Thursday, September 29, 2011

Runzas...homemade

By: Laura

If you're from Nebraska, you know what a runza is because we have the famous, Runza Restaurant, but if you're not, well, I'm here to tell you all about it and get you motivated to make your own. A runza is a yeasted bread dough pocket filled with ground beef, cabbage, onions and seasoning (delicious, right?).  It's very easy to make, but takes a bit of time to create.  Here is how the whole process goes down.



Begin by getting the dough ready with some flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Add in some heated milk, water and shortening .  Finally, beat in two eggs.
After mixing, set the dough aside to raise for 20 minutes. 

While that dough is a raisin' set about chopping up some cabbage and onions. You could definitely do this in your food processor if you have one.  I usually use half a head of cabbage.  Also, brown one pound to one and a half pounds of ground beef.

Put the cabbage and onions in with the ground beef and add a fourth to a  half  a cup of water.  Season with salt, pepper, and beef bouillon granules.  Cook until the cabbage is tender. 

Now, get ready to assemble some runzas, baby!  Cut up the dough into equal pieces and flatten it out on a floured surface.  Add a serving spoonful of your cabbage mixture to the center of the dough.

Fold it up, pinching the bottom of the runza dough together to ensure that the runza doesn't ooze juices. 
Let the runzas raise again for 15 minutes and then put them in the oven to bake until they are golden on top.  Look at that pocket full of goodness.

Now, you've got at least a dozen runzas to have for supper tonight and leftovers for the week ahead as well.  I love to freeze half of mine for lunch later on. They are quick to heat up and eat on the go if need be.  This would be a great meal for the kiddos too, considering it has all the basic ingredients a kid loves, not to mention you could add cheese into the mix. Now we're getting crazy.  So, if you have a Saturday afternoon to spend in the kitchen, give this recipe a try, it sure pays off in the long run!  

Runzas
Recipe courtesy of Mom
Serves: 12-18 depending on size of Runzas

Dough (can also be used for pizza dough)
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (I just go for it!)
1 t. salt (or more to taste)
2 packages of yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water (if filling seems dry)
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs


Filling
1-2 pounds of ground beef, browned
1/2 head of green cabbage
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp. of beef bouillon granules (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Measure 1 3/4 cups of flour into bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or dough hook, stir in sugar, salt and yeast.  Heat milk, water, and shortening in microwave until warm (1 minute or so) pour over flour mixture, and add eggs.  Beat dough mixture on low speed for 1/2 minute, and then on high for 3 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour.  Dough will be soft and sticky, so knead until smooth.  

Cover for 20 minutes.  Divide the dough into quarters and roll each quarter out thin.  Slice it into 4 squares and fill each square with a large spoonful of filling.  Surround the filling with dough and pinch edges to seal.  Tuck edges under Runzas and place on a greased sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of dough.  Let rest for 15 minutes and bake for 13 to 15 minutes.  
 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quick and easy dinner-Chicken and Noodles

by Leslie

Things here are turning to fall.  The winds are blowing, and for some strange reason leaves are blowing around like crazy.  When did that happen?  I, for one, look forward to some nice walks with wonderful fall foliage to check out.  I always want fall to last longer, but winter always arrives so soon.  Today I'm going to share with you a dish that my mom made all the time when we were growing up.  Now I make it all the time, too.  It's the perfect comfort food.

So, remember way back when--when Erin posted about making homemade chicken stock?  I'm sure you are well aware of the fact that the possible uses for chicken stock are limitless.  But, did you know that one of the easiest, simplest recipes can be made with chicken stock?

Well, it can.

And because I like easy things, I am sharing it for you today.

Chicken and Noodles!  Homey.  Warm.  Filling.  Comforting.  What more could you want?

Start off by chopping up some carrots and sauteing them in some olive oil until they are tender.

Add your chicken stock (mine came straight from the freezer)--about 2 cups of it.  More if you are feeding your familia.

Once the stock comes to a boil, add some egg noodles.  I never measure these, just try to imagine how many it will take to absorb most of the liquid.

Cook the noodles until tender and then add some cubed cooked chicken.  Add salt and pepper, heat through and enjoy!
Other things you could do with Chicken and Noodles:

-Cook some celery with the carrots
-Add some red pepper flakes during the carrot cooking
-Add a handful of fresh parsley at the end of cooking
-Add some heavy cream or milk to make a creamy sauce
-Top with grated parmesan cheese
Sorry for the lack of measurements, but there really is no way to go wrong.  Even if all your noodles don't absorb the liquid, just let it cook a bit longer and the starches in the pasta will thicken it into a sauce.  Now what are you waiting for?  This is a great recipe to add to your arsenal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Patience in Parenting...Lessons learned in a Year

 By: Laura

It's hard to believe that a year has gone by since the welcoming of our first child, Ella.  It's been a whirlwind, to say the least, but as she's gotten older and the routines have set in, I've had more time to ponder the ins and outs of parenting.  Lately, I've been thinking about how I made it through some moments this past year and what I would do to better prepare for them in the future, so I thought, hey, I'll share these thoughts with all those first time moms out there.  Below, I've listed some tricks and tips for a number of subjects, so feel free to check them out and, as always, add any comments you see fit.

