Conundrum

viola

This viola got left at home today by my fourth grader.  Conundrum : should I run back home today (since, you know, I’m just a homemaker so my time is limitless… sigh…) or let Rhea attend music class without it, suffer the logical consequences, etc..?

And before you start throwing me the “if she doesn’t have to suffer the consequences she’ll never learn to be responsible” type answers at me, let’s assume you don’t know the whole picture.  For example, I think it’s relevant that orchestral instruction began less than a month ago.  We’re hardly in a groove yet.

Also relevant: Rhea practiced a ton the past few days.  The whole family and likely the neighbors on all three sides have been humming “Hot Cross Buns” incessantly…

Final proof of reason to ponder my decision: Rhea did remember to put her viola out last night, right in front of the coat/backpack rack so she’d see it in the morning.  Don’t you just hate when you do things like that and then still forget?  Talk about your aggravation.

So I thought about my options as a mother this morning.  Underneath it all I am a stickler for learning responsibility, but, but, but…

Solution!

OK, honey.  Here’s the deal: I’ll turn around and go back for your viola, and to thank me, you can fold the load of laundry I was going to get to but will now not have time for.

Now she’s the one pondering (Rhea hates laundry.)

Rhea laundry 2

Don’t you just love a story with a happy ending–for me, that is? 🙂

Also, next time the viola will get placed into the car the night before!

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Savory Rice

Rice with turky broth

So my late-summer turkey craving needed a side kick, or side dish I guess.  Enter: savory rice.

I have read about the many health benefits of both brown and white rice, and I cook same as I vote: straddling the fence with compromise in mind.  We’ve had white rice a few times recently so I decided to go with brown for this recipe.  I chose wisely.  It was super tasty and just the right partner for my September turkey–savory and rich tasting, but not too heavy as it’s still warm ’round these parts.

Michelle’s Summer Savory Rice

Ingredients: 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 chopped onion, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 1 cup diced carrots, 2 stalks of celery diced, 3 cups brown rice, 6 cups chicken broth.

Directions: Rinse brown rice and drain.  Meanwhile, place olive oil and onion in pot on stove top at medium heat.  Heat for three minutes or until the onions begin to become translucent– I love when that happens), add everything except the broth to the pot.  Stir it all up till the carrots, celery and rice start to cook a bit/get a tad brown from the heat.  Then add the broth, bring to a boil and reduce hit to simmer until all liquid is absorbed (about 30ish minutes.)

Tip: This is a ton of rice, even for my hungry crew.  All part of my master plan as two days later I put it all together and made turkey soup!  Wanna know more about that?  I’ll tell ya soon.  Promise!

Let’s Talk Turkey

cooked turkey

P.S. (that’s ‘pre’ script!) I left my turkey in the pan even though the bottom of it blackened.  Yup.  It happens and even though I love my blog I am just not the kind of girl who is going to place her turkey on a pretty platter just for a photo.  Who has time!?

Yes it is late September and I am in the mood for turkey.  I love me a nice roasted turkey.  The aroma of that heavenly non-chicken savory-ness permeated my house while it cooked away.  Mmmmmm…

We Americans have become so Thanksgiving-ingrained about turkeys that they can be down right hard to find outside of November, but I knew Whole Foods wouldn’t let me down (and at their prices, let’s face it: they’d better not!)

So I got myself an organic turkey yesterday for $3.99/lb.  For a nine pound bird that’s, ahem, close to FORTY DOLLARS.  How the heck does the full time homemaker–married to a public school teacher–swing a 40 buck-bird for dinner?  Well I am just so glad you asked.

I don’t.  That is; I don’t swing it for one dinner.  My friends, to make this purchase worth it I go Native American on my bird.  Oh yeah.  NOTHING IS WASTED.  The only way I can justify spending this kind of loot on a turkey is to stretch that meat into a bunch of meals.  Don’t you want to know what I do? (yes.)  Would you like me to walk you through all the stages? (yes.)

OK.  Here we go.

1. Prep your turkey.  Super easy plan here.  Fall has actually descended in So-Cal (thankyouthankyouthankyou) and the weather is a tad cooler, but it’s not cold enough outside for me to have a hankering for some stuffing and that sort of thing.  So I kept my plan pretty light:

turkey stuff

After removing the neck and the bag of whatever-the-heck-that-was from the cavity of Mr. Turkey, I put in a quarter of an onion, two garlic cloves and a lemon (ends chopped off with holes forked around the sides.)

2. Then, you may have noticed that my turkey doesn’t look like June Cleaver’s (and never will, thank you very much.)  Just like when I roast a chicken I always place the breast side down to insure the largest pieces of meat will stay tender and juicy.  My sister calls this “downward dog style.”

raw turkey

Then, on top I used the following ingredients: 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup orange juice, drizzle olive oil.  Sprinkle top with whatever yummy stuff you’ve got in your spice drawer.  I used several dashes of thyme, garlic powder, garlic salt, black pepper and I think some oregano.

