Monday, April 30, 2012

Rock Your World

This past weekend, my two boy minis totally rocked my world.  They both signed up to swim the mile (that's right swim a mile).  They have both done it before, so the excitement level beforehand was minimal.  They swam their miles, and I watched at one end of the pool where I could count laps for them.  I paid no attention to the clock.  My 9 year old mini (the one that swims one-legged) finished first.  His coach was all excited and he came rushing over to tell me that he with his time of 34:22, he had shaved 40 seconds off his fastest mile time (that time is still the 8 year old boy record at his swim club).  I was way excited for him because my oldest mini has been having a rough time lately, and spending a lot of time doing this.....

.....instead of doing this......

So, I gave him a quick squeeze and then went back to concentrating on counting laps for my middle mini (counting laps is not as easy as one would think, the swim is 67 laps.....67 laps, people!!!!)  

My middle mini finished, and I realized his coach was jumping up and down and shouting.  And then I realized, hey...she's shouting at me!  And then I realized, hey....she's shouting that my mini just shave FOUR MINUTES off his fastest mile time and re-set the 6 & under mile swim record with a time of 38:24!!!!  And, then I cried.  Because I was so proud of my mini, and also because my oldest mini was jumping up and down screaming and hugging his little brother.  The happiness of the moment was too much.  And what I thought was going to be a little morning swim ended up rocking my world and kept me smiling all weekend long.  

Why am I telling you this?  Well, because now I am going to rock your world (I also wanted to brag a little).  But, seriously, this salad recipe I am going to share with you is going to rock your world.  Are you expecting dinner guests soon?  Make this salad.  Is there someone special you want to fall in love with you?  Make him this salad.  Want to do something special for mom on Mother's Day?  Make this salad and buy her this purse.

I got this recipe from my friend Jennifer.  Jennifer lives on the west coast, which automatically makes her cooler than me, but she also always gives me fantastic recipes.  And she's a 31 consultant, which means she's organized and loves all things monogrammed.  And she runs marathons.  And she does crazy things like spending a weekend with people she met on internet.  And she loves kale salad.  

Kale and Apple Salad
  • 2 cups pecans (I used one cup pecans, one cup walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 6 oz thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp caper brine (from a jar of capers)
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • freshly ground back pepper
  • 2 granny smith apples, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large head radicchio, shredded
  • one 8-oz bunch kale--stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
  • 3 tbsp snipped chives
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 2 ounces shaved pecorino
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, cover the pecans with water. Transfer to a sieve and shake out the water. 
  2. In another bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar, cayenne and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. 
  3. Add the pecans and toss. Transfer to a sieve and shake off the excess coating. 
  4. Arrange the pecans on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sugar is lightly caramelized and the pecans are golden.  SIDESNOTE:  Whatever you do, do not taste-test the pecans.  If you do, you will not be able to stop!!!!
  5. In a skillet, heat the oil with the pancetta and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is browned, 6 minutes. 
  6. Strain the pan drippings into a large bowl; whisk in the vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup and season the dressing with salt and black pepper. SIDENOTE:  I fully understand that I am asking you to make salad dressing with bacon grease.  Don't judge.  Don't question.  Just do it.
  7. Add the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and pecorino and toss. Mound the salad on plates, garnish with the pecans and pancetta and serve.

Salad dressing made with bacon drippings.

The nuts to top the salad. Make extras and set them out in a dish.  They'll be gone in minutes.

I took this salad to a dinner party on Saturday night and people loved it so much, it practically made me a celebrity.  I thought I was going to have to start signing autographs.

I also made sweet potato and quinoa salad, which was another huge crowd pleaser.

And this is what my kitchen looked like.  It's a mess.  Thankfully, messed don't bother me.  What bothers me is crappy food.

Tonight is another busy night, so dinner will be p'sketti.  I've got the sauce made already, with extras to freeze for next time.  I also have a loaf of french bread in the breadmaker and left over kale salad, which I really don't want to share.  So the minis will probably have fruit salad.  I'll have to share with Mr. McGhee though.  Unless I hide in the pantry and eat.  I've been known to do that.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Convenient dinner for busy families

Someone tell me that I am not the only mom running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am.not.compaining,  I am blessed to have active minis, and I truly enjoy and embrace this stage in our family's lives.  However, between end of the year school projects, concerts, performances, baseball practices, swim meets, doctors and therapy appointments, golf lessons, birthday parties, etc etc etc.....the McGhee house is insanely busy!  I mean, I am so busy I haven't even had time to worry about the current mad cow crisis in California.

