Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's official, I am allergic to corn

While I was in college, I went to a doctor (one of those voodoo-type doctors) who diagnosed me (through a really interesting process) with allergies to the following food items: gluten, corn, and chocolate.  After a small amount of time trying to eat in the cafeteria on these diet restrictions, I abandoned them and ate anything I pleased.  Fast forward to the last couple of weeks and something tells me maybe there is something in the voodoo doctor's method.   On the menu tonight was PC 29 Minutes to Dinner 2 Corn & Poblano Chowder.  Let me say this, first...I am OBSESSED with popcorn.  It is the closest thing I have to a controlled substance.  I am like a druggie around it...I love the smell, I can taste it just thinking about it, and it is never as good as it was the first time (just kidding about that last one).   That said, tonight made me rethink this corn thing in general. 

The recipe itself was pretty simple, though I must say PC, "I think 29 minutes does not mean what you think it means."  (all references aside) I have had a difficult time doing these meals in the time promised lately.  I am slightly lethargic and make mistakes just like the rest of the world, but 27 minutes for tonight's dinner?  I think not.  Cool idea of putting the corn cobs in the milk/broth mixture - definitely added to the flavor of the dish.  I also have come up with a tip for cutting corn off the cob (see below).  I really enjoyed the poblano flavor and the fresh corn (nothing like fresh corn).  All in alll a good effort PC.
The problem at hand is the EXTREME fatigue that came over me almost immediately after dinner was finished.  I could barely think and barely complete a sentence.  I thought I could have laid down and slept right there.  For me this means only one thing (ok two things, but you get my point): ALLERGY.  I think I am going to lay off the corn for a little while and see what happens.  But I am not looking forward to the DTs on the popcorn.

TIP of the DAY:
When cutting corn off the cob (uncooked), place the cob upright (90 degrees) on a large cutting board.  Turn the cob to a 45 degree angle and cut away from you.  This may not make any sense at all.  Let me know.  This really helped abate the problem of stray corn kernals found a few feet away from the cutting board.

Magic Munchie Mix

Thursdays are good because Morgan comes over to spend the night, bake something tasty, and generally enjoy time with us!  Today we mixed a couple recipes together and changed up some of the ingredients.  So I guess you could say, we made a new recipe of our own (you could say this, I, however, will not).  Here's the scoop:

Magic Munchie Mix
1 box rice Chex
1 can Planters Sweet and Crunchy peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup marshmallows

1.  Pour cereal into a oversize bowl.  Add the peanuts.  Set aside.
2.  Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cook in microwave for 1 minute on high.  Remove from microwave and stir.  Place back in the microwave and cook for another 30 seconds (depending on your microwave).  Stir again until it is smooth. 
3.  Pour the chocolate mix over the cereal mixture.  Gently fold until all pieces are coated. 
4.  Place powdered sugar in a plastic bag large enough to hold the cereal. Add cereal, close up the top and Give it a good shake until the cereal pieces are evenly covered.
5.  Cool on waxed paper.  When completely cooled, put the mixture in a sealable container, add the marshmallows, close the container and shake until well mixed.
6.  Store in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

This is a take on a recipe I made long ago (when I was Morgan's age) and another recipe we thought sounded good (but it didn't include peanut butter).  It takes less than 20 minutes and is fun to eat.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tos-tatas (thank you, Jim Gaffigan)

Tonight's dinner was pretty straitforward, which is always helpful.  I was so happy to have most of what was necessary to make it in my pantry.  After a quick trip to two grocery stores today, a came home and got started on this fast dinner. 
On tap for tonight: PC 29 Minutes to Dinner 2, Beef Picadillo Tostadas.  I learn a lot in the kitchen and tonight I learned not to mess with what you know to be good.  Don't get me wrong this recipe, for the most part, is really good and flavorful.  But I have discovered that what you enjoy on your tostata/taco today is what you will always enjoy on your tostada/taco.  It is like hot dogs - -I have been eating these with the same toppings since I was a young one - this is something that never will (nor ever should change).  Tonight, I learned the corollary to the hot dog Law is the aforementioned tostada principle.  That said, I learned this through putting exactly (well almost) what PC told me to put on my tostada.  I say almost because I don't know who in their right mind (or in this house) would put raisins in ANYTHING!  So those weren't even on the shopping list.  Additional toppings I will not put on a tostada in the future: tomatoes (not that they made the cut this time), lettuce, and black olives (as much as it pains me to say so).  Acceptable toppings will forever and always be: cheese (any kind - ok, not parmesan), guacamole/avocado, onion, and cilantro.  The thing I would change about this recipe beside the optional toppings is one of the steps/less of an ingredient.  I would either make sure the ground beef, once browned, is extremely well drained or I would use less salsa.  The mixture, even though I strained it before putting it on the tostada shells, was VERY wet. 

On another note, I have decided to try to include pictures of the actual food for your enjoyment.  This is the result of reading my first two food blogs composed by writers far beyond my literary ability.  Though I cannot strive to write in any other way than you have already experienced (i.e. parenthetical), I can treat you to pictures.  Enjoy!

