Friday, February 26, 2010

What we've eaten lately....

Nothing too exciting happening here, that's for sure! Usually around this time of year I start obsessively checking ticket prices for warmer locales. I then move on to peruse Victoria's Secret for their bathing suit choices (realize I need to drop about 20 to look decent in the suits, but order one anyway), and remark how I really need to have my hair highlighted! I am such a creature of habit and this also extends to our food. I try to rotate some of our favorites into our eating, plus introducing a few new recipes here and there (and let me tell you, some are major flops...).

A fruit and yogurt smoothie is Josh's favorite breakfast before school, that and waffles!

In a blender, mix any flavor Chobani (we use blueberry, strawberry, or peach usually) with a ripe banana, 1 T strawberry jelly, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup ice cubes, and any other fruit you have on hand (in this case: strawberries and blueberries). An alternative would be to use frozen berries and negate the ice cubes.

Waffle Recipe (courtesy of Betty Crocker) (makes four sets of four in a family-size waffle-maker)
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar
2 T oil
1 cup flour
3/4 cup milk

1. Mix all ingredients together and allow mixture to rest for 5-10 minutes, until you see bubbles.
2. Bake in waffle-baker and top with lots of butter and maple syrup.

Chicken Stir-Fry
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
1 small head broccoli
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups cabbage, sliced
1 cup sugar peas
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small can water chestnuts
2-3 T hoisin sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder

1. In a large saute pan, brown chicken. Remove from pan.
2. In the same pan, saute broccoli, carrots, onions, and cabbage on high for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add peas, mushrooms, and water chestnuts and saute for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Mix hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and garlic powder and add to pan. Stir to coat and serve over rice.

Rice Pudding (adapted from
4 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup white rice
1/2 cup sugar
2 T butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup light cream
1 tsp cinnamon

1. In a heavy-bottomed 4qt saucepan, boil milk, cream, rice, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for an hour.
2. Temper the egg by adding 1 cup of the hot liquid into a bowl with the egg, stirring constantly. Add the egg mixture to the pot.
3. Cook over low for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until noticeably thickened.
4. Add cinnamon, pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and serve when cooled enough to eat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Streams of Consciousness....

Sometimes I struggle with what to share on this very simple blog of mine. As a writing major in college, I had planned to be a proofreader in some capacity. I enjoy writing, but don't really consider it my gift. I'd rather critique someone else's work. I can't tell you how many times I've started to write on a certain subject and completely changed the whole entry. I constantly daydream about different recipes I could create, topics I could discuss, and witty commentaries on my daily life. I fret about sharing too much, veering off topic, or alienating certain factions of my eleven readers. While I created this as a way to chronicle my cooking exploits and to provide my readers with creative ideas for food preparation, occasionally I wish to share other tidbits I have discovered in my day-to-day life.

Over the past few days, I have thought about several things that I've wanted to share, but none of the topics hold enough interest to compile an entire blog post. This post is quite the "stream of consciousness" entry, just a few random things that have been floating through my mind the past couple of days. And, in case you're wondering, I am never thinking about nothing, as my husband can so wondrously accomplish. My mind constantly flits from topic to topic and occasionally my husband will inquire, "what are you thinking about"? I'll relay to him what my thought process originated with and where I have arrived. He'll shake his head in part annoyance, part disbelief, and usually not even comment.

So, here goes:

1. I made fastnachts last week. Fastnachts are a local and once-yearly treat (similar to doughnuts) that we enjoy on Shrove Tuesday. The dough is comprised of scalded milk and mashed potatoes. To say they are heavy is quite the understatement. I decide to make fastnachts during our second snowstorm. We had again invited several neighbors and friends to come to our house for snacks and games. After six hours, we finally had fastnachts! The fastnachts were completely decimated during our game night. One of our neighbors, who is absurdly nice, was unable to join us and innocently inquired for one the next day. I had already decided that I was never going to make them again, but silently exclaimed, "crap" when he asked for one. So, I sucked it up and made another batch. The result: they were good, but not worth the six hours worth of work! If you're interested in the recipe, I'll gladly provide it to you, I found the whole process novel (and that's the best I can say about that).

