Friday, June 24, 2011

Cooking for the week

In an effort to try and make time to spend with my family and actually have some FUN, I have begun cooking everything for the week in one day. We do not eat a lot of prepared foods. I like to cook from scratch and make healthy, filling, wholesome meals. Yeah, I know, frozen crap is so much easier, but i love my family and this is one way I show them. Plus, I love to cook. 

Homemade hummus, all garlic laden and yummy. So easy to make! Garbonzo beans, sesame paste (tahini) garlic and lemon, blend until smooth paste. Full of fiber and protein.

 We even enlist visiting friends to help in the kitchen. Here, Levi's friend B learns how to whisk eggs for a sausage and cheese strata (recipe kids loved this one!!!!)

I bought a whole chicken on sale for $4. I separated the skin from the meat over the breast and stuffed in some of the compound butter form my last post, then placed it into a roasting bag and into the oven. I love those roasting bags, the meat stays so moist, it speeds up the cooking process so cuts down on time, and the clean up is a breeze. Our 1st meal from this chicken was the meat with cheddar biscuits and fruit salad.
Coffee/chili braised pork loin, also roasted in a bag.

After our first meal with the chicken, I placed the remaining chicken and carcass in a big stock pot with water and herbs and slow cooked it to make a delicious broth. I then took all the meat off the bones and saved it.
I made a big batch of home-made egg noodles and cooked them long and slow in the broth then added the super-tender chicken. It made enough to feed my family for at least 3 more meals. Now that is how to stretch one $4 chicken to unbelievable lengths!
I also made two dozen home made dinner rolls. 

Plus two loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread. 

Sausage and Cheese Strata
makes a ton of food!

1 loaf french bread, cut into cubes
12 eggs beaten
4 C milk
1 pound sausage, crumbled and browned, drain
1/2 onion, diced
2 C cheese, shredded
1 cup ham, cut into small cubes

Brown sausage and onion, drain fat
beat eggs then add milk
pour over bread, add sausage, cheese and ham, toss
 refrigerate overnight
bake at 375 F until eggs in middle are set
baking time depends on how you divide the recipe, for us this made 3 9x9 pans, bake each 30-40 min

Monday, June 13, 2011

Compound Butter

Compound butter sounds so fancy! In reality it is simply butter with flavorings mixed in. You cook with it and add lots of flavor in a simple way. 

Levi and his friend Brian were assisting me this day. Levi was grating lemon peel and Brian is providing comic relief by sporting a pickle in his mouth. 

 Two sticks of real butter, at room temp. Minced shallots, about 3 tbls,  and the peel and juice of one lemon. This version is good with seafood and chicken, but you can mix in anything.
 The butter is then placed in plastic wrap, and twist the ends to form a little sausage like roll. Refrigerate.
I used this to saute fish fillets and they were soooo good. Clean simple flavors. Yum!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meals for a week

This is going to be a very busy week for me. I am doing some special training and will be out of the house Tue-Sat and not getting home each night until 6:30 or later. That wreaks havoc on our schedule. In order to be able to have dinner on the table at any sort of reasonable time each evening, I decided to cook the entire week's worth of meals all at once and then just need to re-heat each evening. 

I looked through lots of recipes, made my choices and printed them. Then I made a list for the grocery store, pulled out all the matching coupons and headed out to shop on Saturday evening. The first meal I had planned was a slow cooker pork roast. The directions were to cook 8-10 hours, so I popped everything in the ol' crockpot and turned it on just as I headed for bed. This morning I put the roast and veggies into a pan with all the juices, sealed it up and popped it into the fridge. The meat was falling apart just from moving it to the pan. 

 Of course I had lots of help today in the kitchen. The boyz floated in and out helping when they could and making comments on everything. Mmm, that smells good Mom. Oooh, what is this? When can I use a sharp knife? Although they slow me down some, I still love having them cooking with me. Seth is the boy who helps me the most. He is my little velcro boy! Stuck to me all the time.
 The boyz also provided much kitchen comedy. More and more they remind me of the Three Stooges.
 As soon as one dish cameout of the slow cooker, another went right in. After the pork I did marinated chicken breasts for a chicken pasta dish. Once the chicken was done (it was a quickie 2 hours) I made a venison roast and it is cooking away right now. This is a new recipe (a lot of the ones I tried today are new to us) but I like the idea of doing it in the slow cooker. Venison can be tough and dry, so this method seems like a perfect match.
 One new recipe I tried is Adobo Chicken. I had never heard of it before but the recipe I read about on Taste and Tell sounded so yummy I had to try it. When it came out of the oven the bones fell out of the chicken. I tried a bite and I don't think I have ever tasted chicken so full of flavor and so incredibly moist.  The crockpot was busy so I had to roast this in a big iron roaster in the oven. Two hours at 350F and the results were amazing. The sauce reduced to a sticky glaze consistency and so rich in color. I had gotten a deal on chicken. Thigh quarters at 74 cents a pound. I used four large quarters, skinned, instead of one whole chicken cut up. Hey, cheap meat can't be beat! I also tried the Chicken and Bacon Pasta from Taste and Tell. That is another winner. Of course it has heavy cream, butter and bacon in it so it couldn't go wrong.
 Ahren helping assemble the venison in the crockpot. He kept asking me over and over again what venison was......I don't think he could fathom that we were going to eat Bambi. LOL!
All in all, I made 8 meals. Some recipes made enough to freeze away a complete second meal. Bonus! Here is the list of the meals I made:

