Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 30, 2009

French dip sandwiches, roasted zucchini and artichoke hearts.

I needed a quick dinner for tonight so I took a tip from a commenter and made pretty snazzy sandwiches out of a Hormel roast beef au jus. Thanks, Anonymous!

After dinner, I took Josh and Alex to the pool while E and Chuck stayed behind to play trains. So I got to sit at the pool with my Entertainment Weekly (how else am I supposed to stay abreast of Lauren Conrad's latest projects?) and relax for a half hour, except for periodic motherly shouts of "No running!" It was lovely.

Except that my brain, which will not let me enjoy anything, flashed on the point that I was sitting by the pool, fully clothed, unneeded. And how soon that will always be the case, even when Eli comes with us: Maybe next summer, certainly the summer after that, and every summer thereafter. A time is coming soon when I'll have a lot of time to read up on the celebrity style report card. Don't know whether to be excited or freaked out about that.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 29, 2009

Grilled leg of lamb, risotto with asparagus, farmer's market green salad.

My sister's kids went on vacation with their dad, and she came over for dinner tonight. She has a week off and the first night of it she wants to spend over here with my chaos. What's wrong with her?

Never mind: We had a good time chatting and I had an excuse to make something a little special.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 28, 2009

Pork burgers, sauteed potatoes, pickled green beans, served with fruit and coleslaw.

Today we went to a birthday party for my niece and nephew. It was hot and Josh and Alex played outside the whole time. My sister arranged for one of her friends to dress up as Darth Maul and have light saber duels for two hours. Eli, however, rejected this plan: "Don't you want to see Darth Maul?" "NO! I HATE HIM!" So we alternated supervising light sabers outside and chasing the baby all over the house to make sure he didn't open all the presents.

So yeah, we're worn out. We actually would have gotten takeout but we'd already defrosted the meat and needed to use it.

These pork burgers were easy to make and tasty. The potatoes require very little effort and are a crowd pleaser (because they are, essentially, homemade thick-cut potato chips). Slice a lot of red potatoes--maybe a pound?--about 1/4 in. thick. Melt two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat; add potatoes and leave them there until brown, turning once or twice. When they're done, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little fresh thyme, if you have some (which I do! Herb garden is still alive!). Eat copious amounts, walk dog and do push-ups to assuage guilt.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 27, 2009

Romaine salad with chilled shrimp and dijon vinaigrette; grilled zucchini strips; raspberries.

The first zukes have come out of our garden, little and sweet and ready for grilling with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (and a sprinkle of parmesan afterwards). And then on a whim this morning, I took the boys on a sweaty adventure to the farmer's market and came away with some nice produce. Dinner, ta-da!

The boys love the farmer's market. They got honey sticks (not Eli, though, because the thought of that particular mess gives me the hives) and brownie samples and bits of artisan bread and beef jerky. They like looking at the mud-covered beets and funky clumps of carrots.

I like the farmer's market, but there are a couple of things about it that bug me. For one thing, some of the farmers sell stuff they clearly didn't grow: come on, cantaloupes, really? (When I asked, the guy said they came from Texas. Not quite local.) The other thing is that most booths offer the same items. The sameness sort of makes sense because vegetables come into season at the same time, but I wish for more variety at an open-air market like that. When I was in college sometimes we used to go to Boston's Haymarket on the weekends, and the variety there was amazing.

Still: There were emu eggs and steaks, and one booth with the most gorgeous orchids, all of which I admired but did not buy. There were also enough good-looking fruits and veggies that reasonably could have been grown around here. We got some stuff for tonight and some more stuff for the week, and now I get to figure out what to do with it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 25, 2009

Deli sandwiches, assortment of olives, berries.

Day four or something of the heat siege. Yesterday I took the kids to my parents' house, so my mom cooked for us. She made delicious crab cakes (sold to the children as Krabby Patties, thank you Spongebob) and served fruit on the side.

Inspired by my mom, and by the comments on Tuesday's post, I have finally tried to focus on what makes a good dinner when it's so hot that turning on a heat-generating appliance sounds obscene. Tonight I copied my friend Holly's idea for cold panini, and my mom's idea of cold, simple side dishes.

The bonus of a dinner like this is that it's so fast to prepare and clean up, there is time to take the boys swimming afterwards. I mean, there is time for Chuck to take the boys swimming. Tonight I needed a break from hauling my children all over town, and especially from swimming with Eli. Eli appears to want nothing more than to drown himself. Given a split-second with no adult eyes on him (even if there are adult hands on him), he immediately dunks his face into the pool. Comes up spluttering every time, then does it again first chance he gets. "Why, baby?" And he just grins. The kid is wearing me out.

Now I must retire with a cold compress upon my delicate brow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 23, 2009

Biscuits and turkey-sausage gravy, tomato salad.

Oy, the heat! The car thermometer this afternoon said it was 102; the weather guy said heat index of 112. Gross. So I thought, well, what do they eat in the South? I mean, Southern food is great, and they don't just stop cooking because it's really hot, right?

It came out okay--I am not a skilled biscuit maker. But the gravy tasted good, even if it was kind of heavy for this weather. I just don't feel like making anything when it's this hot. What do other people do when it's beastly outside but you still have to feed your family?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What We Made for Dinner: June 21, 2009

Grilled burgers and brats, assorted salads, trio of vegetable dips, coconut cake.

Tonight we hosted a family celebration of Father's Day and my mom's birthday. When everyone gets together like this, there's always too much food. I love it. It's the definition of family to me: Children screeching all over the house and my countertop filled with food everyone brought. It reminds me of this Norman Rockwell painting,

except we didn't eat over a pristine white tablecloth. We used paper plates and stood around smelling like sunblock and Off. And also there was no turkey. And no platter of gourds. We had a lovely feast, though. I made the dips (roasted red pepper/walnut, cannellini/roasted garlic (my favorite), and artichoke/cheese).

Of course I failed to take pictures of dinner. I was especially proud of the cake, though, and I managed to get a shot.
Cake from scratch is good stuff! I don't make it much because it's a hassle. This one was too, but kind of worth it because it's the only way to get coconut cake with chocolate ganache filling, coconut cream frosting, and dark chocolate shavings.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 20, 2009

Not a damn thing.

But there's a reason! Today, I made many things besides dinner in my kitchen:
  • Pickled green beans
  • Pickled okra (preserved in canning jars)
  • Coconut cake
  • Joy of Cooking's Quick White Icing II
Tomorrow, of course, is Father's Day, and both our families (minus my brother-in-law, stuck working in Arizona, boo) are coming over to celebrate. It also happens to be my mom's birthday. So tomorrow, I will be making:
  • Biscuits and gravy (for breakfast)
  • Parmesan artichoke dip
  • Roasted red pepper dip
  • Some kind of dip involving roasted garlic and cannellini beans
  • Grilled zucchini and mushrooms
Thanks to the largess of my guests, that's all I'll have to make. But I think that's quite enough kitchen productivity for a couple of days. Dinner tonight was a no-go.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 19, 2009

Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, side of grapes.

Of course, that is not what I ate.

Tonight Chuck and I went out to Blanc Burgers + Bottles, where we dined with our delightful friends Ally and Mark. We drank beers and sea breezes (and a gimlet, I think). We had gourmet burgers, of course. Mine were veal sliders served open-faced on polenta with fig jam. We also had skinny-cut truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and beer-battered crispy onion rings, all delivered in tiny little shopping carts perched on napkins to keep them from rolling off the tabletop.

We talked and talked--and after weeks of hanging out all day with my boys, it's impossible to overestimate the value of an evening of human conversation. Then afterward, because we weren't done talking but all our food was gone, we walked over to Murray's, a local place, for homemade ice cream. Best ever: cinnamon graham cracker ice cream topped with dark chocolate fudge. But Murray's appears not to have a website. Come on, Murray's, get with the program!

(After a major indulgence in rich food and drink, I find ice cream a satisfying digestif, don't you?)

Yeah, so right now I'm taking some Tums and tomorrow morning I'm going to the kickboxing class at the gym. Totally worth it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 18, 2009

Big sandwich, pickled green beans.

It is too hot to cook.

But the green beans have been brining in my fridge since Sunday afternoon. This was my first try at home pickling; I was inspired after reading Smitten Kitchen's post on pickled sugar snap peas. (But I used this recipe, instead.)

Experiment was succesful! Alex ate nearly a half-pound of green beans all by himself. (There will be no follow-up report on the side effects of eating that many pickled green beans.)

Off to swelter at a coach-pitch baseball game.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 15, 2009

Pasta with garlic and breadcrumbs, salt-and-pepper crusted shrimp, watermelon salad with gorgonzola.

A feast tonight! My cousin Ben is visiting! He's in town for the summer off from USC. (So big time.) He's staying with my sister but sometimes we get him for dinner. I figure I have to feed him well to keep him coming back.

The shrimp is an old Martha Stewart recipe that I've saved in my ridiculous, years-old, enormous recipe files that would be embarrassing if they weren't so useful. I love looking through them from time to time and reminding myself what I used to make. That's how I rediscovered this shrimp dish and decided to make it tonight. The watermelon salad is new to me; I would definitely make it again, and I'm writing down the recipe, otherwise I will never remember what I did.

