Jeff and I eat a lot of chicken. The butcher in town gets all natural chicken meat from an Amish farm and it is delicious. I probably buy five pounds of chicken breasts every week. I've decided this is the week Marlo gets to try a little chicken, too. While Jeff and I prefer to eat white chicken meat, all the literature out there suggests feeding your baby the fattiest cuts of meat, so tomorrow I'll be picking up some chicken thighs for my lil' thunder thighs. I'm hoping the homemade process goes well, because I really want to avoid buying jarred pureed chicken. It's really hard for me to eat prepared, shelf-stable foods with meat in them. Or even frozen foods with meat. I love Lean Cuisines, but I would always leave a little pile of "chicken" (in quotations because there's no proof that it's really chicken) behind in the plastic tub. Surprisingly, one thing that makes Jeff and I such a good match is he has the same hang up.
So, you won't find any bags of frozen Tyson chicken nuggets in my freezer, and hopefully you won't find any jars of baby chicken dinners in my cupboard. Interestingly enough, however, you will find cans of chicken meat in there. In my hometown, there's a local farm called Brinkman's and they also run a small market in town where they have a quality butcher and deli display. Well, they sell their cooked chicken, turkey and beef meats canned. Canned meat, weird right? If I saw a can of meat at Meijer (this probably exists and I just don't know about it - on the same note, Brinkman does actually sells their canned meat at the Meijer in Findlay) it would probably send chills up my spine. But for some unexplained reason, I trust Brinkman's. They could can anything for me and I would gobble it up.
Having this trusted resource for canned, cooked, quality meat has been a HUGE shortcut in my family for many recipes. If any recipe calls for something like chopped rotisserie meat, I just sub a can of Brinkman's chunked chicken. My friend (whom I will leave nameless, but you know who you are) once told me she loves Brinkman's meats so much that she eats it right out of the can. Well okay then, that puts her on a different level of loyalty of which I will never reach, but I will shed a tear or two if Brinkman's ever shuts down that cannery. It's been threatened many a times for many a years, but I think it's just a publicity stunt.
Here's a chicken recipe that you won't need a can of chicken for.
The obsession with roasted red peppers continues. I actually made this dinner quite a few weeks ago; so, no, the grill is still out of commission. Looking back, I can say that my past week's worth of ghetto fabulous meals was a tactic to encourage Jeff to go get a new tank of propane. Posting this is also a tactic, to remind him of how delicious dinner can be when I have a grill to cook over.
I got this recipe about 4 years ago out of Cooking Light. It is one of my favorite chicken dishes in my recipe box. They suggested serving it with mashed potatoes, but that seemed a little off to me (not to mention Jeff doesn't like mashed potatoes). So I usually serve it with wild rice and a green vegetable. Enjoy!
Bistro Chicken with Peppers
2 roasted red peppers sliced into 1 inch strips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (or 1 whole chicken breast cut in half)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots (you can sub an onion if you can't find a shallot)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. fennel seeds
Combine salt and garlic on a cutting board; chop until mixture becomes a coarse paste. Rub garlic mixture over both sides of chicken breasts. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until golden, flip. Add shallots to the pan with the chicken, cook 1 minute stirring constantly. Add broth, curry, thyme and fennel to the skillet. Stir. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes uncovered or until chicken is done. Serve chicken topped with peppers.
Daddy's been working hard trying to get us into our own home and we miss him a lot. It's Marlo's favorite part of the day when he comes home to play with her.
I haven' t been inspired to do much new cooking this week. I've been scouring food blogs like it's my job, but have no desire to make anything more than my entire repertoire of what I call ghetto meals - or meals that are at least 50% out of a can or a freezer bag. Next week, I'm hoping I'll get my pots and pans out and start making some real food. I'll let you know about it if it happens.
Later she took a bath and told me a story about how the dolphin hates the octopus. Don't worry, eventually the octopus got its revenge before bath time was over. The crab was just an innocent bystander.
