Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Saturday, May 30, 2009

10 Hours with 6 Children. Need wine.

This has been a long week.  We've had The Children the last two weeks while their mom and step-dad are out of town.  The Children have many activities during the days and evenings.  Busy.  And since The Mr and I still needed to work, we were up at 5:30 every morning to make sure we got The Children to their schools, and make sure we both got to work so we could hurry and get home to take them to their various activities.  I think it would be easier if their schedules were set based on our schedule, but as we generally only have them every evening, their schedules are set around their mom's schedule.

Anyway, today we got to sleep in all the way until 8:00!  (Ahh for the pre-kid days of lazy Saturday mornings!).  We took The Boy and The Girl to the bowling alley for bowling lessons.  Their friends (3 of them) met us there - for some reason we agreed to take them for the day too.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  After the lesson on the way to lunch, one of The Girl's friends calls and asks if she can come over.  We said sure.  Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

We get home around noon and realize are outnumbered three to one.  Not sure how many of you have kids between the ages of 8 and 11.  If you don't, you won't understand how very loud 6 children can be.  Also, they argue.  And bicker.  And snipe at each other.  Incessantly.  Seriously.

Apparently, all those children brought out the domestica in me.  We were planning barbecue sandwiches for dinner, so I decided to bake the French bread.

French bread is pretty easy to make.  4 ingredients - water, flour, yeast and salt.  The bread machine made the dough.

I baked it on this really cool French bread pan which makes the funny texture that you will see on the bottom of the bakery variety.

And it baked crispy and tasty!

Thought the 6 rugrats might enjoy some cookies, so I baked some chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Even left the nuts out.  I am pretty sure that deserves some type of award.

When I brought them out after dinner one of the "little darlings" said "What are those?"  I said "Little cakes of poison."  Yes, I had really had enough.

Do they not look like cookies?

Now all but two of them are gone.  Those two belong to us.  And their mom (blessedly) comes back tomorrow.  Then they belong to her.

I need some quiet time.  And wine.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Frugal Fridays

Everyone knows that using coupons is a great way to save money. For me, the problem is that I never seemed to have them when I needed them.

For example...

The Mr - "Didn't we have $2 off at Baja Fresh?"
Zentmrs - "We do - did you bring the coupon?"
The Mr - "Nope... did you?"
Zentmrs - "Nope.

Ugh. Could be that we didn't remember to bring the coupon, didn't remember that we had the coupon or didn't plan to go to the place that took the coupon. Doesn't really make a difference to the pocketbook.

How many of us have a stack of coupons, various gift cards and notices of special deals lying around the house in different places? Coupons, special deals and gift cards do no good in the drawer. I use a different process for grocery coupons (a topic for another day) - this is what I use for gift cards and other types of coupons and specials.

Here's how to increase your ability to use what you already have:
  • The first step is to get everything together.
  • Go through the coupons and gift cards and make sure everything you have is still valid.
  • Make a list of what you have, how much it is worth and when it expires. (TIP - you can check the balance of most gift cards on the company's website)
  • Print the list.
  • Put the coupons, cards and the list in an envelope and put it in your car (I actually keep mine in my purse)
  • Now you have WITH YOU what you need to save - when you purchase something, quickly scan your list to see if you have a gift card or coupon that applies.
  • You will need to make sure that when you use something or add something that you add it to the list. I do this weekly, when cutting my coupons, but it can be done only as often as makes sense.
  • This has really helped me make sure I can take advantage of all of the great deals available to me! Hope it helps!

    To see more Frugal Friday tips, jump on over to A Sassy Engineer!

    Zentmrs Pin It

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Rosemary Focaccia Bread - Recipe

    I had several requests for the recipe for my bread pictured yesterday.  Here's the recipe - it takes a bit of time (it must raise overnight and has two additional raise cycles), but is worth the effort.