Watermelon and gorgonzola salad
3-4 cups seedless watermelon, in 1-inch cubes or balls
1 cup shredded arugula
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup minced green onions
1/2 t. salt
2 T. olive oil
2 T. champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Pinch cayenne

Combine the watermelon, arugula, cheese, green onions and salt. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, and cayenne; dress the salad and serve.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Chuck and I Made for Dinner: June 13, 2009

Fish tacos, yellow rice with chickpeas, tomatillo salsa.

Our first year out of law school, Chuck clerked for a judge. That was a fantastic year. We made friends with all his co-clerks and the clerks for the other judges on the floor. We had dinners together, a couple of weekends away, a particularly fun Oscars party, if memory serves--a good time was had by all. At one dinner party, Chuck's co-clerk, Brian, made this insanely good salsa.

This salsa makes us nostalgic. It also makes us sweat--it is spicy! It's so good that the first year we had a vegetable garden, we planted tomatillos so we'd have a ready supply. They went crazy and took over the garden, and I'm not kidding. It's easier to buy them.

Where did Brian learn to make salsa like this? I have no idea and he wouldn't tell. But he was generous enough to share the recipe, which we still have on his law firm stationery. ("Memorandum: How to Make Salsa.") And now I am generous enough to share it with you.

Tomatillo salsa de arbol
2 t. vegetable oil
6 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and crumbled
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/3 c. diced onion
2 lbs. tomatillos, cored

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and garlic and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes, until toasted. Transfer to a food processor; add onion and tomatillos. Process to blend. Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 12, 2009

Teriyaki vegetables and ribeye steak.

It's Shabbat and my parents are here, so I'm supposed to make a special dinner, right? In the sense of many dishes, traditional ones, and challah. But Lord, I just could not muster it tonight.

Yesterday I took all three kids to the local Natural History Museum and then to lunch, and the candy store, and the toy store, and the weird-fossils-and-preserved-animals-and-medical-novelties store. And you know something? The baby is getting big. As I discovered at 4 a.m. while having back spasms. Then, undaunted (and upright! let's not forget upright!), we went to the zoo today. Because I am crazy, and for no other reason.

At any rate, I was too tired this evening to make a real Shabbat dinner. (A funny thing about that: Shabbat is for rest, but man does tradition require some hard work to get there!) This dinner is nice but fast, and it requires almost no prep time. My folks brought the steaks from Costco, which means they were Fred Flintstone-sized; we salted them and grilled them and that's it.

The veggies copy the kind of vegetable side dish they serve at a Japanese steakhouse, and are very easy to make: chop napa cabbage, colorful peppers, mushrooms, maybe zucchini if you have some, and stir-fry it with oil; sprinkle with powdered ginger, salt, and pepper; finish with sesame oil.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 10, 2009

Chicken burgers, herbed couscous with arugula.

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I have a job, after all. But I'm off this summer, and entertaining three monkeys is all up to me. So far it's been fine, but then yesterday it rained and rained, and then it rained some more. Today it kept threatening to rain. The upshot is that my children and I have been cooped up for more than twenty-four hours, and that is bad news. Take these home conditions, combine them with actual bad news from the outside world, add the soundtrack from Caillou, and my head is threatening to come off my neck and steal the car and never come back.

Anyway, by dinnertime, it was abundantly clear that we needed some outside time. I thought I'd grill burgers, because then I can cook and stand around outside. For variety, I made them with ground chicken.

As soon as I lit the coals, it started raining again. The boys went inside. "I AM GRILLING THESE GODFORSAKEN BURGERS ANYWAY," I told them in measured and rational tones as they stared at me through the screen door. (I might not have said "forsaken." I forget.)

And I did. They were good!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 8, 2009

Pork cutlets, roasted red potatoes and artichoke hearts.

Chuck has been bugging me to make pork chops, but I don't really like them. Not sure why: I think it's because they're thick and so they dry out by the time they're cooked through, or else you have to stuff them, which is a pain.

But I recently saw an article suggesting cutlets, and I was intrigued! I hadn't made them before so I turned to Joy of Cooking. It is absolutely the best for just getting a handle on how to cook something new. When I had a look, it suggested some lovely-sounding butter sauces to go with. I made sauce Polonaise, which sounds very fancy but is not. (It's just brown butter with lemon juice, parsley, and breadcrumbs.)

Pork cutlets go into the rotation! Much easier, tastier, and tenderer than chops, plus they cook in literally two minutes. And look out: I have reviewed Joy of Cooking's "About Butter Sauces" section, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 7, 2009

Yogurt-marinated chicken, Greek salad.

Alex had a baseball game tonight, and normally on baseball nights we just eat at the ballpark, but today I couldn't bear the thought. So we ate a little late, but it was so worth it! This chicken is a curry-like affair, a lot like shawarma. I served it with hummus, plain yogurt, and mango chutney for dipping. The recipe is from the DK Children's Cookbook. Josh and Alex love this dinner (Eli does not, but he's two and wanted fruit snacks for dinner so what does he know).

For some reason, this dinner reminds me of when I was a kid, growing up in a town smaller and more great-plainsy than this one, and the first Greek restaurant in our town opened. Greek salad and chicken shawarma was pretty exotic. This restaurant predated the town's Olive Garden. I wish I could remember what it was called! It sat bleakly in a strip mall next to a grocery store, decorated with vinyl booths and posters of gyros sandwiches. But we went there all the time, because it was tasty and interesting and different. Dinner there looked like the one we had tonight.

Then Olive Garden opened and killed it. But it was nice while it lasted.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 6, 2009

Steamed artichokes, pasta salad with olives, basil, pine nuts and romano.

We spent most of the day at our city's summer festival, complete with parade (Josh was very excited to hold the American flag for his cub scout den as they did a three-mile forced march in the heat). And there was carnival food! And carnies! We managed to have no one in our family eat a deep-fried Snickers. But by God, they were available.

In the aftermath I had to put a healthy meal on the table, because I have way too much guilt for anything else. Yes, I will allow you to eat corn dogs and funnel cakes, ice cream and french fries--and then you must eat your vegetables.

(To be perfectly honest, we also let the kids have hot dogs with this stuff. Come on, I'm not a monster.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What I Made for Dinner: June 4, 2009

Alfredo pasta with grilled chicken and peppers.

Suppose you'd been at continuing legal education all day, and suppose when you got home your children really, really wanted you to search for fossils with them. But also suppose you knew that within forty-five minutes or less, those same children--who had been outside just about all day, and who had achieved a spectacular level of dirtiness, and exhaustion to match--would turn into ravening beasts if you didn't come up with something to feed them. What would you do?

(Here is where I wonder why they care that much about playing with me. I have been home with them every day since school let out. Aren't they sick of me yet? I know I would be.)

Well, here's what I would do:

If you have leftover grilled chicken tenders and sweet peppers, and you have some half-and-half and grated parmesan cheese, maybe a little nutmeg, and if you have some whole-wheat bowties, you too could have alfredo pasta with grilled chicken and peppers, all in about fifteen minutes.

Josh and Alex devoured this, but honestly I think they were so hungry they would have eaten anything I set before them.

By the way, they really did find some cool rocks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What My Mom and I Made for Dinner: June 1, 2009

Grilled chicken tenders and sweet peppers, steamed artichokes, Caprese salad.

Our neighborhood pool is finally open, hooray! So I took Josh and Alex swimming this afternoon while my mom took Eli to the grocery store to pick out some things for dinner. (This is what he picked, more or less. He also picked some fried rice noodles from the supermarket's Chinese kitchen.)

I love to go to the pool in the afternoon, especially now that the boys will let me use their Sub-Skates, and no I'm not kidding. But the problem is I always stay too long and then get home too late and have to rush to fix something for dinner, and everyone's starving from swimming, and the baby is tired and thirsty, and everyone needs to change into dry clothes but can't find their underpants, which is, of course, my responsibility. And then the situation rapidly deteriorates into whining and yelling and crying.

Sometimes the kids get upset too. Ba-dum-bum.

But if my mom is here, that doesn't have to happen! When we got back, dinner was already underway. Chicken tenders were a stroke of genius by my mom (or by Eli, who knows), because they take only ten minutes to cook on the grill. We put them in a flat grilling basket so they wouldn't fall through.

While they were grilling, I went out to look at our little vegetable garden. The tomatoes are happy enough, but the zucchini has gone completely bonkers. We'll be eating a lot of ratatouille next month.

What I Made for Dinner: May 31, 2009

Ming Tsai's chicken and corn fried rice with lemon spinach.

The first time I made this, the kids loved it, couldn't get enough of it. This time, no love at all. How does that happen? Anyway, we gave them leftover pizza.

I got the Blue Ginger cookbook for Mother's Day and can't wait to try more of Ming's recipes. Tea-smoked salmon, for instance (I am determined to find a salmon recipe my family will eat). Or braised chicken with shiitakes and snow peas. Stay tuned.

What I Made for Dinner: May 27 & 28, 2009

Steak salad; steak tacos.

Back on Sunday when we grilled beef kabobs, we made way too much steak. The reason is that in the fall we bought one-fourth of a cow, which has worked out terrific except that the processor didn't weight-label the packages. And the meat is packed in these compact little freezer bags, maybe vacuum-sealed but I'm not sure, but at any rate the packages are much smaller than ordinary supermarket meat packages. So it is really hard to judge how much exactly is in a pack of kabob cuts, and it looks kind of small, so we decided to defrost two packages. And as it turned out, two packages is a freaking lot of beef kabobs.

