Monday, July 30, 2012

Menu #13

Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Last week’s menu never happened, because Sunday night after posting the menu Xavier came down with an ugly virus.  Once again, the week was filled with soups and soft foods.  This is also the reason there were no posts last week, because I was busy playing Nurse Mama.  I’m happy to say X-man is getting better!  He may be sticking to soup and Jell-O for a few more days, but Mama and Papa need texture in their food again.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get through this week’s menu, and here it is . . .

Monday:  Panko Chicken Cutlets w/ pasta & marinara

Tuesday:  Beef & Barley-Stuffed Peppers w/ avocado-tomato salad

Wednesday:  Garlic Shrimp w/ polenta & eggplant caponata

Thursday:  Sausage & Beans w/ cornbread muffins
The sausage & beans is going to be a one-pot dish with onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, andouille sausage (Henry’s makes their own all-natural sausages without MSG or nitrates, and they are outstanding), and Mayacoba beans (frozen, leftover from 2 weeks ago).  I’ll freeze any leftover cornbread muffins and just take them out as needed. 

Friday:  Leftovers
I also have Book Club on this evening for “Secret Lives of Wives,” and I’m bringing along Nutella Blondies…yummy!

Saturday:  Eat Out

Sunday:  BBQ Chicken w/ potato-pepper foil packets & cucumber-tomato salad

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Menu #12

Tomato-Red Pepper Soup

This week is filled with simple, quick dinners because I have a lot going on this week, and here it is…

Monday:  Big Salad w/ Steak, Blue Cheese, & Red Wine Vinaigrette served w/ wheat rolls
I’m using up leftover tri tip for these salads along with any leftover vegetables. 

Also on this morning, Xavier is having a fence painting playdate.  I’m filling buckets with water and tinting them with food dye.  The kids will paint the fence with it, and it comes right off with water!  Then, we’ll all have a picnic in the backyard.

Tuesday:  Parmesan Fish Sticks w/ homemade potato chips & carrot sticks served with yogurt-herb dip
Once again, I'm going to attempt making potato chips with my new Pampered Chef microwave potato chip maker.  The first attempt didn’t quite work out because I didn’t cut them thin enough.  I’ll post about them later this week along with the yogurt-herb dip and parmesan fish sticks.  J 

Wednesday:  BLTs on whole-grain bread w/ Tomato-Red Pepper Soup 

Thursday:  Panko Chicken Cutlets w/ ratatouille & whole-wheat pasta

Friday:  Chicken Wraps w/ ratatouille pasta salad
I’m using all leftovers from Thursday night—the chicken for the wraps and making a pasta salad with the chilled ratatouille and pasta. 

Saturday:  Eat Out

Sunday:  BBQ Chicken w/ grilled corn on the cob & leftover pasta salad

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lil' Chefs School: Waffles

As I’ve mentioned before, every month I teach a fun cooking class for preschoolers from my house.  This month was waffles!  We made buttermilk waffles and brownie waffles.  I wasn’t particularly happy with the texture of the brownie waffles, so I’m going to have to tweak that, but the buttermilk waffles were delish!  Here’s the recipe we used…

Buttermilk Waffles

3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C buttermilk
1/3 C Canola oil
1 egg
2 t sugar
½ t cinnamon
3/4 t vanilla extract

Yields:  4 waffles

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, oil, egg, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla; mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat a waffle iron and follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. 
I freeze the leftovers and just throw them in the toaster whenever we want them.  I actually make Xavier PB&J waffle sandwiches for his school lunches and he loves them!  J

Mayacoba Beans

These beans are very buttery with a mild herb flavor.  They are wonderful hot out of the pot over rice or chilled in a bean salad.  I used them as a side dish along with steamed brown rice with grilled vegetable kabobs and chicken sausage.  The leftover beans are stored away in my freezer for later use…maybe a bean salad.  Here’s the recipe for the Mayacoba beans

1 lb Mayacoba beans
4 garlic cloves, smashed
A bunch of herbs (I used thyme, rosemary, oregano, & bay leaf)
6 oz salt pork
About 12 cups of water
Salt, tt

Pick through your beans, looking for discolored, shriveled, or broken pieces along with any pebbles.

