Friday, March 28, 2008

What's For Dinner? The Never Ending Struggle

I am always curious as to what others have for dinner. Are you? Do my friends and neighbors cook actual meals every night? Take out? Restaurants? Frozen meals? Cereal? I figure in the thirteen years I have spent married I have spent 1,423 hours cooking dinner. That’s just 30 minutes a night—a fair calculation I figure given the fact that many nights dinner actually takes about an hour to cook. Also, the fact that we eat out 1-3 nights a month. I’m not sure what to think about those 1,423 hours cooking. I mean, I do love to cook, but wow, that’s a lot of time spent on something that I can literally see no results from. Once eaten I’m just left with dirty dishes. (However, I will not calculate how many hours a day I spend doing dishes. That could make me cry.)

I keep a list in my giant cooking notebook of dinners we have. That way, when I just can’t seem to figure out what to have, I open my notebook and look at what we’ve had in the past. That usually jogs the creative juices and then I can figure something out. So here goes—all the dinners we’ve had in the last 30 days. (I'm sure you'll be able to figure out a lot by our eating habits. i.e., we love spicy food--I've been on a Thai kick, eating lots of Mexican as always, don't eat much red meat, etc.)

*Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Roast Beef Hoagies
*Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Red Hot Curry
*Asian Broiled Salmon with Stir-Fried Snow Peas
*Chicken Piccata with Rice Pilaf and Fruit Salad (See previous post)
*Roasted Rosemary Chicken and Green Beans (Easter)
*Thai Ruby Restaurant
*Black Bean Chicken Stir Fry
*Chicken Tacos with Pickled Onions, Guacamole, and Queso Fresco
*Taquitos (frozen), Guacamole, Refried Beans
*Red Enchiladas with Sauteed Asparagus (Don’t tell my mom I used canned enchilada sauce)
*Grilled Tilapia
*Oatmeal and Eggs
*Pastrami Hoagies
*Turkey Burgers and Oven Fries
*Pasta with Red Peppers and Asparagus
*Curried Lentils and Rice
*Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner (Don’t ask)
*Grilled Hogi Sandwiches
*Roasted Lemon chicken
*Chicken Noodle Soup
*Pizza Margharita (Paul’s pizza skills come in handy)
*Thai Green Chicken Curry
*Cream of Broccoli Soup with fresh bread
*Grilled Hot dogs and asparagus (I think the veggie cancels out the evil hot dog, no?)
*Pepper Seak with Egg Noodles and Green Salad
*Sloppy Joes and Carrot Sticks
*Pad Thai
*Carl’s Jr (I had the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich..mmm Anaheim Chiles) *Cornmeal Crusted Taco Pie
*Chicken with Pasta, Normandy Vegetables, and Alfredo Sauce

Monday, March 24, 2008

Meals on Wheels (Sort Of)

Four years ago when Hallie was born my friend Kelly brought me Chicken Piccata. It became an instant hit with our family—chicken cutlets in a creamy lemon sauce. Mmm..good. (Then again, if you read my Lemon Love Affair blog you know I’m a sucker for anything lemon.) Since then I make it all the time—for company, for Food 101 with my sister Carolyn, and tonight I made it for a friend of mine (Carly) who just had a baby of her own. I don’t think I’m ultra talented at too much, but I can cook and sew. So whenever sign-ups go around in my LDS ward to take a meal to a new mom or someone who is having surgery, I almost always sign up. I’d rather take someone dinner than weed their yard or babysit their kids anyday! Hey, it’s how I help! The last time I took a meal to someone was in January and it was Creamy Mushroom Chicken with Linguine. Don’t you wish you were sick now? Maybe in 4 years Carly will return the favor to someone else and take a new mom Chicken Piccata. Yup, I’m changing the world, one good recipe at a time.

Chicken Piccata
2 large lemons
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced crosswise into cutlets
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons) or 1 small garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Halve one lemon pole to pole. Trim ends from one half and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; reserve.

