Friday, December 30, 2011

Week 100 Menu

Merry Christmas! And, Happy 100 Weeks of Menus!!! So, it's Thursday, and I'm just now thinking about our menu for the week? It's like there was other stuff going on this week or something??

Well, here is what's been going on in our kitchen this week:

Sunday: Christmas dinner......everything was SO yummy!
Monday: Brother and partner are making Spanish tortilla, garlic shrimp and pistou
Tuesday - Wednesday: Have family in town; so, we'll play it by ear
Thursday: Out to dinner....because we are so sick of leftovers (we've been having them everyday for lunch!)!
Friday: Omaha Steaks on the grill (gift to Scott from my parents)
Saturday: I'm thinking some snack-y dinner akin to our Christmas Eve dinner - every party (even if it's just parents and a three year-old!) needs finger food!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latest tunes

I've talked before about Shelby's impeccable taste of music here and here.

Now that it's Christmas (and she's three), she has her favorite carols, too. And, I must say they are not what you'd expect a three-year old to request demand. Her current favorites are:

- Santa Claus is Coming to Town as sung by the a cappella group  Straight No Chaser (if you don't know them,....well, you should!)
- Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree... The Brenda Lee version (as if there's another!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011

We are a family that loves food. We love to talk about it, we love to read about it, we love to critique it, and we LOVE to eat it! We've hammered out our holiday menu, I've done most of the shopping. So, I feel like we're in good shape.

The Christmas Eve dinner is the Benjamin family tradition of snack-y, finger food. And, I figure we'll throw in some nice comfort food in the pot pie.

Christmas Eve dinner
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Cheese, sausage and crackers
- Nut bread with cream cheese and olives
- Buffalo chicken dip with pita chips

Christmas dinner is comprised of recipes from my favorite blogs (Bitten Word, This Week for Dinner, Pioneer Woman, GoodLife Eats). I've only made some of these dishes, but I trust the sources so completely that I'm positive each of these dishes will be great! I trust them for tasty dinners every night - why not for the holidays!

Christmas Dinner
- Standing Rib Roast
- Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic & Cranberries
Celery Root, Kohlrabi and Apple Puree
- Artichoke, Leek & Potato Casserole
- Crescent Rolls
- Apple Pie Cheesecake

Week 99 Menu

Sunday: Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin
Monday: Stuffed Shells from the freezer
Tuesday: Turkey Salad sandwiches (from Thanksgiving turkey :)) on farmer's market bread
Wednesday: Dinner with friends at our house - Obama Chili, cornbread
Thursday: Chicken Tinga Tacos (Bitten Word) using up rest of the turkey packet
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Traditional Christmas Eve "snack-y" dinner after church (cheese, sausage, crackers, nut bread with cream cheese/olives, Buffalo Chicken dip with pita chips) with Chicken Pot Pie and cookies!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 98 Menu

Sunday: Asian Salmon and fiesta corn
Monday: Pesto pasta salad with CSA veggies
Tuesday: Garlic Chicken Legs in slow cooker
Wednesday: Roasted Squash & Potato Soup
Thursday: Dinner with friends
Friday: Leftovers with smoothies
Saturday: Work Christmas party...kiddo and babysitter will have pizza?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sounds of....well, sounds

There are some sounds in life that can push a girl to the edge. I submit these are the top five annoying, grating, maddening no particular order. Any one of them can leap to the top when occurring at 2am:

- Smoke detector beeping
- Infant crying (toddlers, I can stand)
- Dora
- Emergency broadcast squawk
- Howler monkey

Have I missed anything?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 97 Menu

Sunday: Leftovers with oven fries
Monday: Lasagna roll-ups from the freezer
Tuesday: Grilled cheese on farmer's market bread (yum!) and fiesta corn from CSA basket
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Thai Chicken Thighs in slow cooker
Friday: Leftovers? or squash pancakes
Saturday: Date night!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 96 Menu

Sunday: Stuffed Chicken Breast and Cauliflower Sformato from CSA basket (Bitten Word)
Monday: Slow Cooker Ribs with sautéed greens from CSA basket
Tuesday: Homemade mac and cheese with veggie surprise (inspired by Two Peas)
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza - half "white," half pesto
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 95 Menu

Sunday: Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Ginger Pan Sauce (didn't get to it during the week)
Monday: Sausage and roasted, parmesan broccoli from CSA basket
Tuesday: Roasted Potato & Squash soup from freezer with crusty bread
Wednesday: I'm working, but will already have a house full of people, so I'm sure someone will think of something! :)
Thursday: Turkey, turkey, turkey!!!...with cranberries, potatoes, pumpkins and the usual cast of characters
Friday: Leftovers with cauliflower sformato (Bitten Word) from CSA basket
Saturday: Out? Fend for yourself? Breakfast for dinner?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 94 Menu

Sunday: Pumpkin pancakes and smoothies
Monday: Meatballs and marinara (from the freezer)
Tuesday: Steaks on the grill and veggies
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Seared Pork Tenderloin with with Apple-Ginger Pan Sauce (Three Many Cooks) and veggies
Friday: Chicken and leftover pork fajitas
Saturday: Away visiting grandparents

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roasted Squash and Potato Soup

I love soup. And, I love making soup. But living in Florida where it's too hot to eat anything but ice cream cold salads for 6 months out of the year, we don't get to eat a lot of soup. But, then, this fall, the planets aligned: the weather dropped below 80 degrees and I got sweet potatoes and butternut squash in my CSA basket! So, I searched my favorite food blogs for a tasty soup with my fresh veggies.

