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Brunch for Beleaguered Parents

18 Jul

I was awakened around 5:45am on Sunday morning with a hankering for brunch.  In the old days, before kids, I’d have gotten out of bed at 11am, rolled out of my front door in Manhattan, and met a friend for an omelette and a mimosa.

Hardy har.

Instead, I found myself sitting in bed in front of an episode of Curious George, while my husband blearily suffered through yet another round of my boys fighting over his attentions.  Being chopped liver, myself, I was on my own side of the bed…pondering how I could salvage this morning.  Cormac turned and burped at me, laughing.

I wanted eggs.  Unfortunately, Cormac had gone on an egg binge the day before.  There were only four left, and I knew it wasn’t going to be enough for all of us.  But four eggs was a good place to start.  I began to think about what other odds and ends were in my fridge, that I could use to supplement the main feature.

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Guest Cook! Coconut Chip Cookies

20 Jun

“B.S.!” my friends are saying.  Those who know me well are aware of my strange aversion to all tropical fruits, including coconut.  Wait…is a coconut a fruit?

It’s true.  I have not made these cookies.  Instead, I decided that it was time to rise above my unfair dislike of coconut and, in honor of hot summer days, put up a recipe that touches on the tropics.  The pictures are good enough for me.

Because Kim from Let Me Start By Saying did such a cool dessert post before, I’m am featuring her very fine-looking recipe here.  I especially like that it shamelessly utilizes a cake mix in order to allow you to look like June Cleaver without having time to get too hot from standing over the oven.  Grab your popsicles and pull up a chair on the deck!  I invite you all to make these lip-smacking little numbers and share your thoughts.

Happy baking!

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Quiche Is No Quandary

18 May

When I was little, one of my absolute favorite meals was my mom’s quiche.  Delicate, yet simultaneously and sinfully rich, it seemed like a cloud made of cheese and egg and flecked with sought-after pieces of yummy bacon.  I rejoiced when I heard, after school, that it was on the menu. The whole time I was growing up, I’d hear people asking her for the recipe.  I took it to a potluck once and a guy told me it was one of the best quiches he’d ever tasted.  It was like this magical and complicated dish that my mother produced with her highest order homemaking skills.

Me. Pondering the mysteries of quiche.

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Stupidly Simple Pork Chops and Spicy Black Beans

16 May

I’m back!  And you thought you were rid of me.

Actually, I decided weeks ago that I wanted to blog this recipe because (although it is not fancy) it is low in fat, easy, and really tasty.  As an added bonus, it’s one of those things you can keep on hand for busy nights, as long as you have a little freezer space and some canned/jarred staples.

When we’re managing our weight (oh…so like ALWAYS?) Dan and I depend on the whole protein-and-a-side strategy for weekday nights.  We find that by freezing some chicken breasts and boneless pork chops, for example, and then making sure we get in the right vegetables, we can quickly throw together a meal that makes us feel well-fed without exhausting us.  Spicy pork chops and black beans is just such a recipe.

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Guest Cook! Butterscotch Sugar Cookie Bakes with Ice Cream

11 Apr

She had me at “spontaneous cookiegasms.”

My friend Kim is a very funny and very talented writer and blogger and an equally frazzled parent.  Like the rest of us, she knows a good dessert when she sees one.  Well…when she makes one.  Because she made this up, people.  I’ve badgered her into letting me post this delectable treat on my blog, and I’m just leaving it all in her words.  They were good to begin with.

For those of you who are looking for a shortcut to a homemade dessert, this is your recipe.  We’re talking majorly easy – like Pillsbury cookie dough.  Also, I have to confess that I topped all of this off by putting chocolate syrup on it.  Ahem.

Go forth and have a sugar meltdown.  You won’t be sorry.  Oh – and you can get these tiny springform pans at Michael’s craft store if you are having trouble finding them! Continue reading

Digging for Dough Scraps

4 Mar

I was so over this day by 9:45am.

William had an appointment at 8:00am, and I had to get both of the boys up, dressed, fed, and out the door by 7:40am.  Once we arrived at the appointment, I had to stand outside on the nearby playground in near-freezing temperatures with Cormac for the half hour while we were waiting for William.

Crack-of-dawn playground antics

Afterwards, despite my best efforts, there was a potty “incident” that forced me to drag both reluctant children back to the car and then drive all the way home to freshen up prior to getting back into the car so we could traipse to William’s new preschool and take care of some paperwork.  As you can imagine, this was like trying to conduct a business transaction while holding two excitable monkeys by the ears.

