Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick and Easy Pasta Salad

This is my first time to ever post anything and I am anxious to see how it appears in the blog.
I have really enjoyed looking at the recipes and applaud all of you for using "healthy" recipes (most of the time).

Quick and Easy Cold Pasta Salad

I use Garden Spiral Pasta and while it is cooking place carrot sticks and broccoli florets in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove and place in cold water.
1/2 inch slice of deli-ham cut into small cubes.

Mozzarella Cheese cut into small cubes (I used Colby/Jack in this recipe).

1 medium onion chopped.
When pasta is cooked, drain and add olive oil, (or canola oil), cider vinegar, and a few drops of red pepper sauce (all to taste).
I also add some salt and pepper.

This makes a good lunch pasta - one that my husband thinks is great!

Organizing the Family Supper Club

Okay, so have you made any recipes you have seen here? I have made some and have planned to make some others. But, what to do to keep this thing rolling?

I have decided to take an old binder, print out a cover to insert in the front and make a spine insert labeled in a pretty way, The Family Supper Club. This will be my collection of recipes that I have begun to print off of this blog. I love this chronicle of what we are eating while raising our small children, etc. If any are interested, I can save my cover, binder spine design and forward to you to start your own hard copy collection of recipes.

I discovered just now, that I can select the whole post for a recipe, paste in MSWord and then just delete the part that copies of the list of older posts, comments,etc. The part to delete is all at the bottom, so it is easy to select and delete. I save the recipe to the hd in a recipe folder but then wanted to have a hard copy out too for planning and keeping in my Master Meal Planning file maybe?? Hummmm...anyway, just wanted to share my ideas here. Happy baking to all!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dumplings Alfredo, or, My Second Fail this Week

I wanted to try handmade pasta.  I've never done it before.  Jonas had been sick all week, and so I planned to make his favorite, fettuccine alfredo.  I've been curious about homemade pasta for awhile, so I thought I would give it a go.

Um, not so much.

I made them the same size as the dried noodles in the box.  Just a guess.  Who knew they would quadruple in thickness when cooked???

They really looked, and tasted, like dumplings.

Gross dumplings, not good ones.

I also could have titled this post "The Night We Ate Dinner Twice."

We ended up at KFC.  I am not kidding.

The other fail this week was the first time ever that Pioneer Woman has let me down.  Baked Lemon Pasta was barely edible.  The sauce was clumpy (in a curdled sort of way) and bland.  I had made the quick unbaked version she mentions at the beginning of the post before, and it was good.  That version is a keeper.  The baked one with sour cream....not a winner.  How can pasta and sour cream and butter and lemon go so wrong???

You can thank me for not photographing it.

Pasta in a cream sauce, gone wrong twice in one week?  That's gotta be some kind of a record.

Chicken Pot Pie

Who doesn't like chicken pot pie?

This is a fun recipe because you get to do a little of everything: mixing biscuits, sauteing, and baking. And then it finishes in the oven, so I can clean up all of the other pots and pans while the pie bakes, and sit down to dinner with the kitchen already clean. It can be made ahead and baked at the last minute.

This is from The Best Recipe.


1 recipe biscuit topping, to follow
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts and/or thighs
2 c chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 1/2 T oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
salt & pepper
4T butter
1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 T dry sherry
3/4 frozen green peas, thawed

first, make biscuit topping:

1c all-purpose flour
1c cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
8 T butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
3/4 c buttermilk

1. Pulse first 6 ingredients in food processor. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with pea-sized lumps. (Note: this is the only time I ever use bleached flour. Lots of southern cooks swear by White Lily flour for biscuits, so here we go. I think they are a little lighter and fluffier.)

2. Transfer to medium bowl, add buttermilk, stir until dough gathers into moist clumps. Transfer to floured surface, roll to 1/2" thick. Punch out 2 1/2-3" rounds. (You should get 7 or 8, maybe some extra small ones from scraps). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Back to the filling:

1. Heat oven to 400. Simmer chicken in broth until done. Set meat aside and save broth. (I started with leftover chicken and skipped this step. I wasn't sure how much 1 1/2 pounds was; I used this amount and it was maybe a bit too much:

3. Increase heat to medium high, heat oil in now-empty pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery; saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper. While vegetables cook, shred chicken. Transfer vegetables to bowl with chicken.

4. Heat butter over medium heat in again-empty pan. When foaming subsides, add flour; cook 1 minute. Whisk in broth, milk, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and simmer until thickened, 1 minute. Season to taste with salt & pepper; stir in sherry.

5. Add chicken & vegetables back to sauce, stir to combine. Stir in peas and adjust seasoning.

6. Make ahead option: At this point you may choose to cover and refrigerate overnight. The biscuit dough shouldn't be made that far ahead though. Reheat the filling before topping with the pastry.

