Category Archives: kid friendly

Tacos à la Shiela


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!



A Day of Pizza


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
  • Pepperonis


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. 

pizza pasta

Giada’s Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Bobby’s Greek Potatoes (and pie!)

Giada’s Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Bobby’s Greek Potatoes (and pie!)

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.



How to cook for small children: a case study


The first meal I made for the kids was smothered pork chops. I coated lean pork chops in flour, seasoned with Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, and sage. Then I browned them in butter on both sides, moved them to a plate, made gravy in the pan I took them from, and then slid the pork into the gravy once it thickened. They loved it–I remember the six year old saying: “Jenn, I love your chicken!” I started to say: “That’s por–” Then Henry cut me off. “Say it’s chicken,” he said under his breath. From that day forward, I learned that feeding these kids involves a lot of fibbing.

Once I got confident in feeding them meals they’d actually eat, I’d start hearing: Well, Mommy cooks it this way…or Grandma does this…and then all of my new found confidence would disappear, leaving me like a deflated balloon. But I kept trying. For six months, I made them a different kind of muffin each week for breakfast. Cherry walnut, peach pie chia muffins–you name it, I tried it. And when I got home from work each day, I’d walk into the kitchen, where they ate, and step on the dried fruit and nuts they picked out of their muffins.

I learned that these kids will put away a dozen scrambled eggs like it’s no one’s business. I also learned that they would rather have plain pancakes, which they will eat by the stuffed mouthful, instead of whole wheat with blueberries.

I have learned that something they loved last month will be rejected this month. I learned that I can mature their palates by slowing introducing strange ingredients into their normal favorites. I learned that I can say: Eat it anyway.

I learned that half of their meal will inevitably end up on the floor or smeared into the seat cushions of their chairs. I have learned that if Daddy eats it, so will the three year old. i have learned that I have to give Daddy “the look” so that he takes some salad and eats it with forced cheerfulness. I have seen these kids inhale cornbread dripping with butter and honey–and feign interest in the chili just so that they get another piece of cornbread.


Pizza at Northfork Brewery

As I have learned to feed them, I have grown into this stepmommy role–and my confidence no longer hinges on whether or not they eat my dinner. Although some nights, when they turn up their noses at something EVERY OTHER PERSON IN THE WORLD WOULD EAT, I am tempted to open them up a can of dog food and go cry in my room. But that’s completely normal, right?


Roasted Butternut Squash and 10(?) Bean Soup


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!




Sunday Morning Procrastination


I think our ice storm has ended–I can hear the drips and cracks outside of the trees warming up. If things keep melting and clearing up, there will likely be school tomorrow (sorry, kids and teachers [and me! sad face]). I am still my pajamas–and I am thinking that I mention that in every blog post, which leads me to believe that you all must believe I never get dressed. On the contrary, my friends–on long snowed in weekends, I shower and change into clean pajamas. No shame in that. Not even a little bit.

The two year old is playing with the computer his grandma bought him–and it’s loud and obnoxious. I have spent the morning snatching the obnoxious toys out of his hands–but at this point, I surrender. I cannot win. So I will drink my 4th cup of coffee, contemplate getting dressed, and post some interesting recipe links I found this morning.

(Turtles are good swimmers…turt…tur..t..tur..turtles are goo…ttt…tt…turt…Ok. I am taking that toy away.)

Slow Cooker Southwestern Chicken Pasta  I am always looking for family friendly casserole or slow cooker recipes. This looks like a slightly different twist on a few recipes I already make.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup  Henry and I talk about opening a soup and sandwich shop sometime in our future. I love making soups and this is one I haven’t tried yet.

Orange Chicken  Closet Cooking is an amazing blog. I need to cook more of his recipes.

Eggs Fried in Onion Rings  What?!

Slow Cooker BBQ Mac and Cheese

Chili Colorado from the Homesick Texan. This is, by far, Henry’s favorite food. I am always trying to find the best recipe. From what I know about this blog and the recipes, this very well be our new household favorite.

Ok. Enough wasting time. I need to get dressed. We’ve got to go pick up the five year old soon. I miss her little face. Here’s a photo taken the day after we moved to our new apartment. These kids love their arts and crafts.


What a(n) (ice) day


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.