Faced with a huge pile of defrosted pieces of steak, we grilled it all and hoped for the best. "The best" being creative and timely use of leftovers.

So last night was steak salad, always a tasty standby, with sweet onions and goat cheese and asparagus. Tonight was steak tacos, standard fixings (I simmered the leftovers in water with taco seasoning). I think we're done now.

In other food news, Eli had his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. He loved it (after he finished throwing a humongous temper tantrum at the outrage of my requiring him to eat lunch AT THE ZOO). No allergic reaction. Cool!

What My Mom Made for Dinner: May 26, 2009

Family spaghetti sauce with meatballs and Italian sausage, rigatoni, eggplant parmigiana, salad.

We had a big family celebration tonight! All the grandparents and cousins and Auntie and even Ben came! It's quite a day: Eli turned two and Alex graduated from Kindergarten.

I, frankly, am a little bit of a mess.

What I Made for Dinner: May 24, 2009

Beef kabobs with peppers and mushrooms, sourdough panzanella, s'mores for dessert.

"Mom, the grill is still hot, will you make s'mores?"


"And don't make any of those lame ones wrapped in foil with the Snickers or whatever."

"That was a Paula Deen recipe!" [I can't find the link, but I saw some show where she made smores with a variety of fillings, made with the whole thing wrapped in foil instead of just toasting the marshmallows. It was Food Network. I should have known better.]

"Who's she?"

"Good point, Josh."

I made them the normal way. Amazing how one-fourth of a Hershey bar fits so precisely on one-half of a Honey Maid graham cracker.

What I Brought to Share: May 22, 2009

Buttermilk-marinated chicken breasts, pasta salad with herbs and goat cheese.

Friday was the Second Grade play at the elementary school; after our morning at the theater a bunch of us parents were standing around chatting. Our friends Scott and Susan mentioned that it was Susan's birthday and if we'd like, we could come hang out on their deck later to celebrate.

Hanging out on people's decks is one of my favorite things to do in life! I was in! (Unfortunately, Eli woke up from his afternoon nap with the contents of his head draining out through his nose. Babies suck like that. So Chuck was out. I brought Josh and Alex with me and the hanging out commenced.)

To grill, I marinated boneless chicken breasts in buttermilk, garlic, kosher salt, and pepper. A buttermilk marinade for chicken breasts is the best: It delivers a lovely tanginess while the lactic acid tenderizes the chicken, which otherwise the grill can desiccate into unchewability.

And hooray: It's pasta salad season! My herb garden has taken off for having been in only three weeks. The more you harvest, the more those plants grow. The pasta salad had thyme, sage, parsley, and a little purple basil (not too much or else all you'd taste is basil). White wine and olive oil vinaigrette, goat cheese.

I had such a nice time! Made some new friends, drank martinis and this dangerously tasty beer-lemonade concoction from Susan's neighbor Christa. The kids got muddy and filthy and wet with super soakers and the hot tub. Mosquitoes ate my right arm. We got home too late to give the boys proper showers.

Summer is here!

What I Made for Dinner: May 20, 2009

Beef and black bean soft tacos, corn, carrot sticks.

This dinner was a little bit school-lunchy. Chuck is out of town and often I find it hard to make anything much when he's not home for dinner. Why should that be? He's only one-fifth of the family. Maybe it's because he's taller than everyone else.

I'm on summer break from work now, so with Chuck traveling I can get a little starved for adult interaction. I tried to make the most of the evening: First the tacos, then a trip to the playground, then ice cream. I even brought the kids along!

The big thing is, and I know I've said this before, I just don't know how single parents manage all the time. There's a blog I like, http://www.mattlogelin.com/, which is a single dad chronicling how he manages with his baby daughter. I read it and just, you know, count my blessings and make tacos.

What I Made for Dinner: May 15, 2009

Tofu and vegetable stir-fry, potstickers, edamame.

Alex was supposed to have his first baseball game tonight at 6. We had planned to eat at the ballpark, which has pretty good concessions for a Little League outfit. Unfortunately, tonight's weather is not good for baseball, to say the least. So no game, no ballpark, no concessions. Oh, dear.

Luckily we had enough veggies in the house (and a big bag of Ling Ling frozen potstickers) to put this together. As good as it was, though? It was emphatically not the baseball complex's cheeseburgers and crinkle fries.

What I Made for Dinner: May 14, 2009

Chateaubriand, salmon mousse, salad of microgreens with brie en croute.

Ha! No, I'm totally kidding. I got a rotisserie chicken and bean salad from the supermarket. Our market has the best bean salad! And about that, I am dead serious.

What I Made for Dinner: May 12, 2009

Buttermilk-marinated chicken, grilled portabellas and tomatoes, Boston cream pie.

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday and we celebrated with him tonight. There was a time when we would take him out for a fancy birthday dinner. Then there was another time, somewhat more recently, when we would take him out for a more family-friendly kind of celebration, like maybe someplace with crayons on the table.

But with our particular toddler these days, dining out has become Very Unpleasant. And I am not a person who believes in immoderate capitalization. So celebratory dinners happen at home.

This menu was my dad's choice, of course. I wanted to make everything on the Weber grill, but dark stormclouds kept threatening to bust open at any moment. The oven broiler is basically an upside-down grill, though, so I just broiled everything. I was pleased with the results, though some nice wood-smoke flavor would have improved the chicken.

I was so proud of the Boston cream pie, if I do say so myself! I am not a talented baker at all so when something comes out right it makes me ridiculously happy. This cake was a Duncan Hines yellow cake (the best!), split in half lengthwise, Jello vanilla pudding in the middle. Did you know that Duncan Hines chocolate frosting turns into chocolate glaze when you heat it in a saucepan? I learned that from the back of the box. It works great! My dad was happy, and Eli said, "Good cake, Mommy!"

What I Made for Dinner: May 11, 2009

Mozzarella-stuffed meatballs, red wine tomato sauce, pasta, green salad.

By chance I saw my friend Holly at the garden store on Saturday, so when I was thinking of what to make for dinner tonight, I thought of her recipe for these meatballs. She put it on her Facebook page back in February and it has since made it into my rotation.

This one little episode encapsulates my love for the Facebook thingy. Holly and I were great friends back in eighth through tenth grades, but then she moved away with her family. We tried to keep in touch, but we had busy lives that went in different directions. Nothing unusual at all. The same thing has happened to me with dozens of people from high school and college and camp, and everyone else has the exact same experiences. It is just very hard to keep track of people, even when they're important to you, even when you mean to, even when you miss them.

But some Harvard kid invents this thing, and all of a sudden I'm sharing recipes with Holly! And looking at Jenna's photos! Reading about Sharon's adventures in parenting! Wondering just how admirably snarky Justin could be if he really put his mind to it (and I don't even think there is an adjective to describe that amount of snark, honestly)!

Pundits can whine about it, columnists can philosophize about it. Virginia Heffernan at the NYT wrote a whole stupid column on whether status updates are a valid contribution to society. Blah blah blah. As far as I'm concerned? The Facebook makes the world better.

What Chuck and I Made for Dinner: May 8, 2009

Grilled steak and artichokes, homemade challah.

Best challah recipe ever, right here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/My-Challah-235867.

What I Made for Dinner: May 7, 2009

Ziti and broccoli casserole.

When I had my first apartment on my own, I got a cookbook and subscriptions to several cooking magazines. (I knew how to cook already--my mom had done a good job--but the things I could make were suited to a family, or to a fancier dinner party than I was ever going to have at twenty-two. I could make a standing rib roast with vegetables, for example. Not so much for one little person.)

Of all the sources I had, that first year I learned the most from Cooking Light Magazine.

Cooking Light was great for a beginner. The recipes were simple, used common ingredients, and (of course) had plenty of nutritional information. Even better, the magazine focused on teaching readers techniques they could cross-apply to many recipes. One of my favorites was a broccoli-rice casserole I still make nowadays. Instead of using cream or creamed soup, you make a simple bechamel (with lowfat milk) to thicken the casserole. That bechamel is unbelievably versatile for all kinds of casseroles. The result is cheesy and satisfying without being heavy.

So this meal was somewhere between my old standby broccoli casserole and baked ziti. Pasta was a nice sub for the rice, and I added diced tomatoes to up the veggie content. A success, improvised in the throes of a lot of paper-grading.

What I Made for Dinner: May 6, 2009

Clara's Peppers and Eggs.

A while ago, my friend Ally tipped me off to Depression Cooking with Clara, a series of YouTube videos. Clara is 94 years old and she's been cooking for most of those years, and she remembers vividly the meals her mother made their family when Clara was a girl and everyone was poor. To hear her describe it, her mom could make a feast out of next to nothing.

I tried Clara's lentils back in February, I think? And now the peppers and eggs. It was great. Very simple, easy, and fast, served on plain baguette. I served bacon on the side because, you know, this is not the Great Depression. And we really like bacon.

What I Made for Dinner: May 5, 2009

Broiled chicken and artichokes.

This week, I refuse to let the evening activities oppress me. Because if I did, I would need pharmaceutical help: Monday, two ball practices; Tuesday, Scouts; Wednesday, fall football meeting; Thursday, football practice.

