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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Bentos!

I know it is Monday and this is not a recipe, but it is food related, so I am pleading artistic license.

Two things recently led me to change the way I pack Gideon’s lunch and how I prepare my own lunch for the day.

A couple weeks ago, I stopped midway through my afternoon and I realized my food intake since breakfast had been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich plus the crusts from Gideon’s pb and j. As a nursing mom, and a mom trying to loose my baby weight in a healthy way, not having time to eat more than pb and js and crusts is not wonderful. I needed a way to have a real lunch.

I went to Gideon’s meet the teacher before his school started and one of the things they stressed is that the kids be able to open all of their lunch containers themselves. We are very big into trash free lunches so I have a lot of small containers that I pack things into.  After some experimentation, I realized, Gideon was not able to open most of the small containers I was planning on sending to school with him.

I was looking around for alternatives to packing our lunches and I found bentos. Bentos are meals packed in a small box and are Japanese in origin. The food packed into the bento should be healthy, not fatty or too carb heavy. The boxes for the bentos are very small.

The size I bought for Gideon and I are 600ml. They are just small Sterilite plastic containers with locking lids. Your bento box should have the same number of ml as calories per meal you are supposed to eat. The box is packed very tightly. I also bought some regular and mini-muffin silicone cups to use as separators.

Here are some bentos I have made:

These bentos contain half a turkey sandwich, strawberries, pineapple, cucumbers, and a pickle. The one on the right is Gideon’s and his only has one cucumber. I pack mine a little tighter and fit a few more things into it. In this first photo, I had not found the silicone baking cups and I used foil baking cups as dividers.

This was a bento for me, though Gideon has gotten very similar ones. It has half a bagel with cream cheese, strawberries, cucumbers, a hard boiled egg, and green olives. When I pack an egg for Gideon, I quarter and salt it, which makes it easier for him to eat. In the picture above, you can see the red silicone baking cups.

One more example. My bento is on the left: half a bagel with cream cheese, clementine quarters, grapes, a hard boiled egg shaped like a car, and olives. Gideon’s, on the right, had less oranges and a pickle and cranberry coffee cake instead of the bagel. I wold not normally send something so desert-like but I was feeling generous and he really liked that cake. His egg is shaped like a fish. He informed me after this day that he preferred the quartered eggs to the shaped ones. The shaped eggs are cute, but you have to peel them while they are still hot and it is more work.

Overall, the bentos have been great. Gideon almost always eats all of his lunch, even the bread crusts. He likes that I put a couple olives and pickles in his lunch. That kid would live on those two things if we would let him. I eat lunches filled with healthy fruits and veggies and no longer find myself eating only a sandwich as I try to wrangle two toddlers through lunch time.

One of the benefits of the bento is that the food is usually finger food, so I can eat it in stages if I have to snatch bites between diaper changes and feeding the bairns.

There are a ton of bento websites, but here are the two that helped me get started:

Just Bento

Lunch in a Box

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Recipe: Easy Key Lime Pie

This is a ridiculously easy pie recipe that is tangy and perfect. The recipe calls for a 6 oz can of frozen limeade, which my grocery store does not sell, so I bought the standard 12 oz can and tried to double the recipe. My Kitchenaid was unable to properly whip the doubled liquid, so I would recommend whipping in two batches if you are going to double the recipe.

Easy Key Lime Pie

originally from Real Simple , June 2008

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 6 oz can frozen limeade
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 6 oz graham cracker pie crust

Place the condensed milk, limeade, and heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat until fluffy, medium peaks form. The consistency will not change that much once the pie is refrigerated, so whip it until it is the consistency you want. Softer peaks for a softer pie and firmer peaks for a firmer pie.

Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Refrigerate for 4 hours ro overnight, until the pie is set.

Voila! Serve with whipped cream and coffee for true decadence.

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These days, I am all about cooking things that are easy, go in the crock pot, or that I can make ahead in stages during the day as I find time. I made these pork chops last week and they were a huge success with everyone. I served them with baked butternut squash.

Baked Pork Chops with Stuffing

  • 4 pork chops
  • 1/2 of a large onion (or one whole medium) white or yellow, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • seasoning of choice: like Seasoned Salt, Fajita Seasoning for Chicken or similar (for a more savory flavor, try rosemary or oregano)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 box of pork stuffing mix

Make the stuffing mix according to the directions and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a greased 9×11 glass pan, place the pork chops so that they do not overlap. Season one side of the chops and then flip and season the other side. Layer the onions over the pork chops and then spread the chopped celery over the onions. Salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the stuffing mix already has a fair amount of salt in it.

Pour 1/4 c. of water into the pan.

Distribute the stuffing mix so that it covers the pork chops as evenly as possible. The stuffing is very sticky so it will not be in a layer like a casserole, but more like small clumps over the chops and vegetables.

Place a sheet of foil over the dish and seal as tightly as possible.

Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy with a vegetable side and a smile.

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Now that we have two children, the times when I can choose to do something uninterrupted is virtually non-existent. It does happen every other week or so, for about 20 minutes. Mostly, I have to catch small moments during nap times, when one of the boys is asleep. At this stage, having them both asleep is like the Holy Grail of parenting and we have not achieved that yet.

