Hello there, 2017

Happpppy New Year! I don’t have any resolutions to share this year, which I regret a bit. More and more I hear people extolling the benefits of “starting now”, not waiting for a new year, and  I agree to a certain point. The thing is, I also enjoy the tradition of setting a goal at the start of the year. It’s definitely not necessary, but it’s kind of fun to have a date to look back on and proclaim that “this was the year I started to X,” or “this was the year that I made Y a habit.”

In review 2016 was both wonderful and heartbreaking. My wonderful Grandma Kate passed away, and I still miss her so very much. She survived my Grandpa much longer than she would have liked, and it’s been a shock to not have any maternal grandparents remaining. In 2016, there were so many positives to balance things out. My kid got glasses, and broke them only twice. My close group of friends went camping and cabining multiple times, and had our Friendsdinner nearly every week (though it moved from Tuesdays to Mondays). We added a loving puppy to our family, and named him Gunter.

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I’m not sure what the future of this intermittently-maintained site will be. I’ve started to lean more towards meal-prep than formal meal plans, deciding at the time of cooking how to best use the week’s ration of chicken, beef, rice etc. There are still times I miss the routine of planning things out, but more and more I don’t really want to document how often we end up eating the same stir-fry, burgers, spaghetti, and burritos.

In 2016, I tried, failed, and tried again to be mindful of how I spend my time, patience, and other resources. In 2017 I’m sure I’ll do more of the same, but perhaps with additional jazz hands for emphasis.

Just desserts #20161006

Why, hello there! We’ve been trucking along through summer/fall, and I’ve happily settled into a routine of batch cooking, shopping just a few days ahead, and not planning out a whole week at a time. But here we are again. Because I have dessert goals.

  1. Pumpkin pie. It’s been requested by the 7-year-old-dear-God-where-has-the-time-gone-he’s-gigantic. It’s his favorite, he’s been asking politely for weeks, I have ALL the ingredients, and there’s just no excuse to not make it.
  2. Apple crisp! I made an apple pie last week (or maybe before then), and while it was well received, I personally was underwhelmed. On to apple crisp, which I will eat any time of the day or night.
  3. All the cookies. It’s the time of year when I love having frozen (but still homemade) cookie dough on hand. I make them into the proper sized little disks, freeze them, and then can bake off however many I want to at a time. I’m definitely making both chocolate chip, and chocolate with peanut butter chips, but I may add in another variety as well.
  4. Cheesecake! I received an Instant Pot, which is an electronic pressure cooker. Very stable. Very reliable. Very good at making cheesecakes. I even have mini mason jars for individual servings and gifting. I just need to DO IT, and then eat all the non-gifted cheesecakes.

That’s it for now! What desserts on your to-make or to-eat list? Tell me, or better yet, share some with me.

Welcome to the Calzone Zone

The kids have decided we will open a restaurant, and it will be called Calzone Zone. They were so thrilled with the name they came up with (all on their own), that I couldn’t bear to tell them that it had been done before. Both by Chef John (whose method I used when I made the Zones), and also by the TV show Parks & Rec. Either way, we 100% cheated with pre-made everything, it turned out 100% delicious, and I 100% did not take a picture to prove it to you. Sorry, Internet. Here’s what to do!

  1. Buy Trader Joe’s garlic and herb pizza dough, pepperoni, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, fresh mozzarella, and a single egg you should already have on hand if you’re an omnivore.
  2. Preheat oven to 500, with a pizza stone in the lower third.
  3. Divide dough into six equal parts (with your handy-dandy bench scraper), let it warm up for a bit while you do other junk, then come back and roll it out to the size of a plate.
  4. Add a layer of pepperoni if you’re using them (I used them on half, other were just cheese), then an inch high layer of ricotta (top with salt and pep), a few slices of fresh mozzarella, and then more pepperoni if you’re using it. Seal em up like Chef John said to on a well floured surface (same link as above).
  5. The oven has beeped, telling you you’re ready to bake! I have a rim-less cookie sheet that I basically use as an over-sized cookie sheet. I put a big ol’ square of parchment paper on it, bravely and quickly moved the Zones over using my bench scraper, THEN top with an egg wash (one egg mixed with approximately 1 1/2 tsp of water) and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Slide the entire piece of parchment paper onto the pizza stone and bake for about 12 minutes. The instructions said to bake for 15, but my Zones were significantly smaller than theirs and cooked faster.
  7. LET THEM COOL- we cooled them for 10 minutes and they were still way too hot. I will cook them for 15 or maybe even 20 before yelling dinner next time.

