Menu Plan Monday: School's out, the kids are home

The last day of school was on Thursday of last week, and in that time slot for my menu plan, I wrote: SURPRISE!!!!

Think that was cheating?

In reality, my kids used free kids meal coupons at Subway for dinner, followed by an ice cream cone, and the hubby and I had a fabulous salad with grilled chicken, grilled peaches, grilled red onion, and a sweet and savory dressing. Which I did not take a picture of so will have to make again.

Friday's plan of chili lime cumin steak turned into buffalo chicken nuggets, premade from the store, and whatever everyone felt like picking at.

This week, however, my children are home all week, so I might do a few things with them and that might mess up whatever I plan. Plus, it is Canada Day this week, and I have no idea what we are doing. If we end up out somewhere to see fireworks, dinner could be changed. If not, we will eat what I plan ahead.

Sunday: Spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread. (I worked all day, so hubby cooked.)

Monday: Steak, fennel and orange salad. Assuming I remember to go out and get some oranges. And fennel. (Cancel that - I could not get fennel this morning, and by the time I did get some, it was late and I was so tired that I stopped and picked up pizza, which I am now eating. I plan to have the salad for lunch tomorrow.)

Tuesday: Mexican chicken wings with some kind of vegetable. Not sure what kind yet though.

Wednesday: Canada Day, so I'm going to plan ahead to make a broccoli and cheddar fritata, which I can make ahead, and that way if we are out and it isn't eaten, well, I'll have lunch the next day.

Thursday: We are out at a friends for dinner. Should be fun!

Friday: Hmmm I have written down, "Tyler's California Cobb Salad for me." Not sure what I'm planning on feeding anyone else that night.

As always, don't forget to go to Menu Plan Monday to see lots of other menu plans. I need to, I want some breakfast ideas, needing a break from the same things we have around here.

Btw, don't forget, you are invited to this months Monthly Mingle, hosted by me, where we are having a Mexican Fiesta! You can get all the details here, and then send me your entry by July 13 at allthingsedible (at) gmail (dot) com, with the subject of Monthly Mingle.

Daring Bakers: Oops! Is it reveal day already?

I had no intention of skipping this month's Daring Baker's Challenge. I promise, Jasmine, I didn't plan to miss! And I was actually surprised to see a Challenge post up this morning, which is how I knew my dates were way off (I thought I had until Tuesday still, forgot we'd standardized the posting dates.)

Unfortunately, if I get a chance to make this, it is going to be very late. I can't do it today, I am making a birthday order for a party tonight, tomorrow I am working all day at my newest part time job, and will be exhausted by the time I get home.

It has also been a very emotional rollercoaster week for my family this last week, and is not expecting to be much better next week. Without getting into the details, lets just say that we have all be drained, and since I can't be where I'd like to be, I've been doing phone support, talking to certain family members several times a day for the last week. Which has left me little time for anything else.

So I'm sorry Jasmine, , I'm sorry AnneMarie, I will try to get this in in the next week and get it up late, but if I can't, know that the spirit was willing but the reality was not letting it happen.

TFF: Worth killing my bbq over?

Remember last month when I killed my bbq after it set on fire? I never did say what I was cooking when it happened, did I?

Well don't hold this against Tyler, but it was his Ultimate BBQ Chicken I was making. Doesn't it look "ultimate" to you?

I made very few changes to this recipe. While the recipe calls for a full chicken cut into pieces, I used some chicken legs and cut them down to drumsticks and thighs instead. And that is the only change I made. I even went out and bought two packages of fresh thyme to make this. (Oh, I didn't have any kitchen twine, so I used a toothpick.)

I hadn't planned on finishing it in the oven, as Tyler's instructions say to do (please, Tyler, why, oh why, would I want to turn on my oven on a hot day, when making bbq chicken, when I can just let the heat of the bbq be my oven for me?) But the fire extinguisher forced me to do just that.

Despite my big pile of chicken, I had alot of sauce left over. Fortunately, I had kept more than was recommended aside for use at the table afterwards, so I had left over sauce that I was able to put into the fridge and use a few days later with some ribs. Yummy! (Sorry, forgot to take a picture of the ribs, sometimes that happens!)

Was the chicken worth killing my bbq over? Sorry, no. NOTHING would taste so good it would be worth the death of my summer kitchen. And despite that tragedy, this was still some very tasty chicken.

