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  1. Friday, March 30

    Use Less Plastic Resolution…First Check-In

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    The other day my friend Emily (she’s the blog’s godmother…you can thank her for the existence of TWFD!) emailed me and said the following:

    so….remember at the beginning of the year when your blog resolution was to get rid of using one-time-use plastic stuff?  well, i tried making the same one…but i’m failing miserably?  what are you doing?  what do you do about trash bags? lunch? etc….i would love to know…you always have good ideas.

    I responded with:

    yes, I remember my resolution…I think about it every day and how it is SO HARD.

    I went on to describe how I am not nearly far enough along with my goal as I want to be.

    These are my new, beloved food storage containers. I’ll get to them in a minute. Promise.

    Since I started making food-related new year’s resolutions that help the environment, I haven’t actually felt that challenged. Eating less meat turned out to be actually pretty easy. Joining a CSA was a simple and wonderful shift in the way I buy and use produce.

    Using less plastic? TOUGH. Plastic is everywhere. It is such a part of daily life. Which just solidifies my resolve to want to change that fact…but, yeah, 3 months into my goal and I’m not nearly as far along as I’d like to be. But sometimes change is slow…just so long as it is steady!

    I have taken a few steps to reduce our plastic and one-time plastic use. I wanted to share what I’ve done. And, of course, I want to hear how you are doing or what tips you might have. I’m also hoping that checking in with all of you will help re-light my fire and really get this resolution going!

    What I have done so far:

    • I almost never use little plastic baggies anymore. I’m not perfect, they still sneak in here and there. But they hardly EVER find their way into my kids’ lunchboxes and I am rarely using them to store food in the fridge, unless I just can’t find a container that works, and even then I try to use foil instead if possible (which I can then wash and recycle).
    • I replaced my plastic food storage containers (which were all recycled, by the way!) with glass containers. I LOVE THEM. I picked up the Rubbermaid Glass containers that they have at Target and my local grocery store. The plastic lids are BPA-free, the glass bowls are great sizes and shapes that are actually useful and, the best part, everything stacks and stores together SO WELL. Please note, I do not have any sort of working relationship with Rubbermaid. I looked around at different types of glass containers, thought these looked good, bought them and gave them a try. And I seriously love these containers.

    Next steps:

    • Buy a few more glass containers (specifically small ones) for storing food so that I don’t need plastic baggies for storing leftovers in the fridge.
    • Find some good, non-plastic storage containers for the girls’ lunchboxes. While I have stopped using plastic baggies in their lunches, the containers I’m using are still made out of plastic. I would love to find some alternatives.
    • Develop a system where I actually USE my re-useable grocery bags lying all around the house.
    • Buy more cloth napkins.
    • To address Emily’s question…what about trash bags? Hmmmmm….still don’t know the answer to that one, but am thinking long and hard about it.
    • I don’t buy much individually packaged foods…but we do buy granola bars and fruit leathers all the time for lunches. I am going to start a quest for homemade versions that the kids like!

    I’m going to stop there for now. I think that’s a long enough to-do list for now!

    This year’s resolution has made me much more thoughtful in my daily life. I think a lot more about recycling. I think a lot more about how to buy things with less packaging and often do so. The resolution has definitely gotten me on the right track, even if I feel like I still have a long way to go.

    Please share your own experiences with using less plastic. And tips are more than welcome!

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  2. Wednesday, March 28

    Call for Recipes: Low-Cost Meals and Recipes

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    Recently Jenny Rose, lovely reader, sent me an email requesting today’s Call for Recipes. She is going to be quitting her job to stay home with the kids and is anticipating a tight food budget. She asked if I would ask all of YOU for low-cost recipes, and I thought that was a great idea and something we would all be interested in.

    So here we are! Please share your favorite low-cost recipes that help you stay on a budget. Also, any tips for keeping to a budget when meal planning would I’m sure be welcome!

    I’ll kick us off with a few thoughts and a recipe.

