Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


Recipes (33) adoption (11) Theater (4) Musings (3) Sewing (3) running (3) Volunteerism (2)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan, Week 14: Easter leftovers! and Week 15: Big ProjectLeftovers!

Mama took a hiatus from the blog for Easter, and then another to finish up a big project!  Below is the recap, but here it is in a nutshell:  Week 14 was Easter leftovers and meals made from those.  Week 15 was leftovers from a weekend where we completed a big project thanks to friends and family, and we had leftover food from feeding the "workers!"  Hopefully Week 16 will be us back on track!


Easter week was a little off the plan, we hosted our families for Easter dinner, so the meal planning was really for one big meal...and we plan on getting by with leftovers for the rest of the week!  There may be a few breakfast for dinner evenings - in fact, Monday night the Mister did just that, fried up some leftover ham as well as two eggs.  

Happiness is a full house on Easter!

Easter Dinner Menu was:

Baked Smoked Ham with a mustard, maple, and brown sugar glaze
Homemade au gratin potatoes
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Sauteed green beans
Deviled eggs
Pickled eggs

Homemade strawberry cake and cupcakes.

During that week, we had a delicious ham and noodle dish made in ONE SKILLET (my favorite), I made Ted Allen's heirloom bean soup with leftover ham, along with ham sandwiches, etc.


 The BIG PROJECT I mentioned was swapping our daughter's original nursery/big girl room with the guest/sewing room.  We had friends and family by our side helping the whole time, and thankfully a big job went by in one weekend. We're so blessed to have these lovely people in our lives.

Mama and Papa in front of a VERY pinky purple wall

My little sis took time from fixing up her own home to help us!

A friend that is more a family member, our Miss Maggie!

Evie working with her favorite "Mr. Kerry" on the bunkbed

It's like a big puzzle! Uncle Matt was the painting foreman.

 Now we have a guest and sewing room set up, as well as a room fit for two little girls!  Evie can't wait to welcome her little sister from Haiti into their bedroom.  Still no idea on how long it will be until that happens, but we're hopeful to receive a referral this year!

A very happy little girl in her new room!!

On the Saturday morning of the project I made baked oatmeal with blueberries (ALWAYS a huge hit), and a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole.  

For lunches, meatballs were in the crock pot in sauce ready to be put in rolls with cheese.  Dinner was more meatballs over pasta.  Boom!  Crowd fed.  It also fed us during the week.  We had a chicken and fresh vegetable stir fry with rice on Monday, Mama had a smoothie and Daddy and E had leftovers on Tuesday, Wednesday was more leftovers, Thursday and Friday were nights out.  

Evie says a big THANK YOU to EVERYONE who helped!!

Ted Allen's Heirloom Bean Soup

This is one of my most prized cookbooks.  Not only for the recipes, which are truly for those who love to cook, but also because this book is signed by Mr. Allen!  I wish I could stay I met him, but I ordered it special to be signed.  Maybe some day I'll get to meet him...for now, I'll just continue to enjoy his recipes and his hosting of Food Network shows. On to the recipe!  Speaking of the recipe, if you enjoy this, I highly recommend purchasing the book...there are many gems like this one!

This is a pretty simple, but flavorful dish.  We used our leftover ham bones and ham from Easter, but you can purchase a smoked ham hock as the recipe states, we've made it that way too.  I also believe this would be just as delicious made vegan, as ham is the only non-plant/spice in this long as you ignore the huge hunk of Italian bread slathered with unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt we serve this with...

We soak our beans overnight with some baking powder, drain and rinse for the soup.  I pretty much like making this just for the smell of the soffritto and spices sauteing together in the beginning!

Heirloom Beans with Pork, Soffritto, and Smoke
from Ted Allen's In My Kitchen ©2012


1 pound dried beans (we used navy beans this time, I usually prefer pinto and cannelini)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons chili or chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 chopped seeded jalapeno chile
1 smoked ham hock (we used ham bones and chopped leftover ham)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with cotton string
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse and pick over the beans (after soaking over night or at least 2-3 hours), discarding any small stones or other debris.  

2. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the oil, and then cook the onion, celery, and carrot until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, and if using, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the beans, ham hock, thyme, and water to cover the beans by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. After an hour, spoon out a few beans and taste for tenderness.  Keep cooking and testing as needed, checking at least every 15 minutes, as things speed up toward the end of the process.  Add small amounts of hot water, if needed.  When the beans are tender and the liquid is creamy and thickened, they're ready. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan, Week 13: Lucky Thirteen!

No one in this house has triskaidekaphobia thankfully.  Although, I am thigmotactic. Can you tell I'm the daughter of a psychologist?  Or just a really big nerd?  Anyhoo... Mama is extremely overtired this particular Sunday.  Saturday morning/afternoon was cooking and meal week prep.  Saturday later afternoon into evening was a whirlwind of singing with Voices of the Valley.  I had the huge honor of singing under the direction of not only the supremely talented Gregg Mauroni, but the additional tutelage of Dr. Anthony Leach.  What a gift, and a moving experience.  Speaking of moving experiences, then we had Palm Sunday Services the next morning where my little one took a turn as a choralier.  Then, after lunch, I was off to my duties as dance captain for Theatre Harrisburg's production of The Addams Family.  Soooo, Mama is sitting, enjoying a craft beer, and blogging while Papa cooks.

Fitting name on the IPA, as it was thanks to mine I could sit and enjoy!

I know this has come up in previous posts, but it bears repeating here: I am so very blessed to have Mark as my partner in this adventure called life.  We balance each other so well, and each step in to pick up duties when the other is enjoying a hobby.  For Mark, it is often a marathon, or, more recently, not so much a hobby as he completed his thesis and successful defense.  For me, it is theater and music.  This weekend of singing and (old, decrepit) dancing wouldn't be possible if he didn't support me.  Not only support me, but let me sit on my rear end and type while he cooks.  So, thank you Babe, thank you.

Apologies to those of you who came here for the pictures of food and recipes.  But, that all had to be said.  On to this week's plan!

SUNDAY:  Refried Beans, Rice, Fried Eggs, and Sauteed Vegetables


We had some leftovers still from last week, so Mark re-fried the beans in coconut oil (a good tablespoon or more), a few tablespoons of heavy cream to rehydrate, a dash of paprika, and a pinch or so of salt.  I just got a taste of them...and they are PERFECT.  The veggies were also done in coconut oil.  The eggs were fried, then laid on top of it all.  Delicious!

MONDAY: Our Favorite "Healthy" Fettuccine Penne Alfredo with Brussels Sprouts


I believe this already made an appearance on the plan, and this won't be its last...we LOVE this dish.  Rocco DiSpirito's recipe was published 5 years ago in Runner's World, and we've been making it ever since.  Delicious, much healthier than original Alfredo recipes, and pretty simple to make!


TUESDAY: Leftovers / Snack-y Dinner

Busy night tonight, it will be a non-normal non-sit-down-as-a-family night.  We don't like it when this happens, but it happens so infrequently that I can't really complain.

WEDNESDAY: Portabella Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Tomato/Red Pepper/Rice mixture


I do not have a recipe to post for this just yet...because I'm completely making it up on Wednesday.  I'll let you know how it goes...

I learned one important lesson, the portabella mushroom caps need salt, maybe a marinade, etc.  They were good with the saucy rice, but alone...awfully bland.   The sauce was made by oven roasting a red pepper along with a can of diced tomatoes.  Stove top, I sauteed garlic and the chopped mushroom stems in olive oil, then added an entire (small) can of tomato paste.  Once both were done cooking, they all went into the Vitamix with some shredded Romano cheese.  The sauce was stirred into cooked long grain rice. 

THURSDAY:  Special Evening Out

As mentioned, Mark has successfully completed and defended his thesis.  To celebrate, his parents are taking us out to dinner!

FRIDAY: Salmon Cakes with Lemon/Fennel Couscous

I really like to make this dish...not always a winner with the Mister, but Evie and I like the cakes with the "little" couscous and a lemony sauce.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 12: Taking it Easy

We have had a few great weeks of new recipes, new ideas, etc.  For this week however, I wanted to take it easy, and do simple, good food we know.  We're doing two big pots of beans on Sunday - one for the week's meals, and another for our daughter's lunch soup.  She loved the "creamy goodness" soup from a few weeks back, and enjoys soups in her lunch. As for meals, the pinto beans cooked simply in salted water make a great base for all of our dinners this week.

SUNDAY: Bean Soup + Cooking up the week's lunches.

The pinto bean soup has been explained before, but I'll do it quickly here as well:  pinto beans were soaked over night in enough water to cover them + a teaspoon of baking soda.  They were then drained and rinsed in the morning, placed in the crockpot, again covered in water, and a couple healthy pinches of salt added.  When it is time for dinner, we will scoop ladles of beans and broth into bowls, add your favorite toppings.  I had chopped onion, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and queso fresco on the table for everyone to pick what they wished.  Simple, easy, and delicious.

For lunches:  as mentioned above, I will make the cannellini bean soup, aka: creamy goodness, featured in week 8's meal plan, for Evie's lunch box.  For Mark and I, I'm going to make up a chicken salad for sandwiches or crackers.

Lunch chicken salad:
4 thin chicken breasts, sauteed in olive oil on both sides until slightly browned, then poached in chicken stock until cooked.  Cool slightly, then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

Add 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces,  1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, and 1/4 cup raisins.  Mix around dry ingredients, then add dressing.

Chicken salad dressing: 1 cup mayo, 3 teaspoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, pinch of kosher salt.  Mix together well, pour over salad.

Then, try to not lick the spoon, mix well, and place in containers for the beginning of the week's lunches.

MONDAY: Corn Tortillas and Beans


Same deal as Sunday: beans, a vehicle for them, and fun toppings.

TUESDAY: Rice and Beans

Same beans, this time with rice.  Maybe a salad too...but let's not get crazy...


We'll be having dinner at our church again, meatball subs are not to be missed!

THURSDAY: Something with Beans

I know.  Shocker.

This is what we did, beans & rice.  Because on Tuesday?  We totally went out to dinner...

 FRIDAY: International Dinner

Many of you know we are in the process of an international adoption from Haiti.  This evening, we will be attending a special International Dinner held by our adoption agency.  It is a potluck, and all adoptive parents, no matter where they are in the process, are invited to attend.  We'll meet others adopting and having adopted from Haiti, as well as Ethiopia, China, Guam, etc.  We're very excited!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 11: Comfort Food

This week, we're all about comfort food.  Our daughter requested a spaghetti and meatball night, as well as chicken noodle soup for her lunches.  Mama's a big fan of pasta, so this was an easy request to fulfill.  I am typing this as I'm in the second step of my first ever pot of homemade chicken noodle soup!  Hopefully I can report good things in the end.

My love of all things Curtis-Stone-recipes continues this week with his Kimchi fried rice on Monday, his in-law's comfort food from Korea.  I really can't wait to try it, and was kind of more excited than I probably should have been to purchase my first ever jar of Kimchi.  I have a little concern about the heat level, but Mark and I each tried a little bite of the pickled cabbage and it wasn't too bad.  I'm hoping the rice, veggies, and other ingredients help to offset the spiciness.

Tuesday we go to one of my specialties for dinners: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  This is one of the comfiest comfort foods around this house.  Believe it or not, the Brussels sprouts are favored over many other vegetables here.  Of course, olive oil and kosher salt pretty much makes anything yummy, in my opinion.  Occasionally using bacon in there helps too...

Sunday was a BIG cooking day to get ready for the week.  Homemade chicken noodle soup is no joke.  I spent two hours on the first part, took an hour and a half break to take my Daisy Troop on a cookie walk-about, then came back for the next two hours.  Based on the way my house is smelling right now, I believe the work will be worth it.  I also cooked a big batch of jasmine rice, so we'd have nice, dry, day-old rice for Monday's meal.  Wednesday and Thursday will be leftover nights, and Friday fish meal worked so well last week, I'm going to do it again this week!  Personally, I'd like to do the salmon dish from a few weeks ago again, but I'm not sure that's in the budget.  We'll see what other fun seafood meal I can dig up.