Now, remember how we just talked about things we said we would never do as parents?  Well, one thing I always said I would never do it over-schedule my minis.  I think kids need a stress-free life where they have copious amounts of time to explore, play, and enjoy being a kid.

Well, wouldn't you know it....I have minis that want love being in scheduled activiites.  And because of this, my minis are pretty darn over-scheduled.  The problem is my minis love sports.  In fact, their back up plans to their dreams of working in a smoothie shop and living in an RV are to be a professional baseball player and an Olympic swimmer.

My oldest mini has therapy appointments, yoga, weight-lifting, golf, and swim team.  He's a one legged swimmer who beats two legged swimmers.  Ask him about it, he'll happily tell you.  He also has plans for smashing all  of Michael Phelp's records.  And who am I to stop that from happening?

My middle mini is in soccer, baseball, and swim team.  He wants to grow up and play in the major leagues.  He is concerned that if he gets drafted by a team other than the Chicago Cubs, that Mr. McGhee won't cheer for him.  We have assured him that his team is our team.  He has assured us he will be so good that the Cubs will be begging him to play for them.

Thank God, I've got this mini, who currently excels at maintaining her hair, painting her fingernails, and keeping mommy company.

(Photography from Jeff Anderson)

Needless to say, dinner has been difficult lately, and it won't get any easier until school is out for the summer.  Getting home at 6:30 with three hungry minis to feed, do homework, bathe, do therapy stretching and bracing, and get into bed in an hour is tricky.  So, I have been working hard to come up with dinners that can be made very quickly or even prepared ahead of time.

I find that baked pasta is an easy dish to prepare ahead of time and something that everyone in our house will eat.  I combined two recipes to come up with my own.  I want to say this about this's nothing fancy and impressive, but it is a convenient dinner on a busy night.  If you're having company over for dinner that you want to impress, don't make them this pasta bake.  Unless you're a terrible cook, then make the pasta bake because you don't want your guests leaving hungry.

Step one is to make your pasta sauce.  You can omit this step and buy a jar of pre-made pasta sauce.  Nobody will judge you if you do that.  I make huge batches of this sauce and then freeze it, which saves me lots of time.

Pasta Sauce

  • 1 lb sweet italian sausage (my local market makes their own, which on one hand is repulsive, on the other pretty cool)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (Remember a while back when we talked about tomato packaging....try to stick with the brand names I suggested.  For the sake of honesty, I have to tell you, I didn't have the time to make an extra trip to an additional store, so my pasta sauce was made with tomatoes filled with BPA.  Sad, I know.  The good news is I am too busy right now to worry about it.)
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 13 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp white sugar (I forgot this, oops!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Slice the sausage into 1 inch slices.  I removed the casings from each piece.
2.  Cook the sausage and onion in a pot over medium heat until browned.  Drain fat.
3.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce.  
4.  Mix in seasoning.
5.  Reduce heat to low and simmer an hour, stirring occasionally.  

Now that you've got your sauce done, you are ready to assemble your pasta bake.  This can be done ahead of time, say at 5 am when you are up packing lunches before you sneak out for an early morning spin class.  Or, you could easily do this the night before.  Just remember to stick it in the fridge overnight.

Pasta Bake
  • one box of pasta (I prefer organic, whole grain penne)
  • one jar of pasta sauce (store bought, or homemade)
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used peas, you could easily throw in spinach or zucchini)
  • gruyere cheese, shredded
1.  Cook pasta in salted water until cooked al dente.  Drain, rinse with cold water.
2.  Put pasta in a large bowl.  Add pasta sauce and frozen vegetables.
3.  Spread in a baking dish and topped with shredded cheese.
4.  Cook at 400F until cheese is melted.  Or, stick in the fridge until you are ready for dinner.

I tried gruyere cheese on the recommendation of this recipe.  You could easily substitute mozzarella cheese.

