I was SO glad I did. You must make this next time you have good bread and tomatoes on hand. A few notes: 1) I left crusts on, and worked fine 2) It was still mushy, but who cares? still, will probably do more bread next time 3) forgot basil, so it wasn't sublime but merely amazing and 4) halved the kosher salt and still very, very salty (but I think it was my parm, which was the Trader Joe's preshredded because it's what I had and I needed to make this immediately).

Lest you think my other blog crush, Dinner: A Love Story was left out, fear not: I made her salad dressing almost instantly. I was insanely disappointed at first, but after a day, it came together in an all new way that I loved.

I also inherited a ton of otherwise unwanted fennel from my CSA and did the caramelized fennel and onions recipe again. Uh--yum. I don't want to inform everyone what they're missing but it is delish.

We also thought the hottest day of the year would be a fun day to grill. We tried the Pioneer Woman's steak rub. To be honest, I got suckered in by the moment of silence for the foodies. I thought maybe I have erred in my lemon pepper avoiding ways. But I had a bottle of it from...something, and always the Lawry's for my mac and cheese, so we gave it a try. I think we erred in grilling. It must need the oil and butter to make this palatable. While my husband thought it was fine, I thought it was too much--well, lemon-pepper-y, and it wasn't what I was hoping for. But PW does not, in general, let me down, so I'm going to try it once more (still have plenty in the lemon-pepper bottle) but will actually pan-fry and see if that changes anything. Will let you know.

While my husband was out there, I long-sliced and oiled and salted and peppered a zucchini for him to pop on the grill, and I made the Dinner: A Love Story double mustard potatoes. Those were excellent. I loved them and will make them again. And again. And it really wasn't hard--a moderate amount of chopping the potatoes, and then the long part was waiting for the water to boil. I love those. And next time, I might try with parsley instead of basil, because my basil got lost in the mustard. Still--a keeper.

Don't forget to click over to I'm an Organizing Junkie! to see what lots of others are up to!

Monday, July 19, 2010

MPM--That Worked

Happy Monday, all!

The honeybaked ham was a hit last week. So were the hot dogs, of course, and in a huge surprise, my older one split a mushroom flatbread with me (one of the Trader Joe's ones), so the hungry caterpillars are moving along.

But then the Summer Flu moved in and I'm running a little low on ideas. Sorry for the lack of inspiration...mostly this is for my husband and me, as my kids are all bananas/rice/applesauce/toast this week...

Monday: filets mignon from the freezer, veggies from the CSA box, potatoes with butter and parsley

Tuesday: fish from the freezer, roasted beets, roasted carrots

Wednesday: shrimp, corn, and tomato "salad"

Thursday: depends how the kids are feeling. If they are up for it, hot dogs or tacos. Otherwise,

Friday: pizza and soccer, I hope!

The one thing to report on recipe-wise from last week: After a string of amazing successes with Kelly's Recipe's cakes, I made the lemon version of this one (it's in the comments) for the Tuesday Wednesday Spaghetti. The WedSpag was awesome, and the cake got good reviews. I might throw in poppyseeds next time for mouth feel but it was really good and super kid-friendly without them.

For more inspired ideas, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! and see what other folks are doing! For me--back to the toaster. Have a good week!

PS--I'm realizing I may not have posted about the "hungry caterpillars"--I cut construction paper circles, the boys drew heads and added pipe cleaner antennae, and every (healthy[ish]) new food they try, the "hungry caterpillars" get another circle as a body piece. (So a new kind of cake doesn't get a circle, but when my little one tried tomato sauce on his spaghetti, that counted.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

MPM--Heat Wave(s)

Happy week everyone!

