January 31, 2010

Why I love "Make your own pizza night".....

I love these nights because we are all together! As a family, we spend time working on our pizza creations but mostly I love the conversations that happen as we work!  It is definitely a collaborative process as we make our pizzas.  And as the mother of a senior in high school, I know this time is fleeting.  I am trying to enjoy every minute we have together.  Tonight's pizza winner was Brittany's - a beauty:

As pizza night has evolved, different ingredients have come into play. Fresh tomatoes are a big hit right now.  But the most unusual ingredient has popped up. (They put it on after the pizza comes out):

I am not sure I am a big fan, but maybe we are on to something!  :) 

January 30, 2010

The Best Meal is Made by My Husband....

Saturday night in our house is not a real fun night these days.  It seems that we have a soccer game every week.  Tonight's was at 8:15.  Instead of running out for a quick dinner before, we stuck to our plan.  Except.... Mart decided he would cook!  Hallelujah!!  This made my day (and night!) I just get sick of coming up with an idea for dinner and oh yes, I do get sick of cooking too!  To be honest, I don't care what  he makes, as long as I don't have to cook it.  So, he settled on making what has become  " Mart's Mac n Cheese."  He actually found it in the Everyday Food Cookbook.  The kids love it because it has ham in it as well so it is quite "substantial". Tonight Mart learned how to make bread crumbs!  :)  A momentous day in our house.... Don't I have the best husband? 

Mart's Mac and Cheese with Ham (adapted from Everyday Food)

1 1b elbow pasta
4 Tbslp butter
1 small onion
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheese
1 1/4 cup shredded monterey jack
8oz ham, diced in 1/2 inch pieces(buy one thick slice in deli)
2 slices white bread (for bread crumbs)
Kosher Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta, drain and put aside. In heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Whisk in flour.  Slowly and gradually, whisk in milk. Cook, whisking often until mixture is thickened and bubbly.  Stir in 1 cup of each cheese. Add salt and pepper.  
Add pasta and ham to cheese mixture.  Pour into 13 x 9 pan. 
Make bread crumbs by adding bread to blender or food processor and pulsing.   Toss bread crumbs with remaining cheese and sprinkle on top of pasta.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown.

Not a Domestic Goddess, yet....

Friday brought a whirlwind of activity in my kitchen.  I decided to pull together a quick dinner for a friend. What to bring someone who is shuttling back and forth to the hospital and running kids to all their activities? I settled on my old faithfuls from the week before.  Carrot soup, Rolls(that I bought, I am not that talented!), Brownies and Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.   Can you tell I am not the most original cook?  Since I had made all of these in the past week, I had most of the ingredients in the house and it was a quick cook.  I would like to say that I bundled it all up in a beautiful basket as The Barefoot Contessa would, but no, I just packed it up and dropped it off! I've decided I need to work on my presentation.... I think I am going to start buying baskets when I see them on sale so that I have them on hand for when I am delivering food.  Then I will really feel like a domestic goddess....

January 28, 2010

Comfort Food for a Cold, Snowy Night...

Today we received an unexpected surprise: snow!!  We were supposed to have some snow squalls; what we got was 3-4 inches of snow.  Winter has returned to the Northeast!  I decided I would make an old fashioned comfort meal for the crew.  Ryan was going to be out so I planned to make a meatloaf.  He is not a fan and my other 2 love it so this seemed the perfect time.  I am not  huge meatloaf fan either.  It's another one of those meals I never make the same way twice.  I always look at recipes and try to incorporate some new idea every time I make one.  I can't say I am ever thrilled, but tonight's dinner got a thumbs up from everyone.  And by everyone , I am including Ryan in the count. He walked in unexpectedly and I realized I needed to pull out all the stops to make the meatloaf attractive to him.  And what makes everything better? Bacon!!  So, out came the bacon!

1 medium onion, chopped
2 lbs ground lean beef or meatloaf mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup crumbled saltines or bread crumbs
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tblsp ketchup
3 slices bacon

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp cider vinegar

Saute onion in small amount of olive oil until translucent. In small bowl, mix eggs, worcestershire sauce, ketchup,milk, salt, parsley, saltines(or bread crumbs).  Pour over meat  and mix. Form into loaf and place on baking sheet.  Mix glaze together and brush over meatloaf.  Lay slices of bacon on top.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Let sit for 10 mins when done.

Can you change your life in 28 Days?

I am not sure about that, but I know a lot has changed in my house in the 28 days we've been eating home. No one asks to eat out much anymore, except on the weekend.  Now the question is, "What's for dinner?"  And more often then not, I have something good to tell them! The key to eating in is a lot of planning. I still can't plan more then a day or two in advance but by early afternoon I know what we're having and sometimes have already started dinner.  In the past, I would sometimes be scrambling at 5:00 to figure out dinner.  Since there's no eating out as a backup plan, I have to have some schedule going everyday.  The really fascinating piece of this experiment is the increased awareness I have over what we eat.   Today, in the snow, I drove to Whole Foods because I needed "grass fed beef".  In 28 days I have gone from running into a grocery store and grabbing what we needed to inspecting labels and working to buy the least processed, freshest and least traveled food.  I am finding that I really do shop mainly in the perimeter of the store....I am really trying to not buy anything processed.  Today I decided that I am not buying eggs in the grocery store anymore.  There is a farm near me where I sometimes buy my eggs. I've decided that sometimes is now always.  So much fresher and I know where those eggs come from.  I also think I need to have a better understanding of just what milk to buy.  That's tomorrow's chore.  In the meantime, though, I don't want anyone to think I've become a health nut. Unfortunately, I am still eating chocolate!

On another note:  did you see Oprah yesterday?  So interesting.. and I am not a huge Oprah fan.  Michael Pollan was fascinating.... if you taped it be sure to watch... you'll understand why I drove to Whole Foods today!

January 27, 2010

The Simplest is the Best...

Tonight  I am posting my dinner early as it is done!  Lucky me! And, happy me!! :)  A friend of mine is having some surgery so I am bringing her family dinner tonight.  This gave me the impetus to get it done early!  And, since I had my Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks out last night, I settled on making her Chinese Chicken Salad. The recipe can be found here.  Disregard the picture on the Food Network site - it doesn't go with the recipe!  Here's what it will look like before you dress it(and the dressing is amazing!).

