Summer Eats: Week 8-10

Our summer farm season is wrapping up.  Two weeks ago we got eggplant, kale, turnips (red and white), carrots, potatoes, a yellow pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. (Remember how our CSA was hit with terrible hail?  More of the plants than we thought are still producing!)  This week we received cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, peppers, squash, one cucumber, turnips (and lots of them!) and carrots.

In the past I have had trouble with kale.  I’ll eat it, but everyone else (Sam included) found it too bitter.  In fact, after our first CSA, Sam’s comment was “too much kale!” and we found a different one that was a little lighter on the greens.  But greens are good for us, so I was determined to try again.  And I found a winner!

HappyFitMama’s Kale Blueberry Superfood Salad

She says the secrets are cutting out the stem (all the way up the leaf) and working the dressing into the leaves a little bit and letting it sit.  I made it about 1.5 hours before we ate. When Momo got home from dance class, she picked all the kale out of the salad and left behind the raspberries.  (I used raspberries instead of blueberries.)  Can she even be my child? Perhaps not.
At the bookends of the season, I find we have a little bit of lots of different things, but sometimes not large enough quantities to make a main course out of anything.  So I like to serve what we call “Potpourri,” or lots of different things on pretty plates.  Above you see our popcorn, carrots, yellow squash and zucchini (which some of my kids like with Ranch dressing), bread and jam, Sesame Eggplant Obsession, and a variety of cheeses (they are at the top there, served on a gorgeous cheese board my friend made from a walnut tree that came down from his yard- how cool is that?).  My friend Amy says anything tastes better in a margarita glass, and that applies to serving boring supermarket slices cheeses on a handcrafted walnut cheese board, too.

It’s not really a summer food, but I made up a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup, and all my kids will eat it.  So here it is. Sorry I don’t know how to make it easy to print. Feel free to cut and paste and adapt to your taste.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or diced
  • 3 potatoes (Yukon Golds or Reds work well), washed a diced (no need to peel)
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Wash and cut one head of cauliflower into florets. Cut 3 carrots into 1 inch pieces. Toss both with a little olive oil; dust with salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees until they start to darken (for me it was about 20 minutes, but it will depend on how big your pieces are.) You can do this earlier in the week and store them in the fridge, or do it right before you make the soup.

Chop 2 slices of bacon and dice one medium onion. Brown the bacon for a few minutes till it starts to darken and then bottom of the pan is slick, then add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 clove crushed garlic and sauté until onions and garlic are translucent.

Add 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, 3 diced potatoes, and the roasted cauliflower and carrots. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook 20-30 minutes or until all the vegetables are very soft. Purée with a hand blender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crumbled bacon and crusty bread.

Another variation is to add a tart apple (peeled) with the potatoes.

I think that’s it for our Summer Eats Series.   I am baking bread again, and the kids are asking for our favorite fall soups again.  I hope the end of your summer wraps up well!  I’ve added links to my other Summer Eats posts here.

Summer Eats: Week 1

Summer Eats: Week 2

Summer Eats: Week 3

Summer Eats: Weeks 4-6

Summer Eats: Week 7




Summer Eats: Weeks 4-6

So I’m rocking the summer series here.  Our vacation (on which I did NOT cook) threw me off, and the farm’s getting hit with a terrible hail storm threw me off further. Miraculously, we are still receiving food from the farm, so here are some more of our summer meals (though no longer neatly organized by day.)  Click here for week 1week 2 and week 3.

Martha Stewart’s Eggplant Parmesan.  My husband LOVES eggplant parm and swears that this recipe (neatly printed and left on the counter for all to see) wasn’t the world’s biggest hint.  We had some gorgeous eggplants* from the farm, and I used two of them for this.

Lest you think my children are into my cooking, here’s what my daughter texted to my husband as I was making it:


No photo of the actual meal, though it was good (and pretty healthy, since it was baked instead of fried and I went light on the cheese.)

Pork* Carnitas Tacos with pickled onions* and cojita cheese.  These are always a hit, and sometimes (if I pack some of the meat away for the freezer) we have leftovers for a second meal later.  Nothing like freezer meals for making the afternoon go better around here!

Whole Roast Chicken with Lemony Broccoli (I used zucchini* and patty pan squash* because that’s what we had, but I’m sure broccoli would be delicious.)

