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


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!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Last week, I did my usual effort at keeping out of the kitchen in summer and it worked pretty well. This week, we'll see.

Monday: Dinner from the CSA box. we didn't get to grill, so I did Crazy Jane's Chicken in the oven, and the box has corn and tomatoes, salad (or more of the barley-replacing-farro salad)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (trying again with the overnight beans)

Wednesday: Leftovers (Nacho Night), and another effort with my little crockpot: this white bean and pesto dip.

Thursday: Pizza out, then ice cream night with my moms' group

Friday: Collapse in a heap? Not sure what we're doing this Friday...might be at the in-laws', otherwise we'll grill. I have some boneless pork chops in the freezer.

From last week...

New recipes I tried: one was from my old loved cookbook, The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper. It was the scallion-dill pilaf. It was fine, but maybe I didn't have enough oil, or my dill was old, or something. It was good, but not amazing. Still in search of a way to dress up rice.

Another new-to-me, inspired by the CSA: Smitten Kitchen's Sour Cherry Compote. I got a bag of sour cherries and didn't know what else to do with them, and this looked good. And oh, mercy, it was. I had some with Greek yogurt, and drizzled on cake, and finally said, I don't want to dilute this further and ate the rest spoonful by parceled-out spoonful. Yum. This was a precise mix of Flavors I Love and I will make it again.

I did an old favorite, Nikki's Healthy Cookies, and now I'm inspired to move on to Carrot Oatmeal Cookies. I don't know if my tastes are changing or I'm just getting luckier but I am having more hits that misses with Heidi's recipes these days. Yum.

We were inundated with cucumbers this week, so I made the White House chef's Cucumber Soup, which I loved, even if no one else did.

And I made a huge good faith effort at more green smoothies...but I just can't do it. Back to regulars. And we've had some great ones lately...the secret is mango.

Have a great week and check out I'm An Organizing Junkie! for more great recipe ideas!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

MPM--There's Gonna Be Fireworks

Quick, name that song! Showing my age with that goodie from Schoolhouse Rock. Such a fun weekend--block parties, beach, parade on Monday...I am excited for the day! a national holiday in my mind...the Jersey tomatoes came in. Bliss is a tomato sandwich.

Monday: Isn't it a requirement to grill on this day? We're obsessed with the Montreal burgers from the Co-op--burgers with Montreal seasoning mixed in, and edges rolled in it too. Mmmm. Though I also have some topping for flank steak (which alas was buried in the freezer) so I might replace the steak and use the topping for that. Mmmm. I will also have the new DALS-authored yogurt-marinated chicken on the grill for later in the week. Also on the menu: double mustard potato salad, grilled Jersey tomatoes! Or just Jerseys with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Heaven is a place on earth.

Tuesday: it's the Lego Build night so we will eat out. At the malls near us, the lines for the Lego Build start at 3 for a 5pm build. We do not have that kind of patience so we leave at 3 and bring things to do. But 3 is a bit early for dinner and hope it will last, so we'll grab something on our way to the line. Or I'll bring sandwiches. We'll figure something out.

Wednesday: The aforementioned chicken, plus veggies from the CSA box.

Thursday: Taco Thursday. See, I can still alliterate.

Friday: Leftovers (I think "Nacho Night" has actually officially replaced Taco Night as the favorite, but I'm obstinate.)

I had my amazing week-of-eating-out last week. It was awesome. We went to an Asian place on Monday for a closing banquet, Bertucci's on Tuesday for the annual Mothers & More dinner out, Taco Wednesday, and the town picnic on Thursday. I made the usual corn-tomato-zucchini dish. YUM.

In looking for the corn for the dish, my freezer and I had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment with each other. Turns out I'm a squirrel--I had no idea how many nuts I had, particularly pignoli. Which is good, because I wasn't paying and $12/lb for them like they are now. But you should see some nuts turning up in the near future.

In the great freezer cleanout, I made some things I might not normally have done in, say, June. But I had lots of corn, and it's almost fresh corn season here (they are selling it, but it's not really ready yet), so I made the crockpot corn chowder from Crockpot 365. Boy, do I wish my kids ate soup. Soup and a salad and a hunk of bread = dinner perfection for me. And it really couldn't be easier--I love dump-and-go recipes. This was awesome but at 3 hours, it wasn't quite done and I had to go; when I got back a little past 6 hours, the cheese was curdled so I had to blenderize the whole batch to get rid of it. It was a little lighter than most chowders, but (especially in summer) that's not a bad thing. I will definitely make this again.

While I was in Philly Cream Cheese mode (I should really just join the campaign), I made the sundried tomato and artichoke dip for the block party. I used my favorite trick of using the food processor to get the chunky things in bits so they wouldn't be too gloppy and upheld a resolution to use the baby crock pot to see if it was worth keeping. I only use it once or twice a year so the jury is out. This dip won't move it any closer to the "keep" pile. It was fine but not amazing, but for the block party? It did what it needed to do.

I also made my favorite slaw salad and realized I didn't ever post it here. So without further ado:

Fave Slaw Salad
1 bag Dole Dry Slaw
1 3 oz. can La Choy Skinny Rice Noodles
1 c. toasted slivered almonds (350 degrees for 15 min.)
1 c. craisins
1 small can mandarin oranges
1 c. olive oil
6 TBS balsamic vinegar
6 TBS dark brown sugar

mix all ingredients; mix vingar and sugar, then add oil; add dressing right before serving.
(For the record, 1 cup of olive oil seems overwhelming to me so I've never used that much in my life.)

Also? On a totally different note--Don't buy your potatoes at Target. This has been a public service message. (They were on sale for $1.99/bag a week ago and I was psyched, because I'm on a microwaved baked potato kick. In the whole bag, there was one wholly edible potato. One. This was a disappointment.)

For more meal plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!