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Make Ahead Meals + List Progress

I’m making progress on my list!

1) On Friday night I got a much-needed massage – it came as part of a Groupon, and also includes 7 drop-in workout classes I hope to start later this week.

2) Last night David and I processed a big batch of garden tomatoes. This is our first year having a stand alone freezer, thanks to David’s parents. We followed these directions on how to freeze tomatoes from your garden. I’m looking forward to using them in mid-winter sauces and soups.

3) We’ve begun cleaning and sanding the craigslist dresser for the hallway (more info about that later).

4) Also, this past week, I found some affordable recipes to make good freezer meals. These are the five I’m starting with:

• Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas (shown above)
• Taco Chicken Bowls
• Chicken Chili Verde
• Lentil & Sausage Stew
• Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

(The last four recipes come from a food blog called Budget Bytes, which has appetizing, step-by-step photos and also provides an interesting cost break-down of each ingredient). Around midweek I made a list of all the food I would need, and then Chloe and I went grocery shopping on Wednesday evening after dinner. On one hand it was nice to have a list to stick to – usually I just wander the aisles looking for things I hope my family will eat, not really thinking in terms of “meals.” That leads to lots of impulse buys, I can tell you. But having a list meant that if I forgot something, I had to go all the way to the other end of the store to get it. Luckily this just happened once, since I had organized the list by food type (meat, dairy, canned, dry and fruits & vegetables).

The first recipe I wanted to try was the Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas, planned for Thursday. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the recipe until the afternoon, and then noticed it required 6-8 hours in the crock pot. Bummer. Lucky for us, friends invited us over to dinner that night. On Friday, I forgot again about starting the crockpot, and instead made salmon using the Teriyaki Glaze (yum!) from the Meatball recipe, which I paired with rice and vegetables. On Saturday, I forgot again and at the last minute decided to use this recipe for Parmesean Crusted Chicken. It was super-easy and quick, and will definitely go on my make-again list. The leftover chicken was perfect in today’s lunch of chicken salad sandwiches.

This morning, I finally remembered to prep the ingredients and start the crockpot (good thing I set the alarm on my phone!). Everything is in there simmering as I write, and the smell of slow-cooked pork and chipotle peppers is beginning to waft through the house. It makes a pretty large batch, and I’m thinking there will be enough for dinner, leftovers tomorrow, plus enough to freeze at least one or two meals. I’m pretty excited!

P.S. Can you imagine meal planning an entire month of meals? That is what Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler does. She’s posted her meal plan for the month of September here. It was really inspiring to see the entire month at a glance, and gave me recipe ideas to add to my list (Tater Tot Casserole anyone?).

 

 

 


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More kid art recipes & ideas

Homemade Finger Paint Recipe from Easie Peasie

Shaving Cream Bathtub Paint from Having Fun at Home

Sponge-soaked finger paints for less mess from Baballa

Making Pretend Make-up from Nail Polish from Not So Idle Hands

Cornstarch Sidewalk Paint Recipe from Pink and Green Mama

All finds thanks to the lovely eye-candy that is Pinterest.


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Foaming soap pump makeovers

We like foaming hand soap in our house (see the previous post for just one of the reasons why). For kids, it’s less messy than bar soap, and it pumps out, spreads and rinses off easier than regular liquid soap. We even use it in shampoo form – more suds for the hair and less running into the eyes.

Seeing two empty pump bottles laying around made me wonder if we could re-fill them with our own home-made version. And guess what? All it takes is just a portion of liquid soap mixed with water. We filled our pump containers about an eighth full of regular liquid soap and filled them the rest of the way with water. Voila! Turns out the technology isn’t in the soap formula, but in the pump itself.

I’m so happy we discovered this. Now a bottle of regular soap lasts us so much longer, and each amount of soap costs a fraction of what it did before.

Extra fun: I peeled off the labels on our used soap pumps and gave them each a makeover. See the “before” photo here. The colorful one above is for Chloe’s bathroom and the black and white one below is for ours.

Update: Even though I used “permanent” Sharpie markers, the ink actually comes off if scraped too hard. They’d probably last longer if sprayed with a fixative. I wonder what would be a better medium? Some sort of paint?

Floral designs inspired by Sandra Isaksson.


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Lavender

Our lavender is in full bloom, making all the bees and butterflies around here crazy happy. It is such a beautiful color. And the smell… gorgeous.

