Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Cake

We have a little tradition around here of having a New Year's Cake.  On New Year's Eve we pick out a cake recipe, and make it to have while ushering out the old and bringing in the new.  It's usually not too fancy, just a recipe that's simple and delicious.

This year's cake is from the original Cake Doctor Book:  Maryann's Simple Chocolate Cake.  Instead of the called-for homemade chocolate syrup frosting, we opted to use a cannister of chocolate fudge Duncan Hines in the pantry.

Happy New Year from our family to yours, and Best Wishes in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Over Toast

Last Friday was a flurry of activity:  getting out of work early and then preparing for the weekend's Christmas festivities.  But we took some time to make something really, truly fantastic out of one of my Rachael Ray Cookbooks:  Creamy Chicken and Asparagus over Toast.  I chose this recipe based on the awesome-sounding title and didn't even read it.

The recipe was a little misleading.  I was picturing something like a creamed chicken with bits of asparagus, over some regular sandwich bread toast.  WRONG!

Chicken breast, shredded gruyere cheese, fresh asparagus, ham strips and caramelized onion.  Served atop buttered baguette, broiled.  How could this be anything short of amazing??  It did not disappoint.  Dinner was a silent affair for the most part, as we hungrily enjoyed every bite.  Upon telling my mother about the recipe, she said what I think every time I make a RR recipe:  "She really doesn't pay any attention to calories."  No, no she doesn't.  But we were also in agreement that if you eat just a small portion, you're good to go.  We cut this meal into four portions, and had one for dinner and one for lunch the next day.   A perfect meal, for when you are wrapping and running around!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cook with Me, Sesame!

This week's cookbook in the spotlight:  "C is for Cooking", a Sesame Street cookbook that Will got for his birthday.  We made two recipes, Cookie Monsters "Me Love Meatloaf" and Grover's Pork Meatballs.

Both recipes were received with mixed results.  The meatloaf one, Will right off the bat wasn't interested.  Meatloaf?  UGH I don't like meatloaf.  However, he has graduated to taking a bite, chewing and swallowing and then telling us no thank you.  Well, most of the time.  :)  I liked that the meatloaves were cooked in individual muffin cups, but they kind of "stew" in their own fat, there's nowhere for it to drain off.  However, this was also filled with some great ingredients, like oatmeal and shredded carrots.  Good way to "hide" these kinds of things.

The sesame pork meatball recipe was really good, but dry.  There needs to be a sauce of some kind for the meatballs, without it it's just dry pork with no ingredient to hold it together. (Like an egg)  The rice was basmati rice though, which we had never cooked at home.  It was just like white rice from a Chinese restaurant!

So there you have it, first two recipes from Will's cookbooks.  He is really enjoying the work in the kitchen.  Somebody's gonna be just like his dad.  :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Birthday Treats

Tomorrow is my birthday, but my family got together today, being the weekend and all.  Nothing is better than having my family over for my birthday, I love family dinners.

Today's dinner was ALL. ABOUT. ME!!!  A nice dinner at home, and I got to pick everything that went in it.  So Italian it is....with both chicken and eggplant parmesan!  Good Lord I love both of those things.  To have them both on the same plate is just about as perfect as it gets!

For dessert I chose a Cake Doctor that resembles one of my favorite childhood treats.  Hostess Cupcakes!!  Devils' food cake, creamy filling and if they spell out "Happy Birthday Ginny," well, that is just sweet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surprise Pancakes

Conversation at Casa de Crafty Mama tonight:

What's for dinner?

The menu said stir-fry garlic chicken.  But we had that for lunch.  So we'll pick something else to make with the defrosted chicken.

Did you defrost chicken?  I didn't defrost chicken.

Ok---so I guess we won't be having chicken.

Hmmmm......go out?

No.  Don't want to spend the money for neither kid to really eat their meal, and everywhere we can go to eat will be mobbed on a Friday night.

True, true.  Soooo....pancakes then?

You know, I like how you think.


A trip to the grocery store for maple syrup, juice and bacon later, and we're all eating chocolate chip pancakes with bacon.  I don't know how we'll deal with that.  I mean, that's just so sad.  :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Truckstop Fare

You can always tell when Winter Break starts for Brian....there's a stellar menu on the side of the fridge.  This week's cookbook featured is "The Joy of Cooking" so it's a "Week of Joy!"

Last night's kitchen experiment:  chicken-fried steak.  I personally had never had it, but it sounded delicious.  (It's breaded steak with gravy.  What doesn't sound delish about that??)  I posted it on Facebook and got several responses of "OMG, that is sooooo good!"  And at least two people insisted that you MUST eat it with mashed potatoes.  Which was good, because that's what we were having as a side dish.  Since the potatoes were my responsibility, I chose to go the extra mile and added whole milk instead of 2%.  It really does make for a better-tasting mashed potato.

The verdict?   Brian and I loved it, and "squabbled" over the leftovers for the next day's lunch.  (Turned out there was enough for both of us to have them, BTW)  The kids...ehh.  Sean liked it, but he was more into the apple slices and corn on his plate.  Will politely tried a piece (which is a miracle in itself) and announced "Dad, I tried it and I don't like it."  So he had a hot dog instead.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lobster Ravioli Night

Since Brian had the day off from work today, he got to make something that he's always wanted to make:  homemade lobster ravioli.  Both of us love it, especially at Paul's Pasta in Groton, CT.   (This is one of our favorite restaurants from when we were dating.  We went back for our tenth wedding anniversary and the place was as delicious as we had remembered!)

I wasn't home for the making of the dough, or the filling.  So I think that I will just let the photos speak for themselves.  I will say this though:  for Brian's first foray into ravioli, it was deliciously successful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coconut Macaroon Thief

Hubby's favorite cookie:  coconut macaroons.  They're a very easy cookie to make but we seem to only make them at Christmastime.  I like coconut, but nowhere near as much as Brian likes it.  It would truly be impossible for me to like coconut as much as he does.  Pair it with chocolate and he's the happiest guy on the planet.