7. Pour mixture into 9x13 pan, top with biscuits, bake until biscuits are golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Oh, by the way, if you don't have a dough scraper, I highly recommend one. It makes cleaning up a mess like this quick and easy. Pie crust, biscuits, that sort of thing are much less intimidating if the cleanup is simple.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gluten Free Dutch Baby/Pancake (Fruited Breakfast Torte)

Do you want something pretty, impressive and ladylike for breakfast..pull up a stool..this is it!

Several years ago, I ate only gluten free grain if any grain, to rid myself of asthma and worked! Although currently, I don't have to be so strict, I still rotate our whole grains so we don't get sensitive to any particular one..hopefully! So, here is a common breakfast food that I have made twice in the last two weeks and today, I got a helper to illustrate this tutorial. ;-)
Gather these tools:
pie dish
measure cups
cookie sheet
aluminum foil
Preheat oven 425 degrees.
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter melted
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup cow milk or non-dairy milk
  • 2/4 cups + 1/8 cup Bob's Red Mill GF All Purp Baking Mix (mostly garbanzo bean flour) or, whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 cup ground flax meal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (or more to will have to try this out to see how much sweet you want)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 cups thinly sliced fresh fruit OR, 2 cups, drained frozen fruit

Put it together:

Melt butter and pour into pie dish. A big pool of butter is me!

I always get an egg cracker helper wandering through the kitchen who wants to help. ;-) Combine the eggs, milk, flour, flax mean and salt until just blended. I did help him whisk them together, remove the eggs shells in the bowl, clean up the yolky pile of shells, etc.

Pour into the butter in the pie dish..right on top.
Place fruit in a medium size bowl, add the honey and lemon juice to the fruit and tumble until fruit is coated. (Note: Drain juice off frozen fruit first.)
Place the sugared fruit on top of the batter, either at random or in a spoke pattern.
Line cookie sheet with foil for easy spill over clean up. Put dish on sheet and bake for 20 minutes and check for firmness. You want it cooked but not hard. It will get puffy from the baking mix. If you only use flour, it won't get the pretty poof.
Serve with a dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt. This can be served as the main event to 4 or as an addition to sausage or other breakfast meat and would serve maybe 6 adults or more. (scroll back to top for finished torte from last week..this one is still in the oven)
Notes: You can use almost any fruit. We used raspberries for this one. If using apples, please cook on stove a little first to soften, after you have tumbled them in lemon juice and honey.
(Recipe adapted from More From The Gluten-Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Steph's Casserole Experiment

As you know, last week I made a modified version of a Paula Dean chicken and rice casserole. Happy with the result and intrigued by the possibilities, I committed to inventing my own chicken and rice casserole. Tonight, family and friends (I know...risky sharing my first original recipe with friends!) sat around my table and shared Steph's Southwestern Chicken and Rice Casserole. That's the official name.

The ingredients:
3 Cups Shredded or Cubed Cooked Chicken
1 Box Mexican-Style Rice (I used Uncle Ben's) Cooked to directions
1 Medium Onion, Diced and Saute´d in a lil' butter
1 Can Black Beans
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Can Green Chiles
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
Lil' Sour Cream (I used about 4 oz)
Lil' Cheddar Cheese (Whatever suits your fancy)
Prepare ingredients. Dump it all together. Mix 'er up and pour into a 9x13. (I sprinkled a handful of cheese into the mixture and then sprinkled a little on top...for the hubs, you know ;). Bake for 25ish minutes at 350. Done.

Final Experiment Results: POSITIVE
To be honest, Casey ate the original casserole, but was definitely not encouraging me to make it again. I really liked it, but apparently, I was the only one. But as for Steph's Southwestern Chicken and Rice Casserole, he really enjoyed it and has approved it for regular meal rotation. YEA!

This was so fun and I really loved the final result. I served with salad, chips and homemade guac.

From Steph's kitchen to yurs... better look out, baby!

Turkey Taco Skillet

I love this recipe. Traci made it for me last year when we did a once a week meal swap. I love it because I have done so many variations on this recipe and they are all easy and so good!

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 1/3 c tomato soup (or 1 can)
1/2 c salsa
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c water
2 c chopped spinach
6 flour or 4 whole grain tortillas cut into 1 in pieces
1/2 c shredded cheese

Cook meat in skillet until done. Pour off fat. Mix soup and sour cream in a bowl. Add this plus salsa, water and tortillas to skillet. Add spinach and boil for 5 mins Stir! Top with cheese.

Variations that I have tried:
Add black or pinto beans
Replace meat with black or pinto beans and rice
Leave out the tortillas and
Eat as a dip with tortilla chips
Soft taco filling
Topping for baked potato

This is simple and yummy meal! Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Pantry Classic: Gallo Pinto

Last night we had our favorite pantry classic, gallo pinto. The national dish of Costa Rica, it is basically just jazzed up black beans and rice. In addition to being insanely easy to make, it is packed with protein and is probably the most inexpensive meal we have ever eaten and loved - even when using the "pricey" option of canned beans and tomatoes. If you start with dried beans I think you could make this for about 10 cents a serving. I shoud rename this "Recession Rice and Beans."

