Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad

When I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes earlier this summer, I knew that my family would love it.  This is a tasty, mayo free variation on a traditional chicken salad and offers a lot of flexibility and options.  I used up some frozen cooked pasta  for serving the salad and left the girls portions "plainer" without the red pepper flakes or fresh herbs.  They love olives and this was a big hit.

Often when I make pasta, I cook a whole pound and freeze whatever we don't eat.  Then, when I'm making something like this (or need an easy dinner for the kids), I put the frozen pasta in a colander and boil a tea kettle of water.  I pour the boiling water over the frozen pasta and it's ready to use.  If you want it warmer, you could then put it in a pan with some sauce or whatever you plan to serve it with.  This shortcut has served me well over the years, especially without a microwave.

I'd like to try it again in endive leaves like appetizer "boats" or wrapped in butter lettuce - this is a great idea if you're gluten free.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad (4 servings)
from Simply Recipes

1/2 cup minced red onion
2 T red wine vinegar
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 T capers
3/4 cup mixed deli olives, sliced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 T  chopped fresh oregano
1 T chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Optional for serving:
endive lettuce, butter lettuce, cooked pasta

Mix together the red onion and red wine vinegar and set aside.  Slice the chicken breasts in half and poach in boiling, salted water for 10-15 minutes.  Cool and then slice.  Mix together the red onion mixture, chicken breast, olive oil, capers, olives, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper.  To serve, you could fill endive leaves or make cups out of butter lettuce.  Or, you can mix the chicken salad with cooked pasta.  Add a little additional olive oil as needed to moisten.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Report: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Farm

What was this book about?  It was about a lady named Mrs. Piggle Wiggle who cures kids.  The kids aren't sick but they have bad habits.

How was it different from the first Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book?  She moved to a farm.  The kids came to the farm.

Would you want to go to the farm?  Yes, definitely.  But not if there were bees that would sting me.

Do you need to be cured of anything?  Yes.  I need to have my "What ifs" cured.  I always ask [mom] "What if . . . ?"

What was your favorite chapter?  The "Fraidy Cat Cure" because the girl became brave when Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was hurt.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle didn't mean to do that cure, she just got hurt by accident.

Who was your favorite character?  Penelope.  She is a parrot and can talk to the kids and tell them things.

Any final thoughts?  Other kids should read this book because it is funny and they will love it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Some recent conversations with the kids

Middle runs away from me in a crowded place.  Far away.  After getting lost twice in two days.  I find her and pick her up.

Me:  You cannot run away from Mommy like that.  You are going to have a serious consequence this time.

Middle:  Like a spanking?

Me:  No, but it will be something serious.

Middle:  Like prison?

We're at the grocery store and Middle wants to pick out milk based on the color on the carton.  I grab some milk and we check out.  On the way to the car . . . 

Middle:  Mommy, do you pour the milk into your breast?

Me:  What?

Middle:  To feed the baby.  How does it get in there?

We're walking along and Big asks me what "loyalty" means.  I thought that was a tough one to explain but I did my best.  Then, after a few minutes, she hits me with this.  I think it's from listening to a Taylor Swift song too many times.

Big:  When someone says "I like . . . " or "I was like . . . " and then a sentence, do they mean that that's what they thought or that's what they actually said?

It took a few tries to understand what she was saying but she wanted the literal explanation of what it means when someone talks like this:  "So, I was like 'you are so weird' "

I can't wait to see what Tiny baby comes up with when she can talk!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mini Greek Meatloaves with Arugula Salad

I made this for dinner earlier this summer and just realized I never posted the recipe as I had intended to.  One of the reasons I made it was because I was looking for any recipe that contained arugula to use the massive amount that was growing in our garden.  We also were growing mint and thyme.  Well, a couple of months and a vacation later and our arugula is not looking so great . . . in fact, I bought some at Sprouts earlier this week because I couldn't harvest enough for a salad.

Meatloaf is one of those scary dishes for me . . . meat . . . in a loaf?  But, I have tried as a grown up to make some decent meatloaves and try variations on the traditional recipes.  This recipe is a keeper - I liked the flavors a lot and the yogurt feta topping is awesome.