    • Ever since we started eating less meat around our house, one of the biggest impacts has been the positive impact on our wallet. Meat, even on sale, costs money…a lot more than beans and veggies. I love not having that added expense on my grocery bill every week.
    • Cooking recipes that make a lot of food (lasagna, soups, etc) always make for pro-budget meals.
    • Eat in season. Food that is in season is cheaper…and more delicious!

    I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes that has been on the blog for a while but fits all the criteria above! The Pasta Primavera recipe from one of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks is SO yummy. It makes a ton of food, uses a ton of veggies (which you could keep seasonal), and there’s no meat! I think next time I make it I am going to throw some white beans into the dish to up the protein factor…plus I think the beans would taste good!

    Game on! Share your low-cost recipes!

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  3. Tuesday, March 27

    The Pioneer Woman Cookbook Winners

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    Holy cow, a lot of you wanted the Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook! It’s time to announce the three randomly-selected winners!

    Comment #2663, rhonda, who said, “looks yummy”

    Coment #2544, Melissa, who said, “That cake looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it!”

    Comment #1674, christina, who said, “I love pw! can’t wait to make this cake!”

    Congratulations, ladies! I’ll be in touch! And big thanks to Ree for the giveaway!

     

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  4. Sunday, March 25

    Week 270 Menu

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    My baby is six months old. I can’t believe six months have passed since Owen’s momentous arrival. It seems like just yesterday but also like another lifetime. I personally feel a million times better now than I did then…physically, mentally and emotionally. But I am still feeling every bit as grateful, grateful for this sometimes fragile yet always beautiful experience called life.

    Now for a bit of the routine of life…

    MONDAY:
    Pasta with Arugula and White Beans

    TUESDAY:
    – Penne with Broccoli & Chicken in Cream Sauce

    WEDNESDAY:
    Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    Homemade pizza, flavors tbd

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    Rachel sandwiches

    Please share your lovely menus for the week! Remember…all menus welcome! We don’t care how fancy or un-fancy they are! And feel free to share any day during the week.

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  5. Friday, March 23

    Spinach Mushroom Panini with Feta

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    Yesterday I shared my friend Natalee’s apple ham panini with you. Now it’s time to talk about the second panini flavor she shared with me, which was equally delicious.

    Enter the spinach mushroom panini with feta. This is a nice vegetarian option that is full of flavor. There’s a little prep work involved, but it’s still easy, I promise! And the flavors are all just so yummy together. Mmmmmm. Natalee made these paninis for our friend Ana, who is a total foodie. Ana said it was the best panini she ever had. Now that I’ve set your expectations really high…whoops…here is the recipe!

    Spinach Mushroom Panini with Feta
     
    From my friend Natalee
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Panini
    Ingredients
    • around 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • Sliced mushrooms (8 or 10 ounce package)
    • Small bag of spinach (6-10 ounces or so)
    • Crumbled feta cheese
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Sliced bread of your choice
    Instructions
    1. Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil in a large sautee pan, until moisture is released and mushrooms are cooked through. Add spinach, tearing up the leaves a bit as you add them to the pan (if you feel like you need another swig of olive oil added to the pan, go ahead and add it). Cook until spinach has wilted, then add feta to taste – we found adding a lot of feta was better. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir.
    2. Use mushroom mixture as filling for the panini and cook paninis as you normally do, in a press or with two frying pans.

     

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  6. Thursday, March 22

    Apple Ham Paninis

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    I really love paninis. I’m always a sucker for a hot sandwich, plus paninis make for a quick and easy dinner on busy weeknights. And my kids {almost} always eat them! My friend Natalee was raving about two panini combinations she discovered recently, so of course I had to give them a try. I’ll share one of them with you today and the second one tomorrow!

    Today’s is simple and delicious. Ham and havarti cheese combined with the sweet-yet-tart crunch of granny smith apples is delish. And this panini really, truly is fast and simple to prepare. That’s my favorite kind of recipe!