Breastfeeding

As you may have read in my many breastfeeding posts, nursing was not an easy task for me.  Ella and I had trouble for the first 3 or 4 weeks of her life, but once we figured it out, it was a piece of cake.  Here are some things that I wish I would have known though:

1. Pump, pump and then pump some more.  When you're on maternity leave, take the time to pump, even if it seems like a complete waste of time, you'll really appreciate it when you've got reserves in the freezer once you go back to work.  I was always pumping to the last drop on the mornings before work and wishing that I had taken the time to do it earlier.  So, do the deed and become good friends with your breast pump.

2. Get the necessary items:  see this post.

Sleeping

Ella was an easy baby when it came to sleep, but I don't think this would have been so without the following:

One and only one:  follow a routine and stick to it as much as possible.  This will make your life so much easier.  When your baby knows when he/she goes to sleep each day they will most likely do it willingly and wake up happy afterwards.  Don't fall to the pressures of "your baby doesn't look tired," you're the mom, you're in charge and you know what's best for your baby.  Keep the routine going.

Eating-Solids

When a baby is breastfeeding, I think it's easy to forget about the "extras" or solid foods, but they are necessary.

1.  I was hesitant to start Ella on solid foods at six months, but I'm sure it would have been fine to do it at or before that time.  She loved Cheerios, cereal and oatmeal and it was good for her.  I now feel as though I was probably depriving her of other nutrients and will be more willing to start earlier with our next addition to the family.

Cloth Diapering


I still love cloth diapers!  Call me crazy, but I feel that they are easy to use and so cost effective!  Here's what you should know though.

1.  Be sure to research the best diaper for you and find out how to properly clean them.  Check out this post.

2.  I chose BumGenius diapers and feel that they are really standing the test of time, though, if I were to get them again, I would get the "newer" version of the pocket diaper with snaps inside of velcro closures (the velcro is becoming less "sticky" as time goes on).

General Things


Of course, there is much more to learn through the first year of parenting, but here are some helpful tips.

1.  Have play areas in many rooms of the house so your little one can play if you need to, for example, load the dishwasher or dust a bedroom.

2.  Keep a baby book.  As trivial as it might seem, I have really tried to keep up with Ella's and I love going back to read about the fun things she did or accomplished at certain times throughout the year.  My mom did the same thing for us girls and I loved looking at it when I was little and I hope Ella will get the same joy out of hers.

3. Have lots of entertainment at the changing table for your little one as he or she begins to roll around.  It's really hard to try to put a diaper on backwards!

4. Let Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles or close friends put your little one to sleep.  I was the one and only person to put Ella to bed at night for quite a while and that turned ugly when I finally needed to get out at night.  Let your baby get used to going to bed for others because, in the long run, you will need to get away for a bit, or maybe even have a date night!

5.  Speaking of that, go on dates with your man! Don't let your little one take over your romantic life altogether.  There were many times that Derek and I struggled to connect after Ella was born, but we learned to take time to get out together or simply sit together and watch TV on the couch.

6. Prepare things in advance when possible.
   Dinner Time: Get all of your groceries in one trip and plan your meals in advance.  This will make dinner time much easier when you get home after work.
    Bath time:  Lay out your little gals PJ's, diaper, towel and toys before you've got him or her in the bath.  It just makes life easier.

Now, of course I will be in the shower tomorrow and I'll think of about ten more things I could have added to this post, but if I kept it going, it would never end.  So, be sure to add your comments below.  What are your best parenting tips in the first year?

My big one year old, all worn our after a long day.  At least she has some crackers to give her strength! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fabulous TV themes--90's edition

As I was browsing through my favorite blogs today, I caught a cool post on the Pioneer Woman's blog. One of her contributors, BooMama did a post on the best TV show theme songs.  She discussed how TV theme songs are totally lacking these days.

Agreed.  When you think about it, there is nothing memorable about modern day theme songs.  They are short, there are often no words, and they are utterly forgettable.

BooMama did a great post including some great shows, but I thought I would take her idea and re-vamp it. 90's style.  So here are my top 90's TV show theme songs.  I hope you enjoy.

1.  Full House

How could you forget this opening?  Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were just cute little babes.  Jon Stamos is incredibly hot in his camel suede jacket, and the whole family is just having a good 'ole San Francisco picnic in the green space in front of their house (what?!).  I love the jazzy feel of this tune, and the words get stuck in your head.  Go ahead.  Re-live the memories.  Shoo-be-do-bop-ba-da!


2. Family Matters

Well, you really can't include Full House without including Family Matters.  They really went hand in hand.  They were aired back to back on Friday nights (TGIF, y'all!!) and they once even created an episode where the stories intertwined.  Awesome!  I'm including the intro to the first season, so we could all take a moment and remember Judy, the cutest member of the Winslow family that disappeared after the second season of the show.  They just didn't love her enough.


video




3.  Hey Dude

Many of you might remember this Nickelodeon show where a bunch of teens worked together on a Dude Ranch run by city slicker, Mr. Ernst.  The show had plenty of heartthrobs, from the cutesy Melody (played by Christine Taylor) to tomboy Brad.  I personally loved the character of Danny, who was the only one who really knew anything about horses.  Why?  Because he was Native American, of course!  (too bad I just saw his actual name was Joe Torres--I guess Nickelodeon wasn't really going for accuracy).  This show was full of fun, adventure and killer cacti.  Now just see if you don't sing along to this song.
video



4.  Doug

This animated cartoon wasn't just for little kids.  It was about Doug Funny, a kind, but somewhat awkward kid who just wanted to fit in and finally date the girl of his dreams, Patty Mayonnaise.  This opening theme is totally brill.  No words, no lyrics.  Just some wonderful humming and beat boxing.  Not to mention that the only prop in the opening is a line.  Creative genius.  p.s.  Please ignore the terms of endearment at the beginning of this video.  It was all I could find.

video

5.  Kids Incorporated

Okay, so I kind of cheated here--this show is actually from the 80s.  But it ran well into the 90s, so I think we're okay.  This show was like every kids' dream.  Singing, dancing, and being a star on stage--as a kid, no less.  This show is where a lot of celebs like Fergie and Jennifer Love Hewitt got their start.  It was always entertaining, they sang great songs, and it made you feel like once, just once, you could be a star.




