MARCH MADNESS (It’s Been a Smidgen Stressful Lately)

I’ll summarize the last months with a…we moved! THREE times!  Which means my commute is well…longer 🙂 **ofcourse**.  Our one car will be shipped cross country here shortly and I will be car-less.  So that means our morning routine has approximately zero room for any extra fun.  In an effort to try to stay on task, I created a “Sweetpea’s Morning” picture collage that I put up every morning.  We have the same for nighttime so we have a clear evening routine.

First I took pictures, cut out some plastic covers, purchased some thin pink and white string from Michaels and also some fun colored clothes pins.  So essentially we have a thin clothe line of pictures hanging in the morning for someone to check to see “what comes next!!!” It’s a very exciting part of our morning.

1. Wake Up!
1. Wake Up!
2. Use Potty
2. Potty Time
3. Pick Out My Clothes
3. Pick Out My Clothes

(Yes Sweetpea picks out her clothes…which means sometimes her socks do not match…”I do it Mommy”…I’m all about independence!)

4. Feed the dogs
4. Feed the dogs
5. Eat Breakfast
5. Eat Breakfast
6. Take the Dogs Out
6. Take the Dogs Out
7. ADVENTURE TIME!
7. ADVENTURE TIME!

Yes. I Cheat. Done.

Who wouldn’t cheat. Seriously, fall seasonals take FOREVER to chop, prep, and serve (15 minutes of excitement for a DAYS WORTH OF prep…I’ll opt out). That being said, I love all things pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash. So I found my workaround.

1. Pre-chopped butternut squash
2. Pre-chopped onions (WHO KNEW!…$2.99 for 10 oz of pre-chopped onions…definitely worth it for me)
3. Minced garlic in a jar

Done.

The recipe: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30466-roasted-butternut-squash-soup

I modified it

4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed 2lb bag of pre-chopped butternut squash (from Trader Joes)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 medium Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces) –>We used whatever red apple we had on hand
1/2 medium yellow onion 1/2 c pre-chopped onions
8 fresh sage leaves 1 t Rosemary (dried)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 t Kosher Salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4c Heavy Whipping Cream

Recipe boils down to: Roast–>Simmer–>blend
Pre-heat your oven to 425

ROAST for 1 hour:
1. Roast squash, chopped apple (I left the skin on), and onion in a pan.
-I lined 2 9×9 glass pans with foil
-I also put one tablespoon of butter in each glass pan.
-I put a dash or so of Rosemary in each pan

Roast Butternut Squash, Onions, Apple for 1 Hour
Roast Butternut Squash, Onions, Apple for 1 Hour

Simmer/Melt flavors 15-18 minutes
1. Put roasted stuff in pot
2. Add 2.5 c broth
3. Add salt and pepper
4. Add the rest of the Rosemary

Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes to meld the flavors

Blend.
1. Add the Heavy Whipping Cream
2. Blend with stick blender

DELICIOUSNESS!
DELICIOUSNESS!

IT WAS AMAZING.

Only If You Have Time

On one of those amazing weekdays where I got home early, I decided to make “Swiss Enchiladas.” The actual recipe is extremely simple and had I thawed the meat entirely the night prior, or not dumped the entire half gallon of milk on the floor (my fault…not Sweetpea’s…thankfully I had over ordered milk this last round)…etc etc…it might have taken maybe an hour to make. For me this past time…it was more like 2 hours (2.5 hrs?). That being said I definitely did not take a picture :).

Just a picture of Sweetpea helping!  I'm a huge fan of getting her involved!
Just a picture of Sweetpea helping! I’m a huge fan of getting her involved!

This one is one of my go to recipes. If you like a little kick to it use Rotel, if you don’t want a peppery kick don’t add green chili’s and use plain old chopped tomatoes. When I make it ‘more bland’ I add in pepper to the milk mixture. Anyway, I really like this one.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/swiss-enchiladas

1 1/2 cups chopped onion (I don’t always include this one)
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 2 breasts)
2 garlic cloves, minced (I don’t always include this one either)
2 (4.5-ounce) cans diced green chilies, undrained (I use one can with one can of Rotel)
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese, divided (I cheat and use pre sliced swiss and just cut up strips)

With my modifications it boils down to:
0. Preheat the oven to 350
1. Chop up chicken and cook until done
2. Add in 1 4.5 oz can of green chilies and 1 14.5 oz can of original Rotel (cook for about 7 minutes)
3. Put in separate bowl
4. Pour 2 c milk in a pan with 2 T of flour (mix the flour with about 1/4 c of this milk so it’s not clumpy). Cook together until it thickens (about 5 minutes).
5. Arrange in your chicken mixture in the burritos in 9×9 glass pan or 9×13 pan (I add in cheese to each enchilada).
6. Pour milk mixture over everything and put four slices of swiss cheese on top
7. Cook for 25 minutes at 350’F

Apple Butterflies and Rabbit Grass

Apple Butterflies: Who Knew They Were So Exciting!!
Apple Butterflies: Who Knew They Were So Exciting!!