Mini Greek Meatloaves with Arugula Salad (serves 4)
from Cooking Light May 2013

10 oz ground sirloin
5 oz lean ground lamb
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated red onion
4 tsp. chopped fresh mint
4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3/8 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 oz reduced fat feta, crumbled
2 T lemon juice, divided
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cups baby arugula leaves
1.5 cups thinly sliced seeded peeled cucumber (I used persian cucumbers and didn't peel or seed them).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in 1 T mint, 1 T thyme, 1/4 tsp. salt, allspice, red pepper, garlic, and egg.  Divide mixture into eight portions and make small loaves out of them and place them on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Turn broiler to high and broil for 2-3 minutes.

Combine yogurt, feta, 1 T lemon juice, 1 teaspoon mint, and 1 teaspoon thyme in a mini food processor; pulse 10 times to combine.

Combine 1 T lemon juice, oil, 1/8 tsp. salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add arugula and cucumber and toss.

Top the meatloaves with a dollop of the yogurt feta mixture and serve with the arugula salad on the side.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crostini Appetizers

I was looking through some old magazines and on the internet for appetizer ideas the other night and came up with a few great ones for topping slices of baguette or crostini.  Personally, I feel like the roof of my mouth gets all scraped up when I make crostini so I keep the baguette pieces soft.  We made the salami & fennel (good cheese-free option) and I loved the differences in texture and flavors - yummy!

To make crostini:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush thin slices of baguette with olive oil.  Bake for 5-10 minutes or until slices are crunchy and slightly browned.

Salami & Fennel:  Mix together a cup of thinly sliced fennel with the zest of one orange and a tablespoon or so of fresh orange juice.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little chopped frond from the same fennel bulb.  On the bread, put a slice of salami and then top with the fennel mixture.  Drizzle or spray with a little bit of olive oil.

Bleu Cheese & Apple:  Mix together softened bleu cheese and chopped walnuts.  Spread on bread slices, top with a thin slice of apple and drizzle with honey

Bleu Cheese & Fig jam:  Spread bread with some fig chutney or jam.  Top with crumbled bleu cheese.

Pesto & Radish:  Spread bread with some pesto.  Top with thinly sliced radishes and some sea salt.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

When you were two

You wore at least 3 or 4 (or 7 or 8) different outfits every day.  When your big sister would suggest something new to play or someone new to be, you'd go change into the appropriate costume.  Your favorite things to play were Cinderella, Rapunzel, Mommy & Auntie, and the Incredibles (you're Dash because you "have blue eyes and can run really fast").

You would ask me "who you going to be, mom?" and ask your big sister "are we still pretending?"

You had a big heart and if you got something (a cookie, a sticker, any treat), you'd make sure there was one for your big sister.

You loved being the big sister.  You smothered your baby sister with love and would tell her "nothing to worry about" when she would cry.  You told me all the time "Our baby is so cute."  Your best friend is your big sister.  The two of you would play, laugh, fight, sing songs and tell secrets.  Your big sister would help you wash your hair, reach things that were up high, speak up when you were shy, and other stuff.

When you did something well or correct, you'd proudly announce, "I'm a good job!"  When you were afraid at night, you'd tell us, "I'm scary."  One day recently, I asked you if you knew who Daddy's mom is.  Your first guess:  "Uncle Matt?"  No.  "You?"  No.  "Grammy Heidi?"  No.  "Grammy Judy?"Yes!  "I knew it."

You had an infectious laugh and such blue eyes.  You might have been tiny (barely weighing in at 30 pounds by your 3rd birthday) but you had a big personality, you knew how to stand up for yourself, and you could do lots of things (including swimming) that many 2 year olds don't know how to do.

You loved skirts that twirl and sometimes would try on 3 or 4 things until you found a skirt that was just right.  You were into accessorizing and add all kinds of extra things (layers of skirts, necklaces, sunglasses, headbands, hair clips, purses) to your outfit.  I often told people that what you were wearing was "a lot of look."

Doing thing by yourself was very important.  If I helped you when you didn't want to be helped, you'd start all over by yourself.

You loved to draw and color.  All on your own, you found magnets and would hang your masterpieces up on the refrigerator in the garage.  You know how to spell your name and would ask me to write your name on the coloring pages that you finished.

Your first self portrait

Baby girl, you are such a sweet little girl and you make me smile every day!  I can't imagine my life or our family without you in it.  I can't wait to see what this new year holds for you as you start preschool and learn so many more things.  Happy Birthday!!