… little bit of this, little bit of that, a whole lotta about the kids

Category Archives: Cooking

Overall, I did pretty well sticking to my September meal plan.  I was flexible enough when I found a really good sale, and a few days got switched around, but for the most part I stuck to my meal plans, stuck to my shopping lists, and had very little waste this month.

In October, I planned several cook protein once, eat 3 times kinda meals, utilizing leftovers from a pork roast, roasted chicken, brisket and ham.

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What have I been up to?  Keeping busy, I suppose.  Trying to be more organized, be a better mom, wife, housekeeper and person.  I’m co-leader of my daughter’s Brownie troop (Our whole troop is multi-level, we have one amazing woman who is the overall leader, then several of us who take on the different level of girls.  I’ve got 2nd year Daisies, and 1st year Brownies.)

School started Monday for my kiddos.  It’s hard to believe that Kidlet is in 7th grade this year, and Baby L (Bean) is in 2nd grade.

Got my meal plan set up for the month.  Humorously enough, after I made my document, printed it for my fridge, gathered up the recipes that I don’t have memorized, linked the recipes and converted to PDF to post online, I realized that I put all my taco Tuesdays on Mondays.  HAH.  That’ll confuse my kids. 😉

septemberSeptember 2016 Meal Plan


What happens when I don’t plan ahead?  Well, its the tired cliché I remember spouted out at every weight watcher meeting I ever attended — if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.  For me, that mostly means meal planning.  Not just for health and weight loss purposes, but if I don’t meal plan, I often end up floundering at dinner time.

I forgot to take out something to thaw!

Yikes!  What am I going to make for dinner with XYZ?  What do I have that goes with it? I need a store run.

Oops, I took out a roast to thaw, I should have gotten that in the oven an hour ago for dinner in an hour.

Ugh, I am just too tired to deal with it.

Especially the last one; high sugars had made me so lethargic (I didn’t know this was the issue at the time), I would literally be falling over tired; so exhausted that I could not keep my eyes open, no matter what I did.  Even when not quite that tired, the other excuses would weigh more heavily on me, and we either end up with the same boring old dinner again and again, or more likely, hopping in the car to go out to eat or bring home take out.

I never used to notice this, or realize why I was cooking at home so little, but after resuming the habit of meal planning and doing it faithfully for a good 6 weeks or so (even before I started watching my calories), I noticed today that I was floundering at dinner time, and had been for a couple days, and suddenly it knew exactly why.  Ohhhh, my last planned menu was that pulled pork on Saturday. I sat down several times with my meal planning binder to do my meal plan, but something kept getting in the way.  I had the general idea of the week in my mind, and I’d taken out some meats to thaw, but I never got it down on paper with sides and such.

If you find yourself struggling at meal time, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three, I recommend trying meal planning for a few weeks and see how it really reduces the meal time stress.  I personally like the planner from The Project Girl, but even just jotting down my weeks worth of meals on a scrap paper works.


Yesterday I made a tasty (ugly looking, so no pictures!) “relish” to go with our baked chicken thighs.  e-meals calls it “Greek Relish”; I don’t think it seemed particularly Greek.  No lemon, no oregano, no feta cheese, no thyme.  Below is the recipe as presented.  It was intended to be served over deli roast chicken, sliced in the menu they provided.

“Greek Relish”

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 (12-oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (7-oz) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

 

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; add onion. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tender; stir in tomatoes, artichokes, bell peppers and olives.

I ended up leaving the onion raw; purple onion is already so mild and the crunch was nice since everything else is pretty soft.  I added some fresh chopped oregano, thyme and mint as well as a couple cloves of garlic, put through the press so there wouldn’t be any chunks, and then I squeezed in some lemon juice.

With my changes, it’s about 6 servings at a generous half cup per serving:  95 calories, 6g fat, 3g fiber, 3g sugar.


Baby L’s tot “school” this week is focused on farm and farm animals, so for WFLW, I made pigs.

Ham and cheese on whole wheat, corn and peaches.  For baby L, I popped another slice of bread on top of the pig, glued it with a little cream cheese and quartered it.  She had smaller portion of corn and peaches (which were peeled and more thinly sliced)


 {I can’t actually get any wflw posts to come up, so I guess I’m flying solo!}

Inspired by Annabel Karmel’s Chicken Sausage Snails from First Meals (one of my favorite 0-5 cookbooks, and my lifesaver when I suddenly became a first time parent of an 8 month old).

Snail bodies are chicken breast, grated apple, diced onion, parsley, fresh breadcrumbs and a little bit of curry powder, pulsed until smooth-ish in a food processor,  rolled into a mixture of flour and panko and pan fried.  The (completely disproportionate and oversized) shells are leftover mashed potato made into cakes.  The “sun” in the bowl is leftover fruit juice and yogurt broth from the “Pink Fruit Soup” kidlet made yesterday and mandarin oranges.  The salad “grass” received a ranch dressing fertilization before Kidlet would actually eat it.

Baby L loved the sausages and potato, but spit out the salad.  Kidlet ate his salad, the fruit, and a few bites of everything else and said he was full.  Who knows?!

