Vacation of a different kind

I took a “blog” vacation.  Not a great idea when you have a blog and people want to read your material.  But I have an excuse (I think it’s a pretty good one).  The four of us (my husband, son and daughter) took a trip to Italy.  It was a graduation gift, visiting relatives, and long overdue vacation all rolled into one.  It might be one one of the last trips we will take together as a family since both kids will be leaving for college this fall (more on that later…)

We connected with some of my Italian family we have never met before (except for email correspondence in the last 6 months), saw some of the most beautiful art and architecture, rode on trains that I thought would fall off the side of cliffs, hauled luggage up and down 5 million stairs, and ate the most amazing food on the face of this earth.  The most interesting aspect of our trip was how much everyone walked in this country and the state of physical fitness the majority of population is in.

I have been spending this past week dealing with jet lag, missing this beautiful country and cooking my way through an Italian cookbook I picked up while in Florence…of course it is practically all in Italian and measurements are all weighed by grams… 

I shall close now and get some laundry done.  I will be back in the next day or two.  I just wanted to assure everyone I am still alive.  I have pictures, some very interesting recipes and stories to share with you!  Please stay tuned!  Ciao, Katarina

The Bowl of Wisdom

I love bowls – I have many of them.  My kids and husband tease me all the time about the quantity of bowls I have stashed in the kitchen cabinets; all different shapes and sizes.  I had a garage sale last weekend and had a hard time selling any of my bowls even though I had plenty not in use that I could have sold.  Maybe I need to go to “bowl re-hab”…

In the summer we make a lot of salads – big bowls are great to serve salads from.  Nice round high sides to toss the ingredients and then scoop out.  We made homemade pizza the evening before the garage sale so the next evening I whipped up a salad from left overs in the refrigerator.  Italian salami (sopressata), fresh mozzarella, red onion, steam green beans, artichoke hearts, green olives, roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes, cheese, etc… Tossed with some romaine and drizzled with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Finished with some coarse ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and we had our selves one delicious salad … in one very attractive ceramic bowl I might add!

I have some pictures of the salad – in the bowl.  btw – I did not sell the bowl you see in the picture, it’s just too pretty.  Enjoy the beginning of your summer by tossing your cares aside this Memorial Day weekend and relaxing.  Enjoy a salad full of delicious fresh ingredients tossed in your own bowl of wisdom.

Garage Sale Saturday

It is 6 O’clock on a Saturday morning and I have been at this garage sale stuff for almost a week now!  Hauling “stuff” out of the basement, spare room, closets, bedrooms, workshop, backyard, storage closets, and attic, then finding enough tables to set this “stuff” on and pricing it all.  I have not had a garage sale in over 12 years so you can imaging the “stuff” we have collected here at the Hanna House!  I even recruited my daughter and her boyfriend to help  price it all.  At times this week, I have asked myself – “Who’s idea was this?”.  Then I remember it was all mine – ughh.

Well, I have done what I set out to do – make a few bucks to buy a new patio set and have a little spending money for our summer vacation…  But in the mean-time, my family has practically gone hungry since I was not available to make dinner this past week.  Don’t get me wrong – they are all very capable of preparing their own meals but not quite like what they are used to on a daily basis (not to mention their own busy schedules this past week).  Here is my solution: Pizza- I always have the number programmed into my cell phone and call when these types of emergencies occur.  This is one recipe I can’t prints…since my pizza number might be different than yours.  So to all my friends out there garage sale-ing and selling “stuff” at garage sales – enjoy the fun of this late spring mid-west ritual and always remember, “one woman’s junk is another man’s treasure!”

Garage Sale Fury

I used to go to garage sales when my kids were itty-bitty; finding little sun dresses, over-alls, toy fire engines, duplo’s, lego’s and miscleneous “stuff”.  During this time, my mom would comevisit, driving all the way from Cleveland in her mini-van filled with her garage sale “stuff”, and we would set up our own garage sale at our house selling “stuff”.  As the years passed, I still occasionally visited garage sales buying “stuff” here and there while slowly filling up my basement with my own “stuff” that I no longer need…but someone else might want.

