Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Still in a rut

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • cabbage sauteed with bacon
  • the last of the leftover green beans with onions and bacon
Yep, it's a rut all right.

Pork chops were sprinkled with garlic pepper and Jane's Krazy salt before grilling, like usual. (They were delicious, though. They were super thick so I did them for about 6 minutes per side and they were cooked through but REALLY juicy and tender. Yum.)

Cabbage was half a head roughly chopped, two slices of bacon chopped, stir stir stir, season with salt and pepper, done.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Oven brisket

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked brisket
  • tiny red potatoes, parboiled then chuffed up in a hot pan with butter
  • fresh green beans with onions and bacon
I was kind of scattered/spastic this evening so THANK GOD I didn't fark up the brisket. I rubbed it with a mixture of brown sugar, dry mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder and dried oregano, then whomped it into a roasting pan and cooked it with the lid on for 1.5 hours at 300 degrees F. But then I kept turning it down -- first to 250, then to 200 -- during the next 1.5 hours because I was afraid it was getting too done. Miraculously, it turned out tender and delicious. I have no idea how that happened. I think it was pure luck.

The boy made the potatoes. He's getting quite good at it! This time he got to do the prep and parboiling as well as the chuffing.

I made the green beans the only way I know how*. Snap off the stem ends and wash, then set aside. Chop some onion and bacon and start the bacon in a hot pan until it's about halfway cooked (half the fat rendered; starting to brown and curl just a bit). Then add the onion and cook until the bacon is crisp and the onion has gone translucent. Add the green beans and enough water to just barely cover them. Stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat. Strain off and serve. Yum!

*This is a lie. I know other ways. I just like them like this.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Busting out of my potato rut

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled ham steak
  • chili-garlic potatoes
  • raw baby carrots w/ranch dip
I'm trying to break out of my chuffed potato rut, even though they are SO YUMMY. So tonight I cut some tiny red potatoes into quarters, tossed them in a pan with some EVOO, salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder, and baked them until tender and golden. They were really good, and a nice change. But I still loves me some chuffed potatoes!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Brushes with celebrity chefs. Or their aunts, anyway.

My parents live in a small town near Austin and they eat out frequently. One local restaurant has become a favorite and they eat there for lunch or dinner at least once a week (I am not typing the name here; email me at badgermeetsworld at gmail dot com if you really want to know).

Today they took me there for lunch, which was delicious, and while we were there a very nice lady came by our table and started chatting up my parents like they were old friends. After she left, my mom said, "That's the owner. Her nephew is a chef, too. He's that guy who just left the Driskill."

I think I may have dropped my fork. "David Bull?" I squeaked. "David Bull is her nephew?!"

And indeed, he is. We chatted a bit more with the owner. She said Chef Bull might be stopping by the restaurant now and again, since his new schedule will leave him with a bit more time to spend with family.

And apparently, he is really fond of pizza.

Who knew?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring has sprung, apparently

Tonight's Menu

  • tilapia with mango salsa
  • leftover quinoa
  • leftover big-ass salad
The ataulfo mangoes have arrived at my local supermarket, and that means one thing: MANGO SALSA. Oh HELL yeah, bitches.

2 mangoes (ataulfo if you can find them, but the regular ones will do), diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 serrano peppers, minced (seeded or not, depending on how hot you like it)
fresh cilantro
lime juice

Combine the mangoes, onion and peppers in a non-reactive bowl. Snip some fresh cilantro into the mix (how much is up to you because some people love it and some people hate it -- I use maybe a tablespoon) and sprinkle on a bit of fresh lime juice (the juice from one small lime should do it). Toss to mix and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend before serving.

(Incidentally, if you've never worked with fresh mango there is an easy way to dice it. Just cut it in half vertically, working around the thin but wide pit in the center, so that you have two halves. Discard the center section with the pit. Then take each half and cut a crosshatch pattern through the flesh but NOT through the peel. Run a spoon between the peel and flesh and it should scoop right out in nice little cubes. Sometimes it takes a bit of practice, but it's about a thousand times easier than trying to PEEL a mango and then cut it up.)

It's weird -- I don't like mango by itself, but I LOVE mango salsa. In addition to tortilla chips, it goes great with grilled chicken, pork or fish. Tonight's fish was just seasoned with salt and pepper and then sauteed in EVOO (SO quick and easy!), but that worked fine with it, too.

Vinho Verde was a great accompaniment to this meal!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yummy chicken

Tonight's Menu

  • Nigella's slow-roasted chicken with garlic and lemon
  • quinoa
  • big-ass salad
Yes, I made Nigella's chicken again. It's SO DAMN YUMMY. This time I used thighs and drumsticks. DH had leftover meatballs.

