Category Archives: Family

Lazy Days of Summer

It’s been hot and humid on the East Coast this week and I haven’t been doing much cooking but I had planned on having company this evening so I bought stuff to cook. The company that was coming over couldn’t make it, so I invited my sister and her family and asked them to travel the great distance of a street-width to eat some food. As she hadn’t planned anything (it’s 100 degrees, who’s thinking about cooking?), she happily accepted the invite!

I wanted to make a beautiful meal of enchiladas and a blueberry buckle for dessert (original recipe here), but I was feeling lazy and didn’t have enough blueberries. I made some modifications. I did have enough berries when I mixed up the blueberries and cherries I had in the fridge. I also didn’t follow the procedure. I threw the dry ingredients in the kitchen-aid, then the wet and added the eggs last. It worked and tastes delicious. The only downside is that it isn’t going last forever (or even the morning).

As for enchiladas, well, today is the sort of day where nothing goes as planned. Ever have those? Yeah, I thought so. My tortillas didn’t roll, so we ended up with quesadillas in enchilada sauce. Still tasted delicious. I make my enchiladas super simple, and they are crazy delicious. I reconstitute a dried ancho chile (sometime two or three, depending on what I have and who’s coming over) in hot water and add a can of diced tomatoes, a little tomato paste, a touch of salt and sugar and hit it with a stick blender until smooth. Generally, I fill the tortillas with chicken and cheese (leftover chicken), cover with sauce and more cheese and baked until the cheese is melty. Today, I used queso blanco, but you can use cheddar, the “Mexican” mix or quesadilla cheese. If you like more heat, use a can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos or add any other hot pepper you like.

I’m about to post some pictures that MIGHT make you hungry. If it’s not 100 degrees out, get cooking! If it is, call for take-out šŸ˜‰

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The Smallest Ham

I might have mentioned that I made a sort of resolution this year to not buy factory farmed meat. This means that every piece of meat we eat costs more, yes, but it also means that we less meat. We have meat meals once or twice a week (but we often have leftovers). I’m not always successful (John & I try to eat out at places that have similar values but it’s not always possible, and feeding the kiddos often leads to whatever hot dogs were on sale). But there are great convenience brands that have hormone free chicken and thanks to Applegate Farms, I can eat cold cuts.

We have been purchasing from Mini Mac FarmĀ Ā and love the quality of the meat and friendly people who own it. We have a meat budget of only $50/month; this means that we eat a lot of chicken and I find the most affordable cuts of meat. Since it’s not exactly close, I try to buy 2-3 month’s worth of meat at time. The last time I picked up meat, I had ordered chicken, sirloin steaks, bacon (of course), sausage and a petite ham. The petite ham is almost two pounds of fresh (uncured) ham. I have cooked fresh ham before, so this was a little daunting. There are very few recipes I could even find on the internet. The few that I did find suggested brining. Brining is a wonderful way to prepare meat, BUT it takes a long time and you have to plan it out in advance. Since I’m with the kids all day (and a lot of the evening), taking time out to brine and then prep a ham to roast simply isn’t practical.

I had a big Saturday planned, too: painting the 3 year old’s new bedroom. The slow cooker seemed to be the best solution.

We got some gorgeous fresh onions from our Co-Op share this week, so I quartered them and threw them in the bottom, then piled on some carrots, then the ham. I seasoned it with salt and lots of black pepper, than splashed in some soy sauce, the juice from 3 oranges (what I had on the counter) and brown sugar. It smelled great as it was cooking!

The end result was all right. I think I will try to find a hormone free smoked ham option next. There are more tender cuts of fresh pork (shoulder, loin) that I will stick to in the mean time.

Here are some photos:

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Kat makes Cakes

So, we all know John is the cake decorating, fancy-schmancy pastry chef in the family, but I can bake, too (not that anyone disputes this) and I do like to try my hand at cake decorating. I’m decent at it (I’m not trying anything too extreme) and thought you might like to see some of my work! My cake writing is not that great (you should see my handwriting) and I’m still working on keeping tiered cakes level, but I think I’m getting there!

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Greens, greens nothing but greens!

Actually, a lot more than greens. We joined Purple Dragon Co-Op about 2 months ago and have enjoyed fresh, organic and as local as possible fruits and veggies ever since. Every week, there are lettuces and delicious, leafy dark greens.

John and I love our greens any way we can get them. I used to always saute them with garlic, and then I discovered panade through this recipe. I’ve been making nearly every week since May. Tonight, though, I was looking to use more veggies than just my greens. We’ve been having a lot of burgers and dogs and other summery meats, so we both were feeling like having a hearty vegetable dish. I thought this recipe looked swell. The only problem was I didn’t have the veggies it called for. Oh, and I don’t use mustard anything anywhere.

So, I cooked my greens (overcooked perhaps, but it was my first experience with Callalou greens), and sauteed my zahara squash with mushrooms and carrots (all from the CoOp). I made the cheesy sauce (equal parts cheddar and gouda because that’s what I had), and topped with potatoes. Instead of the mustard, I used a pinch of nutmeg in my cheese sauce – not only does it add something to the cheese sauce, but nutmeg goes really great with dark, leafy greens.

It smells amazing already and I’m not sure I can wait for my husband to get home to eat it!

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(PS – I did, in fact, wait for him, but not by choice. The three year old decided she wasn’t sleepy so I had to deal with that…)

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Happy Hanukkah or, May the Force Be with You

Is there a better way to begin the festival of lights than by eating latkes and Star Wars cookies?

