Tag Archives: cooking

Excitement!

I owe you all so many posts. I had fun trying new foods with my kids in February, but was having so much fun and there were so many new and exciting things happening in our lives that computer time was limited at best. That’s a good thing, right? 馃檪 I still want to share with you some food fun we had, and I will try to back-track and do that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some exciting news: I am changing jobs and career path! I realized I need to work directly with people and start working towards some larger life goals, so I have gone to work where I get to learn about coffee, talk to people, and smile all day long (and they pay me for this?!) This is going to free up a lot of time for me to get into college, learning about nutrition and so much more. It’s an exciting time!

And here’s some more excitement: My best friend talked me into offering my weekly menu planning and shopping lists to subscribers to make a little extra money. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but found a lot of people interested, and so I’m giving it a shot and I’m excited to launch my first email subscription with an aim to launch by April 1st (eek! That’s only a week away, isn’t it?! I better get back to my menu writing!)

So… for more information about joining my “Finding Dinner” menu subscription, check out the Finding Dinner聽tab and keep watching for details on how to confirm your subscription and find more time and money in your budget.

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Reusable Memories

Stacks of Memories!

I use real dishes. Yes, even for parties with many people in attendance, I use glass plates, glasses, and flatware, and I even use cloth napkins. It’s not that I’m a snob about dishes. Not at all. I have a hodge podge mix of plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and napkins. There are matching sets among the mix, but for a large group, nothing matches, and I rather prefer it that way. It’s casual. It’s fun. It’s me.

When the party is over and all the guests have left, I walk around and pick up stray plates, glasses, and whatever else is sitting on tables, window sills, next to chairs… and this brings a smile to my face, because I know that everyone enjoyed themselves and as I stack up the plates and line up the glasses, it’s like I’m stacking up memories with every clink of dishes hitting against each other. And those memories will get to come out and play again and again as those dishes are used for nightly family dinners, dinner with friends, parties “just because”, impromptu get-togethers, and much more. And those memories are worth more than any possible breakage might cost to replace.

Remember: Use the good stuff. Today is special.

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Happy New Year 2012

I am finally feeling settled in our new home. Just in time for the New Year! I have spent New Year’s Eve baking and cleaning and preparing for what is going to be an amazing 2012. How do I know it’s going to be amazing? Well, because I said so! Someone once told me that having a great day is a choice, and I think the same is true of the entire year, so I’m making a choice right now to have an amazing 2012. I hope you’ll join me in that choice.

Tomorrow I will re-enter civilization with the installation of internet at home. We also have cable being installed, but ssshhhh… that’s a surprise for the kiddos. 馃槈

Happy New Year! It's going to be amazing! xoxo

A toast to you in this New Year. Happy New Year! My wish for you is to always remember that you deserve to be happy. xoxo

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Eating From Boxes

Sometimes, life throws you curve lemons. 馃槈

I’ve learned over the years, as many who have come before me, that if there is one thing in life that will always remain constant, it’s that nothing stays the same. And if ever there was a doubt, my life as of late proves just that. I won’t go into the terribly boring details of these changes, except maybe 1 of them. It’s the reason we are eating from boxes and the biggest reason for my recent “hiatus” from the blog-osphere. We’re moving to a new town, a new community.

Oh, words that I never thought I’d say, at least not before my children had finished school in our little town. But, I realized that as times change, as people change, as circumstances change, sometimes, well, you gotta roll with the punches, catch some lemons, and throw some curve balls of your own right back at life. So that’s what we’re doing.

While we transition to our new home, we’re staying with friends. Have you ever picked up your kids and inserted yourself into the middle of someone else’s home and family for a few months? Yeah, it’s a lot harder than you would think. But we’re managing and so far I think we’ll remain friends once our stay there is complete.

Last weekend, we found ourselves spending our first night in our new apartment, in our new town. We’re not fully moved in there, and won’t complete the move until mid-November, but until then, we’ll be spending our weekends there, setting up the new place, and eating from boxes. I won’t be posting a lot for awhile, but my kiddos have said they’ll write a couple posts. I will get back to posting once things settle and the boxes disappear from my life. 馃槈

(I leave you with this picture: Our box table with celebratory drink before dinner. This was the boy child’s idea. I was going to just put the table cloth on the floor, but he really wanted to set up a “real” table. Isn’t he a cool kid?–No, you can’t have him. He’s mine. 馃檪 )

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Market Colors

Market colors make a grey day bright again!

