Monday, November 29, 2010

Meal Plan Monday, Nov 29

Another Thanksgiving under the belt (and perhaps on the hips, too)!  The kids and I had a nice long weekend, and a great time at Thanksgiving, hosted by our friends.  It’s the first time since a year or two before Bun was born that we went to someone else’s house for Turkey Day, and I have to say I liked it!

Today is the back to life, back to reality Monday, and I also like that.  After dropping kid #2 at school #2, the big baby and I have been enjoying a quiet morning—and I really do think he also enjoyed the quiet after his schedule being all change-a-rooed for 5 days in a row.  We’ve been doing simple chores and playing with play dough.  Since he’s not quite 3, keeping the colors separate is still an impossible, pointless task, but he’s starting to play a bit more creatively—we made lots of fruit salad (yummy, yummy).

Since we have a lot of leftovers and some frozen stuff in the freezer which needs to be saved from the heartbreak of frost burn, the plan is heavy on makeover meals or pulling out frozen tomatoes, etc.  It’s been DAMN cold (by my standards) and I am craving wintry foods… it really feels like winter now (by our standards).

I may or may not be rationalizing baking yummy things because the oven warms the house nicely.  :)

Monday:  Ham & Green bean casserole (adapted from THIS recipe), cooked just to save extra Thanksgiving green beans and not for dinner, and Low Carb Picadillo with fauxtatoes
Tuesday: Butternut Squash-Leek Soup, Pioneer Woman’s Meatloaf (froze half last time I made it)
Wednesday: Easy Pork Carnitas, Black Beans, Rice
Thursday: Bratwurst, Kale with Sundried Tomatoes (adapted from THIS)
Friday: Yam and Black Bean Burritos
Saturday: Bunny’s Choice
Sunday: Not. A. Clue.  :D

I plan to shop later this week, Thursday or Friday, depending on when the milk levels reach critical here, and am going to figure out the rest when it’s time.  :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Potato-Leek Pizza

Wednesday was the big “day before Thanksgiving crazy day” here.  There was a lot of hunting, gathering, and prepping to be done for the big gut bust, so naturally I decided to make pizza for lunch, and try out another recipe towards my goal of making everything in The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I’m attempting to cook every one of her recipes (in the book, not her site!) and making slow, but steady progress.  I might be finished before I send a child to college.  We’ll see. :)
One of the main reasons I hadn’t tried her pizza before is that I have made pizza dough enough times to feel perfectly happy never, ever making it again.  However, we do like to make homemade-ish pizza with the fresh dough from Trader Joe’s and I decided I was going to give myself a ‘day before Thanksgiving' freebie’ and scrawl a checkmark on that page for trying out the unusual topping combination.
I ended up making three pizzas that day for lunch:  plain cheese (for Carter), mushroom (for Bunny), and potato-leek.  I think, to my tastes, I’d like some sort of sauce or something between the potatoes and crust (her recipe calls for simply drizzling a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt).  However, it was a pretty tasty combination and she’s certainly onto something good with the leeks and bacon on pizza with some goat cheese.  I just felt the potatoes seemed unattached to the crust when I bit into it… maybe a white sauce would do it for me.
Potato-leek pizza is a cookbook only recipe, so I can’t link to it.  :(  However, she describes her pizza dough HERE.  Plus, the eggplant-tomato pizza in the recipe sounds pretty dang good.  :) Mangia.

{this moment::happy thanksgiving!}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

As Close as We Get…


…to a snow day here.  Last night was supposed to be the coldest in 15 years here with a low of 34°.  Compared to what I grew up with, that is really tame, I know, but my daughter is currently outside scraping frost to collect a frost ball.  :)  Kids these days, and their crazy ideas of fun…  :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Telling The Brat to Shove It

Imagine walking out the front door in the morning to get your newspaper and you look down to see, hello, what’s this?  A $5 bill on your front walk?  Present from the world!  Yay, money!  You’d be pretty happy.

Imagine about 4 hours later again, you walk out the front door and, whoa!  Another $5 bill?  What are the odds?  Yay, more money!  Happiness times two.

Later, right before you make dinner you open the front door to water the plants.  NO EFFING WAY… a $5 bill!?!  Is the $5 bill fairy your new friend?  You’d be ecstatic.


