Monster Cookies and Deyhydration

The weekend before Halloween tried to kill me. I mean, I guess it I did it to myself, but you know I don’t like to take credit for negative things. Really it was just the Saturday of the weekend, when we had a soccer game, the UNT vs. Rice game and then the fall carnival at Zach’s school. Any one or two of those things would have been plenty, but all three spelled disaster for me.

All started fine at the soccer game at 8:30 a.m. My parents were in town for the football game, and as is their tradition, the boys went to spend the night with them at the hotel. Granny Marsh and Papa Wayne are so lucky they are loved so much and to get to share a bed with my wiggly boys. Sooooo lucky.

I had to swing by and get Zach at 7:50 for team photos while everyone else met us at the game. The Walls were there too and I insisted we take a photo of all grandparents. No grandparents were particularly excited, but I have one photo of both my grandmothers with me and one with both my grandfathers and I treasure those photos. To the grand-kids they are all their family and I wanted that photo for my boys.

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My mother noted that the entire neighborhood must be at the soccer game and she is basically right. Liv found someone from their neighborhood (of course) and I saw three of my friends who are not even on Zach’s team. The league Zach plays in is huge and people from all over the inner city play in it. Plus, the teams are small with only six kids on each team.

The boys insisted on going back to the hotel with my parents (again, so, so lucky) so Alex and I grabbed a quick breakfast with his parents then headed to the football game.

You all know my love of Rice football games. For real, I love them. My mom had brought the boys matching UNT shirts and small footballs they played with the entire game. We moved seats about four times and everyone is just so happy to be there and relaxed.

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James and my mom are saying “Go Eagles! Go UNT!” –  just getting ready in the parking lot.

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My parents were very pleased to learn about the Roost (where you can drink in the stadium) and even though UNT lost, we had a fun time.

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It is borderline insulting how my boys look just like their father. Rude.

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But that was not the end of our day. James, Alex and I came home early so James could take a nap and I could make cookies for the Sweet Shop at the school carnival. Why yes, I do stay at home and should have made them during the week, thank you for noting that.

I was determined to make these monster cookies I had pinned last year. They looked fairly straight forward and darling. And they were.

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So during the hour and a half before I had to leave to set up, I stood up and made dough, rolled it in powdered sugar, baked it then stuck in the eyes. Then I had to put them in individual bags, of course.

I changed (again) and raced up to the elementary school to help set up Zach’s class booth at the carnival. I sat down around four and waited for Alex, the boys and my parents to get there. The boys immediately went in different directions as there was so much to do!

Zach loved this giant inflatable slide and James went racing through the ones for little kids.

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Around five I was chatting with some of my friends and started feeling bad. Like I might throw up and my stomach was cramping like crazy, bad. They immediately thought I was pregnant (NO) because they had been discussing how hard having three kids is when I bolted off. I assured them there was no way, though I did appreciate their concern.

I tried to drink some water and sit down but it just got worse. Alex finally told me that I looked like I felt sick and should go home. You guys, I was concerned I was not going to make it home. But I did and started pounding water. I have not felt that bad since I had the flu. While I was laying shivering on the couch I counted how much I had to drink that day. The entire day I had: one coffee, two diet coke, one beer and one bottle of water. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Factor in a lot of standing and sweating it was no wonder my body wanted to shut down.

Luckily, I had Alex and my parents who didn’t even miss a beat. Alex and the boys stayed at the carnival for a while longer, getting to do all they wanted and my parents went and got food for the boys. They came and picked them up to head to the hotel (again, so, so, lucky) all while I laid on the couch drinking as much water as I could handle. By 7:00 I was feeling close to normal and starving. I took that as a good sign.

But I was so bummed to miss the rest of the carnival. I really was. I love those things. Apparently there was an obstacle course and the cake walk. Plus someone was dressed as Frankenstein in the principal’s office who would walk around once in a while.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will do better next year. But I am a slow learner, so it is anyone’s guess.