I served my pasta bake with zucchini tots.  We have been eating zucchini patties for years, and I have been trying to come up with a way to make them easier and quicker to prepare, so I tried baking them in mini muffin tins, and voila!  It totally worked!

Zucchini Tots
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I was way fancy and used fresh mozzarella)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil (if pan frying, not needed if baking in muffin pan)
1.  In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onion, flour, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and salt. Stir well enough to distribute ingredients evenly.

2 (option #1).  Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls, and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden.

2 (option #2).  Fill greased mini muffin tins with zucchini mixture and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until brown.

Now, you're probably reading the ingredient list and thinking, "wow Heids, that's a lot of shredding and prep work".  I am blessed to have this amazing new food processor, so all that prep work literally took me about 90 seconds.  I chopped the onion, changed the blade, shredded the zucchini and mozzarella, changed the blade, grated the parmesan, threw in the eggs and flour.  Done.  So, if you don't have a food processor, I highly recommend getting one.  Tell your Mr. it will make your life easier.  A smart Mr. knows what makes his Mrs.' life easier, makes his life easier.  Happy wife, happy life.

I made my zucchini mixture ahead of time and stored all day in the fridge.  

option #1, the patty

Option #2, the mini muffin pan.  Tell your kids they're tator tots.

Enjoy your easy, prepare-ahead dinner with your amazing family.  Encourage your minis to talk about their dreams at dinnertime.  There's nothing that makes the heart swell more than hearing the dreams of your minis.  Especially when all you can do is sit there and think, "maybe, just maybe, one day".....because dreams do come true!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Picky Eaters

Do you know what the kiss of death of parenting is?  That moment when you get all hoity-toity, huffy-puffy, and start clucking your tongue, sigh, and claim, "I will never do that with my minis."  You can fill in the blank with what it is you will never do......sleep with your baby, whip the boobie out in public, use a leash, do your mini's homework for them, clean your mini's face with your spit, prop a bottle in the carseat, bring the boyfriend on vacation, put your minis to bed with dirty teeth and no bedtime story, let your mini pee in a cup in a moving vehicle, let the baby cry it out, give your 10 year old mini a cell phone, overschedule your minis, put the minis in front of a movie so you can lock yourself in the room and finish your book, let your mini go without a coat in the middle of January, or even hide between a display case in the grocery store to let your mini experience what it feels like when mommy can't find you.

If you can't relate to any this, then either your minis aren't old enough to push you to your end of your sanity or you're simply a better mother than the rest of mothers worldwide.

One thing I always said I would never do when I have minis is make a separate meal for the minis.  "I will never make a separate meal for my minis, my minis are going to eat what I eat or they'll go to bed hungry."  Somehow God heard my plans, had a good chuckle, and then gave me these three.....

Cute as can be, aren't they?  Good thing too because, guess what?!?!  My minis are picky eaters.  Now, they will eat every fruit under the sun and all raw veggies.  And that's all that they can agree on.  I've got one that will eat meat, two that won't.  I've got two that love cheese, one that picks it off of everything.  Two that love pasta and bread, one that doesn't.  Two that eat sweets, one that prefers chips and salsa.  You get my point.  These are the foods that I can serve that I know for sure all three of my minis will eat.

  • fruit
  • raw veggies with hummus
  • bacon
Most mealtimes in our house consist of Mr. McGhee playing a game of "How old are you? Well, that's how many bites you have to take of each thing on your plate." while I grumble about how we should just have BLTs and fruit salad every night.  

One thing my minis do love is asparagus.  Throw a little olive oil, balsamic, and sea salt on asparagus and grill minis eat it like it's candy.  So, when I saw a recipe called Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, I knew I had to try it.  

  • 4 oz pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
  • 1 1/4 cup leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1-2 tbsp italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
1.  In a large non-stick pan, sauté pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.

2.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan. Add asparagus pieces and leek and sauté until asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

3.  Add garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Here's pancetta, AKA italian bacon

Asparagus and leeks, ready to be added

Finished dish.