We always top ours with a fried egg. It's just a fact: every dinner is better with a fried egg on top.

Here's the basic mo-jam for my version of Gallo Pinto to serve 4:

Cook 1 cup of rice. (I use white beacuse it's faster and this dinner is usually made on nights when we get in late from barn chores.)

While rice is cooking, sautee in olive oil:

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped (or, even better, one giant clove of elephant garlic, diced)

When onions have sweat out a bit, add:

1 can black beans, drained well, but not rinsed
1 can Ro-tel, drained

Heat that through, simmer on lowest setting until rice is done. Dump the rice into the bean mix and stir well. Done.

I highly recommend the fried egg on top. You don't need more protein, but most people need a little more fat than what the olive oil provides. I also like to put a little smoked pepper on the egg. Yum.

I totally broke the yolks on the eggs last night, so no photos of this dish today. Maybe when I heat up leftovers, I'll manage to get one.

This is my super-basic pantry version, but in season I also like to chop and add bell peppers and/or use fresh garden tomatoes and chiles. Whatever. Go nuts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Found A Winner!

I want to post each week what we actually ate instead of what I planned to eat, since what I plan and what we actually eat rarely end up being the same thing. I need one of those calendar/menu coordinators. I forget you can't be at soccer practice and cooking something complicated at the same time.

Rotisserie chicken, baked potatoes, salad, homemade bread

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup from the Whole Foods Market Cookbook .

This soup was good…tasted like a fancy soup you’d order at the Olive Garden. It was very strong. The kids were good sports, but I don’t think this recipe will make a comeback in this house.

I roasted garlic in the oven for 30 minutes. Then squeezed it on top of sliced, homemade bread. I topped the bread and garlic with mozzarella cheese, then broiled all that in the oven for a couple minutes till toasty and melted. I liked the bread more than the soup! I learned how to roast garlic in my new cookbook. DELICIOUS.

Gumbo (chicken/sausage kind)

Southwest King Ranch Casserole

This was a winner. It will definitely make it back on the rotation. It’s CRAZY better the second day. Up until the moment I ate it I was expecting it to have some red in it, even though I never put any tomatoes inside. It wasn't was very green...but we liked it.

3 tablespoons canola oil
1.5 cups diced yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded cooked boneless chicken
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cups bottled tomatillo sauce
8 corn tortillas
1 ½ cups sour cream
½ cup chopped green chilies, drained

I doubled this recipe. It fed us dinner and many lunches.

Preheat oven to 350. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, and cook them until they are translucent. Blend in the garlic, paprika, cumin, black pepper, and salt. Add the chicken, and heat through. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the cilantro.

To prepare casserole…

In a small bowl, combine the cheese.

On the bottom of an 8x81/2 inch pan at least 2 inches deep, spread 1 cup of the tomatillo sauce. Top with 4 tortillas overlapping as necessary. Spread half the sour cream evenly over the tortillas. Add ½ cup of the remaining tomatillo sauce, 1 ½ cups of the chicken filling, 1 cup of the cheese mixture, and one half of the green chilies. Top with 4 more tortillas, the remainder of the sour cream, tomatillo sauce, and the chicken filling, 1 cup of the cheese mixture, and the remaining green chilies. End with 1 cup of the cheese mixture sprinkled on top.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly on the surface.

This was yummier the second day. Also…it was too spicy. So, the next time I make it I’ll use less black pepper. I tasted the other ingredients and really think the heat came from the black pepper. We ate this with tortilla chips.


Chicken, black beans, seasoned rice (I cooked fresh tomato, cilantro and onion in a skillet. Added leftover brown rice. Seasoned with garlic, salt, chili powder and cumin.) Topped it all with cheddar cheese. We ate this mixture with chips and salsa.

Potluck at church. I’m taking chicken fettuccini alfredo, homemade bread and corn on the cob. Hope you all have a great week!

best oatmeal ever...

sunday mornings are oatmeal mornings. mainly because sunday is bread baking day, and i use leftover oatmeal in my bread.

we eat lots of oatmeal around here, but our sunday morning oatmeal is my favorite. it is really hardy and delicious! here's what we do:

  • soak whole oats and nuts overnight (in different bowls) to neutralize the phytic acid (the bad stuff in grain that won't let you digest it properly or absorb minerals)
  • in the morning, rinse and drain the oats and nuts
  • put on the stove top with a little water (about half way up the pan) and set to boil, when it starts boiling turn all the way down and cover
  • while all that is going on start on the topping- place nuts (i usually use whole raw walnuts or pecans that i chop up) in skillet with some butter (or coconut oil) on a medium heat
  • add a touch of maple syrup and some black strap molasses
  • add chopped up apple or pear and a touch of cinnamon
  • let topping get all caramelized and delicious
  • serve up oatmeal in a bowl, add hot topping as well as some raisins and maybe a little splash of maple syrup
  • add one tablespoon of raw, virgin coconut oil
all those steps make me think that this is a harder process than it actually is. don't get caught up by the steps! this is actually a pretty quick breakfast!

and did i mention that it is sooooooooo-per delicious?

just ask buddy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My menu and a few recipes!