Badger's manifesto on picky eaters

I've been reading with great interest this Bob del Grosso post (and the resulting comments) over on Michael Ruhlman's blog. Not the stuff about haute cuisine and molecular gastronomy, because I couldn't care less, but the bits about finicky kids. Del Grosso writes that when his kids were babies he just pureed whatever the family was eating rather than feeding them typical "kid" food, on the theory that they would develop a taste early on for the good stuff and thus be less finicky as they got older. With his daughter, it seems to have worked. With his son? Not so much.

I was fascinated and a teeny bit thrilled to read this because, as you know if you've been reading this blog from the beginning, finicky kids are the whole reason I started the Make Your Own Damn Dinner project in the first place. I've had a lot of people (usually people without kids, or people who raised their kids in a different generation) tell me over the years that the reason my kids are/were picky is because I fed them special "kid" food instead of whatever DH and I were eating. I used to think this was true, but I don't anymore, so it was interesting to read the experience of a professional chef who also happens to be a dad. Here's a guy who's an excellent cook, putting all sorts of enticing stuff on the dinner table every night, and his kid won't eat it! While I have nothing but empathy for his situation, what a relief to hear that maybe I haven't permanently screwed up my kids' palates with my short-order cooking after all.

I've thought a lot over the past year about how I went off the rails and started feeding my kids "kid" food instead of regular food in the first place. It really kind of happened without me noticing it, but looking back, I can kind of see the genesis of the whole thing. I'm documenting it here for other parents who might be asking themselves how THEY ended up in the same place, and for childless folks who might be baffled as to how in the world this could happen to an otherwise mostly rational adult. (Remember, all of us parents were childless once, too. WE were the ones saying, "When I have kids, I'll never xyz!" But then, you know, we actually HAD kids, and ... things changed.)

It really kind of starts when they're born, doesn't it? When you* take your newborn in for well-child checkups every couple of months, the doctor asks you how often he/she nurses and for how long, or how many bottles he/she drinks and how often. They give you guidelines to make sure your kid is eating enough, but not too much. Food is a big focus during the early toddler stage, too -- you come home from the pediatrician with all sorts of information on when to start solids, which ones to try in which order, how to document your child's reaction to each new food that's introduced, how much to give at each serving, how often the child should eat, etc., etc. You get programmed to focus on how, what and when your kid is eating. Along with that are the growth charts -- is your kid growing okay? What percentile is he/she in for weight? Has that percentile changed at all since the last checkup, and if so, does it mean he/she is eating too much? Too little?

It becomes an obsession. There's PRESSURE, okay? Seriously. I don't know if it tends to affect moms more than dads, but I can tell you that most moms I know would cut off their own arm and feed it to the kid IF THE KID WOULD ACTUALLY EAT IT. If your toddler is rejecting his broccoli, and you know he's hungry, and you know he likes crackers, and you just want him to eat so he will GO TO SLEEP ALREADY, you give him the crackers. That's how it starts, and it just kind of goes from there. I'm not saying it's a GOOD thing, and I'm not trying to make excuses for it. I'm just saying, IT HAPPENS, and that's pretty much how. You take the path of least resistance, because you want the kid to EAT. While logically you may KNOW your kid won't starve him/herself if food is available, when it is your own kid, the kid you are supposed to be KEEPING ALIVE, you eventually fall into the habit of feeding them what you know they'll eat. So then their percentages on the charts won't be wonky, and they won't pitch a fit in the restaurant, and they'll go to sleep at night, and all will be right with the world.

Okay! So back to me and MY kids, and fast-forward to now. We have been operating on the Make Your Own Damn Dinner principle for nearly a year, since the kids were 8 and 10 years old. The rules are this: Mom only makes ONE MEAL for the family for dinner. There is enough food for everyone. If you don't want to eat it, you don't have to. You're not REQUIRED to try anything. (But if you do try something new, you get MAD PROPS whether you end up liking it or not.) Hell, you don't even have to eat dinner at all if you're not hungry. However, we offer dessert (usually just something small) every single night, and if you want dessert, you have to eat a specified amount of protein and fruit or veggie for dinner. Grains are optional, because the girl child in particular would happily eat nothing BUT grains, so it's never a struggle to get any into them. If you don't like the protein and veggie I made, you are welcome to MAKE YOUR OWN.

The result of this has been that the boy child now eats the dinner I cook at least 80% of the time. He has tried a ton of new foods and has liked most of them. The girl, on the other hand, eats my food maybe 20-30% of the time. Most nights she makes herself a sandwich consisting of a seeded hamburger bun and a slice of American cheese, and some raw baby carrots. Some nights she'll eat the grain I make (she loves quinoa and nearly any sort of bread) and maybe the veggie (if it's broccoli or salad) and she'll have a piece of cheese or deli turkey along with it.

