Saturday, December 10, 2011

Heads up to my reading friends and those looking for last minute teacher gifts!



Right now if you spend $30 on specific items at CVS you recieve a $10 gift card.  You can choose from Barnes and Noble, CVS, American Express, Macy's and others!

For instance, yesterday I purchased 12 boxes of General Mills Cereal that were on sale for 2/$5 and had coupons for each box.  The end total was $8 for all 12 boxes and Big Mama has one less gift to buy for the Little Mouth's school staff.


Good deals.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas, Friend or Foe?

You know that Joni Mitchel song they always play around the holidays?  The one that is actually kind of depressing, but since Christmas trees are mentioned in the first line they always play it this time of year...

You know the one..."It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees, putting up reindeer and singing of joy and peace...I wish I had a river I could skate away on..."

I have a secret.  That's sometimes how I feel about the Holiday Season in general.  Shhhh....don't tell.

Life is hectic and my iPhone pings several times a day with tasks still undone, parties to plan for, presents to buy, checkbooks to balance and savings accounts to empty. Not to mention the Christmas cards I haven't sent yet, the gifts we still have to assemble and the hours I've still got left to obsess about whether or not everyone will like the their gifts...

Maybe its just because I'm a grown up, but it seems I spend half my time wanting to push off Christmas because I'm not ready yet and the other half hoping it comes quickly so that I can clean it all up and stow away the tree until next year.

The Little Mouths and I do many things to make the holiday special, from attending the Night of Lights downtown complete with fireworks to holiday concerts and checking out the Gingerbread houses on display at the Grand Wayne Center. And we never miss the Fantasy of Lights in Franke Park sometimes even via a horse and carriage. But even with all of the festivities, I admit I feel a rising panic at the thought of all I have left to do.

So I wonder, when did I allow December become something to be dreaded, instead of cherished? When did the days start to fly by in a blur instead of dragging with breathless anticipation? Instead of excitement, is that dread I feel growing each time we open a new day on the advent calendar?

I'm not sure, but I do know I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel. I want to get a bit of that lost Christmas magic back.

Because of the way the kids Christmas break fell this year, they have an entire week off of school before Christmas. We've booked a week of our timeshare at the Christmas Mountain Lodge in Wisconsin, enrolled the Little Mouths in Ski School and scheduled a couple of brush up lessons for Big Mama.

This year, we'll usher in the season swishing through a white pine forest or bouncing down a hill in a big inner tube or snuggling with hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire.

I'm looking forward to it and I'm wondering if this might just be the start of a new tradition.

What about you all? What are you all doing to keep the Christmas Crazies at bay??

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rockin' Recipe -- Garlic Mashed Potatoes



I have tried to find a recipe for wonderful garlic mashed potatoes like the ones at Eddie Merlot's.



I have gone to this wonderful STEAK restaurant and ordered JUST mashed potatoes.  Okay, they had a little lobster stirred in...but to me, their Lobster Garlic Mashed and a Caesar Salad is just one short stop from heaven.

But I have never been able to duplicate them...even sans the lobster because the Little, Little Mouth is highly allergic and I don't want to have to break out the epi-pen.

I have boiled the garlic with the potatoes, oven roasted it in a clay pot, simmered it in cream and butter on the stove for three hours etc. etc. etc. But I've never found a way to prepare them that was even in the same stratosphere as EM's.

But last night, a friend came to dinner.  I boiled the potatoes in salty water and added just one ingredient.


Totally simply.  Total party in your mouth.

There's even a buy one/get one coupon out right now.  So good and thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths alike!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Seven

Today I am thankful for my son.

My SUN. He warms my heart and lights up my life. He is giving and kind, rambunctious and wild, funny and nearly always has a smile on his face. He is my unanswered prayer and the best cuddler in the world. He's my Angry Birds buddy, and the one who understands mommies sometime need to give hugs more than he needs to get them! He reminds me of my own Dad in a thousand ways and brings a little bit of him back to me everyday.

I am grateful for my son because he taught me that while being a Mom isn't always easy, its what I am. That he and his sister are the one thing I've done with my life that will matter, long after I won't. He changed us from "just the two of us" into a family and I will always be thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Six

Today I am thankful for my daughter. I love her unconditionally, but I am thankful that I like her, too. She is sassy and sweet, stubborn and smart, athletic and original. She's everything I ever wanted to be, but never was. She keeps me on my toes and from being hopelessly out of the loop on current trends.

She makes me laugh. She changed my life. She is my miracle baby...my wish upon a star. She's the daughter I never dared to dream I'd have. She made me a mom and for that and everything else she is, I will always be grateful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Five

Today I am thankful for ALL my family near and far, but for my niece Krista in particular.

She was the first baby born in our family for seventeen years so we dressed her up like a dolly and changed her clothes every twenty minutes. She gave us back Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and a reason to see Disney movies.

She's been my bestest travel companion and dearest girl. She made me see that the most important thing in the world was finding my own daughter. When I wanted to give up, I'd think of her and how she changed our family when she was born. Then I'd pick myself up, fill out one more form, wait one more day...because it would all be worth it if I could have a daughter a tenth as great as she is.

