The Hail Mary Dinner

 

The “Hail Mary” Dinner. You know the one I speak of.

When you get home from your kids’ activities at 6:30pm and realize you don’t really have the time or the ingredients to make a substantial dinner.

I used to feel so smug because when everyone else was posting and complaining about Mondays, I was this stay-at-home / work-at-home mom and Monday was just another day for me. But now all 3 of our kids have dance on Monday nights which means our Monday afternoon schedule looks like this:
2:30pm – Get B&C changed into dance clothes, double-check A’s bag to ensure she has everything she needs; pack snacks for everyone and water or coffee for myself.
3:00pm – Leave and pick up A from school
3:30pm – Arrive at dance studio and help A change; do her hair up in a bun
4:00pm – A’s Tap & Jazz class; C usually naps so B & I sit in the car for awhile
4:30pm – Go inside and have snack
5:00pm – A has Ballet; B&C have Pre-Ballet; I work, read, or chat with parents
5:45pm – B&C finish class; go downstairs & get everyone into outdoor clothes; possibly read a book; collect all bags and miscellaneous STUFF
6:00pm – A finishes class & changes; we all head out to car
6:25pm – Arrive at home; make & eat dinner; homework
7:15pm – Start bedtime routine
7:30pm – Tuck-in Time
8:00pm – BED! A will sometimes stay up to read quietly in bed until 8:30

You can see why it takes ALL MY ENERGY to get through Monday afternoons. This past Monday I used some peppermint & wild orange oil aromatically and it actually gave me an energy boost better than the coffee ever does. (Yes, there’s an oil for that!!)

Which brings me to… The Hail Mary Dinner I whipped up yesterday.

I opened up the cabinets & fridge to see….
Nothing.
Nada.
Zip.
Zilch.
…at least that would be quick and nutritious.

But what did I have?!? Some egg noodles, some leftover chicken, some leftover veggies, and a cookbook. I figured I could whip up a simple sauce/gravy and throw all the stuff together. Kind of a deconstructed casserole, if you will. Sure, we’ll go with that.

So I got the water going for the noodles, pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook, and opened it to the Sauces section. “Basic White Sauce.” PERFECT! Here’s how to make it:
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the lumps are gone.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring all the while.
Season with salt & pepper, and heat over medium high heat until it starts bubbling.
Continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Because it was so bland, I added some garlic and onion powder to taste.

While the sauce thickened, I reheated and cut up the chicken into bite size pieces, and reheated the leftover veggies in the microwave. I cooked the noodles and added a pat or two of butter, stirring until melted & mixed.

I added the chicken into the sauce.
I spooned the noodles into bowls.
I sprinkled some veggies over the noodles.
I scooped the chicken sauce over the noodles, and….
BAM! DINNER!

 

HailMary dinner

It was actually pretty good! Thankfully, the chicken was well-seasoned, so when I mixed it with the bland sauce, it was perfect. The kids gobbled it right up. To be fair, they probably would’ve eaten anything at that point, since they were so hungry.

Regardless, it boosted my confidence that I could create a real meal in a pinch without too much trouble. (PS. Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.)

HAIL MARY

 

When have you made a delicious dinner in a pinch? What did you make?

Pork Fried (Cauliflower) “Rice”

Recently we’ve had so much going on that I kind of fell into one of those traps of making the same meals over and over every week. Sure, they’re good, but I’m getting pretty tired of the same sausage and tomato pasta!

In searching for new recipes to try, and also ones that were healthier, I remembered my good friend had posted that she made orange chicken with fried rice… but instead of rice, she used CAULIFLOWER! I know, it sounds like one of those substitutions that doesn’t even make sense and that everyone spits out.

Let me tell you, IT’S NOT. I made it tonight, substituting some leftover pork I was trying to use up, and I didn’t miss the rice, not one bit!

It’s a little messy turning the cauliflower into ‘rice’, but it’s super easy and kind of fool proof.