    Rosemary Focaccia Bread
    1 cup water 
    3 tablespoons olive oil 
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
    3 cups bread flour 
    2 teaspoons yeast
    1/3 cup olive oil
    2 teaspoons dried rosemary, or 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

    Put first 5 ingredients into bread machine in order listed, using the dough cycle.  In a small bowl, combine second amount of olive oil and rosemary.  Set aside.  When the cycle is complete, move the dough to a large greased bowl, turn once to coat both sides and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight or up to three days.

    Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for three hours.  The dough should rise to nearly double in this time.  Once it has risen, coat your hands with flour and lightly dust a work area.  Holding the dough in your hands, allow the weight of the dough to stretch out the dough until it is about one inch thick.  lay it on the dusted countertop and fold the ends over itself like you would a letter.  Lightly dust the top with flour and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough double again in size, about one hour.

    Prepare a 15-inch pizza pan or a 12 x 17 inch pan by greasing the surface and dusting with cornmeal.

    Once the dough has doubled, move it to the prepared pan.  Using your fingertips, dimple and spread the dough, spooning the olive oil and herb mixture over the dough as your spread it.  The oil should run down into the spread and some may get under the dough.  If the dough is too stiff to spread, allow it to rest a few minutes before resuming.  The dough does not have to cover the entire pan as it will relax and spread as it rises.  Once the dough is spread to cover most of the pan, cover again loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

    Place a large flat metal pan on the bottom rack of the over to be used to hold water and with with to create steam and condition the cruse (Since high heat may distort the pan, do not use and expensive pan - an old baking sheet is perfect).

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

    Immediately before placing the bead in the oven, mist the sides of the oven with water using a spray mister and then pour two cups of very hot water into the steam pan.  Be very careful - steam can burn badly.  To avoid rising steam, pour the water in without holding your hand directly over the pan.  Wear a glove and turn your face away from the escaping steam both when you pour the water and later when you open the oven.

    Immediately place the bread in the hot oven and quickly close the door to retain the steam.  Turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for fifteen minutes, opening the oven after five, ten and fifteen minutes to mist the walls again.  Continue baking for another twenty minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the bread tests done.  Immediately remove the bread from the pan to cool on a wire rack.  The loaf should look like this:

    The recipe is actually easier than it seems - and the steaming of the oven helps create a spectacular crust.  Hope you enjoy!!

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    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    What's For Dinner...

    For our Memorial Day Dinner, I made a variation of The Mr's Grandma Z's Noodles. "Grandma's Noodles" consists of homemade noodles cooked in chicken broth. The chicken broth is made from a whole stewing chicken, poached in water. The chicken is taken out of the water, breaded and fried. Yum.

    I didn't make fried chicken (I bought two roasted chickens from the grocery deli) but I did make the pasta and I did cook it in my own chicken broth.

    Pasta really isn't difficult to make. The ingredients are easy - 1 egg and 1/2 cup flour per serving. I made 9 servings, so I used 9 eggs and 4 /12 cups of flour. Grandma Z would mix it by hand on the counter, but I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook.

    I have found that the secret to good noodles is making sure the dough is rolled as thin as possible. The easiest way to do this is to roll it in small batches.

    I take a ball of dough about 1/2 the size of my fist. Then roll it on a floured surface. Flip, sprinkle with flour, and roll again. Repeat until the dough is very thin.

    I then sprinkle flour over it again, and fold it over for cutting. This makes it easier to get more uniform noodles.
    After they are cut, spread them apart so they don't stick together. Place them on a floured plate and sprinkle some flour on top of them to prevent the next batch from sticking. Then go on to the next batch.
    You should end up with a plate full of noodles like this.
    I cook them in batches as well. They don't take long - 3 - 5 minutes in boiling chicken broth (or salted water), depending on how thin you rolled them. They will float to the top when cooked - and you want to taste them before taking them out to make sure they are done to your liking. This is what they will look like when cooked!

    I also made some (DELICIOUS) rosemary focacia bread. Here it is straight out of the oven...

    ... and sliced...

    Dinner is served!

