Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Retro Bento #2

On the cafeteria tray again! Today we had a 1/4 of a Cinnamon raisin bagel, herbed turkey rolls on picks, tomato with salt & pepper, 1/4 of a carrot with honey mustard dipping sauce, butterflies and tulips cheese cut-outs, and a few remaining pretzels from the bottom of the bag.

**It is amazing to me that even when you think you HAVE to go to the store because you have nothing left to eat that the beauty of these bento style lunches is that it is little nibbles of different things. I think Molly loves the variety, she got excited about the butterflies, loved the tomatoes, ate all of her turkey -first, she loves that turkey!- all of her bagel, she left a little bit of carrot, pretzel, and tomato but overall did very well with her lunch. It is a success! And no need to go to the grocery store after all.

Strawberry Shortcake

How many of you like the strawberry shortcake made with a scone/biscuit? That personally is my favorite, I am not a fan of angel food (it gets to mushy) I can do a dense pound cake (but that can sometimes get too sweet) but a nice neutral scone maintains its integrity against the strawberry sauce and hits that balance to allow the the dessert to not be too sweet. This was the first of the season for us, as my husband said previously he wasn't that big of a fan, and I am not sure Miss Molly has ever had any. But after last nights attempt I can imagine we will have them again and again. We got a fresh, succulent pint of strawberries from our CSA and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. I know they would have been eaten eventually (Molly had three in the car before we even got home) but I just wanted to do something with these special berries. They were gorgeous, you know the kind straight from the farm that are red all the way through (not like those kind at the market that are white in the middle and bland of flavor) I just couldn't see these strawberries going into a smoothie they were destined for more.

Miss Molly's little helping, she didn't know what to make of it at first but then she really got into it.
Mom and dad's helping, looks good doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Step Away From the Box Part 1

We all know those prepackaged boxed foods, taste great and are very convenient, but are they healthy for you? Deep down we know that they are usually loaded with sodium and so many ingredients that you can't even pronounce. So in an attempt to get back to more "real" food and with the onset of summer, one of my favorite side dishes is couscous. I like couscous so much in summer because it takes boiling water, then you turn it off the heat so it doesn't heat up my kitchen too much. I have found though that even though I like the taste of some of those boxed brands they can be quite expensive. So you can imagine how I jumped at the chance to start buying my couscous in bulk and figuring out the right spices. This is the most basic recipe, once you have this one nailed then you can start adding all sorts of other ingredients to fit the theme of your dinner.
Basic Couscous Recipe:
1 1/4 cup of water
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3/4 cup couscous
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes (or 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Heat water and oil to boil, add couscous cover and remove from heat.
2. After five minutes add seasoning and fluff/mix in seasoning (taste till you get the right salt and pepper to taste at the end)
*Couldn't be easier and it is the perfect summer side dish to anything, from burgers to grilled chicken. Fill free to add other items (scallions, pine nuts, golden raisins -all of these are classic couscous additions)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Magarita Grilled Chicken, Black Beans and Rice, and Watermelon and Jicama salad

So I marinated this chicken for only maybe two hours, and it was some of the most flavorful, juicy chicken I have had in a LONG time. Again another nod to Relish for this recipe (again a slight variation on it, but the basis is from them).
* Marinate Chicken ahead of time

Marinade for Chicken
1/4 cup cilantro (ruff chopped)
10 oz of margarita mix
1/2 cup Tequila
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 Chicken Breasts
1. Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag and allow to marinade for 1 to 2 hours or up to all day.
2. Perfect for summer BBQ, grill chicken until desired doneness, discard marinade.

Rice (Start this first during the cooking process)
Basmati Rice (my go to long grain rice)
1 Can black beans
1/4 cup of margarita mix
1. Make rice like normal, towards end of cooking process drain and wash a can of black beans.
2. Mix in can of black beans and Margarita mix. Stir carefully so as not to destroy the beans.

