Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers = Mother of Invention

It's a cold, dreary day so we kept ourselves busy inside doing renovation work.  Jason agreed to let me demo the "master" bathroom (quotations necessary since it's a 5x7 foot space), so long as I have the project done in 8 days and it's kept tidy enough that he can still take a shower.  Demanding guy! 

Here are a couple "before" pics...

Don't look too long. That wallpaper could induce seizures! 

What's with the (wallpapered) soffits all over this house?!? They must have been tres chic in 1978.

You know how when you start a renovation or even just redecorating one thing leads to another? Our bathroom sink was really, really grody and no matter how well you cleaned it it never looked clean.  It's an integrated sink/vanity countertop and when I went to the Big Box yesterday to look for a replacement I found out it was a specialty size.  The cheapest (non-formica) countertop I could order would set us back $757.  So I opted for a new vanity/sink combo ($379), which necessitated a new wideset faucet ($89).  Brought it home, and started ripping out the existing cabinet....

only to find that (no surprise here), the ceramic tile didn't extend under the cabinet. So I had to rip up the tile (of course)...

I got up early this morning to go to Big Box again (remember, 8 day deadline on this project and I work full-time).  When I got back to the house, tile in tow, I found Jason up on a ladder hammering away at the soffit.  "I knew you hated it, so I thought I'd rip it out.  Hey, guess what?! There's no drywall behind the soffit."

So.... now we're ripping out the drywall and the ceiling, rather than patching the  part that he tore down.  Even Olivia's getting in on the action. Need some demo?!? She's your girl.

By the time dinner rolled 'round tonight I could barely move and while a dinner of Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and Advil sounded perfectly reasonable to me, had to think about the kid. So we whipped up one of our favorites from Nana:

Ingredients & Directions (it's that easy) for Turkey Casserole 

Line a dutch oven or 9x13 baking dish with leftover turkey and 10 oz frozen broccoli (thawed & drained). Cover with  leftover (or newly prepared) stuffing.  Mix 1 can cream of chicken & 2/3 cups milk and spread over turkey/stuffing.  top with 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese. Baked at 350 for 30 minutes or until warmed through and serve with Sister Schubert's dinner rolls (also leftover). Good comfort food for a cold, dreary day (and a sore, weary body).

What's your most unusual leftover reinvention??

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It May Be Turkey Day, But the Real Stars are the Veggies!

Back when I was a flexitarian my mother and mother-in-law used to fret about holiday meals. What ever will I eat if I can't have turkey or ham?!?

Truth be told, holiday meals are a smorgasbord for vegetarians.  It's the one time a year that many hard core carnivores actually welcome a spread of veggies to the table.  Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (or are they yams? What's the difference?), buttery dinner rolls, cranberry relish (just not Mama Stamberg's!)... MMMmmmmm.

We usually spend Thanksgiving with Jason's parents (Grammy & Dampa of the Pirate and Big Birthday Bakeoff party fame) and there are two standout dishes that I just love.

Vegetable Casserole

I grew up eating Campbell's Classic Green Bean Casserole, and I really like it. But I don't love it the way I do this recipe from Grammy's friend Dianne Taylor.

Ingredients for casserole

  • 1 can french style green beans - drained
  • 1 can shoe peg corn - drained
  • 1/2 cup celery - chopped
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper - chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion - chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Ingredients for topping

  • 1/3 box Ritz Crackers - crushed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 stick melted butter

Mix the casserole ingredients and pour into baking dish. Top with topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. 

It's toasty, crunchy, and mouth-wateringly yummy.

Pretzel Jello Salad

Grammy got this recipe from Main Street Cafe in Madison, Alabama, but it's made the rounds for years so I'm not sure where it originates. It's one of those salty-sweet things (like dipping your french fries in a Wendy's Frosty!)


  • 2 1/2 cups pretzels, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup margarine
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large container Cool Whip
  • 2 (3 oz) packages of strawberry jello
  • 2 (10 oz) packages of frozen strawberries

Mix the pretzels, margarine and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bake in 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Blend the cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Add Cool Whip, mix well.  Spread over cooled pretzels. 

Dissolve jello in boiling water. Add strawberries, breaking up with a fork as you stir. Chill until slightly thickened. Pour over Cool Whip layer.

Chill until set. Cut and serve.

High-calorie heaven in a pan! (no one ever said vegetarian always = healthy)

Some more random holiday shots:

Miranda, with Chateau Gatorade circa 2011.

Olivia with her Thanksgiving Day favorite - black olives. Girl can put away some olives!

Hannah (and Olivia) folder the napkins into tiny little cranes. ("Who wadded up my napkin?!?" Dampa asked.)

From our family to yours -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Ohhhh Yeassss I DIH-ihhhhd!

