Odds & Ends (or, Is It Summer Yet?!)

Every year around this time, the May-Almost-June-Wait-It-Is-June! time, I think to myself, “Next year I’ll organize better and will be able to spend these last weeks of the school year clearing out my files and cleaning up my office.”  This has yet to happen since I have almost no control over the amount of testing that I have to do at the end of the school year but I keep hoping.  As a result, I haven’t been blogging or really doing much of anything.  I have to say, I have been working out (hello double jogger!) but that’s really the only “extra” thing.

So, I give you a few odds and ends from the last month.

I had a birthday.

My HipstaPrint 973539269_4G. helped my mom to pick out the cake and, of course, needed some treats for herself and her brother, too.

My HipstaPrint 973539269_3For my birthday I got this cookbook (can’t wait for some time to try something!) and these lovely prep bowls as well.  We promptly used them to measure M&M’s for cookies.

My HipstaPrint 973539269_2Which we made and ate pretty quickly.   So quickly, in fact, that I couldn’t even get a photo.  But here’s the clean-up.

My HipstaPrint 973539269But what am I cooking, you ask?  Well, the level of my cooking has gone way, way down.  So many reports to write, so little time at home…  So today I threw a cut of pork into the slow cooker, added a bottle of oh-so-bad-for-you BBQ sauce (first on the ingredient list? High Fructose Corn Syrup!  It wasn’t my usual sauce, what can I say?) and let it cook for about five hours.  Shredded it with forks, threw it on a roll, added some pickles as a “vegetable” and called it a night.  Delicious, easy and maybe better than fast food.  Maybe.

My HipstaPrint 973539269_5So this is the state of my life these days.  I am longing for the lazy, long days in July in August, when I can blog, cook and hang out with my kids to my heart’s content.   I know that summer will FLY by this year because it always does and because it’s on the shorter side due to a number of snow days.  But that’s ok.  I can’t wait!

Hang with me until then, won’t you please?

Go To Foods

As you can see, it’s harder for me to post these days.  Work is so busy and both kids have hit strange sleeping phases which pretty much eat up my whole evenings.  This too shall pass.

The direct result of this is that I end up cooking the same old standbys for dinner.  I’m not so creative in my cooking when I have exactly an hour from when I set foot in the house to when my kids will begin to melt-down without eating.  Especially when that hour is also time for keeping the almostthisclosetowalking baby off the stairs, out of the dog’s dishes and off of his sister’s hair (he has a hair fetish.  I have no idea why.  If he can pull hair he is the happiest child alive and he will go to great lengths (ha!) to reach any available hair).

My most recent go-to food is from a blog called Brave Tart.  It is written by a CIA trained pastry chef, Stella Parks, who lives in Kentucky and has her own restaurant.  Her desserts have won awards and she has a number of posts about re-creating those processed desserts of our childhoods- fruit roll ups, keebler fudge strips and nutter butters, to name a few.  She also has this dish which is so, so good.  I’ve made it about ten times in the last two months.  It’s quick, easy, healthy and delicious.  I could not recommended it more.

Oyakodon (as written by Brave Tart)


1 large onion

2 Tablespoons of oil (Brave Tart says to use a neutral flavored oil, I like sesame or peanut)

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (you could use vegetable or beef)

4 eggs

2-4 cups rice, cooked and hot (I use Jasmine)


1 cup shredded (cooked) chicken or meat (this time around, I had none)

1-2 cups of vegetables (I used sugar snap peas and spinach because that’s what I had)


Peel and slice your onion.  Heat the oil on medium heat and let the onion get slightly golden- should take about 15 minutes.

photo 1

Wash and slice up your vegetables.

photo 2

Once your onions are golden (not browned), add your vegetables.  I didn’t add the spinach right away because it would have gotten too wilt-y.photo 3

Once your vegetables are tender, add the sugar, soy sauce, and broth.  You can add the meat here as well if you’re using it.

photo 4

Let this cook over medium heat for a few minutes.  I added my spinach at this point.

photo 5Let this cook until the spinach is wilty.

photo 1In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and whisk them together.  Pour them into your pan along the side and let them sit for about a  minute.  You can then start to scramble them into the broth.

photo 2Meanwhile, cook your rice.  I do it in my rice cooker.  I’ve also used day-old rice as well, heated up, and that’s been fine too.  Put some into a bowl.

photo 4With a slotted spoon, fish out the meat and vegetables and spoon them over the rice.  Pour the broth down the side of the bowl (in order to maintain the most clumpiness as possible).

photo 5It may not be that pretty but oh, it is just so delicious.  I may even make it tonight.