When I was cooking the stock and roasted veggies on the stove top, I was concerned it would be too thin and had plans to add some milk before serving. Oh, me of little faith! After I blended up the stock and veggies, I was left with a very thick soup that would do just fine as the star of a dinner. This soup is very filling and is phenomenal with a nice, crusty bread on the side. It's almost sweet after you've caramelized those veggies in the oven, and was complemented nicely with a generous sprinkling of parmesan over the top.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans low sodium vegetable broth (15 oz.)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet add the chopped butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrot. Drizzle with olive oil and toss the veggies to make sure they are all coated with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Stirring every 15 minutes or so. Remove the veggies from the oven and set aside.

2. In a large soup pot, add the olive oil. Add in the onion. Cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the roasted veggies. Cook for five minutes.
4. Add in the vegetable broth and water. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Stir.

5. Let the soup cook for 20 minutes.
6. Puree the soup with a hand held blender. If you don't have one, transfer soup to a blender and puree in batches.
7. Serve the soup hot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yorkshire Pudding

When I was growing up, my mom made German pancakes for dinner - always a family favorite! I believe the recipe was one that came with her stand mixer instruction book (I never look in backs of those booklets, but I guess good stuff can come from those things!). Everyone got a pie pan full of an oven-puffed pancake. And, it was always served with warm, cinnamony applesauce. 

One of my favorite food blogs (This Week for Dinner - where I stay accountable for posting a weekly menu!) featured Yorkshire Pudding a while back. I hadn't heard of it before, but once I saw what it looked like, I knew exactly what we were talking about! And, could the preparation be any easier????

The traditional British ways of serving Yorkshire Pudding is as a savory dish with a pan gravy sauce. It may be the "pregnancy nose" talking, but that does not sound like a good time. Since I have a love affair with all things cranberry, I decided to serve it with a chilled, whole cranberry sauce. For me, the tart cranberries are a good contrast to the slightly sweet oven pancake.

Yorkshire Pudding
from This Week for Dinner

Blend in a blender:
- 4 eggs
- 2 1/4 c. milk
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Place 4 tablespoons butter in the oven in a 9″ x 13″ pan until just starting to brown.

Pour the blended ingredients directly into the hot pan.

Bake at 450 for 25ish minutes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 93 Menu

Sunday: Bonefish Grill copycat Bang Bang Shrimp with rice
Monday: Lasagna roll-ups from the freezer (carryover from last week) with sweet potato fries
Tuesday: Shredded Chicken Green Bean Casserole with CSA veggies (PW inspired recipe)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Chickpeas and Paprika with leftover shredded chicken (Three Many Cooks)
Friday: Leftovers with coleslaw with CSA cabbage
Saturday: School fundraiser

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 92 Menu

Sunday: Peach Whiskey BBQ Chicken (PW) with roasted vegetables from CSA basket & pumpkin cornbread (Two Peas)
Monday: Carroty Mac and Cheese
Tuesday: Grilled cheese with spinach pesto
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Lasagna roll-ups from the freezer
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 91 Menu

Sunday: Leftovers from yesterday's birthday party!
Monday: Chicken Pad Thai with bok choy from CSA basket
Tuesday: Yorkshire Pudding (TWFD) with cranberry sauce....ready for Thanksgiving!
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Carrot Mac and Cheese (Three Many Cooks) and roasted parsnip and avocado salad from CSA basket
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin

Last winter my brother-in-law Mike introduced me to a new foodie podcast (Splendid Table). So, of course, I had to listen to all the past episodes. One of the autumn guests was Dorie Greenspan talking about her baked, stuffed pumpkin. A little pie pumpkin stuffed with cheese, bread, and cream and baked. could that be bad!!! I wanted to make one!

The only bad thing was that when I was listening to the podcast, pumpkins were already out of season! Not a baking pumpkin in sight. So, I set a calendar reminder for the following October. So, last week, I got my iPhone reminder to make a baked, stuffed pumpkin (I freely admit how nerdy I am).

There is very little active prep time for this recipe - really only hollowing out a pumpkin and toasting up some bread if you don't already have some stale bread on hand. And, that's about it! The recipe calls for a 3 - 5 pound pumpkin. When I had already hollowed the pumpkin out, I had no clue how much it weighed. Thank goodness you buy them by the pound, so I could just consult my grocery store receipt! It looked like the standard pie pumpkin was about 3 - 3.5 pounds.This dish is best served table side. How impressive and elegant to serve your dinner out of a pumpkin!!!

Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin

Makes 2 very generous servings
1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 slices stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

***The link to her recipe has some great alternate stuffing ideas as well as storage and serving tips.***
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil [be warned: if moving the cooked pumpkin to a serving tray, it will be a little tricky!].
Using a very sturdy knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin. Work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot. 
Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled (don't be shy about stuffing the little guy!). Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Play it by ear - you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. 
Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
When the pumpkin is ready, very carefully bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter (I used two spatulas to maneuver the pump.

Week 90 Menu

I love fall/winter veggies. We're trying a lot of new recipes this week that feature my favorites!

Sunday: Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin with sautéed kale from CSA basket
       I saved this recipe from last winter until I could get my hands on a baking pumpkin this season!!! I can't wait to try it!
Monday: Carroty Mac & Cheese (Three Many Cooks)
Tuesday: Roasted Squash and Potato Soup and Pumpkin Cornbread (Two Peas & Their Pod) featuring CSA veggies
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Preserves (PW)....back by popular demand
Saturday: All the Grandparents in town for Shelby's 3rd birthday!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Meatless Mondays

On the food blogs I follow, I have read a lot about Meatless Mondays. I've always thought dismissively, "well, that's nice." I've also been reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food." And he has really shamed me and challenged me to eat less meat/dairy and more whole grains/veggies for ethical and health reasons.

