I've entered the stage of my life where my children aren't children anymore. They're growing up and taking on more responsibilities. For the first time ever, they are living in their own apartments this Fall and they're cooking all of their own meals. Ryan has been cooking for himself for about 4 years now but this will be the first time that Courtney will be responsible for feeding herself.
I overheard a conversation the other day in the car when Ryan was giving his best cooking advice to his beloved sister and much to my surprise, he had some really sound advice for his younger sibling. He warned her that she should NOT throw a frozen steak onto a hot skillet. It IS possible to burn butter. Measuring cups can double as cereal bowls when you don't want to wash dishes. All the important stuff.
Those warnings that Ryan gave to his sister - all first hand experiences. It took some time for him to get into the groove of planning, shopping for, preparing and cleaning up all of his meals. Let's face it - we all struggle with some of these from time to time.
I distinctly remember a phone call to Ryan one evening, early in his sophomore year of college when he first started to do his own cooking He told me that he was going to make tacos for dinner and as I started to ask the specifics of the meal, it became unmistakably clear that his idea of a taco dinner was ground beef in a crunchy taco shell. No seasoning, no salsa, no lettuce, no cheese, no fuss. Beef and taco shells. Dinner - Ryan style.
I should not have been surprised really. Ryan IS responsible for creating what the entire family now refers to as "BOOM Chicken." I'll give you the recipe: Place 1 boneless chicken breast on a George Foreman grill, wait 10 minutes and BOOM - grilled chicken. Again, no seasoning, no sauce - no frills. I'll bet you'll never guess how he makes goat cheese chicken. ;)
Don't let Ryan's simple cooking techniques fool you though. He makes a killer venison stew and venison bolognese. He doesn't really like to follow a recipe when he cooks and in most cases that method works really well for him. He recently made a batch of homemade granola bars that didn't turn out quite like he had envisioned though. He threw some oats, nuts, fruit and honey in a pan, baked it for a few minutes and ended up with a crunchy, candy bar-like confection. A little too sweet for his taste. So this recipe is for you Ryan. Start with the basic measurements and swap out ingredients with your favorites. Can't wait to see what you'll create.
Fruity Granola Bars
1 1/2 cups walnuts
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups Rice Crispies Cereal
1 cup dried cranberries
Ryan really learned a lot from his experience in the dorm kitchen where he smoked out the entire hall. He's actually a very good cook now. He prepares really healthy food and he does a lot of his cooking on the weekends so that he has prepared meals for the whole week. The mom in me thinks that he could probably stand to eat a few more vegetables here and there BUT in general - he's a really healthy cook.
Ben and I are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary and if I think back over our eating habits from the last 25 years, I can say that things have certainly changed. I guess that you can say that our eating habits have evolved and adapted to each situation of life that we were in at the time.
We moved to 3 times in our first year of marriage. First to an apartment in Ohio, then to Wichita Falls, Texas and then to Layton, Utah. Even though we were both working full time jobs, we were struggling financially so we cooked most of our meals at home. We ate a lot of casseroles and crock pot meals. They weren't anything extraordinary but they were cheap and easy.
We celebrated our 2 1/2 year anniversary with the birth of our first child and dinner time changed dramatically. I spent months struggling to figure out how to feed a baby who instinctually wanted to eat EVERY single time that I wanted to prepare a meal or sit down to eat something. I honestly don't know how first time mothers survive - and don't even get me started on mothers of multiples.
Our 3d year of marriage brought with it another cross country move, this time, to San Antonio, Texas. This is where our first born learned to love food. His love of fruits and vegetables was infectious. I was making most of his baby food at home and as a result, Ben and I incorporated a lot more fruits and vegetables into our diets as well.
We added another beautiful baby to our family while we were in Texas and then moved to Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, then Level Green, Pennsylvania and then Jackson, Tennessee. By the time we settled in Jackson, we had a preschooler and a first grader. Dinner time was a series of negotiations to get both of my finicky eaters to try something new or consume at least a minimal amount of vegetables.