She grew up too fast into a smart, beautiful, vibrant, caring, and amazing woman who I cherrish with all of my heart. (And thank the heavens we didn't spoil too much)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Four

Biggest, Little Mouth is thankful for having the best Mommy in the world. (I have great kids, don't I?)

Little, Little Mouth is thankful for Angry Birds.

Big Mama is thankful for our home.

Six years ago next month we moved in the middle of a blizzard. I wasn't really ready to move into a subdivision. I hated the cold, white walls, tiny kitchen and dated fixtures. But I loved the space, (we moved from 1000sq. feet to 2800) the basement playroom, the wooded lot and the elementary school where my kids would be safe and happy, practically in the back yard.

Fast forward a few years, or a lifetime if you are the Littlest, Little Mouth. Our home has come to fit us like a favorite pair of jeans we can't wait to ease into after work. Every wall is a different color and while some of the fixtures are new...some are still the 80's throwbacks that remind me of my youth.  My kitchen is still tiny, but it has served me well on my quest to learn to cook. How ironic that I am happiest chopping and dicing and stirring away the afternoon there. Our decor is eclectic and I love it that everywhere I look there is a memory...either from the furniture passed down to me from family or the echoes of dinners full of the laughter of our friends and neighbors.

While it will never be perfect...or even all that clean, this house has served us well. For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health it has been a sanctuary for labradors and dachshunds, for friends and family...for my children and for me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Three

Biggest, Little Mouth is thankful for Sandi Patty.  (She is Sandi Patty in her school Indiana History play next month.)

Little, Little Mouth is thankful for his Mama. :)

Big Mama is thankful for Haverhill Elementary. I love that it is a safe place for learning, full of teachers and staff who care about their students. I am thankful I can come be a part of my children's education and see them grow and change in their learning environment.

I am thankful that their Grandma is there everyday and I never have to worry if they are safe or if they are sad.

I am grateful for all of the parents I've met who make their children a priority. And I am most thankful for the teachers who work too many hours, for not enough pay so that my kids can have every chance to be successful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day Two

Big, Little Mouth is thankful for her BFFs.

Little, Little Mouth is thankful for his puppies, Daisy, Violet and Chloe.

Big Mama is thankful for writing friends near and far. They celebrate my successes and mourn with me when I lose. They understand I have a story to tell and moreover, understand my need to tell it.

They tell me when I stink and help me fix it. They laugh at me when I take myself too seriously and know I don't mean it when I give up...but most of all I am thankful because they understand why I love this quote by the late Randy Pausch so much...

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Seven Days of Thankfulness -- Day One

Our family is starting a new tradition in this week leading up to Thanksgiving. We are celebrating the Seven Days of Thankfulness.

We have so many, many blessings in our lives and I love any excuse to count them. So here goes.

Biggest, Little Mouth is thankful for her Mommy. I am conveniently ignoring the fact that this might be carryover gratitude from the new iPhone I caved in and got her last week.

Little, Little Mouth is thankful for ice cream and the fact Mom is coming to his class today to make it for a science lesson.

Big Mama is thankful for quiet Thursday mornings and for the loud and rowdy children who make these stolen moments so precious. Without them alone time wouldn't be my guilty pleasure, it would just be lonely...and I'd have way too much of it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So long CSA...

Winter is just around the corner and our CSA experience is done for the year. 

I have eaten more veggies in the last year than I had in my first 40 combined and I have learned to love many of them and like even more.

It was a success in every way but one.

I was a terrible blogger.

And I'm sorry.

But I do love this little blog and its come to mean more to my than just a place to toss my recipes so I wouldn't lose them in the quagmire of cookbooks in my kitchen.

So instead of putting it to rest or allowing it to continue it's slow, painful death, I've decided to give it a facelift and broaden it's horizons. We'll still have recipes, but maybe some other stuff too. Because we're still here.  The Little Mouths and Me. And I've still got a little...or a lot...to say.

Love,

Julie

Friday, October 21, 2011

KINDLE 3

I'll have some new recipies next week, but I just wanted to send a BIG thank you to KINDLE 3 for featuring my books!

If you have an eReader or Smart Phone, check them out!

http://thekindle3books.com

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Barbeque Sandwiches

Chicken Barbeque Sandwiches

This is the last recipe using last week’s chicken and I believe it was my favorite.  Not only did Big Mama love it, the Little Mouths did too and they had NO idea of the extra nutrients the sweet potato added to the mix. 

Rachel Ray’s recipe was the inspiration, but I changed it quite a bit to please the Little Mouths palates.
I also froze half of this for another day, since the recipe was enough for 8-10 sandwiches.

Sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons dark amber maple syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup apricot all-fruit spread or preserves
2 shots good-quality bourbon (optional)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 sweet potato
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sandwich
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups Pulled Poached Chicken, recipe follows
1 cup chicken stock
8 slices of Provolone Cheese
8 Buns or Rolls

Poke holes in the sweet potato with a fork and cook in the microwave according to manufacturer’s instructions. While it’s cooking, combine the rest of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat.  Let it simmer and thicken for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Peel and mash sweet potato. Add to the sauce and whisk together. Simmer until the sauce is well combined and will coat a spoon when you dip it into the sauce.
In a sauté pan, cook one large onion over medium heat in the olive oil.  When the onion is just starting to caramelize, add the chicken and heat through. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and allow to reduce by half.  Add the sauce and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.  Stop here and freeze or top rolls with a scoop of the chicken mixture and a piece of cheese.  Place under the broiler until the roll is toasted and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carmelized Onion and Fennel Pasta

When I saw this recipe on Rachel Ray's Week in a Day I knew it was right up the Little Mouth's Alley.  It was pasta in what looked to be a regular cream sauce, but it was pureed onions and fennel, both of which I love. So we tried it with mixed results.

First of all, the recipe was billed as a fix ahead meal, so I can't blame the consistency on refrigerating it for two days before we ate it. The key to this recipe, is getting the onions and fennel very, very, very cooked.  I cooked them for maybe an hour and I thought they were as done as they could get.  However, when I put them in my food processor to puree, it ended up kind or like a soupy mess that tended to separate.  Even so, the flavor was good, so I added the chicken and thought maybe it would be better when I warmed it up.

Not so much.  I warmed it though and in that process, the very tender chicken left over from the stock pretty much disintegrated.  So now I had a really disgusting looking sauce. But it still tasted good. 

So I whipped up a very fast Alfredo sauce, using only two tablespoons of butter and calculating the rest of the ingredients accordingly.  I stirred the whole mess together and...it was GREAT.

The flavor was spot on. It had a lovely sweetness from the fennel and onions. I would have preferred the chicken be in chunks instead of just an explosion in the sauce, but it was good.  Best of all, the Little Mouths LOVED it. Picky Icky Little Mouth had seconds. Imagine that.

1 Large Yellow Onion
1 Blub Fennel
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1-2 cups chicken stock (Depending on Consistency)
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 cup Fat Free Half and Half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup diced chicken

Thinly slice onions and fennel and saute over low to medium heat until very, very tender. Throw he whole mess in the food processor and puree, then return to the saute pan.  Stir in the Alfredo, chicken and pasta.

Huge thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths.  Picky Icky Little Mouth had seconds!

Sorry no photo, some kind of photography malfunction!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday!

After taking the summer off for book launches, softball, baseball and three weeks in Florida, I'm really, really trying to get back in the swing of things.  I've missed my little blog, missed cooking and most of all, I've missed eating healthy meals instead of take out (so has my backside, I must admit)

So,  is back.

Remember, it's CHICKEN week.

Monday 
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and Grilled Cheese

Tuesday
Leftovers Night (Cub Scouts)

Wednesday
Carmelized Onion and Fennel Pasta (Recipe coming this week)

Thursday
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (Recipe this Week)
Garlic Fries

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Chicken in Big Mama's Pot

Have you caught Rachel Ray's new show on the Cooking Channel called "Week in a Day"? Even though all the recipes except for one are mine, her show gave me the idea. 

I watched her poach a whole chicken last Saturday and realized I've never, ever cooked an entire chicken.
I do have sort of a "bone phobia" and most of the meat I cook is boneless. 

So I took myself down to Fresh Market and purchased the biggest old chicken I could find...



Then I got out my big enameled cast iron pot and surrounded him with a bunch of yummy aromatics.  I used the following because I had them on hand:

2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 lemon, sliced
1 large onion
1/2 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
12-15 peppercorns
1 bunch parsley stems
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 bunch fresh thyme
and the tops to a fennel bulb I had purchased for another recipe.

I used the parts of the herbs that you'd normally throw out, like the stems and herbs that were just shy of needing to be thrown out. 

Our CSA provides us with lovely fresh herbs every week and sometimes it's a challenge to get them all used with out busy schedule.  This was a great way to use them before I had to toss them.

Cover the chicken with water and put the lid on.  Cook on high heat with the lid on until it reaches a boil.  Then uncover and simmer for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

When cooked through, allow to cool a bit and remove chicken.  This was a little tricky because it was literally falling off the bone.

Strain chicken stock and chill or freeze.  Don't spill a drop.  This is liquid gold!

I used chicken stock in many of my recipes and most of the time it is store bought for convenience.  But my-oh-my homemade stock is worth the effort if you have the time. I've made it from chicken pieces and parts that were on sale at the grocery, but never from a whole chicken.  This was a great because not only did I get a gallon of lovely stock for my efforts, I got chicken for two spectacular meals later in the week. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Big Mama's Melon Sorbet

Our CSA has been delivering wonderful melons lately.  Watermelons, Cantaloupe and Honeydews abound.

I love melon fresh and what we haven't been able to use I've been freezing for smoothies when its past it's peak.  This week I had a lovely honeydew and decided to try something new, although I think it would work equally well with any kind of melon.

Big Mama's Melon Sorbet



2 pounds of any kind of melon
1 small 6 oz. can of pineapple juice (could use any sweet fruit juice)
3/4 cup flavored fizzy water (I used pomegranate)
1/2 cup grenadine for color and added sweetness

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender. I have this one and I love it!

Pour mixture through a strainer and into your ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for timing.  Mine took 20 minutes. 