Okay, let’s imagine reality – my reality with a family of voracious eaters.

I walk into the kitchen in the morning, and run the dishwasher because I like to run it in the morning while I make coffee, since it’s kind of loud for after dinner when we’re all unwinding and settling down.  I unload shortly after it stops, since I don’t really like piles of dishes taunting me, and the sink is already half full from breakfast stuff.  By the time I put all the new dirty dishes in, it’s probably about 8:45 a.m.

Early afternoon:  after making breakfast for 5 people, packing 1 or 2 lunches, making snacks, lunch, etc., etc., the dishwasher’s full and needs to be run.  And so, it is.

It’s about 6 p.m. when I am standing in the kitchen about to make dinner.  Poop.  The sink is half full of dishes again (3 kids worth of snacks, plus those later in the afternoon snacks, plus who even knows why all these spoons are in there, but they probably have something to do with a toddler I know who is all I can go into the kitchen when I want no because there is no gate anymore YAY-yay-YAY!).  I remember the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, just waiting for me to unload them.

Oh.  You again.


I remember back when we only had one child, visiting with friends who had 3 children ages 5 and under, and the mom saying, I load and unload this dishwasher two or three times a day.  I feel like some days all I am doing is loading and unloading this #$*&%~ dishwasher.  Boy, I can relate.

I suppose everyone has their chore they feel is never over.  Laundry or dishes are probably the main culprits in most families.  Since I cook nearly every meal and nearly always from close to scratch, give or take opening a can of tomatoes or beans here or there, I create a lot of dishes, so that dishwasher is my best frienemy.  I’d hate to not have it, but I never think, Whoa!!  Another load today?  Really?!?  Oh boy!

At the same time, having tried both routes, I find it’s best to not listen to the cranky inner brat who whines that she doesn’t wanna do it again—has she not done that enough times that particular day?!?  The Brat never gives me good advice.  While I’ve never been overjoyed to fit yet another load into the day, I’ve also never regretted having done those dishes when it was a manageable amount.  I never wish, instead of walking into a kitchen with an empty sink, that it were piled overfull with dirty stuff.  When I really need to give The Brat a reality check, I look at the clock before I start unloading and then again after the last item is put away—generally it takes 4-6 minutes.  The Brat is such a drama queen and always tries to tell me it will take, oh, FOREVER

That silly Brat… she never learns.  She’ll probably try again to convince me it’s too much work later today.  She’s persistent like that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Yummy Borscht (No, really!)


I have read many times, and told my kids many, many times, that for some tastes, a person needs to eat something as many as two dozen times to integrate a complex flavor into one’s palate and truly enjoy it. Finding the correct preparation also matters—a LOT.

Take beets, for example. I never liked the things. In fact, I disliked them… then I listened to a friend and roasted some in olive oil with salt and pepper, and it was like the world of beets was opened to me. I don’t like pickled beets. I don’t like boiled beets. I like roasted beets. I like them, Sam I Am! ;)

Somehow I went from being kinda bummed out when seeing beets in our CSA share to feeling a little excited. No one else in my family really likes them, even roasted, but the share always has just a few. I can eat a few over a couple of days, no problem.

This past weekend I made borscht from scratch, and put it out with Sunday dinner. I will not lie: there were some raised eyebrows. Try it with sour cream, I said. It’s best that way. Again, this was met with visible skepticism. I didn’t even bother to serve some to the kids, figuring it was not worth the wasted soup (more for me, I thought!).

Wow, this is really good! My husband said this, then my father in law echoed it. Bunny, interested, asked to try a spoonful, then asked for her own cup. The boys were oblivious, which is fine. :) I’ve been enjoying the leftovers with lunch the past few days. It’s really a good soup, and you can’t deny it’s very healthy. If you think you hate beets, maybe you should try them a new way, is all I’m sayin’.

