Thursday, October 29, 2009
2) When will I learn not to do the baking the same day the cleaning people WERE here?
3) When will I learn that ONE kind of cookie would have been just fine?
4) When will I learn that I could secretly do the decorating at night, after the kids have gone down, and then SURPRISE them, instead of involve them?
That last part sounds so unlike me. I mean, isn’t that the point of doing projects like this…to see the joy in your children’s faces and feel their excitement? And it was fun, and it was messy, and I am running on fumes.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Pork Tenderloin with Urban Accents Athenian Herb Dry Glaze + Butternut Squash + Baby Zucchini…roasted everything in a 425 oven. Minimal prep, excellent meal. In lower Fairfield County, I’ve picked up Urban Accents’ Dry Glazes at Walter Stewart’s and Whole Foods/Westport. But I’ve linked them above so you can search them out near you too. They are excellent to keep in your pantry for a night when you’d like a nice meal, but aren’t feeling like spending a lot of time at the stove! This is one of those products I wished I’d thought of!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The beauty of this chili “recipe” is that you literally sauté the meat, then dump in the other ingredients, let it simmer while you check email or give the kids a bath, and it’s done. Combine it with a side of cornbread (made using Trader Joe’s cornbread mix which doesn’t have anything funny in it), and it’s even better.
My Go-To Turkey Chili
(This chili freezes beautifully, and also makes a great meal to give to a friend in need, so I always make a big batch.)
2 lbs ground white meat turkey (also great with beef, or TVP crumbles)
2 onions, chopped
3 bell peppers, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can hominy (optional…I had some on hand)
1 jar marinara sauce or tomato sauce
1 jar salsa (whatever level of spiciness you like)
1 large can chopped tomatoes, no need to drain them, just toss them in)
(brown sugar, if necessary)
Kid’s Cooking Class at either 11am or 2pm: Make a pear sauce, $10/child. (Kids will get to bring home a jar of their homemade sauce too! The description says it’s "similar to apple sauce but made with local pears and honey". Sounds delish.)
And I know my children would love to help the resident farmers build winter hoops at 1pm on Sunday. According to the description, these are the “raised tunnels that protect cold weather crops and keep vegetable going strong through the chilly fall and winter months”. Again, it’s just $10/child.
To register for the programs, you may call Stone Barns at (914) 366-6200 ext. 152. To find out more about what’s going on at Stone Barns, click here. And to read about past adventures we’ve had there, you can always click here. I am a big fan of the place.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 24 9:00-11:00am or 10:00am-noon (in New Canaan or any neighboring town)
Monday, October 26 9:30-11:30am – booked/New Canaan
Sunday, November 1 11:00am-2:00pm – booked/Greenwich
Thursday, November 5 9:30-11:00am – booked/New Canaan
Saturday, November 7 9:00-11:00am or 10:00am-noon (in New Canaan or any neighboring town)
Sunday, November 8 10:00am-noon, 11:00am-1:00pm or noon-2:00pm (in New Canaan or any neighboring town)
Tuesday, November 10 9:30-11:30am (in New Canaan only)
Monday, November 16 9:30-11:30am – booked/New Canaan
Tuesday, November 17 9:30-11:30am (in New Canaan only)
Saturday, November 21 9:00-11:00am, 10:00am-noon or 11:o0am-1:00pm (in New Canaan or any neighboring town)
For more information on Full Plate’s cooking lessons, please click here. If you want to go ahead and book a class, please email me and I will go over your goal(s) for the lesson, what's giving you trouble when it comes to cooking, and I'll suggest some ideas of what we can get you confident cooking during your lesson . I will look forward to cooking with you!
When planning a dinner party there are two things to keep in mind. First, a dinner party need not be fancy. No need to pull out the china and crystal. What’s important is that you’re gathering with friends over good food whether it be filet or grandma's casserole recipe. And second, it will be much more fun for you, the host, if you do the cooking ahead of time. This way, you get to actually enjoy the company of friends.
One of my go-to dinner parties I love to do in the fall is around the Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni I make each year. One weekend I’ll set aside time to make this rich, comforting dish, and I’ll make enough for a couple of gatherings, popping the dishes in the freezer. Serve it with a green salad and dinner is done…and wow, do the guests swoon. I'll have to post that recipe while we're all still thinking pumkin.
“Oktoberfest” Dinner Party Menu
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Fridge: cheese sticks, cheese “flags” (slices), ants on a log (celery, cream cheese, raisins), hummus with crackers or in a half of a whole wheat pita, yogurt (in a tube or a small carton of whole milk yogurt), grapes, carrots “swords” (big carrots not the mini ones), bell pepper slices, cucumber “pennies” (simply sliced cucumbers), berries (in season)
Fruit bowl: apples, pears, banana (and stone fruits when in season)
Then there’s our “snack drawer” (pictured above, which is a total mess...sorry, I did not organize it for you) and the kids can help themselves to whatever is in there too. This drawer is great if I need to grab something as we’re dashing out the door. Here’s what’s in it right now:
Mini bags of pretzels
Mini boxes of raisins
Fruit Leathers (Trader Joe’s)
Cereal Bars (Trader Joe’s)
Granola bars (Trader Joe’s)
Snap Pea Crisps
Cheddar Cheese Squares (Trader Joe’s cheese crackers)
Stone Ground Wheat Crackers
Alphabet cookies (Trader Joe’s)
Honey Whole Wheat Pretzel Sticks (Trader Joe’s)
Kashi TLC 7-Grain crackers
Mrs. May’s Black Sesame Squares (new fav from Walter Stewart’s Market)
Annie’s Snack Mix Bunnies
Freeze-Dried Strawberries (Trader Joe’s)
and then there are assorted nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, etc for baking nestled in there too...