The boy's diet is now richly varied; the girl's diet is still EXTREMELY limited. I made them the same foods when they were babies/toddlers/preschoolers, and I offer them the same foods now. It's PERSONALITY, people. Maybe body chemistry has something to do with it, I don't know, but I am now convinced that some kids are just picky no matter what you do. I do think kids go through stages as far as what they're willing to eat, but I don't think there's a damn thing parents can do to control this other than enter into a battle of wills with the kid(s) in question. I do NOT want food to be a weapon in my house. Now that my kids are older and I'm not all hung up on growth charts and guidelines, my policy is to make healthy food available to them (remember, I've stopped buying fruit snacks, chicken nuggets and fish sticks along with a few other processed foods) and turn 'em loose. I do worry like hell whether the girl child is getting a balanced diet when some weeks it seems like she LIVES on cheese sandwiches and carrots, but I no longer worry about whether she's getting enough to eat. Because she knows where we keep the food, and she has access to it, so if she's hungry it's her own damn fault.

And that's all I have to say about that.


*Please don't anyone get all snippy with my use of the pronoun "you" in this piece. I'm not talking about YOU SPECIFICALLY. I'm talking about the GENERIC you. I KNOW some parents, many parents, manage to avoid this little trap I'm illustrating here. And if you have, well, good for THE SPECIFIC you. You have my undying admiration.


Tonight's Menu

  • "cocktail" meatballs
  • steamed basmati rice
  • steamed broccoli
Ack! Sorry for the dearth of posts last week. I'm feeling totally uninspired, food-wise. Grilled burgers and chops, sauteed trout, and various leftovers made up the bulk of our dinners for the past week.

Tonight, however, I was in the mood for my mom's cocktail meatballs. If you grew up in the '70s, particularly in the midwest, you have no doubt eaten this exact dish -- meatballs in a sauce made from grape jelly and bottled chili sauce. My mom usually made this in the crockpot on "card club night" and served the meatballs/sauce on their own, but you add a little rice underneath and that's a MEAL, baby!

Incidentally, if you want to make meatballs from scratch but are afraid it will be a huge pain in the ass, fear not! The way I make them is dead easy. Just take a pound of ground meat (I use beef, but you could do turkey or whatever) and mix it up with the usual breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, etc. I use a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag to mix everything -- just dump in the ingredients, press out the air (very important!), seal it and knead the hell out of it until all the ingredients are mixed. Then I use a little cookie scoop thing, like a miniature ice-cream scoop, to form the mixture into balls right from the bag. Line a baking sheet (one with a rim around the sides) with tin foil, shiny side DOWN (or use Reynold's Release -- I freakin' LOVE that stuff), stick the meatballs on it and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes. Super easy with no messy hands or grease spatters from a skillet! You can make these way ahead of time and freeze them for later use, if you want.

The sauce, as I said, is just grape jelly (6 to 8 ounces) and a bottle of chili sauce (like the Heinz stuff they sell next to the ketchup). Heat them together in either a large pot or a crockpot until the jelly melts, dump in the meatballs and heat them through, and you're done!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meat and potatoes and THAT'S ALL

Tonight's Menu

  • NY strip steaks with whiskey onions
  • tiny red potatoes, parboiled and then chuffed up in a hot pan with butter
That's right, bitches! Tonight we had meat and potatoes and THAT'S IT. Who needs vegetables, anyway? (Okay, fine. It was a crazy evening, dinner got started later than I had planned, and I couldn't be arsed to figure out what sort of green stuff to have along with. Happy now?)

The whiskey onions were dead easy. Ideally I would have made them in the same pan in which I cooked the steaks, to take advantage of the fond and whatnot, but I did the steaks on the grill pan and it doesn't lend itself well to anything saucy. SO. Instead I cut a large sweet yellow onion into wedges, stuck it in a high-sided skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter and let things caramelize a bit. I added a little bit of white sugar for good measure, then poured in about a quarter cup of Maker's Mark and let it get nice and saucy. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the meat. YUM!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cooking disasters: tough ribs

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-barbecued pork spareribs
  • salad of tiny red potatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes
  • leftover fruit salad
Oh, y'all. I am so disappointed in these ribs. I cooked them on a rack, tightly covered, at 200 degrees F for 3 hours before bumping them up to 400 for 30 minutes or so and slathering with sauce. Turns out I probably should have cooked them on the low heat for more like 5 hours, or else started them at 250 instead of 200. They were TOUGH. And unfortunately, being tough made it difficult to carve them even though I was using a wicked sharp knife. So I ended up with lots of oddly shaped "riblets". So disappointing! Maybe I can salvage them on the re-heat. They were tasty, despite being tough as old boots.