3. Also just like when I cook a chicken I set the oven at 425 degrees and cook for 25 or so minutes.  Then reduce temp to 325 and cook approximately 25 minutes per pound.  This was a 9 pounder so I left it for about 2 1/2 more hours.  I checked it at about 2 1/4 hours and it was done.  How did I know this?  My handy meat thermometer (inserted into thigh after taking out of oven to check) read just above 155 degrees.

Back to the justification piece…  After the turkey cooled I de-boned it and had two sets of leftovers.  All the meat:

turkey meat

And then the bones or carcass:

turkey carcass

This is, in fact, my favorite part as I will boil these bones in water (with the lemon, onion and garlic) for about 90 minutes to get the most delicious broth you’ve ever tasted.  If my house smelled good with the turkey in the oven, just imagine what it will smell like with these bones simmering away.  Yu-uhm.

So, last night we had turkey with rice and broccoli.  I will use the leftover meat and soon-to-be broth to make, likely 3 more meals (including soup which I am so excited about I can hardly stand it!)

If you do the math now, I spent about 40 bucks on the turkey, but if I use it for four meals for five people that’s around $2.00 per person per meal.  For organic turkey that’s pretty good, right?  And if I can squeak another meal out of the meat I could drop that cost even more.

How many recipes can a girl make with turkey?  Again, so glad you asked.  Turkey soup is coming pronto.  I’m also thinking about turkey enchiladas, toasted turkey sandwiches and maybe turkey fajitas… or maybe turkey stir fry… or wait… so hard to decide!

Do you want to see my recipes for turkey leftovers?  (yes.) Coming soon!

Turkey ingredients recap:

Ingredients: 9 pound turkey, two garlic cloves, 1/4 onion, fresh lemon, 1/2 cup OJ, 1/2 cup white wine, drizzle olive oil, generous dashes of garlic salt, garlic powder, black pepper, thyme and oregano.

Direction recap: Cook at 425 for 25 minutes and then lower temp to 325 and cook for 25 minutes per pound.  Internal meat temp should read 155 when done.

Tips: I place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of my roasting pan to help with cleanup.  Also, I added water this time about 1/2 way through roasting as the sizzling pan started to create a bit of smoke.

Lena’s Smoothie

Lena's smoothie

So I got this text from my nieces (grades 5, 6 and 7) the other day.  They know who would appreciate this concoction!

This strawberry-banana smoothie comes from a cookbook, but smoothies honestly don’t need to be measured to be tasty.  As long as you’re not hung-up on whether or not it turns out a tad thick or a bit runny, just throw whatever you like in a blender and hit puree.  One of my favorites is a banana, some orange juice, whatever yogurt we have in the fridge and a can of unsweetened pineapple and its juice.  YUM.

But lots of folks prefer an actual recipe–and what kind of auntie would I be if I didn’t share the recipe that creates the stunning pink glass of frothy ambrosia you see above?  It is a downright privilege to be on your nieces’ contact list and as I do desire to remain, I will now share with ya’ll…

Lena’s Smoothie

Ingredients: 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup strawberry yogurt, 1/3 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries, 1/2 banana, 4 ice cubes, 8 tsp. sugar (I’d use 3 max, but that’s just me.)

Directions: blend and serve.  Strawberry swag on side of glass optional but highly recommended.  It does make quite a statement, don’t you agree, dahling?

P.S. Besides Lena, a special thanks to Lindsey and Raquel for tasting, photography and also being loves of my life!

It Happens to Everyone…

mistake for dinner

This probably isn’t the best sales pitch for someone trying to build her meal planning/kitchen coaching business, but I just gotta come clean: I, Michelle Calva-Despard, made a totally gross meal the other night.

What was supposed to be my side dish of teriyaki vegetables and rice noodles turned into a soggy, doughy, mass of yuck.  I deemed my efforts inedible, which is something I haven’t done in years.   Even though the veggies and sauce were delicious, I couldn’t get over the ball of blech that it all became when I added the noodles.  These are Trader Joe’s new rice noodles, btw, which perhaps I mis-prepared… I dunno.

The good news is (this is like the part in the job interview when the interviewee turns a negative into a positive) that since I’m such an expert meal planner, I had loads of leftovers on hand and enough other easy-tasty-healthy choices to still whip up something really nice for dinner.  🙂

My husband and son did eat this mistake-of-a-meal (guys… figures!) although they both agreed it wasn’t one of my best.

And thus, I will not be sharing this recipe with you today!

Mediterranean Layer Dip

Mediteranean layer dip

I was recently introduced to my new friend, Mediterranean Layer Dip.  Nice to meet you.

