Learning New Lessons

Yesterday I took one of my girls to school for the first time. I was not one of the parents with a video recorder, a camera that looked like what you might expect from a National Geographic photojournalist, or even a point-and-shoot camera snapping up photos of every step she took to the front door. I was in the car, dropping her off at the door with a wave and ‘have a good day!’. Tartlet 2 started 4th grade with Ms. Sabin. The rest of the tartlets and I started a new school year at home. With the new territory of a brick and mortar school comes the backpack, the gym shoes, and packing a lunch. I’m not likely to be as cute and creative as Jennifer’s Vegan Lunch Box, but hopefully we can get nutritious lunches ready for the kid before it’s time to head out the door each day. Unfortunately, I bought the lunch box one day and found the little boxes another . . . it doesn’t hold three of them at one time, no matter how you rearrange them. So the pretzels ended up in a little bag in the front pouch.

Another lesson learned last week was about salmonella. I think I gave myself a case of that last week after licking my cake batter spoon. I should know better, as Tartlet 1 pointed out, because I won’t let the kids do such a stupid thing. If you do the math and figure that salmonella is in 1 out of every 10-20,000 eggs and I tend to go through 3 dozen eggs each week, sometimes more, then I use roughly 2000 eggs each year and the chances are that every 5-10 years I will lick a spoon with a contaminated raw egg. Unfortunately, despite the violence with which I was sick last week, I’m fairly certain the odds that I’ll lick a spoon in the future are probably greater than 1 in 10,000. I don’t learn all that quickly, I suppose.

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Home Alone: A Mother’s Fantasy

Back at the end of January, The Husband bought a barn on eBay. No, I don’t mean like a barn and some property, I mean just the barn, 5 hours from home. He finally started taking it apart and bringing home the pieces in March and has been going back up to it every nice weekend he can. The first weekend he went alone, then he took Tartlet 1, another time he took Tartlets 1 & 2, another time it was Tartlets 2, 3 & 4 (Tartlet 1 was in her glory having Mom without competition!). This weekend he has taken all four Tartlets! So I am having a wonderful quiet day alone.

I’ve done the sorts of things it seems every mom I know does when the kids are gone — clean and organize without interference. Tossing out little plastic toys that no one will miss if they don’t see them going into the trash, straightening some drawers, laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Finally it was time to take a break and find some nourishment.

Many times when The Husband is gone, I don’t really cook. Either I get some take out or I scrounge leftovers. Knowing I would be sans car (no take out) and wanting something that celebrated the adult moment of being home alone, I bought some mushrooms and asparagus before the family left. I added a sprinkling of feta, some onion, a little long sweet red pepper, and seasoned it with a little fresh garlic and dried basil and oregano and tossed it with mostaccioli.  Mmmm, adult food!

I Love Presents!

Just after Easter the FedEx man arrived with a gift from the great people at FoodBuzz. Oooh, I love getting presents! 😉 It was marked ‘Keep Refrigerated’ and ‘Perishable’. What could it be? The Tartlets gathered around to see what treasure would come from the box. Imagine my delight when it was a package of Buitoni’s new Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. Especially delightful since three of the Tartlets turn their little noses up at mushrooms, leaving all the more for me! 😀

Oh, the ideas this lovely gift inspired. What kind of sauce to make? Hmmm . . . eggplant and zucchini in a tomato base? artichoke and leek in a cream base? maybe just a light toss with some fresh pesto? or a creamy sauce with ham and peas? oh maybe something with a little wine in it? Oh the agony of decision making! But this was just after Easter and I had a little bit of lamb leftover, which I usually save for a shepherd’s pie, and the sauteed mushrooms and onions were *sooooo* good with the lamb, that I kept thinking of how to incorporate the lamb into my pasta sauce.

The leeks couldn’t be passed up, so I started building a recipe in my head, combining things I had on hand with a few things I bought to add. Leftover half and half, leftover lamb, pignolia in the cupboard, and a lemon from the fridge were combined with a red pepper, leek, fresh grated Parmesan cheese, fresh oregano and basil to make a very tasty lunch. Tartlet 1 said that the only problem she could see with this recipe is that there wasn’t more of it!

