Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scampi on over here little guys...

Ahh...Friday's in Lent.  I was never a big fish person growing up.  I know my parents fixed halibut in foil packs with lemon,butter and dill, but the majority of what I remember was fish sticks and breaded filets.  I did feed those to the kids when they were younger, but Sarge did not seem fond of them, and quickly started looking forward to Lent as a reason for him to find new meatless recipes to try.

One of the first things that he started making was Shrimp Scampi.  I had tasted it before, and had decided that it was pretty good.  Of course being a young married couple, we could not afford to go out for Scampi (especially when our first duty station was in Brooklyn, NY, and our second was in San Francisco).  I think the first time I made it was a frozen package from Contesso, where the shrimp were actually frozen with the scampi seasoning "glued" to it.

Sarge had to figure out what all seasonings needed to be added to it.  Let me tell you, this is one of those occasions where you wish you had smell though the computer.  So far I can tell you that there is butter (yes, I said butter), onion, red bell pepper, lots of garlic, a little olive oil, and seasonings.  It smells fabulous when it starts heating up.

In the meantime, unless you have the ability to purchase fresh shrimp, these little guys need to be bathing in some cool running water to defrost. I tend to purchase the medium size shrimp for our family.  The small ones seem to get lost in the pasta, but if you go too large it seems like it is off balance the other way.  I guess size of shrimp does tend to be personal preference.  These were uncooked, deveined, peeled shrimp with tail on.  I personally prefer the tail off, but could not find them uncooked. :(

Once the pasta is pretty much ready, then these little guys get to go for a bath in the yummy seasonings.  They only take a couple of minutes for them to be cooked through, but it is sure worth it. :)

I tend to use this cooking time to heat bread to go along with the meal, and maybe prep a salad.  For me, prepping a salad means opening a bag and putting them in dishes, but every once in a while I will do something more.

Then you put the pasta in the pan with the shrimp and the sauce.  Stir it so it comes together nicely, and you are do

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breakfast for Monkeys!!!

Thing One has been having "the guys" over for a gaming all nighter for a couple of years now.  Not that it is on a regular basis, but once every couple of months he will ask if "the guys" can come over.  It usually requires me to have some snacks on hand and surrender the living and dining room for the evening.  They play on the game system, as well as play role playing games, and eat.

Recently Things Two and Three asked if they could have overnights and have the same privilege.  I am happy that they want to have friends over, so I gladly say yes as long as it is okay with Sarge.  We picked two nights, back to back, for them to have their friends over.  Originally it was supposed to be nights when Sarge did not have to be at work the next day, but being that he is a bugler, he was called in to work. :(

When Thing One has "the guys" over, it means chips, salsa, soda, and hot wings.  Then I get to figure out something for breakfast that they will eat.  That can be a challenge.  Even though they are "the guys" sometimes they can be pretty picky.

Before Baking

Thing Two was much easier, chips, soda, mozzarella sticks and for breakfast, monkey bread with orange juice.  Can you believe that I have never maid monkey bread?  I went with the easy Pillsbury recipe for this time, but have already decided on changes that I will make for future endeavors.

After Baking
Such a simple recipe, I had to laugh when one of the girls said she set off the smoke detector when she tried to make it.  Take tubes of biscuits (recommended not the flaky type) and cut each biscuit into quarters.  I decided to lay them out in 2 lines of 5 on a cutting board and ran my pizza cutter through them.  turn them and do it again.  Put sugar and cinnamon in a zip lock bag.  Shake the piece in the sugar mixture and put them in a greased bundt pan.  Repeat this for 3 more tubes of biscuits.  I bought the small 4 pack, and it seemed to work well.

Inverted on Plate

Melt a stick of butter and add 3/4 cup packed brown sugar to it. Pour the mixture over the top.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.  Invert it onto a dish and serve.

I think next time, I will make the following changes to the recipe:

1. I will use my cinnamon roll dough recipe for my bread maker.  I think it will make a sweeter dough recipe.   I will just have to allow for the dough to rise.

2.  This recipe was for a caramel sauce.  I think it was pretty good, but  I will try adding some Karo syrup to the butter and brown sugar mixture.  It will make it a little bit gooier and mix a little bit better.

3.  I might try and put some of the mixture throughout the layers, but not sure if that will help or not.

4.  If I want to be real decadent, I might add some pecan pieces throughout it...Caramel Pecan Monkey Bread!!!

Thing Three will be the easiest of the three.  Soda and chips for the evening, and Orange Juice and Chocolate Chip Muffins for breakfast.  Life is good!!!  :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Family Chest

By nature, I am not a writer.  I do not feel comfortable writing about our family quite as much as it may seem.  But by having this blog has forced me to write more about us...currently meals that we share as a family.  It has been difficult to write lately, because we have been eating mostly the same foods.  Spring break is currently upon us, and the kids are enjoying the time away from all of their activities (so is Mom, don't cha know!)

So today, I pulled out a family recipe from the our chest of recipes for us to fix.  Growing up, during the summer, my parents had a home garden more often than not.  They did not grow everything in the garden,, but I do remember tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  Sarge remembers pretty much the same things, however I do remember them growing corn at least once.

