USDA says we have to eat like 100 fruits and vegetables a day – okay maybe more like 5 or 6 but still, it seems impossible. Sometimes I buy a bag of fruits with all the intention of “being good” and eating lots of it but many times I am too lazy to pack them and they go bad. So lately I decided to spend few minutes on Sunday pre-packing fruits in individual containers so they are ready to grab and go. And guess what, it’s working – oh planning how I love you! Try it! It feels good to be good.
Many years ago I (well my parents and lil’ sis mostly) had a double life in Panama. Yes, the country, not Panama City, Florida. They lived there for four years while I was in college and I went back to visit during Christmas and summer break. During that time I was introduced to: piña coladas, ceviche and tostones; among other things of course. Tostones are fried plantains. What are plantains? They are basically green bananas that can’t be eaten raw but need cooking first. In Panama, the cooking method chosen is fried – double fried mind you. I know this is a common food in some Central and South American countries and islands in the Caribbean as well but I don’t know exactly who claims ownership of such deliciousness. Where can you buy plantains? Plantains are relatively common in major grocery stores though my local Krogers didn’t have them and I had to go to their competition (gasp!). If you have a local Latin market go there – and if such market serves tacos have some too while you shop. I LOVE TACOS.
Now let’s go back to these magic words I mentioned earlier: “double fried.” I think is common knowledge that everything fried is good and you can pretty much fry anything. These babies are fried not once, but twice! Remember my fear of making small foods? I GUESS fried plantains are kinda small foods? But also easy to make. It comes down to chop, fry once, smash, fry again, eat. That’s it. Follow me please…
- 2 plantains
- Oil for frying (I used sunflower oil)
- Peel plantains and chop in 1-inch disks.
- Heat enough oil in a skillet so disks and half-submerged in the oil. When the oil is sizzling add the disks and cook until about 3-5 minutes on each side until soft. Remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate.
- Place the plantains in a cutting board and smash them using the back on a wooden spoon until they are flat.
- Add the plantains back to the skillet and fry about 3 minutes on each side or until golden.
S is for “Salad”, that’s good enough for me! Ok not the same as cookies but this salad is pretty delicious and fresh and colorful and everything a salad should be. There are two ways (according to me) of eating this salad: with or without some form of lettuce as a base. I’ve had it both ways. Both delicious. Does a salad need to have lettuce to be called “a salad”? Your choice there. Does this make good leftovers? So good (always thinking ahead about what to bring for lunch to work). Is this good enough for a potluck? Bring it! Don’t be that person that always brings chips and salsa because you’re too lazy to make anything else. And I could live on chips and salsa (or better yet, guacamole) but it’s nice to make an effort once in a while. Your friends will love you for it. As always, adjust ingredients as needed…
Black Bean, Corn and Feta Salad
- 1 can canned corn
- 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 limes, juiced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients through the salt and pepper.
- Divide lettuce among plates if using and top with bean mix.
I decided last week that I was going to get some “me” time on Saturday and that “me” time was going to include lots of cooking and recipe testing. I was imagining an apron full of stains, forehead covered in sweat and flour, lots of dirty dishes and tons of delicious food at the end of the day. Then Saturday came along. Two loads of laundry, an entire house clean (including basement) and some yard work later and my cooking time was cut short. Oh did I mention that unexpected stop for frozen yogurt to catch up with an old workout buddy or how I went to buy MORE books? I mean I only read the first three Harry Potter books in one week; it’s not like I am a fast reader or anything…At the end of the day I didn’t get to test as many recipes as expected but I did try these corn fritters.
I am slightly scared of making food that looks small and detailed and complicated. Appetizers tend to follow those criteria. These corn fritters LOOK complicated (not sure why but they do okay!) but they are so easy it is embarrassing I have never made them before. They are also so good. This is a great starter or a small meal and they can be served by themselves or with a dipping sauce of your choice such as guacamole or yogurt-cucumber dip. I can now tell my therapist I am not scared anymore.
Corn FrittersMakes 12 fritters
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 cups corn kernels
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 scallions
- salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Mix the flour and baking powder together is a mixing bowl. Gradually stir the beaten eggs and milk. Mix well until the batter is smooth.
- Stir in the corn, garlic, scallions, salt and pepper.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a largo non-stick frying pan until it is hot.
- Spoon in a tablespoon of the mixture for each fritter leaving space between the fritters so they don’t stick together. Pat each fritter a bit so they are flat. Fry until golden brown and then turn it over to brown the other side (about 2-3 minutes on each side).
- Sever immediately as-is or along your favorite dipping sauce.
I used to spend SO MUCH TIME looking for recipes and planning the menu for the week. I was really good at spotting good food. I had a system. Somehow along the way I stopped doing that on a regular basis and I was going day by day. I used to rely mostly on my Cooking Light subscription; which I started in 2000. Now there are so many places to find recipes is overwhelming but I decided to get back to it and I pulled together some ideas for next week. Do you plan your menus on a regular basis?
