Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Blues (+ a few more recipes)

Reading:  Finished Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck.  In the middle of Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and skimming through/taking notes on Growing Kids God's Way.
Watching: Well, now that Sherlock is over, I've turned to Britain's fabulous Endeavour.  Creepy murder mysteries aside, I can't get enough of the 60's costumes, period props and stunning views of my beloved Oxford!!
Listening to: Meredith Andrews Not for a Moment -- did you know she had her second baby in the bathroom almost a year ago?!?  As a fellow "didn't make it in time" birther, this song takes on extra-special meaning for me.  Also, while not a recommendation, I did try to listen to Pandora's Love Song station yesterday to get amped up for the holiday.  Didn't do it for me.  Instead, I felt like I was trapped at senior prom with a bad DJ.
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Not much to report here.  You know it's been a slow week when you pop your SD card into the computer and only four new photos appear.  The cold is starting to get to me.  All the storms in our forecast ended up being rain or ice, which is absolutely no fun at all.  Especially when you're running behind for preschool, get four kids out to the door, and realize the minivan doors are frozen shut.

I delayed hanging the snowflakes this year because there was so much natural beauty outside ... but not anymore!
Naturally, all this time indoors has resulted in just a few more messes.  In one morning alone, the three oldest played train, ship, airplane, babies, restaurant, and Legos ... lots and lots of Legos.  I really like Legos myself.  I just hate when they ask me to build them something, and then I can't quit until it's finished... no small feat when dealing with a box of thousands and thousands of pieces.

This girl LOVES Legos too!  Her favorite place to sit is right next to the box so she can run her hand through all the pieces, while simultaneously chewing on another one of course.
The boys' newest activity is "booby traps."  They were setting them up for Julia yesterday.  I tried to have a serious discussion about the difference between having "fun" and intentionally trying to hurt someone.  It ended up with Jack getting mad that I had dismantled all his laundry room booby traps (hello, do you want me to wash your clothes, kids?).  He then told me that he was going to set 50 booby traps for me in the laundry room and I wasn't allowed to come in.  And to ensure that, he set to work making a sign.  So he asked me how to spell "No grown-ups allowed."  I just couldn't resist...


But then I felt bad and, finding the situation entirely more humorous than anything else going on that day, I gave him the correct information.  I have no idea why it's written backwards.  His first three attempts were written correctly.  Must be practicing his Hebrew.  I'm leaving the sign there for now because it makes me feel all rebellious every time I do another load of laundry.


Of course, after all this time confined together in the house, I was practically giddy when Jude ASKED to go outside yesterday.  And not wanting to be left without his "best buddy", Jack was right behind him.  And Lia is in this entertaining stage where she just wants to do what everyone else around her is doing.  So I had a lovely moment in the afternoon of peace and quiet while my older ones played in a half-frozen sandbox (or so I thought.)  I thought I heard water running but assured myself, certainly not!  I sneaked into the laundry room (ignoring Jack's sign) and I heard some voices outside the lower-level door.  When I peaked out the curtain, there was Jude, face-down at the bottom of the outside steps, pants around his ankles, presumably peeing down the drain.  But that wasn't the worst of it.  When he stood up, I saw he was soaked up to his armpits.  Turns out, that noise was the outdoor spigot and Jude had been playing in a homemade fountain.

She's not really drinking, just chewing.
He couldn't understand why I made him change out of his wet clothes in 37 degree weather.  And he was thoroughly upset when I made him take off his "home pants" in the middle of the day.  Boys!

That's a cracker on her chin.  She doesn't eat them, just gnaws on them and lets the crumbs fall all over her shirt.
Seriously though, the boys are not my biggest issue.  It's just that one girl, in the throes of her 2's, the one that empties all my drawers, floods my bathrooms, crawls on the counter to dump a box of sprinkles on her scone, empties my food dye containers into her palms, and SCREAMS "hold you!! hold you!!!" while lying on the floor several times a day.

You know it's bad when she refuses to look at me.
Speaking of sprinkles and dye, let's move on to the latest meal plans.  Actually, no.  These aren't the latest after all.  I think these are from back in January.  No matter!

Breakfast
Yogurt Molasses Bread 
I came across this recipe while scanning Food52 during one of my many nursing marathons. It struck me as odd, so of course I had to try it.  I've never had anything like it, and I mean that in a good way!  I thoroughly enjoyed it but I'm not so sure the kids were into it.  And I don't even think Jon ate a piece.  Which meant a lot of leftovers that didn't get consumed.  I'd make this again when company comes, or at least, company with eclectic taste.


