Posts for cooking

A Savory Something to Soak Up All That Green Beer

Beef, Recipes - Jennifer - March 16, 2013

My grandmother came to the US from Ireland when she was a young woman.  She never really talked to me about what it was like to grow up over there, but I do know that she never wanted to go back, and I always assumed that her life had been very hard.  I also assumed that the Irish found little enjoyment in food because Grandma’s Sunday dinners were torture to a kid (forgive me for saying so, Dad!).  Everything was always either boiled or baked to death.  I recall many dried out, shriveled up roasts in my childhood, and being admonished to eat every scrap on my plate.  And I don’t like corned beef.  Or cabbage.  So my lifelong association with Irish cooking?  Bleh.

Last year around this time, I was at a gathering of friends, and I couldn’t stop eating this most amazing dip.  It wasn’t until the end of the evening that I found out what was in it:  corned beef!  So this is what I will be making in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and if the kids don’t want it, I won’t make them eat it.  I’d hate to sour them on an entire culture’s cooking with one dish.  As for me, I’m slowly coming around.


3/4 c. mayonnaise
3/4 c. sour cream
2 (2.5 ounce) packages thinly sliced deli corned beef, chopped
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp prepared horseradish (optional)

Combine mayonaise and sour cream; add in the corned beef, onion, parsley, seasoned salt and horseradish, if you like.  Serve on mini-rye breads or bagle pieces.

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Taking Breathe, Sleep, and EAT Baseball to a Whole New Level

Barbeque, kitchen gadgets - Jennifer - April 28, 2011

We’ve always been a big baseball family, and if it would EVER stop raining here in the Midwest, we will be out practicing, playing, and viewing several games a week (little league, pick-up, White Sox games, etc.). And since I’m thinking ahead, with Father’s Day coming up, I decided to look into some fun barbeque-style kitchen gadgets for the dads and grandpas out there. has this cute spatula for only $9.99.

They’re a little pricier, but these bottle openers from Uncommon Goods are made out of actual Major League Baseball game-used bats.

For serving condiments and relishes, 17 Circle offers this cute set.

Everything Baseball has all sorts of baseball-themed bar and partyware, but my favorite is this chip & dip set.

In my search for a White Sox cooler, I found this great mini-fridge at the USA Today Sports Store. It holds an entire case of beer and can be plugged into a regular wall socket or a car’s cigarette lighter, so we can put it on the deck during summer cookouts, and take it with us to tailgate parties in the fall.

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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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Sexy Food to Put You in the Mood on Valentine’s or Any Day

Uncategorized - Jennifer - February 14, 2011

Just for the heck of it on this romantic holiday, I went to the Kobo site today and did a “refined” search. I started with the word “romance,” and then whittled down the titles by filtering them through the “Food and Drink” category, and I’ve been laughing about what I came up with ever since.

Cook to Bang:  The Lay Cook’s Guide to Getting Laid by Spencer Walker is not what I would traditionally classify as “romantic.”  What it is though, besides being hilarious and supremely irreverent, is a genuine cookbook, with easy to follow, step-by-step recipes and accompanying photos.  The chapters, narrative, descriptions, even the recipe names never break character with this “ladies’ man” chef, and the book is a pure delight to use.  Even if you have no intention of enticing anyone to, ahem, “bang,” you’ll get a kick out of this one and find some great recipes along the way!

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FlyLady Saved My Sanity; Now Leanne Saves Dinner

Cookbooks - Jennifer - February 8, 2011

Six years ago when we decided it was time to move, I had three little boys, ages 4, 2 and 9 months. As you know, babies require tons of equipment. Plus, my husband and I had each owned our own homes before we were married, so we brought many possessions to the union (well, at least I did!), and we had a LOT of stuff crammed into our little place. The prospect of going through all of that stuff, packing it up, and unpacking it at the new house was so daunting, I didn’t know where to start.

At the time, I belonged to a moms’ group, and a couple of the other girls had discovered the home organization system put forth by FlyLady Marla Cilley in her book, Sink Reflections. The FlyLady overcame her own domestic disorganization by taking “babysteps,” adopting routines, and loving herself unconditionally.  I read the book, and I was hooked.  I signed up for daily missions, knowing that I could accomplish anything if I just worked at it 15 minutes at a time.  I “27 Fling-Boogied” my way toward getting out from under.  I released the things that were no longer blessing me, so that they could go bless someone else.  And I moved us from one house to another, minus a ton of the clutter that was bringing me down!

Along the way, I came to know FlyLady’s partner in crime, Leanne Ely, author of the Saving Dinner series of cookbooks.  Together with FlyLady, Leanne reached out to those challenged homemakers who also had trouble in the kitchen.  Her book, Saving Dinner: The Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table, fits perfectly with FlyLady’s philosophy of planning and routine.  The book is divided by season, and each season is broken down by week, with the titular menus, recipes and shopping lists included for each.  Look at that; no thinking involved at all!  Just a simple roadmap, and a weekly shopping trip.  I think now would be a good time for me to delve into some of Ely’s other books, particularly Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way.  Her additional titles include Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way, Saving Dinner Basics: How to Cook Even if You Don’t Know How, and Saving Dinner for the Holidays.

