Sunday, March 27, 2011

MPM--Another Short Post

Hmmm...not to chase away readers in the first line, but...Wow, is this blog getting unexciting. Still, that was the goal: to get some meals going that the family likes. And it has also helped me with things like figuring out how much food we actually need in a week. I make "for four" but since most things in the house are only consumed by two, I'm sending a lot of things to Aid for Friends and the freezer. But I've gotten better at that too. And, it's been great to have somewhere to look when I think, hmm, I have a little bit of buttermilk left, what can I use that in? And go back and find it. So we'll see. The blog might be coming to a "maintenance" stage. Meanwhile, there are always a few new things to try. Menu first:

Monday: slow cooker pork and sauerkraut, green bean salad, beets (tried the technique, if not the salad, from here)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! And in a thrilling development, my younger will now eat cheese quesadillas, so he'll be having one of those.

Wednesday: Wednesday Spaghetti--woohoo!

Thursday: leftovers (mostly pork)

Friday: pesto quinoa for the boys, fish for the parents, with veggies.

Last week:

Despite my multiple past failures with the 101 Cookbooks site, I was haunted by the Lime-Grapefruit-Ginger Juice, and on a chilly sneak-winter day, I made a half batch for myself. I lucked in to some great citrus, which was key, and I way under-did the ginger (by half maybe) and was still knocked out by the heat of it. But she was right--pouring it over a big ice cube was useful, and I loved the flavors. It's not the prettiest drink but it was great on a gray, cold day.

I rediscovered the carrot and avocado salad and wondered why I don't make this every week.

Baseball for both boys starts this week...of course pro baseball does's one of the last normal school weeks for a while, between conferences and spring breaks and whatnot. So it's time to figure out the new "season" schedule. May the week bring you & yours good things...and for more inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MPM--Behind Already Somehow

I hope you all had a fun Saints' Week! We celebrated St. Patrick (with Irish soda bread and reading Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato to the first graders) and St. Joseph (with zeppole--yum). But somehow we ended up off schedule menu-wise and I have a ton of food leftover from last week. So nothing impressive this week:

Monday: leftover hamburgers/cheeseburgers, broccoli, salad, potato salad

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday; I have a large sweet potato so will probably do the veggie version with black beans for grownups

Wednesday: ham, pineapple, carrot salad, spinach

Thursday: Leftover buffet

Friday: Salmon, rice, spinach

The hit of the week last week was the slow cooker veggie curry. I served it over rice with Trader Joe's Naan, and could happily eat this several nights a week. (And I might. It made a lot.)

The Mediterranean chicken was also a hit, but less of one because I used crushed tomatoes (instead of whole or diced) but more importantly, they really smelled metallic and it was hard to get past that for me. My husband, however, loved it, and with the crushed instead of diced, it made an excellent, healthier alternative to meatballs or meat sauce. I had tons left so I froze it. Same with the chicken breasts for Hot Chicken Salad...I just didn't get there last week. Part of it is, at 5pm, my kids are ravenous. So I throw fruit at them (well, at their plates) and do what I can, but it doesn't encourage them to try much at "dinner" later when Dad gets home.

For more inspiration than I have, try I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

MPM--Getting Our Irish On

Hi all--feeling frantic here, but in mostly good ways. Lots going on, including (yet another) vacation week for my son... happily, it looks like March of 2008 was a very good month for the crockpot challenge. Two of my recipes for the week are coming from there. Reviews from last week after the meal plan...

Monday: Mediterranean Chicken, salad, rice with my new method (see below) or possibly noodles on the side

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday is back! I have a ton of cilantro here from last week so I'll try to do something spiffy for grownups but I might not have it in me this week.

Wednesday: Crockpot Vegetable Curry, rice, naan if I get to Trader Joe's

Thursday: Happy St. Patrick's Day! Ham, mashed potatoes, some green veggie, Irish soda bread, and probably green something for dessert.

Friday: Continuing the Irish theme, salmon, mashed potatoes, and leftover curry vegetables.

Sunday, I quickly made the broccoli recipe from Dorie Greenspan. I steamed the broccoli, as suggested, with mixed results; at first, it was too crunchy, then it was a little soggy, so the timing clearly was off. Also, my old nemesis in the steaming department returned: I almost ruined my pot by running out of water by the end. There was barely any left in there by the time the broccoli was ready. When done, the broccoli gets tossed in with buttery bread crumbs. Nothing wrong with that either. Overall, though--not worth the extra effort considering how much we enjoy our "regular" broccoli. The directions (I can't call it a "recipe"): cut desired amount of broccoli in to florets of desired size. Place in microwavable bowl. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil and pepper to taste. Cover (best with a plate or lid rather than plastic wrap) and microwave 2-3 minutes to desired crispness/tenderness.