Most recently I read that by cutting meat out of one meal a week, it's the carbon-footprint-reducing equivalent of driving a Prius! Being an engineer with a data/numbers mind, that made me pay attention. Really? It can make that much of a difference? But, how do you execute that on a daily basis when you've been working all day and don't have a lot of time?! And, how do you fill up your vegetarian-skeptical family? When I talked to Scott about it, the business-mind in him asked, "Isn't the meat you already have just a sunk cost?" This is what I'm dealing with, people.

 I looked back over my last month's menus and was shocked to see how many meatless meals we were already eating: Stuffed Shells, Corn Cheddar Frittata, Eggplant Parmesan!

I can really do this! And, now that we're getting the CSA basket every other week, it's really forcing me to branch out and find ways to use these veggies. I'm so glad that my favorite recipe blogs are making it easy to cook delicious vegetarian recipes! Now, I think I'm making a point to serve at least one meatless meal a week.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 89 Menu

Not a lot of motivation to make a menu after a family vacation! So I'm relying on my freezer stash to make it through!

Sunday: scrounging around the kitchen after vacation
Monday: Lasagna roll-ups from freezer
Tuesday: Schezuan chicken (just can't seem to make this one!)
Wednesday: dinner at church
Thursday: Meatballs and marinara from the freezer
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: out

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 88 Menu

Sunday: Homemade calzone with "fiesta corn"
Monday: Schezuan Chicken with assorted veggies
Tuesday: Lasagna Roll-up from freezer with spinach
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday - Saturday: At Disney for family vacation!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Addition

Well, it's official.....we are expecting Baby #2 in March! In His time, God certainly does answer prayers. We are very blessed and excited to have this news to share!

I am out of the first trimester and everything is looking good. I've had a general feeling of malaise and nausea that is slowly receding (not fast enough!). I haven't felt like eating too much. When has it been documented that Bonnie has wrinkled her nose at Joseph's pizza or chicken or even a salad?! I just don't remember feeling this TIRED when I was pregnant with Shelby. I can take a two-hour nap at any given time or place.

We broke the news to Shelby and she is SO excited! She calls the baby her baby. She can't wait to be a big helper with the baby. And, once she realized she and the baby would be at the same school, she was over the moon! She could check up on her baby with the Infant Teachers all day long! Shelby has it all figured out: her baby doll can sleep with me and her baby brother/sister can sleep with her.

We get to find out if this little peanut is a boy or a girl on October 27th! Can't wait!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 87 Menu

Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan
Monday:  Burgers with homemade buns and sauteed asian greens
Tuesday: Stuffed Shells from the freezer
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday:  Schezuan Chicken and Asian Slaw
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

CSA treat of the week: Zucchini bread
Snack of the week: White Bean Hummus with CSA crudite (cucumbers, broccoli and tomatoes)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Twitter This, Inter-web.

Some of my girlfriends have turned me on to Pinterest (that's a whole blog post of its own!). I love the idea of "pinning" your findings on the internet to your account and surfing through others' "pinnings."

The only catch is that you need a Facebook or Twitter account to sign up. What? Seriously? There are prerequisites for searching through peoples' DIY cereal box magazine holders? Ok. Whatever. So, I signed up for The Twitter (the lesser of the two evils).

I was checking out the features of The Twitter. To my surprise, my account had been suspended. SUSPENDED! Within 24 hours! And, I hadn't even tweeted one tweet yet! So, I asked, "Why, Twitter, why?!"

Four days later they informed me they have "automated systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk. Unfortunately, it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake."

I am now restored into right standing with The Twitter. The jerks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 86 Menu

Sunday: General Tso's Chicken with rice
Monday: Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Preservres (PW)..using up some homemade fig/raspberry preserves!
Tuesday: Fajitas with leftover pork
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Corn Cheddar Frittata (Three Many Cooks) with assorted CSA veggies
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 85 Menu

Sunday: General Tso's Chicken (Bitten Word) with rice
Monday: Beef Noodle Salad Bowl (PW) with Asian-style Green Beans (TWFD...couldn't wait to try it!) from CSA
Tuesday: Vegetable Tian with CSA beets, rainbow chard and potatoes
Wednesday: Eat at church.
Thursday: Pizza at Art Walk
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Date night! Going to plan an "adult dinner"

Monday, September 5, 2011

Freezer Cooking - August, 2011

I haven't had a "freezer cooking" event in a long time, per se. But, I did have a couple days off work  a while back. So, I decided to stock up the freezer a little bit. It felt good to have some safety stock in the freezer if things start to get a little crazy around here later!

Pizza Dough (x4)
Hamburger Buns
Lasagna Roll-ups
Stuffed Shells
Veggie meatballs
Carmelized onions
Roasted red peppers
Roasted, pureed and froze in-season veggies to "hide" in future dinners!

Fig Newtons

Sometimes I see something on sale at the store, I buy it, and I pray for inspiration to come later. This week it was a deal on fresh figs. I've made fig preserves before, but I was looking for something new. AHA! That's where nostalgia came in.

When I was growing up, we always had a cookie jar full of fig bars. And, it was always a treat to have the strawberry or blueberry fig bars! My Grandma also made them: an Italian version with a white glaze over the top. Since they were homemade, they were very "rustic" looking and the fig was a little more pulpy. Still fig bars - but so much different in texture and taste than the store-bought kind.