2. So, apparently, there is this whole world of bloggers that until recently, I was completely unaware of. There are communities that exist on blogs which basically exist to discuss other blogs/topics. I happened upon a thread that was discussing a young mom with three boys [who blogs]. The whole premise of her blog is how, as a family, they live on less than $1000 per month. Sounds interesting, right? Well, the more I investigated, (wasted time, really) the more alarming the situation appeared. The family purposely lives in squalor, washes their laundry in the shower (in a bucket), refuses dental and physician care, rejects the idea of birth control, and generally do weird things. Nothing, however, prepared me for the post in which she discussed researching recipes for the placenta of her third child. Yes, you read this correctly, she wants to eat a placenta! I'm not even going to include the link because I really don't want this wacko to receive any more blog traffic.

3. As you may or may not know, I kind of have a huge crush on Alton Brown. It's more of a respect for his food prowess as opposed to an obsession of his physical appearance. I simply love his passion for food. I recently discovered a recipe for ramen noodle packets, including shrimp, mushrooms, and green onions. The "flavor" packet is discarded and different ingredients are added to an aluminum foil "boat", and the whole mixture is baked in the oven for 15 minutes. Let me just say that I am totally making this sometime in the near future. I'll keep you posted.

4. Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
I totally struggle with this verse. I have this really bad habit of not being able to control my speech and tone when I'm upset with someone or something. It is hard for me to not be honest. My question is always: to what lengths should we go to in order to create peace with all men? I am such a "tell it like it is" person and don't feel like it is possible for me to be "two-faced". I know that my approach can be hurtful, even if it is always honest. I am trying, prayerfully, to find a healthy balance between my current behavior and feeling dishonest in my quest to "live in peace with all men".

5. Our dinner last night: meat-lovers pizza. I used the Pioneer Woman's pizza dough recipe (no kneading or raising time required) and it was really quite good.

6. I have finally found a use for my "10-grain cereal". Abbie, of, suggested using the cereal to create bran muffins. I didn't have all of the ingredients to make her exact recipe, (of course) but simply added it in place of all-purpose flour in my blueberry muffin recipe. They were totally delicious.

7. Our dinner tonight: "leftover soup", blueberry muffins with 10-grain cereal, and baked pears.

8. I just found these adorable shirts at Target today for 59 cents. Granted, they're leftover from Valentine's Day, but they're cute, right?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Some Pictures

I know that I've mentioned these recipes in previous posts. They remain part of our family's repertoire, but I've neglected to show pictures in conjunction with the recipes.

The crab bisque is an indulgent treat that we all love. This is a great way to enjoy crabmeat on a budget, as the amount of crabmeat needed is only half of a pound. The thickness can be determined by the amount of flour used. I enjoy a "medium-bodied" soup, not too thick, but not too thin. Hopefully you can tell the consistency by the picture.

Crab Bisque
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
1 can chicken broth
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt, pepper
8 oz crabmeat

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent.
2. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir until smooth. Slowly add chicken broth and stir until thickened.
3. Add half and half and parsley. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
4. Add crabmeat and serve.
*I buy my crabmeat in the seafood section, I used lump in this case

As I mentioned before, this is Kate's favorite meal. She loves it served with egg noodles. This is certainly not a fat-free recipe, but it certainly is delicious.

Chicken with Creamed Spinach
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thinly
bread crumbs
parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large box of fresh spinach (it really wilts into nothing)
1/2 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup light cream or half and half
1/4 cup shredded cheddar

1. Mix bread crumbs and parmesan cheese (I would start with 1/2 cup of each). Dredge chicken breasts in crumb/parm mixture.
2. In a large saute pan, brown chicken breasts in olive oil. Remove breasts from pan once both sides are nicely browned and place into a baking dish.
3. In the same saute pan, add more oil if necessary and lightly brown garlic. Add spinach until wilted. Add yogurt, remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until cheese is melted and the rest of the ingredients are combined well.
4. Pour "cream" mixture over chicken breasts, sprinkle with additional crumbs and parmesan and bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through and bread crumbs are golden.

Groundhog Day

Does anyone else feel like their life is basically reliving the same day over and over again? Each of my days are remarkably identical. Every morning I rise with Joshua around 6:30 in order to help him get ready for school. I make him breakfast while I drink green tea and unload the dishwasher with the previous night's dishes. He talks incessantly while I attempt to shake off the cobwebs. I remind him to brush his teeth, beg him to wear a winter coat (he never does, unless it's less than 20 degrees) and he's off, the lasting reminder a shockingly-loud slammed front door.