So here I am – finally having our garage sale tomorrow – ONE DAY ONLY!!!  And started to haul the “stuff” out of the basement.  OH-MY-GOSH…we have accumulated ALOT of “STUFF”!  I don’t even think I will have enough tables and it will take me all day and most of the eveningto sort and price everything.  I am sellingeverything from camp gear, snorkel masks, kites, Christmas decorations, comforters, window treatments, antique dresser, ping-pong table, pots and pans, utensils, books, beenie babies, and the list goes on and on and on!

Of course, while pricing 10,000 articles of “stuff” today, I have to think about feeding my family too so I made this black bean soup the other week and decided to make it again since it was so easy.  It’s made in the crock pot, takes all of about 10 minutes to throw together   The weather has been aweful – cold, wet and rainy so it will be perfect.  I serve it with a loaf of french bread which I tear in large chunks and set in a basket (this makes for a pretty neat presentation – like a cookbook photo) and a green salad on the side.

Here is the recipe and I hope you enjoy.  This soup is great chilled and served with a dollop of sour cream too!  Happy garage sale-ing this weekend!

Black Bean Soup – Crockpot Style

Serves 6-8

 

1 pound dry black beans, soaked overnight or 3-4 15.5 oz. cans

1 tbs. chopped jalapeno peppers

6 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 med. carrot, diced

1 med. onion, diced

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. ground black pepper

½ cup sour cream (optional)

 

1.      Drain black beans; rinse.

2.      Combine beans, and remaining ingredients except sour cream in a Crockpot.

3.      Cook on High 4 hours. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 hours.

4.      At this point the soup can be eaten as is, pureed with a hand blender for a creamy texture or served chilled with a dollop of sour cream.

 

Friday night at the Hanna’s

Friday nights here at the Hanna house are always interesting.  Phone ringing, cell phones buzzing, girlfriends calling, neighbors stopping by, 12 yards of mulch delivered (who ordered this?), husband walks in the door early from work (a rarity, but exciting when it happens on a Friday!), friends over for dinner…  Uh oh..dinner, I almost forgot!  I run to the store and grab a couple pounds of lean beef, bag of buns, bunch of asparagus for roasting and a couple pounds of potatoes.

Then I put everyone to work – even the friends…One makes the patties, someone else preps the asparagus, another sets the table and my husband loves to do the potatoes.  They are the best oven baked potatoes ever! 

Chris’s Oven Baked Potato Chips

4 large premium russet potatoes, scrubbed (peeling optional)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon each garlic powder, salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  If your oven has a roasting option – use it.  Coat 2 large baking sheets with a thin coat of cooking spray.  Combine vegetable oil, bread crumbs, seasonings and lemon zest in large mixing bowl; mix well.  Slice potatoes 1/4″ thin if possible – and place in mixing bowl with oil and seasonings; toss well.  Place potato slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until potatoes are crisp and golden brown.  Serve immediately – serves 4-6.

Being Efficient

I have taught many cooking and kitchen technique classes over the years.  One of the most common mistakes a lot of new cooks make is not using the sauté pan to its full potential.

Let’s start with the basics – sautéing onions.  Chop, dice, slice – whatever it is – spread them out in the pan; not in a pile in the middle of the pan.  (See first photo.)  Pans are designed to distribute heat throughout the bottom of the pan and on some types – up the sides.  spreading the vegetables (in this case onion) over the entire bottom of the pan will insure 1) even cooking, 2) quicker softening and browning, and 3) less chance of scorching bottom of pan.

Now make sure you don’t have the heat on high…and don’t turn it all the way down to low…there are many degrees of heat other than “high” and “off”!  An average saute with onions in a pan as above with a few tablespoons of olive oil works well on medium-high.