A Sticky Situation

I love carbs.  I know that nutritionally speaking they are not the go-to snack, particularly for those of us that need to watch our weight gain.  Nonetheless, I love carbs.  Potatoes, rice, pasta, cookies, cakes, bread….  I love carbs.

I have tried to love quinoa but so far we’re only in a “like-like” situation.  It’s not true love.  My true love is rice.  White rice.  I’ll tolerate brown but when I eat it, I feel like I’m being good.  White rice is my hide-in-the-closet, don’t-tell-anyone carb.  White rice with butter, catsup, salt and pepper.  White rice with soy sauce.  White rice with hoisin sauce.  I just love white rice.

So it’s funny that I have had this bag of japanese sweet rice in my pantry for…..years.

I was intrigued by the idea of sweet rice but each time I read the package directions I was daunted.  It involves a good rinse, followed by a 12 hour soak and then some fancy steaming.  This is not rice of the throw it in the rice cooker and wait 20 minutes variety.

This week I decided it was time to try.  I read up on rice to try and figure out what was really needed.  I found lots of different answers and finally decided to just go with the instructions on the package.

The night before I wanted it, I rinsed the rice well in a colander.  I swished it around with my fingers and tried to get the water to run clear.

Once that was done, I dumped it into a bowl and covered it with cold water.  It sat overnight.  Then the complicated process began.

I lined a steamer pot with cheesecloth.  I admit it, I was lazy and didn’t line it as well as I should have.  I set this pot over another pot with boiling water.  The rice was dumped in and spread out as much as possible.

The lid went on and the timer was set for 25 minutes.

I checked it after 25 minutes and added some salt, per the package instructions.  I reset the timer for another 25 minutes and added more boiling water under the steamer pot.  I must confess that I totally did not account for the long cooking time.  At this point, the rest of dinner was ready so I went ahead and served it since the toddler and baby were screaming.  I was hungry too.  I will also cop to having trouble with the cheesecloth lining since I didn’t put it in correctly the first time- the rice was sort of half on it and half on the steamer pot itself.

After another 25 minutes, I was left with….  rice.  Very sticky rice, but simply rice.

I think I’ll try it again at some point. It was good but the sweetness was too subtle for me to notice.  What was different was the texture.  It was sticky and starchy and just the way I like rice.  I was even a nice wife and made a plate for my husband who wasn’t home for dinner.  I may have eaten more rice than was strictly necessary but it was pretty good.  And have I mentioned how much I love rice?


Y’know, it’s not that impressive that I’m “cooking” while I’m adjusting to having two small kiddos.  Mainly because my “cooking” has been a lot of thrown together salads.  Taco salad for one, and this improvised chef’s/cobb salad for another. I’ve found, if I add enough “stuff” the husband is ok with salad for dinner.

For more yummy salad ideas, see this post over at The Hungry Hippo.  As she points out, salad is quick, easy and uses up all kinds of odds and ends from the refrigerator.  Plus, you know, healthy.

Not a bad idea for me since I go back to work in about three weeks and my maternity clothes are too big, while my regular clothes are too small. I’m pretty sure I won’t be taken seriously as a professional if I show up to work in sweats and yoga pants (my current uniform).

Perhaps if I bring the baby, he’ll be enough of a distractor that no one will notice?  Or does that also put my professionalism into question?

love the little sleep smiles.

And to be fair, here’s the lovely toddler, with her Daddy, mesmerized by her current favorite TV show.  She’s a bit obsessed.

in her hand is a little LED piggy for your keychain. she's also obsessed with this.

Cute kids, I think, and so it’s easy to see why I’m not cooking as often!  They’re awfully fun.

