Posted tagged ‘cooking’

My Girly’s Lunch Box

November 7, 2013

It all started with Mary ….as most of my carbon footprint reduction activities do. She is more determined and diligent than I. She is the reason my family uses a homemade laundry detergent as opposed to store bought. She is the reason we have a clothes line that stretches and recoils across our back deck. The pictures she posted occasionally of her daughter’s school lunches  were intriguing. Since Princess spends the last half of her school day in another location and doesn’t have the time or patience to stand in the cafeteria line before catching the bus every day, I purchased the lunch boxes Mary recommended:easylunchboxes-containers
….borrowed a few of her ideas and we were good to go.

Last year – when she was a high school junior – I packed a lunch for her most days…..and she loved them.Chicken Pasta Salad

Her friends were intrigued.

Popcorn Chicken Redux

And I had fun making them.

Since she was allowed to eat in her third hour Math class, her teacher would make her way down the row to her desk to see what she had for lunch.

Every day.

Wrap, veggies

When the new school year – her senior year – was about to begin, she coyly asked about ‘those lunches.’ Was I going to make them for her again?

How could I resist when she asked so nicely?

And so I have been on a mission. I snap a picture of each and every lunch before she shoves her box into her backpack and heads out the door. I post them on Face Book just so I can save the pictures in an album there for her.  I have gained a few friends….and lost a few friends…in the process.

I mean, who wants to start their day with a picture of what MY kid will be eating for lunch every day?

We are coming up onto the 50th day of school for her. Forty six different lunches so far this year.

And I have learned a lot about my daughter.

She doesn’t ‘do’ sandwiches on bread slices unless they are peanut butter and jelly. Or grilled cheese.

She prefers anything ‘mini’…mini bagel sandwiches, mini sub sandwiches on a dinner roll, mini cinnamon rolls…

She will try anything…once.

She loves mangos…and starfruit….and kiwis.

And apples.

She really loves little mini kebobs with cheese and turkey and pickles on a tooth pick.

She doesn’t like cheese on her sandwiches or in her salads.

She likes her steak cooked a little more well done than her Mom’s left over steak bites allow.

She doesn’t pay attention to ‘special lunches for special days’….like Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
Dr Seuss BD
And yes….those are Green Eggs and Ham, red fish and green fish and ‘Truffala Trees.’

I have learned that she will eat and enjoy the same vegetables every day if they are presented differently. So we have had carrot slices, carrot sticks, carrot picks, roasted carrots, curly carrots, carrots with dip…

Carrots, carrots and more carrots.

She really does love carrots…and celery and cucumbers and radish flowers and just about any other vegetable shaken with olive oil, sea salt and roasted.

Oh, I am not allowed to send boiled eggs to school any more. They may be admirable source of protein and awfully cute when you use a panda or bunny egg press, but apparently her Math book still reeks from the one I sent several weeks ago.

I have learned that making sure my soccer athlete kiddo has a solid lunch in the middle of the day means she isn’t trolling for snacks and eating us out of house and home any more when she gets home from school.

And that’s all good.

She is off to college next year so I just wish I’d started doing this sooner.

Like back in elementary school.


Until then….Halloween has passed.
Halloween lunch

Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon. I am already racking up the ideas…..


A Blogger’s Dilemma

October 13, 2011

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. No. Quite the contrary. I think I had too much to say and too many topics to pick from. I could never decide what to focus on. Like, here is my dilemma.

Back in August I had planned to write about how I was living the life of my mother. Our tiny patch of three tomato plants and four cucumber plants had given us an abundance of fruit that we were unable to eat. I decided to can them. And pickle them. I had rediscovered a large blue canning pot that we had used for our camping club’s annual August boiled dinner. I invested in the jars and the pickling salt and the spices and the general paraphernalia needed to complete the job. I spent three very hot days/afternoons slicing and dicing and boiling and capping. And enjoying the unexpected little popping sound the lids made as the jars cooled and sealed.

At the end of August I planned to write about the preparations for my 51st first day of school. Yep. You heard right. I have been celebrating the first day of school as a student, a teacher and a parent for fifty one consecutive years. This year my first school day was spent at a morning rally for my school district’s teaching employees. We enjoyed reconnecting after the summer break with a continental breakfast before our district staff meeting. We listened to the usual rah-rah of the district’s welcome back message, accomplishments and plans for the upcoming school year. It’s a kind of familiar exhilaration to see familiar faces again….everyone was sun drenched and excited about getting back into the classroom. They were looking forward to getting to know this year’s crop of ‘their kids.’ But nothing made me prouder to be a HVS employee than the video presented to the district’s personnel by our new union president, Josh Gignac. I have worked on staff with Josh. I know his humor. And I know his dedication to his craft and the people he serves. He managed to put a lot of heart – and a few giggles – into his little video….and got a standing ovation for it too. PERFECT way to kick off the year. (

And this thus my 51st school year began.

