… means not having a baby and disappearing from your site. But I have been in newborn bliss (along with a sleepless fog) for the past six weeks. Look at that sweet little face. Can you blame me?
… means not having a baby and disappearing from your site. But I have been in newborn bliss (along with a sleepless fog) for the past six weeks. Look at that sweet little face. Can you blame me?
The rain has settled into the forecast here in Seattle for the next nine months, and there’s a definite crispness in the air. Although I [greatly] prefer fall’s sunny days to its wet and dark ones, I also am a huge fan of the season. You know, before the soggy misery has a chance to sink too deeply into my bones.
Football and comfort food are two of the biggest reasons I love this time of year. So for this month’s OAMC freezer club, I decided to make chili. Because what says fall and football more than chili?! That, and my kid absolutely devours anything that looks like it may even remotely be made with beans. The boy loves his beans. Weird for a two year old, I know. I can throw a handful on his plate for a snack and he thinks I’m the best mom in the world. I just love that. Cheap, easy, and healthy.
I chose this recipe from Food Network because of the stellar reviews. I don’t know that I’d give it a five, but a definite four. It just needs a little something, but I’m not sure what. I’ll definitely make it again and tinker a little with the spices. I learned something while I was cooking, too. Apparently I need to wear a respirator when I chop, seed, and de-rib jalapenos. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I think some of the capsaicin from the peppers got airborne and I inhaled it. I could barely breathe and had to go outside to calm my insane coughing attack. (Don’t worry, club members, I didn’t cough on the chili.) Then my eyes started watering and my face started burning. After dipping my head in cold water, thoroughly rinsing my eyes, and breathing some fresh air for about 15 minutes, I finally made it back to the stove. It was one of the most intense and bizarre cooking incidents of my life … And to make it even more strange, the chili came out completely mild! I thought for sure it was going to blow our heads off with spiciness after all that drama. Anyway, I survived. And I don’t need to see another jalapeno again for awhile.
I also couldn’t find poblano peppers at the store. Several reviewers mentioned they substituted roasted green chilies, so I decided to go that route. The peppers probably make for a more interesting flavor profile, but it’s still yummy with the chilies. I also threw in a bag of white corn at the very end to thicken it up a bit and add some heartiness. This chili definitely tastes better on day two than on the day it’s made. So make it in advance if you can.
Serves: 4 to 6
Drain and rinse the canned white beans. In a medium bowl, mash half of the beans with a potato masher until chunky. Reserve the beans until needed.
Add the canola oil to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, onions, and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt, and pepper, to taste. Add the cumin, coriander, and chili powder and continue to saute for 1 more minute to toast the spices. Stir in the chicken stock, and lime juice and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and continue to simmer for 20 more minutes.
After 20 minutes of simmering, taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary. Stir in the shredded rotisserie chicken, frozen corn, and cilantro, and simmer until heated through, about 10 more minutes. Serve the chili in individual bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips (only Juanita’s brand will do), and lime wedges.
**For OAMC, cool dutch oven overnight in refrigerator. Once completely chilled, gently stir chili to mix, then scoop into desired serving sizes in gallon-size zippered bags, removing as much air as possible. Freeze for up to three months. To serve, thaw completely in refrigerator, 24-48 hours. Warm through over medium heat.
When I started this blog, I was so determined to post at least twice a week … and here I am, a little over three weeks since last writing. D’oh! In my defense, I have been fervently getting ready to welcome a new baby. And by fervently, I mean thinking about it a lot, not necessarily doing anything to prepare. I still haven’t packed my hospital bag, and my kitchen floor is begging to be mopped — among other, more important things screaming for my attention.
So in a few short weeks (if not sooner), I’m going to have two kids. Two. That’s double the number I currently have, if you’re keeping count. It’s kind of overwhelming. I find myself thinking, “How did I get here?!” I feel like I just graduated from college and started my first job, then I blinked and ended up married with a mortgage and two kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, but it sure is flying by quickly! And I don’t really plan on having any more babies after this one, so I’ve been kind of mourning not being pregnant again. It’s a weird thing. I feel so very “done,” and am looking forward to having a more agile and comfortable body again soon, but there’s also something really special about carrying a baby. I’ll miss it in an odd way. Especially the kicks. There’s just something about the kicks.
