One of the worst times of year for a teacher is the two weeks before school starts. It’s not because we are dreading it, but the anticipation of the work load, and wanting to enjoy every last drop of summer–those two things form a dichotomy that keeps many a teacher up with insomnia at night and cranky during the day. I am starting to have stress school dreams and I am starting to get on my husband’s nerves. Buckle up, sweetie, we’ve only just begun.
We didn’t get the best news today either. Henry got hired at a new job and they originally wanted him to start next Wednesday. Sweet. We made camping plans for this weekend. They called today and said, actually, can you start Friday. He wasn’t in the position to say no–so I am going camping by myself. Well, not all by myself, but without Henry. Bummer. This was our last hurrah for the summer.
Our consolation prize? Fajitas for dinner. It’s not camping, but it’s something.
- 1 pound steak, sliced
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp chili powder (I used california)
- 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- half of an onion, sliced
- 2 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice from half of an extremely juicy lime
- zest of half of a lime
- half of a large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- large drizzle of garlic olive oil
Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Fry it up. Serve it up. Try to not pout about not camping with your sweetie.
I separated out the peppers and fried them first. It’s super important that you don’t overcook your steak, and if you separate out ingredients that cook at different rates, you can make sure that doesn’t happen.
I love my new old cast iron pan!
This is adapted from a recipe I found about a month ago, but never got around to making. The original recipe called for thawed and squeezed, frozen spinach. I thought using kale instead would give some texture to the final dish, as it doesn’t mush up like spinach does. I also added fresh herbs to my recipe and subbed in Japanese mayo, just because I had it around.
As a side dish, I peeled an enormous sweet potato and cut it into rounds. I laid the rounds on a sheet pan, drizzled them in garlic olive oil, and gave them a pinch of minced rosemary, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. I baked them in the oven with the chicken dish and they finished at the same time. Perfect.
Disclaimer. I did not measure my ingredients. Use your best judgement. Taste. Make enough sauce to coat the chicken and kale. Use equal parts mayo and yogurt. Make it your own!
- Four boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kale–half of a bunch, sliced
- Artichoke hearts–marinated in oil, rinsed and diced
- Parmesan cheese–grated
- mayonnaise–I used Kewpie mayo
- Greek yogurt
- fresh sage, thyme, rosemary–finely minced
- salt and pepper
- half of a red bell pepper–diced
Salt and pepper chicken. Brown it on both sides. Don’t worry about cooking it through. I did the entire dish in a cast iron frying pan, so it is a one pan dish–stove to oven.
Mix artichoke, cheese, mayo, yogurt, herbs, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
After chicken is done, set aside on a plate. In the same pan, saute onions, peppers, garlic–then add kale and cook down.
Turn off the heat, add the cheese mixture.
Nestle chicken in the sauce. Bake until chicken is done and sauce is melty and gooey.
Quintessential childhood foods.
As adults looking back, we often wonder, how in the world did my folks think it was ok to feed me that? Or why did I think that tasted so good? But they did and we did and we grew up healthy and happy, right? Well adjusted adults–regardless of the fried spam sandwiches and spaghettios.
Chef Boyardee. Campbell’s. Tony the Tiger. Squeeze its and Capri Suns. Push pops. Ring pops. Pudding cups. Most of it highly processed. Loaded with sugar, salt, fat, and gimmicks.
We survived, though–and I try my hardest to give the kids wholesome foods–hoping that those recipes will be quintessential for them when they reflect as adults.
And then sometimes, like tonight, I hearken back to a simple time–a time when it was perfectly acceptable to include cheese whiz in a recipe and feed it to your family. Tonight, I make tacos à la Shiela.
Shiela is my dad’s sister–and for all intents and purposes, she is my mom. The best memories of my childhood were with her–and some of my earliest and strongest food memories are with her as well. These tacos are simple, addictive, and trashy. Cheese whiz, browned and drained hamburger, and a can of rinsed kidney beans. Mix it all together, throw into a taco shell along with your regular cast of taco characters and you’ll have something that is salty, gooey, creamy, and crunchy. The best guilty pleasure I can think of. And now I get to share it with my family. I’d have taken a picture of it cooked, but it’s equal parts brown and gloppy–not exactly the most photogenic dish.
In other news, we are making garlic and onion wine tonight. Super excited!
