28 February 2009

Fat Lip

Poor Izumi.

As we were leaving the house tonight for a good-bye party, I locked the keys in, which meant that we couldn't get in the car. THANK GOD for our good friends Matt and Nadia; not only were they lifesavers the other night when our basement flooded again, but they are the keepers of our keys. And when I called Nadia, she appeared with the key in less than five minutes!

Unfortunately, five minutes was long enough for the enthusiastically running Izumi to catch her shoe on the sidewalk and do a face plant. She now has a very respectable fat lip with a scraped nose and knee as bonuses. So though we went ahead to the party, we couldn't enjoy it much because I was worried about her injuries.

We came home to rendezvous with Aogu, home from North Carolina after four days away. We hadn't eaten at the party so I recycled

*leftover penne with meatballs and spaghetti sauce for everyone
*romaine, orange pepper and ranch salad for me
*cantaloupe with agave nectar and cinnamon for me and Koji
*Healthy Choice fudge bar for Izumi and Koji
*gummy bears, thank you "Grandma Mary"!, eaten by everyone but me

A friend at the party said that these kind of facial scrapes heal quickly. I hope he's right, I hate to see her lip so swollen... not that it kept her from eating meatballs and asking for seconds!

27 February 2009

Random Salad

Aogu's still out of town, which means the randomness and lack of motivation continue...

The kids had
*white rice
*green peas
*chunks of sparerib,
which were a hit with Izumi and not so much with Koji

I bought six heads of romaine (are they still heads, even though they're long and pointy? alien heads, maybe) at Costco today, so I wanted to make a salad. What I ended up with:

*salad of romaine, hazelnuts, orange pepper, pieces of sparerib, dijon vinaigrette
*white rice

Considering that I threw it together, it actually turned out pretty fancy!

26 February 2009

Praise and Effort, Inversely Proportioned

Jan and her kids were here for dinner tonight. I had to persuade them to stay by proposing the following menu:

*quesadillas with chicken shredded from the good 'ole roast from Sunday (which you won't hear about any more, I promise, unless I can't resist talking about the stock I made from the bones)
*cucumber sticks with ranch

It sounded OK in theory, but once it hit the kids' plates and then their stomachs, it quickly became clear that this is THE BEST dinner I've ever made for them. Interesting. I mean, I literally received lavish words of praise from the almost four year old Paul. I wish I had written down what he said, but it was something to the effect of "Jamie! This is the best dinner you've ever made for me!". Which is actually probably true, at least in his mind.

But I still felt a little silly, receiving such lavish praise for something that was so easy to do. It was so easy that I felt it needed a little more, so in addition to the above, for myself and Jan, I sauteed an onion and an orange pepper together and sprinkled them with a bit of taco seasoning. Then I opened a can of "Mexican Spice chili beans" and dumped some of them on rice. My quesadilla was extra delicious with the addition of Costco brand salsa.

Hmm. If I can receive this much praise for something so easy, should I stop trying on the other nights?!!

25 February 2009

Senior Moment

Wednesdays are busy; Koji has karate and Aogu and I go to our church small group in the evening, and that's in addition to school and work, of course.

But it's still not reason enough to explain why I have close to ZERO recollection of what I had for dinner.

This is why I need to take pictures! And put my posts up the same day as eating the dinner I'm speaking of!

The kids had

*white rice
*hot carrots
*chicken (left over from the one I roasted Sunday night)
*three gummie bears, which they insist on putting in their applesauce...

What I had doesn't come to mind as easily. Black beans and rice? Or was that breakfast? Did I mention that Aogu's out of town...?!

24 February 2009

"Students" Are Photogenic, Hummus Isn't

For the second time in three weeks, this morning I taught an informal baking class. The ladies you see pictured are moms from Koji's school, but for today they were my students. Our subjects today were "carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting" and "chocolate shortbread".

Both recipes were a success. The chocolate shortbread was so successful that I subsequently felt convicted to give up chocolate for Lent....

After all that baking and sampling, we probably didn't need to eat lunch, but once I suggested Pita Inn and clarified that it's a Mediterranean restaurant and not a place to stay, everyone was on board. I ordered five lunch platters, and then I saw how hungry everyone wasn't. Though the food got positive reviews, we had quite a bit left over.

So my pay off for teaching the class today was the leftovers. And I really did consider that a pay off because those leftovers became a fine dinner for us!