On September 11th I was planning to write about feeling all moved and melancholy about the 10th year observance of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone was all ‘do you remember where you were.’ Yes. I do. I was in a Kindergarten classroom. I had accidently flipped the wrong switch on my CD player and the parents helping in my classroom heard a snippet of the news reports before I switched back to Dr. Jean’s ‘Alpha-size’ song. I spent the day – along with the rest of my colleagues – teaching school to kiddos who didn’t know and didn’t care about anything other than that the weather was beautiful and we were going outside for recess. At every possible free minute we were glued to television sets. I picked my children up at their daycare and went home to the television there to see the repeated news reports about the devastation in New York over and over again. My own children were seven and a half and six years old. They seemed oblivious to what was happening. Until the next morning. Suddenly my son seemed panicked and driven to write a ‘report.’ (His genius of a second grade Teacher had made report writing a privilege in her classroom. When students were finished with their work they were ‘allowed’ to search her collection of fact books for material to write about.) That particular morning he saw pictures in the morning newspaper and we were suddenly on a search for scissors, glue sticks, tape, paper and a stapler. He put together a simplistic recap. His report read simply, ‘Planes crashed. Buildings fell. People ran.’ And it was illustrated with pictures cut from the morning news. I helped him add the last page. I meant it be a calming force in his mind. It read, “The helpers are here.” The pictures he found for that page showed firemen and police officers covered in dust, people serving food and dispensing drinks…..and praying.

It was a master piece.

He took it to school to share and later in the day his teacher approached me in the hall to thank me. She said she had struggled all night and morning about how to talk to her second graders about what had happened. She’d gone through the papers on her desk and found my son’s report. It was perfect. A horrible event perceived through the mind of a child. A perfect catalyst to allow her students to express their thoughts and fears about what they were seeing and hearing all around them in the aftermath of 9/11.

And so now it’s October. Those second graders of ten years ago are now high school seniors. My son’s final high school soccer season is winding to a close. His last homecoming dance has come and gone. We are starting to focus on college applications. My niece is getting married soon in Gatlinburg, TN. For once we contemplate embarking on an out of town trip that does NOT involve soccer. My daughter tripped over another player in a recent game, injured her back and we are now dealing with physical therapy, CAT scans and a possible MRI instead of practice, tournaments and games.

So you can see my dilemma. We are still here. I am still writing. It’s the focus that’s the problem. Welcome to my life.


Mah-velous Marinade

March 11, 2011

     This is not a cooking blog.  Although I have written about disappearing Apple Betty and making pizza with the Princess and the Prince’s favorite swiss steak recipe and trying to replicate the hummingbird cupcakes I had in New York City a while back, I don’t pretend to be any cooking expert.  I rely on Betty Crocker and Campbell’s and The Pioneer Woman and Tasty Kitchen to help me find things to tempt the palate of the picky eaters in my family.  Oh, they pretend not to be so picky.   HRH will try just about anything….and then deal with heartburn and flatulence and  whatever else ails him these days.  The Princess will try a little bit of just about anything and then raid the fruit drawer and veggie drawer and snack box into the wee hours.  The Prince turns up his nose at everything until he gets a run down of  ‘what’s in it.’  He picks out the sweet baby peas and the green pepper chunks and the celery bits and the tomatoes and just about anything that remotely LOOKS like a vegetable…..or fruit.  He hasn’t trusted me since finding out that I had added grated zucchini and carrots into his spaghetti sauce and oatmeal instead of bread crumbs to his favorite meatloaf (pre-Jessica Seinfield, I might add).    And this from someone who brags about enjoying the hottest hot sauce and salsa he can find. 

But I do like new things.   And I like making new things.  And for a little while lately I was doing all kinds of new things at home.  French Dip sandwiches from a Campbell soup can recipe.  Navaho Tacos with a recipe from my days as an Indian Education coordinator.  And chili….the way my Mom used to make it….which -woe is me – is not a favorite in my house.  (But dump a can of yellow corn in it and cover it with crushed corn chips and cheese and they’ll eat it. Taco Soup!)

