Jun 4, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Tasty (But Not Exactly Low Fat)

Tasty (But Not Exactly Low Fat)

Remember Sunday’s pork chops?  And how I thawed a pork loin–purchased on sale–to get those pork chops?  Well, one pork loin makes more than one meal’s worth of chops, which means that tonight I cooked up the rest of them in this Pork Chops and Hash Brown Casserole.  I was originally leaning towards another recipe…a crockpot one with bacon…but then I remembered my brother and his vacation habits.

Let me explain.  Our mother’s side of the family shares a family cabin, which you can reserve through my youngest uncle and stay in whenever it’s available.  My brother loves to bring his family (he and my sister-in-law have 5 kiddos) to stay there, since they are outdoorsy and enjoy it to the full–AND it’s free.  On their way back to Idaho, they often stop in with us overnight, unloading whatever food they have left in their cooler.  Not all of that food makes it back to Idaho, meaning that a few times a year, I end up with really random food in my fridge and freezer (some of which I would NOT have purchased myself.)  One of those items happened to be a 32 ounce bag of frozen hash browns, and when I remembered its existence, I opted for this recipe with the glee one can only know if one’s fridge and freezer is chronically, crazily crowded.  I knew it’d be a gamble with my potato-shy kiddos, but it’s the kind of thing my hubby’s likely to like, so I went to town.

The good news?  I’d make it again, and my hubby would happily eat it again.  (Indeed, he WILL eat it again.  Possibly several times.  It made a LOT of pork.)  My oldest ate slowly but said she enjoyed it, and my middle–I was shocked!–gave the meat a thumbs up and the rest a thumbs middle.  She dawdled over it, but she didn’t make despairing faces or moan and groan, so we’re calling that a win.  The bad news?  The boy picked out the meat and flat out REFUSED to even taste the potatoes.  (He was actually pretty offended at the whole thing.  Once everyone’s green beans were gone, however–he’s freakishly fond of green beans–he finally decided he’d deign to eat the meat, since no other food was visible anywhere.)  I even offered him a treat–nothing doing.  I finally resorted to my fallback plan for his stage of life, which involves giving them a piece of plain bread as a tacit acknowledgement that I don’t want them to be so hungry that they have trouble at bedtime.  (He ate it all.  He was throwing the potatoes when I got him down from the high chair.)

In other bad news, it’s not exactly the healthiest dish you could serve; on the other hand, I subbed half the sour cream for plain yogurt and used 1% milk, and cream of celery soup isn’t as bad as it might be.  I certainly wouldn’t serve it frequently, but I have lots of recipes I only make occasionally for that very reason.  Oh, and to get back to the good news?  I heeded the USDA’s assurance that pork is now safe at 145, and oh, the tender juiciness!

Bottom line?  It’s a tasty casserole, and if your kids eat potatoes, you’re home free!

Jun 3, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Stop the Presses!

Stop the Presses!

I tried this recipe for Black Beans and Sausage tonight, and you will NEVER GUESS which of the kiddos ate it best.

Yup.  The middle.  I almost died.

The sad thing is, both my hubby and I quite enjoyed it.  The smoky flavor of the sausage, the fresh accent of the parsley, the slight creaminess of the yogurt (I was leery of the plain yogurt, so I experimented with both that and sour cream, but I actually liked the yogurt better!)…it was all very nice.  I would totally make it again.  My oldest’s problem seemed to be the shallots, but that wasn’t too surprising; I sliced, instead of dicing, and the rings were very noticeable to someone who struggles with onions.  The boy, predictably, picked out the sausage.  (I think he tried a bite or two of beans, but got a straight shallot and gave up from there.)  The middle, on the other hand, really liked the sausage, and when I reminded her that if she had beans with every bite, it would all taste like the sausage–more or less–she complied surprisingly well.

I will probably make it again–I enjoyed it that much–although I’m tempted to experiment with a third can of beans and appropriately increase the seasonings.  (It felt like plenty of meat because I always cut smoked sausages into small pieces for the kiddos…and because I like to have some in every bite, instead of a few big pieces floating around.)  I might be happy just one and a halving everything but the sausage, come to think of it.

Anyway.  If you need a fast and easy dinner, serve this with some bread and a fruit or veggie on the side (tonight’s pick was watermelon).  It’s tasty!