Last night on a whim, he decided to whip up some macaroons.  Upon inspection, I discovered that these were a little different.  They were light brown on top and soft throughout, instead of crispy and crunchy like I make them.  After he went to bed, I stole two out of their Tupperware container.

Watch your cookies, Hubs.  "Cause if you keep making them like that, you may have some competition in eating them!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Food Network Fan

We have an issue at that is far from unique.  The preschool that our older son goes to, like many other preschools, has a scheduled "rest time."  After lunch, all the kids take to the mats with their blankets and "lovies," the lights are dimmed and everyone rests.  Will actually falls asleep during this time, almost every day.    The problem is, Will doesn't need the nap.  It's a surefire guarantee that he won't be tired at all at bedtime, and if he goes to bed at 8-8:30ish, he will come out several times saying he is not tired.  Or worse, playing in his room and having a grand ol' time until after WE are in bed as well.  Then in the morning he is not well-rested at all and Mr. Crankypants has come to visit our home.  Then he NEEDS the next day's nap.  It's quite the cycle.

So we tried something--we moved bedtime back to 9pm.  And interestingly enough, it's helped.  But...BUT!  That takes away a precious hour of Mom and Dad's quiet time.  Knitting, watching hockey, etc etc etc.  So the last hour of the evening is quiet time for everyone.  Usually I'm knitting in my chair, and Brian's watching a show on the Discovery Channel like "How it's Made" or something on the Food Network, or hockey. .  Will's taken an interest in the Food Network, and will sit quietly and ask questions about the shows.  This is to our great delight--being foodies ourselves!  It's a good thing--putting things on the TV that aren't all cartoons or animated educational kidstuff.  Right now we're all enjoying the show "Chopped." It's where four chefs compete in appetizers, entree and dessert categories.  Each chef is given a basket of ingredients that must show up in their finished dishes and are judged at the end of the round.  All four compete in "appetizers" and one gets chopped from the competition in each round.  The one at the end is crowned champion and the prize is $10,000.

One of the things I like best about this show is that it gets us to consider different ingredients in our cooking, and putting things that don't traditionally go together, or using ingredients in different ways.  It also gets Will looking at different foods and not judging them for what they look like, and trying different things.  For example, he never would have put his cereal with fruit.  Lately he's been asking for "salad for breakfast."  His salad consists of cheerios, blueberries and craisins mixed in the same bowl, with shredded toast topping.  I asked if he needed a spoon, and he said "No Mom, it's more of a hand salad."  The fact that he's willing to eat all of that together, I have "Chopped" to thank.  And who knew that a pushed-back bedtime could bring us closer together?  :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Brian made one of my weaknesses last night...sweet potato fries.  Actually, I love sweet potatoes any way I can get 'em...sauteed, baked, pureed, whatever!  They go well in a lot of things, including baked goods.  We don't eat them a lot, because the boys turn their noses up at them and Brian's not crazy about the texture.  But it turns out if you roast thin strips of them in the oven with an thin orange and olive oil coating, they're pretty amazing.  So I guess that they weren't "fries" in the proportional sense.   But they were pretty damn good.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Potluck Party

Last night was the Fourth Annual Hook and Needler Potluck and Holiday Swap!  It was the third year that I hosted, and I really love hosting this party.  Somewhere between 10 and 15 people congregate at my house, bringing food to share and gifts to swap.  We have lots of great food, and gather around my dining room table to knit/crochet, laugh and chat, and swap gifts.  It's low-key and casual, and I love it.

Brian loves it too, because he loves to entertain.  He had some vacation time to burn before the end of the year, so he took a half-day to clean up and make sure that the house was festive, and to make an appetizer:  Buttermilk Chicken Tenders with dipping sauces.  You know us...anything fried is delicious and we don't have it that often.  The sauces were pretty awesome too, fresh peanut sauce, feta and chive and Brian's new favorite, "molasses gravy."  Other foods that were here were chocolate cake shaped like a snowman with a coconut frosting, homemade custard flan (wow!) and authentic Italian Cookies.  Mmmmm.

I don't have any pictures of the event, really.  That's because we were all busy eating and enjoying.  This get-together is always a fabulous way to start of the Holiday Season.  :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Love Affair

Nobody comes between Sean and his....ketchup?

Baby loves this stuff!  We've quickly learned that Sean will eat anything, as long as it's dipped in ketchup.  Homefries?  check.  Crackers?  check.  Eggs?  check.  Turkey???  Ummm....check!  It was a bit weird to put ketchup for the little man at the Thanksgiving table.  but hey, if it gets him to eat?  I'm alllllllll about it.  Heck, if I could figure out a way to add ketchup to milk without it being gross, I'd do it.  Lately he doesn't want anything to do with drinking milk, he's always opening the fridge and either grabbing the orange juice carton or pointing and yelling "Ju!  Ju!  Ju!"  However, I think the ketchup and milk thing....I won't stoop to that.

Another thing that Sean was absolutely gaga over this Thanksgiving was my mom's pumpkin flan, and his own lil' bowl of ice cream.  We gave him a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a little plastic bowl and he was very serious about getting every last bite.  Then I gave him a nibble of my pumpkin flan and he kept coming back.  "More?  More?"  He probably ate an entire piece on his own.  So we were sure to bring some home for him.

Brian and I are about to embark on our leftovers lunch. I hope Thanksgiving was fantastic for all of you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie Tonight!

The day before Thankgiving....that means that tonight is Pie Night!

After work tonight, Hubby and I will bake pies.  This year will be apple, pecan and pumpkin pies.  I roasted sugar pumpkins weeks ago and froze them, which is a good thing because there are no sugar pumpkins to be had in the stores.  We have a variety of apples on-hand, to make the perfect apple pie.  And back after a long hiatus, we're going to try our collective hand at a pecan pie.  Last time was a disaster, it was pretty much liquified.  However, it still tasted delicious.  :)

Chef Will will be giving us a hand tonight, he's pretty excited about it.  Sean, well, his job will be to watch television and stay away from the oven.  Or perhaps he'll do some "cawlah....cawlah..." at the kitchen table.  (Coloring) 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shake n Spicy

Remember those old Shake n Bake commercials...."It's Shake n Bake...." and the little girl would chime in "And I helped!"

