Categories
cooking & recipes eats

Recipe: Andrea’s Clam Chowder

clam chowder

Lately my favorite place to store recipes is on Pinterest. I have a board for recipes I want to try – and another one for recipes that are all kinds of tried and true. It’s nice to be able to scroll through a bunch of meals that are known favorites in my family as I’m planning my menu for the week.

But some of my favorite recipes aren’t online and thus are un-pinnable! I’m trying to rectify this and I thought an easy solution would be to share some of them here.

Today I want to share with you a clam chowder recipe that I got from my my bestie, Andrea. She shared it with me awhile back and my life hasn’t been the same since. Sometimes I’ll call her in the grocery store to ask what kind of clams to buy again and what brands does she like and have I told her how much I love her lately.

me & andrea

Me and Andrea wayyyyy back when!

Ange and I go way back – we met at a bowling party for a mutual friend back in high school and were basically inseparable from that day forward. Though we live 1,500 miles apart now – we have one of those super easy friendships where we always pick up where we left off whenever we do get to see each other as if no time has passed at all. Love that.

In our hometown back in MA we have an annual Chowder Fest every year where restaurants and chefs from all over compete to make the best clam chowder. It’s a major summer event and before moving to Wisconsin I went basically every year – so although I’m probably not a clam chowder expert, I do like to think I have pretty high standards when it comes to my chowder. Seasoning and consistency are pretty important to me and I consider myself kind of a chowder purist – I like it simple and this recipe is simply delicious.

andrea's clam chowder

Andrea’s Clam Chowder

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 1 1/4 lb potatoes
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1.5 tsp thyme (fresh use a little less than bottled)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 cans clam (1 minced, 2 chopped or whatever sounds good to you)
  • 8 oz clam juice
  • 1 quart heavy cream

Directions

  1. Slice 1/2 pound of bacon into small pieces, and fry in a large pot until crispy. Once crispy to the touch add in celery and onion (cut into small pieces so they will fit on a spoon.) Cook down until celery is looking translucent and is soft to the touch.
  2. Add seasoning to pot, more can be added if flavor is lacking at the end of all cooking. Stir mixture together until thoroughly seasoned. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes until flour is coating all items in pan.
  3. Add 2-3 cans of clams (I usually do 1 minced and 2 chopped) and clam juice to pot.
  4. Concoction so far can be frozen for future preparation!
  5. In separate pot cook cubed potatoes (again, bite sized) until they are soft enough to eat, but not too soft that they will fall apart.
  6. Add potatoes (drained of all water) and heavy cream to large pot and cook until thoroughly warm. If chowder is thin then you can cook it for longer (it will thicken as it stands) or create a roux using melted butter and flour and adding it to the chowder which will help it thicken. To really make the flavor complete add 3 drops of hot sauce!

I love this clam chowder recipe – I hope you will, too!

Categories
dieting & exercise eats family fun

Winter Wish List (2012 / 2013)

winter wonderland

Winter came in with a bang this year with a snowstorm delivering 20 inches of snow in some areas of my town. While I look forward to a White Christmas, let’s think about the winter season ahead and make some goals and wishes for the season.

Things to Do

  • blow bubbles outside and watch them freeze
  • Ring in the new year – I want to throw a little Family New Years Party with the kids and our in laws visiting. Order some take out, watch a movie and play board games, make a fun dessert and see how late we can stay up!
  • throw a party – maybe a New Present Party for the kids (everyone bring a fun new present they received and have fun playing with friends?) or a book exchange party?

Things to Make

Places to Go

  • a local museum like the Geology Museum or the Mustard Museum – we’ve been wanting to visit both since we moved here but haven’t done it yet.
  • Visit the Botanical Gardens indoor garden and soak up some nature on a cold winter day.
  • My favorite yoga studio – Time to start actively trying to get into better shape again either via yoga or some active video games or DVDs.

New Recipes to Try

Categories
eats family fun photography

Guess who’s back?