And then with the leftover chicken, I made a pasta salad with chicken, grape tomatoes*, green beans and a mustard-basil vinaigrette.  (For the vinaigrette, I mix 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tsp honey, half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped finely, 1/4 cup evoo and 3 tbsp red wine vinegar.)

Smitten Kitchen just posted a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan Melts– I haven’t made them yet, but I do have one more eggplant* waiting to be used.  (Don’t tell my daughter!)


5 steps to cooking on vacation without missing out on your vacation


There may come a day when we can eat out all the time on vacation… or there may not, because eating out is not just expensive but often unhealthy.

And yet, the point of my vacation is to do different things than I do at home.  Like lie on the beach, ski, or explore a new city without spending all day making things from scratch and cleaning up after myself.


So, without further ado, here are my five steps to cook on vacation and still be on vacation.

  1. Eat breakfast in.  Our staples are oats (generally affordable no matter where we go), which I will do as a big batch of cooked oatmeal at the beginning of our week, or I will bake into Baked Oatmeal, and then keep in the fridge until we’ve eaten it all.  Some of the children don’t like oatmeal, though, and so I will splurge on cereals I won’t buy at home. (The non-oatmeal eaters think this is awesome.)
  2. Pack a lunch.  If we’re going to be on the ski slopes, I will throw sandwiches and snacks in the backpack.  We still buy (ridiculously expensive) drinks on top of the mountain, but at least I didn’t spend $60 on a lousy lunch for two.
  3. Or, eat lunch out. Lunch for six people can be more affordable than dinner for six people.  And when some of my little people refuse to explore new foods on vacation, it doesn’t kill me pay for a lunch portion of mac & cheese the same way it does to pay for a “dinner” serving. (Okay, I’m lying.  It still kills me to pay $8 for something that came out of a box that cost 99 cents.)
  4. Think ahead.  I like to prepare ahead for a few meals.  For example, I will bring a few recipe cards for simple meals (roasts in the crockpot, pork tenderloin that cooks quickly, or a crockpot Indian chicken dish).  All three of those dishes have complex flavors that make me feel like I’m somewhere exotic and delicious.  I didn’t prepare ahead, there’s no way I would buy 17 spices in tiny jars for one meal, only to throw them away at the end of a week… or try to stuff them in my luggage to bring home.  (Don’t laugh.  I’ve done it, much to the confusion of the TSA.)  But I have all those spices at home, because these are regular meals in our rotation.  So I throw the spices for the rub or for the crockpot into a little baggie, labeled with the recipe, and tuck it in my luggage.  (It helps to make a note on my recipe card to show exactly which part is already included in the bag of spices.  Otherwise: double cayenne, anyone?)
  5. Go out for dessert.  Even a frozen pizza after a day at the beach is special when we walk to the ice cream shop afterwards.


Here are a few of my easy-exotic recipes that are easily made on vacation:

Crock Pot Butter Chicken (butter chicken is an Indian dish made with garam masala- no butter involved)

Bobby Flay’s Dry Rub (this is good on beef, pork or chicken and can go in the crockpot with a little liquid- here are simple directions for that)

Island Pork Tenderloin (this one requires fresh garlic but was so worth it- my kids licked the plates.)

What are your go-to recipes for cooking easily on vacation?



phfr: Advent 3

Pretty: Almost anything can be pretty by candlelight, no?

This is our four-course meal, inspired by What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri.  I think I took this photo just after I’d explained the concept and that I wanted us to linger, talking, and Owen asked, “So… what do you want to talk about?”


Happy: I keep this little homemade flannelgram set rolled up with our Christmas books, and Phoebe was so excited to open it. She likes to tell the story over and over and over…


Funny: Again, this cake was from our Sunday dinner.  It is a fantastic recipe which uses yogurt to make it moist.  So delicious.

It will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on.  It calls for a 10-inch pan, which I used to have but was nowhere to be found.  I wonder if I gave it away when we were moving.  Anyway, I did my usual calculations… (“the area of a 10-in round pan is pi- times 25, or 78 in sq. My 8-in square pan is 64 in sq. The 9-in round pan is 63 in sq…”) and then realized that my large skillet has a diameter of 10 inches.  Perfect!


I wish I had chosen a different plate on which to serve it, because the well in the plate made a little well in the cake that filled with a pool of ganache.  Though if you’re going to have a pool of anything in the middle of your cake, let it be a pool of  ganache.

