Mar 20, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Haystacks

Haystacks

To the best of my knowledge, Hawaiian Haystacks are not a thing in Rhode Island…although really, I’m only basing that on the fact that I sure never had them growing up.  (RI friends, were you having them on a regular basis?)  I didn’t have them until I moved to Utah, and I didn’t make them myself until the last year or two, when I had a small amount of cooked chicken left over and was trying desperately to turn it into a dinner plan.  At which point my friend that I used to cook with a lot suggested I make Mel’s recipe for Hawaiian Haystacks, which is really just a recipe for the chicken sauce, since everything else is a topping.  I thought to myself, hey, why not, and there it was–a new staple at our house.  I love it.  I mix white and brown rice for the base, and after the chicken sauce, we top ours with grated medium or sharp cheddar, crushed pineapple, chopped celery, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives (for those of us who prefer olives), chopped green onion (ditto), and coconut (of the shredded and sweetened variety).  My girls, I think, would prefer that I buy chow mein noodles, which Grandma has on her haystacks, but I confess–since I don’t miss them, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.  (Sorry, kiddos.)

A word about the chicken, though.  My leftover chicken didn’t provide nearly as much flavor as either 1)using raw chicken and following Mel’s directions for cooking it as part of the sauce or 2)buying a rotisserie chicken at Costco and using the entire breast for one recipe.  I usually go for number 2, ever since I figured out that my 1st grader loves the dark meat from said rotisserie chicken on sandwiches in her lunch (with mayo, lettuce and tomato, or, if you happen to be out of lettuce like I was this morning, mayo and bread and butter pickles).  Grilled chicken would, I’m sure, also be delightful, but not the sad, poached, “I need chicken cooked quickly for a recipe” chicken I had way back when.  (I’m a bit better with plain cooked chicken now.)

Anyway.  I love haystacks and they go over well with all of my kiddos; if you use rice flour for the roux, this recipe is also easily gluten-free!

Enjoy!

Mar 18, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Cauliflower

When I was growing up, cauliflower was pretty much simmered until soft and eaten with butter.  End of story.  And I liked it fine.  I’ve never liked the smell of it cooking, mind you–really, who does?–but I was fine eating it that way.  Once I got married, I went years eating it hardly at all, because my husband can’t stand it, but I used to buy it now and then intending to steam some for myself.  Sometimes I actually managed to do it, and I discovered that I liked it a bit firmer than my mother used to make it.  (To be fair, so does she.  It’s my dad who objects to cooked yet “crunchy” vegetables.)  It wouldn’t have been a big part of my life again, though, except that my friend and I used to cook together a lot, and once upon a time we tried a recipe she found for Butter Roasted Cauliflower.

And Oh.  My.  Gosh.

Seriously.  I have been known to make this recipe–a good-sized head of cauliflower’s worth–and eat the entire pan myself.  (It makes a great lunch, by the way.)  It is AMAZING.  Unfortunately, no one in my family loves lemon and capers and parsley as much as I do, and so in the interest of branching out a bit I tried this Cauliflower with Tomatoes recipe.  And it’s also very tasty.  My husband was pleasantly surprised, which is incredible praise from him for a vegetable.  My sister experimented with it and uses canned diced tomatoes in the wintertime.  (If I’m lucky, she’ll even comment on this post to say exactly how she does it!)

I will freely confess, though, that I don’t always have that much time to spend on a side dish, and so our most common cauliflower method is also the easiest.  Here goes:

You take your cauliflower and cut it into florets.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (the clean up is SO much easier), toss the cauliflower with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and place it in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  (Don’t stress if it’s crowded, just make sure the florets aren’t on top of each other.)  Preheat your oven to 400 and roast for an hour.  Voila!  (Please pretend you see an accent on that “a”!)  My kids and I dip the florets in ketchup, as a sort of cousin to a French fry.  (I did actually see this recipe online first, but I never look at the recipe anymore.  It’s just that easy.)  You do have to serve it with a non-oven main dish, and it wouldn’t be so tempting on a hot day, but it’s yummy!  (A warning, though–eat it straight out of the oven.  It cools quickly and wouldn’t reheat well!)

How do you like cauliflower?

