Family · Food

Menu Monday 7/17/17

As you can see from my lack of a menu post last week, my summer is getting out of hand.  One would think that with my kids being at Kids College for the entire week that I should be able to get back on track.  Alas, I don’t believe that this will be the case because Peyton’s birthday is tomorrow and she expects a birthday dinner of crab legs and a cake even though her party isn’t until Saturday, which will require another cake (yes, I’m aware that she is spoiled).  Her party will be a “camping at the lake” themed pool party complete with a camper, boat dock, and boats.  I can’t wait to share the pictures!  And my mother-in-law found the greatest cake design.  I just hope that I can pull it off.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Anyway, we are still drowning in garden vegetables so here is the menu for the week.

IMG_6571Monday:  Sausage rigatoni with garden vegetable sauce.  This one is definitely a keeper!  Cook 1 box of rigatoni, saving some cooking water when you drain it.  Saute a pound of bulk sausage and remove from pan.  Add 1 diced onion, medium squash, and medium zucchini (about 1/2″ cubes for squash and zucchini, mince onion smaller).  Saute until onion becomes translucent but squash and zucchini are still crisp; add about 2 cups of diced tomatoes.  Season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Cook until tomatoes start to break down but squash and zucchini are still crisp.  Add sausage and pasta back into pan; add pasta water if it looks too dry.  Top with freshly sliced basil and Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday:  Peyton’s Birthday Choice!  Crab legs, potatoes with stinky cheese, and cucumbers in Honey-mustard dressing, and of course birthday cake.  I know that cucumbers dressed with honey-mustard sounds weird but trust me, they’re really good, and we’re looking for new ways to eat our over-abundance of cucumbers.  I blogged about the potatoes in March, check out the menu for Friday for directions.  For some reason my girls love these potatoes with crab.  Here’s a good hint for heating up frozen crab legs:  We find that they become water-logged and difficult to crack open if we heat them with steam or boiling water, but if you just place them on your grill for 5-10 minutes they warm up perfectly.

Wednesday:  Venison and veggie fajitas with pico de gallo, cojita cheese,  and avocado.  Beef or chicken would work well here too; just slice thinly and season with chile powder, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper.  If you use venison it is better to let it marinate in the refrigerator for a day or two, but chicken or beef only need a few hours.  I’m adding thin strips of zucchini to my peppers and onions because I’m drowning in them.  I think Dave and I could just eat veggie fajitas (with the right seasoning) and be happy but my girls want some MEAT!

IMG_6642Thursday:  Roasted tomatoes and eggplant stuffed with sausage/veggie stuffing.  It’s a one-stop meal:  meat, carbs, and vegetables all in one dish.  Brown 1 lb. of bulk sausage or chorizo in a skillet then remove.  Add a medium onion and a small zucchini finely diced, season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Cut Japanese eggplant and tomatoes in half and scoop out the insides (you may also mince up what you removed and add to the skillet).  Once the veggies are done, add sausage back in.  Add enough bread crumbs to bind everything together (and a handful of shredded Parmesan for flavor).  Stuff tomatoes and eggplant halves and grill on medium high for about 25 – 30 minutes. 

Friday:  Fried chicken salads with Honey-mustard or Ranch dressing.  Today is the day before Peyton’s party and I’m sure that there will be a million things to do, so I’m stopping by our favorite fried chicken place for chicken tenders and making a huge salad to serve them on.  Honey-mustard dressing is my favorite on a fried chicken salad but my girls tend to disagree.  I’m sure I’ll use up some more cucumbers and tomatoes with this meal too.


Crafts · DIY · Family

Bitossi Art Project 

I know it’s hard to believe but Peyton and I found an art project to do that doesn’t involve making slime.  Since I’ve dubbed this “The Summer of Slime,” I think that’s quite the accomplishment.  We found  hand-shaped bowl on Pinterest that looked fun to make.  I’ll let her tell you the rest:IMG_6620

“We went on Pinterest and found a cute hand made bowl made out of model magic (craft clay).  The instructions said it was inspired by Bitossi.  Me and my mom didn’t know who Bitossi was so we looked him up on Google and found out that it was a famous Italian ceramic artist family.”  The Italian owned ceramic business was started by the Bitossi family in the 1800’s. Their most notable artistic director was Aldo Londi who held that position for over 50 years starting in 1946.  He created the images that we associate with the company today, beautifully glazed, small sculptural pieces of home decor bearing textural marks and imprints.  So we got model magic and rolled it out and put my hand in it and lightly pushed and then you could see my hand print.  IMG_6601Then we cut around my handprint with a butter knife.


