Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

I DID write up a meal plan last week.  On the back of an envelope while the littles dilly-dallied over their lunches.  And then I lost it.  I know for sure that we ate pasta with vegetable cream sauce (mushrooms, peppers, yellow squash, onions, garlic, white wine, Parmesan, and just a touch of cream), corn griddle cakes with baked talapia, and sloppy joes with lots of onions and peppers. 

Wednesday- Baked pasta with sausage and kale in chipotle cream sauce.  A riff on this recipe.

Thursday- Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and green onions.  Roasted beets.  Roasted chicken with lemon.

Friday- Tabbouleh.  Moroccan spiced meatballs.  Tzatziki.

Saturday- Baked zucchini.  Chicken salad sandwiches.

Sunday- Crustless quiche with garlic and spinach.  Raw bell peppers with leftover tzatziki for dip.

Monday- Chicken noodle soup.  Bread.

Tuesday- Crock pot roast beef with onions, carrots, and potatoes.  Broccoli salad.

I'll work on getting my activity advent calendar posted.  Are you doing anything special for advent this year?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Menu Plan, uh, Thursday?

For those of you who read my blog and aren't friends of mine IRL (anybody?  Nope?  Just checking.) or who haven't been paying attention recently, I had a baby.  He's a boy.  We're both doing super.  And my mom was here for a while, but then she left, and I remembered WHY I started doing meal plans to begin with. 

You see, for the past 9 months, I've had 2 reasonably cooperative children.  Advance meal planning has been a nicety, not a necessity, because I could start throwing something together with no real plan in mind at 5:30 PM and still have a decent meal finished when The Hubby walked in the door at 6..  Now I've got a newborn again, and if I don't start thinking about dinner before 10 AM, there will be no dinner.  Also, I can't keep track of any thought for more than 30 seconds, so written reminders of what we're eating are paramount.

Without further ado, then, here is the menu for this week.

Thursday- Pasta with garlic and kale.  Buns.

Friday- Stir fry with cabbage, beef, and green onions.  Black rice, because The Gibbon says the black rice is tasty, but brown rice is not. 

Saturday- Chili in the crock pot. Crackers.

Sunday- Baba ghanoush and humus with bell peppers, cucumbers, and bread sticks.

Monday- Homemade salsa verde, roasted chicken, cornbread, raw carrot and celery sticks.

Tuesday- Oven baked homemade macaroni and cheese.  Possibly whole wheat?  Frozen peas.

Wednesday- Crock pot sausage, kale, and bean soup.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Things to Learn and Do

I said last week that the family had sat down and come up with a list of things to learn and do during the next school year. For points of reference: The Gibbon is 4, turning 5 in January.  He taught himself to read last winter with and has good comprehension, although he's still very slow.  He has also so far shown minimal interest in drawing, coloring, or writing.  The Sparrow turned 2 this summer.  She loves to listen to stories, sing, and get her hands messy.  The Baby is due in October, so I'm not sure what all I'm going to accomplish, based on temperament and what-not of the new addition.

The Gibbon
Write all the letters
Spell my name
Add numbers less than 10
Recognize numbers up to 999
Tell time 
Pop wheelies on my bike
Try to be in a circus
Do a headstand
Climb trees
Cook on the stove
Make waffles and oatmeal for breakfast
Build a rocket with Dad

The Sparrow
Mix in the kitchen
Cut with scissors
Glue things
Name 16 colors
Count 10 objects

Plan a decent garden
Set up a big-kid bedroom for The Gibbon and The Sparrow
Submit foster parent application
Work at least 2 hours a week for pay starting in January
Paint and organize the basement play space and craft room

All of us together
Read 60 classic fairy/folk tales
Memorize 10 poems

What are you learning and doing this year?

P.S. For the record, our Something New on Monday was a trip to the splash park with Daddy and Auntie A.  Good times were had by all.  Except maybe The Sparrow, who was not inclined to actually get wet above her knees, thank you very much.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's a new school year!

Howdy folks!  Did you have a fantastic summer?  Today was the first day back at school for kids in our district.  Mind you, that doesn't include any of my kids, as The Gibbon is still only four, and the district rule is that you have to be five before the first day of school to start kindergarten.  What about preschool, you ask?  I've found that saying, "We've decided not to send The Gibbon to preschool," results in arguments from some people and silent judgement from others.  So my standard reply is, "We're homeschooling preschool." 

Here's the thing, because parents around here push for it, the preschools tend to be more academic leaning.  Except for the really-really-really pricy ones.  We can't afford a really expensive play-based preschool, and I don't actually want to pay anything for a dubiously beneficial academic-based program.  I figure, since I'm a reasonably engaged parent with a reasonable number of resources at my disposal, "homeschooling preschool" and "being the stay-at-home parent of my preschool children" are probably basically the same thing.

Sample curriculum!  Observing the vegetables available at our local supermarket and touching the ones we are going to buy (literacy, math, tactile processing, and health/nutrition).  Picking up the toys before vacuuming the carpet (sequencing, motor control, and cooperation).  Jumping on the bed and yelling while intermittently turning the radio on and off.(creative thinking, gross motor skills, and auditory processing).  What a well rounded program I'm running here!

No, seriously.  The Littles and I talked about what we'd each like to learn and do this school year so that we would be sure to cover all the basics.  And we're also starting up Something New Day again.  We did Something New Day from August through maybe April last year, and The Gibbon has been asking to bring it back.  The basic premiss is that on Mondays we do something we've never done before.  It doesn't have to be big or complicated, but it has to be new.  Last year we introduced new art supplies (colored pencils one week, big sheets of tag board another), tried new activities (making an obstacle course, painting on the sidewalk), did old things in a new way (eating dinner on the front lawn, wearing our clothes backwards), ate new foods (cheese fondu, pepper jelly) and occasionally even went new places (a playground we walked to, a museum).  A few things were big hits and went into the regular rotation of what we do around here.  But mostly it was good entertainment for me to come up with the New things, and the kids both enjoyed having something special planned for every Monday.

Today, The Gibbon ran the blender and we made our first ever granata.  Watermelon granata.  It was supposed to be Watermelon Sorbet, but after The Gibbon stirred it all in the ice cream maker for 30 minutes, it became abundantly clear that something was wrong with our ice cream maker, and the sorbet would never ever be frozen.  So we improvised.  And we froze the watermelon slurry in ice cube trays before mashing it with forks, because I figured that would make it freeze faster.  I was totally right.  Also, it was delicious.  Something New!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Toys for the car

Or, what I packed on my 60 hour road trip to Alberta, Canada.

I was really, really nervous about taking a 60 hour, 6 day car trip with my 2 and 4 year old children.  In retrospect, it wasn't so bad, but the anxiety I had leading up to the trip led me to make list upon list of things to pack.  Of course there were clothing and toiletries, diapers and the little potty for the newly potty trained Sparrow, dozens of kid's books, a DVD player with plenty of cartoon movies, and more snacks than you could possibly justify.

But I also packed toys.  The Sparrow isn't much into movies.  And the books that hold her attention tend to be little 5-minute stories that she wants you to read over and over and over and over.  Would you like my giant obsessive compulsive list of toys for the car?  Even if you don't want it, I'd like to record it so the next time we undertake this kind of delightful family togetherness, I've already got the list compiled.  Also, my notes on what worked.

