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Breakfast ideas for work

Categories: Food, Meal Planning

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I’m not a big breakfast eater.

There, I said it. Yes, I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day and all, I really do. But, even as a little kid, I was never really hungry until mid-morning. Actually, you can set a clock by my stomach. If I’m hungry, it must be 10:30 am, which is seriously inconvenient because places have stopped serving breakfast, but aren’t serving lunch, yet.

By the time I get hungry, I’m well into my work day and I don’t always have time to go get something. Sometimes I remember to bring something with me, but not always since I’m usually scrambling to get everyone out the door in the mornings. So, I try to keep a few things in the office that make a fairly decent breakfast.

My office has a refrigerator and a microwave, so I can keep a few perishable things on hand.  Some of the things I try to keep in the office:

1. Instant oatmeal packets

2. Grapenuts and yogurt (I try to bring enough yogurt for the week on Mondays)

3. Apples

4. Peanut butter and crackers

That’s about it. I’m getting tired of having the same things around, though. Do you have any ideas for breakfast foods to keep at work? Please share them so I can go to the store tomorrow!

Super Bowl appetizer idea: Boursin cheese-stuffed mushrooms

Categories: Cooking, Food, Holiday Entertaining, recipes

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The Super Bowl is coming up, and I consider it the official end of Appetizer Season, so it makes me a little sad. I love appetizers and I’m always on the lookout for something new, or at least “new” to me.

I’m fortunate to be able to take a girl’s trip to the beach each January with my friends. Aside from the obvious benefit of getting to go on vacation, I always end up with a few new recipes.

We cook at least one of the night’s we’re there, and this year we ended up just having an appetizer spread. I particularly like it when I learn about an appetizer that’s really quick and easy because we know I’m all about the quick appetizer.

I may be the last one to know about this, but I am in love with Boursin cheese-stuffed mushrooms.

Boursin Cheese-stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • Large, fresh mushrooms (as many as you want to make)
  • 6 oz. of boursin herb cheese spread (usually found in the refrigerated section with the fancy cheeses at the grocery)
  • Melted butter to brush on mushrooms

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2. Wash and de-stem mushrooms, brush lightly with butter

3. Spoon the cheese into the mushroom caps

4. Bake on a baking sheet at 450 for 15 min.

If you’re feeling especially fancy, you can finely chop the mushroom stems and add them and some Parmesan cheese to the boursin cheese and top with bread crumbs and butter and bake until lightly browned.

That’s all there is to it!

What are you taking to the Super Bowl party? Tell us in the comments below.

Dinner idea: baked spaghetti

Categories: Cooking, Food, recipes

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Like many households with kids, we eat a fair amount of pasta. Even though it’s not always imaginative, it’s easy to get spaghetti on the table after a long day at work.

Baked spaghetti (sometimes called “spaghetti pie”) is a change of pace. It’s easy to make a big pan to last a couple of days. It’s been particularly handy to have around this week as we rush around before exams and the holidays:

Baked Spaghetti

1 (16 ounce) package spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (26 ounce) jars of spaghetti sauce
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups small curd cottage cheese (or ricotta, I sometimes mix both)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook beef and onion over medium heat until the meat is done; drain.

Make sure Santa Claus approves:

Stir in the spaghetti sauce and seasoned salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese and butter. Drain spaghetti; add to egg mixture and toss to coat.

Place half of the spaghetti in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Top with half of the cottage or ricotta cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Ignore the fact that someone came along and cranked up the oven too high for some reason and the top got a little too dark, but it was still tasty!

Embracing the boring lunchbox

Categories: Food, Meal Planning

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School is well underway, and that usually means packing lunchboxes.

I confess: the contents of my kids’ lunchboxes aren’t all that exciting.

We have 3 kids, the oldest two are in high school and the youngest is in grade school. During the week, they all do some combination of buying and taking their lunches. The youngest is allowed to buy lunch at school 2 days a week and he decides which days those will be at the beginning of the week.

The older kids either buy or take lunch, it’s up to them. They can buy lunch as long as they have the money (we put a certain amount on their accounts each month), otherwise, they pack their own lunches.

The hardest part for me about packing lunches is making sure there’s a variety of things ready to go, and to be honest, I’m not particularly imaginative at it. Blogs and women’s magazines are full of cute and creative ideas for packing lunches for school, and I think they’re great ideas, but in reality, our school lunch routine usually leans toward more standard fare.

Actually, it’s more than “standard fare”, I freely admit, our lunches are pretty boring. As much as I’d love to be that person, I probably won’t make cute food in little plastic boxes or arrange colorful food in interesting shapes to take to school. Speed is of the essence around here even though we pack lunches the night before.

