Dinner Tonight: Comfort Food


I haven’t posted a recipe in awhile, so I thought I’d jump in with one that saved the day when I was craving comfort food. I didn’t really have a plan on the day I made this up, so I started rummaging around for what I had. It’s a throwback to my Minnesota roots, meals that contain everything in one dish – so yummy.

Spinach/rice11 lb ground beef
1 onion
1 can diced tomatoes
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach
Italian seasoning
2ish cups cooked brown rice
1ish cup cottage cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the onion, add ground beef and cook until done. Add the diced tomatoes and frozen spinach, seasoning, and salt. Remove from heat, stir in rice and cottage cheese. Pour into a 9×11 baking dish and cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.


Dessert: Ice Cream Pie


I grew up eating this dessert. My mom made it on all occasions, and sometimes Just Because. It involves a chocolate Rice Krispie crust (which I always tried to steal pieces of as a kid), and two kinds of ice cream. For Christmas I used Peppermint and Mint Chocolate Chip, but another great combination is Cookies and Cream with Mint Chocolate Chip, or Cookie Dough with Chocolate Fudge, or something peanut buttery with something chocolatey.

You get the idea.


Melt a package of chocolate chips in a double boiler with about 6 tablespoons of butter. Stir in four cups Rice Krispie cereal.


Press into a 9×11 baking pan and chill until hardened. Set first half gallon of ice cream out to soften.


When ice cream is soft enough to handle, press into pan over Rice Krispie crust. Freeze until hardened while you soften second half gallon of ice cream.


Press the second layer of ice cream into the pan, and refreeze.


Isn’t it beautiful?!

Dinner Tonight: Southwest Beef Pot Roast

Sometimes good recipes come from the unlikeliest places – like the wrapper on a hunk of meat, for instance.

southwet beef pot roast

I peeled the wrapper of this pot roast off looking for instructions on cooking time, expecting to just toss it into the crock pot with some carrots and potatoes.

What I discovered is the pot roast speaks my love language: salsa & black beans.

The online version of the recipe indicates the prep time is ten minutes, and they aren’t kidding. This is one of the quickest and easiest dinners I’ve put together so far this winter – this one probably being THE fastest.

And if you think it looks good —

southwest beef pot roast

You should really try tasting it.

Here’s the recipe:

Southwest Beef Pot Roast

– 1 beef bottom round roast (3 to 4 pounds)
– 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin
– 1 jar (16 ounces) prepared thick-and-chunky salsa
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed, drained
– 1-1/2 cups frozen corn, optional

1. Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat until hot. Press cumin evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast. Place roast in stockpot; brown evenly. Pour off drippings.
2. Season roast with salt and pepper; add salsa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours or until roast is fork-tender.
3. Remove roast; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Stir in beans and corn, if desired; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes or until liquid is slightly thickened.
4. Carve roast into thin slices. Serve with bean mixture.

The only alterations I made was to add a can of green chilies (because no meal is complete without them), and replace the corn with an extra can of beans (because we like our beans).

southwest beef pot roast

Now that I think about it, 95% of what I make involves green chilies and black beans. THAT’s a rut I can get into!

Works For Me: Haagen-Dazs single serving ice cream

Haagen-Dazs single serving

I almost left it at just this, a picture. Because really, what else needs to be said? But the point I’m trying to make here, is not that I buy myself single servings of ice cream, because why not just buy the entire half gallon? If I’m going to buy a bunch of single serving ice cream cups, you KNOW I’m going to just eat a bunch of single serving ice cream cups in one sitting.

Not a cost effective way to binge.

No, I buy these to assuage the guilt I feel for not stocking my house with chips and ice cream for the kids. I have no self control. If I buy a bag of chips, I will eat a bag of chips and the kids will ask me where the chips are. So? I don’t buy chips. Same with ice cream.

Why feel guilty? Because I believe in the beauty of moderation. If I could eat chips and ice cream in moderation, we would not be having this conversation. I would like my kids to learn the beauty of moderation, but since I never keep this stuff around they tend to horde snack foods in their cheeks and jacket pockets whenever we go somewhere that has snack foods.

Definitely not a sign they are grasping moderation.

The other day I spotted these cute little ice cream cups on sale at the grocery store for a dollar each, and I couldn’t resist. I bought two – one for each kid. If I eat one, I’ll have to deal with a major melt down (HA! Get it?!). So I can’t eat one. I have to leave them for the kids to have one evening after dinner. They get their special treat, I pretend to still be on a diet, and that, my friends, works for me.

Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more Works For Me ideas.

Dessert Tonight: Dark Chocolate Linguine


A favorite thing to do on our many adventures downtown to Pike Place Market is to stop by the Pappardelle’s Pasta stand. It all started one morning when we were meandering through at about 8:30am, before all the tourists started swarming.

This is the best time to be at the market, by the way. All the vendors are cheery, and still setting up, and have plenty of time to chit chat. Ruthie even had a conversation with one of the fish guys I had a crush on as an 18 year old, and that was very weird for me.


A man behind the stand held out a glass jar filled with chocolate sticks, and asked if my kids would like some chocolate pasta.

Of course.


It was a very yummy, crunchy treat just as it was, but the vendor further sold me on the idea of chocolate pasta when he handed me a recipe for making dessert. I also thought his pricing was brilliant. I can’t imaging paying $10/lb for pasta during my regular grocery shopping, but when browsing the market on a special occasion, spending $5 for half a pound of specialty pasta seemed like just the right price for something so unique and tasty.

Once we got it home I cooked it up with just a little olive oil, rinsed it, and left it to chill in the refrigerator. After dinner I warmed up some berries on the stove with a little sugar, and served over the pasta with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.


Five dollars worth generously served three adults and two kids, and on several occasions I used blackberries we picked down by the river. Practically free! If you ever find yourself downtown, I highly recommend the Pappardelli’s stand. If for no other reason than to get a free sample and take in all the beautiful colors of their specialty pastas. It’s quite a sight.

Dinner Tonight: Slow Cooker Lime and Cilantro Chicken Tacos

lime and cilantro chicken tacos

What’s the opposite of Post Traumatic Stress? Post Euphoric Orgasm? I don’t know, but something in me twitched when I saw this picture and suddenly I could taste the lime and avocado and Sungold Cherry Tomatoes in my mouth.

I was having lunch with a friend one day, lamenting about all the boring recipes available for cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot. I did an internet search, and all of them started with “place chicken in a crock pot with a potato, onion, and some carrots…” The traditionally roasted chicken in white wine or broth is nice on occasion, but I was looking for a new way to use slow cooked chicken. Buying a chicken whole is one of the cheapest ways to get it (ninety-nine cents a pound at Costco). I wanted to be able to buy it often, but not just to make the same old roasted chicken.

My friend pulled out a recipe she’d gotten from her mother-in-law (mother? I can’t remember now), and it’s exactly what I was looking for. I’ve already used the lime and cilantro to cook a chicken for the Thai Chicken and Rice Salad, and I’ll be on the lookout for more ways to use it.

How do you slow cook your whole chicken, and then how do you serve it? Share any fun recipes in the comments, or link to your own blog.

Lime and Cilantro Whole Chicken
3-4lb chicken frier
¾-1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 small lime, juiced
½ cup Cilantro Sprigs
2 cloves garlic, peeled

Directions (for the night before serving):
1-Remove giblets neck and fat from fryer. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker, breast side up. Squeeze lime over chicken. Place lime rind, cilantro and garlic in cavity. Cook on low 6-7 hours to 180 degrees.

2-Allow chicken to cool. Remove skin from cooled chicken and shred.

3-Refrigerate juice in cooker.

4-Remove fat from refrigerated juice.

Directions for day of serving:
1 Large Onion
½ tsp Oregano
¼ C Dry White Wine
Salsa (to taste)

1-Cook onion until soft. Add oregano and cook 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until almost boiled off.

2-Add cooked chicken until hot.

3-Add 1/3 of juice, sizzle and reduce until syrupy.

4-Add ½ of remaining juice, sizzle and reduce until syrupy.

5-Add salsa and remaining drippings and bring to boil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

6-Season with salt and pepper

This recipe is a two-day process, but it is so easy. You just have to remember to thaw the chicken over night two nights before you need to make the meal. The first time I made it I forgot to thaw the chicken, so I had to push it back a night. But believe me when I say it was so good I never made that mistake again.

As you can see from the picture, I added black beans to the chicken (we eat black beans with nearly everything), and served it in whole wheat tortillas with homemade salsa (avocado, green onions, sungold cherry tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt). I know I totally sound like Suzie Homemaker when say all that, but some nights all the planets align and I can manage to throw together a pretty decent meal.

