Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Lesser of Two Evils

Tonight's dinner was nothing spectacular, although I am proud of us as parents.  I'll be naming this tip "The Lesser of Two Evils."

Today there was a giant traffic mess and there were quite a few parents late picking up their children from the Center...then my children had to go see their grandmother's pet bird before we got in the car.  That put us on the road half an hour later than usual.  Luckily, my wonderful husband had called before he left work and asked what we were doing for dinner.  Also fortunate, I had thought about it the day before and defrosted some ground beef...we are having Hamburger Helper for dinner.  It is not often that I buy it, but I do have some fond childhood memories of the lasagna flavor, mixed with a little cottage cheese.  So a couple times a year, we indulge.  Tonight, Daddy cooked while we were at the gas station (that put us another 15 minutes behind schedule!). 

Here is where the proud part comes in...our three-year-old is borderline anemic with very low iron stores.  We need to be feeding her beef 4 times a week.  She hates beef.  Oh, and while feeding her beef, she can't drink milk--I just found out that it interferes with the iron absorbtion.  She loves milk.  We have also been increasing her green-leafy vegetables (you may have seen my spinach quiche post).  So tonight, I told my wonderful hubby that there were a bunch of frozen vegetables to pick from...why don't we do the creamed spinach and give her a choice of another iron-filled food when she refuses to eat the beef, like we know she will.

The kids and I came home to an already set table with Hamburger Helper and creamed spinach on the plates and water in the cups.  Baby Girl immediately starts with the foot-stomping, arm-crossing, lip-pouting, Whiny McWhinester routine.  I make the mistake of sending her to her room (like we always do when she does that routine).  She jumps up out of the chair and says "I'm not hungry anyway!"  Did I mention, she's three?

Change of plan...make her sit then ignore her...yeah, that's better.

She actually started eating.  Once all the noodles were gone, we gave her choices:
  1. Eat some of the beef and spinach, or
  2. Eat all the beef, or
  3. Eat all the spinach.

When Daddy tried to feed her some spinach, she yelled "I just want beef!"  Is it wrong that inside my head sounded a little like this: "Mmmwwaaahhhaaahhaahhaahhaa"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

PInterest Sunday

Pinterest is my latest addiction, as I'm sure it is for many of you out there.  So far, my nightly pinterest pinning has been trumped only by Christian Grey (why yes, I have jumped right on that bandwagon!). 

Again, like many of you, I pin everything and then do nothing with it.  My boards are full of wonderful ideas that never come to life.

Yesterday, I vowed to change that!  My children had a marvelous time in the bathtub for almost two hours. 

They played with cloud dough (a mixture of flour and baby oil, found on play create explore blog) in the bathtub, because it was too humid and hot to play outside and I couldn't fathom the mess in my already dirty kitchen.  This was followed by some bathtub paint...I don't know who to credit for this one, there are directions all over the web...we mixed shaving cream and food coloring in a mini muffin tin (they each got six colors).  After awhile, I squirted some kids body wash over the top and it seemed to stick to the walls better.

When we decided to be finished, the three-year-old got a washcloth to wipe down the walls and the toddler got the job of rinsing all the dishes and paint brushes (so I could keep her sitting down in the slippery tub).  Then everyone got a bath.  If I'd had some, I would have thrown some glow-sticks in the water and turned the lights out and we could've made it a pinterest hat trick.  (Again, I don't know who to credit for the glow-stick idea, I've seen it on Pinterest just about every day)

Here is what I learned...
  1. Food coloring mixed with shaving cream will not stain a fiberglass tub (thank goodness!).
  2. Two hours in a tub makes for some very tired and satisfied kids--we will be doing this again.
  3. There is nothing in this world that is any cuter than my toddler's bubble butt covered in specks of dough and rainbow shaving cream!
Then, after I fed the kids some Stuffed Pepper-Stuffed Shells that I cooked ahead for the week, I made some Baked Egg Rolls for me and my hubby, also found on pinterest.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Real Men Think Quiche is Cool!

My latest go-to method of cleaning out the fridge...quiche!  When I suggested it for dinner, my "real man" said "cool!"

