My $18 Dollar Store Baseball Dinner

Baseball is a new thing to me. I discovered it just a few years ago when A.P. started playing Little League and noticed that it was actually a pretty interesting game.  I started going to more Whitecaps games, and watching the Tigers play on TV.  By the time the World Series came around last year I was so into it my husband had to remind me to breathe.

It was a long, cold, lonely winter (aren’t they all?!) but baseball season finally, blissfully returned.

Little League season goes fast though. One minute you’re signing up to work at the concession stand and volunteering to be the team mom, and the next minute you’re wondering what you’re going to do until Opening Day next year.

I decided to mourn the loss by eating, because I am a good American.

This was an easy and very inexpensive dinner. I threw it together on a work night and got everything I needed at the Dollar Store.  I wouldn’t generally advocate eating hot dogs purchased at the Dollar Store; but I’ve seen the hot dogs they sell at the concession stand and am completely confident you are getting a better product.

table

My shopping list was:

  • hot dogs
  • buns
  • mustard
  • ketchup
  • Baby Ruth Bars (fun fact: these aren’t named after Babe Ruth, but the daughter of the guy who invented the candy bar. But still, it works)
  • square white plates
  • white crepe paper
  • round vase/candle holder
  • peanuts
  • toy baseball
  • green table cloth
  • tin foil
  • pretzels
  • whatever the Dollar Store brand is of Rice Crispies
  • licorice
  • marshmallows
  • white balloons
  • red balloons
  • apples (wait, I didn’t buy those at the Dollar Store, sorry)

I made the hot dogs in the microwave, then wrapped them in tin foil just to give them that squishy, steamed effect.

hitdigs

Decorations were simple.  A green table cloth with white plates as ‘bases’, then white crepe paper to connect them and make it look like a baseball diamond.

The food was simple too. I used a cup to cut out the rice crispie treats into a circle and pressed the licorice into it.

ricecrispies

The apples were not awesome, but fortunately my family is pretty forgiving and understanding of my lack of craftiness. Plus, it made me feel better to serve one thing that wasn’t nutritionally questionable.

apples

The balloons were originally supposed to be a giant baseball, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it (see note above about the apples) and I just gave up and tied them together with string.

balloons

Given more time and a bigger budget, I could have gotten really carried away but fortunately, both were in limited supply. Enjoy this simple baseball meal!

pretzels

 

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Fruit Crêpes with Reese’s Spreads

Last week we had ourselves a snow storm.  The kids were home from school, and my husband was stuck at work.  We were practically starving to death, but then I remembered I had a jar of Reese’s Spreads we hadn’t devoured yet. I also remembered that I knew how to make crêpes, (I am willing to pay extra for that fancy thing over the e) and I saved our lives by pulling together a delicious little meal/treat.

The Reese’s Spreads taste exactly how you think they would; like a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in a spreadable form.  It’s too sweet for me to have as a sandwich or dip, but a little schmear on a crêpe is perfect.

I used my basic crêpes recipe, except I am all healthy and whatnot now so I used coconut oil instead of cooking oil, and of course organic eggs and milk.  I recommend you do too; it makes you feel better about feeding your children desert for dinner.

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If you are not snow bound and are intimidated by making crêpes (don’t be; they’re easy…), you can buy them pre-made.  So you’ll need:

  • crêpes
  • Reese’s Spreads
  • cut fruit (bananas and strawberries)
  • powdered sugar

  DSC_9116 There is no secret formula here; just spread some of the Reese’s Spreads on the crêpes, layer on the fruit, fold, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and devour.

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My kids ate these so quickly it was a little frightening.  Between them they ate three bananas and nine strawberries which isn’t a bad way to get your daily fruit quota.

crêpes

Have you tried Reese’s spreads? What did you think?

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.
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Shepherd’s Pie – With Lamb!

shepherdspie

When A.P. revealed to us that he like to eat ‘delicacies‘, we were making a large list of family dinners that we all agreed upon ahead of time.  It’s a trick I learned at work; called ‘getting buy-in‘. Make people THINK they have some control over a process and they will Feel Ownership and have Increased Accountability.

