Posts for Dinner Category

An Egg-cellent Dinner, a Lifetime in the Making

Dinner, eggs - Jennifer - July 26, 2011

Nothing fancy. Scrambled eggs on a day when Daddy won’t be home for dinner. My husband doesn’t eat eggs, and neither does my oldest son. The three little ones love them, in any way, shape or form. I wasn’t sure what I would feed the oldest. I figured when I served the others, I could go digging for leftovers. But he came along when I called them to the table, and he pouted when all I could find was some cold mac & cheese.

“Fine, I guess I’ll try eggs.”

What? What did I just hear? “Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded, and I lovingly spoonfed him a portion (shoved a forkful in his mouth) before he could change his mind. This one has gained lifelong notoriety for his unwillingness to even try things he’s decided he won’t like.

“So, do you like them?” All four of us waited for his response. He started to shake his head “no,” but then nodded and suppressed a smile. Sometimes it’s just hard to admit you’ve been wrong for, oh, TEN YEARS. My second son actually did a “Yes!” fist pump (he eats anything and can’t understand the more selective palates of his siblings . . . and his father).

Parents of picky eaters understand why this is such a significant victory for us. We don’t have many peaceful dinners because SOMEone is always griping, refusing, glaring, sobbing, or yelling. And it’s not always the same person. And quite often it’s me, having been pushed to the brink by all the griping, refusing, glaring, sobbing, or yelling. And don’t forget the shoving away of the plate. If you really want to get me going, just try shoving your plate away. And why not knock your milk over while you’re at it because I just LOOOOVE that! But I digress. The point is, we have very few go-to meals that are agreeable to everyone. So it’s difficult for me to suppress my elation over the fact that I’ve found one more, albeit a simple one, and one that we still can’t have when Daddy is home.

If you face a similar issue, you might find some enjoyment in reading Suburban Bliss’ “Did They Eat It” feature. I am supremely jealous of the patience (and photography skills) demonstrated here in documenting the step by step recipes and family reactions. Good stuff.

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Pizza, How Do I Love Thee? For Breakfast, Lunch AND Dinner!

Cookbooks, Dinner, Pizza, Tasty Travels - Jennifer - March 1, 2011

Just the other day, I said to my husband that I thought I could eat pizza for three meals a day and be perfectly happy.  Then we inherited a ton of leftovers from a pizza party, and I’ve had the opportunity to put that theory to the test.  And the result is, yes, yes I can eat pizza for three meals a day and enjoy it!  But eating the same pizza over and over is getting a little tiresome, so I thought I’d look for some ideas to add some variety to my “dream” diet.

American Pie:  My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart is more than just a pizza cookbook.  Sure, there are recipes aplenty, but the book is also a comprehensive travelogue, as master breadmaker Reinhart visits influential pizza meccas in Italy and the US, including Florence, Rome, Naples, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, among others.  He discovers pizza’s roots and delves into its evolution, compares the different styles of pizzamaking, and develops his own.  Now if we can just finish all those leftovers, I’ll be ready to start tossing dough!

Also grabbing my attention by Peter Reinhart is Artisan Breads Every Day:  Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads.  Bread making is something I haven’t attempted beyond throwing the ingredients in the automatic breakmaker and letting it do the rest.  I’m thinking this could be our next rainy day project.  Thanks, Peter!

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To Market Day to Market Day to Buy Some Frozen Convenience Food

breakfast, Dinner, eggs, Timesavers - Jennifer - February 17, 2011

If you have school-aged children, you’ve probably heard of Market Day.  A monthly fundraiser for schools and other organizations, Market Day offers an extensive catalog of convenience foods that you order in advance and pick up at the school of your choice on a designated day.  The selection is vast, ranging from meats and produce, to prepared meals, appetizers, snacks and desserts.  While competitively priced, a portion of every purchase comes back to the host organization.  At our school, a dedicated staff of volunteers unloads the delivery truck on pick-up day, organizes the food by category, and helps patrons fill their orders and load their cars. 

My family and I have discovered several Market Day products that we can’t imagine life without.  Lots of people swear by their meats, but I generally go for the products I can use for a quick meal because, face it, it’s nice to have something in the freezer you can turn to in a pinch.  Here are our faves:

Cheese Lasagna Rollups:  I will never make lasagna from scratch again.  These come a dozen in a package, lasagna noodles rolled around the cheese mixture into cute little compact packages:  place them in a baking dish with your own sauce (sometimes we add sausage), cover with mozzarella, and bake.  No more mixing ricotta, parmesan and egg, boiling the noodles, layering, etc.  With our own sauce, this tastes no different than the labor-intensive homemade version.

Breakfast Skillet:  Scrambled eggs, cubed potatoes, pork sausage, onions and peppers; I love breakfast any time of day.  These come frozen in two bags (the eggs are separate).  Dump the first bag in your skillet, cover and cook five minutes; add a little water and the eggs, cover for another five minutes, and voila!  If all six of us ate this (only four will), I might have to scramble an extra egg or two to bulk it up, but even that’s nothing when I consider all of the chopping and dicing I’m avoiding.

