Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sexy Chicken

Brian got me a cookbook as a joke's called "50 Shades of Chicken."  It's a parody of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and is pretty hilarious.  And well....dirty too.  We had chicken in basil cream sauce (I won't tell you its dirty's too embarrassing) and it was so very good!  I can't believe some of the recipes in this book.  Can't wait to try the chicken with apricot jam, sage and lemon zest next sometime next week.

If you read the books, you'll get a kick out of this cookbook's play on words.  If you just like good chicken, well, you'll like this cookbook too!

Will the Chef

Will decided today that he wanted to make lunch for him and Sean.  He's done this before, he's gotten pretty good at making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the two of them.  I love encouraging this kid to do his thing in the kitchen with minimal help, but teaching him the "right" way is important too.  Like cleanup...putting things back where they belong (jelly in the fridge instead of the cabinet, etc.) and wiping the peanut butter off the counter.

Today's lunch, courtesy of Will:  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with fruit salad.  He did everything except cut up the apple...I did that.  He found out that butter knives don't cut everything!  I had him help me cut up the apple, I taught him that you need a cutting board, and then slowly slowly...with my hand over his, we cut the apple into slices.  Then I cut it into chunks and he tossed them into the salad.  Both kids devoured every bite!

Christmas Eve Dinner

We broke out of our norm and instead of having spaghetti for dinner, we roasted a chicken.  And it was excellent.  :)

Potato side dish:  originally was going to be a crockpot potato recipe so no oven space was needed.  Then I saw that the recipe took 10-12 hours to cook!  No way!  (Yes...that was on low, and I didn't feel like experimenting on Christmas eve with the crockpot on high.)  Instead we roasted red potatoes with garlic, then topped with cheese and bacon.  What's not to love?

The more "Chopped" we watch, the more we try to cook like they do on the show.  And Brian has a lot more success with that most of the time than I do.  Well, the green bean side dish was a HUGE success!  We blanched the green beans, and then I sauteed them in bacon fat, and tossed in onion, brown sugar and pecans.  They were delish.  :)  And yes....bacon fat.  It's Christmas Eve dinner....go big or go home!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Dessert Time

It was my brother and SIL's turn to host Christmas, so we got to bring dessert.  Brian really outshone himself this year!

 Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes....incredible!  Looked labor-intensive though.

 This is a Christmas Cake with Tutti-Frutti filling.  Almonds, maraschino cherries, coconut...what's not to love?  Plus that hand-painted Christmas tree rocks, especially with the chocolate chip trunk.

And it's just not the holidays without biscotti.  I love these things....but have no control over how many I want to eat!  

Oh, and MY contribution?

Rocky Road fudge.  Marshmallow and walnut, to be precise.  I hadn't made fudge in many years, and this was so good!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Prep

Some of the things that have come out of my kitchen in the past week:

Cookies, Cookies and Cookies.  Over the years we've cut down on the number of different kinds, usually choosing 4-6 types.  These fall into the "It's Just Not Christmas Without..." category:  coconut macaroons, old-fashioned sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, Rollo cookies and biscotti.  No biscotti yet, but everything else has been baked, one kind a night in the past week.  No power outage is gonna stop us, either.  :)

Fudge.  I haven't made fudge in about five years...and now I remember why.  It's because I love it so damn much!  I am bringing Rocky Road fudge to my family's Christmas party tomorrow, and it's heavenly.

Garlic and Chicken "Stew."  This was dinner tonight, and it's one of my all-time favorite meals.  Two heads  (yes, HEADS not cloves) of garlic, chicken parts (tonight we used thighs and breasts) and various other ingredients left to stew in a Dutch oven is such an incredible smell.

Coming up on the horizon:  Christmas eve dinner, which is getting changed up this year from Spaghetti to Roast Chicken.  Christmas morning breakfast....overnight baked french toast.  (In my humble opinion, the best kind)  And we're doing dessert for the family get-together on Christmas Day, and have some great things!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smothered in Love

While perusing Pinterest for recipe ideas, I came across one for Smothered Hamburger Steaks.  The thing that caught my eye was that the author said that this recipe is kind of a "blue plate special" so that pretty much sealed the deal:  I had to make it!  And again....anytime there's a ground beef recipe slightly above the norm, color me interested.

This was a quickly put together meal on a crazy Saturday.  I bought groceries, Hubby and I carried them inside and I pretty much started cooking right away.  The meal was nothing fancy but tasted like true comfort food.  Just hamburger patties mixed with onion soup mix, then left to stew and cook in a brown gravy made with cream of mushroom soup and packet gravy mix.  I know...holy sodium!  I rarely cook this way because it benefits nobody in my home.  But once in a while rules are for breaking....and when it's this delicious, it's worth it!

For kid appeal, I served it with egg noodles and left the sauce off the boys' hamburger steaks.  They picked at it, but didn't balk at the peas on their plates (or try them, but the no yelling was nice)  and did eat some hamburger.  Everyone wins last night!

Easy Empanadas

When i first started working in housing, I had a tenant named Mrs. Alvarez.  I remember her fondly, not just because she was a lovely person but also because she was the first tenant I ever got to practice speaking Spanish with on a regular basis.  My Spanish back then was pretty awful, but we seemed to understand each other on some level and I got better with time.  It was with them I graduated from stammering "I'm sorry, I don't understand" to confidently marching out "You have too much soap in the machine, that's why it's leaking."

Mrs. Alvarez and her husband were originally from Colombia, and enjoyed showing me pictures of their life there.  She also made the BEST empanadas.  She would bring them down to the office at 9:30 in the morning, and they would smell so good I would eat one right then and there.  (I've always had the ability to eat pretty much anything at any hour)  Eating these kinds of things has led me to a love of Hispanic foods.