Knox County schools start next week. Kids will be crying; parents will high five themselves. If you don’t have kids don’t worry, all your Facebook friends that DO have kids will be posting pictures of their children with their new backpacks, lunch boxes and outfits for the whole world to see. It’s a glorious day for all.
After all the excitement has died away, reality will hit us. We will all again be super busy with school, work, homework and whatever after school activities we have to run to. The ever-present question will be in our heads again. How will we manage to make dinner every night?!?!?!? Last year I bought a crock pot. And I highly recommend you do the same. I am still collecting recipes I can make on the crock pot that I like, Adrian likes, are easy and good. One of those is this whole chicken courtesy of Lisa Leake from 100 Days of Real Food. I have made this many times and it’s so good and moist. I usually run the crockpot while I sleep because most recipes need to be cooking less time that I am away from home during work time. The only down side is that the smell ALWAYS wakes up in the middle of the night. The end result is dinner ready to eat (after reheating of course) when you come home in the evenings. Just make whatever side dish you want with your chicken and you are done. Happy last week of summer everyone!
Chicken Slow Cooked in a Crock potADAPTED FROM 100 Days of Real Food
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 large chicken
- Combine the dried spices in a small bowl.
- Loosely chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken.
- Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high.
- Cook for 4 – 5 hours on high (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone.
I feel summer is slipping away and I have yet to go on vacation – that will be fixed this week though! Seaside! Seaside! For me summer ends when “Back to School” stuff are out on the stores and I have to start thinking about waking up at 5:45 am again (big time ugh). Luckily summer does not really end August 11th when Adrian gets back in the yellow school bus. There is still plenty of time before leaves start to fall for cookouts, grilling, patio time, pool time, beach time, overall being outside hanging out and eating time. I find pasta salad to be the quintessential summer meal that is perfect to share with all your friends in all events listed above. It is incredibly versatile. Pretty much throw in whatever vegetables you want and toss with whatever type of dressing you want. I tend to favor simple vinaigrettes or olive oil/vinegar combinations. I made this for friends a couple of weekends ago and it was devoured by all. An overall winner.
Tomato, Feta and Kalamata Olives Pasta SaladSERVINGS 4
- 1/2 lb pasta (I used whole wheat fusilli)
- 1/2 cup canned corn
- 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1/2 kalamata olives
- Dressing of choice
- Cook pasta according to package instructions and cool to room temperature.
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
I was going to start this post but saying this may be the most ridiculous thing that can happen to me as a mother but let’s face it, Adrian is only seven, chances are these shenanigans will continue for years to come. Let me share my story.
For the last two years I have been trying hard to get Adrian to be a packer at school. If you are not familiar with elementary school lingo, a packer is someone who packs his lunch to school. He wants to be a buyer (someone who buys lunch from the cafeteria) like all his friends. It has been a battle.
Moving on to summer. Adri has been attending a day summer camp that usually provides lunch but once a week the kids go on a field trip and they have to bring their own lunch. I always try to pull together leftovers and add some treats like cookies to make it yummier. Wednesday afternoon I picked him up from summer camp and he told me “mommy, I want to buy a lunchable for tomorrow’s field trip.” I said ok, I can do this. One time. So we went to the grocery store and bought this 6-in turkey and cheddar cheese Lunchable Uploaded. This thing has the bread (6-inch), turkey, cheese, two Hershey’s kisses, Pringles and KOOL-AID.
Flash forward to Thursday afternoon. I am driving to school and I think “hmmm if he likes these lunchables, I can make my own at home and he can be a packer when school starts in two weeks.” Adri and I get in the car and I tell him this brilliant idea and he says “No!” Why not? I asked. “You need 6-inch bread and cheddar cheese and turkey. Do you even have the ingredients to make the lunchable? “, he says. Well I can buy these things at the store. “Do you even know how to make KOOL-AID?” Yes yes I can buy KOOL-AID and mix it in your water bottle. “No! No! It has to be Spring water!” Whatever kid! Finally he says, “okay let’s make a deal. You make me this thing for dinner and if I like it I will be a packer. Deal?” For some reason I agreed to this. Now imagine this conversation going on back and forth for ten minutes. I have so much patient is not even funny.
Off we go to the grocery story to buy bread, Hershey’s kisses and the KOOL-AID. He tried to get me to buy this “Spring water” I supposedly need to make mix the KOOL-AID but this is where I draw the line kiddo! Tap water! As we are leaving he is carefully explaining to me how to make this sandwich. How many slices of turkey I need to use (four), how to cut the cheese (four small square pieces) and how many Pringles (five). We head home and I made this (he made me use a ruler to measure the bread to exactly 6-inches – can’t make these stuff up)….
Apparently the bread was crunchier than the original but I still got a thumbs up on the deal. Points for mom. Feel free to yell at me for putting up with this. I enjoy he has a big personality and is feisty – everything is hereditary my friends. EVERYTHING.