Sunday, January 23, 2011

Super Easy Reuben Stromboli!

Well, hello there!

This past week has been a little too crazy for my liking. Ken was on vacation, which was great, but during that time the Stomach Bug From Hell ripped through my house, infecting everyone.
...I want a do-over vacation...

I was the last one to pick up the Bug, and that happened yesterday. But the family has to eat, so I pulled on my boot straps and made a super easy, awesomely delicious Reuben Stromboli. Enjoy!

 (Ken got into it before I took the picture. It's that good.)

Reuben Stromboli (makes 1)

You Will Need:

1 C. chopped, cooked corned beef (I cooked mine in the crock pot all day)
1 C. cooked sourkraut
Thousand Island dressing
1 refrigerated pizza crust

Unroll the pizza crust onto a baking sheet. Layer corned beef & sourkraut onto one side of the pizza dough. Take your Thousand Island dressing and give it a good squiggly squirt over top of the corned beef & sourkraut. Fold dough in half and pinch around the perimeter so that it is sealed shut. Bake in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes. It should be a nice tan/ brown on top. Serve hot!

It's so yummy and you'll almost definately want to double this recipe!

And for dessert...
Follow the recipe on the back of th Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips bag. Before baking, arrange 3 M&Ms on top of the dough.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Challah Bread- Not Just for Passover.

There really isn't anything like a home filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread. For the last six years I have tried countless times to make bread and most of the time, to my chagrin, it just hasn't worked out. I never perfected even a simple white bread, so the idea of doing bread that needs to be braided or shaped was wholly frightening! (I have a low fear tolerance.) Who wants to waste 8 cups of flour??
One bread that I always wanted to try to make was challah bread. (Pronounced "HAllah") I had it at a diner in Philadelphia about 10 years ago and I never quite got it out of my head. Interesting fact: my husband worked there as a baker at the time and is more than likely the person who made the bread I ate! So the first time I went to make it I had him help me out. Since then, I've done it on my own and it is the only bread I've ever succeeded at every time! I don't even try to make other breads anymore, although one day I'm sure I will. (Especially since I love potato bread so much and have a recipe for it I still need to try.)
So this is the recipe I used today. I like that it only requires two rises. I would have liked to take more pictures, but it's difficult to knead bread and hold a camera at the same time! If you have never made bread before and you want to know how exactly to knead, or any of the finer points of how to bake bread, I suggest doing a little research on youtube first.
Also! Challah bread is a traditional Jewish bread. I've found a great recipe for it, and some neat variations, on If you're interested in jewish cooking and history, I highly recommend that site!

Challah Bread
 *makes 2 loaves

What you'll need:

1T active dry yeast
2 1/2 C. warm (NOT HOT) water. Too hot water will kill your yeast and your bread will fail to rise!
1/2 C. honey
4 T. cooking oil
2 eggs, plus 1 for later
2 t. salt
7- 8 cups bread flour

Warm your mixing bowl and dump in your water. Sprinkle yeast over the water and gently dissolve. (I used a plastic baby fork.) Let sit for 8- 10 minutes. Put your dough hook on and mix in the rest of the ingredients, excluding flour. Once those are mixed, slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time. It took me several minutes to get all the flour in. If you have a stand mixer, you can let the machine knead your bread, but I still prefer to do it by hand- it is a great upper body workout and also it's fun! Your bread dough should clean the sides of the bowl and be pretty gummy and slightly sticky. Go ahead and dump it out onto your counter, which should be lightly floured, and knead for 10 minutes. Finish kneading by making your dough into a ball and put it in a greased bowl. Let rise 1 hour, or until doubled, in a warm place. I like to let it rise in my oven. Indentation should remain when poked lightly.
Lightly flour your counter again, punch down dough, and dump out. Knead for 5 minutes. Now comes the fun part!! Divide dough in two (A and B) and set piece B aside. Divide piece A into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece into a tube about 14 inches long and have it be slightly wider in the middle. Attach the tubes at the top and braid them starting at the right. Go over, under, over. Repeat until the end, and squeeze the ends together, and tuck them under the bread. Do the same with piece B. (Re-reading this I can see that my instuctions sound a little vague! Check out the pictures.)
Place both loaves on a greased baking sheet, cover and let rise for about an hour, until doubled. Now remove the bread from the oven and preheat to 375. Beat your remaining egg and brush loaves lightly with it using a pastry brush. Bake for about 30- 40 minutes. If bread gets too dark on top, cover loosely with tinfoil. You'll know the bread is cooked through when it makes a hollow sound when tapped. Tap the bottom, too.

Ready to be kneaded for the first time.

