Sunday, June 28, 2009

MPM--On Steroids

Hello Menu Planners!

Ok, the steroids were actually last week. My hale and hearty son woke up one morning with both ears red, and as the morning went on, one grew to twice the size of the other. I called the doctor to see what was appropriate to put on it and they had me come in to check it. Turns out it was poison ivy, which was a relief, though one more thing to put on the list of things to look out for with him.

And they put him on steroids. Which make him VERY TOUCHY and a little ENERGETIC and somewhat SHORT TEMPERED if he doesn't get to act on every impulse RIGHTNOW! Which, honestly, isn't too far from normal but it was rather dialed up.

So I was awfully grateful to not need to go to the store this week.

Oh, hi, EDF participants. Really, I was going to talk about that too.

Ok, to be realistic, I went to the store. I bought milk and bread to replace the milk and bread my boys consumed. And I only did so after checking the freezer to make sure there was no bread-like product we could use instead. Reviews of last week's meals, with recipe links, are below. And that was it! I really do overshop and need to get better about it.

This week, I'm continuing with EDF, just for fun. So here's the menu:

Monday: I can't be the only woman in America salivating over the Pioneer Woman's Spring Shells, as raved about by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer and BooMama. And thanks to generous friends with good gardens, I'm good to go.

Tuesday: I found some Turkey Shepherd's Pie in the freezer and will make mashed potatoes to top it.

Wednesday: Tacos for all! My husband and I will work on the cabbage from the CSA and the cans in the pantry with the black bean tacos. They were a huge hit last time and I hope they are again. Also, we're using Jora's spice blend and tortillas I have already so I only need the meat for the boy's taco here.

It's from here, in a gracious replay in the comments, but I'll reprint here too. And look! Using more things from my cabinets! :)

Taco Seasoning Mix

6 tsp. Chili Powder
2 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
5 tsp. Paprika
3 tsp. Onion Powder
4 1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
2 t. salt

Use 1/4 c. (or so) of mix and add one cup of water, to one pound of cooked ground beef/turkey/chicken. Simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a bit.

Thursday: our rescheduled Town Picnic! Our last name falls in the "bring an entree for 3x the size of your family" category. I have a bag of Ikea meatballs and packets of Swedish meatballs sauce...not a traditional picnic favorite but I bet it will be popular! Or, if that doesn't seem to be in the cards, I have a ton of hot dogs in the freezer and will just need to pick up buns, which are on sale at Target.

Friday: Sweet potato chili.

Lunches for me will include frozen Trader Joe's pizzas and flatbreads.

And all I will need for this week's fun: 2 lemons, 2 limes, ground meat (turkey or beef) for tacos; and an avocado (to splurge). So it's not ALL from the freezer/pantry, but darned close. How long can we go with this? Could be interesting to see! Or just interesting to me. But honestly, it's a little alarming to see how much I've stockpiled without good reason. (As I've mentioned, I do like to have some bottled water [which we usually do not use] and some open-and-eat meals/snacks really available just in the you-never-know category--hurricanes, etc. But there's no reason for the massive amount of STUFF we have. I can do better in dialing it down a notch, and actually MAKING the things I bought all the stuff for, since I do a lot of shopping for recipes I forget about later. Sigh.)

As to last week...the meals were great. We started with the amazing beef tenderloin, which I'd hoped to grill but was thwarted by the weather, so I went back to Rachael Ray and her recipe from here, only without the scallops or artichoke hearts or even the sherry sauce (tried it, didn't like it). This has really been the most effective way to get that nice caramelization, I've found, and the seasoning-after seemed to help too. Yum.

