Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Website to Drool For

Is there any more dreaded question in all of family life than

What's for dinner???

Need inspiration for dinner tonight?

Lost your appetite and don't know how to get it back?
Or maybe you're a recipe hoarder or just a Hardcore Foodie...

Well then, have I got the site for you.

Don't click on this link if you're already hungry.
That would be torture.

Gojee is a recipe site like none other. Gojee's home page is visuals - up close and yummy. When I grow up I want my food photos to look like these!  They take up your whole screen.  This pic here does not do it justice at all.

Apple Cider Brined Roast Turkey

And if mouthwatering photos aren't enough to keep you hooked, Gojee also offers filters: I Crave, I Have, I Dislike.  You can also mark favorites for future reference.  
What's your fave?
Do you have a favorite recipe site?  What inspires you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Extreme Ironing

I quit.
I quit ironing. And I think I may have found a use for my unused ironing board:

No, I didn't hire Alice from the Brady Bunch to do my ironing for me. What I learned is that if I hang up my clothes as soon as they are dry, for the most part they remain wrinkle-free. And if I miss a load and it sits in the dryer, anything that needs "ironing" goes back into the dryer for another spin.  

I do iron once in a blue moon, usually that hem or lapel that won't stay down or a fabric that is stubborn. It's been a couple of years now, so I am seriously considering doing away with my full board and switching to a table top version.

Extreme Ironing
But did you know there is such a thing as Extreme Ironing? When I first heard of it, I pictured my Nana standing in her living room for hours, ironing dress shirts and tablecloths, while watching her "stories" (soap operas).

Actually, it is a "sport", or an "art", depending on who you ask. It's doing any extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt as a bonus. Teams compete to earn the prize for ironing in the most extreme places: underwater, on a glacier, at the top of a mountain. (Learn more about it here and here.)


So, you can get yourself some scuba lessons, or just a few more hangers and watch crazy people who iron.

Now THIS is the ironing board of my dreams

I found this idea on Pinterest.  Details on where this pull-out ironing board / drawer can be found here at Better Homes & Gardens.  Too bad I don't have a cabinet with drawers.  A girl can dream...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hamburger Helper Helped Her

Make a... Meal

Short on time, energy and inspiration? Hamburger Helper is something I keep handy.     

Get it? HAND-Y?  Anyway. The box of Hamburger Helper (HH) keeps for a long time in the pantry, and I keep a supply of browned ground beef in meal-size portions in the freezer.


I'll admit, not the most exciting Quick Fix idea in my repertoire, but the older teen boy loves it.  

Thaws While Cooking
I run the bag of hamburger meat under hot tap water for a few seconds to help loosen it from the bag. Dump it in the pan.  

Add the other ingredients according to HH package. When adding hot water (common in most HH meals), I slowly pour it over the frozen meat to help it thaw quicker.  

While bringing ingredients to a boil, occasionally break up the meat as it thaws.  

Cover.  Simmer.  Stir.  Repeat.
Finish it up, adding anything you can think of to make it taste like fake gourmetwhich if I'm in HH mode I'm probably already on mental overload and devoid of creative thinking skills. Betty Crocker does have some Creative Additions listed on their site:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/Home/Products/Hamburger-Helper/Creative-Additions.

I didn't use HH for a long time, but now we do again. Found a couple of recipes we liked and stuck with those.

We prefer Beef Pasta and Italian Shells. I find the "cheesy" varieties too cheesy.

And You?
Do you use HH? What's your favorite? Do you add anything to it?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Front Door-to-Table: 10 Minutes

Deli Roast Beef and Gravy 
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans

This Quick Fix idea came from my mom.  She would occasionally (rarely) make this meal for us.  

1.  Ready Serve Mashed Potatoes (found in the pre-packaged lunch meat section of your grocery store).  Get them started in the microwave.

STOP!  Time to set the record straight.  My mom never, ever, ever cooked instant mashed potatoes.  And "ready serve" or "steam and mash" potatoes didn't exist yet.  Almost every night without fail she peeled, pressure cooked, and whipped a pot full of mashed potatoes.  They are the best!  But I resent all that labor.  So we've grown accustomed to the short cut.

2.  Pop open a can of brown gravy.  Heat.  Throw in slices of roast beef lunch meat.  Heat some more.

3.  Dump a can of green beans in a bowl and microwave.  


Fake It Gourmet

Have a few more minutes and want to take the taste of your meal to the next level?
  • Saute chopped onions, minced garlic, and/or sliced mushrooms with a little bit of olive oil in the sauce pan before adding gravy.  
  • Add a bit of balsamic vinegar to gravy.  Amazing way to boost the flavor of beef.
  • Cook the green beans stove-type style on low heat.  Throw in a slice of ham or bacon to add a little flavor.  Fish out the fellow before serving. 