Dough has been kneaded and is ready to rise!

Punched down and ready to be kneaded a second time.

Dough, before making tubes.

Start at right and braid. Over, under, over, like you would make a friendship bracelet.

Ready to rise a second time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Me Time.

On Friday I was reflecting on how grateful I am to be living in a neighborhood and not in Lancaster anymore. (In Lancaster we lived in a house apartment on a busy road.) Since Evan started kindergarten I have made friends with some of the moms around here, and one of them came over with her kids for a playdate and to give me a haircut. Playdates are always fun; I'm a big fan, but what I was really looking forward to was the haircut and the chance to hang out with another adult! It was a lot of fun and my hair is nice and cute now. Since the kids came along I can recognize that while I haven't "let myself go", I haven't kept up on things like haircuts and general physical fitness as well as I did when I was single. That's the same story for many moms (although right off the top of my head I can name a few for whom this is not an issue. But anyway, it is for me!)

In the beginning of November I got sick, and when I was released from the hospital I had a visiting nurse come by every week. On her first visit she said the only places I was allowed to go were doctor appointments and the beauty salon, the reason being that it is proven that people feel better when they feel they look good! So that is something I've been thinking about quite a bit. I know that to be true because when I worked in a nursing home, even though it was the dimensia and alzheimers unit, you could tell a remarkable difference in the patients when the got their nails done and hair fixed nice.

Maintenance on the outward appearance is only half of the equation though. You need to make the effort to be physically fit as well. Now, when I hear the word "exercise" the first thought that pops into my head is, "I. Hate. Exercising." And while I love to cook, I do not love to cook things that could be called lite or heart-smart. I am much more comfortable making Paula Deen-style foods. That had to change though, because my doctor put me on a lovely medicine that caused me to gain over 20 pounds practically overnight. So for the past week I have been spending a lot of time focusing on my diet and exercise, and I decided that sometimes you just have to suck it up and eat right and exercise even if you don't feel like it. And I found that after a couple days you start to feel better in general, and that the "I don't feel like it" feeling will go away, as will the cravings for junk food and the intense need for a loooooong nap. And after a few more days I started -gasp!- looking forward to the kids going to bed so I could work out!

How do I find time to go exercise? Well, technically I don't "go exercise". I do it in the TV room where, through our cable, we have tons and tons of free exercise videos to choose from. Last week I sat down, watched a few and tried some out to see which ones I liked best. I like dancing and yoga and there are an abundance of those. I also do not like being yelled at. I don't find it motivational; I find it irritating. I prefer gentle encouragement. I am, however, looking forward to spring when I can go for a jog or walk outside because, yes, I am too much of a sissy to do it in 20 degree weather... I am okay with that!

I highly recommend that if you are already paying for cable that you check out the exercise channels. I never thought I would say it, but it did not kill me to get my heart rate up and move around! You'll notice a dramatic difference in your mood and energy and you will be a happier person for your family to be around.

And like I hear whenever I'm being a grump, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Soup for Sickies.

Last night was a little rough. Coughing and hacking from the kids rooms, and one thrower-upper. 2 out of 3 of the boys caught whatever illness is currently going around, and of course they passed it on to me as well. Probably everyone will feel better tomorrow, especially since it is scientifically proven that chicken noodle soup makes cold sufferers feel better.
But, wait, oh no! I hadn't gone to the store in over a week! How could I make chicken noodle soup when I don't have chicken broth and some of the vegetables I need for it?!
This is when I get to be creative. I am always "creative" in the kitchen, but today I had to be especially so. A few years ago Ken labeled this "whipping something up". For example:
Him: "I want a snack."
Me: "We don't have any snacks."
Him: "Can't you just whip something up?"
So I do. And I invented many new recipes with stuff that's been hanging out in the freezer and/ or pantry for awhile that never got used. Today I whipped up some soup and it turned out great! Delicious. Here's what's in it:

Chicken Soup for Sickies
* note: I don't know how you cook your chicken, but I put mine still partly frozen into a pan with 1/4" water, salt and pepper, and cover it with tin foil. It makes for really tender chicken.

*another note: This is a suggested list of ingredients. You can use whatever is in your kitchen that you think will taste good! And of course, alter the seasonings to your taste. We like salt and garlic. A lot.

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
Drippings from pan you cooked the chicken in
1 T. butter
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 cup corn
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bag egg noodles (a standard-size bag)
8 cups water, plus 4 cups
Salt and Pepper
*Indian Seasoning (This is what gave the soup it's yellowish color. My Indian seasoning is basically tumeric and garlic powder plus some vague "various spices". You can probably find something similar in your Middle Eastern grocery store. Mine came from a Tastefully Simple party.)