 6.  Salute Your Shorts

If my mom is reading this, I know she won't be happy.  This was one of her least favorite shows with one of her least favorite words in it.  But really, how often does the cast of a show sing the theme song?  It's so very campy and so very 90's.  You can't really beat it.  And with names like Donkey Lips, Ugg Lee and Budnick, you know you're getting into something really great.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video for this song.  Dang!  You would have loved it.  Mom, I'm sure you're relieved.


So there they are, folks.  Some of the greatest theme songs of the 90s.  There are lots of others I would want to include, like Saved by the Bell, Step by Step, Sister Sister, and many more.  What were your favorites?


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boulevard Picnicing

by Erin

I am finally one of those people.  One of those fun people that truly utilize the beautiful and historic boulevards of Chicago (thanks Daniel Burnham).  Don't get me wrong.  I have taken many a stroll down the scenic Logan Boulevard, but I am always jealous of the fabulous people that have picnics on the boulevard, and now, after seven years of living on or near one, I've done it! 

Party flags are a must for any boulevard bash!

This Labor Day weekend we dragged the grill, party flags (tutorial to come someday), and a variety of lawn games down Mozart Street for a day of grilling and leisure.  And that is just what it was.  Yes, I did work up a sweat while playing an intense game of badminton and Jennifer did get a war wound from the game, but mostly I just enjoyed visiting with my friends over a grillable, while watching a game courtside, or during a game of croquet. 

I opted for an easy and mobile grillable for this special barbeque, so I made kabobs.  Several people brought corn on the cob which is always a crowd pleaser and highly transportable as well. The kabobs were delicious and highly functional, envision a croquet mallet in one hand and a k-bob in the other. 

Teryaki kabobs
For once I planned ahead for a bbq and marinaded these babies in a famous teryaki marinade complements of my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Susan.  You can try it too, by following this simple and delicious recpie.

Teryaki Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 cup veggie oil

If you are able to try and marinade these for 12 to 24 hours so the juices really get in the meat and veggies.  I've also used this on chicken and it tastes great.

So what about a picnic?  Fall is in the air, the leaves are falling.  There is still time to enjoy and take advantage of our public spaces.   Special thanks to my friends that came and shared this special day with me.  It was the perfect culmination to a wonderful summer.  I love you all!

** P.S. If you are thinking that my photography skills recently took a turn for the better, you are wrong.  These lovely photos were taken by my good friend Lisa, who moved here to Chicago, along with Jennifer and Patrick, seven years ago.  Seems like we just pulled up to Kedzie Blvd. in that big old moving truck, huh?!  :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spicy Beef and Spinach Burritos, easy and crowd pleasing.

If you are like me, at around 6 pm, you are scrambling through the fridge searching for something to throw together for dinner.  Usually I can find some of the usual suspects in the fridge.  A random veggie here and there, some chicken or beef, and maybe some cheese.  This recipe is one that I almost always have all the ingredients for and it is really delish.  A total crowd pleaser.  My grandma used to make this for me in the good 'ole summ-ratime .  We would whip up these burritos and then go sit on the deck to enjoy our food, watch the trains go by, and listen to the sounds of a summer softball game.  Ahh, those were the days.  It's just as fun to do it now.  To top it off, these burritos are super easy.


Start by browning a pound of beef.  You don't really need to see a picture of that.

Then wash off your lovely spinach.  You could also use a package of frozen spinach if need-be.



Add your spinach to your ground beef.

While the spinach is wilting, add your spices.  Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Perfectly mixed filling!
While everything else is cooking, you can make your salsa.  Chop up a jalapeño, if you wanna.

Add some finely chopped onion and tomato, salt and pepper, and some lemon or lime juice.

Now just grate your cheese and put it all together.  We only had small tortillas, so we made tacos, but burritos were the "orig".
Go ahead and give these a whirl.  I sure hope you like 'em!

Spicy Beef and Spinach Burritos

by Leslie
Print this recipe
**All measurements are approximate.  

Filling:

1 lb. ground beef, browned
6-8 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
cheddar cheese to sprinkle

Salsa:

1 large or two small tomatoes, finely chopped
½ a red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
(Let sit together before serving so the flavors can meld)

Brown your ground beef on the stove.  Meanwhile, chop your salsa ingredients and combine. Add fresh spinach to ground beef and let cook until spinach is cooked down.  Add spices.  Grate cheese.  Assemble burrito or taco to desired size.  Chow down.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Monster Cookies

By: Laura

Oh my, it's a beautiful day here (71 degrees and sunny)! You couldn't ask for anything better on Labor Day.  Yesterday I mowed the lawn and did some much needed weed pulling, so today it's relaxation time.  And what better way to relax than to do some baking while your little one is down for a nap.  