I've heard you can freeze sorbets in a glass casserole dish in your normal freezer, then fluff it up with a fork before serving, but I haven't tried it.

The Little Mouths love this served in a glass, slightly melted like one of those slushies from 7-11 that I don't allow the Big Little Mouth to have since they make her act like a circus act!  Red dye and sugar are not her friend...but with this sorbet, nary a issue with behavior and that makes Big Mama very happy indeed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Big Mama's Green Goddess Dressing

I think every Little Mouth in the world loves ranch dressing, and my little mouths are no exception. However, there aren't a lot of ingredients on that label that I can pronounce, let alone spell.

With our profusion of fresh herbs from out CSA box, Big Mama set out to find an alternative, and I think I did a pretty good job.  This dressing has more zip than traditional ranch and a fresh green color, thus the name.

I made mine more of a dip consistancy because I was using it on burgers and and on some potato wedges.  Note the milk or buttermilk is optional for consistancy.

Big Mama's Green Goddess Dressing

1/2 cup mayonaise (I used Kraft Olive Oil Mayo)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
2 Scallions roughly chopped
10 basil leaves rougly chopped
1 clove garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup of milk or buttermilk to correct consistancy, optional

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I've been SO neglectful! I'm sorry...

but I've been BUSY!

I'm proud to announce my novel, COMING HOME, is available on Kindle and Nook!  It will soon be available in paperback, ibooks, kobo, etc. 

Here's the Kindle link...and don't worry.  You don't need to have a Kindle to read it.  There are Kindle apps for all computers and most phones!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rockin' Recipe -- Teriyaki Chicken

Another recipe from Jessica Seinfeld and this one was just as good.  Thumbs up from Big Mama, both Little Mouths and Grandma, Aunt Krista and Aunt Betty, too.  I made Aunt Krista's with fake chicken...




3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup carrot puree (I used baby food)
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 clove garlic, cut in half
2 green onions, cut in thirds
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced (no need to peel)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used tenders)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place all the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cook until the mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the garlic, onions, and ginger.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the pepper and paprika. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, until both sides are golden.

Off the heat, carefully pour in the teriyaki sauce. Slide the skillet into the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Soup-er Salad Sunday - Mandarin Chicken Salad


Spring has officially arrived with the time change, so today I decided to go with salad, instead of soup.  Especially since I have a frig full of lovely greens from my CSA box.  This salad was inspired by the Asian Greens we received this week.

4 oz. Asian Greens
Diced Leftover Chicken Teriyaki  (Recipe to Follow)
Crispy Chow Mein Noodles
Onion Chips
Mandarin Oranges

Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vinegar of your choice, I used Balsamic
1 Tablespoon Honey
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon Orange Zest

Whisk together, toss all ingredients and serve!  Thumbs up from everyone!




Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rockin' Recipe ~ Pork Lo-mein


One of my favorite things about the Nook I got for Christmas, is the ability to have EVERY cookbook IN THE WORLD at my fingertips. The other cool thing, is if you are from Fort Wayne, you have a great selection available through our public library system, for free.

This week I checked out this new cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld:


Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives

I own her first cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, and while I have used some of her tricks, I found the work involved in preparing all of the purees a little more than I have time to do.

While this new cookbook does utilize purees from her first cookbook, I have used Stage 3 baby food for the squash and sweet potatoes, and that seems to work just fine. This recipe is straight from her cookbook, I just added the bok choy from our CSA basket and some Chow Mein noodles for crunch and to entice the kids past the green stuff. However, I got home from work late and the kids had already been fed, but for this Big Mama, who never met a green veggie she would eat, LOVED IT. I ATE BOK CHOY and not only lived to tell about it, I loved it and hope it's in next week's box as well.

Two or three years ago, when my niece first moved into her own apartment after college, I bought her a wok. So did her mother and since the wok matched my pots and pans, I put it in my pan cupboard and there it has rested for a long, long time. Tonight. I. Used. It. I was nervous, but it was amazing. My first stir fry. What a night!

Pork Lo-mein
1-12 oz box whole wheat spaghetti
11/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil (roasted)
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions (white ends only), thinly sliced
4-6 oz center cut pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut across the grain into 1/4" thick slices
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup chicken broth, sweet potato puree, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (or wok) over MED-HIGH heat. Add the garlic, green onions, and pork. Cook until the garlic and onions become fragrant and the pork begins to brown, 4-5 minutes.

Add the soy sauce mixture and spaghetti to the skillet. Reduce the heat to LOW. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring well, until a thick sauce forms and coats the noodles. Add the remaining chicken broth if the sauce is too thick. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

CSA Week One

It was so excited.  I pulled up to the little farm in my little Honda with the rest of the fuel efficient cars. My little car was so happy to fit in after being dwarfed by all of the SUV's at work all of the time. 

I wasn't quite sure what to do, but I saw some people in the barn and I went in there.  I checked my name off the list and got a bag of veggies out of the cooler. I got to choose two herbs from a nice large selection.  Since I'm normally too cheap to by too many fresh herbs in the winter time I was happy to find just some basics and got Rosemary and Chives this week.  There were several herbs I'm not quite sure how to use and I will save them for a week I need to shake things up.  A nice, big bunch of fresh Rosemary is a treat that I will use with the fingerling potatoes I got at Trader Joe's and will be serving with steak and Aioli later in the week. 