Jun 2, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on My Second Favorite Way to Have Pork Chops

My Second Favorite Way to Have Pork Chops

And to be honest with you, this would probably tie for favorite if the ingredients were as year-round as the other.  Rhubarb is in season, however, and my neighbors have fresh rosemary in their flower bed, and what’s more, my parents were visiting here on their anniversary and my mother requested this Rhubarb Pork Chop Bake.  So tasty!  I always use boneless chops–really, who wants to pay for bone-in when you can buy a pork loin on sale in the fall, freeze it, and cut it into chops yourself?–and wheat bread, since that’s what I buy, and it still tastes lovely.  Even my picky middle enjoyed it (and she wasn’t disposed to, because she tried a piece of rhubarb raw!).  Interestingly enough, the boy was not a fan, but his tummy’s been a little funny, and he’s never had the sweet tooth the rest of us do.  The pork is lovely and moist and tender, and the stuffing is the perfect mix of sweet, tart, and savory.  (By the way, if you’re just grabbing bread from the bag of sandwich bread you’ve got out, cut it up early in the day and let it sit to get a bit more stale.)  Use a digital meat thermometer–$15 for peace of mind!–and take it out by 160.  It’s an unusual combination, but try it.  I promise–you’ll be glad you did!

Jun 1, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on It Caught My Eye at the Library

It Caught My Eye at the Library

Last night I finished The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya, which did indeed catch my eye at the library.  I checked it out because the plot looked good–and because Richard Peck was quoted on the cover as calling the author ‘an engaging and fresh new voice.’  (I LOVE Richard Peck.) And I have to say, I did enjoy it overall.  I wasn’t so sure about it for the first ten pages–the point of view took a bit of getting used to–but it continued to grow on me, and I ended up being ok with the feel of it.  My only complaint about it would be an expectation problem; Zeno and Alya meet very briefly towards the beginning of the book, separate, and don’t see each other again until more than 3/4 of the way through it.  To me, the title sort of implied adventures together, and so I was waiting for what felt like the whole book for that to happen.  That said, Zeno’s journey from complete self-absorption (apparently, parrots are like that) to viewing others as friends worth sacrificing for was compelling, and Alya’s battle against the emotional aftermath of chemotherapy for leukemia was poignant.  Their second meeting was far more meaningful for having been delayed, and the ending was hopeful, in a way that reminds us that sometimes, hope can be everything.

One of the lessons in church today dealt partly with hope, and so I’m offering two thoughts on hope this Sunday afternoon.

1)Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. (Ether 12:4, in The Book of Mormon)

2)”Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

(Emily Dickinson, #254)

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

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May 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Three

Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Three

I’ve actually looked at this recipe for Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins several times.  I even meant to make it for dinner the other night, because I needed something really easy to feed the kids before I went to a church dinner.  It’s not a difficult recipe, but I’ve been tripped up more than once because of the time table; you have to soak the oatmeal in the buttermilk for an hour before mixing up the muffin batter and baking the muffins.  I sure forgot to do that in time Thursday night.  This morning, however, since the kiddos were up early, I made a concerted effort to get things soaking, and as a result, we finally managed to have these muffins for breakfast.

I have to say, they were pretty tasty, too.  They weren’t as similar to last week’s chocolate chip muffins as you might expect; the oatmeal and the buttermilk lend a very specific flavor and texture.  And they were VERY filling (I actually subbed in wheat flour for a quarter cup of the flour–I couldn’t even tell–and the oatmeal gives them a lot of heartiness as well).  They were a hit with everyone, and I couldn’t resist munching on them once or twice during the morning.  My only problem is that they spread instead of rising into little domes; Andrea says this is a common altitude problem, but I find it interesting that both ‘soak oats in buttermilk’ recipes that I’ve tried have the same problem.  It doesn’t affect the taste at all, so I don’t really care, but you’ve got to be careful when removing the muffins from the tin.  If you do it when they’re too hot, you’ll just pull off the tops and leave the bottoms sitting there, sad and alone.  Wait until they cool a little, and if you’re careful, you should be home free.  Enjoy!

