Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rain Has Never Looked So Good

Here we are on a drippy spring day, watching many Facebook friends post snow pictures. These are friends who don't live all that far away from us. It's a reminder: cold rain is nothing exciting, but it doesn't need shoveling or salt. I'll take it.

Last week: With my husband leaving on his second business trip, I used Sunday to "stride ahead" and get a lot of cooking done. I nuked all the broccoli so we'd have sides for the week. While the steaks marinated, I made the taco meat for Tuesday so we'd just have to heat and eat. And I tried the Pinterest roasted garlic-parmesan cauliflower. It was delicious--but I think cardboard might be good with salt, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese puddles! Those are some magic ingredients right there. One thing I do need to remember: when a recipe says it "works great" with the "stuff in the green can," it needs truly teeny parm, not the shredded we usually use. It slid right off and formed crisps on the pan. Really--not a problem at all, because yum. But it didn't adhere to the cauliflower like the picture either. Will I make it again? Probably. My husband might like it if he ever got to try it but it has one dealbreaker ingredient for each kid (cheese for one, cauliflower for the other).

Getting lost in the shuffle: I know we will get used to my husband being away for a night or two but for right now, it's really hard on all of us. Having to just reheat dinner instead of making it from scratch was an enormous boost. I am going to remember that for future trips. I can already tell that this is going to be incorporated into my being so much that when I look back on this, I will be startled that it was ever a revelation.

Last week also marked the halfway point of Lent, which was somehow hard to believe. I am way behind on the 40 bags challenge but then it was time for the consignment sale and I thought I'd caught right back up.  I had 6 bags of clothes and toys ready to leave the house so that was huge. My closet looks so much better and so does the bedroom in general (I had some of the bagged-up stuff hanging out there for way too long).  And then I missed the sale. I feel like an idiot but I just didn't have the mental energy. More successfully, while it didn't yield a bag of anything, I cleaned out all the drawers in the kitchen island--removed old directories to elsewhere (they are still useful for babysitter numbers, etc. that I don't have in my phone yet), re-re-re-organized the junk drawer (still too much stuff in there but at least it's better), and found the first communion prep book whose disappearance was a mystery to me (and in plenty of time to finish--booyah!).

This week:

Monday:  Joanne's pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, broccoli.

Tuesday: how I love thee, Taco Tuesday. Oh--this is our sad month where we miss the Lego build for the baseball game. Not looking forward to the minute that gets figured out. Hopefully tacos will be an ok consolation dinner.

Wednesday: spaghetti

Thursday: leftovers (including beef stroganoff from Sunday from this recipe)

Friday: These meatless Fridays are annoying. I am fine with them, it's all those other people I have to feed. (One Catholic's shocking confession: Lent is a pain!) I still didn't make the soup so maybe it's time.

Have a happy week everyone!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One Last Snowstorm

This is the winter that never just goes on and on...but I am eating like spring. I'm done with winter.

I made the 101 Cookbooks Citrus-Ginger spritzer--with lime and grapefruit juice and a ginger simple syrup. I remembered to cut the ginger by half and was still blown away; I forgot to add more sugar for my sweet tooth (more for the ginger than the citrus). I will keep playing with this because I really do enjoy it in a strange, bracing way.

I also need to remember for next year: while my fancy King Arthur flour is probably closer to the original for Irish soda's actually far more tasty with the el-cheapo stripped of all nutrition flour. Noted for next year.

In my "cooking from Pinterest" quest, I made a lunchtime avocado-chickpea salad. It is a salad more like a chicken- or egg-salad (meaning, made for a sandwich rather than a fork, though I used a fork for mine)--I think a pita, as shown, would be ideal. I used red onion (and while I hate changing recipes the first time I try them, I had a red onion and no scallions the day the avocado said, "now or never!" so red onions it was); and I do think scallions would be better. But this was incredibly easy, very good, and a win for me. No one else will touch it but for lunches? I can toss this in my bag and go, and it won't make the communal lunch table smell funny. This will reappear in my repertoire.

