Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pantry Dives aka Plan B Meals

Last week I had stuffed pork tenderloin on the week's meal plan. When I cut into the pork tenderloin package however, the smell quickly killed any hope of making my original meal. Ugh, it was nasty...the pork had clearly gone bad (swine flu, perhaps? Sorry, couldn't resist).

The original recipe was one I created that was going to be a goat cheese, black olive and red pepper stuffed pork tenderloin. So I took the ingredients, added a little milk and corn starch (to make a thickened "cream" sauce," some seasoning and instead ended up with

I'll post the recipe tomorrow or this weekend, but in the meantime, I share the story of my cooking plans gone awry as a way to share:

1. Every cook has days when they have to go with plan B.
2. If you have a well stocked pantry, plan B can be an equally delicious meal, not a trip to the drive thru.*

I posted this list on today as well, but I wanted to share it here too. Below is my list of things I usually have on hand to help dinners get to the table, even if plan A fails.

Pantry/cabinet items:

Dried spaghetti/penne
Dried tortellini
Lasagna noodles
Brown rice
Whole wheat couscous
Quick cooking grits
Dried beans (usually black, lentil, great northern)
Vermicelli Noodles
Jarred spaghetti/pasta sauce/marinara
Canned diced tomatoes
Canned tomato sauce
Canned beans (chickpeas, black, kidney, great northen)
Canned corn, peas and green beans
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Balsamic vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Spice mixes (jerk seasoning, steak seasoning, etc)
Peanut butter

Refrigerator items:

Barbeque sauce
Jarred pre-minced ginger (doesn’t get a weird flavor like pre-minced garlic)
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Worcestershire sauce
Jarred olives
Applesauce (good for eating and baking)
Eggs (we go through them crazy fast)
Boxed, pre-washed spinach
Pre-shredded carrots

Freezer items:
Meat and poultry—whatever has been on sale
Shredded cheese

A pretty good list, huh? But what am I missing??


*I don't mind a good drive thru once in a while, but I just hate succumbing to it on a night when I had a home cooked meal planned

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cook Once, Eat Twice

My post today at is on the whole idea of cooking to "cook once, eat twice." I have been deliberately trying to use this method of reusing parts of one meal to use in another meal, but I am still getting the hang of it.

Reheating leftovers? I am good at that. But trying to fine tune my menu planning so if I cook chicken one night, cooking double to use the leftover chicken in a second meal? Not so much.

But you know my Chicken Taco Soup? I tweaked a few things with this soup and was able to get three meals out of it...

You'll have to hop on over to the FE link above and check it out. I was quite excited about my new discovery...I will never make the soup the same again.

Do you have any good "cook once, eat twice" tricks you can share?


Monday, April 27, 2009

One Weekend = Three Seasons

How was your weekend? Us? We experienced three seasons in just one weekend. Let me explain...

First, spring. Duh. It is spring. No need to expand upon that one.

Second, summer. Our weather this past weekend was sunny, bright and downright hot. I even thought about putting on the air conditioning, but we survived with open windows and strategic timing of opening the blinds. But even with our ceiling fans on overdrive, it was hot. The pools won't open for a few more weeks, so the boys took to the sprinkler:

Third, autumn. The Ohio State Buckeyes had their annual Spring Game, Scarlet vs. Gray. This practice game, which pits OSU players against OSU players, was a new phenomenon to us when we moved to Columbus. Does your local college team do this? Well, let me tell you, here it is a big deal. As in, it is televised. As in, more than 95,000 fans attended. Again, it is a practice game. But when R saw the hoopla, he asked, "is it falltime already?" One would have thought...

I know I normally give you the run down of my meals for the week, but instead I want to share:

My friend Shannon posted last week about the snackTAXI. It is a reusable baggie for snacks and sandwiches! Brilliant idea, I am hoping to pick one up soon.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Myth Busters

I think because it is associated with fancy schmancy dinners and special night-out restaurant meals, many families (read: moms) assume risotto is:

1. too difficult to make at home
2. takes far too much time to even consider making at home
3. cannot possibly be healthful, since it is so decadent and rich

Allow me to bust a myth or two...

1. If you can pour, stir and chop, you can make risotto
2. If you have 15-20 minutes, you can make risotto from start to finish
3. You can make really, really good risotto without heavy cream or butter

Confession: I hadn't made risotto in years because I had fallen into the fallacy of the risotto myths. Last week I made some risotto for the first time and kicked myself for allowing so much time to pass since I had made it.

This Spring Risotto recipe is hearty enough to serve as a stand-alone meal, or perfect for an accompaniment to a simple baked or grilled fish, chicken, vegetables or meat. It was a big hit with SPH, G and I...R oddly wasn't that into it, but he is going through his pickiest phase yet. So we'll that I have this recipe up my sleeve, I'll be trying it again soon.

Spring Risotto

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 - 15 oz can of artichoke hearts, chopped (or alternatively, use 1 - 1 1/2 cups of frozen artichoke hearts)
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine (or use additional broth)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen peas

In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and add the onion and artichoke hearts. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onions begin to become translucent. Add the arborio rice and stir well, to coat the rice well with the olive oil.

Add the white wine. Stir and in about 1-2 minutes, add one cup of the broth. Stir occasionally until the broth has been absorbed by the rice, which takes about 3-4 minutes. Keep adding broth in 1/2-1 cup increments until the rice is cooked (taste it if you are not sure!).

When the rice is cooked, add the salt, pepper, milk, cheese and peas. Stir well. Serve.

Serves 4.

