Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smaller is Better and Channeling Aunt Wanda

In America, the need for everything to be the biggest and best is ridiculously out of control. And I have discovered that, in many cases, bigger is not better. It starts with babies; they are the most beautiful creatures on earth, whether human or animal. And look how little they are! This rule also applies in the kitchen. I realized, really by accident, that little food is not only cuter and more appealing, but it also gives a feeling of contentment not easily found with larger foods.
I'll explain... It started a few years ago when I used to make 'Doggies in Blankets' (we started calling them this when my then three years old thought it sounded funny calling hot dogs piggies). I used to grab a package of eight hot dogs and a can of biscuits and make eight doggies. My three year old daughter and two year old son could demolish three or four of these doggies each, in one sitting. One day, on a whim, I cut each hot dog into three pieces and then then same with the biscuits and made a whopping 24 'Pups in Blankets.' Imagine my shock when my children, after eating only five of these pups (less than two whole hot dogs) were full and happy. Awesome!! So, now I've tried it with  hamburgers and taco pies. Last night I made cheese burgers sliders. I used one pound of hamburger and made the little buns with my white bread recipe (see Recipes). Absolute hit! Plus my whole family of five were full and satisfied on just 12 mini cheese burgers. When I make standard size hamburgers on the grill, my husband alone can eat two or sometimes three whole hamburgers. That meal usually requires two pounds of meat. So not only am I saving money by making everything smaller, but my family does even notice they are eating less.
I'll also share another secret with you. I started putting dinner on salad plates, instead of using the full size dinner plates. Martha Stewart would probably be astounded at this table setting, but my family is fine with it. I have a great aunt that said she used to feed a family of four on one package of hot dogs a week. Aunt Wanda, I don't know how you managed, but I think I'm starting to figure out at least some of your secrets!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Breakfast Boredom Rescued By Last Night's Dinner

We have been up at 5:30 am for the past three mornings, taking my husband to work. It's a temporary problem but still exhausting for the whole family. So, we come home half zombie and half starving. I have been trying to spice up breakfast to compensate for the fatigue and this morning, thanks to my mother-in-law, I hit one out of the park with some left over mashed potatoes. We are a potato loving family and I have often made my "Poor Mans Hash Brown" by just roughly chopping and frying potatoes for breakfast. However, during a recent visit, my mother-in-law told me about making potato cakes from mashed potatoes. I got really excited to try it. I had to look up the recipe and then, of course, I had to tweak it and make it my own. Here's what I came up with:

Mashed Potato Cakes

2 C. Mashed Potatoes (roughly)
1 Egg, well beaten
1/2 C. Flour (plus another cup for breading)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Stick Butter
Vegetable Oil
2 C. Shredded Cheddar (or your favorite cheese)

In a bowl, mix your potatoes, egg, flour and cheese. In a separate bowl, stir 1 c. flour with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper for the coating. Take a large spoon and scoop the potato mix, form a ball with your fingers and then roll in the flour. Once coated in flour, you can flatten into 1/4 inch cake and place on a plate. Repeat until your have formed appx 8 cakes. It will be easier to cook these if your refrigerate for about half an hour. Heat a frying pan over med to high high. Coat the pan with veg. oil and melt about 2 tbsp of butter with it. Your don't want to use all the butter at once because it will burn and the cakes soak up a lot.  Place fry the cakes 3 at a time so you don't over crowd your pan. Cook for about 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Add more butter as you need it. Set them aside to cool for about 10 minutes. They will be super hot!

So, next time you have mashed potatoes left over from dinner, don't throw them out! Put them in the fridge and you know they'll get used up at breakfast. Plus, you know this is a budget-friendly way to make your potatoes stretch a bit further.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nichole Nordeman Has A Standing Appointment At Tuck-in Time

My youngest has never been the best sleeper, so it took about three seconds to start singing to him. Even when he was colicky, it seemed to soothe him. I've have tried everything, from the Beatles, Show Tunes, to my own lyrics to the tune of Frere Jacques. More recently I've struck nap/bed time gold with a Nichole Nordeman song titled My Offering. He'll be two and a half next month and his vocabulary and his curiosity are growing every day, so it makes sense that this would be the song that sticks out to him. The verses are very visually descriptive, yet simple, imagining that the singer was grass or a cloud or a mountain, and how she would still give an offering of praise. My son always requests this during tuck in, with his adorable version of English, saying "Wait! We haf to sing my osserig!" Now, even when I'm too tired to sing, he requests it and I have to give in. And it warms my heart to have even the youngest of our family singing to Jesus.

Kid Food, Banana Peppers and A Dash of Wasabi

In my efforts as a stay at home Mom, I've discovered that summer lunches are more of a challenge. I have three children, with another one on the way, but my two oldest are in school. So, during school I tended to throw something together for my two year old and it was simple and easy. Then I would make something for my lunch when he was napping. When I have all three of them, lunch takes more effort and I often opt out of a separate meal and either skip lunch or eat kid food. I've gotten creative, though, because sometimes kid food is not so appetizing. The pregnancy cravings are probably giving me inspiration, as well. Today, I sliced up apple, and cooked some chicken nuggets. Boring! I decided for my plate, I would spice it up and made some wasabi-mayo for dipping sauce. It sounded good and tasted really good! I took some prepared wasabi paste and threw about 1/2 tsp in with 2 tbsp of mayo. It may have been more. I tasted it and kept adding the wasabi. If you are squeamish about spice you should probably add it gradually, to taste. I think next time I'll even get crazier and put my nuggets on a sandwich. I've also recently chopped banana peppers and put them in my mac-n-cheese. It was awesome, but I leave this to your discretion as to whether it was a craving or a stroke of genius.