Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gingerbread Cookies, Part II

Potato Soup didn't happen. Mainly because I didn't make it to the market, but also because we had some leftovers I wanted to finish up. So, no exciting meal cooking today.

However, we had that gingerbread dough in the fridge. Who knew it could be such finicky dough to work with? We got half of it out and set up shop to cut the cookies, but apparently I didn't have enough flour on the "lightly floured" surface or the dough got too warm or something because it stuck to the marble board I was using. So, it went back into the fridge and Andrew and I got out the other half. We worked much quicker the second time. We managed to get 10 cookies cut and baked. Then we ran out of time. The ones we baked were delicious. I'm not usually a big gingerbread cookie fan, but these were mild in flavor and soft to the tooth. We have more dough in the fridge for tomorrow! Yum. (I'll share the recipe in the next post.)

Now for some sleep...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome, December

We had a real winter cold front move in today complete with some precip and highs in the low 40s. So, of course, all day I wanted soup of some kind, but I did not want to get out in the weather to go to the market. I didn't put beans on in time and the two potatoes that were in the basket were looking a little suspect, so back to the Vegi Soup mix. This time I cooked a little chopped bacon in a medium sauce pan over med high, added chopped onion, carrot, poblano, and red bell pepper and sautéed until soft and slightly browned. Then I added 3/4 C Vegi Soup Mix and 3 C chicken broth and a couple of handfuls of frozen edamame beans. Brought it all to a boil and then simmered on low for about an hour. Hmm hmm good. (Oops! That's a different soup.) It turned out soo well that we polished of the whole batch at supper. I served it with the last of the heat & eat rolls from Thanksgiving. I could've eaten another bowl if there'd been some left. David and Andrew enjoyed it also. So, I made notes and into the notebook it goes. That dried soup mix is a great staple to have on hand.

Andrew and I came across a cookie article in a parent magazine. It was based on The Nutcracker Suite. Really cute too. But there was a spice company ad on an opposite page with a recipe for gingerbread cookies. Andrew made cookies at Mimi's house not long ago, but they had used a mix (those were some tasty cookies too). So, we decided we needed to make gingerbread cookies. It was fun showing him how to cream the butter and sugar, and he enjoyed getting to dump the ingredients in as I measured. He was the official counter and announced that he will be a "counter" and "speller" when he grows up. Music to a mother's ears. He was a little bummed that we had to let the dough rest in the fridge for a while. It was so late by the time we got the dough together that we will wait until tomorrow afternoon to roll, cut, and bake. "Patience, Grasshoppah."

There was another food article in that magazine that discussed a healthy food pantry and cooking at home. Hmmm. I didn't get to finish reading it, but it is always reassuring to know that I am not the only one who is concerned by HFCS in food that we, but especially my child, may consume. I'm not a complete "granola" as a friend of mine puts it, but I'm looking to be healthier. I really need to kick the soda habit. Again. I had been soda-free for a couple of years before I got pregnant, but when I was pregnant, I CRAVED Coca-Cola so badly. I finally caved after he was born and had one on occasion. After I finished a year of breast-feeding, I got hooked completely. This is sooooo bad for me. I've done it before, I can do it again. For me, it's a matter of going cold turkey. I just have to make up my mind, pick a date, and do it. Once I start, it becomes a "thing" to have one, so it gets easier. Just a matter of deciding.

I understand the weather will be chilly again tomorrow, but no freeze expected. If so, I'll drop by the market to get potatoes when I'm out taking Andrew to school. I have a great recipe that I developed myself. I love soup weather.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Routine

It's the last day of November. It was back to school and work today. After a really lovely Thanksgiving holiday, it is nice to get back to a routine. I am a routine person, although I have tried to deny it for years. Patterns are soothing. I could be OCD, but I'd have to rename it CDO, so that it's in alphabetical order as it should be. I kid, but I understand it is a real disorder. And I do have tinges. It's genetic. (Thanks, Mom!)

