Thursday, March 31, 2011


Sometimes an old classic is all you need. I've been revisiting some of my childhood favorites in the last 3 or 4 months for a few reasons. They're cheap, and my kids love them. That's the top two. But, also, my mom always used margarine, so I know that they'll taste okay dairy free, and she wasn't big on cream, cheese, or the like, so most of them are naturally lower in dairy. It's nice to be able to make something that I *know* will turn out. I've made these brownies twice in the last month. They come from the cookbook of my elementary school. We lived at the beach at the time, and our school mascot was a dolphin, hence the name.
This is one of the first recipes I learned to make. I was 9 years old. In the last 25 years, I'll bet I've made these brownies 150 times. Easy. There were years that they were a weekly or monthly treat. It makes me smile to see the splattered page.
But, it really makes me smile to see the pan come out of the oven! So good. So easy. So cheap. You gotta try these.

1 stick butter or margarine
6 T cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 egg for fudgey; 2 for cake like
1 t vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 cup pecans, chopped (this is optional, but a good addition)

Melt the butter (I do it in the microwave). Whisk in the cocoa, then the sugar. Add in the egg, whisking well to combine, then the vanilla. Stir in the flour. The batter will be thick. Bake in a greased pan at 350 for 15 minutes. The center will look like it's not quite set. This is what you want! As they cool, the center will stay fudgey and delicious. If you prefer a more cake-like brownie, cook for 20 minutes, until the center is completely set.

These are so easy! What are you waiting for??

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bathroom redo

I've been lazy about posting pictures of our new house (it still feels new, even though we've been here 6 months, so I'll just count it as new) cause, well, each room still has *something* that needs finishing. But, spring is here, and I'm inspired to start finishing all those little projects. Ah, yard sales and sunny days to spray paint. What could be better? So, I'll start with the bathroom. Very exciting, I know. But, it's compact, which means it was finished first, and I like the way it turned out. Which is good. Cause it's the only one I've got. *smiles*
My bathroom has pink and gray tile. Very vintage. Very cool. Very hard to wrap my head around decorating with. So, I started with this fabric. It's a beloved piece from the master bedroom bedding. We bought this with wedding money, and I've yet to find something I like better (I'm on the lookout because my duvet is almost threadbare). So, 10 years later, and I still love it. Better for me, there are small bits of both pink and gray in there, so it really ties the bathroom together.
These hooks are from IKEA. I'm not a crazy contemporary girl, but I like the clean, traditional lines of the hooks, and they worked well for this awkward little spot as you enter the bathroom. The painting above it is from a high school friend. She's a wonderfully talented artist, and I love the piece.
My mom made hooded, monogrammed towels for my boys after I fainted when I saw the prices that they command in the store. As always, thank you, mom!
I'm most pleased with this rug. I debated and debated what to do about a bathroom rug. And, then, one day, I was perusing Young House Love, and I found my inspiration. This version is from IKEA, and it was a whopping $4.99. This is good, because one bathroom plus 3 muddy little boys, one muddy husband, and one muddy dog, well, that's going to equal frequent bath mat replacement. But for 5 bucks, I'm okay with that.
In a house long, long ago, I had this very boring shower curtain. It was "natural", tab topped, and seriously, I think I bought it at Target around 11 years ago. I'm sure it was Target, because 11 years ago, I had that store memorized. I think I had one of everything. Oh, how times will change on you. Next thing you know, you look up, and you haven't been to Target in 6 months. Crazy. Anyway. I dyed that sucker chocolate brown, then added some fringe to the bottom. I like the way it turned out. I'm debating having an initial monogrammed in the middle, but for right now, I like the way it looks.
The room IS pink, so I added some of my childhood pretties. They don't really fit anywhere else in my house, so I'm enjoying them in the bathroom. This is a cross-stitch my mom did for me that was in my room as a teenager. It says "make a joyful noise", and it's one of my favorites.
A little valence. We also have blinds, but we leave them open most of the time. This window is surprisingly well situated, and it is decently private.
This is the view when I want to see some girly-ness and remember that I am a grown-up. This is the rest of my pink pretties from my childhood.
And this is the scene when I remind myself that I share the bathroom with three little boys. These little metal baskets work well for the bath toys. They drain and dry quickly, and their small size keeps the toy numbers in check (cause sometimes I am cramming 3 boys and their toys into one bathtub--not a ton of room in there!).
This shot gives you a good look at what I had to start with--pink and gray, oh my. The little painted milk glass was picked up at a festival a million years ago. I love the happy flowers. Another girl touch in a house of boys.
And there you have it. Vintage 50s fun meets a traditional, use-what-you-have kind of girl. I hope you enjoyed the tour of the most popular room in our house!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last week, I got a little crazy when I bought cabbage, and I still have half of a huge head left. Hopefully a couple of meals of slaw will finish it off. If not, we'll be figuring out even more ways to eat cabbage. I've gotten an Indian meal on the menu, too. I'm excited to tackle several recipes in that. In the past, I've always done one curry, plain rice, and a plain vegetable on the side. Good, but this time, I'm going to see if I can recreate take-out, with several curry options. I love Indian food, so even if it's bad, it'll be good.