So delicious with lots of chicken, asparagus and red peppers.  My house smells so good too from the chicken baking...and oh yes, the brownies.  I wanted to send over some dessert but wanted to keep things simple as well.  Something that if they didn't eat now, they'd enjoy tomorrow.  We've been slightly obsessed with brownies in my house.  I realized as I went to make them, I knew the ingredients by heart. I know what you're thinking, "Anyone can add 2 eggs and some oil to a mix!" But I have something easier then a box, a recipe!  Once you make brownies "from scratch" you wonder why we ever needed mixes in the first place.  I have a simple recipe.  It is actually my Grandmother's  recipe so it must be at least 100 years old.  I  make them in one bowl.  There's no strange ingredients in them, no chemical additives.  And they taste pure, clean, like a chocolate brownie should.  There's no aftertaste or strange flavor.  Roll the brownie around in your mouth and it tastes of chocolate and butter.  These aren't some extremely decadent, fudgy, huge creations.  These are plain and simple, brownies.  Simply delicious.... I dare you to make a batch today. You'll never buy a mix again...


2 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of nuts, chopped, optional

Melt butter and chocolate in over double boiler( I use the microwave!).  Cream in sugar, salt, vanilla, add eggs and beat.  Add flour and baking powder.  Add nuts, if using.  (I sometimes  throw in a good handful of chocolate chips here)
Bake in greased  8 x 8 pan at 325 for about 18-20 minutes.  Cut into squares when cool.

Could it be any easier?!!!

January 26, 2010

The most versatile meal....

This is a meal I grew up on.  We call it Potted Chicken.  It is so homey and true comfort food. It is also very healthy.  It can be many meals!  Usually, I make it and serve it over rice.  If I have time, I make the rice with some vermicelli. If I am feeling really domesticated I make some biscuits for the side(my boys love this part).  Once in a blue moon, I get really ambitious and turn it into chicken pot pie.  Tonight I decided to use Ina Garten's idea of chicken stew.  I made my Potted Chicken and then put it into a casserole dish:

Then I made some biscuits and put them on top.  (I did this early in the day). 20 Minutes before we wanted to eat, I popped the whole thing in the oven.  It came out great and I only had one dish to clean up!

It was a big hit in my house.   This is also a great dish to make ahead and throw in the crockpot for later or if you're going to be eating in shifts.  This is a meal you can't ruin! Change the amounts, add different vegetables, do whatever you want! :)  This is one recipe you'll go to time and time again!

Potted Chicken(serves 4-5)

4 split chicken breasts on bone (with skin or without)
5-6 carrots, sliced thick
4 stalks celery sliced thick
1 medium onion chopped
chicken stock or broth(I use Swanson Chicken Stock)
1 heaping Tablespoon Flour
2 tblsp Olive Oil

In dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until translucent.  Add chicken breast and cook until browned, then flip and brown other side.  Add chicken broth - there should be about  1 1/2 inches in pan.  Add carrots and celery, cover and cook on low until  chicken is cooked through and tender(approximately 1 hour).  Uncover, remove chicken and cut off bone.  Cut chicken into small pieces.  Before adding chicken back to pot, thicken sauce.  Add a little more chicken broth, bring to a boil. In cup, mix flour and water until smooth, add to chicken broth.  Stir over high heat until thickened.  Add chicken back in and Voila!  Dinner is served!  Serve it over rice, couscous, biscuits or put in casserole dish, place biscuits on top(see recipe below) and bake.

Biscuits for Potted Chicken(from Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup half and half
1 egg mixed with 1 tblsp water, for egg wash.

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the half and half and combine on low speed.  Dump dough on a well floured board and roll out to 1/8 inch.  Cut out 12 circles with a  2 1/2 inch round cutter. Place biscuits on top of filling.  Brush with egg wash and for 20 minutes until biscuits are brown.

January 25, 2010

Unbelievably good!

Dinner tonight was fantastic!  And so, so easy!  I had been reading about this tomato sauce from Marcella Hazan.  The foodies all seemed to love it. Originally, I found it on Amateur Gourmet.  It looked good. Then I saw it again on Smitten Kitchen. Looked even better.  So, tonight was the night I decided to try it.  3 simple ingredients(well, 4 if you count a little salt I added).  1 can of tomatoes, 1 onion, 5 tablespoons of butter.  That's it!  No basil, no olive oil and no....parmesan.  Unbelievable.  But let me tell you, everyone in my house loved it!  The flavor is quite different.  It seems to have a lightness but somehow more depth then the usual red sauce. And, did I mention it was so easy?!  Put the can of tomatoes in a pot, add the butter, then cut the onion in half and put in pot. That's it!

This is definitely a keeper in my house.  My son finished dinner and said, "We need to have this more often. "  That about sums this one up! Try it, I promise you, you'll wonder why its taken you so long to find this recipe!

Marcella Hazan's Simple Tomato Sauce

1 can whole tomatoes. (I used San Marzano from Whole Foods)
1 medium onion(sliced in half)
5 tablespoons butter
salt (if desired)

In heavy saucepan, add can of tomatoes, onion halves, butter(and salt).  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes uncovered.  Stir occasionally and mash tomatoes against the pot with a wooden spoon.  Remove and discard onion before serving.  (This is enough sauce for a light coating on 1 pound of pasta)
Bon Appetit!!

Set your DVR's and Tivo's....

Last week I wrote about my interest in Michael Pollan's Food Rules.  This Wednesday he is on Oprah!  (I am so cutting edge!  Who knew?)  Be sure and watch or tape it; I think it will be very interesting!  Now, I am off to make dinner with my 3 ingredients!!  (I'll report back later with the results! )

January 24, 2010

The cure for the common cold.....

Chicken Soup! I decided to make some soup to cure Mart's cold!  I am not sure it will do the trick but at least I tried. :)  I am not sure about you, but I don't think I have ever made chicken soup the same way twice.  Each time I do something different and most times, it is yummy(my favorite word).  The very best chicken soup I have ever made is from The Silver Palate Cookbook.  Unfortunately, I was too lazy to make that today.  So, I boiled and chopped and the soup is ready and waiting for anyone who wants it!  Actually, Brittany has already tried it and has vouched for its tastiness!  The best news about chicken soup is that I don't think you can really ruin it! (today's recipe below). Tomorrow night I am trying a red sauce that all the foodies have been blogging about!  I can't wait to try it - it is supposed to be scrumptious!  I'll update you tomorrow night but I will leave you with this:  only 3 ingredients!