I did my meal planning and shopping yesterday and here's what I came up with.

Dinner last night: Chicken "pot pie" with crunchy brown rice (after reading Steph's post, I remembered this recipe that I found a few months ago and wanted to try. It's SO yummy!)

B: Bagels and cream cheese
L: Sandwiches and salad
D: Dinner with John's family

Brunch with John's family
Afternoon snack: Kefir Smoothie and carrot sticks
D: TLM concert series at Molijaxx so not sure if we will eat at home or out....

B: Breakfast tacos (Great idea, Brandi)
L: Leftovers
D: (Potluck @ church) Turkey Taco Skillet

Monday: The boys go to John's mom's house for the day
B: Quinoa Porridge (haven't tried this one yet, I'll let you know)
L: J and I eat out :)
D: Leftovers or a sandwich

B: Oatmeal cereal with granola
L: Pimento cheese sanwiches (2 c. shredded sharp cheddar, 2 oz jar drained pimentos, 1 t onion, 1/4 t. red pepper, Stir all ingredients until blended)
D: Beef and Quinoa meatball Pitas with Easy Marinara Sauce (it's #6)

B: Applesauce cake (it's #1)
L: PBJ, carrot sticks, applesauce cake
D: Fussy Day Chicken (#2)

B: Granola and Applesauce morning muffins (havent tried these yet)
L: Picnic lunch
D: Crockpot Chili and cornbread

That gets me through the week. Happy Cooking!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

H My Name is Heather

I want to be like Mandi.

We're headed in her direction...eating more whole foods, learning to cook from scratch, but word to your mother, has it ever been the slowest journey ever.

Our family is getting there...slowly.

I have four boys and one husband.

No matter how "healthy" we get, we'll never pass up Cheetos or Blue Bell Ice Cream.

We like meat. I cook almost every night.

I homeschool all of our boys. Three boys I teach with books. They are learning things like history, math, creative writing and poetry. One boy I teach with constant supervision and a wooden spoon as needed. He is learning things like "how not to die" or "how not to seriously maim himself."

Our dinner table is filled with noise...some welcome noises...some noises that cause mom and dad to give "the look."

There are 6 of us to feed every night, and our table is usually filled with guests.

Needless to say, I feel like I cook for an army around here just about every night.

Thus the "slow journey."

Adjusting to eating healthier foods has required all of us...young and learn to appreciate the food that God has given us. We've had a lot of retraining to do with our older kids...and for us as adults.

Eating may seem like a simple concept, but food can be a big deal round these parts. Adjusting our diets has meant adjustments in the hearts and souls that sit around our table every night.

I've had to learn how to keep some of our favorite recipes, but cook them with better ingredients.

I've had to learn to feed the masses without having to go out and get a job.

Lots of headaches along the way, but we're getting there.

Recently I bought the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

I asked my family if we could all be brave...have an eating adventure one night a week.

"Can we try one new recipe a week?"

Yes. They all agreed it would be fun.

You know you're using the Whole Foods Market Cookbook when you walk into the grocery store and ask someone who works there...

"I need Swiss Chard. What department of this store will I find it?"

The produce section.

My oldest son was excited about eating Swiss Chard because it reminded him of "fat lard." He was excited to eat it until he noticed it looked like spinach.

I've had to ask the produce manager...

"What are Tomatillos?...should people eat those?"

I'll probably share which of these recipes will be ones repeat...and which ones we won't.

Excited to learn from all of you!

My Turn Now!

I have been anxiously waiting to get a few minutes (or 20) to post about my eating, shopping, foodie habits and the time as finally come! It's 6:55 am and everyone is still asleep! So, here I go...A typical day of meals in my house looks something like this (and this is how I plan my menu that is posted on my fridge as well)

B: Cold Oatmeal cereal (plain oatmeal with raw milk...the boys love it, not really sure why) or english muffins with cream cheese and jelly, whole wheat pancakes, banana bread, or hot porridge (Nourishing Traditions recipe). Something easy and quick to get the morning going.

L: Leftovers, pasta, grilled cheese, salad sandwich or taco, or something Mexicanny with beans and rice

D: Some dinner staples are (I will post recipes too) Tamale Pie, crock pot chicken with either BBQ sauce or garlic and rosemary, Easy Mexican casseroles, or homemade pizza. I like easy but nutritious meals.

I work in the afternoons on Mon, Tues, and Wed so I try to put together a casserole or something in the crockpot before I leave so when I get home dinner is ready or just needs to be warmed for 20-30 minutes. I'm not great at side dishes though. I always forget that I should have a salad or veggie or bread or something. I focus on the main dish and am usually proud to get that taken care of! I'm working on it though.

One of my favorite cook books is The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook (Many thanks to Mandi!) All of Cathe Olson's recipes are quick, easy and I usually have all of the ingredients in my pantry. (Side Note: I'm not a vegetarian but her recipes are whole foods with no refined sugar, white flour, etc. and she packs in as many nutritious yummy foods in every meal.)