*rice pilaf
*beef shawarma
*lamb kabob
*diced tomato
*HOMEMADE hummus

Hummus wasn't one of the things left over after lunch, but I really wanted some for dinner and knew I had all the ingredients on hand. Carpe diem and voila, turns out hummus is extremely easy to make, and if I do say so myself, pretty much as good or better than all the store bought I've had. But as mentioned in the title of this post, you aren't seeing a picture of it here because hummus just isn't photogenic.


from How to Cook Everything

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup sesame oil or olive oil (sesame is better)
1 small clove garlic, peeled (I used two big ones)
salt and pepper
1 T ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup water

Place everything except water in the bowl of a food processor. Process, then add water as needed to make a smooth puree. Taste and add more garlic, salt, lemon juice or cumin as needed. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with cumin. Serve with vegetables, crackers or pita.

23 February 2009


Mmm. Dinner looks more delicious when I picture it on the sofa, don't you think? As I was planning to eat it sitting on the sofa, it seemed more truthful to let that be the backdrop for today's photo. "It" is

*white rice
*baby portabella mushrooms and broccoli stirfried with sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds
*"Japanese style braised spareribs," recipe from
The Japanese Kitchen

The spareribs I bought said "country spareribs," so they looked more like pork chops than ribs. The much fattier version, that is. I was skeptical about liking them. As I ate them, not only did I think they were delicious, I even accidentally ate a piece of fat and it didn't gag me. There. If that doesn't give you a measure of how great, how edible they were, well, I can't help you further.

Japanese style Braised Spareribs

serves 4

1 1/2--2 pounds (680--900g) pork spareribs

3 T soy sauce
1 tsp. worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. toban jiang
1 1/2 T honey

2 T veg oil

1/4 cup cooking sake
2 T sugar

3 T rice vinegar

Cut the meat into individual ribs--what I bought was already cut, maybe that's part of what made them "country" ribs?
In a bowl, combine one tablespoon of the soy sauce and the next three ingredients; marinate the ribs for 30 minutes, then discard the marinade.
Heat a medium pot; I used my Martha Stewart enameled cast iron 5.5 quart pot, and add the veg oil, then brown the spareribs on all sides.
Add the sake, the sugar, and 1/2 cup of water to the pot with the browned spareribs. After bringing the mixture to a boil, simmer over low heat, covered, for 20 minutes.
Add the remaining 2 T of soy sauce and the rice vinegar to the pot; cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, basting the spareribs several times with the cooking liquid.

22 February 2009

Is Lunch on Sunday "Lunch" or "Dinner"?

My friend Stephen used to call Sunday lunch dinner. He said that his family had a tradition on Sunday of eating a large meal at mid-day and then not eating for the rest of the day. Or maybe they had a light tea in the evening or something. Um, it's hard for me to get the story straight because we had this conversation more than 10 years ago. And he's Canadian.

In any case, that's kind of how things went for us today. We had an old friend of Aogu's, Brocki, over for lunch. It was our first chance to spend time with her kids, and we had a fun afternoon. I knew all week that I was going to make lunch for them, but somehow I couldn't decide until during church that I would make

*penne with meatballs and jarred spaghetti sauce; it seemed a little contradictory to make the meatballs myself and then smother them with something from a jar, but hey, I had to cut corners somewhere and I did saute in some orange peppers and mushrooms, but I wished I had thrown in some garlic too
*steamed broccoli
*cucumbers with ranch
*white rice

*curry; this was left over from the other day, and I served it just in case they were feeling adventurous and wanted to try Japanese food
*girl scout cookies and
*St. Patrick's Day cupcakes, provided by Brocki

What I was getting to was that by the time we got home from church, straightened up the house again, and got cooking, the meal wasn't ready until about 1:30. I guess that's not nearly late enough for dinner, but it seems a little too late for lunch.

And the effect was, everyone wasn't super hungry at dinner. So I served

*white rice; but not much of it, I hadn't realized how much we went through at lunch and failed to make more, so everyone had to do with less than they would have preferred
* natto
*edamame; yes, I realized I was heavy on the soybean products, but not until after they were already on the table. oh well.
*steamed asparagus with butter, sesame seeds and salt

*black beans for me, since I don't care for natto and the rice was gone

Last but not least, I started thinking about Aogu's lunch for tomorrow and decided to make another roast chicken. This is a terrible picture, but I'll post it anyway. This time I tried the "soy sauce" version, which is roasted/cooked the same way as previously posted, but basted with a mixture of

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T veg oil
2 T honey
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup minced scallions

21 February 2009

Great Pasta--Because I Didn't Make It

This afternoon before I met with the friends pictured above, I was at a kid birthday party with the family. Pizza was served. It's great to serve pizza at a kid party, but as I think I've referred to here recently, or maybe I was just talking to myself, I have eaten WAY TOO MUCH pizza lately. So I didn't have any at the party. And furthermore, when my friends and I were discussing what to do about dinner together, I shot down the idea of pizza. It's rare for me to dissent, being the non-confontational type, but this time, I couldn't stand it. I had to speak out against pizza!

