Monday, December 26, 2011

MPM--Closing Out the Year

And what a year. It's always interesting to see what the trip around the sun brings. What a great Christmas! The boys are still full believers (and why not? Santa comes to the bedroom here to say Merry Christmas and take the elves home--it's hard to argue with that) and knowing it might be the last year made it all the sweeter.

Looking at pictures--I barely got out anything compared to past years. I never found my Christmas clothes. The box of master bathroom decor never made it down. And Christmas came just the same. While so much is out of storage anyway, I'm purging what's left. Some didn't come out because it's breakable and we have boys but I hope someday it makes its way back out. Others...not so much.

Holiday roundup below. This week:

Monday: Boxing Day. Leftover party food, including cioppino from Christmas Eve.

Tuesday: Spaghetti with red sauce or pesto.

Wednesday: I'm leaving this open; we are probably going to be in the city and will get something there.

Thursday: Freezer food. Oh, how I have LOVED having freezer meals in these last few weeks.

Friday: Out. I love break but I know I will be d-o-n-e.

Christmas, we brought a bunch of things to the open house--chicken nuggets, this Smitten Kitchen recipe for mushrooms, pizza dip, mac and cheese, and carrot mousse.

For Boxing Day, we went with a brunch. My mother-in-law made all savory things (quiches & meats) so I made an apple-cranberry crumble. I used this recipe and made it on Christmas Day while we were winding down from Presentpalooza. It was terrific and a great color for the holiday!

There was more but I'm feeling holiday lazy in a great way. See you in 2012! And check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more motivated meal plans!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MPM--It's Not Just the Goose Getting Fat

I wish I had pregnancy as an excuse, but I do not. It is pure holiday gain, which I rarely succumb to. (I just stay at holiday weight year-round.) But with a week to go, I'm just trying to be careful from here on out.

I have stocked up on my favorite easy light lunch (Trader Joe's chicken-cilantro wontons and chicken broth), and I am hoping to make the bean and cabbage dish later to have this week for lunches and mom-alternatives to other dinners this week. But I'm also hoping to just not worry about it with the magic of the season upon us.

One fun piece of magic from last week's sprint of the season: Little Mr. Picky ate a spinach stromboli! Wonders may never cease. Many thanks to the intrepid hosts (from Fever) for an amazing party and Christmas miracle of food.

It was a great week, full of train rides and Santa visits and cookie decorating and pretzel hugs-making, and all kinds of goodness. The trees are up, if not decorated, but Christmas will come just the same. Here's wishing a great week to you and yours. And for my many friends who are missing someone this year, permanently or temporarily--I am holding you in my heart in a special way.

Monday: Apple-Sausage-Potato Bake. It's the second grade party and I know it's all I'll be up for. (I do love "Place ingredients in vessel; bake" recipes.)

Tuesday: Oh, alas, as the year comes to a close...Taco Tuesday might close too. My taco-loving guy has decided that if it isn't a hard-shell taco, he's not interested. Mom considers hard-shell tacos to be an every-once-in-a-while treat. The snits are not pretty. But for this week--still with the tacos.

Wednesday: I had this awesome crockpot pork at a party this week and would like to replicate it. Leftover macaroni & cheese; beets.

Thursday: Last day of school! Cranberry brisket, baked potatoes, some vegetable. I hope. If I get my act together.

Friday: Not sure. The boys have been grooving on pesto quinoa lately so hopefully leftovers + that will get us to the weekend.

Saturday: Feast of the 7 Fishes, MemeGRL's family style. We do a family take on it. We cheat with cioppino (getting scallops, shrimp, anchovies, cod, and mussels in one take), lobster bisque, canned oysters on crackers, and salmon for those who do not enjoy oysters or lobster bisque. And, to keep it totally traditional, we have pizza for the boys.

And that's as far as I can go right now. I think I made other things this week but the only item of note for here: I tried these three-ingredient Nutella cookies. They were easy but I did find I had to knead the dough by hand, not spoon. The original recipe may have worked better (though yum--they were delicious). There were others that I can't remember right now...and oh, I had a great non-cooking weekend, taking advantage of her and her generosity and yumminess. Thanks, blogfriends! I loved seeing so many online friends in person.

Have a wonderful week, everyone. See you on the other side of the holiday! Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menus.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

MPM--The Whirl Continues....

I cringe in the general direction of this week. This is the marathon before the stillness of the holiday. It's all fun but it's all this week!

Monday: Gymnastics until 6, then Chinese carnitas (from the freezer), kale chips, and rice.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, thank goodness.

Wednesday: Cookie swap night! Sausage-apple-potato bake and a green side to be determined. (Peas, probably, a rediscovered favorite of the veggie eating son.)

Thursday: Hoagies. I'm hosting book group, and we read Bossypants by Tina Fey, so we're eating our favorite food of the Philadelphia area. I'll get hoagies from my favorite place and dips from another and that will be about enough for me. Since the boys don't eat hoagies (why? they are denying themselves their birthright!) they'll probably have mushroom truffle flatbread.

Friday: Boys are on their own; I have a party to attend that's a reunion of my nursing moms' counselors group and I'm bringing a side dish to be named later. Probably mac & cheese but we'll see what I'm up for at this point in the week.


In the midst of the freezer cleanout, I couldn't resist this recipe and I'm glad I didn't. It was an easy roast chicken recipe and with veggies from my favorite veggie stand, it was cheap and delicious. I didn't have the spinach, but I had everything else. I used boneless skinless breasts and two regular thighs, but it wasn't as juicy. Also--my baster developed a hole (it was due) so I couldn't really baste it. But we will do this again, using a ton more tomatoes and I will peel the garlic next time. Highly recommended.

We also had fun this week making pretzel hugs for CCD teachers, friends, and babysitters. The element of danger in the hot candy made it especially attractive. I will note too that boys' pretzel hugs don't look like girls'. I'm just saying. But if you at all enjoy chocolate pretzels...let's just say that looks don't matter.

There are some good looking meals over at I'm an Organizing Junkie! The unstuffed shells from last week look awesome and easy. I hope you have a good week, doing whatever holiday fun or prep is on your list!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

MPM--I Don't Know Who We Are Anymore

Ho Ho Ho! Merry birthdays! What a whirlwind of a week. We started at the Eagles game (lousy--the Patriots put on a clinic of How to Dismantle a Disfunctional Defense--but hey, how often do you see a future Hall of Famer? From a box? With awesome food?) for my husband's birthday due to a very generous gift of tix from my sister in law. We rounded out the week at a cook-in-front-of-you (Benihana style) Japanese restaurant, which the kids loved (well, Mr. Picky only loved the first few bites of rice but hey, it's a start). In between, we cleaned out behind and under the stove (thanks to an errant toy car), blitz-cleaned the basement, inventoried and wrapped the Christmas presents, put away Thanksgiving, and started Christmas a-creeping in. I also went through a ton of clothes with the boys and got them set for the winter season (if it ever comes, both days this weekend were 50-something and sunny...global warming isn't all bad). We also got to see Shane Victorino on my birthday, and since he's my favorite player, that was awesome. The best, though, was the breakfast in bed from my boys. My youngest came up with a pencil tucked behind his ear and a paper on which he wrote my order...they came up with an unbelievable breakfast--eggs, bacon, grapefruit, smoothie...it was awesome and incredibly sweet. I loved it. No meal can top that, but alas, we will need to eat again...

So now the whirl has officially begun...

Monday: elementary school fundraiser at an indoor playground space; will buy the gross dinner there for the kids since that's part of the fundraising. I'll bring ... something. Banana. Whatever.

Tuesday: Lego build. We'll eat at the Mall. Ugh. My stomach turns at what we'll be eating two nights straight. I'll work on good stuff to bring for the line (z-bars, squeezable applesauce...).

Wednesday: I can't resist this roast chicken recipe from Cup and Table (channelling Jamie Oliver).

Thursday: Taco Thursday, of course.

Friday: Leftovers, and collapsing in a heap.

Last week was a great week. The runaway hit of the week was the Autumn Pork Roast. It was a great use of my butternut squash and the pork was delicious. A winner all around. And otherwise, we ate from the freezer and cabinets, which was awesome. In a rare moment, I found myself in front of Whole Foods and walked out with only three boxes of truffles (hostess presents for upcoming parties) and some bulk quinoa. We're really overstocked here and I want to work it down. It's going well so far.

Wishing you a wonderful week as times get merrier! Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great recipes on the web!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MPM--Birthday Bonanza!

So crazy-busy, these last weeks of the year. I am still trying to figure out how to squeeze enough hours of the day to do all I want to do in them. But one thing that has surprised and thrilled me: I really feel like a better mother since I went back to work. Not those times when I have to put the tv on or chase the kids to the neighbors' to finish a project, but the rest of the time--it's amazing. Having a job quiets the restless part of my brain so when I'm with my kids--I'm with them. And that hamster wheel in my head stops spinning and I can actually remember to calm down and focus on them and just be. And for that I am most thankful. I am grateful to Katie Granju, who wrote that part of being a good mother can be providing for the family. I'm grateful to 4everMom for showing me a way to think outside the box about combining working and mothering. I'm grateful to Anjali, for always reminding me that she knew, she saw, that spark in me that said, I need a professional life too. I have many other mentors on blogs and in real life, but it's a good season to get the long list started.