I then trudge into the girls' room and carry Kate into the living room. I've found that this is the only effective way of waking the child. She hates being rushed, so I try to have everything at her disposal in order to minimize the potential for an argument. She and I have very similar attitudes, so our arguments can become a little heated. I bring her a granola bar, juicy juice, and a whole grapefruit and allow her to watch PBS for a few minutes to wake up. I then bring her an outfit, go to pack her lunch, and then we're off to the bus stop (my first of three trips to the end of our street).

I return home to our very self-sufficient six-year-old, Emma. She is so independent, that, with the exception of food preparation, she would never need me during the morning. She enjoys her mornings playing "school", with her dollhouse, and watching a few cartoons. I usually beg her to play a game or read a book and she always refuses. I do my yoga downstairs, work on some laundry, and waste a little bit of time on my computer. We head to the bus stop around noon and then I look forward to three hours where I can run errands, have my quiet time, load and run the dishwasher and start dinner. The three hours flies by at warp speed and pretty soon Josh is home from school and after I listen to the highlights of his day it's time to head to the bus stop for the third time.

I finish making dinner and we all eat together. We help the kids with their homework and then Rob and I invariably sit in front of our computers while I watch Food Network. I run the dishwasher for the third time and marvel at how the house is a wreck even though I've cleaned it up fourteen times.

Now, I realize that once Rob reads this he'll shake his head in disbelief. It is very true that I've got lots of free time and that my life is very simple and extremely easy. I agree that it's probably not fair that he works so hard while I get to stay home. I'm beyond thankful that I have the luxury of being a full-time mother and I try not to take it for granted. The only argument that I can present from my corner is the fact that, for the most part, my work is always undone. Meals are always eaten and the kitchen and dishes need to be cleaned, laundry is dirtied, the house gets messy (again and again and again), and I always need something at the grocery store.

At the end of every one of my groundhog days, I can simply say: they are worth it-

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

For whatever reason, the "accent" of those in the Central Pennsylvania region includes mispronunciations like "I'm going shopping at The Bun Tun" (The Bon Ton), "I'm going to visit my brother, Runnie" (Ronnie), and "I'm really hungry for chicken put pie" (chicken pot pie). I don't know where this little habit originates from but my grandmother is one of the worst offenders. Last week she told Emma that her outfit was "so purty". Emma promptly replied, "it's pretty, not purty". There probably is some basis that includes the derivations of the Pennsylvania Dutch language, but more than likely it's simply repetition. It's easy for me to forgive her, though, because her influence has been very strong in creating a culinary heritage. If it weren't for my "Nanny", I wouldn't know how to make things like: flaky pie crusts, stuffing balls, mashed potatoes, and chicken pot pie. Her cooking style is very traditional of this area and she still refuses to eat any other style of cooking with the exception being Italian (even then it's usually lasagna or spaghetti!)

Basically, chicken pot pie is a flavorful chicken broth in which homemade, paper-thin noodles are cooked until impossibly tender. This is, most definitely, a perfect winter day treat. Even better is to enjoy this stick-to-your-ribs feast when there is more than 25 inches of snow on the ground! The noodles are quite easy to create, utilizing four pantry-staple ingredients. The key is to mix the dough as little as possible and to make the noodles as thin as you can. The noodles will puff up a good bit while simmering in the broth, so this is key for a tender result. My parents enjoy a bit of horseradish served alongside and I also enjoy how the horseradish cuts a little bit of the richness. When I was in school, our cafeteria served chicken pot pie, and they included potatoes in their recipe, but I really enjoy the simplicity of noodles, chicken and broth. With another significant snowfall in our forecast, consider making this for your family!

