Sunday, August 29, 2010

MPM--The Dwindling Days of Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosa Lee's Southern Style BBQ Chicken

Makes 8 to 10 servings

8 to 10 chicken legs or thighs

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

1 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 orange

1 lemon

Fresh parsley, for garnish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Remove chicken from oven. Drain liquid.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Friday, August 20, 2010


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

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

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

Tuesday: Vietnamese shrimp, rice, quick Asian pickles

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

Thursday: black bean and regular tacos for all

Friday: pizza, of course

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

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

Monday, August 16, 2010

MPM--Back in the Swing

Hello all!

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

Monday: Vietnamese shrimp, rice, quick Asian pickles

Tuesday: potatoes, steaks, stuff from the CSA box

Wednesday: black bean and regular tacos for all

Thursday: DAF meal or maybe that BBQ chicken!

Friday: pizza, of course

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

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

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

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MPM--All Kinds of Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday: spaghetti and meatballs

Friday: what else? pizza, of course

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MPM--Why Is July the Longest Year?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday: sandwiches at the field

Wednesday: chips and salsa, black bean tacos at home

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

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

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

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