Here’s what you need:
1/2 head of cauliflower
Half an onion (I used red)
2 cloves garlic
About 2 carrots
About 1 TBLspn cooking oil
About 1 1/2 TBLspn coconut oil
2 eggs
About 1 cup cooked pork – loin or chop would work fine (I used leftovers from this)
Optional: green onion for garnish

First get your cauliflower ready. Chop up half the head of cauliflower and add it to the food processor. This is the part that’s a little messy; it’s just difficult to get it all in there without getting tiny crumbs all over the counter and floor. Once it’s in there, pulse until it’s at a rice-like consistency. Honestly? Mine looked more like couscous or quinoa, but it still turned out fantastic, so you don’t have to be too particular about this. Just be sure you stop before you turn it into a puree. Side note: of course you’re going to wash it before you chop it, but make sure you ring out all the water and/or pat it dry after chopping. If you don’t, the water will turn it into a puree!

Next, chop the onion and finely chop the garlic cloves. Drizzle the cooking oil in a deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the onion. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then add in the garlic. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile cut up the carrots. I actually only had baby carrots, so I cut them in quarters lengthwise, then chopped so they were diced like you see in fried rice so often. Add those in the pan too and stir, cooking for approximately 5 minutes.

Then, using a spatula to get it all out, add in the cauliflower ‘rice’. Stir of course! Add the coconut oil. Then crack the eggs into the pan, on top of the cauliflower, one at a time. Just crack them in whole, and stir!! Once incorporated, let cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir once to prevent burning and sticking to the pan.

While that’s cooking, chop up the pork, then add it in with the cauliflower and stir. Cook until everything is warm, stirring frequently. You can also garnish it with some fresh chopped green onion. (I wish we’d have had some!) You could also add diced celery if you have it.

And that’s IT! I told you it was easy. And quick! And healthy! All the things we want in one recipe 🙂

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Oh. And drizzle a little sriracha. Because it’s good.
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Hope you enjoy! If you try it be sure to come back to comment how your family liked it!

Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin

This has become a repeat recipe because it’s so easy and flavorful. It takes barely any time at all except for the oven-roasting. And I keep all the rub spices in my pantry, so I only have to purchase the actual pork. Here’s what to do!

1. Buy a pork loin. I usually get between 2.5 – 5 lb ones and plan to use the leftovers in another meal. Take said pork loin home!

2. Trim pork loin of fat, if you’d like to. Sometimes it’s unnecessary because there’s not too much, but other times I’ve cut off lots.

For example.

For example.

2. Get out a little mixing bowl and a whisk. Combine the following ingredients (I suggest measuring with a tablespoon) and whisk to combine:
1.5 part Garlic Powder
1 part Salt (Kosher is best but regular table salt is fine)
1/2 part Black Pepper (freshly ground is great for rubs)
1.5 parts Paprika
2 parts Cocoa Powder
1 parts Basil
1 parts Thyme
*Red Pepper Flakes (just a dash or two)
*1 part Coffee grounds
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*I have done the rub with and without these spices. Red pepper flakes obviously add a bit more spice and heat; the coffee grounds add a neutralizing kind of smoky flavor. (I know that’s a bad description, but you just have to try it and trust me!)

3. Using your raw meats cutting board, shake or sprinkle some of that spice mixture onto the pork loin, and use either your hands or a pastry brush to rub it into the meat.
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4. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil (for easy clean-up). Cook in a preheated 350º oven for about 1 hour for every 2 lbs. (For my 2.5 lb loin, I baked it at 375º for 1 hour.) Now I never use an internal thermometer… I just use my tongs to ‘feel’ how done it is. You want to check the middle-most part of the loin. It should be firm, but still ‘bounce back’ a little. The more you cook this way, the more you’ll understand the ‘feel’ you’re looking for.
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Before cooking...

Before cooking…

And after!

And after!

5. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes, more like 10 if you have a 5 pounder. Slice that bad boy up and serve with applesauce! Great for dipping and especially when you have kids, because it counteracts the spice in the rub.