Before I direct you to the recipe, big congrats to Pam for being last week's winning Tyler Florence Friday entry, which has been posted over on Tyler's website. If you haven't seen Pam's selection, go see it, it is amazing looking and will be on my menu plan very, very soon.

The Ultimate Barbecued Chicken
by Tyler Florence, as found on Food Network


2 quarts water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a large knife
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 chicken legs and thighs, still connected, bone in, skin on, about 10 ounces each

The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce:

1 slice bacon
1 bunch fresh thyme
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika if available
Freshly ground black pepper

For the brine, in a mixing bowl combine the water, salt, sugar, garlic, and thyme. Transfer the brine to a 2-gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, close the bag and refrigerate 2 hours (if you've only got 15 minutes, that's fine) to allow the salt and seasonings to penetrate the chicken.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Wrap the bacon around the bunch of thyme and tie with kitchen twine so you have a nice bundle. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the thyme and cook slowly 3 to 4 minutes to render the bacon fat and give the sauce a nice smoky taste. Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly without coloring for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, give the sauce a stir, and turn the heat down to low. Cook slowly for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Once the sauce is done cooking, remove about 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and reserve for serving along side the chicken at the table. The rest of the barbecue sauce will be used for basing the legs.

Preheat oven 375 degrees F.

Preheat a grill pan or an outdoor gas or charcoal barbecue to a medium heat. Take a few paper towels and fold them several times to make a thick square. Blot a small amount of oil on the paper towel and carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill to make a nonstick surface. Take the chicken out of the brine, pat it dry on paper towels. Arrange the chicken pieces on the preheated grill and cook, turn once mid-way, and cook for a total of 10 minutes. Transfer the grill marked chicken to a cookie sheet and then place in the oven. Cook the chicken for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven and then brush liberally, coating every inch of the legs with the barbecue sauce and then return to the oven for 25 to 30 more minutes, basting the chicken for a second time half way through remaining cooking time. Serve with extra sauce.

Menu Plan Monday: Can it really be summer?

Technically the first day of summer was yesterday, Sunday, June 21st.

Which means we got some rain.

Now it did eventually warm up, the sun came out, and it became hot and humid.

Summer was teasing us, saying, "Here I am! Now I'm gone. I'm back! Oops, you looked, gone again. Oh, I'm back!"

The weather for this week, however, looks like it might actually be warm out, summer like, so I'm going to plan appropriately for the week.

Sunday: We had a very heavy and unhealthy lunch, so we had a very different dinner. Fruit surprise pancakes (using Tyler Florence's Batter 3 ways) with fruit smoothies. My sous chef made the smoothies, two kinds: strawberry-kiwi-banana, and mango-blueberry-banana. Must remember for future reference, don't let him put a full pint of blueberries in the blender, the smoothie gets very, very thick.

Monday: Cilantro shrimp skewers with grilled pineapple. No, my bbq has still not been either fixed or replaced, I will use my indoor grill.

Tuesday: Texas beef on tortillas with salsa.

Wednesday: It is our 14th wedding anniversary, so we are celebrating by going out to dinner, Thai food, with the children.

Thursday: Last day of school. Last year I made funnel cakes for the kids for dinner. We can't decide what fun and outrageous thing I should make this year.

Friday: Chili lime cumin steak, with corn.

Last week's plan had at least one derailing, but I did not resort to take out for that night. Instead I made an extra stop at the grocery store and bought frozen hamburgers for the hubby and I for dinner. Much cheaper than picking up Chinese food.

I like participating in Menu Plan Monday. It is my blogs way of reminding me to plan ahead, and it gives me a reason to post each week. It also gives me a chance to put up totally random and non-food related items, just for the fun of it.

So this week you get something ridiculous, but fun:

After many tries, I finally managed to sing my way to 5 gold stars for Carry On My Wayward Son, on Rock Band for the Wii!

Now I apparently need to go back to a track pack and do it on Foreplay/Longtime, the "impossible" song by Boston.

Wish me luck!

Happy Father's Day

When my children were smaller, breakfast for their dad on Father's Day involved me doing all the cooking while they took all the credit. I'm one of those mom's who lets her kids get involved in the kitchen, but I'm not crazy, so that's how it had to be.

Not this year. This year, I did some directing from the side, but the actual work was done by the children (with the exception of the bacon, still not willing to let them cook the bacon.) (Oh, and the clean up. Not that anyone is surprised by that.)