By the way, what kind of stupid cosmic revenge is it that gives me a firstborn son with a burning, irrepressible passion to play football?

Anyway, not content to dine on carry-out all week, I thought up a menu of dinners I can make quickly. Number two right here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Broiled-Chicken-and-Artichokes-241996. Five minutes of prep time, literally. Fifteen to cook.

(I think it's okay to have pizza and assorted carry-out for dinner every night, I really do. I just don't like to do it if I can help it, mostly because I am cheap. No judgment here.)

What I Made for Dinner: May 4, 2009

Chicken and corn fried rice over lemon spinach.

NPR has been running this series where celebrity chefs prepare a meal that will serve four for under $10. A cool premise, right? And right up my alley, too.

But so far, most of the dishes haven't been very inspiring. For instance, Pat and Gina Neely (who have a lame cooking show on the lame Food Network) prepared a mac-n-cheese that will serve six to eight for $8.96. First of all, really? Mac-n-cheese is a cheap way to feed many people? Wow, that really opened my eyes to some new possibilities. Second of all, the recipe calls for six tablespoons of butter, five cups of cheese, white pasta, a potato chip topping, and no vegetables at all (not counting, I suppose, the potato chips). On the upside, it includes five pieces of bacon.

I think to fairly calculate the cost of this meal, you have to count the cardiologist's bills. There is absolutely no way I would ever make this for my family.

But Ming Tsai (who got kicked off Food Network several years ago, I guess for being too serious and talented) actually had a great idea. It's here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103569424&ps=cprs and he says it costs $9.68 to feed four, although I just made it and it would feed more like six.

It uses leftovers (old rice)! It's really healthy (half brown rice, plus onions, corn, and spinach, and white meat chicken)! It came together in twenty minutes from start to finish! And check it out: Alex and Josh both uttered the phrase: "Can I have more spinach?"

Ming Tsai might be my new favorite chef, if only for that last bit. Time to get the Blue Ginger cookbook, I think.

What I Made for Dinner: April 30, 2009

Lamb shanks with white beans, served over soft polenta.

This dish is a heavily-altered adaptation of this. The Epicurious version has too many steps, too many ingredients. I am grading papers, people! I don't have the time for fuss!

So basically, what I did was combine the main ingredients in the crock pot, after browning the lamb and softening the vegetables. I didn't cook the beans separately, and I couldn't find my tomato paste so I didn't add any. I did have parsley and lemons on hand, which hardly ever happens, so I made the gremolata. I reasoned it wasn't any more effort than making a salad.

It was really good. Eli loved the beans and the "sauce," which I think is technically soup given my crock potting. What's weird is that the Epicurious recipe calls for four lamb shanks, and I only had two, but we have enough leftovers for two generous lunches. Meaty lambs?

(You know, for a while after I lived in Spain I wouldn't eat lamb. Sheep and lambs dot the countryside of central Spain and they're so cute, I just couldn't do it. At some point, apparently, I got over it. Oh how we do love our meat over here. Baaaaa.)

What I Made for Dinner: April 27, 2009

Sandwich Night!

In the food processor, I made the following tapenade for the sandwiches: one cup of Kalamata olives; about six sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil; 1/2 cup of canned, quartered artichoke hearts; one clove garlic; one tablespoon of lemon juice; one and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Process to a smooth, thick paste.

We have a favorite pasta salad recipe from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook that involves a similar dressing. (Everyone in the family loves olives.) Dressings are pretty much interchangeable: What works on pasta will usually work on green salads and on sandwiches, and vice versa. Even marinara, when cold and thinned out, is delicious on a green salad made with the right ingredients (think romaine lettuce, red onions, salami, shredded cheese, Italian olives, etc.). Maybe not so much with an Alfredo sauce.

Anyway, the dressing was very nice on our hoagies. Tonight, I added the artichoke hearts mostly because I wanted Alex to have some vegetables with dinner instead of his standard sandwich, which is meat three ways hold everything else.

What Chuck and I Made for Dinner: April 26, 2009

Grilled burgers and corn on the cob, cabbage salad.

Nothing unusual about this dinner except the race to grill it before the severe weather got to our neighborhood. (We made it.) We grill on a regular Weber, and coincidentally, I just saw on the TV where a guy put steaks directly onto the flaming coals of a Weber. Something to try next time.

The cabbage salad wasn't really cole slaw because it wasn't mayonnaise-based. Instead, I dressed it in a vinaigrette with olive oil and champagne vinegar (Target brand! Who knew?), and added sunflower nuts. My brother-in-law came up with the recipe a couple of summers ago.

A new thing I learned at dinner: Grilled corn on the cob becomes transcendent when a little charred and covered in Gates barbecue sauce. Mmmmm.

What I Made for Dinner: April 24, 2009

Ravioli with bacon-scallion sauce.

Again with the bacon! What kind of nice Jewish girl am I? The kind that eats a lot of pork.

This turned out to be a very tasty sauce for chicken-mozzarella ravioli from Costco. Diced bacon, cooked in a skillet until crisp; bacon set aside. In two tbsp of the bacon fat, sauteed minced scallions. Added shredded baby spinach and cooked just until wilted; off the heat, added halved grape tomatoes, then tossed in the cooked ravioli and the bacon.

It took all of fifteen minutes (mostly for the bacon to get crispy enough) and had kind of a BLT vibe.

What I Made for Dinner: April 22, 2009

Pizzas: One with pepperoni and the other with roast chicken, broccoli, roasted garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.

So this is what I decided to do with the leftovers from last night. The chicken-broccoli-etc. is my very favorite kind of pizza, and no one makes it commercially! Why is that? I don't think it's THAT weird. (In fact, there was a Lebanese deli next to the poster shop where I worked in college, and the deli sold Boboli pizzas very similar to the one I made tonight.)

I would love to hear about interesting pizza combinations others have discovered.

What I Made for Dinner: April 21, 2009

Roast chicken with carrots and sweet onions; toast with roasted garlic spread.

Extra-curricular activities piss me off. I know that's not rational. The kids love their sports teams, Josh loves Scouts, they get so much out of these things, I know all that. But dammit, they make it hard to have a relaxing evening. They butt into all my sittin'-around time.

It's important to me to have dinner as a family, to hang out together and do Legos or homework or play Wii or just watch DVDs, whatever. But as the kids get older, it is getting more and more challenging to do that. (To be fair, the last two weeks' interferences were as much mine and Chuck's as they were the kids'.) From what I hear, it's only going to get worse.

So when it's been especially chaotic and I get a break in the action so I actually have a chance to make a nice dinner, I try to grab the opportunity. Tonight was one of those nights.

Roast chicken is a safe bet, which is one reason I make it so much. (It also creates lots of great leftovers, which is the other reason.) Tonight I made it like my Aunt Dawn taught me to: Olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme on the outside; lemon wedges on the inside. I sliced the onion thin so it melted all over the carrots, which were very soft and charred in places. Made gravy from the pan drippings.

Now I need to think of what to do with the leftovers (which I did NOT finish by picking at them while cleaning up).

What I Made for Dinner: April 17, 2009

Chicken breast fillets with mushrooms and goat cheese, crispy potatoes, steamed artichokes.

This is a Food Network recipe, and it's better than that network deserves to take credit for. I stopped watching Food Network a couple of years ago, after a Next Food Network Star program that just soured me on the whole thing.

The show was a Top Chef-esque competition between cooks, judged by network executives and a rotating cast of celebrity chefs. The winner would get a show on Food Network. Over the course of a few weeks, I got invested. Stupid, I realize. But nevertheless, I liked some of the contestants and wanted others to crash and burn.

So this one contestant, Amy Finley, was just awesome. She was this adorable woman in her mid-thirties with two little kids. She had left a promising career as a chef to take care of her kids. She seemed like a serious person but still nice. Maybe I identified a little too much? Maybe, but her food, above all the contestants', looked like stuff I would want to eat. It looked like she was going to win, but the producers booted her for some lame reason in favor of keeping a guy with a demographic they were looking for.

And then: Scandal! Right before the final cook-off, the guy confessed that he had faked his whole resume and lied about his background, including a false claim that he had seen combat in Iraq as a Marine. So they kicked him off and brought back Amy, who went on to win the whole thing. Of course by this time, I was in love with Amy. She's an underdog! She's scrappy!

But then, Food Network screwed over Amy Finley! Sure they gave her a show: at 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. It was actually pretty good, but they didn't promote it, and they never got behind her as a member of the network. Food Network, you suck!

But before all that bitterness, Amy Finley made this.

I tried it back then and oh my GOD was it good, but way too much work. So instead of trying to stuff chicken breasts, which is damn near impossible, I turned the stuffing into sauce by adding wine. And also instead of sauteeing the potatoes, I made them in the oven, which was much easier.

What I Didn't Make for Dinner: April 7-16, 2009

Anything, really.

I can't remember the last time there was a stretch this long when I just haven't cooked. But here we are, and the last time I personally made anything for dinner was April 6 (sandwiches). Here's why:

April 7: Chuck and I went out with my old (ancient, really) friend Corey and his lovely wife, Monique, who were visiting from Chicago. We ate truffle fries and drank fancy cocktails. Chuck had a milkshake made of frozen custard and some kind of chocolate liqueur and vanilla vodka.