It was about two months ago that I started this kick with the purchase of a two pack of frozen deep-dish pie crusts.  The first pie crust became a remarkably yummy Monte Cristo Quiche (recipe follows).  The second crust became (my friend Michele's recipe) Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie that my husband made me take to work so we wouldn't eat it all and then he got mad that I didn't save him a piece.

Next shopping trip's pie crusts became first a Spinach, Mushroom and Ham Quiche (recipe follows) that hubby said was the "best yet" and we even tricked the picky three-year-old to eat more than her standard "2 no-thank-you bites."  The second crust from that package became a Crab and Shrimp Quiche.  I would give you the recipe but I hated it...if you think it sounds good (like I did), do what I'm going to do--look up a recipe somewhere else.

Current package of pie crusts...Spinach, Mushroom and Ham again.  Here is the part where I pat myself on the back (hope you don't mind)...tonight I wanted to make quiche for family dinner but here is how the evening went...

  • Try to leave work at 4:45, actually get in the car with children at 5:30
  • Ride home with this in the back seat:  "I don't want to go home, I want to go somewhere else, I'm mad at you, I'm MAD at you, I'M MAD AT YOU...mommy...sorry...I was just yelling 'cause I was mad at you" (hurray three-year-olds!)
  • Toddler pees through diaper into carseat (thank god Daddy is home!)
  • Daddy takes screaming, starving, dirt and pee covered toddler to tub
  • Mommy assembles quiche and slices strawberries and middle finger (just a little bit)...
Here is where it finally started turning around...
  • Three-year-old eats strawberries, deli roast beef, leftover mac and cheese, dried pineapple, dried cranberries and cubed ham for dinner
  • Three-year-old asks to help scramble eggs: "can you put it on the floor and we need a whisk?" And she did a great job beating the eggs
  • Freshly bathed and totally adorable toddler eats strawberries, cubed ham and two helpings of mac and cheese (with a fork) for dinner
  • Mommy finally gets quiche in the oven and sends children to basement with Daddy to watch Octonauts
  • Mommy brings pieces of quiche to basement for parents' dinner and toddler practically breaks her neck climbing on couch to get "bite, bite, bite" of the spinach and mushroom quiche
  • Three-year-old stops in dining room on way to tub for a piece of quiche but only wants the ham and spinach--no egg (but that's okay, the whole reason I made quiche tonight was to get some iron filled spinach into my anemic daughter!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!)

Basic Quiche Recipe
6 eggs
1 cup milk
Few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Few shakes ground mustard (I use probably 1/2 tsp...this is optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Frozen Deep-Dish Pie Crust (whole wheat if you can find it)
Fillings of your hearts desire (I usually stick with a meat, a cheese and a vegetable.  I always have canned mushrooms in the pantry and I love mushroom quiche, so I use them alot)

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat first five ingredients in a medium bowl.  Place frozen pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet and layer fillings in pie crust. Pour egg mixture over fillings.  The egg mixture should come to the bottom of the crust edge.  Bake 30-40 minutes until center is set and top is golden brown.

Monte Cristo Quiche
Follow directions above using mushrooms, sliced ham, sliced turkey and shredded Swiss cheese (or Gruyere, jack or cheddar cheeses).  Heat 1 Tbs. raspberry jam about 20 seconds in microwave and drizzle over the quiche before serving.  When we had this quiche, we didn't have any raspberry jam in the fridge.  We used Feisty Vanilla Pepper Jelly from the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.  So. Darn. Good.

Spinach Mushroom Ham Quiche
Pretty self explanatory...layer mushrooms, cubed ham and 1/2 a box of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry) with mozzarella cheese for the fillings.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ruthi Claytor Picked a Peck of Rainbow Peppers

I can only blame pregnancy.

I have never in my life liked bell peppers in any form.  Then I got pregnant.  After my first pregnancy, my sister brought dinner to the house...stuffed peppers.  Hmmm, not bad.  After a few months of experimenting, Ken and I discovered that green peppers are tolerable, red peppers are acceptable and the orange and yellow ones are actually delicious.