Hmmm...think it looks a little plain? Click here for the recipe of what we served on top of this lovely risotto.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Knock Knock

Yes, it's been awhile since I have posted, but with good reason(s). Graham had a croup episode that necessitated a trip to the ER. Thankfully, unlike last year's croup excitement, he didn't have to be admitted and he is doing fairly well. But several sleepless nights have done a number on me. My other excuse for being MIA: the boys were on Spring Break last week, but instead of going to Cancun, they were here. With me. Allllllll week. 'Nuff said.

All the time together with the boys last week made me realize...

Do you ever have those moments with your children when you realize you are at a really, really good point in parenting and you need to focus, soak it in and keep it close to your heart so the fleeting moment is not lost amongst all the not-so-hot moments of parenting?

We're at a stage right now with R and G that I can only sum up as precious. No, not a saccharin-type of precious, but precious to this Sweet Pea Mom because I know, from experience, how fleeting this stage will be. Right now we're at a time in which G still innocently and adoringly shadows almost every one of R's moves, R adores and revels in the attention G gives him and together they have begun to play together.

My favorite thing they are beginning to share is the telling of jokes:

See? Precious, I tell you.

Our meals for the week:

Chicken Fiesta Soup
Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Broccoli, Another Side
Chicken Enchiladas
Freezer Dive

I'm off to rest for a few before my afternoon cranks up,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I heart Joe

I posted on today about my love of all things Trader Joe. Speaking of Joe, have you seen this commercial? It makes me smile...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Recap

Our weekend (well, Thursday, really) started with this:
And the weekend ended with this:

I am beat. We had my parents stay with us for a three-day fix-up-and-clean-the-house-athon and then 17 folks joined us for Easter dinner at our home.


Hope your holiday was Hoppy (ugh, I just couldn't resist). Mine? It was beautiful, joyful and full, full, full of chocolate (hooray, I did it!)

I collapsed into bed at 9 last night and haven't even thought of the meals for our week. Tonight we'll be doing homemade pizza with Shannon and her kiddos. I may try and live out of our freezer and pantry for the week, just to see if it would be possible.

So inspire me...what are your favorite go-to pantry meals?
Beyond mac and cheese, please...


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I may not have fancy pictures, but

...the food still tastes amazing.

Today was beyond busy and hectic. I'll spare you the details, but if my candle had three ends, I would be burning them all these past couple of days. I am sure you can relate. Can I get an "amen?"

I saw this recipe and decide to give it a whirl. Except I marinated the pork loin overnight in the marinade to make it a bit more flavorful. Oh, and you know how I mentioned I've been busy? Instead of the 8 ingredient marinade, I used 4 ingredients.

All of this culminated in a really, really tasty meal that all four of us gobbled up for dinner tonight. It was super tasty, but sadly, the picture I snapped doesn't do it justice (it was taken between trying to inhale my dinner and getting out the door to an early evening commitment):

I realize this photo looks nasty, not tasty. I do. I almost didn't post a picture and instead relied on the beautiful, professionally created picture-

I blame the poor lighting in my kitchen.

Anyway, give this recipe a whirl, it was a great answer to a busy weeknight meal. We served it up with some stir-fried pea pods and it was a hit. A definite make-again.

Hoison Marinated Pork

1 - 2-3 pound pork loin
1 cup of teriyaki sauce (we used Trader Joe's Soyaki) or hoison sauce
1 tablespoon of fresh ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
dash of crushed red pepper

Mix the teriyaki sauce, ginger, garlic and red pepper. Pour over pork and marinate overnight.

In the morning, heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the pork on all four sides before placing the pork AND the marinade into the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours, high 4-5 hours.

Remove from heat and let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Slice thin and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Love my recipes, not my pictures-

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Fun, Winter Style

This weekend was Upper Arlington's annual Easter Candy Hunt. Held the weekend before Easter, it is a huge event with 5 different fields full of candy, one for each age group.

The first year we lived in Columbus we missed it because the park, which had recently been renamed and rededicated, didn't appear on our un-updated map. We literally spent 45 minutes driving around, trying to figure out where the heck we were going. As we pulled up to the correct park, we heard that man yell "go!" and the candy was gone in 8.2 seconds, which left R empty handed...until he made friends with this fellow:

Last year, our freak early March blizzard snowed-out the Easter Candy Hunt. But this year, we were good to go. The weather was sunny, we arrived in plenty of time, but ohhhh the wind! It was cold!

R was briefed by SPH on strategy for candy collecting in his field...
While G and I made a new friend...

G was all about finding the candy, but not so for his friend to his left...

R shows off some of his loot (apparently SPH's strategy worked wonders!)...

I'm posting several new recipes on this week, so be sure to check out my posts there. In the meantime, here are our meals for the week:

Slow Cooker Hoison Pork (new) with Stir-fried Pea Pods
Fast or Slow Chili (figure I should fit it in one more time before it gets too warm)
Pasta Carbonara

Easy week...over to a neighbors for dinner one night and Shannon's week to host Monday night.

Hope you all have a good one,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whine and Wine

I love wine. No, I am not a big drinker, but I love learning about wine, tasting wine and pairing wine.

In fact, before having the boys, SPH and I hit the road and visited vineyards here and abroad many times:

Can't you just sense the carefree, relaxed, well-rested, no-kid-responsibility attitude in the last picture?

Many, okay, most nights we have wine with or before dinner. After a day of work, I am ready for a few sips of vino. Usually doesn't go beyond one glass, just an aperitif to enjoy while dinner is served.

But the other day R was talking and said, "I can't wait until I can have wine every day too!" I got me you ever wonder about drinking alcohol in front of your kids? Obviously, getting hammered in front of the little ones is not going to qualify you for parent-of-the-year, but how much is too much?