Potential Projects

Monday, November 22, 2010

A favorite side

When I was in college I decided to become a vegetarian.  Having grown up on a farm where we raised a lot of animals that we later ate, it was an interesting decision to make.  I have nothing against the eating of animals.  But I was studying International Studies, and I really couldn't see that my level of meat consumption was sustainable planet-wide.  So I decided to go veggie for a while.  Plus it seemed everyone I had a crush on was also a vegetarian.  Let's be clear.  That was probably a big motivator.

So, fast forward 15 years, and it seems that I have the darndest time eating enough fruits and veggies!  Especially in the winter!  So I love this side dish.  It's fast, easy, and tastes good.  I learned it from a friend.  This was a few years ago, and our friends were new parents.  In retrospect, good for them cooking up veggies!  Not to mention inviting people over for dinner.  Whew!  Now I'm a new parent, trying to eat enough veggies, and I've made this side so many times it's become a standard at our house.  I also appreciate that it can be budget friendly.  I like to make this when I find snow pea and organic spinach on manager's special at QFC.  Which seems like it randomly happens for me at least once a month.  Who doesn't love a huge tub of organic spinach for a dollar?  Tonight:  Stir fried snow peas and spinach.  Tomorrow night:  spinach salad with pears, dried cranberries and blue cheese.  Yum!

Stir Fried Snow Peas and Spinach
1Tbs oil (whatever you like)
1 handful snowpeas
1 handful spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1Tbs-ish soy sauce
a few drops toasted sesame oil (opt)

Heat oil in a skillet or wok over high heat.  Add snow peas and stir fry until they start to show a little color.  Toss in garlic, stir fry 30 seconds.  Throw in spinach.  Stir fry until it is just starting to wilt.  Add soy sauce.  Stir everything around the pan until it looks awesome and done.  Remove from heat and add sesame oil.  Enjoy!

Oh, and have you heard it's snowing in the Seattle area?  Here's the view from my kitchen while I was cooking up dinner:

Sadly the snow didn't really start coming down until I was already at work, which just made the drive home a bit treacherous.  But it's still coming down, so I have a feeling tomorrow may be a snow day.  Fun!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pocket Pies

Last night the temperature dropped dramatically, and we woke up wondering if it had snowed in the night. We had to wait until around 11, when the snow started coming down!  Even though it's a little early, it inspired our family to break out the Christmas music, and figure out something to make for dinner that would be the ultimate comfort food.  Enter Pocket Pies.

I first heard of this recipe from Tracy over at Shutterbean.  It comes from a book she highly recommends "Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys" by Lucinda Quinn.

I'll admit that I'm a bit skeptical on the whole men eat differently than women idea.  But I love this recipe.  And this book seems to be all about comfort food.  Perfect for a snowy sunday!  At any rate, here's what I did:

First, mix up a WONDERFUL pastry crust in your food processor.  Then leave it in the fridge to chill while you make your filling.

Next cut up your veggies and chicken:

Then simmer the chicken in broth while you cook the veggies up into a tasty filling.  I added thyme and oregano to my filling because that just sounded like the right thing to do.  Add the chicken to the filling along with some cheese.  Man, this is looking yummier by the second.

Have you decided to make this yet?  You really should.  Final step is to roll out the dough and add your filling.  The dough is really dreamy to work with.  I used a quaker oatmeal lid to cut out my circle.  You could also trace a small plate.

After assembling the pies, I left all 15 of them (Yum!) on foil lined cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer.  Give 'em time to freeze up, and then you can bake up as many as you want to dinner and throw the rest in a freezer bag to pull out whenever you need an easy dinner.  BRILLIANT.

Final verdict?  AWESOME.  As you can see, one of mine leaked, but it was still incredibly tasty.  I am planning on making a bunch of these and freezing them for easy weeknight meals.  The dough is great, and the filling would be really easy to vary.  I'm thinking a vegetarian version with sweet potatoes, blackbeans and goats cheese would be wonderful.  

Here's the recipe:

Savory Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 heaping cup shredded chicken
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot (1 carrot)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon tried oregano (my addition)
  • 1 recipe (2 disks) Cream Cheese Pastry (recipe below)
  • 1 large egg, for egg wash  (I saved time and didn't do this)
To make the filling, in a medium hot skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the peas, and stir for a minute or two.  Stir in the salt, thyme, oregano and flour and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the chicken broth and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 heaping cup shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Cool in the fridge.  It will get thick by the time you use it as a filling.
If you are making these today, Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter or line a baking sheet.

To form the pocket pies, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling it out on a floured surface to about 12 inches in diameter. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across--or use the quaker oats lid, see above), cut out about 3 circles from each piece of dough. After cutting out all your circles, gather all dough scraps, reroll, and cut out a final time. Place 1/4 cup filling on one side of a dough circle. Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half-circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. The pocket pies can be frozen at this point.
Place the pocket pies on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over each pocket pie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown (you may need to bake an additional 5 minutes if they've been frozen). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The pies can be cooled and frozen to reheat in the microwave.