Now, I really wish this story had a happy ending.  I really wanted my minis to love the absurdly addictive asparagus so much that I had to send Mr. McGhee to the store to buy more asparagus so we could have it again tonight.  Unfortunately, all 3 of my minis took a look at this dish and said, "what's all that stuff in with the asparagus?  I don't like that stuff, I only like the asparagus.....but, now the asparagus is going to taste like all that stuff.  And I just don't liiiiiiiike thiiiiiiis."   And I was like, "you know what?  Have a kiwi instead."  So, they did.  And Mr. McGhee and I ate the absurdly addictive asparagus, which oddly enough....I did not find to be absurdly addicting.  I thought it was quite tasty and will definitely make it again.  But, the whole absurdly addictive name got my expectations up really high.  

My minis ate their kiwi with leftover broccoli cheddar soup, and cheddar/muenster grilled cheese sandwiches.  And, not surprising.....two ate the soup but didn't touch the grilled cheese, one ate the grilled cheese but didn't touch the soup.  They all ate the kiwi and the Minneola tangelos we had for dessert.  

And then Mr. McGhee and I tossed them into bed....with dirty teeth and no bedtime story.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Love Fest

Wowzer!  On a scale of 1-10, this past weekend was a 10.  We spent most of the weekend outside, working in the yard.  My tiny mini planted her own herb garden, which she will most likely have completely drowned by next weekend.

My tiny mini woke up on Saturday morning, very distraught because she needed a moroccan oil treatment.  So, we did that and then she and I went to listen to my favorite pastor give a girl power sermon.  Sunday, my tiny mini and I spent some time shopping where I found the perfect pair of shoes (and I had a coupon!) and my mini found 5 bottles of "hanitizer" that she had to have.

My boy minis spent the weekend doing this.

They alternated between frisbee, baseball, hocky, football, and golf.  But, you get the idea.

On Saturday night, I was the luckiest girl in town because I got to dress up and have a night out with the three amazing men in my life.  My tiny mini stayed with her grandparents, where I am sure she coaxed them into many things, perhaps even another moroccan oil treament.

My incredibly handsome hubby, Mr. McGhee, spent all day Sunday staining our mini's swingset and installing my raised garden beds.  I came home from a wonderful shopping trip, to see my Mr. McGhee working very hard on the swingset, while my two boy minis were running around playing baseball.  I looked at my tiny mini, who was wearing her skinny jeans and boots, and realized, "hot damn, the people I share my life with are pretty amazing."  Do you ever have those moments, when you are just overwhelmed with this sense of love for your family and feel the urge to do something to show them how much you love them?  Well, that was me yesterday, I had this sudden need to show these people how much I adore them and I realized there was only one way to do that.

Avocado french fries.

That's right.  Avocado french fries, people!!!!!

  • Oil For Frying
  • 2 Avocados
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 and 1/3 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 5 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 of Lemon
1.   In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, lemon pepper, salt and cumin. Set it aside. 
2.  Cut the avocados in half and then slice them vertically into 4 inch by 1 inch wedges. Set them aside. 
3.  Heat the vegetable oil to 335 degrees Fahrenheit in a large frying pan, adding enough oil so that the oil is about 3 to four inches deep.  (If your oil starts smoking, you have heated your oil too hot).
4.  Dredge the avocado slices in the breadcrumb mixture, then in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture again. 
5.  Place them in the hot oil and fry them for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. 
6.  Remove them with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 
7.  Allow them to dry for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a serving tray and serve them immediately with the Cilantro Lemon Dipping Sauce.
8.      For the Cilantro Lemon Dipping Sauce, place the mayonnaise, cilantro, and lemon juice in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy in texture.

Prepare your eggs and breadcrumb mixture.  

Slice and scoop out your avocado.

Dredge each slice in breadcrumbs....

....then eggs.....

.....then breadcrumbs again.

Fry for a few minutes.

Serve with cilantro lime dressing.

These were fun and tasty!  My tiny mini loves avocados, but for some reason she didn't love these.  She did however love the dressing.  Probably because I lied and told her it was ranch.  

I also made my mini's favorite salad ever, pasta salad.  Pasta salad is always a hit, and you really can't mess it up.  I boiled some vegetable pasta and threw in some peppers, tomato (yellow cherry--proof that God wants kids to eat tomatoes), onion, olives, cheese chunks, and pepperoni (yes, the pepperoni is probably considered processed).  I drizzled it with some balsamic dressing.  To make the dressing, I chopped up a shallot, a few cloves of garlic and added some olive oil, balsamic and black pepper.  