Now stay close to the pan and move things around a bit every few minutes.  Within 5-8 minutes, your onions will be perfect – now.  Walla! you are ready for anything now; wine, tomatoes, garlic, broth for soup, cream etc…  Have fun in the kitchen! kathleen

Asparagus – spring green stems and purple painted tips

Living in Michigan we have access to some of the best and freshest varieties of asparagus in the country.  I may sound a bit biased, but food has always been my love and asparagus at the top of my list of favorites – that being said, I feel I have eaten enough asparagus in my (barely) less than 50 years to make this statement with a bit of authority.

Its colors are so enticing to me – spring green like the fresh leaves on trees with tips of purple like someone painted then with a brush.  I typically steam these tender stems making sure they are still a bit crunchy and bright green or toss them with a bit of olive oil and roast them in a very hot oven then barely sprinkled with an aged balsamic vinegar and Sicilian sea salt.

Some stems are pencil thin and others are thick like my thumb.  As long as your bunch of asparagus is consistent in size – nothing else matters other than fresh wonderful flavor.  Here is a great web site to answer some general questions that you may have about asparagus: http://www.asparagus.org/maab/faq.html

I found some asparagus at the local grocery store today for $1.29/pound so I bought a huge bag and carried it home with much excitement.  I know what you’re thinking right now – this woman is nuts!  Well, some of my closest friends think that, so it’s ok if you think the same thing!  I am in the process of making asparagus soup this afternoon.  I really don’t have a written recipe so I thought I would spend some time today to perfect and measure all the ingredients and finally write down the Best Asparagus Soup recipe ever (I guess that sounds a bit biased too)!

The soup is in the fridge right now and chilling – send me a note and let me know if you want the recipe – I will be refining it this weekend.  Happy spring! k

Blog Vacation

Ok, so I just took a blog vacation…that means I took some time off from writing to myself or to my blog or to you…whatever.  I have been under the weather and had a small surgical procedure done – feeling alot better and finally getting back to cooking meals for the family.  My husband and kids (teens) have been taking up the feeding frenzy job and are more than happy to pass it back to me.  They are great cooks and actually enjoyed cooking … but the cleanup was not quite what they expected.  They now realize exactly what I do in that kitchen when they hear me banging around while they are playing music, study, play Xbox, or surfing the net.  I will be back real soon – think I might make a batch of soup tomorrow!  Until then, have your family cook dinner for you tonight…and clean up too 🙂

Did You Know…

I have been feeling a little down and out this past week so a good friend came by and dropped off a beautiful bouquet of tulips; magenta with pure white centers and lovely spring green leaves.  They really lifted my spirits.  The weather here in Michigan is a bit fickle this time of year (60 degrees and sunny one day and 18 degrees and snowing the next…no joke!) so having the flowers in a vase that I can move around the house with me helps brighten my day.  I move it from my office to the kitchen to the laundry room, back to the kitchen and then back to the office.  Laugh if you want but this is all true and it works!

Here is a tip that I learned years ago when studied perennial gardening – cut tulips will stand straight up if you keep no more than 1″ of water in the bottom of the vase – making sure all stems are reaching the water.  Also, check the water level daily to insure the stems are always submerged.  Maybe you can go out this afternoon and pick-up a small bouquet of fresh tulips to brighten your day…or maybe someone elses!

sweet and saltie…kathleen

Teens in the Kitchen

I taught a cooking class this past weekend in Grand Rapids.  It was done at the library and it was for teens.  I had a blast and I think the teens had a good time too.  We were having so much fun, a few of the librarians snuck in to see what all the excitement was and decided to stay!  Cooking with teens helps me learn more about their life on a day by day basis and it  helps them understand the ideas of cooking in a fun casual way without the pressures of impressing anyone at home (mom, dad, grandma or other siblings).  One of the recipes we made was my Peanut Dip.  A great substitute for that carmel apple dip one would find in the produce department so popular in the fall.  This dip has real ingredients with real flavor – no preservatives and no secrets.  My teen students loved the flavor and were dipping all kinds of things in it – from rigatoni dippers, apples, bananas, orange slices, to seasoned pita chips, etc…  I have also thinned this recipe with low-sodium chicken broth and a bit of crushed garlic – toss in a pound of elbow pasta and some cooked chicken chunks and walla – a great meal!