As far as shopping goes, I am a paycheck day shopper. I do my main shopping somewhere near the 1st and the 15th. I also do quicker weekly runs for fresh produce, things I forgot because I went with 3 kids...etc! I buy organic as much as I can. I am an ingredient reading mama. I'm still learning but it's a high priority to me to only put good things in my family's tummies. So anyway, my shopping list looks like this:

Please excuse the oil spot...
My list is in the order of my Brenham HEB and I leave it out and write things down as I run out or menu planning. I have a budget for each shopping period so as I shop I cross out the item and write the price so I can keep a running total. After each aisle, I add it up and put it at the bottom. I also have a place for things that I need to purchase from the health food store, order online or Co-op, and other errands.

I menu plan for two weeks at a time. I plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Tues-Fri. (on Mondays the boys eat at John's mom's John and I eat whatever we can find when we get home from the music school) On Saturdays we eat brunch with John's family and dinner is usually out or with the family again and Sunday dinner is pot luck at church, so I plan for that too. I keep my menu on the fridge and try to follow it pretty closely. This is the only way we don't end up eating PBJs for dinner every night.

So that's the nitty gritty of how I run my kitchen and planning process. I'm so excited to hear stories from other kitchens. I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement and am open to sharing ideas and picking a trick or two...or three! Ok, so I'm off to plan my menu and head to HEB!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Recipe Review: Paula's Chicken and Rice Casserole

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to try a new casserole recipe from Paula Dean. Well, tonight I gave it a try and my comfort food craving was fully satisfied. I give it two thumbs up for taste and versatility, and a regular spot in the Cease Family dinner rotation.

What I really like about this recipe was that it was super easy to modify, and I modified a lot.
I used a rotisserie chicken and shredded the meat.
I used a bag of frozen mixed veggies that I had on hand, plus a handful of broccoli florets.
I cut out the water chestnuts.
I used cream of mushroom soup, about 3-4 oz. of sour cream and just a dollop of mayo. (One of the reviews suggested using sour cream.)
At the last minute, I decided not to add cheese, and topped it off with some Italian style bread crumbs instead. All that to say, you can go FULL Paula, or uh,...lighter Paula, and add veggies and such to your family's liking. I was very happy with the changes. And even happier when Braelyn cleaned her plate, save a few pushed aside peas and onions.

Next week, I think I'm gonna take this basic casserole and give it a whole new twist. I'll let you know how it goes...good or bad. What would this blog be without a few cooking experiments gone wrong?!

This week's plan

Thursday is grocery day for me.  I use this handy list:

It's organized in the order of our local HEB.  I couldn't figure out how to post it here as a word document, but email me if you want it.  (Props to Beth for helping me make the list.) It saves me from the frustration of getting to the end of the store only to realize, when we're all tired and hungry, that I forgot one thing at the far end.  I'm really trying to get down to one grocery store trip a week, and eliminate that "other" trip for the few things I forgot.  I keep this list out on the counter all week and mark things as I notice the need, and then sit down with it when I plan the next week's meals before shopping.

When our CSA picks back up next month, I'll do more planning around what I'm getting from there.  Some weeks we get a LOT of produce, so that definitely takes some prioritizing in the menu.  But for now I'm getting everything in one place, on one list.

On to the meals:

At least two days:  turkey legs and roasted corn, baby.  The fair is in town.

Day 3: Spicy romano chicken.  This is a pasta dish that I copied and adapted from a restaurant.  I'll put the recipe up for you; it's Justin's very favorite thing that I make.

Day 4:Stir fry.  Lynsey's pork (chop or tenderloin), with some mixed peppers and broccoli, maybe asparagus, carrots, onion, peas, whatever else I have, over brown rice.  I usually use a jarred sauce, but maybe I'll go from scratch this week.  We'll see.

Day 5: Breakfast for dinner.  I just made multigrain waffles (whole wheat, cornmeal and rye) from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food last week, but they were so good I want to make them again.  Don't be scared of the grain; it makes them feel like real food, not so much like candy.  Local eggs, some bacon and fried potatoes to round it out.  I need a better waffle iron, though.  Mine is tiny and took forever to cook enough waffles for everyone.

Day 6: Roast chicken.  Again from Yonder Way Farm.  Roast potatoes, asparagus & carrots with it.  Rolls (maybe) and salad.  I'll roast two chickens and use the extra in Day 7's meal.  Make broth from both carcasses (overnight in crock pot).  Save extra potatoes for breakfast tacos.

Day 7:  Chicken pot pie.  Will definitely put this recipe up; it's from The Best Recipe, my favorite cookbook.  A lot of other people's favorite thing that I make.  Hint: the homemade broth is important.  Sorry.

