Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What I have learned so far...this week

Here is what I've learned so far this week (and it's only Tuesday)...

1.  Corned beef is pretty easy to make, it just takes a loooong time.
2.  When you prepare dinners ahead for the week, you get to do things like go to a free jazz concert at the library on a school night and still make it almost make it to bed on time.
3.  At a jazz concert at the library, when the adults have finished laughing at the wise-cracking guitar player, your 4-year-old will most likely say "That's HILarious" in her perfect little outside voice.
4.  Umbrellas do not make good toys on windy days.
5.  I am able to run (when my child is heart-broken...see #4), I just choose not to.
6.  When you haven't run for, well, ever, some part of your body will hurt at some point in the hours following the running event.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Paleo-style...

Reuben in a Bowl

This was my first corned beef brisket ever.  I was sharing with a friend (as I sat in her kitchen watching some ribs in her oven) that meat intimidates me.  It's getting better since I have introduced a thermometer to my kitchen, and with practice I can now tell by touch when a steak or porkchop is done to my liking.  But I am still a bit intimidated--part of it is that meat is expensive and you don't want to mess it up.  This was a pretty big gamble on my part with this $10 brisket.

I cooked the corned beef for about 4 hours on Sunday while I prepped some other dishes for this week. I baked it in the oven at 350, covered with foil for about 2 1/2 hours then uncovered for about 1 hour more.  It still wasn't tender enough so I covered it again and baked it for 30 more minutes or so.  Then I packed a layer of brown sugar on top and broiled it until the sugar got crusty.  Whew, it worked--it's tender and moist.  It is pretty salty (but okay with the dressing and cabbage, it's not overpowering).  The next time I cook corned beef, I may boil it or soak it to get some of the salt out before roasting.

In case you are curious, here is what else is on the agenda this week...
Double Pork Stuffed Apples
Sweet Pepper Poppers
Baked Chicken with Spinach and Artichokes
Whisky Glazed Carrots (this is my absolute favorite recipe right now...you HAVE to try it!)

Oh, and a few more things we've learned...
7.  My children like raw carrots, not cooked (or over-cooked as the biggest insists on telling me. Repeatedly.)
8.  We learned that there is no answer but the truth when your super-smart-and-very-literal-six-year-old asks "Well, how do the baby rabbits get out of the mother's stomach if the doctor doesn't cut them out?"

What have you learned this week?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Picnic Soup

Spring is definitely in the air, you can smell it!  And what do you do in Maryland when you feel spring in the air?  Why, you eat soup...outside...of course! What, you don't? So it's just us, then?

It's been a terribly cold February and a snowy start to March.  It was still kind of cold this weekend when I prepped some meals for the week.  I baked a handful of sweet potatoes (great for lunch with some almond butter or goat cheese and those roasted grapes I made on Friday), some Butter Chicken (I cheated and used a jarred sauce with chicken, peppers and onions.  And by the way, if you are eating Indian and don't have any Major Grey's chutney, peach jam plus a cinnamon spice blend makes a pretty good substitute!) and this soup...

Creamy Pumpkin, Sausage and Kale Soup

which reheats extremely well.  Sausage, onions, peppers, pumpkin, kale and some cream.  I made it the first time a few weeks ago and I had been jonesing for it again. Only I couldn't find baby kale again so I got spinach this time...still tasty but a bit slimy--stick with the kale.

We were a bit late leaving school tonight as I was conferencing with a parent, so I'm very glad I had prepped for the week.  And I am loovvving the time change and our new back yard!! The kids came through the house and straight out back when we got home.  While I was heating dinner, hubby and I did that eerie thing married couples do...he said "where are the lawn chairs" at just about the same time I said "grab a blanket, we should have a picnic."

This picture sums up our evening...

And because I prepped, even though we got home late, the kids got to play with chalk outside, we had dinner, the biggest girl got two nights of homework and reading done, the littlest got a bath and I actually cleaned the kitchen all before bedtime!  What a wonderful evening--we even got a cosmic high-five!!

