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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Tikka Masala Meal Kit

I am super excited because tonight John and I are heading out for a date night. We get to eat sushi and drink wine and there will be no one there asking “Why?” about everything she sees and no one throwing sippy cups of milk and then screaming “DAT’S A GAME.” At least I really hope John doesn’t start doing those things.

Going out to eat is a nice treat. I cook most of our meals. Most nights John and I eat later than the kids, which means I cook four meals a day. I like cooking, but by the fourth meal I just don’t care. I need a break. Which is why, when I stumbled upon meal kids at Aldi for Indian food I snapped one up.20180603_1850222148657.jpg

I love Indian food, but we rarely get it. Our favorite restaurant is out-of-the-way, so we end up choosing easier options. Lately we’ve been eating Trader Joe’s freezer meals if we want an Indian food fix. I have made it from scratch, but that takes a lot of time. My hope was this box would provide at home like Indian food in much less time that was better than freezer food.

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My review: It was fine. It took little effort. It was inexpensive (I think around $3 for the box). It made five servings. I felt the rice was sufficient, but I would have liked more chicken. I always want more chicken though, so that isn’t exactly surprising (that should be on my tombstone – “she wanted more chicken.”). I’ll probably get it again, as it seems like a good thing to have in my cupboard for nights that I don’t know what to cook. I would not recommend getting this if you want delicious Indian food.

Do you have anything you keep in your cupboard for nights you don’t feel like cooking?

 

Summer Help

I had the best morning. It was amazing. I’m riding high from the fun I had.

What did I do? I cleaned my house.

Why was that fun? Because my kids weren’t here.

I hired my niece to watch the kids a few hours a week this summer. It was her first day today. I knew it would be great, but I had no idea how fabulous it would be. After she got her we packed up the stroller and swim gear. They walked to the wading pool. I came inside, loaded up a new playlist and got to work cleaning.

The playlist was created by my best friend from high school. We caught up earlier this year when he was back in our hometown visiting from Australia (where he is a professor at Australia National University). He has always been someone who brings me joy. He is funny and kind and full of great information. He excels at pointing me towards new music. It started with mixed tapes, moved to mixed CDs, and very recently moved to a playlist on Spotify. The playlist is filled with enjoyable songs that made cleaning more enjoyable. It also made me feel hip – my usual cleaning music is Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kenny Rogers.

I’m not a person who enjoys cleaning, but without kids underfoot it becomes cathartic. I have never been so pleased with a clean kitchen floor.

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I am sad to report that the floor is no longer spotless. Living with two toddlers and a large dog makes it impossible to keep a floor white for long.

I was so energized from two kid free morning hours I was inspired to create a fun lunch. I hadn’t made English muffin pizzas since college, but we had all of the ingredients in the house. I was reaching in the cheese drawer for some Havarti and discovered a ball of fresh mozzarella I forgot that we had. What resulted is the fanciest English muffin pizzas I’ve ever made.

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In addition to getting a lot done and having some kid free time, I’m thrilled that my kids will have lots of time with their cousin.

I’m probably not going to clean every time she watches them. I’m excited to see all that I can get done with that time. What would you do if you were give two hours without responsibilities?

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Two years ago, when Elliot was a tiny baby who refused to sleep, I lent my ice cream maker to Kathleen. I figured I wouldn’t be able to use it for a while. That was true.

When Elliot was a baby we were tired the entire summer. We barely survived. We lived off of frozen meals, the thought of making ice cream from scratch was laughable. Last year things were better, but we were still pretty frazzled. I managed to make fudgesicles once, but ice cream was still a stretch goal.

This year we are in the groove, so I asked for the ice cream maker back. Soon after I got the ice cream maker back Bridget had a post on the Pioneer Woman website about homemade frozen yogurt. I was intrigued.

Do you know about Bridget? Her blog is one of my favorites. Her sugar cookie recipe is my go to sugar cookie recipe (you don’t have to chill the dough!!). I follow her on Instagram. I like to pretend that if I lived in Texas we would be best friends. Sort of like how I pretend that if I lived in New York I would be best friends with Deb.  Or, if I was in New Orleans, Joy would want to hang out. Do you do that too? Please tell me I’m not the only one with imaginary food blogger best friends.

Whoops! Sorry about that tangent! Anyway…. Last night I finally got around to starting the process of making frozen yogurt. The first step is draining a quart of plain whole milk yogurt overnight in a cheese cloth. 20180603_1016071846673521.jpg

Nothing makes me feel quite so fancy as using cheese cloth. It is such an easy tool to use, but it feels like something a real cook would use.

After its shift overnight in the refrigerator my yogurt had drained off about a cup and a half of liquid. I had basically made Greek yogurt.

I put the yogurt into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and whisked them until smooth. It looked a lot like chocolate mousse at that point. It was also delicious. I gave both kids a taste, and they were both fans.

I churned the yogurt in my machine for about 25 minutes and then put it in a container to freeze it until solid. After four hours it wasn’t totally solid yet, but I decided it was time to taste it.

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Yum. This is my favorite thing I’ve ever made in my ice cream maker. It’s tart. It’s chocolaty. It’s really unhealthy. I love it.

It is not something I’ll make regularly, as it is full of sugar and fat and I want to eat the entire batch in one sitting. I will be making it again whenever I have a group coming over that will help me eat it.

Have you ever made frozen yogurt? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Butterscotch Revel Bars

I have a problem. A baking problem. I can’t get enough of it. It is a problem because most recipes make 12-24 servings and there are only 4 of us in our home. That means we are stuck eating all of whatever I make. I suppose I could freeze some of the treats, but the truth is neither John nor I are good at moderation when it comes to sweets.

After weeks of looking at a recipe for Chocolate Revel Bars I had pulled out of my latest issue of Cooks Country I decided it was time to make them. I opted for the butterscotch version, as we are big butterscotch fans in our house.

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Oh my wow. These suckers are delicious. Imagine using the topping for apple crisp (oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, almonds, and a shameful amount of butter)  as a cookie bottom layer. Now imagine that is topped with a mixture of butter, butterscotch chips, and sweetened condensed milk. The top layer is even more of the crumb topping.

Are you drooling yet? You should be. These heavenly bars are almost gone. I brought some to my book club this afternoon to help us get through them. John is in charge of eating the rest. They are amazing but incredibly unhealthy (337 calories each!).

These are now my go to pot luck dessert recipe. I can only be trusted to make them when I can get them out of my house. I really want to make them again, so please invite me to a party at your house. I promise to bring delicious treats.

These are from Cooks Country magazine. The website is a subscription, so it doesn’t work for me to post a link to it. I am able to e-mail the recipe from the site however, so if you are interested in the recipe leave me a comment with your e mail address and I’ll get it to you. If you don’t feel like leaving your e mail address out in a public space, you could send me a message on Instagram (I’m mildly_granola over there).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat the crumbs John has left behind. I said I was done with the bars, but I didn’t say I was done with bar remnants.

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.