Easing Back Into It

Well, hello.  I’m here.  Suddenly the mother of two under two and that’s sort of blowing my mind.  I’m not sure when I got old enough to be the mother of two children but, there you go.  My husband and I just looked at each other a few nights ago and said, “WTF?!  Weren’t we just at <insert name of favorite bar here> getting drunk?  Wasn’t that like, yesterday?”

Nope.  It was 12 years ago.  Yikes.

At any rate, I am now officially on maternity leave and am attempting to cook dinners again.  I’m easing my way back into it, doing some easy things while I adjust to the new (non) sleep schedule (it’s ironic but my almost two year old is having more sleep difficulty than my newborn.  Go figure.) and try to get to know the new man in my life.  So far, he’s pretty mellow and my daughter seems to like him.  I’m crossing my fingers that it will continue that way.

So, in honor of easing in, I give you two recipes.  Well, to be fair, I’ll give you one recipe that can then be used as leftovers to create another.  No “how-to” photos, just an end product.  Sorry about that.  Haven’t quite mastered cooking dinner while photographing and watching the newborn and almost two year old.  I’ll get there.  Maybe.

Easy Taco Salad


Romaine lettuce (not totally nutritious but has a good crunch and is marginally better than iceberg.  Marginally.)

1 lb ground meat (I used chicken, you could use turkey or beef)

1 packet taco seasoning (ok, full disclosure, I hate commercial spice mixes and would usually make my own- cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, etc- but I was trying for easy.  Bring on the MSG.)

Shredded cheese

chopped tomatoes

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 avocado, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

Handful tortilla chips, crunched up into small pieces


In a skillet over medium heat with a bit of oil, brown your onion.  Add 1/2 the red pepper and the meat.  Cook until browned and then add the taco seasoning and mix well.  If it’s too thick, you can add a touch of water but not too much- you don’t want it to make a sauce, you want it to coat the meat.  Set aside to cool a bit.

On a plate, spread out your lettuce (I chop mine).  Sprinkle the tomatoes, the other 1/2 of the pepper, the avocado and any other veggies that appeal over the lettuce.  Top with the meat and the cheese.  Sprinkle some tortilla chips on top.

See?  Wasn’t that easy?  I liked mine with a bit of ranch dressing.  It even got a thumbs up from the husband who doesn’t mind salad but doesn’t love it either.

Bonus recipe:

Leftover nachos


Leftovers from Taco Salad

Beans (optional)

Tortilla Chips


Spread a handful of tortilla chips on a plate (best if it’s a plate that can go in the microwave or oven).  Top with the leftovers from the taco salad- meat, veggies, cheese.  If you want to be healthy, you can throw in a few spoonfuls of black or kidney beans.  I was too hungry to bother.  Pop into the microwave for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted.  I like to use the oven which yields more crispy chips but in a hurry (because was I starving and people were crying), the microwave will do.  Dig in, with one hand, while the other holds a baby.

And, a bonus photo:

See? Two under two. How did this happen?!?


It’s Sunday morning here, around 9:30am.*  Sunday mornings are funny.  I know people who are just getting out of bed at this time, people who are just going to bed at this time and people who have been up for 3-4 hours by this time.  Some people spend Sunday mornings going to church or eating big breakfasts with friends and family.  Some people volunteer at food pantries or soup kitchens.  My dad used to turn on jazz and make pancakes.  My mom and I used to send one of us out for muffins and then curl up in bed with a good book.  My grandmother used to go out for bagels and lox so that her middle son and his wife could come over for breakfast.

Me?  I cook.  As much as I can because morning seems to be when the toddler can best amuse herself.  So as of the writing of this post, I have made chicken chili, cornbread and 7 loaves of challah.  I’ve also cleaned the kitchen and started removing things from the shelves (we’re moving around furniture today).  It’s been quite a morning.  I’m sure you can guess which of the above categories I fall into in terms of waking time.

Also, it’s freezing here all of a sudden.  I can’t really complain since it’s been an extremely mild and non-snowy winter (the only snow we’ve had so far was on Halloween) but, wow, is it suddenly cold.  Like 11 degrees out with a wind chill making it feel like 0 degrees kind of cold.  So chili is the thing to make on a day like this.  Plus, since it can sit on the stove all day and simmer while it gets more tasty, it’s the perfect thing for thanking my friends who will be coming over to help us move furniture (the husband is convinced that if I move heavy stuff this late in the pregnancy it will send me into labor).