We devoured our Zones with a salad, a side of meatballs in marinara, and some extra marinara for dipping. The portion was perfect for our 7 & 11 year old kids to have a single Zone, and we parents each enjoyed two. If I was going any fancier on the stuff inside I would probably use plain pizza dough, or even make your own homemade dough, but since our ingredients were pretty simple the garlic & herb dough was perfect. The parchment paper also caught some of the inevitable cheese-splosion, which came from a poorly sealed corner of one Zone.

These have formally been requested as an addition to our regular rotation. It was a nice variation from our usual stir fry/burgers/burritos/pasta routine, I’m documenting it here so that I’ll hopefully remember to do it again 🙂

Life update: we are officially in soccer season! Darian is now in 2nd grade (and has his same teacher from 1st grade, Ms. Drake), and Kimathi is in 5th grade (with Ms. Goetzke). It’s K’s LAST YEAR of Elementary school, and it’s getting me all misty eyed. Summer was full of camping, cabin trips, swimming, going to the drive-in movies, and more good times than you could shake a stick at. I’m both relieved to be back in our school-year-routine, and thankful for all the good times we had.

Food update: My sweetie got me a grill, and I have been *loving* it. Also, cool enough now to officially proclaim the start of baking season! I baked some rosemary bread yesterday, topped with sesame and poppy seeds. It was fine, but utterly forgettable, so I’ll continue the search for a rosemary bread recipe and then document it here after a few tests. Next up- all the desserts.

Menu Plan #20160516

I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t post the first week of May, because last week my Grandma passed away. I’m shocked, and yet not. She was 90 and was having medical problems. I’m sad. I barely started to wrap my head around family get togethers without my Grandpa who died 3 years ago, and I’m utterly unprepared to try and think of them without her. And without the house where I played dress up with cousins for so many years. My mom was one of 8 children, and all her siblings, their significant others, and the grandkids could pile into the living room for performances- some much more practiced than others, but all cheered for.

Nothing feels normal, so I’m going to get back to the routine of meal planning. I have no idea how closely I’ll actually follow it, especially since we just got back into town yesterday and I still need to do my grocery shopping.

  • Monday Brats (on buns or not), corn, and salad. It will come together quickly, fill bellies, and not leave me with much clean up.
  • Tuesday will be Kimathi’s Elementary band concert! It starts at 6:30PM, so we’ll be skipping our usual Tuesday Friendsdinner and grabbing a bite to eat somewhere.
  • Wednesday Cabbage and beef casserole, served with rice. Like this recipe, but without the green pepper and with the rice cooked separately (so also leaving out the extra water). It’s an easy casserole, and super comforting.
  • Thursday Sesame chicken, green beans, dumplings, and rice.
  • Friday I would love to make some kind of fish- just not sure how exactly yet. I’ll give myself a few days to peruse Pinterest and try to figure it out.
  • Weekend Burritos at some point. Pancakes at some point. Cookies at some point. Hopefully a bounty of fresh fruit and veg.

There! Mostly done anyway. I’d gladly welcome any comfort-food-type-recipe you have to offer.

 

Meal Plan #20160425

Spring has officially sprung, and the week is supposed to be cool and/or rainy. To warm up the house and not go completely stir crazy, I have a few extra cooking projects planned.