In spite of聽the cloudy, drizzly day today, the local farmers were out as usual on the street, sharing their food and their knowledge. I always learn something when I go to the market, and what’s better than that is that I often get to teach something as well. This grey day turned colorful as I walked around, talking to the farmers and other vendors, picking up my colorful bounty.

Today I was given a great way to cook up some kale leaves. I picked up the Russian Kale from Parke Creek Farm聽where she told me the differences between the varieties and some ways to cook them. I chose this variety because she described making kale chips with them by spritzing them with some olive oil and sprinkly with some sea salt, then baking in a low heat oven until crisp. Sounds like a great snack. I also picked up a colorful bunch of radishes in several different colors, along with some onions and arugula. This is my main stop for produce each time I visit the market. This week, though, I did pop over to get some fresh tomatoes as well. I grabbed the remaining handful of “seconds” (these are tomatoes that may be slightly bruised or are badly mishapen, but they still taste great and it gives me a chance to try a variety of tomatoes!) from their bin and went happily on my way to the cheese stand to pick up some fresh goat cheese.

Another favorite stop along the way is always Whitaker Grass Fed Beef聽where the farmers are always glad to see me. Today we chatted about family and how we eat. She is much better than I am with keeping processed foods out of her home, but I think I’m getting better. And I got to teach her something today. Yup! We talked about my Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing聽and she seemed excited to try it. I hope she likes it as much as we do in our home. I picked up a couple packs of ground beef from her that I have not decided yet what to do with them, but I have a couple recipes in mind (one of them is a soup recipe I found when going through some old papers this morning).

A successful, colorful day at the market will end with a family favorite dinner of聽 Old Faithful, using pork chops from another local farmer. I am running low on pork in my freezer, so am glad that I have paid my deposit for this year’s order and look forward to filling up again in a couple months! The tomatoes and onions in the dinner will be from my market finds today, and I am going to use Jasmine rice, just for something a bit different. And as an added bonus, I have FRESH herbs growing in my garden that I get to use.

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Eye Roll Worthy Ranch

I make an eye roll聽worthy Ranch dressing. It will make people roll their eyes for different reasons, but will almost always bring on the eye roll in some form.

Believe it or not, some people don’t understand why I would make my own Ranch dressing (or any other dressing for that matter) when the condiment aisle is filled with so many choices and it wouldn’t take any effort. These people are rolling their eyes at my preference to make my own dressings (and many other things) because they think I waste my time to make something that I can just buy in a bottle… but they don’t know what the next group of eye rollers know…

Anyone who has ever tried my Ranch dressing has rolled their eyes. It’s that eye roll of pleasure. Yes, I don’t mind if I do say so myself, my Ranch dressing will make your eyes roll back in your head!

My secret is simplicity! And I’m going to share it with you.

Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing:

  • buttermilk
  • mayonnaise
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs

As with most of my “recipes”, there’s not much recipe at all, just a list of ingredients. And with this one, it’s a matter of taste and how much dressing you want to make. So, here’s how I do it.

Start with聽equal amounts of buttermilk and mayonnaise (I never measure, but it’s probably about 1 cup of each). Mix in 1 pressed garlic clove and 2-3 tablespoons of fresh herbs. My favorite combo is dill and chives. I’ve used oregano and marjoram聽and thyme, also. Generally, I send my kids out to the garden to choose 2-3 herbs to mix in. Whisk all of it together and put it in a jar in the fridge. It’s best to allow at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend together before serving.

I would try to give you an idea of the shelf-life for this, except it rarely lasts more than 3 or 4 days in my fridge before I find the jar empty. 馃槈

I serve this up with salads, potatoes, oven fries, fresh veggies… you can make this a thicker dressing for a dip by adding more mayonnaise than buttermilk.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sauces/Dressings

Breakfast is Ready

9pm. And breakfast is ready. Ok, well, not completely… but I have finished what I can do and the rest is up to the trusty ol’ slow cooker. We will get up in the morning to a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, and all we have to do is scoop it into our bowls and add our favorite toppings. There. Breakfast. Done.