Anyhoo, Shane's visit was great. Friday morning I made migas for brunch. As I indicated in an earlier post, my friend Brenda introduced me to migas years ago on a antique shopping trip. We stayed overnight with her friends Bob & Becky, and Bob cooked migas for breakfast the next morning. Fantastic! Had to ask how he made them. When I got home, it took me a couple of tries, but I finally got the hang of it. After that I started seeing migas on menus around Texas. Had they always been there and I just hadn't noticed because I had no idea what they were? Possibly. It's been so long now, I don't remember exactly how Bob made his, but in my version (serving 4), I start cooking about 1/2 pound of chorizo (fresh Mexican sausage, not the cured Spanish kind) in a skillet over medium to medium-high. Once it starts to render, I add some chopped onion, poblano pepper, and red pepper. Once the sausage is cooked and the veggies are softened (I like a little bit of carmelization), I add chopped corn tortillas (or crushed corn chips) then I add about 4-6 lightly beaten eggs and cook until the egg is just about done. Then I add shredded cheddar cheese (to taste), put a lid on the pan for a few seconds till the cheese melts. I serve with warm flour tortillas, extra cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, refried beans, and fried potatoes, or any combo thereof. It has become "my" brunch dish.

Friday evening, we ate out at a steak house. We saw our sweet friend Steph, ate some great food, and had no dishes to wash! Yea!

On Saturday, we went to Sevi's, a local family-owned shop that serves excellent Mexican food. It is a favorite Saturday morning breakfast spot of ours. Andrew introduced Shane to the Sevi's burrito by sharing a bite, but David & I had the migas, and Shane tried their menudo and a carnitas taco. It's all wonderful.

Saturday night, while Andrew and I put ornaments on the tree that David and Shane put up, David and Shane cooked dinner. David brined and grilled pork chops, and Shane cooked broccoli and Gorgonzola mushroom risotto. Shane raved about the chops. They were juicy and tender and perfectly grilled. David was so excited to have a new brining convert in Shane. After the loonnnggg weekend of eating rich foods, we decided that we need to go back on our healthy eating regimen and get back to exercising. For now, however, we are slowly eating up the yummy leftovers. December shall be healthier. Really. Seriously. No laughing please.

A cold front is blowing in now. We are expecting a high tomorrow in the mid-40's and possibly some messy stuff along with it. Brrr. Love cold weather. And the timing is perfect since tomorrow is December 1. I'm thinking about putting on a pot of red beans and a pan of cornbread. Or a pot of potato soup. Hmm... Need to go raid the fridge & pantry and see what's cooking for tomorrow. Also need to sit down and make a menu for the month. Got to get back into routine. Patterns are soothing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

Wow. Today was Thanksgiving, and we had lots of cooking going on here! I failed to take pictures, but David made a beautiful turkey, sausage dressing, cornbread dressing (as a special treat for me), turkey gravy, and Brussels sprouts with apple and bacon. I must say, the cornbread dressing was fantastic. David read a food journal entry I made many years ago while trying to learn the recipe that had been handed down from my grandmother to my mom. It was one of those recipes that went something like this, "Add crumbled cornbread to torn white bread, and lightly toast. Use enough to fit your pan. Add seasoning (to taste) to the broth and add enough broth to bread and mix to make moist to wet." That was the extent of David's experience with cornbread dressing (he's not from around here, you know) besides having had a not-too-great version in a cafeteria once many, many years ago. He did a bang-up job! I was impressed. And ate a lot. Hmm hmm... Oh, and sorry, I can't share the recipe, because it doesn't really translate to tablespoons and cups very well.

Ooh, the apple pie was yummy. That recipe was a definite keeper. The filling was light, not too sweet, too syrupy, or too runny, and because the filling is pre-cooked, the crust didn't deflate nor burn. I'm definitely filing this one in the notebook.