Of course, since I did all that hard labor yesterday, I felt the need to treat myself with something sweet today.  I decided to go big, I mean, what the heck, right?  So, what says big like MONSTER COOKIES.  Nothing laborious about that either, except maybe the laborious movement of dipping my finger in cookie dough only to eat it soon after.  Check these babies out. 

Is your mouth watering yet?

Alright, so to begin, cream the butter and sugars.

Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Get yourself a creamy looking batter.

Add the extra goodies: M&Ms, chocolate chips, rice krispies, oatmeal, nuts , or whatever else you have laying around in your pantry.

Get your finger ready to take a dip into that dough.

Prepare the dough for some baking time (roughly 12 minutes).

And wallah: chewy, sweet cookies are waiting for you after your long holiday weekend.


What a perfect ending to the perfect weekend.  Nothing says holiday like sweets.  Enjoy, and let the test nesters know how your holiday weekend went.  Did you do any baking?

Find the recipe for monster cookies here. Thanks, pioneer woman!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

'Fresh Air,' Food, and the Four Day Work Week

by Erin

For the past couple of weeks NPR has been airing Terry Gross' Fresh Air episodes where she interviewed individuals who work with food.  She has spoken with chefs, food editors, Julia Childs, and even a chemist who spoke on the science behind frying.  Totally fascinating.  Max and I have been enjoying listening and learning from these individuals. 

Max was so impressed after listening to the episode on Grant Achatz, an arty Chicago chef that is overcoming tongue cancer.  He lost all sense of taste for a time and as his sense came back to him, they came one at a time. . . bitter, sweet, sour, etc.  Isn't that wild?  A chef with no sense of taste?  Listen to the episode here

Thursday evening while I was lying in bed, wondering how the hell I would ever get everything I needed to do for school, I listened to this episode with Gourmet Magazine editor Ruth Reichl.  Reichl left her high pressure job at the New York Times and moved to, the now debunked, GM, so she could make dinner for her family every night.  She sites the years as the best years of her life, and she gave me some ideas for quick and easy meals to try.  She also explained something about cooking that I have always known but never realized.  That cooking isn't what takes all the time, it is shopping and figuring out what you are going to make that takes time.  So true!  I know that I cook a lot more when everything I need is in the fridge.  I listened to this episode at the perfect time, just as I thought I couldn't get everything done, Ruth reminded me that the best thing to do is to slow down. 

Perhaps my favorite interview was chef Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse in Berkley.  I have always looked longingly through her cookbook, The Art of Simple Cooking at the bookstore with all her fresh and sustainable ingredients.  Besides listening to her talk about sustainability and her fantastic food, I was most excited to learn that Waters has actually put my idea of shorter, more productive work week (yes, it is my idea!) into action!  Her chefs work three or four days a week so they can spend more time with their families and in turn be more inspired in the kitchen.  Waters explained how this took so much of the burden off of her as the owner and executive chef of the restaurant since her chefs were more inspired and creative when they came into work.  Oh yeah, and she pays them a full time wage.  I believe this to be so true.  It is my belief that we could do more 'work' in less time or we could hire more people and stagger hours to ensure that this 'work' gets done.  Obama are you going to mention this in your employment speech next week?  Cheers to you Alice, especially because you have accomplished a shorter work week in one of the craziest industries out there!   Now I've got to figure out how we can do this in education.

Happy Labor Day weekend, my friends!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ideas for your pizza dough

by Leslie

Yesterday I posted a really easy recipe for No Knead Pizza Dough.  I'm sure you all leapt into the kitchen last night to make it.  I know how driven you are.  So, now that you've got this dough, what do you do with it?

Well, anything, really.  The first day I made it we had just gone to the farmer's market.  We had tons of great produce and didn't really know what to do with it.  So, we created something I call, "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" pizza.  I mean, really.  It had everything.

I started by spreading out my dough on a floured baking sheet.


The dough is nice and soft, but takes some work to spread out.  Stick with it.


Then, for the piece de resistance--everything but the kitchen sink.  This pizza is layered with olive oil, thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes, sauteed leeks, onions, salt, and parmesan cheese.  A savory delight.  Jaime really liked it.  He is a big fan of mountainous toppings.

So, that's a more "over the top idea".  But maybe that's not what you're looking for.  I have something super simple and delicious, inspired by one of my favorite restaurants in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bread and Cup.  On certain nights, they have amazing flatbread as an appetizer.  I mean, it's so good that Jaime and I used to order our own.  This is my version of their blue cheese flatbread with a bunch of other good stuff.  And it's easy!

(I want to apologize for the lack of photos.  I was on a mission to make and eat this stuff!)

Start with a small portion of your pizza dough.

1.  Drizzle it with olive oil

2.  Sprinkle on some walnuts (or any other nut of choice)

3.  Dot it all over with bleu cheese

4.  Splash it with some balsamic vinegar

5.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan

6.  Drizzle all over lightly with honey.

Back for about 10 minutes in a very hot (450 degree) oven.

And then...sink your teeth in!