Back in town… Momma’s back…

Did you notice I was gone? I was gone. For like 2 1/2 weeks. We went to Massachusetts for an epic vacation filled with birthdays, a wedding, a romantic getaway, hot dogs, clam strips, Boston Cream Donuts and lots of Dunkin Donuts iced coffee for good measure. Like it was goin’ out of style, guys. Cause it kind of was.

I have a ton of pictures and a ton of stories that I want to share but I’m still unpacking and cleaning and running the kids from thing to thang and oh, guess what? My refrigerator died. Seriously. I know I have said a few times that I’d love to replace our ridiculous refrigerator that has had problem after problem after problem since we moved in, but I didn’t want to replace ALL of our perishable food, too. That part does not please me. Nor the water all over my floor – and apparently we have a weirdly sized space for a refrigerator that has us ALL KINDS of limited and all the websites are saying, “Sure we can deliver that to you… in two weeks.” Ummm…. I don’t have a refrigerator guys. I was kind of hoping to get one sooner than that.

So we’re going to the mall this afternoon when hubby takes his lunch break and we’re going to talk to Sears and probably Best Buy and say “this is what size refrigerator we can have. Is there ANYTHING we can buy today and bring home with us or maybe get delivered tomorrow???” So wish us luck. May our next refrigerator fit in the kitchen and not be possessed and strange and stupid.

Here are some cute pictures as a thank you for reading this tiny rant – a little preview of blog posts to come…

another beautiful day. on 365 Project

things that make you feel small. on 365 Project

Dusk. on 365 Project

Blueberry picking. on 365 Project

She's three: pretty, pretty princess. on 365 Project

Her first haircut. on 365 Project

Attitude. on 365 Project

Categories
eats family fun memes & carnivals

Simplifiying and Decluttering: The Kitchen Counters!

I’ve been following along with some of my favorite bloggers as they declutter and simplify their living areas. Both Simple Mom and Modern Parents, Messy Kids are tackling their kitchens right now and I was thrilled for a chance to tackle some of the problem areas in our kitchen.

Yesterday I showed you some of my progress with our food storage cabinets. Today I tackled one of my Big Bad Kitchen Wolves, the kitchen counter tops. We’ve been in our home for about a year now and while we’ve made great strides in making it our own, we are still struggling with finding enough storage space for all of our things. Certainly some of this is about having too much stuff but a lot of it is simply that we don’t have as much storage furniture as we’d like to.

Our kitchen is a prime example of this – as the heart of our home, we use our kitchen for cooking, eating, homework, craft projects, coloring and more. It’s where we bring the mail each afternoon until it can get sorted and it’s often the home for things we use often but haven’t defined a permanent place for yet. The counter tops are the work horse of this room, serving a LOT of purposes and lately it’s become simply overrun with STUFF and I knew it was time to really whip it into shape!

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Here is the counter around the kitchen sink. I’ll admit, I purposely took the picture before doing dishes to make the big reveal feel more impressive! But if we’re going to be honest, my sink looks like this a lot. Too often I’d say. And if my sink is this cluttered, the counter tops hardly stand a chance and the room feels messy before I’ve even begun to think about tackling everything else. Most days if I can just get the sink empty, I’m happy, and I’ll likely ignore the rest of it.

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So the first order of business was to get my sink clean and empty and get the dishes done so that I could focus on the rest of the mess. I bought some new tupperware recently and have been slowly hand washing all the new pieces before introducing them to the tupperware cabinet. I’d do a small stack here and there in between the rest of our dishes and have been humming and hawing on the final stack. Well I finally got the rest of it cleaned today in addition to the rest of the dishes, so now they can start being productive members of the household and not just take up valuable counter space!

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So here’s my final result in this corner. With the dishes out of the way I was able to clearly see what I was dealing with – like empty peanut butter jars and wine bottles that I’d never bothered to deal with, knives with no home and other random odds and ends that I didn’t even know were there.