Friday--hummus, tabouli, pita bread, carrot and celery sticks

Saturday--out (lunch), chicken nuggets, roasted sweet potatoes, salad, egg rolls (our at-home date)

Sunday--chicken noodle soup (lunch), eggs, sausage, biscuits, potato pancakes (supper)

Monday--slow roasted pork butt, squishy white bread rolls, slaw, sweet potatoes

Tuesday--green bean curry, lentil dal , basmati rice, aloo gobi

Wednesday--enchiladas with roasted chicken, kale, potatoes, and a pasilla almond sauce

Thursday--brunswick stew

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Mom's House

Lately, I've been thinking about enjoying the beauty we find in the everyday. This season of life I'm in doesn't lend itself to lots of money to spend on pretty things, nor hours to spend in creative pursuits. But, what it does lend itself to is lots of time to observe the world around me. As my little boys take their time and figure out the world, I have plenty of time to look around and find the beauty around me. So, that's what I'm purposing to do.

Yesterday, we spent the day at my mom's house. Ah, glorious spring! I love, love, love spring in my hometown. When we lived in the mountains, spring was so very slow in coming. It was this incredibly long, drawn out process of one bloom here, one little sprout there, the promise of kale over there. Tedious and slow and a bit crazy making.

But here? Spring comes with a bang! One day, it's cold and winter, and the next? Spring is here! It's hot in the afternoons, you can hear the birds singing, and everything is in bloom. As it should be, of course.

And I'll leave you with my favorite shot...the promise of figs. Oh, figs, I can't wait!

So, go out today. See what you can find. There is beauty that needs us to find it. Look for it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chicken and rice casserole

The very first meal I cooked start to finish was for my 6th grade home economics class. It consisted of chicken and rice casserole (my mom's cookbook called it "chicken supreme"), a can of green beans, and jello no-bake cheesecake. I remember that the family gave me such compliments on it, and those flavors always take me right back. Only thing...chicken supreme is a no-go right now. It has two cans of soup in it, and without dairy, there is no canned soup. What to do? What to do? Cause when you need some chicken and rice, you must figure out a way! This version was really good (surprisingly so), and all 5 of us enjoyed it. Definitely a repeater. I started by browning the chicken. This is most of a cut-up chicken (minus the breasts--I used them in another meal), plus two thighs. It always amazes me how much bigger chicken pieces are when you buy them separately rather than cut up your own chicken. I wonder if they chickens are different breeds...Hmm. Must research this. But, back to the casserole
Once the chicken was brown (you don't want it cooked through, cause it's going in the oven), I toasted the rice in the same pan. Just until the center turns a little white.
Made the sauce. This is margarine, flour, and chicken bouillon (from a jar of better than bouillon ). I think the bouillon works really well here, because it's replacing canned soup. I was afraid chicken broth wouldn't have the stronger flavor I was looking for. I did add about 1/3 cup of coconut milk (the kind that is in the refrigerator section) at the very end to give it a creaminess. It would have been cream if we ate dairy.
Mix the sauce with the rice, then layer the chicken on top.

Once baked, the rice absorbs the sauce and all the goodness from the chicken, and the whole thing is really, really good. It'll take you right back to 6th grade. In a good way.