For Mardi Gras, since I happened to find Goya ginger beer in my shopping trip, we made pancakes, bacon, and Dark & Stormies for the grownups. I am not a big drinker at all, so to go half and half might have killed me. As it was, I went with lots of ice, two oz. rum (I had Goslings), and then topped mine off with ginger beer. It was actually spicy--too spicy for me, alas. I'll be interested to try it again this summer with a different ginger beer, maybe, and see how it goes. I liked it, and I can see where it will be great in summer, but I am not sorry to have it off my mind before Lent.

While my rational brain tells me "if you want your life to be 'real simple'--a good start would be purging all the magazines" lizard brain just screams, oh, surely THIS one has the answer to my life's problems! And they don't, and I buy them anyway. This month's Real Simple pulled me in with the superfoods, which of course I knew but continue to not incorporate as fully as I should, but there were a few recipes I tried this time around. One was the roast beef wrap with horseradish slaw. It won't go in to weekly rotation but I loved having the spinach in there, and it scratched a roast beef sandwich itch while getting more veggies than my typical sandwich would. They also had a truly different photo spread on 10 smoothies to try. One of them, the spinach-grape-coconut smoothie caught my eye, not only for its bizzareness, but because I had a quarter cup of coconut milk hanging out in my fridge from an earlier recipe, and spinach there for this week. So I entered the land of the green smoothie, and while I wouldn't say I loved it, it was definitely a great use for all those things, more nutritious than many of my usual grab-n-go foods, and a worthy experiment. I don't know that I'll rush to repeat it but when I have the leftover coconut milk--this will reappear, I think.

And on Friday, I went off the track a little with the shrimp-spinach-asparagus stir fry from Cup and Table. I have a huge bottle of fish sauce but the smell of it makes me so nauseous every time I open it, it is hard for me to cook with it. But I had a ton of spinach and really everything but the shrimp (and the palm sugar but I used my agave nectar) so I barged ahead with it. It was a solid stir fry; easy, including prep (slicing bunches of straight veggies in to large pieces=my kind of prep), tasty, fast. I hate sliding shrimp (or anything else) in to hot oil but otherwise--it was superfast and a nice Lenten meal. I also experimented, making jasmine rice in the microwave. Put 1/2 c rice in 1 c water in an uncovered Corningware. The blog tip said 20-30 seconds. Hah! I think in the end I was at 7 or 8 minutes...but it worked. And I will try it again because it was fabulously easy and freed up part of my stovetop.

And that's the week that was and will be, God willing. Have a great week and for more inspiration, try I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Last week was my 400th post. That's a lot of cooking (though there are lots of random posts from the beginning). It's a sadly small little list of "Recipes That Worked" over there for that many posts, but hey, that's why I keep trying. This week's recipe's first, last week's experiences (and Lenten musings) below:

Sunday: Crazy Jane's chicken, broccoli (still wanting to try the Around My French Table version), something from my starch cabinet because wow, there's a lot of random stuff in there. Spinach salad at my husband's request.

Monday: Dinner A'Fare pork medallions in honey balsamic glaze (no idea how long that was in the freezer but I was happy to find it there); applesauce (of course); sweet potato, probably mashed with miso, as I'm addicted.

Tuesday: Mardi Gras! We'll be having a pancake supper one way or another, either at our church or at our house. Given my husband's hours lately, I think we'll be making them at home but we'll see how it goes. If it's at home: there will be bacon.

Wednesday: I'm hosting a meeting at my house so easy freezer meals: mac & cheese for Little Picky and Dad, mushroom flatbread for older son and me. (It's also Ash Wednesday so there is no call for anything bigger.)

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs if I'm coordinated, or three days of meat-free eating if I'm not.

Friday: Ah, meat-free Lenten Fridays. I have not missed you though I think I am better prepared for them this year. Boys will have pesto quinoa. Grownups will have that either the miso fish or a Caribbean fish recipe...details to follow. Either way, with rice.

Last week:

I got around to making the steamed lemon spinach from last week on Monday. It was based on another Around My French Table recipe. I had to fake it a bit since I didn't have nearly as much spinach as she recommended but it was good. I liked the lemon, and I liked using my steamer basket, which I almost never have used, ever, since I never quite got how. But YouTube helped (and didn't, with a ton of "how to use a steamer basket" videos that never actually showed people using steamer baskets), and it was a good experiment. I liked that it used a lot less oil than I usually do, and made it again to serve with the lemon-rosemary chicken (see below). I am not totally sold on steaming as it seems like a lot of parts, compared to just sauteeing. But it was a good experiment.