I also have been a little weepy about my solo time with Lucas coming to an end. For his first 13 months of life, I wanted nothing more than to leave my full-time job and stay home with him. I was so unhappy at work and missed my baby to the point it physically hurt. And so I finally did quit, and these past 15 months with him have been the most special, happy months of my entire life. I am overjoyed to bring a sibling into this world for him, not to mention having a new child in our family, but change can be tough and scary. Soon, I am sure that I barely will be able to remember our family as it currently is with only three members. But that will take time, and I never do very well with the unknown. So a couple of days ago, as I stared out into a dreary, grey day, mourning summer, the end of my [probably] final pregnancy, and thinking about how odd it is to try and patiently wait for one’s entire life to be turned completely inside out, I decided to make pumpkin bread. Because it seemed like the thing to do. Thankfully, it worked. I felt totally relaxed and the baking process managed to take my mind off life. And Lucas was happy because it’s his absolute favorite. I have to hide it from him. Seriously.
I’ve been making this recipe for several years and it’s one of the easiest, tastiest things in my regular fall/winter rotation. It puts Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf to shame, and that’s saying a lot, because I love Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf. This recipe is slightly adapted from the Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread recipe on Allrecipes.com. I’ve also made a healthier version with whole wheat flour, half the sugar, and applesauce instead of oil/butter. It’s decent, but the real thing is much better. So if you’re not counting calories, go for the original.
After a weekend get together with a large group of friends last month, my refrigerator was overflowing with several pounds of chicken sausage and 36 (!) eggs. We’ll work on the grocery-shopping coordination a little more before our next go-round. Anyway, when it was time to come up with my freezer club meal, I went the fairly obvious route and made a breakfast casserole to use what I already had available.
Breakfast for dinner is one of our favorite things, and I love how easily this came together. I found a few OAMC breakfast casserole recipes, but I largely followed this one from We Gotta Eat. The original recipe called for a quarter cup of butter to be mixed in with the potatoes, but it was too greasy for us, so I cut that in half here. You probably could even omit it completely.
I also added some dried onions. I’ve found that the dried onions available in the spice aisle of the grocery store work much, much better in freezer meals than fresh, since they don’t add any extra water to the dish. Their flavor isn’t perfect, but decent. And let’s be honest, we’re eating from the freezer here and no ingredient will be quite as tasty as a fresh counterpart.
There’s nothing terribly exciting about this casserole (and I will admit it’s not the healthiest), but it is satisfying, filling, and hits the spot if you’re looking for a savory meal. What else do you need?
1 pound diced chicken sausage (We like Aidells Chicken & Apple)
3 eggs, cracked and beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. freeze-dried/dehydrated chopped onions
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup shredded cheese (I either use medium cheddar or pepper jack)
2 1/2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
2 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
For me, it’s not summer without an abundance of fruit. I can say without exaggeration that my little family of three has eaten no less than 100 nectarines in the past two months. I know, kind of ridiculous.
We also are big fans of all types of berries, watermelon, pineapple, kiwi, etc., but the nectarine definitely reigns king around here. We’ve enjoyed nectarine caprese a few times each week since I discovered it last month — it just doesn’t get old. I’ve also been adding nectarines to a simple spinach salad with blue cheese, thinly sliced red onions, candied pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette. So yum!
I know a big portion of the country is partial to the nectarine’s cousin, the peach. For everyday eating, I personally prefer the crispness of the nectarine, its resilient texture, and the smooth, edible peel. (I do choose the peach for baking purposes, though.) Like the peach, the nectarine comes in both freestone and cling varieties. So here’s my gripe. Why can most American grocers not label nectarines according to their pit variety, just as they do with the peach?!
I have asked multiple produce people at various grocery stores, and no one ever knows. Even at our local fruit stand, where they seem to be experts on every other produce item — no matter how rare — the dudes have absolutely no idea what kind of nectarines are in their bins. It varies week to week.
Since I find nectarines much more enjoyable to eat sliced, I am practically giddy when I end up with a freestone batch and can pop the fruit clean off the pit. They’re just so messy and sloppy when you try to eat them whole. And freestones also make a much nicer presentation in salads, etc. I tend to end up with mangy-looking fruit after slicing a cling nectarine. But you never know what you’ve purchased until you slice into the first one … It makes me feel like a small child on Easter, opening up those plastic eggs, excited to see what’s inside. A freestone nectarine is comparable to finding good chocolate. A cling nectarine is similar to finding a temporary tattoo that your mom takes away from you because she’s afraid it’s laced with LSD. (What? Did that never happen to you?)
Anyway, this really needs to be remedied. What do I need to do? Petition the National Grocers Association?
Is there some kind of trick to determine what kind of nectarine you’re getting and I’m just in the dark? If you know, please let me in on the secret!!
Going forward, I’m dedicating Thursdays at Easy Peasy Kitchen to cost-saving ideas and recipes. I hope these posts will help you stash some savings for the things you really care about, like college funds, vacations, cute shoes, and wine. You know, important stuff like that.