When I saw a recipe for empanadas, I immediately remembered these little beef "pies" that she would bring down.  Plus I am always game for something that is not your typical hamburger use.  (i.e. meatloaf, meatballs or cheeseburgers)  The recipe was spiced beef and cheese, baked in piecrust.  They tasted pretty good, but obviously weren't the same.  Mrs. Alvarez also used diced potatoes, and her empanadas were spicier and also fried.  Still, they were pretty delicious, and now I have ideas on how to improve.  I served them with home-fried potatoes and green beans.  Next time I will use black beans.  All in all, it was a nice visit to a memory.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sausage Soup

What does one do with their newly honed knife skills?  Make a soup that requires lots of chopping, of course!

This is an Italian-style sausage soup, with garlic, onion, spinach, tomatoes, pasta and cannelloni beans.  The grocery store didn't have two pounds of sweet sausage, so we bought one hot, one sweet.  Even the stock was homemade this time!

It was a good soup, and made a ridiculously large pot.  I brought some to a friend who's due with her first child, a boy, any day now.

So that is three of the four soups on my Day Zero list.  The last one will be clam chowder.  Brian and I both adore a good clam chowder and have never made one.  Then there will be one more thing to cross off the list!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Steel Skills

On Thursday night I took a knife-skills workshop.  I've always wanted to take one, since my husband likes to poke fun at me because I used to only chop with a steak knife.  I'll be honest, I was pretty apprehensive of anything bigger!  As time went on Brian helped me get more comfortable with chef's knives but I still could use some more skills.

The workshop was 90 minutes long and was part demonstration, part hands-on.  I learned how to hold a knife so that it is an extension of your arm and isn't has hard on your hands.  I learned the proper way to dice  peppers and onions, and how to cut an onion with a little less crying.  (NO crying isn't an option for me.)  I also learned the correct way to cut up avocados and mangoes, two foods that I love but avoid because of the messy prep.  No more!

There were six people in the workshop including me, and together we chopped and made a tomato salsa and a guacamole with mangoes.  Delicious!  I came home with a big grin and a little leftover guac, and was thrilled to tell Brian how much I loved it!  He's taken a class there before, and now we want to do a Couples Night sometime.

Tomorrow night I'm making soup.  And I can't wait to chop all the hand!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mac N Cheese Success!

5.  perfect macaroni and cheese from scratch

Finally, a success story!  Years of separating sauces, general gloppiness and all-around YUCK, I've finally made a decent baked macaroni and cheese.  The recipe was from Cooking Light, part of their 25th anniversary issue.  I know I know, light mac n cheese sounds like a drag.  But it wasn't!  It had parmesan, sharp cheddar, fontina and yep, Velveeta cheese product in it.  I think the secret is making sure the cheese is shredded fine, and the continuous whisking.  The garlic cracker crumbs baked on top weren't bad either.  This was so good, I had a second helping and was thrilled to have tons of leftovers.

Sadly, the kiddos wouldn't touch it.  So next time I make this (and there WILL be a next time) I'm going to trick them by leaving an empty box of Kraft on the counter. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Taste of Morocco

Last Sunday's Dinner:  Moroccan chicken.  In a tagine.

What's a tagine?  Glad you asked.  It's a ceramic slow-cooker.  Or maybe it's not ceramic, maybe it's clay.  One thing I can tell you is that it needed to be soaked for 24 hours before cooking.  The only thing we had in the house big enough to soak it was a cooler.  But hey, it worked!  You put it directly on your stove top and let it do its thing.  It was actually quite cool.

I've never really given Middle Eastern food a chance.  It feels good to try something just a little bit different.  Some of the spices were familiar, some not.  Turmeric, for one, I don't know if I'd ever eaten turmeric before.  But everything was delicious:  chicken, quinoa and carrots.  I'd definitely like to try other variations.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chicken n' Shrooms

Meal #2 this week featuring pasta ( no red sauce or meatballs all week!). Chicken with mushrooms and garlic wine sauce.  Brian's been using a lot of mushrooms in his cooking lately, and I love it.  Served atop egg noodles....with more of that yummy shaved parmesan.  And this is a Cooking Light recipe??  i find that hard to believe, but it's true.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Shrimp

Menu for last night (courtesy of Pinterest):  Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Skillet.  We write the house menu up to two weeks in advance, so obviously it wasn't written with "Sandy" in mind.  The power in our house went out at 4:45 pm, so it was looking like pb+j.  The kids were thrilled with sandwiches by flashlight.  I munched on half a nutella and banana sandwich, hoping the power came back on in time to cook something a little better.
Wish granted!  Around 7pm, we were able to put together this recipe.  It was delicious...with soy sauce and green onion, but also some shaved Parmesan and red pepper flakes.  A fusion dish, if you will.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Orange You Glad

Last night's dinner was my way of emulating Chinese crispy chicken.  It tasted ok but definitely didn't come close to what I was shooting for.  First of all, it was a crockpot recipe.  That's perfect for a busy Saturday!
The first step was to dredge the chicken in flour and fry slightly to give it some crispiness.  Nope....the hot oil just seemed to rinse the flour right off the chicken!  I added some broccoli to the final dish just to get in some veggies. 
To sum up, this wasn't bad.  But it wasn't good, either.  I might be better off just ordering takeout next time!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Soup#2: Bacon Corn Chowder

With the arrival of fall comes the cool air that makes me want to have soup.  So last weekend seemed like a good time ti to make a second soup in order to work on my Day Zero list.