I made Shake n Bake pork chops back in college.  My senior year, I lived in a house with two roommates and though I was still learning, I quickly became the cook.  (this was definitely a good thing!)  Anyway....pork chops.  We never had Shake n Bake at home growing up that I can remember, so a box of it found its way into my grocery cart one week.  It was.....OK at best.  For one thing, it was so salty.  I never bought it again.

Tonight, I've got crumb-coated chicken thighs in the oven.  (bread crumbs, paprika, cumin, curry, chili powder, salt and pepper)   And they were just the same thing, only you go and mix the spices and bread crumbs yourself.  (or panko.  Panko sounds pretty fabulous too.)  It was so easy!  The only part that's hard is waiting for them to come out of the oven with the roasted red potatoes and garlic.  My kitchen smells better than a restaurant right now.  If this stuff tastes half as good as it smells, we're in for a real treat.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend of Take-Out

I went to Maine this weekend for a night just to get away.  (yes, I was my own personal Southwest Airlines commercial.)  Just to visit a college girlfriend, where we indulged in yarn and food.  Oh yeah!  All take-out, and none of it featured cartoon characters or had chicken fingers on the menu.  Because sometimes you really, really need that.

Lunch:  Sushi in Dover, NH.  We each got a lunch special with two kids of rolls and miso soup, and then shared the rolls between us so we each got a little bit of different stuff.  And man....their wasabi was a mind-altering experience! I think that my sinuses were cleared to my brain!

Dinner:  Mexican and Margaritas in Portland, ME.  Two of my very favorite things.  Hot corn chips and salsa, accompanied by a frozen margarita.  In a word, awesome.

Then there was breakfast this morning in Wells, Maine.  Wells is one of my favorite places, with family vacations growing up and all.  We went to a famous donut and breakfast place, where the line was kind of long so we each got a donut while we waited.  And then it was coffee, eggs, toast...the works.  And I was kind enough to bring home some donuts for my guys!

Now there's a roast chicken in the oven, and potatoes and fresh green beans on the stove.  What a weekend. I've had way more than my fair share of sodium, but damn, it was worth it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cook All Weekend

We found ourselves with a free weekend with no plans, due to an early-season snowstorm.  It's not even Halloween yet, and there was a decent-sized Nor'easter knocking on our door.

Snowy weekends always make me feel like cooking.  This one was no exception!

First up:  applesauce.  Done right this time, I remembered to COVER THE PAN of apples while it was cooking.  Made all the difference in the world. 

Brian made Chicken Divan for dinner, which is one of my favorites.  It's a tricky recipe though,if you prepare it the way that it's written (on the can of cream of chicken soup, that I saved the label many moons ago) the chicken turns out raw in the middle.  We've tweaked it over the years, but it still sometimes comes out wrong.   A little microwaving saved dinner!  And the meal is cooked perfectly for leftovers at work certainly won't be overcooked from microwaving.  

Then last night we lost power.  It was heavy snow falling, and a lot of Central MA was without power.  We're one of the lucky ones, losing it for only three hours.  So this morning, Brian made waffles.  (And those were so special, they need their own blog post, with a little co-authoring.)  After breakfast, I baked some banana walnut muffins.  Don't get too excited...they're a box mix.  I did stir in half a bag of chocolate chips to dress them up a little, though.  

At the grocery yesterday, I bought the last two sugar pumpkins that were in Stop and Shop.  And today, we've roasted them in the oven, to process the pulp for Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie later on.  (And muffins, or bread, or whatever we feel like making.  Gosh, I love pumpkin!)  

On the stove right now:  baked potato soup.  I had this soup at our local coffee shop a few months ago and honestly I've wanted to have some more since!  Hubby is not usually a fan of soups, unless, according to him, they clog his arteries upon digestion.  :)  This ought to do the trick.  

My back is aching, and I should call it quits soon.  But I'm still dreaming about baking some cookies for the kids, and I just found the recipe for the Squash and Apple Turnovers that we made last year from the October 2010 Cooking Light.  AND I just found a recipe for beef and butternut chili.  Yes, I'm the only one who will eat it.  But who cares??  A girl needs lunch at work.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sammies and Shakes

I saw a recipe in a magazine for stuffed peppers that caught my eye.  Instead of the usual hamburger and rice, this one featured bulk sausage and potatoes.  In other words, something different than the same ol', same ol.'
It would have been helpful to read the recipe through though, because was a slow cooker recipe.  D'oh!  Certainly not a Thursday night dinner.  Instead, we ended up using Will's birthday burger coupon and heading out to Red Robin.  (YUMMMMM)

So tonight, we still had the sausage patties in the house.  (BJ's doesn't carry bulk sausage.)  So they became Sausage Sandwiches with Colby Jack and sauteed pepper n' onion.  Perfect Friday night dinner.  :)
The boys?  Waffles and strawberry smoothies were the intention.  I still have some strawberries from the summer in our freezer and since we're getting our first snowstorm this weekend (Before Halloween....what!?) it's time to use 'em up.

Only somehow they ended up being milkshakes instead.  And they were thick that the straws stood up by themselves in the middle of the glass.  Everyone enjoyed them, even Hubby and I.  Which was strange...I don't normally like strawberry drinks.  But these were very fresh strawberry, not that artificial strawberry taste that I detest.

Good Friday night, perfect start to the weekend.  :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Last year, we had lunch at a friend's house in Pennsylvania while visiting family for Thanksgiving.  We had grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches, on french bread with sauteed peppers and onions, and butternut squash and apple soup.  Well, *I* had the soup.  Brian dislikes butternut squash with the passion of a thousand suns.  (Good.  More for me.)  Since then, I've craved the soup but haven't found it anywhere.

So while shopping yesterday, I decided to do something about that.  I know that no one else in my house likes butternut squash.  And you know what?  I don't care.  I can freeze some, and give some away.  Sometimes when you want something you just want it.  And I really enjoy making soup, there's something quite satisfying about chopping up ingredients and simmering for hours.  Simmering for hours????  This time, I let the crockpot do it for me.