So the things which stayed are : the blender (for now), the spice rack (for now), our digital food scale – now in a new location, we’ll see how I like it there. The kitchen timer – this moves all the time but it’s small, so I don’t care. The knife block and cutting boards, our cooking oil and spray, salt and pepper and utensils, a jug of water that I like to use when I’m cooking, a container of toothpicks so I can tell when my cakes are done – and a spoon rest. I honestly still feel like this is almost too much but it is organized and most of it gets used a LOT so for now I’m okay with it.

dsc_2147

So this is our main prep counter where I do most of my assembling and cooking and plating. It’s also the unofficial mail center where I leave letters for the hubby to look at – and it’s where my son puts his homework each afternoon briefly before storing it back in his backpack when he’s done. Homework out means it’s not done yet.

This picture doesn’t look too bad – the kitchen aid lives there because it’s too heavy to move around. That spot is where I use it when I’m baking and that’s where it stays. Other residents on this counter included bills that were ready to be filed, a sack of potatoes, a bird house / piggie bank, crayons and a bowl of fruit. And the toaster oven.

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So this was mostly about sprucing up and a quick tidying. I put the files in the file cabinet, I moved the crayons to a new home but also brought in my son’s school supplies -a little yellow caddy that holds his pencils, glue, etc. I put the potatoes in the fruit bowl and put the bananas on top. The scale, timer and green water pitcher moved to the sink counter as you saw and the brita water filter moved also. The red plate was put away though I may put it back simply because it’s pretty – maybe it can hold the mail until it’s sorted?

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This is the microwave counter, also known as “everything else” – it’s not in high usage so all our other miscellaneous stuff ends up there whether I like it or not it would seem. That picture frame? I need to hang it. But does it need to be on the counter in the meantime? The top of the microwave is covered with stuff that may or may not be necessary. My iPad is buried somewhere under all the stuff – I use it for looking up recipes while I’m cooking.

dsc_2150

Much better. This counter now holds: the microwave (obviously), tissues and our microwave plate cover. The brita water filter, our sugar jar (I think this might work better than it’s old home, we’ll see), a bowl for holding odds and ends like tape and things that need a home soon and a napkin holder that I converted into a pen holder. Lastly is the iPad (look you can actually see it!) and our hand vac.

So the end result is I still feel like we have maybe too much stuff, but I also feel like we do use most of it and that now it’s organized and accessible, which is awesome. Now the key will be to keep up with it and not let it slide back into Before Pictures world…

 

Categories
dieting & exercise eats family fun photography

Hiding Indoors : An impromptu Tea Tasting Party For One.

This morning we had our first significant snow of the season. Nothing like the snowfall that Massachusetts saw Halloween weekend, but enough that snow was actually touching the ground and staying there. It was mixed with rain and heavy wind that was so loud you could practically HEAR how cold it was outside.

I’d been planning to take BB to the mall for another early morning walk, but the snow and the rain and the wind just zapped all the motivation out of me. Sure, all I had to do was go into my garage and drive to the mall and then briefly get out of the car to walk inside, but I just didn’t have it in me.

I briefly entertained the notion of driving to our local Target with the fancy parking garage, but I was kinda concerned I’d spend all kinds of money on things we don’t need (come on, don’t pretend like that never happens at Target). In the end, I totally said whatevs to the walking thing and stayed home.

So I put in a movie for the little lady (Curious George) and then thought about how I wanted to spend my day hiding indoors.

The first idea that popped to mind was taking lots of pictures of the snow falling on the windows. At first most of the pictures just looked like rain, but as the snow continued to fall, I began to notice definite snow flakes on the windows and not just rain drops.

Then I decided it was time for a warm beverage. But what to ruin my diet with since I wasn’t going to be exercising? Cocoa and cider would quickly add up as I had a feeling there’d be more than one drink consumed today in our chilly house.