I've been in public radio for 23 years and every year the doyen of the airwaves, Susan Stamberg, has tempted us with her recipe for Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish.   Her mother-in-law clipped  Craig Claiborne's recipe from a 1959 New York Times.  Susan first shared it with the radio world in 1972 on All Things Considered, and she's been sharing it every year since. 

In 2003, she got Sid Caesar to perform the recipe.  In 2004 she managed to steer a conversation about chocolate back to the cranberry dish.  The next year she talked relish with domestic diva Martha Stewart, and in 2006 she lectured listeners about table manners and not refusing unfamiliar dishes like, oh, say Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. In 2007 she lobbied for the cranberry relish as a football munchie and in 2007 food expert Ruth Reichl gushed about Stamberg's Standby.  

Now, 2010 ... that was a memorable year!  Coolio rapped the recipe.  Listen to it. Honestly, Coolio rapping about Cranberries. "Fetish... for that relish..."

This year, she again brought her tradition to the airwaves. This time she went to the White House to kvetch with the chefs there.  

"It sounds terrible, but tastes terrific," Susan cooed.  

I love the moment in the conversation when the chef says something like, "You do this... and then you do... that and then you throw it all out!  Just kidding. Ha! ha! ha!"   (you have to actually listen to the story, not just read the web version to hear this exchange.)

But, as you know, behind most jokes there's a sliver of truth. Or in this case, a whole big cranberry log of truth. 

Back in '93, I was newly graduated, new married and newly moved to Denver to host All Things Considered. It was the first time I was away from home and confronted with making Thanksgiving dinner for myself, Jason and another young nomad.

So, we bought a turkey and all the fixins, including:

  • 2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
  • 1 small onion
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

We ground the raw berries and onion together in a food processor. We added the rest of the ingredients, then froze it.  Early Turkey Day morning we pulled it out of the freezer and put it in the frig to thaw. 
Later that night (after my 3-7 p.m. shift on air) we pulled it out of the frig and discovered it was thick, creamy, Pepto Bismol-pink... 

And, NASTY!, in my opinion.  And I'm not alone. Google Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish and you'll see, if anything, the response is passionate. People either love it - or hate it.  One person even takes the hate to a whole new level....  (seriously, pubradio fans who've endured this yearly tradition, watch this video!)
Okay, Freddy Krueger and heavy artillery aside ... you might like it. If you're brave enough to try it. Are you? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blech Comes to Visit

So, we've been battling a major sinus infection (Miranda) since Tuesday and now the stomach/fever virus (Hannah) comes knocking.  Ugh!

Need something really easy for dinner tonight, so we're trying Crockpot Peppercorn Steak.  We'll let you know how it is in, oh, 7 hours or so.  Now, back to laundry load #2017.

Hope you & yours are healthy....  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Southwest Salmon

or... yet another recipe in which we extol the virtues of my favorite fish!  We've already bragged on

And of course, Olivia's all-time favorite recipe: Grilled Salmon with Avocado & Corn Salsa.  Mmmmmm!

We've got another to add to the list...  a so-simple recipe with a bit of kick!


  • 1 can of spicy diced tomatoes
  • dash of lime juice (eyeball this - maybe a tbsp?)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • dash of chili powder (again, eyeballs - 1/2 tsp should do it)
  • salmon fillets
  1. Preheat large saute pan on medium high 
  2. Combine tomatoes and mayo in a shallow bowl
  3. Coat salmon fillets with tomato/mayo mixture & place in pan; top with remaining mayo mixture
  4. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork
  5. Serve over rice
See... how easy is that! And healthy too, especially if you choose wild-caught.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Dangers of Food Blogging

Back in the early days of this blog we featured a multi-part series on how *flipping* much our family spends on groceries. We wondered. Are we normal?

We asked for guidance,  and my dear friend Jessica answered with some sobering numbers of her own and some great suggestions (especially for kids), including:

We reserve one day for “snack trays.”  The kids can choose between the 12 cup muffin pan or the 6 cup jumbo muffin pan, and they fill each cup with whatever they want to nibble on. I started doing this when they were toddlers, so I always got all food groups involved. They have kept it up even though they now make their own choices. I let them scour the pantry and refrigerator for whatever they can find. Often it's nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, cut veggies w/ homemade dips, yogurt, cheeses, crackers, etc. They love it!
"Brilliant!" I thought.   So last night I served the kids this

apples & caramel
"stinky" cheese & crackers
Also (not shown): carrots, chips & queso, and brownies (courtesy Hannah. She baked 'em herself, y'all!).

So, yes, not usual fare for our house, but I figured the kids would <heart> it.

Yeah... no dice.  "It's so random."  "Why isn't there anything hot?" "When's Dad coming home so we can have some real food?!?"

