Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cee's Quick Red Beans and Rice; Green Bean Amandine

Another great recipe from my friend Cee. I have made her long-version Red Beans and Rice, but tried this one when I forgot to put a turkey roast into the oven in time to have it ready for supper! My family liked this one even better.

Dice a medium sized onion and a bell pepper (I added a hot pepper from my garden, too). Put them in a large pot or Dutch oven with enough olive oil to almost cover them and saute' until tender-ish.
Add 2 large cans of kidney beans (I used one dark, one light)
Stir in (more or less as preference dictates):
2-3 tablespoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup of brown sugar (I'd use a touch less next time)
1/2 tablespoon Italian-blend seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 lb diced kielbasa or smoked sausage

Bring to a boil, turn to simmer while you make rice (I used the rice cooker).

Serve over rice and pass extra hot sauce so people can make it as spicy as they want.
Green bean amandine

Cook green beans according to package directions (or use fresh... better yet!)

Saute sliced almonds in butter. When the almonds are brown, remove from heat and squeeze half a lemon into the almond butter. Pour over the top of the cooked green beans and season with salt. yummmmmm....
Pillsbury Italian bread with butter

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Haircuts Before School Starts

All three kids needed haircuts (actully, G. and I did, too, but we had ours last week!). The before- and after- shots (click for bigger images):

It'll be interesting to see how the girls' hair looks when it hasn't been "styled" by the hairdresser!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Desperation White Chicken Chili; quesadillas

White Chicken Chili
(this one is all me! made up when I just raided the cupboard and threw things together, and then tweaked a bit to make it better)

Saute 1 pkg. Ground chicken with 1 lg. Onion and half a green pepper, chopped. Add 2 cloves garlic, crushed. Add about 1 T cumin and 1 T Oregano (maybe more). Add 1 can green chilis, chopped and whatever other spicy peppers that you have around (today I used one jalapeno and two tabasco peppers, with seeds; other options I've used are about a handful of pickled jalapenos, rinsed and chopped or 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and chopped or a few serrano peppers, chopped). Put in 2 cubes of Knorr chicken boullion and 3 c. water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed. Heat through. Add about ¼ c. heavy cream or half and half. Season w/ salt and pepper.



we make them with any mixture of fillings; today half were flour tortillas and half corn. we filled them with shredded colby and shredded monterrey jack cheeses, sliced black olives, and green onions.


sour cream


homemade salsa:

1 lg. tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, minced finely
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
(secret ingredient) about 1 T. Pace picante to meld the flavors

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another Trip to the Zoo!

We went to the zoo again yesterday. This time we met the cousins (G's sister and her three kids; G's brother and his three kids plus one of their cousins on the other side). The kids had a blast, despite the sogginess of the weather. Here's some kid pics:

We also got to see the Birds of Prey show. The three bigger boys wanted to sit away from the rest of them. I thought they looked like a gang of young toughs:

G. volunteered for the show and he got to hold a soda can for a crow to grab and deliver to the recycling bin. Here are two pictures of him--one seconds before the crow landed, and one as the crow grabbed the can.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Meatloaf Muffins and Smashed Potatoes

Another from Rachel Ray

Meatloaf Muffins with Barbecue Sauce

1 2/3 to 1 3/4 pounds ground sirloin
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery from the heart of the stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper
1 large egg plus a splash of milk, beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
1 cup smoky barbecue sauce
1/2 cup tomato salsa
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Micro-way-cool Bacon and Green Beans, recipe follows
Smashed potatoes and cream cheese, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Put ground beef into a big bowl. Put onion and celery into a food processor. Cut the bell pepper in half, rip out the seeds and throw them into your garbage bowl. Cut the pepper into a few pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse the processor blades to finely chop the vegetables into very small pieces then add them to the meat bowl. Add egg, beaten with milk, bread crumbs and grill seasoning to the bowl. Next, mix together the smoky barbecue sauce, the salsa and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour half the sauce mixture into the bowl with the meatloaf mix. Mix the meatloaf together with your hands. Wash up. Brush a 12-muffin tin (1/2-cup each) with vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil. Use an ice cream scoop to help you fill meat into a each tin. Top each meat loaf with a spoonful of extra sauce. Bake about 20 minutes. Cut open 1 muffin to test that the middle is cooked through.