Who knew apple butterflies and apple ‘flowers’ could inspire lunch time! One lazy raining afternoon, I was cutting up apple slices for Sweetpea’s lunch. For some reason, she started talking about “triangles” (or “treigh-nals) and “circles”. So I thought I’d arranged the apple pieces into triangles and circles. She seemed intrigued. So we tried ‘flowers’ and butterflies. As I started decorating them with raisins and cheese, she devoured it all!

Side note…our little lady has a thing for NOT EATING. So anything that motivates her to eat! I’m in.

As I recounted this story to my mother, she said she used to make rabbit grass for me. Apparently, my daughter may emulate me (ALOT). Rabbit Grass is…grated carrots with raisins. I will have to try that next.

Pumpkin Pancakes and Chicken Carnitas

While I was making pumpkin pancakes this morning (BECAUSE IT’S AUTUMN!!!!!), I thought I’d throw together a slow cooker recipe.

They were delicious...
They were delicious…

Yes, I love cooking with my daughter. She and I threw (literally) together our pumpkin pancakes this morning. I love that she wants to “help”. Anytime I’m in the kitchen, she’s asking to “heeaaallllllllllllpppp?” I love learning play!! I try to say yes! Get right in and up here. Cleaning up can easily happen and I can always make the recipe again if it all ends on the floor. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pumpkin-Pancakes/ (I did add about an extra 1/2-3/4 c milk to thin them down…as George said…not a fan of pancake bricks…I’ll take the pancake version).

Anyhow, while the pancakes were cooking (on very very low) we put together the spices and juices in the slow cooker while we defrosted the chicken in the microwave (on the defrost function). 8 minutes later I put the chicken in the slow cooker and turned it on for 6.5 hours.

Helping!
Helping!

Recipe compliments of Closet Cooking: http://www.closetcooking.com/2014/04/slow-cooker-chicken-carnitas-tacos.html

1 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
4 t prechopped garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder I used cayenne (I’m apparently out of chili powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

The recipe went on to say broil it and crisp it up but if you don’t have time…don’t!

Frittata: Who Knew (IT WAS SO EASY!)

My latest find has been: grab and go breakfasts. When I read the Food Network’s article on “Fun & Fast Frittata Combos” I thought I’d give it a shot. A frittata, I found, boils down to: veggie, protein, cheese, egg. Pretty much in that order.

The Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/potato-and-zucchini-frittata-recipe.html
The Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/potato-and-zucchini-frittata-recipe.html

Since I can’t find the specific recipe online, this is what I did:
0. Prep eggs. Stir 8 eggs in a bowl with about 1/3 c milk. Set aside.
1. Choose a veggie (I chose a bag of spinach…the ENTIRE thing). Saute in oven friendly pot (I used our cast iron pot). Set aside in a bowl.
2. Cook protein. (I chose mild Italian sausage). Cook until done. Turn off the heat.
3. Evenly distribute protein and veggie in pot. Add cheese (I chose Feta).
4. Pour eggs over protein, veggie and cheese.
5. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes (or until the eggs are partially set…essentially so that only the top 1/4″ of the egg mixture is the only thing moving when you gently move the pot)
– During this time, turn on your broiler to high.
6. Broil for 5″ from heat for 2-3 minutes or until browned and almost set.

I made this for George when I went on work travel. He had breakfast for the week!

Other combinations:
1. Feta, green onions, asparagus
2. 3 plum tomatoes (seeded and sliced thinly), 1/2 c fresh basil, 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
3. Kale, 4 oz turkey italian sausage, 1/2 c chopped red pepper, 1 ounce feta cheese
4. Spinach, 2 cloves minced garlic, cooked bacon (or proscuitto) 1/4 c carmelized onions, 1 T chives, 2 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese

It’s a Man’s Job…Or Not

I will be the first to admit, the grill has been the most intimidating thing in our postage sized backyard (think small and divide by 42). So when George was working his typical late day, I marched out to the grill determined to make dinner (or burn/blow something up). We’ve only had the grill for three years and I’ve never used it. Somehow that became George’s domain and not something I do. Whatever, roles happen in marriage so when he had asked me why I don’t try…I kept thinking…Yeah. Why don’t I? So…

Sockeye Salmon

Perhaps, I should step back for a second. Fish: I have traditionally failed at cooking fish (from a salt lick — it said add salt!!, to overly fishy nastiness)…Salmon has been categorized in my brain as…hmmm…FISH. So therefore, again, out of the picture (insert George talking about Omega-3s and how healthy they are…Omega 3 article). So fine. I will make take a detour.