And I'm glad I did because this was a special occasion--from left to right, Renae, me, Tosha, Katie and Shanel have been meeting together every other week for about two years for prayer and sharing and sometimes venting (not always in that order). I wish I could say that we were just celebrating our anniversary, but actually, it's our break up we were celebrating. It's an involuntary break up, brought on by Tosha's impending move to Ohio. And actually, I shouldn't call it a break up as if we aren't going to meet together any more, because I think we will, at least until Renae moves away...

Bringing the focus off my recent, sad theme of "friends move away," and back to dinner, I can't remember the name of the place we ordered from. Thankfully, Renae took the operation in hand. I can remember approximately what we had, it was as follows:

*linguine with pesto and chicken
*farfalle with red peppers and some other stuff
*gnocchi and spinach gnocchi
*macaroni and cheese with broccoli--which had a much fancier name
*spinach salad with goat cheese and red onions
*cheesecake with fruit

Tosha, I will miss you.

20 February 2009

In Which I Deign to Touch Raw Chicken

Sam and Erika's second baby, Madeleine, was born a couple of weeks ago. Tonight was my turn to supply them with a meal. I had planned to make them some good old Japanese curry, but then I started to wonder if the spice would bother the baby. So in addition to the curry, I also made my first ever roast chicken! Applause, please!

I've always been a little squeamish about touching raw meat. You wouldn't think so, since we're the furthest thing from vegetarian and I have to do it pretty much every day. Well, the daily-ness of it hasn't really pushed me to enjoy touching raw meat more, it's just inspired me to find creative ways around it. My most basic avoidance technique is, I steer clear of large hunks of meat and tend toward stir fries and/or other dishes that allow me to hold the meat over the pan or pot and then scissor pieces off.

But lately, the whole chickens at my local market have been on sale for 99 cents a pound. I bought one last week and made chicken stock, then Thai Coconut Chicken soup out of it. That was a positive experience, so this morning, I bought two more chickens with the intention of using one of them on Erika.

I ended up roasting the chicken, and I have to say, it was pretty tasty! I promised Erika that I would post the roasting directions, so here goes. This method is from the trusty How to Cook Everything.

Roast Chicken
Put your chicken in a roasting rack or pan or cake pan with rolled up pieces of foil coiled into the bottom. Roast breast side down at 500 for 20 minutes. Baste each side of the chicken with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Turning the chicken so breast is up, roast for 8 more minutes, then remove the chicken and lower the oven temp to 325. While waiting for the oven temp to adjust, baste the chicken with the juices that have gathered in the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the oven and cook for 20-30 more minutes, or until the chicken is done (at this point, there was some instruction about a thermometer and 165 degrees in the thigh--didn't do that since I broke my meat thermometer and haven't gotten around to replacing it). If the juices from the inside of the chicken are still red, then let it cook for 5 more minutes. After taking it out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes. Then transfer the chicken to a plate and pour the juices into a clear measuring cup. Let the fat separate for a few minutes, then spoon it off, pour the juice back over, and serve.

By the way, our menu was as follows:
*white rice
*Japanese style curry
*roast chicken
*salad of romaine, walnuts, dried cranberries, romano cheese and dijon vinaigrette
*white chocolate peppermint brownies
*pumpkin bars with cranberries and chocolate chips

19 February 2009

When Aogu's Away....

...our dinners tend to take a turn in the direction of "simple". He's not out of town, but as I mentioned yesterday, he is working toward a deadline, so he wasn't going to be home for dinner or bedtime (boo hoo!). And that's how we ended up with

*formaggio panini (HA! that means grilled cheese in Italian, I think!)
*potato soup, "cheeseburger version," recipe from
Simply in Season

The kids were skeptical of the panini. It's been a long time since I last pressed on bread, I guess. But when I said it was going to be like a quesadilla, only made with bread, they dug right in, and Koji even asked for seconds. I need to work that Griddler a little bit harder.

The potato soup needed much more seasoning, but it did get a fair amount of carrots into the kids, so it's probably worth making again.

Again, what did Aogu have? Hmm...Chikin Ramen?