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The general recommendation for home cooks when making pork is that there should be no pink. But really, that’s not true – having some pink is not only okay but desirable. If it’s white all the way through, it will be dry and chewy.

Hope you and your family enjoy as much as we do!
Have leftovers? Use them up in this comforting, delicious, Double Pork Chili second meal.

Spice-rubbed Pork Loin

Spice-rubbed Pork Loin

Chicken Quesadillas with Fruit Salsa

This is Meal #6 in our meal plan using chicken breast.

What we’re Repurposing:
Chicken from Baked Seasoned Chicken or Spinach Artichoke Chicken
Veggies from pasta – chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, chopped Roma tomato

You’ll Also Need:
Whole Wheat Tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
1 8oz bag Shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 Avocado
1 Lime
Salt
Cilantro (you’ll need less than 1 bunch)
1 Large Mango or 2 Ataulfo Mangoes
3 Kiwi, peeled and chopped
1/4c fresh chopped Pineapple
Jalapeno (however much you like)
Sour Cream
OPTIONAL: chimichurri **see OHI recipe (link to be added soon)

Here is the original recipe for the avocado cream and the fruit salsa.

To make the fruit salsa:
Here are the Ataulfo mangoes I used. They are smaller than the ones I normally use – but they were only $.50 each, so I went with these and they still taste the same.

Peel the mangoes first!

Peel the mangoes first!

Chop the mango by making knife cuts lengthwise and crosswise and then sliding your knife underneath parallel to the cutting board to remove the chunks. Add to your salsa bowl (or, to save on dishes, make directly in tupperware so you can save leftovers!).
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Slice the kiwi and then chop it into smaller pieces and add to salsa.
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Chop the red onion and add to salsa.
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Dice up the cilantro, chop the pineapple, and add them to the salsa along with the juice from half a lime. Stir and then salt to taste.

Delicious!

Delicious!

The original recipe called for jalapeno IN the salsa, but I left it out because of the kids.

For the avocado cream:
Note: I actually like this LESS than the avocado spread I made in some OHI quesadillas. But you might like it, so I’m including the recipe here still.
Mash 1 avocado in a bowl. Add about 2 Tblspn minced cilantro, juice from the other half of the lime, 1/2c sour cream, and a little salt. Stir until well combined.
(recipe for my avocado spread soon to come on a different post – link will be at bottom)

To make the quesadillas:
1. Spread the avocado cream on one tortilla and then cover it with cheese
2. Add chopped chicken, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, red onion.

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I left the jalapeno out in the kids’ quesadillas

With jalapeno

With jalapeno and red onion

3. Place another tortilla over top. With one hand on each side holding the tortillas together, place in quesadilla maker. *If you don’t have a quesadilla maker, you can make these in a large frying pan or skillet. Placing a lid or plate over the pan right away will help the cheese melt more quickly, before the tortilla burns. You can also use the fajita size tortillas and fold them over. If you cook them this way, you will probably need to flip them. Use caution and be sure the cheese is melted so you don’t end up with a mess!
4. Slice into triangles and serve with avocado cream or sour cream and fruit salsa.

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**Now, I’m going to make a suggestion. After this week of chicken you might be looking to eat some BEEF. I recommend planning your next week starting with this steak with chimichurri and making the chimichurri a day or two early (it’s good in the fridge for up to a week). Before you make the quesadillas, toss the chicken in the chimichurri sauce. It. Is. SO. good!

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I made these for lunch one day while trying to use up leftovers (what a surprise!) The chimichurri added an unbeatable layer of flavor.

Click here for the complete story on these OHI quesadillas, including my original avocado spread recipe!

Twice-Cooked Pork Tacos – Second Meal

Like a lot of my ideas, this recipe was born of necessity. I didn’t have much around to make a brand new dinner, I was out of Taco Seasoning packets, and we had some beer in the house. I had lots of leftovers from the pork I had made in the crock pot and figured, hey, why not?! And now this is probably my favorite Second Meal.