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Potluck Pasta

2 Mar

In case y’all aren’t sick of pasta (frankly, I never am) I thought I’d quickly share with you one of those shortcut meals I made using odds and ends I had in the fridge today.  It was so fast that I whipped it up for lunch.

Here’s what I had hanging around.

Potluck Pasta

Random and Flexible Odds and Ends:

Two different kinds of leftover pasta sauce

about 1.5 C of the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and egg mixture from the Meatball Ziti I prepared a few days ago.

Half a box of campanelle pasta (any chunky shape would have done equally well)

Half a bag of shredded mozzarella

One can of Hunt’s Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

Preheated the oven to 350.

So here’s what I did with it.  I cooked up the pasta al dente and drained it.

Meanwhile, I warmed up the two leftover sauces in the empty pasta pot.  While it was warming, I sprayed a casserole dish with cooking spray.  Then I ladled a little sauce into the bottom of the dish to cover it.

I then threw the pasta and all the cheese mixture into the sauce pot and just blended it all until it was well-mixed.  It takes a little warmth to un-chunk the cheese from the refrigerator.

Once it was all mixed, I dumped it into the casserole.  Because I wanted a little more sauce, I drained a can of Hunts Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and dumped it over the top of the pasta mixture, spreading it out evenly with a spoon.

Lastly, I evenly covered the pasta with shredded mozzarella.

I baked it covered in foil in the oven for 35 minutes.  Then I removed the foil and let the cheese brown for 10 more minutes.

Voila.  I swear – it was about fifteen minutes of prep.

 

Quick. Cheap. Easy.

 

 

Pretty good for Wednesday lunch, eh?  Dan was working from home – I didn’t eat it by myself!

Here’s what’s great about this recipe.  You are using up things you might have tossed (a perfect example is two leftover sauces that are barely a portion each and are mismatched, or the small amount of cheese mixture I hadn’t needed for the ziti…or half a box of pasta that is not quite enough for a full family meal!).  It takes minutes to prepare.  Also, the ingredients are really flexible.  You could have used any sauce, a number of pasta shapes, and even substituted another kind of cheese for the topping (like cheddar).

Dan wants me to quote him.  He pronounces my grab-bag pasta dish “Delicious!”  Go forth and save your scraps.

Dirty Secrets Get Dirtier

17 Feb

Just a quick update (and sorry I’ve been MIA – who hasn’t had two kids with the flu lately?).

I wanted you all to know that I recently took my Mom’s goulash and tried it as a crockpot recipe with excellent results.

You know the drill.  You want to make dinner, but you have the following schedule:

9:15 – Preschool drop-off

11:45 – Preschool pick-up

3:00 – drive to appointment

5:00 – return from appointment

I’m not complaining about this day, but it would have precluded me from watching a pot on the stove from 3pm to 6pm.  So I said to myself, “Self, what is to prevent you from crocking this in the pot?”  Indeed, it turned out to be ridiculously easy.

Make the following changes to the recipe – just brown the meat, onions, and garlic and then throw it in the crockpot with all the other ingredients.  Also, I changed from regular paprika to smoked paprika because it was all I had.  And I used beef chuck this time because I’d been feeling like the sirloin was too tough.

Cook on low for up to 10 hrs. and serve over egg noodles.  Seriously, I browned the meat at 8:00am, threw it in the pot at 8:30am, and didn’t touch it again until 6pm.

AMAZING.  Dan said the best goulash I’ve ever made.  I’d have taken a picture but, honestly, beauty is not one of the greatest attributes of goulash.  Yumminess, on the other hand…and now ease!

Go forth and cook slowly, folks.  Mom would approve.

My Hip Mom

Faux Pho

20 Dec

I have to admit that I’m a little sheepish about writing this post, because it definitely falls into that “dirty little secrets” category of my life in the kitchen.  Sometimes, however, desperation drives us to attempt the recreation of a favorite takeout or restaurant dish that we simply can’t get – either because we’ve moved away or the restaurant isn’t open or you’re broke.  It is just this type of desperation that brought me here, today.

You see, back when I lived in New York, one of my favorite foods was Cantonese Noodle Soup.  Something I’ve noticed about Chinese places is that all the restaurants in a given geographical area seem to do the same things well and other things poorly.  For example, after leaving New York, I couldn’t find a good steamed veggie dumpling to save my life.  In the suburbs of Northern Virginia…ugh…don’t even talk to me about the thick, doughy crab rangoon.  But the dish I’ve most sorely missed since leaving New York is Cantonese Noodle Soup.