Fast forward about 3 more years and we moved to the house that we currently live in, in Monroe, Georgia. We had 2 elementary school aged, uber-active kids who were about as interested in sitting down to the dinner table as they were about going to get a shot at the doctors office. I put a great deal of effort into trying to figure out how to disguise their vegetables and trick them into eating something healthy.
The year that my oldest child entered middle school is when our dinner time schedule really started to change again. I found myself spending a lot of my day driving the kids to and from practices, piano lessons, orthodontist appointments and playdates. I struggled to find time to fix healthy dinners, let alone squeeze in a family meal between homework and social activities.
I was not at all prepared for the change that would come when my kids entered high school either. My kids were super involved in sports, clubs and activities which is exactly what we wanted for them but what I didn't anticipate was the level of commitment from the family that each activity involved. We ate the majority of our meals on the way to a game, sitting in the bleachers cheering on our favorite player or on the way home from a far away play off game. It was totally worth it but we didn't get the opportunity to sit down around our dinner table together very often.
Now our kids are off at their respective colleges. Both are in their own apartments and doing a lot of their own cooking. Ben and I are back to eating our meals at home together like we did 25 years ago. We miss the kids terribly but there are some up sides to having dinner for the two of us. Our dinner conversations don't revolve around farts or involve burping contests anymore. We eat more grilled salmon and roasted vegetables than chicken nuggets and fish sticks now too. And we don't have to eat at exactly 5:00 so that someone can get to wresting practice or a piano lesson either.
Cooking for babies and children and teenagers has its challenges. Heck, cooking for myself can be a challenge. I'm always trying to find yummy foods that are also healthy and easy to prepare and don't cost a fortune. This grilled salmon recipe is perfect for those of you looking for a meal that's delicious, simple and cheap.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch cayenne pepper
2 pound salmon filet
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Remove fish from grill.
Serve salmon with sauce.
You can tell from the looks of the salmon on my platter that I haven't quite mastered the task of cooking for two yet. On the plus side, it's nice to have a little extra for lunches. I think that you're going to enjoy this recipe.
I was feeling more nostalgic than usual last week, because my youngest child moved back to college which has rendered us empty nesters once again. I've got all the feels while we readjust to this new phase of life - AGAIN. I'm so thankful for my happy and healthy children AND for my uber understanding husband during these transitional times.
I haven't really been in the mood to do a lot of cooking for two lately and I'm not a phycologist but I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm still getting used to setting the table for two instead of three or four. I miss seeing my kids sitting around our dinner table. I miss hearing stories about the adventures of their day and it's hard to accept the reality that they aren't going to be sitting in their chairs at our table every night.
Remember that uber understanding husband that I mentioned before? He has been overly grateful for even the simplest of meals that I've been serving to him for dinner lately. Even though I'm pretty sure that he's going out of his way to make me feel special because he knows that I'm ultra sensitive right now and that I could burst into tears at any moment - I still appreciate that he compliments the turkey sandwiches that I serve him nightly. He really is a good sport.
I decided that I need to bite the bullet and start cooking for two and setting the table for two. I'm jumping back into the cooking game with this amazing Chicken Vesuvio recipe. It makes a great romantic meal - mostly because it uses a half bottle of white wine - so we light some candles and enjoyed the rest of the bottle with this scrumptious meal.
8 bone in chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, 2-3 inches in diameter, cut in half
2 Tablespoons oil
14 garlic cloves, 2 minced and 12 halved
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
Pour sauce around chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle with additional parsley and serve.
I divided this recipe in half because, well ... I'm cooking for two again. There was plenty for dinner for the two of us and even some leftover for lunch the next day. It's safe to say that this recipe would serve 6-8 if you made it as written. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Thanksgiving and turkeys are synonymous. Like baseball and hot dogs, birthdays and cake, you can't think about Thanksgiving without thinking about the turkey. Giant turkeys are the centerpiece of countless tables around the country on Thanksgiving Day. Not only that, its the stuff that great leftovers are made of. Turkey sandwiches, soups, salads and casseroles - the delicious sustenance that gets us through the week following Thanksgiving.