How its done (at least here)

I have a lot of people ask me (not on this blog, but in real life) how I do all my meal planning, where I get all my recipes, if I can come over and plan for them.  Well the answer to the latter question is, "most likely, no."  The answers to the former questions are easy and I will here try to make them sound as complicated as possible:

How to do Meal Planning (according to Leah):
  1. Take out a planner of some sort (I started by printing out a monthly blank calendar from Outlook and moved up to a spiral bound student planner  because it has lots of room). 
  2. Consider what your life will bring you (that you know of) in the next month.  Are you going out of town, are you expecting guests, do you have specific events?  While planning for the month having these days marked will help you to decide how you and yours will eat that night.  Also, you might plan how many nights a week you want to make dinner. Planning when you eat out is just as important as planning what you are going to eat when you are at home. 
  3. Consider your budget and what you have on hand.   Is your budget $70/week or $170/week?  What is in your pantry that will help you assemble the meals you desire in the next month.  Knowing what you have on hand will spark in your memory favorite recipes you didn't even know you knew.  Having most of the ingredients for your favorite recipe saves you money at the store because you may only need to pick up the perishables on the ingredient list.
  4. Plan according to the needs/wants of your family.  In our house these are the things I consider: I want to make something new almost everytime I cook, I want to feed Drew something that is healthy and balanced, Drew will try almost anything (good quality for him to have), and I don't want to be in the kitchen for a ridulously long time each evening.  Your needs may look quite a bit different than mine.  If you are a mom that wants to make sure your kids actually eat what you cook, your menu will look a great deal different than mine (I hope).  Your family may not be as "adventurous" as ours in regards to food; that's why this is your plan. 
  5. Plan specific "nights" of dinners.  In our household we have two nights I strive to keep as part of the week's meals: slow-cooker and breakfast for dinner on Sundays (soon changing to another "night").  In your household this may look like: Mexican night (taco Tuesday, for instance), Pasta night (oh, to be you!), Under the Sea night, etc.  Having these set nights in mind really help you to hone in on the right recipes for your family as you browse through cookbooks, magazines, etc.  Additionally, having these set nights, help you to stock your pantry accordingly when items you use often are on sale. 
  6. Challenge yourself.  To try something new each month, to have guest over once or twice a month, to have a special dinner for each member of your family once a month, to add something new to your diet, etc.  Whatever the challenge, make it something that can be easily attainable. 
  7. Now that you have got all these things in the back of your mind, go through your treasured recipes from childhood or your favorite cookbooks, favorite magazines, or a  new cookbook.  A word regarding choosing recipes: it is a lot easier to pick a couple of sources for each month.  This keeps you from having to figure out  and sort through multiple books to find where you got a particular recipe every time you are in the kitchen. 
  8. As you come across a recipe you want to include in your monthly plan, pick a day and write it down.  Come up with some way of identifying where the recipe can be found. This is what it looks like for me:  Dinner: French Onion Pot Roast (BMWF, 146).  Obviously,  his means we will be eating Pot Roast one night this month.  The abreviation lets me know I can find the recipe in the Busy Mom's Weeknight Favorites Cookbook on page 146.  NOTE: this  recipe brings up a planning tip: find ways to use the leftovers you have to make another dinner.  Cook once, eat twice or three times meals really make meal planning a breeze.
  9. Continue this process until you have filled out your monthly menu.  For my advanced readers, try planning your lunches and breakfasts as well. 
  10. Be flexible!  Life happens in this house on a regular basis, I do the best I can to adjust and move on.  My menu plan helps me to have dinner on the table.  It does not solve the rest of the world's problems.  I started doing menu planning and continue to do it because I am not quick on my feet to come up with something to eat when its time for dinner.  The best part of life changing is that next month I get to put on the menu all the meals I didn't get around to cooking this month. 
OK, now its your turn to tell me how you menu plan or ask me questions about my process.  I look forward to the conversation!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Short, unexpected break from blogging done.  Moving on to new recipes and new days.  Let's see...what have you missed?  I have a small problem this time of year (it does happen every year, but somehow it seems to smack me up side the head with shock each time)...I call it hibernation.  My body, literally shuts down into this sleep that is as close to death as possible.  I am sure my heart almost stops, I awake feeling drugged (a la roofies - is that the way you spell it? - although I have never taken them) and barely able to function for a good long while.  My parents, as well, are shocked and appalled by this every year, Drew has never not known this of me, so it does not bother him (more time on the computer for him); but I have come to discover it is allergies.  So, taking claritin everyday is the solution (sort of) as well as lots of rest.  I haven't had a nap today because I was busy with Bible study and bargain hunting (these are separate activities, mind you).   There is a sort of high that comes with shopping and spending a ridiculously small amount of money for what you get (this must be the reason I am still functional at this hour). 
As for our dinners the last couple of days, we have been on survival mode for the most part.  We had frito chili pies one night (it doesn't get much easier than that but Drew likes them) and grilled cheese and soup another night.  But I did try a new recipe yesterday, from PC 29 Minutes to Dinner 2: Chile Relleno Strata.  This is one of the few meals in either of the 29 Minutes incarnations that does not meet the time requirement (at least in my kitchen).  It took a good 35 to 40 minutes (did I mention I am having trouble functioning while awake?).  I really liked the flavor of the dish (chorizo is a happy food for Drew - he has a favorite breakfast with chorizo at a little spot in La Jolla).  I threw in some serrano peppers because of my husband's love for spice (mentioned here:  The one negative thing I would say about the dish is it is a little bready (yes that is a word in my world).  Drew described this same thing as "heavy."  I think this problem could be solved by swapping out the bread to a lighter bread, say brioche (maybe its just me, but I think the angels in heaven feast on brioche when they are hungry - not that they are hungry - should I just say brioche is divine?) . 
On a scheduling note, check in tomorrow night to find out how I plan my menus for the month.  It is by no means a science, but I have a little practice and trial and error is my forte!