We took our dishes to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving lunch. Mom made an incredible ham. So good. We also had corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, crudités, relish tray, and mashed potatoes. Then there were pies: besides mine, cherry, pumpkin, and more apple. There was a tasty strawberry shortcake tumble, jello salad, and whipped cream. Let's just say we were all well-fed and each took a little food away for tomorrow.

Two of my brothers and three sisters-in-law were able to be there, as well as, many of my nephews and nieces, and an invited guest of one niece. We prayed for the family members who couldn't join us, missed those who have gone before us, and enjoyed the ones with whom we shared the day. The kids - I use that term lightly - piled up the zillions of leaves in the backyard into a mountain and shrieked in laughter while jumping in and rolling around. Footballs were thrown through the tire swing, stories were shared, Christmas plans made, pictures taken, and everyone lingered just a little longer than usual, relishing the happy memories being made. The sun was bright, the air was cool, and the day went too quickly.

Seems to me, we don't get together often enough. We all have lives that keep us busy: family, work, church, charitable causes, sports, school... But today, we didn't just get together to check of one more box in our holiday schedules. We stopped running, ate a lovely meal, and enjoyed some time with people we've known longer than anyone else.

Family is but one of the many blessings in my life, but it is a constant blessing. I am so thankful for each and every one of them... Happy Thanksgiving.

Week Before Thanksgiving

So, last Friday, David came home from a work trip San Francisco. We had a lovely dinner of grilled pork chops, asparagus and potato cakes. I must confess, the only part I actually prepared was the pork, and, even so, David grilled it. Our local market has a fantastic deli and a good variety of take and heat dishes. The asparagus and potaotes came from there. I reasoned that with my taking Andrew to school, going to "my" school, the doctor's office, the market, the bank, and a couple of other errands, picking Andrew up, getting him lunch and down for a nap, putting away groceries, cleaning the fridge, doing a couple loads of laundry, and all of it with a fuzzy allergy head and the deepest desire to do nothing but lie down for a nap, I could use the extra help. (Have I whined enough?)

But, Friday afternoon, Andrew woke up asking to make applesauce and yogurt as he and I had planned earlier. So, we peeled apples and made applesauce, and started the yogurt in the Crock Pot. The applesauce was easy. Four large apples peeled and chopped, a little lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and water simmered in a pot on the stove for 15 minutes or so, then mashed, and we had applesauce. Andrew loves it warm. Then we started the yogurt using the recipe from crockpot365. I used packets of yogurt culture instead of pre-made yogurt, and I used 2% instead of whole milk. The 2% was unintentional. I meant to pick up whole milk but picked up the 2% out of habit. I did add gelatin, but the yogurt was pretty thin, and I prefer Greek style, so I lined a strainer with cheesecloth and drained the yogurt overnight. It turned out pretty well. I'll use whole milk next time to see if it makes it thicker.

On Sunday, we made BBQ spareribs. We haven't tried the whole rib rub/ sauce thing before, but we've watched various cooking shows about it. We were pleased with the results. We had intended to cook them on Saturday, but our plans changed so we cooked them on Sunday. We put the rub (something store-bought that was all natural and sounded good) on them Saturday morning, and they sat in the fridge until Sunday afternoon. David grilled them on the gas grill, and basted them with BBQ sauce (also store-bought) toward the end. They were delish. Oh and quite pretty too. david did very well on the char.




It's been a busy week preparing for Thanksgiving. My husband's grown son is coming in to visit for a few days. Yea! Andrew is so excited that he has woken up every morning for almost a week saying, "Shane's coming today!" and then is a little bummed when we've had to explain it would be a few days more. But he'd perk back up when he got to tell someone that Shane was coming to see him. But I digress.

David is a great cook. He just travels too much to cook regularly. But every Thanksgiving, we either invite the family to our house, or he talks my mom into letting him make the turkey and dressing for the family lunch gathering at her house. So, he cooked the turkey tonight, and he'll make the dressing in the morning.

