Thursday, September 30, 2010

There once was a cake...

I got down the bowls, the measuring cups, a spoon.

I mixed and stirred.

I put it in the oven and waited.

I cut a piece.

A big one.

I gobbled it up.

There once was a cake.

And two days later, crumbs are all that's left.

Applesauce Oat Cake

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup dried apples, roughly chopped

Combine the oats and milk. Let set.

Preheat oven to 350*.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla, brown sugar, and sugar. Stir until well blended.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well with a fork. Add to the wet batter a little at a time. Mix constantly until well blended. Fold in the dried apple.

Add the oat-milk mixture to the batter. Stir.

In a 13 x 9 " pan coated with nonstick spray, pour the batter and spread evenly.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking process. The cake is finished when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

**Confession: I've made two of these within a week of each other. They were both gone in two days time.

So. Not. Joking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Simple Suppers: Skillet Lasagna


Much-loved, yet seldom-made.

Sorry, lasagna. You are not busy weeknight fare. You are time consuming, laborious, and create a sink full of dishes.

That is, until now.

Skillet Lasagna

1 lb lean ground beef or bison
1 small, chopped onion
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 can tomato purée
1 1/4 cups water
Italian seasonings, to taste (basil, oregano, rosemary)
salt & pepper, to taste
2 1/2 cups broken up whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, brown the meat and drain. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.

Add tomatoes, water, purée, Italian spices, and salt & pepper. Stir in uncooked pasta.

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Meanwhile, combine the cottage cheese and Parmesan. Add the egg and mix.

Drop the cheese mixture by the spoonful over the pasta mixture. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes more.

Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.

Once the cheese has melted, serve to your hungry family.

Some notes:

I use bison almost exclusively. If you haven't tried Especially in a dish like this where there are other flavors in play. It's leaner than a chicken breast and isn't gamey at all. I never have to drain the meat when using bison. Seriously.

If you don't have fresh garlic, or if you don't feel like mincing a few cloves, garlic powder works just fine. I've done it. Often. Because for whatever reason, mincing garlic is something I *loathe*.

We like a sauce with a touch of sweetness. If you are like us, I'd suggest adding a bit of sugar with the sauce.

I eyeball the spices. Rarely do I measure such things.

The original recipe called for the broken lasagna noodles. Since I've hijacked this dish from beginning to end, I opted to use rotini, about half a box, maybe a bit less.

I pair this with a basic salad on the side.

Dinner. Is. Served.

Now, I'm not going to participate in false advertising. This isn't as good as that lasagna that you slave over. I can't claim that.

But, you will spend about half an hour in the kitchen instead of half a day.

To that end, it tastes close enough.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm a modern day ostrich...

I'm slammed.

I'm not sure how this came to be. All of a sudden, I turned around and my to do list was immense.

I hate it when that happens. Sneak attacks should only be executed by ninjas.

*I'm not posting a menu this week. I have a rough menu planned, but this week is full of potential curve balls. There might be a night where we have to settle for oatmeal.

But as a consolation prize, I'll be doing another installment of Simple Suppers. The response was so positive that I'm going to try to have at least one post a week highlighting a simple family meal.

*The Boy has been extremely moody the past few days. He's always a little moody. But this is a whole new level of moody. Is it the change in weather? Hormones? Rotation of the Earth? Whatever it is, I hope it mellows. The pendulum swing has grown tiresome.

If not, I'm fulfilling his dream of living in the wilderness. My apologies to the coyotes.

*The Mr. leaves for Japan this week.

I don't want him to go. I don't like it.

It's all work. But still.

Hopefully, we won't be struck down with another plague.

*I have yet to finish a homemade gift for The Mr. to bring to the annual gift exchange. Last year I made a set of these.

I'm not making anything all that difficult, but it is my first attempt at this particular project. That always adds to the crafting time.

I have until Wednesday morning. Wish me luck.

*The Girl has a family tree project due this week.


The irony is that seeing as how I'm her teacher, I'm the dumb-ass that assigned the project.

Idiot me.

It's not that hard. She will be the one doing most of the work. But I dread gathering all the photos. I'm hoping that I still have the pics we used for The Boy's family tree saved on my computer at work.

Hand-me-down projects save the day!

*I forgot my Mema's birthday.

Totally forgot it.

No call. No card. Nothing.

Oh, it gets worse. Her birthday was more than two weeks ago. Forgetting is bad enough, but forgetting for two weeks? Shameful.

I'm trying to think of something to make up for the fact that I'm a dog. Suggestions?


Bleeping chores.

I'm having a difficult time getting to everything on the weekend. Cleaning the bathroom, dusting, and folding mounds of laundry are the *last* things I want to do on my days off.

So...I still need to clean the bathroom, dust, and I still have mounds of laundry to fold and put away.

I should be tackling that list.

But instead, I'm taking a couple of Tylenol PM and going to bed.

Because I am a modern day ostrich.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Life, in captions.

Simple objects, vast amounts of attachment.

One of many: started, yet to be finished.