Borscht (adapted from Down to Earth, by Georgeanne Brennan)

4 medium to large red beets with leaves attached, 1.5-2 lbs in all
1 cup chopped beet leaves
4 c beef or vegetable broth
1 white or yellow onion, finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
2 large celery stalks,minced
2 T tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 c sour cream
chopped fresh dill (I used dried and it was fine—just use less)


Cut off all but 1” of the beet tops. Reserve the youngest, most tender leaves for the soup (chop to measure 1 cup and set aside). Heat oven to 350. Place beets in oven proof dish along with some olive oil and a little salt and pepper, then roast for 1 hour to 75 minutes until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

While the beets are cooling a little, place broth and next 6 ingredients (through pepper) into a heavy bottomed soup pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, partially cover, and allow to simmer until vegetables are tender and broth has taken on some of their flavor, about 30 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins with your fingers or a paring knife. Then either julienne, slice, or roughly chop the beets. (I chose julienned.) Add these to the broth and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of dill. Since I used dried dill, I added it into the soup as it finished cooking.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Monday ~ Nov. 15

Last week my eldest had a 4-day weekend, Veteran’s Day being a school holiday and Friday being a teacher workday… what a coincidink the two were next to each other when the other 3 days of the week were modified short days for parent teacher conferences!  ;)  This week we have 3 modified days, too, then next week is a whopping 2 day week… November and December are SUCH weird months!

Anyway, what with schedules practically nonexistent, and a cold insinuating itself in my head and throat, I am pretty happy to be able to shove off real (aka not just picking up milk to tide us over) grocery shopping for a day or three because I have 2-3 nights of meat needing to find its life purpose ASAP.  Yay!

The great thing about a good meal plan is this: you can always shift around meals if you plan well.  Obviously I plan any fresh seafood to be cooked within a day or two of shopping… ditto for any super-perishable fruits or veggies.  Without anything lurking to make me feel angry at myself when I have to pitch it out, I get a lot of wiggle room for those evenings when I realize I really need to use up a leftover—a meal makeover, as it were… I like to incorporate a leftover meat into a new dish so we don’t die of boredom and depression eating “leftovers”—I can do that and not totally muck up my genius system.  (She said ironically…)

So anyway, wiggle room is good.  Some people put a ‘use it up’ night into their plan every week.  Whichever works, is the way to do it, I figure.  Better is better: all the time I say or think this.  Progress is better than perfectionism: I tell myself that, too.  If I’m trying, then I have to cut myself slack sometimes.  :)

With all that said (phew!) here is my plan, Stan.

MondaySausage, Potato and Cabbage Stew
Tuesday:  Pork Chops, salad, fresh baked bread (making with Bunny)
Wednesday: “My” Chicken Enchiladas, homemade refried black beans, spanish rice
Thursday: Pioneer Woman Meatloaf, mashed cauliflower, braised collard greens (don’t judge—it’s awesome)
Friday: salmon, sides TBA when I know what the veggies are in the share this week
Saturday: Cube Steaks with Rich Onion Gravy, creamed spinach, roast acorn squash
Sunday:  Lentil Soup, chicken salad “salad”


Friday, November 12, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Halloween-palooza V, Final Reckoning

…wherein she finally finishes writing about a 3-day period that was over a week ago…

Halloween was on a Sunday this year, both a good and bad thing.  Good because there would be plenty of time to carve pumpkins, dress up, and meander around begging for candy off neighbors and strangers.  Bad, because it could be a pretty long day waiting for the ‘big show’… made longer because Paul was leaving at 9:00 to go to a football game with his brother and dad.

Our friends Dianna and Tom and their kids saved my butt that day, by agreeing to go to “the” pumpkin patch.  There are bunches of pumpkin patches in the area—heck there is one down the street and another a few blocks down from that with huge bounce-house slides—but to anyone in this area, there is only one “the” pumpkin patch.  We have visited every year since Bunny was 2, and nearly missed out on that tradition this year, but squeaked in a visit just under the wire.

Uesugi Farms is about 40 minutes away, and we were still 15 minutes away when I felt something.  Then I remembered something: I didn’t eat breakfast (Dumb, dumb, dumb!  How do I do that?!?).  There’s a McD’s up the road, thank goodness.  I swung on through that drive through, and began to order Crappy Meals for the boys and Cheeseburgers for Bun and myself… “I’m sorry, Ma’am… we’re still serving breakfast.”  D’oh!  It was only 10:30.  I have to say they were really nice and hooked us up with the meals we wanted anyway, since they’d started to switch the foods over for lunch.  Sometimes you catch a break.

