Sunday, April 28
Happy Sunday, everyone! I just got back from The Big Traveling Potluck. It was wonderful for so many reasons and I am beyond happy that I went! Maggy and Pam from Three Many Cooks and Erika from Ivory Hut really know how to make everyone feel loved. I am so grateful they are my friends!
The weekend was filled with wonderful speakers, a walk through the avocado groves, an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an amazing locale with breathtaking views, great food and, most importantly, time spent with good, good people. Now that I am inspired and energized, back to the blog!
- Fruit and avocados from my trip this weekend!
- Chicken Caesar Wraps (nice idea, Jen!)
- The girls and I are going to Disneyland! Boys have to fend or themselves
- Anna has requested noodles, which we are interpreting as spaghetti. I’m sick of spaghetti, I think I’ll try to find some other pasta or noodle dish. Suggestions welcome!
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Eat out
- Leftovers and/or breakfast for dinner
As usual, reading through your menus from last week was such a help and inspiration. I am so grateful for all of you posting each week and being a part of this community! You know the drill…post your menu for the week, no matter how plain or fancy!
Friday, April 26
Last week I decided to make white chicken chili for the first time, which involved using two ingredients I’ve never worked with before: hominy and poblano chili peppers.
Honestly, I was skeptical of the hominy. Like I said, I had never used it before and when I opened the can, the smell was reminiscent of corn nuts. I can’t stand the smell of corn nuts, by the way, so I was really hoping the soup would turn out! I am happy to report that the soup not only turned out but was very delicious and a big hit with every member of the family. In case you are wondering, it tasted nothing like corn nuts. PHEW! Nate came home from work, looked in the pot and declared that he was certain he was going to love this soup, even before he knew what it was. And he did!
I used the white chicken chili recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. So far every recipe I’ve used from that book has been a winner. The recipes have all been delicious and quick! This chicken chili was no exception. This recipe was simple to prepare and was no problem to throw together on a busy weeknight. I will include my various notes on the recipe below!
White Chicken Chili
From The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook, with my notes
- 1 15-ounce can white or yellow hominy (ATK recommends white because it has a deeper flavor)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed (Jane note: I used two chicken breasts)
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 poblano chili peppers (Jane note: I only used 1) – de-seed and core the pepper, then chop
- 1 onion, chopped fine (Jane note: I only used 1/3 of a large yellow onion)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (Jane note: I used my garlic press)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (Jane note: I didn’t use coriander b/c I didn’t have it in the cupboard and didn’t feel like buying it)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Jane note: I used 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper because I am out of cayenne, which makes me very sad – I need to rectify that!)
- 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa or salsa verde
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (Jane note: I bought flat leaf parsley instead of cilantro, which I didn’t discover until I took it out to start chopping. I was SO bummed because cilantro would taste wonderfully in this soup, but I just went with the parsley because that’s what I had. I am happy to report that the parsley was also very delicious! So, feel free to choose the herb you like better and go with it!)
Process the hominy with 1 cup broth in blender of food processor until smooth.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt & pepper then brown chicken lightly on both sides, about 5 minutes. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, a large pot should work.) Transfer chicken to a plate. Add remaining oil, poblanos and onion to the pot and cook until onions and peppers are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, garlic, cumin, corinader (if using) and cayenne (or pepper) and cook about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in remaining 3 cups broth, deglazing the bottom of the pan. I used a flat whisk here and it worked very well, but a standard whisk will suffice.
Stir in pureed hominy. Add chicken, along with any accumulated juices, and simmer gently over medium-low to medium heat until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 10 minutes. I highly recommend using an instant-read thermometer so that you don’t overcook the chicken – it will be super tender if you cook until 160 degrees. Remove chicken, shred then return to soup. Add salsa, cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 1 minute then serve!
Wednesday, April 24
This giveaway is now closed. Thank you!
Yesterday I promised a giveaway so today I offer a giveaway. A very cute, very green giveaway!
Want to get your hands on some of those awesome Little Green Pouches and LunchSkins?
TWO lucky, randomly-selected winners will each win a Green Lunchbox Giveaway Pack, which includes:
- One LunchSkins2 set, which includes a sandwich bag and a snack bag in your choice of girl-themed, boy-themed or gender-neutral colors
- Two Little Green Pouch 4-packs (8 pouches total), 4 extra caps and a dispensing funnel
As usual, just leave a comment to enter! There are also three chances at extra entries!
- Follow Little Green Pouch on Facebook
- Follow LunchSkins on Facebook
- Follow This Week for Dinner on Facebook
Be sure to leave SEPARATE comments for each extra entry. All comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.
Tuesday, April 23
As you know, I repeated the same new year’s resolution for 2013 as I had in 2012 because I did such a terrible job of cutting back on plastic and disposable items the first time around. It was a surprisingly difficult resolution! I’ve made a few specific goals to help me be more successful this year. One of the goals is that when I run out of paper napkins and plastic baggies, I’m not allowed to buy new ones and have to start using cloth and reusable containers. A couple of weeks ago I ran out of snack baggies. That day I went to Facebook for suggestions on good reusable lunchbox containers. I was flooded with ideas, on my blog’s Facebook page as well as my personal page.