Other nights? It’s broiled chicken with salt and pepper and a bagged salad. It all works out.

Dinner Tonight: Thai Chicken and Rice Salad


Well, *I* certainly enjoyed that rash of new blogs posts last week – didn’t you? Not sure how I found the time to do that, but I can guarantee it won’t be happening again this week. Ruthie starts school on Tuesday, and while that theoretically gives me more time to think straight, I’m feeling a little like the kid who tried Pop Tarts for the first time and loved them so much he ate three boxes.

(what this actually means, is that I’ve severely over committed my expectations for next week.)

Anyhow, that clearly has nothing to do with Thai Chicken and Rice Salad.

This is a new favorite at the Zug Haus – even Ruthie devours two bowls of it. And? She’s taught herself how to use chopsticks. Between this and the shoe tying incident, I’m pretty sure she’ll be teaching me how to bake cheesecake by Christmas.


I found the recipe at Love Drunk and I highly recommend it. The nice thing is, I’ve made it chilled and I’ve made it warm, so it’s a recipe that can last into the winter months. The only adjustment I made was to add a splash or two of soy sauce to the dressing – it added another necessary layer that makes it perfect.

Oh, and I also made it once with a whole chicken I cooked in the crockpot with lime, garlic, and cilantro, cooled, then shredded. Yum.

Thai Chicken and Rice Salad

(adapted from Cooking Light)

Cook 2 cups short grain brown rice.

While that’s steaming, heat a couple TBSP olive oil in a pan, med-high heat, and
coat 4 chicken breasts (bnls, sknls) with sea salt (I like the coarse, unrefined) and
freshly cracked black pepper. Get a nice sear on each side of them and cover, turn down heat, and cook till done but still moist. Shred with a couple of forks.

Grate 3-4 good-sized carrots
Chop big bunch of green onions
Chop good sized bunch of cilantro
Whisk together 1/4 cup sesame oil, the juice of 3 limes, a little olive oil and 4-5 cloves garlic (crushed)

In a big bowl (this makes more than you’d think), put the warm rice and shredded chicken, the grated carrots, the green onions, and cilantro. Pour the dressing over and add a couple good handfuls of roasted, unsalted peanuts (to taste). Stir till combined, check for salt and pepper, and serve. Good warm or cold.

Works for me: wrapped wraps

We have taco salad once a week in our house because it’s a big favorite. The kids get theirs wrapped in a corn tortilla, which they love, but the fallout can be frustrating (get it?!). One of my friends told me how she wraps her kids’ tacos in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep the contents from falling out, and to help keep it wrapped.

She has four kids, so I figured she knows what she’s talking about, and gave it a whirl. Here’s Ruthie’s breakfast taco from last week:

wrapped taco

And look how happy she is eating it! No temper tantrums, and that definitely works for me.

wrapped taco

Visit Rocks in my Dryer for other Works for Me Wednesday posts.

p.s. I love the complete randomness in the background of this photo. Like the swimming vest in a stock pot, and the empty napkin holder, and the Costco sized Simple Green bottle on the food prep counter. Awesome.

Dinner Tonight: Chicken Wings w/ peanut dipping sauce


A big bag of frozen drumettes was on sale this week, and one thing I hear often in this house is WHEN ARE WE GOING TO HAVE CHICKEN WINGS AGAIN? So I picked up a bag for an easy Saturday night dinner.

I marinated the wings and drumettes in teriyaki sauce, broiled them, then borrowed the peanut sauce recipe from a fabulous Thai Peanut Chicken dish for dipping.


As you can see, it was a winner.

Here’s the peanut sauce recipe:

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter*

*I actually had to add more peanut butter to make it less marinade-y and more dippy.

Lunch or Dinner: Curry Chicken Salad

Red Curry Chicken SaladA friend made this salad a couple years ago for the sort of outdoor concert you bring a picnic dinner to and sit on a sweeping green lawn. It’s become one of our summer favorites because it’s everything you want in a summer dinner: fast, easy, one-dish, few ingredients, and chilled.

I must warn you that with this recipe, as usual, I kind of throw ingredients together without really measuring. You may have to adjust to suit your taste, as I’m just guessing here…

Curry Chicken Salad

  • 4-5 boiled or broiled chicken breasts
  • Halved red grapes
  • Slivered almonds – toasted or dry roasted
  • Light Mayo (I don’t know, like 1/2 cup maybe?)
  • Curry Powder to taste (start with 1T and go from there)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cool Chicken, dice, and add to a large bowl. Mix mayo, curry powder, salt and pepper together, and add to chicken along with grapes and almonds. Chill.