The pasta salad was a massive hit.  Mr McGhee loved it.  The minis loved it.  I love them.  It was a total love fest.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Going organic

I often get asked about eating organic.  I try really hard to only buy organic and encourage everyone else to do the same.  People tell me all the time that they would love to eat organic, but they can't afford it.  I totally get that, I really do.  One way that I offset my high grocery cost is by not eating out.  It amazes me what the average family spends weekly on eating out.  Personally, I feel eating out is a huge contributor to the financial problems that a lot of families are dealing with because it is so expensive.  I highly encourage you to cut back on dining out.  Two ways to do that is to MENU PLAN and STOCK YOUR FREEZER !  And, lucky for you, I am currently working on some tools and resources that I am going to roll out in the next month to help you do those things.  So, be prepared....exciting things are coming soon!

But, for now, back to buying organic....

I understand not everyone can afford to go organic (and if you are one of those people that say you can't afford organic, I better not catch you buying a $4 coffee or a $2 soda from the drive-through).  The good news is, you don't have to go completely organic.  I recommend everyone buy organic animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc).  After that, if you still have room in your budget, buy organic produce.  Why?  For some reason, artificial hormones in my food freak me out more than pesticides and insecticides.

We buy organic, grass-fed beef.  One way to save on beef costs, is to find someone local that sells whole cows.  Find friends and family and all go in together to buy the meat, and then split the costs (and the meat, obviously!)  We don't eat a lot of beef, so this is a very small part of my grocery budget.

We do, however, eat a lot of chicken.  Organic chicken breasts where I live is $10.99/lb.  It costs me $20 per meal to feed my family of 5, if I cook with organic chicken breasts.  A whole organic chicken costs $15.  I can cook a whole chicken and get 2-3 meals out of it, plus make chicken stock for soups/stews.  It is a HUGE cost-saver for me, and in the long run, saves me time because I always have precooked shredded chicken in my fridge.

We eat about 3 dozen eggs a week, so I feel really strongly that my family needs to eat organic eggs.  Eggs are tricky....there's organic, free-range, omega-3, cage-free, vegetarian, and pasteurized.  I have honestly lost years of my life standing in front of the egg cooler, trying to decide which eggs to buy!  And I still don't know the answer!  I always buy organic and then I switch between organic free-range or organic omega-3.  Our family all takes an omega-3 supplement, but we don't eat a lot of seafood (much to my dismay!), so I like to sneak in the omega-3 when I can.

Produce is tricky, because you really don't have to buy everything organic.  There is a list called the dirty dozen, clean fifteen that is a guide to buying organic produce.  I have my own little trusty guide that I keep in my wallet so I can reference it while shopping.   If anyone is interested in my list, please leave a comment or email me.  I am happy to send you a copy of it, as long as you promise to laminate it and keep it in your wallet right next to the pictures of your minis.  I'll copy and paste it below as well.  If you do buy non-organic produce, please make sure to wash it very well.

Heids McGhee’s
Guide to Organic
Must Buy Organic
Peanut Butter

Safe to Buy

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato

And that's my simple summary of buying organic.  I am way excited right now because Mr. McGhee has finished my raised garden beds.  I am so looking forward to my own little organic backyard farm.  If you have any local farmers, please support them!  I buy local before I buy organic!  Talk to your local farmers, many of them are organic, even if they don't have the government's official seal of organic.  I know it costs thousands of dollars to go through the government's process, and a lot of farmers don't have the resources (or the interest) in having our government's stamp of approval.  They know what they're doing is organic and they're happy to tell and show you!  

Aren't they lovely?  I can't wait to get things planted.  Of course, then I will have to stop telling my minis that those are coffins in which I am planning on using to bury them alive.  So, I guess I will be slightly disappointed when that fun ends.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Soup for the sickie

I've got my oldest mini home sick with me today.  So we've been snuggling on the couch, watching Animal Planet and doing puzzles.  It has been wonderful.  I was starting to think I should homeschool him, but then I realized I haven't actually taught him anything today.  Although we did both learn that St. Bernard's can find a trapped human being under 20 feet of snow.