My little sous chef isn't ready for stove cooking yet, but he's good for assembly, so he made Daddy a raspberry-yogurt and granola parfait sundae. In one of my good crystal glasses (that are basically never used.) He chose the yogurt, vanilla, and Daddy's favorite fruit, raspberries. Which makes up for him saying that Daddy's favorite sport is baseball (it is anything but), that he looks at the sky all day for a living (he wishes?), and that he's not very good at baseball, all in the same Father's Day card.

My big guy has been slowly learning how to use the stove. He's 10, and he eats enough oatmeal on a regular basis that it really isn't cost effective to let him keep making instant oatmeal, so I've been gradually teaching him how to cook things instead of microwaving things. This morning he decided to try tackling an omelet, which was going to contain salsa and cheese.

It isn't his fault his omelet didn't work - my non-stick pan isn't anymore. He tried, but he just could not get the eggs to not stick. Neither could I.

So Daddy got scrambled eggs instead.

The eggs don't look amazing, but since it consists of eggs, salt and pepper, salsa sauce and melted cheese, I don't suppose they would look good. I understand they were quite tasty.

With the addition of a glass of orange juice, Daddy was served breakfast by his two boys. While I made yogurt-fruit-granola parfaits for myself and the boys.)

Maybe next year I will get to wait in the next room and they will not only make breakfast, but clean up after it also. (Don't worry, I won't hold my breath waiting for it.)

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there, including my own.

It's time for a Fiesta - and you're invited!

That's right, it is Monthly Mingle time and I get to play hostess this month while Meeta is busy moving! And since I get to hostess this fabulous event, I also get to choose the theme and I've decided it is time for a Mexican Fiesta!

Why, you might ask? (Or maybe you didn't ask, but I'm going to answer anyways.)

Well, because I love Mexican food. My entire family likes Mexican food. What isn't to love about Mexican food? And since no one wants to visit Mexico right now, we can all experience our own little bit of it in our own homes.

As for the Fiesta, well, it has been a long school year, which is almost over. And a long spring that does not seem to want to give way to summer. And any excuse for a party is a good excuse. So let's all find our festive spirit and party!

If you've never been part of the Monthly Mingle before, let me tell you what you do: first of all, copy that little picture above, the badge that says Monthly Mingle on it. Then hit your kitchen, or your bbq, or your drinks cabinet, or wherever you keep edibles, and make something that relates to the theme of Mexican Fiesta. It can be a drink, a main course, an appetizer, a dessert. It can serve one or a crowd. It can be no-cook or require hours of slaving over a hot crock pot. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it fits within the theme of Mexican Fiesta. Make it up or find a cookbook, just make something.

Then take a picture and put it up on your blog. Please include the phrase Monthly Mingle: Mexican Fiesta. Then send me the link, and a copy of your picture, by email: allthingsedible (at) gmail (dot) com, including the words Montly Mingle in the subject post. (If you don't have a blog, you can join in as well, just email me the details of what you made, with a picture or two.)

Do this before July 13th, and I will be sure to include you in the round up.

Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with. Please feel free to join in. Let's Fiesta!

Happy Birthday Aerodactyl!

Today was our nephew's first birthday, and turned into a beautiful day to have a birthday party on.

To celebrate, we were invited over to his house for a little birthday dinner, with cake, which I made for him.

Mommy had requested a barnyard theme for his cake, which I was more than happy to make for both of them.

For anyone who makes cakes - can you please, please tell me how I can get a white, marshmallow frosting to be barn red? I used an entire bottle of red coloring, plus some burgundy (with some copper thrown in to de-pink things a bit), and still could not get the frosting red. I finally used some edible red glitter, but really wanted a deep red frosting.

Our Aerodactyl (his nickname, since he used to make dinosaur like squawking noises alot,) is a very happy boy. He is also a boy just like his cousin, my youngest, who likes his food and likes alot of it.

And like any little boy, he likes to play with his food before he eats it. I will have to remember this for next year, and get him some playdough for his birthday, so he can mush and mush and mush.

He was quite happy with his cake, which he ate as well as played with.

Happy 1st Birthday little Aerodactyl!

TFF: Megan's Challenge for June

Before I start, a big congrats to Kim of Stirring the Pot for being last week's winning post for Tyler Florence Fridays. Her rhubarb pie was chosen to be featured on Tyler Florence's blog this week, based on its seasonality and yumminess. (And if yumminess isn't a real word, too bad, I like it!)