Cream Cheese Pastry

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
In a food processor or using an electric mixer or by hand, process the butter, cream cheese and heavy whipping cream.
Add the flour and salt; process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and divide in 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.
Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface. Roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk, and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Reflour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter, thin but not transparent.

Oh, and here are the "man and boy" in my household enjoying the snow.  Now if it would only snow enough that school gets canceled and we could all enjoy another day home together!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thomas deal

OK, so I'll admit that I am highly resistant to buying any Thomas the Train products.  They're super expensive, and I kind of just want to stick to a generic version of trains.  Or better yet, leave the trains to the children's museum (The Imagine Children's Museum has an AWESOME train display and is all around great!)  But there are several great deals going on now, or coming up shortly that make Thomas quite a bit cheaper than the generic version.  So I'll leave it up to you to decide if you want to join me in getting some cheap Thomas trains for your little one(s).

Here's the two deals I'm eyeing:

Target currently has a coupon for 50% off Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway Beginner Set.  Print that here  (sort by toy catalogue on the left to find it faster).  The set is $25, so it's $12.50 after the coupon.  The set comes with a Talking Thomas, a caboose, a stop sign, and a variety of track pieces.

Toys R Us has Thomas Early Engineers sets on sale for $12.49 for their Black Friday sale.  There is a $10 off coupon for this set in the November Parenting Early Years Magazine (on page 101).  So you can get this set for $2.49!  I checked this set out tonight at Target and it is compatible with the above set.  Yeah!  Here's the TRU ad:

I think once you actually have the ad in hand (unlike me who is just trolling the internet for Black Friday sales!), you should be able to price match at either Target or Walmart, if you were going to either of those locations.  Although, based on the ad, TRU is apparently opening at 10pm on Thanksgiving day, so they may not let you price match based on time.   

Let me know if you decide to go for either of these deals! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dinner Tonight!

OK, so you may have noticed on my meal planning board that we eat at home most every night.  And I cook about 90% of the time.  So last night I made Balsamic-glazed Pork Chops with Polenta, and Blasted Broccoli.  I found the recipe in the "budget cooking" section of Cooking Light.  Pete could not stop talking about this food!  Apparently this is the tastiest meal I've made in quite some time.  And it was really easy and inexpensive, so I thought I'd share it with you!  Not to mention, I took a picture of the finished product on a bit of a whim, and it actually turned out decent.  Enjoy!

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops with Polenta and Blasted Broccoli
adapated from Cooking Light.  Broccoli inspired by Black Bottle


  • 2  cups  whole milk  (I used 2%)
  • 1  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth  (I used "Better than Bouillon")
  • 3/4  cup  uncooked polenta
  • 3  ounces  1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 6  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4  (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed


1. Bring 2 cups milk and broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add polenta. Cook for 20 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring frequently with a whisk; remove from heat. Stir in cream cheese. Keep warm.
2. Place vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
3. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Combine rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic; rub mixture over pork. Place pork in pan; cook for 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness, basting with vinegar. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with polenta.  I used the leftover balsamic sauce to decorate our plates.  
Blasted Broccoli
Preheat oven to 450.  Cut broccoli into large-ish bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil and salt.  If you have a little leftover rosemary from the Pork, that would probably be a nice addition.  Roast in hot oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the broccoli starts to char.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meal Planner

I'll admit that I can be a bit of a food hoarder.  I love to cruise the aisles of the grocery store, checking out this and that.  I also love a good sale, and can stock up on lots of food, that then never quite makes it to the table.  I'm trying to be better.  So tonight I made a Meal Planning board that we'll hang in our kitchen. Every Sunday we'll plan out a week's worth of meals, and then shop for what we need, but also plan in advance for meals that we'll take directly from the freezer or use up other food we've stockpiled.  Sounds easy, right?  We'll see.  But this board certainly was a fun and easy craft!  My friend Lisa originally emailed me about this project over at Make and Takes.  This is my version.  Let's get started!

First off Supplies:

I bought a 10x10 inch frame at Michael's today.  Frames are 40% off this week, and there's a coupon in this week's ad for an additional 20% off.  This frame was on clearance, and with the additional savings, it cost me about 3 bucks.  I also picked up some stickers for the lettering (I chose "mini black letters" by Sticko), and a sheet of scrapbook paper.  I couldn't decide color what would look best in my kitchen, so I got two, just in case.

The first thing I did was take the mat out of the frame and use it as the guide for cutting my scrapbook paper.  

I then cut out all the letters and laid them out on my paper to get a visual on things.

I started at the bottom, and worked my way up peeling letters and sticking them onto the paper.  If you chose a paper like mine, you can use its pattern as a guide.  Unfortunately I didn't think about that until it was already a little wonky.  Oh well.

Then stick your paper under the glass, reattach the back of the frame, and use a dry erase marker to plan your menu each week.  End result:  Meal Planning Board!  If you change your decor, or move, you can easily paint the frame, switch out the background, etc.  Easy, cute, and practical!  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Planting Garlic

My mom is an amazing gardener.  When I was little, I would often ask if I could have a part of her garden for "my garden."  She was always open to that, but after planting carrots, potatoes, flowers, tomatoes and herbs, I would inevitably loose steam on the garden as I was distracted by other projects.  As weeds began their takeover of my garden, my mom would eventually decide to tackle the weeds before they invaded her garden.  Now that I'm a mom, I still want to garden, but I try to limit myself to things that are don't require too much work, and are tough to kill.  Fortunately, I don't have a yard, so I'm also limited to what I can plant in pots.