Soak your beans overnight or use the quick soak process (see the black bean post for details).  Rinse them well after soaking and before cooking.

For the herbs, I leave them on the stem and tie them all together with kitchen twine (the French culinary term is “bouquet garni,” which means garnished bouquet).  This makes it really easy to remove the stems and leave only the herb leaves behind to flavor your bean liquor. 

I happened to be out of twine this time, so I just cut an extra long piece of thyme as a substitute and it actually worked! 

Place the beans in a large pot along with the garlic, bouquet garni, salt pork, and water.  Place the pot over high heat to bring to a boil.  Skim any foam and turn down the heat so the beans are on a simmer.  Cover the pot loosely, stirring occasionally.  Cook until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes to 2 hours.  At this point, you may salt the beans to taste. 

The cooking time will largely depend on what kind of soaking method you used and how long you soaked.  I soaked my beans for 2 nights and they were done in 1 hour.  If you are going to soak the beans for more than 24 hours, place them in the refrigerator. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Menu #11

This past week was a bit muddled and chaotic with going to Visalia for my aunt’s funeral and Laddie, my husband, getting an extremely bad sinus infection (Yes, it’s his real name and not an abbreviation.).  There was a lot of soup that replaced last week’s menu.  I look forward to dinners that are not in liquid form this week, and here it is…

Monday:  Chicken Tacos w/ homemade salsa, black beans, & Mexican brown rice

Tuesday:  Rescheduled Going-Away BBQ Dinner for Cody:  Tri Tip, shrimp kabobs, corn & black bean salad, chocolate banana cream pie
With my husband being so sick, we didn’t want him to infest anyone else with his germs so we rescheduled for this date. 

Wednesday:  Leftovers 

Thursday:  Veg & Cheese-Stuffed Potatoes w/ green salad
Since I didn’t make it to the Farmer’s Market last week, I’m going to try to get there this week.  I’ll use whatever I buy there to stuff these potatoes.  In the winter, I do these in the oven, but in the warmer months I wrap them in foil and grill them.  I grill extra to have as lunches throughout the week too.  I’ll post more about these scrumptious taters later this week.  J 

Friday:  Dinner Out:  Lazy Dog Café
We are going out with some friends to watch Ted and have drinks and dinner at Lazy Dog Café.  Yay…I’m looking forward to some fun out!  J   

Saturday:  Chicken Sausage & Garden Pepper Grilled Pizza
The peppers in our garden are growing like crazy right now, so we are going to pick a couple of each, which are Cubanelle (sweet), Gypsy (sweet), banana peppers (hot), and jalapeno (hot) to use for pizza toppings.

Sunday:  Grilled bread slices w/ roasted garlic bulb & bruschetta, grilled fries with yogurt dip, and grilled fruit ice cream sundaes
We are going to just chill out by the grill on this evening and have appetizers and dessert for dinner.  I’m going to wrap a whole garlic bulb in foil with olive oil & salt and throw it on the grill until the garlic softens and just squeezes out of the peeling…it’s absolutely divine!  Along with this, I’m going to make a bruschetta topping with heirloom tomatoes from the garden (yellow pear & Mr. Stripey), basil from the garden, garlic, & olive oil…plain & simple yet so tasty!  We are also going to grill some potatoes slices on the grill to have with a Greek yogurt dip that will be seasoned with garlic & herbs from the garden (thyme, oregano, basil, & a tiny bit of mint).  For dessert, I’m going to half some stone fruit, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar, and grill.  We’ll have the warm grilled fruit over ice cream…yummy!   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Berry Trifle

I made this 4-berry trifle for our friends, The Craig Family’s, 4th of July barbecue.  When I arrived, I topped it with homemade whipped cream and garnished with white-chocolate dipped strawberries that had been dipped in blue sprinkles. 

2 6-oz containers blackberries
2 6-oz containers blueberries
2 6-oz containers raspberries
1 1-lb container strawberries
1/4 C organic cane sugar
1 t real vanilla extract
3 12-oz pound cakes, sliced into ½-in slices
1 C fruit spread (I used strawberry, but you can use whatever jelly, jam, or preserves you have)

Wash all the berries, pour them into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar, and add vanilla. 