I also was given a new cookbook as a new member gift.  All in all, a very cool experience.  This is what I found in the bag when I got home. 




2 bags of mixed baby lettuces
2 bags Asian blend lettuce
2 bags spinach (will use in smoothies)
4 baby bok choy
Rosemary
Chives


We already ate one of the bags of lettuce for dinner with a creamy ranch dressing, turkey bacon and cheddar.  There's a huge difference in the flavor and the Little Mouths were a bit put off by it.  It's not your regular iceburg, but I have high hopes.  Tonight I used two other items I'll share in tomorrow's recipe.  All of it was SO good. 

The only negative thing is that when the Little Mouths were checking out the veggies and I was telling them what each thing was, the Littlest Little Mouth thought I said, b*tt choy instead of bok choy so now he giggles everytime his sister or I say bok choy.  Crazy Little Mouths.  Gotta love 'em!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Menu Monday Link up!




This is our CSA week and while they've told us what to expect in each bag, we won't know exactly until the day I pick it up.  I do know that there will be two 4 ounce bags of lettuce, two 4 ounce bags of spinach and two 4 ounce bags of one other green. This may be arugula, asian greens mix, kale or swiss chard. We will also receive 2 herbs and one other item which may be pea shoots, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, baby bok choy or some other item. All vegetables are harvested the day we pick it up. 

I was challenging to make a menu for this week without knowing what will really be there, but I threw in a couple of old favorites and a couple of new recipes as well.  I figured I could throw anything into a stir fry, so that was good thing for this week. 

Monday        Little Mouths Favorite - Roasted Tomato Chicken Enchiladas  Salad

Tuesday        Pork Lo-Mein  (Recipe to Follow) and Asian Greens

Wednesday   Perfect Alfredo Sauce with the cutest little pasta sachet-looking things with prosciutto, Caesar salad and garlic and cheese focaccia.

Thursday       Teriyaki Chicken with Veggied up Rice Pilaf (Recipe to Follow)

Friday           EAT OUT!

Saturday       Sirloin Steak, Fingerling potatoes with Kid-safe Aioli and Salad


What did you come up with?  Link your menu to mine, below!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coming soon...as in, next week!



I’m SO excited! Next week will be the beginning of our CSA! I pick up the first box on Monday night, then I’ll be posting the contents on Tuesday morning.

But what an adventure all of this preparation has been. I’ve eaten at least 10 things I’ve never eaten before. I have changed my morning routine, broken my MAJOR (and lifelong) coffee addiction and gotten excited about cooking again.

And the BEST news:  My blog has gained several thousand readers, and for that, I thank you all!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ranch Pork Chops and Rice

Today was a super busy day and one in which I was in need of a good make ahead meal.  This was inspired by an email from Kraft or Campbell's...I can't remember which one.  I added the extra punch of a few pureed veggies for the littlest mouth's benefit.

I did think it was a bit on the salty side.  Next time I'll use a bit less of the Ranch Dressing Mix, but this was a thumbs up from Big Mama and the Little Mouths, too.  



 
Ranch Pork Chops and Rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick (about 1 pound)
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
3/4 cup milk
1 package (1 ounce) ranch salad dressing mix
Paprika  
1 cup rice of your choice

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until well browned on both sides.Stir the soup, milk and 1/2 package salad dressing mix in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Sprinkle with the paprika.


Heat 2 1/4 cups water and the remaining salad dressing mix in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.  Stir in 1 cup uncooked rice and cook according to the package directions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rockin' Recipe ~ Homemade Ketchup!


Long before I had kids and knew how they could change your life, I visited the friend of a friend and saw, on her table, a bottle of homemade ketchup. I vowed if I ever made ketchup, that I would hang it up. I’d be hopelessly old and seriously not have enough to do with myself.


Then the Little Mouths came into my life.

And let me tell you what. Being wholly responsible for two of God’s own miracles changes a person. I know it changed me. My lovely Little Mouths have caused a carefree, convertible driving, red toenails kinda girl to morf into a minivan mama sorely in need of a pedicure. Who makes ketchup. For blender week.

And do you know the funniest thing? I’m okay with it. Really.

Worcestershire Tomato Ketchup (Inspired by Guy Fieri)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion

8 Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped up

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon dried mustard



Saute onions in the oil over medium heat. Cook until brown and caramelized. Add the tomatoes, and garlic and cook for a few minutes, just to soften the vegetables. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

I put the whole mess in the blender and let her whirl. I didn’t have high hopes. This looked like a hot mess (LITERALLY!)before I put in in the blender, but after a few seconds. Viola! Rich, beautiful, KETCHUP!

Thumbs up from Big Mama and a big Amen! From the littlest of mouths.