Sometimes, I wonder how our seemingly mundane routines like school lunches compare to other people’s. I’ve feared we were known as the “boring lunch family” at school, but I put my fears at ease yesterday when it was my turn to be the cafeteria volunteer. As far as I could tell, most lunches looked about like the ones I send, but there was the occasional creative one.

Packed lunches around here usually consists of sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly or meat and cheese, some fruit, occasionally chips and sometimes, dessert. I occasionally try to mix it up a little, but you never know what anyone’s going to eat, and we sometimes end up with things in the pantry that never actually leave.

I routinely stock bread, peanut butter and jelly, turkey, ham, cheese as well as fruit packages of pears, mandarin oranges and applesauce, and we build on that with other things. I try to accommodate if someone has a special request, but they never really do.

Sometimes, my daughter will get her own items at the grocery store and my middle child will make “interesting” concoctions to take (peanut butter and a whole banana on a hot dog bun, anyone?), but I always keep the basics on hand, and they tell me that’s OK.

However, it doesn’t matter if my lunches are boring or interesting if the food I bought isn’t there when I go to pack it.

None of my kids can resist the siren song of the individually wrapped package (especially the teenage boy), and I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face about, “If it’s in a little package and it’s for one person, I don’t want you to eat it at home”, so I’ve had to resort to some fairly drastic measures to make sure the lunchbox stock doesn’t get eaten in front of the TV, ten packages at a time.

I have to keep a small reminder on the lunchbox items for certain teenage boys:

Pantry

Yes, that does draw a little attention when guests are looking in our pantry and I have to explain myself, but it’s worth the savings.

What about you? Are your kids’ lunchboxes packed with fancy things (I’m always open to suggestions for new, time-efficient lunchbox ideas!) , or do you stick to the tried and true like we do?

Corn salad with walnuts and feta cheese

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Food, Uncategorized, side dishes, summer living

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The most difficult part about cooking dinner for me is coming up with new and interesting side dishes.  Especially in the summer when we are likely to have guests eating with us.  There is only so many times you can serve pasta salad or potato salad before you bore even yourself.

I came across this recipe last year sometime and jotted it down on a scrap of paper and stuffed it into the bottomless abyss that is otherwise known as my purse.  I found it again last week and knew it would  the perfect accompaniment to the burgers I was grilling for some friends that night.
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Mini Cherry Cobblers — Picnic Perfect

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Food, Holiday Entertaining, Kids Cook, Uncategorized, summer living

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I found these adorable ramekins at the grocery store a few weeks ago.  I am a sucker for this color blue and pretty things in general.  For only $1 each, I could not pass them up.  I knew that I would find something to use them for.  So far I have served grapes in them, hummus, dips of all kinds– the best part of course is that no one is concerned about double dipping since they all have their own individual ramekin.

I have yet to find the cure for the unparalleled horror of having a sibling breathing near your food, but should I discover the answer to that I will be sure to let you know. I am here for you, people.

So Fourth of July came and I had them setting out on the counter and I decided that I would make a red, white and blue treat with them. 

The best part? The recipe is so easy that even your youngest children can make this with minimal help.

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To make 10* individual cobblers you will need:

2 21oz canned cherries
1 tube of biscuits
1T melted butter
2T sugar
1tsp cinnamon

*Why 10? The biscuits come 10 to a tube and the 21oz can makes 5. So, uh, do the math! Or better yet, make your child do the math and then pat yourself on the back for helping them keep their mind sharp during their summer vacation. Their teacher will be proud of your efforts!

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Divide the cherries up evenly between your ten ramekins.

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Whack your tube of biscuits open against your counter until you hear that satisfying pop. Then take the biscuits out, flatten them slightly, and stick one in each ramekin on top of the cherries.

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Brush the top with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake in the 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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These taste delicious hot, cold, or any state of cooling from hot to cold. I have already made another batch today since it was easier than listening to the complaints that 10 is not evenly divisible by 7. (See, more summer math work! FTW!)
 

Chicken Salad with Grapes

Categories: Cooking, Food, Lunches, summer living

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If you have been reading here for any legnth of time, you know that I am all about easy recipes. I do not have a whole lot of patience when it comes to preparing food. My children inhale their food so quickly that I do not think it even has time to touch their tastebuds.

Also, it is now summer and we are often out of the house for the day. I don’t really feel like making big meals every single day. Sandwiches are a working mother’s friend, whether you are working in the home or out.

I had bought some rotisserie chickens from the grocery store for dinner one night. There wasn’t enough left to make a full meal for my family so I decided to make chicken salad. It was fabulous. The kids all loved it. It was da bomb. Did I just age myself terribly with that or what? I don’t even know where it came from, some back cobwebby corner of my brain, I guess.

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You will need:

2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 small minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonaisse

Step One:
Except for the grapes. Chop all of your ingredients up and toss in the bowl.