18 February 2009

American Food

Every Wednesday night, our church transforms to a place of help for people who need it. The Harvest Food Pantry is staffed by volunteers, and tonight our small group signed up to take a turn pitching in.

I volunteered once before, and I enjoyed the experience, so I was looking forward to trying it again, though I couldn't help wondering what a super preggie like myself could actually do to be useful. Carting cans and boxes was out of the question, as was guiding patrons through the line to receive the food, since I wouldn't be able to help them carry their bags.

What does this have to do with OUR dinner? Well, since I was trying to get there between 5 and 6 to help set up--yes, giving myself that giant window was foolish and did mean that I actually arrived at 5:55--and since Koji had karate until 4:30 and since we had to pick up the babysitter, Susanna, and then get home and get settled, well, there wasn't a whole lot of time left for preparing or even thinking about dinner.

That's why the kids had
*shells and cheese from an Aldi box, with diced ham and peas added
*fudge pops

The perfect food pantry job for me turned out to be sitting at the end of the line and facilitating the paper work that allows patrons with children under 18 in their home to qualify for extra canned goods. I felt a little silly doing it, but when the evening was winding up, one of the regular volunteers came to me and said that the line ran much more smoothly than usual because I was there. So. Even super preggies can be helpful!

As for my dinner, it was
*1/5th of a sausage and beef sandwich and
*pizza from Gulliver's

I'm not sure that I actually like Gulliver's, but I was with Ross, Rebecca, Brian and Karlene, so excellent company made up for whatever was lacking in the restaurant.

You may be wondering what Aogu had for dinner? Good question! He stopped in at the food pantry and helped for about an hour, then had to head home and finish up some work ahead of a deadline. By the time I got home, he had already eaten? Or maybe I even served him something but I honestly cannot remember what it was!

17 February 2009

Maple Flavored Omega 3s

*white rice
*potato salad from yesterday
*maple glazed salmon
*egg drop soup with daikon "noodles"

If you think this plate looks small, you're right. Lately my stomach is so smooshed by baby that there's not much space for food in there. And if I eat too much, I feel really miserable. I've been trying to deal with the problem using this old dieter's trick: eat everything on your plate--your plate that is (much?) smaller than what you would usually use. So far, I think it's helping!

16 February 2009

Eggplant, Not As Good This Time

12 days ago, I made a dish with eggplant and it turned out well, so the next time I was out at the market after that, I grabbed more eggplant, hoping for a repeat performance. This time, I made:

*mabonasu (spicy eggplant with ground meat; this isn't the exact recipe I used, but it's very close so I'll just go with it)
*white rice
*Japanese style potato salad on a bed of romaine lettuce (has ham, cucumbers and onions in addition to potatoes; dressed with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Even after a soak in water, the onion that I put in was way too strong, so after dinner I fished most of it out)

The problem for tonight wasn't that the finished product was bad (with the possible exception of the super powered onion in the potato salad, see above), it was that every last one of the five eggplants I had was partially spoiled. I managed to salvage some pieces, enough to go forward with my dinner plan, but I was disappointed. Bad eggplants! Bad!

P.S. Please note that last Tuesday's post has been edited to include the broccoli salad recipe.

15 February 2009

Made Dinner But Didn't Eat It

We were invited to a co-ed bridal shower for Eric and Emily tonight--there they are, to the right.
Ross and Rebecca were willing to watch the kids so we could join the party. Here's what I made for the home crowd but didn't eat:

*whole wheat spaghetti with "dump" sauce (dump a half jar of spaghetti sauce, 1/3 jar of salsa, a can of mushrooms, 3/4 pound of ground beef, garlic, and onion in a skillet, then cook and stir)
*garlic bread
*leftover veg plate with ranch from the other night
*frozen fruit "dump" pie (guess "dump" was my mood for tonight...gather frozen fruits, in this case, peaches, strawberries and "mixed berries," stir in 1/4 cup flour, 3/4 sugar, microwave for a minute or two until they're not so frozen, dump into a pie crust, top with 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3 T butter mixed together and bake at 375 for 50 minutes)

As for Aogu and I, we had pizza, salad, guacamole, chips, sparking limeade (made by me with the trusty lemonade maker that is apparently discontinued...if you want one, you better check Craig's List or EBay...) and cake that Elizabeth bought at Cafe Selmarie. Thanks for a fun party, Jim and Elizabeth, and many blessings on Eric and Emily!

