Thursday, January 30, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

Crazy week, well month actually, of sickness!  Finally on the mend though and that's good since I need to hit up the grocery store.

Here's my plan, and hopefully I can actually stick to it this week:




  • Pork Enchiladas (using some leftover pulled pork I've got in the freezer)
  • Spanish Rice
  • Refried Beans


  • New Recipe! Portillo's Italian Beef Sandwiches
  • Twice baked potatoes
  • Field greens salad with avocado-yogurt dressing


  • Leftovers


  • Waffles
  • New Recipe! Chia Seed Pudding with fresh fruit


  • Freezer Find.  As usual, for every big meal I've made lately, at least half has gone into the freezer. Before it gets out of control, I need to pull something out and enjoy it!
Happy Planning!!

p.s. Don't forget to VOTE FOR MY BIRTHDAY TREAT!!!
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

In case you somehow missed it yesterday, I'm running a Birthday Cake Contest again this year. I can never decide what kind of sweet treat to make so I'm asking you to decide for me!  Check out the options here and cast your vote on the Poll to the right on this page (if you can't see the poll because Blogger sometimes hates me, leave your vote in the Comments).

And since life can't only be about sweets (dang it), here are the other foodie things on my mind for this coming week:


  • Leftovers


  • Pizza
  • Popcorn
  • Side salad with whatever greens and veggies I've got lying around


  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (although I will probably attempt a New Recipe! Roasted Cauliflower Melt for myself)
  • Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup


  • New Recipe! Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles
  • New Recipe! Spinach-Apple Salad




  • Leftovers (yes, again)
Happy planning!!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Birthday Cake Contest 2014

Last year I couldn't decide what kind of treat I wanted for my birthday. So I asked YOU to decide!

And that contest was so much fun for me I thought I'd do it again.  What birthday treat would you like to see me make for my fast-approaching birthday?

Car Bomb Cupcake

Yup: chocolate, whiskey, and beer all in one little cake

Mini Banana Split Icebox Cakes

Fruit, ice cream, cookies, peanuts, sweetened cream, chocolate can you go wrong?

Cinnamon Bun Apple Pie

Traditional apple pie filling sandwiched between flaky cinnamon rolls instead of pie pastry.

Samoa Bundt Cake

Chocolate and brown sugar cake, with a caramel frosting, and coated with toasted coconut and a chocolate drizzle. God help me.

Cast your vote using the poll in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Voting ends February 5th so choose your favorite TODAY!! Oh, and feel free to share with your friends to help ensure your favorite wins. ;)
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cranberry-Pear Salad

One of the many lessons I learned from our CSA experiment is that I do not play around enough with our side dishes. Actually, I tend to ignore the sides most of the time and throw together the easiest, least hands-on dish and call it a meal.

For someone who claims to love food so much, it's really quite embarrassing.

I'm trying to change my ways though!  You might be noticing on my meal plans lately that I'm trying to not list my usual "steamed veg" or "tossed salad" quite so much.  I want to get more specific.  Have more fun.  Live a little!

Like this salad: something that's super-duper simple, seriously easy to put together, and packs way more of a flavor punch than boring ol' steamed green beans.

Cranberry-Pear Salad
Recipe from Food Network Magazine
Prep time: 5-7 minutes

3 tbsp cranberry sauce [Please, please, pretty please use a good-quality or homemade sauce!!]
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
5 oz lettuce*
2 medium pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cups diced cheddar
Salt to taste

*I have nothing against romaine or even iceberg lettuces, but I am seriously falling in love with this lettuce. Have you seen it in the store?  It's awesome!! It's just a bit fancier, has more flavor, and you get get a TON in these little four-packs. And while it's not pre-washed, it's nothing a quick soak in a sink full of cold water can't fix.

1.  In the bottom of your serving dish, whisk together the cranberry sauce, EVOO, orange juice, honey, and mustard.
Don't we all have these ingredients lying around our pantries or fridges?

2.  Layer the lettuce, sliced pear, and cheddar cheese over the dressing.  If you are serving immediately, toss to coat. If you are serving this later, only put the lettuce in the bowl, cover and refrigerate until just before meal time.  Then add the pears and cheese and toss to coat. I promise you, the greens touching the dressing will not wilt.
FYI, this is only about half of that lettuce 4-pack.  Yeah, LOTS.

How can you go wrong with crisp slices of pear and big chunks of cheddar?

One of the reasons I stay away from "fancier" side dishes is I tend to think they require a lot of work and focus and attention.  Then I quickly become overwhelmed with trying to split my precious time in between the Star (the main dish) and the Supporting Players (the sides).