PEANUT DIP

1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

5 tablespoons light maple syrup

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Serve or store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

On a budget

Have you ever gone into the grocery store and buy a few bottle of wine and the cashier packs the bottles in one of those re-useable bags specifically designed to carry glass bottles?  Well, my local grocery store does this and I had accumulated a fair number of these bags (over a long period of time of course…) so I decided to bring them back and let others have the opportunity to use them.  Well, the cashier and the manager of the wine department refused to take them back stating that once the consumer uses them, it is against the law to re-use them for a new consumer.  Kind of like re-gifting being agains the law.

So I decided to be “Martha Stewart on a budget” (a nickname my sister gave me) and take the scissors to my bags.  I cut out all the sections within the bag except for one.  Now I have a stash of bags in my trunk that I use to run into the store and carry home a bottle of wine, a chunk of cheese, and a loaf of bread.  Oh yah, a bottle of cheap wine if Martha was wondering.

I’m such a “mom”…I can read, but can I use an itouch?

I just recieved an itouch via my generous son, a few months ago.  My daughter and her boyfriend are having alot of fun with it, posting pictures and downloading applications.  The problem is that I have no idea how to use it!  I have an ipod and can navigate through my itunes account with just a bit of assistance from my kids, but this itouch is confusing.  It plays music (like my ipod), I have a shotgun app. (not my idea), bible app. (this helps when I am praying for my ineptness), I even have a calculator, but why do I feel so “i”-illiterate”?  …I can read, but I can’t seem do much else.  I must schedule a time with my son and get some lessons.  Do you think I would need to pay him for his time…I mean, this might be like a tutoring session!  More later! Kathleen

My bananas are walking…

My bananas are about to walk off the counter.  I love yellow bananas with lots of freckles.  They are sweet, soft and the perfect comfort food for me, but my husband and 2 two kids won’t touch them like that.  They prefer their bananas practically all green – yuck!  So I buy a  bunch of bananas (green) and put them on the counter.  They eat them, but occasionally some are left over and within 2-3 days the bananas are ripe for me, but way over ripe for them.  I leave them on the counter hoping some one will be hungry enough to eat them in any state…that’s when they take a quick turn for the worse…brown, then black..oh dear!  So today I had a sweet tooth, but just couldn’t bring myself to eat something totally unhealthy, so I decided to make a Banana Chocolate Chip Snack Cake with these lovely, rich colored bananas left on my counter; cake sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, but still healthy enough to feel good about eating a piece, or two, or three…  Sorry, no photos.  The cake was so good, it was consumed before I was able to pull the camera out!  Make sure you cool cake completely before slicing into so the chocolate doesn’t ooze out everywhere, also the flavor will be much better.

Banana Chip Snack Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour with 1 cup white)

3/4 cup white sugar

3 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups mashed bananas

2 eggs

1cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1.      Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9×13 inch pan.

2.      In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

3.      In a separate bowl, combine bananas, egg, melted butter, milk and vanilla.

4.      Stir banana mixture into flour mixture until blended. Be careful not to over mix.

5.      Stir in chocolate chips.

6.      Pour half batter into 9×13 inch pan; sprinkle with chocolate chips; spread remaining batter over top. Bake 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool completely before slicing.

 

When are you going to make that Italian Sandwich mom?

Well, my daughter has been bugging me for over 2 weeks to make this sandwich that she loves.  It is so easy to put together and keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days once assembled.  I typically bring it to my booksignings since it is easily transportable and is very sturdy.  I love the flexibility of the sandwich too.  I can bake, microwave, grill, warm in a skillet or campfire, or eat it cold.  My daughter doesn’t seem to care how I prepare it…she just loves it.

Tonight is a perfect night for this sandwich.  I have been gone all day with meetings and errands and p iles of laundry will be started this evening.  Husband has an extended business meeting this evening, son is busy with his gadgets and gizmo’s in the basement and my daughter has an emergency Color Guard sectional at 7pm.  The sandwich will satisfy everyone’s busy schedule and my daughter will finally stop bugging me to make it.