Ricotta Raspberry Scones 
After the previous week's stuffed shells, I had some leftover ricotta to use up.  I did have a little on the side with my molasses bread, but the rest went into these scones.  They're from Smitten Kitchen, need I say more?  Okay, if you insist.  These were delicious.  Quite possibly the best scones I've ever made.  But that's not saying much.  My scone-making abilities rank right up there with my crust rolling skills. As a side note:  I make my own ricotta.  So easy.  Just Google homemade ricotta and choose one of the many recipes!


Whole Wheat Honey Pecan Pumpkin Muffins 
I'm always drawn to recipes that spell out just about every ingredient in their title.  Okay, not really.  These have been a family favorite for a few years now.  My mama sent down some pumpkin for my freezer after Christmas so these get made regularly in our house!  I don't do raisins, because I hate raisins in baked goods, and I cut back on the sugar a tad.  Funny how "sugar" never makes it in a recipe title.  Well, except for sugar cookies.  I digress.

Lunch
One Pot Mac n Cheese 
This recipe was shared with me by my friend Jen.  We met during our last duty-station.  (Jen, you're my favorite part about Southern Maryland!!) You'll be seeing more of Jen's collection in upcoming meal plans, she sources a good portion of our menu!  Anyway, this is a homemade alternative to the "blue box" mac and cheese.  I usually make it with whole wheat macaroni because it makes me feel like a good mom.  Just kidding.  [Oh, and speaking of duty stations, STILL do not have orders for this summer.  Any day now.  Or not. Argh!]

Oatmeal Smoothies, Popcorn 
Oh, you know oatmeal would have to make an appearance.  I like this because, back when my kids wouldn't touch oatmeal, I was still able to sneak it in their diet.  It's addition here makes this smoothie extra-filling!  We love popcorn and in this house, it's not just a snack.  It's a whole grain, people!  And full of fiber and antioxidants.  We either make ours on the stovetop or dump 1/3 cup in a paper bag and microwave it for 2 1/2 minutes.  Sometimes I spray it with olive oil and sprinkle on the salt.  But we much prefer melted butter!

Pulled Pork and Apple Cabbage Salad 
Oh, Sunday afternoon's how you tease us!  We go to the earlier service which means we're often home a little before lunch, and yet my kids want to eat the moment we walk in the door.  But after the effort that is getting a family of six ready and out the door for church, and then back again, I rarely feel like making a meal moments after walking in the door.  Nor cleaning it up afterwards.  Which is why Sunday afternoons are our favorite time to play our eat-out card.  But that's not good for the budget.  So this particular day I had pulled pork pulled ready to go in the crock-pot.  I like this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food because it uses all "real food" ingredients - no bottled stuff!  The apple cabbage salad was good but made entirely too much (my kids ate apples and raisins, not the salad) and I really can't stand fennel.  Which is too bad because ... wait for it ... fennel is a galactologue.  There's that word again.  I don't mind drinking it in tea but, please, not on my slaw.  I'd make this again minus that ingredient, and only half a recipe.

Dinner
PF Changs Lettuce Wraps 
Heaven and earth, these were good!  I don't know if they're a "copycat" recipe since she says it's a "lighter version."  Also, it's been so long since I've had a PF Changs lettuce wrap that I wouldn't be able to have an opinion anyway.  I've steered away from making these in the past because half the ingredients were "weird."  But since branching out in my cooking, I have more and more of these items in my pantry.  If you don't have this stuff, it's going to be expensive to make this.  But just know that you'll be making them again, and again, and again.  So it's worth the initial investment!

Spinach Walnut Ravioli 
These sounded so good, and they tasted so good.  But unfortunately, they didn't look so good.  It was my first time making homemade ravioli and, to begin with, they weren't very uniform (I've since ordered a ravioli stamp from Amazon), but to make matters worse, I piled the finished ones on a plate and let them sit there for a while.  So when it was time to cook the ravioli they were all stuck together.  Which meant a boiled mess of pasta.  I've learned my lesson, so I'll be giving myself a second chance on this recipe in the future.

Mexican Meatza 
We're not paleo by any means but for my husband's sake, I am trying to do more low-carb dinners.  This sounded interesting, so we gave it a try.  It was good, but a little tough for the kids who generally struggle with red meat no matter how I serve it, as well as peppers, onions, and salsa.  Oops.