Susan's Chicken Soup

4 chicken breasts on the bone, no skin
6 carrots, sliced
5 stalks celery sliced
1 zucchini - sliced
1 large onion chopped
1 carton Swanson's Chicken Stock(not chicken broth)
2 handfuls thin egg noodles
Kosher Salt and Pepper

In large stockpot, cover chicken breasts with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook until chicken is done,about 30-40 minutes.   Remove chicken(set aside), strain broth and return to pot.  Add Chicken Stock, then carrots, celery, zucchini, onion and cook for approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are al dente.  Add back in chicken and 2 handfuls of uncooked egg noodles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook until noodles are done, about 10 mins.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

Time to get back on the horse.....

I didn't cook last night(or Friday night).  We didn't go out to a restaurant either though, so I am still behaving.  We had a dinner at Ryan's school so I am technically still in the neutral category on savings.  If you've been reading my blog, you know I don't cook on Sunday's, it is Mart's turn. Unfortunately, he has a "cold".  And we all know how it is, men are significantly sicker (or at least that's what they say) when they have a cold. So it looks like I am on for tonight. And after 2 nights off, I can already feel the old ways pulling me back!   The twins have a church event so it is just the 3 of us.  I wish I had some inspiration but I am lacking so I am going to go pull out my cookbooks and see what I find...... should be interesting..... Hopefully, I don't have a full relapse and end up ordering takeout.

January 23, 2010

Let's Pretend It's a Health Food....

Friday was a whirlwind of activity in my house as 2 were out skiing for the afternoon and evening.  The 3 of us who were in ended up eating anything we could find! I decided to use up some yogurt that I had and made the Lemon Yogurt Cake from  Barefoot Contessa at Home. It was very good and you couldn't even miss the butter!  The kids loved coming home to a warm cake.... I made sure to tell them I was the best mom :)!   I am changing the recipe a little though.  For whatever reason, the cake sinks a little in the middle(even in the book, you can see it).  I am decreasing the amount of lemon syrup to pour over it - in my son's words, "the middle was a little soupy."  It was very easy though to put together and not too sweet!

Lemon Yogurt Cake -adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest(2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tblsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease loaf pan, then line bottom with parchment, and grease and flour.
Sift together flour, bking powder, and salt into small bowl.  In another bowl, whisk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.  Slowly whisk dry into wet.  With rubber spatula, fold in canola oil.  Pour the batter into pan and bake for 50 mins.
Meanwhile, cook 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar in small pan until sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.
When the cake comes out, let sit in pan for 10 mins. Then, place cake on baking rack over a cookie sheet.  Pour lemon sugar mixture over the cake and let it soak in.  Cool completely.

Combine confectioner's sugar and lemon juice for glaze.  Pour over the cake.

January 22, 2010

Today's Wisdom

Love this one from Food Rules, "Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."

January 21, 2010

Leftover Ingredients Make Easy Dinners....

Tonight was  a busy night as everyone had somewhere to be.  I decided I was going to use up some leftover ingredients that I had in the refrigerator. I peered inside(found a few things that had overstayed their welcome) and came up with a plan.  Tonight would be Quiche Lorraine and a Strawberry Spinach Salad.  I literally had every ingredient in the house.  Love that!  I decided I would make my crust early in the day and then just make the rest of the quiche closer to dinner. It's a good thing I started early because I burnt the first crust! I was trying to be clever and par bake it so that it would be nice and crispy.  Back out came the food processor and the butter and I managed to quickly throw together another crust. It wasn't pretty but it did taste good.  Please don't ever buy one of those prepackaged pie crusts in the refrigerator section! They are so gross!! Any cookbook will have an easy pie crust to throw together- do it! It is so worth it. To me, I can't even take a bite of any pie with the "fake" crusts; I don't care how good the filling is, the crust ruins it.  I use a basic recipe from Martha Stewart and it really only takes about 10 mins to put the whole thing together. 

My simple dinner tonight really was just that.  The quiche was very good and the strawberry spinach salad so sweet! So nice to see some berries in the winter.   I made a quick olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette with a dab of honey - so easy!

Quiche Lorraine

1 pie crust, rolled out.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups of half and half
2 tblsp chopped onion
8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
2 tblsp flour
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Place pie crust in pie plate. Mix eggs, half and half, onion, bacon and salt and pepper.  In separate small bowl, mix flour with cheese, then add to egg mixture.  Beat well and pour into prepared pie plate.  Bake for approximately 40 mins until cake tester comes out clean when inserted.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Balsamic Vinaigrette (for Strawberry Salad)

1/4 cup olive or canola oil
3 tblsp good quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Honey
Salt and Pepper

Mix well, pour over spinach leaves, strawberries(sliced) and sliced almonds.

I love this one.....

From Michael Pollan's Food Rules, this is very funny but does make you think.  "It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car."
What if we redefined in our own heads what food really was?

January 20, 2010

If you cook it, they will come....

I spent the first 2 weeks of this endeavor cooking and then having half my family cancel on me!I think we are all starting to get into the swing of things though. Due to the fact that there is always dinner, every night, most nights everyone shows up.  Maybe not at the same time, but this is progress, nonetheless.  Tonight I was hoping to time it so that everyone was sitting down at the same time.  Unfortunately, to do this, dinner gets later and later.  We converged about 6:45 and sat down to a dinner of Chicken Piccata, Broccoli and Basmati Rice.  I am still really into the Michael Pollan "Food Rules" so simple is best.  I decided to wing it on the chicken piccata(pardon the pun!) and looked at a few recipes, then made it up as I went.  It came out great although next time I will make a little more sauce so that I can pour some over the rice. It was a big hit though and I decided that what dinner cost was probably equivalent to one dinner entree out at a restaurant!  If I'm cooking, I'm saving!!

Chicken Piccata

5-6 Thin Sliced Chicken Breasts
1 cup flour
2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
3 lemons
3 tblsp butter
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
olive oil for sauteing chicken

Preheat oven to 400.  Set up a 2 plates, one with flour, one with bread crumbs and a dish with eggs, beaten.  Dip chicken breast into flour, dredge, then dip in egg and then in bread crumbs. Place in pan with olive oil.  Cook on medium high heat until brown and crispy on both sides. Transfer to baking dish and repeat with remaining chicken.  Place chicken in oven and cook for 15 minutes. In the meantime, make the lemon sauce.  Melt 1 tblsp butter, 1/2 cup lemon juice(from lemons - leave 1/2 of one to slice for garnish) and 1/2 cup of wine or chicken broth.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, gradually raising the heat, until boiling.  Then add additional 2 tblsp of butter.Cook another minute then pour over chicken.  Garnish with lemon slices.
Very quick and very easy!