Real: I’ve had to move the laundry line close to the house to keep it from tipping over in the wind.  My concrete bucket just isn’t quite heavy enough to anchor it, and it’s really gross when the laundry tips over into the grass where the chickens have been pecking and pooping.  But I can’t really complain about sunshine and warmth in December.

{p,h,f,r}: Thanksgiving Weekend

Pretty: Here is the table set before Thanksgiving dinner.

Here’s the other table, which we squeezed next to the couch. Sam had the brilliant idea to cover the couch with a sheet so that nobody accidentally wiped mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce on it. Hooray.


Happy: This is the first Thanksgiving we’ve hosted in… well, maybe 18 years? It was so much fun! I pulled out a turkey recipe I made with my roommates during medical school.

That’s a cheesecloth soaked in wine and butter (my recipe had no quantities, so I used a stick of butter and a cup or so of wine) on top of the turkey in a 450 degree oven to brown it. Then reduce the heat and cook until the red timer pops up. It was good.

Of course I only have photos of dessert. The girls made these Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bites, Sam made “Grandma Judy’s Jello” and my friend Pam brought an awesome pumpkin pie.


Funny: My kids’ favorite Thanksgiving tradition, apart from the aforementioned jello and seeing their cousins (which I couldn’t recreate this year), is playing “The Character Game.” We played it Thursday with all our guests, Saturday morning with friends we hosted for brunch, and Saturday night at the party we hosted for our children’s church volunteers. So I hope they got enough of it for a bit. Here’s how you play:

Each player chooses character (you can say “any animal” or “a historical figure” if you want to narrow things down, but “any character, real or imagined” works just as well) and tells the name in secret to the Writer. The Writer compiles a list of all the characters and reads it back to the players twice. For example, “Vladimir Putin, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, Joshua, Sully, Luke Skywalker, Janice Joplin.” Nobody asks “Who is Janice Joplin?” or that name will stick in everyone’s head.

Once the Writer reads out the names twice, the guessing begins. No one acts our their character; instead, they want to give nothing away. I might say, “Jonah, are you Luke Skywalker?” If he is, he joins my team. Then our team becomes my character [still secret] and can put our heads together to use psychology and our awesome memories to figure out who everyone else is. The winner is the last person whose name is guessed correctly. The trick is 1) to remember all the names, and 2) to pick a name for yourself that is just ordinary enough that it doesn’t stick in anyone’s mind.  This is a great game for a group of people of varying ages, because everyone can play. Only the Writer (who doesn’t pick a name for herself but observes the play) has to be able to read/write. Of course I don’t have a photo- I was too busy trying to remember all the names!

After everyone left that night and I was putting the leftovers away, I realized I had never put out the cranberry sauce.  No wonder there wasn’t any wiped on the couch.

Real: The one thing I’m still looking for to finish the house are pendant lights for the kitchen over the island. My mom and I went looking at a lighting store on Sunday. Sam’s only advice was “Don’t buy anything without me.”


I saw the perfect thing hanging over a bar in Glenwood Springs during the summer. Thinking there might be a local glass blower or shop we could patronize, I went into the restaurant to ask where they got them. The hostess found the bartender who knew. “Venice,” he said. “They were hand-blown in Italy, and the owner brought them back in his luggage.” So much for that.


Obviously I’m looking for blue.

Lots to chose from, but nothing quite right.

For more everyday contentment, check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!

phfr: first week of school

Pretty: Last Monday was our first day of school.  We also threw a celebratory dinner for some friends.  We had steak and warm spinach bacon salad and a fruit salad and potatoes, but the highlight was this cake.

One of Sam’s hospital colleagues LOVES this cake and brings it from the Market at Larimer every time there is something to celebrate. Then Sam comes home and says, “She brought Special Cake again. It’s so good…” and goes on for ten minutes about how great was the cake [that he ate and I did not].

Anyway, my friend Kristina is an incredible baker, and she posted the recipe for this cake, actually known as Spring Fling Cake, on her blog. It’s not as hard as it looks, but it does have a lot of steps. It was worth it, but let’s just say that maybe next year it won’t be a whip-it-up-on-the-first-day-of-school cake.