Smashed Potatoes and Cream Cheese:
2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes or baby Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk
8 ounces plain cream cheese or veggie cream cheese, cut into pieces
10 chives or 2 scallions, chopped or snipped with kitchen scissors
Salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until tender, 15 minutes. While the water boils and when the potatoes are cooking, you can be working on the meatloaf recipe.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them and return them to the hot pot to let them dry out a bit. Mash potatoes with half-and-half or milk using a potato masher. Add in the cream cheese and smash until the cheese melts into the potatoes. Then add chives and scallions and season with salt and pepper, to your taste.


Pillsbury dinner rolls


tossed salad with spinach ranch dressing


green grapes

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cee's Garlic Pot Roast (crock pot)

Apologies for the photo... my camera battery was charging when supper was ready, so I only have a picture of the "leftovers"!

Garlic Pot Roast (in the crock pot)
From my friend Cee, in her own words

3lb pot roast
salt, oregano and basil to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp salt and 1 T each of the others)
3 cloves roasted garlic, sliced thin
6-8 small yellow onions
8-10 small red potatoes, washed & quartered
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
3/4 C beef stock

1. Season meat with salt, oregano and basil (rub)
2. In a large skillet, on medium heat - brown meat for 5 minutes on each side
3. *stabstabstab* pot roast vigorously. Get out all of yourfrustrations! Don't worry; it's already dead.
4. Shove half of your garlic into the stab wounds you created. Aww, poor tasty cow!
5. Place pot roast in your crock pot, and arrange the rest of the garlic on top of it.
6. Add remaining ingredients to crock pot (careful not to ruin your beautiful garlic art when you pour in the stock - pour it on the side!!)
7. cook on low 6-8 hours or until beef is tender.

YUM! Make some quick pan gravy with the 'sauce' left in the crock pot afterwards, to drizzle over everything else. :)


my family's reactions:
T. didn't eat it (nothing with gravy!)
M. ate the meat and gravy and said it was good
C. loved it and said it was "just as good as" my potroast
G. said it was good, but not as good as my potroast
I also thought it was good, but I expected it to be even better after smelling it cooking all day! Seriously, the whole house smelled fantastic, and the pot roast was good (especially with the ease of cooking it in the crock pot), but I prefer my potroast, slow roasted in the oven for hours and hours, and made with merlot gravy. And I like mashed potatoes, too. Missed those with this.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The more you spend, the more you save, right?

Let me begin with a little gripe. Why do car manufacturers put P.O.S. tires on new cars? Our van is four and a half years old and the Civic is THREE and a half years old, and both of them have horrible tires. Like the kind of tires where you try to start from a four-way stop and if it's been raining, you can't get going right away. ugh! So we knew this, and "budgeted" (as much as you can) for new tires for both vehicles this fall (before the snow comes). But then we realized that it's a lot easier to have car repairs done in the summer, when G. is off of work and we can easily run one vehicle up and not have to spend hours and hours sitting while the work is done.

This weekend both Sears and Fleet Farm had sales on tires, but since Sears is a five minute drive (and Fleet Farm is a 20 minute drive) we went to Sears. First the van. Buy three tires, get the fourth free (woo hoo!). Add in valve stems, alignment, tire disposal and a million other little things and it added up to $465.57 (saved $103.99). After I paid, the machine shot out two things--a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase elsewhere in Sears today and a $5 off any purchase coupon if I took a phone survey. I did the survey, and C. and I went shopping! We found her first-day-of-school outfit:

Cute khaki green capri-length pants (regularly $26 for $15.60) and a brown, 100% cotton, lace-trimmed tee (regularly $18 for $10.80) with a picture of a *horse* on it! (click on the pics to see bigger images) With tax and after coupons, just $17.32.