I know what you’re thinking… oatmeal? slow cooker? HUH? Here’s the deal. I am NOT a morning person. Even the simple task of boiling some water to cook up some oats is just too much for me. I need immediate food in the mornings, otherwise I tend to eat nothing at all. So before going to bed each night, I have to set my coffee pot to brew my coffee before my alarm clock ever goes off and I have to figure out my breakfast. If I’m having a banana or a bagel or a bowl of cereal, I set it next to my coffee pot, ready to go. My oatmeal bowl is sitting next to the slow cooker, with the butter, brown sugar and dried fruit right there to be stirred in as well. No thinking for me before I get my coffee and my food.

Yes, it is July. Yes, it is hot outside. But I need a hearty breakfast for a long day of traveling for work tomorrow (in which I often don’t get lunch until very late in the day), and the girl child has morning soccer practice, so she needs a nice hearty breakfast too. It’s also a great breakfast to have ready when the kids are having friends stay the night. That way whenever they get up, breakfast is ready.

I know you’re just dying to know how you can make this for your family. I promise you, it will be one of the easiest breakfasts you make for them!

Gather your ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup steel cut聽oats (important to use steel cut, NOT rolled or quick cooking)

Mix the above in a heatsafe bowl (not directly in the slow cooker). Place bowl in the slow cooker and fill the slow cooker insert with water until the water reaches the top of the liquid in your other bowl. Cover with slow cooker lid. Plug in your slow cooker (like how I remind you of that very important step? I’ve forgotten it a time or two…or more… 馃槈 ), turn it on low. Now go to bed and wake up to fresh cooked oatmeal!

Mixins (as many or as few as you like):

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • dried fruit, raisins
  • cinnamon

Variation:

You can add a chopped up apple to the oats as they are cooking. You can also add all the flavorings like cinnamon and sugars, even the dried fruits, while it cooks. I keep it plain because we all like ours a little different.

Leftovers:

We don’t usually have leftovers of this. But I sometimes make sure we have leftovers because it does re-heat pretty well and then I can take it to the office with me on a crazy morning. When I do that, I reheat it with the butter and dried fruits and stir it really well before adding in the sugar.

Oatmeal is also a great addition to bread. So if you’re making your own bread, you can mix in some oatmeal to add some texture and make it a little more hearty.

Enjoy your breakfast!

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Bagel Day

Making bagels is one of those things people just don’t expect to be so easy. A bit time-consuming, but easy and worth the effort! I have made these bagels many times, and the last time I made them was Memorial Day weekend while my sister聽was in town. She went for a quick run one morning, (I say “quick”, but it wasn’t. It was 13 miles- a half marathon! She’s AWESOME!) and I thought she’d enjoy some fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels. (And she did.) My niece came by that afternoon also. Just to hang out with my kids and my sister’s foster daughter. They hung out, played some games and she marvelled at me actually making bagels from scratch. She called me an awesome cook. Yeah, my head got a little bigger that day.

On this particular day, I created blueberry bagels (using a bag of dried blueberries) and cheese bagels (using a mixture of asiago and parmesan cheeses). There are still a few sitting in the freezer. I think my kids have forgotten that they are there. But my niece remembered. She was over a few nights ago and asked if she could steal a couple bagels before she left for work. Of course I said yes. Because what good is making the food if I’m not gonna share it, right?

In the past I have made bagels to bring to work, and even sent a few along on a hunting trip for a friend. And do you know what’s funny? I don’t really love bagels all that much. But I really enjoy making them! And sharing them, of course! 馃檪

The bagel recipe follows… it uses a mix (that I also included the recipe for) and someday I’ll post other recipes that use this same mix. Enjoy!