This week: with the exception of Monday, lots of eating down the fridge. I was kicking myself last week after running around to multiple markets, looking for creamed onions for my father-in-law, only to find they were in my freezer all along. That's a sign: too full.

Monday: Autumn Pork Roast (since I am still working down butternut squash from the CSA. This time, however, I am browning in the toaster oven so I don't burn my arm again)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday!

Wednesday: my son's first reconciliation so something fast. Probably the Catered By Trader Joe's route: mushroom truffle flatbread for the boys, mac and cheese for my husband and the boy who eats mac & cheese, and something Indian for me (see below).

Thursday: Leftovers, or more freezer stuff.

Friday: out for my birthday. I will not cook. Thanks to a surprise bill, that's about all we'll be doing, but that's ok. I am trying to purge stuff, not collect more.

One thing I forgot to mention last week: I had grand plans for making chicken curry, and all kinds of other yummies for Interpreter of Maladies night. Then I started running out of time and panicked and bought Trader Joe's Indian. Then I realized that several people there were friend who've never had Indian and I didn't want them to think they didn't like it because they had a lame version of it. So I caved and got takeout. But I'm not sorry.

Thanksgiving was lovely; I did the usual turkey-leg and Stuffing-Like-My-Mother's (nothing secret, just the blue bag of Pepperidge Farms Stuffing mix with the sauteed celery and onions mixed in; my in-laws' recipes are good, but hey, we all want our own memories served on Turkey Day) in the morning, getting the house smelling like the day. Then I went on to the carrot mousse and creamed onions, and when those were done by noon, I kept going and made mac & cheese for the home-from-college nephew, and cranberry blondie bars, because hey, I had the cranberries. And one miso sweet potato later, we were all set. It was great.

But that did remind me of another thing: I keep searching my own blog for my macaroni and cheese recipe. But it's not here, mostly out of fear of lawsuits by irate cardiologists. The ur-recipe is this one, for Patti LaBelle's Over the Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese. It's amazing, but I am too lazy to even find that many bags of shredded cheese. So (deep breath, admitting this in public) here's how I do it.

My Favorite Aunt's Mac & Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350. Make one box of Creamettes, preferably just a little bit undercooked. While they are cooking, unwrap a stick of butter and use the wrapper to grease the inside of one large and one small Corningware dish. While the noodles drain, toss the stick of butter in the still-hot pot you boiled the noodles in. Put it back on the (now-off) burner to melt the butter. Pour the noodles back in. Stir; add seasoned salt (note: this is the only reason I even have seasoned salt) and pepper; stir to coat noodles and melt butter. Open three bags of shredded white sharp (preferably extra sharp) cheddar cheese; pour two in to buttered noodles one at a time, stirring after each. Add some of the third bag; I usually put in about a quarter. Now (gulp) add as much half-and-half as you dare, up to two cups. Currently I skip the eggs due to allergies in the family but if you want a more "together" texture, almost quichey/casseroley, it's also good. Stir well (you will be amazed at how much cream the noodles can absorb); pour in to prepared dishes. Sprinkle the tops with as much of the rest of the cheese as you like. Bake at 350 until bubbly. And go on a cleanse for the next several days and beg your arteries for forgiveness.

On that note, I hang my head in shame and urge you to look for healthier recipes on I'm an Organizing Junkie's blog. She has many great things there. On to December!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MPM--Changing Seasons

We pulled down most of Halloween this week, leaving some pumpkins to keep the turkeys company, and I remembered anew why to start so early with the Halloween: because Thanksgiving really sweeps right in behind. But it was good; knowing that Christmas is tapping its toes impatiently waiting to invade, I really cleared the decks and eliminated lots of stuff. I actually removed furniture just to give some more space. I consolidated plants and ran a ton of errands that had literally collected on my windowsill. The boys walked in and said, WOW! You worked really hard in here! And that was startling but encouraging, that they noticed and cared.

There is still much to be done; to have any prayer of a birthday party this weekend, I have loads of work to finish in the "crushing through paper" department despite (no joke) filling two recycling containers already. With all else going on, meal planning is taking a serious back seat. But I'm kind of ok with that.

This week:

Monday: Crazy Jane's chicken (by request), roasted Brussels sprouts (I'm obsessed), asparagus ketchup (I'm getting better at it and again: I'm obsessed), salad. Maybe rice for the kids.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday.

Wednesday: Pre-Thanksgiving spaghetti. Because carbo loading is the way to go, right? I will probably be having leftover chicken, and use the noodles as a side. But we've been doing "family dinners" on Sundays the last few weeks (in my family, Sunday dinner was an early [starting sometime between 1 and 4, depending on when the Eagles or Phillies were playing] dinner of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread, and salad. When the weather got cold and I got sentimental, I reinstated the tradition and it was warmly received by 2/3 of the boys) and it is very popular with my younger son, who rightly pointed out that we have my older son's favorite meal every week, why not his too? That made sense to me, and I do love the "anchor meal" that Taco Tuesday gives me.

Thursday: Turkey day! I will probably roast a drumstick and breast for us, just to have the "right" smell in the house, but for the big dinner, we're bringing creamed onions (from frozen) and carrot mousse. I might also make mac & cheese for the college kids, who always enjoy it.

Friday: Leftovers of some kind. Taco or turkey, I care not.

Not much else to report...the kids tried black quinoa from the bulk bins at Wegman's, and loved it. "It tastes just like regular quinoa," my picky one said, "only much, MUCH better!" So that was a success, and since it's cheaper in bulk--score one for mama.

I am looking forward to trying some of Mark Bittman's 20 post-Thanksgiving recipes, depending what we have here. And for more inspiration, you'll have to go elsewhere, I'm afraid...I'm about out of ideas! Try I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more new ideas. And a happy Thanksgiving week to all...I'm thankful for you, wherever you are. I appreciate your checking in and your comments, even you ghostly lurkers, who show up on my Google analytics. Have a great week!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MPM--SuperFast November

Soccer is over, football is over, and with friends dealing with challenges, I feel so lucky that changing routines is our biggest family issue for the moment. I am swimming in the deep end with my job, eagerly awaiting feeling on top of things again. I did a consignment sale of "never worked for our kids" toys and can't wait to see what that brings, cash-wise. (Only the tricycle and ski goggles didn't sell.) Halloween stuff went away just in time for some turkeys, and now we await the Advent calendars at Trader Joe's to tell us the seasons have truly changed again.

Monday--crockpot pork roast, baked potatoes, something green

Tuesday--Taco Tuesday

Wednesday--leftovers--pork or tacos

Thursday--I'm hosting book group for The Interpreter of Maladies, which I, alas, did not read. But--I get to have Indian food, woohoo!

Friday--unclear. Looking forward to figuring it out.

So on Election Day, when the kids had off, we tried this vegan smoothie from Foodie Parent. Result? Don't bother. Nasty. Not even close to sweet enough, even for me. Vanilla almond milk (as opposed to regular) might have helped but alas, not really a hit with anyone, and I can usually choke down anything healthy with the "it's nutritious" pep talk. Happily, we went to Wawa and erased that memory with some awesome smoothies from them.

Also, we've gone old-school and have started having big Italian dinners on Sundays. It works out well, actually; we have pancakes after Mass & CCD (now "PREP"), and then have an earlyish dinner to set up for the week. I'm loving it and am protecting this schedule as long as possible.

Here's hoping you are finding things that are working for you! If you are looking for new ideas--try over at I'm an Organizing Junkie! Have a great week!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MPM--Some Other Beginning's End

Ah, November. End of (fall) soccer season, end of outdoor practices, timing falling back...I'm feeling ready, though. The clock fell back, the kids were up early but now are falling asleep early-for-them...life is good. Now, trying to keep it that way by doing an eating-down-the-cabinets personal challenge, and attempting to buy only meat and fruit this week. Should be alarmingly easy but you never know.

Monday: Leftovers, mostly from an awesome spaghetti & meatballs Sunday dinner here

Tuesday: back to Taco Tuesday

Wednesday: Tricky; I have a meeting at church at 6:30, so quick is of the essence. Solution: bag o' bbq chicken from Trader Joe's from the freezer, highly recommended by a friend with four kids who says it's one of the only thing that all her kids eat. That's a pretty solid recommendation. Rice, and probably beets.

Thursday: Another meeting for me (this time for the consignment sale this weekend, cannot wait for the empty space to start appearing in the garage, woohoo!) so another freezer meal. Will probably go for the shredded pork over rice and whatever veggies are in the fridge at this point.

Friday: Football made the playoffs (yeah!) but it's supposed to rain (boo!). And we're invited for pizza on Saturday so I'll have to make something. Solution: leftovers. Works for me, it's a Friday.

On Halloween, we had the leftover chili and I also finally made the pasta with sheeps' milk yogurt and caramelized onions. (Ask not what possessed me to try a new recipe on Halloween, but I will tell you: I'd found the yogurt at a Wegman's visit almost three weeks earlier and didn't want it to go bad--like the spinach--while I dithered.) It was good--I liked the tang and the caramelized onions make anything delicious. So I don't know that it will be in heavy rotation but I would definitely make it again.