Without further delay, I give you my chili recipe/guidelines.  The great thing about chili is that it is versatile.  Sometimes I add more veggies, other times, more beans.  Sometimes it’s really spicy, other times less so.  Chili is also one of those things that vary by region.  Some areas of the U.S. are aghast if you add beans to your chili, other areas serve it over pasta.  I refuse to get into that debate and simply make my chili as suits my mood each time.  So use this recipe as a jumping off point for yourself- make your chili to suit your mood.


This makes a big pot of chili which can probably serve 5-8 people, depending on portion size.  Chili also gets better over time so it’s good to have leftovers to eat throughout the week.  You can also substitute any kind of veggie or bean that sounds good to you at the time.


1-3 red, yellow and/or orange peppers (you can use green as well but I don’t like green peppers)

1 onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped

1 lb ground meat (I use chicken)

2 cans kidney beans, 1 can black beans, 1 can garbonzo beans or any combo you like

1 large can diced tomatoes (or stewed or crushed)

1 cup frozen corn

salt, pepper, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper


In a large, heavy pot, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat.  How much?  A tablespoon or two.  Add your chopped onions and let them soften and get a bit charred.  It adds some nice, smoky flavor.

Once the onions have done their thing, add the ground meat (if using) and let that get brown. It helps to use the back of a spoon to break up the meat into chunks.

Chop your veggies.

Check your meat/onion mixture.  If it’s browning up, add some chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Maybe a few teaspoons.  I like to season at this step and then again further along in the cooking time.  The spices really need to be to your taste- some people like it really hot (cayenne) and others like the smoky, sort of earthy flavor of the cumin.  Stir the spices around and then add your veggies and stir again.

Let this cook for a few minutes while you open the beans and rinse them off.  You can use any combo of beans you like.  I tend to favor kidney (because they scream chili to me), black (because I love them and they’re a superfood) and garbanzo (I find them delightful in  any mix).  Just make sure to rinse them well since canned beans can sometimes taste like tin.  Of course you could use dried beans but that involves a soaking process which I never remember to do.

Add your beans to the pot and stir.

Add the tomatoes (juice and all) and stir again.  I’ve use fresh tomatoes as well, it just depends on what you have on hand.

Now, let it just sit, over low heat, covered for as little as 30 minutes to as long as all day.  Stir occasionally.  Towards the add, you can add the corn if you like.  I find it gives a nice sweet pop to the chili but I’m also loving corn right now, for whatever reason.

This chili is actually really good for you- it’s all veggies and good protein.  Which is why I do not feel badly eating big bowls of it and topping it with shredded cheese and sometimes even some greek yogurt or sour cream.  I also usually make cornbread to go with it.  I’ll save that one for another post but I have a really good cornbread recipe.  Really good.

As the chili sits, the liquid will release and make a kind of sauce.  You can add tomato paste if you want it thicker but I like it the way it is.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  I will often add a teaspoon or two of sugar, just to cut the acid of all the veggies.

Really delicious, pretty healthy and will definitely warm you up on a cold day.  Even if you make it in the morning.


*Of course, I’m posting this around 6pm so that just tells you how my days tend to go.  To be fair, all furniture is moved (thank you to T, K and T!) and things have been put away but really, this is the first time I’ve sat down long enough to finish this!

Hot. Hot. And Did I Mention Hot?

It is hot, as you may have guessed by the post title.  100+ degrees and humidity.  It’s too hot to sit by the pool- it’s almost too hot to sit IN the pool. Sadly, despite the heat, all I want is soup.  Go figure.

So what do you make when it’s this hot?  When what you want is soup?

Cold soup.  Head over to The Hungry Hippo for some no-stove soup ideas and other no-heat or minimal heat suggestions.

I chose to make both the gazpacho and the cucumber avocado soup.  I didn’t document the gazpacho but here’s my finished product (the Hippo’s was much prettier).