So at BJ's Wholesale, I grabbed two boxes of already-cubed butternut squash.  (butternuts are difficult to peel, so if "Green Giant" did the work for me, I was all about it!)

The ingredients.  (Not pictured, six cups of  chicken broth)

The recipe didn't call for sweating the onions in butter on the stove.  However, onions sauteed in butter is one of my absolute favorite smells in the world, and doing so doesn't take away from the recipe.  Saute away!

Everything into the crockpot, and set for 5 1/2 hours on low.  At that time, the spices go in.  I added allspice and cinnamon as the recipe called for, but didn't have cloves.  And I couldn't resist a little tinkering:  a bit of sage and a little ground ginger.

Then it was time for it to be blended together.  A stick blender is a really handy thing, especially one that can be dismantled for the dishwasher.  :)

The end result:  perfectly delicious butternut squash and apple soup!

I really need to do this again soon....perhaps pork and black bean soup next time.  (Cooks.....we're always looking ahead to the next challenge!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yes.  Dismal is the word that I would use for the cooking that's gone on recently in our home.  That's because when you plan on going away for a weekend, plus the two adult household members are out of the house three nights per week (not together mind you.  Though that does sound nice!) you tend to slide into Rutville.  That's us all right....we have a new address in Rutville. 

This weekend food-wise was unfortuately all about junkfood.  I blame it on the traveling.  Plus we went to PA to visit family and the boys of course got spoiled, with the trick-or-treating at the campground, plus donuts, cookies and other sweet treats that they don't know how to say no to.  And since they don't get a lot of this at home, a little spoiling is good. 

Then an all-time low:  cereal for the writer for dinner on Sunday night, and then GASP!  I forgot to eat dinner last night. Well, I didn't forget to eat per se....I ended up having a few of the boys tater tots.  I was going to make myself a sandwich after the aforementioned tots, but got busy and simply forgot.  My stomach reminded me two hours later as I was unpacking and sorting clothes and doing all those things that fall by the wayside when you're traveling and doing too goddamn much.  Did I find something substantial to eat?  No.  I waited until Brian got home and we had a little ice cream.  He was adventurous and brought me home pumpkin ice cream.  Normally I like it, but this was a brand I'd never had before.  It was disappointing.  Not much pumpkin flavor, heavy on the spices.  And the aftertaste....ugh.  So to bed hungry it was.

But the light at the end of this dismal period is shining. There will be a "real" dinner of Chicken Quesadillas tonight. I started writing a menu today for next week and found myself looking at recipes for Beef and Pineapple Tacos, and stuffed peppers with sausage, onion and potato.  I really want to make some Butternut Squash and Apple soup, even if it's only me that eats it.

Good things....they'll be back soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Weekend of Food

The Good

Brian's pork roast came out absolutely beautiful.  It had roasted for several hours, in a citrus-herb marinade.  Fork tender and delicious, everyone had extra servings.  Dinner was made complete with rolls, baked potatoes, carrots and green beans.  And dessert, oh dessert!  We served two desserts, because we were honoring TWO birthday guests.  Mom's birthday was last Monday, and Dad's was on Friday.  There was coconut cake with chocolate frosting and toasted coconut on top, and there was a fresh apple pie.  A little of each was left over, as well as some pork.  The pork made for a great sandwich yesterday, too.

The Bad

Dinner last night was from one of my favorite cookbooks:  "9x13...The Pan that Can."    Meatball and Polenta Casserole.  The recipe was a total disaster.  Sometimes simplicity ISN'T a good thing.  Meatballs, polenta and cream of mushroom soup....not necessarily a delicious dinner.  Oh wait, I forgot the mozzarella cheese.  The cheese could not save this dinner.  We each ate a bit off our plates, then I said "I'm sorry, I just can't eat this," and Brian agreed.  The polenta was like a corn sponge.  So instead of making something else, we just had a slice of leftover apple pie for dessert. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stuff from This Week

There was a lot of good things this week, but I don't want to dedicate a blog post to each one. we go!

On Thursday night, Hubby made steak tips on the cast-iron grill pan on our stove.  Just seasoned with little salt and pepper, we dipped them in steak sauce and they were awesome.  Add some pan-roasted red bliss potatoes and broccoli with a light cheese sauce, and you've got dinner.  The only thing to be sad about was that there were no leftovers for the next day.

Turns out though, that I had nothing to be sad about. On Friday, I went out to lunch with a co-worker and some people from the City.  We went to this little hole-in-the-wall place called Sweet T's.  The place was Southern cuisine and soul food.  Fantastic!  I can't really say that I've ever had soul food, but I know that I will be coming back for more.  The first thing I noticed was the big signs everywhere, proclaiming that they use peanut oil for frying, so basically don't eat there if you're allergic to peanuts.  The menu featured chicken-fried chicken, pulled pork, black-eyed peas, okra, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, mashed potato and your choice of brown or white gravy.  Everything is cooked fresh to order in the back, and was worth the wait.  I liked everything except the fried green tomatoes, which I've always wanted to try.  They reminded me of a hot jello....I wouldn't say I disliked them but I didn't like them either.  The drink choices were either sweet tea or Coca Cola.  I say "Coca-Cola" because it was no ordinary Coke.  No, this was real Coca Cola, made with sugar and served in glass bottles.  I could have easily drank two of them!

Then we get to dinner last night.  On the menu was potato-chip encrusted chicken tenders.  Here's the surprise:  it was a Cooking Light recipe!  I loved them, Hubby loved them, and the kids, well, they thought they were "allright."  Ah well.  Brian also made a "grilled" caesar salad, where one wilts the romaine leaves in a cast-iron grill pan.  This was modeled on a "grilled caesar salad" that we had at a restaurant in April.  The end result is a slightly charred romaine lettuce, with traditional Caesar dressing/cheese/crouton.  Awesome.

And now, a preview of what's to come:  We're celebrating my parent's birthdays tonight with dinner at our house.  It will feature a pork roast, potato and vegetable, cake and pie.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I'm not eating it. And you can't make me."