14 February 2009

Yesterday's Efforts, Redeemed

Tonight we were invited to spend time with Jason and Kristen at their place. I didn't want to run over any plan Kristen had made for dinner, but I also didn't want my effforts of yesterday to go to waste. Fortunately, Kristen didn't mind me bringing dinner components, so we joined forces and served the following:

*chicken enchiladas, from a Cook's Illustrated recipe
*black beans with cumin and chili powder, a Mark Bittman recipe
*white rice
*salad of spinach, pears, candied pecans, feta and oil and vinegar dressing--a delicious speciality of Kristen's (I think I helped myself four times?)
*heart shaped sugar cookies
*ice cream

I'm a dunce, so I forgot to take a picture. It's too bad because as chicken enchiladas go, I think they looked pretty nice. Note to self: next time put more sauce on them!

Valentine's Day Breakfast

Try not to fixate on the burned bacon....

13 February 2009

Timing Off

All week, I've been hoarding the ingredients for chicken enchiladas. So the good news is, I made them tonight. The bad news? I started them too late and didn't finish in time for dinner.

So we had
*microwave quesadillas and
*cucumbers/red peppers/tomato/broccoli with ranch instead.

Part of the problem was that Aogu and Izumi were scheduled to go out for a Daddy Daughter Date Night event at church, and the deadline of them needing to be there at 7:30 was too much for me. But that was a cause worthy of the sacrafice of my planned dinner. I heard they had a good time! Koji and I stayed home and played his video game of choice Lego Star Wars, which really means that he played, and I half watched and half read a magazine.

12 February 2009


After the exceeding amount of cooking I did the last two days, I was reluctant to set foot in the kitchen today. Thankfully, Aogu was working at home so I didn't have to pack him a lunch. Furthermore, Izumi and I didn't have CBS (because of Lincoln's birthday; hey, this is Illinois so the Chicago Public Schools are off, which means CBS is too), which meant that I was also off the hook for making her a lunch.

We were invited to a Valentine's Day party at Tara M.'s house this afternoon, and she upped the ante this year and kindly served us some
which I decided should be dinner. I was going to have it just be the kids' dinner, but I was weak and ended up helping myself.

It wasn't until we got home, the kids went to bed and I was throwing something together for Aogu that I realized: I actually ate pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner today (the leftovers from Graziano's and the aforementioned party pizza). No wonder I wasn't feeling very well! And no wonder the

*white rice
*gyoza (potstickers from the freezer)
*sliced avocado

that Aogu had looked infinitely better than anything I'd had all day! We'll see if I can get back in the groove tomorrow...

11 February 2009

Pork, Chicken, Whatever

Koji's not a big meat fan but he actually asked for seconds tonight on:

*tonkatsu (breaded fried pork cutlets)
*white rice
*hot carrots
*pickled cabbage salad with scallion greens and cucumbers

Just kidding, he didn't ask for more of that last. But he did enthusiastically eat more tonkatsu, which I happily gave him after he said, "Mama, can I have some more of that chicken?"

I enjoyed the tonkatsu that I ate while I was standing up the kitchen. I couldn't sit down because I was trying to put the finishing touches on a birthday cake that I made for Jennifer S.
Yes, she is older than 3...I knew she was 30 something but had no idea what the second number might be, and when I opened the drawer where the candles are, I found that 2 through 6 were available, but nothing like a question mark, which would have been most helpful. We found out that she is turning 35 and that she wasn't offended to be labeled "3".
The cake is a whole wheat genoise from Whole Grain Baking. I thought it was pretty well done for my first try, but I'd like to try it again and see if I can keep the layers from falling (one did, one didn't).
I also made the spinach artichoke dip you see next to the cake, as I was the snack lady for the evening. This recipe was super easy and got positive reviews from our housegroup members, but I'm not sure that I'll make it again since I don't usually keep jarred alfredo sauce on hand.

10 February 2009

Two Dinners is One and a Half Too Much

As I've alluded to here before, or maybe not, I am deeply in debt to Miho, who takes Koji to school at least once and sometimes twice a week. She is a lifesaver! But there's a problem and that is, she never needs me to reciprocate and take her son to school. The only way I've figured to return the favor is to make her food, since she doesn't like to cook.

Her husband is out of town this week, so I made a reservation to spend time there this afternoon having the kids play and making dinner for their family. It's a win-win really, because our kids play pretty well together, and I have to make dinner anyway.