Your Turn
Do you have any cooking shortcuts or tips your parents passed on to you?  Share it below!

Monday, August 1, 2011

5 Meals in 1 Hour - Part 2

Here's my continuing review of

(You can read Part 1 here.)

Michelle, the author of this blog, describes her meal plan:
The Make 5 monthly menu plan can help you make all 5 dinners for the week in just ONE hour. All the menu plans have family friendly meals that feed 4-6 people and no, they are not all casseroles. :) 
The meals are fresh, not frozen. They keep in your refrigerator until ready to heat and eat.    
I have found that there is a little bit of a learning curve with this meal plan.  Here are some tips for using 5 Dinners 1 Hour:

  • Read the recipes ahead of time.  I saw 1 1/2 lb ground beef on the grocery list and thought "I have that."  Except mine was already cooked and in my freezer and the recipe called for raw ground beef to be mixed with other ingredients.  Another recipe called for the use of waxed paper, and I don't remember the last time I had waxed paper in my house.  (I ended up not needing it, but if I had I was going to try tin foil coated with cooking spray.)

  • Note expiration dates.  The meals will hang out in the frig for up to a week after grocery shopping and assembly (which took me a day or two to get to after shopping).  Something to keep in mind when purchasing a roast.  (Lesson learned the hard way.)  Use the expiration date of perishable items to determine which meals you serve early in the week.

  • Give yourself more prep time.  According to the site, assembly time should take about an hour.  It took me closer to two hours. One reason for this I am sure is that I'm a probee.  Even though Michelle's instructions are very detailed, I'm still not sure what to expect.  Thoroughly reading through all of the recipes before shopping and again before starting the assembly should make my assembly time more efficient.

    But there is one example where Michelle assumes a step or two have been taken ahead of time.  Two of the recipes in my sample plan called for cooked chicken, cubed or shredded.  Chicken doesn't come cooked and cubed, or cooked and shredded.  (Not that I know of anyway!)  So this is part of prep time that you will need to take into consideration that the meal plan doesn't.

    Tyson does make frozen, cooked, diced chicken breasts.
    [pause to appreciate the sound of angels singing]

  • Plan for cook time.  The plan says that meals "keep in your refrigerator until ready to 'heat' and eat".  There is more than just heating up the food.  Most meals call for actually cooking the food before serving.  So I'm not "cooking" 5 meals in one hour.  I'm prepping for 5 meals in one hour, then cooking each meal according to the recipe when we're ready to eat.  This doesn't completely diminish the plan's value by any means!  Even though my dish had to bake for 30 minutes, all I had to do was pop it in the oven and I was free to take care of other chores while it baked.

  • Be prepared to purchase convenience foods.  Most meals in the plan call for one or more convenience foods, such as vegetable steamer bags, "steam and mash" frozen potatoes, salad mixes, etc. To me this is an expected expense in making Quick Fix dinners, but not everyone is used to this type of cost in their grocery bill.  

  • Rename the recipe.  This is a tip for families with kids. Especially kids who are not accustomed to someone cooking for them, or someone who frequently tries new recipes.  Also works for picky eaters of all ages. Mini Honey-Mustard Meat Loaves was on the menu for one night.  I could have called it Mini Cheeseburgers and I think they would have been scarfed up. These were super delicious!  Even better the next day.  Definitely a recipe I'm keeping.  

Final Thoughts

I'm finding the recipes may be more food than my family will consume. Adjusting the menu would not be too difficult, but would add to the time, making it less of a "quick fix".  I could freeze it for another meal another day, but one glance into my deep freezer will show I'm not good at using frozen meals.

I think I'm in love with the concept of a meal waiting for me in the frig.  After traveling 3 1/2 hours each way for the funeral of a friend, it was satisfying knowing that I could feed my family a meal within 30 minutes of arriving at home.  I was actually looking forward  (previously unheard of!) to fixing dinner instead of dreading it!  I could get used to that feeling.

I am willing to give 5 Meals in One Hour another try.  Hopefully I can be more fully prepared for my assembly time, and adjust the amount of food I make.  I'm off to sign up....as soon as I clean out my refrigerator.

There are other meal plans out there:  e-mealz, 30 Day Gourmet, etc.  Which ones have you tried?  Give us your reviews!