I usually start with the leftovers from the easiest BBQ pork ribs in the crock pot. The pork is already super tender and has good flavor from the BBQ sauce. However you can start with leftovers from really tender pork loin (if cooked in crock pot) or a pulled pork recipe. You’ll need enough to basically fill a large skillet or frying pan.

Start by adding a pat of butter to the pan, heating over medium heat. Saute half a chopped yellow onion until they are becoming translucent. Then add your leftover pork. Toss with a spatula.

Pork & Onions

Pork & Onions

Next add these spices:
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I never measure, I just add to my taste. I usually add a few times throughout the cooking process, and add more of what I think it needs. If I had to guess, though, I’d say the ratios are probably close to this:
2 teaspoons garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon at a time)
2 teaspoons paprika (again, 1/2 teaspoon at a time)
1- 2 teaspoons cumin, to your preference (again…. ^^^)
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste (added 1/4 teaspoon at a time)
*Since writing this post, I have written out a recipe for taco seasonings from scratch. Find it here.

After you add the first round of spices, stir. Now add your beer! I always use whatever we have on hand (use up your OHI!). I tend to like a malty beer best though:

Sam Adams, Leininkugel, or Smithwick's are ones we usually have and use

Sam Adams, Leininkugel, or Smithwick’s are ones we usually have and use

You want enough to go around the pan once. Don’t dump it all in there – just pour slowly around the pan and cover every bit of the pork. It’s going to bubble up and look like this:

The sugars in the beer tenderize the pork. SO GOOD!

The sugars in the beer tenderize the pork. SO GOOD!

DON’T STIR RIGHT AWAY! Give it a minute to cook in that beautiful juice. When there is less foam, you’re free to give it a little toss.
Now you’re going to repeat those steps a few more times. Add seasonings up to 4-5 times, and add beer up to 3 times. Just remember: Don’t add more beer until the previous addition has completely evaporated and the pork has soaked it up. Taste as you go and adjust to how you like it. If you like spicier, add more chili powder or even cayenne pepper. If you like heat and warmth without the heavy spice, use more paprika or cumin. If it tastes too bland, add more garlic powder.
When you taste the pork right out of the pan, it should be melt-in-your-mouth-tender and full of flavor.

You can prepare your tacos however you like, using whatever toppings you have and enjoy. I always like to use whole wheat tortillas, but I recently found a corn/whole wheat combo that was really good too. For toppings, we usually use some combination of the following: chopped tomatoes, salsa (the hubs’ favorite!), avocado, avocado spread, or guacamole (my favorite!), sour cream (the kids’ favorite!), and of course, CHEESE! I really like the Mexican Blend, but cheddar would be good too.

One thing you should NOT skip: LIME. A squeeze or two of fresh lime juice really brightens up these flavors and brings them to life. You can squeeze juice from half a lime directly into the pan with the meat, but I like to give each person a little wedge of their own to add as much or as little as they’d like.

Twice-cooked pork tacos with Spanish Rice

Twice-cooked pork tacos with Spanish Rice

I usually serve this with some kind of flavored or brown rice and some fresh veggies. Use your OHI! You can prepare these the same time you’re re-cooking the pork. This way, from start to finish, dinner should only take about 25 minutes or so. We usually get anywhere from 7-12 tacos from this recipe, depending on how much pork you have and the size of your tortilla. But since you’re not using a seasoning packet, you can adjust to whatever quantity you need! Bonus! I try to make more rather than less, because they do reheat well for lunch the next day (although there’s never more than enough for 2 tacos!).

I hope you and your family enjoy this quick delicious meal as much as we do!

Steak Wraps & Salads (Second Meal)

I am loving wraps lately to use up leftovers.  You can add whatever you like to them, and they’re usually fairly healthy – especially if you get whole wheat tortillas.

So after I made grilled Chuck steak the other night, I made wraps for lunch with the leftovers.