I made an apple pie, mostly from scratch. I followed this Double Crust Apple Pie recipe for the filling. The reviews said the crust part of the recipe is wonderful, but knowing I would battle timing (the story of my life - just wait, if you haven't already, you'll see a pattern), I bought the Pilsbury refrigerated crusts in the red box. I tasted the filling, which you pre-cook, and it was yummy. Then the whole thing baked up nicely. I'll give you the verdict after we eat it tomorrow.





We'll likely go easy on breakfast tomorrow morning since we'll have lunch at Mom and Dad's. But Friday, I'm thinking Migas, something I learned from my friend Brenda during an antique shopping trip years ago. Hmm, I can almost taste the chorizo...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Catch Up
OK, I got way off track with the blogging. I kept starting a catch up blog, but then I wouldn't get finished and thus I have a list of unpublished drafts. Obviously it didn't work since I haven't posted in ages. So I'll just pick up like I never left off.

We made it about a month with no impromptu dining out. I did much better with the cooking than the blogging. I've not stopped trying, but some weeks are better than others. Some weeks include one or more sick people in my home, and other weeks have been uber busy outside of the house. But, I am still cooking. Mostly. The Crock Pot has gotten lots of use. We have reinstated Sunday brunch at Pioneer. It's just a nice post-church service tradition.

Today
I am battling the fifth day of an allergy attack while home alone with my 3 year old son. I'm craving soup. The Campbell's canned soup in the pantry isn't even remotely appealing, and so I was thinking of going to a restaurant to get something hot and yummy. But that required wearing something other than pajamas. That thought was just a little too much for me. I pulled out the Bob's Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix and vegetable broth from the pantry, diced up a little carrot, onion and celery, and made a soup. I had two bowls.

The smell of soup simmering made me hungry for homemade bread. Or at least the smell of it baking. Andrew and I flipped through the bread machine book, and he fixated on the picture of a bagel. As a further excuse not to have to get out of pajamas and go out of the house, we decided to make bagels.

I'd never made them before. It always seemed intimidating or complicated. Or at least just easier to go to the market, or, even better, Atlanta Bread and buy professionally made ones. But an endearing 3 year-old and a taste for fresh-baked bread can spur on great endeavors.


It wasn't difficult, just lots of steps. Mix the dough (I used the bread machine for this - it took 15 minutes and made very little mess), form the bagels, let rise, boil in water, drain, brush with egg wash, add topping (we made 2 each of cheddar, Parmesan, sesame seed, plain and cinnamon sugar), bake for about 1/2 an hour, and allow to cool. The last step was the hardest. Especially for Andrew.




A few of the bagels were a little extra dense. I'm not sure what was the cause. Could be the extra help I had forming the first few bagels, before he became distracted. Could be when I put the first few in to boil, the burner got turned down and they simmered more than boiled before I realized it. Not sure if the fact that of the 3 cups of all purpose flour the recipe called for I used 2 and subbed whole wheat flour for the third. (Did I mention I need to make a market run?)

The flavor was really good though. As I told a friend of mine, I may have to be on a mission to make good bagels now. Now that I've gotten that first attempt under my belt, it's not so intimidating, and I enjoyed the process. It was easy to clean up as I went because each step had a little down time. I had the kitchen completely cleaned before they came out of the oven.

Alas and alack, the aroma wasn't quite as strong as I was looking for. I may have to start a loaf of bread just for the smell. :)


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 5 - Paper

The Slow Cooker White Chili turned out great. I do need to note that I added a little salt to the pot that the recipe didn't include. I crushed a couple of hearty tortilla chips into the bottom of each bowl, added a bit of shredded Jack cheese and then ladled in the chili. We nixed the salsa and sour cream. Yum. This is a repeater. Will be really great in cooler weather.