May 29, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Favorite Movie

A Favorite Movie

I know, I know, I don’t usually review movies.  I don’t watch many anymore, I suppose.  When I was in Idaho last month, however, I watched “The Help” with my parents–pretty good, although the book is always better–and the murder of Medgar Evers played a small part in it.  I mentioned after “The Help” was over that there was a movie about bringing Medgar Evers’ killer to justice that I absolutely loved, and my mother expressed considerable interest in seeing it.  Their library system didn’t have it, and it’s not available on Netflix, so I told her we’d watch “Ghosts of Mississippi” the next time they came to visit; last night we did.  And oh, how I love that movie!

I don’t know if the critics were impressed by it overall (not that that means anything!).  “The English Patient” was the Oscar darling the year it came out, but James Woods was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  He was chilling and awful and revoltingly racist, and I think it’s a travesty that he didn’t win.  (Cuba Gooding Jr. won that year, and while I’ve seen edited versions of “Jerry Maguire,” and he was good, it is my (not so) humble opinion that James Woods was better.)  If I were from the south I’d probably have a lot to say about the various accents used by the cast, but–I’m not!  All I know is that “Ghosts of Mississippi” is a true story of justice at long last, and there is almost nothing I like better.  (It’s like the courtroom drama version of watching the Nazis lose.)  If the internet can be believed in this case, it’s fairly true to life; indeed, one of the investigators (whose father was an original investigator on the case) plays himself.  So do some of Medgar Evers’ children.  (How cool is that?)  Alec Baldwin was still in his hero days–closer to “The Hunt for Red October” than “30 Rock”–and there are some lovely character actors in smaller parts, like Bill Cobb (who plays Evers’ brother) and Margo Martindale, who (as Baldwin’s secretary) has some of the funniest lines in the film.  There are also some powerful camera shots, like the rubbed-out but still visible “White Men” on the door to the courthouse bathroom during the trial.

Anyway.  I’m waxing on.  It’s an amazing story, though, and a well done movie, and you should see it, if you haven’t already.  Heroes like Medgar Evers deserve to be remembered–and honored.

Maybe when our kids get older we’ll make it a MLK day tradition.

May 28, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Cautious Thumbs Up

A Cautious Thumbs Up

I had the last of a package of strawberries left in the refrigerator (no longer pristine enough for just eating as is), and I was looking for a dessert that looked tasty but not insanely labor-intensive–I’ve got houseguests, you understand–so I opted for this Strawberry Cobbler.  And I have to say, it was pretty good.  A little weird, maybe…hot whole strawberries and a slightly interesting texture…but it was kind of fabulous with vanilla ice cream on top.  Oh, the cream cheesy goodness!  It was pretty rich, but I think the idea of the richness bothered me more than the reality.  Knowing that my 9 by 13 pan was already holding a stick of butter and half a package of cream cheese made me feel a little guilty about using enough ice cream for the optimum hot/cold ratio.

(By the way, this isn’t just me, right?  And my brother (because I know we’ve had this conversation)?  If you are eating something hot with something cold on top–pie, brownies, cobbler, whatever–you have to have the right ratio of hot to cold.  Each bite should have hot gooey goodness and cold beautiful creaminess all mixed up together.  It’s how life should be.)

My mother wanted it to be more tart, and my son was either full from dinner or not a fan, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.  I would probably let it cool a bit before serving; still warm but no longer at all hot would be optimal, I think.  It’s probably not for the lactose intolerant, but if you love strawberry cheesecake in all its incarnations, you should probably give this one a try!

May 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Better Late Than Never…

Better Late Than Never…

And I say that because Cranford was a book club pick for one of my book clubs in June 2013.  I’ve been putting it off for a variety of reasons–the two most pressing being other books due at the library and a concern for my concentration capabilities–but the time was now, and I have finished! (Well, almost.  I’m technically still working on the last appendix.)  And I have to say, I enjoyed it in a quiet sort of way.  It doesn’t have the sort of gripping plot that helps you stay awake when you’ve been up with the kids one too many times and shouldn’t be reading at 11:30, but I found it quietly amusing and never boring.  (As long as you enjoy that sort of thing, and I do.)  It’s a series of vignettes about the town of Cranford, which is based on a town that Elizabeth Gaskell lived in for a significant portion of her life.  Death, marriage, birth, drastic changes in fortune, lost love…all of these things are dealt with in a very English fashion.  Gaskell takes a tone of mingled affection and amusement, which was enjoyable, although possibly not distinctive.  (The only other thing of Gaskell’s I’ve looked through was her bio of Charlotte Bronte, but that was in context of a paper on Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre I wrote in college; I couldn’t begin to tell you my impression of it as an individual book.  It was, rather, one of a series of biographies I was using.)  I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by her, but I’m not led to commit to one any time soon.