Mar 15, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just Really Not a Kids’ Book…

Just Really Not a Kids’ Book…

I just finished An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumer Godden, and its ‘Juvenile Fiction’ label is definitely a misnomer.  True, Lovejoy is probably the main character–although not quite in a conventional way–and she’s ‘almost eleven,’ but the omniscient narrator spends a noticeable amount of time on more than one adult.  Lovejoy is probably the reason for the label, but Lovejoy’s story is not really a story for children to read; the thought of explaining some of what is happening in this book to my seven-year-old makes me shudder.  It’s not offensive or dirty in any way, mind you.  It’s just that the characters’ motivations, their actions, their life stories…all of these things are likely to go over intermediate readers’ heads, be irrelevant to their lives, or to bore them because they don’t emotionally understand them yet.  There is real tragedy here, the kind that I felt deeply but my children–thank heavens–would not understand.  It does end on a hopeful (and thoroughly enjoyable!) note, though.

Ok, this is a particularly vague review, isn’t it.  To be more specific, then, An Episode of Sparrows was inspired by The Secret Garden, and it takes place in (immediately) post-World War II London.  The ‘sparrows’ of the title are the street children, and their lives and experiences are contrasted (rather vividly) with those of the few wealthy adults in the story.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  It’s hard to avoid spoilers for this one, so I’ll leave it at this–I absolutely enjoyed it, but it was nothing like what I thought it would be.  It’s also got a quirky sort of tone, but I got used to that.  If the subject interests you, go and read.  It would actually make an excellent book club pick!

Mar 14, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on One of THOSE Recipes

One of THOSE Recipes

And by THOSE, I mean the kind of recipes that are fine–not amazingly delicious, not at all bad, but fine–and totally worth keeping, because they are EASY and the kids ALL ATE IT HAPPILY.  (Ok, I promise, I’ll give Caps Lock a rest now.)  But you guys have those recipes too, right?  The kind that aren’t overwhelmingly incredible, aren’t really underwhelming…(can something be just “whelming”?)  Anyway, that’s how I felt about this 20 Minute Skillet Lasagna recipe, which, by the way, was neither a true skillet meal (which I define as being made all in the same, you know, skillet) nor lasagna (bow ties instead of lasagna noodles–farfalle if we want to be precise!–and only mozzarella cheese, and sour cream).  It didn’t taste like lasagna, particularly, but it was tomato sauce-y and a little creamy and meaty and it was pasta, and it’s pretty hard to mess up that combination so badly that I don’t still enjoy it.  I did change out the Italian seasoning for just basil and oregano–we don’t care for thyme and I prefer to grind up my rosemary so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating pine needles (which I would have done if I’d had the time!)–but otherwise I made it as is.  (Unless, of course, you count looking in the sour cream container, realizing there was less than a half a cup but not much less, and just dumping it all in.)  And both girlies gave it a thumbs up.  The Boy ate it perfectly happily as well, and so it’s going in the ‘quick and easy and successful dinner’ pile.

So to speak.

(Really, it just means it’s getting moved to my “Keeper Recipes” board on Pinterest.)

 

Mar 13, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Another Keeper–Wahoo!

Another Keeper–Wahoo!

Apparently I’m on a new recipe kick this week, because last night I tried these Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Taquitos, and I’m pleased to report that EVERYONE–my parents, my husband, and all the kids–gave them at least a thumbs middle (and most went thumbs up!).  (That’s on the ‘thumbs up, thumbs middle, or thumbs down’ scale of ‘how do you like this new recipe?’)  I actually doubled the recipe, because I didn’t think there were going to be enough for four adults and three children, and I’m glad I did.  What I didn’t do was double the red onion, and although I’m glad I didn’t–there would have been a LOT, and the kids probably wouldn’t have done so well–it could have used a tad more (in my opinion, at least).  I kind of wish I’d picked a gigantic onion and used the whole thing, instead of sticking to the smallest one I could find (although the smallest red onion at Macey’s wasn’t small, not by ANY stretch of the imagination).  My only real complaint with the dinner at all wasn’t the recipe’s fault;  I used whole wheat tortillas because they are healthier and more filling, but I still miss white flour tortillas.  Just like I still miss white rice, instead of white-and-brown-mixed. Unfortunately, eating straight white rice as part of dinner means I am STARVING again in two hours, and since I really can’t afford to be eating two dinners a night–there will be undesirable consequences–I mix white and brown.  I don’t dislike either the whole wheat tortillas or the rice mix, you understand.  I do like the white kind better, in both cases, but I’m almost 35, and I’m trying to be healthy where I can, and I’d rather make this compromise than give up buttery, home-baked desserts.