About a month ago I found a recipe for ‘Butter Chicken’ that sounded remotely like something we might like.  HRH went to the store for the things I needed.  He even sprang for a bag of Basmati rice.  And when I say ‘bag’, I mean a little burlap bag with a zipper at the top so you know it wasn’t Minute Man.  It cost some major bucks from our local store.  And its now our family favorite.

And it was good.  Marinated chicken cooked slow tomato sauce and served over rice.  Yum.

But the best part is the marinade. 

I am getting a hankering for it again.  Only this time, I am going to marinade some chicken and grill it. ….tomorrow. 

I am going to do it tonight.

 I can’t wait.

The smell of that marinade wafting from the fridge is enough to get the taste buds watering.

The very THOUGHT of the smell of the marinade wafting from the fridge is enough to get the taste buds watering.

Here it is:

Grab yourself a ziplock bag and crush five cloves of garlic into it.  Add one teaspoon of salt, a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and cardamom.  I love the fact that I have the ‘3 Cs’ in my spice drawer….four if you count the cayenne.    The recipe also calls for a half teaspoon of black pepper but my tongue cannot abide black pepper of any kind.  It’s a family legend….seriously.  Shake it all together.

 Squeeze the innards out of two whole limes and add the juice AND limes to the bag.  Toss in your chicken pieces or your steaks and close the bag.  Roll it all around to make sure the loveliness totally covers everything and then put it in the fridge over night. 

Open the fridge on occasion and smell it.

Anticipate it.

And sniff it again.

Grill it anyway you like.


I can’t wait.



September 22, 2010

Remember back when I was musing on the enjoyable ‘Tues-Dates’ I enjoyed with my laid off from work for six months hubby?  We used that day to drop the kids off school and reconnect with each other?  We would go out to breakfast or lunch, to movies, grocery shop together, etc. etc? 

Boy, I missed those days today.  I could have used a ‘Tues-Date’…..with myself.

Instead, I roused the kiddos and we headed for the local 24 hour super market to do a bit of ‘power shopping’   before school.  Tomorrow is my turn to help with the varsity team dinner and Prince had requested the apple dumpling recipe that has people clamoring for more of.  We set up a plan of action on the way to the store.  Once inside the door we headed off in three directions only to meet 8 minutes later at the apples.  Through the checkout and out the door to the car we went.  Heigh ho!  Heigh ho!

Food in the back and I was congratulating myself to be on the road toward the high school even earlier than we would have been had we left from home.  Halfway there I suddenly remembered that I had left my purse on the kiddie seat of our shopping cart…..back in the parking lot.  Curse…curse….slamming the steering wheel as I was stuck in high school traffic with no opportunity to turn around….curse…curse…..driver’s license….DEBIT CARD…..curse some more.  Calming breath and steeled resolve.

People are good and helpful and generous in my little world, right?  No one would take it, right?

Pulled up to the curb in the high school parking lot and sent the kiddos off with a ‘have a good day’ and “I love you!”. 

They sent me off with a grunt and a nod.

Zippity doo dah…..I raced back to the supermarket….scoured the parking lot for my shopping cart and found it.  It was tucked safely between two pick up trucks and my purse nestled right where I’d left it. 

HUGE sigh of happiness….and relief.

Back on the road I headed toward our local discount shopping store where I needed to purchase a tee shirt and iron on computer paper for the Prince’s school project that he’d PROMISED we wouldn’t be working on the night before it was due.

It’s due tomorrow.  Heh.

The store is in the process of being redesigned and renovated.  NOTHING was in its place.  And I was particularly disappointed that they have reduced their awesome craft section to two measly aisles.  Dang.  But I found the ribbon I needed, the birthday cards and tissue paper, the tee shirt (a $4 value!) and the iron on computer paper.

I was on my way home at 8:20 am. 

I spent the next 3 hours putting together two boxes of surprises that would need to be mailed….along with a birthday card for my sister.  I peeled 6 humongous Granny Smith apples, sectioned them in 8s and rolled each piece in a crescent roll.  This filled two pans for the apple dumplings that have everyone clamoring for more of.  I took a meatloaf out of the freezer for dinner.

At noon I was back in the car and headed toward our local post office – 20 minutes away.  Inside, I purchased packing tape and secured the two boxes, bought postage to mail them as well as a book of regular stamps.  I headed back to the 24 hour super market to meet my varsity soccer team dinner partner to do some more shopping.  She caught me chatting with a former student who is the mother of a former student and then we were off.  Fifty minutes and $90 later we had our taco salad supplies and our garlic bread stick plans in place to feed 24 high school boys after soccer practice tomorrow. 