Toss gently and set aside to macerate (the berries will soften and release their juices). 


Microwave fruit spread or heat in a small saucepot over medium until melted.   


Begin to layer the dessert beginning with pound cake.  You then brush the pound cake with the melted fruit spread and top with macerated berries.  Continue layering, remembering to leave room for whipped cream.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and garnishes.  I whipped 1 pt heavy whipping cream with powder sugar and vanilla extract to top it off along with these pretty strawberries.  J 

Layered Southwest Salad

Layered Southwest Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

4-5 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 C black beans, rinsed (or 15-oz can)

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 C Colby jack cheese, shredded

1 15-oz can corn, drained

Layer ingredients in a large bowl beginning with lettuce, then tomatoes, black beans, onion, cheese, and ending with corn.  Pour creamy cilantro-lime dressing (recipe below) over salad just before serving and gently toss.

Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing

1/2 C. chopped fresh cilantro

2 limes, juiced

1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 C plain Greek yogurt

1 t sugar

S&P, tt

To make the dressing, throw all the ingredients in either a food processor or blender and puree.  Pour the dressing in a container and leave in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Menu #10

I’m posting my weekly menu early this week because we have an unexpected trip to my hometown, Visalia, for my Aunt Frances’ funeral.  She’s lived a long life, so this will be more of a celebration of her life rather than a gloomy affair.  I have a huge family, so with occasions such as these it becomes more of a family reunion also.  Xavier will get to meet family he’s never met before or who haven’t seen him since he was an infant. 

Between the packing and family calls, I was able to set up a menu for next week and here it is...

Monday:  Food on the road…
We’ll be heading home on this day.

Tuesday:  Spanakopita Burgers w/ Tzatziki sauce & couscous-chickpea salad
I’m moving a couple things over from last week’s menu since we will be out of town and obviously won’t get to them. 

Wednesday:  Jalapeno Jelly-Glazed Salmon w/ quinoa & black beans 

Thursday:  Leftover Makeover:  Salmon Cakes w/ 2-grain salad
I’m using the leftover salmon to make cakes and mixing the couscous salad with the quinoa to make a 2-grain salad.

Friday:  Farmer’s Market Meal
I haven’t been to the Farmer’s Market in so long, so I’ve decided to take a visit there this week and Friday’s meal will consist of whatever I find there.  J  I also teach another Lil’ Chefs School on this day.  This class is all about waffles!  We are making French toast waffles, buttermilk waffles, and brownie waffles…yummy! 

Saturday:  Cody’s Going-Away Party:  Tri-Tip, Shrimp Kabobs, Broccoli Salad, Corn & Black Bean Salad, and Chocolate-Banana Cream Pie.
My husband’s best friend, Cody, is moving back to Texas for business, so we are throwing him a Going-Away BBQ Party! 

Sunday:  Leftover Party Food

Thursday, July 5, 2012

X-Man's Oatmeal

I have named this recipe X-Man’s Oatmeal because it is truly my 4-year-old son, Xavier’s, favorite meal whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I pack it in little glass dishes for his lunches, and he loves it!  I’ve been making it for him since he could eat, and he never gets tired of it.  It’s a berry & dried fruit oatmeal that is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with honey and apple juice.  I keep quick oats on hand at all times for a super quick and healthy meal at any time.  In this specific recipe I used raspberries and raisins because that’s what I had on hand, but the raspberries can be traded out with any berry and the raisins can be traded out with any dried fruit. 

X-Man’s Oatmeal

Yields:  2 servings

1 C apple juice (if using cider, use ¼ cider & ¼ water)
1/2 C quick oats
2 T raisins
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T honey
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
2 T milk

Bring apple juice to a boil and then add oats and raisins.  Cook oats for 1-2 minutes depending on what consistency you want, the longer it boils the thicker it will get.  Take it off the heat and add cinnamon and honey.  Place frozen berries at the bottom of serving bowl and top with oatmeal.  The berries will thaw under the hot oatmeal and also cool off the oatmeal to an edible temperature.  Add milk and stir until everything is combined. 