Now one of the great things about TFF is that we get to pick our own recipes for posting. And we are allowed, even encouraged, to make whatever changes we need or want to make the recipe. Once a month, however, Megan, my buddy down in the warm, warm South (yes, Megan, it is raining here, again, and I am a bit jealous of heat!) picks a recipe and invites us all to make it and blog about it. We still have the option of making changes, and the challenge is totally optional.

Last month I missed out on making Megan's challenge, the quiche, which was annoying because I really wanted to make it but ran out of time. After that, I wasn't going to miss this months. Especially not when it was for Summer Rolls, a beautifully cool and healthy Asain wrap with a sweet chili sauce.

I love these wraps. These are good wraps. Normally I make wraps like these with shrimp, but Tyler doesn't include any shrimp in his, and as I served these with my Daring Cooks potstickers and had enough to do already, I skipped adding some shrimp into mine. Without the shrimp, I still loved them.

The sauce was nice and spicy, but not too spicy, and matched well with the mildness of the wraps. Plus it was a pretty color, which you'll have to take my word for as I did not take a picture of the sauce. I was too busy eating.

And if it weren't raining, cold and miserable out right now, I'd be tempted to make some more of these tonight for dinner. Just for me. (Well, I suppose I'd share, but not graciously.)

The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the red chili (because I didn't have one and doubt the kids would have eaten it if I had put one in) and the peanuts (because I forgot to buy some and the ones I had on hand smelled rancid, not good for eating at all.) Oh and I nearly forgot, I also omitted the beet. Again, I didn't have one.

Now go forth, find some nice hot weather and make this lovely, healthy and cooling Summer Wrap. Have one for me too, please. Or at least share your summer weather.

Summer Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce
by Tyler Florence

3 ounces Vietnamese cellophane noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 cups bean sprouts
2 carrots, julienned (I actually used my peeler to make strips of carrots instead of julienning - they were thinner than if I'd done a juliene but had a nice texture with the bean sprouts.)
1 large beet, julienned (Oh yes, I forgot I didn't use this either. Forgot to buy one)
1 fresh red chile, cut in circles (I left this out)
2 handfuls fresh cilantro, hand-torn
3/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts (I left these out)
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 lime, juiced
Sea salt
20 (8-inch) round rice paper wrappers
40 mint leaves

Put the cellophane noodles, vegetables, cilantro and peanuts in a large bowl; toss with sesame oil and lime juice to give the filling some flavor; season with salt and pepper.

Pour 3 cups of hot, not boiling water in a large shallow bowl. One at a time, immerse the rice paper wrappers in the hot water for 10 seconds to soften, then place on a slightly damp towel. The rice paper is very delicate, don't soak them any longer or they will break apart. Keep them covered while you work to prevent them from drying out and curling.

To form the rolls, lay a rice paper wrapper on a flat surface. Grab a small amount of the cellophane and vegetable mixture and lay it across the bottom third. Use less filling than you think you should, if you overstuff the wrapper it will tear. Carefully fold the bottom of the wrapper up to cover the filling. Fold in the left and right sides, then tuck and roll it over once. Lay 2 mint leaves on top, then tuck and roll it over to close the whole thing up like a tight cigar. The mint leaves should show through the transparent rice paper. Arrange the finished rolls on a platter and cover with a damp towel.

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red chili paste, such as sambal

In a blender, puree the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, hot water, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and chili paste until combined. (I used my immersion blender in a big measuring cup, easier than cleaning the blender.) Pour into a small bowl and serve with the summer rolls.

It's too hot out for soup today

Summer might finally be here, so, yes, it is too hot out to make soup right now. But that doesn't mean I can't share and enjoy a soup I made last month. Since not everyone I know is in a hot part of the world. And some people like to make soup in the summer anyways.

For those people, I give you a nice bowl of Pho. My absolute favorite soup in the world.

You know how when you are sick, chicken soup is usually the first thing people want to feed you? Well not me. I like chicken soup, sure, but when I'm sick and not feeling well, I'd so much rather have a big bowl of Vietnamese Pho, with rare beef, green onions and basil.

However, it is a bit time consuming to make the broth, and without good broth, the soup is nothing. So when I saw this recipe for making Pho in a crock pot on Steamy Kitchen, I hit print. Then I worried about finding beef bones. Not an easy task.