One of the collaborated meal ideas that resulted from our brainstorming session was Shepherd’s Pie. It has the comfort food aspect of a casserole, without the pasta factor.  I used this recipe from Rachel Ray. I added cheese and left out peas.  Peas just slow me down, man.  I put some cheese on top too, like a handful-ish.

meat and carrots

I bought a huge bag of of organic potatoes and was looking for a way to use them up before they went bad.

potatoes

For the record; I cannot stand Rachel Ray, and this recipe takes way longer than 30 (or even 40) minutes.

Why you gotta lie?

Why you gotta lie Rachel Ray?

But it’s still a really good recipe worth making.  I always scout out the meat section at Meijer for marked down lamb.

Shepherd’s Pie – With Lamb!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds organic potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup cream,
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 3/4 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup beef stock or broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine cream cheese, egg yolk and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.
  2. While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.
  3. Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/10/10/shepherds-pie-with-lamb/

There are some recipes that don’t taste very different made from scratch; but this is not one of them.

carrots

It’s worth the peeling and boiling and chopping.

spie

It would also be a good night to pull the ‘I’ll cook, you do the dishes’ trick…

dishes

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An Awesome Lasagna Recipe

I found an awesome lasagne recipe on Epicurious and have been waiting for cold weather to hit so I could stand having my oven on for a long time. I made it in my test kitchen (that’s what I’m calling it now to make myself feel better about failures.  They were just experiments!) and it was awesome.

There are a lot of lasagne recipes out there out there, and some are too cheesy or not saucy enough or too saucy or not cheesy enough.  This one was just right.  It’s getting to be lasagne season and I just want to make sure you’re all covered.

I love that it uses no boil noodles and doesn’t come out watery or with rubbery noodles (or both).  This one is a keeper!

lasagne

Meat, Basil and Cheese Lasagne

Ingredients

  • Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound browned ground meat
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • Filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1 15-ounce container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Assembly:
  • 12 Creamette no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
  • 3 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Nonstick olive oil spray

Instructions

  1. Assembly:
  2. 12 Creamette no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
  3. 3 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese
  4. 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  5. Nonstick olive oil spray
  6. Preparation
  7. Sauce:
  8. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
  9. Add, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and sauté until onion is cooked.
  10. Add browned ground meat.
  11. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with juices - do not drain! I puree mine because of my family's preference.
  12. Bring sauce to boil.
  13. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors.
  14. Season with salt and pepper.
  15. Filling:
  16. Chop fresh basil leaves finely in processor by pulsing.
  17. Add ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  18. Still pulsing, process filling until just blended and texture is still chunky.
  19. Assembly:
  20. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  21. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
  22. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce.
  23. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles, then spread evenly to cover.
  24. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  25. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times.
  26. Top with remaining 3 noodles.
  27. Spoon remaining sauce atop noodles.
  28. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses.
  29. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick olive oil spray.
  30. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.
  31. Bake lasagna 40 minutes.
  32. Carefully uncover. Increase oven temperature to 400°F.
  33. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 minutes.
  34. Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes before serving.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/10/10/an-awesome-lasagna-recipe/

 

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Research Confirms What We Already Know To Be True: Making Dinner Kind Of Sucks

Finally, research dollars were spent establishing something that I want to talk about: DINNER.

The research revealed that tired, busy moms trying to prepare healthy and well balanced meals that their families will actually eat is reason enough to be frustrated.  Attempting to accomplish this in 30 minutes or less so we can hang out with our families is more than enough to push us over the edge.  The entire process of making a meal; especially one that is not well received by those it is prepared for, brings anger and resentment.

Meal time becomes more than a nourishment issue.  It is a relationship issue, and that can’t be healthy for anyone.