These fig bars were a combination of the two fig bars from my past. These fig bars were VERY rustic looking. By rustic, I really mean....messy. I followed the recipe proportions to the letter, but I definitely put too much filling into each roll. And, I definitely neglected the all-important detail of placing the fig bars "seam side down" on the cookie sheet. If I had bothered to read that last direction, I think the fig bars would have turned out more atheistically pleasing. They tasted great, though! I'm looking forward to making them again!

Fig Newtons
from Beantown Bakers

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 lbs fresh figs
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of half a lemon

Make the dough
Cream together the butter, sugar and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. 

Add the egg white and vanilla and beat in. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again. 

Add the flour and beat on low speed until the dough comes together. 

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Make the filling
Cut the figs in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. In a medium sauce pan, combine figs, sugar, and lemon juice. Mash mixture a few times with a potato masher or fork. 

Cook mixture over medium-high heat until bubbling and sugar has dissolved; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until it has reduced by about one-third and is beginning to gel. Set aside until completely cool.

Assemble the Fig Newtons
Place racks in middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12 x 16 rectangle. Cut into 4 equal strips, each 12 x 4 inches. Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 10 cookies. Place each cookie on the parchment-lined baking sheets, seam side down. 

Bake, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 84 Menu

Last week's menu fell apart in a quick hurry. Between (forgotten about) Open House at school and invitations to dinner with friends, we didn't get to very much on the menu last week. But, that just means I already had some ideas for this week's dinner!

Sunday: Steak on the grill with Pan-Roasted Artichokes
Monday: Leftover steak on CSA arugula
Tuesday: Skillet Eggs with Squash (Bitten Word)
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Friday: Cheese steak sandwiches with leftover beef
Saturday: Out

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sauteed Collard Green Ribbons

Our bi-weekly CSA basket was delivered today. Shelby and I have made a ritual out of opening the bag and taking all the produce out. We ooh and ahh over the (sometimes) funny-looking fruits and vegetables [Side Note: If you hold artichokes on top of your head, 2-years may think you look like Minnie Mouse].
I get a preview email of what's to come in the basket. I saw collard greens on the list for the week and my heart sunk a little. I am not a native Southerner. I have cooked greens once - for New Year's this year - because you're supposed to on New Year's! I attempted greens, and people, it was not good. All that braising and cooking and waiting for nothing. But, since the greens were a-comin' this week, I needed a plan.
I found a greens recipe on Bitten Word that seemed to fit my criteria: quick, addressed the "tired old greens" issue, and super-quick (did I mention that already?) I tweaked on their recipe a bit to our family's taste (namely: add bacon). I will tell you, this recipe is a keeper! I went back for seconds! I will make this recipe again if I see greens in my basket!

Sauteed Collard Green Ribbons

1 Tbs. malt vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup
1-1/2 lb. collard greens (about 30 leaves)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, diced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt

In a small bowl, whisk the malt vinegar and maple syrup.

Trim the stem from each collard leaf with a sharp knife, dividing the leaf completely in half lengthwise as you cut away the stem. Discard the stems; wash and dry the leaves.

Stack half of the leaves and roll them up tightly crosswise into a cigar shape. Using a very sharp knife, cut the collard “cigar” crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Use your fingers to unfurl the slices, which will be tightly curled together. Repeat with the second half of the leaves.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the pepper flakes, stirring to distribute in the hot oil. Add the bacon and cook until just crispy. Add the collards. Using tongs, stir and toss the collards until they’re coated with the oil, and continue tossing until they are slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Most of the greens will have turned a bright green, with some beginning to turn a darker green. Do not overcook, as they will become tough. Take the pan off the heat, drizzle on the maple-vinegar mixture, stir well, and transfer to a shallow serving platter. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week 83 Menu

Sunday: Peach Whiskey Barbecue Chicken with roasted asparagus
Monday: Veggie Meatballs and marinara with Sauteed Collard Ribbons
Tuesday: Squash pancakes
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Mushroom Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Pan-Roasted Artichokes
Friday: Cheese steak sandwiches with leftover beef
Saturday: Out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Orange Beef

Back in the day before kids and before I started cooking a lot, we liked to go to PF Chang's. The food was pretty yummy and we just loved the crispy, honey shrimp and the orange beef! After we got married, I started to cook a lot more. One of the first dishes I made was an orange beef. I think the recipe might have been in a Rachael Ray magazine.

I made it a few times and we fell in love with the home version of this dish! It amazing how the zest and juice of just one orange can permeate the whole dish so well. Half the price and a quarter of the fat and calories of the restaurant version.  I don't think we've been back to PF Chang's since!

Photo courtesy of Scott

Orange Beef
adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe

- Zest of one orange
- 2.5 T olive oil
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T vinegar
- 1 lb. skirt steak, thinly sliced
- Peanuts, scallions (optional garnish)
- Assorted stir fry veggies (optional)

1. Place zest, juice, soy sauce olive oil and vinegar in bowl. Stir in beef.
2. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min.
3. Over high heat, cook meat (~2.5 min per side). Set aside meat and reserve any cooking liquid in a small bowl.
4. Wipe skillet clean and prepare ginger fried rice. Use reserved cooking liquid for rice flavoring.
5. Add in your favorite stir fry veggies: mushrooms, onions, peas, red peppers
6. Serve the beef over the rice. Garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week 82 Menu