One piece at a time.

He has no idea how much he's missed.

Countless times I've considered the exact same thing.

Splashes of color amid a sea of chicken and brown rice.

I can't believe he's old enough to need deodorant.

Midweek baking can ease one's guilt.

"I Am A Little Cat" is captivating with the right narrator.

Occasionally, made from scratch isn't my first choice.

You aren't really boxing each other, boys...*chill*.

It's on, even when she's away.

Amazing how a new shirt from Target can make you forget your bad hair day and cramps.

Sometimes only a few words are needed to say it all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Suppers: Chicken & Dumplings

It's unanimous. You want some simple supper ideas.

Your wish is my command.

First up: chicken & dumplings.

Oh, how this dish brings back memories of childhood. It is comfort food in its finest form.

There are endless recipes out there. Many of them are rooted in family tradition. Passed down from generation to generation. A foodie version of a folk tale.

This is not the chicken & dumpling recipe I grew up with. I'm breaking ranks.

This is my own version. It's a bit healthier; there is less sodium, more vegetables, whole grain dumplings. It has a thicker, richer broth. The dumplings are more dense. And the simplicity can't be beat.

Confession: I like this version better. Shhhhhh.

My recipe isn't really a recipe. You won't need a measuring cup for this meal.

Mind you, all these amounts are approximate and can be adjusted for your family's tastes. Add or take-away as you please. You really can't mess it up.

Simple Chicken & Dumplings

1 package of chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 large carton of low sodium chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
half a bag of cut carrots
large pinch of thyme
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can whole wheat biscuits
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a large pot and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the chicken broth. Add the chicken thighs. Cover and let cook over medium heat until chicken is done.

Add the celery, carrots, thyme. Cook until vegetables are soft.

Add the cream of chicken soup and stir to incorporate. Heat until just boiling. Tear the unbaked biscuits into bite size pieces and drop them into the broth. Cover with a lid. Let cook until the dumplings have cooked through and puffed up.

Eat a bowl and take a trip down food-memory lane.

Some notes:

Use chicken thighs. The flavor it imparts makes this dish a star. Trim the excess fat to ease guilt.

Leave the chicken thighs in large pieces. It's less work and it seems to give the broth a richer flavor.

Obviously you can cut your own carrots and make your own dumplings from scratch. But this is all about simplicity. Ready to go items can be a lifesaver during the dinner time crunch.

Feel free to add more vegetables. I went basic for this version.

This recipe makes a large pot of deliciousness. More than enough for dinner and lunches the next day.

Trust me. You'll want some leftovers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's For Dinner?

The good news: this week marks the first day of fall. The bad news: Houston's weather has not been informed of this fact.

Ah, well. The brainwashing will continue.

Sunday: chicken & dumplings (rescheduled from last week)

Monday: taco soup

Tuesday: chicken, brown rice, and vegetable casserole, tomato & cucumber salad

Wednesday: roast with vegetables (in the crockpot), green beans with garlic

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hamburgers, oven fries, tomato salad

Saturday: out

I am baking this week! I'm making the same apple oat cake that I whipped up last week. We finished it in two days. It was insane.

I'm also going to make some pumpkin muffins. Jodi made some last week that looked so good. I'm leaving out the chocolate chips, because I'm a bit mental and don't like them in my muffins. I think I'll add some oats for bulk. They can stand in for breakfast or as a side to a cup of tea in the afternoon.

I made the chicken & dumplings tonight. *Holy smokes*. It was so good. I was in Heaven. I'd been craving this childhood favorite for so long and man, this batch hit the spot.

I have a handful of recipes that I've tried out over the last couple of weeks that have piqued interest from a lot of you. The fact that they also turned out to be quite easy and tasty got me thinking: How does a semi-regular post highlighting a simple, healthy, and flavorful weeknight meal sound? If you are like me, the search for dinners that can be assembled "on the fly" never ends. I would be more than happy to lend a helping hand and post the meals that were a success.

I have at least five in my arsenal right now that fit the bill, along with a couple of baked treats. I'll post a couple this week and go from there. Does this sound like something you'd be interested in reading?

The Mr. and I had a great weekend sans Offspring.

The LP release was a wild success. The in-store performance had a really good turn-out and quite a few albums were sold. If you haven't given it a listen, you are missing out. It's free for goodness' sake! You only have something to gain. I had it on while in the car and totally forgot that The Offspring were sitting in the backseat. It must be good if you can block-out two children.

The show later that evening was mint, despite having two opening acts that were a disgrace to music. BMOL's sound check got a louder response than the other two bands' entire set. It only made the night more entertaining, really. I enjoyed some time catching up with old friends, hanging with current friends, and meeting some new friends who couldn't have been more cool.

In addition to the rock & roll, we ate sushi. Listened to loud music in the car. Drank beer at four in the afternoon. Cheered the Longhorns on to another victory. Ate french fries that were a lot like these. And did not clean up one mess or listen to a single whine.