The rest of the week was pretty much according to the plan, with some chicken breasts and asparagus ketchup thrown in (asparagus went on sale--not sure where in the world it's spring and asparagus season but it made me happy). We also made the white bean and cabbage dish again (this time my husband got to eat some and actually liked it, yay!). Next week I'm hoping to make the cauliflower soup among other things for lunches for the grownups in the house. I also did the sausage skillet dinner (with onions, apples, and cooked in apple cider) and it was yummy. I needed to change up something to get the sausage more browned, but I was glad to know it was all fully cooked, which soothes my nervous mom soul when cooking with sausage.

The lunchbox challenge is over, or almost (I've lost track), on the web at least. But in my kitchen, it continues. And the holiday prep went out the window entirely with the new job, as did reading any of my books for book group. Which is a problem, as I'm in charge of next month's book. Back down to the bookshelves!

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for the most comprehensive meal lists on the web!

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Maybe Misunderstanding...

...but from what I saw briefly in my look at the Google Reader blog, they are turning off not just sharing and liking but also following on Blogger.
To those of you who have been my followers, I thank you. Each one of you made me smile, and I hope I did that for you, too.
I'm not on Google Plus for several reasons, including that my Gmail account has been hacked twice, unlike any of my other email accounts, but if I figure out a way to get a MemeGRL Google+ account, I will hope to reconnect with my followers there.
I'll probably stick with this platform because this is not a time in my life for any more newness, so I hope we reconnect out there in cyberspace somehow. But I didn't want the features to evaporate completely without saying thanks. I'm so glad you're here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MPM--Let It ... wait what?

Ah, well. Man plans, God laughs...we were supposed to have a rustic fall weekend in New England, visiting our niece at boarding school (first one in our family to go, though her grandmother on the other side went too). And we got there, and had a lovely tour on a blue sky day, and then the snowstorm chased us home. I am a driving weather wuss and preferred dry roads over wet...so we had an unexpected "extra" weekend at home. Not that I am any more prepared for Halloween, or the week...

Monday: chili, with noodles or rice for under and for kids. Gotta be quick so we can get out trick-or-treating!

Tuesday: Lego build, so boys and I will eat out, dad will fend for himself

Wednesday: the long awaited sausage vamp with pesto quinoa for kids

Thursday: Taco Thursday

Friday: Last football game! If it isn't eleventy-billion below zero. Brr.

Last week went well, though I didn't get to either the sausage or pork ribs, so this week, I know better than to try. One night I made chicken nuggets, another night it was apples with peanut butter and rice on the side for the kids and something for my husband and me from the freezer. So I am recalibrating my expectations here. I'm going to keep trying to keep it simple and figure out how to recapture my kitchen mojo, which has about abandoned me here.

The lunches continue to go well, except that my older son keeps taking things from the cabinet that I have earmarked for lunches. This drives me crazy when there are other things here besides the nut-free, prepackaged, easy to send along things. But that's not a lunch problem, that's a kitchen storage problem. I'm working on it.

For more inspiration--try I'm an Organizing Junkie! And come back next week when maybe I'll have figured out how to do it all in one day and get some sleep too. Happy Halloween, & happy November!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MPM--The New Normal

So, here we are, settling in to October, all of us getting our rhythms. I still feel like I'm running to stand still a bit, but I'm getting there. And we lucked out with last week's dinners--on Sunday, we were invited to a block party celebrating a 40th birthday. As late arrivers, we became the de facto "clear off the street" crew, and as such, the lucky recipients of lots of party food. Spicy meatballs, palak paneer, cucumber and tomato salad...it was a good week. So some of last week will come to this week, which is fine by me.

I'm in a bit of a pork rut. It just seems like such a fall meat, doesn't it?

Monday: Slow Cooker BBQ ribs, CSA veggies (almost done for the season, sniff)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, of course. Ahh.

Wednesday: rescheduled from last week: riffing from a Trader Joe's sample: TJ's bratwursts in a skillet with apples and onions, cooked down in spiced cider, mashed potatoes, something vegetably (wish me luck, if you read here much at all, you know "riffing" is not a strong point for me)

Thursday: Please, God, let there be leftovers.

Friday: something fallish. Football game, or birthday party, or something fun...we'll see when we get there.

So, my older son is in the midst of a taste renaissance. He is all about raw onions (!) and trying new things. Last week, stir fry, this week, he asked for fish. Alas, I didn't get him any, but he did try the spicy meatballs from the party and loved them. And in an equally stunning development, Mr. Picky tried the spicy meatballs too. He didn't like them, but a bite crossed his lips. I'm shamefaced that this is what it has come to, but that passes for food excitement around here. They also both loved the pork that didn't quite work, in my estimation (the Chinese carnitas) so that was good news all around as well.

The lunchbox challenge, however, is suffering. By Friday morning, there wasn't a chance in the world of lunch being ready to go out the door, so my son danced off, $2.30 in hand, to eat the mystery chicken, a roll, and milk for lunch. Next week is another week.

For better menu plans than this, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! And see you next week for Halloween and November. November! You'd think I wouldn't be surprised, with the Christmas countdown getting so low, but somehow, it's sneaking up on me again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Just Ask. What's On Your List?

My grandmother died of ovarian cancer. It's a nasty, brutish thing. My best friend is battling breast cancer, the inflammatory kind, and it's a sword of Damocles, hanging over both of us (her more than me, clearly, but the worry is constant for all who love her, too). Just Ask! is a group dedicated to helping families create awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. And they have a lulu of a giveaway, creating publicity for their organization. They are asking people to list 15 items on their bucket lists in a blog post. Here are mine:

Completed:

Kissed Jimmy Osmond. (Don't hate.)

Had a backstage pass to a rock concert.

Married the man of my dreams.

Worked dream job.

Went to Ireland with the extended family.

Went to Hawaii with the other side of the family.

Went to Disneyworld with the kids when they were young enough for the magic to be real.

New Year's Eve in Times Square. (Once is enough but I'm glad I did it.)

Drove the California coast in a red convertible Mustang.

Paid someone else's bill for something they couldn't afford. (It was anonymous, so no more details here, but: if you can do this, ever: DO IT.)

"Breathed" underwater on a helmet dive with my mom. (Most people dream of flying. I dream of breathing underwater, and every time I do, I wonder why I freak out so much about it, because it's really not hard at all.)

Raising kids in the town I grew up in, giving them experiences I loved and ones I never had.

Asked Stephen Colbert a question he clearly loved answering. (We went to a taping of his show in Philadelphia and before they started, they ask the audience to submit questions. They chose mine as one of the ones they'd use to warm up the group. The question was: What's your favorite Sunday School lesson to teach? And he was totally psyched to talk about it, which was really fun. The answer is: when Jesus told the apostle Peter to walk on water in the storm. Peter did, then actually thought about it, and then sank in the water. "It's the only example of physical comedy in the Bible," he quipped. True or not, he had us in stitches, describing the lesson.)

Oh, I am almost embarrassed to be posting this. I am so, so lucky to have had these chances and opportunities to make these choices. But I believe in the power of dreaming things in to life. Most of these experiences started as a vision and morphed in to reality over time and with effort. Oprah & company call it "the Secret." I'm not so sure I believe in "the Secret" hook, line, and sinker, but I do believe you have to have an idea of what you want if you want to get it. Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don't. (note, for example, the lack of "see a taping of the Oprah Show" on this list.) And sometimes, you get something even better. (see Stephen Colbert, above.) But every one of those ideas started as just that: an idea. So I'm entering this because all of the prizes are things that either my kids (Universal!) or I (ski Park City!) would love to do. Hence, the 15 bucket list items.

Much of the rest of my list is travel too:

I've been to 45 states and would love to make it to 50 by age 50. (That gives me just over 7 years. Should be possible, right?)
-New Orleans with my hubby
-Alaska cruise with my family
-Montana with my friend Nina
-and New Mexico and Oregon somewhere in there.

Outside the US: Iceland. (No, I don't know why.) Australia & New Zealand. Asia (specifically China, Japan, and Vietnam. So, you know, a week or two. HA!). More of Europe. London with my kids. The Galapagos and Antarctica.

Closer to home: See a taping of Saturday Night Live. Host a Wednesday Spaghetti for my block. Create a storywalk in my town. Either run a 5K fundraiser or do one of those 2- or 3-day walks. Get the whole extended family to go bowling. See Lora in an improv performance. And divide the family photos among folks who would care.

There are more, but they are so universal (I think) I hate to mention them (like "live to see my grandkids" for example). But I do think that writing things down makes them more likely to happen. Not unlike my weekly menus, it's good to have a written guide to go back to. What's yours? What's keeping you?

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to TodaysMama.com to get the details.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MPM--October Randomness

Here we are in filet of October. The weather has finally turned, the leaves are following suit, and while the pace is definitely faster than I'm used to, I love most of it. Some of the soccer practices, I can live without. But the running around outside? The rejuvenated dog? The boys who think raking is fun? Hot chocolate but no bulky blankets at football games? I live for this.

Monday: Leftover pork, rice, and probably beets, I have a bunch to roast.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, naturally.

Wednesday: Dad's choice. Mama's working. (Hah! That will mean chicken nuggets and pretzels for the kids, and Trader Joe's mac and cheese for dad. Betcha $1.) Though I have had requests for lasagne for dad and pesto quinoa for kids, so I will try to do that if I can get my act together before then.

Thursday: riffing from a Trader Joe's sample: TJ's bratwursts in a skillet with apples and onions, cooked down in spiced cider, mashed potatoes, something vegetably (wish me luck, if you read here much at all, you know "riffing" is not a strong point for me)

Friday: we scatter to the winds. One to a birthday party, the rest probably to the football game, either way: not much cooking for me, and probably leftovers if anything.

Also: our CSA has been very eggplant heavy so I was happy to see this recipe in Mark Bittman's dinner party matrix. Because I love my eggplant tomato sauce, but I have had enough of that. And I love it grilled, but grilling season is mostly over. And I'm eager to try the minty eggplant dip of Catherine Newman, but I am a ninny about guessing how to change things and don't have a broiler. So I might try the chickpea and eggplant stew recipe...we'll see. But I'm not losing another eggplant, that's for sure. Too yummy. So of course in making the NYTimes recipe I got distracted and forgot to dredge in flour, so now I feel incompetent to make a real judgement call on the recipe. Maybe it would have held together a little better with the flour, but as is, it worked. But--I would feel like someone who tried to serve it to me for a main dish (if that person was not a known vegan) would have some nerve. But it was a fine Chinese-ish style preparation with just enough kick to interest my hubans.

Meanwhile, last week I ran out of time to make the pork on its designated night and tried a chicken stir fry instead. I got the (raw) stir-fry sliced chicken at my market (yay, no touching raw meat) and used the Trader Joe's frozen stir fry veggies. After casing a few recipes, I fried the chicken in oil, added veggies, and when done, tossed in about a tablespoon of hoisin and a few tablespoons of soy sauce. And to my immense shock, my older one loved it, especially the edamame. So that's exciting: another easy freezer meal that 3/4 will eat. Wahoo! (And at least the picky one will eat rice.)

Interestingly (well, to me, anyway), I made the Chinese carnitas again and I seem to recall this is the second time that I have had a hard time getting it down to the sticky, dark brown glaze that the photo shows. The first time I made it, I was beating myself up for not reading carefully and boiling (lid on) for the first 90 minutes, and I think I turned it down for the next 90. But that was the only time I got it to the sticky glaze point. I also think I used 4lbs of bone-in ribs and swore I'd never make that mistake again, because the meat was so good we wanted more. But I think maybe with more meat (I used 3+ lbs of bone in, and 1 lb of boneless, which I didn't think would throw it off) it's harder to get that glaze. It's not a disaster; it's still really good pork, even without the glaze. But the glaze was the "so good it will make you cry" part of the original post. Without the glaze, it's just a stovetop version of my awesome crockpot pork roast with ginger. Sigh.

The lunchbox challenge remains challenging. At least I have one child who likes the same thing every day; the other one gets tired of things quickly. No sandwiches, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no hummus. And it has to be something he can eat fast because he cannot wait to get outside. So. There is that. He raved about a certain yogurt, put three multipack cartons in my cart at the store, and I thought, fine, that's easy, and one excellent lunch choice down...and halfway through the first carton, he was done. Booo. He might come back to them. He might not.

So, for more impressive menus, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! and check back here for my cooking misadventures to see how the week goes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

MPM--UberOctober

Good thing I got that "Red October" reference in last week because wow, those Phils let us down in a big way. My husband is in a deep funk which will last until after the series. I am somewhat relieved because this is weeks of his time I have back. (He's a blogger for The Good Phight, a Phillies blog, and in season, it's a real second job for him.)

But last week, the second job around here was mine. It went well, though it was drinking from a fire hose as far as learning, but that was to be expected. The people are nice, the job is interesting, and I feel very, very blessed to have found this spot. But. It means by dinnertime, my brain cells are shot, so hooray for an easy week, and hooray for this blog, which gave me a nice archive of Stuff We Like now that I don't have time to focus on it.

This week:

Monday: Chinese-Style Pork Carnitas, rice, broccoli

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, of course

Wednesday: otherwise known as my son's birthday! We'll go out for Chik-Fil-A--his choice.

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Football night, I hope.

Easy week, but last week kicked my tush so I need it!

So, last week, I was looking for our pumpkin muffin recipe (and by "ours" I mean "the internets'"; thank you Donna at AllRecipes, whoever you are) and found two totally craveworthy recipes I had forgotten about. One was Pork Roast with Apples and Cider Cream Gravy, and the other was Chinese-Style Pork Carnitas. All three are on my sidebar now, for you to enjoy as well. I adore them both and was happy last week to have had all I needed but the pork for the cider-cream one. Yu-hum.

Besides re-pointing me to fall favorites, I was glad I made the muffins; they were popular in lunches all week. This is my new "deceptive way to feed them something healthy" trick of the week since the moment of the squeezers is over, alas. So the lunchbox challenge is, in fact, a little more challenging but I'm muddling through. I did feel grateful for my Martha Stewart Moment when I actually made pumpkin puree and froze it for just such an emergency but the banana muffin mix from Trader Joe's was just as popular.

Blogging time is a little more restricted for me so not much other news to report. Have a great week and check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for the best collection of meal plans on the web. No, seriously. It totally is.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

MPM--Red October

SO, here we are, new month, new job, new routines all over the place. But some old ones will stay: I had to laugh at a Facebook post last week. Apparently there is Taco Tuesday happening all over our burbs! One of my friends' status was "Taco Tuesday!" and five more of us chimed in, three of who all do Taco Tuesdays every week. And here I thought it was just us.

This week:

Monday: Celebrating the first day on the new job. Rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies from the CSA.

Tuesday: It's gotta be tacos, right? The fun part of this is that last week, the kids and I were at the playground and my husband did the prep and threw in onions...it revolutionized the meal. My older one wants onions in with the meat AND raw all over the top. He is in a huge onion stage and we are happy to oblige, even if his breath could slay dragons.

Wednesday: chicken nuggets and roasted carrots for the kids, and Trader Joe's chicken soup and garlic bread for the parents.

Thursday: Leftovers.

Friday: In a huge, huge karmic gift (maybe), my husband was gifted tickets to Game 5 of the NLCS. If they play it. So the jury is out. There is a football game, a soccer tournament, and a playoff game...this is an eat-on-the-fly night to the nth degree.

I know, no real inspiration here anymore. Sorry.

The lunchbox challenge is going strong...wish me luck this week. My son did buy lunch one day last week so I couldn't get away with it the whole month, but that was a long shot anyway. Still, back to it this week...I'm making muffins again, I throw in healthy stuff, he doesn't know it, and thinks he's getting away with something.

And I'm weeks behind on the Holiday Grand Plan, and probably will remain this way. But I am off to pull out the Halloween stuff in one last minute push to normalcy before things change again. I will miss these at home days, somewhat. And I can't wait to restart the career I loved. In a telling moment, I dreamed I was rehired at my old job the other morning and went through the whole thing: the travel, the assessment, the meetings--it was a subconscious review of everything I know about my profession. And I woke up smiling. I'm ready.

For actual creativity in meal planning, go see I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

MPM--September Sliding Away

Well, that month went fast. I think our routine is pretty good at this point, and now it's a race against the clock to finish all those projects I wanted to do "before I went back to work." I got the banking settled (woot! streamlining paperwork and cash flows FTW!), cleared the outgrown kids' clothes out of the attic, rejiggered the linen closet, and feverishly crammed through papers dating back to 2004. (Yep, just about the time I started staying home. Coincidence? I think not.)

This week: clear the boys' rooms...oh, wait. Nevermind. You were here for a meal plan. Right.

Monday: leftovers from Sunday spaghetti dinner with the family, veggies from CSA share

Tuesday: taco Tuesday!

Wednesday: chicken in mustard-cream sauce (see sidebar), or ginger-hoisin sauce (see below), or asparagus ketchup (trying again), salad, baked potatoes, CSA veggies

Thursday: leftovers, I hope, with veggies from the CSA

Friday: Football Friday. I'm so on it.

One other bloggy note before I go on to last week's reviews. Did you know it's less than 100 days to Christmas? Alas, there's the sad truth. So one more thing I did on my list: wrap the pre-bought gifts (also a review of What I Had since an October birthday is coming) and started with the 100 Days to Christmas blog. I do a (pathetically light) version of the Holiday Grand Plan, but can't keep up with it, but the 100 Days routine is much more my speed. With (usually) only one item a day, they do a great job keeping me on track for the holidays without feeling like I need to just leave my house and start over. It's also not just Christmas, they are sure to stop and enjoy the fall too. (Go apple picking, etc.) And: bonus this year: some great giveaways! They had an awesome Kindle giveaway last week. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next!

So, I got to the salmon with bok choy this week. My older son went crazy for the hoisin-honey-ginger sauce and had it on his chicken and rice. The salmon was yummy and easy. The bok choy was not a hit. I liked it but it wasn't great.

Based on the CSA, I made some kale chips on the fly. Oh, mercy--I forgot just how many of these my boys would chow down on. Why am I not making these every week??? The kale at the produce store is $1/bunch. Beats the heck out of chips, price- and nutrition-wise.

I'm also back in my miso-sweet potato groove, since we are receiving tubers of unusual size in the CSA this time of year. I love them and am enjoying them for lunch, um, yep, just about daily.

And the lunch box challenge is getting more challenging. The mercurial tastes of my son means that the exact same foods are chewed one day and eschewed another. And this is my "good" eater! But I did get 12/13 meals out the door last week. (I didn't know my husband was going to work early on Friday and there wasn't room in our very small fridge to have it made the night before.) So I'm working on it for next week and amping up the creativity factor.