Sorry for the blur--I was probably already going at this think with a knife and fork!
Hopefully these recipes helped you decide to stay in and make your own pizza instead of ordering out.  Please don't forget to share your ideas with us!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Runzas...homemade

By: Laura

If you're from Nebraska, you know what a runza is because we have the famous, Runza Restaurant, but if you're not, well, I'm here to tell you all about it and get you motivated to make your own. A runza is a yeasted bread dough pocket filled with ground beef, cabbage, onions and seasoning (delicious, right?).  It's very easy to make, but takes a bit of time to create.  Here is how the whole process goes down.



Begin by getting the dough ready with some flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Add in some heated milk, water and shortening .  Finally, beat in two eggs.
After mixing, set the dough aside to raise for 20 minutes. 

While that dough is a raisin' set about chopping up some cabbage and onions. You could definitely do this in your food processor if you have one.  I usually use half a head of cabbage.  Also, brown one pound to one and a half pounds of ground beef.

Put the cabbage and onions in with the ground beef and add a fourth to a  half  a cup of water.  Season with salt, pepper, and beef bouillon granules.  Cook until the cabbage is tender. 

Now, get ready to assemble some runzas, baby!  Cut up the dough into equal pieces and flatten it out on a floured surface.  Add a serving spoonful of your cabbage mixture to the center of the dough.

Fold it up, pinching the bottom of the runza dough together to ensure that the runza doesn't ooze juices. 
Let the runzas raise again for 15 minutes and then put them in the oven to bake until they are golden on top.  Look at that pocket full of goodness.

Now, you've got at least a dozen runzas to have for supper tonight and leftovers for the week ahead as well.  I love to freeze half of mine for lunch later on. They are quick to heat up and eat on the go if need be.  This would be a great meal for the kiddos too, considering it has all the basic ingredients a kid loves, not to mention you could add cheese into the mix. Now we're getting crazy.  So, if you have a Saturday afternoon to spend in the kitchen, give this recipe a try, it sure pays off in the long run!  

Runzas
Recipe courtesy of Mom
Serves: 12-18 depending on size of Runzas

Dough (can also be used for pizza dough)
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (I just go for it!)
1 t. salt (or more to taste)
2 packages of yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water (if filling seems dry)
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs


Filling
1-2 pounds of ground beef, browned
1/2 head of green cabbage
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp. of beef bouillon granules (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Measure 1 3/4 cups of flour into bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or dough hook, stir in sugar, salt and yeast.  Heat milk, water, and shortening in microwave until warm (1 minute or so) pour over flour mixture, and add eggs.  Beat dough mixture on low speed for 1/2 minute, and then on high for 3 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour.  Dough will be soft and sticky, so knead until smooth.  

Cover for 20 minutes.  Divide the dough into quarters and roll each quarter out thin.  Slice it into 4 squares and fill each square with a large spoonful of filling.  Surround the filling with dough and pinch edges to seal.  Tuck edges under Runzas and place on a greased sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of dough.  Let rest for 15 minutes and bake for 13 to 15 minutes.  
 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quick and easy dinner-Chicken and Noodles

by Leslie

Things here are turning to fall.  The winds are blowing, and for some strange reason leaves are blowing around like crazy.  When did that happen?  I, for one, look forward to some nice walks with wonderful fall foliage to check out.  I always want fall to last longer, but winter always arrives so soon.  Today I'm going to share with you a dish that my mom made all the time when we were growing up.  Now I make it all the time, too.  It's the perfect comfort food.

So, remember way back when--when Erin posted about making homemade chicken stock?  I'm sure you are well aware of the fact that the possible uses for chicken stock are limitless.  But, did you know that one of the easiest, simplest recipes can be made with chicken stock?

Well, it can.

And because I like easy things, I am sharing it for you today.

Chicken and Noodles!  Homey.  Warm.  Filling.  Comforting.  What more could you want?

Start off by chopping up some carrots and sauteing them in some olive oil until they are tender.

Add your chicken stock (mine came straight from the freezer)--about 2 cups of it.  More if you are feeding your familia.

Once the stock comes to a boil, add some egg noodles.  I never measure these, just try to imagine how many it will take to absorb most of the liquid.

Cook the noodles until tender and then add some cubed cooked chicken.  Add salt and pepper, heat through and enjoy!
Other things you could do with Chicken and Noodles:

-Cook some celery with the carrots
-Add some red pepper flakes during the carrot cooking
-Add a handful of fresh parsley at the end of cooking
-Add some heavy cream or milk to make a creamy sauce
-Top with grated parmesan cheese
Sorry for the lack of measurements, but there really is no way to go wrong.  Even if all your noodles don't absorb the liquid, just let it cook a bit longer and the starches in the pasta will thicken it into a sauce.  Now what are you waiting for?  This is a great recipe to add to your arsenal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Patience in Parenting...Lessons learned in a Year

 By: Laura

It's hard to believe that a year has gone by since the welcoming of our first child, Ella.  It's been a whirlwind, to say the least, but as she's gotten older and the routines have set in, I've had more time to ponder the ins and outs of parenting.  Lately, I've been thinking about how I made it through some moments this past year and what I would do to better prepare for them in the future, so I thought, hey, I'll share these thoughts with all those first time moms out there.  Below, I've listed some tricks and tips for a number of subjects, so feel free to check them out and, as always, add any comments you see fit.