Today I wanted to share two of the products that I’ve tried out so far and really like!
Little Green Pouch: I love the convenience of the applesauce pouches that have popped up in recent years and my kids love having them for snacks. BUUUUUT…the packaging is incredibly guilt-inducing for me. Those super-handy pouches are the perfect example of one-time use items that can’t be recycled, exactly the type of thing I’m trying to eliminate from my life. Enter the Little Green Pouch! I am beyond excited about this product. They are reusable pouches that are free of BPA and pthalates, freezer safe, and dishwasher safe. They’re perfect for storing and freezing homemade baby food, applesauce for snacks, and even yogurt (frozen overnight and thrown in the lunchbox for later that morning). I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about these pouches! You can order the pouches here.
LunchSkins: One product that was recommended by many of you over and over again was LunchSkins. I love them. They are dishwasher safe, free of BPA, lead and pthalates, come in three perfect sizes for various lunch foods, and they’re cute to boot! You can order LunchSkins online. Target has also started carrying LunchSkins2, which includes 1 sandwich and 1 snack bag.
P.S. I have many more products to try and will keep you posted on what I think!
P.P.S. Big thanks to Little Green Pouch and LunchSkins for sending me product to try out. They may have given me the product, but all opinions are my own and I really do love their stuff!
P.P.P.S. Stay tuned for some giveaways!
P.P.P.P.S Be sure to check out my article on Babble yesterday fitting in with today’s theme: 11 Ways to Green Your Kitchen TODAY
Sunday, April 21
One of the great things about moving back to San Diego is reuniting with my beloved book club. Originally there were 6 of us. Three of us moved away. And now 1 has moved back (me!). While we very much missed the 2 who were not there yesterday, reuniting with these women did my heart good. Despite planning our get-together with less than 24 hours notice, we were able to find a time to all meet AND put together an amazing spread of food. My body and soul were nourished yesterday. (And in case you are wondering, Unbroken was the book of choice this month. We all recommend it!)
Surprisingly, I pretty much followed my menu last week. Which means I actually have to think of new things to cook this week. Bummer!
- Quiche (it’s been ages!)
- Chicken Burritos with Aunt Kathy’s Sweet Black Beans
- Carrot sticks and ranch dip, fresh fruit
- I am heading to Big Traveling Potluck. I can’t wait!
- Lasagna for the family!
- I’ll be at BTP
- Nate will do leftover lasagna or takeout with the kids
- Waffles and fruit
As usual, your menus from last week were wonderful inspiration. It’s so easy to get into a meal planning rut, but seeing your menus snaps me out of it every time! I am so grateful to all who post your menus! Can’t wait to see your plans for this week!
Thursday, April 18
I just finished my annual task of making strawberry freezer jam for the upcoming year! I ended up with twenty-two 2-cup containers, but I’m worried that it might not be enough jam. I’m probably going to have to make more since, apparently, I’m raising a wild pack of rabid jam eaters.
I write about my jam escapades every year and I find that I’m constantly finding new little tips that help out with the process. This year is no exception! You know how you’re not supposed to puree the fruit because then it won’t gel properly? (If you don’t know that, true story.) My least favorite part of making strawberry jam is smashing the strawberries. They’re tricky little buggers. I noticed in the directions this year, though, that it said you could use a food processor. You simply process the fruit to a fine chop, but do not puree. Since I finally have a food processor, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
Yes, that container is almost empty! It’s been two days. These kids are rabid, I tell ya. RABID.
Using the food processor worked beautifully. The whole process went SO MUCH FASTER and I liked the final texture of the jam a lot. The fruit is more uniform in size and there aren’t any of those giant berries floating around in the jam. (I’m sure some people like the giant berries in the jam, but I’m not a fan.) So, that’s this year’s tip! Don’t be scared to use your food processor — just make sure you don’t process too much and you’ll be good!
P.S. Those berries got JAMMED. (Please, someone, get the joke! Here, maybe this will help…) Those berries got retro-jammed! (Now? Anyone?)
Tuesday, April 16
Spaghetti is definitely a go-to meal around here and my kids could eat it every day, much like myself as a kid. Once, when I was in 3rd grade, my dad and I found ourselves home alone for a week. We ate spaghetti every night. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. My dad was lucky I was a clueless 9-year-old.
While I am grateful to know that my kids will always eat spaghetti (it really is a good option on a busy night), I must admit that Nate and I are less enthusiastic about the dish. I don’t know, it’s just kinda boring. The razzle dazzle of spaghetti has finally worn off for me. Sorry, Dad!
Last week, however, I decided to try to make spaghetti more interesting. The result was delicious! I used a recipe for spaghetti carbonara from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love cookbook and it came out beautifully. The ingredients are simple, the taste is flavorful, and the sauce is creamy without using actual cream.