1. A doll or stuffed animal for each kid
2. A magnetic lap tray for each child (In retrospect, we really only needed one at a time.  However, having *A* tray was immensely handy not only for toys and coloring, but also for making and serving meals in the car.)
3. Lots of paper (construction, lined, printer, watercolor)
4. Scissors
5. Crayons (Not markers this trip.  The Sparrow loses the caps like nobody's business.)
6. A dozen sheets of stickers.
7. Homemade I Spy bottle with 34 items and 10 letters
8. A set of magnets with colors, numbers, and shapes.  Maybe 50 magnets total.
9. Rubber stamps (The self-contained stamps were ok, although a bit messy.  The stamp pad was a disaster.  The Gibbon enjoyed it for maybe 3 minutes, and The Sparrow dyed her hands, face, outfit, and car seat blue.  Maybe for older kids, but never again for preschoolers.)
10. Fancy colored Duct Tape (The Gibbon likes to just cut inch long pieces and stick them on paper.)
11. Construction trucks.
12. Little People and their vehicles.
13. Playdough and a few tools to work it. (It definitely keeps the kids occupied for a good length of time, but it crumbles and makes a mess.  I had enough else that I didn't actually get it out of the bag.  Plastic modeling clay will probably be my choice for the future.)
14. LED flashlights.
15. Bubbles (Another idea that didn't go so well.  The kids wanted to hold the bubbles, and that always results in a mess.  So they alternately popped the bubbles I blew and whined that they weren't holding the wand.)
16. Magnifying glass.
17. Clips (I had bulldog paper clips, hair clips, clothes pins, and mini-carabiners.  They clipped themselves, their clothes, their car seats, their hair, and me.  Good times.)
18. Toy doctor kit.
19. Coloring books and preschool worksheets.
20. Post-it notes.  (The Sparrow enjoyed removing each post-it from the stack and handing them to me. The Gibbon enjoyed drawing on the notes and sticking them to things.  I also drew simple shapes or sketches on the notes and hung them on the window after the kids guessed what they were.  We got almost an hour of play out of a $1 stack of post-its.  Totally a win.)
21. Paint rollers and brushes.  (No paint, just the rollers and brushes.  My kids both like to pretend paint.  "What color do you want, Mom?  Dip, Dip, Dip.  I paint your hand blue.")
22. Magnetic drawing pad (Like the Magna Doodle, only generic).
23. Lacing shapes.
24. Dinosaur toys.
25. Pony beads.
26. Pipe Cleaners (These were used for stringing the above mentioned pony beads, but The Sparrow also enjoyed taking them out of and putting them into their package.  Subsequent to the trip we've used them to make fabulous accessories.  Pipe cleaner glasses are awesome.)
27. Pom Poms (Because they're basically balls, but you can't hurt anyone with them.  We played tiny games of catch, blew them on the trays, treated them as fuzzy pets, and of course put them into and took them out of their package.)
28. Dollar store plastic shot glasses.  (For stacking, pretend cooking, and putting pom poms into.)
29. Shape sorter (Didn't get enough play value for the amount of space it took up.  I'd skip it in the future.)
30. A magnetic door puzzle.
31. Calculator (Doubles as a pretend phone and a "find the number" game.)
32. A dozen Easter Eggs stuffed with random tiny toys.  (The Sparrow, being two, likes to open and dump stuff.  Have you noticed that trend yet?)
33. Playing cards. (The Gibbon is old enough for War and Old Maid.)
34. Scrabble ties.  (The Gibbon is also reading and learning to spell.  So these were good fun for him.)
35. Plastic laces.  (You could use these to string pony beads instead of pipe cleaners.  Or you could simply tie them in knots or threaten your siblings with them.)
36. Hole puncher.  (Office supplies are awesome to preschoolers!)
37. Stapler (See #36.)
38. Staple remover. (See #36, again.)
39. Dice. (There are a million games you can play with a handful of dice.  We like to roll them and count.  To make that an actual game, you can say that when you roll doubles your turn is over and try to get the biggest number before then.  Or try to be the first to roll a 1 then a 2 then a 3.  Or just google "easy dice games" and find a few that suit you.)
40. Pirate action figures.  (These are the tiny guys, like you're used to seeing little soldiers.  We've also got football guys, although we didn't bring them on this trip.)
41. A wallet full of cards.  (We honestly used our store discount cards, some business cards, and one of my old student IDs.  But it would be truly awesome if you had a set of these.)
42. Two copies of this free printable travel game.  (The Sparrow got one set hole punched and on a ring.  The Gibbon got seven cards at a time and a snack when he found all seven items.)
43. Glow bracelets. (We used these the one day we ended up traveling after dark.  Good times.)

I was going to make a latch board, but I ran out of time.  Maybe next year.

What are your favorite toys for long road trips with the kids?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Conversation Openers

I have a friend who is taking a long road trip with her toddler, infant, husband, and mother-in-law this fall.  She's an old pro at the travel thing, so she's not stressing about the small people, but she is finding the prospect of 30 hours in the car with her MIL unpleasant.  Why?  Because she feels awkward staring out the window, entertaining her kids, and ignoring the other grown-ups in the car.  But her MIL feels no compulsion to even attempt conversation. 

Now on my recent 60 hour road trip with my preschooler and toddler, I brought 60 toys.  The idea was that every hour, I could bust a new toy out of the bag.  Granted, most of the toys were simply packed from our copious toy, craft, and office supply collections.  But having something "new" every hour provided a modicum of excitement and anticipation.  If the kids were playing, eating, or sleeping happily, I didn't bother interrupting them, so many of the toys didn't make their appearance at the beginning of the hour at all.  And I certainly didn't need 60 toys, because the kids slept for at least 90 minutes every day anyway.  But, I felt good having a bag of tricks in reserve, and as every parent knows, kids tend play longer with the single toy available than they do with any given toy in a group of options.  So even the things that wouldn't have been good for more than 5 minutes at home stretched out to 10 or even 20 when presented all alone as *the* new toy for this hour.

What do the previous paragraphs have in common?  I've suggested to my friend having a new topic of conversation for each hour of the trip.  She can bust them out when the kids are eating, playing, or sleeping happily and she starts to feel awkward sitting in silence with her MIL.  If the MIL does her part, they can chit-chat for a while on any given topic, and if she doesn't, my friend can feel she's done her best to be sociable and happily settle back to look out the window until the kids need her attention again.

In the interest of being a good friend (read: Because I am obsessive compulsive), I've even done the mental work of coming up with a list of topics to start conversations with an older relative.  Feel free to use them any way you'd like.