The day drew closer and I realized that I myself didn't need dinner because I was invited to meet some Bible study friends at a restaurant. Seeing as that was later, I decided to go forward with my plan to make dinner for Miho and company. They had:

*broccoli salad with raisins and pine nuts (recipe below)
*ebi chili (shrimp in chili sauce)

*white rice
*salad of celery, apples, grapes and sunflower seeds dressed with mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt & pepper

*chocolate chip cookie bars (from yesterday)
*pistachio and cranberry biscotti (from the baking class I taught last week)

I cannot tell a lie, though I knew that I was going out to dinner in another hour, I couldn't resist sampling what I had made.

After eating that sample and gathering up the kids, I rushed them home, made a plate for Aogu, and took off to meet the CBS staff at Graziano's. As usual, it was difficult to decide what to eat, given my rule: don't order something you can make yourself. Then there was the fact that I wasn't really hungry...but I decided to go wtih pizza since I don't have an oven that will reach 700-900 degrees, so there's no way I'll be able to make that at home, right?

Pizza was a solid choice, but then I went totally off the rails and decided to try this:
*grilled steak fajita pizza - grilled skirt steak, avocado, tomato cilantro salsa, chipotle peppers, smoked mozzarella

Yeah. It wasn't very good. The crust was good, but the toppings were too random and just didn't go with pizza; they should stay in a fajita where they belong. I ordered the smallest one and ate half, thinking I was leaving myself room for dessert. A friend and I split the
*apple crostada

And then I almost exploded. It was an unseasonably warm evening and I really really would have liked to walk home--not that we were actually close enough to make that an option--to try and break even on the two dinners I ate. Alas! I suppose I did learn that I like shrimp in chili sauce better than steak fajita pizza...

Broccoli with Raisins and Pine Nuts
from Biography Magazine, July 2001

1/3 cup raisins (I used golden)
1/3 cup hot water
3 T pine nuts (I used 4)
2 medium heads broccoli
2 T olive oil
3 gloves garlic, minced (I used 5)
2 T anchovy paste

Combine the raisins with hot water and let stand at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until they are golden brown.
Steam the broccoli until crisp tender (5 min. for stems, 3 min. for heads).
Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook one minute or until soft. Add the anchovy paste and cook until one minute until the paste has melted. Add the broccoli, the raisins with their soaking water; cook and stir for a minute or two until the broccoli is well coated. Off the heat, add the pine nuts, toss and serve. Serves 4.

09 February 2009

Don't Be Skeptical of Bacon, Kids

Tonight, as usual, we had dinner with our friends the M family after some play time together. We often have pizza, but we branched out tonight:

*shells and cheese from an ALDI box with peas and bacon added
*chocolate chip bar cookies

Jan and I, as the adult faction, went for some

*lentil soup
*white rice

in addition to the above. Delicious soup, Jan; thank you!

The kids didn't know what the "brown things" invading their macaroni were at first, but once they gave that bacon a try, they were convinced. Have to confess that I was too! Putting bacon in the mac and cheese gave it a fancier (fattier? greasier? more caloric?) taste than the usual ham does. I'll have to try that again.

08 February 2009

Firebird's AKA Lifesaver

Who knew--certainly we didn't--that lunch would be so terribly hard to come by in Charlotte on a Sunday afternoon?
After driving around to two different restaurants that probably would have been good but lost our business by being closed, we finally went to
Firebirds. It was funny for Rich & Jenny to be there, since they had already been once earlier in the week. Furthermore, their first experiences at Firebird's, back a few months ago when they were in town checking things out, fell two days in a row. Got that?
Anyway, I had the
*durango cheeseburger and the
*sauteed mushrooms and copious amounts of

Because the bread was so good and I partook freely, there was no way I could finish my burger. So I put half of it along with the mushrooms I couldn't finish in a to go box so I wouldn't have to buy airport food later.

But when I was in Dulles Airport and opened my to go box for some dinner, I realized that the sponge action of the bottom bun of the cheeseburger combined with the mushroom juice had made the prospects less appetizing than what I had hoped. I ate it anyway; as you recall, I'm against buying food in airports if I can help it!