April 8: Passover at Amy's. I actually did cook some stuff for the seder: roast vegetables and a parsley salad, and I dipped a bunch of matzah and dried apricots in chocolate.

April 9, 10, 11: I can't remember what happened on these days, but something must have. Anyway, whatever it was didn't involve producing food in this kitchen.

April 12: We went out for Easter lunch with Chuck's parents. They took us to Lidia's, where I completely abandoned any pretense of following the Pesach dietary restrictions. By dinnertime, six hours later, we were still full. We made the kids some frozen potstickers and edamame.

April 13: Alex's birthday. If Alex could choose all the time, he would eat nothing but pizza and sweets at every meal. On his birthday, he gets his wish.

April 14: The family ate leftover pizza and other assorted refrigerator flotsam (not as bad as it sounds). I went to risotto class with Rachel. Technically I cooked, but it was instructional. Learned some good things from Lidia's amazing chef de cuisine, Cody Hogan.

I wonder if Lidia's needs an in-house counsel.

April 15: I came home late after judging some student arguments. Chuck had already fed the kids . . . something. I ate my instructional risotto with some asparagus and arugula.

April 16: Still more leftover pizza (we bought too much on the 13th). I think it's over now. Tomorrow? Back to using my kitchen for its intended purpose, and not just for magazine storage.

What I Made for Lunch: April 10, 2009

Is it wrong to put ham salad on Matzah? What if the ham salad has kosher dill pickles in it?

What I Made for Dinner: April 6, 2009

Deli sandwiches.

We accidentally, in a moment of terrible weakness, signed the boys up for spring sports. Why did we do such a thing? Starting now, on Mondays I am somehow supposed to get Alex to baseball practice at 5:30 and Josh to football practice at 6:30. At least Cub Scout meetings have moved to Tuesdays.

Anyway, my solution to dinner on these nutso Mondays is going to be sandwiches, I think. In addition to the usual cold cuts, today I got a rotisserie chicken at the market and stripped it down for parts. It made some excellent sandwiches on baguette with lettuce and marinated sun-dried tomatoes. Then I boiled the carcass and made stock for matzo ball soup later this week.

As it turned out, today the weather was so crappy both coaches canceled the respective practices. (The same thing happened to last Thursday's football practice.) And next week, Alex's coach will be out of town. So all I really need is like three or four more rainy or ridiculously cold Mondays, and I'm home free.

What I Made for Dinner: April 4, 2009

Brisket, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, homemade bread.

Here's the thing about brisket: I hate it. Here's the other thing: When you buy a side of beef, you get some briskets.

So last fall, we bought a side of beef from the rancher parents of one of Chuck's colleagues. I would highly recommend this method of beef purchasing for anyone with the freezer space. The beef, which was grass-fed, has been just delicious, and we paid less per pound than we would have at the supermarket. It's been interesting, too, because we got some cuts I had to figure out how to use (hence last fall's oxtail soup experiment).

Tonight, I thought I would give one of the briskets a whirl with the eight-hour method I usually use on pork roasts. Chuck and the boys really liked it, and I thought it was fine, just too . . . briskety. Not my favorite cut of meat.

The bread, though! I left the dough in the fridge all week, then let it come to room temp, kneaded it, gave it another rise--success at last. Lovely crispy crust, chewy interior. Now that's progress.

What I Made for Dinner: April 1, 2009

Whole wheat pasta with chicken, peppers, and green beans.

I baked the chicken breast tenders and the veggies in a foil packet with soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice, then poured the whole mess over the pasta. It was pretty: red and yellow pepper slices, bright green beans, a few carrot shavings. The best part: The kids ate it! Even Eli ("good noodles, Mommy.")!

I feel happy beyond all proportion when they eat something like this. Yes, it's nice that it's healthy and there are lots of vegetables involved, but that's not really why. It's because it gives me hope that someday in my future, every dinner will be like this, when everyone in my family eats the same meal without whining at me about it.

What I Made for Dinner: March 30, 2009

Broiled chicken with artichokes, parmesan couscous.

MMMM. And then I had the leftovers for lunch today.

This dinner is good for weeknights because it takes almost no time to prepare. But it's also fancy and good enough that I would make it for company, if we ever had any who wasn't related to us. It just this minute occurred to me that the chicken will work for Passover, to which I have given exactly no thought.

The recipe is here.

What I Made for Dinner: March 28, 2009

Beef and vegetable soup, homemade bread.

Here's the thing about homemade beef soup: It is a pain in the ass. Not worth it.

I am still struggling with the bread. This one was an improvement: My friend Amy sent me a New York Times article on how to make an easy artisan bread, and it was definitely better than last week's try. It's still not the kind of light, chewy inside and crackly-crusted outside I'm going for. I'm going to get the book she suggested, and I'll keep working on it.

What I Made for Dinner: March 27, 2009

Pulled pork sandwiches.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. When that happens, I'll occasionally watch Food Network. (Really occasionally--it's usually so lame it doesn't even pass three a.m. muster.) One time, I watched an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay where these women in Texas or Alabama or something made pulled pork crepes. They achieved deliciousness with the pork by slow-roasting it for many hours, and it looked just fantastic. But of course, Throwdown with Bobby Flay includes neither demonstrations nor recipes. Lame!

Nevertheless, I woke up the next morning with pork on my mind. I tried it with a boneless shoulder roast, first searing the meat and then roasting at 250 for ten hours. It was pretty good, but a little dry. Subsequent tries with slight variations have been good, but never the level of delectableness, if that's a word, I expected based on my hazy insomniac memory of the Food Network show.

Then yesterday, I tried again. Eight a.m. found me getting a pork tenderloin ready in the roasting pan, olive oil and spice rub on, beer in the pan--oops, forgot to sear the meat. Oh well, I had to go to work, into the oven it went. And then last night at dinner time: Success!!! It was moist and flavorful, and held together well enough to make a sandwich. The kids like theirs with pickles and barbecue sauce. I put on avocado and mayo.

What I Made for Dinner: March 21, 2009

Mozzarella-stuffed meatballs, ravioli with quick tomato sauce, sauteed broccoli.

Making dinner on the weekends is interesting sometimes. We've been watching basketball all weekend in combination with laundry and running errands and getting ready to go out of town. It was one of those days when I look up and it's 5:00 and whoops, no plan for dinner. Sometimes we get takeout on nights like these, but (a) we're going away tomorrow and will be eating out for the next few days; and (b) we enrolled the kids in camp yesterday and unexpectedly needed the plumber today, so I didn't want to spend money on dinner.

It is amazing what you can come up with in a hurry. The ravioli came from Costco, so no big deal there. For nights like this, I have a very fast tomato sauce in my kit bag: Olive oil, a can of diced tomatoes, onion and garlic powder, dried basil and oregano, a little wine. Simmer until it smells good, about 20 minutes or less, and finish with a tablespoon of butter.

But the meatballs! These were the suggestion of Holly, who generously put the recipe on her Facebook page. I have never made baked meatballs before because I'm used to the simmer method. These were simple to make and completely delicious. Took about thirty minutes from beginning to end, not counting defrosting the ground beef in the microwave. They're going in the rotation. Thanks, Holly!

What I Made for Dinner: March 20, 2009

Pork and pepper chili with homemade bread.

Basketball and chili. Basketball all day. I can barely complete a sentence at this point.

During the KU game, I made bread. I like to have something to do when the game is on, and I've been meaning for a while to improve my breadmaking skills. Or to develop any breadmaking skills.

I used a Jamie Oliver cookbook. I like Oliver's recipes because he's really loosey-goosey on the measurements. Even with the bread recipes, he reminds you to use your best judgment on texture and moisture. (That would be great if I had any judgment about bread dough.) Anyway, I used to love his cooking show, and he seemed to enjoy making bread most of all, so I thought I'd turn to him first.

The bread was okay. It rose, at least. It had a nice flavor and the crust was, well, crusty. The texture was kind of dense, whereas I prefer chewy. I'll call it a good first attempt, but there is definitely plenty of room for improvement. I need some tips.

What I Made for Dinner: March 19, 2009

Nachos Grande with ground beef, black beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, guac.

Can't write. Watching basketball.

What I Made for Dinner: March 17, 2009

Tofu stir-fry.

Back to the DK Kids Cookbook for this recipe. The boys first found and requested it several months ago, and since then it's a periodic favorite. They freaking love tofu. Who knew? It also has snap peas, shredded carrots, bell peppers, green onions, and baby corn.

Dinner's over now, but Eli keeps running back to the pan on the stove and telling me, "I need more noodles!" There's a little trail of noodle detritus from the stove to his trucks in the family room.

What I Made for Dinner: March 16, 2009

Scrambled eggs and toast for the kids; sauteed broccoli with toasted breadcrumbs for the parents.

Suppose you and your children are on spring break, and suppose you spent the whole day at the zoo. Suppose that as a result, you ate horrible zoo food for lunch, and then when you got home you fixed your exhausted children a snack of buttered popcorn and chocolate chips. Suppose that you ate the same snack because once it was out there, you realized you were famished. If all that happened, you might not be hungry for a big dinner, and you might be feeling, shall we say, kind of unhealthy.