Saucy Meatloaf 
Pork Roast
Chicken Fajitas
Creamy Mushroom Venison Roast
Chicken and Bacon Pasta
Italian Meatballs
Buffalo Chicken Wraps
Chicken Adobo

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Squash Round 2

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 
I invented this recipe in my head to try and copy the taste of a dish I had a long time ago and loved. 

Maple Brown Sugar Glazed Butternut Squash

Prep time: 5 min
Bake time: 20 min

half of a butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C maple syrup
dash salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Toss all together, place on non stick baking sheet
Bake 20 min at 375
toss once more before serving

The maple syrup and brown sugar turn into a candy-caramel like coating and the squash tastes more like dessert than a vegetable.

Rating by the boyz: Chris - liked it.  Seth - liked it. Ahren - maybe. Levi didn't try it because he had an upset stomach. We are getting closer!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vegetables.......Not Their Favorite

Trying to get my boyz, both big and small, to eat vegetables is a losing battle. Fresh form our garden? Bleck. Cooked in creative ways? Bleck. Hidden in foods? Bleck (if they find out). Part of our adventures in the kitchen will be trying new and interesting vegetables to see if we can find some things they like. 

I let them pick out what vegetable they wanted to try. They chose Spaghetti Squash. Cool name. Doesn't even sound like a vegetable! I googled recipes and found one I thought might be a winner. It is a variation on a pasta alfredo dish. 

Prep time: 10 min total
Cook time: 50 min for the squash, 20 min finished casserole
Level: Easy

Med Spaghetti Squash, split in half, seeds removed
Brush cut halves with olive oil, place cut side down on baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 50 minutes, or until fork easily pierces outside skin
Allow squash to cool slightly, then remove insides by shredding with a fork

To the squash, add:
1 can cream of celery soup
3/4 C water
1/4 C milk
1 C shredded swiss cheese
parsley, chives, salt, pepper and garlic to taste

Pour into casserole dish (I used a 9x13 glass baking dish)

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
Return to 350 F oven for 20 min.

Seth shows us what a Spaghetti Squash looks like.
 Ahren showing you the insides of the squash. They had a good time scooping out the seeds.
 Hey, this reminds us of pumpkins!
 This is how I cook, measuring by taste and a dash of this, a palm of that. 
 Stand back when you let 5 year olds add the pepper. I didn't and was sneezing for the next 30 minutes!
 Who wants to open the can of soup? Me, me, me!
 This made me nervous, but I had to let him try a little bit. He did really great and didn't burn himself. I did NOT let the two younger boys try. Trips to the emergency room are not included in our adventures!

Notes about the recipe: It didn't have much flavor, the dish was a bit runny, and the squash was still a bit crunchy not at all noodle like. Seth and I liked it somewhat, but the rest of the family did not. I didn't like it enough to want to make it again, at least  not with this recipe. I think it would be really good made with cinnamon and maple flavors, more like a sweet potato casserole.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do Your Kids Eat Healthy?

  All of my children have been 'nutritionally challenged' at some point  in their lives. Kaytee was always way taller than her weight and the doctors were always on me about getting more calories into her. Ashley was born with severe food allergies and then developed intestinal bleeding and serious infections. Levi is also tall and super skinny. At the age of three when he got an intestinal bug he ended up in the hospital for a week and came very close to coming home with a tube down his nose to provide liquid nourishment. Ahren has problems chewing and swallowing, so we have had to modify his diet. Luckily he has never gotten too thin. And then there is Seth. He had such serious control issues around food and subsequently was extremely small and skinny for his age.

  So today's post is about how I attack the eating issues around here, and how I have learned to get good nutrition into my kids but not obsess about it.