At the end of summer I’ll dry the stems and place the scented buds in my drawers or hanging in fine mesh bags in the closet. I didn’t get around to it last year, so I want to be extra good about it this year. There are about a million things that can be made out of lavender, too – from salt or sugar scrubs, sachets, wands, to even ice cream. So many choices, so little time.

And here’s a whole long list of lavender recipes and projects from Martha Stewart.


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Chocolate Soda (Old Fashioned Egg Cream)

In honor of National Ice Cream day, I thought I’d share these tall, dark beauties that I craved almost incessantly during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. It was cool, chocolaty, and refreshing, just the thing for any hormonal mama. As a matter of fact, it was going to be the follow up to this post, but baby Leo decided to show up a couple weeks early and then I forgot all about it.

Here’s the recipe: Pour chocolate syrup in the bottom of a glass (or chocolate fudge topping thinned with milk). Add two generous scoops of rich chocolate ice cream. Then fill ‘er up slowly with sparkling water, with a little whipped cream on top. Sip slowly and enjoy!


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Rustic Raspberry Butter Cake

It’s that time of year again for these red beauties. The sad thing is that Chloe no longer likes them. Last year was so much fun – she’d pick and eat as many as her little hands could reach. This year she’ll help pick, but that is about it. At least she still likes blueberries.

For a Fourth of July bbq at a neighbor’s house I made what I call a rustic raspberry butter cake. Simple, buttery goodness, and a great way to use up any in season fruit (I’ve used rhubarb and strawberries, too).

Rustic Raspberry Butter Cake

1 stick salted butter, softened
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on fruit) + extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
sea salt
1 cup raspberries

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy – about 3-5 minutes. Beat the eggs together lightly and add in slowly. Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and then add it in as well. Pour mixture into a lightly-oiled baking pan and dot with fruit. Finish with a dusting of sugar and just a light sprinkling of sea salt on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden.


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Garden Fresh Zucchini Bread Recipe

My husband surprised me with two loaves of perfectly textured and delicious zucchini bread made from our garden bounty last week. Each slice quickly disappeared into our grateful bellies, and he was nice enough to make another batch this weekend. If we had room, I’d make a couple more, just to freeze for later. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups grated zucchini*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray paper. Combine zucchini, sugars, oil, and eggs in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in nuts and extract. Divide batter between loaf pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Invert, and remove parchment paper. Cool completely on rack. Delicious served warm with butter.

*A food processor is ideal for grating the zucchini


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Spam Upside Down Pie Recipe

David is away on a fishing trip, Chloe is sick, neither of us got much sleep last night and I had Spam and eggs for breakfast. Yep, I said Spam. I know a lot of people have a problem with it, including my husband, which is why I rarely eat it. Sure, it is far from healthy and organic, but it brings back some good childhood memories. I actually like its meaty saltiness, in small, rare doses. I’m not even sure why we have a can in the cupboard, except I must have bought it on a whim, for a camping trip maybe? I can’t remember. You’d think that would make it pretty old, but the expiration date isn’t until 2013, which in itself is kind of suspicious. The last time I clearly remember eating Spam was in Hawaii during our Honeymoon in 2004.

Anyway, I was curious to read what wikipedia had to say about it and was tickled by the above Spam advertisement printed on the back cover of Time magazine on May 14, 1945. Is it weird that I’d love to try making a Spam Upside Down Pie? Except no one would eat it with me, which is too bad.

It’s kind of hard to read on the advertisement, but here’s the recipe:

The Original Spam Upside Down Pie

Line and 8-inch mold with Spam slices and fill with baking powder biscuit dough (prepared or home mixed) well laced with tiny cubes of Spam. Bake 40-45 min. at 425F. Turn it out on a platter, fill center with a tart cheese sauce (or one made with tomato or horseradish) and watch the family turn out and fill the table in a hurry!

Tart Cheese Sauce Recipe (from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1946)

Blend 1/3 c. flour in 1/3 c. melted butter. Slowly stir in 2 1/4 c. milk. Heat and stir until thickened. Add 1/2 lb. grated American cheese, 1 tsp. prepared mustard, 1/8 tsp. Worcestershire, 1/4 tsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt. Cook in double boiler, stirring to make the mixture smooth, until cheese melts. Serve hot over a Spam Upside Down Pie.


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Gooseberries!