I discovered this new delight at our back to school BBQ a few weeks ago.  Let me just say, it was love at first sight when I caught a glimpse of this yum-ola situation.  I literally ran around shouting “Who made that dip!?” until I found the smart lady who had whipped it up.  She didn’t have a name for it so I went with today’s title.

I knew right away what this dip was made of, even though I had never seen it before.  You can just tell that it’s hummus (I used Trader Joe’s Mediterranean blend as recommended), crumbled feta cheese, chopped cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes and kalamata olives.  Genius or what!?  Serve with pita chips or more veggies for dipping and you’ve got yourself a beautiful (I mean seriously–isn’t it just lovely?) delicious, hearty appetizer.

Technically the preparation of this food item is more along the lines of “assembly” than “cooking”–which is super okey-dokey right now as it’s so hot in Pasadena I have a hard time choking down my cup of caffeine each morning lately.

I brought this dip (shown here with the gorgeous hand of my girlfriend, Eva, poised with chip) to the Labor Day BBQ that my beans got me invited to.  It wasn’t a big hit with the kids.  My three, for whatever reason, are not hummus fans.  Go figure and it didn’t matter anyway because all the adults huddled around it and snarfed it down so fast we didn’t really feel like sharing with our little offspring anyway.

There are times when generosity is not a priority.

Will I make this dip again?  Invite me over and find out!

Sangria

sangria

Hot.  It is hot.  Cool, it is not.  How I wish it were chilly but it is hot, hot, hot, HOT.

Have I mentioned it’s hot?

People who hang out with me on a regular basis know some of my fave things in life.  Sangria is one of those things.

Sangria comes in a kajillion different ways but generally includes wine, fruit, juice and some other stuff.  While I appreciate a crisp white sangria, red is my go-to.

Lots of restaurants serve sangria and I must say that none of them make it better than I do.  (Oh no she di-‘unt just say that!)  Apparently practice does make perfect 😉 and I have finally given up ordering this when dining out as it’s just too disappointing.  Everyone tries to get all fancy-pants about it with 12-ingredient-long recipes and almost always waaaaay too much sugar.  Blech!

I even saw a restaurant in Mammoth Lakes this summer that boasted “World’s Best Sangria!”  Not even close.

Simple.  Lightly sweetened.  Refreshing and beautiful.  I have a few sangria recipes I like, including one that uses pineapple juice and spiced rum, but for now please say hello to…

Michelle’s Simple Summer Sangria

Ingredients: 1 bottle red wine, 2 cups OJ, 1 can club soda, chopped seasonal fruit (I used a nectarine and a plum here) 2 tbsp. sugar, 1-2 shots brandy or rum or triple sec.

Directions: Chop the fruit and set it in the liquor with sugar for an hour or so–longer is fine.  Chill all your ingredients and mix them all together, serve over ice (casually cute Martha Stewart glass jar optional) and smile.  You may want to add another 1-3 tbsp. sugar to taste.

Tips: Don’t break the bank on the wine.  A mediocre $5-7 bottle will do fine.  In the fall I make sangria with oranges and apples.  In the spring with strawberries and cherries.  It’s all good.  Really good.

Bonus tip: Sangria always tastes better when shared with good friends, like Dale and Lisa.  Cheers!

sangria cheers!

Savory Late-Summer Tomato Pie

whole tomato pie

(Quick, before my internet crashes again!  I hate Charter Communication and I don’t care who knows it!)

OK.  So the without-a-doubt exquisite photo you see above actually started from another completely amazing photo you will now see below:

Didi's tomatoes! These are Didi-delivery tomatoes.

Didi has a patient (she’s a physical therapist) who has a hobby farm and he brought her these tomatoes which she shared with me.  Do I have some awesome girlfriends or what?

So to thank Didi I baked her (OK, yes, and myself) a tomato pie.  Didi called me, pie in mouth (it’s hard to stop once you start) to say that the pie rocked–which I already knew but it’s still fun to hear.

My mother is a gluten free girl and she breaks her routine for two foods I make: pina colada pancakes and this here tomato pie.

Yes.  It’s that good.

Michelle’s Late Summer Tomato Pie

Ingredients (most measurements are approximate): pie crust (see below), 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, 1/3 cup chopped basil, 3-4 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup cubed bread or bread crumbs

Directions: pop your pie crust in the oven at 375 for 5-10 minutes while you prep everything else.  Then mix tomatoes, basil, garlic, half of the amount of each of the cheeses.  Place in crust.  Add bread crumbs, rest of both cheese to top of pie.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Pie crust from scratch: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup butter, 4-5 tbsp. cold water.  And no, I do not make my crust from scratch.  Although I generally avoid prepared food items, the non-baker in me cannot reconcile the effort that goes into a pie crust that, when completed, tastes the same as a store bought one.  Sorry.  Just comin’ clean.

slice tomato pie

And now, if you’ll excuse me…