As I experiment with food and feed my family, I get some surprises sometimes.  Sometimes, something that looks only so-so ends up being something that I rave about.  And other times, something that I expect to be amazing turns out to be well, not.  Here's to looking back at some of our surprises

There is a small window of time that while babies are learning to eat solids and table foods that they will eat pretty much anything you put in front of them.  (This is how it's been in my house, anyway.)  Sean used to love bitty pasta shapes and frozen peas.  Now, he pushes away the peas and cries.  Or, more likely, squishes them.  I was a bit taken aback by the slamming-down of the window this time.  After all, Sean eats so many more things than Will ever did, mostly because we experimented with food more with the second child than the first. 

Will loves apples.  A sliced apple with dinner and he is a happy boy.  But homemade applesauce?  Forget about it. Only those "Mott's Cups" will do with this kid.  When I dropped him off at school this morning the teacher was reading a book about apple picking.  Will was excited and told everyone "My mommy just made applesauce with the apples that we picked!" It was hard for me not to add, "Yeah Buddy, and you refused to touch it!" 

Also, the child that doesn't like homemade applesauce also hates corn. But he loves popcorn, go figure.  And cornbread?  I baked some to go with chili and chili leftovers at the beginning of the week.  (mmm, there's nothing like crumbled cornbread over a bowl o' red!)  I caught him sneaking a piece twice, he's obsessed with it.  If I could find a way to sneak in veggies to the cornbread, I'd have it made!

No green veggies for either kid, unless it's canned green beans.  However, both kids like zucchini bread.  Because they don't know about the zucchini!  Mwahahahaha.  :)  Same goes for sweet potato muffins and pumpkin waffles, bread, pancakes, etc. 

What are some of the surprises in your family, or for yourself, that you have experienced?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

You Will Assimilate!!

We did our family applepicking last weekend on a gorgeous fall day.  It's been kind of a busy week, so we haven't made a whole lot of things with the apples just yet.  However, on Monday night, I had the ultimate applesauce fail.  

Mom dropped off her food mill on Monday at Brian's work.  After dinner I eagerly picked out three pounds of apples and started to chop.  With a food mill, peeling is unnecessary.  Which is good because I hate peeling and coring apples.  I cooked the apples on the stovetop as the recipe indicated.  A couple turns on the food mill and it wasn't the happy experience I remembered from the year before.  Not as bad as using a wooden spoon to PUSH the APPLES through a STRAINER.  Now that's a workout!  The apples were just....not squishing into a big beautiful bowl of applesauce.  Alas, there was to be no warm applesauce to pour into oatmeal the next day, or a snack for the boys.  The trash ate well that night.

I couldn't figure out what I did wrong.  The apples, no matter how long I cooked them, never really softened and refused to acquiesce when I put them in the food mill.  I chalked it up to getting distracted, being home alone with the boys while I tried this culinary adventure.

Today I gave it another go.  Cored and chopped the apples, cooked them on the stove as indicated.  Back into the food mill.  NO GO.  What gives, man?  What kind of Frankenstein apple doesn't soften after 30 minutes of cooking?

Guess what.  Apples will assimilate under the power of a food processor.  And if you pulse it enough, you don't even realize that there's peels in there.  It tastes pretty good too, although my little applesauce taster is currently taking a nap.  Take that, apples.  You LOSE! 

Next up in Apple Land:  apple fritters, which I've never had.  And of course, an apple pie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dinner of the Week: Ham And Farfalle Pasta

Last night we tried a new pasta dish.  It was from a Rachael Ray cookbook, I don't remember the title exactly, but I know that had "2-4-6-8" in the title.  The pasta was very different than the usual tomato sauce and meatball that I throw together.  This one had julienned canadian bacon, walnuts and shredded four-cheese Italian blend.  And when you took a bite, there was some spicy kick.  Can't wait to have some more for lunch today!  Hooray for something dramatically different.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Perfect Fall Breakfast

Since last week's waffles came out so well AND we went apple picking yesterday, how about two of the best fall flavors together on one plate:  Pumpkin and Apple.

Ladies and Gents, today's recipe:  Pumpkin Waffles with Maple-Apple-Walnut Compote.

Yes, every bite was as delicious as it looks.!

Plus, now there are pumpkin waffles for the freezer and some compote left, so we can have this tomorrow, too!

Up next for today:  apple pie, and Brian's going to be tinkering with a  cupcake recipe.  I love weekends.  :)

Birthday Spoils

Last week was Brian's birthday, and per tradition he made his own cake.  Don't feel bad for the birthday boy--he enjoys making his cake, it's really a gift to himself!

This year, it's a chocolate and peanut butter swirl cake from The Cake Doctor.  Complete with chocolate pan frosting.  Delicious.  And even tastier the second day, if I do say so myself.

The boys and I got him a new puzzle of the New York City skyline, and it glows in the dark.  (Hubby's other hobby, besides cooking, is puzzles.  Loves 'em.  Especially really difficult ones.)  And a cookbook called "Cooking for Geeks."  And yes, it is definitely for geeks.  I can't understand half of that cookbook, with its references to computer programming parameters and binary code.  But he loves it.  Score!!

And from my parents......a wafflemaker!  This one is more professional-grade, with the turn handle that flips it upside-down while cooking so it comes out evenly.    Is the waffle curse broken in our house?

Yes, I'd say that it is.  With some homemade strawberry-lemon syrup from the freezer, a broken curse has never tasted so delicious.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Afternoon Coffee

Four nights of crappy sleep.  Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday.  Thursday afternoon I find myself doing something I NEVER allow myself to do.  I stop at Starbucks for a coffee so that I can make it through the rest of the day.  Yes, caffeine in the afternoon is a bit counter-productive.  But it was either that or snooze at my desk, especially with the September heat beating me down. 

When I got there, I was excited to discover that their pumpkin line is in!  My favorite time of year has arrived:  Autumn.  So a cinnamon iced coffee and a pumpkin scone and I'm ready to take on the afternoon.  And because I am attempting to still behave, it's a small coffee, and half of the scone.  Almost a year after my weight loss classes at the hospital, and I'm still surprised sometimes by the fact that a small anything is enough.  But it is.  And now I have half a pumpkin scone to look forward tomorrow.