When paying for my Starbucks coffee long ago, I made a uncharacteristic impulse buy at the counter. A little cellophane wrapped biscotti cookie with some irresistable flavor combination said to me, "if you buy me, you will look super sophisticated." So I snatched it up, unwrapped it, took a bite, and promptly threw it in the trash. Little did my little sophisticated ass know, biscotti's are meant to be dunked. Dunked in coffee, dunked in tea, dunked in hot cocoa, dunked in wine (oh yes!).. whatever the beverage of your choice, the little biscotti's would like a drink, too. Many years passed before biscotti's crossed my mind again. It's possible that you, too, haven't thought of biscotti's for years, before now. But my friends, I am here to introduce you to the perfect afternoon snack.
This biscotti business started for me when Jeff and I gave up coffee for tea. I was initially resistant to this change and continued to brew myself a half pot of coffee every morning and drink the whole thing within hours. Then my stomach started hurting, so I jumped on board with Jeff and went tea full time. The thing about tea is...there's just not much of a buzz. After months of drinking just tea, I still feel in a fog every morning and by the afternoon I'm hurting. So like a proper English Lady, I have myself a spot of tea everyday around 3:30 PM. It's my afternoon ritual. I put Marlo down for a nap, and she cries herself to sleep just in time for my tea to cool down enough for sipping. But something was missing. I was always a bit hungry (ok a lot hungry, I am nursing after all). The English enjoy crumpets with their tea, but what on Earth is a crumpet - right? Then I saw Giada making these lovely sounding biscotti's, and thought they were just what was missing in my life.
You would think they were hard to make, but trust me - they couldn't be easier. You just need a lot of time, but not hands-on time. They just spend about an hour total in the oven, so you can't just whip them up quickly some afternoon - but almost. Another good thing is there aren't many ingredients and the ingredients are far from exotic. You should know by now that I appreciate this. Giada's original recipe calls for the cookies to be dipped in chocolate, but to me, that didn't sound tea-friendly. So instead, I made a lemon glaze to drizzle over them. Remember - dunk. I'm not gonna lie, even these cookies are gross "undunked" so brew up some tea and enjoy the experience!
Almond & Lemon Biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)
grated lemon zest from 2-3 lemons
3/4 cup whole almonds coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest, almond extract and then the flour, and beat until just blended. (The dough will be sticky). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 (9 by-3-inch) logs. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.To make the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar. Drizzle over cookies and let dry before storing cookies in an airtight container.
Biscotti will keep for at least a week.
My father read the post and mentioned that it was a little mean of me to say that none of the other mothers at the class showered. I think he's right. That's mean, but I must say that the comment was not meant to insult the other mothers, rather to point out that I may have been a little too dolled up/over dressed for the class. In other words, I put my contacts in, and wore earrings and a necklace and I should've just showed up in some comfy lounge clothes and bed-head.
If it's warm enough to walk outside without shoes or a jacket, I'm grilling dinner. There's nothing better in my opinion than food cooked over a flame. It tastes better and there are no pans to wash afterwards. When we lived in Chicago we were deeply deprived of any private outdoor space in which we could keep a grill. But I made due inside. I had a nice little Cuisinart indoor grill and gas burners, and I used them to their full extent. One thing I absolutely love to cook with is roasted red peppers. In Chicago, I could make them year round by just sitting the little peppers on the gas flame burner to blacken the skin. But here in Indiana, world of the electric range, I've had to retire all my roasted red pepper recipes for the season. I know that you can blacken peppers in the broiler in the oven. I just don't think they turn out as well so I never do it.
So the beautiful night last night got me all excited to cook up something on the grill. I've made these sandwiches twice last summer and really enjoyed them, so I thought it would be a nice change up from all the chicken and pork we've been eating. I started roasting the red pepper on the grill only to discover that my grill ran out of gas about 80% of the way through. Great. I had these beautiful mushrooms marinating and all my other high quality ingredients ready to make these sandwiches and no fire. (**This was just one way my night turned to hell last night. I also knocked over a full Brita pitcher in the fridge and spilled Jeff's beer all over the counter top. Yeah it was a good night. No, I'm not pregnant.)