In a large stock pot melt butter and add chicken, drippings, onion, garlic and celery. Add salt, pepper, seasoning and parsley. If you use Indian seasoning, your chicken should be a pretty yellow. Again, all the seasonings are to your taste. Best to add too little than too much!
Pour in 8 C. of water and the corn and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then lower heat to simmer. Once the soup is simmering you should give it a try and add salt, pepper, or more Indian seasoning as needed.
Pour remaining 4 C. water and the egg noodles. Keep stove on 'simmer' until egg noodles are tender. Finish up by adding seasoning if needed.
Serve to your Sickies! It's as good as medicine. Also, this makes a lot of soup; several quarts at least, and it's pretty economical because you already have the ingredients!

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Cool" Music for Kids

It doesn't happen very often, but last Friday I had to round up all the kids and take them along to a morning doctor appointment of mine. I had a bunch of other places to go as well, and we were in the car for a pretty long time. So we were driving into West Chester and listening to the radio and periodically Evan would say, "I love this song!", or I'd look in the rearview mirror and see Christopher boppin' to the music, swinging his head this way and that like he was trying to put it through the window.
I decided my kids needed some "cool", fun, music to listen to. Children like songs with a good beat and simple words. That's why they will loudly proclaim their love for pop music over, say, Bach. So I paid close attention to the songs they liked and made them a playlist when I got home. It took a lot longer than I thought it was going to; I found all the music on youtube and you have to watch the videos to make sure nothing inappropriate slips through the cracks. For instance, they like Katie Perry's California Girls song, but the video shows her getting flipped off by a gummy bear in the first 30 seconds (and it just goes downhill from there.)
I also googled "Music little kids like to listen to" and found that Disney does remakes of their classic songs with many of the stars of their shows. I am usually the last to find out about these things, but if you haven't heard of it either, the album is called Disneymania; there are about 6 or 7 of those. Once I found some songs from Disneymania I went right for regular Disney songs- can't believe I hadn't already thought of that!
Here's the playlist I came up with. My goal was to make something very "family friendly." So far it's a big hit with the boys and I have to say, I don't mind listening to it either!

1. The Lion King "I Just Can't Wait To Be King"
2. Jack Johnson "Upside Down" (theme to Curious George movie)
3. Taio Cruz "Dynamite"
4. Disneymania "Hakuna Matata"
5. Miley Cyrus "Party in the USA"
6. Rusted Root "Send Me On My Way" (from Ice Age)
7. Aladdin "Friend Like Me"
8. Beauty and the Beast "Be Our Guest"
9. The Little Mermaid "Under the Sea"
10. Randy Newman "You've Got a Friend" (theme from Toy Story)
11. Willow Smith "Whip my Hair"
12. Jack Johnson "If I Had Eyes"
13. Disneymania (Jonas Brothers) "Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" (from Peter Pan)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Breeding Fish Eaters.

I am a huge fan of fish and seafood. I would eat fish, shrimp, crab, etc. every day if I could. In fact, sometimes I'll bake a pound of tilapia or salmon and just sit and eat the whole bowl of it with salt, pepper and dill!
If only my family liked it as much as I do, but as it is, Evan is the only one I can get to eat fish. So I am always on the lookout for recipes that are "not gross," which is the number one request I get when asked what I should cook. Something Not Gross, indeed.
Okay, well, I succeeded in finding a tasty recipe for garlic and herb broiled trout. I hadn't had trout in I-don't-know-how-long, and I must have forgotten what a versatile fish it is, due to it's complete lack of fishy taste. It also doesn't really stink up your house like fish. Not as flavorful as salmon, but 3 out of 5 of us really enjoyed it and we had no leftovers! I hope if you try this recipe that your family enjoys it as much as 60% of mine did.

Garlic and Herb Broiled Trout

You Will Need:

1 1/2- 2 lbs. trout fillet
2T. lemon juice (about one half lemon)
1/3 C. plain bread crumbs
1 T. Italian seasoning
1t. garlic powder
Salt, Pepper
2T. olive oil

Set oven to broil (500 degrees) and move oven rack to top. Coat your broiling tray thing with cooking spray- no one likes to scrub fish skin that's been baked on! Brush fish gently with the lemon juice and broil for 3 minutes. While fish is in oven, mix together other ingredients. Pull out fish, decrease oven temp to 350 and move rack down to its regular spot. Coat fish with bread crumb mixture. I spooned it on and patted it down. Bake another 10 minutes or so until fish flakes easily with a fork.
That's it! So easy! I served mine with rice pilaf, creamed asparagus, and biscuits.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday.

                                                   ...What can I make of this?