I’ve been making my own all-purpose cleaner for several years. It’s cheap, doesn’t have any ingredients I’m uncomfortable using around children, and works incredibly well. I especially like it on mirrors — it’s completely streak free. Safeway carries an in-house brand of multi-surface cleaner that I used for a long time and preferred to any big-name cleaner. Looking at the ingredients, I knew I could make it myself and save some money. I’ve been reusing the bottle in the photo for a long time. Now, I know you’re not supposed to reuse cleaning-product bottles to avoid chemical reactions. But since I’m not using any ingredients not included in the original contents, I figure it’s OK. Please be cautious about this if you choose to reuse an old spray bottle.
I like to scent my cleaner with essential oil. My favorites are grapefruit-peppermint and lavender, but feel free to leave out the oil, too. And don’t worry about the vinegar smell taking over your house. It completely evaporates within minutes and really adds to the cleaning power as a grease- and grime-cutting agent.
Makes 1 quart
1 1/3 cups each:
Mix together all ingredients in pitcher with pouring spout. Pour through funnel into spray bottle. Use to spray any soiled surface, allowing the product to penetrate grease, grime and dirt. Wipe clean with paper towel or cloth.
We were having a relatively uneventful morning around here today — you know, taking twice as long as should be necessary to get out of the house, trying to wear winter coats in August, and insisting that 357 stuffed animals come along with us to our playdate at the park, those kind of things. Anyway, we finally reached our destination and were having a great time, when, in a split second, my heart stopped. Lucas fell straight back off a picnic bench, bum over tea kettle, and bounced his poor little noggin on the concrete. It was possibly the worst noise I’ve heard in my life.
We’ve had our normal toddler’s share of scrapes, falls, and bruises with him, but thankfully no head injuries up to this point. I felt relieved that he was able to calm down after about 10 minutes, his eyes weren’t dilated, and he didn’t seem to feel sick. He’s got quite the goose egg on the back of his head, but I’m hopeful that’s the extent of the damage. In fact, he gobbled down lunch and told me that he was “all better, mama, stop looking at my head” no fewer than five times. I think that’s a good sign. He’s napping now, but I still feel kind of upset about it. It also dawned on me just how much I take for granted that I have such a healthy little boy. The mere thought of something being wrong with my baby was overwhelmingly frightening.
Recently I’ve been following the story of a five-month-old baby boy named Caleb on Facebook. He was born with a severe congenital heart defect and received a heart transplant last month. (His family’s page is called Pray for Caleb, if you’d like to read about his journey and lend support.) On Sunday, his mama was able to hold him for the first time in nine weeks. Nine weeks! The picture she posted of them together was beyond touching. I simply can’t imagine what they’ve faced during this unimaginable trial. Today, when I scooped up Lucas the second he fell, I thought of Caleb’s parents. How they haven’t been able to hold their baby while he’s been hurting and through so much. SO much. It made me say a big thank you for the worries we haven’t had with our child.
I suppose it sometimes it takes moments like this to realize how truly good you have it. I plan to squeeze my Boo a little tighter (and probably more than he wants) for the rest of the day, and spoil him a bit, too. Because I can. He asked for “regular [American] pancakes” for dinner, and I will be granting his wish. (We also like to eat the Swedish variety at our house.) Here’s our favorite recipe. I like it because we enjoy buttermilk pancakes, but I never have buttermilk on hand. The vinegar solves that problem by “souring” the milk, and the result is an extra fluffy pancake.
What do your kiddos request when they’ve had a rough go of it?
From Allrecipes.com; Makes 8 pancakes
Do you subscribe to EatingWell magazine? If not, you should. Especially if you’re trying to serve healthy food in your home and are a fan of publications like the more well-known Cooking Light. I particularly like EatingWell because their recipes focus on real, whole ingredients and seasonal eating.
I make something from EatingWell once or twice a week and very rarely have any of their recipes failed me. (I am sorry to say that Hamburger Buddy was a horrible crash and burn, but we actually got a good laugh out of how bad it was and still chuckle about it years later. So if you come across that one, take a pass.) Aside from the [usually] great recipes, their photography is stunning and I always find their feature stories on nutrition and health interesting and informative.
I recently made the EatingWell spinach and cheese stuffed shells for my OAMC freezer club (a recipe I’ve made many times as a regular dinner around here). My favorite type of OAMC meals are of the one-pan variety that can be pulled straight from the freezer, shoved into the oven, and make the whole family happy. I mean, the whole point is to save time, right? This one definitely fits the bill.