Here's this week's plan:

SATURDAY: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Self explanatory.  And delicious.  Used a beef/pork/lamb mixture, diced onion, dried parsley, dried oregano, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, finely shredded Parmesan cheese.  Made 1-inch balls, cooked in oven for about 20 minutes at 400°, then plopped in the sauce to keep warm.  The sauce, I will admit publicly, was a jarred sauce.  Full disclosure: the Muir Glen Organic Spaghetti sauces are awesome.  I mean, I love the pomodoro sauce we make from scratch and all, but that pre-made sauce is delicious, and at around $3.00 a jar, can't be beat. Add crusty bread and butter at the table, you have a carb-loading feast.

SUNDAY: Chicken Noodle Soup

I scoured my books and the internet, and came up with the following:

1 whole chicken
Homemade chicken broth
8 carrots
4 stalks celery
2 medium onions
1 tbsp minced garlic
10 sprig parsley
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 leeks
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh-ground pepper
3 cups PA Dutch egg noodles

In a large stock pot, place whole chicken, along with organs.  Clean and roughly chop: 4 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 1 onion - add to pot.  Thinly slice half of a lemon, add to pot.  Tie together 2 sprigs fresh parsley with 3 sprigs fresh thyme, add to pot along with the minced garlic and bay leaf.  Cover all with homemade stock.  Add enough water to cover chicken if your homemade stock is not enough (ours wasn't).  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about one and one half hours.  Remove cooked chicken from pot, allow to cool.  Pour stock through sieve, discard all but strained stock.  Once chicken is cool, discard skin and bones, chop chicken into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cut 4 carrots, 1 onion, 2 stalks celery, and 3 leeks into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces.     Melt butter in large pot, add vegetables.  Saute for about 5 minutes, then add salt, pepper, chicken, and stock.  Cook for 1 hour, then add the remaining 8 sprigs parsley, chopped, along with the noodles, to the pot, cook until the noodles are ready.  Served in our house with biscuits.

MONDAY: Kimchi Fried Rice

This will be (hopefully) easy, as the rice was already cooked and cooled on Sunday.  Also, while I was prepping the carrots for the soup, I went ahead and cut the carrots for tonight's meal.  

Kimchi Fried Rice
Courtesy of Curtis Stone, What's For Dinner, ©2013

10 scallions
6 tbsp. canola oil
4 lg. eggs, beaten
4 cups cold rice
3 carrots, cut into quarter-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups napa cabbage, kimchi, drained and chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. white sesame seeds, toasted
Sriracha or other hot sauce

Cut the dark green tops of the scallions on the diagonal into 1-Inch pieces. Finely chop the white and pale green parts. Reserve one-fourth of the dark green scallion tops for garnish.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and tilt to coat the cooking surface. Add the eggs and quickly stir for about 30 seconds, or until just cooked but still wet. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the rice and cook, allowing the rice to become slightly crisp on the bottom of the wok before stirring, for about 4 minutes, or until heated through. Add the carrots and stir for about 1 minute, or until beginning to soften. Stir in the kimchi, followed by the scallions (both tops and bottoms), and stir for about 2 minutes, or until heated through. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and stir for about 1 minute. Stir in the eggs and season to taste with salt.

Transfer the rice to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve hot, with the hot sauce.

TUESDAY: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts

Here's my go-to meatloaf recipe:

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground pork
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Generous pinch of kosher salt
3 turns of ground pepper
1 diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic

Mix, form into loaf, either in loaf pan or on baking sheet.  Cook at 350° until done.

Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetable of choice.  For us, it will be thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and kosher salt, sauteed stove top until they begin to brown a bit.

WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY: Leftovers of the previously listed meals

FRIDAY: To Be Announced (once I figure it out....)