So...here we have eight years of time at home coming to an end. That's not really fair; I've worked for pay for five of those eight years, but none with as much out-of-the-house time as this. It's amazing to me, I'm going back almost exactly eight years to the day after I left, almost the same amount of time my mother had, so I think in my psyche, I was just feeling like "it worked for her, it can work for me" and it made it easier. Of course, finding the right job helped a lot too. So stay tuned for a recap of my last "week of leisure" (ha ha, for that, I should have worked while they were little and taken off once they were in school!) and the blowing out of the water next week of all the routines I've grown to love. Have a great week and wish me luck in mine!

For really inspired meal plans, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! and see her most impressive list!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MPM--September Surprises

Well. Sometimes things come out of nowhere in a good way. I'm employed! It's a job I had no idea existed three weeks ago (unusual in my field, which is small and specific) but it's as close to an incarnation of a dream as I'll ever see. And in keeping with the dreamlike quality--they rewrote the contract to 25 hours per week for the first year so I could be home with my kindergartener after school. I am SO excited about the job and the company that thinks like that.

In other surprises, it was announced during back-to-school night that I am homeroom mom for my older son. I did not volunteer for that. I felt like Harry Potter when his name flew out of the goblet. I'll take it as a compliment. And fortunately, another mom I really like volunteered to help me once it had been announced.

This week:

Monday: really, the Crazy Jane's chicken this week, and stuff from the veggie box.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday

Wednesday: sausage bake (see sidebar for recipe), something green (maybe creamed spinach from the freezer, maybe something from the CSA box)

Thursday: Back to School Night (last one of three! phew) means leftover buffet

Friday: Football night! One of the cousins is a senior at a rival high school so it's his last season. They have an excellent concession stand (Chik-Fil-A, good pizza, and great hoagies from a local shop) so we'll have something there. Woohoo!


Not a whole lot to report from last week...I switched out the chicken for the pork with creamy mustard sauce (see sidebar for recipe link) and was reminded again how much I LOVE that sauce. And I say Crazy Jane's chicken but honestly? I might do creamy mustard chicken. So that might have to happen again.

Also, for the funeral last week, I was in charge of dips, and a kind friend sent some suggestions. I had so many, I forgot to bring the spinach dip over (fortunately someone else had brought it too). But: I thought that my spinach was too leafy, and my water chestnuts were definitely too big. So I threw it all in the food processor and yum. I ate it all week with carrots and celery, tremendously boosting my carrot and celery intake as well. So I need to do more experimenting with this. Maybe my son isn't the only one in the family who prefers things in the "smoothie" texture family.

And that's it from here. The school year started well (ok, there was the 2-hour stomach flu last Friday, but really, he was fine by 10am, so it barely counts), and things are humming along. If you work and have small kids and have fabulous meal ideas, please let me know. I'm all ears. Also? The older one is skipping the yogurt in his lunchbox (and won't eat sandwiches at school, he says they "smell funny" by lunchtime) and comes home starving. He won't eat cheese or eggs and they restrict nuts...any suggestions for proteins?

What are you making this week? Connect your post with menu at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MPM--September Mourn

The school year started off well, and soccer season is in full swing. But our family lost our patriarch last week, and it's really a bigger blow than I thought it would be. His 89th birthday would have been this month, and once he got past 80, it just seemed he'd live forever. But that's not really how life works, and so we go on. Add that to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which coincidentally coincides with my mother's death, and I'm really in a funk. I'll move on. But this week, like many others, I'm pausing to reflect, remember, and wrap myself in good thoughts.

This week:

Monday: yay veggies! Crazy Jane's Chicken and whatever's in the box.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday.

Wednesday: pulled pork sandwiches, roasted potatoes, something from the CSA box (it's back-to-school night for one child, so my sister- and brother-in-law are coming to babysit, yay, so big dinner for all)

Thursday: leftovers, if any, and if not, freezer dinner.

Friday: salmon with bok choy, rice. Kids might starve.

I'm obsessed with the White Beans & Cabbage. It's way better with butter. But I'll eat it either way.

I'm also obsessed with the Amazon grocery service with big discounts for scheduled deliveries. After seeing how fast we go through some of the pre-packed things with two kids with lunches, I'm scouting for the cheapest way. Thanks to a tip from a friend who works with Campbell's, I checked out Amazon, whom she told me is trying very hard to grow their grocery business. They have a thing going, Subscribe and Save, where you find the foods your family eats lots of, and sign up to have it delivered at intervals you choose, and you get a better price on it. I just joined our local big-box discount store (BJ's) and they have better prices on some things, but Amazon does on others, and the convenience of them showing up at my house when I need them...? Awesome. (Note: I am not an affiliate, alas, I just think this is very cool, even if it is iffy on the carbon footprint.)

I tried the Moroccan Shrimp recipe from Dinner: A Love Story but I think something was wrong with the shrimp, and I didn't have the cumin. I was the only one in the family who would eat it, and I wasn't letting $12 in shrimp go to waste. But it was not a big winner, alas. And otherwise, we didn't really try anything new. I shredded my zucchini and put it in the fridge, and it melted in to a big puddle of itself before I could make anything. Boo to me.

The Lunch Box Challenge, as predicted, wasn't very challenging, per se, but has been interesting. I have been trying to pack their lunches pretty much as they walk in the house. I also have adjusted what I'm sending; the sandwiches keep coming back home because my son is grossed out by them by the time he has lunch, so it's more full of little things (five yogurt pretzels, 6 cut up strawberries, a small container of goldfish or some other crunchy thing, a yogurt, a veggie or fruit item) than a traditional lunch. And they both get milk at school, which I love. They get chocolate milk, which is fine by me, because then we don't have it at home and it is Just Never Questioned. I love it when stuff like that works. And I'm willing to do it because it is hard to pack a drink for them that doesn't spill one way or the other; the chocolate milk tastes better than the white milk; and the school recycles the containers.

So, lots of transitions, lots of figuring out what we're doing, and I appreciate your patience as we get there. Sorry to be a bore but I'm really distracted by the rest of life and getting it on the computer is a stretch right now. BUT, if I don't, I'll be staring at 8 bags of nuts and butter shaped like a turkey in my freezer, wondering what to have for dinner, so the discipline is good for me.

For more inspiration posts, try I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MPM--Suddenly September

Well. Boy howdy, that was some storm last week, and I don't even live in Vermont. (If you do, I hope you are recovering.) We lost power from Saturday to Tuesday, and let me tell you--it was enough. "Camping in our own home" was not quite the cheery adventure I hoped to convince the kids it would be. And having the roving band of cranky boys from our street (9 in elementary school alone) with no access to electric entertainment--well, let's say that swordfighting has never been so popular on our street. There was lots of annoyed energy to go around.

It also threw off my meal plans in a big way. I could use the burners but not the stove, and we could grill. So we used a ton of things from the freezer, sent some off to kind friends around town with freezer space, and, in a teeny silver lining, cleaned and defrosted the freezer downstairs. So that's over. And while I totally admired my friends who went camping *after* the power was back, I am really feeling it for those who are still without. In a very first-world problem, our pool was shut down for the summer prematurely by the storm, which was sad, so soon after both boys got their blue ribbons (ie, passed the highest swim test). We were so proud, and I know they were too.

This week: school starts. Soccer gets serious. And we all try to get in the swing. So...

Monday: Labor Day. Last night before school starts. No CSA, but I am trying to use what we have. I will probably make the cabbage and white bean dish again, and I am hoping to try the Smitten Kitchen zucchini fritters because oy, the zucchini. We'll also have leftover tri-tip steaks from the freezer; see below.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, of course.

Wednesday: First day of kindergarten! I'm so excited. Noodles, little Mr. Picky's favorite, to celebrate his first day of the next 13 years of school.

Thursday: Leftovers & freezer meals.

Friday: Football game. I am hoping this week they bring back the walking tacos.

Not really much to report from last week. We grilled the frozen pizzas on the grill and while I prefer the toaster oven, it worked in a pinch. The baby eggplant were still delicious on the grill. One of the defrosted dishes was a chick pea curry I was happy to see again, and the Trader Joe's fettucini Alfredo were well received by the cheese-eating boy. My older one begged me to make peas when he saw them in the freezer, and I was happy to oblige. And I had a Kashi frozen meal--Lemongrass Chicken--that I will definitely purchase again. It was awesome.

One of the things that was defrosted was tri-tip steaks from Omaha. I got antsy reading all the websites that said how it can be tough if it's not marinated for 24 hours. So, we experimented, even though once it was out of the wrap, they seemed really tender. Two, we cut up in to kebab's with DALS's Tony's Steak dressing, then stuck 'em on skewers with cherry tomatoes. And two, we tried with this dry rub, despite a name that made me cringe. It was easy, and I had all the stuff, though I think I used too much of it. I would definitely use less next time, though when slices in to thin strips, it was easier to take. The kebabs were really dry, though, which was a bummer. Our grill has been fussy, so I don't blame the meat. For a steak dinner, it was easy and good.