Sunday: Orange Beef with fried rice
Monday: BLTs
Tuesday: Chicken Pad Thai (thanks for the link last week, Mommy Chic!)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Orange-scented lentil ragout with seared polenta
Friday: Homemade pizza with lots of veggies!
Saturday: Out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

CSA Goodness

One of my 2011 New Year's Resolutions was to increase our veggie intake by joining a CSA. Well, I finally got off my butt. Apparently, it was just too hard to manage in the first half of the year! :)

One of our friends in our Bible Study group runs a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) in the Daytona area. They buy fresh, organic, locally grown produce, assemble baskets, then deliver the produce to their customers. Unfortunately, they do not operate in the Jacksonville area. But, she pointed us to several companies that do serve our area! We chose Palmetto Organics. They have a lot of options for the size of the basket as well as a weekly or bi-weekly delivery option. Since I didn't want to be overwhelmed at first, we chose the "Small Harvest" delivered bi-weekly. All we have to do is leave a cooler with ice packs on the porch and we have fantastic produce ready for dinner!

Shelby really likes opening the cooler and bringing the veggies in the house. After we lay them out on the counter, she gets her camera and takes a picture.....just like Mommy!

This was our second basket. And, it has a lot of great fruits and veggies. I'm kind of a nerd, but I rub my hands together and channel my inner-chef to incorporate them into our meals for the week! I'm looking forward to a rhubarb crisp, a greenbean/celery salad, and some roasted garlic mushrooms. Yum!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Week 81 Menu

Sunday: Steak, potato, veggies
Monday: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos (GoodLife Eats)
Tuesday: Red Beans and Rice in the slow cooker (PW)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Homemade, oven-baked Chicken Nuggets
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 80 Menu

It's kind of a crazy week - Grandparents in town, business trip Wed - Fri. So, I guess I'm not really doing a lot of cooking. But, I'm trying to have meals prepared for Scott and Shelby while I'm out of town.

Sunday: Out for Mexican with the Grandparents!
Monday: Family decided on Italian Beef in the slow cooker (PW)
Tuesday: Going away dinner for a friend
Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie filling over rice
Thursday: "Curly Noodles" (fusili with butter and parmesan)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Date night!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Newest Chef

We went out to eat on Saturday night and the table next to us ordered one of those fabulous brownie desserts where they pour the flaming hot caramel over the brownie table side. Shelby decided she must have one. We were full and didn't want to be a small fortune for the dessert. So, I blurted out,

"We can make brownies together tomorrow." Wait......What?! What was I thinking? Making brownies with a two-year old. Well, I put it out there....guess I have to own it.

Shelby insisted we both wear our aprons and she was a very apt and eager student. She was very careful with each step and just wanted to be a good helper. She was great! And, she was so proud when we took that pan of cooked brownies out of the oven.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crossing Over

Well, folks. I did it. After five years of dragging my heels, I have purchased an Apple Computer. I am now the proud owner of a Mac Book Air.  I have been a staunch PC user. I don't necessarily do well with change.  My loving and adorable husband has slowly been chipping away at my defenses.

My PC laptop was closing in on five years old. The battery life was down to 30-40 minutes (doesn't make it so "mobile," eh?). The performance was just getting slower. The old girl just couldn't quite keep up with fancier, more intricate websites and applications.

So, we went to the Apple Store. Ahhh, the Apple Store. There are 20 employees wandering around the store, but none of them seem to want to help you.....even when you're more than eager to make a large purchase. I would rather go to a root canal appointment.  We ordered mine off the internet and tracked it (via FedEx) from China to our doorstep! All in less than a week. Impressive.

We spent the weekend trying to move over all my files. The regular documents weren't so hard, but getting everything from iTunes was pretty stress-inducing. I know, I know....I could have made an appointment at the Genius Bar at The Store. A Real Housewives marathon sounds more appealing.

The only things I miss so far are 1) The scalding heat on my lap as I "compute" and 2) The incessant whirring fan that resembles an aircraft carrier.

Week 79 Menu

Sunday: Grilled pork chops with sweet potato fries
Monday: Cheese and veggie quesadillas
Tuesday: Chicken Thighs with Balsamic & Garlic Sauce (from "For the Love of Cooking") with portobello mushrooms....didn't get to this one last week
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza with lots of veggies
Saturday: Out

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 78 Menu

Sunday: Family's choice from a Burger Recipe Round-up on homemade buns; winner: Western BBQ Burger! Served with sweeet potato fries
Monday: Stuffed Shells from freezer
Tuesday: Chicken Thighs with Balsamic & Garlic Sauce (from "For the Love of Cooking") with portobello mushrooms
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork in the slow cooker (PW)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Monday, July 18, 2011

Say What??

This weekend, Shelby dismounted from the couch in an unconventional method and landed on rear. Like any good two-year old, she wanted the boo-boo fixed. She approached Scott (who was unaware of the aforementioned couch gymnastics) and demanded loudly,

"Daddy, kiss my bottom."


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 77 Menu

Sunday: Out to dinner with an out-of-town friend
Monday: Mac & Cheese Muffins (idea from Vanessa!)
Tuesday: Yorkshire Pudding (TWFD) with cranberry sauce
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Spicy Pork Tenderloin on the grill with veggies
Friday: Leftover pork with Schezuan sauce with rice and veggies
Saturday: Out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why, Thank You

Saturday morning we were on our way out the house. Scott was driving. I was rescheduling a haircut on my phone. After I hung up, I realized I forgot my purse. 

Touching moment: Shelby was very concerned and said,"Oh no, Mommy. You use mine?"

Sad moment: My 2-year old had not one, but two purses in the car for our outing.