Chicken Supreme approx 3.5 pounds of chicken pieces (about 6 pieces) 1.5 cups rice 1/2 stick butter (or margarine for dairy free) 5 T flour 3 cups chicken bouillon (you could use chicken broth, but season it well) 1/3 cup cream or dairy substitute such as coconut or almond milk Brown chicken in a deep skillet and remove. Add rice to the same skillet and toast just until the centers of the rice turn white. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter/margarine, and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out, then add the chicken bouillon, whisking continually until the sauce thickens. Add the cream/substitute and stir well. Taste and correct seasoning (salt and pepper) as needed. Add the sauce to the rice in the skillet, stirring well to combine. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice. Cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for approximately 50 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and rice is done.

I'm linked to Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Lots of great ideas! Check it out!

Beauty and Bedlam

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

My sister-in-law is married to a real "Eye-talian" as my grandmother used to say. Her inlaws make gravy on Sunday afternoons, celebrate the feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, and her children count meatballs as their favorite food. Leslie had no choice. She had to figure out how to get her husband the flavors he loved. So, as a result, she is a really good Italian cook. This recipe is one of her husband's favorites.

My children also love it. I think they love the meatballs the most. It starts with really, really small meatballs. I used a pound of ground beef, plus 1/2 pound of pork, and these are the meatballs I ended up with. I counted them, and it was 120 meatballs. That is a lot of balls! My children loved them, of course, so it was worth it (and the soup is darn good! We loved it, too).

Italian wedding Soup

8 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded chicken
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 T Italian seasoning
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped into bite size pieces
1 package frozen spinach
2 t dried dillweed
salt and pepper
1/2 pound small pasta--anything works here. Corkscrews, broken spaghetti, elbows, ditalini

Mix ground meats, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, and egg together until well combined. Form into tiny meatballs and set aside. In a large soup pot, saute onion until softened. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth, chicken, carrots, spinach, and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then drop in meatballs. Simmer 10 minutes. Add pasta, and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is done.

**sometimes I make the pasta separately, especially if I think that I've made enough soup for leftovers. If the pasta is already in the soup, the leftovers aren't as good as if you store it separately.

Today, I'm linked to Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Check it out!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan March 21

This weekend, I was down with a 24 hour bug that left me in the bed for, well, 24 hours. My husband is a great dad, a great husband, but, well, let's just say that for 24 hours, everyone ate what was easy and quick and didn't require a lot of work. I'm feeling so much better today, so we're back to our planned meals.

It's a good reminder to me, though, to make sure that I have the fixings for a few emergency, Dad can make them, meals on hand. For us, that's quesadillas, pancakes, and spaghetti. Always important to have in the house. :)

Friday--take out burritos
Saturday--fish tacos (lunch), take out (supper)
Sunday--quesadillas (lunch), spaghetti (supper)
Monday--hamburgers, baked beans, coleslaw, wacky cake (taking dinner to an acquaintance with newborn triplets!)
Tuesday--red Thai curry over jasmine rice
Wednesday--pork chops, my mom's "brown rice", green vegetable, salad
Thursday--moros y cristianos (black beans and rice with a tomato/ground beef sauce)

As always, I'm linked to Meal Plan Monday over at orgjunkie. Lots of great ideas over there!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mexican Skillet Meal

A few months ago, I submitted a recipe for a skillet meal to All You magazine. This is one of those easy meals that everyone likes. My kids are huge fans of rice, as well as taco flavors. It's rare to find a meal that all 5 of us willingly eat (I have a child that survives on air, chocolate milk, and peanut butter), so this is a great meal.

It starts, as so many do, with browning ground beef along with an onion and garlic.

Next, I add the rice until it turns sort of white and opaque. You want to slightly toast the rice at this step.

Add the spices, tomato sauce, and water.

After it simmers, serve it up! I make spinach separately to mix with the adult portions in our house. Green is wayyyy too frightening for my young children. *rolling my eyes here* And, I top everyone's with taco toppings--crushed chips, cilantro, onion, jalapenos, and a squeeze of lime. It would also be good with dairy, of course. I'd top it with cheese and sour cream.

All You liked my recipe so much that they declared it a winner! They sent this great non-stick skillet set as my prize. I'll also be in a future issue.

I love the skillets (they work really well), but I really love knowing that I was a winner. Thanks, All You!