Nate and I both really liked this recipe. I actually loved it. The girls stuck with classic boring spaghetti that night, but I don’t think they even tried the carbonara, little stinkers. Owen, however, ate three servings and couldn’t get enough!
Adapted from Big Bowl of Love by Christina Ferrare (I changed a few of the ingredient amounts and also some of the technique based on my experience with the recipe)
- 2 cups peas (original recipe calls for fresh, I used frozen)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (or regular onion if you don’t have a shallot on hand)
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine (fresh is yummier, dried is fine)
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
If using fresh peas, remove the peas from their pods and set aside. For frozen, run warm water over the peas to separate them, drain, then set aside.
In a cold, large, heavy pot, pour the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta, cook over medium heat until pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add shallot to the pan and saute until crispy. Remove from heat, add pancetta back to the pot and set aside. I am lazy, so I cooked the pancetta then just added the shallot/onion to the pan without removing the pancetta. I added the shallot before the pancetta got crispy then cooked until the onions were softened. Once cooked, turn off heat and set pan aside.
Cook pasta to package directions. Be sure to salt the water – 1 tablespoon salt per 3 quarts of water. Three minutes before pasta is ready, add peas. Drain pasta and peas, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water and set aside.
The original recipe tells you to add the pasta to the large pot with the shallots and then mix in the sauce ingredients. I did it this way and found that the cheese was very clumpy. It tasted good, but I didn’t get a smooth sauce. So, I am modifying the directions. Return the pancetta/shallot pan back to the stove and turn the heat on to medium-high. Immediately add 1/2 cup pasta water, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well. Add remainder of the parmesan cheese and milk and keep whisking. If the sauce is too thick or gooey, add pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until sauce is creamy. Reduce heat to low then stir in the peas and spaghetti.
Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese and mint leaves if desired.
Sunday, April 14
After two weeks of Spring Break fun (Anna one week, Cate the next) and throwing caution (or at least responsibility) to the wind, it’s back to real life this week. Perhaps that means I’ll actually make more than one or two items on the menu plan! But, really, who cares about meal plans when there are zoos to be visited, beaches to play on, and flower fields to gaze upon?
- Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry (from Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals)
- Rice and dumplings
- Island Pork with Sticky Coconut Rice
- Green Veggie
- White Chicken Chili (from America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook)
- Breakfast for dinner
- Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots
Crossing fingers I actually cook this week! As usual, I can’t wait to see what your menu plan is for the week! Remember, we don’t care how fancy or un-fancy your menu is, and feel free to share any day of the week!
Friday, April 12
Hey everybody. I’ve been a little MIA this week. Cate has Spring Break so we’ve been partying! The state of my house can attest to this. Anyway, life took priority over cooking and blogging, which is the way it’s supposed to be, right?
In my never-ending quest to find perfect chocolate chip cookie recipes, I discovered a serious gem of a recipe this week. My blogging friend Alice was claiming to have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER. Of course I had to test out the claim. She might be right. For reals. These cookies are unbelievably good and are the exact texture I love in a cookie. You can find Alice’s original recipe here. I also wrote about the recipe on Babble today, with my own notes and tweaks on the recipe, of which there are very few. Make these cookies this weekend. (Yes, I’m getting bossy again. Sometime I have to.)
Tuesday, April 9
I love French toast. So do my girls. Nate? Not so much. But I make it anyway because is it really that torturous to make someone eat French toast? I think not. Plus, he’s lying anyway. Who doesn’t like French toast? I mean, really.
Years ago I went to my friend Karen’s bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs, where we stayed at the Parker. (Side note: that hotel is funky and crazy and fun. Loved it.) The morning of our departure, we ate breakfast at Norma’s, one of the hotel’s restaurants. The entire meal was amazing. I ordered the “Crunchy French Toast.” Ever since that morning I’ve been on a quest to replicate that freaking awesome French toast. I have a few good runners-up, but nothing has matched. (If you’d like to check out the runners-up, both recipes are really good: Baked French Toast and Crispy French Toast. If you have NOT had Norma’s Crunchy French Toast, then you will definitely not be disappointed.)
On a related note, I used to always use nice, soft bread (like Brioche) for making French toast, but for the last 5 years or so, I’ve almost exclusively used crusty breads. I don’t know when or why I made the switch, but I did and and thought that all was well in my French toast world. Then we moved back to San Diego and found ourselves living near the Village Mill Bread bakery. They bake these giant, beautiful loaves of Brioche that make the most amazing French toast EVER. And just like that I’m back on the soft, fluffy bread bandwagon.
Wow. I really must love French toast because I feel like I could keep talking about it all day! But I’m going stop and give you the floor. We would love to hear your favorite ways for preparing and eating French toast. Comments, tips, and recipes are all welcome! Also, if you happen to have a recipe for crunchy and/or crispy French toast that you love, I would really love for you to share!
French toast lovers unite!
(Note: Yes, I am aware that I italicized the word ‘really’ 3 times in this post. I guess I was just really feeling the ‘reallys’ today. Make that 4.)