(In case you’re curious, I’m not sure THAT sacrifice is EVER going to happen.  We’ll see.)

Anyway, these were tasty, and in case you’re curious, a large can of pineapple tidbits (cut in half with a knife) equals about two cups of diced pineapple.  Give them a try!

Mar 11, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Cautious Thumbs Up

A Cautious Thumbs Up

Since my parents are in town at the moment–they live about 5 1/2 hours away–I got to try a recipe for dinner that I’d think twice about for just my kids.  Why, you ask?

Potatoes.

We actually have three issues with potatoes in this house.  Number one is that NONE of my children have liked them until recently (and really, this baffles me.  I mean, aren’t potatoes pretty innocuous?).  The oldest–who is also the least picky–has started to come around, but the middle is NOT a fan and the boy seems pretty underwhelmed thus far.  The second issue is really just habit…before we had kids I worked two jobs and didn’t cook on a regular basis, and you know what eventually go bad (and smell really foul when they do)?  Potatoes.  You know what doesn’t go bad and keeps for an incredibly long time? Pasta.  And rice.  The third issue, however, is the trickiest.  If it weren’t for this, I could overcome the habit problem.  But the sad fact of the matter is this:

Peeling potatoes makes me sneeze.

No, seriously.  It starts a few potatoes in, and by the fourth or fifth, I’m sneezing multiple times a potato, and if I happen to be peeling enough for, say, Thanksgiving–back when I was a kid, and living with my sister who never met a potato she didn’t like–then I can’t breathe through my nose for the rest of the day.  It’s awful.  I don’t know why, and I know it’s weird, but my mother actually started excusing me from potato peeling on major holidays (and you KNOW it’s legit if my mother let me off the hook–I may be the youngest, but she’s not the spoiling type).  My sister–yes, the potato lover, I’ve only got one–started up with the same problem a few years ago, which is much sadder for her than for me.  I can take or leave potatoes, you see.  I’m fine with them, but I don’t miss them when they’re not there (even after living with more than one Idaho potato farmer roommate!).  Mostly I wish they were a better occasional carb option for dinner, but like I said, that’s dicey with my kiddos.

Anyway, since my parents (who, coincidentally, now live in Idaho!) are in town, and they are both fans, I decided to try this Loaded Baked Potato and Chicken Casserole.  It went over much better than expected with the family (not SO much with the Middle, but that was really too much to hope for), and I really enjoyed it.  I sprinkled some Lawry’s Seasoned Vegetable & Pork Rub on top of my serving–I discovered this quite by accident (it’s kind of a funny story, so maybe I’ll tell it sometime!), but it’s my favorite way to flavor a cheesy baked potato.  There are a few issues noted in the comments, but I didn’t find them to be deal-breakers.  When cooked as directed, the potatoes on top of mine were firm but done enough, which is the way I like them; if you like really soft potatoes, I’d dice them fairly small (or up the cook time, or parboil…you get the idea).  I used evaporated milk instead of heavy cream, and it did look curdled when I took it out of the oven, but neither the flavor or texture bothered me.  It didn’t look pretty, but then, I’ve already mentioned that I don’t care all that much about what food looks like (within reason, of course.)  I thought the chicken would be weird, but it absorbed enough cheesy and bacon flavor that I actually enjoyed it, and you really need it for the protein if you want this as a decently filling main course (that is, if you’ve got a metabolism like mine.)  I served broccoli on the side, which seemed thematically fitting, and this was a respectable dinner.  I’m absolutely going to make it again, although I’m open to suggestions about the cream/evaporated milk issue that don’t involve cream of chicken soup (I’m not looking for the flavor change that would bring).  Any ideas?

Mar 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Mom, You’re Right. This IS a Strange Dinner.

Mom, You’re Right. This IS a Strange Dinner.