This Morning's Thought....

Rule #13:   Eat only things that will eventually rot. ("Real food is alive and should evenutally die")

Isn't this so true?  Pollan explains that not only do preservatives extend the life of products, they rob them of their nutrients.  See how much in your house will never go bad(but never be good! :))

January 19, 2010

Ricotta Pasta

Tonight I am sharing my easiest but yummiest (is that a word?:))pasta recipe  - there are only ingredients, no amounts. It's whatever looks good to you! The key is the freshest ingredients you can find.  And, don't even think about using that "pretend" parmesan cheese in a can.(Don't get me started on that!)  Only the good stuff will do - either Parmigiano Reggiano or Locatelli(which I use). I did have to use frozen corn and it is not nearly as good as fresh but hey, its winter in New England!  But seriously, try this recipe.  It is so good and so, so easy.

Ricotta Pasta

Pasta( I like shells or wagon wheels or penne for this; I use whole grain)
Ricotta Cheese(use the best you can find)
Tomatoes - I use plum, but any will do
Corn - fresh is best and makes a huge difference in taste
Any other vegetable you want to saute and add
"Parm" - and lots of it!

Cook pasta according to directions.  In the meantime, dice tomatoes and saute with a little olive oil until soft and almost sauce like.  (This is the time to saute any other vegetables, zucchini works well).   About 3 minutes before pasta is done cooking, add corn to boiling water.  Drain and toss in pan with tomatoes.  Add ricotta cheese and stir until smooth.  It will turn into a smooth sauce, if you like a little more texture, add more ricotta when you take the pan off the heat.  Place in individual bowls and grate parmesan on top. (It's all about the parm :))
That's it!! So easy and so tasty ! And oh yes, so good for you!

Today's Inspiration(see previous post for explanation)...

The rule I selected today for us from Michael Pollan's Food Rules:

Rule #2 Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food!
"Today foods are processed in ways specifically designed to get us to buy and eat more"
If you look at the label and it isn't all real food(chemicals, additives, preservatives,etc) don't buy it!  If we just adhered to this rule, think how different our eating would be!  My great grandmother owned a bakery.  Can you imagine how much baked goods she must have eaten in her lifetime? But I am sure she didn't have all the additives in her cakes. Flour, butter, sugar, vanilla-that was what they used.  And she lived to be 100! No cancer, no autoimmune disease, just plain old age.  Go check out your pantry and see what ingredients are on the boxes in there...you'll be shocked, I know I was.

Eating Real

Who would believe that frying some onion(and I mean frying) would lead to an epiphany?  Last week I mentioned Michael Pollan had a new book and he had talked about rules for eating. One of them was eat all the fast food you want, but make it yourself. His point was that if you had to go to all the trouble of making it, you would only eat it occasionally.  That point so spoke to me.  So much of the easy food we get out is so nutritionally crummy, we would never make it in our own homes.  Since then, I've been reading Pollan's books.  They are phenomenal!  His latest, Food Rules, is short and to the point. I really recommend everyone read it.  It is not really a diet book, but a way of life and a way of approaching what we eat.  The book is simply, 64 rules to live by in regard to eating. Easy, huh?  Some are rules we've heard before(shop the outer edges of the grocery store for the healthiest food), some we've never heard of and some we've heard but never really approached in the right way.  This week I've decided that each day I will post (in a separate post) a rule that I think is really thought provoking.  We'll see how it goes and hopefully, we'll get inspired together.  I am also going to carrying those thoughts into my cooking.  I don't imagine I will always succeed but there's even a rule for that !  So stay tuned and check in for healthy motivations.....and please, let me know what you think about these new "Food Rules".  Do they make sense to you? Motivate you ? Comments, please!

January 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Salads...

Tonight was a hodgepodge of dinners in my house.  I decided we were clearing out the fridge!  2 of the kids had leftovers from our restaurant foray on Saturday night.  Will came home from skiing and decided to make himself a salad.  You know a 13 year old who has just skied for 4 hours is not looking for a healthy salad!  Let's just the house smells of bacon!

According to him it was perfect:  lettuce, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, croutons and cheese!  He did make his own dressing though - with balsamic vinegar.  The dressing could have been the healthiest thing on his plate!  He thinks he was in good shape because it "had a lot of protein"!! Oh well, better then fast food and he did have a lot of lettuce and tomatoes!

I decided I was going to use the goat cheese that I've had in the refrigerator since Christmas.  I've been dying to try the salad with warm goat cheese from Ina Garten.  I made a few changes, some for health reasons, some for laziness.  Oh my gosh..... it was sooo good !!  Mart and I both said we could eat it every day! The combination of the crisp, cool lettuce and the warm, crispy goat cheese was spectacular.  Mart had a piece of Chabatta with his but to me, the salad was more then enough.  So delicious!  This could be addictive!(I put a large serving of lettuce on each plate, the goat cheese is so creamy, it is almost like a dressing in itself.)

Warm Goat Cheese Salad (adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties)

Serves 2

4-6  1/2 inch slices of goat cheese (slice with dental floss from log)
1 egg white
Fresh Bread Crumbs

1 tblsp good cider vinegar
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of sugar
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 egg yolk(or 1/2 tblsp mayo)
1/2 cup olive oil

Slice cheese, dip in egg white, then bread crumbs.  Place on rack and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Don't skip the refrigeration part!)
For Dressing mix vinegars, salt, sugar, pepper and egg yolk in blender.  Then add oil and blend until dressing is thickened.
In saute pan, melt 1 tsp butter and 1/2 tblsp oil on medium high heat.  Cook goat cheese rounds on both sides until crisp but not melted.
Dress salad greens on plate and add 2 rounds to each.  Enjoy!!

January 17, 2010

Real Men Make Soup....

Sunday seems to be evolving into soup night.  Tonight Mart and Ryan took over the kitchen.  Off they went to the grocery store and 4 calls later they were back with the ingredients for a hearty soup.  Although we are saving a lot of money,  we seem to be eating a lot of "hearty" meals. :)  Due to the fact that I need to actually fit into my clothes, this week we are moving to "non-hearty fare".  But tonight was the perfect night for a yummy soup.  It is snowing out and we have a big roaring fire going. This is Lisa's last night here so we are all just enjoying being home.  The soup was a Potato - Cheddar.  The house smells wonderful due to the onion cooking and the thyme simmering in the soup.  It was a big hit and everyone(except me) added hot sauce to theirs to give it a kick.