Watermelon and Jicama Salad
1/2 Seedless Personal Watermelon
1 small Jicama (diced)
3 tbsp basil (chiffonade)
1/2 cup toasted coconut
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Pinch of salt
1. Toast coconut on stove top in a clean pan, don't let burn, look for a nice crisp brown color.
2. Toss everything including coconut  in a bowl and serve.

Menu Plan Monday

Like many other food blogs I am going to attempt to plan out for you on Monday's our Menu for the week, of course this is subject to change, especially since I don't know until Tuesday what I am getting in my CSA bag. And during the summer I try and plan menus around that. So here we go:
Margarita Chicken and Watermelon, Cucumber, and Jicama Salad
Burgers on the grill with all the fixin's
Green Salad (we get lettuce every week from our CSA so this isn't a stretch)
Roasted/BBQ potatoes
Chinese Chicken Salad (we got two beautiful heads of cabbage from our CSA and I am trying to use it all)
Chick On a Stick with Hot and Smokey Baked Beans
Black beans and roasted corn tacos with chips and salsa (meatless meal) This meal could totally change if we end up going to a Zoo concert, will be more picnic style!

I am linking with I'm An Organizing Junkie if you do a Monday Menu Plan as well feel free to link to this page to share with everyone.

Thai Noodles

This was an original recipe that I adapted to fit my tastes from Relish. If you haven't checked them out yet, you should it is a masterful menu planning site! One that I have been using for a year now, and I have yet to have a meal that I haven't truly enjoyed!
Thai Noodles Recipe:
1 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp spoons creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic minced

A couple handfuls of pre-cooked grilled chicken (I use Foster Farms, that you can get at Costco)
1 tbsp veggie oil
10 oz linguine (this makes a lot, which is what I prefer because then I have leftovers for lunches)
2 red bell peppers, cored/seeded, and sliced
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 bag bean sprouts
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 whole lime, cut into wedges

[1] Cook the pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through but still firm to the bite. Combine chicken broth, peanut butter, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sauce becomes smooth and well blended.

[2] Defrost the chicken then cut into bite sized pieces (to make this veggie just omit the chicken or use a meat substitute in its place- tempeh would work well here.

[3] Oil the skillet, add bell peppers and onion and saute for a few minutes.

[4] Add the chicken and bean sprouts to the skillet turn off heat. Drain noodles and place in the pan with the peppers. Add peanut sauce and turn to coat. Garnish with peanuts and limes

Retro Bento

This weekend my mother in law gave me these old school cafeteria style trays. As soon as I saw them I thought, oh! Those will make a great bento tray! And voila, the bento for today; after my neighbor came over to borrow a bike pump (that we don't have) and rang the doorbell and woke up Miss Molly from her nap. It was a hard day at the garden this morning, let me tell you! She was out for the count super early!
Above from top left clockwise, you see some herb roasted turkey rolls, tortilla chips, homemade salsa, star shaped PB&J, and carrot slivers with honey mustard dip. It looks like a lot, which I was thinking myself as I was making it, but she ate the turkey first (it is apparently her new favorite) then she ate most of the carrots - which surprised even me because she isn't much of a carrot fan, and the dip is a little spicy. Normally she inhales chips and salsa but she apparently thought the salsa was spicy, which is wasn't. And she didn't touch her PB&J, just goes to show you never quite know what they are going to love and/or hate.

Friday, June 25, 2010


As I make my way through the idea of bento, or I should specify "cute bento", I have bought many a item as well as researched different ideas. One thing I came across was onigiri, this is a traditional Japanese bento item, usually sticky rice formed into a triangle -or other shape- and sometimes filled in the center with meat. This is a GREAT way to use leftover rice and whatever you happened to be having with that rice. These have been made more popular in the states with the popularity of Manga, they are often featured in this Japanese graphic novel genre. Now to form the traditional triangle shaped onigiri you can actually use the corner of a plastic bag, pushing the rice into the corner and then twisting to put pressure on it. It is the pressure on the sticky rice that helps make a nice portable package. Back to the items that I have bought for my new obsession with "cute bento" I bought two different sets of onigiri shapers.These ones are cuter, but do not have a mechanism to push the rice together nicely so they don't really hold their shape, I think these will actually work better as sandwich cutters.