This recipe came from Taste of Home online, but I found it on Pinterest.  It's a very simple recipe, and doesn't have a ton of leftovers.  The ingredients include celery, bacon, potatoes, cream style corn, onion, milk and salt/pepper. The first step, sauteeing the bacon, onions and celery on the stove made the house smell incredible. It came together quickly and made a nice lunch for a cool Sunday.  I did add a sprinkle of smoked paprika before serving to give it that extra oomph.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Eggs

It's a shame that the kids don't like eggs.  Because their Dad makes an incredible omelet.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Breakfast Birthday Party

My parents have the luck to have their birthdays four days apart (but my Dad is a year older.)  We always celebrate them together.  This year, we had a Breakfast Birthday Party one Saturday morning to celebrate!

It was a big hit, with fruit, juice, waffles, 2 kinds of quiche, bacon AND sausage and the piece de resistance....a birthday cake made from caramel-iced cinnamon rolls!  Everyone loved the food, and I'll bet NO ONE was hungry for lunch!

Happy Birthday Mom and Dad!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My First Pot Roast

I can't believe I'd never made a pot roast before....we had it a lot when i lived at home with my folks.  Mom had a recipe where you added meat, veggies and the cooking liquid to a plastic bag and put it in the microwave.   Unconventional,  I know, but it was delicious.  She always served it with buttered noodles, peas and carrots.   Mmmmmmm childhood.  :)

This was a McCormick recipe, and a simple one at that.  Veggies, meat,  water and spice packet, then "set n forget" on low for eight hours!  I love dinners that kind of take care of themselves like magic.  The meat was fork-tender, and there's plenty of leftovers.  Add my mom's roasted beets plus biscuits on the side and you've got a pretty good way to end a weekend. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

King Ranch Casserole

This recipe is from one of the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks, it's all "country style" food.  And it is so far all very good eats, though not exactly the most slimming choices.  This recipe is by no means an exception to the norm, it boasts cream, cheese, corn tortillas AND fritos on top.  And let me tell was nothing short of delicious.  Everything in moderation, right?  The only thing that I would change is that I would shred the chicken breasts a little bit instead of cutting them into pieces, that way every bite would have some chicken in it.  A bottle of Sam Light for each of us complements the meal.  Wait a sec....I should clarify.  Kiddos did NOT eat this meal.  There's nothing in there that would interest them, and Will is all abut "separating" his foods.  So they didn't get a bottle of Sam Light, either.  I read how that was written and said "Whoa!!"  They were very satisfied with their hot dogs, leftover mac n cheese and apple slices.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Honey Lime Chicken Skewers

Another pinterest recipe.....and it was good!  The marinade was lime juice, honey, sriracha, garlic, soy sauce, cilantro and vegetable oil.  I omitted the red pepper flakes because I thought that the sriracha would bring enough heat. 

I'd make these again, but with two changes:  it's better suites for a weekend because the chicken marinated for an hour.  Also, skewers only get grilled outside from now on!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zucchini Feast

What do you do when you have a bumper crop of zucchini?  Well for starters, you share it.  So far my daycare provider and coworkers have both benefitted from the tons of zucchini that I've managed to grow this year, as well as two of my neighbors!  After that, you start to cook with it.  A lot!  Although I love zucchini grilled or sauteed, we need some other ideas.

We had friends over for dinner the other night and I tried something I'd never done before:  fried zucchini.  It was, in a word, awesome!  I never realized how delectable fried zucchini is.  The recipe came from Joy of Cooking  and was very simple.  Flour, club soda, parsley and dill.  Dip the zucchini in the batter and fry for a few minutes.  We dotted it with a little cider vinegar and the four of us polished it off!

Chocolate zucchini bread.  This recipe yielded two delightful loaves of bread, and they smell heavenly!  Plus the boys have been fooled before....can Mama pull it off again?  Only time will tell...

Mark Bittman's Lemony Zucchini Risotto.  Fried eggs this time instead of poached, and it was every bit as good as the first time!  I seriously wanted to lick the bowl.  There's leftover risotto for lunch at work tomorrow, sans eggs.  If only it wasn't messy to bring an egg to fry!

Guess what?  Still have a ton of zucchini.  Some of it is shredded in the fridge, waiting to become Cheddar Zucchini Bread.  The rest?  Not so sure.  I'm still looking for new and exciting recipes.

Sunshine Pie


I love pie.  It doesn't matter what kind, I pretty much love it all.  But a summer "peach and cream" pie with fresh peaches?  For breakfast, even?

Yes, please.  I baked this pie on Sunday, and the house smelled heavenly while it was in the oven.  I got the recipe from,, which I go to often.  I did tweak the recipe a little bit, after reading other pie maker's notes.  I cut the sugar down to half a cup instead of a whole cup (there's six peaches in there, so enough natural sweetness.  I didn't miss the excess)  and instead of baking it for an hour at 300 degrees, I did 15 minutes at 400 degrees and then 45 minutes on 350 degrees.  The top was golden and everything was perfection.

Peaches are perfection in fact, they taste like warm sunshine.  

Fall Preview

I read in the local paper yesterday that apple season in Massachusetts is running about ten days early, due to warmer weather this past Spring.  So I've already made sure to write on the calendar what day in September that we'll go apple picking.  I LOVE the family apple picking trip every year!  The boys love it too, Will's already asked when we are going.

With that said, last night's dinner was Pork Chops with an Apple Pan Sauce, accompanied by Sauteed Apples n' Onions.  I am continually amazed at how good apples and onions taste together, they complement each other nicely.  The pork was cooked perfectly, and there was white rice to sop up the pan sauce.  Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light.  Again, surprised that this was a "light" recipe!  No pictures....the food was gone in the blink of an eye.  Well, mine and Brian's anyway.  Neither kid likes sauteed apples, which I thought for sure would be a hit due to their natural sweetness.  Nope, one or two bites of pork and the rice from the big kid, and total refusal from the little kid.  UGH.  I'm over it.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Egg Pie

Dinner Monday Night:  Alton Brown's "Refrigerator Pie."  Or as many people call it, quiche.

