Cooking while injured is not fun. Yesterday I turned my head at just the right angle I guess and POP went the muscles running down the left side of my neck/shoulder. So J took me to urgent care last night, and now I am taking some vicodin and motrin to help with pain/inflammation… but still gotta cook right?? UGH! Just washing the potatoes for tonight’s dinner and slicing them was painful. Frittatas are usually fast and simple… tonight they are tedious and painful! Hopefully the frittata will be soft enough for me to chew without too much pain… eating has not been my joy for the past 2 days.
Archive for the reality of it all…
So tonight was another grilling night… and we did up some new york strip steaks that were on sale – gotta love local on sale meat!!! I seasoned the meat with what I had on hand: some garlic onion rub, soy sauce and worchestire sauce. While those were sitting and marinating I washed some Yukon golds and red potatoes, wrapped them in some foil and threw them on the grill to sit and cook (~30-45mins). The last 10 mins of the potatoes I threw on the steaks and cooked them @350 5mins both sides. I served the potatoes however anyone liked them: butter, sour cream, cheese, seasonings… whatever. We served up and ate dinner. Local, easy AND kept the heat out of the house!! WOO HOO
J was so hungry he forgot to take a picture until he was already munching away. This is his plate in the photo!
Ok so we have been going ROUNDS about buying a new grill… when to buy one? What type to buy? How much to spend? What size? Etc. etc. etc… Well today we FINALLY broke down and bought one! YAHOO! We have been hitting the local Sears to find a grill (along with other stores) and today it paid off. We were searching the clearance isle and there it was… a decent size, rolling electric grill that could fit the pans I wanted to use to avoid cooking inside, it didn’t have a flame to ruin the pans, looked easy to clean, wouldn’t require propane or charcoal… AND it was 60% OFF sticker price!! J sized it up, gave it a once over and said YUP that’s the one! So we bought it, along with a grill thermometer; I wanted to make sure it could hold a steady temp so I could “bake” items in the grill rather than the oven inside.
We gave it a go tonight with scalloped asparagus and grilled steaks… guess what?? It worked BEAUTIFULLY and kept all the heat out of the house! WOO WOO!!!!!
Here is to a summer of grilling outside!!!
So today was market day and we went as a family, in early afternoon. I thought later in the morning/early in the afternoon would be a good time to go, but it was PACKED! It didn’t help that the market itself seemed to be narrowing as you headed north up the promenade. I heard a lot of shoppers becoming cranky about the single file line you had to wait in and just leaving. J had a way around it though and we went in the back way and made our way through, it wasn’t fast… but it got the job done. We ended up buying: ~4-5lbs of potatoes, ~2-3lbs of carrots, 1/2lb spinach, 1lb lean ground beef, 1 block of white cheddar cheese, 1lb tomatoes, 1lb asparagus, bagels and tomato/basil bread… all for $37.50. Not too bad of a deal I would say. We left the market and continued on to Ken’s Fruit Market where we filled in the holes of things we needed. We also picked up some all purpose flour (so we wouldn’t have any more bread “mistakes”), some sugar, etc. We kept it local as well and spent a bit more money but also purchased a few more items. Today was a grand shopping day!!
What was on the meal for Wed…? It was J’s night to cook and be creative and he went for it. He made some homemade enchiladas, they were tasty. I felt they could have used more spinach, but the flavor was good. I wanted to take this recipe however and take the beans out and focus strictly on veggies and cheese inside… so that is what I did on Thurs.
Thurs was me trying to create a veggie based enchilada dish. It was ok, J didn’t like it as much as S and I did… it had “too many” onions for his taste. I felt the flavor was nice, however having the beans in it did enhance it a bit better than I was expecting.
Friday was S’s day to pick dinner… he had a walk-a-thon at school and was the student who raised the most money out of the whole school. As a reward he got to pick what we ate for dinner… he didn’t settle on local, he went for Taco Bell. This was fine for me, because I was feeling sick since Wed. I did cook sick on Thurs, and ate dinner but MAN oh MAN I was not feeling so hot. TB it was and off to bed I went.
So it hasn’t even been a week since I last blogged, but it feels like forever. So what have we been up to? A lot of simple! Thursday was our oldest son S’s school performance so we were out late, we ended up at home late and allowed our oldest to pick the restaurant to eat out at. He picked chipotle, he tried to reason it was “sort of” local… they do buy local meats and veggies when they can. Ok I’ll give him that one, Taco Bell doesn’t do that, and Taco Bell is his fav place, so this was a nice choice of his.
Friday… S’s GF came over so we went out to the park and did a picnic. We picked up pizza, went and bought fresh produce, drinks and a dessert at the local market and ate at the park. We had a grand time. Eating, playing, laughing… it was great!