Breastfeeding

As you may have read in my many breastfeeding posts, nursing was not an easy task for me.  Ella and I had trouble for the first 3 or 4 weeks of her life, but once we figured it out, it was a piece of cake.  Here are some things that I wish I would have known though:

1. Pump, pump and then pump some more.  When you're on maternity leave, take the time to pump, even if it seems like a complete waste of time, you'll really appreciate it when you've got reserves in the freezer once you go back to work.  I was always pumping to the last drop on the mornings before work and wishing that I had taken the time to do it earlier.  So, do the deed and become good friends with your breast pump.

2. Get the necessary items:  see this post.

Sleeping

Ella was an easy baby when it came to sleep, but I don't think this would have been so without the following:

One and only one:  follow a routine and stick to it as much as possible.  This will make your life so much easier.  When your baby knows when he/she goes to sleep each day they will most likely do it willingly and wake up happy afterwards.  Don't fall to the pressures of "your baby doesn't look tired," you're the mom, you're in charge and you know what's best for your baby.  Keep the routine going.

Eating-Solids

When a baby is breastfeeding, I think it's easy to forget about the "extras" or solid foods, but they are necessary.

1.  I was hesitant to start Ella on solid foods at six months, but I'm sure it would have been fine to do it at or before that time.  She loved Cheerios, cereal and oatmeal and it was good for her.  I now feel as though I was probably depriving her of other nutrients and will be more willing to start earlier with our next addition to the family.

Cloth Diapering


I still love cloth diapers!  Call me crazy, but I feel that they are easy to use and so cost effective!  Here's what you should know though.

1.  Be sure to research the best diaper for you and find out how to properly clean them.  Check out this post.

2.  I chose BumGenius diapers and feel that they are really standing the test of time, though, if I were to get them again, I would get the "newer" version of the pocket diaper with snaps inside of velcro closures (the velcro is becoming less "sticky" as time goes on).

General Things


Of course, there is much more to learn through the first year of parenting, but here are some helpful tips.

1.  Have play areas in many rooms of the house so your little one can play if you need to, for example, load the dishwasher or dust a bedroom.

2.  Keep a baby book.  As trivial as it might seem, I have really tried to keep up with Ella's and I love going back to read about the fun things she did or accomplished at certain times throughout the year.  My mom did the same thing for us girls and I loved looking at it when I was little and I hope Ella will get the same joy out of hers.

3. Have lots of entertainment at the changing table for your little one as he or she begins to roll around.  It's really hard to try to put a diaper on backwards!

4. Let Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles or close friends put your little one to sleep.  I was the one and only person to put Ella to bed at night for quite a while and that turned ugly when I finally needed to get out at night.  Let your baby get used to going to bed for others because, in the long run, you will need to get away for a bit, or maybe even have a date night!

5.  Speaking of that, go on dates with your man! Don't let your little one take over your romantic life altogether.  There were many times that Derek and I struggled to connect after Ella was born, but we learned to take time to get out together or simply sit together and watch TV on the couch.

6. Prepare things in advance when possible.
   Dinner Time: Get all of your groceries in one trip and plan your meals in advance.  This will make dinner time much easier when you get home after work.
    Bath time:  Lay out your little gals PJ's, diaper, towel and toys before you've got him or her in the bath.  It just makes life easier.

Now, of course I will be in the shower tomorrow and I'll think of about ten more things I could have added to this post, but if I kept it going, it would never end.  So, be sure to add your comments below.  What are your best parenting tips in the first year?

My big one year old, all worn our after a long day.  At least she has some crackers to give her strength! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fabulous TV themes--90's edition

As I was browsing through my favorite blogs today, I caught a cool post on the Pioneer Woman's blog. One of her contributors, BooMama did a post on the best TV show theme songs.  She discussed how TV theme songs are totally lacking these days.

Agreed.  When you think about it, there is nothing memorable about modern day theme songs.  They are short, there are often no words, and they are utterly forgettable.

BooMama did a great post including some great shows, but I thought I would take her idea and re-vamp it. 90's style.  So here are my top 90's TV show theme songs.  I hope you enjoy.

1.  Full House

How could you forget this opening?  Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were just cute little babes.  Jon Stamos is incredibly hot in his camel suede jacket, and the whole family is just having a good 'ole San Francisco picnic in the green space in front of their house (what?!).  I love the jazzy feel of this tune, and the words get stuck in your head.  Go ahead.  Re-live the memories.  Shoo-be-do-bop-ba-da!


2. Family Matters

Well, you really can't include Full House without including Family Matters.  They really went hand in hand.  They were aired back to back on Friday nights (TGIF, y'all!!) and they once even created an episode where the stories intertwined.  Awesome!  I'm including the intro to the first season, so we could all take a moment and remember Judy, the cutest member of the Winslow family that disappeared after the second season of the show.  They just didn't love her enough.


video




3.  Hey Dude

Many of you might remember this Nickelodeon show where a bunch of teens worked together on a Dude Ranch run by city slicker, Mr. Ernst.  The show had plenty of heartthrobs, from the cutesy Melody (played by Christine Taylor) to tomboy Brad.  I personally loved the character of Danny, who was the only one who really knew anything about horses.  Why?  Because he was Native American, of course!  (too bad I just saw his actual name was Joe Torres--I guess Nickelodeon wasn't really going for accuracy).  This show was full of fun, adventure and killer cacti.  Now just see if you don't sing along to this song.
video



4.  Doug

This animated cartoon wasn't just for little kids.  It was about Doug Funny, a kind, but somewhat awkward kid who just wanted to fit in and finally date the girl of his dreams, Patty Mayonnaise.  This opening theme is totally brill.  No words, no lyrics.  Just some wonderful humming and beat boxing.  Not to mention that the only prop in the opening is a line.  Creative genius.  p.s.  Please ignore the terms of endearment at the beginning of this video.  It was all I could find.

video

5.  Kids Incorporated

Okay, so I kind of cheated here--this show is actually from the 80s.  But it ran well into the 90s, so I think we're okay.  This show was like every kids' dream.  Singing, dancing, and being a star on stage--as a kid, no less.  This show is where a lot of celebs like Fergie and Jennifer Love Hewitt got their start.  It was always entertaining, they sang great songs, and it made you feel like once, just once, you could be a star.