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I sliced the steak, reheated it gently by sauteeing in a pan, then layered it on a tortilla with cheddar, chimichurri, avocado, and tomato. If you have enough steak left, this would work as dinner the next night too.

Or, you can make a salad.  Prepare the steak the same way, then toss it lightly in the chimichurri. Place over your green of choice, adding whatever toppings you like. I put romaine lettuce first, then cheddar and tomato, the steak, and avocado. It’s great with this homemade dressing.
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My lovely sister had the idea of making burrito bowls too – rice and beans topped with these same ingredients.

If you used lean beef, you can feel good about making a healthy choice for lunch. It doesn’t take much time at all, and as a mom, it sure feels more grown-up to eat one of these options than it does to eat a PBJ or grilled cheese (not that I have anything against those classics).

Now enjoy a very simple but elegant feeling second meal!

Spinach Artichoke Chicken

I have to share this recipe with you. It was so good I made it twice in two weeks. It’s great as a First Meal too!

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I can’t. It was one of Pinterest’s top 20 recipes of 2013.

The first time I made this, I used frozen chicken tenders because that’s all I had (refer to the first super freezing weather of 2014… store was COMPLETELY out of fresh poultry). I also was on the phone while in the frozen aisle, so forgot to grab the frozen spinach. Instead I chopped up fresh broccoli and mixed it in – it was really good. The broccoli florets collected all the sauce and cheese and were so good. I also thought I had mozzarella cheese, but didn’t – so I used the Italian Four Cheese blend instead. The chicken was so tender you could cut it with a spoon. My only suggestion would be to use a sheet pan or different dish to cook the chicken the first time, as it gives off so much liquid from being frozen. I did try to drain it out of the baking dish, but not enough – the sauce was still a little watery. But, it was good enough for me to make again, so I can’t really complain there!

The second time I made it, I used fresh thinly sliced chicken breast. I remembered the spinach this time, but still added broccoli just to have another vegetable. The chicken was a little tough, but again still good. Next time I’ll just use regular chicken breast like the recipe suggests! I used the leftovers in this Second Meal.

One thing I want to try is squeezing lemon over the chicken before the S&P and baking it the first time. I think it would add a little more flavor, and complement the artichokes well.

It’s really good served over angel hair pasta. It would probably also be good over lemon-butter rice, or egg noodles!

Click here to view the recipe! Happy cooking!

Update: I found this recipe on the back of a Knorr Pasta Side that I made for a work – night. If you’re in more of a hurry or want the noodles to be more incorporated in the dish, try this:
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A Day in the Life

In preparation for the Honest Mom series that is coming up, I decided to outline a day in the life at our house. I used this day because it had a perfect example of how I get interrupted doing things, and how my To Do List is never really done in order anymore.

Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? (We’ve been watching too much Sound of Music lately.)

The hubs and I had stayed up the night before to get caught up on a favorite sitcom, HIMYM (if you watch it, you know). We probably didn’t actually go to sleep until midnight.

At 4am our son B woke up and wanted to watch Mickey. I explained it was still bedtime and coerced him back to bed, where I cuddled with him for an hour – he just looked so cozy! – before being woken by our 18mos old. I changed her diaper, got her a bottle at her request, and brought her in bed with us (my room, not B’s) where we fell back to sleep. Somehow we managed to sleep through B waking up again around 7:30. The hubs kindly went to the family room with him, put Mickey on, and came back to bed himself. Around 8 I finally got up (this is LATE for us) when the hubs asked me to bring up the darks from the laundry in the basement. Afterwards C and I went to the family room with B where we watched, you guessed it, another episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (These days it’s pretty much Mickey or Little Einstein’s. We should probably buy stock in Disney Jr.) I should also mention that I usually limit my kids’ TV time, but I have done a poor job this Christmas break of sticking with that rule.
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Around 8:30 I found bubbles and excitedly woke my eldest for her to view an experiment. We opened the front door and blew bubbles out into the -11° air, where they froze as we watched.