So without much further ado – here is the Italian Country Sandwich…one of the most popular recipes in my cookbook – Good-to-Go!

Italian Country Sandwich

2 (8″-inch) pre-cooked pizzashells, such as Boboli, which come 2 per package

4 ounces seasoned cream cheese (vegetable cream cheese works well) (1/2 of an 8 ounce container)

3-4 thin slices tomato

3-4 thin slices green pepper

3-4 thin slices pastrami

3-4 thin slices salami

2 thin slices red onion

4 slices provolone cheese (smoked, if available)

Lay the pizza shells on a work surface.  Spread 1 pizza shell with cream cheese.  Top with even layers of tomato, green pepper, pastrami, salami, and red onion,  and end with provolone.  Top with the remaining pizza shell.  See chart below for cooking options.  Cut the hot sandwich into wedges and serve.

Cook Method             Time                                       Preparation

Microwave                  1 minute, 30 seconds              on paper plate covered with plastic wrap

Oven                           25 minutes at 350F                wrapped in foil set on baking sheet

Grill                             20 minutes med/hot coals       wrapped in heavy-duty foil

Skillet                          8-10 minutes per side              wrapped in heavy-duty foil

Campfire                     8 minutes per side                   wrapped in heavy-duty foil

 

btw: this sandwich is great for football tailgates!

First Day of School

It was the first day of school yesterday for my daughter, but many returned today as well.  I am trying to find myself this week.  Yes, I lost myself this past year.  Working on a Big Trip with our High School Band for over 2 years (can’t say tirelessly because it was very tiring), saw the release of my second book – The Good-to-Go cookbook – that was fun, and getting our son through his senior year of high school.  Yes, I am trying to find myself.  What am I really like, what do I like to do in my free time – what free time – I have free time?  What kind of book do I want to write next?  etc…

This past weekend was spent mourning the death of a fellow friend and high school student of my kids, today we buried him – not a good time to find “me” so tomorrow I will start and tonight I am Good-to-Go for dinner since my husband is picking up pizza on the way home for dinner.

New Resolutions

So some of us make New Years resolutions…I am make a New “school year” resolution.

Today is the first day back to school and our daughter is starting her senior year.  It has been quite a busy summer…actually summer did not really exist for us with our son graduating from High School, getting him ready for college, college visits for our daughter, band camp, color guard practices the entire summer, cross country training, 2 big house projects and let’s not forget the ‘slightly’ cool summer weather we had here in Michigan.  So I am determined to start a new ‘year’ on my blog and it starts today and the first question is: what exactly am I making for dinner tonight?

Well, I found some left over corn-the-cob, steamed green beans in the fridge and some cherry tomatoes from the garden on the window sill.  I cut the corn off the cob, tossed it with green beans and the tomatoes and placed in a large bowl.  I cooked a pound of elbow pasta and added it to the bowl, made a quick vinegarette with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar, a bit of salt, pepper, and herbs and whisked before tossing with vegies and pasta and left on the counter to “relax” for a few hours and let everyone in the bowl get to know each other.

Then I went to the grocery store and found some split chicken breast on sale.  When I came home I threw them in a 315 degree oven , with a generous sprinkling of sage, rosemary and thyme, a bit of salt and pepper and baked them covered for about 2 hours while I sat down to do some work.  Once done, I chilled the chicken and will leave a note on the table for the family to help themselves to salad and chicken for dinner.

So far, I am Good-to-Go with feeding my family.  Until tomorrow – Kathleen

Julia Child

I went to the movies with my daughter tonight and saw “Julie and Julia”.  Of course anyone reading this cooking blog should know what this movie is about.  It was fabulous.  Of course, I think I was the only one in the entire theatre that cried at the end!  My daughter and I were supposed to cook our way through the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking this summer…but, unfortunately we just never got around to it.  Driving home after the movie, we decided to give it another try, but instead of working through the book this summer (what is left of it) we are going to cook on Sunday’s.  I will keep you posted of our progress.  In the mean time try to get to the theatre and see this movie.  It give you warm and fuzzy happyiness…and it makes you hungry too!  Bon Appetit!