Better then anything though was not having to cook!  I am loving this one day a week when I delegate planning and preparation to Mart!  It is a nice break and if anyone is whining, it's not my fault!!:)

Potato Cheddar Soup (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 Tblsp Canola Oil
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tblsp flour
2 cups low salt chicken broth
2 cups 2% milk
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 chopped ham
hot sauce(optional)

Heat oil and saute celery, carrots, onion and thyme until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour and stir for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth, then milk. Add potato and cook about 20 -30 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add cheese gradually, then ham.  Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Out we go but the boys will rescue us tonight....

Well, last night was the big night!   We went out to dinner!  As I had posted before, my niece, Lisa is visiting so we decided after a day of attending multiple sports events for the kids, we would go out to dinner. We had a 6:30 reservation.  It was on the early side because Will had a very late indoor soccer game to go to afterwards. We had  a great dinner and 3 of us( all the girls :)) brought half our dinner home as the portions were so big.  It was fun to get out and visit and catch up while relaxing.  I was surprised though, that I wasn't feeling like I had been missing anything!  Tonight we will get back to eating in.(I also missed being able to update my savings button !!)

Now, back to the Macaroons.  Yesterday afternoon  I got a call from my neighbor Jeanne saying that she and her daughter, Kelly had made macaroons and had a plate for us! It's good to have generous neighbors, isn't it ?!! :)  I had given her this recipe last year after making them.  They are so good and are a little different as they use regular sweetened coconut as well as unsweetened.(Harder to find, I buy mine at Whole Foods.) I think it adds an extra dimension of flavor.  Some they dipped in chocolate which were so decadent, but these macaroons are fabulous on their own as well..(recipe at bottom of page)

Now for the news that makes my Sunday.... the boys are cooking tonight! They are planning, shopping and cooking!!  I love Sundays when I am "off duty"! I am (as always) slightly afraid about what we will have but if I don't have to slice it, chop it or bake it, (or god forbid, fry it!), I am a happy girl! So stay tuned tonight to see what turns up on our plates....

Coconut Macaroons(from Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipes)

1 cup of cream of coconut
2 Tblsp Light Corn Syrup
4 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3 cups sweetened shredded or flaked coconut

Heat oven to 375.  Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions.  Line 2 cookies with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Whisk together crm of coconut, corn syrup, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in small bowl; set aside.  Combine all coconut into large bowl.  Pour liquid ingredients into the coconut and mix until moistened.
Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto the sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Form cookies into haystacks using fingers.(moisten your fingers a little if they stick) Bake about 15 minutes until cookies are light golden brown, rotating racks halfway through.
Cool cookies on baking sheets until set(about 2 mins) and then transfer to wire rack to completely cool.

To dip in chocolate:  let cookies cool. Line trays with parchment again.  Melt 10 oz semi sweet chips in microwave.(heat at 50% for 3 mins, stir, then heat at 30 second increments until melted).  Take out of microwave and add additional 2 oz of chips. Stir until smooth.  Dip bottoms of macaroons in chocolate and 1/2 inch up sides.  Scrape off excess and then place on tray to cool.  Refrigerate 15 mins until chocolate is set.

These are great to serve for company or bring to a friend's - they look beautiful and taste better!

January 16, 2010

One word....

Macaroons.  That's all I've got tonight!  Too tired to write more.  Check back tomorrow to hear my macaroon story and more....  :)

January 15, 2010

We've got company...

Tonight my niece, Lisa arrived from NYC to spend a few days with us.  Years ago when she was a teenager, she was our nanny for 2 summers, so she fits right back into our family like she never left.  Tonight was make your own pizza night and she jumped right in to concoct a masterpiece.  Everyone had a different plan.  Will makes a great crispy crust by brushing it with olive oil:

Our celebrity guest made a mean pizza with mushrooms, red pepper, onions and  ricotta cheese(she liked how it looked in the blog 2 weeks ago! ) Not bad for a novice!

After dinner tonight Will decided he needed some chocolate so he whipped up some chocolate lava cakes.  We had a Stonewall Kitchen mix that he used and I must say, they were so good you would have never known it was a mix!

January 14, 2010

Fried Goodness...

Today Good Morning America had an author, Michael Pollan on.  They were discussing his food rules to eating right. One of his rules was that if you wanted fast food you had to make it yourself.  His reasoning was that it was so much work that you would make it occasionally instead of eating it all the time.  I am here to tell you he is soooo right!!! I made the Onion Straws tonight.  Were they good? Yes, they were.  Fried Goodness, as my son Ryan would say.  Am I ready to make them again soon?  No way!!!  What a mess!  And all that oil!  And then, what do you do with all that oil? I will not be rushing to make them again, anytime soon.  My kids loved them and  I also made "fatty melts" with them.  A night of decadence.  Fatty Melts are our copy of a burger served at Max Burger in West Hartford, Ct. Theirs is on 3 slices of bread.  We are cutting down so only had 2! :) Basically its a grilled cheese with a burger stuffed in the middle. When I was 16  and worked at Friendly's we called that a "setup".  Why? I have no idea.  It is yummy but it was hard to eat as I was still busy wiping the grease from the oil off me!  So, I've included my recipe below if you'd like to try Onion Straws. And, here's a picture so you can view our "fried goodness" for yourself! (I will say they were very light and crispy!)

Fried Onion Straws

2 onions, sliced thin
2 cups flour
Black and White pepper(I used quite a bit to give them some kick)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk(its all about the buttermilk !)

Slice onions, separate and soak in buttermilk for 2 hours.  Heat oil (canola) until hot(about 350 on thermometer) , dredge onions (removed from buttermilk) into flour mixed with salt and pepper , shake off excess and put in oil. They cook fast!  Stay at the stove!  Turn them after a few minutes. When brown remove and place on papertowels.  It will take about 4 batches to make all the onions.  They also cool fast but stay crisp.
That's it!  Now, what you do with the oil afterwards, I have no idea!!

Do you fry?

I ask that question because tonight I am attempting "onion straws"!  I have never fried anything in my life.  I am not talking pan frying some steaks in a little butter on top of the stove... I am talking oil, hot at a specific temperature!  When I went to college in the south, my roommates used to fry french fries; I was always in awe. We northerners throw them in the oven.  Most of us have no idea how to fry anything.  (Don't get me wrong, we have our own vices.) To be honest, it's not on my bucket list.  But, for my boy, Will, I will try.  We are again in "replication mode" here.... I will report back tonight, unless I burn the house down, which is a distinct possibility!  (Any suggestions would be appreciated :))

January 13, 2010

Staying the Course...