I started coffee for the hubs and washed out the travel mug while the kids sat eating the rest of the doughnuts their Papa had brought over the day before.

We said goodbye to Daddy and sent him on his way for his second day of a regular daytime schedule. (Hooray! Goodbye 3rd shift!)

This was my daughter’s second day off from school due to the cold, so I decided we’d do a Harry Potter movie marathon. Which, since my kids are young, basically means they are on in the background, my eldest daughter asks questions and lets me know when I should sit by her for a scary part, and I watch as much as I can while simultaneously getting things done around the house.

By this point I was super hungry so decided to make myself breakfast. Except, C had a poopy diaper, so I changed her first. I told her we’d put on the clothes in the family room (leftover from Christmas that I still hadn’t put away), so she ran down the hall as I collected the dirty diapers in her room and brought them to the garage to throw away. I turned around to see her standing there with a pink sweater from the gift bag.” Oh good,” I said, “you found your clothes.” We went together to get matching pants – which she had pulled off again within minutes.

I finally made myself a breakfast of reheated ham steak, over-easy eggs, wheat toast, and coffee. Of course, as soon as C realized I was eating, she climbed up on my lap, as is her custom, and asked for some of my eggs. I stopped trying to argue with her weeks ago, when I realized it was either dole some out for her or make her her own. Today I was not willing to make her any – at least until I had finished my own breakfast, anyway. My eldest A had asked for an apple after her doughnut, and was sitting in the family room eating it. This is a no-no, but I must have been too tired or hungry to really notice or say anything until later, when she set it on the table next to me. I asked if she was finished, and she said, “yeah, you can have the rest.” Score. I didn’t really want a whole one anyway. I took a few bites, then got up when Camille asked me for a bottle.

I went to the bathroom. While washing my hands, I heard C calling for me, and investigated until I found this:

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This plastic container is usually filled with stuffed animals.

Right after I giggled with them and took this picture, C climbed out, making room for B to dump his big Lego container halfway upside down inside the closet, which was already covered with stuffed animals. I made some threat to him about cleaning it up (I think it involved a spanking AND a time out) and walked away to attempt to finish putting away my laundry. I went to my room to fold and put it away. C followed me there. I had maybe 2 shirts folded when B came in saying he had to go potty.

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I waited for the customary request to help him – but it didn’t come. MIRACLE! He can go by himself, but has been insisting on one of us helping him for the past several weeks. I happily continued folding, until he called out, “DONE!” from the bathroom. I met him in the bathroom and brought him into his room to get him dressed. I chose some new clothes from Christmas, still sitting in yet another unpacked gift bag by his bedroom door. After helping him get dressed I decided to just put the clothes away and get it over with. So I folded the shirts, taking a quick inventory of his current shirt drawer and pulling out a few items that were out of season/too small to make room for these new shirts. Then I hung up a few clean shirts and sweaters that I had draped over his dresser the last time I did his laundry. When I turned around I noticed B had his pants off already, because C had brought in 2 pair of Daddy’s workout shorts, and the two of them were attempting to put them on.

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Aftermath of the ‘dress-up’ session

Where did she got the shorts from?

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Left the drawer open. Rookie move.

So, since I found myself in his bedroom again, I figured I might as well help him put away his blocks and stuffed animals.

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Stuffed animals put back in their places

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Legos put away, puzzle helter skelter.

By this point I still had some laundry to put away, so I went back to finish it, and put the shorts away.

By now it was lunch time. I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich for A, and gave B&C grape tomatoes and something else that I can’t recall. (I guess this is how days are when they are so full of activity.) While they ate I unloaded the clean dishwasher, which I had loaded and turned on earlier that morning. At one point I took out yogurt for myself, since I wasn’t TERRIBLY hungry yet. Then one of the kids asked for something and I forgot about it; instead I finished unloading the dishwasher (I had also been interrupted after starting this task.)