Three hours later, G's car was done. Same deal with buying 3 tires, get one free. Total of $357.86 (saved $69.99). Two more coupons. Shopping for T. He got a picture day shirt (regularly $22 for $8.99), socks that he needed (regularly $7.99 for $5.99) and another "dressy" t-shirt (reg. $9.99 for $2.49):

Then I went searching for something for me, to bring it up to $25. I am SO excited to say that I found something I'd been looking for all summer long: black cotton gauchos with a roll-top waistband (regularly $36 for $7.99)! Better yet part--they are a size XS! I am *not* an extra small size, but I'm happy to wear one that's cut generously to make me feel good ;) Total of $16.33 for second set of purchases.

Grand total if there were no discounts: $1112.74
Grand total after discounts: $857.08
Savings: $255.66

(see, now if I'd just have posted "I saved $255.66 today", you'd have been way more impressed)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Vichyssoise; Panini

My Dad always loved Vichyssoise and he made a wonderful one from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking. So when I saw that there were beautiful leeks in the grocery store, I knew I had to make some.

adapted from The Joy of Cooking
(non-dairy version below)

1 large leek, white and light green parts only, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium potatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk (can use cream)
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives

In a medium soup pot, sauté the leeks and onion in butter for 3 minutes. Skin the potatoes and slice very fine. Add the chicken stock to the pot along with the potatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Puree the mixture, using an immersion blender (or you could use a blender or food processor). Add milk (or cream), salt and pepper. Serve piping hot (you can chill it, but we always ate it hot!). Garnish with chopped chives.

p.s. for those of you going the non-dairy route, the cookbook mentioned a second version, prepared the same up to the addition of cream. Skip adding the cream, then chill it and, before serving, stir in shredded cucumber. Sounds good to me! (I'd use olive oil instead of butter, too)

You can choose whatever meats, cheeses, veggies that you want, but our faves are:

sliced pepperoni
thinly sliced tomatoes
lots of fresh basil
mozzarella cheese (we also like provalone)
butter and/or olive oil
crushed garlic
Italian bread

If using butter, melt it in the microwave. I like to use a 50/50 mix of butter and olive oil. Crush the garlic into the butter/olive oil.

Paint one slice of Italian bread with the oil/garlic mixture and lay down on a grill pan. Layer cheese and other toppings, then top with more cheese. Lay second slice of Italian bread on top and paint it with garlic butter, too. When you have all the sandwiches assembled on the grill pan, put a cookie sheet on top and top that with several bricks to smoosh down the contents. (I'm sure you can also use a panini press, but I don't own one!)

When cheese is melty and bread is crusty, flip and do the same process with the cookie sheet and bricks.

Serve immediately
potato chips

p.s. I ate some of the leftover vichyssoise cold and it was good, too :)

Ala Carte at the Zoo

The Milwaukee County Zoo (of which we are members) does this cool thing every August for four days. It's Ala Carte, and is billed as "Feast With The Beasts". Tons of local restaurants set up tents at the zoo and you can buy yummy food and the zoo's open till 10:00 pm. They have entertainment (in the past we saw the Violent Femmes there) and raffles and freebies... Anyway, we traditionally go on Thursday, thinking it'll be less busy than the weekend days. We went this Thursday.

The bigger kids finally got to ride a camel:

We saw M's favorite animals, the giraffes, at their new house at the zoo. And obligatory silly photos after...

Then we saw T's favorite animal, the rhino (like Rambi from Donkey Kong Country):
The grizzly bears looked adorable, so I had to take a picture:

Oh, and we ate! We had jambalaya, nachos, chicken taco salad, sour cream and chive fries, and a hot fudge baked alaska eclair!

Friday, August 18, 2006

RIP, "You Knit What"

Ever since You Knit What decided to call it quits (exactly two weeks ago), my days have been missing that early-morning laugh-your-head-off-at-someone-else's-expense bit. But I think I found my replacement: Threadbared! It's not just knitting--some crochet and sewing. And they're vintage patterns, not current... but they're still damned amusing! check it out

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The coolest thing...

In my blog-browsing lifetime, I've stumbled upon a few cool knitting things that I've participated in (Sockapaloooza; Dye-o-rama; Mason-Dixon KAL) and a few things that I thought were really neat, but didn't seriously consider participating in (Knitting Olympics; The Amazing Lace; Project Spectrum). But I just read an entry about something so cool, that I want to cry because I missed it all. It was a request for hand-knit fruit and vegetable hats to distribute to breastfed babies on WIC! Two of my great interests/obsessions: knitting and breastfeeding... and I missed it!