Tonight I was very late getting home.  As I drove home about 6:30 the cell phone rang. It was Mart, telling me that it would be easier to just bring in some takeout.  I was at least 30 minutes from getting dinner on the table and the kids still had homework to tackle.  But, my fortitude showed itself and instead I rushed in and started cooking!  Fortunately, tonight was Pasta Alla Vodka and Caesar Salad.  Simple and quick!  The kids helped pull everything together and at  7 PM we were sitting down to a great dinner.  The pasta was wonderful, this recipe is very light versus the very heavy dishes you get in a restaurant.  We were all starving.  I used whole grain linguine tonight and nobody knew the difference!(God forbid it should be more healthy!)

It really was a great meal and as quick as if we had run to get takeout! There wasn't anything left on the plate at the end of the meal! Recipe follows - give it a try !  And stay tuned, tomorrow night is ..... Fatty Melts!   (By request)

Pasta Alla Vodka 

2 Tblsp Butter
2 Tblsp good quality Olive Oil
1 clove garlic minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 28oz can Plum Tomatoes( I blend it for about 2 seconds)
1 Tblsp chopped Fresh Basil
1/2 cup Vodka
1/2 cup of Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper
optional:  1/2 cup sundried tomatoes

Saute onion in oil and butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 mins.  Add tomatoes, basil, vodka and sundried tomatoes. Simmer 15 minutes until sauce reduces.  Add heavy cream and simmer until thickened, approximately 5 minutes.  Add parmesan and blend.  Cook pasta, and layer sauce.  Garnish with more parmesan cheese on the side.  So Good!!

Savings Junkie?

I am still amazed that changing one thing you do can change your outlook.  As  I roll along with my cooking, cooking, cooking the savings aspect can get, well, addicting.  Yesterday I went to the mall. I had some returns to do.( I have become my mother!  For Christmas I often buy 2 of the same thing, in different sizes, if I am not sure what will work for one of my kids.) I returned a few duplicates.  I also perused a few stores. I did get a deal in American Eagle; bought Will a hooded sweatshirt that ended up costing me $2.36 instead of $40!  Other then that though, I didn't want to buy anything.  It was kind of sad. :( I saw a few things I liked, decided I didn't really need them and walked away.  This is so not me!  When I told my husband this story he laughed and said I should have bought what I wanted, that this eating in was not meant to stop my life.  But I have a feeling for right now, it's all or nothing(just like the diet again!).  I can't seem to be really focused on saving in one part of my life and not in others.  I am thinking maybe I will become one of those penny pinching people that appear on Oprah! Unlikely...... but for now I will plod on and see where it takes me. I have become my own social experiment.... hopefully, the whole thing doesn't explode!

January 12, 2010

Panini Time....

So, today I headed into Whole Foods in search of some good sourdough bread.  It's amazing what a difference good bread can make!  I love Whole Foods  - especially this time of year when fruit and vegetables are so weak and pale in the grocery stores.  Whole Foods' fruit always looks so good, no matter what time of year.  Today I went in armed with a small list, I didn't need much.  But....I cannot get out of that store without spending at least $75!!!    I swear it's something in the air, you just can't stop buying!  Subliminal messaging?  I did get the sourdough bread, but I also got 2 apple turnovers for the twins and a bunch of other stuff not on my list.  Oh well, at least I am still cooking ! :)

Tonight was Panini night. Will received a panini press for Christmas last year.  He is our closet cook and it was a good excuse to get our family a press!  We were in replication mode tonight.  A few years ago we were up on Cape Cod is this little "hole-in-the-wall" place.  Will had a panini that everyone loved.  (much to his chagrin as we all picked at it! ) We've worked at copying it and I think its as good or better! Take a look:

It only has few ingredients, but they have to be perfect!  First, good sourdough bread(best if you can have it sliced at the store). The filling is Fresh Mozzarella, Grilled Chicken and Honey Mustard.  We've tried it with packaged mozzarella and cold cut chicken or turkey, but it doesn't have nearly the same flavor.  I like to bake bone-in chicken breasts at 400 for 40 mins to use in the sandwiches.  As you can see, there's not much to it but I don't know anyone who hasn't loved it!    I also found some really delicious pineapple at Whole Foods today - I put it out as I was cutting it up and it was gone in about 5 minutes!

I think I am starting to get the hang of this.. although... if anyone would like to invite me to dinner, please call. (And call soon!)

January 11, 2010

Fast Food Dinner

And by fast, I mean quick! At 5:10 I was staring into the freezer, wanting desperately to say, "Let's order  a pizza".  It's day 11 and at this point McDonald's looks good. But, I dug down deep, (freezer and otherwise :)) and came up with a plan. Unfortunately, we found out at the last minute that Will had basketball practice so suddenly I was rushing around the kitchen yelling at the kids to help.  We ended up with baked chicken breasts, quick roasted potatoes with pepper and parmesan(sliced very thing to cook fast ) and some creamed spinach I found in the freezer. Let's just say the roasted potatoes were the best part of the meal.  To me, the spinach looked terrible but nobody else seemed to think so!  But,  I am putting the night in the positive column - I managed to put something on the table without resorting to takeout!They can't all be pretty..... But I think the moral of the story is stick with the plan; it makes it much harder to stay on track when you don't. Upward and Onward....day 12 awaits.  It will be a better meal, I promise!

Houston we have a problem.....

My dinner plans have died. (No one wanted was I was making).  So, it is almost 5:00 and I do not have a plan....Got to get working on this!  Anybody have any thoughts?  It could be eggs (although that is never a hit in my house). I am headed to the freezer.....

Newly Frugal Generation?

There's a great article in The New York Times today, about, of all things, the early bird special revival! You know, that 4:30-6pm dinner that all our parents love?  The one we all laugh about? Well, it seems like the "Newly Frugal Generation"(that would be all of us who  like to spend money and eat in expensive restaurants) has discovered the early bird special meal!  Who knew?  I am still not sure this is for me; I like the relaxing into the evening part of the dinner.  Not sure it's worth it to me to go out early and be done by 6 or 7.  But who knows, talk to me in 3 months! :)

January 10, 2010

Soup's on!!