3. Sprinkle both sides of cutlets generously with salt and pepper. Measure flour into pie tin or shallow baking dish. Working one cutlet at a time, coat with flour, and shake to remove excess.

4. Heat heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes; add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl pan to coat. Lay half of chicken pieces in skillet. Sauté cutlets, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Turn cutlets and cook until second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat and transfer cutlets to plate in oven. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add remaining chicken pieces and repeat.

5. Add shallot or garlic to now-empty skillet and return skillet to medium heat. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds for shallot or 10 seconds for garlic. Add stock and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape skillet bottom with wooden spoon or spatula to loosen browned bits. Simmer until liquid reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and capers and simmer until sauce reduces again to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter until butter melts and thickens sauce; swirl in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Monday, March 17, 2008


My friend Laurie tagged me, and I always do what I'm told. Here goes:

A- Attached or Single? attached
B- Best Friend? Paul, Kelly, Robyn, Liz, Allison, Laurie, and now Paige
C- Cake or pie? Pie--lemon meringue or peach
D- Day of choice? Friday--bye bye housework!
E- Essential Item? my flat iron
F- Favorite Color? lime green
G- Gummy Bears or Worms? hate 'em both
H- Hometown? Chino, CA
I- Favorite Indulgence? eating pastries
J- January or July? July, preferably poolside
K- Kids? Three of the little monsters
L- Life isn't complete without? Paul's leg rubs
M- Marriage date? December 29, 1994
N- Number of brothers and sisters? 2 blue, 2 pink
O- Oranges or Apples? Oranges
P- Phobia and fears? Losing all my teeth, becoming diabetic,
Q- Quote? "Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever" (Title of a book by Judge Judy)
R- Reason to smile? my new sewing machine
S- Season of choice? Summer.....always summer.....always
T- Tag three people? Ilene, Paul, Carolyn
U- Unknown fact about me? I blog, there is nothing left unknown at this point
V- Vegetable? right now asparagus cuz of spring in the summer? garden grown tomatoes
W- Worst habit? Not always washing my face at night, consuming heavy cream
X-Ray or Ultrasound? for what?
Y- Your favorite food? Mom's mexican food; or Mexican food from Las Tarascas in Provo; or chicken curma from Bombay house
Z- Zodiac sign? Capricorn. lame question.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lemon Love Affair

Updated post to include cake photos from 2015
Paul is the best juicer of the lemons
I love anything with citrus, particularly lemons—lemon meringue pie, Chicken Picatta, lemon pudding, lemon pound cake, lemon vinaigrette, and of course lemonade. Growing up in California, we of course had a lemon tree in our back yard. As kids we would cut lemons in half, dip them in sugar, and suck away all the sweet floral goodness. My parents still live in my childhood home, thankfully, otherwise I would think that a lemon tastes like the ones you buy in the store. The difference between the Meyer lemons on my parents’ tree and the ones you can buy in the store is the difference between a homegrown tomato and a store bought one. So each time I head to California I pick as many lemons as we can (as seen by Hallie in top photo) juice ’em (as demonstrated by Paul), and freeze ‘em for the next year. I keep a good 200 or so whole lemons in my cold garage to last me through the winter as well. I’m getting down to just a few left now.

Yesterday I revisted my love affair with lemon zest as I made my favorite lemon cake. Of course it’s from You really should get a $20 membership to that site if you haven’t already. It will wake up your taste buds. I’ve played around with the recipe and have made a few adjustments for living at high altitude (to prevent the cake from sinking and being too 'wet'.) Enjoy!

Lemon Bundt Cake (Serves 12 to 14)

You will need between five and six tablespoons of lemon juice for this recipe. Because the amount of juice can vary from lemon to lemon, we suggest you first measure the juice from the three lemons you have zested, then juice a fourth lemon if necessary. Serve this cake as is or dress it up with lightly sweetened berries. The cake has a light, fluffy texture when eaten the day it is baked, but if well wrapped and held at room temperature overnight its texture becomes more dense -- like that of pound cake -- the following day.