So, I pulled out my trusty indoor grill, fired it up and made due. The end result was tasty but not as good as I recall it being the last 2 times. I blame this on a not-roasted-enough red pepper and somewhat flavorless mushrooms that would've grilled up beautifully if the Blue Rhino tank would've lasted just one more night. Oh well, trust me, if your grill doesn't betray you half way through, they'll taste great.
And if you've never had portobello mushrooms, you should really try them. Back when I was a loser and wouldn't eat mushrooms, my life was pretty boring. I credit Jeff for opening up my small town Ohio palate. Portobellos have really great flavor and a very nice texture. If my grocery store has them, your grocery store has them.
Grilled Portobello Mushroom & Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich
Preparing the Mushrooms
Buy two portobello mushrooms that do not show any signs of spoiling (no mushy, slimy spots) and have nice, undamaged gills (the produce lady at Meijer taught me this). Remove the stems - they should just pull off. You aren't supposed to rinse your mushrooms under water. Instead take a damp cloth/paper towel and wipe the caps down. Now I have a hard time with the "unknown" of what may be lurking in the dark depths of the underside's gills, so I give the gills quick rinse and dry - so shoot me. I've seen some portobellos prepared with the gills removed. You could do this as well, they are a little weird.
Marinade (adapted from Food Network):
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp. lemon zest
Place mushrooms gill sides up in a shallow baking dish. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over the mushrooms and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, turning once.
While the mushrooms are marinating, roast the red peppers. Place the peppers over high flame turning as each side blackens. Once pepper is completely blackened, remove from grill and immediately place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steam for 15-20 minutes. Remove from bowl (careful, it's probably really hot!) and strip away the charred outer layer of skin and remove the stem and seeds. Cut into 2 pieces. Set aside.
Pat mushrooms dry and place gill sides up on grill over a medium/medium-low flame. Grill slowly for about 20 minutes. Flip and grill for 5-10 more minutes.
Assembling the Sandwiches
2 hamburger buns
4-6 large basil leaves
roasted red pepper
2 grilled portobellos
Place the grilled mushroom on the bun. Top first with half the roasted red pepper, then with two 1/4 inch slices of fresh mozzarella and finally with basil. I like my sandwiches dry, but I think adding mayo or pesto to the bun would be nice for all you condiment lovers out there.
I heard about this Gymboree place from a few other moms, and decided to look at their website and see what it's all about. They offer a free class for you to try it out, so I thought - what the heck, and signed Marlo up for their Learn and Play 2 series for babes 6-10 months. I was really excited about it. All weekend it's all I was looking forward to. Making things even better, Jeff surprised me by taking a half day and going with me. All I can say is that all three of us were fish out of water. Jeff was the only dad there, so I let him just sit aside and be the photographer. I was the only mom there that looked like I had showered that day - which I think immediately put me at a disadvantage. And Marlo... she was curious as usual, but just not all that enthused. We could've been at the grocery store for all she cared.
The class started and ended in song which was the first strike for me. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with singing to your child, in fact I do it quite a bit. For a week there, the only thing that could get Marlo to stop squirming so I could change her diaper was the ABC song. For a few days, it was Mary Had A Little Lamb, but the songs she likes the most are my own classic creations which are literal commentaries on our activities at the exact moment of the song. Usually they include lyrics about stinky poopy diapers, and Marlo really like the one yesterday about her being naked because she just got outta the bath, so don't come in because she's not decent. So, anyway, I'm all for singing songs just not with 12 other moms and babies in a circle. The whole time I was looking over my shoulder waiting for Barney to bust in. Not my style. And believe me, if it had appeared that Marlo was really getting a kick out of it - I would have sucked it up, learned the songs, and sang along. But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree my friends, she couldn't have cared less about singing time.