Now these, these are the ticket! Notice how this set has an upper and lower piece, you must fit in the top piece, then pile in the rice, and then use the bottom piece as your plunger if you will and push the rice together. It comes out nice and compacted see last picture of this post to see what I mean). I believe I bought both of these sets at Uwajimya. Amazon has basic shapes, and the traditional box or triangle molds

And I love rice so I imagine I will plan on doing these not just for Molly but for Brian and myself as well because they are FANTASTIC. Molly wasn't sure what to make of them at first but then when mom wanted to eat them instead then she of course became interested. Here is a pic of her lunch (orange sections, half a string cheese, a few wheat thins, craisins in the silicone cup, and one bunny shaped onigiri and a bear shaped onigiri) Oh and you will notice that there is some green peeking through the rice, this was leftover rice from a Mexican meal the other night - I forgot to take pics of it... I find that I cook most nights and only about 50% of the time do I remember to take the stupid pictures, plus my camera is going down the crapper... a new one would be nice *wink *wink... but I digress- the rice had some salt, lime juice and cilantro in it. It was very tasty rice.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homemade Salsa

I made the first batch of salsa using my Cuisinart, it makes a salsa similar to that found at Mexican restaurants. My husband loves chips and salsa, and apparently so does my daughter. I have never seen her like this she literally licked the salsa bowl. I used the recipe in the Cuisinart manual but obviously I need to tweak it for our own preferences. I will have to make two separate mixes too, one super spicy for Brian and one for Molly and myself.
Tweaked Salas Recipe (still in the process of tweaking, it will probably show up again and again)
6 Roma Tomatoes
1/4 of a good size onion
2 Jalapenos (seeded if you don't want it spicy)
1/8 cup packed Cilantro
Juice of One lime
1. Pulse cilantro, jalapeno together.
2. Scrap bowl, add in the onion and cored Roma Tomatoes, pulse until desired consistency.
3. Leave alone in the fridge overnight so the flavors meld, and then enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Believe it or not I have never done pudding for Molly. I finally made some, with organic soy milk -we are kind of getting away from cows milk and the saturated fat you find in it, honestly I think doing "real" milk is a bit beyond me at this point... maybe sometime down the road I will but right now I still have a hard time thinking about it. Anywho I decided to do a lunch of PB &J  (on homemade whole wheat bread made in my bread maker) she had a little side of strawberries, kabobs of blueberries and cherry tomatoes. I only gave her two tablespoons of pudding, and she ate it right up.

Her hair looks a little frazzled in this pick, and if you look close enough you can see her pudding mustache. I used the pudding to get her to eat all her fruits and veggies, as soon as she finished the first few tablespoons she wanted more, she had to eat some of her fruits and veggies in order to get more. This was a good lunch, at least before I realized her obsession with chips and salsa

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Broccoli and Beef Lo Mein (with spaghetti!)

Who knew spaghetti could be so versatile? Obviously I should remember that pasta didn't come from Italy and of course spaghetti could work like a yakisoba noodle, not exactly the same no, but close enough in a pinch. Bonus I figured out a new sauce that works on both this dish as well as stir fry veggies. I think if I were to ever go in and get cooking lessons it would definitely be on Asian cuisine because it is the hardest for me to get just right. Anyway I digress, this was a meal we had the other night, and I made a LOT of it for lunches the next few days, and as an added bonus Molly loved it!
Broccoli and Beef Lo Mein:
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 minced garlic clove
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 head of broccoli (cut into florets)
1 Top Sirloin Steak (slightly frozen -easier to cut thin strips, for extra tender meat and similar to what you get for take out, pound with a mallet after slicing)
Spaghetti (good solid handful of dry pasta -cooked according to package directions)
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

