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Archive for March, 2012

Take Them a Meal

I just got back from a week trip to Iowa to visit friends and family, and most importantly, throw my sister’s baby shower!

It was fun to make all the food for her shower (including Pioneer Woman’s chicken salad), but I still had more cooking to do when I got back to Virginia!

If you’ve had the opportunity to be around any new mamas at all lately, I hope that those in your community have taken the chance to bless their growing families with some prepared meals.  It’s such a relief (at least I hear and I anticipate!) to know that out of the million new challenges you’re facing, dinner isn’t going to be one of them!

For the last several years, the expecting mom usually designated a person as her point person and all others were responsible for contacting her.  For the last year or so, technology has saved the day!

The website is called Take Them a Meal and it’s FABULOUS.  You still need a point person, but the website allows you to include any information about the family’s food preferences/allergies, when they’d like the meal delivered, and the best part…

…SIGN UP!  You don’t have to create an account.  You just pick the day of the week that works well for you.  Check the other types of meals that have been listed (so no worries about repeats) and then put down your information!  It also makes it easy in the event that your plans change.  The expecting family can check online to see what will be coming, who will be coming, and can also contact them directly if plans change.

I just love when technology actually helps us to serve our neighbors more!

So, all that said, just to get to today’s recipe.  I brought a meal to a family yesterday that just had their second child two weeks ago.  An adorable little girl named Gloria 🙂  I went with one of the few casseroles we eat in this household: Mexican Tator Tot Casserole.

For years, I completely missed out on tator tot casserole (or hot dish–depending on your region, haha).

Green beans: eww.

Cream of mushroom soup: eh, but with green beans, eww.

Ketchup: yes.  I’ve seen people put ketchup IN and ON it.  Wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

But dang it, who doesn’t like tator tots themselves?!  Something simply had to be done.

So I asked myself, what foods DO I like that might be able to work?

Here’s the answer!

Lean ground beef.

Yep, I like that.

Especially if it’s seasoned with onions, garlic powder, and cumin.

Black beans, mexicorn, and fiesta cheese soup?

Sounds good to me!

(Keep in mind this was all doubled).

So when it comes to canned black beans and the stuff that accompanies them in the can, I’m a bit vain.

I don’t like the funny color it changes my dish, so I rinse them.

But it’s completely up to you!

Lastly, add a can of milk (just fill a soup can) and mix all your ingredients together.  Then when you blog the next day, take the time to wonder why your pictures were so fuzzy!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the final product (rushing out the door to deliver!).  I recommend just baking until your tots are done.  It’s also delicious if you melt a little colby jack cheese on top 🙂  This recipe (doubling the meat and canned goods) yielded 2 9X9 casserole dishes plus an oblong casserole dish I had from IKEA.

To wrap things up (let’s face it, I’m using this blog as an excuse to not do my T-Tapp workout), here’s a few pointers on bringing people meals:

1. Bring it in a container you don’t need returned.  If you want to bless them with a nice, new casserole dish, go for it!  Otherwise, disposable or semi-disposable (something they might be able to use for future storage) works great!

2. If you happen to know that there’s a working partner in the household, include a portion that they can bring to work the next day (just a nice bonus!).

3. Include dessert!

4. There’s nothing wrong with take-out.  If you’d like to bless someone but know your cooking would be well, er, less than a blessing, bring them take out!  Chances are that they haven’t gotten out of the house in some time and may just be craving that Jimmy John’s sub!

5. Lastly, be sensitive about time.  You may be SOOO excited to finally meet the baby and want to hear all about the birth story, but dinner time may be survival time in their new house.  Be sure to let mama know how thrilled you are to meet the new one and spend time with her, but be sensitive and willing to take a rain check!

What are your favorite “take them a meal” meals?

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On a much anticipated four day weekend, we decided to head north to Washington, D.C.  Now, anyone who knows us knows that even if there are other awesome amusements in store, our favorite part of traveling is trying out new eats!  With the walking in store for us in D.C., we were going to earn our indulgences!

We arrived in the afternoon on our first day.  After dropping our things off at the hotel (which we scored for 58% off on Priceline!), we scrambled to the Capitol’s visitor center for our scheduled tour.  What an amazing place!  The beauty of the dome itself is worth it!

See what I mean?!

Next, because they are connected by a tunnel, and what book fiend (who–me?!) wouldn’t want to, we visited the Library of Congress.  Do you know how much OWL stuff they have in their gift shop?!  But I managed to get out with just photos and my memories for souvenirs.

Another gorgeous ceiling!

If I didn’t expect the floors to be massively uncomfortable, I really would be convinced our forefathers spent the better of their time in office, laying around, staring up at these masterpieces.

After a bit more wandering around the Capitol area and taking more photos, we went back to our hotel for a brief nap and reprieve before heading out for dinner!  The mister’s feet were hurting already (had a tough PT session before we left that morning) so we decided to brave public transportation!  I was pretty proud of us!  My days in Chicago have made me fairly okay in the public transportation department, but I also didn’t want to be responsible for sending us on a wild goose chase (especially with a hungry husband–disaster!).