Mushroom Pasta 
Now that I've mentioned cutting back on carbs ... another pasta recipe.  But oh.my.word is this an amazing dish!  I'm not even kidding, this could be one of my new very favorite meals.  As in, you could make this for my birthday if you wanted.  This is coming from a girl who would pick mushrooms off her plate a few years ago!  Phew, just typing out this make me want make it again!  Okay, so we used homemade pasta because that makes everything taste better.  But the real pièce de résistance are the caramelized onions.  I feel like I never truly knew how to caramelize onions until I made this dish. Long story short, I had three helpings, and I raced through the first two in order to beat my husband to the last scoop!

London Broil, Rice Pilaf, Brussel Sprouts 
I happened to have a London Broil in the freezer.  My in-laws make it often, it's the main course at our Christmas dinner.  And since Christmas wasn't so long ago I decided to try a new recipe.  It was husband-approved!  Rice pilaf, because I'm always looking for ways to make rice exciting.  And brussel sprouts, how I love thee! My earlier memories of brussel sprouts are not good.  I distinctively remember holding my nose while choking them down before the timer ran out (my parents had to regularly set the timer for me as a child!)  As an adult, I've learned the secret to brussel sprouts is how you cook them.  They really don't require much in the way of ingredients, salt and pepper, a little oil, Jon likes to add a splash of balsamic vinegar.  But they should be roasted until browned and crispy.  I've also sautéed them with mushrooms with great success!  We love brussel sprouts here!



Crispy Nut and Herb Fried Chicken, Warm Orzo Salad with Beets and Greens
We don't do fried chicken very often, but this was a nice twist to the traditional breadcrumb topping.  Crispy, but with more depth of flavor -- we did pecans and parsley.  Beets rank right up there with brussel sprouts in the "food I used to hate" category.  I love how this recipe also includes the greens.  But I have to admit, the real reason I gave it a go was for the feta.  My gang loves cheese, and feta tops our list!  The kids actually do fairly well with this salad, I think the pasta and feta play a large role in their acceptance!


I don't always put so much effort in to plating my kids' food, only when they're being occupied by the TV and I'm trying to stall dinner until Daddy gets home ...

Thai Style Chicken Burgers, Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
For Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook "It's All Good."  The irony is that, according to Gwyneth, it's really not all good, as so many of the foods we're used to consuming are not allowed in her diet.  But that doesn't negate the fact that there are some positively beautiful and tasty recipes in her book.  This is the first one we tried, based on Kate's recommendation.  I thought it was delicious, although I don't think Jon appreciates it when I mess with the traditional burger.  For his sake, I included a Japanese salad with ginger dressing which is also in the cookbook.  Unfortunately, my grocery store did not have miso paste, so I had to improvise, i.e. Google every recipe until I found one that didn't call for miso paste.  I think that's why my version didn't go over as well.




Pork, Sauerkraut and Mashed Potatoes
It's not officially a new year until we usher it in with some pork and sauerkraut.  As a kid, we used to go to my Great Aunt Jane's cabin every New Year's Eve for games, ball dropping fun, and sauerkraut.  Loads and loads of sauerkraut.  Aunt Jane's cabin and sauerkraut just go together.  In fact, we visited her once in the summer and I swear her home still had a faint cabbage-y smell.  Anyway, I keep hearing about how easy homemade sauerkraut is, and how, as a lacto-fermented food, it's so darn good for you!  So I decided to try my hand and sure enough, easy-peasy and oh, so good!  I like my sauerkraut with a little crisp and that's exactly how this turned out.  There are recipes out there that suggest fermenting in a mason jar as well, but I wanted to try a "crock" version.  I don't have a crock, so I used my slow-cooker insert instead.  But then I needed it for another meal so I switched it out to the Dutch oven.  All that to say, making homemade sauerkraut is not as involved as you may think!

Green Beans with New Potatoes
And finally, while we're on the subject of food and relatives, this dish always brings back memories of my Grandma.  I miss her most when I'm in the kitchen.  When I got married, that's when I would talk to her on the phone, while cooking.  Because inevitably I had a question and she was better than Google.  When we were younger and my mom went back to work, my Grandma used to cook our family dinner every Thursday.  It was a meal I made sure I never missed.  "Ham and Green Beans" was one of her frequent dishes.  A frugal and filling meal.  This is Paula Deen's version and although I hate to admit it, I think I like it a touch better than my ancestral one.  Probably because of the butter.  Yeah, that's a lot of butter.  But I'm of the mind that butter ain't so bad, and Weston A Price agrees.

So that was our menu in January.  What about you?  Any good recipes to share?

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