We are going through a string of massive heat waves here--when moms are deciding it's too hot to go to the pool 45 minutes early for swim lessons--it's hot! I changed my plans and just took advantage of one cool morning to make apricot chicken (recipe below) and chicken marinated in Trader Joy's Island Soyaki sauce. I didn't love it (the Island Soyaki) but I enjoy the apricot chicken and loved having dinner pre-made in the fridge, just needing to be sliced and tossed on a plate with some fruit and veggies. (It was a big week here for ants on a log. Next week: cream cheese in celery! woohoo--living on the edge, here.)

Monday: honeybaked ham (cold), potato salad, something from the CSA box

Tuesday: Tuesday Wednesday Spaghetti (woo!)

Wednesday: finish the ham, regular salad,

Thursday: hot dogs, chips, whatever veggies may have come-beets, probably?

Friday: (soccer)

One thing I didn't really mention enough last week: Kelly's coconut cake recipe. We had a block party and a barbeque with friends over the July 4 weekend and I made this cake and, as one of my neighbors said, "I was mad when I went back for seconds that it was gone!" If you like coconut at all, this cake is awesome. The reason I made it for the 4th was so I could use blueberries and strawberries to make a flag cake, which was cute. But wow, this stands on its own, if you are looking for a very rich, very cold, very sweet cake. Yum.

I also made her chocolate chip pound cake. For how easy it was, it was amazing. My husband had two pieces--unusual for him!--and we all loved it. "Pour" is a bit of a euphemism though--the batter was very thick and more gloppable than pourable.

Something else I haven't given adequate credit to: the marinated portobellos. As I'm getting more and more grossed out by ground beef, these have been a great thing for me this summer. (And don't get me wrong: a good burger from a source I trust is still an amazing thing. But a very undercooked burger at my reunion in May was really a last straw for me on meat from the grill that someone else is cooking.) At our farmer's market, we have a mushroom grower who had samples of these portobellos out and I have loved them. Put portobellos in a sealable plastic bag. Pour in Italian dressing. Marinate 1-4 hours. Grill or broil. Eat like a burger, or slice and serve as a side dish. I hate to even call that a recipe but they were also a hit at the July 5 block party, even with people who didn't think they would enjoy them.

I also made the Dinner: A Love Story broccoli slaw. That wasn't the humongo hit that some other things (coconut cake) were, but it all went and I liked the very old-school taste of the celery seed.

Two other recipes I made last week that I have no links for are below. One is for apricot chicken. This was a big hit with my kids a few years ago, so I'm including it, but this time, it didn't go so well. I think I'll play with it a little bit--I made it with whole chicken breasts this time instead of pieces, but I might go back to cut up again. Or I bet thighs would be great with this if you like dark meat. And it's so easy...I wish I weren't the only one who likes this.

Apricot Chicken

1 C apricot preserves
1 Tbs distilled white vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
Chicken meat of your choice (I use boneless skinless)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything but the chicken to a smooth paste. Cover chicken with mixture in a baking pan. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake 50 minutes; uncover; bake another 10 minutes.

The other thing I made was a buttermilk dressing from the Philadelphia Inquirer food section. I would have linked to it but I couldn't find it, so I am recreating it here because I loved it, it was all ingredients I have on hand (except the buttermilk), and I can't find the teeny clipping and want to make it again!

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

1 C buttermilk
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 C olive oil
pinch garlic powder
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs lemon juice
salt
pepper

Put all in jar or other container with tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Serve immediately, or keep up to a week.

I loved this on just lettuce and tomatoes from our CSA.

Also, just as this is essentially my family's food diary (fear not, I do keep other, far more relevant info elsewhere for them): our Co-op had two excellent cheeses out for sampling this weekend and I loved both so much, I brought home some of each and made a cheese plate for my husband and me for dessert. Yum. One was Memoire Truffle Gouda (you had me at "truffle," and they recommend it in a mac and cheese. I'll bet that's awesome but our piece wouldn't go that far, and it's too hot for mac and cheese right now). The other was LambChopper sheep's milk cheese from Cypress Grove, CA. It had bite but also creaminess and I loved it, maybe even more than the one with the truffles, which is unusual as I adore me some truffle.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

MPM--There's Gonna Be Fireworks...