With a surplus of bell peppers, we fixed stuffed peppers as a way of using some of the surplus of vegetables.    Brown some ground beef with onions and chopped bell pepper (I just chopped the tops of the peppers that I opened).  Add diced tomato and cooked rice.  Fill the peppers.  I always have extra filling which I scoop into the pan around the peppers.  Top the peppers with cheese and throw in the oven for about a half hour.

This time, I made a couple of changes, based on what I had on hand.  I used rotel tomatoes instead of regular ones, and topped it with Mexican cheese.  Well, Things Two and Three could tell right off the bat that it was spicier, but they still ate it, once they got used to the heat level.  Thing One ate his rice quickly before we sat down to eat, saying that it smelled really good.  I bet he cannot wait for Lent to be over. :)

I cannot believe that we had never thought of putting the rotel tomatoes into that before.  It did add a little zip to it, and I might think of just using one can and one can of plain, but I used what we had on hand, and it was   very tasty!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In These Days of Lenten Journey...

Lent in the Catholic faith means many things, prayer, reflection, sacrifice, and meatless Fridays!  With our crazy schedule, meatless Fridays lately have meant grilled cheese sandwiches, or frozen shrimp for dinner. :(  With Thing Three having team practice from 4:30-7:30, I am just not available to fix a decent dinner for the masses.  Hmmm...I guess I should start looking back to my crock pot again.  And, Sarge has been busy with duty calling him to do his job, so he has not been able to work like I expect him.  :)

Sarge tends to be my Lenten chef.  He makes a mean grilled Salmon, and his Ahi tuna is to die for (lol, that has to give me some Lent Joke points somewhere!!!)  He can do a decent shrimp scampi, but not nearly as good as Big Scary Guy's!  Although my face actually turned red from how spicy his was, it was very tasty.    Sarge decided a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to try his hand at an Eggplant Parmesan.  Sarge and I had it once before, a very long time ago, when we were stationed at the Presidio.  A girl who I used to talk to while waiting for the bus in the mornings invited us over for a dinner party.  That was our first and only experience with Eggplant Parmesan, but it was quite good.

Now growing up, Ms. Daisy used to make Veal Parmesan   I know, Veal, oh my goodness.  Well tough, it was breaded veal patties, and it was yummy, so get over it. :)  This became my "go to" meal with the kids when they were little.  Of course I changed it from Veal Parmesan to Chicken Parmesan, but the concept is still the same.

I think I ate Chicken Parmesan every night on our California trip when I was in second grade, much to my dad's dismay.  We would stop at Denny's for dinner, since it was reasonably priced, and my parents knew that we would eat from the menu.  I ordered the same thing all 7 days on the way out and 5 days on the way back.  Yeah, I am a closet Italian. :)

So the basic Chicken Parmesan is just breaded chicken patties with cheese and marinara sauce baked and served on top of spaghetti noodles.  I can have the whole recipe made within an hour with very little effort.  I did make it from scratch, once.  You know, where you pound out the chicken dredge it, fry it and then bake it with the cheese and sauce.  Like I said, I did it not worth the effort.

So Sarge decides that he wants to make it from scratch.  Yea!  When, well, that took a couple of weeks to get on the schedule.  He gave me the list of ingredients, and while I like to keep a well stocked pantry, and most of the ingredients are basic, several of them were fresh, so it meant a trip to the store.  Did you know that Buffalo Mozzarella is not always carried in stores?  Who would have thought that.  I did get fresh mozzarella, but not the traditional...oh well.

I do not have his recipe, so I cannot share the whole thing, but I can tell you it uses: Eggplant, Italian style bread crumbs, plumb tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, garlic, fresh mozzarella, Buffalo mozzarella, and Parmesan. No spaghetti noodles required!!!

He served it with garlic bread (since I had bought some), but decided that the salad on the side was probably not necessary since it had the Eggplant and Tomatoes in the dish.  End result was AMAZING!!!  Of course, Thing Three would not eat it, but that was pretty much to be expected after she heard there were Eggs in it! ;)  Thing One was still doing his rice thing, so he missed out, but Thing Two seemed to like it.  I think it will be a repeat, but maybe we will tell Thing Three that it is Vegetable Parmesan instead.  :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

When you think of crock pot meals, you traditionally think of soups, stews and anything that is in a sauce.  At least I do.  Because of that preconception, I was surprised when I found other recipes that you could do in the crock pot that do not require a spoon to eat! :)

A recent recipe that I found was for Chicken Cordon Bleu.  This was surprisingly easy to assemble, I did so in about a half hour, early in the morning, and then threw into the refrigerator before I left for the day.  Sarge was home that day, so he was able to put it into the crock pot and start it at noon.  This is another recipe from the Crockin' Girls website, and you can find the full directions there.

Photos courtesy of Google Images

One of the insights that I saw was to put the chicken breasts into a zip lock bag before you pound them out.  I found some chicken breasts at the store that were thinly sliced, so that also helped cut down the pounding time.  I did not zip the bag shut, but just held my hand over the open side.

So, you pound the breasts thin, and then place a couple of slices of deli ham on it, top with a slice of Swiss cheese, and roll it up.  You can secure it with toothpicks, just have to remember they are in there. :)

Then it gets a bath of egg and milk mixture, before rolling it in stuffing mix.  I think next time I do it, I will probably crush the stuffing so it sticks better.  Before you place them in the crock pot, you should put a can of either cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.  Then you can place them on the bottom of the crock pot.