Boy how stupid have I been?!  This salad not only tastes fantastic, but it really requires so little from me.  A quick measure and whisk of the dressing ingredients, and then tossing in the rest of it into the salad bowl. Done. And I even have a Get Ahead option by assembling this but waiting to coat it all in dressing. How fabulously easy is that?!?
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

This Week's Partial Meal Plan

Why only a partial meal plan? Because I'm taking my little guys and getting out of town for a long weekend. With family being at least a half day's drive away, I like to take full advantage of whenever my oldest has a day off of school.

But when we get back, I'll be ready!




Wednesday {While Rob and I enjoy a dinner out, my kiddos are getting a meal they always love having for dinner}

  • Sandwiches
  • Yogurt & fresh fruit parfaits (I'll use leftover fruit salad from Monday night's dinner)

Happy planning!!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Best Brined Turkey

Let's take a moment and talk turkey, shall we?

I love roasting chickens and turkeys.  And I'm pretty predictable about the flavorings I use to season them. A combination of citrus fruits, select herbs, and some garlic is my all-time favorite way to go.  I also love to put butter, preferably a compound butter, under the skin while slathering the outside with EVOO and plenty of salt and pepper.  I've found that doing this extra step with the skin, helps to keep the white meat a little more moist.

But nothing prepared me for just how moist a brined turkey could be. O.M.G.

Isn't brining a turkey (or any other kind of meat for that matter) kinda hard though?  I mean you've first got to find a container to not only hold the bird, but also all these gallons of Super Salty Water on top of it!  And then it's got to sit somewhere and then you have to pull it out and then....................

I will interrupt this whining thought-process to just say that brining really IS that easy.  It's NOT a lot of extra work. And what little extra you do is TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Best Brined Turkey
Recipe from Ree Drummond
Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 1 hour-ish   Brining time: 16-24 hours   Rinse time: 20-30 minutes

Yes, I including a lot of "times" up there.  Don't let this scare you!  I swear to you this is easy.  I have two small children and one big dog and have made this turkey three times.  You. Can. DO THIS!!

3 cups apple juice or apple cider
2 gallons cold water
4 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups salt
2 cups brown sugar
3 tbsp peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
Peel of three large oranges

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Turn off the heat and cover. [NOTE: If you do not have a pot big enough for 3 gallons of liquid, leave out one or both gallons of water at this point.  Add in the missing water when you pour the brine solution into your brining container]
I love that this uses all ingredients I pretty much keep on-hand.

Dump it all in and stir.  See? Not so difficult.

2. Allow the brine to cool completely, then poor into a large brining bag or pot. Place the uncooked turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 16-24 hours.
Yes, I used our large (CLEAN) cooler to brine a 15+lb turkey.

I was in a cooling hurry and needed to add some ice cubes.

Turn it a few times to coat, but leave it breast-side-down to soak.
Turn the bird over a few hours before pulling it out to distribute the flavor.

3.  When ready to roast the turkey, remove the bird from the brine. Submerge the turkey in a pot or clean sink of fresh, cold water for 15-20 minutes.  This soak will remove the excess salt from the outside and result in a much tastier gravy.
It's winter. We left the cooler in our detached garage overnight for "refrigeration."

Even if you like things salty, DON'T SKIP THIS STEP!!
Salt is easy to add, kinda impossible to take away.

4. Discard the brine. Remove the turkey from the water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.
Ready to roast!

I looked up the exact time and temperature instructions for the size bird I had.  But after brining I went ahead with my usual flavor "treatment," since it seemed appropriate for the brine.  I halved a head of garlic and quartered an orange.  I stuffed these, with an extra sprig or two of rosemary, inside the cavity.  I rubbed half a stick of unsalted, softened butter underneath the skin, and massaged extra-virgin olive oil on the outside. A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and this beauty was ready for the oven!

And it was delicious. I don't make turkey any other way anymore.  It's that good.
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

Not sure why but I have a little Cook's Block this week.  Some days I can whip out a meal plan in 15-20 minutes.  Others, it takes quite a bit longer and lots of flipping through food magazines and maybe some Pinterest inspiration too.

But I did it!  And I think this coming week looks pretty tasty, don't you?



  • Pizza. Extra easy with the dough I made last week!  Just roll, top, and bake. :)
  • Buttered popcorn


  • Sandwiches
  • Potato chips
  • Applesauce or fresh fruit
Update 1/12/14: Apparently our family calendar wasn't quite up-to-date when I made this plan and I've had to do some shuffling.  My revised plan for the remaining days this week is...

Wednesday Sunday
  • Leftovers

Tuesday Monday
  • Lasagna (thank you, Freezer!!)
  • New Recipe! Onion-Rosemary Focaccia
  • Field greens salad
Sunday Tuesday
  • Pulled pork sandwiches
  • Cole slaw
  • New Recipe! Whole Wheat Cornbread

Monday Wednesday
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pizza Dough (in bulk)

My bread machine broke.