This posted linked to these GREAT blogs...Looky Here~!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ode to the Humble Smoothie

 Once upon a time, Big Mama was getting WAY to big.  Big Mama tried every diet in the world, but to no avail.  Big Mama lost and gained the same 50 pounds three times in the last three years.  Big Mama knew she should eat less, but she was HUNGRY!  Since eating less wasn't working she had to think of a new plan and she thought and she thought.  Then she realized, while she might never be a Little Mama, if she didn't want to stay an extra-large one something was going to have to give.

If I didn't want to eat less...then I had to eat better.

Both of my Little Mouths are slim and Big Mama had often joked if she just followed the Biggest Little Mouth around and ate what she did, she'd be perfectly proportioned like her.  But maybe that wasn't a joke.  BLM (Big Little Mouth) eats her weight in fruits and veggies nearly every week.  No joke!  The kid eats non-stop.  But she doesn't eat french fries or cheese burgers.  She eats pretty much every fruit or veggie and has a whole crisper drawer to herself. Thus our year of learning to eat our veggies...and our new challenge. 

But some challenges are easier said than done.  Changing from a carb addict to a veggie lover is easier said than done.  I haven't avoided eating veggies for 40 years because I didn't know where the produce section was, I didn't eat them because I didn't like them.  At least not the ways I'd been served them in the past, and goodness knows I didn't cook them myself.

Then one day while searching for an ice cream substitute, I got out my trusty blender.  It was GREAT!  I was so proud of myself I posted the recipe.  Ssmoooooottttthhiiiieeee anyone?  The someone posted a comment that totally showed me up.  Hers had spinach and kale!  Gack!

It took me a few weeks to work up to it, but I met her challenge (thank you Sara!) and before long I was sippy my leafy green veggies like a pro.  And do you know what else?  I started losing weight and gaining energy.  I wasn't starved at 10 AM and super-sizing at lunch.  I was jonesing for caffeine at 2:00 to avoid falling asleep at my desk.  Hmmmmm.  My nutrient filled breakfast seemed to be making a huge difference.

I am also down to only one cup of coffee a day...sometimes two. But from a solid 6-8 cup a day person, that's amazing in and of itself.  And I didn't even try to do that.  It just happened.

So thank you SARA for the inspiration and the challenge (even though you didn't know you were issuing one when you shared the recipe)  This Big Mama has definably changed for the better.


Good Morning Smoothie

Chuck anything good for you in the blender with some yogurt, a frozen banana, fruit or veggie juice and some green leafy veggie.  Warning!  Do not use arugula by accident.  Makes a very gross smoothie.  Do use up some of the produce that is just past it's prime.  It's a great way to keep less than fresh fruit and veggies from going to waste.  If you don't have time to use them, just put them in the freezer and use anytime.

My morning smoothie recipe changes daily, but usually looks something like this.

1 frozen banana












3/4 cup Greek yogurt

Fage Total Greek Yogurt, (500g) 17.6oz







1/2 cup carrot or green goddess raw juice



1 cup spinach or kale


1/2 cup orange juice (for the sweetness)

1/2-1 cup leftover or frozen fruit

This make a big 20 oz cup to go and is enough to fuel me through the morning.  I drink it on my way to work.

Check out my page "Looky Here" to visit all of the awesome places this recipe is shared!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Monday February 2011, Week Three



I thought we'd try a couple of theme weeks in the last remaining weeks until our CSA starts the week of March 8th.  This week is BLENDER week, one of the most often overlooked but useful of the kitchen appliances. 

For most of us, blenders have gone the way of the Edsal. 

But for me, while there are many of my kitchen gadgets that I love to pieces, my lemon zester alone makes my heart go pitter pat...but my blender holds a special place in my heart. It's not a fancy one, like this:
KitchenAid KSB465WH 4-Speed Countertop Blender with 48-Ounce Polycarbonate Jar, White
or this


Cuisinart SPB-600 SmartPower Deluxe Blender

My blender was a wedding gift for my parent in 1968.  It has seen my through margaritas and middle of the night milkshakes and now my newest fave, smoothies.  It has a few chips and you have to jiggle it just a little bit to get things to mix but I love it just the same.  It looks exactly like this:



Sunday         Shrimp Bisque and Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette (Blender Recipe to Follow)
Monday        Turkey Meatloaf and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes (Blender Recipe to Follow)
Tuesday        Orange Glazed Pork Chops Potatoes and Onions
Wednesday  Hamburgers w/Worcestershire Ketchup (Blender Recipe to Follow) and Garlic Fries
Thursday      Dreamy, Creamy Chicken , Rice and and Broccolini
Friday          EAT OUT!
Saturday      Fish Sandwiches with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise (Blender Recipe to Follow)

Link your meal plan this week to mine!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Soup-er Sunday Smokey Sweet Potato Bisque

Today was one of those days that didn't really go like I thought it would. It's BLENDER week, here at Big Mama, Little Mouths and I'd planned on making Shrimp Bisque to kick it off. In preparation, I peeled my sweet potatoes and had the onions on to caramelize.

Then the phone rang. The Girly Little Mouth was desperately needed at a friend's house...then it rang again and my aunt had some skillet steaks that needed to be used today and she was bogged down with school work, could I cook them for dinner.

Okay, this Big Mama can roll. No problem. Change of plans and two new opportunities to create recipes. We're not huge red meat eaters, so I didn't really know what to do with the steaks. The photo on the label showed the thin steaks bubbling in a pan with onions...so I did that. Added some wine and some stock and made a nice sauce. Good to go.

But I still had these sweet potatoes and onions...not enough from mashed sweet potatoes, I decided to whip up a soup as planned. But I decided not to add the shrimp, we were already getting plenty of protein with the steak. So, a new favorite recipe! Big and Little Mouths both gave it a thumbs up!

Smokey Sweet Potato Bisque

1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes
1 Teaspoon smoky paprika
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock

Roughly chop onion and saute in olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot.  Dice sweet potatoes and throw them in the pot with the garlic, paprika and chili powder.  Allow to caramelize slightly, then deglaze the pot with the white wine.  Stir to release all the yummy brown bits from the bottom on the pan and add the chicken stock.  Simmer until the sweet potatoes are mushy then blend in blender or with immersion blender.

Return to pot and bring back to a simmer.  Turn off heat, add fat free half and half and serve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sandwich Saturday!


I've been trying to clean out my pantry and freezer and came across a big packaged of sliced roast beef left over from goodness knows when.  I defrosted it and decided it wasn't too worse for wear and contemplated what to do with it.  I combined it with some onions, brie and arugula and made this FABO sandwich.  It was so good, I've made it twice in two weeks.  Everyone loved it, even the Littlest Little Mouth when I left off the onions and anything green.  

Metro Cast Iron Panini Press #1108Speaking of Paninis.  What kind of press do you use?  I have one like this, that doubles as a grill pan.  FYI, I figured out it you heat the top on a separate burner before smashing it down on the sandwiches, it works better.  The only drawback is that I can only make two sandwiches at a time, so those first two get a little...less fresh and hot while I'm making sandwich three.  Not too big of a deal, as the Little Mouths really don't like their stuff to be too hot.  But it would be nice to have something bigger when other adults are around. 

Like this:Calphalon HE600CG Removable-Plate Nonstick Countertop GrillDoes anyone have one?  Do you love it or does it just eat in to your counter space?  Please advise!


Roast Beef and Brie Panini



1 sliced sweet onion
1 small clove of garlic
6 slices of roast beef
2 oz. Brie
Small handful of arugula
Bread of your choice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil or butter for the outside of the bread

Slice the sweet onion and saute with a bit of olive oil or butter.  Cut the roast beef into slices and brown with the onions.  Spread Brie onto two of the slices of bread.  I used day old No Knead Bread.  Add the roast beef/onion mixture, top with arugula, spray the outside of the bread with oil or coat with butter and put into preheated press. 

Thumbs up from all!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Food Find Friday - Greek Yogurt


I have loved and enjoyed yogurt for years.  I have one pretty much every day for lunch.  I also have loved Greek food for years, since I was a child and we were close friends with a Greek family. 

I however did not know about GREEK yogurt until recently.  It's totally yummy!
Fage Total Authentic Greek Yogurt - 0% Fat

I am using it in my morning smoothie and it totally rocks as a substitute for sour cream, especially in recipes.  Here's the low down on the nutritional in formation from a random Internet site for 6oz.

           Greek Yogurt (Fat Free)   vs.   Regular Yogurt  (Fat Free) 
Fat            0g                                                    0g
Carbs        7g                                                   16g
Protein      18g                                                   6g
Fiber          0g                                                    1g
Calories    100                                                  86


There's a ton more protein and fewer carbs, and the calories increase just a little, tiny bit.  Most importantly for those of us who are trying to lighten up.  It really adds that creamy texture you're missing if you're trying to cut calories.  Thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths, alike.  

Do you have a Fabulous Food Find?  Link up here, just please return the favor and place a link on your blog to mine!  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bread Basket -- No-Knead Bread

I decided to try this bread, not because I don't like the kneading part.  That can be quite theruptic after a long day at the office.  But everywhere I looked, I saw this receipe or a variation of it so I thought I'd try it. 

I got to use my Dad's big brown crockery bread bowl, so that was an added bonus.  I have punched down more batches of bread that I can count and it was fun to watch the Little Mouths plunge their little fists into the soft warm dough and watch it colapse around their hands. 

There couldn't be an easier recipe and while it does take about 24 hours to make, it only takes minutes of actual work.  And the bread was JUST BEAUTIFUL!  A first for me.  Every recipe I've tried has tasted good, but has left quite a lot to be desired in the looks department.  This bread was lovely, though.  Don't you think?


No-Knead Bread (New York Times)

3 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup cool water

Mix everything together and cover with plastic wrap.  Put somewhere warm overnight.  I put it in the laundry, which is the warmest place in our house.  I mixed it together at about 7 PM and in the morning it looked like this:


It scared the Little Mouths, I think.  It looked a lot like spoiled eye of kneut or which's brew or something.

After about 18 hours or so, turn the bread out onto a well floured surface and fold over a few times.  Cover with the plastic again and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Now the recipe says to put flour on a towel, but the bread on it and cover with another towel.  This is recomended, because you have to get the bread into the preheated dutch oven and the towel acts like a little sling.  I did this the first time I made it and the bread stuck to the towel and made a big mess.  This time I oiled my original bowl, added a bit of parchment paper, and slipped the bread back in.