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Step Two:

Add the mayonaisse, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Stir well.

Step Three:

Add the grapes and gently stir to mix.

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Step Four:

Serve on some lightly toasted bread. The bread in the photo is gluten free bread. It is Udi’s brand and so good it tastes just like real bread. And those are salt and vinegar chips. You don’t have to serve it with those, but why not? They just make everything taste better.

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And best of all, you don’t have to heat the kitchen all up.

Easy Peach Cobbler

Categories: Cooking, Food, Kids Cook, Uncategorized, summer living

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With the warm weather approaching, or if you live on the face of the sun like I do, the warm weather has already arrived, entertaining demands to be made easier and more casual. Afterall, who wants to slave over a hot stove on a sweltering day? No one that’s who.

This dessert is perfect for the casual entertaining of summer. It is easy, ridiculously so. Your children can make this entirely by themselves. And it is delicious. As a matter of fact, I hid the leftovers so that I could have it all for myself. What? Don’t judge me! You have done the same thing.
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Easy Baked Chicken Legs with Paprika Rub

Categories: Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

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My kids prefer dark meat to the chicken breasts.  I used to think that it was because the dark meat was more moist, but to be honest I now think that it is because they can pick up the legs in their hands and not have to bother with those pesky utensils.

I like to buy chicken legs because they are insanely inexpensive. Also, if you have any children who are picky and like bland food, once the skin is removed after cooking the spiciness disappears. (I am going to admit to you all right now that I had to look up how to spell spiciness. That just doesn’t look right. But then again, neither did any other way I tried to spell it.)

 
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Italian Braided Easter Bread

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Food, Holiday Entertaining, side dishes

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This bread was always a tradition in my house growing up. The Italian Braided Easter Bread. What made it particularly Italian, I do not know. I think the my step-father’s family liked to attribute everything that they did as being uniquely an Italian tradition.

And so even though I can no no longer eat bread, I carry on the tradition.

I do not, however, dye the eggs.

This is what happened the last time we dyed easter eggs. The child in the photo has just turned 11. I have yet to recover from the experience.

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You will need:

6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
3 eggs

***
4 eggs* for putting in the braids of the bread

***

Mix in a small cup:
1 egg
2 tablespoons cold water

Brush this over the bread before putting in the oven to give the bread a nice sheen. This is optional and purely aesthetic.

Step One:

Put the milk and butter into a sauce pan and heat on low just until the butter melts. Do not boil it. If it gets too hot it will kill the yeast when you add this to the dry ingredients.

Step Two:

In your mixing bowl combine half the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix well.

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(Not shown, my son turning the measuring cup upside down and pour most of the flour NOT in the bowl.)

Step Three:

Pour the milk/melted butter mixture into the mixing bowl. Mix well.

Step Four:

Add the three eggs to the mixing bowl. Mix until it is smooth.

Step Five:

Slowly add remaining flour until the dough forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may need less than the full six cups of flour, or you may need slightly more.

Step Six:

Dump the dough out of the mixing bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface.

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Don’t afraid to really work the dough.

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Dancing on a chair while you do it is optional, but seems to add something to the experience.

Make the dough into a nice round ball, and place it into an oiled bowl.

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Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put somewhere warm to rise.

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You will know it is done rising when it doubles in size.

Once that happens you are going to beat the dough back down.

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Again, chair dancing while kneading is optional, but you only live once, so why the heck not. This is the fun that money can’t buy. Which is good, because who has extra money in this economy.

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Break the dough into three equal pieces.

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Form each of those pieces into a long (24″ maybe?) snake.

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Loosely braid the three pieces together and form them into a circle. Pinch the ends together. Then tuck the eggs** into the spaces of the braid.

Now set it aside and wait while it rises again.

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And wait some more. To quote Tom Petty, “The wai-ai-aiting is the hardest part.”

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After it has finished rising, feel free to shout, “It has risen! It has risen, indeed!” Just to get into the Easter spirit.

You are then going to brush the top of the bread with the egg/water mixture. Unless after all that waiting you forget, like I did.

Put your bread into a 375 degree oven and bake for about 30 min. You will know your bread is done when it has turned a golden color and when to tap on it you hear a hollow sound.

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Perfect for eating with your Easter ham.

*The eggs that you put in the braids of the bread can be dyed and hardboiled. Or you can just use raw eggs and they cook inside while the bread is baking. I have never had a problem doing it that way.

**I discourage eating the eggs that are in the bread anyway because the bread sits out of refrigeration for so long. Yes, my step father’s family always used to eat the eggs and they all lived to tell the tale, but they also gave all of us kids coffee to drink with shots of Zambuca in it and called it an Italian tradition. So, you know, use your own, probably superior, judgement.

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