She assured me that feeding that many boys at once would be a wonderous sight to behold.

With a mere 15 minutes before I would need to pick the kiddos up after school, I decided to check out the neighborhood where the dinner would take place.  Grrr….it was in the very neighborhood of two of our failed house purchasing bids.  I REALLY wanted to live in that neighborhood.

Picked the kiddos up from school and languished in the traffic jam moving in mass to get out of the school parking lot.  Back at home I put the meatloaf in the oven, poured the ‘secret ingredient’ over the apple dumplings and put a pot of macaroni and cheese on the stove.  Checked out the Prince’s school project and fiddled with the computer to set the printer to mirror image printing.  New computer.  New programs. Old frustrations.

Prince left in my car for the high school parking lot to meet the bus for the away soccer games.  I printed his iron ons and then checked the time for the school Open House I needed to attend.  It was 5 o’clock and the Open House was scheduled for 6 pm.  Threw on a dress.  Brushed my teeth.  Turned on the curling iron.  Shook out some pretty smelling lotion.  Curled the ends of my hair. Rushed out the door to the truck….which was taking me to my car at the high school parking lot so I could go to the Open House while HRH and Princess went to see the Prince’s soccer game.  Pondered the empty school parking lot where the Open House was scheduled.  Wierd. 

In my car, I suddenly realized that today was TUESDAY and the Open House was WEDNESDAY.  Called HRH on a cell phone and we met in the elementary school parking lot so that I could ride to the Prince’s game with him.

HUGE sigh. 

Talked non-stop to HRH on the way.  Went over the really weird events in last night’s premiere of ‘The Event’ and everything and all that went down with my day.  And I mean non-stop.  Prince won his game against my alma mater – 4 to 1.  He decided to stay for the varsity game. (Prince is technically a varsity player but usually serves as the goalie for the JV games….which means he can’t play in the varsity games.  He is okay with that because he’d rather play than sit on the bench just watching the totally awesome senior goalie all the time.)

Back at home I slipped OUR little pan of the apple dumplings that everyone clamors for more of into the oven, set up the ironing board and iron for Prince to finish his project with….and oh…what the heck, I ironed it on for him.

‘The Code of Foote’ on one side and 14 ‘rules’ on the other. 

I finally sat down to enjoy a taste of the apple dumplings that everyone clamors for more of and enjoyed a little television.

Prince came home.  Alls well with the world.

So why…at 11:49 pm….am I having trouble getting to sleep?



April 3, 2010

Okay….so we are thinking about moving.  Well, we are going to move.  Eventually.  We are thinking about PACKING to move.  Its a daunting task when you realize that we have been living in this house for nearly 18 years,  All the nooks and crannies and cubby holes and closets are fairly stuffed with…..well….junk.  I am not looking forward to it. 

However, this morning I took a box and headed for an easy one.  The cupboard I have been thinking about starting with for…well…weeks now.  Its that nondescript one over the stove where I keep cook books and recipes.  Truth be known, these days I rely on my computer for the recipes I need.  I can find them online or stored in the recipe ‘folder’ I keep on my hard drive.  What do I have to keep actual…books….around for?  So I went at the task with a vengance, planning to pitch and purge. 

Easier said than done.  Heh.

First there was the Betty Crocker Cook Book my mother received as a wedding gift.  I learned to cook from that thing.  Several pages are missing – including the cake from scratch recipe that I used to make cakes with when I was about ten years old.  Gotta keep that, right?

And ‘The Family Circle Cookbook’ my husband was given when he moved into his own apartment after his divorce?  Okay, so I kept that one.  I’ll pass it along to the next person we know who moves in their first apartment after a divorce.  Here’s hoping it stays in our collection forever.

‘Cooking Light for One’?  That one should have been tossed a looonnng time ago.

“Everything Chocolate”?  Mulled that one over for about two minutes.  Okay.  So I kept it.

‘Four Ingredients’, ‘CrockPot Delights’, ‘Chinese Cooking’…..all went into the box of ‘keepers’….along with every one of the half page sized cookbooks I have bought in the grocery store check out line.  They hold treasures of casserole, crescent roll, chicken, hamburger, cookie and Bisquick recipes.  (Impossible Pie, anyone?)

I found a treasure trove of magazines.   Remember reading Erma Bombeck when she was still  alive???  Good Housekeeping also carried stunningly easy ‘gourmet’ recipes.  I found newspaper pages folded carefully for a recipe I couldn’t figure out which I was saving.  Found some frosting container covers with recipes on the opposite side.  Kept some of those. 