So either do the towel/sling thing or the parchment thing and let it raise for about 2 to 2.5 hours or until the loaf has doubled in size.

When it was time to transfer to the dutch oven preheated to 450 degrees in the oven, I just held the bowl over the pot resting on the oven rack, tilted the bowl and tugged on the corner of the parchment.  It slid east as can be into the pot and I removed the parchment.

Bake at 450 degrees for 30 mintues with the lid on and 15-30 minutes until the crust is brown and crunchy.  It tasted as good as it looks and got thumbs up from Big Mama and the Little Mouths devoured it. 

So good!


This recipe is posted at all or some of the WONDERFUL blogs on my "Looky Here" page.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Monday


Just a few more weeks until our CSA begins. When that happens, we'll pick up our box of veggies on Monday nights and we'll have a run down of what the box contains on Tuesday. I'm going to try to keep Meal Plan day on Mondays. I do a lot of our cooking for the week on the weekends, and I do all of the grocery shopping then.


This week at Big Mama's House...

Sunday           Winter Borscht and Roast Beef, Onion and Brie Panini (Recipe to Follow)
Monday          Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto (Valentine Tradition)
Tuesday          Tender Pork Chops , Potatoes and Onions with Spring Greens
Wednesday    Chicken Marsala (Recipe to Follow) and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes
Thursday        Smart Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread
Friday            Eat OUT!
Saturday        Pasta with Shrimp and Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinegrette (Recipe to Follow)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soup-er Sunday -- Winter Borscht


The Little Mouths are Russian, and having traveled there 4 times, I am a great lover of all things Russian.  More so than the Little Mouths, actually. 

On my first trip to Russia I packed literally a suitcase full of food.  Granola bars, fruit by the foot, hand-i-snacks and peanut butter crackers...you get the picture.  I was terrified I'd starve to death, which was so silly (they don't call me Big Mama, for nothing.)  But when I got there, I realized I LOVED the food, for the most part.  I never really warmed up to cabbage, but the pork cutlets coated in cheese with fried potatoes...the breads, the yogurts, cheeses and OMG, the ice cream.  With dark chocolate shavings.  They must have such happy cows in Russia to produce that creamy, rich...YUM.

New York Times Cookbook 1961 Edition
Anyway, the one thing I never, ever tried was Borscht.  Last night I was flipping through an old New York Times Cookbook  (my copy is from 1961 and was my mother's) and came across a recipe.  I mostly stuck with the ingredients, but changed up the method a bit in an effort to add richness to the soup and ,truth be told, cover up the taste of the cabbage.

It's kind of an all day, tedious affair.  I started working on it at 10 AM and I think it was done around 4PM.  There's a lot of chopping and peeling, but I often enjoy that.  It's basic and chopping and dicing slow down my internal tick-tock that by the end of the week has sped up to near lighting speed.   

This soup, almost a stew, is a good way to use up all those winter veggies as you can sub in turnips, parsnip or even celery root.  Here's what I used.

Winter Borscht



1-1.5 pounds beef (I used oxtail)
1 cup white wine
1.5 quarts water
2 onions (one quartered and one shredded)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded roasted beets
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded rutabaga
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
3 bay leaves
2 pounds of potatoes
Salt and Pepper
Sour cream and fresh chopped dill for garnish

I do love any recipe that allows me to use my favorite enameled cast iron pot from Calphalon.  The last time I was at the Chef's Outlet, there were still some to be had at a fraction of the price of their Le Creuset counter part.  Calphalon Enamel Cast Iron 8 Quart Dutch Oven, Cabernet Red
I heated up the pot on top of the stove, added a little olive oil and browned the oxtail.  I added two carrots and an onion, salt and pepper and put the lid on and simmered for about 2 hours.  I was busy making mac-n-cheese for the freezer and lost track of time.  It probably could have cooked for less time.

In the meantime, I washed and roasted 6 small beets, with the skin on, with salt and olive oil at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until tender.  I let them cool then shredded them in my food processor along with the seeded tomatoes, cabbage, remaining carrots, onion and ratbag. 

I removed the beef and set aside and strained the beef stock.  Discard the carrots and onions. Bring the beef stock back to a boil and add in all the veggies and any collected juice from the beets as they roasted.  Whisk a cup of broth with the tomato paste and add back into the simmering pan with the beef and bay leaves.

Simmer for an hour or two until all of the veggies are tender.  Remove the bay leaves. I removed the meat and scredded it and ran my "blender on a stick" around the pan a few times to puree the soup a bit. Little mouths always prefer a soup to be smooth, if possible. 

Dice the potatoes, cook separately and add to the Borscht just before serving otherwise they will be mushy

Garnish with a bit of sour cream and fresh dill if you have some.  We didn't.  The dill at the supermarket looked all limp and yellow, so I threw in a bit of freeze dried that I had in the cabinet. 
Then I removed the meat and bones and strained the broth. 

While the soup was simmering away in the pot, I had hoped we wouldn't really like it all that much.  It WAS a lot a work.  But it was really good and got thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths.
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