I'll say it:  this is not a great dinner for a weeknight.  It takes 45 minutes to bake, and without thinking ahead there's a bit of prepwork too.  However, it's a good idea for using up leftovers.  You can add pretty much whatever flavors you want, but we do like to keep it simple in this house.  A little protein, some veggie, and usually some cheese.  Salmon works well, as does ham and chicken.  Asparagus, spinach, peppers, even broccoli works too.  Tonight's was by far the best:  maple bacon, green pepper, onion and cheese.  Brian went back for seconds, and maybe even thirds.  Instead of the usual green salad, he shredded some potato and made a "fried potato cake" and a couple of sliced strawberries for presentation.  Fantastic!  Next time a Friday or Saturday, though.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On An Ordinary Sunday

This Sunday....Today= a perfect day, from a culinary standpoint, anyway!

Sunday started last night at 11:30pm, when Hubby and I spontaneously decided to throw together an Overnight French Toast to be baked in the morning.  Why not?  I got it in the oven this morning, sprinkled with blueberries and streusel topping, while he whipped up some of our favorite Strawberry-Lemon Syrup.  (An old Cooking Light recipe)  The result was a custard-y french toast, perfected with the syrup.  And there's leftovers for tomorrow!

Dinner for tonight is already in the crockpot.  I don't know why we don't utilize this method of cooking more often, the "set-it-forget-it" mentality can't be beat on a Sunday.  Plus again, the promise of leftovers on Monday is fantastic.  Tonight's menu is Sweet and Sour Chicken over brown rice.  The boys helped by draining pineapple chunks, washing veggies and even a little chopping.  (I did the chopping, they threw the seeds into the sink.)

And if this cooler weather prevails this afternoon, perhaps there's a little time for a batch of brownies from a mix, or perhaps cookies?  This Sunday Streak is going strong!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A "Canadian" Love Affair

I never liked mussels until I visited Canada.

In 2006, I spent a week in Prince Edward Island with my parents, brother and (then) girlfriend and my husband.  It was a beautiful island, with lots of happy memories.  One of these memories was a dinner theater that we went to with everyone, something that Brian and I had done before but the others had not.  My Dad was a little skeptical but in the end enjoyed the show more than anyone else!

The dinner part was served family-style, at long planked tables.  I immediately noticed that the first course had these steel buckets on the tables and they certainly got my attention.  Mussels!  I wasn't fond, after a stinky cooking experience when I lived in New Hampshire six years prior.   (I had a lot of "skeptical" cooking experiences at our house in New Hampshire, this was not a good culinary time for Crafty Mama, or for that matter, Brian.  We learned from a lot of mistakes in this era!)    I was six months pregnant at the time of our Prince Edward Island adventure, and I adore fish.  Mussels and other shellfish were on the short list of fish that is considered "safe" for pregnant women to eat, so I gave them a shot.  Was I ever glad that I did!  They were steamed in a wine broth and were so good, I may have eaten almost a whole bucket by myself!

Last year I got a repeat chance to enjoy P.E.I. mussels with Hubby, dining at a little seaside joint in Saint John, New Brunswick.  We split a bucket of these delightful, albeit ugly, mollusks and I was warm and happy over the experience.

So, when Brian put mussels on the menu for tonight, I was elated!  I even said at dinner last night, "tomorrow is mussels...I'm so excited.  :)"  Brian did not disappoint, turning up mussels in a white wine, garlic, shallot and tomato broth, served atop jasmine rice and asparagus with bacon on the side.  The jasmine rice was perfect for sopping up the broth, and the dinner was absolutely to die for.   What a fond way to reminisce with a food that I fell in love with in Canada.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Brine Time

From the first time I saw Alton Brown's first Thanksgiving episode, Brian and I have wanted to brine something.  Not a turkey first try out per se, but maybe a chicken?

Instead,Brian brined corn tonight.  I didn't even know that one could brine vegetables.  But do you know what?  Brined corn is awesome.  And if you grill it, it's even better.  Char-grill marks on an ear of corn, and having that corn be super soft as you bite into it is incredible.  We just had regular butter, salt and pepper on it but there's a flavor opportunity there somewhere.  The brine liquid that Brian used was just four quarts of water, half a cup of kosher salt and a quarter cup of sugar.  The ears of corn had to soak for at least half an hour, then drained and grilled.  Perhaps next time (And there WILL be a next time!) we could add some cider vinegar to the liquid, or try a compound (read:  flavored) butter.  Some flavor ideas:  barbecue and scallion, or perhaps chipotle and lime?

I'm getting hungry all over again just imagining the possibilities.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flashback to the Ruts

That last post?  We ate that meal over a week ago.  Lately we haven't eaten anything worth mentioning.  With Hubby finishing his master's this week and me working late and stuff, it's been all frozen chicken nuggets and a whole lot of spaghetti.  (In fact, the spaghetti is on the stove as I write this.)

Tonight was a flashback to five years ago.  Dinner was supposed to be chicken with grilled peaches and feta.  Neither one of us felt like cooking.  After running through the "Well what do YOU want" game, we settled on cooking the defrosted chicken another way, something like pan-fried.  Except HA HA, there's no defrosted chicken.  Spaghetti and frozen meatballs, to the rescue.  Tomorrow night while Hubby is at his second-to-last class, the kids and I are going to have leftover frozen pancakes and waffles.  I do so hope that they're labeled correctly in the freezer, or it's gonna be breakfast surprise!

I can't wait to feel settled again and having a better-tasting variety of meals.  Hopefully this whirlwind of activity will die down soon.

Sunday Summer Supper

Three of my favorite summer foods on one plate:  grilled sausage sandwich, corn on the cob and homemade potato salad.  :)  So, so, good.