I ordered a package of these foil pans with oven safe lids for the club, and they are perfect for meals like this one — each pan holds three-to-four servings of an average adult-sized entree. I fit 12 shells into each pan. At about $0.60 each, they are so worth buying if you’re going to start your own freezer club (or if you already belong to one). They’re especially nice because the lids are sturdy to protect the food, and you can stack meals in the freezer without them tipping over and making a mess or taking up excess space.
As for the stuffed shells, the only variations I’ve made to this recipe are the additions of garlic and mozzarella cheese. I know the mozzarella isn’t really in the spirit of EatingWell, but it’s not that much cheese, and it really does take this recipe from four stars to five. Enjoy!
Slightly adapted from EatingWell magazine.
Makes: 6 servings
Lucas turned two back in April, but I just came across these pictures of his construction party and realized I hadn’t yet shared them with you.
I was so completely overwhelmed by his first birthday party (I went a little overboard with handmade decorations, party favors, etc.), that I decided to take a step back this year and keep things relatively simple. Anything truck related is very popular around here, so we went with a construction theme.
I Googled “construction cake” and found inspiration looking at pictures from A. Party Style and Fredellicious. Since I went very light on the decorations and we kept the guest list quite small, I wanted to make him a really cool cake. For how simple this cake actually was to make, I thought it looked pretty darned good and was really pleased with myself when all was said and done.
I started by baking two nine-inch round layers of my favorite chocolate cake from Hershey’s — recipe below — along with their “perfectly chocolate” chocolate frosting (throwing in eight ounces of cream cheese for good measure). If you don’t feel like making cake or frosting from scratch, go ahead and use a boxed cake mix and canned frosting. Your guests still will be impressed. Promise.
After your cake rounds cool, you’ll want to level them. For the “excavation,” take a long serrated knife and carve a large chunk out of the top cake layer, cutting at about a 45-degree angle. You’ll just need to eyeball it and go with your gut for the shape. Flip the cut piece/chunk over so the flat sides of the cake meet. Then frost the whole cake, treating the excavated piece like a third cake layer. For the “dirt,” run a package of Oreos through your food processor and lightly press them into the frosting to make them stick. If you don’t have a food processor, you can place the Oreos into a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. (A big shout out to my friend Kim who talked me through the cutting — I was super nervous about wrecking the cake!)
For Lucas’ name I used Wilton fondant cut outs and Wilton neon colors fondant. Using the same fondant, I hand-shaped the construction cones. The candy rocks are sold in bulk at my local grocery store, but you also can buy them on Amazon. I found the small digger for the top of the cake at the dollar store — they came in multi-packs, and I used the others as a party-favor component.
I kept the decorations simple and printed these letters on orange construction paper using Microsoft Word (!). We affixed them to the wall using painters’ tape. So simple, and I think the banner turned out pretty cute.
But most importantly, my boy thought everything was extra special and he had a great day! Four months later and he’s still talking about his “excavator party.”
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my super-awesome, life-saving, couldn’t-live-without-it freezer club. If you are a time-crunched parent who all too often finds yourself scrounging around for dinner at the last minute, I highly recommend you start a freezer club.
There are four of us in my club, including me. We each pick one freezable recipe every month and make four family-sized meals (about three to four adult-sized portions each). We keep one for ourselves, and give one to each of the other members. This works out to one freezer meal per week, and everything is so much better than any pre-packaged, frozen food from the grocery store. Thankfully all of my friends in the club are excellent cooks, so it’s fun to try what everyone comes up with. And none of us are picky eaters or have particularly finicky children or spouses, so it’s always open season for ingredients. We also have an “honesty policy” and let each other know if a meal wasn’t particularly delicious to prevent it from showing up again. Everyone’s cool with this, so no hurt feelings.
I’ll be sharing these recipes under the OAMC (once-a-month cooking) category and I hope you find them useful. Everything in this category should keep well in the freezer for three to four months. They’re great recipes to make for people with new babies, or to stock up in your own freezer before a new little one arrives.
First up is one of my family’s favorite meals — freezer club or otherwise. A couple years ago, I randomly tried the enchilada sauce recipe in my Vitamix cookbook and was hooked. We haven’t had canned sauce since then. I’ve made a few small changes to suit our tastes (the additions of cayenne, cinnamon, and onion). It’s definitely worth the time to make your own! Of course, if you’re in a time crunch, you always can use your favorite canned variety, too. I won’t judge. Happy freezing!
(A combination of several recipes; mainly from Cook’s Illustrated and Vitamix)
Some tips before you get started (courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated):