Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Works for me Wednesday - Delayed Start Dishwashing

For years, I have had dishwashers with a delayed start feature. I don't like to run my machines when I'm not home (I grew up with a dishwasher that was prone to flooding the floor.) so I never saw much use for this feature. Boy, have I been wrong!

I often find myself needing to wait to run the dishwasher. Sometimes, the girls are about to take a shower, and I don't want them to have to compete for hot water. Sometimes I'm running out for a quick errand. Sometimes, I have the whole thing ready to go, but some straggler is still using a dish. Inevitably, when I walk away from the machine, I forget to return and hit the start button. If only there was a way to make it start later, without me needing to remember...

But wait! What are these 2, 4, and 6 buttons on my dishwasher? Now when I have a full load of dishes, I throw in the detergent and delay-start it. After dinner, I delay it 4 hours. That way, the showers are done, and if someone decides they want a dish of ice cream after the kitchen's clean, I don't have to wait for the dish. On my way to the gym in the morning? I'll be back in 2 hours, have it start then.

If only I could delay-start everything!

For more great Works for Wednesday tips, go to We Are THAT Family

Monday, June 1, 2009

What happened to May?

I can't believe it's June! We had a very busy May, and I'm just now catching my breath, albeit temporarily. Two of my daughters have early May birthdays, so the first two weeks of May were consumed by cake-baking, gift strategies and the planning/executing/cleaning trifecta of kids' parties. Then we had a big cookout, then an out of town guest, then we came down with maybe-swine maybe-regular flu. And of course, we had soccer and Memorial Day observations thrown in. Whew!

In that whirlwind I made a few observations:

1. Napa cabbage makes the best coleslaw. I typically use shredded broccoli for slaw because I think cabbage is boring. But I had a bunch of leftover purple and Napa cabbage leftover from Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad. (Go make this salad today and bring it to a place where there are people to ooh and aah over it. You will be a rock star!) I made a beautiful and delicious cole slaw with it, and the texture is perfect. It is just between lettuce and cabbage, and when sliced looks like confetti. What a find! I'm putting it in pulled pork tacos tomorrow!

2. Five Guys Burgers are the best. Better then In-N-Out for me, because the roll is sweet and delicious and you can put any toppings you want. The sauteed mushrooms are a must!

3. All children should be third children. Mine potty trained herself this month. I think she realizes she's pretty much on her own as far as child rearing goes...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I'm doing today...

David Lebovitz Devil's Food Cake
Baked chocolate chip cookies
buttermilk chocolate chip cake

Ganache and frosting tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Works for me Wednesday - Salad Bar Dinner

Who doesn't need to make their kids eat more vegetables? This is the newest weapon in my dinner-time arsenal. Everyone in my family will eat salad and rave about it when we have salad bar night, which we now have 2-3 times a week. I chop up some lettuce, leaving it right on my cutting board on my island and put out anything else I can find that could conceivably go in a salad. Everyone takes a plate and goes around the island assembling their own salad. (I put grilled meat and the croutons & dressing on the table.) It's a great way to use up leftovers, and an even better way to let everyone eat what they want for dinner without having to yell about not being a short order cook! Here are my best salad bar tips.

Topping Suggestions: I always include cukes, craisins, walnuts and shredded cheddar, but I have put out shredded cabbage, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, shredded carrot, croutons, sunflower seeds, blue or feta cheese, tabouli, chick peas, literally anything I have in the fridge. Think about what your kids like, and put it out there. See what happens. Leftover pasta and rice are very good in salad, hot or cold, and serving something sweet , like raisins and coconut make your kids feel like they are getting away with something. The key is thinking outside the box. I promise you, fruit and grains make a salad!

Slice up your meat: One of the side benefits of serving dinner this way is how much it has cut back on our meat consumption. Because I grill steak or chicken and then serve it sliced, we take only what we will eat from the serving platter. In fact, this has influenced how I serve meat for every meal. Where in the past I would grill 4 chicken breasts for my family of 5, now I grill 3 breasts, and I bet I can get down to 2 on nights where we have larger sides. The other night, I grilled a steak that was .70 of a pound and I had a few slices left on the serving plate after dinner! If it's too hot to grill, use leftover deli meat, or Easter ham or roasted chicken, or open a can of tuna!

Dressing: I put out a bunch of oil and vinegars (especially raspberry vinegar) and those spray dressings that kids love. Haven't tried the spray dressings? Let me repeat: Kids love them. They are the only exception to my blanket refusal to buy bottled salad dressing. You could certainly make your own and stick it in a spray bottle, but that doesn't work for my kids. And you know what? I don't care: they're EATING SALAD! My other dressing tip is to save your old spice jars to make quick, shaken dressings. I put a little squirt of mustard in the bottom, then do a basic 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio, then shake it up. And that little shaker top with the holes? Throw it back on there, it helps to slow down the dressing pour when kids (or clumsy adults) are doing it themselves. The reason I like the little spice jars is they only make enough dressing for a day or two. The dressing is fresh, it's whatever you're in the mood for that day, and it's gone quickly, so you can throw the whole greasy thing in the dishwasher rather than having to clean it off to put it away.

Other Applications: This topping bar is a great way to serve lots of foods. This is how we do Taco Night in our house (where I first figured out they liked the process as much as the tacos!) If you have a family that likes baked potatoes, this is a way to make a meal of it. I use the same approach with oatmeal. Put 5-6 chocolate chips on top of oatmeal and anyone will eat it!

Does anybody else have any topping bar insight? Leave a comment with your tips.

For more great Works for me Wednesday Tips, go to We are THAT Family.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Ohh, I am so excited about this week's menu! I've had a lot of inspiration over the last week, so this menu was a breeze to plan. I love when that happens, because usually it's such a grind. Here are the meals and the inspirations:

Monday: Spaghetti with Shrimp and Bacon. Oh my goodness! I got the new Everyday Food magazine last week and this recipe just leaped off the page. In fact, if it hadn't been 4:45 pm when I read the recipe, I would have run out to get shrimp and made it that instant. Everyday Food is such a great meal planning resource. The recipes are simple and healthy, with an emphasis on whole, seasonal foods. All of the meals are simple enough to be accessible, but special enough to get your attention. It's exactly the food I want to eat.

Tuesday: Grilled Teriyaki Salmon Steaks over Cabbage, Jasmine Rice, green beans. When I was at the fish counter to buy my shrimp, I noticed my beloved boneless salmon steaks on sale. They are farm-raised instead of wild, but they were only 6.99/lb, and I love them on the grill. Luckily, my whole family eats this, too, and they'll think it's Christmas when they see the rice is jasmine instead of the usual brown! Set the bar low, people!

Wednesday: Burgers, salad, sweet potato fries. It's starting to feel like spring around here, which means a lot of grilling. I picked up some grass-fed ground beef on sale last week, and I still have a bag of Alexia's fries left over from last week. Other than the salad, I'm eating from the freezer. Love that!

Thursday: Chicken cordon bleu, green beans, rice. For Thursdays I usually try to plan a meal that can be pushed to another day in case I have a lot of leftovers. This chicken's already in the freezer, so I can leave it there if need be, but the best thing about this meal is that it is designed to use up the deli ham I buy every Monday for my husband's lunches. If he eats all the ham, I'll use the bacon left from Monday. If he doesn't, I'll put it in the chicken. (As an aside: Ham is one of those things for me that if I buy it, no one eats it, but when I don't have it, everyone's whining for it. I'm sure everyone has something like that. Let's hope yours isn't $9/lb like my ham!)

Friday: Eggs for me and the baby. I would normally have made the salmon tonight (for a meat-free Lenten Friday), but Dad and the big girls are off to see a hockey game. Who knows what they'll be eating. (pretzels and soda, maybe?)

For more menu ideas, head over to! There are hundreds of weekly menus every week!

This is gonna be a good week, I can feel it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Soda Club Review

I drink a lot of seltzer. I mean A LOT of seltzer. I used to go through 2 or 3 12 packs a week, or a 2 liter bottle a day. It was pretty inconvenient for a lot of reasons, but my environmental guilt and dislike of lifting heavy objects ranked at the top. And the fact that I was damaging the environment and throwing my back out so that I could pay an exorbitant sum of money for WATER (which comes free from my tap) drove me to find another solution. Surely there was a way to carbonate my own water? I mean, surely seltzer bottles weren't just for clowns? I started googling to find out.

Enter Soda Club soda maker. I found the clown-style, hand-held seltzer maker first, but I quickly moved on to the Fountain Jet system as more practical for everyday use. The soda maker itself sits right on the counter and doesn't take up too much space, so it's always available. It comes with a tank with enough CO2 gas for 110 liters of seltzer, and 1 liter bottles that you fill with water and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use them. When you want seltzer, you just screw the bottle into the soda maker and push a button until you've reached the desired level of fizziness. There are also soda syrups you can add to make your own soda, if that’s your thing.

I have owned my soda maker for almost a year and a half now, and I love it. I find that the CO2 doesn't really last 110 liters, but it lasts me 2-3 months. I keep an extra tank on hand in case I run out. The tank can be exchanged at Boaters' World locations or you can order a new one online, leave your old one outside your door, and some magical sprite will switch it for a new one in a few days.

Flavors. I tend to drink the seltzer plain, but sometimes I flavor it with a little fruit juice. Cherry, cranberry, POM, grapefruit, Rose's sweetened lime, or nectars work particularly well. I also use RealLime powdered packets with success. Of course, I sometimes just put citrus slices into the glass I drink from.

The soda maker is a huge hit whenever people come to my house and see it. I joke that I should get a commission, because I have "sold" six of them so far. Aside from the obvious convenience, people like the freshness of the taste and the adjustable fizziness. And I like that I always have something on hand to serve people, and can always make more!

For anyone who drinks seltzer, this truly is a must-have product.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Well, this is better, it's actually Monday! Let's get right to it!

Monday: crockpot chicken, rice, green beans. We ate like pigs all weekend at the in-laws, so I wanted something clean and simple tonight. I put a whole chicken right in the crockpot with an onion, some celery, balsamic vinegar, poultry seasoning and rosemary. It is a good, if very plain meal.

Tuesday: Baked ziti with sausage, zucchini and mushrooms. I know, not very Irish. But we had our corned beef on Saturday. We'll either have green beans or salad on the side

Wednesday: Grilled (TBD) chicken and salad bar. The salad bar format is what takes this from boring diet food to a customizable, kid-friendly hit. I put out shredded cheeses and nuts and craisins and they love it. Raspberry vinegar doesn't hurt, either!

Thursday: Steak and cheese subs, sweet potato fries. This is a big hit with the kids. I will make it into whole wheat wraps and add peppers for the adults (and mushrooms for me! I'll have some left over from Tuesday) The kids will get it on hot dog rolls with raw peppers on the side. The sweet potato fries are Alexa brand and are delicious! My kids won't eat homemade; believe me, I keep trying!

Friday: Fish tacos. I use HomeEc 101's oven fried fish recipe, except I use panko. I put out shredded cheese, shredded cabbage (preshredded confetti coleslaw mix) and fried corn tortillas, plus some extra soft tortillas. On the side, we'll have salad or sweet potato fries.

In general, I find that the more I allow the kids to assemble and customize their own meals, the more, they'll eat. Salad bars, sandwich bars, tacos and fajitas are recurring themes here

Also, I made a big pot of split pea soup for my lunches for the week! Secret ingredient: smoked paprika!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Yes, I am aware that today is Thursday. This week is Science Fair Week in my house, so all of my creativity and energy is spoken for, thank you. Without further ado:

Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs. Here is my interesting/irritating story of the week. On Sunday, I had planned on grilling drumsticks for dinner. When I opened the package to put them on the grill, they smelled really funky. Two days before the sell by date! There is very little that annoys me more than wasting food and money, but one of those things is reaching dinner time with no plan and no food. So my husband went out to get meat for burgers, which means I got 3 pounds of meat! So Monday we had meatballs...

Tuesday: BBQ chicken drumsticks, sweet potato biscuits, okra, salad
, coleslaw. This Sunday's Boston Globe magazine had a sweet potato biscuit recipe that I knew I had to make immediately! It was simple and delicious! I'll definitely be making these again. The coleslaw is made without mayonnaise for my mayophobic family. I just use olive oil and it works surprisingly well

Wednesday: Chicken fajitas, corn salad. So Wednesday, my grill stopped working! I cooked everything in the oven at 475 degrees and was impressed with how well it turned out. Does this mean I can start making fajitas in the winter, too?

Thursday: meatball subs, salad Did I mention I am slightly oversupplied with hamburg? I made A LOT of meatballs. It's good, though, because tonight is the Science Fair, and dinner needs to be quick and flexibly timed.

Friday: We are off for a weekend with the in-laws for an early St Pat's! Slainte!

Friday, February 13, 2009

25 Things about Me

The "25 Things" meme seems as good a starting point as any...

1. I am deeply uncomfortable revealing things about myself and normally rely on sarcasm to get by. But I promised to do this.

2. I am not an animal lover. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them, I just don't enjoy them. I am pretty sure think makes me a sociopath.

3. I have an irrational fear of being wrongfully imprisoned. This amuses my husband.

4. I am a rule follower. I can't even bring a drink into a store. This annoys my children.

5. I love food. Cooking, food blogs, farmers' markets…

6. I have a real milkman who delivers my milk in glass bottles.

7. I feel at home in the city

8. …and in the library. I believe libraries are the foundation of democracy. (I should point out that given the fact that I was once flashed in the Boston Public Library, cities and libraries are perhaps best enjoyed separately.)

9. I dislike crime stories, violence, and scary movies.

10. I was born on Friday the 13th.

11. I think that everyone is just doing the best they can and we should probably cut them some slack. (except for people who leave their shopping carts in the parking lot. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior.)

12. I am proud that my daughters are funny and kind and love music.

13. I am so thankful that I met my husband when I was 22. He made(and continues to make) my life better.

14. I have 17 nieces and nephews that I love and enjoy more than they know.

15. I learned to swim because I was too afraid of the horseshoe crabs in our river to put my feet down.

16. I love brewpubs almost better than anywhere.

17. I like people who make me laugh, and will forgive almost any shortcomings they may have.

18. I cry during the patriotic sing-along on the 4th of July.

19. I am one-eighth Greek.

20. I used to have a really great memory, but not anymore. It bothers me.

21. I married into a Yankees family, but so far my children are okay.

22. I love football and miss it in the long off-season. I like baseball, but it's not the same.

23. I am happy my kids are fast runners so they won't suffer the emotional scars of being the last one out to the playground every single gym class.

24. I watch too much TV.

25. I don't have favorites. I have favorite products, sure, but don't ask me my favorite color, movie, ice cream, whatever. It amazes me that other people can pick.