But then, what if you toasted some fresh sourdough breadcrumbs in olive oil, par-cooked a lot of broccoli until just crisp-tender, added the broccoli to the breadcrumbs in the pan along with some diced garlic, and sauteed everything until the broccoli started to brown around the edges? What if you added a little lemon juice and salt and pepper and just a tiny bit of grated parmesan cheese? What if you ate that for dinner? You just might start to feel a little more virtuous.

What I Made for Dinner: March 14, 2009

Grilled chicken breast sandwiches with sauteed peppers, pasta salad with herbs and olives.

This pasta salad was fantastic. A lot of parsley, chives, and green onions; sliced kalamata olives; and lemon-garlic vinaigrette. I made too much but I think it will make good lunches.

It was nice to use the grill again. We were eager to cook outside after we worked in the yard this afternoon, cleaning up last year's mess. We were seriously negligent gardeners last year, but we've vowed to reform. If I had my dream patio, it would have a built-in charcoal grill and a heater, so we could cook outside year round. Instead we have a builder's slab and a Weber. I'm not complaining--we do pretty good stuff with it.

What Chuck Made for Dinner: March 13, 2009

Steak Diane, mashed potatoes, sauteed asparagus.

KU lost rather fabulously in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, which means Chuck had no basketball he wanted to watch today. So this morning while I was at work, we had the following text exchange:

C: How about I make steak diane for dinner & invite my mom?

J (thinking yay! he's planning dinner!): Sounds good. What's steak diane?

C: You'll see. It involves butter.

True to his word, he made it, and it involved butter. It turns out, he was reading Joy of Cooking in an effort to find an alternative to the souffle Josh insisted he wanted to make. (Steak is just a couple of pages past souffle.) The sauce is butter, cognac, shallots, parsley, and chives. My man can cook.

What I Made for Dinner: March 11, 2009

Gnocchi with butternut squash and fried sage, green salad with lemon vinaigrette.

A while back, a friend and I took a gnocchi-making class at the Kansas City Culinary Institute. The teacher was the chef de cuisine at Lidia's, my favorite restaurant. So we got his recipes and techniques, and I learned how to make gnocchi, but mostly I learned that making gnocchi is a time-consuming pain in the ass. And also largely unnecessary, because nowadays supermarkets carry vacuum-sealed or frozen gnocchi that's perfectly good.

However! Back on New Year's Eve, we had company and I put together a shrimp boil. In the aftermath of the shrimp boil, we had about three pounds of leftover cooked red potatoes. Any sane person would have just thrown them away. But I am not any sane person. When faced with a quantity of leftover potatoes, I made gnocchi. A lot of it, as it turned out. And then I froze it.

So my point is, even though this dinner might seem fancy, and certainly homemade gnocchi is a lot of effort, this particular meal took me literally fifteen minutes to make. I put the water on to boil, melted the butter for the sauce, and microwaved the frozen butternut squash. By the time the water boiled, the sage was crispy and the defrosted squash was sauteeing in the butter. The frozen gnocchi went into the water, floated almost immediately, came out of the water and into the butter sauce, where I let it brown for a couple of minutes. Salt, pepper, liberal dousing in grated parmesan cheese. All done.

It was delicious. I struggled not to eat thirds (I prevailed). The children ate a ton of it and didn't even seem to notice the squash, or else I'm pretty sure I would have heard about it.

What I Made for Dinner: March 10, 2009

Chicken and black bean tacos.

I served the tacos with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red bell peppers, green onions, shredded carrots, guacamole, and shredded cheese. Mandarin orange sections on the side.

This was Meal No. 3 from the roast chicken on Friday night. I departed from Gourmet's suggestion of gyro sandwiches because I already had taco shells and the right kind of cheese. (Also because in a weak moment, I bought an institutional-size box of taco seasoning from Costco. We need to eat a lot of tacos to make that bargain pay off.)

So the answer is yes, it is possible to get at least three dinners for five people out of two chickens. In fact, we have enough leftovers, of both the chicken pie and the taco mixture, to make about four individual lunches. If I had been conservative, I definitely could have stretched the meat for one more dinner. (It would have been a stir-fry.) Inner frugal housewife is very pleased with herself.

What I Made for Dinner: March 9, 2009

Chicken curry pie.

This is Meal No. 2 from the roast chickens we made on Friday night. Gourmet magazine has some other suggestions: a cheesy chicken lasagna and chicken gyros. But we don't like lasagna much because when it's served it looks, shall we say, unappetizing. I will omit any descriptive similes. So instead of lasagna, it's chicken curry pie.

The pie is based on one we had at a cafe in West Yellowstone, Montana. We asked some locals for a good buffalo burger joint and they sent us to Kiwi's, which turned out to have excellent buffalo burgers indeed. The proprietor of Kiwi's was a New Zealand transplant so in addition to the burgers, the menu offered meat pies. The kids devoured the chicken curry one.

It's easy to make if you have leftover roast chicken and vegetables. I chopped up about a cup of the chicken and about two cups of mixed roast potatoes, carrots, and onions. I added frozen peas. To this mix I added the leftover chicken gravy, half a cup of cream, and two tablespoons of curry powder. Put the mixture between two refrigerated pie crusts and baked it for an hour. It came out remarkably similar to the New-Zealand-by-way-of-West
-Yellowstone version.

There is one thing I am kind of proud of myself for: We were, annoyingly, out of regular frozen peas. But way back in the freezer I had a box of Green Giant baby peas with butter sauce. Wanted the peas, not the butter sauce. What to do? Aha! Put the frozen mass of peas/sauce in a colander and rinsed it until the sauce was gone. Presto, peas!

So we scarfed down the pie and then we put on our costumes and went to our temple's Purim Spiel and ate too many cookies. Time for bed.

What I Made for Dinner: March 8, 2009

My mom's spaghetti sauce with meatballs and Italian sausage, pasta, salad.

My brother-in-law is visiting so we had a little dinner party with the family tonight. It was fun! And a big pot of spaghetti sauce with meat serves a big crowd with relatively little effort. I've served this same dinner at dinner parties (the real kind, not the family kind) several times and it's always a big hit.

One time in college we had a spaghetti cook-off at my friends' apartment. We invited a bunch of people and four or five of us made sauce. That night I made our family's sauce for the first time on my own. My sauce didn't win, which was okay with me. It was such a fun evening that I remember it clearly, even so many years later. (Many many years later, a disgusting amount of time, really.) One of the foreign students told me later that it was the first time she'd had a chance to see what Americans do when they entertain and socialize for real, instead of just binge-drinking in a dance club. (That was our standard for weekend activities in Boston in the late '80s.)

I wonder if anyone else remembers that evening as vividly as I do (or at all), or if it was important only to me.

What We Made for Dinner: March 6, 2009

Roast chicken and root vegetables, mixed green salad.

Parental units over for dinner, husband home after a long week away at work. My mom put up the chickens before I got home from work. It was so great to sit and have a glass of wine and a chat, backdoor open to let the warm weather in, aroma of roasting chicken filling the air.

The mixed green salad is one of my favorites and I make it a lot. Whatever lettuces I have in the house, tomatoes, canned artichoke hearts, canned hearts of palm, blanched asparagus spears. The vinaigrette has olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and goat cheese. The only problem is that it really does not keep; by the next day the lettuce is seriously disgusting.

This month's Gourmet (donated by my mom) says you can make three meals from two roast chickens. We're about to find out.

What I Made for Dinner: March 2, 2009

Chicken tikka masala, roast cauliflower, Clara's Depression lentils and rice.

For the tikka masala, I used an Archer Farms jarred sauce from Target. It was pretty good but way spicier than any tikka masala I've ever gotten from an Indian restaurant. I added milk to make it edible for us.

The real story here is the lentils and rice, which I made in honor of the stock market. It's a recipe from Great Depression Cooking with Clara, http://www.youtube.com/user/DepressionCooking. Clara and that whole video project are awesome. I highly recommend checking it out, both for the historical value and also for ideas for inexpensive, simple, tasty dishes.

My plan is to make all of her recipes. So this is my inaugural effort, and it was really easy and good! I was a little worried the kids wouldn't even touch the lentils, because lentils just don't look that appetizing when cooked. So I had a flash of inspiration and told them: Guys, this is something Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder's mothers would have made, so it's like a pioneer dish. (Josh was immediately hooked. "I love pioneer stuff!") So when you eat it, I want you to imagine you worked hard on the farm all day in the snow, and this is the hot meal on the table when you came in. (That got Alex for some reason.)

So okay, my characterization was off by like sixty years. But it got them to try it and they loved it!

For next time, however, I must remember that a bag of lentils and a cup of rice makes a pot big enough to feed a family of ten.

What I Made for Dinner: March 1, 2009

Chicken and white bean chili, green salad with dijon vinaigrette.

Is there anything better on a frigid day than a big pot of chili on the stove and a fabulous basketball game on the TV?

The answer is No. No, there is not.

What Josh Made for Dinner: February 27, 2009

Roast beef and gravy, Yorkshire pudding, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans with almonds and cranberries.

Josh is in cub scouts and boy does he love it. This week's project was to think about healthy eating, study the federal food pyramid, and plan a balanced menu. Josh picked his favorite dinner, described above. It's a pretty fancy one, so we decided to make it for Shabbat dinner and invite over some company--my parents and Amy, Noah, and Gracie.