Rule #1: They do not have to eat well at every meal. View their diet in the big window. Over the course of a week, do they get enough calories, protein, fiber, etc? Most children have those days where they seem to eat nothing, and others where you just cannot fill them up. If, over the course of time, it adds up, stop worrying.

Rule #2: A good multivitamin makes a Mommy worry less. Maybe they need it and maybe they don't. Think of it as insurance. It sure can't hurt!

Rule #3: Think outside of the box. Breakfast can be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dinner can be pancakes and sausage.

Rule #4: Break meals into snack size mini-meals. If a child can scarf down a bit of food and get back to playing, they will be much happier. Take lunch and give them part at 11:00 am, the main portion at noon, and the rest at 1 pm.  Kids are natural snackers. Build on that. Of course, if an evening meal all together as a family is important, stick to it.

Rule #5: Add calories and nutrition any way you can. Add whole cream to pudding, blend tofu into sauces, extra butter in mac-n-cheese, use dipping sauces that encourage them to eat more ( I love the peanut butter/cream cheese dip Reba made the other day. Protein and calories in a yummy dip that gets kids eating fresh fruit) One of my favorites is to finely dice tofu and mix it into anything chunky or with mozzarella cheese in it. You can't taste it, you don't see it, and you get a big protein boost.

Rule #6: Don't sweat it. If food becomes a battle ground, the child will always win. It is one of the very few things they can control. Even if it is to their favor to eat, they will not if it means they maintain control. Seth used to eat and then throw it all up, just to prove he was in control. You will NEVER win this battle, so do NOT fight it. Put the food there, offer them a variety of healthy nutritious food and walk away.

  Here's a funny story. I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about a 'super-grain' called Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah. Ounce for ounce it has more protein than meat, no fat and no cholesterol. Well, now, that sounds pretty fantastic! Supposedly you can make many yummy things with it. It has a nutty taste and cooks like rice. It sounded like the perfect thing for us to try. So I googled recipes, decided we would try a sweet dessert recipe which was very much like rice pudding. I cooked it according to the recipe and excitedly served it to the family. Cinnamon, raisins, sugar and heavy cream. it had to be yummy, right? I got 4 ratings of YUCK from the men folk. Apparently the texture of the Quinoa was too chewy and crunchy for them. Oh well, I liked it and will eat it all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tomato Sauce with a Secret

I saw a recipe by Jamie Oliver (the chef) in one of my parenting magazines for a tomato sauce that his 4 kids love, is easy to make, and packed with vegetables. The best part is that it makes a huge batch, enough for many meals, and can be used as the sauce for many different things. I changed it a bit just cuz I am like that. Fickle, ya know. That's me!

Prep time: 20 min with kids helping (faster if by myself)
Cook time: 60 min

2 med onions, chopped
2 bell peppers (we used orange) chopped
4 stalks celery chopped
2 small zuchinis grated
4 carrots grated
olive oil

Cook in olive oil in large covered pot over med heat for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are soft but not browned

Peel, seed, and thinly slice 1/2 med butternut squash, add to pot with 1 C chicken stock
continue cooking until squash is very soft. 

Add 5 cans diced tomatoes, juice and all
Oregano, basil, bay leaf, black pepper and sea salt to taste
Continue cooking for about 20 minutes. 
Puree using stick blender.
Add 1/2 C grated parmesan

Store extra sauce in the freezer in meal-sized containers. This sauce can be used with pasta, on pizza, or as the base for a soup. Your imagination sets the limits. 

Grating veggies is a cool way to get kids to help. Just watch those fingers! I think chopping all the veggies would be fine, too. The goal is just to get everything cooked. The harder the veggie, the smaller you should chop it to insure even cooking.
All 3 boyz love to help in the kitchen. The other two did help, but they were only wearing underwear so no pics of them. I don't think there is ever a time that at least one of them is only in there underwear!
 I need to work on my photos of food. It's a lot harder than it looks to get decent pictures.
 I LOVE my stick blender. It took about a minute to blend this whole pot of sauce. I cooked in a deep pot so I didn't have to worry about splattering sauce everywhere. That thing is very powerful.

I decided to try out the sauce in a very simple pasta dish. I sliced and browned some mild italian sausage.

Then I added sauce and portobella mushrooms, and heated through. While that was bubbling on the stove, I cooked large elbow macaroni. We ate the sauce over the noodles and it was a big hit. The sauce is a little bit sweet for my tastes, but everyone else loved it. Even my veggie-phobic husband liked it.  I have 4 quart sized containers in the freezer plus the leftovers from last night. Score!