My takeaway from this article is to keep it simple.  Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

I honestly don’t know what most families have for dinner. Ours range from extravagant (when I am in the mood to cook) to barely counting as a meal. Although I get very annoyed when I work hard at making a meal and my family snubs it; one thing I am blessed with is a significant lack of Mom Guilt.

I made these people dinner; if they don’t like it that is their problem, not mine.

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Photo Credit: cszar via Compfight cc

I consider it a teachable moment to educate my kids (and on occasion, my husband) how to politely decline something that is served to them. I will not accept scrunched up noses or ‘EEWW’s.  That is rude and it’s my job to teach them not to be rude, so we can go ahead and start that lesson at the dinner table.

With a few exceptions, what is for dinner is what is for dinner.  We do have a Parental Veto option wherein my husband or I can declare something absolutely terrible and open up the PB&J emergency rations, but that is a rare occurrence. There is no snacking after dinner so eat now or forever hold your peace.

Here are some suggestions for perfectly acceptable meals you should not feel bad about for one second.

  • Tonight we had a salad (iceberg lettuce, tomato, and cucumber) and roast beef sandwiches.  I heated up the meat in some beef broth, therefore it was Roast Beef Au Jus but the the entire deal took me about 18 minutes.  Sandwiches totally count.  Get a panini press if it makes you feel better.
  • We do a lot of rotisserie chickens and pre-cut vegetables from the grocery store.  Pre-cut vegetables are better than no vegetables.
  • Breakfast:  it’s what’s for dinner.  Scrambled eggs are easy. Cut up some fruit and fry up some bacon and I will join you for dinner any day of the week.
  • My kids are 9 and 11.  I suffered through years of “Mommy I do it!” in the kitchen when my kids were little and am being repaid handsomely now for it.  They can actually sort of cook basic meals, like ham and cheese roll ups (crescent roll style) with a tasty side of sliced apples, or simple meals like Tuna Noodle Casserole.
  • My husband does not cook nearly often enough, but when he does he makes fun things like chili (1 pound of ground beef, 2 cans of tomatoes, and 1 can of beans plus a gag-able amount of spices) and Macho Nachos.
  • I consider my crock pot one of my best friends.  It’s in my inner circle and I trust it to make meals for my family; I just have to think ahead far enough to fill ‘er up in the morning.  When I do, we have great meals like Slow Cooker Fajitas.
  • Take out is tempting and since I am being honest, I will tell you that when I went back to work a year ago, I allowed myself up to one night off a week.  That means either a free for all where everyone prepares their own dinner or we get takeout.  Since Sesame Chicken is the most requested takeout item – I figured out a really easy copycat recipe for it.
  • I often double the amount of chicken or ground beef I cook for a recipe, then freeze half for another meal.  It’s easy to whip up something like Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas when the meat is already cooked.
  • Taco salad is stupid easy.  Do yourself a favor and buy sliced olives in a can and pre-chopped tomatoes and onions.
  • This White Chicken Chili is basically a matter of dumping things together and stirring them.  Plus, you eat it with corn chips instead of a spoon so bonus on less dishes to wash!
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Crock Pot Recipe: Turkish Beef In A Creamy Tomato Sauce (And Your Chance To Win A Crock Pot!)

I received a gift from Red Gold as a thanks for sharing this with you.  All opinions are my own.

RedGold

It’s Fall, which means we have the beginning of a new season…. Crock-Pot® season! Beginning September 17 through October 8, Red Gold is giving away TWO CUSTOM BRANDED CROCK POTS A DAY. That is sweet – 44 winners total! You can enter here on Facebook every day. If you’re looking for some Crock Pot inspiration; they also have lots of great recipes on their site.

tomatoes

My Turkish Beef in a Creamy Tomato Sauce recipe got that exact response so I thought I’d share it with you. Let me know if you try it!

crock pot

 