Tuesday, I tried the feta and sausage quinoa bake and was proud of myself for doing so. (One child napped. That was immensely helpful. Even though it wasn't the one on steroids.) I used a box of frozen spinach instead of fresh (which normally I would never do, which is pathetic) and used some frozen Trader Joe's chicken sausage with spinach and fontina. I also doubled it, sort of, since the recipe was for two, and used all four sausages, all of the box of spinach, and 3/4 C quinoa, which doubled when cooked and was the base. I was concerned; it didn't even call for salt and pepper, and without the oil wouldn't it be dry? But it was really good--it tasted like Italian wedding soup, minus the soup. Downside: my kids would not touch it for love or money. But I enjoyed it and it did a great job using stuff in my fridge!

The rest of the week worked out mostly as planned...I was unhappy to discover that I did not enjoy the crab sauce or gnocchi as much as I had in the past...changing taste buds? Too long in the freezer? Not sure. We also made the Trader Joe's chocolate croissants (all in the spirit of emptying the fridge, really!) but they may have been too old too...the directions said to "proof" them (let them rise overnight) and promised we'd be amazed at how much they'd grow. Instead, in the morning, they were the exact same size, or pretty close to it, as they were when we got them from the freezer. So while that was a disappointment, the taste wasn't--yum.

Have a good week; and for more inspired menus, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! And if you (unlike me) have a good organizing tip or two, do scroll down to her last post; you could be featured in a national magazine!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Ack! For some reason, my prescheduled post options are not working's my FFOF, backdated!

Happy Friday folks! Fun questions this on the button on my sidebar to play!

#1. Clair’s question. What’s the biggest kitchen blunder you’ve made?

Oh, that would be the pound cake. The first big family event we were in charge of dessert, we decided to try a pound cake with berries and ice cream. The pound cake might as well have been a building brick, it was so hard and inedible. We were in charge of ice and beer for years after that!

#2. What’s your favorite snow day beverage?

Hot chocolate with marshmallows from the bag.

#3. What’s your favorite way to eat celery?

Stuffed with cream cheese.

#4. What’s the most most unappealing looking food you can think of?

Oysters are no great shakes. Neither are snails. And I have always wondered who the first guy hungry enough to try a lobster was!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

MPM--Eating Down the Fridge, Summer Edition (for real)

Hello Menu Planners!

This week is the real EDF Challenge, and we're ready to go. Last week was a big help in prepping for it, so now I'm on a roll. I cleared out a bunch of stuff from the big freezer already (beef stroganoff from 2007...rolls that were entirely ice-crusted...too bad the town picnic was postponed by rain or I'd have a bag of meatballs on the list and out of the fridge too) and this week should help that along even more. Other than milk and maybe more fruit (the peaches and cherries have been amazing) I don't think we'll need to go to a store at all!

Last week we had some awesome results with sure to read below for reviews and links!

This week's menus:

Monday: grilled filets mignon, mashed potatoes, something from the CSA box. (Last week was the excellent sale on grass-fed beef at one of my markets...I want to use these rather than freeze them and add to the freezer that I'm trying to empty!)

Tuesday: Chicken feta sausage something...probably grilled, but there is this sausage quinoa bake that I could do with frozen spinach, so we'll see how the weather is.

Wednesday: We're cheating, because it's our anniversary and we always go out.

Thursday: from the freezer: gnocchi, crab sauce, Trader Joe's eggplant parmesan.

Friday: Waffles and bacon with my mother's club soda waffle recipe. We made these for Mother's Day brunch a few weeks ago and still have the club soda and a biiig box of Bisquick hanging around. The boys both love the waffles, so breakfast for dinner it is.

Mom's Favorite Club Soda Waffle Recipe
2 C Bisquick
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/3 C club soda

Place baking mix in bowl or wide pitcher.
With fork, beat egg with oil. Stir in to baking mix.
Gradually add soda, mixing until batter is moist and thick.
For best results, let batter rest five minutes before starting.
Pour on waffle iron; close. Bake to done, whatever that means for your iron (2 minutes? no steam?). Waffle should be brown and separate easily from iron.
Best eaten immediately though they can be reheated later.