  1. Childhood pets: Did you have them?  Did your kids have them?  Should kids in general have them?
  2. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  3. Memorable food: Holiday or special occasion meals, travel food, the best thing you’ve ever eaten, your favorite go-to recipes.
  4. Baby & toddler milestones: when did your kids reach them? 
  5. Favorite TV shows OR why you don’t watch TV.
  6. Ideas for making family occasions memorable.
  7. Your plans for coping with more extreme weather.
  8. Most and least favorite sports to watch and play.
  9. Doping in professional sports.
  10. Is the Internet destroying reading?  What about magazines?
  11. Read any good books lately?
  12. Opinions of ethnic foods.  Which do you enjoy, not enjoy, and why?
  13. How to choose clothing.  Philosophy and practical application.  Both for yourself and for kids.
  14. Wine, beer, break, cheese, or pickle making.  Pros and cons of making vs. buying.  Personal experiences.
  15. Memories of school. 
  16. How to think about school for today’s children.  Public, private, home school, and why or what to consider.  The state of education.
  17. How to feed children.  Philosophy and practical application.
  18. Travel: Do you enjoy it?  What parts?  Why or why not?
  19. Tiny homes: 400 sq ft apartments in NY and San Francisco, Tumbleweed Tiny Houses from 130 to 500 sq ft.  What do you think?  What would you put in one?
  20. Collections: Do you or did you ever have one?  What or why not?
  21. Dating and courtship: How you met, dated, fell in love with your husband.  Philosophy on dating and courtship in general.
  22. The perfect day, if you were going to live it over and over like the movie Groundhog Day.
  23. Jobs: Best, worst, your first, your perfect.
  24. Technology: Your opinion of tech in general.  What you love and hate of new tech.
  25. Amazing places you’ve been.
  26. Things you are proud of. 
  27. Opinions of GMO crops.
  28. Is peace possible in the Middle East?  How?
  29. Should the US use capital punishment?
  30. Games you’ve enjoyed.  What games did you play with your kids?  What games did you play as a child?
  31. If time and money were no object, where in the world would you like to try living?
  32. A place you’d like to visit but have never been.
  33. Worst fashion trends.
  34. Your and your children’s favorite toys at different ages and stages.
  35. Five words to describe you.  Five words to describe other people in your family.
  36. What do you think of cooking shows?  Celebrity chefs?  Food as entertainment in general?
  37. Opinions on Global Warming.  Is it a thing?  What should be done?
  38. Have you traveled internationally?  If not, why?  If yes, where did you go and what did you learn?
  39. Race relations in the US: George Zimmerman, Detroit, how to raise children to respect other races.
  40. College: Did you go?  Is it worth the cost?  Will it continue to have the same significance in the future as it does now?
  41. Energy security in the US.  Fracking, peak oil, alternative energy, green initiatives, your family’s relationship with energy.
  42. Domestic auto makers: the bail out, the direction they are headed now, what to consider when buying a car.
  43. Medications and kids: When they’re justified during illness, overmedicating ADHD, teens abusing prescription meds.
  44. Favorite movies: Recently? Of all time?
  45. What are your most precious possessions?  Do you own any heirlooms?  Are heirlooms or antiques important?
  46. Favorite children’s books.
  47. Hobbies: Which do you enjoy now?  Which have you enjoyed in the past?  Any that you’ve considered but never attempted?
  48. Your memories of family life that you hope your children remember too.
  49. What values did you try to instill in your children?  Do you feel they exemplify those values?
  50. What kinds of music do you hate?  Why?
Do you have any suggestions for further topics?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meal Plan Together!

So here's a sample of menu planning.  It's a little stream-of-consciousness.  But that's the way I roll.

Do you have a system?  Maybe I should be learning something from you.

Leftover fresh produce from last week: a tiny head of broccoli, a huge bowl of coleslaw, a head of lettuce (on rapid decline), avocados, 1 jalapeno.

Household staple fresh produce I am almost never without: Onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes.

What was cheap this week: ancient red sweet peppers (thinner flesh than bell peppers, but similar taste), tomatillos, tiny Indian eggplants, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn on the cob.

Reading my list I think, there's got to be a Mexican dish in there (tomatillos, tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapeno, and avocado lend themselves to Mexican), and I should make a salad (lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes can do salad).

I also defrosted a chicken yesterday, so that's gotta go on the menu ASAP.

Thursday is hot, so crock pot the chicken.  And corn is best right away.  Might as well use the coleslaw up.  Add mashed potatoes, and put some barbeque seasoning on the chicken.  American classic.  Done.

Sunday is a business meeting potluck. Sandwich theme means condiments, toppings, or sides.  I like to bring veggies, because I care if they're there.  How's about pickled stuff... Pickled carrots and dill pickles.

Salad something to use up the lettuce.  Leftover chicken for the protein.  Some kind of bread?  Oh!  Pasta salad instead.  On a bed of lettuce.  With some of everything vegetable and leftover chicken and a balsamic vinaigrette.  That's Friday.

Something Mexican with those tomatillos and the jalapeno.  That would be tasty with Mexican rice and refried beans.  Maybe ground beef or tortillas, too.  But I don't have any cilantro, so that limits things a bit.  How about Avocado and Roasted Tomatillo Soup?  With rice and beans?  Yes.  Tortillas, yes.  Ground beef, no.  Beans will be enough protein.  Let's schedule for Monday, because we have people coming over.

Indian eggplants.  I did curry last Tuesday, so maybe a Chinese preparation.  Chinese needs rice, too, so it can't go the day before or after Mexican.  No tofu in the house, so defrost pork chops.  Stir fry.  There are a zillion recipes for Chinese Eggplant.  Just add finely diced pork.  Saturday.

Still a lot of sweet peppers, probably.  Italian.  Pasta.  Sausage?  Sure.  Pasta with sausage and peppers in creamy white wine sauce.  Wednesday. 

Main dish celery?  A gratin?  Those all have heavy cream.  Maybe something with cheese instead.  Google celery and cheese main dish, Braised Celery with Cheese and Onion Sauce is the third result.  Ignore all the pretentiousness in the intro, it sounds tasty.  Still, no starch, and only cheese for protein.  And I'd have to adapt it to the crock pot, 'cuz it's too hot for the oven.  Try Googling celery main dish recipe.  New York Times article!  Let's do Wild Rice Salad with Celery and Walnuts.  Fresh fruit. Cheese cubes.  What day is left?  Tuesday?

So that's...
Thursday- Crock pot bbq chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and coleslaw.

Friday- Mixed vegetable salad with chicken and balsamic vinaigrette.

Saturday- Stir Fried Chinese Eggplant and Pork.

Sunday- Quick picked carrots and dill pickles for business meeting.

Monday- Avocado and roasted tomatillo soup.  Mexican rice.  Refried beans.

Tuesday- Wild rice salad with Celery and Walnuts.  Fresh fruit.  Cheese cubes.

Wednesday- Pasta with sausage and peppers in creamy white wine sauce.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to meal plan

This post is by way of apology.  Our summer thus far has just been weird.  I've been grocery shopping on unusual days, and hitting two different stores on two different days, and having our schedule change randomly and unpredictably.  So I haven't been menu planning the way I should.  So, because I can't promise I'll do better about planning the menu a week in advance and posting here the way I try to, I will instead endeavor to expand your wallet and shrink your waistline with my meal planning strategy.

For point of reference, we buy organic, ethical meat from a CSA and conventional produce from local grocery stores.  The USDA publishes food spending data based on family size and makeup, and our family of 4 with one on the way spends about as much in a month as the average thrifty family spends in a week.  Ready?  Let's go!

First the tips: 

Base your meals around fresh produce.  A lot of people complain about how expensive produce is.  Ok, it's true that you can get more calories of potato chips than broccoli for a dollar, but the nutritional bang for your buck on veggies can't be beat.

Stock your freezer with meat.  If you buy what's on sale, you'll be limiting yourself to 1 or 2 types of meat each week.  If you buy what you want, you'll be spending an arm and a leg.  If you don't want to buy from a supermarket, frozen is your only option.  Having the meat in the freezer lets you focus on your veggies.

Endeavor to use less meat in each meal.  A serving of meat is 4 ounces before cooking.  That means the average hamburger at a sit-down restaurant is 2 servings of ground beef.  We buy ethical meat these days, so it's more expensive than the supermarket, but with a few meatless meals and the rest of them less meat, we work on a very frugal budget. 

Avoid prepared foods.  If it's got more than three ingredients on the label, it's not an ingredient.  It's a prepared food.  Prepared foods typically cost more for the convenience of not having to make something yourself.  They are also typically highly processed, and therefore nutritional wastelands.  Not gonna lie, there are a few prepared foods I use a lot (pasta, I'm looking at you), but they are far outnumbered by whole foods I prepare myself.