I did document (sort of) the cucumber soup.  Start by peeling and seeing the cucumbers.  I do this by peeling and then cutting the cucumber in half and then down the middle of each half.

Then I use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.  Kind of like you scrape out the seeds of a melon when you’re breaking it down.

Chop up everything and put it in the blender.

Add the liquids (oil, yogurt, etc) and blend. 

Pour into a container so that you can chill it.

I will admit that cold soup is not really what I had in mind AND that whenever I use a blender I always think milkshake or smoothie so it’s odd to have something savory as a result.  However, both these soups are delicious!  I’m hoping the husband thinks so as well since we’ll be eating them for the next few days.

OK, back to melting.

Evolution of a Dinner

4:45pm:  I don’t feel like cooking.  Sigh.  I have nothing planned because it’s Friday and inevitably, in my meal planning I’m out of ideas by Friday so I plan nothing, thinking I’ll add something in later on in the week but never do which often leaves me in this predicament.  Ok, going simple- husband won’t be home for dinner- pasta with butter and cheese.  Excellent.

5:00pm: Pot of water on to boil.  Open fridge and survey.  Cheese?  Check.  Uh-o.  Mushrooms about to go bad.  Cherry tomatoes.  Onion, garlic. Maybe I should use all of this.  Then it won’t be simple pasta.  Sigh again.  Hate wasting food.

5:15pm:  Chop onion, garlic and mushrooms.  

5:17pm:  Olive oil in pan, onions in.  Realize that the pan is likely too small for this endeavor.  Feel cranky and decide to go with it so there are fewer dishes later.

5:20pm:  Garlic and mushrooms in pan. Salt boiling water.  Wonder if maybe I should add the spinach so that we have something green.  Decide against it due to the size of the pan and feeling like a kid who doesn’t want to be healthy.

5:30pm:  Open pantry door and realize there is not enough mini-ziti to make a meal.  Get grumpy.  Realize it’s my own fault since I’m the only one who cooks.  Realize that this does not make me feel better.  Peel crying toddler off my legs.  Take out spaghetti and make do.  Put spaghetti into boiling water.  Fight with induction burner as it turns off- why?- and stir the mushroom mixture.

5:35pm:  Add some butter to mushroom mixture.  Debate adding sherry.  Decide against it.  Quarter cherry tomatoes.  Throw ones that are rotted or mushy into disposal.  Give cranky toddler a cracker in response to her repeated statement, “ak-er.  ak-er.”  Laugh when she eats it and then starts repeating, “akk, akk.” Realize she is quacking because the duck book is in the kitchen.

5:40pm:  Decide that while sherry wasn’t the right flavor, the mushrooms need…..something.  Drop a splash of sweet Marsala wine to the mushroom mixture.  Stir spaghetti.  Add cherry tomatoes to mushroom pan.

5:42pm:  Place parmesan cheese into mini-food processor and grind.

5:47pm:  Drain spaghetti.  Check mushroom mixture.

5:48pm:  Put spaghetti back into pot and add mushroom mixture.  Mix.  Get more cranky because it would have been better with ziti.  Add slightly more butter and the cheese.  Mix.  Taste and decide it doesn’t need salt or pepper.

5:50pm:  Sit down to dinner that started as pasta with butter and cheese and admit that this was probably better.

Food Preferences

I sometimes think that I have a food file cabinet in my mind.  In it, there are folders for each of my friends and family for whom I cook.  In the folders are favorite foods (Husband: steak, chocolate pudding and ice cream), allergies and dislikes.  It’s the dislikes that get me because they aren’t all the organized.  It’s more like I have a list of foods that people in my life dislike and I have to match the food to the person.

The list reads like this:

Peas, cilantro, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms.

The list to match it with is this:

My friend S, my cousins E & M, former roommate K, my bestie C. and myself. Happily, I know which one goes with me (cilantro).

Of course, this is only a problem when I’m making big dinners or when I’ve invited someone to dinner and can’t remember their dislike.  All of which is to say that what I made tonight for dinner definitely fell in the dislike category for someone as it was almost entirely pea- based.  Luckily, I know it’s my friend, S., who hates peas.  So while I encourage all of you to head over to Smitten Kitchen to check out this pea pesto recipe, I will say that S., if you are reading this,  avoid it at all costs.