Hi everyone! I hope everyone has had a nice long weekend (well, my US readers at least--hi, you two from Canada!). We had a fun week last week--details below. This week:

Monday: Block party! Not sure what I'm bringing. Dogs and burgers are provided; I will probably marinate some portobello mushrooms for those veggie-inclined folks, and some salad (an excellent opportunity for the massive quinoa salad from Mom2My4). Not sure if we'll do fireworks this year--but maybe! It's been a big summer of growing up--in good ways--for my younger son...he liked the fireworks at the baseball game, he went in the ocean, and he has started eating cucumbers! None of which he has done since he was a baby. So we'll see how things go.

Tuesday: my moms' group is touring Great Decks of Our County and the first stop is tonight. Not sure what the boys will do. Usually I'd say hot dogs and corn on the cob, but lately, after camp and the pool, the little boys are ready for dinner by 4:30pm. But they do willingly (even eagerly!) eat again at dinner, so I think I'll make apricot chicken, salad, cucumbers, and berries. Last week, we also welcomed our third new baby boy cousin this summer (yay!) this week so I'll double it and take some to the new parents.

Wednesday: pork tenderloin from Kelly's Korner's recipe blog, green beans, and red potatoes in two mustards (link to recipe below with yogurt marinated chicken). I'll link next week if that works out.

Thursday: grilling, if the weather is good. I'm really working hard on using the things in the house so I'm going to try the Pioneer Woman's steak rub recipe and we'll grill it if the weather is good and pan fry if not. I always have the Lawry's for my mac & cheese, and I have lemon pepper hanging around from...something. So this could work well.

Friday: Probably leftovers, or we'll flip the grilling. We're also looking to try the yogurt-marinated grilled chicken from Dinner: A Love Story, but we'll see if I'm overambitious.

Last week we stuck to the plan, such as it was, for the most part, but did throw in a few things based on the CSA box. We got a ton of potatoes, so I decided to try the Lemony Potato Smash, from my blog crush, Dinner: A Love Story, again. We tried it a while ago with some Yukon golds that had been hanging around for a little while, and weren't crazy about the lemon/potato combo. But these were some lovely little red potatoes, and I thought I'd try it again. This time--excellent. Loved them. Ate them all. And I also loved that my computer was still open to the recipe at the dining room table when it was time to serve them, and my husband called the kids over and said, "Boys! Look at that! Doesn't this look just like the picture? Isn't that cool how Mommy did that? She read and followed the directions, and here it is!" And they were only mildly impressed, but I was pleased, and they did start to connect that "if you can read, you can cook." So that was a winner all around.

The other thing that made me laugh was that my son tried a cucumber, as I mentioned, for the first time in years. Years! Other than pesto, nothing green has crossed those lips since long before 2010, that's for sure. But somehow, he's ready to make all these leaps right now and shed that little boy persona a little. Not the snuggles, thankfully, but he is far more ready to try some new experiences. And one was a cuke. He didn't love the first bite, but agreed to a second when I offered it with some sea salt. And then...HUGE smiles, and requests for more. And to my immense shock, at dinner, he ate three bites of hot dog and then said, "I would really like more cucumber with salt, please." And who am I to say no? So we are trying a new game here for the summer--the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I cut out lots of circles. The boys made their own caterpillar heads. And each new food they try this summer, they get to write on a circle and add to the caterpillar. A very creative mom I know has been doing this for years, and I always thought it was awesome, but my kids were not impressed. Suddenly, though, they are interested. And I can't wait to see how it works and how big a caterpillar we can create for each boy. I'm hoping it doesn't backfire; my older one is a very adventuresome eater and is willing to try anything, and I fear the shorter caterpillar will discourage my little guy. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, the roasted carrots with cumin are still a huge hit with my first son. I put them out on the table to cool to room temperature before dinner, and by the time dinner started, more than half were gone. And that had been a one-pound bag! Awesome. He can eat all the carrots he wants and I will not complain.