After this everything is a little blurred together. Camille was tired and needed a nap, so I pretty much forced her into one, even though she fought it all the way. One of the next things on my list was helping Aubrey put away her clean folded laundry, but since she and C share a room, that wasn’t going to happen, so I skipped to the next thing on my list: other laundry. I grabbed our bed sheets, our small bathroom rug, and a few towels and put them in the wash. While I waited to switch the laundry (which is in the basement), I attempted to edit some blog drafts (since the computer is also in the basement) – until Brendan started yelling for me, and I ran upstairs like a crazy person to stop him from waking his little sister. In his sweet little voice he said, “Mom, I was looking for you.” Aubrey had been using one of her new Christmas presents all morning – 2 sticker books that have reusable stickers. Think the old felt boards of our youth, just a little more modern. One allowed you to decorate rooms, and the other featured different dress-up scenarios. Well B wanted to help, and A was not so fond of that idea. PUT ON THE REFEREE HAT! I convinced A that B could help by handing her the stickers she wanted for each page.

Soon after that A got tired of Harry Potter and requested to watch her new Barbie DVD: The Popstar & the Princess. I had let her watch it on the computer downstairs the day before, because I didn’t feel it was very nice to force B into watching it (he deals with enough feminine stuff) so I allowed her to do this again.

Shortly after, I switched the first load of laundry to the dryer and put the rest of our towels in the wash. Suddenly I remembered my yogurt. I had made it all the way to opening it and adding a spoon, but still hadn’t eaten it.

Poor, forgotten yogurt.

Poor, forgotten yogurt.

Around 3pm I was feeling super tired, but hadn’t eaten except for the yogurt, so I cut up some cheese and a piece or two of homemade bread from our family friend Traci, and settled down to try to watch a little TV. Just as I started to nod off, C woke up crying from her nap. Wonderful.
I figured it’s just as well because I would need to start dinner in about a half hour anyway. And if she napped any longer, she probably wouldn’t be tired at bedtime.

So I cuddled with her awhile until she was awake enough that she wanted to play, and then started in on dinner… I know I usually post recipes, but i don’t remember what I made this particular time. (Maybe soup?) Although I’m sure it involved C pouring more water on the floor, until I took away the one cup that she had managed to find that I didn’t already place out of her reach.

Dinner usually goes like this: the kids, so excited to eat you’d think they hadn’t eaten in DAYS, rush to the kitchen and pick out plates or bowls. I try to put food on said plates while they swarm around me like angry bees, ignoring my calm requests to go sit at the table, until I have to practically shout, “GO SIT DOWN! and I’ll bring you your food.”
They usually listen after that.
I serve them, then myself, and about the time I set my plate and cup down, one or two or all of them ask for a drink or a napkin. I don’t know why I stopped doing this automatically. I try to tell them to get their own drinks (they are all capable except for C) until I realize all the cups are either dirty or out of their reach from C’s earlier escapades.

I wish I was exaggerating.

When we all finally have food, utensils, drinks and napkins, we sit down to eat and pray. Sometimes I forget until a few bites in, or maybe half a plate in. But when I do remember it’s the sweetest thing to see my littlest girl fold her hands and bounce to the beat of the prayer.

I’m beginning to generalize now, because it’s been too many days and I can’t quite remember specifics.

I know the hubs came home, I gave the kids a bath, and we put them to bed at 8(ish). I wish I could say I did something productive, but I think I might’ve tidied the kitchen, changed into PJs, and probably watched a show with the hubs before going to bed. It probably included a glass of wine and a bit of chocolate.

At least we were in the house all day, which is logistically easier, although harder to direct the kids’ energy.

This was not the most fantastic of days, nor the most difficult days. Just a typical one.

Can you relate? ?

Salmon Florentine (Second Meal)

Lately I’ve been doing a lot with this particular combo of veggies: spinach, tomato, onion (& garlic). They blend well together, they’re healthy, they have a pretty good shelf/fridge life, and all ingredients can be used in so many different ways that I’m able to use it up before they do go bad.