Happy: SweetP’s cast came off last Monday morning (hooray!) which made a bike ride possible. So on day two of school, we hopped on our bikes and, with only moderate weeping and gnashing of teeth, rode to a new-to-us park for a picnic lunch. Why was there weeping and gnashing of teeth? I’m not really sure. There was something about how we shouldn’t eat outside. Bees, maybe? (For the record, the bees hadn’t fond the new park yet.) Once we got there, though, the new equipment and the workers replanting trees and the novelty of each person having his own bag of popcorn won the day.

Funny: I was out and about running errands one day last week, and I finally snapped a photo of a building I pass with some frequency. It always has me laughing. On the grass in front are little individual signs, too: Wedding Chapel! Reception Hall! Crematorium!

Real: This is what my house looks like:

I turn around, and the girls have opened a new Doll Hospital in my bathroom. Why in the bathroom? “Because the other hospital is full, Mommy.”

For more every day contentment, go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!

{phfr}: Crepe Night

We went to a really fun restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala, called Luna de Miel.

Both the menu and the setting were delightful.  Hoping to imitate the food part of the experience, at least, we made crepes the other night.



I found a recipe for crepes online (I used this one, modified up to make 18 crepes) and made two different fillings, one savory and one sweet.  For the sweet crepes, I whipped 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, thawed 3 cups of frozen berries, and had ice cream toppings to drizzle on top.  Here is my recipe for the savory filling:

  • 4 T butter
  • ½ onion, diced fine
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 pieces of cooked bacon, cut into bits
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

Sauté the onion over medium heat in the butter. When the onion is clear, add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the flour from burning.  Slowly add in the milk, stirring constantly until smooth and thick.  Turn the heat to low and add in the bacon and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.



It was all a hit and totally worth standing at the stove during dinner. I think it may become a tradition– especially if my young chefs get creative with crepe fillings of their own.

Real: despite the overwhelming crowd approval, I was still the one at the sink afterwards doing the dishes.  Something’s wrong with that scenario, and I suspect it’s my own fault. Hmmm…..

Three-a-Day Meal Plan

Now that I am a month into my new meal plan, I feel like I can share it here with you all.  It could still bomb tomorrow and we’d be back to my scrambling to feel my children more variety than beans and rice (and yes, I’d be telling them the whole time that this is what most of the world eats twice a day with NO Cheerios for breakfast) but at least I have one month of success to share with you.  It’s a start.


“Hash”– chopped potatoes, sausage, onions, and whatever vegetables are left in the fridge. (Microwave your potatoes first, then saute it all together and serve with cheese and a poached egg.)

I have worked our meal-planning many ways over the years.  The easiest was when we got all our produce weekly from a local CSA and I just made a grocery list after I’d washed it all.  It was just Sam and I then, and we tried all sorts of new things, and often just roasted what I didn’t know what to do with.  It was simple, seasonal, and [to me] delicious.  Then we had babies.

Pretty soon, we were eating a rotating schedule of pasta with marinara, beans and rice, pasta with pesto, and take out.  Neither balanced nor interesting.  Oh, and when my children refused, I let them have PB & J.  Until the boys decided they didn’t eat PB.  So I was “cooking” a meal for two of us, and making jam sandwiches for the Dictators children.  Ahem.


Spaghetti pie

Last fall, I ran out of steam on meal planning.  Dinner was the same ten recipes that at least a majority of people would eat.  Everyone else could lump it for that meal, but at least there wasn’t any whining (to my face).  Lunch and breakfast were another story.

Everyone gets their own breakfast around here for the most part: I eat oatmeal, Sam eats oatmeal or cereal, and the children eat bagels or scavenge in the pantry.  Not elegant, but at least I’m not the one preparing the food.  But lunch– oh, Lord have mercy, lunch was a problem.  One child likes quesadillas. Two don’t. They’d prefer Ramen seven days a week… except when they don’t.  Only one child will eat PB &J.  One child likes turkey sandwiches. One won’t eat the bread…



Every day at 11, there were at least three proposals for what to have for lunch.  So we’d just eat Ramen. [kidding]

During Christmas break, after sleeping for a week solid while the children played Kinect, I came up with The Plan.  I write three meals/day on a blank calendar for January and February.  A few of our favorite meals make two appearances for dinner (homemade pizza, noodles & sauce, and Pad See Lew).  Otherwise, the dinners are all different.  One night of the week is dinner swap, and our friend delivers hot dinner to our house.  On swim team nights, I have to make kid-friendly meals, or everyone will throw up in the pool from hunger.  One night is my dinner-swap night, so it has to be relatively easy to make a double portion.  Saturday night is our Sabbath dinner, and I try to include dessert.  On Sunday, I want something super easy for both lunch and dinner (think leftovers for one, and crockpot for the other.)  You get the idea.


