Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WFMW--Mini Photo Album

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

MPM--Summer Winds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

MPM--That Worked

Happy Monday, all!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday: shrimp, corn, and tomato "salad"

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

Friday: pizza and soccer, I hope!

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

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

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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

MPM--Heat Wave(s)

Happy week everyone!

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

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

Tuesday: Tuesday Wednesday Spaghetti (woo!)

Wednesday: finish the ham, regular salad,

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

Friday: (soccer)

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

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

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

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

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

Apricot Chicken

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

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

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

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 4, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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