I hope your weekend was just as nice, with or without the music, football, beer, fried food, or silence.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rock & Roll Life

A few months ago, we had a dad rock picnic with The Mr.'s bandmates and their families. The guys had asked me to snap a few pictures to be used with the release of their upcoming LP.

So, I did.

Bright Men of Learning.

2010 edition.

I love this picture because it is so...them. I can see each of their personalities shining through.

It was also fairly candid. They were all standing together, that's true, but I was just snapping away as they joked about the absurdity of a formal group photograph.

Notice that The Boy's bike even made it into the shot. Totally unplanned.

There weren't any "say cheese" moments. Which is good, in my opinion.

Those pics are finally getting some use.

After much anticipation, the new LP is finally available. You can stream it, share it, buy it, or download it.

Right now!

And here's the kicker: You can name your own price, even free.

Yes. Free.

I know I'm a groupie, but really, this album is ace.

Others agree.

As well they should.

You will too.

This weekend is their big release party.

Nana and Poppa are keeping The Offspring. Bless you, Mom & Dad.

I am now assured both peace & quiet, as well as rock & roll.

If you happen to be in Houston, you should come out and keep me company.

We can share a Lone Star and squeal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A few minutes here, a few minutes there...

Since school began, I've been trying to spend a little time each evening doing something I enjoy.

Something creative.

Something purposeful that doesn't include the use of cleaning products.

Most of the time it's less than half an hour.

But that's OK.

These cuffs are the perfect project to work on for a few minutes here, a few minutes there.

Total instant gratification.

I've made other cuffs.

Lots of cuffs, in fact. Each one has been an attempt to get it "just right".

The stitches didn't give me fits; It was the ends that had to be refined.

After much trial and error, I think I've got it worked out. At the very least, I'm getting darn close.

I used crochet thread, size 3 and a D hook.

The outer edges are done in single crochet. The middle is whatever I feel like stitching at the time. I really don't give it much thought.

I used one big loop and button as a closure on these cuffs, but I've also used two smaller loop and button combinations.

I think I prefer the double button closure. It lays a lot flatter and stays that way throughout the day.

I finish them by blocking and then spraying them with starch. It gives the thread a lot more body.

It's all cotton thread, so if they get dirty they are easy to hand wash, dry, and re-starch. Good as new.

Tell me...what's your favorite thing to work on for a few minutes here and a few minutes there?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's For Dinner?

I'm making the transition to fall weather food this week.

Let's just pretend that the temps aren't close to 100*. Let's also pretend that we are wearing long sleeves, drinking hot tea instead of iced tea, and that the A/C has been turned off.

Let's pretend.

Now that we have sufficiently brainwashed ourselves, this week we will be enjoying...

Sunday: skillet lasagna, spinach salad

Monday: slow-cooker Italian chicken, brown rice, green beans, chard

Tuesday: sloppy joes, oven potatoes, tomato-cucumber salad

Wednesday: chicken & dumplings

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hamburgers, oven potatoes, tomato salad

Saturday: out with The Mr.

By the time you read this I will have made the skillet lasagna. Needless to say, I will be giving it center stage later in the week. It was goood.

The Mr. will be out of town Tuesday, so I asked The Boy to choose something tasty, quick, and easy for dinner that night. His choice: sloppy joes. I like how his mind works.

In addition to the sloppy joes, he is looking forward to sleeping in our bed. Whenever Daddy travels, he knows that he gets to sleep on the other side of the bed so he can "look out for me". The Girl is old enough that she wants in on the action as well.

I predict being fatigued on Wednesday. The Offspring are very active sleepers, meaning they kick the crap out of those slumbering next to them, which in this case, will be me. It's OK. I know these days are fleeting. Fast. I'll take what I can get, when I can get it.

I've been so hungry for chicken & dumplings. Seeing as how I play the chef, it's stupid for me to feel deprived. Wednesday night is mine.

The grandparents are keeping The Offspring this weekend. We have big plans that don't involve me cooking. Details coming soon.

Last but not least, I did some baking tonight. I think I'll be baking the same thing again later this week. There is no way it will last past Wednesday. I'll share the specs really soon.

I saw Halloween costumes in the stores this weekend. Can you believe October is upon us?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ten On Ten: September

September 10th.

Ten pictures taken over ten hours.

Growing it out. Again.

We can sleep in tomorrow. Thank you, Lord.

A magic wand makes learning to read a snap.

Do you know about your five senses?

Working hard. Even on a Friday.

Multi-tasking at lunch.

There is much energy to burn.

Sit back and listen...

...then get ready to count. 14 days of school down.

Packed-up and ready to split.

Next week's plans.

A handful of images captured throughout the day...

This ten flew by.

Having 24 kindergarten peeps to keep me company is never dull.

I'm home now. Ready to relax.

The weekend has commenced.

I will not set the alarm clock. Or fight traffic. Or think about crayons and construction paper.

I will bake something. And dust off my sewing machine. And have a beer...or two.

I'll meet you in October for the next Ten.

Over and out.