Well, I warned them.  (That was the seven-year-old, by the way.)  On Saturday, since I wanted the girlies to be in bed by 6:45 in preparation for the time change (the middle to sleep, the oldest to read for her usual 40 minutes or so), I was waffling about what to have for dinner.  My poor hubby has been sick all weekend into today, so he wasn’t going to be eating with us, and I just wanted easy.  EASY.  (It’s hard enough to get kids in bed that early without lots of dinner prep and cleanup besides.)  So I was browsing one of my Pinterest boards, thinking breakfast for dinner sounded promising, and I saw this Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Bread.  HEY! thought I.  I’ve got roasted mashed sweet potato in the freezer from forever ago, and while it was going to be sweet potato gnocchi when I roasted it, that hasn’t exactly happened yet, has it?  And so dinner was born.  I used 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour and white for the rest, and I browned up some deli ham for protein, and the girlies had red pepper strips while the boy and I finished off the grape tomatoes.  (I got maybe two, which is why I went for a grapefruit later.)  Not exactly a Chopped worthy meal, but we hit the major food groups, right?  And it was easy.

(That is, if you don’t count listening to your four-year-old, by force of habit, call it banana bread.  Every time.  Which wouldn’t have bothered me except that her seven-year-old sister then felt the need to correct her.  EVERY TIME.)

The real question, of course, is whether or not it was both easy and good enough to make again, and the answer is–probably.

This isn’t an indictment of the recipe, you understand.  It’s just that I used the spice amounts the recipe called for, and I really should have known better.  They’re probably right for a vast majority of the world’s population, but I, my friends, I am MAD FOR NUTMEG.  Seriously.  I love the stuff.  I wished I’d upped that and lowered the amount of allspice (and really, a touch of cloves would not have gone amiss).   I love my fall spices, but I’m kind of particular about how much of each I can taste.

By the way, I also got my jury duty info in Saturday’s mail.  I get to call this Friday night, and if I have to go in, my fabulous mother-in-law gets to come spend the day with my kiddos.

Hmm.  I better write down the directions for preschool carpool…

Mar 9, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Anyone Else Eat Too Much Tonight?

Anyone Else Eat Too Much Tonight?

I’m completely blaming my niece for this, by the way.  And my chocoholic hubby.  I’d put the girlies to bed and my 20-month-old was hanging with Daddy, and my fabulous almost-17-year-old niece called and asked me for the recipe for Chocolate Pudding Cake.  (This goes by many names, by the way…my in-laws call it Hot Fudge Sundae Cake.)  I don’t use the recipe we had growing up–I think I copied it down wrong, because I never could get it to come out right–so I gave her this Chocolate Cobbler version, which is more or less the same thing.  And then my hubby, who’s been sick all weekend and has just gotten his appetite back, thought it sounded kind of good, so while the 20-month-old mooched pizza off of Daddy like a champ, I popped this surprisingly lowfat concoction into the oven.  And then the boy went to bed, and there was warm, gooey chocolate goodness and cold, soft vanilla creaminess to be had.   Mmmmmmmm.

(By the way, come to think of it, I might not have actually copied the recipe down wrong.  I spent a decade wondering why the things I baked growing up never came out quite right anymore before it finally dawned on me that going from sea level to over 4,000 feet above sea level might just have something to do with it.)

I should really feel more guilty about stuffing myself so badly, because I just don’t bounce back in an hour or two the way I used to!  On the other hand, I got one less hour of sleep last night, and I had a child with digestive issues at my bedside at 4:30 this morning (not to mention a Diaper of Doom just before bedtime, which meant Daddy (who has a bad back) got to read stories to the girlies while I got to bathe a boy an hour early in what little hot water his sisters left him), so I’m just not going to judge myself too harshly.  And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t have eaten so much to begin with except that the one downside to this recipe is the timing.  It is AMAZING right out of the oven.  You put whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top and you’re in heaven.  The day after, on the other hand?  Meh.  It’s not BAD, really, but it’s a pale shadow of the amazing goodness it once was.  (A warning, by the way.  Pay attention to the self-rising flour thing.  If you don’t have any–and I never do–the substitution is listed and simple, but you do have to do it.  If, say, you’re pregnant and craving this and your husband makes it but doesn’t notice that part of the recipe, well…let’s just say it doesn’t end well.  Or terribly edibly.  Which should really be a word.)