Overnight, a cold front moves in, and it is the perfect sleeping weather.  Everyone sleeps through the night with no trouble, and it is a good day.  Hello, Autumn. 

To celebrate, we're going apple picking this weekend.  Bring on Applefest!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Local Restaurants

I was cleaning out my knitting bag this morning; organizing projects, winding yarn into cakes, putting away spare needles from previous projects and mostly, throwing out trash.  I came across a free magazine that I picked up somewhere, though I have no idea where.  It was the spring/summer edition of "Foodies of New England."

Now, I absolutely know WHY I picked it up, because I definitely consider myself a foodie!  The articles listed on the cover were certainly ones that I would find interesting:  a sushi place in Worcester that I'd like to try someday, a local farm that I have been to in the past and a feature on Bananas Foster.  All wonderful things.  But the thing that caught my eye was the list of sponsor restaurants on the back two pages.  I grabbed a pen and started checking them off, ones that Hubby and I had been to together or separately.

Of the restaurants, we have been to forty of them.  Some of them we reminisced about, remembering exactly what we had eaten.  Others weren't fond memories.  Some of them we hadn't been to in years and had forgotten existed!

Next, I circled restaurants that I would like to try someday.  (fifteen in all.)  Some of them are little hole-in-the-wall diners or pizza joints, some fancypants restaurants that would have probably been best suited B.C.  (Before Children!)  Anyway, now there's a list of places to try the next time we have Date Night or even with the kids.  Here's our list of places to try and the type of cuisine:

BABA Sushi  (sushi, duh)

The Citizen Wine Bar  (i'm not sure how to clarify this one, but it looks awesome.  I love the billboards on the highway advertising their cheese, chocolate and wine.  Sign me up!)

EVO  (again, just intrigued and not sure how to classify.  I've driven past this place a million times and am curious.)

Four Seasons  (An odd-looking place not far from the house.  It's definitely out of place in a residential neighborhood and always looks empty.  But it's been there forever.  There must be a reason why it's still around.)

Haiku  (sushi)

La Scala Restaurant (Italian)

Luciano's Cafe at Maxwell  (If this is the same Luciano's as our wedding reception, then we're in for a treat)

One Eleven Chop House (after almost ten years in this area, we have still yet to eat at this famous Worcester establishment!)

Pho Dakao (I've always wanted to try Vietnamese food.)

Plaza Azteca (Mexican or Tex-Mex, not sure.  I think this one would be kid-friendly though)

Rovezzi's Ristorante (Italian.  And from what I hear, swanky)

Takara (Japanese steakhouse)

Tortilla Sam's  (kid friendly, Tex-Mex)

The People's Kitchen

The Wexford House  (we know people who go here all the time.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, but they love it so there must be something good there!)

Reviews to come---someday!  And I hope that I find out where I got this freebie magazine, I really liked it a lot and would certainly read it again!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.....

I've been following the "Thirty Day Blog Challenge" on Life in the Carpool Lane, and today's topic seemed perfect for the Blue Plate Special as well.

Day 29:  List ten people, living or dead, that you would invite to dinner.  Include the menu.

I'm not much for hosting BIG dinner parties.  But if I had ten people to invite (immediate family not included in the ten, since they live here and would be here anyway), here's my list:

1.  Alton Brown, for obvious reasons  (and probably more for Hubby than for me)
2.  My maternal grandfather, (aka "Pa") whom I've mentioned cooks a mean roast.  Plus I've always wished that he could have met my husband.
3.  My mother and father
4.  My old friend Jen R of Crafty Mom of 3, who I don't see often and also loves Alton Brown
5.  Jen R's husband Scott, a fellow foodie and lover of the Food Network
6.  Jennifer Weiner, my current favorite chick-lit writer
7.  Stephanie Pearl McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot)
8.  my brother
9.  my sister-in-law
10.  Julia Roberts

Also, Jen R and her husband Scott have three kids, and of course they would be welcome too.  They'd play together with my kids, so we could all have adult conversation.  And yes, I'm aware that I included my Mom and Dad as one person.  Yes, I'm aware it's cheating.  Oh well!

Now, Dinner.  This is harder to come up with than the list, but I will give it a shot.  We're going buffet style.

The name of the menu:  All of Crafty Mama's Favorite Things!

Appetizer:  chicken nachos from Chilis,   (I really wanted these the other night!) shrimp cocktail, fried mac n cheese and a big heaping bucket of Price Edward Island mussels.

Salad:  Caesar with fresh croutons and plenty of shaved parmesan

Entree:  Roast Beef (my Pa is going to show me how he made his so I can have it whenever I want.)  BBQ Chicken,  mac and cheese, fresh bread and roasted garlic to smash on it, mashed potatoes, roasted mediterranean veggies, baked shrimp and feta over rice, cornbread, Brian's "Kabobs from heaven" (pineapple, green pepper, chicken, bacon and scallops)  and Chicken Francese.  Hot dogs and tacos for the kids, though they'd better save me a "Chicago-style hot dog!"  Oh, and ratatouille over pasta for the Yarn Harlot, the only vegetarian in the group.

Dessert:  Ice cream in several flavors, double-chocolate brownies, cookies for the kids, a flan and individual pumpkin creme brulees.

Now, who's hungry?

(Cross-Posted at "The Blue Plate Special")

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dinner Donuts

It's official:  our garden has kicked the bucket.  The "big" harvest this year was a few tomatoes, 2-3 handfuls of green beans and only two zucchini.  There were green tomatoes on the vines when I checked the other day, but Hurricane Irene may have taken care of that!

So with the two lonely zucchini, Brian found a recipe for zucchini cakes.  Kind of reminiscent of a crab cake.  He had to make one adjustment, frying them in olive oil instead of canola because I killed the bottle of canola making chicken cutlets earlier in the week.

We knew that if we called them "zucchini cakes" the Big Kid would balk.  So Brian coined the name "dinner donuts."  Appropriate, no?

I also went as far as to call the green flecks "herbs."  This passed muster, and Big Kid tried 'em.  And didn't like 'em.  The Little Kid tried and didn't like, either.

