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Dinner tonight: carnitas, and a few notes on ingredient labels and food marketing

Another slow cooker meal tonight – carnitas. This is one of my go-to meals. The meat requires three ingredients (or two, if you forget the OJ like I did), cooks while you’re at work, and requires less than 30 minutes of prep once you get home. You don’t even have to shred the pork – it falls apart as it’s cooking on the stove when you start stirring it. Chop up some cilantro and serve on tortillas with salsa verde with some fat free refried beans on the side, and you have yourself one tasty weeknight dinner.

Since I still had a bunch of BonSavor flatbreads to try out, I decided to serve these on their Wheat Flour Soft Taco tortillas. They were about on par with Mission tortillas in terms of flavor, but I’d put them slightly above in terms of functionality, as I find Mission ones tend to get crumbly on me and allow filling to fall through. Neither brand holds a candle to the housemade ones you can get at HEB, or the delicious, doughy ones from Taco Cabana.

However, I . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: carnitas, and a few notes on ingredient labels and food marketing

Dinner tonight: soft tacos with beef

I’ve been a little under the weather this week, thanks to the kids bringing home daycare germs. Luckily, this was also the week that the nice folks at BonSavor sent over a giant box of their flatbreads for us to try out. I decided to go with the low-carb tortillas tonight for soft tacos, which is just the kind of fast meal I want when I don’t feel like standing on my feet all evening, cooking.

But let me back up a bit. I have a lot of opinions about tortillas. Having eaten, oh, around a bajillion of them in my day (God bless Texas), I feel like I know a thing or two about what makes a good tortilla. It should be pillowy soft and smell wonderfully doughy, and of course, it tastes best warm.

However, real tortillas involve lard. Lard is actually slightly better for you than butter if you can find some without trans fats in it, but it’s still not something I can consume regularly and still . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: soft tacos with beef

Dinner tonight: whole wheat pancakes and maple-pepper bacon

Look how deliciously fluffy these are. Ryan loves pancakes and I didn’t do my usual weekly meal planning this weekend, so we just went with something simple tonight. This is my go-to pancake recipe, but I use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour. Also, since Ryan can’t have dairy, tonight I tried these with vanilla almondmilk. It worked surprisingly well. When I’ve tried using non-dairy milks in pancake batter in the past, the batter is often really runny and doesn’t cook well, but these guys were perfect. Really, it was like I hadn’t changed a thing.

When I cook with recipes, I usually tape the recipe onto the cabinet, like so:

Keeps it off the counter and out of my way, but within sight. I’m sure there are fancy contraptions out there that serve the same function and look less ghetto, but I don’t have room on the counter for anything else, so this serves just fine.

Ryan asked to help cook, so he put on his dinosaur apron, climbed on . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: whole wheat pancakes and maple-pepper bacon

Dinner tonight: crispy cornmeal-crusted catfish

Whenever catfish goes on sale, we snag a bunch and make this crispy dish. I won’t tell you it’s exactly like good ol’ fried catfish, because that is in a class by itself, but this pretty darn close, especially for a healthy version. Here’s the basic recipe.

Preheat oven to 400. Dump some cornmeal (about 2 cups) onto a plate, and mix in some Tony Chachere’s seasoning (a tablespoon or two, depending on how spicy you like it).

Tangent: Ever gotten tongue-tied trying to say “Chachere”? It’s pronounced “SAH-sher-ree”. The “sah” part rhymes with “wah”, like how a baby cries “wah wah”. I tell you, it was fun growing up with Cajun names all over the place. You know how to say the last name “Soileau”? Like “swallow”. I don’t know any France French, but I don’t think this is how they’d say it over there. As a young child, I stopped trying to sound out names and learned to memorize them by rote when I learned that “Hebert” is not “HEE-bert” but . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: crispy cornmeal-crusted catfish

Dinner tonight: Linguini with slow-cooker Bolognese

Like I said last week, things have been a little hectic around here lately. This means it’s prime time to put the crockpot to work, but I’m picky about my crockpot recipes. Too often you end up with a big mushy pile of meat and veggies, each bite indistinguishable from the next. The best use for a crock, in my humble opinion, is to make things that you would naturally slow cook anyway. Like this sauce – you do some prep work the night before, then it cooks all day to the perfect saucy consistency. If you wanted, you could just cook it on the stove for several hours and you’d get a pretty similar result.

A good example of something I don’t like cooked in the crock is a whole chicken. When you do it in the oven, the skin crisps up and the bird is nice and juicy. When you cook it in the crock, though, it basically just steams all day, so you end up with mushy skin. That’s a compromise I don’t like to make.