Farm Raised or Wild Caught.
1. Which Salmon Should I Buy
– I chose Sockeye Wild Caught…it’s classified as fishy but with a cedar plank from Whole Foods (or Amazon.com)…it’s positively DELICIOUS (I promise). So if you purchase farm raised, I’d REALLY recommend the plank…it absolves all sorts of (fishy tasting) sins. I tend to think the wild caught, though more pricey, tastes better. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_xleu84BJU…I kind of love Alton Brown)

2. FDA article on Salmon

Wild caught is about $15/lb here. So maybe that’s a bit much. Sometimes I feel farm is better than none at all?

How I did it:
1. Purchase Fish (debone if necessary…which means pulling out little one inch tines with your fingers..lots of hand washing involved…some butchers remove them for you)
2. Soak Cedar Plank in water (the soaking part is key to fire prevention)
3. Put fish skin side down on plank and let it come to room temperature
3a. Chop up veggies, arrange on foil, lightly sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper
3b. Put up baby in a safe place
4. Set up your grill according to directions
5. Put some foil down, put your veggies on the foil on the grill and start
6. Cook until internal temperature is 130-145’F (I live by an internal thermometer…I use the regular one I use for all other meat in the kitchen)
7. Take fish and veggies off grill
8. Let fish set for a few minutes after it comes off the grill
9. Serve with a nice glass of wine

Admittedly, I was nervous about using the grill for the first time so I read: .
At the end of the day, it was surprisingly easy, quick despite my long post.

Confessions of a Cook-aholic

Ok, fine.  I like to cook.  This past week or so, I made the decision to go anti-paperless.  I made a binder for the house divided into tasks, menus, trips/vacations/and other such goals….only to realize having something written in the …written form apparently helps me get things done.  

With that being said, I pulled out this month’s Food Network Magazine and Cooking Light and began cutting out recipes for my newly created binder.  After selecting 10 menus, I put them into my pretty plastic page covers and smiled.  Such organizational pretty-ness.

Anyhow, I keep feeling that recipes that say “40 minutes to complete” lie.  They never take 40 minutes.  Maybe that’s because I keep adding onto the meal??? Anyhow…this one went fast and was definitely delicious.

Mediterranean Cornish Hens -- The Food Network
Mediterranean Cornish Hens — The Food Network

I didn’t have Israeli couscous but the regular couscous were great!  I roasted the zucchini to add flavor to the couscous but everything else was exactly as written: Food Network Magazine: Mediterranean Cornish Hens.   

You Win Some…You Lose Some

I had grand plans of making 5 slow cooker recipes this week. That was until I accidentally strained the beans out of the pot into the sink…etc…etc…So we had two slow cooker menus, the standby pasta dinner, and a quick chicken dinner (quick-ish = 45 minutes).

As my mother would say, both recipes were “Banner Batches.” I liked the soup so much I had it for lunch twice in addition to dinner on Tuesday. Okay, that could have been influenced by the fact that my lunch planning was slightly lacking. Friday’s lunch was “buy your own” … whoops.

1. Easy Springtime Crockpot Minestrone

Via www.howsweeteats.com
Via http://www.howsweeteats.com

Notes: Some people on the http://www.howsweeteats.com website commented that this was flavorless or flat, but to me it was perfect. I loved it and so did George.

Recipe: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2013/04/easy-springtime-crockpot-minestrone/

2. Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Mango Salsa

Via www.skinnytaste.com
Via http://www.skinnytaste.com

Notes: I think I woke up twice during the night as this one was cooking. It smelled AMAZING. The jerk seasoning added a lot of flavor. I thought I might skip making the salsa…the mango salsa really made this dinner amazing.

Recipe: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/02/slow-cooked-jerk-pork-with-caribbean_19.html

3. Caramelized Onion Chicken
Not a slow cooker recipe but a relatively easy/quick/delicious dinner
Recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/caramelized-onion-chicken-10000000249953/

Wholesome Living: Finding Balance