Bagels
路 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 (1/4-oz.) package
路 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water 110F (45C)
路 5 cups HOT ROLL MIX **
路 Cornmeal
路 3 qt. water
路 1 Tablespoon sugar
路 1 egg yolk, beaten
路 1 Tablespoon water
路 Poppy seens, sesame seeds or coarse salt
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water. Beat in 4-1/2 cups HOT ROLL MIX. Let rest 2 minutes. Add enough mix to make a very stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Add more mix to surface as needed. Dough will be quite firm. Lightly butter bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn to butter top. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes.

Punch down dough; knead 4-5 times. Divide in half. Divide each half into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten each ball with palm of hand. Holding a ball with both hands, force one thumb through center. Place bagel on lightly floured surface. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly; let rise in a warm place 2-30 minutes.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with cornmeal; set aside. In a 5-qart pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add sugar. Lower hear to keep water boling gently.

Use slotted spoon to carefully lower bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Turning often, cook until slightly puffed, about 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Drain bagels briefly on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Arrange bagels, not touching, on prepared baking sheets. Combine egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon water. Brush bagels with egg yolk mixture. Leave plain, or sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes in oven until browned. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 bagels.

鈥-Make-A-Mix cookbook

My notes: Add more flavor! You are limited only by your imagination!
路 Mix in chives and garlic to the dough. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
路 Mix in cinnamon and craisins or raisins
路 Mix in dried minced onion and top with additional onion

** Hot Roll Mix
路 5 lb. (20 cups) all-purpose flour
路 1-1/4 cups sugar
路 4 teaspoons salt
路 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir together to distribute evenly. Put in a large airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6-8 months. Makes about 22 cups Hot Roll Mix.

Variation
Use 9 cups whole-wheat flour and 8 cups all-purpose flour instead of 20 cups all-purpose flour. Decrease sugar to 1 cup.

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Filed under Breads & Rolls, Cooking With Love, Recipes

Stir it Up

Just some soy sauce, chili oil, green onions and garlic. That’s all you need to add flavor to your stir fry, no matter what it is you’re stirring up! I’ve used this with veggies, chicken, beef, shrimp… Over the years since I started using this simple sauce, I have tried prepared sauces from the store and always been left with disappointment at the flavor. So, I stick with what works.

Stir Fry Sauce

  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3-4 green onions, green and white parts
  • Soy Sauce
  • Chili Oil*

What to do: Press garlic into a small bowl (I use a Small Prep Bowl that holds 1 cup), slice green onions and place into same bowl. Pour soy sauce over garlic and onion until covered. Pour a couple drops of chili oil into this. (Use more to taste. I don’t like things too spicy, so I just use a couple drops.)

Yup. That’s it. Now you just need to stir-fry your meat and veggies (small batches so you get a little browning. If you overcrowd the pan, you’ll end up steaming the food instead of getting the carmelized yuminess that you want.), and when they’re all cooked up, return all to the pan, make a well in the center and pour in the sauce. (If you want to thicken it and make it a little glossy looking at the same time, you can add a bit of corn starch and water, too) Stir this all up, and share with Friends.

* To make your own chili oil, use about a cup of oil (peanut oil is a good choice, but you can use whatever cooking oil you have/use) and about a tablespoon of chili flakes. Heat in a pan on the stove. Once cooled, transfer to a glass bottle and store in the fridge. The longer it sits, the hotter the oil becomes.

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Let Them Eat…

A sleepover birthday party for the boy child. This means a house-ful of pre-teen boys. And THAT means food…and lots of it. It also means I had the pleasure of being part of great memories for a group of young boys. They will hopefully forever remember the night their friend’s mom bought too many pizzas (who knew there was such a thing for so many boys, huh?), made brownies for dessert (while they were here, so they were yummy and warm and they got to smell them while they were baking), let them run through the house with nerf guns, play video games, watch movies, eat, drink, eat some more, be loud…oh AND their friend’s mom even attacked them with silly string. Not once, but twice. Now THAT was the best laughter I’ve ever heard, and I was even able to snap a group picture of them all while I was shooting the string at them. They will each get a copy of the picture to help them remember the fun night.

We have leftover pizza and leftover veggies (now made into tonight’s stir fry), and possibly some Otter Pops in the freezer (hard to tell… I did find an awful lot of wrappers around the house today 馃槈 ), and as I said earlier, memories of the laughter and happiness echoing through the house.

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