I did top the sandwich with sauteed green pepper and onion.  They're invisible here, and no, you can't have the recipe for invisible peppers n onions.  :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Zucchini by the Pound

To say that our zucchini plants are thriving is kind of like saying that Big Ben is well....big.  Three HUGE zucchini plants, and I've already given some away.

Our new favorite side dish:  grilled zucchini.  Slice, salt, grill, serve!  Even Brian, who is not overly fond of zucchini, enjoyed them.

One thing to be careful of......the zucchini cook quickly and smoke up fast, too.  I needed to run the fan and open the doors to get rid of the smoke.  (Disclaimer:  No smoke detectors were tripped in the making of this meal.)

Grilled zucchini is extra-special when you dot it with balsamic vinegar and a little shredded Parmesan.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cherry Pork

I had to work this past Saturday morning.  I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened, which is a good thing!  I attended the dedication ceremony for my new job, which went very well.  Afterwards there was a cookout at the church that sponsored the new building that I will be managing.  I didn't stay, and I'm glad for one reason:  if I'd filled up on hot dogs or hamburgers, I would've missed this beauty for lunch:

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

I love cherries, they're my second-favorite of summer fruit.  (Peaches first, watermelon third.)  I don't eat them often, because they're usually ridiculously expensive.  Also, it's another food that only gets eaten by me, so I end up wasting part of a bag of cherries.  This was the first time that either of us had attempted cooking with cherries, as cherries are not easy to pit.    Brian put this together from an online recipe, with ingredients like honey and tarragon.  He's not usually a fan of cherries, but proclaimed the sauce delicious!  I saved the leftover sauce to pour over a little vanilla ice cream.  That will be a great little sweet treat later on.  :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Not-So-Perfect Pairings

Last night's dinner was pork chops on the grill, basted in peach barbecue sauce.  The sauce was a recipe found online and not made up, and it called to be used as a dipping sauce as well.

It was not good.

First of all, the spices that Brian used on the pork were amazing.  I don't remember all of them but I'm sure he will tell me as soon as I publish this blog.  :)  We both used the dipping sauce, only it was a light dip instead of a plunge.  See, despite having an open mind, peaches and tomatoes aren't meant to go together.  I later found out that there was ginger in there no no.  The finished product was pumpkin-colored.  The worst part was the dishes, and rinsing out the blender.  The smell of hot water hitting the blender made the sauce especially pungent, and it was a while before I could get the smell out of my nose.  Chalk it up to a flop.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In For A Treat

Last night's menu item at Chez Crafty Mana:  fried chicken.

I chose this because I was missing my favorite meal at the Chateau in Waltham, MA:  chicken supreme.  It's a fried chicken cutlet served with a white sauce.  Brian made it happen, only I liked his white sauce better.  Perhaps it was the paprika, I don't know.  But I am pretty excited that there was plenty of leftovers for lunch this week.

I remembered yesterday that there was a pie crust in the fridge that needed to be used up because it was going to expire soon.  I had bought a ton of peaches over the weekend so peach crumb pie sounded perfect.  I prebaked the crust and when I pulled it out of the toaster oven, um....that did not look like piecrust.  Apparently it was already bad, because it resembled a taco shell, the kind that holds a taco salad.  Ewww!  So instead it became another peach crisp.  Which was delicious, but would have been better with vanilla ice cream.  And this time the leftovers made it into the fridge, so perhaps a stop for ice cream on the way home from work tonight is in order.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 30: Grillin' Again

Here it is....the last post for the Thirty Dinners thread.

Last night was grilled chicken, potatoes and candied carrots.  I love anything on a grill, I really do!  Sean liked the carrots, and Will pretty much refused to touch them.  I really worry about him sometimes, getting nutrients.  I won't stop trying to get him to eat veggies though.

This was fun, posting dinner every night.  I was careful not to change what we eat because it was on the blog, and from what I see we do get a variety of food.  I'm pretty satisfied with how this experiment turned out, though I am glad not to have to remember anymore to write it down!

Day 29: Sandwich Night

Tonight was pizza for the kids and sandwiches for the adults.  Cheesesteak for Hubby and that Greek Chicken sub that I liked so much.  I just remembered that I have half of it in the fridge still, too.  Looks like I have lunch today!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 28: Pork Loin

I do this to myself almost every week:  I put pork tenderloin on the menu for a night that Hubby has school so it's just me and the boys.  And everytime, without fail, when I come home the last thing that I want to do is  cook a pork tenderloin!

It's not so bad though, it's pretty much hands-off cooking.  Put it in the toaster oven and forget about it for about 45 minutes.  Ah, there's the issue:  the time it takes to cook!

Dinner on the table at 7pm last night (which is typical in our house):  Pork tenderloin, rice and spinach.  I bribed the kids with yogurt raisins to try the spinach.  Will took the bribe, took a taste and proclaimed it "Yuck!!!!  I don't like it."  More for me, then.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Days 26 and 27: Typical Menu

Tuesday night:  spaghetti, spaghetti.  I know, exciting.

Wednesday night:  Brian made chicken parmesan tenders for him and the kids.  I'm a little sorry to have missed out on them.  :(  I tried the steak panini tonight at Panera, it was actually quite good.  I love that they put horseradish on it, that stuff is delish.  :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 25: Stir-Fry

A good Monday night dinner:  stir-fry.  This one is chicken and spinach, and comes from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."  It's more saucy than dry, and uses ingredients that are easy to find.  I despise recipes that make you have to hunt down ingredients!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 24: Back to "Normal"

Feeling much better today.  I finally felt like eating, so I made something special.

It turns out that leftover steak tips from the 99 make for excellent steak and eggs on a Sunday morning.

What was supposed to be for dinner last night turned into today's lunch, since the salmon was defrosted in the fridge.  This is the kind of meal that's nice to make when I'm eating it alone, because I'm the only person in the house that will eat it:

Caribbean jerk-seasoned salmon over black beans and rice, topped with fresh mango salsa and avocado!  Another recipe that I found on Pinterest and couldn't wait to try.