Breakfast is always oatmeal or toast for the kids, and toast or tacos for me. (It used to be green smoothies, but I've not wanted them during this "meat & potatoes" pregnancy for some reason.) I make breakfast tacos once a week or so in a big batch and heat one up each day.  Tortillas with scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage or potatoes, and cheese.  Easy breezy.

Lunch is leftovers or sandwiches for the most part.  Occasionally pasta.

How I approach menu planning:

I do this on my Mac lapbook, using iCal.  This lets me see other appointments while I'm planning, so I know which days need a crock pot meal or something quick.  This week, the stir fry will coincide with errands in Houston.  It also lets me put several meals on auto repeat.  Certain favorites are scheduled every two or three weeks indefinitely.  Days when the kids have afternoon activities like gymnastics have a repeating cycle of low-maintenance meals, like crock pot, stews, casseroles, baked potatoes, etc. that are ready when we walk in the door. I also have "try something new" scheduled to appear once a month.  So when I sit down to plan a week, two or three nights are already done automatically. 

I like to plan for leftovers, too.  Example in this week:  leftover roasted potatoes make good breakfast tacos.  Extra roasted chicken is good for the pot pie, or chicken salad, or casseroles.  Last week I made beans and cornbread one day.  We had bean burritos for lunch on two days, and then I refried what was left as a side for tacos.

Steph asked a good question about planning for weekends, and how to handle changes in plans without wasting food.  I think it's a great question so I'm repeating it here.  This was my answer, but I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts:
...a couple of [our scheduled meals] will rely on meat in the the deep freezer, so if we end up going out instead then i just skip that meal and the meat stays frozen. same thing with pantry staples like pasta. or just move everything forward a night. thursday is my grocery day, so if we went out unexpectedly then i move a meal to that night and plan one less meal for the next week. does that make sense? and sunday night is unreliable for me. i'll plan something, but usually i'm tired and don't want to cook, but don't want to go out either, so we have something fun and simple like nachos or pancakes. the system works better if i just go ahead and plan that, rather than plan a "real" meal.
If I move a meal from it's scheduled night, I just need to double check the ingredients.  Fresh produce may not be able to wait 4 or 5 days, chicken may be past its prime by that day, etc.  So I schedule those meals shortly after grocery day, so that if they get bumped I have some wiggle room.

Any other recommendations?  I really hate throwing away food.

Any requests for recipes or tutorials?  If I'm not great at it I'll bet someone on here will be.

Quick and Dirty

I am happy to have this new blog and happy to meet some new mamas. I love knowing how others do this food thing at home. The farmers are interesting to me too. To get down to it and join in, here is my blog for more about me and my family.

First on the subject of food, I want to share a tip if you don't already do this. With little ones and only one pair of mama hands, I use a meal tray for our meals. I just started this practice anticipating leisurely tea times with my new tray (screech on the record player sound) Back to reality..I use it practically. Especially for breakfasts and lunches during the week. I load up our tray with our food in the kitchen on plates, napkins, flatware, drink glasses and water carafe for the table and vitamins or any condiments, sauces, whatever. The whole tray goes to the table, the kids help set the table from it and then when we are finished, reload and I haul it back to the kitchen. So have fun with that if you like it. By the way, I picked up this tray at Target for 20$ and it is made of bamboo..I love it and worth it for sure.

Those bottles (exception, the honey bear) are my dead kombucha tea and my dead kefir grains! Yes, the kombucha is no longer fizzy and the kefir got left for over seven this is reality..I will restart the fermenting process again soon...I hope.

Okay, now for the food: Quick Green Eggies (common, easy meal in my house adapted from Cathe Olsen, The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook, buy on her site:

Get out a medium iron skillet, set on medium heat on stove, warm up with olive oil or butter and then gather ingredients:

  • Five eggs in bowl, beaten (or, if short on eggs, use three and add a bit of water ;-)

  • Fairly well chopped couple of handfuls of spinach, kale, chard, bok choy

  • Dash of tamari

  • Scant tsp. of curry powder

  • Clove of garlic minced or through a garlic press as I do OR, use garlic powder ( I keep a foil bag from Froniter in my freezer for real quick cooking)

Put it together:

  1. Mix up with whisk or fork all ingredients except the greens.

  2. When butter melted in skillet, put greens in, let sizzle and spread out to an even layer with spatula

  3. When greens look to your liking, a little softened, pour egg mixture in, push around until to your desired cooked level for eggs. Top with grated cheddar cheese (optional)

  4. Plate up with a side of plain yogurt and applesauce in a small bowl OR, fresh diced fruits and hot chamomile tea with honey and cream. In the photo, I also added bacon, carrot bran muffins and cranberry orange muffins (Veg. Mother's Cookbook) that I prebake and freeze but that is another post. ;-)

Enjoy! If you find that you want to adjust the seasonings on can!! Add more, leave stuff out....just get some green veggies in your little people right??? Let me know if you try this one or already do it. (hey, posting this took me 20 minutes..I think I can do this!!) -Traci