3 lemons , zest grated and saved, then juiced for 3 tablespoons juice (see note above) 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces) (16 oz. in high altitude)
1 teaspoon baking powder (minus 1/8 tsp. for high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (preferably)
3 large eggs , at room temperature
1 large egg yolk , at room temperature
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/4 sticks), at room temperature (only 2 sticks at high altitude)
2 cups sugar (14 ounces)

2–3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (see note above)
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 cups confectioners' sugar (8 ounces)
1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour (alternatively, brush pan with mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon melted butter). Mince lemon zest to fine paste (you should have about 2 tablespoons). Combine zest and lemon juice in small bowl; set aside to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Combine lemon juice mixture, vanilla, and buttermilk in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs and yolk to combine. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add half of eggs, mixing until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining eggs; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until just incorporated after each addition (about 5 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Scrape into prepared pan.

3. Bake until top is golden brown and wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into center comes out with no crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes.

4. FOR THE GLAZE: While cake is baking, whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice, buttermilk, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, adding more lemon juice gradually as needed until glaze is thick but still pourable (mixture should leave faint trail across bottom of mixing bowl when drizzled from whisk). Cool cake in pan on wire rack set over baking sheet for 10 minutes, then invert cake directly onto rack. Pour half of glaze over warm cake and let cool for 1 hour; pour remaining glaze evenly over top of cake and continue to cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut into slices and serve.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Free at Last......Free at Last!

I’m entering a new phase of parenthood. My children can do more physically for themselves and thus I am now able to do less. That’s my goal in life: to teach them to be self-sufficient so that I can become a total leech on the back of society, or at least the backs of my children.

Nathan can cook pancakes. (We still have to help with the measuring though.) Ilene can wipe down the table. Hallie can make her own toast and butter it with 1/2 the tub of margarine. Nathan can scrub the toilet, clean the sink with Ajax, and clean the mirror with Windex. Ilene can clean the bathroom too. (Next, we’ll tackle the tub.) The older two can change their own sheets, take their own showers and unload the dishwasher. (Yup, they are too old for ‘baths’ now.) All three can pour their own cereals with milk, although if the milk gallon is too full they lose a bit to the floor. They can dust (and love to dust!) with the greatest invention of all, the Swiffer, or those cool micro-fiber dust mits. (As seen in photo.) They vacuum, comb their own hair, weed the garden, sweep the floor, and vacuum the stairs. Next stop? The teenage years where all this hard teaching of mine will seem to become unlearned as they become leeches on the back of society. That's karma I suppose.

(Hallie making coconut macaroons)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Hallie wanted my old rotary cutting mat. She then grabbed the pizza cutter from her kitchenette and went to work 'cutting' fabric scraps. (My box of fabric scraps is her favorite 'toy' in this whole house.) Frustration loomed large though as she started screaming as she was 'cutting', "This isn't working! I need a real cutter." So I told her about the time I got stitches because I cut through my thumb with the dang rotary blade. She was not to be dismissed. Oh bother.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Month O' Birthdays

Phew.....we made it through all the kids' birthdays. Here's a riddle? Three birthdays in 3 different months, and only 29 days between all three? How can this be? Well, on a non-leap year, that would be January 30th, February 4th, and March 1st. I've baked way too many cakes for the blessed days--Yellow cake with Pink 7-minute icing (basically a whipped meringue), Old Fashioned Chocolate with Chocolate Buttercream, and Chocolate Sheet cake with Chocolate Frosting. Yes it's a different recipe than the Old-Fashioned Chocolate cake. I'm a little obsessed with my homemade cakes. I never do boxes and I don't care so much how they look, just how they taste. That's obvious though looking at the photos. Don't ask me why I don't have a picture to post of Hallie with her cake. I do have a video, and tried posting that, but unlike the rest of you, I try to upload the videos and they just never finish uploading--ever.


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