Crock Pot Recipe: Turkish Beef In A Creamy Tomato Sauce

Crock Pot Recipe: Turkish Beef In A Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds round steak (about 3/4 inches thick) cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. dried shallots
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. Turkish seasoning (or 1/2 tsp. paprika and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 14.5 oz can Red Gold crushed tomatoes; pureed
  • 1 14.5 oz can Red Gold garlic & olive oil petite diced tomatoes; pureed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 8 oz container sour cream
  • 16 oz cooked egg noodles

Instructions

  1. Combine steak, shallots, garlic powder, and minced onion in crock pot. Stir to combine.
  2. Combine flour, Turkish seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir well.
  3. Add to crock pot and mix well.
  4. Add tomato puree and bay leaf to crock pot and mix well.
  5. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
  6. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaf. Stir in sour cream.
  7. Serve over noodles.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/09/22/crock-pot-recipe-turkish-beef-in-a-creamy-tomato-sauce/

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A Kid-Friendly, Easy To Make Recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole :: Share The Table With Barilla

At the Family Forward conference, one of the things I most appreciated was that my entire family experienced the learning sessions together.  It is so frustrating as a mom to get some great information, be excited to bring it home and try to implement it with your family only to be met with a lack of interest that can only be described as “borderline eye rolling.”

When everyone hears the same information at the same time, though, something interesting happens.  It sticks. It’s no longer Mom jabbering about the importance of this and that – it’s the whole family that (kind of) hears the important message (mostly).

For the #ShareTheTable presentation we listened to an Italian chef from Barilla, who told us about awesome picnics on the beach (thanks Chef. I live in Michigan. There are like, 3 days a year that is even possible and my kids have asked 17 times already when we can do that).

Barilla Chef

Then, a nutritionist and family counselor spoke to us about family meals from their unique perspectives and gave us some suggestions for successful family meal.

Conversation starters for family dinner

I know we’ve all heard that family meals are important and seem to have some type of effect on all of the things we are all concerned about and hope to avoid… but one thing that got my attention was some research that showed:

A surprising percentage of teens (24%) desire more frequent family dinners. This rises to 52% among families that have three or fewer family dinners per week. Almost all (94%) of parents with three or fewer family dinners per week wish they have more.

The KIDS actually want more frequent family dinners. That was interesting to me because kids – especially teenagers – seem to so rarely know what’s good for them.

Then we made a family meal, except the dads kind of took over that part which was somehow adorable.  It was a version of this salad that included cooked chicken breast. They made a mean chicken pasta salad.

Pasta salad

Back at home I thought about the family meal idea more.  I’ve been cooking with my kids since they were little and they have pretty decent kitchen skills, but the one place I still have to watch closely is the measurement department. A teaspoon vs a tablespoon, how to be efficient and use one measuring cup instead of 3 different ones, and so on.

I developed this ‘measure by the container’ recipe for kids just to make it easier.  I realize that is an awful lot of cheese, however, I have a reluctant fish eater and other than a few exceptions have to more or less cheese or batter coat any fish related dishes. Let me know if you give it a try!

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A Kid-Friendly, Easy To Make Recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole :: Share The Table With Barilla

A Kid-Friendly, Easy To Make Recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole :: Share The Table With Barilla

Ingredients

  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 can of milk (3/4 cup milk)
  • 3 cans (about 5 ounces each) tuna in water, drained
  • 1 box 8 ounces pasta, cooked
  • 1 bag (8 ounces shredded cheese)

Instructions

  1. 1 Heat the oven to 400°F. Stir the soup, milk, tuna and noodles in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Put half of the cheese on top.
  2. 2 Bake the tuna mixture for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Stir the tuna mixture. Put the rest of the cheese on top.
  3. 3 Bake for 5 minutes or until the bread crumb mixture is golden brown.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/09/15/a-kid-friendly-easy-to-make-recipe-for-tuna-noodle-casserole/


 

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Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins – They’re Locally Delicious

Michigan is home to many agricultural delights, provided you are only hungry during the months of June, July, and August. The rest of the year the ground is frozen solid and we have to use ice picks to harvest potatoes. When things like asparagus and rhubarb start sprouting from the ground that so recently was covered with several feet of snow, it stops us in our tracks.  And we make muffins and cakes and casseroles and quiches and pies. Anything but those stupid ice potatoes*.