That being said, this past weekend, Ries went out of town (on a boys weekend to Colorado, jerk) and I sent Gideon to his Oma and Papa’s for the weekend. I felt like I was alone, with only the Wee Wash to look after. Well, and the huge slobbery dogs. Saturday, Wash took a long nap and I was able to sit down and write over 3600 in my new writing project, the most I have done in one sitting, I think, so far. It felt great and I was very happy.

It was quiet here, without Gideon, and I was happy to go pick him up yesterday night. When I arrived, he was playing with some wrenches from Papa’s tool box. I walked up to him, holding a Sonic LemonBerry slush. He took one look at me and said, not “Hi, Mom!” or “Mommy!” or “I missed you.” with a huge. No, he said, “Hey, did you bring me one of those drinks?”

So, on the grand scheme of things, I rank somewhere lower than a Sonic LemonBerry Slush.

Ries on the other hand, ranks higher than both the slush and me because today at lunch, Gideon and I had the following conversation:

Gideon: Our family is missing something.

Me: Oh? What?

Gideon: Daddy.

*eyeroll* Moms are never appreciated. Perhaps it is because we do not come with that fabulous Sonic ice. 🙂

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I got the original of this recipe from a good friend. I have used it, with some variation, multiple times and it always yields the best pork roast I have ever had. I have used multiple cuts of meat, from an entire pork shoulder, complete with joint and skin, traditional pork butt, and cuts meant for carnitas (small 1.5lb chunks). I have used many different kinds of juice, though I usually go for something citrus. Enjoy!

Never Fail Pork Roast

    • 3-4 lbs pork shoulder, butt, roast or similar
    • 1 whole garlic clove, separated and peeled
    • 1/3 c. Worcestershire Sauce
    • 3/4 c. light brown sugar
    • 1 1/4 . apple, orange, pineapple, or other juice
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper

Make small slits all over the roast then insert a whole garlic clove into each slit.

Place the roast in a crock pot.

Pour the worcestershire sauce over the roast and let it sit at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours.

After 1-1/2 hours spoon any worcestershire sauce that has accumulated on the bottom of the pot back on the roast.  Add salt and pepper to taste onto the roast.

Rub the brown sugar over the roast on all sides. Make sure the sugar sticks to the sides of the meat.

Pour the juice into the bottom of the crock pot (not over the top of the meat).

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low all day, about 6 hours. If you are are at home, periodically baste the roast with the juices at the bottom of the pot.

The roast is done when it falls apart.

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Recipe: Kale Chips

My friend Jessica suggested this as a way to use up some of the Kale we have been getting in our produce CSA. I loved them. Ries and Gideon were less enthusiastic. The kale shrinks quite a bit so next time I am going to make enough to fill two baking sheets. I do not think they will keep well, but they are quite crunchy out of the oven.

Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • olive oil
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 300.

Wash the kale well. Remove the ribs and tear the leaves into potato chip size pieces.

Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the kale, about 1-2 tbls. Sprinkle salt over the kale. Mix well with your hands, making sure that all the pieces are covered.

Place the kale pieces in a single layer (that is very important) on a baking sheet. The pieces can touch, just not overlap.

Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

Enjoy.

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Years ago, I tried making a chocolate cake from scratch and it was awful. I have not repeated my efforts, until now. This cake is amazing, moist, and very chocolatey. It is similar to a Texas Sheet Cake, which, unlike this one, often calls for cinnamon and sour cream. I made this for my Tuesday night ladies and Erin wanted it posted here.

A note: In general, if a recipe calls for oil of any kind, I use olive oil because that is what I keep on hand. I also keep cake flour (low protein flour) on hand and I used it for this recipe instead of regular flour. In addition, I used plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. Plain yogurt can substitute 1=1 for buttermilk in almost any any recipe.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Cake

    2 c. flour
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/2 c. cocoa
    2 c. sugar
    1 c. oil
    1 c. buttermilk or plain yogurt
    2 eggs, beaten
    3 tsp. vanilla
    3/4 c. hot water

Icing

    4 tbl. cocoa
    6 tbl. milk
    1 stick of butter
    1 box or 1 lb of powdered sugar
    1 tbl. vanilla
    1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together flour, soda, salt, and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and stir.

Beat in oil, buttermilk or yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. While mixing this, put the water in the microwave until just boiling. Add hot water to the cake mix and stir well. Batter will be very runny.

Pour batter into a greased 9×13 baking pan or dish.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

When the cake has about 5-10 minutes left to bake, start the icing.

In a small saucepan, place the cocoa and milk. Mix well until the cocoa is incorporated into the milk. It takes a lot of vigorous stirring.

Add the butter and bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring constantly.

Remove the pan from heat.

Put the powdered sugar and vanilla into a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and cocoa mixture. Beat well. If you are using pecans or walnuts, stir them in now.

The cake should have come out of the oven during this process. Pour the frosting over the cake (while it is still hot) and allow the whole thing to cool.

Serve with vanilla ice cream for a real treat.

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