07 February 2009

Dinner in Charlotte

This weekend, as I referenced yesterday, I am in Charlotte, North Carolina. Aogu graciously agreed to take care of the kids so I could come and visit Jenny and Rich at their new house before they have their baby.
What a great weekend! Again, as I alluded to yesterday, if I should happen to catch up on my other blog (maybe I should make it a goal instead of being so wishy-washy about it) then you'll hear more about it.
The relevant point here is pictured to the right: dinner. We spent part of the day slapping ourselves on the forehead and regretting the fact that we didn't find a babysitter for their girls so we could go out to say, McCormick and Schmick's and cheer Rich on while he ate a whole plate of oysters. Bummer.
Jenny was ready though, with some really nice
She marinated it in a mixture of brown sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice, etc. and though she was thoughtfully concerned that it would be too sweet for me, it was actually just right. Along with that I enjoyed

*white rice
*sweet potatoes with rosemary and garlic salt
*salad of mixed lettuce, steamed broccoli and stir-fried mushrooms with blue cheese dressing

That last was enjoyed by me alone; salads and broccoli in particular don't get much (any) play time at their house, but they knew that I love it and I might be nervous if I didn't get my veggies in, so they accomodated me most considerately.
Thanks for the great dinner!

06 February 2009

Airport Food

I got to the airport tonight, ready to board a flight to Charlotte, NC all by myself which was a pleasant thing. I was then forced to buy something for dinner, which was not a pleasant thing. After all, airport food is overpriced and underflavored, for the most part. I truly intended to bring my own food, but since I followed my usual pattern and did my packing at the last possible moment, that wasn't possible. After too much walking up and down and pondering, I settled on this nicoise salad from Saladworks.
As I prepared to eat it, suddenly it occurred to me that maybe my seat mate wouldn't find tuna fish to be his favorite inflight odor. Fortunately, he was an easy going guy, and he said he didn't mind. Maybe he felt sorry for the starving pregnant lady or something.
My dressing of choice was parmesan peppercorn. All in all, it was a pretty good salad, but it made me want another round of the nicoise salad that my Aunt Cher made for my grandma's birthday party at the end of December. If I ever, ever, ever catch up on my other blog, maybe you'll hear more about that.
Next time, I'm taking my own food.

05 February 2009

I Waited Five Whole Weeks

to make chili, which is pretty funny, because Aogu and the kids (more Aogu than the kids) really like it. So in the past it wouldn't have been crazy for me to make it every other week and then eat it for like three days straight...but I guess I'm feeling the pressure I'm putting on myself to make and report dinner!

Also, I think I'm lying and I did make it at least once already this year, but I'm too lazy to poke through my own posts for last month. For that matter, I didn't take a picture, but I think you can imagine what a pot of chili looks like. Spend a moment doing that.

OK, this particular chili was
*chicken chili with red kidney beans, black beans, and mushrooms served with
*water/apple juice/pomegranate Izze

The best part about the chili was that we ate it with Kim, Chloe, Adam and Lily (not that any of them but Kim particularly liked it, but they were still good company)!

04 February 2009

Chinese Instead of Mexican; Makes Sense, Right?

For several days now I've been wanting to make chicken enchiladas. The corn tortillas and cilantro (don't tell Aogu) that I don't usually keep on hand are even ready to go. So last night, I went into my Quick Recipe book and before I could ever track down the chicken enchilada recipe I was utterly sidetracked by the word EGGPLANT.

Maybe you hate eggplant and don't ever want to cook with it, let alone put it in your mouth. I beg you, keep reading. A friend who ended up eating this dish hates eggplant, and she was utterly fooled into thinking she was ingesting portabella mushrooms. So even for sworn eggplant haters, this is a good dish.

*stir-fried beef and eggplant in oyster sauce (recipe below)
*white rice
*salad of romaine, tomatoes and ranch
*carrots and ranch for the kids

Stir-fried beef and eggplant in oyster sauce, inspired by the source mentioned above, but changed to fit what I had on hand, surprise!
Serves 4

Toss the following in a medium bowl:
3/4 pound beef (the recipe calls for flank steak, I didn't have any so I used a combination of ground beef and turkey meatballs)
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. cooking sake

In a small bowl, combine:
2 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
3 medium scallions, white parts, chopped (reserve and chop the green part to add later)
1 1/2 tsp. oil

Heat 2 tsp. oil in a non stick skillet until very hot. Add the beef and cook until well browned, then transfer to a clean bowl.

Add 1 T oil to the skillet and heat until very hot. Add 3/4 pound eggplant, cut into cubes or circles (I used Japanese eggplants, which are slender and short, so rounds made sense). Cook until browned and no longer spongy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to the bowl with the beef.

Add 1 1/2 tsp. oil to the skillet and heat until very hot. Put in a stemmed, seeded red bell pepper that has been cut into strips (I used a green pepper, red would have been prettier for sure) and cook until crisp tender, about 1-2 minutes.