Work day at the school park was productive. I got to shovel pea gravel and sweat a while. David helped build a bridge. Andrew got filthy playing in the sand. It was all good. The hot dogs were cooked on the grill and served in wheat buns. Of course, we had Cheetos, Doritos and Ruffles too. Someone brought home-baked chocolate chip cookies, so I'm afraid that whatever benefit I gained in working hard for a couple of hours I lost in cookies.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make pancakes before church so that we don't run into opposition about going straight home instead of the usual Sunday brunch place. Then chili for lunch. We'll see. The main thing is we have options ready at home and do not need to go out.

I've been thinking about paper products today. We used paper plates today at the park that looked like the old classic white ones, but these were thick, sturdy plates. I was surprised that I could stand and eat while holding it with one hand. We haven't used paper plates in a while and we tend to use plastic for large parties, but since these are compost-able, I'll be sure to look for them next time.

The problem: I've stopped the daily use of paper napkins and paper towels at home for a couple of reasons. One is environment, and the other is expense. We were going through a pack of 100 napkins and a roll of paper towels in no time. I felt like I was buying them on every other grocery shop. Cha-ching. I tried using the least expensive napkins, but they disintegrated with little use and left a grainy residue on our hands. So I bought the top of the line inexpensive ones (if that makes sense), but we still went through them quickly, it just cost more. We tended to use them for everything: wipe up spills, blow noses, pick up dead bugs, shred them for fun. I'll not point fingers, but let's just say each member of our household had their own way of wasting napkins. I have been buying really good soft paper towels for a while because I couldn't stand using lots of cheaper paper towels just to clean up a small mess, plus there's a texture thing. I'm very tactile. But even so, I realized that we were using these products constantly, thoughtlessly. Bad for the budget, bad for the environment.

The solution: I have collected cotton dinner napkins for years. It's a thing. I'm tactile, remember, and I'm also textile. But, I had them stashed in a linen drawer and only broke them out once in a while for special dinner nights or for small dinner parties. It was silly to have a huge stash of good napkins and not use them. So now every meal is special. Then, a few weeks ago, I found packs of 12 plain white wash cloths at Target for $3 and bought 2 packs. Now, when we would normally reach for a paper towel, we reach for a wash cloth instead. They're absorbent and white, so I don't care what we need to clean up, I can bleach them and voila, clean again. I have already paid for them by not buying more paper towels. These habits have changed fairly easily. Of course, it helped that I took away the napkin holder and the paper towel holder is now empty. I still have paper napkins and towels because sometimes they're great tools (think lunch boxes and microwaving bacon), but we just don't keep them in plain sight. As a side effect, I've cleared off a little more counter space. Bonus!

Day 5 and counting...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fishes and Loaves and the Lessons Therein

Thursday dinner
The first real cooking in this journey was successful but not without issues. I was interrupted when I was about to load the bread machine and then completely forgot about it until I was away from the house a couple of hours later. By the time I returned home, it was too late to start it. Fortunately the bread was not critical to the plan, and I keep various crackers on hand. Not a big deal.

The soup was OK. David and I enjoyed it, but Andrew wasn't so sure.

As for the Fish en Papillote, it was delish. I used halibut filets with carrots, broccoli, Yukon gold potatoes, summer squash, and capers. The recipe used foil to make the packets, so I followed the instructions. I have used parchment paper previously with good results, and if preparing it for company, I'll use parchment again. It presents better. For everyday cooking, the foil worked great and presented fine. I'm not trying to be too foo-foo about the presentation, but food has to look appetizing.


Fish en Papillote (or feuille d'aluminium in this case)

David loves fish and was very complimentary of this preparation. We don't eat fish often enough, and I was concerned that Andrew would balk and ask for PB&J, but he cleaned his plate with no prompting, veggies, fish and all! We deemed it a definite repeater.

We have a rating system here using "repeater" as our highest designation, and we've rated many a dish with that term, but the problem is, I often forget it later. Then when I come across recipes that sound familiar, I can't remember if we liked it or how closely I followed the recipe. So, I've decided to keep a notebook of recipes that we like so that I can peruse them when working up menus and avoid reinventing the wheel. Yah, the notebook is a no-brainer, but sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake.