Before coming to D.C., I had spent most of my research time looking at restaurants.  I read dozens of reviews on Open Table (love that website), browsed some other foodie sites, tried to read a few Washington Post articles (I take this stuff seriously!), and finally settled on this little Caribbean place called the Banana Cafe.

I already confessed–if there are tostones within fifty miles, we can’t resist!

So, much to my delight, this turned out to be a Tex-Mex/Caribbean place. WHAT?!  How often does a girl’s culinary dreams come true?!

Dinner was started with some pretty darn good chips and salsa.  It was no El Azteca, but pretty darn close!

Next, we decided to try an appetizer.  The mister tore into it before I got a picture, but it was a yuca fritter stuffed with pork (I think), served with a side of a house cream sauce.

For our entrees, we decided to try the Saturday special: mofongo.  Oh goodness, we BOTH love mofongo!!  Mofongo is a mixture of fried green plantains that are then mashed with garlic and butter, and shaped into a bowl that is then filled with meat.  Don’t worry–drooling is a completely natural reaction at this point 🙂

 Our only mistake: we ordered two of these things!

What were we thinking?!

Happy hubster with the leftovers.

17 lbs of mofongo.

Okay, not quite.  But close!

Our hotel room did have a fridge so we were able to store the leftovers, but unfortunately, we left them in the fridge when we checked out.  Doh!

We spent the morning of our second day exploring the monuments, checking out the White House (sort of anticlimatic), and getting a few gifts.  We had planned on only visiting two Smithsonian museums in the afternoon (this turned out to be one too many but I thought I was being conservative with our time): the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.  We knew we’d need to good fuel to keep us going but I hadn’t really planned this meal.  Thankfully, we stumbled upon a little place called Chef Geoff’s that was still serving brunch.  In we went!

I loved that this place serves fresh fruit and mini-breads with all brunch meals so you’ve got some snacks while trying to decide.

So, the mister doesn’t really have any dilemmas when it comes to breakfast food.  He’s savory all the way.  But me…  well, I really want the best of both worlds!  The sweet stuff always sounds good to me, but I am always disappointed if there’s not something of substance.  Chef Geoff had a dish that satisfied my criteria and left me feeling satisfied!

Belgian waffle with a side of bacon.

Normally, I’m not a bacon fan, but this was G-O-O-D.

And that little, unassuming dish of raspberry sauce?

The BOMB.

I told you–hubby isn’t a sweet fan–but he threatened to steal it!

Hubster’s entree: poached eggs over a chorizo, pepper, and potato hash.

Amazing!

After many hours of museum touring, we headed to the ‘burbs to visit the hubby’s long-time friend from Puerto Rico.  He had fixed a gigantic Puerto Rican feast (do they come in any other size?!) in honor of our baby news.  I wish I had adequate pictures but the lighting was pretty dim 😦  I will tell you that it included these little biscuits made from yucca flour and cheese.  They were delicioso!

Ooof, all this recalling culinary adventures has made me hungry!  Time for a snack 🙂

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What’s a huntress to do in modern society?  Sure, she can hunt down a good bargain, a new recipe for family dinners, but what about when she wants a real challenge?

A few weeks ago, my cupcake compadre, Leslie, and I, decided it was time to truly take on Richmond.  Yes, we had already stumbled upon Careytown Cupcakes and Baby Cakes, but it was time to get serious.

Armed with healthy snacks (we were taking the cakes home to share with the boys), a full tank of gas, and our prerequisite beverages (her: small coffee, me: small Diet Coke), we headed out!

In the interest of full disclosure, we struck out THREE times before we actually found our first bakery.  The other places either no longer existed, were closed, or were actually order-only.  But as with all things in life, perseverance paid off when we were rewarded with Pearl’s!

What an adorable storefront!

Overall, Pearl’s gets an A rating!

Selection: awesome!  Including tasty vegan and gluten-free options.

Service: very friendly and accommodating of photo ops!

My selection: A chocolate cake with PB frosting (delish!) and a chocolate cake with coconut frosting (no complaints here!)

Leslie’s selection: a vegan s’more cupcake (which she delighted in!) and a tiramisu cupcake (also a hit with this coffee lover!)

Next, we were headed back to our standby: Baby Cakes.  We just can’t get enough of this place!  Specifically, I can’t get enough of their TART lemon and lime frostings!

These little ladies may look simply, but they pack MAJOR taste!

And like all good cupcake places, they provide containers for easy cupcake transportation!

Don’t want the ladies to get squished!

Famished–remember, we spent the better part of the morning with trying to find these places and we had to be strong and not polish off our cakes–we split a gyro at what is quickly becoming our favorite nameless (I doubt either of us could tell you the name!) Greek restaurant in Careytown.  Honestly, it could have the crappiest tasting gyro in the world, but everything about the place reminds me of this little joint in Chicago’s Greektown (called Mr. Greek’s) where I have many, many wonderful memories.

Our final stop of the day was to a little place called Delish!

Sorry I don’t have a better picture of this little gem.  She really was delish, but just couldn’t hold a candle to Baby Cakes.

So, like all good huntresses, we returned to our dens and our man-friends, tired but overjoyed at the day’s finds.  And believe it or not, these treats actually lasted more than one day!

Happy hunting!

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