Found my ‘Blue Book’ for canning.  Kept that.  Might even use it again sometime.

‘Southern Living Cooking’?  Pitched that.

‘Calorie Cooking’?  Nothing interesting there. Pitched.

I actually decided to keep more than I pitched and purged.  But the ‘new’ collection fits easily into a fairly small cardboard box until it can be relocated to a new shelf in a new cupboard in a new home.

And the ‘treasure’ I found was this……

It’s a recipe card for ‘XMas Log (6 rolls)’ – folded, stained and found stuffed behind the aforementioned cookbook collection.  I have NO idea how it got there but I DO know I have been looking for it.  Its a frozen confection of glazed cherries, coconut, nuts, marshmellows, crushed graham crackers and Eagle Brand milk.  I have NO idea where my Mother got it.  I have memories of sneaking slices of it during the Christmas season.  I have been hankering for it for YEARS.  Haven’t been able to find it online anywhere.   Couldn’t remember enough of the ingredients to fudge a recipe on my own.  Dang!  My heart did flip flops when I pulled that little card out!

I transferred the recipe to my file on my hard drive and put the card in the keeper box. 

Right in front of the ‘Magic Cookie Bar’ recipe that was used to fill Pringle cans that were sent to me when I was in college several states away.

Both written in my Mother’s hand.

Treasures indeed.


September 29, 2009

It was that kind of day.  I had the sniffles.  Rainy and dreary outside and BOTH soccer practices had been cancelled.  BOTH of them.  It very rarely happens that we aren’t picking one child up and dragging another in the opposite direction during the week.  Rarely…heh.  So how did I choose to celebrate?  By trying out a new recipe, of course!

This is not a cooking blog.  Not by any means.  I have mentioned several cooking incidences….such as the disappearing apple brown betty….and the pesto pizza the Princess and I were hooked on for a while….and the step by step directions for swiss steak  posted for the Prince’s future benefit.   But I am far from being the kind of master cook that would dare to talk about cooking here.  FAR from it.  Tonight I chose to tackle my very first home made Macaroni and Cheese. 

Now Mac’n Cheese  has long been a staple in my family’s life.  Not the REAL stuff however. More like the orangey Kraft stuff from the box.  Nothing goes better with hot dogs and ketchup…or fish sticks and applesauce.  And we have a LONG history with it.  The stuff practically got me through Sunday nights while I was in college.  The instant microwave packages were the very first things my kids learned to cook on their own, I think.  They used to eat it for breakfast before school on cold, winter mornings.  (I am not a Mom who divides food into specific meals.  If they eat anything hot for breakfast,  it’s a good day!)  And if we really want to go gourmet we use the white cheddar or Shells and Cheese boxes.

Several weeks ago, a recipe in People magazine caught my eye.  The Waverly Inn Truffled Mac and Cheese.  The Waverly Inn is in New York City.  People wait for weeks – no, months, I think – for a reservation there.  Intriguing.   I have never eaten there.  I don’t even live in New York City.  I only know about it because Maura Tierney was photographed there while out with  friends.  (Yes, I remain a geeky fan.  See her recent turn on ‘Rescue Me’??  Fabulous!)

Anyway, the recipe looked simple enough. I don’t exactly keep Da Rosario white truffle oil ($12 for 1.76 oz. bottle) in my pantry but I figured it was almost a minor item (added after cooking…’to taste’??) even though it was listed in the recipe’s name.  I even bought whole milk for the occasion…..which we NEVER have on hand.  We are a 1/2 percent family. 

I dutifully boiled up the one pound box of macaroni and set it aside (with a drop of olive oil to keep it from sticking).  I melted butter and whisked it with flour and dijon mustard untill it was a fragrant golden color.   Oops.  Added the milk a little quickly but continued to whisk and stir while the milk boiled and the sauce thickened.  I added the Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar cheeses and stirred them until all the shredded pieces were melted and the mixture was fragrant and creamy.  I skipped the salt because I didn’t have unsalted butter to use in the beginning.  It wasn’t really until I began to add the macaroni to the pan and it was beginning to overflow that I realized how much Waverly Inn Untruffled Mac and Cheese I was going to have on my hands.  And the stove.  And the counter top.  And, eventually, the dinner table.

Undaunted, I poured the mixture into one of my biggest baking dishes and covered the top with toasted bread crumbs, slipped it in the oven to finish heating through and set about finishing the pulled pork barbecue sandwiches we were having with the humungeous main dish.  Added cottage cheese, cold veggies and dip, sugar free Kool Aid and dinner was served.