Oh well, at least there wasn't a screamfest to get him to try it.  And this way....more for me and Hubby.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Name-Brand vs Generic

A long time ago, we made a compromise to buy more generic products when shopping for groceries or standard supplies.  Over the years, we've discovered that some generic things are just fine, and others, well, name-brand will only do.

Things that we get generic or store-brand, and it works out just fine:

sandwich bags
ice cream (Central Market brand tastes great!)
frozen waffles
maple syrup (though you have to be careful with what you bring home)
orange juice

Things that we just cannot compromise:

Heinz ketchup
Hershey's Syrup
store-brand yogurt
English Muffins
canned veggies (the corn has husks)

What products do you get generic and what products have to be store-brand?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DIY: Iced Coffee

In the summers, I like an occasional iced coffee.  I really love the iced coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, but that is a slippery slope.  One morning of hitting the drive-thru leads to another, and that's not good for neither my wallet nor my waistline.  I do find myself on weekends wistful for a Dunkin' Run, and occasionally I give in.

When we were in Saint John last month. Brian and I stopped at this little cafe called Magnolia.  I ordered blueberry waffles and an iced coffee, and he got a pulled chicken sandwich.  The waitress asked me if I would like chocolate syrup and I said "Sure.  Why not?"  I watched her make the drink and said to myself, "Self?  That doesn't look that hard to do."

And it is not.  First thing to do is to make regular coffee.  (reg caf or decaf, your call.)  Make it double strength, I put ten cups of water into the machine but enough coffee for twenty.  Pour the coffee into a pitcher and place in the fridge for when you are ready.

 Fill a glass with ice cubes.

 I decided to go the syrup route again, because regular sugar or splenda in iced coffee doesn't tend to dissolve, and I hate chewing on the sugar.  There was a time in my life that I liked it that way, but those days are over for good. Anyway, squirt a little syrup onto the ice cubes.

 Add a little milk to the ice and syrup, to taste.

Add the coffee, and stir a little with a spoon.

The end result?  A little stronger than I'm used to, but actually pretty good!  A nice afternoon treat.

Next on the DIY list (and also from Magnolia's Cafe, St. John New Brunswick, Canada) will be homemade potato chips.  They will completely ruin you for regular chips ever again.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pasta Talk

Last night's dinner was a pasta saute with farfalle, bulk sausage, red peppers and feta cheese. It was pretty good, nothing out-of-this-world but I'd try it again. The boys had some chicken with the farfalle. We of course introduced the farfalle as "Look! It's bowties!"

Usually we stick to thin spaghetti or ziti, and this was really the first time that Will noticed that the pasta shape wasn't one of our usual. It opened an entire discussion in the car this morning, talking about different shapes. We talked shells, manicotti, and of course, macaroni and cheese. Then I totally blew Will's mind by saying "Hey, did you know that there are other spaghetti sauces besides tomato sauce?" Will absolutely hates tomato sauce, which is really too bad. If he liked tomato sauce he would likely get a lot more servings of veggies since they're easy to hide. He was pretty intrigued about "other" sauces though, but we didn't get past Alfredo sauce.

Alfredo sauce, we all know, is delicious! It's also fattening as hell, considering the amount of butter, cream and cheese in it. So it's obviously not going to add anything nutritious to the mix. Naturally, this is the one that Will shouts "Oh, I'd really like to try THAT!" Perhaps it's time to try some chicken and broccoli alfredo. If Alfredo gets him to eat the broccoli, that's a win, right? :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Father and Son Baking

Daddy and Will set out to bake their very first cake together, for us to bring to a cookout.   The recipe?  A buttermilk pound cake with chocolate ganache icing.  Kind of reminiscent of the Stock's Cake that Brian's family in Philly brings to EVERY family gathering!  (It's good stuff, too!)

 I had bought them matching aprons at Christmas Tree Shops.  Brian's said "Big Man" and Will's said "Little Man."  Will did not like his apron, not one bit.
 But he put it on, to be a good sport and appease Mommy.

The cake baking went pretty smoothly, until Brian went to put the batter in the KitchenAid mixer.  Will asked what speed the mixer was going to and Brian replied, "As fast as it goes, Buddy.  Ten!"  Will freaked out a bit.  I think he remembered the time that *he* put the mixer on ten and got a faceful of flour!  He spent the total mixing time hiding in the dining room, with his hands over his ears.

Sean got a little jealous, and wanted to make cake too.  He instead settled for wrestling his big brother while the cake baked in the oven.

The finished product, a gorgeous cake!

The cake got Sean's seal of approval at the cookout.  He kept coming back for more bites, and had most of it smeared on his face.  Success!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Double-Header in the Kitchen

I worked on getting the Big Kid to clean up his room while Hubby whipped up this recipe:  Saucy Steak!  The recipe called to be served over mashed potatoes, but we opted for rice instead.  The meal was rounded out with green beans fresh from the garden.

And bonus!  There's plenty of leftovers.  We gave the same dinner to the boys (minus sauce).  Lately we've been trying harder to have everyone eat the same thing at night.  I am really wishing that veggies had been showing up every night on the dinner table from an early age for Will, 'cause I'd be lying if I said it was a walk in the park to get him to eat them now!  But still we try....

What's in the yellow bowl, you say?  That there is homemade chocolate ganache....relaxing so that it can be spread on a cake to take to a cookout tomorrow night.  And that a whole 'nother blog post!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Holy Green Beans!

I took Will out in the backyard tonightt to get some of the fresh green beans that appeared while we were on vacation.  Also, big THANKS! to my brother for coming by every day to water our garden.  Without him, our veggies would have been victims of the heat wave that swept thru in our absence.

 Show me the green beans, Mom.  I don't see them! really is cool to grow our own veggies!

 We grew them to eat them, Mom?  Oh're hilarious.  Or barking mad.

 Taking his watering duties very seriously.

This is the first bunch of green beans, I grabbed just enough for dinner.  And there's still a plethora of 'em out there.  What should we do with this first bunch??

Food, Glorious Food!

Brian and I treated ourselves to a cruise vacation last week.  We decided on a four-day package, embarking in New York City with one port call to Saint John, New Brunswick Canada.  Being our first cruise, we boarded with no expectations.  And we were blown away!!