 6.  Salute Your Shorts

If my mom is reading this, I know she won't be happy.  This was one of her least favorite shows with one of her least favorite words in it.  But really, how often does the cast of a show sing the theme song?  It's so very campy and so very 90's.  You can't really beat it.  And with names like Donkey Lips, Ugg Lee and Budnick, you know you're getting into something really great.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video for this song.  Dang!  You would have loved it.  Mom, I'm sure you're relieved.


So there they are, folks.  Some of the greatest theme songs of the 90s.  There are lots of others I would want to include, like Saved by the Bell, Step by Step, Sister Sister, and many more.  What were your favorites?


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boulevard Picnicing

by Erin

I am finally one of those people.  One of those fun people that truly utilize the beautiful and historic boulevards of Chicago (thanks Daniel Burnham).  Don't get me wrong.  I have taken many a stroll down the scenic Logan Boulevard, but I am always jealous of the fabulous people that have picnics on the boulevard, and now, after seven years of living on or near one, I've done it! 

Party flags are a must for any boulevard bash!

This Labor Day weekend we dragged the grill, party flags (tutorial to come someday), and a variety of lawn games down Mozart Street for a day of grilling and leisure.  And that is just what it was.  Yes, I did work up a sweat while playing an intense game of badminton and Jennifer did get a war wound from the game, but mostly I just enjoyed visiting with my friends over a grillable, while watching a game courtside, or during a game of croquet. 

I opted for an easy and mobile grillable for this special barbeque, so I made kabobs.  Several people brought corn on the cob which is always a crowd pleaser and highly transportable as well. The kabobs were delicious and highly functional, envision a croquet mallet in one hand and a k-bob in the other. 

Teryaki kabobs
For once I planned ahead for a bbq and marinaded these babies in a famous teryaki marinade complements of my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Susan.  You can try it too, by following this simple and delicious recpie.

Teryaki Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 cup veggie oil

If you are able to try and marinade these for 12 to 24 hours so the juices really get in the meat and veggies.  I've also used this on chicken and it tastes great.

So what about a picnic?  Fall is in the air, the leaves are falling.  There is still time to enjoy and take advantage of our public spaces.   Special thanks to my friends that came and shared this special day with me.  It was the perfect culmination to a wonderful summer.  I love you all!

** P.S. If you are thinking that my photography skills recently took a turn for the better, you are wrong.  These lovely photos were taken by my good friend Lisa, who moved here to Chicago, along with Jennifer and Patrick, seven years ago.  Seems like we just pulled up to Kedzie Blvd. in that big old moving truck, huh?!  :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spicy Beef and Spinach Burritos, easy and crowd pleasing.

If you are like me, at around 6 pm, you are scrambling through the fridge searching for something to throw together for dinner.  Usually I can find some of the usual suspects in the fridge.  A random veggie here and there, some chicken or beef, and maybe some cheese.  This recipe is one that I almost always have all the ingredients for and it is really delish.  A total crowd pleaser.  My grandma used to make this for me in the good 'ole summ-ratime .  We would whip up these burritos and then go sit on the deck to enjoy our food, watch the trains go by, and listen to the sounds of a summer softball game.  Ahh, those were the days.  It's just as fun to do it now.  To top it off, these burritos are super easy.


Start by browning a pound of beef.  You don't really need to see a picture of that.

Then wash off your lovely spinach.  You could also use a package of frozen spinach if need-be.



Add your spinach to your ground beef.

While the spinach is wilting, add your spices.  Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Perfectly mixed filling!
While everything else is cooking, you can make your salsa.  Chop up a jalapeño, if you wanna.

Add some finely chopped onion and tomato, salt and pepper, and some lemon or lime juice.

Now just grate your cheese and put it all together.  We only had small tortillas, so we made tacos, but burritos were the "orig".
Go ahead and give these a whirl.  I sure hope you like 'em!

Spicy Beef and Spinach Burritos

by Leslie
Print this recipe
**All measurements are approximate.  

Filling:

1 lb. ground beef, browned
6-8 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
cheddar cheese to sprinkle

Salsa:

1 large or two small tomatoes, finely chopped
½ a red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
(Let sit together before serving so the flavors can meld)

Brown your ground beef on the stove.  Meanwhile, chop your salsa ingredients and combine. Add fresh spinach to ground beef and let cook until spinach is cooked down.  Add spices.  Grate cheese.  Assemble burrito or taco to desired size.  Chow down.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Monster Cookies

By: Laura

Oh my, it's a beautiful day here (71 degrees and sunny)! You couldn't ask for anything better on Labor Day.  Yesterday I mowed the lawn and did some much needed weed pulling, so today it's relaxation time.  And what better way to relax than to do some baking while your little one is down for a nap.  