If you aren't reading me in a reader (why not?)--and you are in the thick of school lunch prep--there is a challenge over here that I'm joining. It's not much of a "challenge" for me (my older son, the "good" eater, actually doesn't like most of the school lunches, woohoo!), but the giveaway is awesome, especially as my kids snarf Revolution Foods like the candy bars we save for desserts. I haven't found YoDrops anywhere but am intrigued.

And that's about all. For those who celebrate, Happy Labor Day! (My grandmother and her sisters were all in the ILGWU, so I still hum "look for the union label" on Labor Day.) And check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more menu plans!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

MPM--August Endings

Earthquakes, hurricanes...nothing like a few natural disasters to end the summer. Around here, lots of schools were supposed to start on Monday and had to cancel for fear of Irene. Serves 'em right for starting before Labor Day, I say. Of course I am writing this in advance, and hoping desperately that this turns out to be a bunch of rain and that

Our last week of vacation is this week and I'm in my usual churn of ideas...Irene reminded me I need to empty my freezer, and pronto. We made lots of things from the freezer in storm prep and it was high time too.

Monday: CSA box day. Something veggie, and probably the pork chops on the grill from the freezer.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday!

Wednesday: I am hoping this is a beach day, but if not, the shrimp-and-corn thing that I love will be great tonight. When I find the recipe, I'll copy and post.

Thursday: Happy birthday, Mr. Picky Eater! We'll have something he likes this night, but I don't know what yet. The weather will determine how we celebrate. (Beach? Museum? Amusement park?)

Friday: Crystal ball is unclear here, too, though "something from the freezer" is a safe bet. There is a chick pea curry in there that is calling my name.

You know how I always cook way too much for snowstorms? As it turns out, I do the same thing for hurricanes. On a thundery day before the hurricane even gathered speed, I was busy in the kitchen, having filled the tank of the car, and bought bottled water, and all those other goodies. I made the curried egg salad, and alas, it was not a favorite; the red onion I had was overpowering even though it was little and I didn't use much. Next time, scallions or shallots. I made the sardines rillettes as well, the ones that the Tipsy Baker enthused about, and you know what? They were awesome. I used the Trader Joe's sardines, a 3.5 oz can, and it was exactly enough and the bones were already removed--score. I was dreading that part. I also made a potato pizza from Time for Dinner, using purple potatoes from the 25-cent bin at the Co-op, which made it much prettier.

So I was wandering through some blogs and some bookmarks and found some recipes I had been meaning to try. One was a bit of a blog-universe collapsing in on itself: the 101 Cookbooks author Heidi Swanson's recipe for white beans and cabbage via The Tipsy Baker. I ended up making it vegan by using the olive oil and forgetting to add the parm at the end. (When I realized I had, I tossed a bit on to see what it was like, and actually liked it better without.) If I hadn't made it myself, I would have sworn there was bacon in it, it had that kind of mouth feel. And while I liked the entire dish, I loved it before I added the cabbage, so I'll remember that for the future too. Also, I made it in my cast iron skillet, as I'm trying to use that more often, and that changes things a little bit--more rustic, more caramelization, etc. I might try in a non-stick sometime but for a Monday--it was a very tasty lunch and a great way to use up cabbage. NB: some versions call for thyme. I like thyme, but I'd be surprised if I liked it here. I skipped it and didn't miss it at all.

And we had another breakthrough for the boys: chicken sausage with spinach and feta. We grilled a link and asked them to try a piece. Both of them loved it and while Burger Boy went back to his burger, the other one--Mr. Picky--actually cut it in to slices, put it on a burger bun, added ketchup (um, eeuw, but ok), and ate that sandwich. Miracle!

Another miracle is a condiment that they both enjoy--it's a Wasabi Ginger Finishing Sauce, and I am hoping it stretches them enough to give wasabi and ginger the scaffold that they need for eventual acceptance. And it worked as a bridge for grilled eggplant for the older one. We had some awesome teeny eggplants, sliced, tossed with a little olive oil and kosher salt, and grilled in a basket. Yum. We were all almost grateful the little guy didn't want any--more for the rest of us.

I made the green bean-celery salad and that was a hit in my book. Really, no shock, with the vinegar-mustard sauce, but still--a nice option for green beans and anything no-cook works for me in a big way in the summer. It was crunchy and refreshing and very enjoyable. My husband couldn't really tell the difference between that and other salads I'd made with green beans so I bet it would be good with some cherry tomatoes thrown in there too. I also tried to replicate the tomato ricotta pie from the Co-op, and I couldn't do it but the recipe I used was fine, and my husband had seconds.

Looking for more inspiration? Try I'm An Organizing Junkie! for the best menu planning on the web.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

MPM--Summer's End...Almost

And just like that, we're in the waning days of August. I bit the bullet and put the boys in soccer camp. In some ways, I hated to do it; we had SO MANY THINGS we wanted to do this summer! But in other ways, it preps them well for the fall, which is so close. So we're having some big lunches, and tucking them in bed closer to school-year times this week. I hope.

Monday: We'll see what the CSA fairy brings, and add some meat. Probably a pork tenderloin. Or, to be honest, I'm jonesing for some macaroni-shrimp salad. (Macaroni, celery chopped small, salt, pepper, cooked shrimp, and a dressing of mayo mixed with vinegar--white, if presentation matters, or red, if you don't mind pinkish dressing, which I do not). It is 1970s comfort food at its finest for me. I am not sure anyone else in the house will eat it but that may not matter to me. The jones is strong. On a similar note, this is my week to try this egg salad, which has been knocking around my list for ages. I never heard of curry as a child, but this seems like a good update--old favorite, adult twist. I also know I want to make this bean and celery salad from The Bitten Word, because as you might have figured out by now, vinegar and mustard are members of the inner circle of my culinary happy place.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday. I have to tell you: I really love this anchor of my week. And I love it more in summer, when the tomatoes are so good I can just lightly sprinkle everything else in there and have a mostly tomato and cheese taco.

Wednesday: Cheesy Zucchini Pizza, and maybe a ricotta tomato pie, if I'm not tired of it yet. The Co-op was selling them last week and I could not stay away. It was just exactly the kind of summer food I was looking for, except for the jillion-calorie part. I'm sulking because they moved on but I am hoping that this version is similar.

Thursday: I have book group, for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so something southern. The boys will have something boys like, probably nachos from leftovers from taco night.

Friday: Moms' Movie Night--woohoo! Can't even tell you the last time I did something like this...we're going to see The Help, which we read for book group (like 87% of all book groups in the last few years...) so quick and easy from the freezer for the boys. I'm saving my calories for popcorn and a soda.

Last week I got back to my stove for a bit of a reunion. I made some old favorites and tried some new.

New: the cold asparagus sauce from Dinner: A Love Story. I love every ingredient in this and yet still was not thrilled with the final result. It was a little bitter. I used seedy mustard, and I'm wondering if that did it, or if there was too much lemon (I used about 1/3 of a small one). I did actually chill it, and had the chicken at room temperature. I finished it, because I love asparagus, but it wasn't as yummy as I was hoping. I might try again with a slightly different combo, because I really, really WANT to like this.

A zillion years ago, when I read Glamour, there were two different recipe pages I pulled out as a not-really-experienced-in-the-kitchen 20-something. One was for oven-roasted tomato sauce. The other was for nine different pasta toppings. I've made most of the 9 at some point (lemon cream, ricotta walnut...yum) but a continual favorite is the tomato-eggplant-mozzarella. It's so easy; take an eggplant; cube. (If you have time and feel fancy, salt, let sit, and rinse. If not--skip.) Heat some olive oil, and throw the eggplant in there with a minced garlic clove. Add either a bunch of cut up tomatoes and juice, or a can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes, and before serving, toss with little mozzarella balls and basil. I just love this sauce and am so happy it's eggplant season again.

And for those of you who caught Lora's comment about crab fries--I had to laugh, and really, when push came to shove, I couldn't spend $7.75 on fries. I just couldn't. In fact, we did an upside down day that day and I made a hot(ish) lunch (it's summer, nothing too hot) and packed sandwiches, popcorn, applesauce pouches, and fruit leathers for dinner. So still "fun" food but for literally 1/10th the price of what we would have spent at the park. I'm sure the opportunity to got to Chickie's and Pete's will happen organically someday, and I'll try them then. But the ballpark versions of food are usually not as good as the original--and if the original isn't something to get excited about...just as well to skip it.

We double-checked-off another summer thing this weekend too: I made waffles for the boys on a pajama'd weekend morning. The older one wanted to skip soccer, and we let him. He's gone just about all summer and has more practices coming up, so I was happy to let him stay in PJs and play with Legos. He got his teacher assignment this week and I'm steeling myself for the havoc social interactions take on his psyche. In doing so, I paid attention: mom's waffle recipe makes 4 or 5 waffles, depending on how good you are at covering the maker. So now I know.

Check out I'm An Organizing Junkie for more late summer meal plans!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

MPM--Really Lazy Days

And when I say lazy, I mean lazy. I fret as we cruise in to August--where are we on the "things we want to do this summer" list!? That is totally antithetical to August, I know. But I struggle with both wanting the days to be both long and unscheduled and a time we look back on and say, That was awesome. I'm so glad we did that.