I made the chicken with snap peas and mushrooms from NoTakeOut, and it was a big hit with the grownups. My older guy enjoyed it, but didn't eat much of it. I also made it with an orzo pilaf instead of what they recommended, because I am trying to use the CSA veggies. That was good and I would eat it for dinner; I love it when orzo comes out like risotto. Alas, the youngest called the chicken "green" and wouldn't eat it because he only likes brown chicken. Noted. I might make the recipe again BUT--who cuts up snap peas?! I won't do that again. If it's just the mushrooms that need cutting, prep time is truly minimal. It's a nice blog, but not family-friendly enough for this time in my life I think.

Because we were overrun with cucumbers, I also made two soups. One was the detox soup from Dinner: A Love Story (I'm a little obsessed, sorry), which I loved and loved doubly for using up my buttermilk. I also made some of the Real Simple cucumber soup as long as the food processor was out and about. The RS one was interesting, with the little kick of heat in the cool from the cayenne and the vinegar. But the detox was heaven, cool and creamy and just awesome. Makes me want to try one of those fancy avocado popsicle recipes I keep seeing around, but then I wouldn't have my soup.

I also tried the Kelly's Korner coconut cake, with blueberries and strawberries added for that festive July 4 touch, and made my classic zucchini, corn, tomato pie for several occasions. That one is so worth the effort. I took it to our town picnic and had so many compliments, I was very happy. Even more so because I had subbed in some frozen corn when the fresh ears were small. Still delish!

Below, the recipe from my CSA for the orzo pilaf:

ORZO PILAF WITH GREEN ONIONS AND PARMESAN CHEESE
3 1/4 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
5 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring 3 1/4 cups broth to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Mix in orzo and simmer uncovered until just tender but still firm to bite and some broth still remains, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add green onions and cheese and stir to blend. Season pilaf to taste with salt and pepper. Rewarm over low heat, if necessary, and mix in more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if pilaf is dry. Transfer pilaf to large bowl and serve.
Serves 6.
Bon App├ętit

Enjoy the week, everyone, and stay cool! For some more great menus, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Monday, June 28, 2010

MPM--Just Kidding

Hi--you know that fun plan for last week? I was kidding. We went to the beach. But I don't love advertising that on the internet.

Now I really did think I'd be making those things, but HAH! I was kidding myself. I don't cook on vacation--not much, anyway. Gotta get a better plan in place for the trip to the mountains later this summer because that's not how my husband's family rolls.

The good news is, I'm just following last week this week and poof! Planning done.

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MPM--Summer Starts!

Sometimes you don't know when your last time is your last time, do you? I actually found myself a little nostalgic when I realized I was packing a snack that wouldn't be eaten. My son's last two days of kindergarten involved a party with lots of food on the penultimate day, and the last "day" was all of 86 minutes. So suddenly, those last granola bars were the first snacks of summer instead. Which was fine, but I wasn't ready, and I know I'll be nostalgic when I have to pack an actual lunch next year.

So, here we are, ready for the camp, the pool, the endless days of summer fun. Oh, wait, no camp yet, and the pool closes for thunderstorms...now what?

Well, get in the kitchen, for one thing. Somehow, despite loathing jello when they were younger, my kids have decided that blue jello is awesome. (Be still, my foodie heart.) So we've made jello, which has been fun, and gotten them back in the kitchen. We made beet salad--not a hit with them, except for the food processor part. We did Father's Day crafts. We made a long list of all the things we want to do this summer, from play tag to visiting the Crayola Factory. And now, getting on board with that, we plan to have a few day trips here and there, so for this week...