Friday
What a busy day. Breakfast of eggs and tortillas. Simple, easy.

Andrew went to school, David worked from home, and I had appointments and dates all day. David happily munched on leftovers, Andrew ate with Mimi and Granddad, and I lunched with a great group of women I am fortunate enough to call my friends. For dinner, David went to football and ate with the crew, and Andrew and I ate with Mimi and Graddad since we were there and were having a great visit.

The day brought a range of emotions, many related back to food somehow.

I am a member of a volunteer organization that is involved in the local Partners in Education program (PIE - fittingly sounds food-related), and we have adopted a couple of elementary schools. I met with Sheri (not her real name), the Assistant Principal of one of the schools, which is in a very low-income neighborhood school. 85% of its student population is on free or reduced cost ($.40/day) lunch. We met to discuss some of the school's needs that our organization could assist in meeting through volunteer hours, monetary donation, and organizational skills. The information she provided was encouraging - they had a 90% pass rate last year, uplifting - the teachers are dedicated and give of themselves above and beyond the call, concerning - many children are chronically hungry (meaning they don't have food at home), and heart-wrenching - a couple of children each lost a parent recently.

I left this meeting to go to my lunch date at a lovely restaurant with some fabulous women who work very hard to make a difference in our community. They are all a joy to be with and the food was great. We talked business, family, friends, events, and food.

I went to Mimi and Granddad's and spent the rest of the day with three of my favorite people. We talked about Andrew's school, "my" school, preserving family pictures, house repairs, family events, and food.

What I gained from the day was a reminder that I have much and take too much for granted. I am blessed to be a full-time mom with a wonderful husband, a loving family, and a safe home. I know where our next meal is coming from. I know my child won't go to bed hungry. I know there are many people who would love to have just the portion about which I have been careless. That is shameful, and I must be more mindful of the blessings I am given.

On an uplifting note, our group is packing food to send home with the students who are identified to be chronically hungry in "my" school. This food goes home with them in an unmarked bag in their own backpacks every Friday. It is enough to get them through the weekend. Our local food bank organizes and provides the food for this terrific program.

Suddenly, the daily count seems less important, but Day 4 and counting...



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Menus for September 17-20

While I plan typically to set my menu and grocery list early in the week, I must get through this weekend first.
My son Andrew is with Mimi and Granddad today, so he's eating there. I have leftovers in the fridge for me today. My husband David returns home from business travel tonight in time for dinner. This means I need to have dinner. So, just need to plan one meal today.

~Thursday~
Dinner
-Tomato Corn Soup (recipe below)
-Crusty bread (from the bread machine - love fresh, warm bread!)
-Fish en Papillote (fish cooked in a bag in the oven) - depends on what the market has that looks good today; Thursdays are usually good - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sara-moulton/fish-en-papillote-recipe/index.html
Steamed broccoli

Tomato Corn Soup - American Heart Association Cookbook p52
Serves 5
1 t. Olive oil
1/2 C. chopped onion
14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed
17 oz. can cream-style corn
2 C. milk
1/2 t. bouquet garni, optional
1/2 t. salt-free all purpose seasoning
1/4 t. salt, optional

Heat oil in large heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Sauté' onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In food processor or blender, puree onion and tomatoes. Return mixture to saucepan.
Puree corn and add to tomato mixture.
Increase heat to med-high and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Sitr in remaining ingredients. Increase heat to med-high again and bring just to boiling. Serve.


Including this recipe brings a few things to mind:
1. I will include links to recipes instead of typing whenever I can.

2. I have amassed a cookbook collection that covers the top of a large section of my upper kitchen cabinets. I love reading cookbooks and looking at the pictures. I will read them like a novel and usually try a recipe or two, but then it goes into the collection and I return to using my standards: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (the red/white check covered one - a classic), Now Serving (the most recent from the Junior League of Wichita Falls), American Heart Association Cookbook (AHAC - a gift after David had a heart attack several years ago), Landmark Entertaining (from the Junior League of Abilene), and The Complete Vegan Cookbook (a newer tool, but I have found it so much easier to try to cook healthier by starting with this book).