We were not immune from the strong urge to create something delicious out of the strange, tangy and for-some-reason-I-can’t-recall-why-but-think-somehow-is-poisonous-but-maybe-to-only-dogs fruit (or maybe vegetable?); rhubarb.

We live in the city, though, so we don’t have delicious things sprouting from the ground in our yard. Just a bunch of stuff our dog took outside during the winter, chewed up, and left for us to re-discover once the snow melted.

Rhubarb

We headed down to the Downtown Market last weekend and got a hold of some rhubarb. If you haven’t taken your kids there yet; do it.  It’s like a half day field trip and approximately 211% more fun than going to the grocery store.  The vendors all chatted my kids up, let them try samples (Every 8 year old should know about chèvre, yes? Yes; I think so.), thanked them profusely for visiting, and asked them to please visit again.

Maybelle is hands down the strongest baker in our family.  She has a charmingly old-fashioned taste and chose to make this  Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins recipe from The Baker’s Daughter.

The muffins themselves are not overly sweet; but the topping has a nice sugary cinnamony crunch that contrasts really nicely with the slight tanginess of the rhubarb and sour cream.  Here she is in action:

Chopped rhubarb

The batter will be very thick.  It’s OK; that means you did it right.

Making Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

 

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups 1/4-inch-diced rhubarb
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or line a muffin tin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to blend.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Lightly stir the sour cream mixture into the dry ingredients with a spatula until the batter just comes together; do not overmix.
  5. Gently stir in the diced rhubarb. The batter will be thick.
  6. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, using the back of a spoon or a small spatula to settle the batter into the cups. The batter should mound a bit higher than the tops of the cups.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Sprinkle a generous 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over each muffin.
  8. Bake the muffins until they’re golden brown, spring back most of the way when gently pressed, and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Carefully lift the muffins out of the pan—if necessary, loosen them with the tip of a paring knife—and let them cool somewhat. Serve warm. Or cold. Either way, they're wonderful.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/06/20/cinnamon-rhubarb-muffins-theyre-locally-delicious/

And the end result. So many muffins.  So many delicious muffins…

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

*Ice potatoes are a complete fabrication. It just seems cooler than eating produce trucked in from warmer climates and using an entire mountain-top’s worth of fossil fuel to get strawberries to us in February which, sadly, is what actually does happen.

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Dinner At The Heritage Restaurant; Because A.P. Likes Delicacies

Tonight we had a very frank discussion with our children.

“When we make dinner, and you complain, it makes us feel like throwing it out in the back yard, crying for a few moments, and then putting you in the back yard as well”.

This is why we do not have a trophy case for our parenting awards.  These are not Positive, Affirming words to share with children.  However…

Me being, well – me; I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. “Let’s brainstorm new dinner ideas! What is your favorite meal?”

AP immediately replied. “I like delicacies”. Let’s remember that A.P. almost never replies, and if he does, it is generally 8-10 hours after the conversation has ended.

So. What does one say to that? Could you describe the delicacy, sir?

That one thing we had in a spoon at that one restaurant that was like, a jelly. I think it had pomegranates? And the toasted nuts were like, a nice crunch. I like things like that.

Teaching your kids to eat good food

Ten years people. TEN YEARS of giving kids menus the stink eye. A decade of hauling our kids around to various restaurants; trying to provide them with enough exposure to different cultures in the Upper Midwest that they would realize there is a whole world out there. A world in which chicken nuggets are met with a mild sneer, and complex flavors are not drowned in ketchup.

Where did A.P. have such a palate forming experience? At the Heritage. Three months ago.

When we got there, Maybelle said, “I am kind of nervous because this is a fancy restaurant”.