I also made the avocado taco sauce, which I loved. Next time I will skip hot sauce and add cilantro. But there will be a next time. So good. (I used my hand blender of course, but even a fork would work.)

This week:

Monday: leftover steak, baked potatoes, cauliflower from last week

Tuesday: tacos or out (there's a fundraiser at Iron Hill and I love those, but there is also baseball practice, sigh)

Wednesday: spaghetti

Thursday: pork chops in mustardy sauce, mashed potatoes,  broccoli

Friday: I forgot to make the soup last week, but all the ingredients are still here, so we'll try again.

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning

So I took some time last week to do some site maintenance. I realized there were recipes I wasn't adding to the sidebar (like the poached salmon and cookie bars) because it was such a pain to do so with the overgrown list. So I bit the bullet and figured out how to break it out in to categories. There are a few "new favorites" on there but for the most part it's all still there, just slightly better organized. Here's hoping it helps!

The other spring cleaning we are doing is the "40 bags in 40 days." I am not doing well with moving them out of the house but they are bagged and ready when I am. That will probably be the holy week portion--the dropping off at everywhere further than Goodwill. (Post office, Mothers' Home, etc. etc.)

This week's theme: cooking from Pinterest.

Monday: Happy St. Patrick's Day! Sauteed onions and cabbage (because it smelled so good at Trader Joe's), honeybaked ham, and mashed potatoes.

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: Spaghetti

Thursday: roasted garlic-parmesan cauliflower (using TJ's precut though), probably sausage-apple-potato bake for the grownups, leftovers for the kids

Friday: corn chowder with shrimp for me, the boys will figure out something :) (Last week it was pesto quinoa and might be again). Besides, I have a Moms' Night Out.

Last week: I used tilapia instead of cod and still loved the Phillies' recipe. The tomatoes, in particular, are amazing. I went back and bought two pints at Trader Joe's and made more. It still wasn't enough so there might be more again.

In the green food theme, I made the Tipsy Baker Smooth Vegetable Soup (well, not hers per se but that's where I found it). I have never met a leek soup I don't like and while this wasn't my favorite, it was a great winter-spring transitional soup and it felt very exotic (despite growing up with escarole soup) to throw lettuce in the pot.

We had a family St. Pat's gathering and I brought poached salmon and asparagus. That went well. I hadn't realized so many of the older cousins would be there or I would have brought pizza dip as well.

They are talking about one last snow...or two? But now that we have 60-degree days interspersing the chilly ones, it's hard to fathom any real snow taking hold. But we'll see! I'm ready. Baseball is beginning, basketball is over, I have my annual seven yellow crocuses on the lawn and mentally--I am on to the next season. Hope you are too--have a great week!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Maybe It's Spring Now

We have our counters back--or I should say, our new counters and backsplash are in! Woo! For various install reasons we were without a sink one day and without a stove another, so there was more heating up than intended but it all worked out in the end. I am getting used to how much louder the countertops are (they are harder and so in some ways I miss the laminate but I love knowing I really can't break these).

This week:

Sunday: dinner with sister in law's family and mother-in-law. In all the other crazy of the week, my mother in law went to the hospital; she is fine but needs some major tweaking to her meds, etc. I am bringing my favorite beef roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a cake.

Monday: more beef. There were filets in with the frozen roasts so we have to use those up (oh darn, right?)--also celebrating the first day of my husband's new job! Roasted potatoes, broccoli.

Tuesday: tacos, of course.

Wednesday: spaghetti

Thursday: leftovers if we have them (doubtful); probably Farmer's Chicken if we don't.

Friday: cod with roasted tomatoes, rice

Last week we had the one kind of snowstorm we didn't experience this winter: a fizzle. We were due. Alas, the superintendents around here are now puppies in shock boxes with learned helplessness flags flying and they all caved and cancelled instead of trying a late opening. I didn't mind one more snow day, to be honest. We've had so many years without.