Fortunately, I found a local farmer who provided me with beef bones and put my crock pot to work. The reward of my searching and its work:

Crock Pot Pho
from Steamy Kitchen

For the Pho Stock:
4 pounds beef bones
1/2 onion
4 inch section of ginger, sliced
1 package Vietnamese Pho Spices (or as many of these spices as you have: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole coriander, 1 teaspooon fennel, 3 whole star anise, 3 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod) (I used the spices)
9 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar

For the Pho Bowls
16 ounces fresh or dried rice noodles
1/2 pound flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round steak, sliced as thinly as possible.
11 ounces Vietnamese beef balls, cut into half (we didn't have these)

For the table
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
fresh herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, mint
2-3 chili peppers, sliced (skipped this)
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot chili sauce (skipped this)

Bring a large stockpot with water to boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the beef bones and boil vigourously for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat a frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the Vietnamese Pho Spices and toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Dump the spices to the empty Crock Pot or slow cooker immediately. Return frying pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger slices and the onion half. Cook until the ginger is browned on both sides and the onion half is nicely browned and softened. Add the ginger and the onion to the Crock Pot or slow cooker.

When the bones have been pre-boiled, drain, discard water and rinse bones briefly to clean them. Add the bones to the Crock Pot or slow cooker. Fill the Crock Pot with fresh, clean, cool water to just 1-1/2 inches below surface, add the fish sauce and sugar. Cover and set the Crock Pot or slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours. Taste and season with additional fish sauce if needed.

When you are just about ready to eat, you’ll prep the rest of the ingredients for the Pho bowls. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the beef balls and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove the balls, keeping the water boiling and now cook the noodles according to package instructions. If you are using fresh noodles, all they need is a couple of minutes. Drain immediately.

Strain the stock with a fine meshed sieve. Discard the solids.

Line up 4 large bowls on counter. Distribute the noodles, beef balls and thin steak slices evenly amongst the bowls. Ladle the hot Pho stock into each bowl. The hot stock should cook the thin steak slices. Serve with lime wedges, fresh herbs, chili peppers, Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce at the table.

Menu Plan Monday: Still working on it

Ah, it is Monday again. Do weekends seem to be getting shorter or is it just my imagination?

Last week's plan went fairly well. An unexpected work night resulted in my changing a few things around and us having one night changed completely, but mostly it went as planned. The meals I had actually planned were eaten, just not necessarily on the night I planned them.

This week I've decided to go a bit easier on the plan, as in plan old favorites rather than seek out new recipes to try. I love trying new recipes, but sometimes I am just busy and like to be able to cook without having to think much during the process. Go on automatic almost.

So here we go, my submission to this weeks Menu Plan Monday. Be sure to head over to see more menu plans and ideas for your own.

We attended a late afternoon surprise celebration, which I had a part in planning, where pizza and cake were inhaled, so had a light and easy supper of cheese and potato perogies with sour cream. Sorry, not homemade, but frozen. I cook mine differently than most people, though, so they aren't as heavy and artery clogging: Heat the oven to 415 - 425 F, place the frozen perogies on a sheet pan and give them a quick spritz with vegetable spray. Cook for 12-15 minutes, then turn them. Return them to the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until they are golden, puffy and bursting a bit of cheese out the side. Much healthier and cleaner than boiling and then pan frying. No bacon, which I'm sure is a disappointment for some, but still quite good. And since there is no grease and they are a bit crispy, you can use your fingers to pick them up, dip them in the sour cream and enjoy them without messing up extra cutlery.

Monday: Pork tenderloin with lime and honey glaze, mashed potatoes and carrots.

Tuesday: Sandwiches and fruit salad. It is supposed to be very hot out Tuesday.

Wednesday: Grilled sausages with layered dip, or with tortillas and homemade salsa, whichever I feel like making. No, I still don't have a working bbq, but I do have an indoor grill.

Thursday: Parmessan chicken bites with salad.

Friday: It is our nephews first birthday so we are going to his party and bringing cake. He has learned to walk since we last saw him, when he was cruising, so this will be fun!

Btw, I have recently been updating my flicker account (see the side bar for the link) and have a bunch of new pictures up for people to see. Mostly not related to food, if you can believe that!