  • Monday Cheeseburgers, veggies, ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
    • I’ll also be making some kind of vegetable beef soup for lunches this week.
  • Tuesday Friendsdinner! Each Tuesday a group of friends and I rotate hosting dinner. This week is not my night to host, and not my night to cook.
  • Wednesday Pasta with smoked sausage, peppers and onions in a faux arrabiata sauce (plenty of garlic and red bell peppers cooked in butter with a hefty dose of red pepper flakes, plus store bought marinara).  Broccoli on the side.
  • Thursday Breakfast for dinner- I’m trying a new pancake recipe, and serving it up with bacon, fresh fruit, and soft scrambled eggs with spinach. {UPDATE: I didn’t get the pancake batter made in time, so we did french toast instead}
    • I’ll be out of soup at this point, and will make up some fresh spring rolls for Friday’s lunch. Quick pickled cucumbers, carrots and red onion, chicken, rice noodles with plenty of mint and cilantro, wrapped up in romaine lettuce and rice paper.
  • Friday Stir fried noodles & veggies, chicken skewers (kind of like this recipe but with extra turmeric and ginger in the chicken marinade), lots of broccoli, and dumplings.
  • Weekend:
    • Saturday breakfast will be french toast {UPDATE: I have not one, but *two* new waffle irons, so it’s going to be a waffle-palooza! I’ll make my classic buttermilk waffles AND sweet potato hash browns. I also really want to try mashed potato waffles at some point, but probably not until I already have leftover mashed potatoes}, smoked sausage, and fruit.
    • Lunch to go: spring time and/or summer wardrobe refresh for the kids, they’re both growing extra fast and wearing holes in pants. We’ll pack up a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and veggies.
    • Yard. Work. It’s going to take up quite a bit of our weekend time.
    • Meatloaf will happen. More soups will likely happen. Hopefully other baking will also happen.

That’s all for now folks! If you have a favorite crockpot recipe, please toss it my way.

 

Planless Part Two #20160411

Last week was spring break, and I was fortunate enough to have time off with the kids. I was completely (and happily) planless most of the time, but I did get started a day ahead of time for my Friendsdinner. Every week on Tuesday, a group of friends and I get together for dinner. We have five families, and each household takes a turn hosting dinner on Tuesday. Last week was my turn to host, and I made what appeared to be the least healthy meal in our many months of Friendsdinners. I made fried pork chops, cheesy potatoes, and broccoli. I also had a balsamic and cucumber salad on the side, a veggie plate, and ice cream for dessert.

This week I’m going to try out being planless again, mostly because I won’t have to cook on Tuesday (Friendsdinner will be at another household), and I won’t have to cook on Friday because it’s The Gathering at ARTS-Us and they provide a free community dinner. Given the contents of my cupboards and fridge, I’m confident that I can wing it for three dinners. That’s all folks, have a good week!

Belated meals #20160330

Step one: step into your time machine.

Step two: set date to 3/28/2016.

Step three: POP! Fizz! Sizzle!

Step four: time machine is broken, so just write your meal plan three days late.

  • Monday Soy & sesame chicken, broccoli, rice and dumplings. There was a very vocal protest that this had not been dinner in the past 6 days, so it happened again. The dumpling mob has been satisfied.
  • Tuesday Friendsdinner, and it wasn’t my night. Next week is my meal, so we’ll see what happens. What would you cook for 16 people?
  • Wednesday Spicy smothered chicken, red potatoes, and green beans.
  • Thursday Cheese burgers! Fries and salad on the side.
  • Friday Chicken Parmesan, pasta, garlic bread and broccoli.

For those of you following along, I did indeed make rolls on Sunday. However… They still need work. The seasonings were 2 tsp each of rosemary and oregano, along with 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbs minced onion, and 1 tsp garlic powder. The dough was a bit on the dry side, so the rolls ended up being more dense than I would have liked, and I may have overmixed them a bit. Also, rolling them in butter rather than olive oil didn’t do the crust of the rolls any favors. This Sunday I’ll mess with the ratios again and report back.