I am really going all out with pizza today. But not in the traditional sense. I am taking the expected ingredients–marinara, cheese, and pepperoni–and using them in strange ways. First up this afternoon was pizza biscuits. I took the regular whomp biscuits, cut slits into them, and slipped in a spoonful of marinara sauce, spoonful of ranch sauce (why not?!), a pepperoni or two, and a large pinch of cheese. Then I sealed up the edges and baked them like normal biscuits. Henry said: Can you make these always forever? (not the child, the adult). Needless to say, they were a hit.
Tonight, I am turning those same ingredients into Pizza Pasta. Here’s the breakdown.
- 1 pound whole wheat pasta, your choice of style. I used penne.
- some meat sauce I had in the freezer. Several cups? Use however much you’d normally use for a pound of pasta.
- 1/2 cup ranch mixed with 1/2 cup ricotta
- Grated cheese
1. Boil the pasta, but do not cook it all the way. Leave it a little raw. It will continue to cook in the oven.
2. Layer the pasta down on some meat sauce in a baking dish. Half of the pasta goes down. Put down a sprinkle of cheese and all of the ricotta/ranch mixture. Then add the second half of the pasta, and the meat sauce on top of that. Then more cheese, and then your pepperonis.
3. Bake it at 425 until it’s done. 30-45 minutes, I think.
This afternoon, I tried to drink a slimfast. The three year old slowly came towards me, licking his lips: “Is that called chocolate milk, Jenn?” He whimpered and crept closer. I took a drink. He eyeballed me. The six year old corrected him: “No! It has protein. It makes Jenn strong.”
I just sat there and wondered if it would be ok to lock myself in my bedroom for the rest of the day.
Instead of running away for the rest of the afternoon, we took the kids to the park to play. We amassed a snail army, ate blackberries we found, and took turns down the fireman’s pole. and when we got home, I made Parmesan crusted pork chops, Greek potatoes, green beans, and a fairy pie (also known as a raspberry lemon refrigerator pie).
The kids wolfed it down. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Recipes are linked above. Changes I made were minimal. I added frozen raspberries to the pie to make it pink and that was about it.
Last night, as a side dish to our roast, I made butternut squash. I roasted it in the oven with sage, oil, salt, pepper, and then finished it with cheese. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling it last night. Something didn’t quite taste right. Maybe I didn’t salt enough or maybe I was just feeling stressed about the evening and decided to take it out on the poor, unsuspecting squash. Disappointed, I just put it aside, and decided to make soup out of it later.
After the dishes were done and kitchen cleaned, I sauteed onion and garlic, and then added the squash cubes and simmered everything in stock for an hour or so, smashing the orange flesh against the sides of the pot until they were broken up. I seasoned it to taste, simmered it a bit longer, then put it in the fridge to be dealt with today. Today, when I thought about what I was going to do with it, I decided that I wanted to add some protein and substance to it instead of pureeing it and calling it good. I plan to take it for lunch this week to work and I need something more substantial to get me through the day. I hunted through my cabinet, peeked through various mason jars I have on my counter filled with broken pieces of pasta, lentils of all colors, beans, and barley–eventually, I stumbled upon a jar of assorted legumes. It has two types of lentils in it, white beans, garbanzo beans, split peas–so many different types of dried legume. Definitely too many to count. So I settled on 10(?).
The first thing I did with these legumes was soak them in water for awhile. Then I added them to my mashed butternut squash mixture with more stock. Now it’s simmering on my stove until the beans are tender.
It’s not much to look at, but it’s the perfect soup to take to work this week!
Snow and snow and snow and ice and sleet and ice and ice.
But I am wearing clean pajamas and I did do a lot of organizing and cleaning around the apartment today. I have a roast beef in the crockpot that needs about another hour or so. Roasted butternut squash and mashed potatoes. And the best part: sweet potato biscuits. I may never make regular biscuits again. Granted, I did grate an entire stick of frozen butter into these puppies, but I’d like to think that including an entire baked sweet potato into the biscuits counterbalances the butter. Right? Right. (right?)
Over 5300 people in Eugene are without power at the moment and out local electricity company said to expect outages even if we haven’t had any issues so far. So, yeah. Henry went to the store to get beer, candles, and hot cheetos. That’s all we need to be snowed and iced in–and without power.
Please make these biscuits. I didn’t change a thing about the recipe. Some reviewers said that grating frozen butter was difficult, but it was so easy and weird that it was almost a novelty. Ooh! Grated butter! Even Henry smiled at it.