1. Cook Pasta, and prepare all ingredients (it cooks fast)
2. In Wok, heat up oil and quickly -30 seconds- sautee (WITHOUT BURNING) garlic and ginger, add broccoli stir and coat with ginger and garlic (to steam the broccoli toss in a tablespoon of water and cover for a minute or two) then toss in the meat and cook until no longer pink -or your disired doneness-
3. Toss in pasta straight from the pot, a little of the starchy water will thin and thicken the sauce at the same time
4. Pour sauce mixture over the whole thing, mix well and serve
Molly enjoying her dinner!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Magic Bullet

So I am sure that people are going to make fun of me for this, but my husband and I have been wanting a Magic bullet for a good year now and we finally got one (it was a birthday present for Brian) and we love it. We make fruit smoothies in it all the time, and cold mocha "shakes" also. They are brilliant if you have never used one you don't know what you are missing out on. And seriously there isn't anything wrong with having a yogurt or soy milk strawberry/blueberry and honey milkshake. Molly loves them. I mean look at it! Doesn't that look tasty on a hot summer day, with fresh local strawberries! YUM!

Molly sometimes drinks them so fast that she gets those little "brain freezes" I try to tell her to slow down and to not drink so much she says, "OK." Then keeps on drinking, then crying a bit, then it is magically better, repeat cycle. I know I shouldn't laugh or think it is darling, because I of all people know how much it really can hurt -I get them SUPER easy- but it is just too cute. LOVE THE MAGIC BULLET! 

Soy Milk & Strawberry Smoothie for the Magic Bullet:
4 strawberries (halved)
1 handful of blueberries (optional)
6 ice cubes (We have perfected this! My husband likes his a bit more chunky he does 7)
1 tbsp honey
Fill the rest of the cup with soy milk
Blend to perfection, and enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bento #5 (weekend bento)

So we were going on a small trip to go to Camping World; we needed a few things, we had never been, and with all of our upcoming camping trips this summer it seemed like a good idea. If you have never been to a Camping World or Cabella's store let me just tell you, if you like to camp that is, it could be a very dangerous place (meaning you could spend a lot of money there easily). We needed a new camping chair, to replace an older one that was extremely too cumbersome, and some leveling blocks. The new chair is fantastic and sure to be the envy of all at our next camp out this upcoming weekend, it is padded/insulated. It is like all the camping chairs now that fold up but it is more insulated. I am stoked, I don't know about you but my bottom gets cold sitting around when it gets really cold at night here on the Oregon coast (which is were most of our camp outs end up being). My idea was to make Molly a bento to eat on the road on our way down there, it is a good 25 minutes away and we were leaving right at lunch time, however once she saw me making it she had to have it. I have to admit I have been making these things and then sending her off to daycare with them, and I never get to watch her enjoy it -which I now know from experience it is enjoyment, I can definitely use that descriptor word- it was truly great to experience that. When she gets excited at this age she wiggles her little body/bottom sometimes she will even squeeze her hands into fists at about chest level, wiggle the bottom, and say, "Yummy, yummy, yummy." All of these things she did for this bento by the way. It makes me feel good to watch her eat it and enjoy it. Fun!

In this bento, packed in an easy  she has grape tomatoes in the little silicone cup, strawberry and blueberry kabobs on little bamboo picks (I bought these at the dollar store if you can believe it, they had them at Uwajimaya for more money but why not get them at the dollar store! Not to mention that they aren't that sharp so I don't worry about Molly hurting herself when she eats them... and there is something to be said about doing the fruit this way, I know Molly is a good eater but these things were like a beacon to her, she ate them all up before everything else.) I also have butterfly and honeycomb cut out cheese and triscuit crackers. Up at the top a quick trail mix of raw almonds, craisins, and yogurt covered raisins. Down below is a cut up kosher beef hot dog and a cute little Kitty bento pick. I have to work with Molly on using these and knowing that they can't be thrown away over summer vacation. I believe I have already lost a blue dog from this set.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Balloons and Tu-tus