The October 2009 issue of Health Magazine has a great one page article (page 146) on cheese pairings that I thought I’d share if you’re looking for other filling ideas, or to put out as a stand alone appetizer.
Gorgonzola + Honey
Feta + Figs (great minds think alike!)
Cheddar + Mango Chutney
Goat Cheese + Dark Chocolate
Camembert + Grapes
Stilton + Port
Manchengo + Membrillo (quince paste, often sold at cheese shops or gourmet stores)
Feta Fig Tartlets
Phyllo shells (found in the freezer section of most supermarkets)
Fresh Rosemary (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Pop the shells out of the plastic tray and onto a rimmed cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 3 minutes, just so they crisp up. Then I let them cool while I bathed the kids and got them ready for bed. In a small bowl, I blended the tub of Feta with the block of cream cheese (using a hand mixer to make it easy).*
* This made a TON of the cheese mixture. So, I used the extra in scrambled eggs this morning and I still had a bunch leftover, so I put the cheese mixture + thinly sliced cucumbers in a whole wheat pita for lunch today.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My Easy Granola (That’s a Combination of Jamie Oliver’s and Cooking Light’s and What I Had On Hand)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
On a rimmed baking sheet, I combined:
2 cups of old-fashioned oats
1 cup of nuts (I used raw slivered almonds from Trader Joe’s)
½ cup of unsweetened coconut (which I’d gotten in a tub in the produce section of Walter Stewart’s)
About 5 tablespoons of maple syrup
3 Tablespoons of olive oil (yes, olive oil-- it works!)
About 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (because we really like cinnamon, but use less if you want)
About 2 teaspoons of vanilla (which we also really like around here)
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
I gave everything a little toss on the sheet with my spatula and then baked it for 20 minutes, taking it out and stirring it every 5 minutes (so stirring 4 times total). Then when it was golden brown, I took it out, and put it into a mixing bowl with ½ a bag of dried cranberries (so probably about ¾ cup). The berries plumped up in the heat. I tasted it, and it was good, but could use just a little more sweetness so I then put a hearty squeeze of honey on it, gave it one more stir. Served it to my boys for lunch with whole milk and they ate it right up. Love that. This one’s a keeper.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
"Caramelized" Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 package Trader Joe’s Banana Bread Mix*
+ 2 eggs
+ 1/3 cup vegetable oil
+ ¾ cup water
½ pkg of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Trader Joe’s “Nothing But Banana, Flattened” (in dried fruit aisle)
Preheat the oven to 325. Line a muffin tin with foil or paper liners (unless you’ve got those fancy reusable ones). Prepare the banana bread according to the package, and stir in half a bag of chocolate chips. (You could do walnuts or pecans instead, but you’d be much less popular with your family.) Spoon batter halfway up muffin cups. Then, using scissors, chop a layer of the dried bananas on top of the batter. Full muffin cups with remaining batter. Sprinkle tops with a hearty shake of cinnamon. Then bake for 25-45 minutes** until the muffins are a nice rich brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean.
*Trader Joe’s Banana Bread mix contains: sugar, enriched flour, banana flakes, baking powder, wheat germ, wheat bran, salt and vanilla.
** I give a range on the cooking time because though my oven says it's the right temp, according to the thermometer I put in there every once in a while, everyone's oven is different. I usually use a regular "baking" setting, versus convection...and my rickety old oven always tends to take the long end of the range.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Reading the GOOP finance entry was timely because I’d gone out earlier in the week with two dear friends who (over a couple glasses of wine) told me I had to write about how our family was attempting to save a little dough. This subject isn’t food related per se, but this blog is supposed to also be about getting control of that Full Plate of yours, and merrily balancing it as you trot through the day with an adorable child (or two, or three, or four) in tow. So, here goes…
Without getting into specifics, I’ll tell you what we’ve done. It’s not like we’ve figured it all out, but I do think it’s caused us to be thoughtful about expenditures.
OK, so many of you are going to cringe when you hear the first step, but I think it’s totally necessary if you’re going to get a handle on and clearly think through your spending: we inputted all of our 2008 expenditures into a spreadsheet, and categorized them. Every. Single. One. Cash, credit card transactions, checks, all of them. So we had buckets like: mortgage, groceries, pharmacy, dinners out, housecleaning, mommy & me classes, day camps, babysitting, my clothing, the kids’ clothing, gas, home maintenance, toys, travel, etc. A monstrous process, for sure. Really tedious. But wow, did it ever clarify our spending. And then we've done it again, each month, in 2009.
