Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Chop a Pepper

My kids love fresh red, yellow and orange peppers. Peppers and other chopped up veggies keep them happy while I prepare the rest of a meal. I learned how to core them like this on the internet somewhere, but now I can't find it, so I made up my own step by step how to. This is how I cut up my peppers now.

Cut off the bottom bit of the pepper.

Cut off the top of the pepper. Set the top and bottom aside for later.

Get in the way of your light while you try to take a picture with one hand while holding a knife. Cut the pepper beside one of the connector white bits.

Do that again, so you get a piece like this and a nice clear look at the insides of your pepper.

Cut away the connector stuff from the side of the pepper on one of the sides.

Cut beside the next connector piece to free another piece of pepper like this.

Keep doing that until you have freed all the outside pepper pieces from the core and connectors. Now you can slice or dice the lovely pieces because they're almost flat and rectangular. Easy peasy.

Now turn to your top & bottom pieces.

Cut in between all the bumps on the top of the pepper.

When they're all cut, loosen them from the stem piece with your hands.

Until you've taken them all off the stem piece.

Even if you're planning to just serve these as crudite, these little pieces of pepper, while not conventional, are bite-sized and perfect for a veggie tray.

I usually chop the bottom piece into wedges, too.

When you're done, this is all that's left for the trash. Seeds in tact, not all over your cutting board or knife, and not a bit of delicious pepper wasted!

Here are all my peppers chopped up and ready for creole sauce.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Remember when I posted this nifty little idea? Well, little did I know that rip-stop nylon is $16 a metre at Fabricland and when I was there last time it was one of the few fabrics that was not included in their sale at the time. So, no ripstop nylon for us. But today I was reading someone's blog and they mentioned oil cloth and I thought I remembered seeing something about making your own oil cloth. So, Google to the rescue and I found this handy little tutorial by Burda Style. It's a little different from the one I remember reading earlier. This is not an authentic oil cloth. I think authentic oil cloth is actually oiled many times over. But I think this could be a much cheaper option to buying rip stop nylon to line the other side of a pretty fabric bowl cover.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On the table tonight: another flip

So, on Sunday, husband arranged to have some people over for dinner. I think somewhere between his brain and my brain, it wasn't fully communicated that he meant to barbeque some hamburgers for said company. I usually like entertaining and having people over is no big deal and even better when it motivates me to get everything tidied up for company. But I didn't shop for hamburgers; I was just going to stick with my meal plan and make a little bit more. I was pretty sure I had enough chicken in the freezer to feed a few extra people.

Tonight was supposed to be grilled chicken with my mom's Rice Pilaf (boy, my mom's recipes sure are being featured this month!). Since next Saturday is supposed to be hamburgers and hot dogs, we will flip the meals around, since I didn't buy anything perishable especially for this meal. I will have to send husband for some patties since I'm not sure I have enough ground beef in the freezer to make enough burgers for everyone, and if I do, I didn't take it out to thaw it in time. Frozen patties are not so bad, though I don't usually like to have so much filler in my burgers.

I am experimenting with baked potatoes in the crockpot. I got the idea from the Saving Dinner newsletter and googled it to find "A Year of Slow Cooking" come to my rescue again with Crock Pot Baked Potatoes (it's also where I learned to make my own yogurt). I hope they work out because I didn't get them started until after 1:00 and it's supposed to be 6 hours on high or 10 hours on low. Our company is expected around 6:00 pm. We might have to finish them off on the BBQ if they're not finished in time. They were super easy to prepare and if they work out, we'll totally be doing baked potatoes once a week throughout the summer. If they don't, we'll be headed down to the mini-mart for some potato chips tonight.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meal Plan: How We've Been Doing

As you can tell, this month has been all about the meal plan. Since I'm doing it anyway, I figure maybe you all can benefit from all my hard work and planning and get some inspiration.

June 2010

Here's how things have actually shaken down in the last week... Wednesday went as planned... yay successful day 1! But by Thursday, as you know, things got a little off course. I had forgotten about the family BBQ planned at my daughters school and even went as far as preparing the scallopped potatoes during quiet time so everything was all ready for dinner. When I remembered the BBQ, I figured I could leave everything in the fridge and pull it out for dinner the next night.

On Friday night, things did not go quite as smoothly, since we were at a birthday party that began at 3:30. I would have liked to put the meatloaf and scallopped potatoes in the oven at 4:00 for a 5:15 or so dinner. We were not home. Thankfully my wonderful husband thought to put them in when he got home (yay for blogging about dinner plans!) and we were able to eat by 6:30 instead of pulling out some kind of back up plan.

We also switched Saturday & Sunday's dinners around because we didn't have briquettes for our barbeque to grill the pork chops. We had yummy homemade pizza on Saturday, which I ended up taking down to the park where we listened to a friend's band play at a local festival. Husband bought briquettes on Sunday afternoon and we had delicious BBQ pork chops for dinner with a salad.

Beef Barley Soup went ahead as planned on Monday, but somehow I had forgotten to buy barley on shopping day (it was on my list; I checked), so husband picked some up along with some fresh Safeway crusty rolls on his way home for work. It added an extra 20 minutes to finishing the dish once he got home, but soups are so forgiving (it also gave me time to warm up the rolls in the oven... mmmmm....). It's a delicious soup recipe, make with ground beef instead of a more expensive cut of beef, which makes it a pretty cheap meal and very easy. I'll have to post the recipe before the month is out.