Ironic moment: The purse she offered me was one of my old ones I had given her to play with.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken. Who doesn't  love this classic. Oh my gosh. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Growing up in Rockford, there was a Chinese take-out place called Happy Wok. "Happy Wok" makes you shake your head a little, but it doesn't hold a candle to Ying's Chinee Takee Outee in Jacksonville. That, my friends, is appalling....but I digress.

G.T.C (General Tso's Chicken) and some fried rice were my absolute favorites. Just fantastic. Surely, there is nothing authentic about the dish, but it's a universally-recognized dish. And, it satisfies a specific craving.

A couple weeks ago I made a slow cooker version of General Tso's Chicken from the blog: A Year of Slow Cooking. It was okay, but was more of an Asian-tasting chicken dish than G.T.C. It certainly didn't satisfy the taste I was looking for. Well, leave it to the Bitten Word boys (what is there not to love from that picture?!). They pitted their favorite Chinese take-out G.T.C against this recipe from Food and Wine. When all was said and done, their recipe beat out the take-out competitor. Home-cooked Chinese beat out restaurant food??? I wanted needed to cook this dish in my kitchen!!!

For such a complex flavor, the preparation was fairly simple. I had all the ingredients on hand. Bonnie's notes:
- Ensure the ingredients are organized as to whether they went in the chicken marinade or the sauce. Some of the same ingredients are used in both.
- The sauce came together faster than I thought it would. That was a welcome surprise!
- Pork is a perfect substitute for the chicken thighs (in the skillet, they cook up the same)
- Be prepared for oil splatter while cooking the meat! It was pretty explosive at times!!
- I would not make this dish for a dinner party because you have to cook the meat in batches as to not crowd the pan.

The result was AWESOME!!!! The taste was very close between this recipe and its restaurant cousin. And, of course, since I cooked it at home, it just felt healthier. I will make this again and again (and again and.....)!

Gen tsos8
Photo courtesy of The Bitten Word

General Tso's Chicken
from The Bitten Word

Total time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 large egg white
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil with the egg white, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch. Add the chicken, stirring to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the chile-garlic sauce, sugar and the remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture, add it to the pan and cook until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, one piece at a time, and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until very browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Beware of oil splatter!!

Drain the chicken on paper towels and immediately add to the sauce along with the scallions. Cook just until coated, about 30 seconds. Serve right away.

Week 76 Menu

Sunday: General Tso's Pork with rice (Bitten Word)
Monday: Veggie Stir Fry with any leftover rice
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Ribs
Wednesday: Quick bite before church
Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie filling (from freezer) over noodles
Friday: Pork Tenderloin on the grill with veggies
Saturday: Out.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Big Girl!!

If you've spent even 5 minutes with my daughter, you know she suffers from an excess of personality and has a stubborn streak (the internet is screaming "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!").

We've been trying to potty train Shelby for almost a year. We have the little potty, we bought Pull-ups, and we've been talking up how cool using the potty is. But, every time we bought it up, Shelby pitched a fit. The back arched, the legs went limp and the screaming ensued. We decided, along with her teachers, to lay off the "potty talk" and just let her do it on her own time.

Well, a month ago Shelby decided she was gonna sit on the potty, she was gonna to wear underpants, and she wasn't looking back. Amen!

She's basically went from 0 to "mastering #1" in a week! She's been wearing her Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse underpants during the day exclusively. Even at nap, she's going diaper-free. She told me if she pee-pees in her pants, "Kitty will be sad." So, she wants to be sure to use the potty. Don't judge. Whatever works!

Now, she wants to try out every potty in town. She almost fell over with glee when she first saw an automatic flushing toilet!

"#2 training" hasn't been quite as smooth. I feel it's going to be another battle of wills to get this one  mastered! Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week 75 Menu

Well, I took last week off from menu planning because I was in NJ for work. Now I'm looking forward to getting back into the cooking groove!

Sunday: General Tso's Chicken (Bitten Word)
Monday: Cookout at a friend's
Tuesday: Veggie Frittata (GoodLife Eats)
Wednesday: Quick bite before church
Thursday: Pollo Asado (Pioneer Woman)
Friday: Ukrainian Chicken Liver Tart (Olive Bloom)....trying a new recipe!
Saturday: Out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Becoming One of the Natives

I was in New Jersey for work last week. There were two of us from the Jacksonville warehouse plus others from the other warehouses around the country. Having only been with VW for three months, I was the "new person." I was making such a good impression on my counterparts. But, when I ordered my salad, I ordered a:

"PE-cann Crusted Chicken Salad"......not a "Pe-CAHN Crusted Chicken Salad" like a normal person would order. Pe-CAHN?! Seriously?! Who am I?

Everyone at the table whipped their heads my way, laughed and called me the Southern Belle. I was horrified. What have I become?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 74 Menu

Sunday: Father's Day dinner at friends' house!
Monday: Chicken Enchiladas (GoodLife Eats)
Tuesday: Stuffed Shells from freezer (TWFD)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (Smitten Kitchen)
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 73 Menu

Sunday: Burgers, roasted potatoes, & veggies
Monday: Italian Beef
Tuesday: House guests are doing the cooking!
Wednesday: Quick bite at home
Thursday: Pizza at the beach for art festival
Friday: Quesadillas with various fillings/toppings. We've been talking about them and now I have a craving!
Saturday: Out? Something at home? Leaving it open to whatever our mood is at the time!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Me?!

The most offensive and incendiary language does not involve a four-letter word. It's a three-letter word....uttered by a two-year old: WHY.