Tea seemed like the logical solution, so I decided to throw myself a little One Woman Tea Tasting Party. I went through the cupboard and pulled out some old favorites and some new flavors to try. Here are the results:

First cup of the morning was Bigelow Vanilla Chai : I always like a good chai tea, but I don’t think I brewed this one very well as it was kind of weak and disappointing overall. Or maybe it’s just not very good, I don’t know. The problem with not drinking tea constantly is that sometimes I can’t remember what I liked last time (Which should make this post pretty handy to reference later).

At naptime I enjoyed a mug of Twinings Lady Grey : An old favorite, I love this sweet tea which reminds me of fruit loops. With a touch of milk and sugar, it’s a nice relaxing tea that instantly comforts.

After picking up MM from the bus stop (brrrr) I warmed up with Twinings Indian Spice Chai : Sooo much better than the Bigelow, this is what a good chai tea should be. Delicious and I had way too much fun reading the back of the tea bag from top to bottom, very enjoyable.

While MM did his homework I decided to try a new flavor, Bigelow’s Constant Comment : What is the deal with the name of this tea? What does that even mean?But it promised orange peel and spices and that sounded good in theory. Unfortunately what it lacked in initial flavor it made up for with an awful after taste. I actually dumped it out after three sips.

While prepping dinner, I decided it was time to make my favorite tea, Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice : I discovered this tea at a Pizzeria Unos of all places and instantly fell in love. Not only does this tea taste amazing and kind of like red hots, it requires almost no sugar and I drink it without milk. So it’s healthy, delicious and never gets boring – plus I hear cinnamon curbs cravings. Perfection.

I really need to try some of the other Harney teas because I kind of want to marry this one, what if the others are equally amazing? I could achieve tea-vana and live happily ever brewed.

Also, after talking to my friend Amber on Facebook about all things tea, she tipped me off to the brand The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Has anyone else had these teas or coffees? The flavors sound kind of amazing. People should buy me some now so I can try them.

What’s your favorite tea or warm beverage to snuggle with on a cold day?

Categories
cooking & recipes eats

Recipe: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

french onion soup @ mommablogsalot

This French Onion Soup recipe is so easy to make and absolutely delicious. It’s a little different from most French onion soup recipes because it uses soy sauce instead of beef broth – though we aren’t still doing a Vegetarian diet, I actually prefer this version to the traditional recipes. It’s also one of the most inexpensive meals in my repertoire as most of the ingredients are things we always have on hand.

My original source for this recipe, which I’ve adapted slightly doesn’t seem to be online anymore – so I’m sharing it again here for soup lovers everywhere!

French Onion Soup

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 394

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 8 oz. of sliced French bread
  • 4 oz. your favorite cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oil or water in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and stir until the onions are well coated.
  4. Add the water and soy sauce and stir well.
  5. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, until the onions are tender, about 45 minutes. Add more water if the soup becomes too thick.
  6. Serve in individual bowls topped with the French bread and cheddar cheese. Microwave to melt the cheese if you’d like – or put them in the oven on broil if you have oven safe bowls.

Use leftover French bread later in the week to make French toast or serve on the side of a pasta dish.

Categories
eats reviews

Review: Herman T’s BBQ Sauce Mix

Herman T's BBQ Sauce Mix

I have recently discovered a love for barbecue sauce. Growing up I was one of those Plain Foods Kids and, for the most part, the only condiment I ever really used was ketchup. Well, I’ve come a long way baby! One of my favorite ways to dress up a piece of chicken or a great hamburger is with some delicious barbecue sauce so I was very intrigued when I got an opportunity to review Herman T’s BBQ Sauce Mix .

BBQ sauce cooking

Rather than the traditional bottle of sauce that I’m used to buying in the store, Herman T’s sells a packet with seasoning that you add to some ketchup and water and cook right on your stove top! The sauce was created by Herman T Jones back in the 50’s – he shared it with anyone who came by his house and it was always a hit. He eventually passed the recipe on to his grandson, Brian, who had the good sense to get it into mass production.