She wanted to CRAWL.
And the open time we had to explore the equipment was the only time I felt comfortable, because it was essentially just the 3 of us at a playground. However, Marlo really didn't get into all the equipment. She seemed to be enjoying herself the most when she was on flat ground with her new little ball. I don't even think she liked all the other babies. She stared, sort of, for a short time, but didn't exhibit any obvious interest in the other babies. They all liked her though! Maybe because she was the new girl in class. This one little baby, Ethan, was really cool. Very solid kid who just learned to walk, and he was always walking over to us. It was alright though, he wasn't annoying so we hung out. Here's a video of Ethan coming to spend time with the Andersons.
It wasn't only the songs that made me quite squeamish. The whole time I couldn't help but think of all the germs being exchanged. The little boy next to Marlo (the one making the squealing noises in the video) had a nasty cough and kept rubbing his ears (a classic ear infection sign). Then at the end they had this stupid puppet that "kissed" all the little babies goodbye and the only thing I could think is "when is the last time that thing was washed and you just rubbed on my baby's face, thanks."
I gotta get over it, right? I mean, babies get germs. That's fine I guess. But I don't want to pay for my baby to play in a cesspool of foreign germs. I'd rather Marlo share germs with all her cousins. At least I know their mothers wouldn't bring them out to play with an ear infection. Part of the problem with this place is they push you to enroll your kid in a month's worth of these "classes" (we got approached twice while we were there very obviously pressuring us to sign up for a month) that costs $65/mo. So if you've paid that much money, you're likely gonna bring your poor kid to class even if he's sick. Stupid.
I don't want to come off as if I'm too cool for school here. I seriously wish I knew how to be the kind of preschool teacherish mom that could sing songs in a cheesy voice and goo goo ga ga without feeling like a complete fraud. I think Marlo, or any kid for that matter, deserves a mom that is a goof and a ton of fun, I guess I just gotta do it my own way. And the Gymboree way ain't gonna cut it. I think she'll like whatever I come up with. (At least that's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night).
I won't be bringing Marlo back to Gymboree anytime soon. I think it's pointless for her at her age. I saw it as just an opportunity for bored stay-at-home moms to meet other bored stay-at-home moms. I'm not looking to meet any other bored stay-at-home moms, so I'll save my money and play with Marlo at home. When she gets older and has language and could sing along to the songs, I can see bringing her back to see if she likes it then. But for now, we'll spend that money on good food and new toys and keep the germs at bay.
Ugh. Rachel Ray. I love to hate you, and hate to love some of your recipes. I love this recipe. The sauce has great flavor, and I love it over the fresh fettuccine. The original recipe here, calls for quite a few different vegetables than the ones I routinely use. But that's what's so good about this recipe, you can really use whatever vegetables you want and it will taste just how you like it. You could even use chicken, though I've never done this. Even though there is a lot of prep involved, this makes a good weeknight dinner because it comes together so quickly once you start cooking. Enjoy and break out your chopsticks (if you have some).
Asian Pork Stir Fry
1 rounded tbsp. of sweet hot mustard
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 boneless center cut pork loin, 8 ounces each
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 package of fresh linguine or fettucine (next to ravioli & tortellini at grocery store)
1 generous handful of matchstick carrots
1 large red pepper thinly sliced
1 bunch broccoli cut into small florets
1 large or 2 small zucchini squashs cut in half lengthwise then sliced thinly
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (toast in dry fry pan over medium heat for a few minutes until golden and fragrant)
Put a large pot of water on to boil for pasta.
Place sweet hot mustard in a bowl. Whisk in Tamari sauce. Add stock and sesame oil to the broth and soy. Set aside.
Slice the pork chop very thinly against the grain.