Since I have an oval pot, I was able to place all five of them on the bottom of the pot.  I am not sure if they can be layered, or if I will need to use two crockpots, but will try and figure that out next time I cook them since all at the table ate a whole one.

My results with Green Beans!

It was a great meal to come home to after being on my feet all day running!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chipotle for Dessert!

I have to admit that I grew up with a very bland palate.  Not that my parents didn't expose me to lots of foods, but it tended to be a very basic mid-western diet.  My grandfather and father both used to grow Hungarian Hot Peppers and I was taught at a very young age how to eat them.  But those couple of times when I didn't eat them correctly, it taught me that I did not like that burning sensation that seemed to last for an eternity.  I don't care what anyone tells me, bread and milk just do not cut that.

Sarge, on the other hand has what I have decided is a cast iron stomach.  During Desert Storm, he actually received a holster and several bottles of Tabasco sauce from McIlhenny corporation who returned his check and request for a couple of bottles to tide him over while he was deployed.  Since then, Sarge has expanded his taste and has gone through many different hot sauce tastes.  Sarge has worked diligently over the past twenty years to try and build up my heat tolerance, and while it is increasing, it is not where he is yet.   He and Thing One regularly use Sirachi sauce on the table when I cook.

A while back, when cruising through Costco, I came across a sample that was and interesting combination of flavors.  They had crackers that they were putting a swipe of cream cheese on and then a drop of a Raspberry Chipotle sauce on it.  Sarge loved the sauce, and surprisingly, I found it mild enough that I liked it too.  So we bought a bottle.

About two years ago, I started having occasions to bring desserts for different events, and was getting tired of making cupcakes, brownies and cookies for everything.  So, I found a recipe for mini cherry cheesecakes.  They are easy to make and travel pretty well.  It is also a nice surprise for people.  The cupcake size is good for eating without having too much of a good thing.

Then I had a brilliant idea of making the cheesecakes and using the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce on top.  We were having a dinner party, and I wanted to have a dessert that was not super sweet.  It was a huge success!    The sauce made it more of a savory dessert, rather than a sweet dessert.

Recently, I made them for our directors and a judge who had to do an evening deal.  I made some with the cherry topping, but also made some of them with the Raspberry Chipotle sauce.  The Judge loved the savory treats enough that our Hospitality Chair was emailing me during the competition because she was asking for what they were called.  Always a good feeling when something different turns out right. :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crock Potting again!!!

Sometimes life gets a little too busy even for me.  I have come to rely on my Crock Pot so much, that I am looking into getting a new one that is programmable.  I have two crock pots, one is a large 6 quart oval one that can do high and low for different times (4 and 6 hours on high, 8 and 10 on low) and a keep warm feature, but cannot just cook on low for 4 hours and go to warm.  I also have a smaller 4.5 quart round crock pot that has the basic high/low switch.  I also have several of the smaller "dip size" ones.

Friday was one of those busy days.  I forget there are only 24 hours in the day, and that some of that time really does need to be spent sleeping in order to be able to function.  Also, I forget how long some tasks really do take!  So I started early in the morning, after the Things' lunches were made, by putting together a family favorite of Loaded Potato Soup.  This is the third time we have had it this past spring, and it is still a favorite.  Of course today it was without the bacon crumbles since it was a Lenten meal, but the dollop of sour cream and green onions on top still made it yummy.

It is another recipe from one of my favorite sites - Crockin' Girls.  The first time I made it, we were eating in shifts, and there was barely any left by the time I got home for dinner!  The second time I made it, I did a batch and a half.  That was about the right amount for our family.  This time, I went back to the single batch since Thing One is on his own Lenten journey, and Thing Three would not be home for dinner.

The recipe is rather simple, 6 peeled diced potatoes, one diced large onion, a quart of chicken broth, some garlic, and 1/4 cup of butter.  Cook for about 8 hours, mash, add a cup of cream or half and half, and a cup of shredded cheese.  Yum!  We served it with cooked crumbled bacon, sour cream, sliced green onions, and cheese.  A simple salad completes the meal.

After I knew the soup was done for the day, I was able to cross that off my list and move onto the next task...desserts for the competition, but I will save that for another blog.  I think by the time I cried "Uncle" Friday evening, I had run several errands, made dinner, a salad and desserts for the directors,  Muffins for Saturday, ran errands, and took Thing Three to the gym for her long evening.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Quick Fix

Wow, this month is just sneaking up on me!  I forgot to purchase my potatoes, so I needed to find something  different for dinner today.  We had just fixed Sloppy Joes last night since everyone had to be out of the house quick, so I quickly scoured the internet looking for a recipe that I could put together.

I came across an interesting menu that is a take off on another sandwich.  See how long it takes you to figure it out.  I am guessing by the end of step 2.

First you brown some ground beef and mushrooms.

After they are browned, you put them into a 9x13 casserole dish.

Second you layer provolone cheese, enough to cover it all....  (did you get it??)

Then you saute onions and red bell peppers until the peppers are crisp tender... (how bout now?)

Last, but not least you cover it with a layer of biscuits.

Bake it in the oven for half an hour or so, and there you have it...

Philly Cheese and Ground Beef Casserole.   Yum!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What to fix???