Last week, Monday set a hard standard to beat. I made the Rachael Ray Chicken Cordon Bleu burgers, which both kids have eaten before, and both rejected flat-out this time. Sigh. Too long between servings, I suppose, but due to the melting-the-cheese-on-the-ham part, I really tend to think these are best on the grill. Again, I used 1 lb of chicken, halved the seasonings (though I did keep a whole shallot in there for moisture), and still got 5 burgers out of it so I don't know at all how they think 2 lbs should make 4 burgers. But my husband loved them and so did I. I also made the 101 Cookbooks Simple Cauliflower recipe, billed as "the cauliflower recipe for people who don't like cauliflower." And it was that; my husband took some to be polite and went back for more, which he has never done with cauliflower (except the multicolored cauliflower gratin from last Thanksgiving). The prepwork is a huge pain (nothing larger than a grape? that's a lot of knife work) but that's the hardest part. And if you skip the cheese (which we did by mistake at first, before I remembered--it does improve it but the dish stands even without it), it's something else I can add to my vegan repertoire. I'm especially happy because I have not traditionally had luck with the 101 Cookbook recipes, despite how incredible they look on the web.

And the final thing from Monday was maybe the biggest hit of all: inspired by the Tipsy Baker, I used the CSA box beets to make Mark Bittman's raw beet salad, recipe below. She found it in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and I had it in my updated How to Cook Everything. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. I have been putting it off because I can't find my shredder blade for my food processor and I just loathe shredding without it. And I couldn't envision this working with the regular blades and pulsing, but I should have gone back to the TIpsy Baker post, who shows how lovely it is. But this was worth it even with the hated grater! I had no idea raw beets could be so delicious.

Raw Beet Salad from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
Beets, like carrots, can be eaten raw. And they're delicious that way, crunchy and sweet. So sweet, in fact, that they need a strongly acidic dressing like this one for balance.

1 to 1 1/2 lgs beets, preferably small
2 large shallots
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar
1 sprig fresh tarragon, minced (optional) (I skipped but will try next time)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley leaves (I also skipped since I didn't have any parsley, but I do think one or both green herbs would add to the dish)

1. Peel the beets (note: surprisingly easy) and the shallot. Combine them in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse carefully until the beets are shredded; do not puree. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine.) Scrape into a bowl.

2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the mustard, oil, and vinegar and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Toss in the herbs and serve.

(And...he gives several other options, including with cabbage and orange, with fennel, with carrot and ginger, or celery remoulade.)

The only thing I might change (besides adding the greens) is that I would consider mixing the vinegar and mustard first. And WEAR AN APRON and gloves if you are picky. My hands still look like Lady MacBeth's. But the color of the beets is mesmerizingly lovely.

The rest of the week was pretty good...I made the slow-cooker baked potato soup, which was ok but much better thinned out with some milk or cream, and it definitely needed the garnish for interest. Also, I think it was the garlic that ruined the last slow-cooker thing; I used another clove from the same head and this smelled awful too but tasted better than the smell. Overall, though, still not sure I'd make it again. And I didn't get to the chili because I was obsessed with the on-sale tenderloin I had and just splurged and made my favorite roasted beef tenderloin recipe and we lived happily on that for a few days.

Have a great week! And don't forget to check with I'm an Organizing Junkie for the best menus on the web!

Friday, June 19, 2009


Happy Friday everyone! If you want to play, click on the top button!

#1. bestmomma’s question. If you could copy the cooking expertise and ability of one person, who would it be?

In my dream world: Susanna Foo, a Philadelphia restauranteur. She is famous for her Chinese with French influence. I have never enjoyed fried rice again since going to her flagship restaurant several years ago, hers was so flavorful and not-greasy. But really? Rachael Ray or Robin Miller. I love how they are able to pull together flavorful meals quickly, and in Robin's case, "morph" them in to the next meal too.

#2. What’s the first red food that comes to your mind?

Strawberries. Hoping to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie this weekend.

#3. How do you eat your strawberries?

Usually in smoothies with a banana, pineapple, and some OJ to blend.

