Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Old Stand-Bys

We went to visit Brian's family in PA this weekend for Memorial Day weekend. We had a great time---swimming at the campground pool, Will's first ride on a golf cart, and Grandmom and Grandpop spoiling our sweet boy.

With weekends like this, of course my menu plan is out the window. That's why I like to have a couple old standbys in case we're sick of pizza (as if!) and just want to cook something. My favorite quick whip-up is Mexican Chicken and Rice. I got it out of a magazine at least ten years ago, and was feeding it to my roommates and friends back in my college days. It comes together quickly for a weeknight dinner. Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken and Rice

1 1/2 cups instant white rice
1 can Niblets corn, UNDRAINED
1 cup mild salsa (make sure it's mild, or it'll be pretty spicy!)
1 cup chicken broth
1 each red and green pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped small
2 lg chicken breasts, cubed
1 tbsp canola oil
shredded cheddar cheese

Use a large skillet with a lid for this recipe.

heat oil in skillet, add chicken. Cook chicken until it's almost done. Add onions and peppers. Cook until onion is soft. Pour salsa, chicken broth and corn into skillet, bring to a boil. Once boiling, add all of the rice and stir to coat. Make sure rice is fully coated or it will be crunchy. Cover skillet, remove from heat and let sit for 12-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese. Sour cream also is delicious on top of this!

For all workers who are sick of sandwiches--this travels well and warms up nicely in the microwave. For a twist--you can also use it as a filling for fajita wrappers.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Muffin Man

Muffins are my son's favorite foods. Even when he's sick, he will nibble at a muffin! For some reason he calls a muffin a "ball" but we just go with it!

Since someone asked for the carrot muffin recipe I mentioned in my last post, here it is! It is from Taste of Home, which is a fantastic cooking magazine if you're looking for one. I left out the nuts to make them not-yet two years old-friendly!

Morning Glory Muffins




TIME: Prep/Total Time: 30 min.

2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 medium apple, shredded
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in carrot, raisins, coconut and pecans. In separate bowl, combine eggs, oil, apple and vanilla. Add to flour mixture. Stir only until combined. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes. Yield: about 18 muffins.

Friday, May 16, 2008

In Season!!

Walking through the grocery store this afternoon, I realized with delight that my favorite season is here. Summer fruit and veggie season!!! Peaches, strawberries, watermelon......mmmmmm. Fresh veggies like zucchini and eggplant, and summer squash too. And corn.....don't get me started on fresh corn!

I bought a whole bunch of fruit, the jewels of my refrigerator. :) Not sure what I am going to do with all of it, but with the cost of groceries these days I'm going to try REALLY hard to use all of it before it turns to mush in the crisper. (I hate that!) Fruit smoothies rock on summer mornings. The beauty of a fruit smoothie is that you can put most any kind of fruit in. Just blend with some juice, yogurt and a little bit of sugar or splenda. I also make homemade strawberry syrup for summery pancakes. Fruit dessert is good too, like my friend Jen's Fruit Pizza. I wish she didn't live in Illinois now (for many reasons) because I could go for some of that right now!

We also love to grill in the summer. Last night Brian made kabobs that we've nicknamed "Kabobs from Heaven." They were scallop, pineapple, steak, green pepper, mushroom and bacon! Oh my....so good! Kabobs rock! And with a little prep, they're incredibly easy, because like smoothies, almost anything goes!

We took Will to the doctor today for his 18 mo checkup and he is growing really well. The doctor asked what we feed him and of course it's typical toddler stuff: chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, pancakes. The doctor said to continue introducing fruits and veggies, that the only mistake we could make is to stop trying to get him to eat them. He likes some fruit, but most veggies he turns up his nose. I made carrot-raisin-coconut muffins last week though, and he seemed to like them. It seems that if he doesn't know he's eating them, it's all good! Zucchini is good for baking too, and I have a recipe somewhere that I need to find for broccoli-cheddar muffins.