Shelby has learned this horrible, filthy word - presumably at school. The first time the "w-word" is used, it's not so bad.....just a little kid being cute. But, by the quadrillionth time, people are shooting dirty looks. I am incensed.
Exhibits 1 & 2:

Shelby: What's this?
Me: It's a butterfly.
Shelby: Why?

Shelby: What's this [pointing to the bottom of her shoe]?
Me: It's dirty.
Shelby: Why?
Me: You walked through some mud.
Shelby: Why?

Case. And. Point.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week 72 Menu

Sunday: Burgers, homemade buns, & a squash gratin (inspired by this recipe & featuring squash from our dinner guests' garden!)
Monday: Roasted Potato & Spinach Frittata (from Food for My Family)
Tuesday: Squash Pancakes (our friends left me with A LOT of squash!)
Wednesday: a quick sandwich dinner for a busy evening
Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie from freezer
Friday: Homemade Pizza (Clear-out-the-Crisper Drawer toppings)
Saturday: Out

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sesame Street - 21st Century

It's a pretty well-known fact that Shelby loves the iPad. She also loves Elmo, but she will not tolerate any sketches in Sesame Street that do not contain the lovable, talk-in-the-third person Muppet. Yay for us.

How excited were we when we found the PBS kids app that features Elmo vignettes with various celebrities!

Her favorite segment features Amy Poehler explaining the word "Challenge." I love Amy Poehler [side note: she and Tina Fey are my favorites]. Now Shelby requests "Miss Amy" on the iPad. What kind of world do we live in where hilarious, raunchy, "Baby Mama" Amy Poehler is referred to as "Miss Amy?" I love it.

For your viewing pleasure......

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week 71 Menu

Sunday: Date night! We're trying out a new restaurant on the ocean!
Monday: Burgers on the grill with hoomemade buns
Tuesday: Asparagus Ravioli (Bitten Word) - there always seems to be one recipe I don't get to during the previous week!
Wednesday: Stuffed Shells (TWFD) from the freezer
Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie over noodles from the freezer
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week 70 Menu

Sunday: Meatball Burger on homemade buns and grilled corn on the cob
Monday: General Tso's Chicken in slow cooker
Tuesday: Asparagus Ravioli (Bitten Word)
Wednesday: Dinner at Church.
Thursday: Whole Roasted Chicken & Crispy Potato Roast (Smitten Kitchen)
Friday - Saturday: Grandparents here!....hard to say what the plans are!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 69 Menu

Sunday: Homemade meatballs and marinara
Monday: Tandoori Chicken Wraps (from GoodLife Eats)...didn't get to it last week
Tuesday: Yorkshire Pudding with cranberry sauce on top (um yeah.....hooked on YP).
Wednesday: Dinner at Church.
Thursday: Pizza at Joseph's for Artwalk
Friday: General Tso's Chicken in the slow cooker (a TWFD menu poster suggestion!)
Saturday: Out

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week 68 Menu

Sunday: Breaded roundsteak and potato hash
Monday: Meatloaf from freezer
Tuesday: Yorkshire Pudding (from TWFD)....I can only read about these so long without eating one myself!
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Tandoori Chicken Wraps (from GoodLife Eats)
Saturday: Family Day at work.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Slice of Bread

Last week I posted about making my first loaf of edible bread. But, it was a little dense and it lacked a little something. I didn't know what the King Arthur flour people meant by "Baker's Special Dry Milk." Yes, I know: Bakers everywhere are scoffing. I tried another loaf of bread with 1/4 cup of my Vital Wheat Gluten, instead. I think it's funny they sell a box of gluten in the organic aisle next to all the gluten-free products and rice or barley flour! It. Was. Awesome! The gluten helped the bread rise much higher and the resulting bread loaf was SO GOOD!

But, I did run into another snag. I tried to slice up my loaf of bread, but the pieces looked so ragged and uneven. I knew enough to use a serrated knife, but that's about it! How can you enjoy a sandwich of homemade bread if you can't cut a decent slice of bread?!

I mean seriously. How embarrassing. I can't figure out how to successfully slice up a loaf of bread! I felt ridiculous Googling "how to slice homemade bread for sandwiches." Not to disappoint, The Googler found several dozen blogs for me to read. Several people suggested electric knives, but I found success in the simple technique of not putting any pressure on the knife, using a sawing motion and being vigilant to keep an even slice going with the knife.

I think we have a winner!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week 67 Menu

Sunday: Oven Baked Beef Ribs & Oven Fries
Monday: Pumpkin Pancakes
Tuesday: Squash Meatballs and marinara
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Chicken Cacciatore in the slow cooker (new recipe)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

Last year I took the plunge into making my own Pizza Dough and Hamburger Buns. And, I think I've gotten pretty good at making them. I almost prefer homemade pizza to restaurant pizza (except for Joseph's, of course!). But, a good sandwich bread has been rather elusive. I made one loaf, but it was far too dense to enjoy (read: barely edible).

I was putting away my groceries - which included a package of King Arthur Whole Wheat flour. For whatever reason, I read the blurb on the the back of the package and found a recipe for No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread. These people must know a thing or two about making a good loaf of bread, right?

I gave it a try - with the molasses. I didn't know what the heck this "Baker's Special Dry Milk" was. So, I left it out. And, I only used 1.5c whole wheat flour - with the balance being all-purpose. The bread turned out very nicely! It was quite tasty and good for schmearing some cream cheese on or making a sandwich with. The orange juice in the recipe threw me for a little loop, but you can only taste it if you know what to taste for. The bread was a little too dense for my family. I did some research on King Arthur's site and I think that "Special Dry Milk" will act like the box o' gluten I use for the hamburger buns.