Chicken Pot Pie
whole chicken, cut up
sufficient water to cover chicken pieces
medium onion, quartered
2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 tsp kosher salt
3-4 T ice-cold water
ground black pepper
salt, to taste

1. Create a rich broth by simmering chicken pieces and onion in water for at least 1 1/2-2 hours.
2. Remove chicken from broth, discard skin and bones, and shred chicken.
3. Create a well in the flour, add eggs, water, and salt and mix dough with your hands until just moistened, adding water if necessary (dough should be rollable, similar to pie crust).
4. Roll out dough as thin as possible, and using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, create small squares.
5. Simmer noodle squares in broth for at least 40-45 minutes or until tender. I taste my noodles periodically, they should be quite soft (not al dente).
6. Season broth with parsley (dried or fresh), plenty of ground black pepper and salt to your tasting.
7. Pour into a bowl and enjoy-

Monday, February 8, 2010


I feel the need to repeat a post. I know I've mentioned before my seasonal approach to eating. There are certain times of the year that I crave different foods. In the summer I always seems to want fresh produce, grilled everything, and lighter fare all around. In the fall I crave root vegetables, pumpkin, and holiday food. In the winter I crave citrus, soups, stews, heavy foods, and warmth. In the spring I crave spinach, asparagus, strawberries, and salads. There are a few things, however, that transcend my seasonal stirrings. Pierogies, potatoes, bread, cheese, and porchetta are just a few of those things. I know I've mentioned porchetta in a previous post, but since I've started photographing some of my exploits I'd like to show you a picture. Now, I realize that I've shared how I'm trying to eat healthier, but sometimes I'll reward myself with a splurge meal if I've done well all day. Porchetta isn't necessarily unhealthy, but I've yet to find it's nutritional merits. The best way to serve it is the way I have pictured: crusty buttered french bread, lots of pork juice, and a thick slab of extra-sharp cheddar. We also have adapted the porchetta to make it a "cuban sandwich", including dill pickles, ham, swiss, and spicy mustard. Please trust me, if you make this, you will love it and crave it during any season the way I do.

pork butt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T herbes de provence
1 T garlic powder
2 T kosher salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water

1. Marinate the meat by sprinkling dry spices and drizzling olive oil over the top of the meat [for at least five hours].
2. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for at least three hours.
3. After removing the meat from the oven, shred into desired chunks. Top a buttered crusty roll with a good portion of meat and a good portion of the juice.

A Fun Weekend For All

I am not a big fan of winter. The exception to that rule is when it snows. I love the beautiful white starkness (before the salt and plows make it yucky and gray). Rob is fanatical about weather. He regularly reads weather blogs and when there is a forecast for snow, he checks accuweather obsessively. Our kids are finally to the age where they can actually enjoy snowstorms. In years past the amount of time to dress each child greatly outnumbered the actual time they played outside once dressed. Thankfully there are able to dress themselves and undress themselves (in the laundry room, where we promptly dry the snowclothes in the dryer, energy efficiency be darned!).

Here on Randolph Drive, our actual accumulation was 27 inches. The kids were able to construct tunnels, play with friends, and in general, get some fresh air and exercise (it's hard to walk in snowdrifts when they reach your waist!). On Friday night we "switched kids" with friends and the final tally was that we had three girls at our house and they had three boys at their house. Sunday the kids played outside a good portion of the day and then we went to a superbowl party.

On Saturday night we had a "blizzard party". Basically we invited a few neighbors and enjoyed some snacks and conversation. It seems we don't interact quite as much with the people we live so near, especially in cold weather. We enjoy being outside so much more in the summer and consequently see each other more often. It was nice to be able to catch up and usually my social life is centered around the bus stop (pretty sad).

While the rest of my family enjoyed the outdoors, I was quite content in my kitchen. Rob was busy all of Saturday (9-5) clearing neighbors' driveways and part of Sunday clearing the ends of the snowplowed driveways. On Saturday night I made:
apple pie, carrot cake cupcakes, a veggie tray with a cheese-ball, and pepperoni rolls. For the superbowl party I made: molasses cookies and lemon squares. In my quest to eat lighter I failed pretty miserably in the cheese-ball challenge. I'm not sure if I've shared this before, but I'm not a dessert person. I mostly make desserts because my family loves them. I, however, am perfectly content with a second helping of dinner or something savory.