Ok, to be fair, the actual machine didn't break, but the pan that mixes and bakes all that yeasty goodness broke.  And because this was a wedding shower gift about a decade ago, I'm having problems finding replacement parts for it.

I have, however, had a much easier time finding a replacement pizza dough recipe.  Much as I love the beer dough I've been making the last few years, this one is just plain AWESOME.  It's simple.  It's easy.  And it makes a LOT.

And when you're feeding three hungry males the same meal every single week, a recipe that makes a ton is always appreciated.

Pizza Dough (a.k.a. Olive Oil Dough)
Recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Prep time: 5 minutes   Rise time: 2 hours   Bake time (for pizza): 15-18 minutes

2 3/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt (Or any other course salt.  If you want to use table salt, you'll need to decrease this by a quarter)
1 tbsp sugar
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1.  Mix the water, EVOO, yeast, salt, and sugar in a 5-quart container.
The yeast and EVOO do battle over who is the most fragrant.

2.  Mix in the flour, without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook).
Lots of flour.

Lots of dough.

3.  Cover (NOT airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
Cover. Walk away. Come back and make pizza.

4.  The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (NOT airtight) container and use over the next 12 days.

5.  To make a pizza, sprinkle the surface of the dough with a little flour and, using a serrated knife, cut of 1/4 of the dough.  Just like with the Artisan Bread, stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball as you go.  Place on a floured surface, dust the ball with more flour and, using your hands or a floured rolling pin, flatten to your desired pizza shape and thickness.

From here it's pretty straightforward.  Decorate your pizza with whatever toppings you like.  I like to bake mine on a pizza stone in a 425 F oven.  My boys share a smaller, cheese pizza, which I do for about 15 minutes.  Rob and I usually share a larger, thinner, pepperoni pizza which takes 18-20 minutes.

Another thing I like about this dough is it's versatility.  Sure I mainly use it for pizza, but it can also be used for focaccia.  I'll have to save the Caramelized Onion & Rosemary Focaccia for another post though. ;)
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Friday, January 3, 2014

CSA: The Final Weeks

Soooo, I kinda left y'all hanging in the final weeks of our CSA pickup.  Sorry about that.

And though I didn't keep up with the posts, I did continue to document what we received.  Here are our last few pickups:

Week 10:

  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Winter Squash
  • Kale
  • Green peppers
  • Yukina Savoy
  • Romanesco
  • Leeks
  • Basil
  • Radishes
Week 11: We had the option for more but left several things we knew we wouldn't eat in the Swap Box

My silly boys show off just how big this cabbage is.

  • Fingerling Potatoes
  • Green Onions
  • Carrots
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Rutabaga
  • Arugula

Week 12:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Kale
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Radishes
  • Baby Bok Choy
  • Carrots
Alright, so final thoughts on this little experiment?  Totally worth it.  Even though I got overwhelmed and ended up not using nearly as many of the veggies as I would have liked, we do plan on doing this again. Now that I've experienced one season of it, I feel a bit better equipped, mentally, to take on the task again. One thing we might change though is do the regular, weekly share instead of the every-other-week (Seesaw) share.  Sure, we'll get veggies more often, but it will be a much smaller amount; a one week supply instead of a 2-3 week supply. We've got a few months though to talk it over and decide before signing up.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed following our little experiment.  And hopefully it's inspired you to try one of your own! Whether you explore the world of Community Support Agriculture, or hit up the local Farmer's Market more often for some unusual veggies, whatever you decide will be great.  The point is to try new things.  Experiment, create, enjoy the process!  Food is meant to be happy, not stressful.

But if the idea of try new vegetables still scares the crap out of you, remember you can always add bacon. Because bacon makes everything better. ;)

We are supporting LOTFOTL Farm by purchasing a Seesaw Share, plus a dozen eggs.  This means we will get a box of produce and a dozen eggs every other week. To learn more about CSA's and how to participate, visit 
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

Happy New Year!!

I can't believe it's 2014 already, and boyohboy is it already shaping up to be a busy year!  So many plans, so many ideas, soooo many things I'd like to accomplish this year.  I hope to share many of those accomplishments with you in the coming months. :)

So while my thoughts and ideas marinate (no food blog pun intended, I swear), let's start the year off right with a straightforward, simple meal plan


  • Pizza (I have a new pizza dough recipe I can't wait to share with you!)
  • Buttered popcorn


  • Leftovers

Monday After seeing the weather report for Monday, I've changed my mind.  I think a big pot of Sausage and Lentil Soup with some hot bread will be actually less work, but more warming.  


  • Freezer Find: I have a habit of doubling recipes to freeze half, or putting whatever leftovers we don't eat up into the freezer.  The result is I usually have a dozen or so meals (little lunches or full dinners) to use at any given time.
Happy Planning!!
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