Tonight was definitely a night to stay home, start a fire (in the fireplace, not the kitchen!) and have some comfort food. The muffins made it to dinner(with a few stolen by someone in my house) and I made a delicious Carrot Soup to go with them.  I love this soup, it tastes creamy but it is the rice, not cream that gives it that consistency.  This is one of those recipes I think half my town has.  A friend emailed me the recipe recently and I realized that I had already received it from 2 other people.  That tells you just how yummy it is!  I may even have enough to feed a few of us tomorrow night.

On another note, we made it through the weekend without looking at a restaurant.  :)  I am feeling quite virtuous!  (It's all about me, you know) What I did miss, and we have to work on replicating is more "social time" at dinner.  Having teenagers, offering a dinner out is also a way to bribe them into spending time with you!  We had great dinners this weekend but once the kids were done they wandered off to do their own things.  We did watch a movie together last night but I like the conversations we have when we are out. :)  Something else to work on.... but my bank account grows!

Carrot Soup

1 Large Onion, chopped
1/2 cup Butter
Approx 35 Oz Ckn Broth
1 pound carrots
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
3/4 TBSP Dried Dill
1/8 tsp ground thyme
1/4 tsp white pepper

Saute onion in butter 3-4 mins until translucent and tender.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 mins.  In 2 batches, put into blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Note: You may need to thin soup a little with chicken broth.  I like to use Swanson's Cooking Stock.

The Antidote for Winter: Muffins

I decided to get an early start on dinner today so I could be done and not have to cook later.  It's freezing here so I thought a nice, warm, homey meal was in order.  Soup and muffins, what could be better?  Well, the Pumpkin Muffins just came out of the oven and now I am rethinking my plan to cook early.  It's possible there may be no muffins left by dinner! The house smells so good though....

These muffins are so good!  I "stole" the recipe from my friend Laurie and they are quick, easy and delicious. The golden raisins are optional but I think they add great flavor!  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Muffins

2cups flour                                                1 16oz can Pumpkin
2tsp baking powder                                   4 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon                                          1 1/2 cup sugar
1tsp baking soda                                        1 cup oil(I use Canola)
1 tsp salt                                                     Golden Raisins 1 cup

Mix dry ingredients.  Combine eggs, pumpkin,sugar and oil thoroughly.  Add dry ingredients and beat until all combined.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 for 20 mins.  Makes 24 muffins.

So Good!!!  Now to get the soup finished...

January 9, 2010

Cocktail Hour?

It makes it much easier to stay home when it is absolutely freezing!  And it is mind numbing cold outside!  Fortunately for me though, Mart decided that he would make dinner tonight.  After perusing all the cookbooks he wandered off to the grocery store.  Will got an invite to a friend's house and  ran out as fast as he could. I imagine that they are wolfing down pizza and wings right about now.  Soon after the grocery store run there was a lot of clanging of pots and cabinet doors slamming.  Then, the smell of bacon wafted through the house. And as Mart says, "Everything tastes better with bacon." I knew it had to be a hearty meal. (Men like hearty.)  It was but very delicious(if you didn't think about the calorie count). Fettuccine Carbonara and Caesar Salad.  It was a big hit!

Doesn't this look wonderful?!!  So delicious and very simple! Recipe below.*

But, I have an even better husband then one who just makes dinner!  Mine broke out a book and made me a beautiful and tasty Cosmo!! Who needs a bartender when you have a husband like that ?!!!

Serves 4-5
8oz bacon(8 slices)cut  1 inch thick crosswise)
Coarse salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta
3 large eggs
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup half and half

1.  Bring pot of water to boil.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Transfer to towel lined plate.
2.  Salt boiling water, add pasta and cook until al dente.
3.  In large bowl, whisk eggs, parmesan and half and half . Set aside.
4.  Drain Pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Add hot pasta to egg mixture.  Add bacon, season with
     salt and pepper and toss to combine.  (the heat from the pasta will cook eggs)Serve immediately with
     extra parmesan cheese.

Bon Appetit!

Good News: I am saving more money tonight! Bad news....

We're not going out tonight :(.  Our plans have fallen through.  Our friends are sick and we've decided to postpone until we are all healthy.  I still would like to go out tonight but it doesn't really fit into my plan of only going out to dinner for an occasion.  Fortunately I have a husband that has stepped up.  He's just gone out to the grocery store after perusing all my cookbooks.  I am not sure what dinner is going to be (or if it is going to edible:)) but I know I am not in charge!  We'll see what the night brings.....

January 8, 2010

Do you like my new Blog Design?

Doesn't it look great!?  I am thrilled with how it came out!  A big thank you to Lyndsay and Sarah at Beautify My Blog (see their button on the sidebar).  They really "spruced me up"!! :) I am very excited to have a new home to blog in.  And, now I can keep track of my savings so hopefully, we will be even more motivated to cook and save.  I've got some plans to keep me on track in the next couple of weeks including my niece Lisa coming to visit and cook with us and taking my blog on the road to do some cooking with friends!  So stay tuned for our adventures in cooking!

No Friday Night Takeout?!!!

So, it's my first Friday night in this new world.  No eating out and no takeout on Friday night.  I don't know about you, but I have always hated to cook on Friday nights.  It always seems like the start of the weekend, time to kick back, order out and relax.  But of course, that's not happening anymore. So, I've decided that Friday nights need to be simple, easy dinners (and everyone else does the cleanup!).  While I was working on dinner I got a little sidetracked and decided to make Banana Chocolate Chip Bread for my kids so they would have a good snack when they came home.  It came out great - I love my recipe, it even has yogurt in it so we can pretend it is a health food! :)  Of course, they weren't the only ones snacking on it; unfortunately I got a little too into it .  Did I say it was yummy?!*recipe below

So now it was 4:00 and I still did not have a meal plan in place.  Fortunately, a bell went off and I was saved.  Well, not really a bell, but the phone rang.  My wonderful neighbor Jeanne called to say she was making zucchini pie, had too much and did I want half? You cannot imagine how thrilled I was by this!! This was better then takeout!!!! :)  So, I decided to make some quick cheese steaks to go with it.  Easy and hearty enough for my boys.  Ran to the butcher, got some wonderful thin sliced beef and I was set.  All I had to do was saute some onions and peppers and dinner was ready!  ( I ended up using round hard rolls as that's what I had in, but there were no complaints)

So, it is 7:30 and here I am, plopped(emphasis on plopped!) on the couch while my husband cleans the kitchen!  (The kids all have a better social life then we do and ran off to their plans).  No one seems any worse for eating in tonight and we are a little closer to our savings goal!

Banana Bread(makes a big loaf, or  I sometimes make it in a cake pan to add a little excitement!)