My oldest mini loves soup.  He is my pickiest eater, but the one thing he really loves is broccoli cheddar soup.  Specifically, broccoli cheddar soup from Panera.  The McGhees rarely go out to eat, for both nutrition and cost reasons.   I think it goes without saying that I have "food control" issues and having someone else prepare my food stresses me out.  And then to have pay $75 for a family of 5 to eat that food....well, that damn near pushes me over the edge.  But, my minis love Panera, so we eat there occasionally.  Mr. McGhee and I always have the Thai Chopped Salad and the minis have soup.

Panera's Thai Chopped Salad
All-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, romaine, Thai cashews, fire-roasted edamame, red peppers, carrots, fresh cilantro & wonton strips all tossed in low-fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette and drizzled with peanut sauce.
Nutrition Information

Since I have my oldest mini home sick today and my oldest mini loves Panera broccoli soup, it only seemed obvious that I make him a batch.  So I got online and found this recipe.

Ingredients (I made a double batch, and I would say it is enough to feed my family for one meal)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar

1.  Saute onion in butter. Set aside.

2.  Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently.
3.  Slowly add the half-and-half, continue stirring.
4.  Add the chicken stock whisking all the time.
5.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

6.  Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper.

7.  By now the soup should be thickened.

8.  Pour in batches into blender and puree.

9.  Return the puree to the pot and place over low heat, add the grated cheese; stir until well blended.
Stir in the nutmeg.

The soup is delish!  I thought it tasted just like Panera.  My mini told me it was better, because he could tell it was made with love.  Now you see why I want to spend my days homeschooling him?!?!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am still on a high from last night's dinner success.  Don't believe me?  Try it!  Seeing your minis munching on pizza made of cauliflower will do something to a mama.  In fact, I was so excited last night I forgot to share the recipe for rhubarb salad  that we had with our pizza (that was made out of cauliflower, did I mention that?)

This weekend, a friend of mine sent me a text asking if I wanted any rhubarb out of her garden.  FYI, the answer to the question "Heids McGhee, do you want any ______ from my garden?" is always an enthusiastic yes.  When it comes to garden produce, I'm like that socially awkward guy on free sample day at Walmart.  I don't care what it is, I want it.  And I'll hover uncomfortably until I get it.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled when I got a ziploc bag filled of garden rhubarb.  She even chopped it for me!  Somehow I manage to attract amazingly great friends.  I was so excited to tear the bag open and start munching on the rhubarb.  So I did.  And, that's when I realized that most people don't eat raw rhubarb.  That's news to me.  I grew up eating it raw and early on in our years of marriage when I plopped a bowl of raw rhubarb down in front of Mr. McGhee, he ate it without any protesting.  Of course, in hindsight, I realize he also ate my goulash made with manwich during those years without protesting either.

I gave some of the raw rhubarb to my minis and realized....nope, not very many people eat raw rhubarb.  And then I felt really bad because my poor tiny mini turned 5 shades of purple when that sour flavor hit her.  So, I decided to make it up to her that I would make some rhubarb muffins.  When in doubt, make muffins.  Words to live by.

Rhubarb Muffins

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used half all-purpose, half whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil  (I substituted 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 cup coconut oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk  (to substitute, I took 1 cup of milk and added ~2 tsp of vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (I substituted brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans or line with paper cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk with an electric mixer until smooth. 
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix by hand just until blended. 
  5. Stir in the rhubarb and walnuts.  (I left out the walnuts.  I had already traumatized them enough with the raw rhubarb, I didn't dare try and sneak a nut into their muffins).  
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling almost to the top. 
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of this mixture on top of each muffin.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes before removing.

I apologize, I forgot to take a picture of them one they were baked.  I could draw you a picture, or you could just take my word for it that they were adorable and delish.

I still had some rhubarb left after the muffins.  I munched on some with lunch, but then I realized I still needed a salad for dinner.  Then I got what I thought was a very original idea to try a rhubarb salad.  I was very disappointed to discover that someone else had already had that brilliant idea, wrote a recipe, took beautiful pictures, and blogged about it.  Playing second fiddle.  Always the bridesmaid.  wah wah wah.  Here's the recipe.