We tailgated in the parking lot, chowing down, then finally were ready to go inside the patch.


Never before have we been able to get a photo at the entrance, because usually it’s like the entry to Disneyland—packed with people, who’re not necessarily in the mood to indulge a photo op.  As you can see, Halloween Sunday was a very good choice for the crowd-phobics.  :)


Not far inside the entrance was this stand.  Free honey?  We were there.  I am not really into honey, though Bunny really is, so we had to try some.  First we had Black Sage, then Orange Blossom.  Both were like some honey that had to be partly made by witches or angels, because MY WORD it was amazing.  I promised Bun we’d buy a bottle of one or the other on our way out. (We ended up buying both, justifying it as a year’s supply of honey and because we could not choose.  And because it was really nummy.)


The Gourd Ole Opry… (how cute is Cole there?!?)



He was working on this pumpkin’s face the entire time we were there.


Inspiration for later…

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There were pony rides.


Ah, the cow train…  I know I’ve said before that the names they put on each ‘car’ crack me up.  Really, thet do.  Riblet was my favorite this year, though you gotta love T-Bone, too.  “T-Bone!” we yelled as Cole took off.


Running, running, running on hay--always a blast.  :)


Going through the corn mazes reminded us of something: we really like their roasted corn stand.  It’s a TOTAL rip off, at about $2.50 per ear of corn, but, fuggedaboudit.  It’s amazing, and we have to have some every year.  I wonder if we’d like our corn at home as much if I had a whole ‘fixins bar’?  (Probably not.)


It is a scientifically proven fact that no one has ever taken an attractive photo of someone else eating corn on the cob.  It’s messy, and you have to basically slobber all over our own food, plus I generally dislike eating with my hands or gnawing on food… but again, this corn is a rare exception.


Carter chose to climb a tree instead of partake in the corn feasting.  Could he have been turned off by the sight of us all manhandling our food?  ;)


Bellies full, we messed around with more ‘put yer face in this here hole’ things, and then got to my personal favorite… the hayrides!







There is something about the pumpkin patch that just exhausts a person.  By about 3 p.m. we were ready to choose our clearance priced pumpkins and hit the road.  Bunny found the largest one in the area I was willing to buy from {2 for $13}, and watching her roll it to the wheelbarrow was hysterical.  I’d have taken a photo, but I was busy trying to push a wheelbarrow, dude.


Speaking of enormous pumpkins, this fellow was really something else by the time we were heading out to the parking lot.  I love the details—the way the teeth go this way and that, the whiskers, wart, and that enormo-googly eye.  I guess it’s like ice sculpting… in a day it was sure to look all messed up, but what a day that pumpkin had, huh?


When we were home, I insisted we take about 30 minutes to chill out before diving into the pumpkin carving portion of the day.  After about 15 minutes, though, I was tired of the constant, “Is it time yet”s and got out the carving sets, and a large bowl for the ‘guts’.  Bunny’s arm barely reached to the bottom of her choice, though I have to give her credit for truly cleaning it out.  Just those two pumpkins more than filled that pretty big bowl there, which only looks small compared to The Great Pumpkin.  (The seeds were great dried for a day, then roasted!)


Carter asked me to carve something insanely complicated on this pumpkin, but instead of a fire-breathing dragon in flight which is also about to attack a knight, I quickly knocked out an homage to the kitty pumpkin we’d admired earlier that day.  He seemed happy with it even it the cat didn’t breath fire.  :)


I was pretty tickled with the way this one came out—my first-ever carved only on the surface.


Bunny’s ‘kin (I am so tired of typing the whole “p” word!!!) was cute!  I like the huge eyes.  :)

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The Werewolf, The Fire Chief, and The Vampire Hobo.  My own version of the Village People!  :)
( ♪ T-R-I-C-K… ♪ )


They went out with Daddy to gather candy, and I hear Cole was the hit of the bunch, being the Fire Chief, and also vey excited that all he had to do was say a few words and people would give him candy!!  He’s asked to go trick or treating everyday since, and doesn’t understand why I keep saying it’s not the right day.