I am not sure if it was all my anticipation of the fragrant dish, my sniffles, the rain drumming on our roof….or the absence of the Da Rosario white-truffle oil to taste.  Maybe it was just the years and years and years of Kraft boxes in our cupboard.  The Waverly Inn’s Untruffled Mac and Cheese just did not do it for me.  Or for anyone else at our table.  It was so…so….so bland.  Sigh. 

Princess ran the rest of it to the neighbor’s, who were happy to have it  for their dinner.

I am not sure what Ms. Tierney and her friends were eating at the Waverly Inn.  Or anyone else for that matter.  I am not sure what else they serve there.  It might be interesting to find out.  Might. 

I used to be impressed that a chef – or restaurant – could demand that kind of wait time for reservations.  I am not so much any more.  I realize that I am no master chef and my ingredients might not be the same quality.  But if I am ever in New York again, I will hit Morandi  or Chez Josephine for a late lunch…..and serve up a microwave cup of Kraft’s mac and cheese back at the hotel for dinner.  Or maybe just stop by the corner hot dog stand.  I am SO not a hoity toity when it comes to food.  I enjoy presentation.  I enjoy anticipation.  I enjoy something different.  I enjoy fun.  But sometimes the orangey Krafts stuff is juuuuust right.

Reflections from a Foodie

April 21, 2009

Foodie  n. Slang  A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.

I wouldn’t call me exactly a gourmet.  Absolutely not.  But I have a profound interest in  food.

I live  in a house with someone who could subsist on meat, potatoes and corn…..with a green bean casserole thrown in once in a while. Oh…and an occasional pizza.   The other of the male species is highly suspicious of anything green…and yellow and sometimes red.  His meal of choice usually comes from a box that you  add ground beef to.  He cannot abide the taste of tomato unless it’s in a sauce of some kind.  His sister on the other hand fancies herself to be a vegetarian.  I have no doubt that she will try that life style when she is older but right now, she loves her chicken too much and, on a rare occasion, a grilled steak.  She snacks on carrots and celery and cold sugar peas and can easily go through an entire bag of apples in one day.   She makes an entire meal out of a baked potato and a couple of tomatos.  Set a dish of unfamiliar veggies in front of her and she will most likely give it a try.   She is also a pasta lover.   I guess all of us are.  Take them off the beaten track….away from their ‘norm’ and you are likely to have a mutiny on your hands.  Or lots of grinding in the garbage disposal and many empty cereal boxes.

And their kind of food and  food preparation bores me lately. 

I can’t find anything that tickles my palate and makes me want more.  Unfortunately this malaise has not stopped me from eating.  I just keep trying to find….something. 

I guess I am just tired of the usual.  The casseroles, the meat loaves, sandwiches and soup, salads….everything lacks that ….pizzazz.  Barbecued chicken hit the spot the other night however.  I am looking forward to doing more of that again this summer.  I love grilling vegetables too.  But, more and more, I find myself longing for the food of  the two days I spent in New York City last fall.  Morandi.  Josephines.  Magnolia Bakery.  The quaint little market on the main drag with the very interesting sandwich combinations.  And to the meal my family shared at a ritzy restaurant in our town with a thoughtful gift certificate given to me at the end of the schoool year.  Everything from the salad (argula greens) to the shared dessert (chocolate volcano cake) was beautiful.  I remember holding everyone back as I marveled at the beauty of the presentation.  And then they destroyed it with forks and spoons.  In seconds.  Sigh.  It was something meant to be enjoyed…not inhaled.  But they argued that they HAD enjoyed it.  A lot.

I guess I have always been the kind of person who cares about how food…looks.  I can spend a good long time looking at something before I actually put a fork to it.  I love ‘presentation.’  When I prepare a meal I try to make sure it has a complimentary color palate as well as a taste palate.  I don’t like anything too green….or an over abundance of yellow.  Or white.   That was very clear to me in New York.  I have introduced my family to a lot of things they have never had before since NYC.  I have thrown spices into unexpected places.  I am finding that sometimes it’s best to operate on the ‘what they don’t know, won’t hurt them’  tactic however.  Like tonight. 

I spent the day making pasties.  Northern Michigan Pasties…with a few minor adjustments.  I picked up some things – potatos, rutabaga, carrots and parsnips – at the grocery store, grated them all together and wrapped them in  pastry with lots of smallish chunks of meat.   I have gravy for the guys to drown them in and plenty of veggies to keep the Princess happy.   In case they don’t like it.   We’ll see. 