P.S. -made this a day or so ago and took a photo..I stack the plates but you can always have more than one tray. It would still save trips back and forth to the kitchen while you are wanting to keep their attention for morning bible study/homeschool. You know how they scatter if you are not prepared??....oy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

short cuts to whole foods

cooking with whole foods doesn't always have to be a time consuming process. i wanted to share our lunch today to show that simple short cuts can save lots of time in front of the stove!
moonpie found snow peas at the grocery store this week and REALLY wanted them. how can you say no to that? i had thought to stir-fry them with some other veggies, but i found that i wasn't really in the mood for that much food prep. so we improvised.

first i started the rice around 11. the basic measurement i use for that is 1 cup short grain brown rice to 2 1/4 cups water. it takes about 45 minutes to cook (once it starts boiling turn the heat down and cover).

around 11:45 we headed to the kitchen to finish up lunch prep. by this point the rice was turned way low and all of the water was absorbed, so i threw the fresh snow peas on top and put the lid back on. i do this all the time! it is a quick way to steam some veggies without having to mess up another pan! i love this method. i do it with noodles and broccoli too.

while that was steaming, moonpie set to work peeling and cutting carrots into sticks. you could save even more time by buying the little carrots, but i always just buy the big 5 pound bag for juicing and snacking. works out to be cheaper for me.

buddy and i worked on the tahini peanut sauce for dipping the carrots and snow peas in:

3 T tahini
1 T peanut butter
1 t maple syrup
1 T brown rice vinegar
1/2 t coriander

mix with fork. (adapted from cynthia lair's 'feeding the whole family: cooking with whole foods')

when we were done with the sauce, i turned off the stove and plated the snow peas. then i added turmeric and kelp to the rice, plated that, and the raw carrots. i gave each person their own dipping bowl of sauce.

that was it! it was super easy- took about 15 minutes of actual hands-on time (that includes searching for the rice vinegar!). the kids really loved this meal. man, they will eat anything with that sauce on it!

happy eating!

{rEcIpEs from a farmer's wife}

*****See Mandi's awesome stir fry recipe below and Lisa's bread post. Delish! I just had a spare moment to post something and might not get to for a few days:). So here it goes.

Hi. I'm Lynsey. We live on a farm in Brenham, TX and raise grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and pastured chicken and eggs. We have three precious girls. Life sure is fun and full of excitement 'round these parts!

Food is kind of a big deal to us since our lifestyle is about educating and promoting our farm. You can probably guess that we eat lots of meat around here. So, I would classify my cooking style as healthful meat and potatoes. I have a farmer to feed who requires hearty healthy meals. This was a bit of challenge to me finding recipes to fill us up and be healthful.

I use cast iron to cook with for its amazing benefits which adds to the ambiance of farm life......or at least that is what I tell myself when I'm seasoning it everyday after use:)

I cook mostly all three meals from scratch. It seems to work for us too. I use only whole ingredients- whole grains, raw milk and butter, and organic if possible. Most meals consist of a meat and veggies or whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

I truly enjoy cooking. But, what I love most is taking recipes I use to love prior to changing our lifestyle and making a healthier version of them. Some things I've learned to make from scratch instead of buy in a can or box are cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom, spaghetti sauce, and cornbread just to name a few.

I'm still learning and a work in progress. I struggle with food (the bad kind....we all know that chili cheese dogs truly aren't good for us:) being an idol so this adventure to feed my family good things hasn't came without its challenges. I'm gaining victory in this area personally and see the fruits of my labor in my girls- they ask for fruits and veggies for snacks. Of course, my hubby is just smitten over the whole thing and loves to come home from a hard days work to a good meal on the table.

Sorry! I know this isn't a "Food Addicts Anonymous" blog, but I just wanted you to know where I'm coming from and a little bit of background. I've been on all sides of the food spectrum but I'm at a good place now- for me at least.

My FAVORITE kitchen investment was a good enamel roasting pan (like the one pictured above)- Martha Stewart enamel with cast iron underneath roasting pan- cherry red of course:). I purchased mine at Macy's last year and use it multiple times a week. It seems to make the best roasted chicken with very little ingredients added. Of course, I think our chickens are hands down the best I've ever had, so I'm a little biased. But, adding water, salt, pepper, and garlic makes the most wonderfully flavored roasted chicken.
I'm looking forward to learning from and with each of you!

What's Cooking at the Farm

This is really just an introduction to future posts.

My name is Lisa and I am a farmer and cheese maker in a perfectly lovely family of two. While I love to cook, most days I have neither the time nor energy to make anything elaborate at the end of the day. I am the queen of meals from the pantry/freezer in 25 minutes or less.

I am a vegetarian with very limited exceptions for animals I have raised.

I almost never measure anything unless I am cooking from a recipe, so when I post recipes I will try my best to estimate ingredient quantities, but make no promises about accuracy.

Nearly once a week I totally cheat on dinner and heat up one of my favorite instant Indian foods. If I am feeling less than exhausted, I at least try to doctor up an interesting pot of rice. Last night I added garam masala and shallots. I guess it worked.