Saturday was A LONG DAY… it started early in the morning with S and I hitting the market. It was nice, some of the permanent table fixtures were going in to place and it felt less crowded. We made our way around and shopped it up! We purchased bagels, eggs, spinach, leeks and shared some breakfast while we were there. It was nice getting out of the house with him and spending alone time. From there we came home and unloaded and reloaded the car, we were headed to Grand Haven for some flea market shopping. It was a fun drive and we had a nice time shopping around. On our way home we stopped and ate locally for lunch, it was expensive BUT good. Beer battered asparagus – GIVE IT A TRY! MmmMmmmmm… from the lunch restaurant we headed to a local greenhouse to pick up 4 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. So needless to say we were all hot and tired. So dinner was local and simple… breakfast for dinner. I made J a mushroom/spinach omelet with cheese. S had a sandwich with homemade bread and a mushroom/spinach egg inside… laid on top of smokey jack cheese, MMMM! I had a feta, egg and tomato sandwich on homemade bread… Oh YEAH!! So enough of the simple… Sunday J kicked it up a notch to a step above simple.
Sunday evening was cheeseburger quiche evening. The quiche was good – there were a few “problems” but I think those can be fixed. First, the crust did NOT work out. I don’t know what exactly happened, J did but the crust, it didn’t hold together whatsoever – my guess is it was too “wet”. Second, might have been might fault. I purchased the meat and got the 85% lean from the market, it was cheaper than the 95% lean and I wanted to do a meat dish so I went with what was affordable. This might have been avoidable if I had drained and rinsed the meat prior to mixing it with the other ingredients. Other than those two things the quiche had GREAT flavor and S even had it for breakfast the next day… he really enjoyed it.
Monday was another notch up the belt on simplicity… almost in medium territory! I was cooking and I had a GRAND idea… it didn’t turn out so grand looking, tasted great – but the look was way off. I made a potato, carrot and leek “thing.” The recipe I was using as a “loose” guide called it a tart… I was going for quiche. We ended up with an ooey gooey pie – with FLAVOR! What would I have changed… well first I wouldn’t have pureed the potatoes and carrots… I would have chopped them and left it at that, the smoothness of the dish seemed to be the undoing. Also when J prepared the crust the night before he did two at once since we knew we were going to need one for Sunday and Monday… so the crust was off in this one as well. The flavor in this dish meshed very nicely together, the only problem was the dish not holding together. No worries… it all got eaten. S had two BIG servings and J just ate the rest right out of the baking dish. The baby even liked it… smooth and tasty is his style!
Tuesday, tonight, was simple as well. I started with browning some mushrooms, sautéing some leeks and then simmering some local spaghetti sauce on top of those. The noodles cooked, we tossed and enjoyed a simple meal that did not heat the entire house. Sunday and Monday were a lesson onto us. Baking when it is warming up outside is NOT a great idea. We need to get ourselves a grill or start coming up with some cooler dinner alternatives.
So hubby J came home from work and was pooped and frustrated at his day. He had a long day of dealing with people on the phone who couldn’t seem to get it straight, and the machine they were working on was NOT cooperating. As you can see in this pic he needed a pick-me-up and paired his remaining starbucks drink with the frittata of tonight. His first bite made him grunt in approval, the second slice had him reminding me I can make this frittata any time, and he really doesn’t mind feta when I cook it in a meal like this. Not only did tonight’s dinner win his approval, yet again our oldest son S liked it and didn’t even mind the tomatoes. YAHOO FOR MOM! This kid HATES tomatoes and getting him to eat them is also a chore, not in this frittata. He had two servings and asked for the last piece, his dad said no it was his and he could have yogurt. HA! Based on his rough day I guess he earned it!
So after a rough day at work what do you like to come home and unwind to at the table?? A beer? Starbucks? Frittata? Or a frozen hungry man??
As you can see S’s slice has only a FEW tomatoes, but still… he ATE them!!
