Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rough Week

It's was a rough start of the week for all the Lawrences.

Scott: Tweaked his back and was walking (shuffling) like an old man.

Pete: Going through a growth spurt and eating non-stop.

Bonnie: Caught Pete's cold and has lost her voice. Also, she's facilitating Pete's growth spurt with increased overnight feedings.

Shelby: Wet her bed (couldn't make it to the potty because there were monsters on the floor) and spilled her cereal.

Good thing it's only a four-day week!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 122 Menu

Sunday: Hurricane party at our house! Pork tenderloin roulade with roasted potatoes and corn on the grill; strawberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert (we brought this to a friend's house last night, ate it all up, and I decided we needed a reprise!)
Monday: Pork fajitas (with all the fixins) and caramelized brussel sprouts
Tuesday: Herbed chicken legs in the slow cooker with mashed sweet potato
Wednesday: Mellow Mushroom pizza with small group at church (I'll have a little vegan pizza)
Thursday: Kale frittata and roasted mushrooms
Friday - Saturday: Grandparents in town!

I'm going to try these guys out for snacks/breakfasts on the go: Baked Oatmeal Bars

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week 121 Menu

Back to work for me! So, back to the world of quickly-prepared dinners! Glad I stocked up that freezer! We're currently on our way back home from Disney so I'm doubly glad we had stuff in the freezer to rely on!

Sunday: Back from vacation. FFY.
Monday: Eggplant Parmesan
Tuesday: Stuffed shells from freezer
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Italian Beef in slow cooker
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Thursday, May 17, 2012

English Muffins

I was looking at the recipes I've posted over the past couple years and I realized I've tried out quite a few "active yeast" recipes: sandwich bread, pizza dough, hamburger buns. My latest attempt is English Muffins. They are one of my favorite breakfast foods! I found the recipe on Pinterest. I followed the link to a blog focused on how tasty and cheap homemade food can be. She priced out English Muffins to be $0.08 per serving! Whoa!

These muffins take very minimal active preparation time and a lot of time waiting for the dough to rise....perfect for a girl taking care of a 2-month old! I've found the key to a good active yeast bread/dough is don't rush it: 1. letting the yeast bloom in warm water for 10 minutes before adding it to the flour and 2. allowing the dough enough time to rise properly.

I've made the English Muffins a few times now. This time they really turned out great! I learned a few things:
    - Even after letting the dough rise the correct amount of time, I still didn't have big "nooks and crannies" inside the muffins. I guess it's a trade secret that requires special machinery and engineering to make! So, I'm not too disappointed!
    - I also made sure both sides of the muffin were generously coated with non-stick spray. That way the muffins had a nice, crisp surfaces.
    - And, this time I used a large biscuit cutter. When I formed them by hand, the English Muffins ended up looking like a hamburger bun.
    - I substituted in almond milk and vegan butter and it turned out just difference in taste.

English Muffins
from Budget Bytes

1 t active dry yeast
1 T sugar
1/2 c milk
2 T butter
3 c flour, divided
3/4 t
1/4 c cornmeal
Non-stick spray

1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of warm water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Let sit about 5 minutes or until foamy on top.

2. Combine 1.5 cups of the flour and salt in a stand mixer. 

3. Combine the milk and butter in a small bowl. Microwave the milk/butter for 30 seconds, stir and microwave again for 30 seconds until butter is melted. 

4. Pour the yeast and milk mixtures into the flour. Mix until it has combined into a pasty mix. Adding 1/4 cup at a time, stir in more flour until the dough forms a soft, slightly sticky ball that pulls away from the bowl. Knead for an additional 5 minutes.

5. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that has been coated in non-stick spray. Lightly spray the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double in size (about 45 min - 1 hr).

6. Punch the dough down, shape it into another ball, cover the bowl/dough and let rise a second time until doubled in size (another 45 min - 1 hr).

7. Punch down the dough again and turn it out onto a well floured countertop. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut the dough into circles. When you can't cut out any more circles, gently ball the remaining dough, roll again and cut more.