    Apple Ham Paninis
     
    Sweet and tart apple ham paninis!
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Sandwich
    Cuisine: American
    Ingredients
    • Sliced sourdough bread (I didn’t have sourdough, I used sliced wheat country bread)
    • Whole-grain mustard
    • Deli-sliced ham
    • Havarti cheese
    • Thinly-sliced granny smith apples
    Instructions
    1. Spread mustard on two slices of bread. Stack the cheese, ham and apples between the slices, then cook in a panini press. If you don’t have a panini press, just do what I do and smush the sandwich between two frying pans (click here for details). Eat and enjoy!

     

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  7. Tuesday, March 20

    Tres Leches Cake from The Pioneer Woman

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    This giveaway is now closed, but you really should keep reading because this cake is DELISH.

    It’s no secret I love Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I am very grateful to know her. She is lovely. And she deserves every bit of success she is having. I like it when good karma just works like that. Plus, her food is yummy.

    I am delighted to share Ree’s latest cookbook with you! The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier just came out and it is every bit as scrumptious as her last cookbook and her delicious website. This book is also brimming with cream. LOTS of cream, people. Like, you might need to buy a cow or at least some stock in your local dairy.

    I needed a dessert the other night because, well, I just needed one, okay? I flipped open Ree’s book and discovered Tres Leches Cake, which I am tempted to rename Patience Cake. Seriously, you need some patience for this recipe. There is a lot of waiting. But it is worth the wait. Believe me.

    Tres Leches Cake is my daughter Anna’s dream dessert. She’s not big on dessert or chocolate. (I am still wondering if she’s really my child.) But she loves milk. And she loves whipped cream even more than milk. She ate THE ENTIRE PIECE OF CAKE. I don’t think she’s ever eaten all of her dessert.

    Before we get to the recipe, how about a giveaway? I love giving away great cookbooks!

    THREE of you lucky, randomly-selected people will each win a copy of Ree’s new book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier. Simply leave a comment on this post by Midnight PT on Monday, March 26. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, March 27. Good luck!

    And, to help quench any whipped cream and/or milk and/or cake cravings you may be having, here is the Tres Leches Cake recipe, with my notes. Enjoy!

    Tres Leches Cake
    From The Pioneer Woman
    – 1 cup all-purpose flour
    – 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    – 1/4 teaspoon salt
    – 5 large eggs, separated
    – 1 cup sugar plus 3 Tbsp, divided
    – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    – 1/3 cup whole milk (Jane note: I used 2%, everything came out fine)
    – 1 pint plus 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided
    – 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
    – 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan.

    Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

    Mix egg yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat until very light in color (Jane note: I used my hand mixer, you can also use a stand mixer). Add milk and vanilla and beat until just combined. Pour this over the flour mixture and stir gently to combine.

    In a separate mixing bowl beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff but not dry.

    Gently fold the egg whites into the other ingredients. Don’t over mix, stop stirring just before everything is mixed together.

    Spread the batter in the pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Jane note: Mine was definitely done by 30 minutes, so keep an eye on it!)

    Let cake cool completely. (Jane note: Here is the first part requiring waiting and patience…) When the cake is cool, invert onto a platter and poke holes in the surface with a fork. (Jane note: I just left it in the pan because we weren’t serving it to guests and didn’t need it fancy on a platter. Also, I used a steak knife to poke the holes – my fork was sticking to the cake too much, the sharp, thin knife worked better.)

    Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup cream. Slowly pour milk mixture over the cake, getting it all around the edges and evenly coating the surface. It will puddle, which is fine. Let cake sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb the milk. (Jane note: more waiting!)

    Whip 1 pint of cream with 3 tablespoons sugar (Jane note: I use powdered sugar here because that’s what I like in whipped cream) until thick. Spread over top and sides of cake (Jane note: or just the top if you left the cake in the pan).