So two more pregnancies have gone by and I find myself buying the rainbow pack of peppers at least once a month.  Recently, the local grocery store has had them in a six-pack for seven bucks!  So now it's twice a month and double the peppers in the pack...and we are not tired of them yet!  How is that, you ask?  It is all about the creativity and preparation...and a little inspiration from those first stuffed peppers I enjoyed.

Oh, and my 18 month old daughter can't get enough peppers either--she fights me for them (although not as much as roasted cauliflower, but I'll tell you about that later).

First, prep the peppers.  Once I've made a plan on when and how to use the peppers, they either get stored whole in the fridge or cut and frozen.  If you'll be using later or not sure how and when, core and slice the peppers and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  Once they are frozen, portion and freeze in zip-top bags.  Usually, I'll core and slice all six peppers and divide into three portions--two in the fridge and one in the freezer for later.

Below you will find the recipes we used for the latest peck of peppers.  One is on of our favorite stand-by recipes and two I've created recently that blew even me out of the water!
Mostly Veggie Steak Sandwiches
Stuffed Pepper Stuffed Shells
Pineapple Teriyaki Pizza (pictured above--thank you Ken for making my food look so tasty!)

For the record (because I know my sister will ask), both kids eat the steak sandwiches, Charleigh (the 18 month old) devoured the shells, and Ken and I didn't share the pizza with the kiddies--it was too yummy!

Our favorite stand-by recipe...
Mostly Veggie Steak Sandwiches
Olive Oil
8 or 16 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced thin (we love mushrooms...we use 16 oz)
2 bell peppers, any color, cored and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 box frozen minute steaks (7 slice size box), chopped into strips
Montreal steak seasoning
Worcestershire sauce
4 sub rolls
Sliced sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Cook mushrooms in olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until most liquid has rendered and evaporated.  Add peppers and onions to pan and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until veggies are to your desired tenderness.  Remove veggies to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
Add minute steaks to skillet, season with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce to taste.  Cook until steak is cooked through.  Add veggies back to skillet and check for seasoning (salt and pepper).
Toast sub rolls, spread very lightly with mayo and sprinkle with oregano.  Assemble sandwiches with cheese.
(lots of times I'll warm the left-over steak and veggie mixture and toss it with romaine lettuce, balsamic vinaigrette dressing and some feta cheese).

Stuffed Pepper Stuffed Shells
24 Jumbo pasta shells
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, any color, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. Montreal steak seasoning
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 cup beef broth
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 can condensed tomato soup (undiluted)
Cook shells, spread on waxed paper to cool.  Cook ground beef and onion in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add peppers and garlic and cook until veggies are desired tenderness.  Add steak seasoning and tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add chili powder and beef broth.  Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer until liquid evaporates, 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in milk and bring to simmer.  When thickened, add 1 cup cheese and tomato soup, stirring to melt cheese.
Assemble shells--preheat oven to 350.  Spray 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Stuff each cooked pasta shell with large spoonful of ground beef mixture and place in dish.  Pour cheese sauce over shells and top with remaining cheese.  Bake 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.  (Warning--the cheese sauce is so yummy, my husband literally licked the sauce pan clean!)

Pineapple Teriyaki Pizza
1 medium bell pepper, any color, chopped (or a mix of peppers, about 2 cups chopped)
olive oil
1 Tbs corn meal (for dusting pan)
Refrigerated Pizza Crust (in a tube is fine)
2 Tbs.Teriyaki sauce (look for a thicker "marinade" variety in the bbq sauce section of the grocery store)
1 cup pineapple, diced
Packaged Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs (I used Aidells brand--you'll find it in the refrigerated sausage case)--half a package, diced
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400.  Toss peppers with a drizzle of olive oil and scatter on cookie sheet.  Bake about 10 minutes, tossing once during cooking time.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  Meanwhile, brush another cookie sheet with olive oil and dust with corn meal.  Stretch pizza crust to fit pan.  Drizzle crust with 1 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce.  Top with roasted peppers, pineapple, meatballs and cheese.  Drizzle remaining Teriyaki sauce and 1 tsp olive oil on pizza and bake 15 minutes until golden brown.