8. Place the cut dough circles onto a sheet pan that has been liberally covered in cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal on top of the muffins. Cover loosely with a damp towel and let rise, once more, until double in size (another 45 minutes).

9. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Carefully transfer the fluffy, risen muffins to the hot skillet with a spatula (be careful not to deflate the muffins too much). 

10. Cook the muffins, in batches, in the skillet until they are golden brown and crispy on each side (~7 min per side). Let the muffins cool on a wire rack before attempting to slice open.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Corn Report

As you know, I grew up in Northern Illinois. For people not familiar with Illinois, I say my hometown is "outside Chicago." Close enough for most. For those who know Illinois geography, I'm more specific: Rockford. To the amusement of my brother, Rockford's motto is "A Different Kind of Greatness*." Makes you feel like you're living in a top-notch town, eh? But, I digress....

You didn't have to drive too far out of town to be surrounded by soybean and corn fields. I'm not sure how it started, but after Jamie and I moved away, my parents would give us the "corn report" throughout the summer. It included language to describe the corn analogous to a wine tasting. It became somewhat of a family joke to wait for that corn report!

This weekend, we cooked up our first Florida corn of the season. Shelby hasn't eaten corn on the cob yet, but I had a feeling she would love eating right off the cob. So, I bought an ear just for her. We asked if she wanted some corn and she sneered at it. We insisted she try some of Daddy's. After one bite, her eyes got wide, she declared it good and wanted her own ear. Just as we thought!

Scott has gotten really good at grilling corn on the cob on his grill. The first few attempts yielded mealy corn. Scott researched the issue and found the secret: soak the corn beforehand. And, man oh man, that made all the difference!

Corn on the Cob

1 ears of corn per person - still in the husk
Kitchen twine

1. Peel husks back from ear of corn, but keep them attached!
2. Soak ears of corn in large pot of water for 30 - 60 minutes.
3. Dry off corn, spread butter on ears and season with salt.
4. Wrap corn back up in the husk. Secure with twine.
5. Cook on grill over indirect heat until husks are charred - about 12 minutes.

* I have the same amusement with Winn Dixie's motto: "Getting Better all the time." In my head I hear: "We know we suck, but we're working on it, ok?" And, then there's Publix's motto: "We will never knowingly disappoint you." To me it's "We just aren't smart enough to tell if we've offended you in any way." Mottos shouldn't be self-deprecating. I'm just saying.......

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 120 Menu

Sunday: Pork loin roulade (stuffed with greens, quinoa, and craisins), corn on the grill and salad
Monday: Garlic parmesan chicken from freezer with roasted broccoli
Tuesday: Eggplant Parmesan (cheese-less for me) and peas
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Beef stroganoff (from freezer) and leftover eggplant parmesan with veggies
Friday - Sunday: Disneyworld!

On my last week of maternity leave, I'll be making up some "goodies" to have on hand:
  - Packets of dried beans cooked up and ready for hummus/enchiladas/etc!
  - English muffins
  - Enchilada sauce
  - Hamburger/hot dog buns

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ditch the Cow

Peter is seven weeks old and I haven't even talked about him here since he was born! It's hard to write a blog post one-handed! He is a GREAT baby. He's much lower-key than his sister - I love you Shelby, but, man oh man, you were a demanding baby! My only complaint is that his little digestive system can't handle cow's milk. And, that means Mama can't have any dairy. Say WHAT????

No milk, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, or ice cream??? OMG. WTF. Dairy is everywhere. Read some of your labels and you'd be surprised where you'll find it: our go-to pancake mix, granola bars (even non-chocolate ones), meatballs (parmesan, remember?). My boss put it the best, "That must be really hard for a foodie like you." You would think so. No doubt it's a huge change. But, with the vegan movement becoming so popular, cutting dairy out is probably a lot easier now than Mamas had it in the past.