For four days (kid-free, as the children were happily playing with their grandparents down in PA and getting spoiled) all we had to do was eat and play.  And boy, do I mean EAT.  If you are hungry on a cruise, then you have no one to blame but yourself.  For there is food EVERYWHERE.  And ALL of it is fabulous.  The cruise director said in the beginning that the average passenger gains about a pound and a half a day.  He was not kidding. 

The day starts with a breakfast buffet.  There's fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, and the hot foods bar.  The hot foods usually included scrambled eggs, pancakes or french toast, always bacon, and there was always something interesting at the end, like breaded whole eggs or a mini quiche or burrito.  Also, an omelet station.  The ship's coffee was terrible, so for a nominal fee we would hit the coffee bar on Deck Five for an iced mochachino.  Then we'd lounge by the pool or walk on the top deck, enjoying the breezy sunshine.  Lunchtime would bring us back to the buffet, where there were many cold salads to choose from, plus a meat dish and accompanying sides.  If you didn't like what was for lunch or dinner, there was also a deli AND a burrito bar.  (I never ate at either, I liked lunch every day.)  There was a fish joint on Deck Nine that had mostly fried fish.  There was a grill station, which we went to once for the most delicious cheeseburgers. For dinner, there was the ship's three restaurants, or the more casual buffet on the lido deck.  And if that just wasn't enough.....there was gourmet pizza and soft-serve ice cream available 24 hours per day.  I love, love, LOVE soft-serve and it's something I don't get to have very often.  So my personal record for cones in one day?  Four.

On our last full night on the ship, we got all gussied up and dined at the ship's fancy restaurant:

Dinner:  the food was excellent!!!  We each had tuna tartare for an appetizer, then filet mignon.  The best part though?

The chocolate sampler that we shared.  This thing was to DIE FOR.

So my recommendation is to try a cruise if you never have before.  We certainly will be going back!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Healthy Foods Week

This week is Healthy Foods Week at Will's school.  When we got there yesterday morning, they were naming fruits and vegetables.  Will rushed over the join the group, just as the teacher was asking the kids to name some vegetables.  Will was really excited and shouted out "Broccoli!"  Proud of him for thinking of it, now if he would just EAT IT.  :)

Parents were asked to bring some fruits or veggies to share with the class this week.  So last night I got three tubs of blueberries at the grocery store for Will to share with his classmates.  I haven't seen him that excited to be at school in a while, though it *may* have had more to do with it being Sprinkler Day.  At least he'll certainly eat some of the blueberries, as both of the boys are blueberry-obsessed monsters! 

Improvement with Age

The list of foods that are good served right away but improve as leftovers:  meatballs, lasagna, chili.

Add chicken and snow pea stir-fry.  It's an old Weight Watchers recipe that was whipped up quickly on Sunday night, with intentions of leftovers as we packed last night for vacation.  I'm on my third serving in so many days for lunch today, and it's even better.  And brown rice makes it taste really "earthy."  Not sure exactly what that means, but in my head it's delicious.  This one deserves to be made again!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Garden Update

 Everything's coming along nicely.  No edibles yet, but there are a few small green tomatoes and the zucchini plants have squash blossoms on them.  Something is eating my basil plant!  It's got little bites in the leaves, and the bottom leaves look kind of scraggly.  I weeded and watered tonight after the heat dropped a little.  Man...those weeds!  If I ever find myself really angry, I'm going to go out and weed something.  Those stubborn suckers...they really take it out of you!  I hosed down with the garden hose afterwards, just my legs. cold as I recall from my childhood!

Can't wait to feast on green beans, zucchini and tomatoes.  :)

I Scream for Ice Cream

Happy National Ice Cream Day!    Had I realized this sooner, I might have tried to do ice cream for lunch.

My favorite flavors:  coffee ice cream is the front runner.  Especially with a little Hershey's Syrup.  Others that I really like:  raspberry cheesecake, rocky road, cookies n cream and chocolate.  For me ice cream is the ultimate treat, I've always got room for it.  In the summer, it's so much fun to go out for ice cream after dinner, though we don't do it often.  And I'm a sugar cone kind of girl.  And Dairy Queen, Friendly's or one of the more local joints around...I love them all.  

How are YOU gonna celebrate?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Notebook Week

Every Saturday, one of us writes the menu for the week.  I usually like to concentrate on one cookbook or other source for that week's meals.  Or, depending on how many nights one of us is going to be out that week, we stick to a short list of (kind of boring) quick and easy foods.  

I guess I can name this the "Best of" week, since Brian focused on our notebook as a cookbook.  If you don't remember or are new here, any recipe that's SO fabulous that we must make it again, it goes in a notebook.  This week's favorites:

Mexican Chicken and Rice

Lemon Pepper Swordfish Packets

Parmesan Breaded Pork Chops with Pasta

Marinated Steak Tips

Bon Voyage Chicken Pasta.

It's already been a very good week, with the Mexican Chicken and Rice last night.  And tonight's the swordfish.  Oh yeah!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dessert...on a Grill??

The grill was probably invented just as much to keep the house cooler in the summer as it was to have delicious grilled meats and veggies.  At least, that's the way it works in our house.  However, I've never given much thought to having dessert on a grill.  Sure, I've seen Alton Brown make fruit kabobs and serve them with a homemade caramel sauce over ice cream.  And a couple of years ago my mom followed a recipe that was slices of grilled pineapple, served with ice cream and sauce.  (delicious btw)  But actual baked items?  No, not in my train of thought.

Fortunately, it was in Hubby's realm of possibilities.  When down at my parent's cottage, we try to cook outside as much as humanly possible.  It's a small cottage and though there is an oven, once you turn it on it's really hard to get that heat out of the house.  After a little research online, some shopping at the new Target grocery store and some prepwork at home, Brian made a successful Granny Smith Crisp.  He used the grill as an oven and a cast iron skillet to hold the crisp, carefully monitoring the progress.  And it was spectacular, the special delicious, patriotic dessert and perfect for Fourth of July Weekend.  Just goes to show, I never know what this guy is going to come up with next!