Have you ever had one of those days when your brain just cannot figure out one more recipe?  I have been stumbling all month.  Instead of my usual plan for the whole month, I have gone down to a week by week basis.  There have just been so many interruptions that it has made it difficult to plan.  

So yesterday morning I sat down to make sure I knew what we were doing for the week, and just got to the point that I could not think anymore.  I went to our local grocery store's website to see what their "combo locos" were for this week.  That is their little promotional system where you buy one item, and get anywhere from 1-6 additional items for free.  Sometimes it works for us, sometimes it doesn't.  Some of their combos are just out there...

I didn't see anything there, but did go to their recipe box and started looking through there.  I knew I wanted a chicken recipe for dinner based on the other recipes for this week, of course, I realized today that Eggplant Parmesan will not work in Friday since Sarge said he will not be there and that was one dish that he wanted to try making.

I found this interesting recipe that only calls for a handful of ingredients and is quick to assemble/cook.  So I thought I would give it a spin.  

Green Chili and Tomatillo stew is a wonderful product that definitely made this dish.  You just mix a jar of it with a bag of tortilla chips (you can use tortillas, but you would lose the crunch) and a package of precooked chicken fajitas.  Pour it into a casserole dish, top with cheese and bake for half an hour (enough time for a glass of wine, if you are not running out the door to pick up a child!!).  Pull it out of the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Ta-Da!  Dinner is served.  

I may have start looking for other products by this company...or maybe start figuring out how to make this stuff from was yummy!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Italian Anyone???

What is more natural for a home cooked meal than a pasta dish?  I grew up loving Lasagna so much that it was what I asked for as my birthday dinner.  A family friend, Mrs. Schmidt made such an awesome version of it, even though she lived an hour and a half away, I was always excited to go to her house in hopes that we would be having lasagna (okay, so playing with my friend was also a big part!!).  Ahh....childhood memories.
photo courtesy of google images
I have tried several variations on lasagna, and still have not found the perfect recipe for us.  We have done it with Spinach and without, with ground beef, and with a beef and Italian sausage mix.  I have pre-boiled the noodles and have used the oven ready recipe ones.  I personally like doing it in the crock-pot  but the family does not, and truth be told, it does not really make it any easier than just doing it in the oven.

photo courtesy of google 
I have to say, my most recent variation used the oven ready noodles, and I did like that one.  You do not overlap the noodles, and just place them width wise across the pan instead of length wise.  They expand as they cook, so any extra space will be filled.  I made my meat sauce with a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage.  I cooked the meat before, so I could assemble in the morning before I went out for the day. That made for an easy prep for dinner after work and school.

When I make lasagna, I usually make two pans.  I figure if I am going to put forth the effort to make the dish, might as well have an extra one for in the freezer.  But, I hate having my good casserole dishes in the freezer, so I bought a disposable lasagna pan.  I looked at purchasing a regular pan, but several pans recommending not putting it in the freezer, so I went disposable.  A lasagna pan is about an inch deeper than a 9x13, but it is also about an inch wider in length and width.  So now I have a huge gap around that pan, but I through it in the freezer, and we will see when I bake it.

I also made homemade bread to go with it.  I baked the loaves in the morning, and turned one loaf into garlic bread that I popped into the oven while the lasagna set, and finished it off with a nice salad.  With Thing One on his Lenten journey, we had enough for 2 dinners and lunch for 2 on Sunday (so Thing One could have some!).  The second loaf went into the freezer and will accompany the second lasagna, probably sometime next month.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ash Wednesday, here we come!

Today started the Lenten season, and for us that meant a day of fasting and abstaining from meat.   Wednesday is also the day that Ms. Daisy and I go to Seguin so she can volunteer at their Family History Center.  So that means that we get home late in the afternoon.  Trying to put a meatless meal on the table by 5:30ish so we can get to be ready to leave for Church on time takes a little planning.  Since it was a fasting day, I was trying for something lighter as well.

I looked through The Soup Bible cookbook, and finally found a recipe that seemed interesting.  I was a little leery of the outcome because of the ingredients and also wondering if my finicky Thing Three would eat it.  It has those Legumes that we do not speak of if we want her to eat it.  Navy version. :)  But I figured that since it was pureed, that I might be able to pull it off.

Wednesday morning started and after I had lunches made, started chopping.  I, of course, have to double the recipe to have enough servings, but did forget that Thing One has gone to rice only for lunch and dinner.  I know, I know, that it totally unhealthy.

I did convince him to eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, so at least he is getting some protein.  And, it is only for 40 days.  If he makes it, I will be proud of him, but I will be surprised as well.  I will continue to monitor him and make sure that he stays healthy.

So I started chopping and the original recipe called for 2 large onions, 4 stalks of celery and 1 parsnip.  Now, I have never cooked parsnips, so I decided to baggie them separately "just in case".  I could have saved the baggie, since they really are just like a carrot, white and a little sweeter in my opinion.  I decided to only use 3 onions since it just seemed like so much onion.  I did substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock to keep it a Lenten meal.