As for me, the fun was in the making, I guess.  They look darn good.  I hope the taste is there.  The ‘pizazz.’   Its missing in my life right now.


This one is for you…..

December 31, 2008

At some point in time, son, you are going to find yourself away from home – in a college dorm or your first apartment – and hankering for that dish that Mom made that was your favorite.  Naw…not the open can of Chef Boy R Dee’s ravioli or that Ramen noodle stuff.  It’s one that was handed down to me from my mom.  I mean, how can one ever forget coming in from a cold, wet fall/winter day to the smell of simmering swiss steak?  Yum.  It’s second only to the simmering pot of chicken and dumplings…or chili….but that’s another post.  Because you have never had the patience to sit still and watch – let alone help – I thought I would post it here for you.  So you can pull it up at any time….and make it for yourself.  So forgive me regular readers…and especially my vegetarian friends…but this one is just for him.

Swiss Steak Extraordinaire

Start with a regular round steak from the market….and look for cheap.  We don’t want to break the bank or anything.  The good stuff happens after you buy it anyway.  Cut the round steak into smaller pieces.  (My mom always left it whole and cooked it on the electric frying pan.)  Now slice a good sized sweet onion into very thin slices. 100_0692

Pour a thin coating of EVOO (that’s olive oil – thank you Rachel Ray!  I love that I even have it in my kitchen…) into a frying pan and layer about half the onion slices in there.  Turn the fire on low and get them cooking.

100_06931Now comes the fun part.  It’s messy.  Spread some newspaper on the counter top and cover it with wax paper.  Sprinkle the wax paper with some flour and dredge a piece of the steak in the flour.  ‘Dredge’ means to drag it through or coat it.  And you know that cool little hammer in the kitchen tool drawer you like?  The one with the spikes?  Well, wail away at that piece of meat, keeping it dry by turning it over and 100_0694over in the flour.  This is called ‘tenderizing’ but there is nothing ‘tender’ about it.  I have some fond memories of you and your sister helping with this part at times.  Why is it that you both like pulverizing red meat??  You need to do this with each and every piece.  Have fun!  Oh…and sprinkle on a teenybit of garlic or garlic salt now and then.   Not too much though.   

100_0695Layer the meat on top of the oil and the onions.

Layer the rest of the onions on the meat and put the cover on the pan.  You will need to turn the meat pieces occasionally…making sure that each side of 100_0696each piece gets a turn at the bottom of the pan, nearest the heat source. 

When each piece has been browned a little  you are going to pour in about a cup of water that has two bullion cubes dissolved in it.  Replace the top and let the pan simmer for a while.  ‘Simmer’ means it’s all going to be bubbling just a little…not a rolling boil. 

100_0700When it’s all cooking and smelling good – and here is the part you can omit if you are making it just for you because I know you profess to hate mushrooms – cover the whole deal with sliced, fresh mushrooms.  I usually buy a couple of whole ones and slice them really thin but the sliced ones were on sale this time.  I still ended up slicing each piece even thinner.   Your grandmother used canned mushrooms for the most part.  They were easier to find in the grocery store back in the olden days when Mom was a girl. 

100_0702The trick is to let the whole thing simmer (remember – a gentle bubbling not a boiling roll!)  for a long time.  Like an hour or two.  In fact, the longer the better.   Check it and turn the meat pieces now and then…and regularly scrape up the stuff that gets stuck to the bottom.  That’s good stuff for the gravy. Ew…don’t like what the camera flash does to the color.  This was a lovely warm, brown dish of flavor.

Whip up some mashed potatos from a box or toss one into the oven to bake.  And make some green beans or some other kind of vegetable  ….. please.  Do it for me.  For old times sake.

And there you have it. 

Your favorite thing that Mom cooked for dinner –

100_0705when you were 14……and a carnivore. 


"The Case of the Missing Brown Betty"

August 18, 2008

I have been gifted with children who do not like to eat breakfast. They never have. But I guess I can identify because I am not a breafast food eater either most of the time. They would rather wait until lunch to eat. However, when they don’t eat, they – the Prince especially – become evil, growling, snapping turtle beings from another world in another galaxy. Always. So the beginning of the school year presents a challenge in planning to get something into their tummies before the bell rings. The Princess will eat cold cereal….but she likes it dry…in a baggie. Eeew. On rare occasions – when I don’t have the time really – I can talk them into poached egg on toast or a scrambled egg sandwich. Oatmeal with a scoop of ice cream (it’s just frozen milk and sugar…right?) usually lasts well into October. We had a run on cheese quesadillas once….for about a week. My own personal junior high favorite, bologna and mustard on toast, is always a standby and not necessarily that healthy. So I try to get creative. Every summer.

