Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sara's Soap Box

The family dinner is so important to me. The time I spend with my family at the dinner table is priceless as well as entertaining. Besides the obvious importance of conversation, I feel that the dinner table is great place to social skills, teach manners, and eating proper portions. Setting the mood for the family dinner table is important to me as well, Have a clean, relaxing environment, have someone set the table (teach your family the right way to set the table), do not have the television on, and leave heated conversations at the door. We have a rule in our family: If I took the time to cook it...take the time to plate it! Paper plates are off limits at the dinner table. Of course, environmentally, this is a great choice, but I feel it shows a certain amount of pride as well. I also think that you can learn a lot about your family from cooking with them as well. I used to be the territorial type in the kitchen. But I have learned throughout the years that engaging your family in the kitchen is not only helpful but encourages those who help to try new things, learn about eating healthier, learn how to use cutlery and appliances safely, express a new form of creativity, and is a great forum for conversation. As for the mess, it may be a mess the first time, but if you have them help clean up the mess and teach them better ways to prepare without creating an extra chore...they will learn. Last night it was one of the “littles” turn to help prepare dinner. Usually, I have family members help one at a time. This is a great way to spend quality one-on-one time. Her nickname is “BG”, she is 4, and this is how the conversation went:
BG “You need a gween bag Mommy.”
Me “A what?”
BG “A gween bag.”
Me “What’s that?”
BG “It’s a bag...that you put things in...and it makes them so they don’t get
Me “Things like what?”
BG “Like vegebals.”
Me “Oh...where did you learn about these green bags?”
BG “On TV”
Me “How do I get them?”
BG “At da stowe.”
Me “What if I don’t have any money?”
BG “Daddy will be home in a minute..I wiw tew him to buy you some.”
Me “Thanks...that would be nice.”

Maybe I should focus a little more on keeping the television off as BG loves infomercials. We prepared a basic meal - Mandarin salad and french bread pizza (gourmet I know, but it was sooo good).If you have never had french bread pizza, you are missing out!

The last ingredient to the Mandarin salad was edamame.

I only had edamame in the shell so BG and I sat and shelled them together. I could see she was having some difficulty, since usually she just bites them and eats them as a snack-she never had to do it by hand. Once it looked like she had the hang of things, I started to mix the dressing together. Only to look over a few minutes later to catch “BG” shelling the edamame in her mouth and spitting them into the salad! Good thing we weren’t having guests for dinner.

Finally, I had both of the "littles" set the table. It is great problem solving for young children to set the table. They always love this chore. They both disappeared to the back yard and emerged minutes later with handfuls of dandelions to place in the center of the table. There was never a lovelier centerpiece.
As I always say, sometimes the best dinners are the most simple...the ones that bring you back to your childhood and your family dinner table...and last night's dinner was just that!

Please share your thoughts about the family dinner table.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


It's always fun to switch up the mundane dinner dishes with something new. Even better is when it receives rave reviews. I am always looking for fun ways to serve the same old thing...but I respect the basics...The basics are the flavors that bring us all to the table. And of course, I love it if it is easy. Effortless doesn't mean you were lazy or just didn't care...it just means you know your way around the kitchen. My motto is : work smarter...not harder. So try this one out and tell me what you think! (Oh by the way, the title says: sirloin wrapped asparagus and teriyaki sauce....oh yea baby!)


1 pound fresh asparagus, with ends snapped off
½ pound sirloin steak
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper

Pound out the sirloin until very thin (like two sheets of paper together). Combine the oil and spices in a shallow dish and rest steak in it for 30 minutes. Cut the steak into strips and wrap around the asparagus. Fry in a hot skillet for about four minutes. Reduce heat to medium and drizzle with teriyaki sauce. Let sauce caramelize onto the asparagus; watch it so it doesn’t burn.


2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons Soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses

In a saucepan, stir all of the ingredients together. Bring to a bubble over medium-high heat. Cook for five minutes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Sesame Snap Peas

Wow...sorry, a whole week without posting. It's been crazy around here with spring break and Easter. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.
So Easter is a sure sign that Spring has sprung. Naturally, spring brings lighter menus. So, today's recipe is a fun take on meatballs. I love to cook meals that have a bit of Asian flair. Sweet and sour sauce is one of my favorite flavors and it is so versatile. I brush it on pork chops, or dip chicken in it, or like this recipe, I dunk meatballs in it. But even though the meatballs are super yummy, the snap peas have got to be one of my all time favorites. If I ever do write a cookbook, I think I will have a chapter titled "Forgotten Vegetables", vegetables like parsnips, brussel sprouts, and snap peas left in the pod will headline the chapter. The thing about the vegetables, is that they need very little flavor added-just the right flavor. In this case, sesame oil is the secret. try these easy recipes and let me know what you think.

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon ground mustard

1 cup onions, cubed
1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, cubed
15 1/4 oz can pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 pound snap peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
salt and pepper

In a skillet, combine the onions, and peppers and saute them gently. Leave a bit of snap to them and remove from heat and set aside.
In the same skillet, combine the sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, ginger, and vinegar and mix well. Apply heat and cook on medium high until it begins to bubble.
Add the pineapple and then the onion and peppers.

For the meatballs, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix completely.
Roll the meatball meat into 1-inch balls and brown in a skillet for about four minutes each side.

Gently place the browned meatballs in the sweet and sour sauce and simmer for fifteen minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil on high in a wok. Add the snap peas.
Toss constantly on high heat for two minutes.

Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and cook for an additional minute.
Season with salt and pepper. Add the black sesame seeds.
Serve immediately.
I served the meatballs with steamed brown rice and a touch of chili garlic sauce.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Just a Reminder

Hey Everyone! Unfortunately, last week's class at Thanksgiving Point was cancelled. But for those of you that were signed up, the same class will be offered tomorrow at The Finishing School. All the details are posted below-if you have any questions drop me a line. I hope to see you there...this is a fun class.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

So, I have this funny issue with casseroles. I am not sure if this is factual, but I think there is an epidemic where I live. It seems everything is cooked in a casserole dish, a crock pot, or contains one of the following ingredients: Cool Whip, Jell-O, and Ore-Ida potatoes. Now really, I quite enjoy these dishes, but I have some difficulty going with the flow. But today, I was doing some deep cleaning in the kitchen and was re-arranging my cookbooks, and found myself perusing them (I collect vintage and obscure cookbooks). So anyway, I found that casseroles were kind of a staple back in the day...it seems that pretty much anything can be made into a casserole. So tonight, I tried something new. It was pretty basic, but it went well...worthy of a post I guess. So here it is....my tribute to the casserole dish......ta ta ta TUM! enjoy.

Tamale Pie
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup olives, sliced
1 1/2 cups corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tea. spoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika

2 cups cheddar or pepper jack cheese, grated
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a skillet, cook meat, pepper, onion, and garlic until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Next, add the corn and the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes.

add the olives
and the spices. Mix well and pour into a 10 inch pie dish or a casserole dish. (spray it first with non-stick spray.
Combine the cheese, cornmeal, salt, and water in a saucepan
Cook over medium high heat until it thickens. add the olive oil and stir until smooth. Pour and spread over the meat mixture. And bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

I served it with a simple salad.

it was pretty good for a one dish dinner. But casseroles look so boring on a plate! Next time, I think I will make actual cornbread and top it off with that, and probably add some chilies to it. I liked it this way, it is much like baked polenta. Let me know when you make it.