Cookie Monster Sandwiches

My son refers to these cookies as the “Cookie Monsters” because of their humungo size. I adapted this recipe from the “Good to the Grain:  Baking with Whole-Grain Flours” cookbook by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood.  The pictures in this cookbook are absolutely amazing and make my mouth water just paging through the book.  This cookie is a huge whole-wheat chocolate & nut cookie that is by far my favorite cookie at the moment.  They are salty, nutty, and vanilla-y (yes, I just made that up).  I usually just use whatever nuts and chocolate odds and ends I have in the pantry.  This particular time was dark chocolate and milk chocolate discs with walnut pieces, and they were oh so good!  I also use organic cane sugar that just makes better baked products in my opinion. 

My 9-year-old niece came over for a sleepover, which is always very exciting for my son.  I always make a fun dessert for them to munch on while they’re watching movies, so this time I decided to make ice cream sandwiches with these Cookie Monsters.  They were a huge hit!

Cookie Monsters

Dry Mix:

3 C whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1-1/2 t kosher salt

Wet Mix:

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-in pcs
1 C golden brown sugar
1 C organic cane sugar
2 eggs
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 C chocolate pcs
1/2 C nut pcs

Place 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350.  I always line my baking sheets with parchment paper when I’m baking cookies; it just insures no stuck cookies.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment; you’re going to bake both at the same time.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain. 

In a stand-up mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on low.  Add eggs one at a time until completely mixed in.  Add vanilla.  Scrape the sides of a bowl throughout this process to make sure everything is getting mixed in. 

Add flour mixture on low very slowly and only mix it until it’s barely incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Over-mixing at this point will give you tough cookies.  Dump the dough out onto a work surface and use your hands to fully incorporate ingredients. 

I usually do 6-8 huge cookies per sheet.  Bake for 16 – 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.

While the cookies were cooling, I pulled out the ice cream to soften.  When they were cool and ice cream was soft but not melted, I spread ice cream onto the cookies and made sandwiches.  I individually wrap each sandwich with plastic wrap and freeze immediately. 

These cookies are so big that I quartered each sandwich, which was plenty of yumminess for the kiddos.  J

Monday, July 2, 2012

Menu #9

Putting a menu together was really tough today because I am absolutely exhausted from this weekend’s festivities.  I had movie night with the girls on Friday, French cooking class Saturday, and San Diego County Fair on Sunday.  When I was in my 20s this was just another weekend, but now in my 30s Mondays hit hard with weekends like these.  Either way, I managed to get a menu together and here it is… 

Monday:  Grilled Shrimp Kabobs w/ broccoli salad
Never got to this yesterday since we went to the fair.

Tuesday:  Soy Chorizo & Red Potato Grilled Pizza w/ green salad
Wednesday:  4th of July!!!  J 
We are going to a friend’s house for a pool party and then heading home early enough to watch fireworks at the park next to our house.  For the pool party, I’m taking a triple berry trifle w/ white chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Thursday:  Grilled Chicken Sausage w/ slow-cooker Mayacoba beans, corn on the cob, and watermelon slices
Mayacoba beans are a goldish color bean that is similar to a pinto bean.  I usually just cook up a large pot with salt pork, a bunch or herbs, garlic and tomatoes.  It makes a great warm side dish on its own but they also make a great cold bean salad with the addition of other beans such as green bean, yellow wax bean, and cannellini beans.

Friday:  Leftover Bowls
I'm going to steam some brown rice and make bowls with the leftover shrimp, grilled vegs, beans, & sausage. 

Saturday:  Spanakopita Burgers in whole-wheat pitas w/ Tzatziki & couscous-chickpea salad
This is a spin on the Greek appetizer, spanakopita, which is a mixture of spinach, garlic, and feta in between layers of phyllo dough.  I got this recipe from a very old Rachel Ray show that I saw about 6 years ago, and I’ve made it quite often since then.  It’s a turkey burger with spinach, garlic, and feta cheese mixed in served in a pita with a cucumber-yogurt sauce called Tzatziki.  The couscous salad is made with whole-wheat couscous, chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, oregano, and basil. 

Sunday:  Grilled Salmon w/ leftover couscous salad & corn on the cob

Have a happy & safe 4th of July!!!