Philly Cheese Steak Kit:  I may be from Chicago, but if I see a Philly Cheese Steak on a menu, I have a hard time convincing myself to order anything else.  So I was thrilled to find this option, which has everything you need to make four good-sized sandwiches in a matter of minutes.  Throw the frozen rolls (crusty sourdough!) into the oven at the same time you start the cheesesteaks in a skillet (they both take about five minutes).  Then I add the onions, let them simmer a few minutes, and sprinkle on the mozzarella, letting it melt.  There’s even enough meat here for us to make an extra sandwich on our own roll.

We have many other Market Day go-tos (like the Potato Skins, the Chicken Tortilla Soup, the Appetizer Loaf, many varieties of cookie dough, the PIES!), but I’d love to hear what your faves are!

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Nothing Says “I Love Me” More Than My Mom’s Meatloaf

Dinner, Recipes - Jennifer - February 4, 2011

I’ve tried them all. Found them in cookbooks, on the backs of boxes, recipe swaps, you name it.  Meatloaves come in countless shapes, sizes and compositions.  But I always come back to the one my mom made when I was a kid.  It was my absolute favorite meal, the one I requested for every birthday dinner, even though we had it regularly anyway.  And it’s so totally easy, it’s almost like cheating: doesn’t even require an egg or breadcrumbs!

My Mom’s Meatloaf

1 lb.+ meatloaf  mixture (I use beef & pork)
1 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, to taste
1 can tomato soup

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine first four ingredients, and mix well.  Form into a loaf in a 9×9 pan (I prefer glass, and I never make meatloaf in a loaf pan because it takes forever to cook through to the middle).  My loaves tend to look more like giant hamburgers, nearly filling the 9×9, with a moat all around the edges.  Cover with tomato soup.  Bake uncovered for one hour. 

I love to serve this with corn and baked potatoes, using the gravy created by the soup.  I am not kidding you even a little bit when I say that the most anticipated part of this meal for me is the very last bite, when I eat the remaining remnants of meatloaf, corn and potato all at once in a final forkful. The fact that all of my children eat this without complaint is a special happy bonus (ah, a peaceful, whine-free dinner!), but honestly, I don’t care whether they eat it.  I make it for me, and I’ll just eat what they won’t!  Here’s what it looks like:

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Grooming My Future Competitive Eaters

breakfast, Dinner, eggs, kitchen gadgets, Product Reviews - Jennifer - January 2, 2011

Living in the midwest, we don’t cook outside anywhere near as often in the winter, and I really miss the taste of grilled food, as well as the expanded menu offerings that come from outdoor cooking.  So when I stumbled across the Nathan’s Reversible Stovetop Grill & Griddle while Christmas shopping, I just couldn’t pass it up.  And yes, that’s Nathan’s as in Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters, sponsors of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island that my family can’t miss watching in horrified admiration every summer! 

We took our new Nathan’s Grill/Griddle on a test run today for lunch.  On the menu:  Nathan’s hot dogs (natch) and Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage.  The Grill/Griddle fits over both front and back burners of our gas stove (the only cooking surface not compatible is glass) and distributes the heat evenly.  Although the hot dogs cooked pretty quickly, the sausages took more than twice as long as they typically would on the outdoor grill.  But I liked how the grease was channeled away from the meat, and 40 minutes later, we thoroughly enjoyed our summer-style lunch in the middle of winter.  Afterwards, clean-up was a breeze on the non-stick surface.

On the flip side of the grill is the griddle, which holds further appeal for us.  Making breakfast for a family of six is no small endeavor, and the expanded surface of the griddle will make for much faster pancake production.  The box even depicts pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes all cooking simultaneously on the griddle surface, but that’s a challenge for another day.  So far, Nathan’s Famous Reversible Stovetop Grill & Griddle gets a thumbs up from my family, although I hope it will be quite a while before any of them can down 50 hotdogs in a ten-minute sitting!

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I Feel a Stew Day Coming On

Dinner, Recipes, slow food, Soups & Stews, Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized - Jennifer - December 28, 2010

I can’t even imagine making beef stew in the summer. Seriously, I don’t think the idea would even occur to me between the months of May and September. But come October, when the midwestern weather turns crisp and cool, a lightbulb goes on inside my head, and I say to myself, “Aha, stew!”  To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food, with the added appeal of slow-cooker simplicity.