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It isn’t though.  The servers are all a little nervous too.  Sometimes they break the cork in the wine, or accidentally set a plate down too hard and wreck the perfect presentation.  Or drop a piece of bread on the table instead of the plate.

They are students in the Culinary program at GRCC; and they each have to do a stint in the Heritage Restaurant before they can graduate.  They would all rather be in the kitchen, but are so passionate about the food these little slips don’t even matter.

It makes for a very relaxed environment and a perfect one to teach your kids how to eat when they do go to a fancy restaurant someday.  Which fork do you use when? What do you do with the little dish of sorbet in the middle of the meal? Do you applaud after a table side preparation? These are all good things to learn before you are 1) on a date and 2) at a business meeting with clients.

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It’s not an inexpensive evening for us; but the value of learning these lessons, exposing our kids to fine dining and different cuisines, and supporting an amazing resource in our community is well worth it.  The four of us each had an entrée, an appetizer, a desert and two table side preparations for $140.  They have a nice wine list and a few beers too. My husband and I also got wine and that isn’t included in that amount; but they serve some from Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville which we also love, so our tab was a bit higher.

We tried all of the following; assessed in baseball analogy for no good reason whatsoever:

Duck Egg (base hit), Mock Eel (strike out), Foie Gras Crème Brûlée  (home run), Steak and a Bone (base hit with RBI), Vegan Wellington (foul ball), Char-grilled American lamb chops (take a base), and an obscene number of deserts (home run).

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If you sign up for the email list, you’ll get special offers that can bring the price down and the servers usually have some type of special coupon you can use on your next visit. They do not have kids’ meals, so be ready for that! We’ve been shoving weird food in our kids’ faces since they could eat and although they definitely didn’t love everything; they tried everything.  It was a 2.5 hour meal so the table side preparations and dessert cart being wheeled by every 15 minutes become high entertainment.

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They’ll open again late this summer.  In the meantime, take a moment to prepare yourself for your 10 year old son requesting an amuse bouche.

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Easy Crack(er) Cookies

When I was in college I was the Best Cook Anyone Knew. I was the designated birthday cake-maker (from a box), the one who knew how to make spaghetti taste amazing (two shakes of garlic salt), and the one who knew how to make Chicken Pot Pie (frozen vegetables, cream of chicken soup, cooked chicken, and Bisquick).

I believed the hype. I thought I actually was a good cook; but that’s because I didn’t realize I was being graded on a curve and no else could cook anything at all.

Then my friend Erin learned how to make ‘Crack Cookies’ and thus began the end of my reign.  Soon, people were baking their own birthday cakes from a box, adding garlic salt to their own spaghetti, and reading the back of the Bisquick box for the Chicken Pot Pie recipe.

It’s still hard to talk about.

My children can make a huge mess out of just a few ingredients! It’s a gift.

It has taken me years and years to allow Crack Cookies (renamed Cracker Cookies; not as a reflection of my Appalachian Heritage but because they are made from crackers and duh; I have kids now) to re-enter my consciousness.

My husband and I have been married for 11 years, and when I made the Crack(er) Cookies recently he asked me why in the world I hadn’t made these before.  I explained the healing process, but he didn’t care.  He just at the rest of the pan of cookies, looked up, and said “Huh? Do what now?”

Melting the chocolate verrrry slowly.

Melting the chocolate verrrry slowly.

They are so easy it is alarming, and so deliciously addictive I think once every 11 years may be a good schedule.  I’ll let you decide for yourself though.

Easy Crack(er) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.
  3. Combine the brown sugar and butter in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
  4. Pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate. Clearly this is a two person job.
  7. Put in the freezer to cool. Everyone will just eat it from there, don't bother taking them out.
http://www.thebigbinder.com/2014/05/12/easy-cracker-cookies/

We made an entire pan. We ate it quickly. Like we didn’t even bother to cut it up and make it pretty, we just hunked off piece by piece and chowed down.  You will, too.

Crack(er) cookies

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