Cookbook vs. Internet recipe surfing

My daughter’s Color Guard team is attending a Performing Arts Dance Camp this week.  She came home last night at 10 pm exhausted and returned to the camp this morning ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’ at 8 am!  I am taking a quick break from work this afternoon to make her some muffins she can bring to camp tomorrow for a treat.

I have 2 bananas on the counter…way too ripe to eat, but perfect enough for baking (very soft to touch and yellow with many brown spots) and 2 over-ripe bananas in the bottom of my freezer (these bananas were virtually brown when placed in freezer the other week).  I also found some blueberries in the fridge and about a cup of 2% milk.  Perfect ingredients for blueberry banana muffins!  I am (believe it or not) too lazy to search and find my muffin file and since I am already at the kitchen table working on my laptop – I decide to just search the internet for blueberry banana muffin recipes.  Well – low and behold there must be over 20,000+ recipes online!  How do I choose?  Well, I scroll through the first few recipes until I find one that has the ingredients I have on hand and not complicated or time consuming.

I follow the recipe exactly; preheat the oven, mix the wet and dry ingredients together and add the blueberries last.  Now, because I have a baking background I quickly realize something is missing from the batter.  I check the recipe on-line again and verify all the ingredients, not missing anything…then I taste the batter…yuck – no sugar specified in the recipe!  How could I miss this important ingredient?   More importantly, how many other people have accessed this recipe and made the same mistake as me – especially the novice baker?  Not wanting to waste the batter I have in front of me, I add some sugar (taking an educated guess on quantity), place in prepared muffin tins, pop them in the oven and hope the muffins will be, at least, palatable for the dog.

The cooking time is noted to be 15 minutes.  Fifteen minutes later the muffins are only partially cooked (Note: Oven is calibrated for correct temperature).  I adjust the cooking time and bake for 10 more minutes + 3 more minutes…+ 2 more minutes.  The final product is not quite what I expect, but considering the fact I have 2 teenagers with ravaging appetites…most of these muffins will be consumed by humans in our house, but not with a bit of coaxing from me.

When someone takes the time to bake a treat – whether for the family or for a friend in need – the recipe should be legitimate.  The internet is very convenient and literally at our fingertips – , BUT there are tens of thousands of recipes out in “cyberspace” that have neither been tested or written correctly.  Good cookbooks and your mom’s recipe files – yes, the ones that are donning the shelves in your kitchen, are still the most comprehensive and complete library of “tested” recipes…recipes that are tried and true.  Take recommendations from family and friends for good cookbooks and recipes.  Make sure you write in your cookbooks, noting adjustments you would like to make or additions to the recipe.  Also, write the names of recipes from that particular book that are special on the inside cover of each cookbook you own.  This will act as a quick reference when finding that special pancake recipe you made 5 years ago on Christmas morning.

Here is a great recipe that is tried and true.  My mother would make this same recipe when I was growing up.  They are not too sweet so you can actually taste the banana, blueberry and nuts.

 

Banana-Blueberry-Nut Muffins

 1¼ cup mashed bananas (2-3 ripe bananas)

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup milk

1 egg slightly beaten

2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour*

½ cup packed brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds)

1 cup fresh blueberries (if frozen, toss with 1 tablespoon of dry ingredient mix before mixing in batter)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 18 muffin cups with paper baking cups.
  2. Beat bananas, vegetable oil, milk and egg together.
  3. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nuts.
  4. Combine wet into dry and mix until ingredients are barely incorporated.  Fold in blueberries with 2 or 3 turns of the spoon.  Batter will be like a thick stew.  Spoon into muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 20-22 minutes or until light golden brown.  Let cool in muffin tins for 10 minutes then remove from tins.  Eat warm or cool.  Freezes well.

 

The Wisdom of cooking for your teens!

