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 cake....is a whole 'nother blog post!