By doing the chopping I was able to start cooking as soon as I got home.  I soaked the legumes the overnight, so they were ready to go, but still cooking for 1-2 hours seemed like a long time.  I cooked them just over an hour, and they seemed pretty tender to me.  Sarge later said that the could have cooked for longer, but time was of the essence, so it was what it was.  After sauteing and adding the other veggies, it cooked for a while longer and then I pureed the whole thing with my stick blender.  Thing Three would be none the wiser about the base ingredient.

When I served it, it was well received.  It did have a sweet taste to it.  Even Thing Three ate most of her bowl.  I did serve it with some homemade rolls that I had programmed the bread machine to have ready when we got home.  It was a light meal, and while it will not be a mainstay in our repertoire, I will use it again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just Make It Up!!!

Sarge called me in the middle of a cookie booth to ask what we were doing for dinner.  I had thought about actually preparing a meal, but since all three Things were going to be gone (retreat, dance, gym), I figured we could just make some sandwiches for dinner and call it quits.  

I told him we have bacon that needed to be cooked up and an assortment of cheeses.  Just make up some sandwiches.  Well, that was the beginning of a new creation.

He fried the bacon.   That was going to be a definite in the sandwich.

Next he decided to fry some jalapeno slices in the bacon fat.  Yes, I know it was wrong, but oh did it taste good!!!

Next, he started assembling the sandwiches.  To keep the sandwich healthy (one can hope, right??) he added fresh spinach to the sandwich.

For the cheese, he used the leftover cheese mixture from the poppers that we made for Super Bowl Sunday.  It is a mixture of mexican cheese, cream cheese, fresh cilantro and spices.  Said assembled sandwiches were then buttered and more cheese (cheddar) was added to the outside of the sandwich before grilling.

Here is the finished product!  All we could say was "Oh my goodness!!".  It may not have been good for the diet, but was a great way to end the booth night.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kale Chips

"How do these taste good???" was the statement from Thing One after putting a Kale chip in his mouth.

Ms. Daisy decided that she would try something new, and found a recipe for Kale chips.  So she bought some Kale, looked up a recipe and made some.  

The Kale chips seemed to be liked by all who tried them.  Some in the household said they tasted like fries.  

Basically all she did was wash and take the leaf off the stem.  Then she tore them into chip size pieces.  Drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with Seasoned Salt.  Bake in the oven, and voile!  you have a crunchy healthy snack.  

I didn't try them, just cannot fathom that one, but maybe next batch I will.  I know as soon as the Things read that  I did not try they that I will have to next time.  

No Carbs Tonight???

Today we needed to make a special meal for Ms. Daisy.  She has to have a special scan done tomorrow that requires her to have no carbs after lunch today.  While many people do have the carb free diet on a regular basis, this household is not used to that, so we need to have something that is good for all, but will be within the carb free requirements for her.   I found a yummy recipe for prepping for this test that is called Stuffed Steak Ole.  You use a flank steak, slice it open and then fill it with onions, peppers and tomatoes.  The first time I made this, I spent the time to finely chop all those veggies into little pieces.  This time, I thought about it, and realized that it is just Pico de Gallo.  We love that stuff, but I don't waste my time making it.  Since we live in south Texas, it is just as easy to run to any grocery store and pick it up fresh.  It might be a little be more expensive, but so worth the time savings.

Thing One was gone for the night with his youth retreat, so that was one less mouth to feed.  Thing Two needed to be picked up from Tennis try-outs.  Still waiting to hear if she made the squad (of course she will, and it will just add to the craziness of my meals), and Thing Three wanted to head to her schools Math & Science night).

So I prepped the Steak and left if for Sarge to cook.  The original recipe called for it to be cooked on our George Forman grill, and when he was in Korea, that is what I did.  I told him he could either do that, or cook it on the grill.  I found out when I got home that he grilled it.

We needed something to go with the steak, and it cannot be a potato, so I started cauliflower on the stove and left directions with Ms. Daisy on how to finish the mock mashed potatoes (using the cauliflower).  The girls actually liked it.  No one felt like they were missing out with dinner.  That was the ultimate result that I wanted.  Mission accomplished.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Monthly Outlook

A couple of years ago I was looking at my meals, and they started to all blend together.  Every week we had variations on the same thing.  Chicken, Pasta, Sausage, blah, blah, blah.  So after hearing many grumblings, I started asking the family what they wanted, and making a list.  That evolved to making a calender so the kids could see what was for dinner.

Now I use Cozi for my calendar.  It is a great mobile and desktop application that allows me to put all my stuff on one calendar, and I can send either email or text reminders to family member about events that they need to be aware of.  It also has a shopping list on there.  I have Thing Three pretty well trained to add stuff to the shopping list and also look on the calendar.  She even added her own things to it.  Thing One refuses to conform, go figure.  Thing Two is about 50%, so that probably makes sense.  Its nice when we use it because if someone is going somewhere they can get other items as well. :)

This month we add in Lent, so that will bring in additional yummy dishes.  We also have cookie booths going on which will effect meal plans.  As well as all the other activities that my family has in store for me. :)

I try and make sure that there is a variety each week, so I do not have Italian meals three days in a row, or several soups the same week.  Sometimes that does not always work since we need to work around what is going on each week.  If you are looking for a great app that you can use for planning, reminders and shopping lists, check out Cozi!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yellow Broth

This week poses its own challenges in the kitchen.  We had a lot of rich treats to eat during the Super Bowl, and still have a lot leftover.  We also have several nights that we will be out and about.  Tuesdays is one of those days.  The first Tuesday of the month becomes a huge challenge for me.