Last week was amazing. We went to the mountains, alone for the first time as a family, and while we missed all the cousins (pesky high school kids, with college visits and jobs that keep them away from the Sports Week events), we loved being there ourselves and planning our own days. The scalloped tomatoes (see sidebar) were a hit with all the grownups (grandparents, aunts, uncles) who were around to try them. And otherwise, we ate pretty simply, to just enjoy the time at the lake and the games as much as possible. It was one of those golden weeks and I want to savor every second.

But now it's time to be home and planning. The good news is, I'm done all the back to school shopping, at least until the teachers' lists come, so it's time to just hang out and relax. Menus this week:

Monday: CSA box, trying the asparagus sauce from DALS with some chicken, and just tossing fruits and veggies at them otherwise.

Tuesday: Need you ask? Actually, we have ball game tickets tonight so I'll let the Phillies feed me. (More on that below.)

Wednesday: Taco Tuesday, a day late.

Thursday: SOME of us are going to the beach. Boardwalk pizza. My mouth waters just typing those words.

Friday: leftovers/freezer meal. I went in to my freezer for my crashed hard drive and couldn't believe how much stuff was in there. So I'll start working that down before it's too cold to defrost my freezer before winter hits.

We lucked in to Phillies tickets in a much swankier section than we usually have for last week and this. And so being down in the expensive seats, I learned there are way more food options than up in the "cheap" (ha! ha! even standing room isn't "cheap" but "cheap" is easier to type than "less insanely expensive") seats. In some ways this is good--I'm intrigued by the salads, and I've never tried the crab fries (shh, they'll take away my Philadelphia residency if they know). But in other ways, it was lousy, in the way that too much choice is always lousy...I had to walk exactly half-way around the stadium (which is not small) to get a plain burger for my son. Plus, I had to make stops at five different places to get what everyone wanted. (Hot dog, hamburger, Italian sausage, chips, beer, soft drinks.) And after a series of unfortunate finds in my last few hot dogs at ballparks (really. you don't want to know. and it was not just the Phils' MLB stadium), I tried the vegan dog. It wasn't great, but it wasn't scary, which was a step up. There are black bean burgers too, but I worry about the pepper thing (I can't eat them, and I can't find the ingredients list or vendor name). Can't top the strawberries and whipped cream at the BOB (in Arizona, ages ago) but still--a step in the right direction.

That's the news for the week. Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more transferrable menu ideas and have a great week!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MPM--On the Road Again

Phew! What a week! We did all kinds of things we'd never done before. Our kids were in the water show at the pool (so cute, all the five-to-seven year olds playing gods and goddesses in Hercules), we went to the Crayola Factory (and not a moment too soon, my oldest, not-a-drawer, had all but aged out of there), and I had my eyebrows threaded (less painful than waxing, but took longer, so a bit of a wash). Lots of things were checked off the old summer list--yay! In between, we tucked in Daddy Days, more of the 100 picture books, more games, a trip to the beach, and a cousin visit. The scare of August has commenced--time to squeeze in all of summer that we can!

This week:

Monday: yogurt-marinated chicken (yes, I'm obsessed), CSA veggies

Tuesday: taco Tuesday!

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: freezer food. I have some chili in there and a few other things just waiting for the defrost.

Friday: Take me out to the ball game!

We had my in-laws for dinner and had a summer feast, courtesy of Dinner: A Love Story. (I really need to move on but I'm having a crush.) We had two different meats, the yogurt-marinated chicken and Tony's flank steak. The steak was terrific except we didn't slice it thin enough. But still--yum. That is a new one in the rotation. For sides, I made the lemony smashed potatoes, a mozzarella and tomato salad, green beans, and corn on the cob. Amazing. And, double bonus, all gluten-free for my father-in-law, who's been having some gastric issues. No one missed the gluten, that's for sure!

I made the massaman curry in the slow cooker, even though it broke one of my rules of slow cooker cooking. I prefer the "throw it all in with minimal prep" version and this included browning meat on the stove. But I tried it anyway. I tend to agree it was a little too liquidy, so next time I'll use one can of beef broth instead of two cups. But there probably will be a next time; it was really good, mild but clear Indian influence, awesome over rice. I'm not a huge fan of chuck roast, though, so I might try it again with something else, though I'm not sure what.

I've been doing lots of reading lately...The Hunger Games as I mentioned, and now I'm just waiting for book 3. I also read some other kid/ya lit...A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer, in hopes my kids would like it, but they did not; and The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, which I enjoyed but they did not. My book groups are reading Love in the Time of Cholera and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I'm trying to read the Bible in 90 Days but I am woefully behind (but not out!). I finished Temple Grandin's first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, and it was a good insight in to the world of an autistic child and reminded me to wait wait wait for my kids to catch up to themselves. I finally finished Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, by Kate Braestrup. I won it from Ready, Set, Wife! and was so excited; I love Kate's writing and her story is so hard and so compelling. And then the book literally slipped off my bedstand and I just found it again. But it was kind of at the right time: one of her (literal) lessons is to fill in the blank: Nothing is more important than _____________. And she goes in to a lot of different riffs on the theme and it was kind of what I needed to hear right now. How would I finish that sentence? Right now? Tomorrow? (Not for the blanks, though that would work too, really.) I finished Super Sad True Love Story though it pained me. So much promise, so fell off a cliff. And I'm with my friend who thought he was too misogynistic to be borne. She's not wrong. There were some others but I can't remember them anymore, which is why I wanted to get these down.

Anyway. More lazy August days of reading ahead...for more meal plan reading, try I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

MPM--August Beginnings

Greetings! I spent (wasted) most of last week being sick...such a bummer in the summer! So not much time for me at all in the kitchen. I did have a shrimp moment and made shrimp salad like my mother used to (with macaroni and celery with mayo-vinegar dressing...summer heaven) and more. See below:

Monday: the curry from last week that I never got to, CSA veggies, rice, cucumber salad (the one with vinegar-sour cream dressing, yum)

Tuesday: Lego build, and ice cream night...eating out for sure.

Wednesday: leftovers, including from the grilling dinner on Sunday--yum

Thursday: taco Tuesday Thursday

Friday: probably pizza, if the past is any indication.

The cold I had last week pretty much wiped out my taste buds, so it was all about texture and temperature for me. Lots of cold fruit, cold soups (and, um, the watermelon gazpacho from the New York Times? Nasty nasty nasty. Sorry I wasted a tomato on it), and that's about it.

While on the one hand I'm sorry camp is over (it is MUCH easier to get the little stuff of life done--laundry, groceries--when they are out in the morning), I'm not sorry to temporarily halt the influence of others on my little guys. When did things get so violent? The game "sardines," where one kid hides and the seekers hide with him/her when found, has become "manhunt." And now I learn that if you are holding cards so your opponent can see them, it's called "bleeding." And one of my boys went to sleep in panicky tears because some of the big fourth graders were talking about people being killed when their houses were blown up by explosions and he was worried it would happen while he slept. And the worst is, I know this is only dress rehearsal for other, realer fears coming down the pike, and I'm lucky he shared it with me.

OK, off soapbox and back to the rest of my life...lots of picking up to do after last week "off" for sick time...hope your summer is progressing better than mine right now! Go see I'm an Organizing Junkie for actual meal plans worth following!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WFMW--Caption the Photo in the Photo

Hi--remember Works for Me Wednesdays? Yeah, I haven't done them much lately. I want to say it's because "not that much is working for me" but that's not what I mean--it's that my hacks are SO specific, I don't think they'd help you much. But in the wonders of Facebook, I came across an adorable shot of one of my kids. It was totally share-worthy, but what grabbed my attention was the piece of construction paper he was holding. I'd used a marker to write on a piece of construction paper: "My first day at preschool! 9-26-09"

Good for me! I remember now that his dad couldn't take off to go with him, and his brother was at school already, so it lacked some of the momentousness of other school sendoffs. And without the requisite family photos, I would never, ever have known what that adorable shot was without that piece of green paper. And I know there are photo programs that make it really easy to do the post-edit, but really, I'm lucky to get the photo to begin with, let alone fool around with the captioning programs. (PS--I also try to do this by taking pictures of things to remind me of dates or places--like at the lake, where they have a whiteboard with the date and the water temperature, or at the entrance of a theme park.)

So: low tech photo captions in the picture work for me! What's working for you? Share it at We Are THAT Family and learn other tricks that work for other families!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

MPM--Last Week of Camp Edition (sob)

I remember saying once to my mother in law, who had five kids, "There must have been days you never left the kitchen!" and she agreed. This week was not like that. Too hot. But that's hard to tell from the list at the bottom. Really, except for one day, I wasn't cooking very much. This made it excellent. Shooting for the same this week. What I really need to do is my list of "meals from thin air," because this is the last week of camp. Which means no more kid-free shopping for a month. Yikes.

Monday: Shrimp and mango salad from Two Fat Als. (So glad they are back posting!) CSA veggies.

Tuesday: Taco night.

Wednesday: Leftovers. I think tacos and the mango salad will go well, actually.

Thursday: A friend pointed me to this slow cooker massaman curry. Looks good to me!

Friday: I'm in a shrimp mode. And it's corn season. So I'll be doing my shrimp-and-corn thing that I love, with the rice vinegar and I have to stop now while I'm not drooling.

Sunday started with using the pitiful I-forgot-to-put-in-the-chocolate-chips sweet bread to make this French toast casserole. I thought that inch-and-a-half slices sounded very thick and I was right. I would definitely do smaller slices next time. Also, my pound-and-a-half loaf was too big. BUT--that said--the flavor was excellent and it will be added to the rotation.