What the Walls ate

Haven’t you been wondering what in the world I made for dinner this week? Well, lucky you (not you Darren), I am here to tell you. One of my friends and readers Jen, also seen here, asked if I would put some meal planning suggestions on the blog. I have been thinking about it ever since. This was months ago. Months. There are so many great bloggers who meal plan, like her and her, I struggled with what I really had to offer. Then I told myself to calm down, she literally just means, what did you eat and will my kids eat it. Because that is the question of every mother, everywhere.

I try to casually meal plan each week. What I mean by that is that I don’t clip coupons, because I can’t remember to bring them, and I don’t read circulars, because they confuse me. And yes, you should totally be taking my smart advice.

I like to look through my cookbooks and my dinner and kid friendly Pinterest boards to see what I feel like cooking this week. I am much more likely to actually cook, if I am excited about either trying something new, or making something I know my family will eat.

Anyway, on with what the Walls ate!

Monday – Out to dinner downtown with Alex. Well, crap, already blowing my meal plan. Push the fish to Tuesday.

Tuesday – Sauteed Trout with roasted kale for us and Panko-fish sticks and peas from the freezer for the boys.
Trout Recipe:
2 fillets of ruby red or rainbow trout
Tony Chachere’s
Olive Oil
1. Rub the non-skin side with olive oil and sprinkle the Chachere’s on to your liking
2. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan until hot
3. Cook fish, non-skin side down for 3 min then flip
4. You will know when the fish is done (in 2-3 more min) when you jab your spatula in it and it flakes.

Panko-fish sticks
This is my favorite and only fish stick recipe. The boys love it and I have been known to force it on their friends as well. You can use halibut like they say in the recipe (which I never have), cod or snapper. If I can get fish that has not been frozen, I like to make a bunch and flash freeze them for later. Pull them out for dinner, 10 min in the toaster oven and you are set. I obviously don’t make the tartar sauce. Please, that would be a total waste of my time. Not making fish sticks, when Gorton’s make a hell of a fish stick, no. Just the tarter sauce.

Wednesday – Rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, roasted cauliflower and broccoli. See how fancy I am!

Thursday Black bean and spaghetti squash tacos and roasted brussels sprouts for us and quesadillas and strawberries for the boys. Just when you thought I was normal-ish with the chicken, I threw this at you.

To make the tacos easier for the weeknight, I pre-browned the meat and roasted the spaghetti squash a few days ahead when I was already in the kitchen and the oven was on. They will keep in the fridge, then all I had to do was microwave the beans, meat and squash on Thursday. I used some of the Mexican cheese and corn tortillas from our tacos, combined with Monterrey jack for the quesadillas. Everything gets used and you only slightly feel like a short order cook.

Side note: I roast everything in my toaster oven. I detest turning on the big oven to heat up my entire house. Invest in a good toaster oven (or have your mom do it for you, like I did) and it will be worth it. Everything takes 8-15 minutes in there. You most likely know this and are rolling your eyes even harder at me.

Friday – Make your own pizza. The boys think we are super fancy when I pull out the pizza stone. I buy either the DiGironio (have you had them lately? Delicious!) or the frozen dough in the bread section of the freezer. You can make it, but even I don’t do that. Mainly because I can’t ever remember to let it rise, or whatever else bread is supposed to do.

Pizza
Frozen dough (2 for a family of four, but get two extra)
Classico Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese (3 packages)
Basil
Garlic Salt
1. Follow the instructions on the dough to cook
2. Top with sauce and cheese
3. You really don’t need these instructions, I am just assuming no one is still reading.

But if you are, let me make it worth your while….Why the extra dough, you are thinking. Well, to make these of course:

Pizza Rolls
Alex and boys approved, and inhaled. Clearly, I have a thing for pizza as this is my second post about making small ones and freezing them. Here is the first, in case you were wondering/trying to forget. I made these while the pizza was cooking and baked them while I was cleaning up. I have to do stuff like this before I sit down. I want to die, but it is worth it to have it all in the freezer and done before 7pm.

I omitted the pepperoni and added a layer of sauce. You will want to make more and will be so happy you have those TWO extra balls of dough to do just that. Plus, you can use up all the cheese and pizza sauce and feel super proud of yourself. No? Just me?