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Bringing Home the Bakin’

1 Nov

Last week I had the rare opportunity to meet up with my friend Katie and her son Lucas for a play date.  In general, I have a lot of guilt issues because I don’t seem to be able to find people with whom I can do play dates or play groups or play armies or whatever.  In truth, I read too many articles when I was pregnant about “Play Date Etiquette” and was scared off.  It all sounded so tedious and impossible.  Play dates with Katie are, however, a pleasure.  Lucas and William are the same age and Katie and I so rarely get a chance to catch up.  It seems like we can’t even exchange ten words without wiping a runny nose, pulling up pants or shouting at a child who is swinging from the chandelier, but at least we are not feeling like we missed out on proper play date etiquette.

The other super thing about play dates with Katie is that she always makes some delectable treat for us – from scratch.  I showed up this time all harried, dragging my two hyperactive boys, and she had stovetop oatmeal cooking and these amazing-looking pans of cinnamon rolls on the countertop.  I’d have assumed they were frozen, but I saw her applying the sugar icing before my eyes.

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A Different Pot of Beans

16 Oct

I have to start by apologizing because, when I hear Puerto Vallarta, I think of the Love Boat.  I feel bad about that, because I’m sure that Puerto Vallarta has a lot of great things for which it is better known, and I’m hoping someone visiting my blog can tell me about those things.  For now, however, I am going to confirm my reservation for that special-room-in-hell-for-backward-people by telling you all about my family recipe for chili…which is called Chili Puerto Vallarta.

STOP!  I hear the primal screams of chili aficionados around the country rising in my ears.  As any chili cook well knows, the mere mention of this dish immediately invites a throw-down in just about any part of the nation.  Entire feature articles have been written about the various types of chili that are made (with great success) across the U.S.A.  I’m going to come out right now and say that I have no wish to participate in a throw-down.  In fact, I don’t think I really could.  The fact is, based on my observation, Chili Puerto Vallarta is not even really a chili. Calm yourselves, settle your beans, and read on.

Okay, so here’s the scoop.  As long as I can remember, my Mom has been making this meal, and we never, ever get tired of it.  But it turns out that she actually got it from my Aunt Jane, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin and has been teaching art history at the university there since 1963.

Aunt Jane…prior to Chili Puerto Vallarta

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Flex Your Mussels

7 Oct

When my husband and I first met, we lived in Boston and Manhattan, respectively.  So our first real “date” had to be one of those volatile weekend visits that destroy so many fledgling relationships.  He was coming to visit me.  I was racking my brain to think of the best places to take him and the most not-awkward things to do.  First date on steroids.

Of course we talked on the phone a lot, because we were not able to see each other in person.  One night a few days before that first weekend visit, I was listening with only one ear as he told me about his evening.  What I was really thinking about what if I shouldn’t take him to my favorite Belgian restaurant for dinner.  But did he like shellfish?  Polarizing. Continue reading

Don’t Be Chicken

3 Oct

People.  I want to talk about a delightful European breakfast tradition that appears to horrify Americans — and, no, it’s not blood sausage.

When I was very little, my Mom used to make us soft-boiled eggs, scoop them into custard dishes, and serve them with a spoon.  We loved it.  When I got a little older (about the time we were living in Hamburg, Germany) I had my own special egg cup that was painted like a little viking, and it had a felt cozy with blonde braids for a hat.  I understand it was hard to wash, but very cute.  I’m fairly certain we got it in Denmark.

I was surprised, as an adult, to discover that many Americans appear to have never even heard of a soft-boiled egg, much less tasted one.  And when you explain it to them, their reactions range from suspicious to disgusted.

Here’s what a soft-boiled egg is.   Continue reading

Luscious Buns

27 Sep

They are.  Just you wait.

I don’t know about you, but the whole phenomenon of the dumpling was, for a very long time, a complete mystery to me.  I cannot count the number of drunken Manhattan evenings I ended sitting at a folding table in one of those walk-in takeout Chinese places, waiting for my dumplings to come to the counter.  When I moved to Boston and could no longer find the veggie variety (much kinder to the diet) Dan and I started the intimidating task of learning to make our own.

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Breakfast for Lazy Misers

19 Sep

For many years, my mom made egg casseroles for special occasions like Christmas brunch.  Now, I have to admit that this dish needs a PR makeover, because who wants to eat something that sounds as unappetizing as an egg casserole?  I really urge you, however, to give this poor, unappreciated dish a good look, because it is awesome in so many ways. Continue reading