My daughter last Friday got a balloon from the Party store for free, it was her first helium filled balloon. She was completely enamored with this balloon as we walked out of the store. Then as we parked the car to go into Target she wanted it off her wrist, and mommy did too I might add, so daddy preceded to take it off her wrist so we could leave it in the car. We later had a debacle with one of the items we tried to purchase and as such Brian and I got separated. Brian proceeded out to the car with Molly and I followed later. As Brian was getting Molly strapped in the balloon almost escaped, but was stopped quickly by an ever vigilant daddy. Then as Brian turned around to say something to me that cheeky balloon escaped again, this time for good. I am not convinced that Molly saw it right away, but as soon as we were on our way she asked where her balloon went. I tried to explain that it slipped out the car door past daddy. About five minutes later Molly said and I quote, "Bad boy daddy!" Brian then asked why he was bad, she said, "You lost my balloon." Brian and I just looked at each other with a surprised look and started laughing. First of all for someone that technically wasn't two yet this was two fairly complex thought patterns/sentences that we were stoked to hear. It was at this point that we also realized that some balloons for her birthday would be a good idea. As you can see from the photo she LOVED them! She kept saying, "Catch 'em! Catch 'em!" They provided, all totaled, a good hour or more of entertainment.

*On a side note my mom got her this dress up tutu/cancan dress for her birthday on Sunday and as soon as she opened this package she wanted to put it on. When she saw it the next day looking forlorn on her playroom floor she wanted it on again. She loves to wear it around the house. It is just too funny!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Miss Molly's Family Birthday BBQ

I cannot and will not take full credit for the family birthday BBQ my husband, bless him, was fantastic and helpful. And the menu was taken from my favorite website (my menu planning site) and since I am fairly brilliant at prioritizing and planning ( I mean come on, I am a teacher that is what I do!) it went off I think without a hitch, I wasn't stressed out, and we were able to get it all in and people back on the road in four hours! We started on Saturday, and thankfully we have our cleaning lady Carla and the house was in good shape so that wasn't something that we had to spend a lot of time on. Brian did work on the backyard quite a bit even though it was a downpour all day and we weren't really out there at all. I marinated the BBQ chicken (in homemade BBQ sauce) the day before, shucked the corn, made some chunks of ice with slices of lemon and lime frozen in it, and started the beans in the crock pot right before going to bed.
I woke up on Sunday morning fairly early, took a shower and all that jazz then proceeded on anything else that needed to be done. I had to do the dishes a few times, and Brian vacuumed for me. I made lemonade in my cute glass jug, and pre-baked the pizza crust. My parents arrived early to help if needed. It was great because they brought Molly a play table for her playroom and she was set for the rest of the day practically, they were able to distract her a bit and I finished some things up (made my mom and dad a blended coffee drink) eventually we were able to pry Molly away from her pretend kitchen and new table and my mom helped me make the California White Pizza (this was delicious... I changed the recipe a bit, but I have to say it was so good!) it had a garlic butter and parsley base, sliced black olives, artichoke hearts, and a 6 Italian Cheese blend on top. So good! This was my veggie stand in for the vegetarian in the family. The corn was cut in half next, and boiled with a little bit of milk (this is something my mother in-law does and I have started doing it myself, I don't know why it is done, I don't question it, I just like that the corn tastes more flavorful and softer some how) Brian got the BBQ started for the chicken and I got the pizza in the oven in time for everyone else to arrive.

By the time it was all ready Molly was hungry! She had a drumstick (she ate it all the way to the bone seriously!) she had a slice of watermelon (thank you auntie Jenn and Uncle Jim) she had two mini-slices of pizza some beans, a second try at a drumstick (that one only had a few bites out of it) We then took a break from eating for presents, Molly got some really great presents!
Then to finish the day she had her cupcakes! She had a shy moment when everyone was singing her Happy Birthday, and it took her a bit to figure out how to "blow" out the candles but eventually she managed it. We also had a bit of ice cream to go with the cupcakes. The cupcakes gave her her second wind, but all in all it was a great day for Miss Molly. She ended up going to bed at 5:00pm, she was a tuckered out little girl!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bento Style Snack