Clear the center of the pan and add the garlic mixture. Add the beef, eggplant and scallion greens and toss to combine. At this point, the recipe calls for a doctored version of "Oyster Sauce" that one should mix up ahead of time and be able to pour in. I was too lazy to mix it together, so this is what I added directly to the skillet:
3 T cooking sake
3 T bottled oyster sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Cook and toss until very hot, serve with rice.

Note: I wanted to serve this the next day at my Bible study lunch, but didn't think I had quite enough to go around. So the next morning, I put some sesame oil in the skillet and stir fried 3 large stalks of celery, sliced, and 7 large white mushrooms, sliced, until they were a bit browned, then seasoned this mixture with a bit of salt and pepper. I returned the rest of the stir fry to the skillet to stir it all together and heat it through. It was even better with the added vegetables!

03 February 2009

Never Been To Louisiana

...so I don't really know how to make shrimp and sausage gumbo, or even what it's supposed to taste like. But that didn't stop me from trying to make it tonight with this recipe. I didn't use hot sausages because I didn't want it to be too spicy for the kids, but instead, I think the main effect was to make it a little boring for Aogu and me. The other problem was, the green pepper became strangely bitter. I don't know if that was an isolated incident, or if this would be better without the green pepper. Having given those criticisms, I still liked it pretty well and would make it again. I suppose I should say that I served the gumbo with the following:

*white rice
*baby carrots with ranch dressing

02 February 2009

Pecorino Romano

At Costco, the Parmiggiano cheese and the Pecorino Romano are lined up side by side, and the latter is significantly less expensive. Therefore, I always end up buying the latter and using it for everything. I've heard it's a bit saltier but otherwise a decent stand in, where Parmesan is called for.

In a sure sign that I've conditioned the family to like this cheese quite a bit, no one even noticed or thought it unusual that it was somehow incorporated into everything we ate tonight.

*lasagna with Romano
*oven baked cheese bread with Romano
*salad of romaine, hazelnuts, pickled onions and Romano
*baby carrots and ranch for dipping...I guess there wasn't any Romano involved there, actually...
*water (phew, at least Romano wasn't floating in it!)

The kids liked the cheese bread best. I think they would have liked the lasagna a bit more, but the top layer of noodles got pretty crunchy and that put them off. I wasn't offended, it kind of put me off too. I actually made this lasagna yesterday, which meant that tonight I was able to throw it in the oven while some friends were over for a playdate. That felt nice. However, I don't think the directions indicating that one should bake for 40 minutes with foil on, then 20 minutes off, were quite right. 10 minutes probably would have been sufficient.

I'm not leaving the lasagna recipe here because it was a super straight forward standard one from the good old Better Homes and Gardens red and white cookbook.

However, there is another recipe I'd like to introduce, tomorrow (it's getting late!). So for now, I'll just tempt you with the picture of the cafe au lait bars that I made tonight. I've promised to teach a little baking class for eight moms from Koji's school on Wednesday morning. We've already decided to make biscotti, but I wanted to make something else too and thought these might be good. Sure enough! They may look a bit strange here; the recipe presented a "mochacino" option, which meant spreading chocolate over the top. Wanting Aogu to try them without complaining, I left the chocolate off a quarter of the pan so I could give him an unadulterated sample. Chocolate or no, our verdict was that they are worthy material for the baking class. Now, I'll just have to try them alongside a cafe au lait for drinking (obviously my early pregnancy aversion to all things coffee has completely abated!). Please come back tomorrow for the recipe...

PS Ha ha! I guess the Steelers won yesterday, not the Cardinals, as I erroneously claimed...now you know the true extent of my interest in and attention to the Super Bowl...

01 February 2009

Super Bowl Party

We went to a Super Bowl party tonight. In preparation, I looked in the newspaper this morning to see which teams would be playing....looks like "Steelers vs. Cardinals"...good job to me!

I didn't know what to take to the party so I threw a bunch of random stuff on this tray, and then didn't take a picture until it was half eaten. Oops. In the middle is the cilantro mint chutney leftover from yesterday, carrots and pita chips to dip in it, carrot cake cream cheese frosting sandwich cupcakes, and in the empty space were some sliced pears, but Koji ate them all. All of them. That's why there's a blob of cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese left on the side; I thought it would be good to dip pears in, but apparently, he didn't.

Our hostess made chili, which was our main dish for dinner and really tasty! In addition to the items mentioned above, we also munched on pizza and chips. This smorgasbord was crowned by a strawberry banana trifle which was beautiful and delicious but unfortunately, I spaced out on taking a picture of it. As for the game, the Cardinals won at the last minute...I think?!