Our turkey may take center stage on our Thanksgiving table but there is no shortage of great side dishes and desserts to indulge in too. Sweet potato soufflé, green bean casserole, freshly baked rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan squares - I have to be strategic to even fit it all on my normal sized dinner plate. I do some serious prioritizing so that I can manage to taste a little bit of everything before I get too full. The Thanksgiving struggle is real.
So why am I talking about Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer? We're at least 3 months away from our next great Thanksgiving meal. It's because I don't feel like I can fully appreciate the turkey on Thanksgiving because there is so much other great food to consume. AND I just love turkey so much that I make one every couple of months. Turns out all those great leftovers are just as delicious even when we're not in a post holiday slump.
My recipe for herb, lemon and garlic turkey is a perfectly simple way to prepare a turkey any time of year. It can be prepped a day in advance and then roasted on the day that you want to serve the deliciously juicy bird. This recipe is so easy but your family will think your a turkey rockstar.
Herb, Lemon and Garlic Turkey
14 pound turkey
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 sprigs each rosemary, thyme and sage
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 head garlic, halved
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped chives
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon pepper
Serve turkey with gravy.
Slice and enjoy.
You've probably figured out by now that I made a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey like indicated on the recipe. The only reason that I did that was because I could not find a whole turkey anywhere! Apparently, I'm the only person cooking turkeys in August. Oh well, turns out a turkey breast works just as well with this recipe.
Movie theaters and popcorn. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, Beyonce and Jay Z. They're such a perfect match that it's hard to separate the two. Somehow we've been convinced that the movie experience will be less fulfilling without a bucket of popcorn sitting on our lap. The intoxicating buttery, salty, smell of popcorn overwhelms us from the moment we walk through the doors of the theater making it nearly impossible to ignore the mouth watering aroma and even harder to walk away from the ticket counter without an oversized bag of the fluffy popcorn. Oddly enough, the consumption of popcorn in a movie theater doesn't even require that one is even hungry. Movie goers mindlessly munch on popped kernels of corn while they're preoccupied with whatever is happening on the giant screen in front of them.
Popcorn is to movies like soft pretzels are to the mall. Let me explain. Much like a Pavlovian dog, when I walk into a movie theater, I instantly crave popcorn. When I walk into a mall, I crave soft pretzel bites. It's my own fault really. From the time that my daughter was very young, we always made a stop by the soft pretzel stand when we shopped at a mall. At first, I used the pretzels as a bribe to ward off any toddler meltdowns while trying to shop. When that sweet girl got a little older, we started to bond over our soft pretzel dates. We would talk and laugh and people watch while we nibbled on buttery, cinnamon sugar coated nuggets of soft, buttery pretzels. Now that my sweet girl has moved off to college, it's always hard to pass the pretzel stand in the mall without her. So I'm feeling nostalgic today while I tackled the task of baking homemade soft pretzels since my girl has moved back to college.
Soft Pretzel Bites
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated
salt + pepper to taste
Slowly add 3 c. flour, 1 cup at a time. Knead with dough hook. Add remaining flour 1/4 c. at a time until dough is no longer sticky. Knead 3 minutes.
Bring 9 c. water to a boil with baking soda. Drop 8-10 bites into water and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on silicone mats.
Brush each bite with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake 10-15 minutes at 425.
Continue cooking until mixture thickens. (5 minutes) Whisk in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve pretzels with warm cheese sauce for dipping.
For a sweet alternative, skip the sea salt and sprinkle your pretzel bites with cinnamon sugar before you bake them. (Just like at the mall.)
Just in case you end up with way to much cheese sauce like I did, here's a tip. Cook some elbow noodles and add them to the reheated cheese sauce voila - homemade macaroni and cheese.
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