Look what I came home with! Have you seen these before? I hadn’t, and actually, since they weren’t signed, I didn’t even know what they were until I paid for them. Gooseberries! After reading Hungry Monkey (hilarious!) and now The Spice Necklace, I guess I’m feeling a little food adventurous.

So what, exactly is a gooseberry? Well, to me, it looks like a prehistoric grape, with a thicker, veined, and spiney skin (sort of like nettles). It also has a lot more seeds, and a somewhat sour flavor. They can be eaten raw, but most often I think they are cooked into desserts. In the end, I made a simple gooseberry syrup and used it to make a Gooseberry Fool (substituting sour cream for creme fraiche) and enjoyed the rest in a Gooseberry San Pellegrino soda.

Processing gooseberries takes some time. To make the syrup, you trim the top and bottom of each berry, and then slice it in half. Thankfully, they cook and mash down quickly, maybe 5-10 minutes. After straining out the seeds and skin, my pint of gooseberries yielded about one cup of syrup. Here are several gooseberry recipes that also look good:


Gingered Gooseberry Fool


Gooseberry Jam


Gooseberry Meringue Pie


Gooseberry Ginger Ale


Baked Gooseberry and Ginger Nut Cheesecake

Gooseberry streusel cake with elderflower syrup


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Ode to Berries

Ah, berries. Such beauty and flavor in each jewel-like morsel. There seems to be as many photos of berries floating around the ‘net right now as there are of changing leaves in the fall. And why not? They pretty much have everything going for them.

It has been a remarkable year for our backyard raspberries. They are not as large as the ones from the farmer’s market, but they are sweet and abundant. In the past they haven’t been as plentiful, or we were away while they ripened. This year we’ve eaten quite a few and are freezing several batches for later. Our method is to place a single, unwashed layer on a baking sheet covered with a silpat or waxed paper, making sure that most are not touching (discarding any bits of debris), freeze them until solid, and then place the marble-like frozen berries into a gallon size freezer bag. We give them a quick rinse right before use. We do this for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries and enjoy them in smoothies and desserts (see our berry rhubarb crisp recipe) throughout the year.

Interested in picking your own berries? PickYourOwn.org lists farms and orchards by state, as well as offering canning information and recipes.


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Cashew Crusted Halibut

Having the grandparents around to help with the baby frees up a lot more time for cooking. Thanks to a generous trip to Costco, we enjoyed a delicious Easter dinner of cashew-encrusted halibut, organic broccoli sauteed in toasted sesame oil and mashed potatoes. We slightly adapted this recipe and David cooked the fillets to a crunchy golden perfection.

Cashew Crusted Halibut
4-8 oz. Alaskan halibut Fillets (skinless)
2 eggs
1/4 C. water

Breading
1 3/4 C. Japanese “Panko” breadcrumbs
1 C. roasted cashews
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. all-purpose flour

Crush the cashews in a food processor. Combine all breading ingredients in a bowl. Make egg wash with 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of water. Season Halibut with salt and pepper then dust with flour, dip in egg wash, and then in the breading. Sauté in canola oil over medium heat until golden on each side, then drain briefly on paper towels. Finish in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

A good resource for other ways to cook halibut can be found here.


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Chocolate Chip Cookies :: Aussie-Style

Every once in a while I get a hankering for a spoonful of sweetened-condensed milk straight from the can. My husband thinks its gross, and maybe it is, but I love the creamy sweetness of it. Afterward, I have almost a whole can left, so what to do? Sometimes, it goes in the fridge to be added to coffee, Vietnamese-style, or sometimes I’ll make a dessert with it, like 7-layer bars. But this last time I wondered about adding sweetened condensed milk to chocolate chip cookies. Turns out the Australians beat me to it, and they are delicious (both the Australians and the cookies). 🙂

In this recipe, the sweetened condensed milk acts as a substitute for eggs, and turns out a cookie with a finer crumb, more crispy than crunchy, with good flavor. The original recipe can be found here on Nestle’s site, but I’ve adapted it below the way I made it, with American-style measurements. I used my favorite Trader Joe’s organic sweetened condensed milk.

Australian Chocolate Chip Cookies
(about 36 cookies)

15 Tbs butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (basically 4 big handfuls)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line oven trays with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar together and then then beat in the sweetened condensed milk.

3. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl and then mix it into the above mixture until combined.

4. Add in the chocolate chips.

4. Spoon rounded tablespoons of mixture onto prepared trays, allowing room to spread.

5. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned around the bottom edges and golden on top.