It was really delicious.  Thanks to my friend R. for posting it on facebook.  I didn’t bother taking photos because Smitten Kitchen’s photos put mine to shame.  Trust me when I say, go and make this tonight.  It was so, so good. Light but satisfying and it tastes like summer in a bowl.  Unless you hate peas in which case, it will not taste like summer.  It will taste terrible.

What We’re Eating Now

My grandmother’s table was always full of food.  There was always more than enough and never just one thing.  One of the consents was salad.  She made salad every single night.  I’m not sure why- perhaps to round out the meal?  Maybe to get some veggies into us?  Her salads were always lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and sometimes carrots and mushrooms.  She had multiple dressings- and when the low-fat dressing craze hit, she had lots of those.  I favored Italian dressing in those days, I think it was Wishbone.  It means that I was not a child who scoffed at salad. However, I know for a fact that my grandfather did not consider salad a meal.  Which might be why it was always a side at her house.

After my father moved out, my mother (who, it is well documented, is wonderful at many things but cooking is not one of them) was in charge of feeding me.  That broke down like this:  2-3 nights eating at my grandmother’s house, 1-2 nights take-out or Friendly’s, 1-2 nights at a friend’s house and then another night hitting up the salad bar at our local Roche Brothers.  This was when salad bars were a new concept.  Mum let me put whatever I wanted into my salad on the basis that it was all healthy.  So my salad bar salads had lettuce, tomatoes, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, croutons, cheese, cucumbers, peppers, pineapple, bacon bits….  All separated of course, so that nothing could sort of run over into the other parts.  I had a whole system based on the cottage cheese as a barrier.  I think that salad bar at Roche Brothers was the thing I missed the most when we moved.  We were clearly  ok with the salad as a meal concept.

These days I’m not cooking much.  It is suddenly hot here- in New England we go from cold, gray, 40 degrees and rainy to about an hour of warm, gentle spring before we plow full on into summer.  We’ve hit that point here- today was easily 90 degrees.  It means that people are out doing yard work, we’re out trying to wrestle the pool cover off and get the pool filled, my mother is changing her closet from winter to summer…. it’s a busy time.  Plus, the school year is coming to a close so I’m rushing to finish everything before June 22nd.  But I am, if nothing else, my grandmother’s granddaughter!  We’ve been eating salad.  I’ve made big salads each night and thrown some protein on top. Grilled chicken one night, steak another.  When it’s this hot and I’m this busy, it’s hard to stand in a hot kitchen cooking and even harder to do that when juggling everything else. Luckily, my husband is in the salad as a meal club (as long as there’s some protein with it).  Of course, historically, he’ll eat anything as a meal if I put it in front of him (well, except fish.).

So, no recipe today, just some guidelines.

Easy Summer Salad


1 head/box/bag of your green of choice (I like baby romaine or baby spinach or a mix.  Arugula is nice too but my husband hates it.)

1 pint cherry tomatoes (if you can find both the red and the orange kind, you should get both.  The orange ones are like crack, they are so good)

1 cucumber, peeled (or washed well, skin on) and sliced

sweet peppers (I use a red, an orange and a yellow), washed, seeded and sliced

Any other veggies your little heart desires.  I sometimes like broccoli either raw or blanched slightly or sliced mushrooms or carrots.

Favorite salad dressing (My husband is a Ranch man.  I recently found this dressing and am in love.  In a way that might be potentially unhealthy.)

Some kind of protein.  (I generally grill or broil or otherwise cook chicken thighs or breasts or grill some steak)


Combine all veggies in a bowl.  My grandmother used a large glass bowl which I still have and use for salad.  In fact, we’ve never used it for anything else except once, when I used it for green beans.  It was completely disconcerting, everyone at the table was freaked out and we never did it again.  It was just….. wrong.

Slice protein.  Serve salad on plate, top with protein and dressing and there you go!  Dinner.

I know I’ve been lax about posting here.  I’ve also moved away from the family history part.  I’m hoping to catch up on both this summer, once things slow down for the year and once I have my laptop back from the Apple store.  Thanks for hanging in with me!