    For dessert we had upside-down pavlovas (usually pavlovas are a meringue base, with a cream sauce topped by fruit). First I made the meringue. Once baked it looked like this:

    Then I assembled. Strawberries and blackberries in a margarita glass. A layer of whipped cream. A spoonful of cranberry curd (like lemon curd - which you could also use - but made with cranberries. Then top the whole thing with the meringue. They turn out like this:
    Really tasty and filling dessert, pretty healthy. The Children liked it too!
    We had a wonderful Memorial Day dinner. What did you have?

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    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Thank You

    This statue is in memory of all of those who gave their lives ensuring our freedom. Soldiers from each war wear the uniforms of their time here.   The Mr and I visited this memorial when we were in Honolulu, visiting Schofield Army Barracks.  This website ( gives a detailed explanation of the memorial and is well worth the read.

    Today we remember and give our thanks.


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    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Looking for the perfect beach?

    HANALEI, Hawaii - If life is a beach, Hanalei Bay must be heaven. This remote, two-mile crescent-shaped beach on Kauai where the emerald mountains meet the sparkling sea was selected No. 1 on “Dr. Beach” Stephen P. Leatherman's 2009 list of top 10 beaches, which was released Friday. Hanalei beat out other shores stretching from San Diego to Cape Cod.

    read the rest of the story on

    TOP 10 BEACHES 2009
    1. Hanalei Bay Kauai, Hawaii
    2. Siesta Beach Sarasota, Florida
    3. Coopers Beach Southampton, New York
    4. Coronado Beach San Diego, California
    5. Hamoa Beach Maui, Hawaii
    6. Main Beach East Hampton, New York
    7. Cape Hatteras Outer Banks of North Carolina
    8. Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida
    9. Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    10. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina

    I can personally attest that all of the beaches on this side of the Mississippi are gorgeous! We visited Hanalei Bay and Hamoa Beach when visiting Hawaii last month, and we live minutes from the #4 beach.

    This is The Mr and I at the pier in Hanalei Bay (#1 on the list) in Kauai. Truly, this island has the most beautiful beaches. Paradise on earth indeed.

    The movie "South Pacific" was filmed here... here we stand in the sands of "Bali Hai"!

    The #4 beach is in our backyard, so to speak, on the lovely island of Coronado. This is the Hotel Del Coronado, reflecting in the water of this gorgeous beach.

    Turn around, and this is your view - spectacular!

    And this is looking down at Hamoa Beach (#5).  We had cloudy cool weather the day we were here, but I imagine that on a warm sunny day this must be even more wonderful!

    Hope you enjoyed my views of 3 beaches from Dr. Beach's Top Ten.  What is your favorite beach?

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    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    More Images from the Weekend

    The Mr sings with a men's choir at church. They got together this weekend for a barbeque and to say "goodbye" to an outgoing member.

    While the festivities were going on, I managed to snap some wildlife shots...

    ... some finches in the birdfeeder...

    ... wind sculpture in the garden...

    ... hawk flying overhead.

    And here is a shot of The Kingsmen (The Mr is the youngster of the group).
    They are a talented group of men - and the rest of us had the good fortune of being serenaded at the end of the party!

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    Monday, May 18, 2009

    From the Weekend...

    The Girl had her confirmation this weekend.  She'll be 12 in August, finishing 6th grade this year.  She's also going to surpass me in height probably by the end of the year - both The Mr and The Girl's mom are tall... and I am not.  I tell both kids that when they are taller than me, I will have to be meaner to keep them in line.  Their response is exactly what you would imagine. ;-)  

    At any rate, she did a wonderful job in front of the church.  She was the only one being confirmed, and she was very calm and poised.  We're proud of her!

    She is pictured above with her step-dad, the minister of her church.  The Mr and I are very grateful that The Boy and The Girl have a really wonderful step-dad.  

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    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    Honeybird Cam!

    We got our honeybird cam up and running!