Cook the delicious mounds of bread, cheese and sauce, flash freeze them and then pop them into a lunch box. Mom of the year. I am certain they will make children forget about all the yelling this summer has brought.

No? Just me? Liars…

Don’t be scared by these tacos

Because they are delicious. These black bean and spaghetti squash tacos are from my favorite blogger, turned cookbook author, Smitten Kitchen and are so, so good.

Alex and I are back on the paleo kick and these basically fit the bill. I added ground beef to make it “a meal” for Alex, but they would be just as good without. They sound super weird and off-putting, but the spaghetti squash acts, sort of like the lettuce/peppers on a fajita and all the seasonings make it very flavorful. Why do I ever doubt Deb??

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen cookbook
Makes enough for sixteen 6-inch tacos

3 pounds spaghetti squash (either one large or 2 small) – You don’t want to go any larger than 3 pounds because there won’t be enough seasoning to flavor your squash mixture, but feel free to go smaller
1 lb ground beef (you will not need it all for the tacos)
2 tablespoons (about 1 lime) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained very well
roughly 1/4 cup finely diced red or white onion – only used for garnish, add as you like
crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese – both are so similar in taste and texture that it doesn’t really matter which one you use
fresh cilantro leaves
10-16 6-inch soft corn tortillas

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prep and cook up your spaghetti squash. Rinse your squash, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, throw about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each half, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place both halves face down on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Roast the squash halves in the pre-heated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 25-40 minutes, or longer depending on the squash. Remove from the oven and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. 
  3. While the squash is cooking, brown the ground beef. I added the same seasoning for the squash (see step 4). 
  4. Prep your squash ingredients. In a small bowl mix together the 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Add the 2 tablespoons of lime juice to the bowl and whisk to combine.set aside. 
  5. Dice up your red onion, wash up the cilantro and trim off the bottom stems, rinse and drain your black beans and throw your cheese into a bowl. 
  6. When the squash is finished cooking, let it cool for a few minutes so its easier to handle. Working over a large bowl, gently scrape out the flesh with a fork. 
  7. Pour the chili and lime mixture over the squash strands and toss well to combine. You will notice that the color of the squash will change from a golden-yellow to an orange color.
  8. You can heat up your tortillas at any time, either while your squash is cooking, cooling or after it’s been mixed together with the spices. 
  9. Then just assemble your tacos. Sprinkle each tortilla with a layer of black beans, squash, cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

I had left over black bean/ground beef mixture and squash. I frozen them separately and then reheated later. Such an easy and healthy meal.

Muffin Tin Doughnuts

Can the people at America’s Test Kitchen do anything wrong? Not in my book. Every recipe I have tried has been perfect. This one is no different. Who doesn’t want doughnuts made without frying and in your pajamas? Exactly.

I have zero changes to the recipe and I just used milk with a splash of white vinegar to make buttermilk. I am certain they would be even better if I actually used buttermilk. They taste like cinnamon sugar cake doughnuts.

I also made a quick pink coating for James (who only wants pink doughnuts) out of juice and powdered sugar. I poured chocolate syrup over Zach’s when he asked for chocolate. Neither of them liked these changes. But both of them liked the original version. Naturally.

The recipe is quick and easy, perfect for lazy Saturday mornings. We don’t have those being Walls, so I made them on a slow Friday morning.

Muffin Tin Doughnuts
Cook’s Country
Makes 12 big or 18 medium sized muffins

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
1 cup sugar (coating)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (coating)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 400. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Whisk flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together. Whisk buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs together in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
2. Scoop batter into prepared tin and bake until doughnuts are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes.
3. For the coating, whisk sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Remove doughnuts from tin and dip into melted butter. Roll in cinnamon and sugar, pressing to adhere.

Almond and sage chicken

I follow a new blog, Clementine. I can’t remember where I found it, but I dig it. They post different things each day from an interview with a sucessful woman, to clothing suggestions, a daily inspirational thought, cute home ideas and sometimes, meals. When I spotted the title Almond Crusted Sage Chicken, they had me at sage. And almond.

It is basically paleo and is totally delicious. And easy. I made a few tweaks to the recipe and every Wall liked it.