OMG!!!  The huge burst of flavor in this was incredible!  The salmon was cooked perfectly and not as spicy as expected.  The spice rib had chili powder, curry, cinnamon, cumin, allspice and cayenne, so you can see why I might have expected heavy heat.  The salsa was so fresh tasting, and not much to it:  fresh mango, red onion, avocado, sea salt and a few squeezes of fresh lime juice.  I felt like I should be sitting at a picnic table on the beach eating this.  I loved it, and am excited for the leftovers at work tomorrow.

When Brian and Will got home from their Philly adventures, we had tacos.  Scratch that.  Brian and I had tacos, kids had hot dogs.  Typical.  :)

Days 22 and 23, Combined

Nothing really going on either one of these days, so I'm lumping them in a post together.

Day 22:  Friday night.  Hubby and Will are heading to PA in the morning to go to a Phillies game with Hubby's side of the family.  Both Brian and I are sick.  Neither of us feel like cooking, so we check the score from the Red Sox game the day before.   Once we see that they won, we head to the 99.  The 99 Restaurant is half a mile from our house, so it's our go-to when we don't feel like cooking.  And if the Sox won the day before, kids meals are free!  Win WIN for us!  Kids get meals they'll eat without much trouble, and Mom and Dad don't have to cook.  

Day 23:  Man, I'm feeling worse.  Sean and I headed out to a graduation party in the afternoon, and then I flop on the couch while he watches "Octonauts" for the hundreth time.  No energy to cook what I had been planning on, so it's frozen waffles for both of us.  Sean is of course thrilled!

Day 21: Too Hot To Cook

New England is under a heatwave right now, so the idea of turning on the oven is just plain silly.  I considered the leftover spaghetti for me and the kids (Hubby was late headed to school from work due to traffic so he unfortunately got McDonald's) but the I realized that there wouldn't be anything to eat at work today.  Actually, I had brought the spaghetti to work today to eat at lunchtime.  Unfortunately, I brought the spaghetti but no utensils.  Eating spaghetti with your hands, especially at work, is not appetizing.  So instead, I headed out for some lunch.

Kids and I had pancakes, bacon and strawberry-banana smoothies.  And the kids insisted on helping cook...something that I usually encourage wholeheartedly but was difficult last night.  I make the pancakes on an electric griddle and the bacon on a griddle on the stove, and these are on opposite ends of the kitchen.  The boys wouldn't take no for an answer though, so Will broke up bananas for the smoothie.  I turned my back on Will for a minute, to find Sean wiping down the counter of pancake batter.  That was pretty cool!  After swapping his Kleenex (clean) for some damp paper towels, I let him continue.  No way am I discouraging the boys from cleaning ANYTHING!  Will helped put away the baking powder and discovered half a bag of mini chocolate chips, so the last batch of pancakes had chocolate chips in them.  Naturally, they were the best ones!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 20: Surprise! Another Wedneday Night

Not much is worth mentioning about last night.

Very hot night.  The low last night around here was 80 degrees.   At knitting, I went with another chicken caesar salad, and for the first time in AGES I got a Panera reward!  You know it's hot when I bring home one of their brownies instead of devouring it right then and there.

Hubby and kids had our weeknight staple, spaghetti and meatballs.  This usually gets the kids to eat most of what's put in front of them, so we are happy to serve it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day Nineteen: Fiesta Bowl!

A fun dinner...cheese quesadillas and sliced fruit for the kids.  Instead of plain old quesadillas, I put together chicken thighs spiced with chili pepper and cumin, added corn, salsa, rice, a touch of lime juice and cheese.  As a garnish, two quesadilla wedges.  Came out great!  And it was a nice change from the usual "quesadilla and rice n beans trap.  Plus the kids ate everything with no trouble, so everyone wins!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Gelato Fan

I'l say it, and risk ridicule:  I've never been much of a gelato fan.  But then again, I've never eaten gelato in Italy, which is totally on my to-do list.  Tonight though, Brian brought home some gelato from the grocery store called Talenti.  I'd had it before but not like this.  Tonight, I become a gelato fan.

Salted caramel gelato.  Smooth, rich, and decadent.  I had to stop eating it because I was afraid I'd polish off the container.  If you are a caramel fan, or a gelato fan or hell, just like frosty desserts, you HAVE to try this stuff!  If it can make Brian put down his chocolate and ask for another spoonful, it has got to be that good.

Day 18: Chicken and Peaches

Weeknights are hectic enough around here, especially on days where there's extra stuff thrown in.  For example, having to drop off a rental car because yours was in the shop all day.  The menu that I wrote last week said that there was supposed to be grilled chicken and pineapple.  Well, there was no pineapple, because we ate it as a snack the other day.  Hooray for getting fruit in, boo for eating a dinner staple.  So we went with an old standby that we hadn't had in ages:  grilled marinated chicken breasts.  Brian gave the chicken a short soak in some Italian dressing, and we served it over rice with grilled asparagus.  That was the first time that asparagus met our grill, and it turned out pretty well.

Yesterday morning, I took a look at the peaches on the counter, and I knew that they weren't going to be around long.  It was do-or-die, either those peaches get turned into something else and eaten, or they had a date with the trashcan.  (And I really HATE throwing out food.)  So it was kind of ambitious for a Monday night, but the peach crisp that I put together was delightful!  And to keep the heat down in the kitchen, I baked it in the toaster oven.  Brian and I each had a scoop, topped with the only ice cream that was compatible and in the house:  cookies n cream.  So, so good.  Welcome again, Fruits of Summer!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day Seventeen: Father's Day

Father's Day is usually spent at my parent's cottage, and it's all about grilling and relaxing.  Ribs have been the meal of choice for the past two years, so we can call it tradition if we have them next year, too!