If you’ve made it this far, you probably deserve a treat yourself.  So, um, go get one!  :)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted a menu, but that doesn’t mean I have not been planning them.  :)  For my family, the only way to ensure I am able to consistently get a healthy, homemade dinner on the table 6 or 7 nights a week is to take about half an hour and plan it all out.  I write each night’s dinner on the calendar, because by about 530 I am likely to be unable to remember my own name, much less what I’d decided to make for us perhaps a week earlier.  It also helps me to use all the vegetables we get from our CSA share (only 3 more weeks, waaah).  I don’t really like to rehash the same meals over and over, though I know a lot of people feel exactly the opposite.  To me, cooking is as much about fun—albeit practical fun—as the end result.  So, I do have a dozen or so meals we have probably at least once a month when the right season, but I’d die of boredom if I didn’t torture my kids with mostly new foods try out lots of new recipes.  To avoid end-of-the-day-tired-mommy-brain-confusion, I choose one magazine or cookbook and pull any new ‘tries’ from that for the week, along with bookmarked online finds.  I also make a point of asking my husband if he has any specific requests, and sometimes will also have Bun choose a recipe that she will make with me.

Having said all that, this week we’re having the following:

Monday:  Undone Cabbage Roll Skillet with CSA red cabbage, and fauxtatoes.
Tuesday:  salmon, Sesame Cabbage & Green Beans
Wednesday: Chicken and Parsnip Soup
ThursdayCrustless Swiss Chard Pie, Bratwurst
Fridaycottage pie (with cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes)
Saturday: Roasted Chicken Pieces, braised collards greens, green beans
Sunday:  Pork Chops, Roast Herbed Eggplant, salad, fresh baked bread

I try to mix up larger meals that will provide leftovers for lunches/snacks with ones that’re likely to be all eaten that night, and also keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if I call it a ‘forage’ night, when I make something super simple for the kids and expect us adults to fend for ourselves.  We probably do that a couple of times a month, especially if there are a lot of leftovers already in the fridge.  :)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Halloween-palooza IV (Feliz CumpleaƱos, Baby)

Saturday comes early for most moms.  A Saturday that is a child’s 5th birthday, wherein you’re hosting a party at home comes darn early.  The day before Carter had fallen asleep at an odd, unexpected time, and had one of those naps…  the funky kind when you wake at dusk and are completely disoriented, unsure if it’s the next morning or not.  He work and walked over to me rubbing his eyes, saying, “Is it my birthday now?!?”  I felt so bad when I had to answer that it was still the day before.

The next morning when it was his big day, Carter was up earlier than usual, just in time for a healthy breakfast of cake batter.


When it’s your FIFTH birthday, or any birthday, there is no such thing as too early to lick cake batter off the beater.


Even though to party was not scheduled until noon, I ordered the bounce house to arrive nice and early.  Hey, you get it all day for the same price and it’s special!  Plus, it kept the kids out of my hair while I tidied up and finished making the cake/cupcakes.  Win-win!

Carter and his brother and sister spent the better part of 8 hours bouncing and sliding.  Seriously, they barely even took breaks to eat or go to the bathroom.


I thought this was a funny moment at the party – four boys all playing with the Barbie house Bunny kindly brought out for some girls to play with.


Carter had a specific request for his cake this year: chocolate with chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, and M&Ms—plus a “5” candle.  Done, done, done, done, & done.


It was really yummy for chocoholics.  Though Carter insisted, “If you don’t like chocolate, don’t eat my cake,” I also made vanilla cupcakes with Halloween funfetti frosting.  :)


Then it was time for Carter’s 3rd wish (bounce house, cake being numbers 1 & 2): pinata!



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Whack!  Whack!  Whack!


WHACK!!!  (Good thing I made Bunny wait until all the other kids had their chance at bat because she nailed it and sent the candy flying!)


We waited until most of the guests went home, then Carter tore into the presents…


…often with some helping hands.

Then, it was back out to the bouncy to burn off cake and candy.

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The kids had to be shooed out of the bounce house when the driver came to pick it up at about 5:30, a full 8 hours after it arrived.

I hope Carter enjoyed his birthday and felt like a star that day.  We love him so much.


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