There was a salmon sale and I couldn't resist. I tried the Time for Dinner cookbook Salmon Teriyaki recipe. I thought the boys would be grossed out when they smelled the sauce (which I made while they were at camp, but they both said, "MMM! What is that? Can we have it for lunch?" And while I couldn't sell them on the salmon (which was ok, it had bones) they loved the teriyaki sauce. Who would have thought? They had it over rice for lunch. I also got the roasted seaweed snacks from Trader Joe's and the older one tried it and didn't love it but didn't gag either, so it's been a great couple of week for the boys' experimenting. Woohoo! (The seaweed snack is like the stuff they wrap sushi in, but saltier. It was excellent with the salmon.)

I also made the garam masala yogurt marinade for the chicken, but completely missed the "whirl ingredients in food processor" directive. Oops. But--I was ready to make another batch of marinade to eat for lunch without the chicken. It was really tasty. Once on the chicken and on the grill--even better. AND the picky one ate it. I think the unpicky one might also have tried it but I also threw the Trader Joe's lamb tips in there (in the refrigerated section, near the bulgolgi, in a vacuum package with burgundy and spices. That was a huge hit, including with the adventuresome older, who has never to my knowledge eaten lamb before. (Younger one toying with vegetarianism did not try. I liked the really well done bits but in general--not a lamb person.) But wow, the chicken. It's got a definite Indian flavor, so not as universal as the yogurt marinade with lemon, but still-delicious.

Another fun thing I tried was in the effort to clear the fridge. For some reason, all my produce is freezing-not quite solid, but ice crystals and all, so I tried to get moving on using it. I had some extra zucchini from the fabulous cheesy zucchini pizza last week and was looking at frittata recipes. Those looked okay, but when I saw The Bitten Word's deconstructed version, I was sold. I am not a "float an egg on it and call it delicious" girl but this was really yummy. And honestly? I made a second batch without the egg. Plus I am very suggestible and seeing all these food blogs I love yammer on about just throwing an egg on it and calling it dinner, I keep trying, despite the fact that I don't have the same ecstatic reactions. Still--excellent. Great combo of veggies, easy prep, and in-my-house ingredients.

In another random-ingredient-smackdown, I finally made the 101 Cookbooks Carrot Oatmeal Cookies. I like my cookies to darken a little more than these did, but they looked pretty and held their shape much better than the Nikki's Healthy Cookies (which I do so enjoy). (Random aside: clearly it's hot when in my air conditioned kitchen, my coconut oil is liquid!) I thought they were pretty good for a not-sweet cookie, almost shortbready. But my older son loved them and went back for more and more. Loved loved loved that. Apparently I will be making these again!

Another old favorite I made this week: Smitten Kitchen's green bean and cherry tomato salad. Simple, yummy.

For more menu planning ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

MPM--Julilacs

Remember the old joke "If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?" One answer of course is "pilgrims." But another is "JuneBugs," and JuneBugs bring Julilacs. Yes, my brain is melting from the heat. At least I got unlazy and put the pictures back on the computer. This week:

Monday: Grilled chicken (grilled on Sunday), CSA veggies

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Including the leftover black bean tacos from last week.

Wednesday: My mother-in-law's birthday. Out for Chinese--yum.

Thursday: Leftovers, including extra-easy chili (see sidebar) from the weekend.

Friday: Freezer meal. We'll see what that looks like; the boys have been clamoring for the truffle mushroom pizza.

Last week, it was produce-a-go-go here, with yummy thing after yummy thing rolling in to the house. The week was full of tomato sandwiches and a few experiments. Well, now that I'm writing them all down, more than a few. But they were all easy (except for maybe lots of chopping for the salads) so it didn't feel so overwhelming day-to-day.

One was this cucumber-cilantro salad from my CSA. It was a fine use of a lot of stuff in my fridge, but it wasn't a big hit. I had high hopes for the cucumber salad with lime and cilantro after that disappointment. That was better though not quite as complex as I might have wanted. Maybe I'll use peanut or coconut oil next time (and I didn't have the mustard seeds and used powder instead). I also added some rice vinegar to it, which gave it too much liquid but much better flavor (for my taste buds).

Not disappointing at all: Detox Soup. (See sidebar for link.) On a 99-degree day, pure bliss. Love love love this soup.

In what is also a shocking twist for me, I winged it a little in the kitchen with something. I made the Smitten Kitchen Sour Cherry Compote last week and loved it. This week, among other things in our fruit share, we got white currants. They were beautiful to look at but not totally pleasant to eat plain, so I halved the compote syrup recipe and added the currants. It wasn't as amazing as the cherries but it was way better than composting them! And that's not even quite fair-they had a great little sweet-sour thing going on, and, as someone on the web pointed out, the white currants have a way of bringing out the most complex directions. ("Take your embroidery scissors and make a tiny slit in the skin of the fruit, and pull out the seed without ruining the delicate shape and beautiful look of the fruit..." I'm not kidding.) So this was good: practice making the good syrup, and experimenting with a new fruit. Success, even if the cherries were better.

I did do the overnight black beans for taco Tuesday. It really was crazy simple--2:1 water:beans, a bay leaf, some garlic salt, and a half an onion chopped. I did not sautee it first, as I wasn't quite sure that's what was called for, and at 11pm, with the Daily Show coming on, and my brain going off, I had no interest and figured 12 hours on low should do it. Ten hours later, I realized that I didn't have enough water and it was starting to burn on the sides. But--the positive was: I don't like watery beans, so the consistency was perfect, and it was cheap and easy and I loved it and used it for black bean tacos (see sidebar for link) for myself on Taco Tuesday. Yum.

I wasn't inspired to sautee those onions (which worked out totally fine) but I did get inspired by this post at (surprise) Dinner: A Love Story to caramelize my onions that were suddenly all over my house. It takes me forever to caramelize them and they don't even ever get to that crazy brown color (I am figuring it is the balsamic vinegar that gets that lovely gold) so I just let them hang out while I did other things. And then I had these lovely onions and was going bananas trying to figure out what to do with them. Pizza? Pasta? Straight from the container? So I tried all of the above and they were all heaven.

I tried to make a truce with Trader Joe's pizza dough. I left it out for 30 minutes and took my time pressing it out around the cookie sheet. I used it to try this cheesy zucchini pizza, which looked amazing when my friend made it. I figured no way the kids would eat it; they don't even like regular homemade pizza. But I had those zukes ready to expire in my fridge, so I gave it a whirl. I wish I had gotten the zucchini drier. But the crust was a success, and the pizza was excellent. I skipped the red pepper flakes and was sorry. It needs...something. But I'm not totally sure what. Still--I'll make this again. Because---BOTH BOYS ATE IT! The younger (Mr. Beige) didn't love it but ate the whole (very small) piece while he complained. The older gave it a thumb-up-a-little-past-halfway, but I'll take it.

In the interest of "keep or skip?" for my mini crock pot, I tried the pesto bean spread for my Mothers & More meeting. And in the shock of my week, both boys ate that too! It was pesto, and they ate it on bread or chips, and were happy to do so. I am doing a happy dance of protein over here. (I think the older is in a growth spurt--he snarfed a bag of pistachios too, and between that, the cheese, and the beans...I predict new shoes next month.)

We also made the chocolate chip bread again. This time, we remembered the chips! I also used whole milk instead of our usual 1%. I added the sprinkle of whole-wheat flour before checking but the dough came together so much better this time I don't think I would have needed it. I wasn't crazy about it but the kids loved it. I also kept the chocolate chunks (what I had) in the freezer so when I added them they would have a little more stability. This won't become an everyday bread but for a treat every once in a while, it's great, and it doesn't require the work (and heating the kitchen) that chocolate chip cookies do.

The whole milk was in the house for a French toast casserole I had intended to make, but didn't, so I used it to make yogurt. (And about now: let the record show, we also went to the pool, had several playdates, and did other fun stuff. I was really not tethered to the kitchen at all.) And once I made yogurt, I drained it for the whey to make no-knead bread...yes, I have a problem here. Actually I made two loaves, one with regular flour, the other with whole-wheat as an experiment. The regular flour one was so runny, I almost didn't want to put it in to bake. It had worked beautifully with the whey before so I'm not sure what went wrong. The crust was awesome but it wasn't as poofy. Then I realized: I'd used the bread machine yeast. I didn't think there was a big difference. Whoops.

A friend of mine hosted a brunch (hence the French toast casserole I was hoping to make) and her casserole was awesome, so I'm posting it here so I have the recipe on the blog when I need it!

Colleen's Do-Ahead Breakfast Bake

Prep: 15 min

Chill: at least 4 hours

Bake: 35 min

Stand: 10 min


1 to 2 cups diced fully cooked ham (I had used smoked turkey)

2 packages (6.0 ounces each) Betty Crocker hash brown potatoes

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup) - I omitted this

1 tablespoon instant chopped onion

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

3 cups milk

1 cup bisquick

½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1. Grease rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Mix ham, potatoes, bell pepper, onion and 1 cup of the cheese. Spread in baking dish.

2. Stir milk, bisquick, salt and eggs until blended. Pour over potato mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown around edges and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

There are supposed to be 12 servings.

That's it for the week...check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for a much bigger collection of recipe ideas!