I've often read that garlic is easy to grow in pots, but I've never tried it.  I typically grow tomatoes and squash, along with peppers, which usually die.  Last spring I planted potatoes in my pots for the first time.  Sadly, as I struggled to keep up with working, parenting, and partnering full time, my potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and peppers took it on the chin.  But now I'm only working part-time, so I decided to give gardening another try.  And garlic seemed like a great option to start with, since you typically plant it in the fall.

So today I headed out to my driveway, where I keep my pots, and discovered to my surprise, that my potatoes actually survived my lack of watering!

Red potatoes grown in my pot!

So I dug them up, and decided to reuse this "lucky" pot for my garlic!  Yeah!  If you'd like to try this experiment with me, it took me about 10 minutes, and cost about a dollar.  So we won't loose much if it doesn't work.  Here's what I did:

Growing Garlic
After digging up the potatoes, I added more compost to the pot.  I then used my trowel to mix it all up.  I used Carpinito Farms organic compost, which is local here:

I then took a head of organic garlic (see notes below), broke off several cloves, and placed them on top of the potting soil, like so:

Make sure you keep them top up.  If you're like me, and your garlic often sprouts on the counter, you can visualize that little green shoot coming out of the top of the soil.  You can often also see the roots growing out of the bottom of the full head of garlic.  That's the part that should go down.

After spacing them nicely, push the cloves down about 1-2 inches into the soil, and gently cover with soil.  Water thoroughly.  

I've read Garlic takes about 8-9 months to grow.  So we should be able to harvest these guys next July or August.  Right in time to pair with juicy tomatoes!  But it should sprout fairly soon, so I'll keep you posted.

A couple notes about choosing garlic to plant:  Many sources recommend getting garlic at a gardening center.  I went to my local gardening store but they were out.  The very helpful  clerk informed me that she grows her own garlic without problems from garlic she gets at the grocery store.  But she told me to watch out for 2 things:  First, buy organic garlic.  Traditional garlic may be sprayed with a growth inhibitor to prevent the garlic from sprouting on its way from farm to market.  Not so good when you're trying to get it to sprout.  Second, make sure that your garlic isn't labeled as a copyrighted variety.  I'm not sure where this clerk shops, but she told me that her store labeled some varieties of garlic as copyrighted and she was concerned they might have a "terminal gene" so the garlic wouldn't sprout.  I haven't seen this, but consider yourself duly warned!  

Oh, and about those potatoes:

I'll try to figure out something easy and tasty to showcase their home grown deliciousness.  Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Company Waffles

I've been trying to eat more seasonally lately.  Dana, over at MADE, made these tasty looking pumpkin waffles earlier this week, so I decided to whip up a batch for breakfast this morning.  But then I discovered I was missing half the ingredients, so after a quick internet search, I settled on Deb's recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  We loved these!  It's not the simplest recipe, so I recommend saving it for a weekend, or when you have company.  Good news is, you should have all the ingredients already (see my substitution for buttermilk if you're like me and don't keep that one stalked), so it is economical.

Pumpkin Waffles
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (I subbed 2Tbs vinegar added to 2 cups milk--mix and let sit 5 min)
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray

First, sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, pumpkin and melted butter.

Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined.

Next use another bowl, or your kitchen aid to whisk up the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gently fold it into your batter.

Don't overmix.  The egg whites add air to your batter, and will make your waffles light and fluffy.  
Then brush your waffle iron with some oil, pour in an appropriate amount of batter, and bake according to the directions for your particular waffle iron.  This recipe made about 20 waffles (we have a small iron, but it should feed 6-8 hungry adults), so you may want to keep waffles warm in the oven until all your waffles are cooked.  I recommend wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap, and popping them in the toaster oven or toaster for a quick weekday breakfast.  Yum!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cheap diaper deal!

OK Moms, so one of my trades if finding coupons to save our family as much money as possible.  I have used cloth diapers most of Elliott's life, but there are lots of times when disposables (or "sposies" as they're affectionately called in our house) are just darn convenient.  And for a lot of families, that's all the time!

So today, I bring you a great deal on Diapers.  If you have access to a Haggen or Top Foods, this deal is good through today.  Haggen/Top is having a promo where you buy any $25 worth of baby products (before coupons) you get a $10 instant discount.

Here's what a bought this morning:

3 packs Huggies Movers $7.99 each = $23.97
1 pack Huggies Wipes $2.50 each = $2.50

subtotal:  $26.47

Then use 3 $2.50 off coupons for Huggies movers available here (find it faster by sorting by "household")
*note you'll need to use 2 computers to print off 3 coupons

Final price after coupons and instant savings:  $8.97!!  That's only $.2.99 a pack plus free wipes!