#4. Share a recipe that uses cherries.

Mmm...cherries are on sale around here and we have gone through about four pounds this week, just pitted and ready to go!

But for a real recipe, I defer to my best friend, who sent me an amazing one a few years ago. However, I can't find it right now so I'll give the super-easy one instead!

Cherry Chocolate Smoothie
1 bag frozen cherries
1 half-gallon chocolate milk (can be soy, almond, or rice)

Place both in blender (make sure cherries are still frozen). Blend to milkshake consistency. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

MPM--Eating Down the Fridge, Summer Edition

Hello, Menu Planners!

We made it through everything--Graduations, proms, reunions, name it! And just in time for another EDF challenge. It starts next week, which is good--the once-a-year amazing grass-fed filet sale is happening this week so I will be shopping. But we are also working hard on truly emptying the freezer this time, and I cleaned my upstairs fridge after an unfortunate incident with the maple syrup. So...we'll see how the week goes but here's the plan. Reviews from last week are below.

Monday: Chicken Cordon Bleu burgers from Rachael Ray (need to use the frozen ground chicken and the lunchmeat from last week when my one son suddenly, inexplicably changed from daily ham-and-cheese to daily peanut butter); roasted baby carrots; Mark Bittman's raw beet salad.

Tuesday: Trader Joe's gnocchi gorgonzola, salad

Wednesday: baked potato soup, broccoli salad, filet mignons from the freezer (yes, I know I said I was ditching the crockpot. But I have more cream cheese than I care to admit and something that used that, the bag of potatoes I got on sale and the fact that I love potato soup, and I'm off the wagon again.)

Thursday: our town picnic! The recreation league that runs all the kids' sports around here hosts a picnic for the entire town. My last name falls in the "entree" category so I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I am pretty sure that somewhere in there I have two bags of Ikea Swedish meatballs so, while they are not traditional picnic fare, it's my best thing for feeding a crowd--entree wise. Too bad I'm not in the hors d'oeuvres category. I have *boxes* of those to work down somehow. Hmmm...maybe I'll take 'em to Father's Day.

Friday: It's a sickness. I just can't quit the crockpot. I have a hard time feeding my vegan friends so I'm trying the vegan sweet potato chili. Plus it'll work down my tomato stash, which is taking over the pantry.

We had some hits and misses last week. The hit: the brown sugar chicken from the Year of Crockpotting blog. Everyone enjoyed it, though it was as fally-aparty as every other boneless chicken breast crockpot recipe I've made. Still, the flavor was good and it cooked up easily (once you get past all that brown sugar and ginger ale going in to the main course). A miss, sadly, was the lettuce chicken wraps from the same place. One of my guilty pleasures are the Pei Wei wraps so I was hoping to be able to replicate at home, but this wasn't it. The smell alone was a turnoff to just about all of us. Was it the shitakes, which I've never used? Had my garlic gone? I don't know but I am not trying again anytime soon.

Also a disappointment: the mashed turnips/potatoes. We've had so many turnips come from the CSA, and I know I used them before successfully, but this was not how, apparently. They were too bitter to be really good. I'm going to try to roast the ones I have left and see how it goes.

What are you up to this week? Need inspiration? Check with Eating Down the Fridge if you want to try to use what you have to make some new meals, or I'm an Organizing Junkie for more inspired menus!

Friday, June 12, 2009


#1, Kelly’s question. What is your favorite memory associated with the smell of a certain food? As in, you smell it, close your eyes and are instantly drawn back to a magical moment in time….

Hmm, that depends. My mother used to bake mushrooms with butter and Jane's Crazy Salt and no one in my family likes them but me so that brings back memories. And when I was on the road for work for a long time, the whiff of cheesesteaks on a grill took me home right away!

#2. Name something red that is in your cabinets.

Well, I do have two kids under five, so ketchup comes to mind first. But that's just the extra bottle in the *cabinets.* Craisins count, right?

#3. Ice. Do you have an ice maker, use ice cube trays or buy by the bag?