Daring Cooks: Dumplings times two

It is that time of month, when the Daring Kitchen unleashes the hoards with this month's challenge. This time it is the Daring Cooks Challenge, rather than the Daring Kitchen, so if you are looking for sweets, you'll have to wait a few more weeks for that post.

In the meantime, lets get on with the technical details of this here challenge: This month's challenge, hosted by Jen of use real butter, is for Chinese dumplings, aka Potstickers!

I was pretty thrilled with this challenge as I love exploring different foods, as well as cultures through food, and I had never made potstickers before. Plus, the versatility of this challenge makes it so easy to adapt and personalize.

Jen's rules for this were very simple: the dumpling wrappers must be made by hand!

She didn't mean you had to make the dough by hand, though you could choose to if you didn't want to use your food processor (I used Bob), or that you had to make the wrappers thin as can be by hand, no you could use a rolling pin or a press for that. No, she meant you could not go out and buy wrappers for your potstickers. You had to make a dough, roll the dough, stuff the dough and form the dough. What you stuffed it with was up to you. If you steamed them, or boiled them, or pan fried them, again, up to you.

I went two ways. I both steamed and I fried. We all liked fried the best, but since I had recently purchased myself a bamboo steamer, I was thrilled to get the chance to use it to steam a set of dumplings. The steamed ones were good too, but I did like the crunch of the pan fried a bit more.

For filling, I stuck with Jen's suggestion for a pork filling, of which I have half left. I'm going to freeze the rest for the next time I make potstickers. Or alternately, tomorrow morning I'll make some more and freeze those instead. Either way, I'm making these again.

Thanks, Jen, for giving me a reason to try something new. And for choosing something that was suitable for multiple people working on (my little guy donned his apron and helped me roll the dough into snakes, flatten the individual pieces before rolling, helped roll a bit, and got the cabbage and the potstickers into the steamer for me. He also poured the dipping sauce into individual little bowls for each person at the table. Such a good helper he is!)

Tyler Florence Fridays: Let them eat bread!

Do you regularly follow Tyler Florence Fridays? If not, then you missed the announcement recently that Tyler himself has been keeping his eye out on us!

Not only that, one entry per week will be chosen to be featured on Tyler's own website!

I had no chance at all last week, especially not against Karen's beautiful cheesecake - my potatoes, while tasty, were not even remotely photogenic.

How about this week's choice, however? Doesn't my banana bread look so much better than my potatoes did? You can't even compare them for taste, though: apples to oranges, both Tyler, both tasty, but so very different from each other.

The recipe for this calls for pecans, which makes sense when you read the name: Banana Bread with Pecans, but I don't like nuts in my banana bread, and the kids can't have anything nut at all at school, so I simply removed them.

Oh, and I doubled the recipe to make two loaves instead of one. Which you will want to do after trying this.

Let me tell you, all banana breads are not made equal. This one, with the unusual step of creaming half the banana with the sugar to make a banana cream, makes for a wonderful bread. Not greasy, with extra banana flavor but without huge chunks of banana dominating the bread. So good.

I've actually made this twice since I took this picture, doubling the batch both times. It is very easy to have 8 over ripe bananas (and if you are frugal kind of person, overripe bananas are very cheap in the "sell quickly" section of the produce department.)

Don't forget to head over to Tyler Florence Fridays for the round up!

Banana Bread (without Pecans)
by Tyler Florence, as found on Food Network

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (I skipped this - unless I had company coming and was trying to pretty things up, it really isn't necessary.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together for a good 3 minutes; you want a light and fluffy banana cream. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla; beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated; no need to overly blend. Fold in the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula (and nuts, if using). Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Give the pan a good rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Don't get nervous if the banana bread develops a crack down the center of the loaf; that's no mistake, it's typical. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Tyler's instructions also add in: Toast the slices of banana bread, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve. But again, unless I was trying to impress someone, I'd skip this step. The bread speaks for itself.

Menu Plan Monday: I'm back, with pictures!

What a weekend! Our entirely family has been in different places this last weekend, and we still aren't all home. While I was out near Toronto with my oldest for a tournament, my youngest had a blast with his grandparents and my husband was down in the US having a blast with his friends doing a half-iron triathlon! He gets home tonight and we get to hear all about it then, while we give him a little pampering for all his hard work.