We all LOVE ribs.  They're not great for you but are a great splurge.  This year also included garlic mashed potato (with actual roasted garlic) corn on the cob and salad.  Dessert was a choice:  brownie sundae and strawberry shortcakes.  Naturally, I ate too much.  Hubby had two desserts, he couldn't choose just one.  But it was all so delicious, and Father's Day is only once a year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 16: Picnic in the Woods

We met up with some old friends last night at Myles Standish State Forest.  Collectively amongst us there were 5 kids, running around and playing games and darting in and out once in a while for food.  Our cooler included pb+j's for the boys, Subway sandwiches and Stop n Shop Red Potato Salad for us, cokes and juices.  Oh, and some packets of cookies and gummy snacks.  It was great to hang out and nibble.  The boys were so busy playing that Will ate one bite of his sandwich and felt sick when we got home late because he didn't eat enough.  (Kids.....playing is more important than eating.  And it was when I was a kid too.)  A great night.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day Fifteen: I heart pork.

Dinner last night:  It was supposed to be pork and grilled peaches.  Only the peaches that we had weren't even close to ripe.  Instead, Brian made roast pork chops with honey mustard dipping sauce, brown rice and green beans.  It was so very good.

Tomorrow night dinner is going to be picnic-style with old friends.  Can't wait!

Day Fourteen: Spaghetti Night

I have yet to meet someone that doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs.  Now that I've put that out there, I'm sure that someone will step up, but seriously, I don't know anyone.  This house eats it once a week, it's the go-to meal when we're looking to eat a meal together without argument or don't know what to have.   I've followed my mom's example of serving it on Christmas Eve to cut down on the chaos.  And we all usually have seconds, 'cause everyone loves it!

I used to make my own meatballs, but there's no time really for that anymore.  BJ's has a good selection of frozen ones, which is what we usually eat.  And someday I'd like to make my own sauce from scratch.  Jar sauces are fine though, that's just the overachiever in me.  :)  I grew up in a Prego family, Hubby is from a Ragu family.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 13: Another Wednesday Night

Another awesome Wednesday night spent with my knitty friends at Panera.  Tonight I discovered that they have the BEST chicken caesar salad, hands down!

Hubby and the kids had frozen pizza.  Not your ordinary frozen pizza, but Newman's Own.  Newman's Own makes so many different things and I don't think that we've tasted a bad one yet.  Their lemonade and salad dressing rock, and we use their spaghetti sauce all the time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day Twelve: Twist on Leftovers

The menu said BLT's.  But then I found two more leftover chicken breasts from Sunday night' dinner and didn't want them to go to waste.  So it became chicken and bacon sandwiches.  Totally kick-ass.  Add some curly fries (frozen) and they were a hit.  I love it when leftovers can be transformed into something else.  No pictures, we ate them too fast.  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day Eleven: Another Old Favorite

I love dinners that come together in a skillet.  Y'know, saute some meat, add some veggies and then a starch.  They're quick, easy, delicious and usually make leftovers.

Mexican Chicken and Rice has long been a favorite of mine, I got the recipe from a Good Housekeeping ad about fifteen years ago.  It consists of chicken breast, peppers and onions, a can of corn, some salsa, chicken broth and instant rice.  Sprinkle some cheese (I used taco blend last night, but Monterey Jack or Cheddar work well also) and you've got dinner.  So, so good.  If I could get the kiddos (who had leftover chicken and green beans from the night before) to eat it, it would be the perfect meal.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day Ten: Quick Dinner

After having a great time at the cottage, it's always tough to come back to reality at home.  Especially on Sundays, where there's so much to be done.  Laundry, dishes, groceries, straightening up, baths, etc etc .  Tonight we also have the joy of having to fix a of those "laugh a minute" things about owning your own home.  So tonight it's about the convenience foods:  pre-made chicken cutlets flavored with honey mustard and panko, frozen mashed potatoes and a bag of "Steamfresh" carrot coins.

When I started this month-long challenge of posting dinner every night I was kind of hoping that there would be some more interesting dinners.  But guess what....we're not super-interesting people apparently.  Two working parents, two picky kids, not a ton of's like we're a real family!  I aspire to be a Mom who has nutritious, palate-pleasing cuisine every night but it just doesn't happen.  We love good, flavorful food but sometimes are short on time to get what we are going after.  So tonight is about filling the belly and nourishment to keep up the work around the house.

Day Nine: Down at the Cottage

This post isn't just about dinner, but eating at the cottage in general.  I love it, and so does the family!  dinner is almost always on the grill, and if it's a nice day we have breakfast on the deck, watching the water.  Sitting at the table, drinking your coffee and looking at the ripples on the lake really is a crummy way to start the day.  :)  Plus, next week is Father's Day and we usually have something special.

Last night's dinner was marinated steak tips, rice pilaf and salad.  Today we had leftovers, since we were coming back from strawberry picking.  the boys had a good time filling a box with juicy berries and being outside in general.  Strawberry shortcakes this afternoon!  Now I'm freezing what I brought home, for syrup, scones and who knows what else.  Mmmmmmm......