Monday: Omaha Steaks stuffed sole; edamame and tomato salad from Simple Fresh Southern via Dinner: A Love Story; potato croquettes, also from Omaha. My children will eat fruit, is my guess, but that's their choice.

Tuesday: Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Snap Peas from No Take Out; quinoa instead of orzo b/c that's what I have; salad

Wednesday: grilled something from Omaha (beef probably, but maybe pork; trying to use up marinade); CSA veggies

Thursday:out with friends. Not sure what I'll bring yet.

Friday: pizza, of course; the kids are pining for it, though they have enjoyed the Friday soccer routine too.

And...remember last week when I was kidding about roasting lettuce? Some people don't kid about hot lettuce! Check the Bitten Word's enthusiastic review of a salad with grilled butter lettuce. Wow.

I did eventually make the Captain's Chicken too. I put the thighs and breasts in frozen, as suggested--loved that that worked. My husband loved it, which is not typical for him with slow cooker meals. The texture was still more fally-aparty than I would have liked, but I could at least fish them out in basically one piece. And the rice! I cannot ever seem to get rice correct in the slow cooker; after almost an hour, mine was still a little crunchy in the middle. But it made a lot and it was a hit with the grownups, so I can't complain about that.

I made two salads for our incredibly hot Father's Day cookout--it was a shame, only the cooks could actually be outside, it was so humid and sunny. One of my salads was an Italian layered salad--iceberg, broccoli slaw, chick peas, red onions, topped with mayo and creamy Italian (which, btw, is very, very hard to find anymore--who knew?) and Asiago cheese. Fine, but nothing to write home about, so I'm not linking (besides, there's the recipe, right there, basically). I also made the favorite chick pea salad, to use up my apples and walnuts and it had been a while. My mother-in-law made an awesome cauliflower and zucchini salad; if I get the recipe, I will post it, it was terrific. And I never thought I would like a salad with raw zucchini--not a favorite for me--but this was great!

Finally, many thanks to Food52 for introducing me to the idea of raw radishes dipped in butter and salt. Ok, this shouldn't surprise me--butter and salt are two of the magic ingredients (third is cheese, and sugar if you are eating it). But I thought it sounded gross when I read it. However, I couldn't resist trying it, and wow. Love the way the butter cuts the bitter of the radish. Yum. Now I can't wait to try the tartine too.

Here's hoping your summer is off to a swinging start! Share what you're serving at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WFMW--Dollar Store Balloons

I know, this is so obvious as to make you wonder how I get along in the world. But last week, we had six amazing babysitters graduate from our local high school, and while we wanted to honor them, I needed it to be cheap. Also, I hated to get them a tchotche that would either collect dust or get donated before they even left for college. So I decided on balloons from the dollar store. For six regular balloons in the school colors and one mylar graduation balloon, I paid about $4.50. It made a nice little bunch.

My mistake one mistake was trying to carry too many bunches at once; one girl got a dozen balloons because I couldn't untangle them! My other mistake was tying them outside; a seventh bunch for our niece was gone before she ever saw them. But the others were mostly very excited to come outside and see them announcing the happy news. I also used some old gift cards (my mother had made personalized ones for me years ago) and I just wrote "Happy Graduation Day from our family!" with our names, punched a hole in the corner, and tied it to the bunch with ribbon. They looked really cute and made the girls happy. And-added and totally unexpected bonus!-resulted in on-the-spot invitations to three more graduation parties! I had to laugh--that was not our intent at all but it was kind of their families to include us (and it made sense--I know they didn't want to invite us and have it look like a "gift grab" but were happy to include us in the family joy).

Celebratory gifts with big impact for less than $5 works for me! What's working for you this week? Go share here!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

MPM--Last Week of School Edition

Hello, my menu planning friends. How kind of you to stop by, after my uninspired June menus!

I'm still struggling to hit my summer food stride. I'm finding we're out of the house more, and I either want things to bring to the pool (and my kids don't eat sandwiches other than PBJ, which is usually lunch) or things I don't need to cook or don't involve too much time at the stove. This week will reflect that, I'm afraid.