I love soup. To me, there isn't really a soup season. I'll crave hot soup in the dead heat of summer. Poor Jeff, he's good and never complains. This recipe is a Giada Everyday Italian creation and I've been making it for a few years now. I love it because there are a few shortcuts involved, and it comes together in about 20 minutes, but it still feels really special. I serve with a pinch of shredded hard Italian cheese (this time I had Peccorino Romano on hand) and a few dinner rolls.
Might I suggest you try the Alexia brand of rolls and breads. They're available in almost every grocery store's freezer section and they are superb. My favorite flavors are French and Asiago Foccacia. Yummy.
Quick & Spicy Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Spicy Oatmeal Crisps
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup regular oats (I'd recommend a rounded 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (flour through pepper) in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Stir in flour mixture and oats.
Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until crisp. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.
Source: Cooking Light
While it may seem like things were going uphill towards the end, Marlo eventually began spitting out mouthfuls of it so we moved on to Squash & Corn which I'm sure tasted like dessert after that nasty avocado. Maybe I just had a bad avocado. It was definitely ripe, but I thought it tasted bitter and sour. We'll save it in the arsenal for later when she can handle some chunks in her food. The only bad thing about it though, is avocados are like bananas - once their peeled they oxidize quickly and therefore don't store well. So, unless she ends up liking them enough to eat a whole avocado, they are potentially very wasteful. We shall see....
I heart Giada De Laurentiis. When she was new on the Food Network many years ago, my dad and I would scoff at her as if she was some pretty little bimbo trying to be our beloved Nigella Lawson. Then I started watching her in secret, all while continuing to pretend that she annoyed me to high heaven. But the thing is - I'm in love with her. Sure sure, she's gorgeous, but I'm not a man. So what I really love about her is that she's the biggest dork and isn't afraid to show it on tv. Oh, and also the fact that her recipes are delicious, easy, and always turn out. Like this one. I make this at least once every couple weeks. It's so simple, quick and super tasty. Here's the original recipe from the Food Network, but I've made some adaptations over the years of making this, and that is what's reflected below. This easily serves 4, or just 2 with lunch leftovers.
Farfalle with Sausage, Peas and Mushrooms
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground Italian sausage removed from casing (I use a tube of Bob Evan's Zesty Italian Sausage)
10 oz. of sliced cremini mushrooms
10 oz. package of frozen peas, partially defrosted
12 oz. dried farfalle pasta
1/2 cup grated hard Italian cheese (I usually use Asiago)
Salt & Pepper
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil.
In a large saute pan over high heat, add sausage and saute breaking any large lumps until brown. If you're using Turkey Sausage instead of Pork Sausage, add 2 tbsp. of oil to the pan first. Remove meat from pan and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan and heat. Add chopped mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and saute for 4 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the pot of water has come to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain in a colander. Return pasta to the pot and add the meat mixture. Combine thoroughly and gently cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drizzle in remaining olive oil. If the mixture is dry, do not hesitate to use more olive oil if necessary. Check the seasoning and salt and pepper according to your taste. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir well and serve in large bowl.
Except for keeping good meals on the table, let's face it - I'm a terrible homemaker. Jeff, Marlo and I frequently live in our own filth and disarray. Usually the promise of company is the only thing the kicks my butt into cleaning the bathroom. Unfortunately for Jeff, we only get visitors every few weeks. It's funny though, that after a cleaning spurt, I get motivated to keep it up. However, this motivation usually lasts about 12 hours and then quickly regresses to it's former, dormant state.
Today though, I'm going to try something new. In true Kindergarten teacher fashion, I'm going make a chart and make myself a weekly plan. As if I'm 8 years old, I'll give myself daily chores. Like today, Monday, is grocery getting day and laundry day. I may even plan out the week's dinners on the chart on Sunday night. This may make going to the grocery store on Mondays much easier. I work better in a structured environment anyway - hopefully this will keep me in line and keep the house inhabitable. Wish me luck! (I can hear Jeff laughing all the way from his office).