Lunch Improvements

I haven’t been meal planning lunches for the kids lately. I haven’t needed to. I think it just took three weeks of planning and trying new things to help me come up with creative menu ideas on the fly. We haven’t been eating chicken nuggets or fish sticks lately, which was my goal. The kids still aren’t eating many vegetables, but I’m trying.

Oh, I’m trying.

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Cucumber Spider

I have two meals that the kids will eat consistently. The easiest is English muffin pizzas. Toast an English muffin, top it with sauce and cheese, then broil it until the cheese melts. Add a vegetable and a fruit. Easy peasy.

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The meal that is most often requested is “cocktail party” dinner. Audrey asks for this for almost every meal. It is small bits on a plate, like you would eat at a cocktail party. Karen gave me the idea to put meat and cheese on a pretzel skewer, and it has been a huge hit. I try to do something fun to the plate every time, today it was mustard sunglasses for dipping the turkey.

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I am pleased that the kids are not eating as many chicken nuggets. Now that we’ve discovered cocktail party lunches I’m having fun changing them up. I’m always looking for new things to add to the rotation, so if you have any ideas send them my way.

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Crazy Spaghetti

In an effort to find something that Audrey and Elliot would eat using only things we had in the house (because I didn’t want to go to the grocery store) I stumbled on to a dish that they both enjoyed: Crazy Spaghetti.

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Crazy Spaghetti is a mix of the leftover pasta we had at our house, some mini meatballs we had to use up, and a jar of pasta sauce. I just boiled up the pasta and dumped it in a 9 X 13 baking dish with a jar of pasta sauce and the meatballs. I topped it with a small amount of asiago and parmesan cheese (maybe 1/4 cup). I baked it at 350 for about 20 minutes (until it was hot) and served it to the kids

Shockingly they both loved it. I’m not sure if it was the mini meatballs, the two kinds of pasta, or the lie that I told them about it being Goofy’s favorite food. I don’t care why they decided to eat it, I’m just happy they ate a meal without complaining.

5 on Friday: More Aldi Finds

Last week I shared some of my favorite Aldi finds. This week I thought I would share five more things to check out at Aldi. Aldi has so many great products I want to tell you about – I couldn’t limit myself to one post.

Half & Half ($1.99)

20180503_162516892617623.jpgI take my coffee with cream. I drink a lot of coffee. This is a great price on an item I use daily.

 

 

 

 

 

Costal Cove Sauvignon Blanc ($6.99)

20180503_161950137089954.jpgSummer is white wine time in my house. It’s great for drinking on the patio. Most of the time I tell myself I’m going to drink a bottle over the course of the week, but I only have two glasses and the I pour the rest down the drain later that week.  At $6.99 this wine tastes like a $12 bottle (that is high praise in my book). I still feel bad pouring out wine that has gone bad, but when the whole bottle costs less than a glass when we go out to dinner it doesn’t sting as much.

 

Pane Turano Italian Bread ($3.69)

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Honestly, this bread alone is worth a trip to Aldi. My parents go to Aldi just for his bread. They are the ones that introduced me to this bread, which is why my kids call it crunchy Grandma Runchey bread. The bread is crunchy and makes the best toast I have ever had. It is a huge loaf. We usually freeze half of it. You can toast the frozen bread straight from the freezer. This bread also makes amazing grilled cheese and egg in the hole.

Fancy Cherry Tomatoes ($3.69)

20180503_1624592030155897.jpgI could not buy all of my produce at Aldi. The selection changes constantly and they never have all of the produce I am looking for. One thing that is consistently available and always good quality is their cherry tomatoes. I love cherry tomatoes. They are a great snack off the vine, and they are good sliced and added to sandwiches. My favorite way to eat them is to sautee them in some truffle oil with a handful of spinach, then scramble some eggs in with them and top that scramble with goat cheese.

 

Stir in Pastes (2.49 each)

20180503_1617181403889719.jpgI cook with ginger and garlic a lot. I usually use whole garlic cloves and grate my own ginger. There are times when I don’t have those on hand and I am not able to cook what I want to cook. It’s at those times that I reach for paste. Once opened, they keep for four weeks in your refrigerator. I don’t think these are going to replace fresh ingredients in my kitchen, but they are great to keep on hand for ingredient emergencies.

 

I get so excited talking about my love for Aldi. Do you have any stores that you get excited to talk about?

Margarita Monday

I would like to propose a toast to surviving Monday. I’m not sure how your day went, but if it was anything like mine you probably want a drink.

My day? Not the best. Naps were awful. I had to clean poop off of a rug. The good rug, no less.

I decided it should be a margarita Monday. I texted my friend to see if she was up for a patio margarita while our kids played. Thankfully she was game.

I’ve been working on perfecting my margarita for a few years, and I think I have it down now.

Step one: Gather the ingredients.

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Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Please note: I have no idea where my good cocktail shaker is. I’ve been using a cheap plastic one for years. I assume in my basement in a box somewhere I still have a fancy, grown up shaker.

For two margaritas add 4 oz tequila, 2 oz Cointreau, and 1 1/2 oz lime juice.  Shake it up. Pour over ice. Go outside and watch the children play.