We took ordinary utensils (forks, bamboo skates, popsicle sticks, and screw drivers) and pressed them in to make different designs.


Then we shaped it into a bowl over a ball that we covered with plastic wrap and let it dry overnight (We added a small ring to the bottom to help it sit upright after it dried). IMG_6607

We painted it the next day (with two shades of green acrylic paint to bring out the imprints).  The Bitossi company is especially well known for its blue glazed pieces, but Peyton’s favorite color is green.  After letting it dry and spraying it with clear gloss sealant, I had a “hand made” bowl.”

Presley started one too so we’ll update you after she paints it!IMG_6614.jpg


Family · Food · Holidays

Independence Day Pancakes

Yes!  There will be pancakes!  Independence Day pancakes that is.  We made these fun star-shaped pancakes this morning to celebrate July 4th.  We used a squeeze bottle to draw the stars with pancake batter, then topped them with red (strawberry jelly), white (whipped cream), and blue (blueberry compote).  They were delicious and really got us into the holiday spirit! IMG_7136

Family · Food

Menu Monday 7/3/17

Tomorrow is July 4th and I hope everyone has something fun planned.  We intend to spend the day in the pool (as long as this rain stops before then and grill hamburgers or sausages on the grill.  We’ll pop across the street to watch the fireworks and then make a quick getaway since Dave has to work early Wednesday morning.  In other news, my garden is over producing already and I have to come up with some more serving ideas for zucchini, squash, and eggplant.

Monday:  Fish tacos with avocado and red onion.  Make and oil and vinegar cabbage slaw, then pan fry your Cajun seasoned tilapia.  Thinly slice red onion and avocado.  Assemble tacos: fish, onion, avocado, squeeze of lime juice, then slaw, on a flour tortilla.  Enjoy!

Tuesday:  Grilled bun-size Kielbasa sausages, smashed potato salad, and slaw or cucumber salad (if I’m over run with cucumbers).  My sister makes an awesome smashed potato salad with potatoes, eggs, mustard, and mayo.  She just mashes it all together, including the eggs!  It is delicious!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Wednesday:  Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad.  I have three or four eggplant ready to be picked and it will make the perfect meal.  As you know we’ve done this one before, see here for instructions.

Thursday:  Spam fried rice and potstickers.  I know, nobody eats Spam anymore and you could replace it with ham in this recipe, but the Spam browns up so beautifully with lots of crispy edges that are delicious.  Scramble 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of water and pour into thin layer in skillet (omelet-style), flip over when half-done.  Remove from pan and thinly slice.  Dice 1 medium onion and add to pan.  Finely dice about 1/2 can of Spam and add to skillet once onions become translucent.  Dice 2-3 spears of fresh pineapple (you could use a can of pineapple tidbits).  Add pineapple and 2 cups cooked rice to skillet and mix well.  Season with soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil.  Fold in egg just before serving.  If you like a little heat, sprinkle with Shichimi Togarahsi, an Asian red pepper blend that is delicious on rice.

Friday:   Rib-eye steaks, baked potatoes, and garden-fresh green beans.  Season steaks with your favorite steak seasoning and a little olive oil (to help the seasoning penetrate the meat and to prevent the steak from sticking to the grill).  Make sure meat is at room temperature before grilling!  For the perfect baked potato every time, rub clean potatoes with oil and kosher salt, prick a few holes with a fork, and bake directly on oven rack at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Steam green beans, and toss with butter, salt, and pepper (I like Chicago steak seasoning on mine).

Bonus snack:  Zucchini fries dipped in homemade marinara sauce.  I have to do something with all this zucchini and everyone loved the fries that I made last week.  I think they will taste almost like cheese sticks with marinara sauce.  Slice zucchini in half and remove seeds then slice into french-fry-sized sticks, toss with salt and lay out on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes to pull some of the water out of the zucchini.  Dip zucchini sticks in flour (unseasoned), then egg, then a mixture of Panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and corn meal.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes then spray lightly with cooking spray and bake another 5 minutes until golden brown.  Serve with marinara sauce or Ranch dressing.


Crafts · DIY

Bird Feeder Makeover

While the girls were gone we had a little extra time on our hands so Dave and I decided to paint our decrepit bird feeder.  We’ve had it since we moved to Arkansas 14 years ago so it was definitely in need of some TLC. As you can see, it looked pretty bad.  It had birdseed actually growing in it, lichens on the roof, and two broken roof slats.