So before I go into my menu plan, you will be forced to see some pictures of my "big" guy sparring at his tournament, where he placed 2nd in his division, a group of 13 boys. He did not place in his patterns but then tells me he forgot several moves in it. Since he's only known it a few weeks, that isn't surprising.

Now would that little face intimidate you?

Really. Are you scared yet?

He's got a good kick on him. Fortunately for me, I've seen him spar for years and know his weaknesses, so when I have to go up against him, and eventually I will have to, I know what to look for with him.

Alright, back to food.

It is the last week of my preschool job before summer break, and we are all going to be tired, so I am going to try and take it easy with the plan this week.

Sunday: I had a cooler with snacks for us on the train, but we still picked up a sandwich and some stuff when we got home. Left overs for lunch today.

Monday: Penne pasta with tomatoes in garlic and olive oil, with sausages.

Tuesday: Crock pot chicken soup with cheese biscuits.

Wednesday: Daring Cook's challenge. I hope.

Thursday: Meatball subs with salad.

Friday: We are either going out for pizza or putting one in the oven. Just because. (Or I'll be "inspired" and put make frozen Periogies. I have some sweet flavored ones, as well as savory, to try, hand made locally.)

That's it for the plan for the week. Be sure to see Menu Plan Monday for all kinds of other menus. I checked out a few new ones last week and am now following a blog, Five J's, trying to do a menu plan for breakfast for a week, followed by a lunch plan for a week. A great way to explore different breakfast and lunch options and something I might try when school is out.

Have you ever traveled by train? I hadn't in several years, and it was a first for my son. Considering how expensive it can be, I'm surprised how full the trains were, both ways. Still, it is a fun way to see the country side and to enjoy some time together.

Hello from afar!

Dear Blog,

Well I've gone and done it again - I left town on a Friday to take my oldest son to another Taekwon-Do tournament. Which means I am not home to update you. Or to read some of my favorite blogs! Which is too bad because today is Friday and there is always alot of yummy things to be found in those blogs, including Tyler Florence Fridays.

Don't worry though, I will be back home in time to put up a menu plan on Monday morning, and to catch up on all the yummy food that has been posted about this weekend!

Be good without me!

Hugs and kisses,

Tyler Florence Fridays: Farmer's Market Potatoes, Part Two

Last week I told you about my Red Chieftans. This week, I'll tell you about my All-Blue potatoes and the recipe I made with those.

Yes, these potatoes were really blue on the inside, though once you cook them, they tend to look more purple. Wish I'd have remembered to take a before and after of the potatoes. They were so pretty to look at! Also wish I'd have bought alot more, since the next time I went to the Farmer's Market, they were sold out of the All-Blue's for the year.

Back to my recipe. Again, these potatoes were destined to be used in a Tyler Florence recipe. This time for Crispy Twice Cooked New Potatoes with Garlic Aioli. (Try saying that five times fast!)

I admit, the biggest draw for this recipe, for me at least, was the garlic aioli. I love garlic. Love it. And I love garlic sauce on crispy potatoes (had to give them up at my favorite Shawarma place as they were too much like fries and mayo, though oh sooooooo good!)

Roast your potatoes in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper, until they are tender. Then nick a little x on the bottom of the potatoes, so they don't explode, and deep fry them until they are crispy on the outside. Again, too much like fries, so I pan sauted mine instead, with a lot less oil, and they came out fine.

The aioli is make ahead, sort of, since you roast your garlic in foil at the same time you roast the potatoes for the first step. And since I roasted my potatoes, made my aioli, went to work, and finished the potatoes after work, I call it make ahead. Which works for a dinner party as well, prepping in advance and then finishing the potatoes before serving.

Sure, the potatoes would have been crispier if I'd have deep fried them, but then I wouldn't have felt like I could eat them. Instead they were a bit crispy and very lovely. Great cold the next day, dipped into the left over aioli.

And that is the tale of my Farmer's Market Potatoes, both tasty, both made with Tyler Florence Fridays in mind. And both being made again.

Crispy Twice Cooked New Potatoes with Garlic Aioli
by Tyler Florence, as found on the FoodNetwork

20 to 30 small new potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Garlic aioli:
2 heads garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig thyme
1 tablespoon water
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 jumbo egg yolk
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay potatoes out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes around so they are evenly coated and pop in the oven to roast for 35 to 40 minutes until tender.