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 mashed very ripe bananas - at least 1 1/2cup
1/4 yogurt(nonfat or lowfat)
2 large eggs - room temperature
6 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour loaf or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt in bowl, set aside.
Mix the mashed banana, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla together in bowl.  Fold lightly into the the flour mixture,just until mixed.  ( This is where I add chips - I don't like too many so I use about 1/2 cup)
Bake about 55 mins until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 mins and then move to wire rack.  Yummy warm or room temperature!  No chocolate chips?  Great with strawberry jam! :)


Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom, Ann Searing's, 82nd birthday!  I am a lucky girl, because I have the best mom in the whole world.  I write that with conviction; I have lived and seen a lot and nobody has a better mom then me. (And of course, my brother and sisters, but I am the favorite!) Can you tell I am the baby in the family? :)

Some of my newfound savings mentality definitely comes from my parents.  We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but it always felt like we had plenty.  No one could make a dollar go further then my mom and dad.  To this day, I think they could tell us where every penny they have has gone.  Maybe its finally started to rub off on me?

My mom has given me a lot more then a way to save money.  She has always been there for me. Even now, as I grown woman I call her for advice.  And she is one tough cookie.  She's been through a lot including breast cancer and 2 broken hips(35 years apart, no less).  She's taught me and my siblings by example how to live life and stay strong.  She's raised 4 successful children and has 5 grandchildren that absolutely adore her.  She has friends that she's known since she was a little girl and friends that she met last year.  She is an avid reader ; I sometimes think they'll run out of books for her to read!

On this special day, for those that know her(and even those who don't) please wish my mom a happy birthday in the comment section!

Happy, Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you a lot !!

January 7, 2010

Smooth or Chunky?

No, not peanut butter.  Applesauce!

Tonight was leftovers from our "Thanksgiving Dinner" last night.  Turkey Sandwiches were on the menu, which worked out well because we all seemed to eat in shifts.  I had a little sandwich bar going with breads,turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing(or as some call it, dressing). Some of us got a little piggy:

To add a little excitement, I made some homemade Applesauce.  We are chunky people in my house(I'm not referring to our bodies, I'm referring to our applesauce)!  And I would say, light on the chunky scale.  I make it by coring as many different types of apples as I can find and throwing them into a pot with a couple of tablespoons of water.  Cover and cook until soft.  Then I put them all through a great ricer that I have(which is like a sieve with a press on it).  With the skins on until the end the applesauce gets some nice pink color to it.  If we're in the mood for really chunky, I cook them the Martha Stewart way:  peel, core and cut into chunks.  Cook until soft and then just mash with a big spoon.  Sometimes if I am really feeling wild, I'll add a little lemon rind and honey.  But, anyway, the applesauce was a hit tonight! When I came home from a meeting the empty bowl was sitting on the counter.  Why know one could put it in the dishwasher is another story!  So, for those wondering about the finished product, here it is:

If you haven't made applesauce, you are missing out on one of life's yummy pleasures!! So easy and I promise you, there will be an empty bowl on your counter too!

Why changing one thing in your life can change your whole life...

I read on Twitter one day that a man made one change in his diet(gave up sugar) and lost 40lbs.  His point was that you didn't need a complete diet change, one change could do it all. I am beginning to think my "cooking to save" is my one thing that changes everything.  I am suddenly conscious of everything I spend my money on. You have to understand, I am a spender! I love to shop and always have.  My kids drawers are stuffed with clothes.   Previously,  I wouldn't have cared. Now... it seems unnecessary.  Maybe its the times, the recession.  More likely though, I think it is my mindful cooking for a purpose that has me re-evaluating where I spend my money.  I totally realize that I am lucky to have money to spend.  But suddenly, it doesn't seem as enjoyable.  Right now I want to spend my money purposely, only when I need to or when I evaluate something as being worth the splurge, be it a dinner or a new coat.  What's shocking is that I am coming to understand that spending mindfully is so much more fun then just spending indiscriminately.

What's your one thing that might change your life?  Start small.... you never know where it might take you...

January 6, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tonight was Thanksgiving Dinner at our house.  Unfortunately, some of the "guests" did not show up.  By guests, I mean my husband, Mart and my oldest son, Ryan.  I was all set to cook the turkey today.  On his way out this morning, Ryan mentioned he wouldn't be home for dinner.  Yearbook meeting.  Way more important then my dinner.  I was still ok, figured that 4 out of 5 of us wouldn't be terrible.  Then about noon, the phone rang. My husband calling to say he was going out with some clients.  My first thought: THIS IS WHY I DON'T COOK!!!!!   But, seeing this is the new me, I plodded along.  A huge turkey breast went into the oven, I made some stuffing, some mashed potatoes and some broccoli(you've got to have something healthy in there).  I even broke out a can of cranberry jelly for Will who loves the stuff.  And so, at 6:15 tonight, my twins and I had Thanksgiving.   The good news about Thanksgiving... you know there's leftovers!!!  Can you guess what tomorrow night's dinner is ?

Since my dinner was fairly basic, I decided I needed a small dessert to go with it.  I am not a huge dessert maker.  A pie, some brownies, maybe a tart once a year.  That's about my repertoire!  (My sister, Beth has always been the cake-maker in our family, so I've never needed to master that skill!) I made a pound cake out of a Williams Sonoma Cookbook my sister-inlaw Gayle had given me years ago.Well, at least I started making it, then realized that I couldn't find my loaf pan.  I am 5'1", my husband is 6'4". When he empties the dishwasher things disappear onto shelves I will never see in my lifetime.  So, in the midst of mixing I had to run down to my neighbor Jeanne's for a pan.  It sure seemed like a lot of work for a little cake.  It was yummy though.  The kids put a scoop of ice cream on it and loved it! (see recipe below- very easy!)

I am still looking for a cheese fondue recipe!!

And finally, I will be "fixing up" my blog in the next few days - I've been told it's ugly. :(  Who knew green was not a good blog color?

Pound Cake
(from Williams- Sonoma Dessert)

1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs at room temp.
1/2 cup sour cream at room temp

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease 8/12 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.
In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, using a mixer on medium, beat butter, sugar, vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until blended.  Add half flour mix and fold in.  Then add sour cream.  Finally, still in other half of flour mixture.

Pour into pan and bake about 70 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out dry.  Cool on rack for 15 mins.  Run knife around sides and invert cake out of pan.  Let cake finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or room temperature.
Great with a cup of tea on a cold winter's night!  (And it's cold everywhere right now!)