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, but the official version follows:

Chicken Sausage Snails

 

375 g (12 oz) raw, skinned boneless chicken breast

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 T. fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 chicken stock cube, crumbled

1 small apple, peeled & grated

2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Flour for coating

Vegetable oil for frying

 

500g (1 lb) potatoes, into chunks1 tbsp milk

15 g (1/2 oz) butter

 

Shredded cabbage

1 carrot, into thin slices

Frozen peas

Tomato ketchup

 

Put the chicken, onion, parsley, crumbled stock cube, apple and breadcrumbs into a food processor. Chop for a few seconds. Form the mixture into 4 sausages each about 12 cm (5 inches) long. Spread the flour on a plate and use to coat the sausages. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sausages and sauté for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally or until browned on all sides and cook through. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in the bottom of a steamer, cover with water and cook until tender. Five minutes before the potatoes are cooked put the vegetables for decorating in the top of the steamer and cook until tender. Mash the potatoes with the milk and butter. To assemble, form the potato into 4 dome shapes (maybe you could use an ice-cream scoop) or you could create a spiral (using an piping bag). Decorate to create the spiral snail shell pattern using ketchup. Put a chicken sausage underneath each dome of potato. Use the steamed carrot sticks and peas to make the snails feelers, mouth and eyes. Arrange the cabbage as grass!


One of the sites that I like to visit is Little Nummies.  Kellie has a brilliant way of looking at food, taking common kid friendly ingredients that most moms would have on hand and elevating them into something cute for children.  Her culinary creations aren’t usually something you can transalte directly to a bento, but I often leave there thinking “I wouldn’t have thought to use [food X] in that way”, with inspiration for making it my own and making it work in a bento lunch. 

Since I am not making packed lunches right now (although we have day camp next week, so I’m planning on some cute summery or sports themed (its a sports camp) ones!), I’ve been trying to just make breakfasts and lunches a little bit fun and keep my hand in. Kellie recently posted Oscar the Oyster, and I thought I would make one as well.

Mine didn’t turn out nearly as cute.  Her pancakes stayed nice and flat so the top “shell” didn’t sink down on the sides like mine and it looks more mollusk like.  I made an oat bran pancake for the extra healthiness and they were just too thick and soft to maintain a crisp edge when propped up.  My banana eyes are out of proportion with my cake too.  And my chocolate chip eyes wouldn’t stick so I melted them a little and they smeared all over.

I added the blueberry “sea”, which I made by heating up fresh blueberries in a little bit of water and white grape juice until they popped, then I tossed in some new berries at the end for texture and a little squeeze of lemon for some brightness in flavor.  I thought that I might need to add a little cornstarch to thicken it up, but I left it cooking a little bit too long (caught it just this side of burning, eep!) and that thickened it up enough to make a nice syrup without any added thickeners.

Despite the flaws that I see, Kidlet said “Awwww, that’s so cute ma!” and gobbled it right up.  That’s what counts in the end!


Here comes summer!  Who is ready?!

First, choose a container that suits the personality of the person who will be using the kit. It might be a traditional basket, a large canvass bag, or even a small backpack. 

Next, use the list below as a guideline for what to keep in your kit. Maybe you won’t need all of the items, but these are good essentials to have on hand so you’ll always be prepared for spur of the moment picnics.

 

A blanket or sheet to spread the whole thing out on, should you need or want to sit on the ground

Utensils — forks, knives, spoons, plates

Cloth Napkins

Corkscrew (if serving wine) and can opener, or better yet, multi-tooled Swiss Army knife.

Cutting boards for slicing or assembling foods

Sharp knife

Anti-bacterial gel to clean hands before handling food is also useful

Non-perishable foods — dried fruit, peanut butter, crackers, nuts, etc.

Beverages – bottled water, juice boxes, etc.

Salt and pepper, either small shakers or disposable packets.

Basic condiments – ketchup, mustard, relish – collect extra packets from trips to fast food restaurants or look in the grocery store for small non-glass containers of your favorite condiments and sauces.

Flashlight

If you like to grill, you’ll also need a lighter or matches, charcoal, lighter fluid, and grilling utensils

A large trash bag to clean up the mess later.

A small plastic bag containing sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, band-aids, wet naps and a bandana.

If you bring your dog along, don’t forget a bowl, water, and food for the pooch.

 

Options:  You might also want to pack some fun extras, depending on the amount of room in your container:

 

CD Player

Single use camera

Inflatable beach ball

Frisbee

Small bottle of bubble mix

Deck of cards, crossword puzzle book, etc.

 

 


I am not participating in the FNCCC this week.  It is Duff Goldman, the cake guy.  He’s got a few recipes from food network magazine that are a grill menu (not happening; its below freezing here) and otherwise the plan is to decorate cakes or cupcakes.

I don’t bake!

It’s stressful and not relaxing and un-fun to me.  Measurements must be too precise.  Besides, no one around here needs any sweets.

Head over to I Blame My Mother for this weeks Food Network Chef Cooking Challenge to hear what folks that DO bake did though!


Week 13 – Dave Lieberman

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I forgot last week was an off week, which is a good thing.  I’ve been sick this week, and probably wouldn’t have gotten my recipe made.

I picked his Black Bean Soup.

  • 10 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Grated cheddar, for garnish
  • Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute.

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    Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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    Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes

I followed the recipe to the letter up until the point of adding the beans (well, I halved the recipe, and used homemade stock instead of canned broth).  Then I tasted it and to me, it tasted like nothing except salt.  Now, we are sensitive to salt around here.  I don’t add it much when I’m cooking, nor do we salt at the table.  About 6 years ago  cut it out of my diet for health reasons, and because my hubby was diagnosed with high blood pressure.  So maybe a normal salter wouldn’t think so, but to me it was like a salt lick.

So I started looking for something to dilute it a bit and give it more flavor than just salt.  I added an extra couple cups of stock (homemade, no salt), and some cooked ground beef (from the freezer) and a can of diced green chilis — which is why the final result isn’t just a black bean soup 😉  After letting it simmer long enough for the meat to come up to temperature, I added the cilantro as directed and served. At that point it was edible.  Kidlet and I enjoyed it.  DH was ill and sleeping and didn’t try it.

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Linked to the Food Netowrk Cooking Challenge at I Blame My Mother.  Check out more Dave Lieberman recipes this week!