Three-Cheese Ball
1 80z pkg softened cream cheese
1 small finely chopped onion
2 T worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used buttermilk blue)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar (I used "buffalo wing" smoked cheddar)

with a hand-held mixer, combine ingredients and chill for at least four hours (I then topped mine with salted pumpkin seeds)

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
adapted from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly ground is the yummiest)
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins

1. Mix sugar, oil, and eggs until well-blended.
2. Mix in remaining ingredients and beat for three minutes.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center remains clean. makes 24

cream cheese icing: 1 8oz pkg softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 tsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 cups powdered sugar

Molasses Cookies
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup crisco
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

mix all ingredients, roll each cookie in sugar and bake at 370 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the tops are cracked

Pepperoni Rolls
Using your favorite pizza dough or favorite bread dough recipe, (I used the recipe from, thanks Abbie!) cut small strips of dough, wrap several matchstick-sized pepperonis and allow to rise on a cookie sheet in a warm place. Sprinkle with garlic salt, herbes de provence, and parmesan cheese. Bake at 390 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Dip into your favorite marinara sauce

Lemon Squares
adapted from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon peel
2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

1. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press mixture into 8x8x2 inch baking dish, building up 1/2 inch edges.
2. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
3. Beat remaining ingredients on high speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
4. Pour over hot crust and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until no indentation remains when lightly touched in center.
5. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 1 1/2 inch squares (25 squares total).

Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm Trying Really Hard

Allow me to begin by stating the obvious: I am obsessed with food. I think about food from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep at night. I do not understand people that "forget to eat". I have been blessed with a pretty decent metabolism. I am not delusional enough to believe that I will ever weigh 112 lbs again. I also realize that at 5'5" I probably should weigh a little more than 112, but that was my weight before my first pregnancy. I do maintain a fairly active and healthy lifestyle, but my weight is not ideal for me right now. I am trying really hard not to eat as much as I normally do. My appetite is voracious. Seriously. I eat way more than anyone I know, including my husband. I have never forgotten a meal, lost weight while sick, or lost my appetite. On a normal day I would gauge my calorie count to be around 2500-3000 calories.

I haven't been counting calories, but I have been trying to eat less and to include more fruits and vegetables. The result: I'm starving. All. The. Time. Now, thankfully, my goal weight is only about 10lbs away. I've been pretty faithfully reducing my food intake every day for about 10 days and also including yoga in my daily exercise routine. I love to run, but I'm currently taking a break in the hopes of losing some weight and creating some leaner muscle tone before I start running again (and hopefully we'll have some warmer weather). Last year I ran two half-marathons and I hope to do at least that many this year as well.

I have made a few changes to my every day eating and not all of them have been very tasty. I hate the idea of losing my love of food, I'm just trying to reign my self-control. I'm trying to change my portion size. I've tried different ways to make myself feel fuller, but I won't eat anything I don't like. I think that is a wrong way to change my lifestyle. I truly believe that we have been blessed with certain joys in life and I won't deprive myself in that way. I really want to like this 10-grain cereal, but it's really kind of disgusting. And, I tried to fill myself with this shake mix, but I referred to it as my "repulso-shake". Even with coffee, skim milk, and ice, it still tastes artificial.

I'm trying to create a healthier lifestyle and I know it will take time. I have had a few successful breakthroughs. I try to have soup every day as a way to fill up (something about a hot meal) and also to include vegetables. I also made a pretty yummy "bread salad". There have been some failures, though, for instance this hideous cod dish. I had high hopes, but there was no flavor whatsoever. I guess you can't win them all! I look forward to a hot chocolate made with skim milk every afternoon and even if I don't lose my ten pounds I'm still very thankful for a healthy body, no matter what it weighs!

Minestrone Soup
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped coarsely
2 large carrots, chopped coarsely (I haven't been peeling mine)
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 medium zucchini, chopped coarsely
3 cups sliced kale
1 small can tomato paste
1 can chicken broth
1 can small white beans, undrained
parmesan cheese for topping

1. Saute onion and carrot over high heat in olive oil until golden. Add zucchini and garlic and saute until browned. Add kale and stir until slightly wilted.
2. Add the can of tomato paste and then fill the can with three helpings of water.
3. Add the chicken broth and beans and simmer for 35 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
4. Top with cheese, if desired and serve
**I didn't have to add any salt because the broth and beans were already salted**

Tomato and Bread Salad
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 pt cherry tomatoes
1 cup cubed french bread
2 T roasted red peppers
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
ground black pepper
ground parmesan
1/2 T balsamic vinegar

1. Saute garlic and onion in butter and olive oil on medium-high until golden. Add tomatoes and saute until browned.
2. Add bread and saute until bread is toasted. Add peppers, parsley, and balsamic vinegar.
3. Remove from heat onto plate and top with black pepper and parmesan.
**You could also add olives, cucumbers, different cheese, and different herbs...I just had these things on hand**