Today I wandered over to one of my favorite blogs – The Pioneer Woman – where there is an outstanding collection of picture perfect (and not so perfect) recipes. Looking for something fruity and different to use for breakfast this fall, I happened upon this recipe for Apple Brown Betty. I love the Pioneer Woman. She makes me want to cook butter for my family….and if you have ever tagged through her recipes you know that ‘butter’ is not a typo for ‘better’. Heh.

Anyway, I made some changes to the recipe based on what I have in my kitchen. I cut the brown sugar in half…well way more than half. I dutifully cut seven slices of fat free, whole wheat bread into tiny cubes. I peeled and thin sliced 4 Granny Smith apples. I added a handful of soaked dates – just because I had some leftover in the cupboard from HRH’s chocolate chip date birthday cake. I watered the layered fruit, sugar and bread layers with 4 tablespoons of water and covered it all with slices from a stick of my favorite ‘not really butter’. Wrapped it all in foil and baked that baby. It was out in time for the kiddos to try for…..lunch. Taste tested it with a warm healthy sized serving and it was deeelicious. The Prince wouldn’t touch it. The cooked apples were too brown for him. And he is also suspicious of anything with apples and cinnamon because I have a tendency to toss some hideous raisins in with it too…..or dates. Princess liked it. She likes anything with fruit and can over look the hideous raisins…and dates. She ate a healthy serving. Had another healthy serving myself. Yum. Saved the rest for HRH’s dinner treat.

And then while I was working on a cold tuna salad thing to stick in the fridge for dinner because we have soccer practice and a soccer game in two different directions tonight, I had another spoonful…right from the pan. The not-butter and brown sugar carmelized with the bread cubes quite nicely. So I had another spoonful to celebrate my good cooking skills. Stepped away for a while to check my e-mail and wandered back to stir the cooking macaroni…and took another bite. One wasn’t enough, so I took a second. Or was it a third? Anyway, HRH’s serving kept getting smaller and smaller. Sigh.

So now the pan sits in the sink filled with hot water and soap, soaking all that stuck on carmelized sugar away. And HRH is wondering why there are so many spoons in the sink. Heh. Next time I will save my spoon.


July 28, 2008

I thought I had been thoroughly spoiled for pizza. Sorry Dominos, Pizza Hut, Little Ceasars, Jets and Home Town Pizza. Stucci’s has it all over you. That’s a little ice cream shop in town with a pizza take out businees on the side…literally. They have a little personal Chicago style pizza that will knock your socks off. Tasty, full of just the right amount and mix of meat and cheese….yum. Don’t get it much though ’cause it’s a little out of our way. And then I was web crawling over to one of my favorite blogs – The Pioneer Woman – and she posted pictures of a pizza baking experiment. Dang if it didn’t make me hungry to try it. I mean, if she can cook like this for her Marlboro Man and Little Punks….then so can I! And I love my little vegetarian wannabe Princess more than usual on some days. She was totally game to try something new with me. Had to make two pizzas though. Prince and HRH were not so eager to give up their tomato based sauce from a jar. Heh. We started with a premade pizza crust. It was really good but I think I will be experimenting with my own crust recipe next time. Might be a little softer. Brushed that sucker with a little EVOO. Thank you Rachel Ray!! I feel really cool when I say ‘EVOO’……and feel even cooler that I even have ‘extra virgin olive oil’ in my kitchen.
Now three people near and dear to me just had to tell me that this stuff looks like ‘crap’. It smelled delicious. Pesto Sauce. Straight from a jar. Gonna try the fresh made stuff next time. Spread it all around….. Fresh mozarella cheese slices. COVER the pesto sauce. HIDE that ‘crap!’ And yes….I love my cheese! Yum….
Veggies……tried to get the princess to try some fresh mushrooms but we like the soggy ones from the can. Used thin slices of Roma tomatos, thin shards of green pepper and onion this time around.
Add some grated Parmesan to top it off…. And bake…..according to the crust package directions.

Lions and tigers and bears….oh MY! What a difference it makes not to have a tomato based sauce. It’s more….exciting. Smells even better. Yum. And made even MORE special with a brownie sundae chaser. You see, when the Prince saw his sister baking and wanted in on the action, I handed him the brownie mix I keep on hand for those ‘I’m so bored’ summer moments. He is 14, after all. He can read the directions on a box. As for me….I like the pictures. Heh.