Honestly assess your family eating habits.  Know what things you like to eat, what things you like to cook, and what you don't enjoy.  Knowing your preferences lets you know what to have on hand.  Which leads to the next point...

Don't run out of your staples.  If you often cook rice, stock up when it's on sale, and always have some rice in your cupboard.  If you love peas, keep a few extra bag of frozen peas at all times. 

Then the weekly to-do list:

1) If you live in an area where there are lots of competing grocery stores, shop the sales fliers.  If you have all the time and energy in the world, you can go everywhere.  Otherwise, check out my post on how to decide which store to visit.

2) Buy whatever produce is on sale or perpetually cheap in quantities your family will eat.  As a general rule, I don't buy it if it costs more than $1.00 a pound.  But don't buy a lot of something just because it's cheap.  I never buy more than one bunch of lettuce or 5 radishes.  We just won't eat more than that.  Mushrooms or cauliflower, however, I will buy a metric ton.  Those we eat.

3) As you put your groceries away, make yourself a quick list of the produce you bought this week that you plan to use for dinner.  I currently don't plan breakfast, lunch, or snacks ahead of time.  Fruit generally gets eaten at those times, and some veggies go to those meals, so I don't put them on my list.

4) Assign every produce item a protein and a starch.  You can do this basically randomly if you stock a variety of starches as staples and keep your freezer full of meat.  Or you can do it based on some sensibility.  Say, cabbage is great for Asian, so add chicken and rice with the plan do do something Asian.

5) Use cookbooks, Internet searches, quizzing of your family members, or your brilliant creativity to make each veggie-protein-starch combination into a one-dish meal or main dish with side dishes.

6) Write your recipe plans down, lest you forget them.  Assign each one to a day of the week.

7) Done!  Treat yourself to some cucumber slices.  Or a cookie.

Shall we do a sample problem?  Deal!  Tune in tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Another bonus week!  What the really means is that I forgot to post last week's plan, so you get them both today.  Yay!   Well, except for last week Wednesday, because I didn't write it down, and I've completely forgotten what we ate.

th- Black bean and sweet potato chili.  Cornbread.  Cucumber slices.

f- Turkey meatballs in Moroccan spiced tomato sauce.  Salmon hash.  Quick pickled carrots.

s- Italian veggies and ricotta over brown rice.

su- Baked potatoes done up as taco salad.

m- Auntie A organized dinner.  Hamburgers and sweet corn on the grill. Deli potato and broccoli salads.

t- Split pea soup.  Bread.

Wednesday- Homemade pizza.  Marinated bell pepper salad.

Thursday- Eggs Benedict a la Grandma.  Steamed green beans.  

Friday- Roasted chicken.  Roasted potatoes with garlic, feta and lemon.  Sweet corn.  Broccoli salad (the old fashioned kind with bacon and raisins).

Saturday- Asian lettuce wraps.  You can find a million recipes online for these handy things, but they aren't hard to fake.  Basically, chop whatever veggies and meat you have on hand into pea sized pieces.  Then stir fry with harmonious Asian seasonings (Chinese = 5 spice powder, soy sauce, rice vinegar.  Thai = fish sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce.  Japanese = mirin, ginger, dark sesame oil.  Everybody loves garlic, onions, or scallions.  Be creative.)  Wrap your tasty mix in lettuce leaves, the same way you would wrap up a taco in a tortilla.  Eat.  

Sunday- Caponata overnight in the crock pot.  Bread.  Broccoli salad with lemon and garlic.  Caponata is basically the Sicilian version of ratatouille, so eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes stewed up together.   It skips ratatouille's zucchini and adds olives, but essentially it's pretty forgiving technique-wise, as it's stew.

Monday- Fettuccine alfredo with zucchini ribbons.  (Because people make faux-fettuccine out of zucchini, but why stop there?  I'm no on Akins!  I could go for some real pasta, too!)   Lettuce salad.   

Tuesday- Chicken soup with chayote squash & chipotle in adobo.  Mexican rice, refried beans, and tortillas if I have the energy to do them.

Also, I've edited my bread recipe with a few notes.  So feel free to check that out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- Amazing Cauliflower Curry over Slippery Rice Noodles.  Oh, I wish I had a recipe for you.  I used the cream from a can of coconut milk in the dal I made last week, so I used just the milk and both a little curry powder and a little more Thai red curry paste to make curry with waxy red potatoes, onions, and a whole lotta cauliflower.  I topped everything with cilantro.  It was magnificent.  The Gibbon refused to even taste it until he had eaten a huge mound of noodles.  After trying a bite, however, he ate four bowls full.

Thursday- T-bone steak, sweet potatoes, and potatoes on the grill.  Coleslaw.  The steak was wonderful.  The potatoes were burned to death.  We need to work on technique, apparently.

Friday- Grandma is coming!

Saturday- Crock pot spinach, zucchini, and mushroom lasagna.  Salad?  Bread?  Either today or tomorrow I'll need to bake.

Sunday- Caramelized Vidalia onion focaccia.  Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Maybe more Vidalia onions in the salad.  That sounds yummy.  Guess what was on sale this week?

Monday- Turkey meatballs.  Pasta with broccoli cream pesto.  Loosely based on this recipe.  A raw vegetable, depending on what's still in the fridge.

Tuesday- Chicken with Cauliflower and Olives, based on this recipe.  Also roasted potatoes, which makes it totally not a "Paleo" meal.  But I like potatoes, so there.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Since I totally neglected to post a meal plan last week, I'm sort of obligated to be more on the ball this week.  Rest assured, we ate pasta no fewer than 4 times.  Because when I don't have a plan, it's either variations on a grilled cheese sandwich or pasta.  And as we no longer buy tortillas (so sad), there aren't a lot of grilled cheese options these days.

Wednesday- A long ER visit necessitated take out burgers.  At 9 PM.  So fun.

Thursday- Homemade chicken noodles soup.  Bread.  Fresh sliced cucumbers and orange peppers.

Friday- Wilted spinach salad with onion, feta cheese, and Polish sausage.  Loosely based on this recipe.    Cornbread muffins.

Saturday- Basic, boring dal.  Vegetarian vegetable curry.  I don't have a recipe in mind, but it will involve coconut milk and a lot of green and orange peppers, as I have those in the fridge, and a package of spice mix bought at the grocery store.  Because for just about a buck, I don't have to mix my own spices.  Bonus for ones with no salt added so you can adjust salt to your own preference.

Sunday- Mushroom Rice Pilaf and Braised Broccoli with Orange and Parmesan (recipe below).

Monday- Tacos.  Homemade tortillas (because, see above), Mexican rice, black beans, ground beef and onions seasoned with chili and cumin, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, no lettuce because I don't much like it.

Tuesday- The Gibbon really, really, really wants split pea soup.  I love The Gibbon, so I will make it one more time before it's too hot to even contemplate the dish.

Braised Broccoli with Orange and Parmesan
Liberally adapted from True Food by Andrew Weil

Cut two or three heads of broccoli into bite sized pieces.
Heat 1/2 cup orange juice and one 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes until boiling.  Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes and a substantially more generous pinch or oregano.
Add all the broccoli you cut up, or at least as much as you can fit in the pot.  Stir until the broccoli's covered in sauce, then put a lid on the pot and cook for maybe three minutes.  Only let it cook until the broccoli's bright green, it still needs a bit of crunch.
Take the pot off the heat and add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper a little bit at a time until your broccoli tastes amazing or is totally gone because you "tasted" it all.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Bake Bread!