Anyway, this is the crockpot Bolognese . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: Linguini with slow-cooker Bolognese

Dinner tonight: sandwich night (and Henry’s 6 months old!)

We’ve been doing sandwiches the last two nights because the boys started back at daycare and Mason started tennis practice, and it’s been a little hectic around here. And by the way, Henry turned six months old yesterday! He sat for a little photo shoot for me.

Sometimes he still doesn’t know what to think about the camera.

He was 17 lbs 4 oz at his 6-month checkup – little porker! He loves solid food, but also still loves nursing. And he is adjusting to daycare just fine! They say he loves to laugh and play with the other babies.

Anyway, like I said earlier, we’ve been taking it easy the last couple of days. Tonight I made a simple PB2 and peach jam sandwich, with cantaloupe on the side.

Have y’all had PB2? I recently discovered it, and it’s now one of my favorite foods. . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: sandwich night (and Henry’s 6 months old!)

Dinner tonight: Salad with pork, pineapple, and a bunch of other yummy stuff

Tomorrow, Ryan and Henry go to daycare – Ryan for the first time since May, and Henry for the first time ever (sob). That being the case, I probably shouldn’t have picked this meal to fix tonight, since it took FOREVER. But the good news is that it was very tasty, and pretty to boot. We just didn’t get to eat it until 8 pm.

But before I fixed this meal, I gave Henry his dinner. We decided to try some meat this week, and it has been an epic fail. Tonight he ate a few bites of ham and then cried until I gave him a mixture of butternut squash, applesauce, and oatmeal. And who can blame him when your meal looks like this?

Ew. I even tasted a bit of it tonight, and it was disgusting. So I decided then to just not worry about meat until Henry is old enough for table food. I am just not going to give him something that grosses me out.

Anyway, we are not here to talk about gross stuff. Tonight’s salad was a recipe from Cooking . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: Salad with pork, pineapple, and a bunch of other yummy stuff

Dinner tonight: Tortellini and spinach/raspberry salad

See the little flower in a jar? Ryan picked that for me while I was making dinner. Aww. Apparently I could not focus my camera tonight, so please forgive the blurry pasta.

Mason and the boys went grocery shopping today, so I came home to a house full of new stuff. Always a good thing. Tonight’s dinner was really tasty, but also pretty quick to put together. We had refrigerated tortellini (Buitoni sweet Italian sausage) with jarred pasta sauce, and a side salad. I added some fresh basil to the sauce just to give it a little extra flavor.

While the sauce was heating and the pasta boiling, I put together the salad. It was spinach, raspberries, and matchstick carrots with goat cheese and a homemade dressing. Homemade dressing takes about 30 seconds to put together – seriously. I do two parts olive oil, one part vinegar, a bit of honey, and a little salt and pepper. Blend for a few seconds in a mini food processor to emulsify it, or just put . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: Tortellini and spinach/raspberry salad

Saturday picnic in the park

This picture is kind of cool, no? I was playing around in Photoshop and ran the Vintage action on my picnic basket shot (one of the Pioneer Woman’s actions for Photoshop Elements) – I really like this result!

Here’s the normal shot:

Mason, Ryan, and Henry have been regulars at the library storytimes this summer, and today was the library’s end-of-summer picnic at the park, so we packed up our lunch and headed over. We have a nice picnic basket and blanket but rarely use them because, well, picnics aren’t all that practical in a place where the outside temperature is usually either hot, hotter, or solar.

However, it’s been slightly less hot than usual this summer and we really wanted to go to the picnic. There was to be a musician and free ice pops, which Ryan was VERY excited about. I packed up a sandwich for him, sweet potatoes for Henry, and this farro salad for Mason and I:

. . . → Continue Reading: Saturday picnic in the park

Dinner tonight: Italian chicken

After work I had a going-away happy hour for a dear (ex) coworker, so I got home a little later than usual. But it’s Friday, so it’s ok if dinner gets on the table a little later than usual. On deck was grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing and seasoned liberally with steak seasoning. Chicken pieces have been $1/lb at HEB lately, so we’ve stocked up.

Grilling chicken parts is trickier than it seems. You have to do it low and slow or you’ll end up with a bunch of flare-ups and a pile of burned chicken. I spray the grill with cooking spray, then heat on high until it’s hot. Lower heat to medium-low, then put the chicken pieces skin-side up on the grill. You want a lot of the fat to render this way, then after 10-15 minutes, turn the pieces over and let them finish cooking. This probably took 35-40 minutes total tonight. And then we had a tasty pile of chicken, with only a few charred bits.

I had . . . → Continue Reading: Dinner tonight: Italian chicken