Once we had those buckets, we could answer the question of how we were spending our money. So, the next question was whether we felt like this was the right way to be spending? Maybe you look at your bucket list and you say, “You know there’s really no wiggle room because XYZ are important to me”, and things stay as is. But when I looked at the list and the astronomical amounts we (or rather, I, since I am the stay-at-home-mom) were spending on certain things I knew we could cut back.
The first thing I did—and I know many of my local friends think I am nuts to have done this—was to cut out my week day babysitting. All of it. Sure, we hire a sitter if we’re going out on a weekend evening. But during the week, yours truly is the one and only caregiver (save for a generous neighbor who helps out for things like teacher conferences in which case I “pay” them with a homemade meal). Multiply $15/hour x the amount I had each week to do a tennis clinic, meet a friend for coffee, grocery shop alone, go to a volunteer meeting, things like that and it really added up on an annual basis.
I know your next question: how’s it going? Still sane? Yes. Some days more than others. In most parts of the country, this is the norm. It’s just in Fairfield County that I seem like some mom who has a screw loose for “doing this to myself”. Sure, I’ve put off paddle sports until both of my kids are in school full-time, my shopping is greatly curbed (because who really wants to try on clothing in confined space with a wiggly toddler?), no I do not get to go to most of the parent meetings/social gatherings at school anymore, and yes sometimes I am envious of friends enjoying a bowl of coffee and adult conversation at Le Pain Quotodien when I roll my jogger in to buy my little guy a special treat (since he’s going to have to be really good sitting through mommy’s eyebrow wax). But you know, the flip side is that I am spending a ton of time with my children and it’s forced me to prioritize. And, recession or no recession, I no longer suffer pangs of "mommy guilt".
Cutting out the babysitting alone put a big chunk of money back into our bank account. Of course there were other areas we pared back some, like not going out twice a weekend, every single weekend. Rest assured, we still have a life. And if I am feeling stretched too thin during the week, I make plans to meet a fellow mom for a casual supper out, once my husband is home. I tried shopping with coupons but that was too tedious for me and I found myself buying things because I had a coupon for them. So that kind of backfired. However, the Wednesday Supper Exchange has replaced what was a typical night of take-out most weeks. When I am cooking, I make an extra portion for my husband to take for lunch the next day. He’s psyched. It’s not a huge sum of money saved, but daily NYC lunches add up (and my cooking is way better than any of those salad bar joints). Instead of a gym membership, I spend about $30/week going to a boot camp 2x/week at $15/class. The remaining days I have to be disciplined to either go for a long walk, get on the elliptical or do a video (which I must get more disciplined about, this is definitely the area that needs work for me).
In sum, we’re still living really well. I feel a little funny even writing this entry, since we’re lucky that these “cut backs” are all we’ve done to date. But it’s all relative, so if it gives a fellow mom an idea of a way she can take care of herself and/or her family for a little less, then it was worth sharing our experience.
Super Easy Creamy Pesto Pasta
1 tub of store bought pesto*
1 pkg of firm tofu (preferably organic)
1 large can of diced tomatoes (optional)
Your favorite brand of pasta, cooked according to package
Shredded Parmesan (optional)
In a blender, combine the tub of pesto with the block of tofu. Blend it to a creamy consistency. Then heat in a saucepan and serve over pasta, with shredded parmesan cheese if you’d like.
Well. Yesterday I made a shopping list from the recipes I’d torn from the magazines, and set about to cooking what I thought would be three fabulous new dishes for my family. I had to make a special trip to the supermarket because I never have things like liquid eggs that come in a carton, or refrigerated bread dough that comes in a tube. That should have been clue #1 that I should have stopped right there. But the pictures in the magazines looked so pretty….
I won’t even touch on the disaster that was the sausage thingies. The whole process of dealing with the sticky artificial dough grossed me out…and I put too much of my yummy filling (my adaptation of the recipe) inside so the thing wouldn’t roll the way it was supposed to. So, I just folded it into a blob and stuck it in the oven. Never mind that my husband came home to this baked blob on the counter and proclaimed it really good. That recipe was tossed before I even took a photo.
The "Seafood Cakes with Mustard Crema" from Cooking Light’s October 2009 issue weren’t much better. When I served them last night, they looked pretty (just like in the magazine photo) but it was too much effort for too little taste.
Then there was this morning’s attempt to send my husband and older child off on their (rainy, gray) father-son Y Guide campout with some fortification: "Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins". Listed under the Bake Ahead and Freeze category (again in the October 2009 issue of Cooking Light), I thought they sounded brilliant. Perhaps a new weekday breakfast to add to the repertoire? No. They are like tasteless yellow balls. Totally not worth the effort. And tell me again why I had to buy eggs in a milk carton instead of cracking the real deal?!
So, I still have this affinity for the cooking magazines, but I think I will go back to simply ogling the photos and relying on my own mom-a-licious sense of flavor combinations, texture and-- most important—simplicity when cooking for my family. And if I ever do feel like following a recipe to the letter, then I've got hundreds of tried and true ones just waiting for me.