Ice cube maker was a dealbreaker in the fridge for me. Once I had one, I couldn't go back.

#4. Pepper. What kind do you use most often? Is it in a grinder or a shaker?

The little glass grinder that they sell in the spice aisle is my new obsession. It has the right level of coarseness that I found elusive in my other grinders.

Go visit VALMG for more answers to these questions!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

MPM--Back to the Future

Phew! My head is still spinning after the last week, which saw two proms, two graduations, two graduation parties, two trips to three states away, and my husband off to his reunion on his own. Add to this the car repair, the allergies, did I mention we're eliminating naps? and I do mean "we"? and oh, I am just glad the week is done, for as wonderful and as lovely as it all was.

Now things re-settle a youngest is back in a nursery school program, we're all home, and things should settle back in to a routine. Just in time for Eating Down the Fridge Summer Edition, which for us, will include many vegetables from the CSA box. We have been overrun with lettuce...I'm eating salads two meals a day, every day, and wondering if spring mix can go in to an omelet. So I'm looking forward to that.

So, this week:

Monday: I'm going out with friends. It's a tough re-entry for my husband but I'm sure he'll deal.

Tuesday: I'm like an addict, aren't I? One last crockpot recipe--this one, for the faux P.F. Chang's/Pei Wei chicken lettuce wraps--before I put it away in the "stuff I rarely use" area of the laundry/kitchen storage area. Since we have so many lettuces in which to wrap it!

Wednesday: I'm going out again. Paybacks are a bummer. (Kidding. It just happened this way, but it is probably good timing. And honestly, the kids like what he comes up with better than what I come up with anyway.)

Thursday: And did I mention that it's a big chicken week here? Trying the Brown Sugar Chicken recipe too, plus rice and a veggie from the box. And salad.

Friday: Freezer meal, just to mentally prep for next week.

(for more actually planned menus, try I'm an Organizing Junkie!)

Last week actually went pretty well, considering the pace. The big hit of the week was John McCain's ribs, which my husband ate (by choice) three nights in a row. I enjoyed them too, and so did one child. Oh, and I ran out of time to bake the potatoes (pathetic, I know) so I tried this cheesy potato bake from the same woman with the day-ahead mashed potatoes. Folks, this woman knows her way around spuds. They were good and quick and went great with the ribs.

Also, instead of regular-spaghetti Wednesday, I finally tried the Smitten Kitchen asparagus lemon goat cheese rotini. They were a pretty big hit, at least with the grownups. Unlike me, astute readers will see how close this is to this recipe, which I made last year, except easier (and ergo better) since the roasting is replaced by tossing asparagus in with the cooking pasta, and butter is replaced by pasta water. But in the realm of similar recipes, the best still goes to this one from Epicurious for gnocchi with spinach and peas.

So next week should be interesting...depending what comes in the CSA box, I may not need to shop for anything other than milk and maybe lunchmeat for the week. That would be nice. Stay tuned and we'll see what evolves!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


It's that time again! Click the top button to visit VALMG and play along.

#1. Mashed potatoes. Do you usually buy the boxes, the frozen or make from scratch.

Make my own. If someone has a frozen or boxed one they love, let me know!

#2. Cottage cheese. What kind do you like? (large curd, small curd, 2%, 4%, no salt, etc)

Wow. I had no idea there were so many options. I prefer full-fat (alas) and large curd, but really, around here, there aren't that many options. (Here, the food item with a zillion options is pretzels.)

#3. Is there a food that you are brand loyal to?

Hellman's Mayonnaise--I'm with you VALMG. Creamettes elbows for mac-n-cheese. Swiss Farms milk.

#4. When cooking do you usually use fresh onions or the ones from the spice aisle that are chopped or powdered?

Fresh. I didn't know the ones in the spice aisle were there until I bought them for a recipe and they skeeved me a little bit. So now I just deal with the annoyance of mincing a tablespoon of a whole onion again.