This is a little snack that I made for Miss Molly a week ago. It has thicker apple rounds with the core cut out with a mini-flower cookie cutter, and then filled back in with a piece of cheddar cheese (she loved these) Then in the re-useable silicone cupcake holder she has a handful of Pepperidge Farm Golfish crackers, a handful of pretzels (she really loves pretzels by the way) and then blueberry & strawberry kabobs. She did a really good job on the blueberry and strawberry kabobs, she ate those first and as soon as she was done she handed the picks back to me. I made the mistake of giving her a really nice blue bear pick/fork (a special Japanese pick ordered from Amazon) when she went to daycare last week and sadly it never returned. Even daddy was jealous of this little snack and so he proceeded to get a more grown up version, I definitely have some serious snackers in the house but according to my husband last night he just likes to nibble.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Camping/ Beachside State Park

I realize that I haven't posted in awhile, lots of excuses but let me answer one thing, yes I have still been cooking. We went on a fabulous camping trip, our family goes to state parks and camps with my father's side extended family (there is about 40-50 of us every time!) It is fantastic for our miss Molly to know what a big family is like. The trips also consist of large group meals so that we can all get together and visit and eat as one. We used to have one family be in charge of cooking for everyone, which obviously had its pros and cons, now we are sticking with a theme bringing most of our own stuff and cooking together. Our first night in, again remember lots of people were rolling in at different times, we did a Top Ramen night, and I know what you are thinking really? Really, Top Ramen? But can I just say, it was fantastic! Honestly, picture cold night, large pot of water, noodles, toppings (green onions, seasoned chicken or BBQ pork, hard boiled eggs, shrimp, chili oil/ Saracha sauce etc...) I mean really the possibilities are endless. And honestly don't discount the warmth factor of eating noodles by the campfire. SO GOOD! I wish I had taken a picture it would have looked fabulous (insert here)!

Then the next day we had our infamous cocktails and hors de'ouvres, it was a fantastic offering we had everything from polenta cake pizzas, stuffed grape tomatoes, fresh (AWESOME) french fries in a dutch oven, Thai spring rolls, Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts -my offering- spicy chicken wings, bruscheta/ seafood bruscheta, cupcakes (the kids loved these) Anchovy/Tuna cracker snacks, ham cheese and salsa roll ups, ham cream cheese and pickled asparagus roll ups, and little smokies. Really quite the smorgasbord.

Then of course the cocktails! I brought homemade hard lemonade, there were scoobie snacks, 4-5-6-7's, Honey Jagger, Mango Strawberry Margaritas (strawberries picked from my cousin Trina's backyard patch! OVER ACHIEVER!) Apple Kisses, Some Kool Aide tasting drink, Cesar's??? -This was a spicy bloody Mary type drink. I can't remember any of the others, or that could be it.

Sunday night we did kabobs over the fire or on the BBQ. Trina made fantastic sticky rice, now I am going to be looking into this some more, but apparently she has her own little corner Asian market where she asked the owners how to do sticky rice. This is yet again another little reminder of how it pays to get to know people and to ask questions, it doesn't hurt to ask. Trina proceeded to get a form of rice that has no English translation (she used to be able to tell the difference because there was pink Elephant or something on the front, but now they have changed it??? If you know this rice please let me know). Also the other weird tid bit is that the owner of the Asian market proceeded to sell her a spittoon, a metal spittoon to cook the rice in. Yes, you read right, a metal spittoon! She also said a key was to soak the rice for awhile (preferably overnight). It was truly fantastic rice. So the deal was we would do our own kabobs and then there was communal rice for everyone. I did teriyaki chicken (this had been marinating for a few days) pineapple, mushrooms, red and yellow peppers. It was fantastic! But really who doesn't love kabobs?

Then scattered in there were some fantastic, FANTASTIC, breakfasts (pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, eggs, fresh strawberries and blueberries). We also had soup and grilled cheese, hot dogs and potato salad, seems like things just taste better while camping! Sorry this got so lengthy and with no pictures but honestly it was a great trip. Full of activities, Molly learned to pedal her trike (she isn't even two yet!) playing on the beach in the sand, Bocce ball, Ball toss (which my family calls something else... just think about it!) mini-car races, sidewalk chalk, and of course great family!
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