    You are unlikely to see any honeybirds before tomorrow though... it's dark here now, and it still needs to be moved into the right position.  Stay tuned!

    Zentmrs Pin It

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    I Love to Watch the Ships

    The H1N1 virus has given San Diego a kind of unexpected windfall. Cruise ships that were scheduled to stop in Mexico have been diverted to San Diego. Over the past few weeks we've had 12 extra visits from cruise ships... which correlates to likely more than $12 million for the local economy!

    A glimpse of a few of them...

    Royal Carribean's Radiance of the Seas, Carnival Elation and Sapphire Princess...

    ... Coral Princess, Carnival Elation and Holland America's Veendam...

    ... Sapphire Princess...

    For shops, restaurants and cruise ship service folks, an unexpected source of income at the end of the cruise season.

    For me... and endless source of daydreams.

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    'Star Trek' Writers Answer Five Burning Questions - Movie News Story | MTV Movie News

    'Star Trek' Writers Answer Five Burning Questions - Movie News Story MTV Movie News

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    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Sharing Links...

    This Raspberry Mojito recipe from Baking Bites makes me want to go right out and plant some mint so I can always have some on hand for this delightful treat!

    Whitney over at That Girl & her pug is hosting her 200th post giveaway. In a super-generous twist, she is giving more entries for those folks who donate to Make-a-Wish Foundation. Go check her out!

    Need a cookie fix? Cookie Madness just posted "Top 5 Cookie List" - so many good recipes!

    I ordered this polka dot tote from Whitney Caroline Designs a few weeks ago and LOVE it! It is just the right size to fit my lunch and sodas for work... and much cuter than carrying a regular bag!

    Looking for a good crock pot recipe? Stephanie over at "A Year of Crockpotting" has it. She made a recipe in the crock pot every day for a year (wow!) and reviews each recipe. Browse through her posts - she has something for every occasion!

    And from San Diego Daily Photo - a glimpse into the garden and another bird!

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    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Our Mother's Day Brunch

    I did end up hosting Mother's Day brunch - and I believe it was a success!

    I used beautiful miniature roses and fresh rosemary from our garden for our centerpiece.

    The roses are "Hot Tamale" miniatures, for those interested in that kind of thing.
    The food was delicious! Saturday night I baked cinnamon bread (no raisins so I would not have to hear The Children complain) and put together cupcake pops, fruit salad and sour cream hashbrowns. All that was left for Sunday morning was to make this reasonably quick and easy strata:
    Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata

    2 tsp olive oil, or vegetable oil
    8 ounces Canadian Bacon
    1/2 cup(s) onion(s), diced
    2 cup(s) asparagus, fresh, or frozen and
    thawed, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 spray(s) cooking spray
    6 slice(s) light
    whole wheat bread
    4 large egg(s)
    5 large egg white(s)
    3/4 cup(s)
    fat-free skim milk
    2 tsp Dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp table salt
    1/4 tsp
    black pepper, freshly ground
    2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    cup(s) low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, about 4 oz

    Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and
    cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion and asparagus;
    sauté until vegetable are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from pan
    and set aside.

    Preheat broiler.

    Off heat, coat same skillet with cooking spray. Arrange bread slices
    tightly in bottom of skillet.

    In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard, salt
    and pepper; pour over bread and allow milk mixture to soak in entirely (like
    when you make French toast). Sprinkle bread with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan

    Place skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cook, shaking pan
    frequently to promote even cooking, until almost cooked through to the top,
    about 4 or 5 minutes.

    Place skillet under broiler to set eggs, about 2 minutes. Remove
    skillet from broiler; top with bacon-vegetable mixture, cheddar cheese and
    remaining tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Place skillet under broiler again until
    cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

    Even The Boy and The Girl liked this strata! And while they liked the strata, they loved the cupcake pops!

    I used cherry chip cake and vanilla frosting for the pops, chocolate and vanilla candy coating for the decorations. Tasty!

    All in all, a good day! Hope you enjoyed yours too!

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