Thing Three has team practice from 5:30-9:00, but doesn't get released from honor band rehearsal until 4:00, so that gives me just over an hour to get her home, changed and feed her something before heading out the door.

Ms. Daisy needs to be at the local library for her meeting at 6:30.  It is close to where Thing One has Boy Scouts, so he drops her off on his way to his meeting at 7:00.  She only has the meeting on the first Tuesday of the month, so it is only once a month that we are asking him to speed up his schedule by a half an hour.

Sarge and Thing Two have choir rehearsal at 7:00 as well.  As long as the weather is nice he takes them on the bike.  If it is icky out, he drives them in the jeep and then has to drop off Thing One and pick him up afterwards.

Crazy, right???

So as I was looking at meals for the month (yes, I plan for a whole month, but that is another blog), I came across a recipe for Yellow Broth.  There are several different variations for this recipe of Irish origination.  I think with just a slight change from chicken broth to vegetable broth, you could have a good soup for during lent.   So while I do not normally include recipes, I thought this might be worth sharing:

photo from
Yellow Broth
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 onion, minced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup medium steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 Tablespoons cream (I used creme fraiche)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley to garnish

1. Melt butter in pan and add onion, celery, and carrot.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the onion begins to become soft.

2. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Add chicken stock and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in the oats and chopped spinach.  Cook for 15 minutes more stirring from time to time.

4. Stir in the cream and season well.  Serve garnished with parsley, if desired.  Serves 4.

How easy is that!!!  I was told that the several in the family had 2 servings.  Oh, I had made a double batch to begin with, since it only serves 4.  I did get the thumbs up to keep it in the recipe book for us.  I also did not finely chop and mince my vegetables.  We would like to have something to actually taste when we are eating.  And having the Steel Cut Oats adds a different texture and flavor.  I would not substitute regular oats for it, as the Steel Cut Oats have more of a Barley texture to them.  I chose to use the Creme Fraiche with this meal since I did not want a sour cream, but wanted something of more substance than a heavy cream or whipping cream.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday

Everyone has different ways of celebrating the Super Bowl.  We used to have a party or go to a party a long time ago, but after having kids, it just doesn't seem like a good environment for them when they are little.

A couple of years ago, Sarge had to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras festivities which that year was before and after the Super Bowl.  The Things were kind of bummed that dad was not going to be around, so we decided to have our own little party and have some fun foods for them to eat.  We have kept the tradition going ever since.  We have done large spreads, but this past year I decided to slim it down a little.  No sense in having a huge buffet that has to be put into the fridge at the end of the night.

I asked everyone for one thing they wanted, and then figured that I could fill it out from there:

Add caption

Thing Three wanted spray cheese.  She asks for the same thing every year.  And every year it giggles me.  It is something that I never have in the house, so she thinks it is just the best thing!  Although, I did notice that she did not eat that much of it.  She did eat a couple of plain wings and a popper or two.  Its nice to see her taste buds maturing.

Photo credit: The South in my Mouth

Ms. Daisy wanted a cheesy salsa dip with Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta   It is something that goes back a long way and is just yummy.  Nice thing about this dip is that we can reheat it easily later on.

photo credit: Ole & Shaina Olmanson

Thing Two wanted our jalapeno poppers.  These are bacon wrapped jalapenos that are stuffed with a cheese mixture made from cream cheese, Mexican cheese, seasonings, and fresh cilantro.  Sarge had these once while we were stationed in Kentucky, and we have been making them ever since.  We did do them with Turkey Bacon a couple of times, and while they were okay, it is just not the same.  We have tried them also using a more mild pepper, but we have decided to keep them the same.

photo credit: Grades First

Someone asked for hot wings, might have been me, I cannot remember.  So Sarge fixed those for us as well.    Unfortunately, I purchased the wrong chicken wings, so instead of those cute little drummettes, we had these huge things that seemed way to big for the concept.  They still tasted fabulous, but were nothing like what you think of when you order buffalo wings.

Thing One had a Teen ACTS meeting on Super Bowl Sunday to get ready for the retreat coming up this week, so he did not get a vote in what to have.  He might have been the wings.  We told him we would have enough that he could have some when he got home.  He was bummed that he was going to be missing the Super Bowl, but excited about the upcoming retreat.

Our own Gumbo!!!
Sarge decided that he was going to try his hand at making gumbo for the Super Bowl since it was in New Orleans this year.  I think the hardest thing that I had to find for that was the File powder.  It was very good, and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it.   I had never had a gumbo before.  I was never much of a spice person growing up, I was more of the Kraft Mac & Cheese with Burgers type.  Not that my parents didn't cook wonderful foods, I just tended to stick with the more mild tastes.  Sarge has slowly worked me up to having spicier foods.  I know it has been a challenge for him, but he seems up to the challenge.

The kids also had some yummy cupcakes for dessert, but I just could not hang.  All in all it was a great menu, and a wonderful Super Bowl.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been for my team to have been in it, but it just was not in the cards. Oh well, maybe next year...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Okay, everyone who knows me knows that my days can be a little hectic at times.  I am trying to be frugal with our budget and not make huge meals but have enough left over so that if Sarge wants to take a meal for lunch, or Ms. Daisy and I are home, we have something yummy to eat.  