Enjoy the Spring and Summer Veggies!

Monday, May 5, 2008

What's for Dinner???????

A long time ago, after reading an article of hers at the hairdresser, I subscribed to Martha Stewart Magazine. I remember that it was an article about cleaning out your fridge. Yes, something so mundane and tedious sold me on her magazine! However, the magazines started coming and I stacked them in a basket next to my living room chair, saying "I'll read these soon." (This was before my Little Man was born, so you can be sure if there are magazines in a basket, there's almost two years of dust on top!) They ended up going into the recycling eventually, as I found that sadly, Martha and I couldn't relate. I don't have time to serve four course meals that require long shopping trips and specialty ingredients, I don't own table linens that require steaming before being put on the table or own food chargers, and I certainly don't have enough glitter to re-finish all of my Christmas ornaments. My style, and I suspect most of the people that I know, is less Martha Stewart and more Lynnette Scavo of Desperate Housewives. Kids, messes, bills, working, activities......yes that sounds more like our house!

However, I like the IDEA of elegant suppers on a pretty table. The pretty table...well, I can wait till the holidays or a special occasion to have that. But dinner, one where you enjoy every bite and when you push away your plate can honestly say you enjoyed yourself.....now that's what I love to do. Breakfast I'm a skimp at (that's Hubby's territory) and lunch is usually fast in our house. But lingering over a delicious dinner, that's lovely to me.

So how can you pull this off???? By being organized. I joined Weight Watchers (and quit twice) and the only advice I took with me when I left was "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail." We have several pads of paper on magnets attached to our fridge, and they are for shopping lists, menus, etc. For the last few months I look at the calendar and once a week, I sit down to write a Weekly Menu. Do we always stick to the weekly menu? No. Some nights I've defrosted hamburger to make a nutritious meat loaf and it's so hot out, if I started up the oven I might create a sauna in the kitchen. Sometimes something that sounded awesome a week ago just isn't what the taste buds want tonight! But creating it and trying to stick to it.....the feeling of knowing what's for dinner instead of the "Well what do you want? I don't know....." is half the battle.

It also doesn't have to be a fresh-made show every night. I find it easier to cook several times a week instead of every single night slaving at the stove. The microwave is your friend, as well as the crockpot and dinner reservations. The weekly menu allows you to try different things instead of eating marinated chicken breasts several times a week. Or sticking to meat, starch, vegetable. (our old rut) Introduce your kids to different stuff. Little Man discovered tonight that he likes haddock! Sometimes they'll surprise you.

Give the menu a week or two. You might surprise yourself!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Order's Up! Why Blue Plate Special?

Those who know me, know I like to cook. Those who know me also know I like to eat. My motto might as well be "Love to Eat, Hate to Move." (Which I am working on!)

I believe that variety truly is the spice of life. Like many people, I often get stuck in a "food rut" and seem to put the same things for dinner on the table over and over. I like to experiment with food and try new recipes. It's nice sometimes to put together something yourself with what you have on hand. Some people have called my cooking "fancy" but really, it's just something different from the everyday.

At one point in my life I was bitten by the culinary bug. After graduating from college I discovered that not only did I enjoy being in the kitchen, I enjoy creating and sharing with friends and family. I don't believe in just saving the truly tasty morsels of life for special occasions like the holidays, that every day is something special! Also, everything in moderation is a good way of life. I don't restrict foods in my diet, marking things like butter and milk and those dreaded CARBS on a List of Taboo Ingredients.

I'm not only a cook wanna-be, I am also a mom. I'm trying to pass on a healthy ideal to my child(ren) about food and raise kids that are willing to try new foods. I see so many kids that will just eat kid-friendly food, and I want to expand what the meaning of "kid-friendly" is.

I am open to trying new things, and experiencing food not only with my mouth but with my mind. Sounds hokey, I know. But join me and we will exchange ideas and fun things, in short PLAY with our food!