I turned to the vegans for help because they are experts at eating delicious food without dairy! There seems to be a lot of focus on satisfying the new vegan's craving for dairy since that is harder to cut out the diet than meat (in my personal opinion). With the dairy cut out, I'm figuring I'm only one documentary away from becoming a full-fledged vegan (I am very susceptible to their scare tactics!). But, I have a freezer full of chicken and cheese (more on that later). When that stash depletes, we'll see what happens.

Cooking for a "blended family:" Shelby and Scott LOVE their cheese. So, now I prepare a lot of individual portions for dinner: pizzas, casseroles, sauces to accommodate both parties.

Snacking: I love to grab a yogurt or cheese/crackers for an easy, healthy snack. Now, I find myself grabbing carbs for a snack. It's a lot of empty calories for not so filling of a snack. I guess I should listen to Mom and "grab a piece of fruit" for a snack. Funny enough, I find myself pushing fruit on Shelby for a quick snack, too. Maybe Mom was right?

Freezer Stash: I've been known to be a bit organized. And, I've also been known to cook up a storm to put up in my freezer. So, needless to say, my freezer was full when Pete made his arrival. Unfortunately, that freezer was full of dishes that contain dairy: ricotta-stuffed shells, parmesan-laden meatballs, pizza dough to be a vehicle for get the idea.

Good Things (Unexpected or Otherwise)
Taking off the Baby Weight: While not being able to eat dairy is a big change, it's also great for not being able to easily grab a mountain of ice cream at night. And, while an extremely tasty ingredient in many dishes, cheese can add a lot of fat and calories....if used properly, of course. :)

Almond Milk: A lot yummier than I thought it might be. Also, it contains twice the calcium of cow milk. Seriously! Who knew!

Creativity in the Kitchen: Recently, I've been eating a lot of greens (kale/spinach/chard), roasted vegetables and grains (polenta, quinoa). And, I've been eating them in some delicious combinations. Fantastic!

Vegan resources:
    - Ellen DeGeneres & Portia de Rossi became vegans and hired a personal chef - Roberto Martin. He is not a vegan chef by training, but adapted many recipes to eliminate the animal products. The title of his book hooked me: Vegan Cooking for Carnivores. He's got some incredibly tasty and filling food!
    - Vegans are avid bloggers. And, they have some great dairy-free substitutes for popular dishes. Also, my favorite cooking blogs often tag their posts as "Vegan" or "Vegetarian." So, it's easy to find new ideas.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week 119 Menu

Sunday: Birthday dinner for my dad - pork chops, baked apples, green bean fries, salad, and chocolate cake!
Monday: Yorkshire pudding with cranberry sauce
Tuesday: Dry BBQ rub chicken thighs in slow cooker with oven-baked pearl onion poppers (experiment!)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Chicken thigh with cranberry sauce and roasted broccoli
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: Out

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Green Bean Fries

Ahhh. The spring growing season is in full force here in Florida! I have learned to eat a lot of Florida's locally-grown fare: greens, kale, brussel sprouts,..yum!! We also get giant bags of green beans. The beans are huge and fantastic, but there's only so many boiled green beans a family can eat!

Cue the green bean fry! Truly you can make a "fry" out of any vegetable, but the shape of the green bean lends itself perfectly to a fry! I've made tempura-battered green beans before, but it's messy, oily, and tedious to fry them in small batches (but also quite yummy!). So, instead, let's try oven-baked fries. And, people, I believe we have a winner!!! I made them this weekend and they were so good that they were requested again for later that week! I believe we will be eating a lot of these guys this summer!

Green Bean Fries

1/2 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
1 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c flour
2 eggs
2 T water

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Set up a breading station: flour in one bowl, eggs and water in another, and breadcrumbs in a Ziploc bag.
3. Cover beans in flour (shake off excess). Roll in egg wash, then toss in the breadcrumb bag. Shake up bag to coat beans.
4. Lay out fries on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Serve hot with any choice of dipping sauces.