Now, I do absolutely nothing fancy when I make beef stew.  I use probably the most elemental recipe out there:  beef stew meat, veggies, beef bouillon.  But my children still balked, every single time I made it.  Luckily, I figured out how to trick them, and the secret is . . . soup.  For whatever reason, they’ll eat it if I call it soup instead of stew.  I use onion soup mix for the broth, so now I just add a little extra water and, voila, beef stew soup!  Here you go:


Layer ingredients in Crockpot in the following order:
chopped carrots, celery & onion (enough to cover bottom of Crockpot)
4-6 large potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 c. hot water
1 pkg. instant onion soup mix, dissolved in 2-3 c. hot water

I usually set my slow cooker on high for the first four hours, and turn it down to low until we’re ready to eat, 7-8 hours total.

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Kobo eReader Solves Kitchen Storage Woes!

Desserts, Dinner, Recipes, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - December 26, 2010

When we first moved into our little 1920s Craftsman bungalow, I thought the teeny-tiny kitchen was quaint and cozy. I soon discovered that it was also short on storage, shorter on counter space, and generally a nightmare in which to work. My supremely talented husband has tried hard to eke out some extra storage in that space, even creating a cabinet in the soffet above the pantry so that I would have somewhere to stash my cookbooks. The problem? I had to stand on a chair and still reach over my head to get at them, so I wasn’t using them at all anymore. Then we added some shelves to the end of a lower cabinet, and I was able to move a few of my most-used books there, where they would be more accessible.

We’ve been in our home more than five years now, and my dreams of blowing out the back of the house to create a dream kitchen and master suite have been stored practically away in the “20-years-from-now” file. But when I recently started working for shesconnected on a Kobo project, my foray into ereading unexpectedly led me to a workable solution for one of my kitchen storage issues.  There are over 500 cookbooks available to download onto my Kobo eReader, where I can read them, store them, access and search them, anytime I want!  Some of them are even free, and none of them will take up any additional space in my kitchen, thank goodness.

Now, for the fun part:  shopping!  I have some good, comprehensive cookbooks that handle the basics, so I thought I’d look for something a little more fun, maybe even quirky.  And I found all that and more when I purchased  The Cooking Club Cookbook: Six Friends Show You How to Bake, Broil and Bond.  Having lived most of my life in the suburbs, I never imagined how metropolitan living can make it so impractical for many city dwellers to cook (efficiency kitchens, hauling groceries up flights of stairs, inconveniently located produce, etc.).  The authors of The CCC are six city-living friends who decided to make cooking fun by getting together for once per month theme dinners.  The book’s sections are broken down by theme, some ethnic (Spanish, Mediterranean, Asian), some fun (Comfort, Spa, Sexy), some practical (Grill, Quick, Brunch).  Each part features an explanation of how the Cooking Club arrived at their choices for the evening, and includes all the recipes that comprised the theme, appetizers, main course, sides and dessert.

One of my favorites, and the one I’m certain to most often revisit since my kids will love it, is the comfort food chapter, “Stealing Home.”  On the menu:  Mini-Me Mac and Cheese; OoohBaby, It’s Chili Outside; Batter-Fried Chicken Bites; Beaten-to-Within-an-Inch-of-It’s-Life Sweet Potatoes; Penny’s Broccoli Casserole; and Cinnamon Raisin Bread Puddin’.  Curiosity piqued?  The Cooking Club Cookbook is available in paperback by fine booksellers, and as an ebook from and

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Cook Out Please

Dinner, Recipes, slow food, Tips & Tricks - Kayla - June 23, 2010

YEAH! it’s Summer! For me that means cook out’s! All around my neighborhood you can smell the delicious smoke of BBQ’s and smokers grilling their way to dinner perfection.

I grew up grilling and whether you consider yourself a griller or BBQ’r (yes there is a difference)  I think we can all agree if it’s cooked outside it’s better!

ok confession time…….. I am a pretty good baker, a decent cook, a seasoned canner, and a horrible griller! I am not sure if it is my impatient nature or my constant need to multi task which you cannot do while tending meat on a grill. What ever it is I have burnt everything from fish to the side of my house trying to master this backyard fair.

So I decided to bow out gracefully and just provide you with some links for your summer outdoor cooking!


BBQ pork rotisserie–Grilling/Main.aspx ·

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A Borrowed Irish Stew

Cooking Shows, Dinner, Recipes, Soups & Stews - Kayla - March 17, 2010

Irish Stew

While I am from Irish decent and love all things St. Pattys Day, I do not have a family Irish stew or soda bread recepie. So I did what all good 21st centery home cooks do when in need of an age old favorite. I hit my favorite cooking show website! Enjoy! My family & I did!

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Dutch Oven Cooking Feels Like Home

Dinner, kitchen gadgets, slow food - Kayla - September 29, 2009

I love a home cooked meal & for me that sometimes means from a dutch oven in a pit covered in coals. Some of the best meals I have ever eaten were made in a cast iron pots miles from civilization.  So when I found this cool site on all things dutch I had to share it.

Dutch oven cooking can be done at home or in the back woods & has been around for hundreds of years. It is not as hard as it looks & trust me you have not lived until you have had peach cobbler ala dutch!

-Keep Cooking

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