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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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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Beverages, Cookbooks, Desserts, Recipes - Jennifer - January 31, 2011

With the very real threat of nearly two feet of snow being dumped on my community over the next two days, I’m settling in for the duration.  The kids will likely be home from school, and they can play in the snow all they want.  We have a huge yard, and I have a great view from the kitchen patio door.  I will happily make hot cocoa for them, but I’m planning something a bit more interesting for myself!  This could be a lengthy hibernation, so I’ve armed myself with two books of warm deliciousness by renowned chef and cookbook author Rick Rodgers: Tea And Cookies: Enjoy The Perfect Cup Of Tea–With Dozens Of Delectable Recipes For Teatime Treats and Coffee And Cake: Enjoy The Perfect Cup Of Coffee–With Dozens Of Delectable Recipes For Cafe Treats.

Tea And Cookies features 13 teas and 9 cookie recipes, while Coffee And Cake offers up 11 coffees and 10 cakes, so we’ll have no shortage of combinations to try while riding out the storm.  And when the snow stops flying, I can look ahead with Rodgers’ Spring Gatherings: Casual Food To Enjoy With Family And Friends!

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Superfoods for Super People

Cookbooks - Jennifer - January 17, 2011

A very dear friend of mine had cancer long before I ever knew her.  She had a complete hysterectomy at 35 and some kind of recurrence in her 50s.  I can see that it pains her to remember, so I’ve never asked for specifics.  But one subject on which she speaks freely and with great enthusiasm is the diet that she feels has kept her healthy ever since.  She cut out all meat and processed foods, and very rarely indulges in the wonderful baked goods that she still regularly turns out for family and friends.  She also looks for ways to incorporate superfoods into her everyday routine, and drinks some of the vilest looking concoctions I’ve ever seen.  So when I stumbled across SuperFoods Rx by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews, I couldn’t help but take a look to see what they have to offer on the subject.

I was under the misconception that super foods were hard to find, exotic produce that could only be purchased in specialty stores or sent away for from faraway lands.  So I was very happy to find that Dr. Pratt’s list includes many foods I already eat and actually enjoy:  apples, avocados, beans, blueberries, broccoli, cinnamon, dark chocolate (yay!), dried super fruits, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, honey, kiwi, low-fat yogurt, oats, onions, oranges, pomegranates, pumpkin, soy, spinich, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and wild salmon.  

SuperFoods Rx  examines how each of the superfoods acts as a “nutritional powerhouse” to help reduce your chances of developing certain common ailments, letting you know what to eat to prevent such things as osteoporosis, cardiac ailments, obesity, high cholesterol, and cataracts, among others.  The book also includes superfoods recipes created by Chef Michel Stroot of the Golden Door Spa.  I’m currently checking out one that will make my friend’s Superfood Smoothies more palatable (or at least not so gray/green and chunky looking!).

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What Do You Mean I’d Only Need to Cook Once a Month?

Cookbooks, Product Reviews, Timesavers, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - January 6, 2011

Who only cooks once a month?  Someone with a personal chef?  A person who works in a restaurant?  Certainly not a busy mother of four Bottomless Petes who routinely insist that I, you know, feed them!  Well Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson insist that it can be done.  According to them, you can grocery shop one time, do all your prep work at once, and stock your pantry and freeze enough to feed your family every day for an entire month.

Does anyone else remember those meal prep places that were all the rage a few years back?  I went a couple of times, and it was pretty neat.  You’d gather a bunch of friends, choose from several menu selections, and read off of a recipe card as you dumped ingredients into plastic bags and containers to take home and freeze for future consumption.  Everything was prepped and ready for you to assemble.  My friends and I discussed the possibility of getting together on our own to do something like this, maybe once a month. How great it would be, we imagined, to have a ready supply of pre-made meals to draw from on those crazy evenings when baseball practice, Cub Scouts, and gymnastics all seemed to converge at once, resulting in exotic dinners of peanut butter and canned soup!  Alas, we never figured out how to do it.

But now I’ve discovered Once-a-Month Cooking:  Family Favorites, and I’m newly inspired!   The aforementioned Lagerborg and Wilson have even trademarked their Once-a-Month Cooking system, so it must work, right?  I’m learning all about their cycle method, whereby you shop for either monthly, bi-weekly or seasonal cycles, do all your prep in one day, and voila!  A freezer full of well-planned and balanced meals!  I can’t wait to get started.  The way I see it, buying in bulk for these mass prep sessions will not only save us money because we’re buying in bulk, but also because we won’t be making gratuitous trips to the grocery store, where we’re naturally tempted by all kinds of costly impulse items.  But the absolutely best part is that I don’t have to figure out how to do any of this on my own, because I have the book to lead me, every step of the way. Who’s with me?  C’mon!

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