We scraped out the seeds and dirt and sanded off the lichens.  Then we removed the broken slats.  We’re ready to prime and paint.


The feeder quickly absorbed two coats of primer, but now we’re ready to paint.


We used Behr paint color samples from Home Depot in Allure (red), Honey Locust (yellow), and Oregano Spice (green).


It took two coats of paint on most areas and then we had to replace the roof slats.  We used a piece of composite trim that we had lying around.  Once all the paint had dried, I applied a clear coat sealant for extra protection (even though I used outdoor paint).  I think it turned out beautifully.

Family · Food

Menu Monday 6/26/17


Our garden is off and running and we are finally getting fresh vegetables on a daily basis.  Now the trick is figuring out how to use them all up in ways that the family doesn’t tire of eating them.  I also decided that the girls need to work on their cooking skills.  We don’t have any camps or any other obligations this week so I thought this would be a good time to start.  They each got the opportunity to pick out a recipe that they wanted to make and will get to help prepare it for dinner one day this week.  We’ll see how it goes.


Monday:  Grilled vegetarian flautas (rolled tacos) with fresh pico de gallo & sour cream. IMG_6535 I made some homemade “refried” beans with green chilies for this recipe but canned would be fine.  I cooked dried pinto beans with garlic, salt, and bay leaves, then smashed in a can of chopped green chiles, and seasoned with chile powder, cumin, and salt.  I’m going to slice up onion, peppers, squash, and eggplant into long strips (fajita-style) and saute them with taco seasoning.  Spread beans on a flour tortilla, add sautéed veggies (Do NOT over fill!), then roll into tubes,  brush with vegetable oil, grill until warmed through.  Serve with fresh cojita cheese, homemade pico de gallo or salsa, and sour cream. 

Tuesday:  Crockpot Honey-mustard chicken with rice and green beans.  Peyton found this recipe on the back of a mustard bottle while eating a hot dog for lunch.  She can’t wait to try it out.  Mix 3/4 cup yellow mustard with 1/2 cup honey and  pour over 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs in a slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.  We’re going to serve ours with white rice and sautéed green beans fresh from our garden.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 1.29.01 PMWednesday:  Buffalo Chicken Wings with carrots, celery, and zucchini fries dipped in blue cheese or Ranch dressing.  I know it’s chicken 2 days in a row but we record AGT on Tuesday nights and then eat dinner while watching it on Wednesdays so we need finger food.  And really the two meals couldn’t taste more different.  Presley couldn’t come up with a recipe that she wanted to make so she’s going to help with this one since wings are one of her favorite meals.

Lemon Shrimp Pasta



Thursday:  Lemon shrimp Pasta, salad, and garlic bread.  I first posted this recipe in March, but we have been making it for some time now.  It’s one of the family favorites especially when served with Dave’s “famous” garlic bread.  I’ll probably slip in some sautéed squash or zucchini to up our vegetable intake (as well as use up some of our garden’s impressive production).


Friday:  Grilled Hawaiian Pizzas.  We figured out how to grill pizza a few weeks ago by placing a pizza stone in our grill (I know, we’re a few years behind the times, but our old grill didn’t get hot enough to even attempt this) and now the girls want pizza all the time.  We’re going to use the leftover chicken and sauce from Tuesday.  Chop up chicken and spread it and it’s sauce on a precooked pizza crust.  Add diced pineapple, thinly sliced red onion, chopped ham, and bacon crumbles, then top with fresh mozzarella cheese.  Place on preheated pizza stone and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Yum!




Hawaiian Pork Bowl Update

As I stated on Menu Monday, tonight we tried a new recipe inspired by the Hawaiian Pork Bowl recipe in the July issue of Food and Wine magazine. It started with a sweet tea marinated butterflied pork tenderloin which we grilled.  We quartered a red onion and sliced some fresh pineapple (brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper) and grilled until nicely charred. Then we layered white rice in bowls, topped with pork, onion, pineapple, avocado, bacon, jalapeño, and cilantro. A fresh dressing of lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper topped it off. Peyton and I preferred ours with soy sauce and a squeeze of lime but Presley and Dave really enjoyed the lime dressing.  In order to make it easier for the girls to eat, I diced up all of their toppings before adding them to the rice.

Here’s a picture of my inspiration and my pork bowl.  I think mine turned out pretty good!  Not quite as pretty as the chef’s version, but delicious!