Of course, since I did all that hard labor yesterday, I felt the need to treat myself with something sweet today.  I decided to go big, I mean, what the heck, right?  So, what says big like MONSTER COOKIES.  Nothing laborious about that either, except maybe the laborious movement of dipping my finger in cookie dough only to eat it soon after.  Check these babies out. 

Is your mouth watering yet?

Alright, so to begin, cream the butter and sugars.

Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Get yourself a creamy looking batter.

Add the extra goodies: M&Ms, chocolate chips, rice krispies, oatmeal, nuts , or whatever else you have laying around in your pantry.

Get your finger ready to take a dip into that dough.

Prepare the dough for some baking time (roughly 12 minutes).

And wallah: chewy, sweet cookies are waiting for you after your long holiday weekend.


What a perfect ending to the perfect weekend.  Nothing says holiday like sweets.  Enjoy, and let the test nesters know how your holiday weekend went.  Did you do any baking?

Find the recipe for monster cookies here. Thanks, pioneer woman!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

'Fresh Air,' Food, and the Four Day Work Week

by Erin

For the past couple of weeks NPR has been airing Terry Gross' Fresh Air episodes where she interviewed individuals who work with food.  She has spoken with chefs, food editors, Julia Childs, and even a chemist who spoke on the science behind frying.  Totally fascinating.  Max and I have been enjoying listening and learning from these individuals. 

Max was so impressed after listening to the episode on Grant Achatz, an arty Chicago chef that is overcoming tongue cancer.  He lost all sense of taste for a time and as his sense came back to him, they came one at a time. . . bitter, sweet, sour, etc.  Isn't that wild?  A chef with no sense of taste?  Listen to the episode here

Thursday evening while I was lying in bed, wondering how the hell I would ever get everything I needed to do for school, I listened to this episode with Gourmet Magazine editor Ruth Reichl.  Reichl left her high pressure job at the New York Times and moved to, the now debunked, GM, so she could make dinner for her family every night.  She sites the years as the best years of her life, and she gave me some ideas for quick and easy meals to try.  She also explained something about cooking that I have always known but never realized.  That cooking isn't what takes all the time, it is shopping and figuring out what you are going to make that takes time.  So true!  I know that I cook a lot more when everything I need is in the fridge.  I listened to this episode at the perfect time, just as I thought I couldn't get everything done, Ruth reminded me that the best thing to do is to slow down. 

Perhaps my favorite interview was chef Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse in Berkley.  I have always looked longingly through her cookbook, The Art of Simple Cooking at the bookstore with all her fresh and sustainable ingredients.  Besides listening to her talk about sustainability and her fantastic food, I was most excited to learn that Waters has actually put my idea of shorter, more productive work week (yes, it is my idea!) into action!  Her chefs work three or four days a week so they can spend more time with their families and in turn be more inspired in the kitchen.  Waters explained how this took so much of the burden off of her as the owner and executive chef of the restaurant since her chefs were more inspired and creative when they came into work.  Oh yeah, and she pays them a full time wage.  I believe this to be so true.  It is my belief that we could do more 'work' in less time or we could hire more people and stagger hours to ensure that this 'work' gets done.  Obama are you going to mention this in your employment speech next week?  Cheers to you Alice, especially because you have accomplished a shorter work week in one of the craziest industries out there!   Now I've got to figure out how we can do this in education.

Happy Labor Day weekend, my friends!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ideas for your pizza dough

by Leslie

Yesterday I posted a really easy recipe for No Knead Pizza Dough.  I'm sure you all leapt into the kitchen last night to make it.  I know how driven you are.  So, now that you've got this dough, what do you do with it?

Well, anything, really.  The first day I made it we had just gone to the farmer's market.  We had tons of great produce and didn't really know what to do with it.  So, we created something I call, "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" pizza.  I mean, really.  It had everything.

I started by spreading out my dough on a floured baking sheet.


The dough is nice and soft, but takes some work to spread out.  Stick with it.


Then, for the piece de resistance--everything but the kitchen sink.  This pizza is layered with olive oil, thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes, sauteed leeks, onions, salt, and parmesan cheese.  A savory delight.  Jaime really liked it.  He is a big fan of mountainous toppings.

So, that's a more "over the top idea".  But maybe that's not what you're looking for.  I have something super simple and delicious, inspired by one of my favorite restaurants in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bread and Cup.  On certain nights, they have amazing flatbread as an appetizer.  I mean, it's so good that Jaime and I used to order our own.  This is my version of their blue cheese flatbread with a bunch of other good stuff.  And it's easy!

(I want to apologize for the lack of photos.  I was on a mission to make and eat this stuff!)

Start with a small portion of your pizza dough.

1.  Drizzle it with olive oil

2.  Sprinkle on some walnuts (or any other nut of choice)

3.  Dot it all over with bleu cheese

4.  Splash it with some balsamic vinegar

5.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan

6.  Drizzle all over lightly with honey.

Back for about 10 minutes in a very hot (450 degree) oven.

And then...sink your teeth in!

Sorry for the blur--I was probably already going at this think with a knife and fork!
Hopefully these recipes helped you decide to stay in and make your own pizza instead of ordering out.  Please don't forget to share your ideas with us!