(Incidentally, I should report that my upping bedtime incrementally all week long paid off.  The girls did well.  The boy, well…he’s having bedtime issues at the moment.  The but-I-was-having-fun-why-do-I-have-to-go-to-bed kind of issues.  He’s getting better, though.)

Of course, eating too much is one thing.  Staying up too late after the night we had is quite another…and on that note, it’s off to bed for me.

 

Mar 7, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Pleasant Surprise

A Pleasant Surprise

If you’ve read my maiden post, so to speak–the one about my Newbery project–you’ll notice that I said I can count on one hand the number of Newberys I’ve actively disliked.  And this is true.  If you happened to make a list, however, of books I sort of expected to dislike, it’d be longer. To be honest with you, I put off reading Holes and Maniac Magee because I assumed–yes, we all know what happens when we assume–that they’d be so boy-oriented I wouldn’t really like them.  (THAT was clearly not the case, by the way.  Loved.  Them.  Both.)  And The Underneath and Elijah of Buxton looked so depressing (the latter by virtue of the general topic, really) that I put each of them off for a few years before bravely picking them up and–loving them, too.  You’d think I’d learn, right?  Then again, there was that Awful Experience that was reading The Planet of Junior Brown.  (If anyone out there really liked that one, please comment and tell me why.  Because I found it just SO VERY BIZARRE. And not really in a good way.)

Anyway, to make a long story short–too late! LOVE “Clue”!–I didn’t actually expect to like Doll Bones that much.  I’m not much of a ghost story person–it’s not that they freak me out, necessarily, so much as I’m generally not that interested–and really, between the cover and the premise, it looked like a creepy ghost story.  And it was, I suppose.  Except that telling the story through Zach’s eyes meant that the writing wasn’t atmospherically creepy, if you know what I mean.  He’s a twelve-year-old boy, and his observations sometimes made me giggle.  Even better than the non-creepy tone, however, was the emphasis on relationships throughout the book.  At the end of the day, those were even more important than the ghost story, although the ghost story was the catalyst for all of the relationship change.  I liked Zach, Poppy, and Alice; I liked learning more about them; and I enjoyed following them on their ‘quest.’  I could see the story being creepier for kids or people who get freaked out by that sort of thing, mind you.  It’s not that it wasn’t creepy at all.  (And it’s not that things don’t scare me.  I would never claim that.  This just doesn’t happen to be the sort of thing that does, particularly.)  The point is that it’s so much MORE than just creepy.  Doll Bones is officially the newest title on my list of pleasant surprises.

Doll Bones


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Mar 6, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

I Hang My Head in Shame

My neighbor had a hip transplant this week, and he and his wife are pretty much the best neighbors ever (together with the Beatties, my awesome neighbors when I was a kid), so the girlies made him get well cards and I made treats.  And on Tuesday night I brought him over the cards and the plate of treats.  I did.

And then there was the rest of the pan.

And now it’s gone.

It is true that I gave a few to the kiddos–more so to the ones who are home for lunch–and my hubby had a couple.  I also gave one to a friend today, in a tragic ‘too little too late’ attempt at self-defense.  As for the rest?

Yeah, I ate them.

I cannot tell a lie.  I’m pretty sure I ate more than half the pan in three days.  And no, I’m not proud of this, but they kept calling to me. Seductively.  In that ‘just one little piece, no one’s looking!’ kind of way.  And I caved.  Every time.

I think part of the problem was that I wasn’t quite expecting them to be THAT good.  I was looking for a really easy recipe, so I broke out 101 Things to Do with a Cake Mix and picked something that looked enjoyable, but I wasn’t expecting the yumminess that was the Reese’s Pieces Bars.  I love homemade, from-scratch treats, but a little easy warm sweet goodness is never a bad thing.  Here goes:

You take 1 yellow cake mix, 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup oil.  Mix them together, add 1 1/2 cups of Reese’s Pieces and mix them in, and bake at 350 for 13-19 minutes in a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Take them out when they’re golden brown, let them cool just enough to cut, and go to town.  (I have a slow oven, so I did 19 minutes, although the original recipe actually said 13-17.)  You have to like Reese’s Pieces, of course, and it takes a bigger bag to be sure to get the full cup and a half, but oh, my.  I really just couldn’t stop eating them.

And to my husband, who always reads my posts and only got three bars in three days?

Sorry, honey.

101 Things to Do with a Cake Mix


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