Mexican Skillet Meal

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup tomato sauce
3 cups water
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
shredded monterey jack cheese
crushed tortilla chips
diced onions
sour cream

Brown ground beef in skillet, draining if necessary. Add onion and saute until onion is translucent, about 4 more minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 additional minute, until fragrant. Add rice to skillet, stirring until rice is slightly opaque and white, about 2 minutes. Add in spinach, tomato sauce, water, and spices. Bring to a boil. Place a tight fitting lid on skillet, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, until rice is done.

Top skillet meal with monterey jack cheese, cilantro, onions, sour cream, salsa, and crushed tortilla chips, as desired.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Egg and Olive

One of my old family recipes is so very simple that it's almost stupid. Egg salad with olives. But, the flavors work really well together, and it's a true classic. After 10 years of marriage, I'm *this* close to convincing my husband to try it (and he doesn't like boiled eggs or mayonnaise, so this was a big challenge to undertake). But, really, this stuff is that good. It'll make anyone love eggs.

Egg and Olive (serves 2)

4-5 boiled eggs (depends on how hungry you are)
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
2 T mayonnaise
1/2 t olive juice
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt because of the olives)

Chop the eggs, then mix everything. Egg salad is so intensely personal. If you like big chunks, stir lightly. If you like it more like deviled eggs in a bowl, stir a little more vigorously. Like it creamy? Add a little more mayo. More dry? Then go easy. It's so easy to customize this dish, and it's a great lunch that can be thrown together in 20 minutes (14 of those being the egg cooking time).

I usually eat this as a sandwich or (as above) with toast "fingers". So good. Try it soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Junk food date night

If fried foods make your cringe, you might want to look away.

That said, sometimes I just like fried foods. Okay, if you define sometimes as every day that ends in "y". I'm a child of the south. Even though Paula Deen has a totally exaggerated accent, and she makes ordinary Tuesday food as if it's something special, well, she has a point about the butter and fried foods. The stuff is goood.

So, there you go.

The chief requirement for Saturday night date food is that it has to be "good". This is a hugely encompassing category, but hey, it's our at-home dates, so we can do whatever we want. *wink* This week, I decided that fried was the order of the day.

I made chicken nuggets and french fries. As an aside, when we got married, my husband didn't realize you could make french fries at home. His mother never, ever fried a single thing growing up. She would die if she saw this meal. My own mother? Well, I learned to fry from someone. I don't think she fries anymore, but back in the day? Let's just say that, as children, I didn't realize there were foods that couldn't be fried.

We decided to healthify our fried foods with salad. This is green leaf, cabbage, and green olives (we both love olives).

I just threw the chicken nuggets nad fries in the salad, along with honey mustard dressing.

So good! And the perfect meal for our date of watching a cheesy movie together on the couch. It might seem silly, but I really do love Saturday nights with the Tomato King. It's so much fun to think of a meal we'll enjoy and have time to just talk and enjoy his company. Even if we have to exhaust small children and drink a late afternoon coffee to make this happen. Totally worth it.

Homemade Woodstock dressing

In my quest for new salad dressings, I came across this one. (again with thanks to my friend Tammy!) It reminded me of a dressing that I used to buy, Annies Natural Woodstock dressing. My local store stopped carrying it, so I got out of the habit of buying it, but I always loved that dressing. So, when I saw the recipe from daily garnish, I had to try it.

So good! This one sounds a little crazy, but it's good, in a very rich, earthy, sort of way. If you like the deep flavor of beets, nuts, and parmesan cheese (yes, I realize those are very different), then you'll like this dressing.

Woodstock dressing
3 T nutritional yeast
2 T soy sauce
2 T oil (I used canola)
1.5 T whole grain mustard
4 T water

Place all ingredients in a jar or cruet, shake well to mix, and enjoy!

I'm linked to Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Lots of great ideas over there!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

I never got last week's menu posted, so I'll do 2 weeks at a time this week.