Oh well. Guess that's just one of the dangers of Food Blogging! It can't be Blackened Shrimp Alfredo every night!

Smoked Salmon Hash and Eggs

When I was growing up my grandmother, bless her heart, served these salmon patties that could only be described as archeological expeditions.  They were so full of little vertabrae bones that alternately grossed me out and sent me on a mission to crush them all with my teeth.  Chomp, chomp, chomp!

This was my only exposure to salmon, until I reached adulthood and learned that, o.m.g., salmon can be absolutely delicious (and bone free!).   It's now one of my favorite meals (witness this, this, and this... ooh, ooh, ooh... and this All-Time Favorite!)

My mom recently admitted that she never served to us salmon growing up because she hated Grandma's salmon patties.  So I've made it my mission to find and share with her (and you) the best salmon redeeming recipes.  Which leads me to this week's offering:

Smoked Salmon Hash & Eggs (modified from a Whole Paycheck recipe)

Ingredients: (serving for 2)

  • olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded hashbrowns, thawed
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 can salmon (minus the skin and vertabrae)
  • 2 eggs


  1. Heat large skillet with olive oil. 
  2. Add hashbrowns, 2/3 of the onions, and 1/2 of the pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add salmon, toss together until combined and heated through. 
  4. Transfer hash mix to plate and keep warm. 
  5. Wipe skillet clean, add more oil, and cook eggs to your liking. 
  6. Serve egg over salmon hash, garnished with remaining onions and pepper. 
Yum, yum, yum!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Halloween Lament

Halloween is one of my favorite - if not the favorite - holidays of the year.  I don't remember getting that into it as a child. My parents were firm believers that you stopped trick or treating when you started middle school. I remember being invited to my friend Stacy's halloween party in 6th grade, only to find the group was going TOTing.

Moral dilemma: Do I demurely decline TOTing, citing OTT family rules... Or do I TOT in secret and hope my mom doesn't find out?  (being an oldest-child-adult-pleaser kinda kid I chose the latter, but I sulked a whole bunch).

So, imagine how delighted I was when I grew up and realized that there were adults -- plenty of adults! -- who love Halloween and celebrate it with great gusto.

Denver 1992:  Double-decker bus with a keg in back ferried us from bar to bar while random dude dressed as GI Joe sprayed Jagermeister from a plastic machine gun.

Denver 1993:  Friend Cheryl and her boyfriend Ben (a professional magician's assistant and set/prop builder - how cool is that?!?) host a Halloween party to end all parties. A huge papermache skeleton draped his arm over their front porch and I stood in line for the keg with their elderly neighbor. (First time I'd been at a party with an octogenarian. It made an impression. Old people drink... from kegs?!)

Gainesville 1995:  Pushed Miranda around the entire neighborhood in a stroller TOTing, even though she only had a couple baby teeth.

Orlando 2000:  Dragged Miranda, Olivia and newborn Hannah around the neighborhood, even though 2/3 of the houses didn't celebrate. Who knew there were so many Jehovah's Witnesses at Disney?

Birmingham 2010: We hosted our first (hopefully annual**) Halloween Party. No super-sized skeletons draped over the house and certainly no keg (we like good beer). But plenty of kids and parents, fun games, good food...

So I had high expectations for this year.


Hannah spiked a fever on Sunday, and so began my Halloween Lament.

Disappointment #1: I didn't get a single picture of Olivia dressed in her Nerd Costume.  And I had to rip a picture of Miranda off Facebook (she's the blue legged native american. Hey -- it's better than the Sexy Cop costume that was the 2nd choice!)

Disappointment #2: Hannah couldn't TOT.  And I'd even convinced her to dress up in a costume that was more befitting a toddler than an 11 year old.

Disappointment #3: Not one kid came to our house to TOT. Not One!

My mom has long complained that she gets no TOTers. Back in the day (early 70s through late 80s) there were plenty of kids in my parents' neighborhood. But the kids have grown up, had their own kids, and now their neighborhood is mostly retirees and college students.  Weird mix, I know.

Our neighborhood is full of kids! Our street alone has at least 14, not including our girls.  So you'd think we'd get decent traffic. But nope. Total crickets. Poor Hannah, whom I'd appeased by promising she could hand out the candy (as long as she didn't touch it or breathe on anyone), sat on the couch, candy bowl at the ready, for three hours asking every 10 minutes when someone was going to ring the door bell.

It. was. sad. Painfully sad.  I just had to scoop her up in my arms, give her a really tight hug, and remind her that now we have lots of tootsie rolls to eat.

Here's my theory:

1. People are lazy! We live half-way up a hill. That's just too much exercise when there're easy pickins at the bottom of the incline. (note to slackers: walking up hill supposedly burns 476 calories an hour. That equivalent to 1.5 Snickers Bars!)