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February’s Recipe: Senegal Stew

The new recipe we tried this month was Senegal Stew. I had been reading Organic and Chic and found a recipe with millet, which I had heard of, but never tasted. It is a healthy, whole grain, and a staple in many parts of the world. However, in the U.S. we mostly know it as a component in bird and cattle feed.

The other reason I chose this stew (besides the fact that I liked how exotic it sounded), was that the other main ingredients – yams and/or sweet potato, rutabaga, cabbage, carrots and chickpeas – seemed to make it an appropriate choice for February, the bonus being that it calls for a little peanut butter, which my husband loves.

Surprisingly, I found the meal to be rather average. The millet takes as long to cook as rice, plus the grains need to be dry roasted first, for best results. Personally, for the size and texture, I prefer couscous, which is much faster to cook, or quinoa which has a better texture. The stew itself was mild and sweeter than I expected. David thought it was very good, and Chloe enjoyed some of it, too. I have some leftover uncooked millet, so I might try adding it to bread or another recipe, to give it another try.

Related posts: January’s recipe, 2010 goals


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Valentine Idea: Day 12 – Wow Factor Desserts

Wow Factor Desserts – Wouldn’t one of these gorgeous desserts make a perfect ending to a well-thought- out Valentine menu? I know I would be impressed!


Frozen Strawberry Souffles


Big Love Butterscotch Cookie


Berry Sweet Bouquet


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Valentine Idea: Day 9 – Chocolate

Chocolate – Mmm, chocolate, how I love thee! Your richness, your sweetness, your warmth… even just your good looks alone make me want to wax poetic. Alas! I have finally found your dark, delicious secrets in the recipes below. The question is – which one of you will Be Mine?


Salted Chocolate Tart


Passion Pops


Chocolate-Orange Pots de Creme


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Chocolate Covered Oreos + Label and Packaging Idea

For other procrastinators like myself, I thought I’d share this quick and tasty treat I made earlier this week. A search for “chocolate covered oreos” provided several good recipes and instructions (1, 2, 3), but basically I just melted a package of chocolate chips in the microwave. The cool thing about these cookies is that you don’t actually have to bake in order to have pretty handmade treats to give friends and neighbors. For packaging and display, I found tall glass canning jars at our local New Seasons, covered the lids with fabric and attached a label, which you can download here. For more packaging inspiration, marthastewart.com has a nice slideshow on 13 beautiful ways to package cookies, my favorites being the cookie gift sleeve, and the cellophane-wrapped cookies.

Download your own free “Fudge Dipped Oreos, Made with Love” Labels here.


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The Most Amazing Buttermilk Chocolate Cake *Update*

I made this buttermilk chocolate cake again this past week. A perfectly wet and dreary week called for a little bit of baking to cheer the place up. Although, not wanting too much of a good thing, I decided to halve the recipe this time and used a 9×13 glass pan at 330 degrees instead. Then I sliced it in half and squared the edges for a double-layer cake. The ganache frosting got poured directly over the top with just a little smoothing at the end. Nothing too fussy, just simple, chocolatey goodness.

Here are the two layers after cooling and squaring the edges:

Here are the slices that were removed and ready to nibble:

The final cake, after dripping the chocolate ganache frosting down the sides and smoothing the top:

The very first slice – dark, gorgeous, and utterly delicious!


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Garden Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Compared to last year, we’re having much better luck with tomatoes in the garden this year. We’ve got one each of Roma, Marzano, and Early Girl, plus a few volunteer cherries, which I believe are Sun Gold. Mostly we eat the tomatoes sliced (except the cherries, which we just pop in our mouths), sometimes with salad dressing, topped with a bit of feta and herbs, or simply a dash of salt and pepper.

David spent a portion of the afternoon working in our barely accessible crawl space putting up insulation, and when he came out he said he couldn’t wait to see what delicious meal I was going to cook up for dinner (hint, hint). So, considering the fact we haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, there wasn’t much to work with except the garden.

In a big pot, I sauteed a yellow onion in olive oil until somewhat clear, then threw in maybe 4-6 cups of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock and a loose handful of chopped basil. It simmered about 30 minutes or so, before I added salt and pepper and pureed it in a blender.  Then I strained it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lingering tomato skins. Before serving I added a dollop of heavy cream and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Paired with just-baked cornbread (packaged Trader Joe’s is my easy favorite), it was good to the last drop.

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