Read all the cool details (and see adorable pictures) here:

Chicken Piccata

This is an easy one. I took it straight from Rachel Ray! The recipe is on Food Network.

Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/3 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chicken broth or stock
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
Chopped or snipped chives, for garnish

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add another tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet. Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce. Stir in capers and parsley. When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce to give it a little shine. Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste. Top with fresh snipped chives.

Italian Bread from Breadsmith
Tossed Salad with bottled dressing
SEEDED watermelon (why is this so impossible to find?) from the back of a truck...and it was divine!


I am slowly working on the socks from my dye-o-rama yarn. It's my fall-back project! I do a few rows every now and then. Here's the picture of them so far:

I wish I was a better judge of how much yarn I have left. I think these would rock as knee-highs! But do I have enough to make them knee-highs? I'm thinking probably not.... So I still don't know how to end them! And that's why I'm plugging along, two rows at a time. :)

Now, the tank. I love this pattern (FTMP) and I adore the yarn. After I knit the back, I wasn't sold and I didn't like how stretchy it was, so when I did the front (which is the exact same pattern as the back, but it continues where the back is bound off), I did two major differences. For the first row, I knit into the back of every stitch. It made a really cool, tight edge that shows off the seed stitch sections, making them kinda three-dimensionalish. Secondly, I bound off quite tightly for the armpits and the neckline, so it didn't sag. I think that worked really well, too! Look:See how it curves in on the bottom and the top is tight? cool... Only about 11 more inches of straps to knit, too.

But I started thinking that I'd have to knit over the back to make it match. Part of me hoped that it wouldn't be necessary, as it's the BACK, right? Well.... check this out:

I guess it's a good thing that I really like this yarn, huh? :) I'm also happy that the back is shorter, so it'll take me less time to knit. Live and learn. :) I have become an expert at tinking on this project, too. Oh, and dropping single stitches down and then picking them back up through numerous rows. :)

And you know how I posted that the kids only seem to play with legos at Grandma's house? Well, my living room floor has been coated in legos for the past two days. Be careful what you wish for!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chicken tacos/Taco Salad

This is a meal that gets made (in various forms) a LOT in our house because everyone can use the fixins to make what they like. Pics above show G's soft-shell tacos plus nachos; my taco salad (plus margarita); C's hard shell taco and mixed chip dip

Here's the things I made (plus a listing of things I often make, but didn't tonight)

chicken breast, marinated in McCormick's Southwestern Seasoning and then grilled
refried beans (from a can)
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
chopped onion
shredded cheese
sour cream
Pace picante sauce
Tostitos queso sauce
flour tortillas
crisp taco shells
plain tortilla chips

(this is the quick meal, taking less than half an hour from start to finish--plus time to marinate)

more involved items:
cilantro lime rice
homemade pico de gallo
homemade salsa verde
black olives

Worst Mother Ever?

I feel like an all-around slacker. Since returning from vacation, I haven't really posted anything other than meals. That's because we haven't really done much of anything other than eat! Lots of sitting around, screen time, games, lazy summer stuff than none of us have been able to do since summer started!

I do have one entry for the "worst mother ever" contest. Here goes:

Since C. was little, I've belonged to an informal playgroup that developed from our La Leche League group. Now that most of the kids are older, we only meet (for the most part) in the summer, alternating parks. We pack lunches and bring something to share (yum!) and the kids play and the moms talk and it's wonderful. So this last Friday we met at a park on my side of town and on Lake Michigan. Only three families made it, but we had a blast. The kids played on the playground equipment and we had lunch, and then changed into swimsuits and trekked down to the lake. We could hear waves crashing on the beach as we walked down and the Southwesterly winds had made some substantial waves, indeed! The older kids had a blast on the "boogie boards" and innertubes, being tossed around on the waves and tipped over. It was such a contrast to our calm wading day at Lake Superior that my kids were thrilled! The smaller kids dug deep holes and made sand castles and had tons of fun, too. The moms watched carefully, chatted, and caught some sun. It was a fantastic day! After awhile on the beach, one of the younger kids needed to use the bathroom and her mom went in search of one. On their way back, this mom stopped at a sign posted on the beach and read it. Then she re-read it and re-read it. When she made her way back, she told the rest of us that it was a posting stating that the e. coli levels in the water were elevated and that people should swim "at their own risk". Furthermore, we were warned to wash hands with soap before touching food.