Not my actual fridge, but close!!
We last night, as I was putting away our leftover pasta, I realized that I was just about out of our snappy storage bowls.  I looked in the fridge, and decided that either we need to get a bigger fridge or we are going to have to eat up all the leftovers.  And the sooner the better, before they start crawling out!!!

Today, I looked at my schedule and my meal plan and decided that it will be today for the leftovers.  Genealogy in Seguin until 3, pick up Thing One at 4 for a Eagle project meeting, drop him off by 4:30 (that's gonna be a trick to see if I can get out of the HS parking lot by 4:30), oh and pick up Thing Two from her after school activity.  Get everyone home and be out the door by 6:10 at the latest for a GS meeting.  Oh and since the Jeep is at the fix it shop, Sarge cannot really help, and Thing One has to rely on me to fetch him.

Not mine either!
Don't get me wrong, with the food we eat, I don't mind leftovers.  Of course, the really good stuff is usually gone quickly, but there will still be quite a buffet, and having leftovers now will allow me to clean out the fridge in anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday!!!

While my fridge may never actually look like this, I am hoping that we can get it looking cleaner and free up some space for our yummy treats!  Now if I can just keep our cat from trying to run behind the bottom opening freezer every time we open it, we will be set.  Last thing I need is a kittycicle!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Random Thoughts on Regional Food Oddities

Thing One is involved in the local High School Band, so of course as a former teacher and a musician, I was more than willing to get involved in the booster organization when he started high school.  I began by working in the concessions stand for our home varsity games, and placing the orders for Coke products.  Our concessions stand is probably pretty similar to ones all across America in our offerings.  Chicken sandwiches and Pizza (we purchase from local restaurants), Hot Dogs, Nachos, Popcorn, Soda, Candy etc.  The first couple of games of the season, we sell a LOT of water, but that is probably because of it being in the high 90's in the stands at the beginning of the game. :)

Frito Pie is something that I had not heard of before, but seems to not be just here.

As well, kids here will purchase whole pickles.  Nothing more odd to me than seeing a small child chewing away on a large (like 4 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter) pickle.  There again, not seen everywhere, but the tend is growing.

We started seeing two new things this year in the concessions stand.  The first was the request for Hot Fries/ Hot Cheetos with nacho cheese sauce on top.  Apparently on the south side of San Antonio, this is the new thing.  Our Concessions VP, never being one to shy away from the chance to make a buck, promptly ran out and purchased a couple of bags of Hot Cheetos and started serving them up.

The second thing, our Concessions VP saw at another concessions stand and thought, "what the heck".  Pickle juice pops!  As we sell quite a bit of pickles, we purchase them in the large pickle buckets.  So what do you do with all the extra juice at the bottom of the bucket?? You make pops with them.

She will spend the time to pour the juice into those little solo sauce containers with the lids and freeze them.  We sell them for a quarter a piece, and they seem to be all the rage.  Sarge was at one of the games and asked about them, so one of the boosters gave him one, and he bought 3 more.  He said they were not that bad!  Amazing lady to have seen that and thought to do it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Its all about timing...

As you read this post, you will understand the title has to do as much with my kids involvements as how I to put a decent meal on the table for the family to eat on a regular basis.  Sarge and I work really hard to make sure that as often as possible we sit down together as a family for dinner.  Sometimes it gets difficult with the chaos that is our lives, but we try.

Photo from Crockin' Girls site.
Tonight, while it is not cold her in Texas, it is 54 degrees today (not bad for the end of January), I am making Chicken & Dumplings in the crock pot.  Thing One has a mini retreat for the day to prep for their big ACTS retreat in a couple of weeks, and the Sarge is directing tonight's choir at church.  So I needed to fix something that would be ready when the kids (who have all opted to go to Mass tomorrow) can eat when they are ready, but will still be warm when Sarge and I get back from Mass.

I have found that my crock pot has started becoming a integral part of my weekly routine.  There are days when I am gone for the majority of the day running errands with my Mom (we'll call her Ms. Daisy) or driving her to Seguin so she can volunteer at the Family History Center there helping others with their genealogy.  And while Thing One drives, he may not always have a vehicle at his disposal, or be able to help with Thing Two pick ups (he does when I ask him to, though).  Yes, along with all those extra activities comes me driving for pick up.  It should be no wonder then how I put about 20K on my car every year.  

My family is a little overextended at times.  Okay, so maybe it is a lot over extended.  I look back at my childhood and growing up, my parents allowed my brother and I to be involved in activities as long as we maintained passing grades.  I remember trying out and participating in various activities growing up - softball, volleyball, tried gymnastics for maybe a month, tap dance until my instructor had a stroke, swim trips, ski trips, cross country, track and scouting.  And of course, music.  Sarge was the same way, to an extent.  He did participate in band and cross country in high school, and his family was big into hunting, so he learned how to fish and hunt with a bow at a young age.

So it was no surprise that we would allow our kids to become involved in extra curricular activities as they were getting bigger.  It started while we were in Germany with Thing One.  He started playing soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, and became a cub scout.  Then Thing two started with t-ball shortly before we moved back to the states.