Rock on!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

I'm Back!!!

So I've taken a bit of a hiatus for almost a year...it wasn't on purpose, it started because I was letting myself get bogged down in the minutiae of life and some really bad time management.  When I began to get my feet under me, things happened like an emergency appendectomy, the biggest girl starting Kindergarten, and moving to a new house (and into a smaller, poorly designed kitchen).  Meanwhile, we dove headfirst into the paleo lifestyle.  If you don't know what that is, in it's simplest terms, it is eating like a caveman--lean meats and vegetables mostly. After my appendectomy, we ate strict paleo for about a month in an attempt to heal my gut.  As a result, hubby and I both dropped some weight and felt enormously better (turns out carbs make me verrrry sleepy!)  We aren't so strict all the time now, but "paleo" dictates alot of our food decisions.  I'm not going to take this blog in a paleo direction intentionally, we are not strict enough for that.  I'm still going to stick to what works for us and what works for our kids, and what I am doing in my tiny kitchen.

Let's get to it...we've had two snow days in a row this week.  Snow days are meant to be spent in the kitchen.  Baby Girl wanted crepes for breakfast. No problem, but usually I stuff them with a sherry spiked cream cheese or nutella.  (BTW, we've tried paleo crepe recipes and none have worked so far...this is an instance where we are not strict paleo.  I'm not eating pancakes or french toast but an egg-heavy, flour-light crepe is okay by me)  So I started thinking about other things besides sugar laden yummy stuff to eat with my crepes, and what did I already have in the fridge, since it is a snow day.

Side-bar: If you like my "soft-focus" pictures and want to recreate them on your own, give your cell phone to your grubby pawed children for a bit, they'll smudge up the camera lens so that every picture looks like a close-up of Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting.

Creamy mushrooms with thyme was up first, then when the kids started eating grapes, roasted grapes with thyme was born (and yes, I ate some of that too for second breakfast).  The grape recipe comes from here:


and I've made it about a half dozen times--love it on bread but try the grapes on pork, on a sweet potato with goat cheese or just drink the elixir from the bowl, it's delicious!  Not wanting bread, I thought that rolling the ricotta in the crepe and serving the grapes on top might be pretty good...I was right!

Crepes Two Ways
Crepes (makes about 8 8-inch crepes)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt
pinch sugar (optional)
2 Tbs melted butter

Mix all ingredients in a blender.  Let batter stand for about 15 minutes.  Cook in a very thin layer in a nonstick skillet or fancy crepe pan if you happen to have a mom who gives the best Christmas gifts ever!

Creamy Mushrooms with Thyme
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs butter
8 oz mushrooms, sliced (white or crimini)
3-4 stalks of thyme (no need to strip leaves)
salt and pepper
2 Tbs white wine
2 Tbs heavy cream

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and thyme and saute for 5-7 minutes.  Season mushrooms with salt and pepper.  Add wine to the pan (on a snow day when you have white grape juice in the house and you don't feel right about opening a bottle of wine at 8:15 in the morning, you can sub the juice for the wine...it works although I'm sure it's much better with the wine).  Reduce almost completely.  Remove the thyme from the pan and add the cream and stir. Pour over folded crepes and serve immediately.

Roasted Grapes with Thyme
About 1 lb of red grapes, removed from stem, washed and dried (of the water, not made into raisins)
5-6 stalks of thyme (no need to strip the leaves)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs honey, divided
sprinkle of kosher salt
1 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 425.  Toss grapes, thyme, oil and 1 Tbs honey on a sheet pan and roast in oven, stirring occasionally, until the grapes burst and give off juice, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix ricotta with remaining honey and spread on crepes and roll up.  When the grapes are done, spoon over rolled crepes and serve immediately.

I added some whipped cream on the grapes for the picture...what do you do with the leftover whipped cream? Give it to the littlest...