Incidentally, I tried to start it months ago, only to find that I had the WRONG edition.  Don’t be seduced by Judi Dench on the cover–you need the Penguin Classic edition that has the appendices at the end.  Otherwise, you will be driven mad inside of five pages by references to appendices that aren’t there to refer to.  By the time I rectified this mistake, I’d started something else, and it (clearly) took me a while to get back to it.  It isn’t clear whether the edition linked to this post has them, so if it doesn’t, get the one with the black cover that’s just Cranford.  If nothing else, the last Cranford tale can be found there (but not in the book proper), and it was possibly my favorite.


Cranford / Cousin Phillis (Penguin Classics)

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May 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Well, THAT Was Unexpected!

Well, THAT Was Unexpected!

I have been drooling over the idea of these Snickerdoodle Pancakes for months, so when I was looking for a good holiday breakfast this morning, I was psyched that I had all the ingredients and I could try them out.  Lovely, warm, rich cinnamon goodness, right?  How could I go wrong?

And then I tried them.  And when I said to my girlies, “Huh.  I don’t actually love these,” they tried them and responded with a double dose of “I see what you mean, Mom.”  They each ate two and were done, which is unusual for pancakes.  The boy, on the other hand, went to TOWN.  I’m not sure if he was especially hungry or if he just really, really loved them, but I lost count of how many he ate.  I think he was the only fan, though, so I’m afraid it was an experience never to be repeated!

The problem, I think, was that the cream of tartar and the thickness of the sour cream–or the sour cream/plain yogurt mix, which is what I used–made them SO thick and fluffy that it was exceptionally difficult to get them completely done inside.  And of course, unless you can get that mixture completely done inside, your pancakes will taste like sour cream (or plain yogurt and sour cream combined).  I never got them done enough to taste good, and I tried.  I was further underwhelmed by the glaze…a syrup would have been so much better.  You should make your own decision, of course, but I sure won’t be making them again!

May 25, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on It Depends Upon Your Point of View…

It Depends Upon Your Point of View…

We’re coming into summer weather in Utah, and in recognition of that, I planned to have pasta salad one day last week.  After all, who wants a hot meal on a hot day, right?  (Of course, on the actual day in question, it ended up being overcast with a brisk wind all day long, but you can’t win them all.)  I found 3 contenders from my ‘Pasta Salads’ board on Pinterest–yes, I have a board dedicated exclusively to pasta salads–and picked, ironically, the least tempting of the three.  (That’s what happens when the other two would require an extra trip to the grocery store.)  I was originally going to make it quickly and serve it up that same night, but when I realized it was supposed to refrigerate overnight, well, clearly that ship had sailed.  Overnight wasn’t really going to happen, though, so I made it my number one priority after walking my oldest to school the next morning.  (And I have to say, having to do almost nothing for dinner in the late afternoon was delightful!)

Anyway, I duly brought it out at dinnertime and found that the reactions to Mom’s Macaroni Salad differed considerably.  On one end of the spectrum, of course, was my middle, who detested it on principle, since it was quite a bit outside the box of our typical dinners.  (I tend towards Italian or BBQ pasta salads, as a rule.)  On the other end we have my oldest and Daddy, who seemed to enjoy it.  That leaves the boy and me in the middle; he ate some but not all, and isn’t exactly old enough to do our thumb review, and I was underwhelmed.  The problem was that it had a creamy dressing with a very mild mustard flavor, and I like TANG.  I wish I’d used Dijon mustard; my taste buds also wished I’d tripled the amount called for (while the part of me responsible for getting my children to eat did NOT).  It made quite a bit, so I’ve been adding diced banana pepper rings to my leftovers; it ups the flavor considerably.  Bacon bits or raw onion or pickles would do the same thing; at the end of the day, it just wants something to add crunch and little bursts of strong flavor.

There you have it, folks.  I’m probably not going to make this one again, but only because the flavor profile didn’t suit me.  If you like a milder, creamier pasta salad, you should give this one a go.