Our teens had their wisdom teeth pulled on Friday.  Yes, 4th of July dinner was quite an interesting array of “whipped-up” foods.  When you live with two teens who love to eat and one is a boy…you have to have food – and lots of it…available at all times!  Here’s the list of foods that we made to help ease the hunger.  I have included some notes that helped make the foods more appealing and tasty – even my husband and I ate some of it!

“Whipped” foods

Smoothies

Strawberries, peaches, blueberries, banana’s, low-fat vanilla yogurt, ice cubes.  This is all you need to create an array of fabulous drinks.  Add a touch of rum for the adult care-givers.

Applesauce

Chocolate pudding – has to be chocolate!

Milk shakes

My mom’s famous protein wisdom teeth protein shake includes vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, banana, peanut butter, 1 raw egg, and skim milk.

Jell-O – of course it has to be orange!

Chicken soup

Take a whole chicken and cook it up in a pot of water with 2-3 stalks of celery, 3 coarsely chopped onion, 2-3 large carrots, 5 pepper corns, 2 cloves and a handful of parsley, for about 2-3 hours; salt and pepper to taste.  Strain broth and peel chicken off the bone.  Combine broth, chicken meat and cooked carrots in a food processor until smooth.  Serve.

Mashed Potatoes

I add garlic, sweet potato, white potato, and carrots.  Cook until fork tender; strain.  Prepare as you would mashed potatoes – seasoning with salt and pepper.

Yogurt

 

Soft Foods

Scrambled eggs

Cottage Cheese

 Pasta

            Acini de Pepe – cooked until quite soft and toss with garlic sautéed in olive oil.  Add a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar – yumm!

Oatmeal

Cream of wheat

Egg salad

Hard boiled eggs

Mac and Cheese – Stouffer’s makes the best!

 

What do I cook for dinner?

Today I sit in the lobby of a testing center waiting for my daughter to take her chemistry CLEP exam.  Perfect time to get some work done, but all I can think about is “what do I make for dinner?”  Of course, I know you must be thinking the same thing.  Aren’t we all?  I mean, there are the obvious answers like, order out pizza, grab some fast food, or the local Mexican restaurant always has great nacho’s…Oh nacho’s?  Yes, nacho’s!  What a great idea!  Why go out for nacho’s when I can make them, cheaper, better and a bit more healthy right from home?  So here is what I’ll pick up on the way home from the testing center to get dinner on the table tonight, and I know some of this stuff I already have in my pantry or freezer.

I sometimes make my own taco seasoning mix, but tonight I opt for the quick and easy and use the pre-packaged seasoning mix.

A bag of whole-grain tortilla chips (Snyder’s® makes a great tasting whole-grain chip), some sharp cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, ground meat, low-sodium taco seasoning mix and a bunch of scallions.  I always use 1½ pounds of meat with the seasoning mix instead of the designated pound.  This helps stretch the meal a bit more and, to tell you the truth, tastes better.

Nacho’s home style

1 ½ pound ground chuck (substitute ground chicken or turkey)

1 bag of low-sodium taco seasoning mix

1 15-ounce bag whole-grain tortilla chips

½ pint cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 bunch scallions (white and tender green parts), thinly sliced

1 pound shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1.      Prepare ground chuck with seasoning mix as stated on package (being sure to use the 1½ pounds of meat).

2.      Place chips on large cookie sheet or oven proof platter, sprinkle with meat, tomatoes, scallions and top with cheese.  Place under broiler on low for approximately 3-4 minutes watching carefully not to burn the chips.  Enjoy!

Serve Nacho’s with salsa and a low-fat sour cream.  If you have time – make a side of guacamole.

Quick Tip: Use 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips in place of ground meat.  Brown in non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 8-10 minutes on medium high; stir occasionally before adding seasoning mix.

For Keeps:  Don’t throw out the leftovers!  The meat, tomatoes, scallions and cheese are great on a bed of greens the next day with a few chips crumbled on top.  Dress with some vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and you have one outstanding salad for lunch.