3. When using canned vegetables like tomatoes, I tend to use no-salt added or low-salt when I can. Milk is 2%. I usually try to pick up the products with the least additives, and I prefer to cook from scratch when I can. I'm working my way up to using tofu and soy products. Have tried a few and it's been hit and miss.

4. Foodnetwork.com is a great recipe resource. I included a link for the fish.


~Friday~
Breakfast is usually oatmeal or eggs and toast both options with fruit. I rarely ate breakfast before Andrew came along, but he's here and he's hungry, so we eat breakfast together. I rather enjoy it, but don't tell my mother.

Lunch is a planned lunch date with my some of my favorite women. I'll send pot pie leftovers or a sandwich with David, and Andrew is with Mimi and Granddad again.

Dinner is an easy one. David referees high school football on Friday nights, so he's not home until late, and he doesn't like to eat before. Andrew would eat ramen noodles just about anytime of the day or night, and David loves them post-game with an egg drop broth. So, Ramen noodles it is.

Snacks with Andrew in between meals usually consist of the following options in whatever combo he comes up with: yogurt, apples, bananas, grapes, pears, oranges, kiwi, goldfish, cheerios, raisins, craisins, crackers, cheddar cheese, tortillas, peanut butter, peanuts, pitacchios, you get the picture. I am fortunate that he will generally eat whatever we eat, and I pray that it continues to be so.

Dessert after dinner is frequently a scoop of ice cream in a bowl or in a miniature cone. I try to buy the purest version with the fewest additives. Breyers is the brand of choice lately. No HFCS.

~Saturday~
Breakfast as usual.

Lunch - We have a workday in the park at Andrew's school, and they are feeding us hotdogs.

Dinner - Before we head to the park, I will beak out the slow cooker and start supper.
-Slow-Cooker White Chili (recipe below)
-Tortilla Chips
-Cheese and Salsa
I like to crush the chips into the bottom of the soup bowl, then add a little cheese before ladling in the chili.


Slow-Cooker White Chili AHAC p224
Serves 6
1 lb. skinless chicken thighs
1 lb. dried navy or Great Northern beans, sorted and rinsed (about 2 1/4 cups)
6 C. chicken broth
8 oz. chopped green chiles
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded & minced (I'll be using poblano)
2 t. ground cumin
2 t. dried oregano
1/8 - 1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. cayenne
Garnish with: Salsa, Light Sour Cream

Rinse and pat chicken dry.
Put beans in the slow cooker and add chicken and remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 10 hours, or until beans and chicken are tender.
Remove and discard bones from chicken; return meat to chili. Serve in bowls topped with salsa and sour cream.

~ Sunday ~
Breakfast as usual.

Lunch
-Waffles
-Bacon
-Fruit

We have a standing ritual of going to Pioneeer, a great local diner, for brunch right after church on Sunday mornings. Andrew loves this place, and he almost always has their pancakes or waffles. I've been rtying to convince him that we can make those at home, but he hasn't caught on yet. So, when I made the Bisquick pot pie, he saw the Bisquick box that has a picture of pancakes. He said, "Oooh, Mommy! Pancakes! You have pancakes in that box!" So, this Sunday, I'm breaking out the waffle iron and really surprising him.

Dinner
Sunday nights are easy days at our house. We eat sandwiches and/or leftovers. If David gets a taste for something he'll heat up the grill. So, leftovers and sandwiches it is!

This gets me through the weekend. Just need to hit the market to make sure I have the needed items. Here's to eating at home this weekend.

Day 3 and counting...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 2 and Counting

OK. I have joined the masses of bloggers in the universe. Didn't think I would ever do it, but here I am. I need a focus to keep me on track.