If you have a family of big eaters, this may be more of a lunch dish for you, since all that chicken can get expensive. But this summer I tried serving it over a bed of lettuce to help fill it out, along with slices of cantaloupe on the side, and Bryan said it was very filling.

works for me wednesday: the five ingredients or less edition

Remember the snack drawer idea I wrote about? It was a total bust. The kids would eat half of what was in their drawer, then whine and moan and complain that they didn’t want what was left, that they wanted something else.

When I realized the snack drawer was causing more drama than it was worth, I gave up on it. But still, with the “I’m hungry” all the time!

Recently I started having lunch every week with a friend, and we switch off watching each other’s kids for a few hours after. She often serves the kids a buffet style meal – a big platter with lots of veggies, hummus, fruit, and quesadilla triangles or PB&J squares. My kid love it, and I love it, so I adapted it to our snack routine.

Mid morning I may put out some fruit, cheese, and hard boiled eggs:

snack time

In the afternoon I put out mostly veggies, with a little hummus to dip into:


When friends come over I put out favorites, like grapes, carrots, and pretzels:

snack time

This has been a peaceful solution to the snack problem. If they don’t eat it all, I stick the plate in the refrigerator until they’re hungry again. And because these are healthy foods, they can eat as much as they want, and I don’t have to worry about them spoiling their appetite for the next meal.

Also? If they’ve had an entire snack of veggies, it makes me less pushy about eating a veggie at dinner. And THAT works for me.

Visit Rocks in my Dryer for other Works for Me Wednesday posts.

Bryan rocks the kitchen, all weekend long…

Bryan cooked for me all weekend, which is pretty much like porn for women, in my book. Beginning with dinner on Friday night, the pornography just didn’t stop. I’d had a really crappy day with the kids, and since he was able to come home early from work he offered to make dinner. So I sat on the back deck with my book and a Jitterbug while he whipped something up for us. The kids were banished from my sight to save their own existence.

On Saturday morning he made us all omelettes, and then (AND THEN!) he accomplished several fix-it tasks around the house, including disassembling our front screen door and completely hosing it down. When he hung it back up, it was so clean I nearly walked right through it.

For dinner that night he made Ginger Lime Beef Lettuce Wraps, and they were phenomenal.

ginger lime lettuce wraps

While we both agreed this would have been a little more sophisticated using thinly sliced steak instead of ground beef, he used what we had on hand to create a fantastic and light dish, using the juice from fresh limes, freshly grated ginger, frozen green beans, and saute’d mushrooms.

ginger lime beef with green beans and mushroomslettuce "boats"

Also? We ran out of jam by Sunday, and if you are in possession of a preschooler you understand how frightening it can be to face the lunch hour with one third of your PB&J combo missing. My solution, because I am a grouchy old lady most of the time, was to make them JUST a peanut butter sandwich, or even (gasp!) try to make them something else for lunch.

Bryan, however, whips out a few strawberries…

four strawberries

adds a little sugar…

add sugar

employs the chopper…


and chops them up…

chop some more...

...and more...


...aaand more...

into freshly made jam….

voila! strawberry jam

The kids were ecstatic, and now expect me to make fresh jam every day. But alas, I am still just a grouchy old lady. Not very much fun, like their porn star dad.

Lunch Today: Couscous with tomato, feta, and cucumber

couscous with feta, tomato and cucumberFirst of all, someone needs to tell me what couscous is, exactly. I thought it was a pasta until my friend brought this salad to a picnic at the park and I was all, “Guess that South Beach Diet didn’t last long, DID IT?!” And she was all up in my face about how it was a recipe FROM THE SOUTH BEACH DIET COOKBOOK.

This is a light lunch that I have just about as much as the OTHER lunch I make containing tomato, feta, and cucumber. Are you sensing a theme in my lunch habits?

Anyhow, here’s how you make it…

Add salt to 1 1/2 cups of water, and bring to a boil.
Add 1T butter/margarine*
Add 1 cup couscous

Stir, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand five minutes.

Add one diced cucumber, one diced tomato, and feta to taste (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
Sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon
Mix it all together.

(it’s best when chilled).

*This is probably optional, though it may help to keep couscous from getting clumpy