So tonight I made Salmon Florentine. Well, my version of a Florentine. I did look up a quick recipe and found one on Food Network, but it used Ricotta cheese which is one of those that has little flavor and equal nutritional value. So I skipped that part and just kind of did my own thing.

I had a hair appointment at 3:00, so about 2:15 I portioned my salmon into fillets, rinsed them to remove whatever scales were left from the butcher (I asked for them to do it this time because I did not want scaly fingernails again!), patted them dry with a paper towel, and placed them in a greased (with BUTTER!) glass baking dish. Sprinkled a little S&P and a little dried thyme, drizzled some Olive Oil, covered and placed in fridge until I got home. I did this early because the olive oil, when absorbed into the salmon, gives it a really nice buttery taste.

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Next step, veggies. First preheat oven to 350º and remove salmon from fridge.  I put a very small amount of Olive Oil in a skillet and heated over medium-high. I minced some garlic, chopped some red onion and tomatoes off the vine. I threw the garlic and onion in first, then about 3/4 of a 10oz bag of FRESH! spinach, and the tomatoes on top.

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Splashed some Chardonnay in there, maybe twice around the pan. Mixed it all together until the spinach was wilted and the onions were becoming translucent (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat. At the last minute I sprinkled a handful of Italian 4 cheese blend shredded cheese in with the veggies and gave it a toss.

Now, spoon the veggies over top of the salmon filets and drizzle remaining pan juices over salmon. MMMMM-MM! Put in oven for 15 minutes or until salmon is cooked through. The salmon absolutely melts in your mouth, the veggies are the perfect combo of sweet (tomatoes and onion) and herbal (spinach and garlic). Delish! It feels indulgent. And you don’t have to feel guilty eating it!! HOORAY! I served it with salad and some crescent rolls (see below for healthier, way more delicious alternative!)….And for myself, a glass of Riesling. Divine!
A note here: 15 minutes was PERFECT in my oven, but we have electric and it tends to run a little hot. You might need 17ish minutes. Also, I usually grill or sear my salmon. This approach has it looking more like poached salmon than grilled. It will look light pink and solid in color. It will not have any dark caramelization or golden edges, but trust me when I say, IT IS STILL DONE AND DELICIOUS!!!
Also, it is important that you cut the salmon into individual filets. Otherwise, you will have to cook it longer, which will dry out the spinach. Not good.

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Sorry it’s such a poor photo; I’ll have to add a better one soon.

Now enjoy an amazing healthy dinner! 🙂 “Eat well without feeling deprived.”  Should this be my new tagline for the blog?!

For other recipes using this veggie combo, see First Meal here , another breakfast here and an additional Second Meal here.

*Update: After my recent ladies weekend in Door County, I switched it up and added a splash of cherry balsamic drizzled over the salmon, after the olive oil and seasonings. Then instead of regular chardonnay, I used some cherry chardonnay. It’s a nice change as we make this every week. Also try a splash or two of wine in the baking dish to create more “sauce”.

What are some of your favorite feel-indulgent-without-feeling-guilty recipes? Do tell!!

Try this with Garlic Parmesan Quinoa – we always do 🙂

I make this so often that usually I call it my happy place:

Prep = Happy

Prep = Happy

Honey Garlic Pork Loin (First Meal)

If you aren’t aware, I plan my meals based on the grocery sales each week. Sometimes that means stepping out of my comfort zone and trying a new cut of meat or cooking it a different way. Lots of times it involves Google, and lately, Pinterest! So when pork roast went on sale last week, I picked one up after searching and coming up with this recipe: Honey Garlic & Onion Pork Loin. The author actually is a Word Press user: http://myworldasamom.wordpress.com/

I followed the recipe except that I didn’t have dried dill so I omitted that ingredient.
I love that the glaze is sweet but the seasonings add a nice herbal flavor to it.

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So enjoy trying out this recipe and use the leftovers as a Second Meal in my “Minezole Soup”!!