In order to not be swayed by the flavor of my sauce, I tasted a wild mushroom agnolotti fresh from the boiling pot, and it was just amazing. Little bits of mushroom with a great flavor and would be a lovely meal without any sauce at all. Although the packages may be a bit spendy for feeding a family of six, I would absolutely buy this as a treat or for special adult meals. I loved them!

Speaking of spending money, I’d like to give a plug for buying day old bread at your grocery bakery. I picked up a day old baguette for $0.83. Now day old baguettes may seem to you like they are only useful as baseball bats or fending off would be attackers, but they make great cheesy toast. Cut the loaf in half, sprinkle with a little seasoning, top with shredded cheese and bake in a 350 – 400 F oven until the cheese melts. Not only will the bread soften so you don’t recognize it as day old, but you made a great accompaniment for your meal for a little more than a dollar (adding the cost of the cheese). It goes well with pasta and soups.

Make sure you check out what other people are doing with their pasta gifts and, if you like what you see, Buzz it!

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Lamb and Leek Cream Sauce

1 package Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, cooked according to the directions

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium leek
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
zest of one lemon
1/2 c. chopped cooked lamb

1 1/2 c. half and half (or substitute milk)
3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. pignolia

In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and saute leek until bright green. Add basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper, lemon and lamb. Saute until fragrant and vegetables are tender.

Add half and half and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until sauce is warm. Add the cheese and stir constantly, allowing the sauce to thicken. If you like a thicker sauce, add a Tbsp of flour to 2 Tbsp cold water and mix well, then add to the sauce and stir until thickened; for a thinner sauce, add a little milk or half and half. Stir in pignolia and serve over Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Fruit: It’s Not Just For Dessert

I know it seems like we just dine out or eat desserts all the time around here, but, honestly, we do eat other things! 😉 I bought a new Foreman Grill just before Christmas and have used it several times already. Most recently, I used it to grill a large flat of boneless chicken breast. Because I was serving it with BBQ sauce initially, I did not season it all before grilling it. After dinner and a lunch of leftovers, there were two chicken breasts left — not enough for the whole crew for lunch by itself, but, by turning it into chicken salad, I had enough leftovers for another lunch for myself the next day! A perfect way to stretch out the menu. This wasn’t made from a recipe, but from simply tossing in this and that, whatever was on hand.  It’s a little bit of summer to shake the winter blues.

Chicken Salad
2 grilled boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 apple (Jonagold in the picture), cored & chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/3 – 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/3 – 1/2 c. dried cranberries
1-2 Tbsp. finely minced onion
2 Tbsp. low-fat mayo
1/4 c. (or more, depending on your taste) Ranch dressing (mine was made by mixing a dry packet with plain yogurt)

Toss all ingredients until well mixed. Great plain, on a sandwich, or on a bed of greens.

Memo to Self

I seem to have a bad case of what The Husband calls ‘Blogger’s Back’ — too much late night computer use with my chair, keyboard and monitor aligned to cause a kink in the middle of my back. 😛 So I’m afraid I don’t have anything fabulous for you today.

Last week, on Thursday, I made this for dinner:

stirfry.jpg

I love stir fry. However, I need to remember not to make it on Thursdays. The Husband always bicycles to work, but on Thursday he first bikes to Panera in the morning to meet someone for bagels and then bikes into work, something that adds more than a mile to his normal path, I think. He’s also meeting someone at lunch and, for reasons I don’t understand, he bikes all the way to downtown and back to his office, which adds lots of miles to his normal day. Because he also has a fear of becoming overweight despite his higher than average metabolism, he tries to avoid eating snacks, even when he begins to shake with low blood sugar. He came home this week and ate 1/2 pound of cheese before dinner and the stir fry was still not filling enough! So the moral of that story is no stir fry on Thursdays and to pack his Thursday lunch so he makes it through the day.

I need to make him lunches like I did today:

grilled-cheese.jpg

grilled cheese stuffed with ham and green chiles. I think that’s his favorite grilled cheese sandwich and two or three of those keeps him going! 😉 That, some yogurt, fruit juice, and a few leftover peanut butter bars should do the trick nicely.