I've had a request from a friend for help learning to bake bread.  First step, a recipe.  Actually, first step is taking a deep breath.  New bread bakers are often a worried lot.  You can spend days trolling The Fresh Loaf and intimidating yourself out of ever even starting, but it wouldn't be helpful.

Here's what you need to know: if you want a very specific result, both art and science come into play and you will need equipment like a kitchen scale.  If you just want something that is bread, that you can put butter on, or maybe make a sandwich with, there is a large margin for error.  Your bread will probably turn out just fine.  You will be able to eat it.

As a note, if you plan to make your own bread quite often, it's probably worth buying a stand mixer (like the ubiquitous KitchAid).  A hand mixer, like whatever you can buy at WalMart, will not do the trick.  The dough will destroy it, and you will feel annoyed.  If making bread is just a sometimes thing for you, or if you're not sure how committed you are, don't feel the need for a couple hundred dollar piece of equipment.  You can use old fashioned elbow grease to kneed.  And some people even discover that the manual kneeding is their favorite part.

Another note, you don't need oil or sugar, but the sugar and oil both help with the texture of the bread, and the oil keeps it from getting stale for an extra few days.

A few more notes (oh man, so many notes).  1) I measure by scooping my measuring cup into the flour and then leveling it off.  I probably get 20% more flour in each "cup" by using that technique than someone spooning the flour in and then leveling it off.   2)  If your dough is too wet, it won't rise properly.  If your dough is too dry, it won't rise properly.  Either way, you'll be able to eat it, but it won't be quite so light and fluffy.  Honestly, the amount of flour I use any given week varies by as much as 1/3 cup.   If your dough is too wet, you can keep kneading it and it will eventually come together, or you can add more flour.  Eventually you'll get a feel for how wet of a dough you can get away with, but until then, aim for "smooth ball" instead of "sticky mass."

Everybody Loves My Buns

1 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup oil
1 tsp salt

While you make breakfast for yourself (and the kids, if applicable), throw the first 4 ingredients together and stir them to combine.  Let this goopy mess sit on the counter for 20 minutes or more while you eat and clean up breakfast.  This is called autolyzing.  It saves you from having to mix until the gluten forms nice long strands.  If you don't have 20 minutes, mix it at high speed for 5 minutes or so until when you pull the beater out of the bowl, looooong strands of dough stretch drippily down.

Add the last three ingredients and mix well.  Once everything comes together, if you don't have a stand mixer, you'll need to kneed.  Otherwise, let the mixer do the heavy work for you, while you stand around with a cup of coffee in your hand and a toddler on your hip (or whatever else suits your fancy).

Once the dough has come together in a nice, smooth ball (which will take more or less time depending on how wet the dough is), it needs to rise.  Leave it in the mixing bowl, or put it in any container not made of aluminum or iron.  Loosely cover it up with something to keep the moisture in.  A shower cap works well, or a kitchen towel or a lid would be fine too.  Let it sit someplace nice and warm for 2 hours or until it's doubled in size.  I usually just leave it until after naps.

Shape the dough into buns or a loaf.  Cover it again and let it rise for another hour or more.  I just let it sit until I need to bake it for dinner.  In an oven preheated to 350 degrees, buns take about 15 to 20 minutes and a loaf of bread takes 40 to 50 minutes. 

Eat hot, or let cool and store in a plastic bag like the one leftover from the last loaf of bread you bought.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- Pasta with broccoli dijon sauce.  This was not great, but we didn't get home from grocery shopping until 6 pm.  *whew*

Thursday- Kale, sausage, and potato soup (here's one recipe, although you can really let your heart be your guide with a title like that).  Bread.  Lettuce and tomato salad.

Friday- Mushroom, spinach and cheese muffins.  Cucumbers and humus. 

HOLY CATS!  I'M TAKING A VACATION!!  No, seriously.  The Hubby and I are going away for something like 48 hours, leaving Friday after work and coming home Sunday around dinner time.  And the littles are staying here with Auntie A.  That's two whole nights off.  We're going up to Door County, WI, so it's too far to come home to solve problems.  I have not spent a night away from the littles literally since The Gibbon was born.  I am terribly excited!  Also a bit apprehensive, if I'm going to be honest here.  But if I think about the apprehensive part, I don't want to go away on a romantic weekend getaway with The Hubby.  And I know this is a completely super idea, so I can't think about not wanting to go. 

Because Auntie A is completely in charge, I have not planned anything for the littles to eat or do while I am gone.  This means the littles will probably eat Doritos and McNuggets and ice cream for every meal after the one I prepare for Friday dinner.  But at this point, I don't care.  As long as everyone lives through the weekend, we'll just do a vacation detox for 4 or 5 days when I get home.  No more fun, no more treats, but at least you don't have to (horrors!) sleep all alone in the bed anymore.

Saturday- Gloriously care free.  Let's go out someplace fancy and linger over dessert.

Sunday- Gloriously off.

Monday-  Opo squash in tomato sauce (a recipe, but ignore the ugly ugly food photography at the top).  Meatballs in cilantro sauce.  Rice.  A fresh vegetable if we've got one kicking around that doesn't require too much prep.

Tuesday- Chicken, green bean, and potato casserole.  Or maybe roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and steamed green beans.  Either way, same basic ingredients.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- Pasta with salmon cream and asparagus.  See the end for a recipe.  Salad with red peppers.  Yum.

Thursday- The Hubby is sick, so the littles and I will eat a leftover buffet with the neighbors.  Their leftovers are new to me!  My leftovers are new to them!  It's weird, I know, but it works.

Friday- Roasted potatoes.  Green Beans and Eggs.  If you search for a recipe for green beans and eggs, you will find on your first page of results Armenian, Turkish, Mexican, Georgian, Martha Stewart, and White Trash versions.  So international!  Basically, saute onions and garlic with whatever spices fit your ethnic profiling, add some steamed green beans, throw some scrambled eggs in, and cook until the beans are hot and the eggs are cooked.  Top with whatever toppings fit with the spices you chose.  Look, that's sort of a recipe, too!

Saturday- Auntie A is cooking artichokes and chicken.  With pasta, I think.

Sunday- Main dish salad.  I've got 2 t-bone steaks, which isn't enough to make "steak" for 5 people, but is more than enough marinated and grilled meat on a big lettuce, tomato, and broccoli salad.  Bread, because bread is the stuff of life.

Monday- Tabbouleh.  Homemade hummus.  Pita bread (I've still got some of the store-bought stuff in my freezer).Roasted Indian eggplant.  They're cute!  These little tiny egg sized eggplants!  I'm going to cut them in half and marinate them briefly in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, chopped garlic, and a tiny smidgen of sugar before roasting them.  Three!  Three recipes in one week.  You're spoiled! 

Tuesday- Cabbage and chicken stir fry, which honestly never turns out the same way twice.  Brown rice.

Pasta with Something Cream

Choose at least two Italian (or reasonably forgiveably not Italian) ingredients that taste good together.  I used a can of wild salmon and some fresh steamed asparagus.  Other excellent choices are roasted red peppers, olives, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, fennel, artichoke hearts, peas, pepperoni, bacon, you get the picture.  These are your "Something."   Notice that many "Somethings" are easy to keep sitting around in your freezer or pantry, so you never have to panic when company shows up unexpectedly at dinner time.  Whip up... say, Penne with Roasted Red Peppers and Olives (both from a jar) and you look like a professional.