The catch: I told him he had to help cook it. I started learning to cook at 8: I could make hotdogs, popcorn on the stovetop, and fried eggs sunny side up. So it's high time for my oldest to start getting competent in the kitchen.

I should mention I almost abandoned this project when I discovered the following: While making toast after school yesterday, Josh accidentally dropped the wooden toast tongs into the toaster and then forgot to tell anyone. This morning, when I toasted the bagels for breakfast, I nearly burned the kitchen down. Such are the little lessons of childhood, and hopefully no one dies. So I pressed on with Josh's cooking 101.

He did an admirable job! He seasoned the beef and made the batter for the Yorkshire pudding. He mashed the sweet potatoes and got the green beans ready to go in the oven. My mom and I handled all the hot work. It was delicious! (And we're having a very nice Shabbat visit--with every light in the house on and Kung Fu Panda on the TV, thank you very much.)

What I Made for Dinner: February 26, 2009

Eggs in a nest, potato-and-carrot hash browns, fruit salad.

It's delicious, it's fast, it's cheap. It includes fruits and vegetables. So when I'm single-parenting it, as I am tonight, and I get home late and the wind is screeching outside like it's freaking Little House on the Prairie, breakfast-for-dinner is really the only answer.

After dinner I had to run to the market, which I hardly ever do by myself with all three boys. At one point, as I fished around for my money, Eli escaped and ran down the beverage aisle, with Alex and Josh chasing after him. Mother of the Year award right here for staying at the checkout to pay instead of running after them. We appeared to be an endless source of amusement for the fine people at Hy-Vee. I let E have two mechanical horse rides.

Now the kids are in bed and the dog (who is, after all, getting older) is doing his best to protect us by falling fast asleep in the front hall. I admire people who do the single parent thing every day. A couple days of it is too much for me. Back to having company tomorrow.

What My Mom Made for Dinner: February 25, 2009

Fettucine alfredo with chicken, mushrooms, and broccoli.

It's one of of those lovely evenings when I get home from work and dinner is already on its way to cooked.

This fettucine alfredo recipe has an interesting history in our family because we got it from Marshal A. He was dating my sister for a little while when they were both in high school, and he used to make it for us sometimes. I think it was at least partly responsible for my parents' tremendous warmth and affection for him, which they never again showed to any of Amy's boyfriends, until the one who married her and gave them grandchildren. We don't keep in touch with Marshal anymore, although I hear he's doing well, but we sure make his fettucine alfredo a lot. I hope he would appreciate the lasting impression he had on the family's culinary life.

Anyway, this alfredo recipe is unusual, and very delicious, in that it includes green onions and garlic. It has a depth of flavor missing from the standard butter-cream-cheese arrangement. At my suggestion, tonight my mom mixed in roast chicken and sauteed broccoli and mushrooms. We all agree that the broccoli may have been a mistake; it tasted good, but it invaded the balance of the alfredo sauce. It would have been better as a side dish.


I've had many requests for the recipe. Here it is.

Boil water and add 8 oz fettucine. Meanwhile, melt 6 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 2-3 diced green onions and 2 minced cloves of garlic. Cook the vegetables, stirring, until softened but not browned. Add 1/2 pint cream and 1/8 t. ground nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add the cooked noodles and 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese. Toss until the noodles are coated and the cheese is melted. Add another 1/2 c. grated parmesan and salt & pepper to taste and toss.

What I Made for Dinner: February 24, 2009

Roasted shrimp and chorizo, served over grilled sourdough bread, seared asparagus with tarragon vinaigrette.

This is another vintage Martha Stewart Living recipe. It has become our go-to for special occasions when we can't manage to go out for one reason or another. At high heat you roast grape tomatoes and sweet onions that have been coated in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and fresh oregano. When the tomatoes break open, you add half a pound of peeled shrimp and like 4 ounces of Spanish chorizo and return it to the oven. It's done when the shrimp turn pink.

It's so delicious and it really is special, partly because our children will not eat it (they got mac-n-cheese tonight), but mostly because it's expensive to make. My inner frugal housewife gasps in shock at the price of the shrimp; she is just about apoplectic at the special trip to Dean and Deluca to buy the chorizo. (Mexican chorizo, which is inexpensive and widely available in supermarkets here, won't do because it's uncooked and uncased.)

On the other hand, at around $10 per serving, it's way cheaper than going out, the results are fantastic, and we get to watch our TiVo'ed House while we eat.

What I Made for Dinner: February 23, 2009

Chicken and black bean tacos, guacamole, corn.

We eat a lot of vegetables, or at least I put a lot of vegetables on the table with most meals. I am totally aboveboard with my ingredients. I have a problem with Jessica Seinfeld's idea of hiding veggies in food so that your kid doesn't know what he's eating. If the kid doesn't know what he's eating, how is he supposed to know what he likes?

I mean, if a kid loves your meatballs, and unbeknownst to him they're 25% zucchini, he will be sorely disappointed, not to mention confused, when he orders meatballs in a restaurant someday on a date. And then there he'll be, on a date with some hot-but-toxic young temptress, too embarrassed to ask the waiter what's wrong with the meatballs, and he'll be starving but unable to eat this weird-tasting food, and his blood sugar will drop and his judgment will be impaired, and before you know it he's moving to California with a passel of kids and a daughter-in-law who won't take your phone calls.

So then, to prevent future problems, the trick is to get little kids to be familiar with, if not totally fond of, all kinds of food. They ought to knowingly eat something that grows on or in the ground. Tacos are a great way to accomplish this. Alex likes beans of all sorts, so black beans as filling works for him. Josh will top his taco with tomatoes and lettuce. They both like salsa and guacamole. Besides, just about anything is acceptable when accompanied by chips and/or covered in cheese.

What I Made for Dinner: February 22, 2009

Sliders and oven fries, served with pickles, tomatoes, onions, and Caesar salad.

Sliders are my hamburger go-to in wintertime because they take three minutes to cook on the stovetop griddle. I based my recipe on Alton Brown's Mini Man Burgers. He featured them a few years ago on a Food Network special, back before Food Network was lame as all hell.

Honestly, does anyone really care how they make candy hearts or whatever? And why does Guy Fieri have a career on TV? But I digress.

I have been feeling a little uninspired when it comes to cooking for the past couple of weeks. I think it's partly because the boys' various illnesses have me weary, partly because we're so pressed for time so often, and partly because what the kids want is pretty limited. So I have been reading magazines for recipe ideas. Today I was reading Cookie magazine, which is worth a rant all by itself--among other things, it advocates that serious people, people with jobs and kids and responsibilities, people who are pushing 40, ought to wear pink jeans. Honestly.

But it did have some interesting ideas for dinners to make with artichokes. I think I need to get out some cookbooks, read through my old back issues of Martha Stewart. I need some new ideas for tasty, fast dinners. Anyone? Anyone?

What I Brought to Dinner: February 20, 2009

Roast carrots, potatoes, sweet onion, and artichoke hearts.

So it has kind of been a hell of a week. Things go like that sometimes, of course, and the trick is to find a way of getting past it as soon as possible. So tonight, my sister and I decided to have Shabbat dinner together with our kids.

Amy hosted a lovely traditional meal: soup, gefilte fish (yuck, but it belongs on the table anyway), chopped chicken liver, roast chicken, challah, my roast vegetables.

I am not religiously observant so even when I remember to light candles at home, we don't make a big deal out of Shabbat. But Amy has been sort of experimenting with adhering more strictly to the rules and regs. From sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday she doesn't turn on the lights in her house, doesn't use other electric devices, doesn't do anything that could be considered work. (Of course I am so dense that she had to explain to me there was a reason the house was so dim.)

It was nice, eating by candlelight and chatting with my sister for a few hours without anything blaring or glaring at us, except for four pissed-off children who wanted to play Wii. The kids eventually managed to find things to do that didn't involve electricity. (Josh and Alex kept forgetting and turning on the lights, then going "Oh, sorry!" It's easy to tell whose kids they are. Oh well.)

Am I rejuvenated? It's hard to say. I'm not sure that sitting around in the dark will prepare me spiritually to face the rest of my week, or frankly anything else. But sitting around with Amy might.

What I Made for Dinner: February 19, 2009

Cornmeal-crusted chicken breasts, whole-wheat farfalle with white wine and lemon sauce, sauteed spinach.

Not my best work. The sauce, made in the pan with the chicken drippings, turned out unfortunately brown and muddy. I rushed the spinach on high heat and it wilted before it absorbed the flavor of the garlic and olive oil. The pasta got overcooked. The chicken was pretty good, but not quite the golden color I hoped for. All in all? This meal tasted okay, but it was kind of an overall disappointment.

I am already thinking ahead to Shabbat dinner tomorrow night, when we're planning to join Amy and her family. I wonder what to bring? I need some inspiration.

Josh read this note over my shoulder just now. His reaction: "But where's the funny stuff?" I got nothin', babe. Better luck over the weekend.

What We Made for Dinner: February 17, 2009

Teriyaki flank steak, stir-fried bok choy and mixed vegetables, roast sweet potato sticks with sesame and soy.

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? The Great Pneumonia Caper of 2009 seems to be over, or at least waning, thank God. So! Right back to the business of doing everything else besides cuddling a moaning, hot baby and freaking out.