With the impending snowstorm and counter installation, I cooked ahead a good amount while I watched the Oscars Red Carpet show. I made Pacific Rim Pork and once again remembered just how easy this is--really not much more challenging than tacos. There is a slight bit more complication--the wiping out of the skillet, the ingredients that have to be mixed that night instead of in advance--but honestly this is so quick and so easy, it's ready when the rice is. Yum. The husband and older boy wolfed it down--not even a serving left as leftovers. And younger? "Didn't hate it." That, my friends, is success in this house.

I also started the soup-making of the week with the sweet potato-cauliflower soup. I roasted the cauliflower with the olive oil and garam masala and almost didn't have enough left to make the soup--it was great as a side. I will need to remember this. (Cauliflower florets, roasted at 400 with olive oil and garam masala for half an hour: my kind of recipe.) This will be the main takeaway from this one. I love everything in it but it was so earthy-tasting and lumpy, it was a challenge to enjoy. I added more water, I added half-and-half (distinctly de-veganizing but so it goes), I added more salt and pepper and garam masala but still--probably my least-favorite soup of the winter. But the cauliflower prep is a hit at least!

The Belgian Beef Stew was again a qualified success. Older boy thought the carrots were the best part (me too). Younger boy enjoyed the beef once he salted it. Neither ate the potatoes. The husband polished off most of it. It was a great snow day meal but I should have started it at 2pm instead of wasting time on the soup. (Live and learn.)

I tried the flourless peanut butter cookies recipe. Mine made more than 18 (24? Maybe? I didn't count but it was 3 sheets worth). They didn't spread out as much as hers did (but I didn't use natural pb either) and I wasn't thrilled with them. They were almost a little burned on the bottom but fally-aparty in the cookie. But they were easy and they are cookies so not really a "loss." But not something I'll rush to make again either.

This sounds so goofy but I have a tradition with Young Mr. Picky that he helps me make the taco mix. He reads, I measure and pour, and he of the sensitive tongue tries all the spices and declares them delicious. I love making it with him and love that he will always know where to find the recipe here. There is a reason this is such a popular meal with us--I think of happy moments with both boys making them!

So that's the week that is. Things are in all kinds of flux--reorganizing the kitchen and house (I am doing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge and I am up to 10 bags on day 4--this is not a point of pride but one of embarrassment), taking care of family, getting the husband set up in the new job, getting the busy spring schedule set at mine. We had one 57-degree day and it energized me-ready to go over here! Let's declare it spring. Have a good week!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

That Was Quick

Oh, Spring, you tease. Yesterday, it was 50 degrees outside, I was running around without a coat, and bagging up Gunk The Trees Dropped.

Tonight we're getting 12 inches of snow. The end. I'm really just rejecting the whole hypothesis.

Because Tuesday I am supposed to get my new countertops and I really will cry if anything delays that.

So, in this freaky week:

Sunday: beef stew while we await the snow. Last week we grilled on Sunday. I am fighting off the despair.

Monday: chicken breasts, string beans, salad

Tuesday: tacos

Wednesday: spaghetti (and nothing else--it's Ash Wednesday)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: unclear; I think we are going in to Penn for an event but my kitchen is torn apart so I can't find the calendar.

The good news is, the painting is done and the stuff is moved. The boy is getting over his strep and I am getting over mine. We are working on making the rooms inhabitable again. The husband is excited about his new job. I am excited about our new kitchen. This overcrowded moment will end and soon. And the kids had an actual full week of school.

The snow? Not so much. Back to get the snow pants out again.

Not much new to report except that Ronzoni gluten-free rotini are the best non-wheat pasta I have tried, hands down, and the restaurant (Pho Street, for locals) was terrific.

Forty bags in forty days starts, um, now. That's one Lenten sacrifice. Add to it the chocolate and soda (I was going to try caffeine but I'm not sure that will work this year) and it might be all for now. We'll see. First bag is already to Goodwill. So...good luck to you and yours with whatever your weather and week bring.