Friday--take out Indian (pay day!)
Saturday--boca burgers, home fries (lunch), steaks, mushrooms, spinach dip (supper)
Sunday-bahn mi (lunch--take out), biscuits and gravy, eggs (supper)
Monday--hamburger steaks with mushroom gravy, rice, black eyed peas
Tuesday--fried chicken and waffles
Wednesday--stuffing with roasted chicken and sausage, chicken gravy, greens
Friday--lentil/rice tacos
Saturday--leftovers (lunch), spatch-cocked grilled chicken, salad, sweet potatoes (supper)
Sunday--eggs of some sort (found a good deal on eggs this week, plus it's easy), rice salad with chicken (supper)
Monday--curried vegetables with dahl from Moosewood Cooks at Home (new recipe)
Tuesday--quesadillas with chicken, spinach, and black beans
Wednesday--porcupine meatballs over rice, greens
Thursday--chicken livers, roasted potatoes or rice, mustard greens

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sausage gravy

One of my favorite breakfast for supper meals is biscuits and gravy. I didn't grow up with this meal (it's not that common in the very deep south, and my mother isn't a huge fan of white gravy), but I discovered it in my late teens, and I've been a convert ever since.

We haven't had the meal in oh so long, because I was scared to try it without milk. But, my cravings got the better of me, and I decided to go for it last week. It turned out really well.

I started with homemade sausage, just because I'm more likely to have ground pork in the house than breakfast sausage. For sausage, I just season the meat and allow it to sit for an hour or two. I use salt, pepper, cajun seasoning, and garlic, but you can use whatever seasonings you like.

Once the sausage is browned (and I prefer bigger pieces, pretty well browned, but again, that's a personal preference), add flour to make a roux. This sausage was a little dry, so I added about a tablespoon of oil to make it come together.

And, then, I added soy milk. I seasoned with worchestershire sauce and nutritional yeast. I've found these flavors work really well with the soy milk, sort of taking away any funny soy flavor.

I served this gravy over store-bought biscuits (still working on a good dairy free biscuit recipe), with scrambled eggs. Breakfast for a king!

In our house, Sunday nights are almost always breakfast for supper. It's good (for me, at least!) to have such an easy meal to make at the end of a busy weekend. And who doesn't love breakfast for supper? Put it on your menu this week! It'll make everyone smile.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

French salad dressing

For the last few years (!), I've been stuck on one salad dressing. Yes, folks, the redneck in me loves some ranch salad dressing. So good, so creamy, so delicious. And so full of dairy.

So, with the dairy free diet, I've been experimenting with some different dressings. My husband and all 3 boys love Good Seasons Italian, almost to the exclusion of all others. And, it's okay, but it's not something I want to eat everyday. So, on the quest for something new and different, I reverted back to an old, retro favorite. Just as good as I remembered.

French dressing
1/3 cup oil (something light--I used canola)
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water

Place all the ingredients in a jar or cruet, shake to mix, and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebration Date

Do you, too, have those competing voices in your head? The ones that say completely opposite ideas? This week, two of those ideas were competing. For some background, my husband works in a commission based job in a cyclical industry. Just what this routine-driven, wash every single Monday of my life, kind of girl loves. Or not. Typically spring and fall are boom times, with long, sparse winters. Last fall was uncharacteristically slow, though, so the commissions have been thin for a long time. This month, though, we got a big check. Best that he has seen since last May. And, I know that the Tomato King has worked really hard (and has changed positions within the company) to make that check happen.

So, the check came, and the voices started talking. I had Dave Ramsey over one shoulder. Pay off debt! Throw it at necessary things!! Debt, people! Debt!!

And over on the other shoulder, I had Gloria Gaither. Celebrate! Make a memory!

So, Gloria won, although in a way to make Dave proud, aka frugal zealot style.

Early in the afternoon, we took our family to Dairy Queen. It's my dear husband's favorite spot, and our family had a lot of fun celebrating his hard work. The baby and I are, of course, dairy free, so we enjoyed a Mr. Misty. It's not as good as ice cream, but unlike someone with a true allergy, I know that my ice cream free time is short, so I don't let myself think about it.

That night, our kids crashed early from their sugar high (hooray! Success!). We enjoyed Cinderella cocktails in my beloved vintage Tervis Tumblers.

With those, we had our favorite spinach dip. Always a winner, and yes, it's just the classic soup mix and water chestnut blend. The old school favorite coordinates with my vintage Tervis, of course.

And, we splurged on these fantastically beautiful t-bone steaks.

And Worcestershire braised mushrooms on the side.

We had such a fun night. After dinner, we watched a cheesy movie on The Tomato King's passion right now. Yes, folks, Dirt. A great end to a day all about celebrating a special guy's really hard work. Gloria was right. Making a memory is always the better choice.

Now, go! Go! Make a memory!!