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A couple of tips:

  • This is a really strong drink. As you pour it in your glass you may think you should make more. Sip your drink awhile before you make that decision. Trust me, I speak from experience.
  • When sqeezing a hand held citrus juicer turn the fruit the opposite direction you think it should go. You’ll end up getting more juice.20180507_1538191331449566.jpg
  • If you are drinking around toddlers make sure to watch your drink. Elliot spilled mine, so I was only able to enjoy half of it. He can be a little jerk.

Other than the spilled drink, it was lovely to kick off the week with a margarita. I think I’ll be making Margarita Mondays a thing this summer.

Cheers to Monday!

My Favorite Hummus

Do you have recipes that you love and make over and over again? Do you ever stop making them and forget about them for five or six years? I do that a lot.

I have something I adore, so I make it a lot. Then I get sick of it and stop making it. I eventually forget about the recipe only to remember it when I wake up in the middle of the night to pee and can’t fall back asleep or when John asks me why we haven’t had something in a long time.

This recipe falls into the John keeps asking about it category. Every few weeks he says “do you remember that hummus you used to make?” or “whatever happened to that hummus?” When I buy hummus he says “Do you remember when you used to make hummus?” He doesn’t specify the hummus. I know the one he is talking about. He wants the sun-dried tomato and basil hummus.

He isn’t the only one that loves the hummus. I love this hummus too. I didn’t even get sick of making it. I stopped making it because we ran out of tahini. I hate stirring the oil into tahini. It is gloopy and messy and never turns out right. So I just stopped making hummus because I couldn’t face a new jar or tahini.

A few weeks ago I was reading the internet (I don’t remember which site I was reading, so I can’t site a source, my apologies) and I came across the suggestion to use your mixer to stir the oil into natural peanut butter. I figured if it works for peanut butter it would probably work for tahini. I decided to give it a shot, and it did not disappoint. I spent the evening shoveling hummus into my mouth while texting everyone I know that makes humus to tell them about this trick.

I just poured my new jar of tahini into my mixer. OK, fine, if you want to get technical, poured is a lie. It is gloopy and icky and it was more of a two spatula scrape job. One spatula for the jar and one to clean the spatula (do you call them spatulas or rubber scrapers? I call them spatulas). I turned on my mixer with the paddle attachment and 20 seconds later my tahini was perfectly mixed. Once it was mixed together I could actually pour it (So smooth! No lumps! Not gloopy!) back into the jar. It was well worth washing my mixer bowl and paddle attachment. I am kicking myself for not doing this until now, as it seems sort of obvious. Maybe this is something everyone else has been doing all along and no one has told me? If that is the case, what else aren’t you guys telling me?

Before and after:

Tahini issues solved I grabbed my ingredients and trusty kitchen helper and got to work. Hummus is really easy to make if you have a food processor.

First I put about 6 sun-dried tomatoes and a couple of garlic cloves in the food processor in pulsed. Then I added a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans. I turned on the food processor until they were mostly mixed. Next, I threw in about a tablespoon of cumin, a squirt of basil (I forgot to buy basil so I used prepared basil – normally I would go with a handful of basil), and a couple of tablespoons of tahini and whirred it for a few more seconds. At that point I remembered that I should add some olive oil and lemon juice, so I added 2-3 T of olive oil and about a 1 T of lemon juice. I whirred it around a few times until it looked like hummus and called it good.

Audrey and Elliot were my official taste testers. They both loved it on the spoon, but refused to eat it on their plates. Toddlers are jerks. It’s OK though, John and I will happily eat it up.

Do you have any kitchen tips or great recipes to share? Please let me know; I’m always looking to try new things in the kitchen.

Really Easy Pulled Pork

When the days are sunny and warm and I want to be outside all day I pull out my crock pot. Crock pots are great for nice weather – they don’t heat up your house, you can throw your dinner in as you are making breakfast and forget about it until dinner time.

One of my favorite things to make in the crock pot is pulled pork. I have a ridiculously easy recipe. It is so shamefully easy it took longer to put together than this post will take to write.

Step 1: Get a boneless arm roast. We buy our pork from a farmer that comes to our neighborhood once a month. She has excellent roasts.

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Step 2: Take off the string around it (you don’t need a roast to hold its shape if you are shredding it). Trim the fat. Put it in a crock pot.

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Side note – I bought that cutting board years ago on sale. I don’t mind the yellow color until I take pictures of it, and then I’m annoyed by how ugly it is.

Step 3: Add 1/3 cup water to the crock pot. Season the roast liberally with salt, pepper, and seasoning salt. I use the House Seasoning Blend from Allspice, because I love their spices. But if you don’t have a crazy awesome locally owned spice shop by you I’m sure whatever you have in your cupboard would be great here too.20180426_094628931404634.jpg

Step 4: Turn the crockpot on low and walk away for 7-10 hours. Go to swim lessons. Play in the yard. Don’t worry about dinner.

Step 5: Shred the pork. It will be very tender, so this will take about 90 seconds.20180426_173426592859477.jpg

Second side note: At this point in the process I remembered I have a non-hideous looking cutting board.

Step 6: Eat dinner. There are lots of ways to eat this. The kids had pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce. I had a pork taco. I’m planning on using leftovers for quesedillas and sandwiches. 20180426_191729178945278.jpg

It’s not a fancy meal, but it is an easy meal that will stretch into dinner for a few more nights. In the spring and summer that is exactly what I’m looking for.