OMG... The waves had crashed over the big kids and I know that each of them got significant water in their mouths. The kids had been finishing their lunches while sitting on the beach. The moms looked at each other in horror. We packed up the kids as quickly as we could and ran up to the bathroom and scrubbed as best as we could with soap. Visions of hospitals kept reappearing in my head. It had NEVER crossed my mind to even look to see what the e. coli levels were. I grew up on Lake Superior where the water was never tainted!

I arrived home and G. asked how the trip was. I explained everything, including the e. coli advisory. He quickly looked it up on the web and found that it must have been an old posting, as the beach was listed as "open" for the day we were there. I love my practical husband.

And now it's 5 days after our trip and no one (knock wood) shows any signs of infection. I still feel like we just barely dodged a bullet and I don't know if I'll be able to take the kids back there or not. So sad...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

BBQ Pork Sandwiches; Homemade potato chips

BBQ Pork Sandwiches

1 1/2 lb. boneless country style ribs (I've also used pork butt roast--boneless or bone-in)
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and Pepper
1/2 c. apple juice
1/4 c. water
1/2 cup (or to taste) barbeque sauce (we like Saz's)

Place pork in crock pot. Crush garlic over top. Season with salt and pepper. Crumble brown sugar on top of that. Carefully pour apple juice and water in bottom of crock pot. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, or until pork is falling apart. Pour off liquids and, using two forks, shred pork. Pour barbeque sauce over shredded pork and heat through. Serve on toasted buns with pickles on the side (we like Claussen kosher dills).
Homemade potato chips

Slice potatoes (with peeling on) thinly, using food processor. Soak in cold water until ready to fry. Pat dry with towels and fry at 325 degrees for 3 minutes. Remove and drain. (potatoes can sit at this point for several hours) heat oil to 375 degrees, and re-fry chips until crispy. Drain well on brown paper bags or paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Smoky Turkey Goulash

Smoky Turkey Goulash
(adapted from a few Rachel Ray Recipes)

2 T. olive oil
1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1 lb. ground turkey
2 t. Hungarian half-sharp paprika
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. coarse ground black pepper
2 T. fresh thyme leaves (6 sprigs)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green (or red) pepper, diced
2 T. flour
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. sour cream

Heat olive oil in large, deep pan. Cook bacon until brown. Drain off most of the grease. Add turkey (seasoning with paprika, cumin, thyme, pepper and salt) and cook until brown. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir in, and cook 2 more minutes. Add chicken stock and 1/2 cup sour cream and heat until vegetables are tender. Right before serving, stir in remaining 1/2 cup sour cream. Serve over egg noodles.
Pillsbury Italian bread
cucumber, tomato and onion dressed with balsamic vinagrette

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What we did on our summer vacation

Drove up north; arrived about 6:30; had a yummy supper; played (why are legos always more fun at Grandma's house?)

Went to the Iron County Fair; saw lots of animals and fair entries; visited the "petting zoo"; M. and T. rode on "Berry Go Round"; watched the greased pig competition; ate greasy fair food; out to eat at grandma's friend's restaurant

Went to visit one of Grandma's friends, who has a huge farm; saw horses (including a less-than-one-month-old foal), a baby calf, two pigs, a bunch of chickens, three dogs, and a handful of cats; rearranged Grandma's living room, but didn't have success in putting together a new entertainment center (Kmart sucks), so Grandma's TV is now on an end table...

Uncle S. had one of his first days off in months (he's a firefighter and the weather's been so dry that he's on fire watch nonstop) and he spent it with us! S. and G. played golf; we all went to Saxon Harbor on Lake Superior and swam (warmest it's been in years!) and had lunch; G., S., C., and T. took the chair lift and elevator to the top of Copper Peak Sky Flying Hill (that's Canada behind Uncle S. and T.)

Headed home about 9:00 am; stopped at Bay Beach;

got home and crashed!