    Jane note: Here’s the last bit of waiting…the cake was good at this point, but it was REALLY good the next day after being refrigerated. I highly recommend eating after it is cold! Totally worth all the waiting and your patience skills will be well-honed! Regardless of when you eat the cake, leftovers need to be refrigerated.

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  8. “The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook” Giveaway Winner

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    First off, I forgot to list one of my go-to cookbooks that several of you mentioned in the comments for the go-to cookbook post and I feel like it needs a shout out! (How’s that for a run-on sentence?) The classic red and white checkered Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook! That was definitely one of my mom’s go-to books…the cover instantly brings back memories!

    Time to announce the lucky, random winner of the awesome Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook!

    Teresa Thomas, who said, “I tried my first Cook’s Illustrated recipe last summer and loved it! It was a vegetarian pasta dish with a white wine/pesto sauce. Yum! Would love a whole book of such dishes!”

    Congratulations, Teresa!

    Big thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for such a fun giveaway!

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  9. Sunday, March 18

    Week 269 Menu

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    Well, the leprechauns struck again. This time they turned an entire brand new gallon of milk green. Pesky leprechauns.

    Really? Time for another menu already? Goodness!

    MONDAY:
    Orange Chicken with rice (didn’t get to this recipe last week)
    – Purple cauliflower

    TUESDAY:
    Spaghetti and meatballs
    – Broccoli

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Leftovers

    THURSDAY:
    – Aaron & Lindsay’s Chicken Tortilla Soup Extravaganza

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out (pizza with some friends)

    SATURDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SUNDAY:
    Pasta with arugula and white beans
    – Salad

    Your turn! Please pretty please share your menu for the week! And remember, it doesn’t matter how fancy or un-fancy the menu is, and feel free to post any time during the week!

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  10. Thursday, March 15

    Donuffins

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    Last week I was craving donuts for some inexplicable reason…because, I mean, donuts are disgusting and who would ever want to eat them, right? So, I posted about my craving on Facebook, hoping someone reading would magically deliver donuts to me. That didn’t happen. I know, shocking. But Courtney from Misadventures in Cooking (who regularly posts her weekly menu – yay, Courtney!) did share a quick, fun recipe to help quench the donut craving.

    Courtney got the recipe originally from Maris of In Good Taste (she’s one of my food blogging buddies and she is lovely). Maris actually has a donut pan for making her donuts, but she suggests using a muffin tin if you don’t have a donut pan. Courtney gave that a whirl and cleverly dubbed her creation ‘donuffins.’ I love the name. It makes me smile.

    I whipped up a batch of donuffins the other night to share at book club. Everyone loved them and a few people went back for seconds. My girls and Nate had them the next morning, at which point I received RAVE reviews. Anna told me they were very good and I believe Cate said something like, “Oh, Mommy! These are AWESOME.”

    I’ve made two batches this week, tweaking them a bit. This is a great, quick treat for when you need a baked good pronto. You know, like those times that you’re craving donuts and wish that Facebook had a delivery service.

    Donuffins
     
    Adapted from here and here
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 12 muffins
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup flour
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg
    • ½ cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 tablespoons melted butter (separated into 1 T and 3 T), plus butter to grease muffin tins
    • 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 t cinnamon combined in a bowl
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add egg, vanilla, and milk and whisk together until blended. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and all the canola oil. Whisk until well combined.
    2. Grease muffin tin liberally with butter. Fill muffin tin with 2 tablespoons of batter per cup, dividing batter evenly. Bake for 7-10 minutes (mine were done around 9.5 minutes, took them out when a toothpick came out clean). Brush each donuffin liberally with the remaining 3 tablespoons of melted butter, immediately sprinkling with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
    3. The first time I made these there was no salt in the batter, which I though it needed. So that first time I also sprinkled a bit of salt on top of the donuffins – everyone really liked that. Yet another genius use for salgar! Anyway, when I had added salt to the batter, I didn’t put salt on top. Just play around with it to your taste!

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