So last night was supposed to be a delicious meal of spinach gnocchi tossed with onions/asparagus/olive oil and parmesan cheese… well that was the idea. So I started making the “no-fail gnocchi” that Light & Tasty magazine (Feb/Mar 2007 issue) says will be “stress free” and guarantee “success”… well I did NOT have success. So here is the recipe:
o 2lbs russet potatoes
o 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
o 1 egg
o ¾ tsp salt
o 5 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
o Boil potatoes until tender, drain and begin cooking potatoes again in the same pot until steam stops coming off them
o Put the potatoes through a ricer or a fine mesh strainer
o Allow to cool a bit and create a well in the potatoes
o Sprinkle flour over potatoes and into the well
o Whisk egg and mix in salt/spinach, then pour into the well
o Mix all the ingredients together until soft dough ball forms, knead 10-12 times to achieve soft dough
o Divide into 4 portions, roll out into rope ~1/2 inch thick
o Cut into ¾” pieces
o Press with a floured fork
o Boil for ~30-60 secs, toss and serve
So… this was the anticipated recipe for our LOVELY gnocchi the magazine promised. I was following it, and then hubby came to help. I asked him to drain the potatoes and push through a mesh strainer. Well he did it “his way” which wasn’t the drain and continue cooking until steam is gone way – perhaps mistake one. I used 100% stone ground whole white wheat flour for the flour portion – possibly mistake two. Our gnocchi never turned out to be gnocchi, it stayed a goopy mess until the bitter end. I ended up adding 2 more cups of flour attempting to get it to “dough up” and NOPE this was not a recipe that would mesh well with the Pillsbury dough man… there was no doughing up. It laughed at me and stuck to everything. So I got even… or got mad… I took this pic and then trashed it – both a bitter sweet end. I so wanted my gnocchi, but in the end it wasn’t in the cards.
So what did we end up eating for dinner you ask? Well while I was getting help in the kitchen I whipped up some carrot/walnut muffins for dessert… and dessert became dinner. I tossed in some perogies to bake and that was it. Perogies with some muffins… tada mom made dinner! So any help out there with “NO FAIL” gnocchi will be MUCH appreciated!!!
So what have we been up to for the past few nights?? How did the spinach and ricotta calzone and pizza rolls taste? Well let’s begin with the calzone…
The calzone was ok, at least in my opinion. Both the boys liked it and had seconds, I wasn’t fond of my dough and a little story may explain why. While making the pizza dough that is required for both the calzone and the pizza rolls I used up all my white flour and had to sub in some stone ground white whole wheat flour that didn’t like going through a sifter, didn’t like it so much it clogged it and I didn’t figure it out until after 5 mins of sifting and wondering what the heck was going on, and also questioning the strength of my forearm muscles. Come to find out after I finally gave up and put it through a fine mesh strainer, the sifter was clogged with tiny little grain casings. Whoops… guess this flour doesn’t go through a sifter. So running late I made the dough and made the calzone. This might have started my taste buds off in the wrong mood. Also I think I would have liked it better had I pre-cooked the spinach.
So in the calzone I didn’t pre-cook the spinach, in this one we did. It tasted much better, however I wasn’t a very good sealer and it all bubbled out… it still tasted good. J also said he enjoyed the onion flavor in the rolls over the calzone. I used leeks instead of an onion, so that could be the difference.
So what about Friday night and Saturday night…?
Well Friday we got called in to volunteer at S’s school, they were having a rummage sale and needed extra support setting up all the donated items on tables. So E and I went and hung up clothes, and organized items. Not to mention I found a nearly new Corningware dish and only paid $1 for it…. it costs $27 at Target… nice find!! Needless to say we worked away and didn’t end up getting home until around 7pm, which meant dinner for baby E and then getting him to bed, 745pm rolls around and it is too late to cook and there are no leftovers… so we fell off the bandwagon for a meal and picked up fast food.
Saturday night was girls night out for myself and a friend, we ate at a local restaurant and the boys ate a quick meal at home from items we had laying around… eggs and hash browns. Simple, yet fit into the idea of what we are trying to accomplish.
So overall our “weekend” wasn’t a complete bust. I did feel a little guilty at eating out and eating fast food, however we have been doing good so I forgave us. We are back on our bandwagon and planning next week’s meals.
So tonight was pasta night… it didn’t seem as scary as croissants, so I was up for the challenge. I was a little nervous I wouldn’t get to make it, J – had a late night last night, so I was worried he’d come home late again. Thankfully he was home early and I was able to have him watch baby E so I could work away in the kitchen. Making the dough, meaning mixing the dough, was easy… kneading the dough was easy as well, there was a question of firmness but J solved it for me… rolling out the dough was a WORKOUT and a pain in the BOOTY!! It would stick to my roller, it would crimp up in the middle. I cried out for assistance many times… and got no response, I think J was amused at my grunting coming out of the kitchen. Needless to say I muscled through it, while J sat watchingSesame Streetwith baby E… ONLY coming to my rolling rescue when I was nearly done. Grrrr!! At that point I was going to OWN this pasta so I sent him out of the kitchen. PHEW – I threw my hands up in triumph when the last noodle was cut and separated. WOO HOO!
So was all this effort worth the outcome?? Yes… it tasted great!! The noodle recipe also said that if the noodles were FULLY dry they could last for months at room temp… WHOA – cool! One pain in the butt day and you could have noodles for a while… I might take that on in the future, IF I get some help! We tossed our noodles with what was in season: spinach and asparagus, with some leeks that a farm out of Hudsonville were still growing. MmMmmm the market tasted great tonight!