Summer Favorites: Cherries

Hubby brought home a big bag of cherries yesterday from the grocery store!  I mmediately had to have a taste....cherries are one of my favorite things about summer eating.  I only get them once or twice a summer because they cost so much.  I never make anything with them either, to me they're better as "Nature's Candy" and eaten fresh out of your hand.  Plus, I don't know if I'd ever get the hang of pitting them.  Cherry pie is one of my very favorite pies though, right next to peach pie.  So....someday.  :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day Eight: Pizza

Our plan tonight was for the boys and I to visit Daddy at the Relay for Life and bring him dinner.  The weather was most uncooperative for us to have an outdoor dinner with Daddy, so I opted to stay home with the boys.  Feeling a little lazy, I ordered pizza for the boys (Will wanted pepperoni so that's what we got,)  I didn't want pizza at all, so I got a Greek sub.  It was grilled chicken, feta cheese, onion, tomato, Greek dressing and huge hunks of cucumber on top.  It was delicious!  The only thing I would've changed was to make it red onion instead of white.    Everyone was happy, we watched a movie while we ate and the boys devoured their pizza. A good night was had by all.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Holiday Worth Celebrating!

Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!!  If there was ever a holiday worth celebrating, this would be it.  Had I even realized that this was an actual thing, I might've planned a party.  C'mon, you know you would want to go to a Chocolate Ice Cream party!

Make sure you celebrate with a spoon in one hand and a big dish of the stuff in the other!

Day Seven: Taco, Taco Taco

Dinner tonight was chicken and apple tacos.  Very simple:  sauteed chicken thighs, onion, granny smith apple, minced garlic, chili powder, rosemary, sage and coriander.  Served on flour tortillas with a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheese.  Sometimes I toss it with a little cooked rice, or change the cheese to monty jack or even the apples to Golden Delicious.  It's up to you.

The kids had their chicken with raw slices of apple, a little leftover cornbread and a mozzarella cheese stick.  If it's the same ingredients as my dinner, I call it a win!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dinner, Day Six: A Word about Wednesdays

Here's the thing about Wednesdays, it's kind of fend-for-yourself.  There's usually something relatively easy on the menu for Hubby and Kids (hot dogs tonight), and I head off to meet my knitting group at Panera.  I usually get dinner, usually a salad and iced tea.  Tonight I just didn't feel it though and got a crappy dinner.  Not crappy in taste, but consistency.  When I made it up to the counter I couldn't decide so I ordered a bowl of broccoli and cheese soup.  Later on, three of my friends were raving about the chocolate croissants so I jumped on the bandwagon.  Pretty nutritious meal, yes?  :)

Day Five: Grillin' Indoors

When Hubby's in school I tend to go a bit minimalist when it comes to feeding the fam.  Tonight's dinner was homemade cornbread, grilled pork chops, applesauce cups and green beans.  Nothing super special, though I am pretty satisfied that I baked the corn bread from scratch instead of using a bag mix.  A while back we got a grill pan for the stove (total impulse buy on our last trip to IKEA but worth it!)  This was my first time using it, I'm not totally comfortable with grilling things but I'm trying to get better at it.

So everyone eats the same dinner tonight, and that makes this Mama happy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day Four: A Favorite!

One of my favorite things:  chicken lettuce wraps!

Usually I kind of just make this up as I go along.  This time, we used Mark Bittman's recipe from "Kitchen Express."  It was good, but was missing something.  I like a bit of crunch with this, some carrots or even broccoli slaw.   Though flavorful, it was missing the crunch.   Didn't dislike it though, since I had four of them and there's a little leftover for tomorrow's lunch.  Tomorrow it'll be with peanut sauce and on a flour wrap, since we're out of Bibb lettuce.

The kids?  No way were they eating that, they had leftover cheeseburgers.  Have you ever noticed that if you have more than one child in a photo, only one of them looks at the camera at a time and smiles?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day Three: A Cookout

Dinner last night was a cookout with friends at their house.  The weather wasn't exactly compliant, so we ate inside.  Shrimp salad, chicken kabobs, hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob.  Lots of delicious summer fare!

For dessert I brought a chocolate cream pie that I picked up at the grocery store on my way home from the nail salon.  It was ok, nothing special.  As I was plating it I discovered that I had bought one that's sugar-free.  Oops!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dinner, Day Two

Brian's Day Zero List includes perfecting homemade ravioli, and I get to reap the benefits.  :)

Last night:  shrimp ravioli with alfredo sauce.  The sauce is jarred, but that doesn't make it any less delicious.  The ravioli wasn't bad, just a little undercooked.  It made for decent leftovers for lunch today, too.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Thirty Days of Dinner: Day One

For June, I thought I'd post dinner every night.  Well, we'll say the next day perhaps.

Last night's dinner:  Grilled Chicken with Fresh Homemade Mango Salsa

Chicken cutlets spiced with paprika, cumin, cayenne and cinnamon.  The salsa had fresh mango and red onion and was absolutely delicious.  I had two thin cutlets and the rest of the (instant white) rice this afternoon for lunch.  There is a smidgen of salsa left over, and I'm going to savor it with corn chips later.  Mmmmmmm!  I love summer salsas.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Good Stuff from This Week

My camera was lost for a few days....seems a curious little toddler hid it in his toy bin!  It also appears to be stuck on a setting that looks like drawings instead of pictures, but I'll have to fix that later when the battery is recharged.  Meanwhile, Highlights from the past week (or so):

Spinach and feta-stuffed chicken breasts, and basil couscous.

I LOVE spinach and feta together, it's one of my favorite flavor combinations.  The tomatoes were OK.  I wish that there was a way to make canned tomatoes not taste like the can that they were packed in, but haven't figured out a way to do that.  The couscous is a mix, it was pretty good.  I used to shy away from couscous because of its dryness, but with the right saucy meal, it's perfect.

First burgers on the grill for the season!

A beautifully moist burger patty recipe, courtesy of Cooking Light.  Served atop baby arugula, topped with sauteed onion and mayo.  And on the perfect crusty bun, toasted of course.  This burger was out of this world!  I'd never had baby arugula before, it's got a peppery bite to it.  And onions sauteed in butter make any meal better, not to mention the wonderful aroma they bring to your kitchen.  On the side:  sweet potato waffle fries from the freezer.  I liked them, but I think that I was the only one.