Pad See Lew with chicken

For breakfasts, I rotated through pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, bagels,muffins and eggs (something for everyone at least once a week), though I haven’t enforced breakfast yet.  I may not ever get around to enforcing breakfast.


The lunch plan is the biggest change, and one I’m excited about.  I have two week-long plans for crock pot lunches.  I put it all in the crock pot before start reading, and at 11:30 or 12, we have hot lunch.  The weeks in between we have quesadillas, sandwiches, soup, etc.– favorites that rotate through.  At first I thought it was working only because it was novel, but I think the children are in favor.  Why?


this is the egg atop the hash

  1. They can see what’s coming.  If today’s lunch is a bust, they know what’s for dinner (and I have tried to alternate new recipes with old favorites) and can look forward to that.
  2. I have completely headed off the moment when we’re all hungry and nothing is ready.
  3. I have made lunch a more substantial meal.  Previously, most of their calories came at night, but sometimes (even with swimming) it was too much.  I think the bigger midday meal is making the afternoon a little smoother.

A happy by-product of this has been that we are eating out less. (I know, it’s only been a month.)  The kids are looking forward to lunch– or even if they’re not, I’m still less likely to cave into requests to go out for lunch if it’s already bought and/or cooked at home.  This is true especially after church on Sundays, or when we’re in the park or hiking with friends.

The first week, I really had to make myself follow my plan.  But I did (full of all that New Year’s Resolution vigor) and immediately realized that my stress had gone down.  So 31 days later, here we are.

I am happy to share our actual plan, but your own family favorites (and food adventures) will certainly work better for YOUR family.  Here is Kim Brenneman’s posts on lunches for a large family.  For our crockpot lunches, I just use any meal that cooks “five hours on high.”


Recipe: Stan’s Soup

I think I mentioned that I was planning to eat soup all month.  The kids have informed me that we DID eat soup all month, but everyone has a new favorite (not remembering that we all these soups every winter).

Anyway, this will be my last post for the month– a little sabbatical until 2013.  Blessings to you all, and thanks for all your encouraging comments and insight this year!

Without further ado: Stan’s Soup

This is one of our favorite soups.  Our friend Stan made it first, then gave my parents the recipe.  When I copied it from their card during college, I copied it wrong (I copied a LOT of things wrong in college) and ended up with a different soup. But we still call it after Stan and make it when we have leftover mashed potatoes.  It feeds a crowd.

  • 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp celery seed (or 4 stalks trimmed celery, if you prefer)
  • two 28oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of chopped and browned Italian sausage
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp basil (if fresh, use a tbsp and don’t add till the end)
  • 1 palmful chopped parsley (if fresh, use a full cup)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup wine (the original recipe says Madeira, but I never have that. Usually I use white wine, or in a pinch, 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar instead)

Saute onion in oil until barely tender.  Add celery seed (or if using fresh, saute celery with onion).

Add tomatoes and sausage and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add sugar, spices, and broth. Simmer 30 minutes.

Put 1 cup soup and 2 cups mashed potatoes into blender (or use an immersion blender).  Stir potato/soup blend back into soup and add wine.  Heat, stirring, until hot.  Serve with crusty bread.


Una Creperia!

Okay, I know “creperia” isn’t a word.  But La Creperie is a trade-marked, and since we speak more Spanish than French, I decided we’d be a creperia.

I whipped up crepe batter (I used my go-to cookbook for all basic recipes: Marion Cunninham’s Fannie Farmer Cookbook) and asked the kids to put out all the crepe fillngs we had.  Oddly, they didn’t make any white sauce over shredded gruyere.

I greased my griddle, waited for it to get all sizzly-like, and put 3/4 of a small ladel-full of batter on the griddle.  Then I  smeared it into a larger circle (just like the guy at the Cinzetti’s does).  Everyone filled his (or her) own crepes.

Wait- how did that get in there?  See that green bottle?  Here’s a closer shot…
Seriously, I promise nobody filled a crepe with Suave detangling spray.

My favorite: a little cream cheese frosting, raspberry sauce, and a drizzle of chocolate over the top.  Yum!

What’s the weirdest thing that’s every been on your kitchen table?  What would you fill your crepe with?