Monday was the cider vinegar chicken night. It got bonus points for easy, but was not a big hit with the family. I get a pat on the back for trying new things, but for you, the easiest chicken recipe ever. I thank my sister-in-law for this "recipe" for Jane's Crazy Chicken: Put as many boneless skinless breasts as you feel like making in any roasting container. (Roasting pan, pyrex dish, whatever.) Sprinkle liberally with Jane's Crazy Salt. Cover roasting container with foil. Bake at 375 for 45-55 min. or until chicken has reached 165 internal temperature. Note: cover well, or these will dry out. But if the foil does its job, they stay very moist, and even with lots of Jane's Crazy Salt, the flavor is still pretty mild. I also served this with the mustard potato salad from DALS, which I realized is one of my "accidental vegan" recipes...another for the list. Yum.

Big hit of the week (with the grownups): Pioneer Woman's spinach and mushroom quesadillas. Fontina's price is laughably high for this dish, though if I ever see it on discount, I'll try it. But this--this was a winner. We were enjoying them all the way while also thinking of how good it would be with black beans, or the sweet potato filling from the Moosewood recipe. For my veggie friends who look at my meat recipes longingly--this one's for you.

And in the "better late than never" department, the week after Christmas, I'd bought a can of black-eyed peas, thinking I'd make a half-batch of Katie Lee's Hoppin' John for our annual New Year's Day party. That didn't happen. But I got tired of seeing that can hanging around, so I tracked down the recipe, started making it, realized I didn't have scallions or parsley, and waited until I did. To my surprise, my husband loved it. I thought it was fine but it didn't make my taste buds sing. But it was easy and healthy (well, depending how much cheese you add) and while I can't promise I'll be making this every week, it will definitely make more than once-a-year appearances. With the rice, it's actually an excellent Lenten Friday supper.

I hit a big sale + coupon on chicken so we were pretty chicken heavy this week. I tried a recipe based on Cooking Light this month, with breasts tossed with lemon juice, lemon zest, rosemary, fennel seeds (lightly crushed, leftover from another recipe--totally skippable here), salt, pepper, and olive oil, then roasted for 35 minutes at 425. I loved the speed and it was juicy, but overall, a bit of a fail. Since it was only coated and not marinated, it didn't flavor the chicken much; and while that's usually a selling point with my kids, all the rosemary and fennel seed on the outside freaked them out. But it was fine and a flavor combo I like a lot. The other new chicken recipe we tried was the Chicken Chili from DALS. Again, I had everything I needed for this, so it was convenient, and it couldn't have been easier. I'm not sure I'm sold on the cinnamon, and I cut back on the chili powder and regret that decision. But my husband and I loved it and will definitely add it to the repertoire.

And not to close on a totally gross note, but here we are: my older son now won't eat hot dogs. He either had a virus or too much excitement after a Kids' Night Out last week but whatever it was--he's blaming it on the hot dog. And while part of me rejoices (hot dogs skeeve me out, though I do have one or two a year at a baseball game, but I immediately regret it), there goes Yet Another Thing that both kids would eat. Insert .gif of me banging my head against a wall here.

Lent starts this week, with the countdown to Easter and is a great time for getting the spiritual house in order. This year, I'm playing around with a few ideas, one of which is to get my actual house in order too. I love the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge...if by "love" I mean "am petrified by but know it's important to just do." I read about it on Clover Lane, one of the "mom blogs" I found and am not even sure how or where but I just enjoy. These moms of five kids (like my mother in law, among others) really attract me and inspire me to do more and better around our house. And this purging is something I've been putting off for a while, but I am hoping the spiritual component will help continue to inspire me through it. I have a few charities I think could use some of the things we have (Mothers' Home for some of the baby items, Family Court's waiting room for the toys, Bernadine Center for the food, the local animal shelter for some of the unwearable/undonatable textiles, etc.). Not that there won't be plenty of trash, too... I hate letting things go but it's time. It's beyond time. I have issues around it and always have but I truly want to break the cycle here. I am not planning to update it here but might do a different blog on the purge. I'm almost cheating: I am including my storage unit here. That's 40 bags right there. I have other Lenten goals as well but that's enough digression for now.

Another idea is more food related, and lifted from SortaCrunchy, who is dedicating her Lent to 40 Days of Community...once a week, have a meal with people you've never shared a meal with before. I'm mulling that one over too. If you don't count the July 4 picnic, that's most of my neighbors, so I might just simplify to "finally do the street-wide WedSpag you've been talking about for two years now." Which would also work for me. Not a "sacrifice" exactly...but on the right road.

For food inspiration (and organizing inspiration--I know the 40 bags challenge is right up Laura's alley!) check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!