2. People are crazy! "The world is so crazy and the thought of ringing a stranger's doorbell, asking for candy really makes me nervous!" wrote one of my Facebook friends. No, honey, you are crazy!  Or watching too much Criminal Minds. Or both.

3. People are ... well, there's not one word that sums up this one, but here goes. People are so programmed these days to want a "big experience" that they'd rather pack up the kids and drive to someone else's neighborhood because it has (a) the best candy (b) pyrotechnic displays and elaborate front yard corn mazes (c) <insert other cool stuff here>.

But here's the problem. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it? If you skip Halloween in your own neighborhood because it's not the "cool one", there are fewer people TOTing there, neighbors decide it's not worth the effort (or the calories) to buy (and eventually eat) the bags of candy, there are fewer front porches lit year after year until it definitely isn't a neighborhood you could TOT, even if you wanted to!

Oh yeah, and you miss a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and discover they're not psychopaths injecting rat poison into the Mars Bars.

Think about it.

Rant over.

There's always 2012.  I'm already "pinning" decorating and food and costume ideas.  And I might just start stockpiling newspapers for that papermache skeleton.  

Pork Schnitzel and Braised Red Cabbage

When I was a kid I had a long list of things I wouldn't eat:

1. fish (exception: sardines. I dunno.)
2. liver (Dad's favorite. I choked it down covered in ketchup)
3. rabbit (traumatizing incident with Dad)
4. spaghetti sauce (but I could pack away a mountain of dry noodles covered in processed Parmesan cheese!)
5. any light-colored soda (Sprite - blech. Mt. Dew - no way!)
6. lima beans (can you say wallpaper paste wrapped in a thin shell?)

I'm sure there were more. But those were the biggies. Thankfully, I came to my senses and now love salmon, as well as a good veggie spaghetti sauce. Still haven't developed a taste for liver, rabbit, Sprite or the beans; but that's okay.

Part of the reason we started cooking (and eventually blogging) with girls was to encourage our pickiest eaters to expand their horizons. And to that end, Jason recently made Pork Schnitzel with Braised Red Cabbage. It's from the Publix Apron's Simple Meals series. If you're not lucky enough to have a Publix, you should still check out their recipes. We've had really good luck with quite a few. They're easy, use common recipes, and are usually quite tasty. This one's no exception.

one thin pork chop per person
1 Granny Smith apple
1/2 cup diced onions
1 (16 oz) jars sweet & sour red cabbage
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (we used Panko, since we had it on hand)
2 eggs
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp canola oil
 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (hmmmm, that's unexpected!)
1 tsp kosher salt

Directions for Schnitzel: 
1. Place flour in shallow bowl; bread crumbs in 2nd bowl.
2. Beat eggs gently in 3rd bowl.
3. Preheat large saute pan (yay cast iron skillet!) on medium-high. Season pork with salt & pepper. Dip pork in flour, coating both sides, then into eggs (let excess drip off), then bread crumbs.
4. Put 2 tbsp oil in the pan, add pork and cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until pork is 160-degrees F.

Directions for Braised Red Cabbage: 
1. Coarsely chop apple.
2. Combine apple, cabbage (drained), onions, butter and cinnamon in microwave safe bowl and heat on high 3-5 minutes.

How easy is that?!?! 
Publix serves its over German Potato Salad, but we opted for sliced, boiled potatoes. So yummy and a hit all the way around (even the picky eater!)

Nigerian Chicken Skewers

Do you like it HAAAWT?!?

If so, this recipe's for you.  Olivia (our 12 year old) chose it for her weekly World of Food Series meal. Olivia loves food and she loves to cook. **  

So far she's made meals from Afghanistan, Belgium, Croatia (ick!), Denmark (our video debut), Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Hungary, Italy (a 5-course meal that would make Rocco proud!), Japan, 

Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, and now.... 


Nigerian Chicken Skewers (aka Suya).  And boy is it spicy! 

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons cayenne powder (here's your HEAT!)
2 tablespoons peanuts, finely minced
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons peanut oil
couscous (cooked according to directions) 

1. Mix all dry ingredients together. 
2. Slice chicken into thin pieces and sprinkle with seasoning mix. Let sit for a couple minutes. 
3. Thread chicken onto skewers (we use metal - no risk of burning!) and brush with oil.
4. Grill or broil for 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked.

** Olivia is also a very type-A girl. She already has plans to get her business degree from our alma mater, attend culinary school, then open a Cupcake & Meatball restaurant in a most unlikely place.   Why there? Because it offers more room than a Manhattan studio apartment for her Great Dane ("Chuckles") and St. Bernard ("Chloe").