At least the salad was good. This is my favorite warm-weather salad that I made all the time last summer. Just quarter some little red-skinned potatoes, simmer until tender but still firm, drain and let cool. Then toss them in a bowl with a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts (don't drain them -- the marinade forms the dressing for the salad), some fresh mozzarella (the little balls packed in liquid), cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges, and a chiffonade of basil. Season with salt and cracked pepper to taste and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. Yum! This is perfect with any sort of grilled meat.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Burgers and fruit

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled hamburgers w/fixin's
  • multigrain tortilla chips
  • fruit salad
I have dozens of recipes for fruit salad in my recipe file, most of them calling for some sort of sweet dressing. Our favorite version, born out of laziness like so many of my recipes (and this one hardly even qualifies as an actual recipe), doesn't have any dressing at all.

I just take seedless green grapes, halved fresh strawberries, and a small can of mandarin orange segments (drained) and toss them together in a bowl. That's it. The flavors/textures compliment one another very well, it'll keep for a couple of days depending on how ripe the berries are, it's plenty sweet because the canned oranges usually have some sugar added, and it's much more refreshing on a hot day than salads with goopy dressings.

Um, and also I'm lazy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Who loves you, pretty baby?

As some of you may have noticed, I finally managed to go back and add labels to ALL the posts in this blog. Even the old ones, back before I was sharing much in the way of recipes/techniques. I went ahead and added a list of labels to the sidebar, in alphabetical order. So you should be able to click on a label over there and pull up all the posts that have that label affixed. (You can also click on a label at the end of a post and bring them up that way.)

I hope this will make it easier for you AND me to find recipes and meal ideas over here. It's almost campechana season, after all, and I don't want to have to page through my archives to remember how to make it!

(In other news, do you think we eat enough BEEF? Holy cow! Er, no pun intended!)

Can't go wrong with grilled pig!

Tonight's Menu

  • rosemary grilled boneless pork chops
  • tiny red potatoes, parboiled then chuffed up in a hot pan with butter
  • big-ass salad
Super easy dinner tonight. I had some massively thick boneless chops, which I rubbed with a mixture of EVOO and snipped fresh rosemary (bashed up together in a mortar/pestle and then left to steep for a bit) before sprinkling with my usual Jane's Krazy salt and garlic pepper. Then I grilled them for about 7 minutes per side. They were THAT thick. They came out perfect -- juicy and just BARELY pale pinkish at the very center.

The boy child has mastered my technique for chuffed potatoes so he made them tonight. He does a great job, and somehow manages to get a better crust on them than I do! Go, boy child!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sausage sandwiches

Tonight's Menu

  • sweet Italian sausage sandwiches w/peppers and onions
  • coleslaw
I love grilled sausage but when it comes to the fresh (as opposed to smoked/cured) variety, I am paranoid about getting them cooked all the way through. So what I do is simmer them in water on the stove for about 15 minutes or so, then grill them just to get them brown and crisp up the skins. Tonight I used my grill pan because it was a little bit too chilly to grill outdoors. I sauteed some sweet yellow onion along with red and yellow bell peppers in EVOO, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and served the whole thing in fresh wheat rolls from the bakery. Yum!

Now that I have the hang of making coleslaw from scratch, I will never buy it prepared again! It's so easy to shred cabbage with a nice sharp knife, and creamy coleslaw dressing is a cinch. For one head of cabbage, use about 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 Tbs. sugar and 2 Tbs. white vinegar. Sometimes I add a teaspoon or so of celery seed. Mix it all together until it's smooth, then toss with the shredded cabbage and chill for a couple of hours. It really takes no time at all.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Tonight's Menu
  • baked salmon
  • pan-sauteed rainbow trout
  • leftover quinoa
  • steamed broccoli
I have successfully gotten the boy hooked upon my salmon, which I just brush with EVOO and then sprinkle with garlic pepper and Jane's Crazy Salt before popping it in the oven at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

The trout was for DH the salmon hater. As usual, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then give it a once-over in a hot pan with EVOO.

As you may have noticed, I have switched (or more accurately, I've BEEN switched, against my will) to the new Blogger, which means I can do labels and stuff. I'll be going back through old posts and adding them, so eventually you'll be able to, say, click on the "salmon" label and pull up all my posts about salmon. I haven't decided whether I'm going to do the REALLY old posts, or just the ones since I switched the blog over to general cooking (as opposed to Get My Kids To Eat Normal Food cooking). I figure you're probably looking for recipes and meal ideas, so I may just stick with that.


Thursday, March 01, 2007


Tonight's Menu
  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • quinoa
  • big-ass salad
I made the tenderloin in my usual way. We at nearly the whole thing between the three of us (I'm excluding the girl child, because she NEVER EATS ANYTHING).