I recently looked at our checking and charge card statements and realized that we are spending WAY too much on eating out. Not really earth-shattering news, but since I am trying to formulate and maintain some semblance of a budget, it was shocking to my bottom line. The high calorie foods are also not too helpful to my physical bottom line either.

For centuries families fed themselves every day with very little, if any, outside help, and for most of those years they also had rudimentary equipment to use. So here I am, a college-educated woman in the 21st century, with great equipment and convenient food sources at my disposal, and I find it easier to pick up a phone and dial take out than open my full fridge and prepare something to eat. Mom cooked 99% of our meals at home when I was growing up. Dining out was a rare treat. And she was cooking for Dad and at least two of my four big brothers, all of whom had big appetites. I am a full-time mom with a three year old son and a husband. I can do this.


Don't get me wrong. I enjoy cooking, but it's really been for the sake of cooking as an art or as an expression of love, not so much cooking to make supper. Early on in our marriage, my husband commented, "Honey, every meal doesn't have to be gourmet. Meatloaf is always good." I was just learning to cook, so every meal had to be an event. I found a recipe, made a list, did the shopping, and labored over the preparations. It seemed (and still does seem a bit) anti-climatic just to make a quick meal. Tonight, for example, I made a Bisquick quick pot pie using leftovers. Mom happened to be here, and she loved it. I felt good using up leftovers, but it felt odd somehow that I didn't produce a "beauty plate.", although the finished casserole dish looked pretty darned good, now that I think about it. I tend to equate cooking with entertaining, even when it's just my husband, son and me.

I also enjoy dining out, but I've started to burn out on restaurant food. When you add my ongoing food knowledge quest, it gets a little dicey. It's not a conscious quest really, more of a chain reaction. Several years ago I started reading nutritional information on recipes in Cooking Light magazine to help control a high cholesterol count, which led to reading food labels to watch the trans fat counts, hydrogenated oils, sodium, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and that led to reading investigative information regarding pesticides, hormone/ antibiotic injections of animals, and genetic modification of foods. Then, to top it off, my tastes are leaning, if not full-on vegan, at least vegetarian, because of the thought of eating flesh, the whole unsavory aspects of the corporate farming, slaughter and meat packing industries, and the safety questions regarding food products, including fish with high levels of mercury, chicken with salmonella, and beef with mad cow. Let me tell you if you haven't tried it yourself, looking for substantial vegetarian, let alone vegan, menu options at most restaurants is daunting. You may be lucky to get a dinner salad and tomato soup (hold the bacon, please).

Wow. And this doesn't even take into account the whole locavore/ carbon footprint concern. Not to mention that I grew up in Texas where just about everything I know how to cook has bacon, butter, and/or chicken broth in it. I’m just saying that while I am learning to make some new dishes, vegan cooking does not come naturally to me. At times, I get so overwhelmed by it all that I either do not want to eat anything, or I do not want to think about it and just order out.

GOALS
So, having said all that, I am starting this blog to make myself be more thoughtful and productive. My goals are:
1) To reduce food expenses by eating out less and wasting fewer groceries at home,
2) To lose about 10 pounds, and
3) To become what Mom calls a “real cook”, which is someone who can walk into the kitchen at any time and use the food on hand to create a meal that feeds the family.

RULES
Dining out is not the problem. Unplanned dining is. I do love a fun luncheon with my girlfriends, a productive lunch meeting for a volunteer project, and, of course, the always lovely date night with my husband. With that disclaimer in mind, onward to the rules:
1) Do plan menus, and thus grocery lists, for about a week at a time,
2) Don’t call in an order or go to a restaurant at the last minute, and
3) Do plan to dine out on occasion. Hey, we all like a treat and I’d really miss Atlanta Bread.

A special note: A shout out to my friend Sharry, whose family recently went at least a month with no dining out. She posted it on Facebook, and it got me to thinking. So, thank you, Sharry!

By the way, I'm on Day 2 with no unplanned dining out. Here we go...