Monday: I'm going to try that Korean beef, honest. And our CSA box comes again so that will impact the sides.

Tuesday: I'm trying the Captain's Chicken from the Crockpot 365 site. Crockpot recipes are helping in this heat. (see below for a good one from my cousin!)

Wednesday: Leftovers (ahhh)

Thursday: Last day of kindergarten for my son! So excited for him and pleased at all he accomplished this year. His end-of-year presentation was awesome. Tacos in his honor.

Friday: We will probably be going to see Thomas the Tank Engine today, for one of the last times, I would imagine, which makes me sad. But I will defrost one of the Dinner A'Fare meals or plan to have Trader Joe's pizza when we get back. (On a different note, my kids tried an inside-out pizza the other day and loved it. It's not hard to love but my older one gets funny about cheese so it was a relief!)

My poor family. I am in a real roasting rut right now. When in doubt (which is often), my answer appears to be: toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it for a while. What have we done this with? Carrots. Brussels sprouts. Asparagus. Even kale. Sweet potatoes can be roasted at the same time in the oven but even easier: no salt or olive oil necessary, just some stabs with a knife. Same with the beets. Even the Smitten Kitchen potatoes and turnips were roasted. They are lucky I'm not roasting celery and lettuce (hmmm...no, no, probably not).

The good news is, all those roasting recipes were awesome. I had no idea what to do with all those cute little turnips from the CSA, so I threw them in the SK mustard roasted potatoes recipe. Yum. Yum. Yum. The potatoes were better, but the turnips were actually a nice little addition in there. The roasted carrot and avocado salad was a hit again as well, and I have taken now to just broiling off big bags of carrots and calling it a day and using them at lunch or otherwise for me. I like them cold or hot, with the lemon or without. I also tried the carrot salad, although without the harissa it almost seems not fair to say I tried it. But even without that admitted crucial component, it was really good and we enjoyed it quite a bit. OK, me especially but I am a sucker for feta.

On my last post, don't miss commenter Brandy's awesome tweaking of the cannoli dip recipe. Thanks Brandy!

And in my effort to get back on track with summer meals, I pulled out my crockpot, which seemed counterintuitive but makes sense. I don't have to wait over anything hot, and I can start it any old time in the morning and have dinner ready at collapsing time for the kids. This recipe went well though it made a ton--I froze some and did Aid for Friends meals and still we ate it three times this week. Thanks to Jan for providing it!

Jan's Italian Beef
Rump or sirloin tip roast 4 to 5 lbs.
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cup water
1 pkg. dry Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
1 tsp. each of basil, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper

Bring sauce to boil with water and seasonings. Pour over meat in crock pot. Cook all day on low, breaking apart meat. ( I usually shred the meat all day as soon as it is tender enough to come apart)
Its so easy!!!

What are you having this week? List your meals with I'm an Organizing Junkie and inspire us!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

MPM--Not So Much

Wow, wasn't that a great menu plan last week? Wouldn't that have been just awesome?

That wasn't at all the way it worked out in real life.

I can't tell you what we actually ate. We had some leftover pulled pork from the weekend, and another night, my son ate some pretty spicy buffalo chicken meatballs from Trader Joe's while the other rocked a kaiser roll. We swam every day, and the temps were over 90, so we just found ourselves staying at the pool, snarfing berries and watermelon and calling it a meal. Sounds good, and worked fine, but a little dicey in practice.

So with that, my new, more realistic June plan:

Monday: Italian beef in the slow cooker, roasted potatoes and turnips (hello, CSA season, how I have missed you); salad

Tuesday: Wednesday Spaghetti. Woohoo! I'll bring the ever popular Something. We'll have to see how hot it is.