I am also big on photographing my food. Here is a typical summer meal at Blue Heron Farm: Garlic bread topped with homemade feta, garden tomatoes and basil. Like a french bread pizza only WAY better.

Monday, September 14, 2009

mandi's kitchen

oh man- brandi totally busted me because i posted my meal plan for the week on my main blog! eeks! this 2 blog thing is going to take some getting used to. especially since i talk so much about food over on herban homestead. so, a brief look into our kitchen would reveal this: i spend a lot of time on food. i grind my own grain, buy local veggies, meat and milk, and eat whole foods. unless i'm at el charro t or a friend's house. then i bloom where i'm planted : ). bottom line is, we eat from scratch around here. i like the adventure of cooking this way- it works for us!
i usually plan 6 days of meals. because we eat out maybe once for lunch and once for dinner around here. so 6 days covers us pretty well. i plan so i can use the same ingredients over and over. you kinda have to do that when eating seasonally.
this week we are only in town through thurs., so my meals are planned through thurs. breakfast:

b- pancakes
l- leftover split pea soup
d- veggie lasagna and salad
(soak oats for breakfast)

b- oatmeal w/ walnuts and raisins
l- veg stir-fry w/ brown rice
d- salmon w/ pesto & noodles and salad
(begin starter for bread)

b- eggs
l- picnic at the park
d- pizza night!

hit the road- maybe muffins for the road???

i am not a slave to the schedule, but this is the rough idea for this week. breakfast is usually a variable- for instance, i always have 25 pounds of oats and wheat on hand, so pancakes or waffles or oatmeal are always a possibility! yay for having a general store in my utility room!

this is pretty fun! i promise to do better in the future, brandi! : )

Hi, from Steph's Kitchen

I am so excited about this blog! When Brandi sent out the email about it, I was literally sitting on my couch wondering what in the world I was going to fix for dinner this week. I have lots of staple recipes that are an easy go-to, but frankly I'm feeling bored with them. SO this was perfect timing. Just what I need to bring a little inspiration back into my kitchen.

For a little background on how I run my kitchen, I do try to plan out my meals for the week. This helps me buy just what I need when I go grocery shopping and it helps me resist the urge to
"just eat out." When I first started meal planning, I would plan a meal for every day of the week (minus weekends), but I just ended up wasting a lot of food. So now, I plan three meals per week, which gives us a little room for leftovers or to eat out if it's been an particularly long day. :) I haven't quite figured out how to plan for weekends, though. We so often go out with friends or go out of town, that I just don't cook much on the weekends. However, I have started doing a big Sunday lunch/dinner so I need to start factoring that into the plan. All that to say, I'm still figuring my meal plan out. :) Any suggestions meal planners?

This week is a little different for us because Casey is out of town for most of it. So with just Braelyn and me to consider, I'm taking this week a little easy. Here's the plan:

Meal 1: Build your own pizza. (Sometimes I do a homemade crust, but tonight, just Boboli.) This has become a regular meal around here. I put tomatoes, fresh spinach, basil and goat cheese on mine. I LOVE IT!

Meal 2: Eggs and biscuits. (I told you...simple.)

Meal 3: Chicken and Rice Casserole. Like I said, I was feeling bored and in the mood for a little comfort food, so I found this recipe on by Paula Dean. :) Here's the link. I might make a few adjustments to the recipe. I'll let you know how it turns out.

So that's me and my humble contribution for the week. I can't wait to hear from all you foodies and supermoms (and dads) out there. Thanks Brandi, for getting this started. Fabulous idea!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Week in the Life

I'll go first.  Here's a little about me:  I'm a housewife with 2 kids, 5 and 3, and one on the way.  We eat at home probably 5 or 6 nights a week.  My cooking style leans to meat and potatoes, with real foods, local and organic as much as possible, but with a heavy dose of realism.  Most days it's vaguely between Southern and Bistro, with a good amount of Italian thrown in for good measure.  Here's what we ate this week:

Dinner last Sunday was French Dip.  Monday was a potluck Labor Day cookout with friends; we took hot dogs, mac & cheese, and cupcakes.  Tuesday was Denny's, and I'm a little embarrassed about that.  We wanted to go out, and Brenham doesn't have a thousand options, and kids eat free on Tuesdays.  So Denny's.  Wednesday was baked potatoes, which the kids didn't touch.  (Why??) Thursday I volunteered at the fundraiser for Betty's preschool; Friday I don't remember.  Saturday was Mexican food out.  Today's lunch with the family was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and chocolate cake. Tonight was chicken piccata from Joy of Cooking, which we all enjoyed.

So overall, maybe not the healthiest week ever.  Onward.

Tomorrow is broccoli pasta.  Start with steamed broccoli (leftover from today! Score.) Saute it awhile in olive oil with some red pepper flakes until it's pretty soft.  Mash it up with a potato masher and serve on pasta with some parmesan and a little more olive oil.  It looks a lot like a pesto.  This is the only broccoli my kids will eat.

So, what are you eating?