Ok, this might not be the most logical pairings, but does it help to know that I’m not actually Jewish? One of my friends called me an honorary Jew once, but only because I genuinely like matzohs and always remember her holidays. Does anyone really need a reason to make latkes? I’ve never really made latkes before, but I had an idea: potatoes, onions, fried. How hard could it be?

Turns out, not hard at all. I had my husband grate the potatoes, I chopped onions, added salt, pepper, flour and baking soda and it worked! They turned out delicious and went really well with the leftover apple sauce that my sister made from Thanksgiving. If everyone had latkes tonight, it would be a happy first night of light indeed.

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And what about the force?

John got some Star Wars cookie cutters for his birthday and we never had a chance to use them. Our toddler has wanted to make Christmas cookies since we put our tree up on Sunday. I couldn’t think of a better way to make her happy and get myself some Star Wars chocolate gingerbread cookies. Despite burning the first batch, they turned out very nice. We undercooked the 2nd batch just a smidge and they were chewy, spicy and chocolatey. I found the recipe here.

So, Happy Hanukkah and I hope everyone has a great holiday season!

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Battle of the Bulgar

John likes to bring interesting ingredients home from the store. Occasionally, I like them. When he opened the shopping bag to proudly pronounce his purchase of bulgar wheat, I was less than thrilled. He was cooking, though, so I would have to try whatever it is he came up with, and be happy that I didn’t have to cook it.

He cooked up a nice stir fry with the last of our CSA’s greens: bok choy and tat soi. The gorgeous greens, beef and sauce all worked together to make me forget that underneath it all, there was bulgar wheat instead of brown rice. When I remembered, I stuck some of it on my fork with the greens. It wasn’t horrible, so I tried it all by itself. Never mind “not horrible,” it was actually delicious! John had seasoned it with onions, garlic, ginger and citrus and it was the perfect compliment to the asian-style stir fry. The taste was not dissimilar to brown rice and the texture (it’s always the texture that turns me off food) was nice, a lot like short grain rice.

I highly recommend trying Bulgar. A lot of the more nutritious alternatives to rice are more of an acquired taste. Quinoa sounds cool and is easy to cook, but after a few bites, I can’t take the texture. Couscous is all right and fast, but again, the texture gets to me eventually. Barley is good, but really only in soup (for me, again, John loves it). I think Bulgar is similar enough to rice in texture that I can really have it with everything I would otherwise have rice with. Yay nutrition!

Here are some photos of our dinner.

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Big Day in the Kitchen

John’s birthday is May 31st so it falls on Memorial Day frequently, or that ends up being the weekend we can celebrate. This is a good and bad thing. Good, because he sometimes has off on his birthday. Bad, because most people have long standing traditions for Ā Memorial Day and we can’t often have large gatherings for him. Also, John’s childhood was not filled with over the top fun filled friend laden birthdays, so I do everything I can to make it special each year for him. Since I’m now in my ninth month of pregnancy, though, it had to be small this year, and pretty much just immediately family.

By small, did you think I wasn’t cooking a lot? Hahaha – fooled you! While I did (am) make(ing) quite a bit of food, it really is less than I would normally prepare.

Here’s the menu:

Sausage & Peppers

Hot Dogs

Burgers (Beef & Turkey)

Baked Potato Salad

Black Bean Salad

Zucchini Pie

Dessert:

M&M Cookies

Banana Pudding

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Are you surprised that the dessert menu is almost as long as the dinner menu? You shouldn’t be! It doesn’t matter if John is cooking or not, (and he didn’t for his birthday) we can’t help trying out different recipes.

The sausage and peppers recipe is one my sister and I have cultivated and perfected, and I’m not quite willing to share that. Also, there really isn’t a recipe so much as a feeling, so without you standing next to me, I’m not sure I could explain it!

The Baked Potato Salad was inspired by the recipe from Wegmans, but of course, I made changes. I combined the new recipe with the way that I usually make potato salad. The things I kept from the new recipe: roasting the spuds, bacon and sour cream. What I didn’t use: Cheese. John and I thought cheese would make the salad be full of weird in the end. What I added: Celery, Lovage, and Parsley for color, that classic potato salad flavor and crunch.

The black bean salad is something I threw together one day when I didn’t know what to make as a side dish. I took inspiration from a bunch of different recipes and adapted them to what I had.

Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans

2 ears of corn (or one larger can if its not in season)

1-2 tomatoes, depending on the size and how much you like tomatoes

1/2 red onion or 3 scallions

Juice of 1 lime

Olive Oil

Avocado

Cilantro (if you like it; we don’t, so I don’t put it in)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedure:

If using fresh corn, cut it from the cob and roast it in a hot pan for a few minutes to bring the flavor out.

Chop tomatoes and avocado into bite sized pieces.

Combine all ingredients except the lime, avocado and oil.

If serving right away, add the avocado. If making ahead, reserve the avocado until just before serving.

Toss with about 1/4 cup olive oil and the lime juice. Serve right away if avocado is involved. Can be made a day ahead without it.

A note on the M&M cookies – we didn’t make them XXL size. We made them regular, and they were awesome. We like chewy cookies and this recipe achieved it perfectly, when the cookies are just hardly brown on the bottom. As for the banana pudding, if you like banana pudding, just make this recipe and your life will change. That’s all there is to it.

And the piece de resistance – Salted Caramel Buttercream

It’s as easy as – Start with your favorite buttercream recipe, cutting back on the sugar. Add about 1/2 cup caramel sauce and 1 tsp salt. When you frost your cupcakes, top with a little fleur de sel. And it might change your life again.

Due to all the excitement of the day, I forgot to take photos of some of the food, but I will share with you what I’ve got:

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