Rhubarb Salad

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (try and find a friend like I have who will chop it for you)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or untoasted, we were cramped for time so went untoasted)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss rhubarb with sugar in a medium bowl until well coated; let stand, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, oil, shallot, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add greens; toss to coat with the dressing. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top with the rhubarb, goat cheese (or feta), and walnuts.  

This salad was delish.  I loved it.  Mr. McGhee loved it.  In fact, we didn't even offer to share with the minis!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pizza night

Last night for dinner we had BLT's and fruit salad.  Now, I'm not going to share my BLT recipe with you because it's really simple.  Toast.  Bacon.  Lettuce.  Tomato.  Go crazy and skip the mayo and smear on some smashed avocado.  Easiest dinner ever.

When I was fryin' up the bacon, my middle mini came running up the stairs and said, "Mom, it smells like bacon in here.  Are you making bacon?  You are?  You are really making bacon?  Guys, guess what?!?  She is really making bacon.  We have the best mom ever."  Expect to see more bacon recipes from me in the near future.

Clearly, my minis love bacon.  In fact, they love it so much that Mr. McGhee convinced them to act like dogs and do tricks for bacon rewards.

They even wear shirts proclaiming their love for bacon.

Since the BLTs were such a hit, I decided to try another kid-friendly dinner for tonight, pizza.  However, we gave up processed food and I do not know how to make a pizza crust, so I found myself sort of in a bind.  And then I remembered seeing a recipe for cauliflower crust pizza that I found intriguing.  I was super excited when I read the recipe and realized that it called for ricing cauliflower because Mr. McGhee just got me this for my birthday.....

This food processor is totally bitchin'.  I have been wanting a food processor for years and this baby was worth.the.wait.  So, I was more than happy to fire her up today to rice me some cauliflower.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

  • 1 cup cooked, riced cauliflower  (4 pulses in my processor, but who's bragging?)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (10 seconds and I had a brick of mozzarella shredded into 3 cups)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • olive oil (optional)
  • pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of toppings*

To rice the cauliflower:
1.  Take 1 large head of fresh cauliflower, remove stems and leaves, and chop the florets into chunks. 
2.  Add to food processor and pulse until it looks like grain. Do not over-do pulse or you will puree it. (If you don't have a food processor, you can grate the whole head with a cheese grater.  Then, send your hubby a link to my blog and tell him that Mr. McGhee already did all the research, all he has to do is buy the processor). 

Cooking Directions
1.  Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 8 minutes (some microwaves are more powerful than others, so you may need to reduce this cooking time). There is no need to add water, as the natural moisture in the cauliflower is enough to cook itself.

To Make the Pizza Crust:
1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.2.  In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup cauliflower (you will have lots of leftovers), egg and mozzarella.
3.  Add oregano, crushed garlic and garlic salt, stir.
4.  Transfer to the cookie sheet, and using your hands, pat out into a 9" round. Optional: Brush olive oil over top of mixture to help with browning.
5.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. To the crust, add sauce, toppings and cheese. Place under a broiler at high heat just until cheese is melted (approximately 3-4 minutes).

*Note that toppings need to be precooked since you are only broiling for a few minutes.*

To answer your question, yes, that crust tastes as good as it looks.  I snuck a taste, I couldn't help it!  Tonight, we will top it with pizza sauce, cheese, and green olive on the mini's pizza and pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, and veggies on the adult's pizza.  I plan on serving it with side salad.

Here is the pizza sauce recipe I made.  This is a VERY basic pizza sauce, but I thought it would be perfect with the cauliflower crust.

Pizza sauce

  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomato
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

  1. In a large saucepan, saute garlic in oil until tender. 
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients. 
  3. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired thickness. 

I am hoping that there isn't massive disappointment at the dinner table tonight when the minis realize there is not any bacon being served.   

COMING BACK HERE TO EDIT:  Oh My.  Delish.  This pizza crust was amazing.  The minis LOVED it. They had no clue that it was made of caulflower.  My oldest mini commented that it tasted different than some pizza crusts, and he thought it was from the italian spice.  My tiny mini ate FOUR pieces.  A total victory!