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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Kitchen This Week

Monday....Sweet and Sour Chicken with brown rice...Wyatt's absolute favorite. It's the only time he asks for more chicken.

Tuesday night...Roasted Chicken with carrots, potatoes and onions. Also tried my hand at braised cabbage. It was pretty good!

Wednesday lunch...Quick Thai Corn Chowder. We're having kids over to play today, so maybe ordering a pizza and throwing together a salad is in order if they're all still here at dinnertime.

Thursday...eating out or eating leftovers.

Out of town this weekend! We're heading down to the Strawberry Festival in Tampa...I've heard they have the best strawberry shortcake ever! Good friends and good times ahead.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day Part 2

I know Valentine's Day was so last week, but indulge me a bit. If you read my food blog from last year, then you know that Valentine's Day is a much celebrated holiday in my house. No so much for the "romantic" part, but just as a good excuse to celebrate the love we have for each other. It all started when I was a child. Valentine's day is my mom's birthday, so growing up, we had a double celebration. My mom, sweet lady that she is, would always go all out getting gifts and sweets for all of us. Plus, we always had a nice meal and homemade cake to look forward to. Over the past several years, I've tried to recreate that idea for my kids. We have an "I Love You" dinner. It's quite a simple idea actually. I love my men...all three of them, and instead of hiring a sitter and feeling like David and I have to go out as a couple, I'd much rather stay home, cook a really yummy meal, decorate, light candles, and give gifts to my guys. We've also invited my sweet Aunt Kathy to join us for the past few years. It's always been such a night to look forward to and one I do from my heart.

This year I decided to make it a little bit of a bigger deal by inviting my parents, my mother in law, and both my aunts to celebrate both Valentine's and my mom's birthday. My aunt made a coconut heart shaped cake and an appetizer. I did the salad (spinach, strawberries, red onion, pecans, cucumbers and poppy seed dressing) and the entree: Granny smith apple and sausage penne. I also went a little overboard and made sure everyone had a small gift (really..not a big deal. I totally scored on necklaces and bracelets with $20 price tags but only paid $2).I also decorated with flowers and candy kisses. Very festive and fun. It was all a total hit.

Right before dinner, Ethan snuck upstairs and came back down totally dressed up. It was all his idea. He said he wanted to "look nice" for dinner. That made my heart melt!

My mom looks pretty good for 71, huh?

It seems like most families have one special day a year that they do differently than anyone else. This is ours.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tex Mex Bowls

It's time for me to make a confession. I've been terrible lately at making meals at home. Our schedule the past several weeks has had us away from home during the late afternoon hours and it's just so hard to arrive home after 6pm with a starving family and expect to whip up a decent meal in minutes. It's been so much easier to go to our favorite "kid's eat free on Tuesday nights" restaurant. Hey...if we have to eat out, at least we're not paying for the kids. Problem's usually junk the kids end up eating (hot dogs, grilled cheese). Sure, it's nice to go somewhere else where they cook and clean up and we return to a perfectly clean kitchen. Still, it's more money unnecessarily spent on a not so decent meal. In my defense, there's been plenty of nights I have planned ahead and organized something very easy to make on these busy days, but my well meaning husband is very good at talking me out of going to the trouble of making dinner and our behinds end up in a restaurant booth. It's a guilt ridden process: I feel guilty for spending the money on poor quality food, guilty that my kids are eating it, guilty that I couldn't be more on the ball and have dinner ready myself, and guilty that I'm probably consuming way more calories than I would at home. Planning has got to be key, but I've also got to plan meals that can be cooked earlier in the day and warmed up just before serving. I'm becoming more friendly with my crock pot again. Staring in March, the boys will have some type of activity nearly every day that will have us out of the house in the later afternoon hours. I won't have the time to devote to making dinner at dinner time.

It's can be weird to think about preparing dinner in the AM hours, but that's what I think will save us. Take today, for instance. I'm taking one of our favorite meals...grilled chicken, black beans and rice and making most of it in the morning. I soaked the beans overnight; very easy to do. Threw them in the crock pot along with some onions, garlic, cumin, curry powder, salt, white wine, rice vinegar and chicken broth. I'll cook them on low for 6-8 hours and cross my fingers that they won't get overdone.
The rice (brown jasmine) was cooking while I made the boys lunches and the chicken is marinating in the fridge. Once we get home tonight after 6pm, I'll throw the chicken on the grill, heat the rice, and maybe even toss a salad together. The final plan will be to make Tex Mex Bowls...layer in a bowl: rice, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, chopped chicken, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream.
If all goes well, we'll be sitting down to dinner around 6:30. Not too bad.

Another great idea for these types of meals is bar-b-q chicken Kelle's way. It basically consists of throwing a few chicken breasts into the crock pot, pouring a bottle of gourmet bar-b-q sauce, perhaps a few chopped onions and garlic powder and let it do it's thing until dinner time. I love bar-b-q this way since I can control the type of meat (hormone and antibiotic free). Plus, the leftovers make great lunches.

I'm going to have to brainstorm to come up with more ideas like these. There's always the typical pot roast, but we don't each much red meat in our house. Maybe some good chicken recipes are due.