I opted to switch Tuesday night's "Snacky Supper" with next Thursday's "Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup" since it has been chilly all week and I like to take advantage of the cooler days to eat warm food when I know it will be warming up later on in the month and they'll be plenty of opportunities to eat Snacky Supper.

Last night and tonight went according to plan, as well. So, all in all, we've done pretty well at sticking to our meal plan. This week is a pretty good example of how I am loosey goosey with meal planning. Some might call it flexible, relaxed. That sounds so much better. Once you have a plan and shop for it for the week, you can bump the meals around pretty easily if it ends up not working out so well for that particular day. It's so nice to have a plan and not be fretting about what to make for dinner at 4:00.

Happy meal planning!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tonight's Supper: Turkey Mac & Cheese Casserole

This is another one of my mom's recipes. Apparently it was my older sister's first solid food, which I love because for one, it's a casserole which automatically means it contains a many ingredients and these days with all the concern over allergies and everything, there's no way most moms would give this as their baby's first solid food. And it's full of potential allergens: fish, wheat, milk, cheese, and whatever's in condensed mushroom soup. By the way, my sister is not allergic to any of these things (or much else, for that matter).

Here is my mom's recipe. I made the following changes: I used butter for margarine, canned turkey (please don't do this: use some cooked diced chicken or something better; I was being cheap and lazy. Canned turkey is gross. If you don't believe me, buy some and try it) instead of canned tuna (husband won't eat tuna), brown rice rotini pasta for macaroni, and some Alymer's Accents tomatoes with spicy red peppers instead of regular tomatoes. I also threw some cottage cheese in there to use up the rest of it. I also omitted the salt since the turkey was pretty salty (eeewww...)

My kids don't really like this, but I will make a salad or some crudite and serve it with some rolls. I like to give them things they don't like so they get exposed to new foods and who knows? They might be hungry enough to try it one day and maybe they'll like it. I probably shouldn't try very hard with this recipe since it isn't the healthiest I've got.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What's for Dinner tonight: Meatloaf and Scallopped Potatoes

Oops! What's for Dinner TOMORROW Night

ETA: I just realized we have a dinner at Z's school tonight! I guess in all my planning I still failed to put this event on the meal planning calendar. Thankfully this meal is a great make ahead meal. Everything is all ready to go for tomorrow night. What a great way to start the weekend!

Here starts the original post:
It wasn't until I was in college that I realized that Ham and Scallopped Potatoes is a much more common combination of dishes than Meatloaf with Scallopped Potatoes. But this is what we ate growing up. What potato dish do people eat with meatloaf? Mashed potatoes? Meh. And I really like scallopped potatoes. And meatloaf. Ham, not so much.

This is a popular meal around here. Z will eat the potatoes, S will eat the meatloaf and husband and I love them both. Husband is not big into leftovers, which is really a shame. It's not that he won't eat them if I prepare them for a meal, but he won't usually think to eat them for lunches or meals on his own. That's the whole point, in my mind. However, this is one of the meals he will heat up on his own.

What we're eating tonight has actually been frozen. I made the recipe a couple of weeks ago, but the entire recipe is too big for the casserole dishes I have and for our family, so splitting it up is perfect. So today I just have to prepare the potatoes and pop them in the oven.

Enjoy! (We will!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Today's Recipe: Chicken Creole

This is a dish that my mom either got the recipe from one of the cooks at the restaurant we used to work at or she made up inspired by the dish at the restaurant we used to work at. At the restaurant, it was served with either shrimp or chicken over pasta or rice with a cornmeal muffin (that last bit was important because that was the part I, as a server, had to do; and since there were a couple different things that could have been served with the dishes, you had to know which dish got what). Since my family doesn't really eat shrimp (sad, I know), we go for chicken and usually pasta.

So this is scanned directly from the cookbook of my mom's recipes that she made for me and my sisters. It is awesome. There is nothing like having all the recipes you grew up with at your finger tips.  Mom, if you have a problem with me scanning your recipes in, let me know, ok? I will probably make the recipe almost exactly as printed, except I'll use butter or olive oil instead of margarine because that's just how I roll.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Month of Dinners

 Today is 15% off day at my grocery store. It's the first Tuesday of every month. A couple months ago I started planning our whole month of suppers at the beginning of the month. Then I would stock up on all the pantry-type and freezer-type items I was planning to use for the month on 15% off Tuesday, save some money, save time doing weekly meal plans and shopping lists and have a whole list of ideas all at my finger tips. I don't adhere to my meal plans as strictly as I should, but since ideas are half (or more) of the battle, having a plan is super helpful.
Since the next 15% off Tuesday isn't for 5 weeks, I planned 5 weeks of meals, for which I'm pretty impressed with myself. Originally I was using an idea I learned from Passionate Homemaking, assigning categories to each day of the week and slotting 4 different meals into those categories and rotating them through. Our lives just aren't that regular, though. It's a good idea and I think I may modify it still (with my own categories), but I didn't stick with it for this plan.

That image up there is my actual meal plan (you can click on it to see a larger image). The smudges are just my edits getting rid of some of our family's personal information: plans for the day that might affect the amount of prep time I have or if we're planning to have people over. I may post some of the recipes (or links to them) throughout the month, if anyone is interested. But you're welcome to use the ideas to inspire your own meal plans, if anything looks interesting.

As soon as my husband gets home, I'll be headed out the grocery store. I hope it's not too busy!
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