Wednesday: leftover beef in sandwiches or with rice, depending on what's in the house; some green veggie, probably asparagus

Thursday: something from the freezer that doesn't involve much cooking. Last week's fail was that it was over 90 and I didn't want to stand over the stove in that weather.

Friday: Graduation/soccer/swim team...I have no idea where dinner will be ingested but I will travel with snacks all afternoon!

There was one new recipe I tried last week and it worked out great: my sister in law mentioned that she went to a party and the hostess served cannoli dip with Nilla Wafers and strawberries for dipping. "It was so good," my sister in law said, "I didn't ask for the recipe. I knew I couldn't have it in the house for any amount of time." As I was hosting a Silpada party as a fundraiser, that sounded about right to me. So I googled and found this recipe and, um, yeah. Not as amazing as a real South Philly cannoli but very easy and awfully good. I subbed mini chips (why chop chips, really?) but otherwise, stuck with it. And mmmmmmmm, it was a big hit.

Go see I'm an Organizing Junkie! for great menu plans!

Monday, May 31, 2010

MPM--June Buggin'

Holy Moses! I cannot believe this. I thought May was busy. Then I looked at June.

In the "didn't think that would happen" category: I took my son to swim team tryouts because his friend was going. I know my son gets skittish about any form of sports competition so I didn't expect much other than a no-stakes first tryout experience. When he jumped in the pool, the water was so cold, "it pulled all the air out of my body!" he said later, and he promptly forgot how to swim and dog-paddled instead to keep his head out of the water to gasp in some air. But after the initial shock, he settled in and made the preteam. I didn't know there was such a thing, so meal planning becomes extra-crucial now, with three 6pm practices, hosting a Silpada party, and all the other end-of-year craziness.

But we had a great Memorial Day weekend in the mountains, with lots of pizza dip and mac and cheese for the hardworking teenaged nieces and nephews, and lake time and pool time when we got home and all kinds of fun coming up. So let's see the plans, shall we?

Monday: "gourmet" hot dogs (part of the Omaha Steaks haul), corn and black bean salsa, potato croquettes (also Omaha Steaks)

Tuesday: DAF potstickers and stir-fry

Wednesday: CSA box comes today, so lots of veggies, plus steaks on the grill

Thursday: Korean beef, rice, veggies (on an Asian kick this week!)

Friday: Too much going on. Soccer--prom--swim team--at least I know someone else will be making something. Could be pizza after soccer, might be barbeque after prom pictures. We'll get something. Phew.

In the craziness that was last week, I didn't try too many new recipes, but one was the Indian green beans. I thought they were great.

I revisited an old friend, the Giada Orzo recipe I love. I forgot to keep stirring the orzo so it was almost a molded salad by default! But the vinaigrette helped break things up. I loved it again, but wow, does it taste salty to me now. I cut the salt in the dressing by half and still was puckering up. I've retrained my taste buds better than I thought.

In a stroke of luck, I decided to try these Nutella cupcakes from Food52. It seemed like a great idea. I had every ingredient in my house already (including, by some miracle, almost the exact amount of Nutella called for, and thank goodness for something else to work down all the self-rising flour in my house. (Where is it all coming from? Have I lost all ability to read labels correctly in the store?) Plus I loved that it was like a microbatch, with only 12 cupcakes resulting. Next time, I won't wait until after midnight to start. And I'll use cream instead of corn syrup in the ganache (though with the heat here, the corn syrup was probably a good plan). All those things aside: OH my freakin' HECK, these were amazing. All twelve were demolished promptly. They were very dense but as my husband said, without the overwhelm that can come from Nutella from the jar. (Not that we aren't all quite familiar with that.) These are a definite go-to cupcake for me forever more, amen. They come out of the oven with a nice crackly top, and the tip about "if one collapses, just fill it with ganache"? Genius. Nom nom nom.

I hope all the US readers had a wonderful and reflective, even for a few minutes, Memorial Day. For more menus, try anyone over at I'm an Organizing Junkie!