In Kentucky, we allowed them be become involved in sports and scouting again and as they got older they added alter serving to their routines.  This slowly creeped up on us, and soon we had three kids in sports and scouts and one serving, as well as Thing One adding the equivalent of academic bowl to his activities.

Upon moving to Texas, we went back to soccer, added scouting and then added band with Thing One.  Thing Two found that while she was to young for band, that she could add show choir and Orff ensemble.  You can see the snowball starting, right?

As they got older, Thing Three was the first to break away from soccer (which she had been doing since she before was 4 both fall and spring) at age 7 started  gymnastics.  Then she went back to soccer and kept gymnastics.  That lasted for a season or two before soccer was done for her.  I think there was actually a spring where she was doing soccer, gymnastics and swimming for a month.

Things Two and Three added district honor choir for two years, and while they loved the performances (they got to be munchkins in the HS performance of Wizard of Oz), when Thing Two aged out of it, Thing Three decided not to continue.  Thing Two also added band during this time, and Thing One had added Academic Bowl again.  Snowball rolling....

Now, we have Thing One in Band, involved in the youth group and teen ACTS at Church as well as alter serving, still in Boy Scouts (come on Eagle!!!) and Academic bowl.  Thing Two is also in Band and Jazz Band, Girl Scouts, Academic bowl, and is involved in the Church (helps with children's liturgy, as well as the pre-k class, JH youth group, and singing with the choir when she is not alter serving).  And Thing Three is in Band, Girl Scouts, Gymnastics and alter serves at Church.   Individually it would not be too much, but together it becomes a bit overwhelming at times.  Snowball has now slammed me into a cement wall!!!

If you are looking for a great crock pot cooking site, you should check out  I have been using recipes from there for over a year, and while you can definitely see a Texas theme with some of them they do have a variety.  Sorry, just a little plug..  Happy cooking!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pork Marsala

Well, the Cuban sandwiches from the other night were truly a hit with the kids.  Thing One actually wanted to know why we had never had them before.  I guess that is staying on our rotation as a meal plan.   So now after we have pork tenderloin I will be saving some of the leftovers (if there are any) for Cuban sandwiches.

I think we are truly blessed in this household.  Besides all of the everyday things that we are blessed with, happiness, good fortune, love and good health.  The Sarge is a wonderful cook.  He has a knack for fixing meals that are just amazing.  What is even more amazing is that he didn't really start cooking until he was out of college.  I am not sure if he was ever in the kitchen growing up, other than to fix some fried zucchini when his mom was gone.

So since college he has developed some great skills.  Some recipes like the pork marsala he starts with a recipe and tweeks from there, and others like is Pork Tarragon he just starts with a cut of meat and a flavor in his head.

We we first were married, I think he did not think I knew how to cook.  Silly me for breaking that misconception!  My cooking tends to be more utilitarian. This is apparent with the meals that we had since the Cuban sandwiches - beef stroganoff and baked chicken.  I try and get something on the table to fill the bellies and send them on their way, but with Sarge, it tends to be more of a culinary experience.  

I have realized that over the course of the past almost 20 years of marriage that as much as I love the Sarge's cooking, that I cannot eat as much of it as I would like.  I have been doing better with that, but it is always a challenge to change old habits. :)

So tonight I will do the running of Things Two and Three, and Sarge will fix a yummy dinner for us.  Tomorrow will probably be back to utilitarian, but that is okay too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A New Direction

Hello there blog!  Been a long time since I have been here.  My original intention was to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly of dealing with My Hubby's tour in Korea.  Well, life kind of got in the way, and I was too busy to stop and blog.  Long story short, he went to Korea, came home for leave in the middle, went back again, and then came home the following fall.  I think it was more difficult to say goodbye the second time than it was the first.  But, he came back, and we have spent the past year and a half doing what all parents do...being busy.

So now, I need to revise my blog and make it more current.  I am still a mom of 3 wonderful kiddos, spread out between high school, junior high, and intermediate school.  All of them very active, doing their own things, which is keeping me on my toes.  My oldest (Thing One) is driving now, so that is a help to me as long as my hubby (lets call him, Sarge) is riding his Harley.  

I am not sure where I am headed with this blog now, but thought I would start with food.  We are always cooking in this house, and I am always out for a new recipe to try.  While we love food, we also try to be practical about it.  Feeding a family of six can get quite costly if I am not careful.  Last night we had pork tenderloin, so today I am using the leftovers to make Cuban Sandwiches.  I baked Cuban bread this morning to make the sandwiches with tonight.  

Later today, we will assemble the sandwiches, and as it is a go day, will probably be eating in shifts.  The Cuban sandwich has pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.  These look like they will be awesome, but I think next time I will try and make individual loafs and go from there. 

Everyone, except for my mother is in and then out the door this evening.  Sarge directs our church choir, and Thing Two sings in it.  Thing One has Boy Scouts (almost has his Eagle!!!) and Thing Three is off to the gym for a 3.5 hour practice.  I stay at the gym, so I stay and work.  I also sing with the choir, but as Thing Three needs me in another town, I don't see it being frugal to drop her off, drive back for rehearsal, and return to pick her up.  Thank goodness I have an in with the director. 

So, I guess that is a start...I will try and visit my dear blog on a more regular basis, and you can see what's cooking in our abode.