Put on your water to boil, and when it does, cook some  pasta.  It should take you the same amount of time to make the sauce as it takes for your water to boil and your pasta to cook.  Plan on about 20 minutes, as long as you chop your onion pretty fast.

Chop up an onion and saute it in olive oil. That's like, medium high heat as long as you keep stirring pretty regularly.  If your "Something" is a raw meat, cook it first, set it aside, and use the rendered fat instead of olive oil to saute your onion.  If your "Something" is a raw vegetable, steam it while you saute.  If it's frozen, defrost it.
When the onion is starting to brown, throw in some minced garlic.  I'm ok if you use the bottled stuff.  Otherwise, you'd better be busy mincing while your onion cooks. 
In a minute or two when your garlic and onion are pretty well cooked, add a good glug-glug of half and half or cream, a bunch of grated Parmesan cheese, and your "Something."  Stir and get everything good and hot.
While you stir, taste.  You will probably want to add of salt and pepper.  If the sauce is too dry, add more glugs of half and half or cream until it's nice.  If it seems really boring, throw in a splash of lemon juice or wine vinegar to perk the flavor up.  A pinch of red pepper is often nice.  You might even want to chuck in some fresh or dried herbs, like say, basil or rosemary or oregano or marjoram or "Italian seasoning."  When it's hot and cooked and delicious, your pasta should be done.  Drain the pasta, throw a little sauce in with it to keep it from sticking together, and then dish.  Ta-da!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

I totally proselytized to the nurse at my midwife's office about my amazing broccoli salad.  No joke.  And I gave her my blog URL, too, in case she couldn't remember the recipe.  Yay!

Now that you've got that piece of information, I think it's safe to share here that I am totally craving everything made with mayonnaise.  Not like I'm eating mayo straight out of the jar with a spoon.  But every day around 3 pm, I start to *need* some potato salad.  And when we hit lunch time, I'm like "A BLT would be nice.  Or tuna salad sandwich.  Or what's that pasta thing with the cherry tomatoes and the mayonnaise dressing?"  Which leads directly into:

Wednesday- Warm potato salad with spinach and mustard dressing.  Reheated take-out chicken brought by my FIL.  Raw carrots and bell peppers.  It's a RECIPE!  Please see below. 

Thursday- Black bean and Bell Pepper soup.  Cornbread.

Friday- Crock pot roast beef with turnips, potatoes, and carrots.  Steamed asparagus.  Because it was 89 cents a pound.  I'll be you can guess the other two vegetables that were cheap this week.  I'll give you a hint, each occurs 3 times in the menu!

Saturday- Baked Zucchini, roasted cauliflower (it's got mayonnaise on it), steak, buns.

Sunday- Garlic spinach saute and poached eggs over toast, inspired by this recipe.  Raw bell peppers.

 Monday- Homemade pizzas, a big old salad.

Tuesday- Minestrone soup with spinach and parsley.  Bread.

Baby Needs Mustard Potato Salad
Cook cut up potatoes in salted water, and right after you drain the potatoes, stick them back in their pot and throw in a bunch of spinach (chopped if it's really big pieces).  Stir the spinach and potatoes together, then slap the lid back on and let it sit while you make your dressing.  You can use literally any potato salad recipe you have handy (omitting any weird things like pickles or relish), but I just sort of eyeballed and threw together 1 part mustard, 1 part apple cider vinegar, chopped green onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and (yes) 2 parts mayonnaise.  Since you always taste your dressing with a piece of what you're planning to dress with it, dunk a piece of potato in the dressing to see if it's good before you commit yourself.  Adjust with more salt or vinegar or mustard (or mayo) as needed.  Then pour, mix, and eat warm, because who can wait for something delicious to cool?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Week plan Wednesday

Why hello there!  Did you miss me last week?  I'll tell you why I was absent: Easter!  You see, my husband's side of the family has hit upon the most fantastic way of doing holidays.  One family cooks the main meat(s), one family cooks the mandatory Italian things with red sauce, and one family cooks only side dishes.  I get to be the only side dishes person, and I also host, because that way I don't have to wake the littles up from their naps early to get to someone else's house, and if they get crabby before dessert, I can just put them to bed and come back to join the grown-ups in 20 minutes.  Super, right!  We've done it the last three holidays in a row, and I'm happy to keep it up forever.

But, I dithered so long about side dishes for Easter that I never actually got a menu planned for the week until sometime Saturday night.  And by the time I got on the computer, it was Sunday night.  And then, well, clearly you can see what happened.  But since I love you (and I did not lose the piece of paper I scrawled it on), I will tell you what we ate last week.  So if you're religiously following my menu plans, you won't have to feel bad.  Or something.

(Please do notice that every sentence in the above paragraph begins with a conjunction.  Go public education!)

Wenesday- Chicken and rice casserole.  Frozen peas.  (I actually went out to a friend's place for dinner and had a 5 course meal including fillet, but that's what I cooked for my poor family.  Ha ha.)

Thursday- Beef stroganoff over egg noodles.  Frozen corn (because we had peas last night, and I didn't have a plan until 5 pm).

Friday- Potato curry (amazing!), cucumber yogurt salad (hooray!), fresh bread, rice. 

Saturday- Chicken and cabbage stirfry.  I forgot to make rice and  had none leftover from yesterday.  Whoops.

Sunday-  Easter!  I did homemade rolls, broccoli salad, mashed potatoes, roasted beets, and quick picked carrots.

Monday- Leftover lasagne from Easter.  The rest of the broccoli salad.  Bread.

Tuesday- Pasta with sauteed onions and peppers in an Italian sausage and balsamic vinegar sauce. 


Wednesday-  Egg salad sandwiches and more roasted beets (Spread a little olive oil on them, sprinkle on salt and pepper, put them in your oven at any temperature 350 or above and cook them until whenever.  They start out hard, then they get soft, and finally they turn chewy.  Don't burn them.  You'll be sad.)

Thursday- Split pea and ham soup.  Picked carrots (from Easter).  Raw bell peppers.  Bread.

Friday- Dinner with friends.  Another great plan: they're hosting, so they have to clean, but I'm cooking, so they don't have to cook.  I love division of labor!  Potato salad, baked ham, salad-salad with lettuce and radishes and other vegetableish things like that.

Saturday- Baked penne. Roasted cauliflower (I only bought one head, hopefully there isn't a riot.)

Sunday- Cabbage with feta and dill (maybe it's a quiche?  A crustless quiche?  Or a fritatta?).  And rice, or maybe baked potatoes.  I'm inspired by this recipe, but honestly that's crazy.  So I'm skipping blanching the cabbage, and I'm just adding it into the onions and garlic and giving it a little longer to sautee.  Then I'm completely omitting the crust part of the "pie."  I'm also putting it together Saturday night while I'm already in the kitchen but dinner is baking, so the only thing I have to do Sunday is get it in the oven.  Shortcuts make the world go around!

Monday- Roasted eggplant with middle eastern spices, cucumber yogurt salad, slow roasted and shredded beef, and couscous.  All stuffed into pita bread (which I bought at the store!  Scandal!)

Tuesday- Beef stew with turnips, potatoes, carrots, and the dregs of other wintery things.  More bread.  Prayers for warmer weather.  Bright sun and 30 degrees is just killing me these days.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Do people care about how I never actually follow my meal plans?  Last week we ended up having corned beef and cabbage for both lunch and dinner on Sunday (due to totally not understanding what was on the menu for dinner with friends), so I had no interest in Ruben sandwiches until today.  Combine that with the library story time theme of "pizza," and well, you can guess where that went.

Wednesday- Rubens. Coleslaw.  "This hits the spot," says The Gibbon.