Tonight we had my parents over for dinner, and we all collaborated on this Japanese-ish meal. My mom came up with the menu and shopped. My dad grilled the steaks, which came out perfect--maybe the trick to perfect flank steak is grilling it when it is 42 degrees outside. I did the veggies based on the kind of thing you get at a Japanese steakhouse. They were so good even Alex ate them!! Alex ate bok choy and bean sprouts! Alert the--okay, no one but me cares. But I was excited.

And little Eli, well on the mend this evening, demonstrated a new phrase he's learned to use at the table. Said with tremendous sweetness: I don't like it, Mommy.

What I Made for Dinner: February 15, 2009

Chicken and white bean chili, garlic bread.

This chili was awsome!!! I am writing down the recipe so I can look it up later, because I won't remember.

20 oz. of ground chicken; a sweet onion, a green pepper and a red pepper, all diced; a tablespoon of minced garlic; one fresh jalapeno, diced, seeds removed; a tablespoon each of of cumin and dried cilantro; salt and pepper; a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes; a can of cannellini beans; a Boulevard wheat beer. Brown the chicken in a tablespoon of olive oil; then cook the veggies until soft. Add everything else, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Ten minutes before serving, turn heat to high and boil to thicken.

Nothing funny or exciting to write about today. Eli is on hour 40 of scary-high fevers but no other symptoms, and no one is getting much sleep. Still gotta eat, though.

What I Almost Made for Dinner: February 14, 2009

Eight-hour pork roast, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes.

Valentine's Day is lame; I think we can all agree on that.

Unfortunately, Valentine's Day is also Chuck's birthday, every single year. So we always have to do something nice on the 14th of February. And by we, I mean me.

So I had planned to make a gorgeous dinner tonight. Pork tenderloin roasted for eight hours until it is fall-apart delectable. Mashed potatoes with a hint of buttermilk. A really lovely pinot noir.

The tenderloin went in the oven by 10 a.m., as planned. Then at 4:30 in the afternoon, I had to take Eli to the urgent care clinic. And at 6:00, after he had thrown up on me and scared the nurse with his fever, after he had turned bright red and blotchy, after he had cried for an hour nonstop, but before we had even a hint that there might be a doctor in our near future, Chuck had to finish dinner for Josh and Alex.

Imagine the selfish nerve of those two, demanding a timely meal on their father's birthday?!

Anyway, Chuck acquitted himself beautifully. The brussels sprouts were perfect, the mashed potatoes were better than I would have done. So foodwise, the evening actually came out very nicely. And that pinot was delicious.

What I Made for Dinner: February 11, 2009

Pasta and meatballs with tomato sauce, salad of mixed greens, artichoke hearts, and olive-sundried tomato vinaigrette.

My parents and sister and niece and nephew went back East for a funeral, and I am thinking about them. The sentiment translates into wanting to eat our family-recipe tomato sauce.

Downside to the family tomato sauce: It takes four hours to make it from scratch.

Upside to the family tomato sauce: If you are making one batch, it is literally just as easy to make two batches, and then freeze one!

Nowadays, whenever I make sauce, which is definitely a weekend project, I make double. So I had a frozen bowl of sauce with meatballs and Italian sausage already in it waiting for me in the freezer. I actually think it's better after it's defrosted and reheated than it is on day one. Defrosting and reheating takes about thirty minutes.

Amy blogged about our family recipe, http://amyeats.blogspot.com/, including a video on how to make it. I am of two minds about that. On the one hand, it's really no big secret. We have a big, spread-out family, and everyone knows how to make the sauce. On the other hand--well, maybe I am not as good at sharing as my sister is.

What I Made for Dinner: February 10, 2009

Arroz con pollo, green salad with asparagus and goat cheese.

The semester I lived in Spain, all I ever wanted to eat was arroz con pollo. Which was too bad for me, because no one ever made it. Instead, everyone served ham. With a side of ham. And ham sauce.

Toward the end of my time in Madrid, some friends and I discovered La Latina, a little hole-in-the-wall dive of a restaurant off the Plaza Mayor that had arroz con pollo on special on Sundays, so I was finally able to get my fix. I never got the restaurant's recipe, but it's pretty simple to figure out. I did, however, get a waiter to give me the recipe for La Latina's awesome (and extremely lowbrow) sangria. It involves muscatel and Sprite.

We didn't have sangria at my house tonight, although I am positive a little sangria would improve my parenting.

What I Made for Dinner: February 9, 2009

Nordstrom tomato-basil soup and pressed sandwiches.

Cub Scout Night = easy dinner.

Pressed sandwiches are so simple. The good people at Williams-Sonoma would like us all to believe that you need this to make panini: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku7117047/popup.cfm?tool=vLarger.

It is very shiny and gourmet looking. You could maybe open a sandwich stand with it. It retails for $249.95.

If you are having cash flow issues these days--and, well, anyone who is anyone is having cash flow issues--Williams-Sonoma obliges with this budget item: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku4635009/index.cfm?pkey=xsrd0m1|16|||0|||||||panini%20press&cm_src=SCH

which Le Creuset offers for a mere $80. If Bernie Madoff stole your retirement fund, you could go for the LeCreuset.

You know what I use to make panini? A cast iron skillet, and a cast iron skillet. And the sandwiches are lovely to behold. Although I bet they'd taste better if I had fancier equipment.

What I Made for Dinner: February 4, 2009

Pasta with breadcrumbs, roast chicken, and broccoli; served with a mixed green salad.

I hesitated to chronicle this pasta dish because I am a little embarrassed to admit that I ate it. It is carbo-licious!

The breadcrumbs get toasted in olive oil and garlic. Then to make a sauce, you mix in lemon juice and some of the pasta cooking water. That's delicious on its own, but then I added the leftover roast chicken and some steamed broccoli, and sprinkled the whole thing with parmesan cheese.

Alex and Eli got the pasta plain and the chicken and broccoli on the side.

Maybe the broccoli cancels out the fried, I mean toasted, breadcrumbs. Maybe the virtue of using the leftover chicken somehow redeems the amount of fat (good fat! It was all good fat!) included in the dish. Or maybe I should try harder to get over my food issues.

What I Made for Dinner: February 3, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner. Eggs in a Nest, bacon, hashbrowns, black bean salad, fruit.

I really wish I didn't like bacon so much.

The black bean salad was supposed to be a garbanzo bean salad, until I was making it and discovered I was missing a key ingredient. It was inspired by this awesome buffet salad they used to serve in the dorms at BU. Every Sunday morning they served brunch, and you would stumble in bleary-eyed and hungover, and get an omelet made to order and a bagel and this salad, which made you feel virtuous. Plus something about the oil-and-vinegar dressing is curative; maybe it has to do with pH balance or some such.

So anyway: garbanzo beans, ideally; diced red and green bell peppers; diced green onions; diced tomatoes; feta cheese; olive oil and red wine vinegar.

What I Made for Dinner: February 2, 2009

Roast chicken with carrots and potatoes; sauteed spinach; garlic toast.

There are many things to love about my job; one of them is that I do not have to go to the office on Mondays or Tuesdays. This weekend was so busy I had no time to cook, except for competition chili. So today, I made a big roast meal. It's actually easier than it sounds, because it only takes about ten minutes to get the chicken and veggies ready to go into the oven, and then I don't have to do anything else while it cooks (which takes about two hours).

The chicken came out well, and I made an extra one so I can make a fast pasta dish, with shredded leftover chicken, later this week when I get home late from work.

I make garlic toast with Costco's roasted garlic loaf. I just split it open, brush it with olive oil, and toast it in the oven. It's delicious, but we can't think of anything creative to do with the leftovers (other than just reheating and re-serving).

I am very serious about using leftovers. I have an inner Depression-era housewife. For example, tonight's chicken will get used twice more, once for that pasta dish and once for chicken salad for lunch. Usually, when I roast chicken I boil the carcass to make stock, but not tonight because I already have a freezer door full of stock.

I will, however, be making banana muffins with the black bananas sitting on my fruit stand.

What I Made for Dinner: January 30, 2009

Curry-marinated chicken, Greek salad, falafel, served with hummus, yogurt sauce, and pita bread.

We all like Mediterranean food, even persnickety Alex.

The chicken recipe came out of the DK Children's Cookbook, of all places. We got it for the boys a few years ago when they started to get interested in cooking. Everything we have made from it has been fantastic. This chicken was no exception. Strictly speaking, Alex made the marinade; I just supervised. The chicken got marinated in yogurt, tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, and curry powder.

Here's the cookbook on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/DK-Childrens-Cookbook-Katharine-Ibbs/dp/0756605970/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233368158&sr=1-1

I made the salad. I make great salads, if I do say so myself. I am exceedingly proud of my salad skills. I have learned how to make some good vinaigrettes and I haven't bought a bottle of salad dressing in years. (I am not counting the Ranch dressing the boys dip carrots in. I have no idea how to make it and wouldn't want to if I did.) So once you know how to make the dressing, Greek salad is an easy one.

My favorite part of this dinner was actually beforehand. We gave Eli some hot chocolate. He took a cautious sip and yelled, "I LIKE IT!" while it ran down his chin because he'd been too excited to swallow it.

Nestle's inspires the first grammatically correct and complete sentence in my son's young life. A sign of things to come.