I mean as much as a 2 year old Wall likes anything. I roasted some broccoli along with the sprouts for Alex and I and most likely, frozen, microwaved peas for the boys.

I need to put this on my meal plan for this week, it is good.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4)
6 cups brussels sprouts, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1lb chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 cup almond meal
3 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon sage, dried
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add brussels sprouts with 4 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss well. Add to a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes or until browned and charred.

Pat dry chicken and set aside. Add eggs, whisked with one tablespoon of water, in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, whisk together almond meal, thyme, sage and sea salt. Coat raw chicken in egg, letting the excess drip off. Then, add the almond meal herb mixture and coat the chicken well, using your hands to pat it in. Add chicken to a clean plate and chill for 20 minutes.

In a skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium heat, add chicken and grill each side for 5-6 minutes or until browned. Serve over roasted brussels sprouts and enjoy!

My favorite frittata

Don’t you have one? A favorite frittata that is? If you do, please share it with me immediately and if you don’t, try this one and see what you think.

After Thanksgiving Alex and I tried the Paleo diet for a month. What is that most of you say? (and the rest of you are rolling your eyes, I can see you) Well, Paleo is a new diet that eliminates all dairy and gluten. You eat “like the cavemen did”. I think there are more details about also not eating potatoes (I break that rule) and some fruit (also guilty) and I did actually buy a book that I have yet to read. Basically we stopped eating bread and cheese.

Alex has always had stomach troubles and I get super puffy (i.e. fat) eating carbs. Plus, I loooooovveee a fad diet. I tried to go vegan while I was pregnant with James, until the first page said to NOT do that while pregnant. Pregnant ladies are so crazy.  I did the South Beach diet at some point in my 20’s and I have a love/hate affair with Weight Watchers. So this was my trick of the month.

But we both really like it! Oh, we totally fell off of it around the holidays and he has done a better job of getting back on (damn you Cheez It’s, damn you) but we both like how we feel.

Now….I will say that I do still eat dairy in moderation and Alex eats only two of the three daily meals Paleo. It is really hard for him to eat paleo during lunch. And while at Ninfa’s. There is really no risk of either of us turning into Gwyneth Paltrow anytime soon.

But back to my point – this almost-Paleo frittata is delicious and holds up well to re-heating. I make it on Sunday and we eat it for breakfast until it is gone. I combined two recipes to come up with this one. It is simple and satisfying.

Sausage and (moderate amounts of) Cheese Frittata

Ingredients
1 lb pork sausage
1/4 – 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp garlic powder
6 eggs beaten with a splash of milk

Directions
1. Heat broiler and place rack 10-15 inches from heat.
2. Brown sausage in large, oven proof skillet, stirring until it crumbles. Drain and wipe down skillet.
3. Return sausage to skillet and add the remaining ingredients.
4. Heat skillet on medium until the bottom of the frittata is just set.
5. Put under the broiler for 2 min and check doneness. Put under for one more minute maximum.

Strawberry Bread

A friend of Liv’s made Strawberry Bread recently and Zach lost his mind over it. The recipe is from a cookbook that Liv and her friend’s use all the time. I, of course, didn’t have frozen strawberries but I did have frozen raspberries and mango from back when I was going to make smoothies for breakfast. That does not sound the least bit like me in the morning.

So I subbed the fruit, and you guys, this bread is good. It is not healthy. At. All. But it is delicious and super easy to make. I made one small loaf and 18 muffins. I froze the muffins to take during Zach’s snack week. This was all that was left at the end of the first day.

Seriously, make this now. Whatever frozen fruit you have in your freezer would be great.

Strawberry Bread
From Wild about Texas

3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tpsp cinnamon (I thought about omitting this but left it in and I liked it)
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups oil
2 (10 oz) packages frozen strawberries, thawed

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat eggs adding oil and strawberries. Pour liquid into well of dry ingredients and stir util mixed. Pour into two large loaf pans or four small loaf pans that have been greased and floured (or sprayed with Pam baking spray). Bake 45 minutes for loaf pans and 25 minutes for muffins.