Thursday- Cream of Broccoli Soup.  Stromboli.

Friday- Grandma is bringing dinner

Saturday- Roasted chicken, garlic potatoes, oven roasted beets, sweet potatoes.

Sunday- Winter pesto (use whatever pesto recipe you like, but replace the basil with parsley and the pine nuts with walnuts). Chicken salad.

Monday- We're doing dinner with friends, but haven't decided who's hosting.  If we are, I'll do Chicken noodle soup from scratch, loaded with vegetables, fresh bread with butter, and broccoli salad.

Tuesday- German ptotato salad (which is served warm, so it's ok).  Either scalloped cabbage or broccoli salad, depending on what happens Monday.

You want my broccoli salad recipe?  Yes!
Chop up your broccoli into bite sized pieces.  Seriously.  No huge three-bite chunks.  It's better this way.
Juice a lemon into a bowl.  It helps if you roll it on the counter before you cut it open.  Microwaving it for 15 seconds also helps.
Crush some garlic.  I like a lot, maybe 3 or 4 big cloves.  But it's your deal.  Just chop it up a little, generously sprinkle it with salt, and smush it it paste with whatever's handy: the back of a spoon, the side of a knife, a nice clean rock, whatever.  Throw it in with the lemon juice.
Add a glug of olive oil, if you want.  It won't hurt to skip it if you've got fat somewhere else in your meal, but a little fat helps you to absorb the nutrients from the vegetables.  Also grind in a bunch of black pepper.
Use a piece of broccoli to taste the dressing.  If it's good, good.  Otherwise, add more salt or garlic or pepper or lemon.
When it's perfect, toss the dressing over the broccoli.
This is best if left to sit for an hour or more before you eat it (the acid takes some of the "raw" flavor out of the broccoli), but you can totally chow down whenever.  Yum.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- Pasta with Cheaters Vegetable Sauce.  It's sort of a recipe!  And I threw mine together in 20 minutes between grocery shopping and leaving for a meeting!  Dice up and saute a whole bunch of basic kicking-around-the-kitchen vegetables.  I used onion, garlic, green pepper, carrot, and celery.  When everything is cooked at least sorta, throw in some Italian seasoning and a whole bunch of V8, or a similar tomato-based vegetable juice.  Simmer until the vegetables are actually all the way cooked.  Glob in a few scoops of sour cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over pasta.

Thursday- Beef and Barley Soup.

Friday- Broccoli salad with lemon dressing and Everything in the oven!  Buns.  Oven baked pork chops.  Rice.  Roasted cauliflower (lightly coat with mayonnaise and sprinkle with parmesan cheese).

Saturday- Broccoli frittata.  More buns.  Some carrots.

Sunday- Corned beef and cabbage, of course.  Mashed potatoes.

Monday- Rubens.  Sweet potatoes.  More broccoli salad, if we've got it.

Tuesday- Chicken and carrots in Thai ginger sauce.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- Minestrone soup.  Bread with ricotta cheese and garlic.

Thursday- As you no doubt remember, The Littles came down with the flu last Wednesday.  They weren't actually feeling better until Monday (ARGH!), so we ate chicken noodle soup for a lot of meals.  Which means, I still have all my chili fixings.  Go Thursday!

Friday- Grandma's bringing dinner. 

Saturday- Moussaka.  Bread.  Moussaka is like the Greek version of lasagna, but it's got eggplant in it in place of the noodles.  Traditionally it's made with lamb, but our meat CSA doesn't raise sheep, so I'm making mine with ground beef instead. 

Sunday- Poblano peppers are on sale this week.  So I'm doing Lazy Chilies Rellenos a la Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  With corn tortillas.  Maybe a salad.

Monday- Cream of cauliflower soup.  Cheesy buns.  Sliced green peppers.

Tuesday- Roasted potato nachos.  It's a recipe! 

Wash up some plain, boring old potatoes.  Depending on the size of the potatoes and how hungry the people you're feeding are, somewhere between 1 and 2 potatoes a person should do it. 
Cut your potatoes into wedges.  Toss with a little oil, salt, and pepper.  (You only need a little oil.  You could skip it, but the potatoes won't brown well without it.)   Toss on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees until they're tender all the way through (usually this takes me longer than 30 minutes, but I don't watch too carefully.  Stab a potato with a fork to make sure).  Throw some shredded cheese over the potatoes during the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking.
While your potatoes are cooking, brown up some ground beef and season it with cumin, chili powder, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  You could just cheat with one of those "taco seasoning" packets, but they're more expensive for fewer spices and more preservatives.  Muck with the seasonings, tasting as you go, until it seems awesome to you. 
Also chop up a green pepper, some green onions, a fresh tomato (if you can find a good one), some lettuce, some olives, an avocado, or whatever other vegetables are wonderful on nachos. Here's your chance to make homemade pico de gallo or guacamole, if you're feeling ambitious.
When your potatoes are done and the cheese is melty, serve them out onto plates and pile them high with your seasoned meat, chopped vegetables, sour cream, and salsa.  Squeeze a lime over top for a little extra kick.
Eat right this second
Advice: Go heavy on the vegetables, they're good for you.  Also, it's better to use a smaller amount of full fat dairy then to try and skimp calories by using "low fat" sour cream or cheese.  Those things are chock full of non-food ingredients.  Not good for humans.  Yum Yum.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- For the first time in my life, I just flat out gave up and said "Let's order Chinese."  My kids are sick as dogs, so they won't eat anything anyway, and I probably should not discuss what I've actually done all day in the interests of not ruining your appetite. 

Thursday- Homemade from scratch chicken noodle soup (recipe below).  Asian coleslaw because I want something crunchy, too.  Maybe buns.  We'll see how it goes.

Friday- Roasted chicken with lemon.  Mushroom rice pilaf.  Carrot sticks.

Saturday- Cream of potato soup. Salad with lemony lemony lemon juice vinegrette.

Sunday- Peppers and eggs.  More more salad.

Monday- Cabbage rolls.

Tuesday- Chili.  Cornbread. 

For my dear friend who requested recipes: Homemade from scratch Chicken Noodle Soup!
Make maybe a roast chicken or a mess of drumsticks.  Eat all the good meat and stick the leftover carcass in a pot big enough to hold it (a crock pot is awesome for this).  Cover said carcass with water add salt, a splash of white vinegar, an onion, some carrots, maybe some celery, or whatever other veggies that aren't cruciferous.  Then simmer those chicken bones for-ev-er until everything (including the bones) is literally falling apart.  Put a cloth napkin or not-terrycloth kitchen towel in a colander over a pot or bowl as big as the one you used for simmering.  Pour the whole mess into the colander.  If you used a whole carcass, you can let it sit until it's cool enough to handle then pick through the mush for any usable meat bits.  If you used drumsticks, you probably won't have any useable bits, so you can skip that step.
If you have time, stick your stock in the fridge overnight to let the fat rise to the top where you can just skim it off.  The stock should be like jello when it's cold.  That's how you know it's full of awesome.
Put your stock back on the stove.  Chop up some veggies.  Whatever you used in the stock sounds great, or whatever else you've got on hand is fine too.  Add everything to the pot based on how long it'll take to cook.  So, onions and carrots first, fennel or corn later, noodles 10 minutes before dinner, spinach or peas right before you take it off the stove.  Taste for salt and pepper.  This stuff is also so good for you, unlike soup from a can or box.  So nice work!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

I apologize.  I've been doing a terrible job of posting my meal plans.  I'm getting my butt back in gear, though, 'cuz The Ninja has started a facebook page about healthy eating.  And, seriously, if I'm going to get reminders a couple times a week about other people's healthy meals, I should totally get on my menu plans and just include some recipes.