I liked the idea of cooking my own sauce and was very happy to see an ingredient list that contained things I’d actually heard of – the natural foodie momma in me was very pleased with a list of ingredients that I could actually recognize in a store! One pouch of mix makes 3/4 gallon of BBQ sauce, making it quite a bang for your buck. Great for anyone who uses a lot of BBQ sauce! Buy one packet for $7.95 or two for $15.

We tested out the sauce with some burgers and I have to say, cooking the sauce couldn’t be easier. Mix 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of ketchup and 1 tablespoon of the Herman T’s BBQ Mix and whisk them together to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve the sauce warm over whatever’s cooking! The first time I made the mix, my husband and I agreed that it was a little on the ketchupy side. So the next time I made it, I added in a bit more of the mix – much better! I like that you can tailor the sauce to your preferences.

Herman T's prepared BBQ sauce on a burger

WIN IT!

I’m giving away a 2 pack of Herman T’s BBQ Sauce Mix at my Review Blog – make sure you head over there for a chance to win! The giveaway ends Wednesday August 18th at 12pm EST.

Categories
eats

Aloha Friday: Sweet Tooth Talkin’

So I’m going to a BBQ tomorrow night and I signed up to bring a dessert, because, well – I’m that girl – the one who brings dessert. When it comes to cooking, I am much more of a pastry chef than a grill master or a side dish maven. I make dessert.

So you’d think that by now – one day before the event – I’d know what I was bringing. But I cannot make up my mind and still have no idea. Cookies, cupcakes, pie – from scratch, semi-homemade or store bought? I honestly don’t know yet. Part of the problem is that all of those things sound good. Part of the problem is that we are crazy busy and I’m not sure how much time I really have to whip something up or how motivated I’m feeling. We also have a company picnic tomorrow afternoon so that pretty much leaves today and tomorrow morning to throw this together – so I really need to get moving!

So my Aloha Friday question(s)  is/are:

What is your favorite dessert to make and / or eat? What dessert would you make if you only had until basically 10am tomorrow to make it happen?

Aloha Friday @ An Island Life

Kailani @ An Island Life takes it easy on Fridays by posting a simple question for you to answer – and she invites you to do the same. Just post your own question on your blog and leave your link at An Island Life. Don’t forget to visit the other participants! It’s a great way to make new bloggy friends!

Categories
books & reading eats reviews

Book Review: Eating for Beginners by Melanie Rehak

Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky KidI just finished reading EATING FOR BEGINNERS, a new memoir by Melanie Rehak who you might remember from her book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Woman Who Created Her. In this book Rehak explores all the places food comes from, trying to really understand the choices she is making when deciding what to eat (and what to feed her picky toddler). She joins the kitchen staff of a small Brooklyn restaurant, visits local farms and suppliers, battles sea sickness on a fishing boat and attempts to get her son to eat more than just cocktail party foods.

It’s kind of like the Omnivores Dilemma for mothers – except I think everyone should read it, not just parents. I found the book so accessable and enjoyable to read – her writing style is conversational in all the best ways but with content that is informative and with the potential to really broaden your view of the food industry. If you have a passion for eating local foods or are interested in why some people do, this book is a real eye opener but it’s also totally guilt-free. Rehak is all about doing what works best in every situation – and if that means frozen chicken nuggets, that’s fine!

The book reads like a good friend sharing her experiences and giving all the best information she can in the most accessible way. I love how expertly Rehak combines her parental anecdotes  with tales of restaurant and farm life – with some fun recipes and silliness thrown in! It had me laughing on a nightly basis, drooling over delicious descriptions of food, ear marking recipes and quoting passages out loud to my husband constantly! I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best books I’ve read this year and maybe ever – I want to share this book with everyone I know!

BUY IT!

You can get your own copy of Eating for Beginners at local booksellers and online retailers like Amazon.com.

WIN IT!

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin, I’m giving away 10 copies of Eating for Beginners at Mommas Review! Head over there for a chance to win – the giveaway ends July 27th at 12pm EST.