No-Knead Wheat Bread
from King Arthur Flour's package of Whole Wheat flour....and website

1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses, maple syrup, dark corn syrup, or brown sugar corn syrup
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour, white whole wheat preferred

1) Heavily grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. This loaf tends to stick, so be sure to grease the pan thoroughly with non-stick vegetable oil spray.

2) Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes; an electric mixer set on high speed works well here. You should have a very sticky dough. It won't be pourable, but neither will it be kneadable. Scoop it into the prepared pan.

3) Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes; it should just about rise to the rim of the pan, perhaps just barely cresting over the rim. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Uncover the bread, and bake it for about 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. The bread is done when it's golden brown on top, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers between 190°F and 195°F. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired; this will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread completely before cutting it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 66 Menu

Sunday: Fish and chips (so very "Easter," I know!)
Monday: Spinach and Chicken Enchiladas from the freezer
Tuesday: Red Beans and Rice (Savour Fare) in the slow cooker
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Chicken Tikka Masala (Jamie Oliver)...never got to this one last week
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Mother's Prayer

Last week Tina Fey was interviewed on Fresh Air (with Terry Gross). She is just hysterical! She has the perfect combination of nerdiness, snarkiness, and just a tad too much academic reference in her humor. And, might I say, her Sarah Palin impersonation cannot be rivaled.
Terry had Tina read a poem from her new book "Bossypants" that almost made me drive off the road. It is simply genius. Enjoy.

A Mother's Prayer for Its Child
by Tina Fey from Bossypants
First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Letter to Drivers

Dear Drivers of Florida (especially little, old ladies in late model, silver Toyota Corollas merging onto I-295 during rush hour with the right blinker still on),

Please do NOT come to a complete stop at the end of the ramp waiting for a space to open up. You're going to get us all KILLED!!! You and your little car are going to get squashed like a bug! The on-ramp and subsequent merge lane is designed specifically for you to come to speed and merge into the traffic already on the highway.

Let me know if any of this doesn't make sense to you, and I can choose an alternate commute route ASAP.

Channeling the road rage,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 65 Menu

Sunday: Whatever meat and veggies look good at the grocery store today :)
Monday: Chicken Tikka Masala (Jamie Oliver)......from a suggestion last week. Thanks!!
Tuesday: Italian Beef (PW)
Wednesday: Chik-Fil-A with church group
Thursday: Pizza at Joseph's for Art Walk at the beach
Friday - Saturday: Still up in the air

Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Soul

Shelby and I sat down to watch some pre-bedtime Mickey. Before I could hit the "On Demand" button, Shelby pointed to the show that was on and said, "No. Watch this!"

It was Wheel of Fortune.

The show had as much appeal as a Dora and Mickey episode combined. I have heard of friends who learned their alphabets from the show. Maybe we're on to something!

How is it that Vanna looks the same as when she actually had to turn the letters? And Pat Sajak looks so old now....but has managed to keep the poufy hair?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Raising a Southern Belle

Shelby was "scolding" us tonight and said, "No ma'am!"* It was classic.

Scott and I were born and raised in Cleveland, OH and Rockford, IL, respectively. First generation immigrants to Florida, if you will. Our daughter, however, was born here in Jacksonville, FL. She is a native Southerner and Floridian. Are we Floridians by proxy?...some provision of the 14th amendment? Oh my. Is Shelby our "anchor baby" to get us accepted into our adopted culture?

My grandma was the child of first generation immigrants from Sicily. She used to tell us how she was the translator between her family and the non-Sicilian community. Her mother wanted to buy a colander and could only explain it as "pasta stay, water go." Pretty clever, but you can see her need for a translator. From all accounts, my great-grandma lived in this country for 60 years and still needed a translator most of the time!

Every time I strain my pasta, I remember her story and smile!

*For the Yankees in the readership, that translates to "I don't think so! Please stop that behavior at once!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beet Tian

I finally went back to the Farmer's Market in Neptune Beach. I visited several years ago, but was pretty disappointed. There was a surprising lack of food and an over abundance of a Farmer's Market!

I went back last weekend and was happy to see more local food than driftwood sculptures! I chose some fantastic strawberries, spinach and beets. The beets are a departure from my usual fact, I'm not sure I've ever had a beet. But, I remembered a recent episode of The Splendid Table where Margaret Rose Schulman shared some summer, vegetable gratin recipes.

I made her Beet Tian (sounds fancy, huh?). It was attractive because it can be served hot, room temperature or cold. Both Scott and I thought it was pretty tasty! Even though it's a solely-vegetable dish (besides the bacon I added....), it's very  filling and satisfying. I added the red pepper and it gave the dish a nice sweetness. Next time, I will increase the rice (accounted for below).

Beet Tian
from Margaret Rose Schulman on The Splendid Table

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, to taste, minced
4 beets, cut in 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
1 cup Arborio rice, cooked
6 slices of bacon
2 eggs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (fresh or dry)


1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin dish.

2. Chop up bacon. Cook in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Set bacon to the side, but keep fat in skillet.

3. Add the onion & red pepper. Cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for about 30 seconds, until it begins to smell fragrant, and stir in the beets. Cook, stirring often, until the beets are translucent but not mushy, 5 to 10 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the thyme and rice, and remove from the heat.

4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cheese. Stir in the beet mixture and combine well. Scrape into the gratin dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the gratin is sizzling. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.