This "week," however, is a little weird.  We're going on vacation!  Auntie A is going to be here still, so nobody try and break in, but we're taking the littles and heading off on an adventure.  But!  Taking an unpaid week off from The Hubby's jobs means that we can't afford to travel and eat out every meal with all 4 of us.  So the first 4 days are normal around here, but then there's an entire Sunday through Saturday week of every meal and snack item.  *whew*

Wednesday- Ugly Asian Green Beans (toss green beans with a mix of soy sauce, crushed garlic, a little oil, and sesame seeds.  Roast until shriveled and delicious).  Brown Rice.  Slow cooker pork ribs with lime and ginger.

Thursday- Salmon patties, home made bread. Salad.

Friday- Vegetarian Lasagna.  I'm doing nicely sauteed onions, garlic, 3 colors of bell peppers, and 2 kinds of mushrooms plus a tin of tomato puree as the vegetable parts.  Plus ricotta and parmesan cheeses.  So festive!  Also, wine.  Happy day after Valentine's Day.

Saturday- Cabbage and potato soup.  Maybe bread.

We're packing along apples, pears, grapes, oranges, green peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, and celery, plus my handy travel knife.  Every meal that doesn't include a vegetable or fruit otherwise will have one or two of the above added to it.  Also veggies and fruits will serve as snacks.  The Hubby insists on junk food as a travel necessity, too, so I'm bringing home made cookies, tortilla chips & salsa, peanut M&Ms, and Sun Chips.

Sunday- Waffles with blueberries.
            - Red cabbage & vinegar coleslaw, Ham and cheese sandwiches.
            - Eating out

Monday- Bagels & cream cheese
             - Pittas with hummus and cucumbers.
             - Broccoli Salad, roasted potatoes, Pork roast.

Tuesday- Cereal with raisins
             - Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
             - Rotisserie chicken, deli salad. (Also buy eggs and cheese for later in the week.)

Wednesday- Scrambled eggs with salsa
                  - Cheese sandwiches (Grilled if we're near a toaster oven or broiler at lunch, with leftover chicken if there is any)
                  - Soup from a box (Have you seen the new anticeptically packed boxes of soup?  They're not great nutritionally, but they're as good as most restaurant meals, and they taste better than the old canned ones.)

Thursday- Master Mix muffins
               - Peanut butter and Jelly
               - Black bean quesadilla with salsa

Friday- Bagels with cream cheese
          - Bean dip with pita chips (using yesterday's leftover black beans)
          - Pasta with sauce from a jar, or eating out

Saturday- Cereal with raisins
              - Whatever is leftover from the week's groceries!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

Wednesday- I made a whole lot of roasted beats on Tuesday, so be prepared.  Salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette.  Pulled pork.  Baked potatoes.

Thursday- Ratatouille.  Bread.  Salad.

Friday- Cabbage and bell pepper stir fry.  Rice.

Saturday- Grandma is bringing dinner.  She said coleslaw and three bean salad, but there is sure to be a meat as well.

Sunday- Au gratin potatoes.  Roasted beats with yogurt-dill dipping sauce.  Celery sticks.

Monday-  Carrot soup.  Corn bread.  Leftover three bean salad, because yum.

Tuesday- Youth group night.  Although there are only 2 students coming to dinner regularly, so that's not such a big deal.  Chili.  Garlic breadsticks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Week Plan Wednesday

May Saturday just got busy.  I've got a regional music therapy conference committee meeting for 5 hours in the middle of the day, and then a women's study group meeting after the kids go to bed.  I may have to put off intentionality for another few weeks.  Does that seem terrible?  Oh dear.

Also, the littles got sick sick sick at the end of last week, so we actually ate chicken soup with a rotating cast of vegetables Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  And then, since I had already defrosted the sausage, I did the sausage and egg bake for the youth group last night.  That means this week, I'm going to reuse a two of the things I said I was going to make last week!  Yay!

Wednesday- Curry with potatoes and green peppers.  Rice.  Cucumber and onion salad with yogurt dressing.

Thursday- Broccoli and mushroom calzones. 

Friday- Burgers on the grill.  I can't believe the forecast is calling for 52 degrees!  Escarole salad.

Saturday- Pasta with caramelized fennel and onions.

Sunday- Roasted beets.  Baked potatoes.  Roasted chicken with rosemary.

Monday- Slow cooker pork ribs. Coleslaw. Cornbread.

Tuesday- Roasted cauliflower, roasted spiced chickpeas, rice pilaf.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cloth Diapers, Pros & Cons

I had a request for the pros and cons of cloth diapering vs. using disposables.  Now, granted, many of these are subjective or maybe, possibly sorts of things.  Also, some of them are clearly more important than others.  But given those caveats, here's my list!

-The biggest pro for cloth diapering is the cost.  Between $150 and $400 will buy you all the diapers you ever need ever.
-They're also more environmentally friendly.
-Depending on your kid's skin, you may have fewer rashes with fewer chemicals.
-I also find them easier, because I hate shopping, only have one car that goes to work with The Hubby, and am very disorganized about getting to the store.
-I find I have less smell in my house b/c I wash every 2-4 days, and never have a wet diaper older than that sitting around.
-They say cloth diapered kids potty train faster, although I'm not sure that's been proven.
-I hear, also, that cloth diapers prevent more poop blowouts.  And if you do get a poop'splosion, you can just pitch the clothes in your wetbag or diaper pail with the diapers.
-Finally, they're cute!  Big and fluffy!  Cute patterns!  Blue and pink and green!  I love it!

-If you have a heavy wetter (as in, doesn't pee for hours and hours and then lets it all rip) you might have pervasive leaks.
-Probably cloth diapers leak pee more often in general than 'sposies.
-You have to wash them, dry them, and store them someplace (easiest is just having a laundry basket that you dump the dry diapers into and diaper directly from that, but you might want to fold them and put them in a drawer or something).
-Some baby/toddler pants (especially for girls) are cut for 'sposies, so they don't fit well over cloth.
-Once baby starts solids, you have to dump poops in the toilet instead of just wrapping the diaper around them and forgetting about it.
-Some babysitters/daycares don't like doing cloth, although most will work with you.
-They're more of a hassle when you travel, because you have to either find someplace to wash or pack around dirty diapers, and they'll take up a whole bag of their own if you pack more than a day's worth.
-They're also bulkier than 'sposies, so you need a bigger diaper bag (at least until the toddler stage).

That's all I can come up with.   Any input from readers?  What do you put on your baby's bum?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

And a Happy New Year!

Whew!  I can hardly believe December is over.  It flew by in its usual rush with a crazy full house and too many obligations for The Hubby.  I have not had time or energy to reflect on the last year, let alone plan for the new one.  And this weekend is winter camp for the Junior High students.  Followed by The Gibbon's birthday next week.  Holy Cats!  I may never catch up with myself.  Shall I make a date to reflect and plan on the 12th?  Ok, it's a deal.

Who wants a meal plan?

Wednesday- Eggplant Parmesan and Risotto.

Thursday- Turkey Noodle Soup and (leftover) buns.

Friday- Fresh bread. Rice. Green beans with garlic. 

Saturday- Pasta with sauteed fennel and onions.

Sunday- Broccoli and sausage oven bake.

Monday- Eating out or ordering in.

Tuesday- Youth group is back in session!  Woot!  Curry with potatoes and green peppers.  More bread.