Cut a heads of garlic through the middle, horizontally, and put in a foil pouch with olive oil, thyme, water, and salt and pepper. Seal the pouch around the edges and roast in the oven with the potatoes - this will be used for the aioli.

When the potatoes are done and warm enough to handle make an X cut on 1 side of the potato and then squeeze gently from the bottom to form a flower-like shape. Heat a pot of oil for deep frying to 350 degrees F and fry the potatoes until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels and season with kosher salt.

Remove the garlic from the pouch and squeeze out the flesh. Add the roasted garlic, egg, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender and process. Pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the aioli emulsifies. Fold in sour cream and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives.

If you are looking for the Monthly Mingle announcement

Well, it seems both Meeta and I made an oops and it is July I am hosting.

So come back later this month and see all about it.

And pretend to be surprised when you see the theme for the month, pretty please!

The bread of love

Remember when I said my wonderful friend Mary sent me a present of Teff flour so I could make the Injera bread with the Bread Baking Babes last month? Well she also sent along an extra little present, a bag of wonderful King Arthur Whole Wheat flour! I was so excited, I could not wait to get to baking with this flour as I have heard so much about it!

It took me awhile to discover what I wanted to make with it. Afterall, whatever it was, it had to be something exceptional, a bread worthy of my special flour.

Then it hit me: Mary's Oatmeal bread that she made me for my Housewarming Event! It was too perfect, I couldn't possibly make anything else!

Luckily for me, Mary was home when I started making this, as her posted version of the recipe is missing one little detail: the molasses. The directions say when to add it, the ingredients do not list it. If you make it, it is 1/3 cup of regular molasses, not blackstrap. (The recipe has since been corrected, so you are safe to make it straight from Mary's site.)

You know, there is something so relaxing and theraputic about having your hands in bread dough. Flour all over the place, on your clothes, the counter, sometimes your face, and you just know it won't be a simple clean up job to get it all, but still, it is so relaxing and satisfying. Seeing the dough rise, smelling it as it bakes up golden and brown, and knowing you will get to eat it soon.

This bread came out so nicely, and smelled wonderful! It was hearty without being heavy. Tasty, tasty, tasty! (I love having fresh bread in the house.)

Since this was a bread made with love, love in the recipe, love in the flour, it was only appropriate that I pass on the love, which is why I gifted one of my loaves to a coworker for her birthday, who was thrilled to receive it. She tells me she refused to share her bread and enjoyed every single crumb of it.

Big hugs and thanks to Mary for my adorable bag of flour. I still have some left, which I likely will use in the cookies I want to make later tonight.

Now go make some of this bread!

Oatmeal Bread
adapted from the 1943 version of the Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book
from The Sour Dough

Makes two (2) loaves

1 cup cooked rolled or steal cut oats (not quick cooking)
1 cake yeast (.6 oz cube) (If you don't have fresh yeast, substitute 1 package active or 2 tsp rapid rise)
1/2 cup luke warm water
1/3 cup molasses
pinch of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 cups ap flour
1 cup bread flour
1 cup KA white wheat flour or whole wheat flour

Cook oats per instructions, remove from heat and allow to cool completely and absorb any excess water. You want a big "glob" of oats. (I used steel cut oats, made 4 servings, used half in the bread and my son ate the rest for breakfast the next day.)

Proof yeast in lukewarm water and pinch of sugar. Allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes until foamy.

In bowl for stand mixer or large bowl, break up cooled oatmeal into medium chunks, and using the dough hook (if using stand mixer), stir in proofed yeast, molasses, salt, and melted butter until oatmeal is completely broken up.

Add in bread and wheat flour and stir until wet dough formed. Add in 1 1/2 cups AP flour until shaggy dough ball is formed. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup a time until soft dough ball that cleans bowl if formed. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes to absorb excess flour. If using stand mixer, hand knead for 5 or 10 quick turns.

Dough should be soft and very slightly tacky. If clumps of dough stick to hand, knead in additional AP flour on palmfull at time.

Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise until double (about 2 - 2 1/2 hours). Punch down, form 2 loaves, place in 8 1/2 x 5 greased loaf pans, lightly grease top of loaves, loosely cover, and allow to rise until dough is about 1/4" above edge of loaf pans.

Slash top of loaves down center if desired. (I desired, doesn't it make the top of the loaf look rustic and fresh?)

Place loaves in preheated 350 degree oven and bake 30 - 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. (Or try anyways.)