Sunday, January 29, 2012

Party a la Pinterest

Hi, my name is Barrett and I'm addicted to Pinterest! Have you heard about the newest crafty craze on the web? According to

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.
Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.
Their description is accurate but doesn't do justice to the amazing resource that I find it to be. There are tons of categories from DIY, Fitness, Gardening, Food & Drink, etc that appeal to me as well as many more that I have yet to explore.  I find myself on it at least twice a day and have created several pin boards of the treasures that I have found.  When thinking about planning our daughter's birthday party I tried turning to Pinterest for inspiration. She had decided that she wanted a "rainbow" themed party so I simply put that in the search box and found some amazing resources! Here's what we created for her party today!
Rainbow & Tye Dye Cupcakes
The inspiration photo for the decorations:

Rainbow Fruit K'Bobs
The Insipriation Link on Pinterest:
Carrots, Celery & Ranch

As you might be able to tell from the above pictures, birthdays are a pretty big deal in our house. I love letting everyone have their own day with things that make them feel special and extra loved. Our soon-to-be four year old requested a rainbow themed party so that is what she got!! Being that this blog is about food I'll spare you all the details about the other activities, but lest you think I go to these extremes in every area, please know that the craft projects that the girls did were all purchased from Oriental Trading Company. To see more pictures from the party, check out my Facebook page.

Happy Birthday to my little one--now it's time to pick up all the pieces and get started on getting ready for the upcoming week.


A Week in Review

Last weekend I spent the weekend with over 200 teens from across Texas and Oklahoma learning out Judaism using our senses. When I get back from a weekend away, much of the following week feels like I am playing catch up-hence the reason I haven't posted all week.   As with most weeks, there only ended up being 3 nights that I cooked at home based on my work schedule, David covered Wednesday and lunches for us for a few days.
This week we cooked all but one dish out of the January/February issue of Every Day Food. It is published by Martha Stewart Living but the recipes are simple and don't require too much time or fuss-great for week night cooking!

Monday night was Roasted Salmon and Vegetables with Herbed Orzo.

This recipe was so easy and amazingly delicious. The girls loved the salmon and I could not believe how quickly it came together-this definitely could have been a nice dinner for company, not for just another Monday night. It is a keeper for sure!

Tuesday was breakfast for dinner with Egg Florentine Breakfast Sandwiches and Clementines.

On Tuesdays we often go to the gym right after we pick up the kids from school so there is not a lot of time for cooking dinner. These egg sandwiches came together quickly and were another great use for the fresh spinach from our garden! David said he liked them but could have just done the spinach sauteed with garlic. I thought the sauce in the spinach was the best part. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one!

Wednesday David made the girls favorite Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Turkey Bacon (a Weight Watchers Recipe)

David has gotten quite fancy with his pancake shapes lately. This is his latest creation. He sent me a pic while I was at work and I was totally bummed that I couldn't be home for pancake night!

For the rest of the week's lunches, David made Asian-Style Salmon Burgers (using the extra salmon and vegetables  from Monday).

Friday was spent at a congregational dinner at Temple for our Scholar in Residence Weekend
Saturday we hosted our monthly "Shabbat Dinner Group" with the theme of Copy Cat Recipes. It's a pot luck and we had a lot of great dishes this month!

Sunday is normally grocery meal planning and grocery shopping day but today was our youngest daughter's 4th birthday party so we ate out with family after the party. A blog about the party will be posted soon as I am getting lots of questions via Facebook about the cupcakes we made.  Grocery shopping will probably have to wait until Tuesday night as we have plenty of food in the house and could use the night to start on thank you notes and a plan for the rest of the week.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meal Planning Harr Style-Part 1 (longer post alert)

I was so excited to hear from so many of you that you like the blog. David and I are enjoying this creative outlet and the ability to share the things we are enjoying with our friends and all of cyberspace.  We have always loved passing on referrals for things we enjoy.

In a previous post I mentioned that we only shop once a week and have a meal planning system that works for us. Many of you messaged me and said you would really like to hear how it works so today I will share step 1. I promise, it really is not a complicated system. I'm just breaking it down so that I don't have to write a really long post or scare anyone off with all the details. Baby steps people-if you aren't in the habit of meal planning then you need to give yourself a good month of trying and sticking to a plan to really see if it will work for you. What we will share is what works for us-it is in no way a one size fits all model so feel free to play with it and tweak it to your family's needs. Feel free to post questions and David and I, or the other people who are reading this can try and make suggestions. It takes a village!

Step 1: Make a list of what is happening during the coming week.
Our meal planning begins with knowing what is on the family calendar for the week. We usually shop on Sunday afternoons after everyone has napped so I start by grabbing my meal planning binder and putting in all the details for the week. What is this meal planning binder that I speak of? I originally started with a spreadsheet that I made myself on Excel with a 7x4 grid with squares for each day of the week going horizontally, and each meal plus a square for the events of note on that day. This worked great for years, but as our family grew, so did the events of note.  Last year when I was wandering through Target I spotted a meal planning binder made by Mead that had all of this on pre-printed sheets in a 3 ring binder. It was on clearance so I snapped it up thinking it would be worth a try. It has been a great addition as I can always see the teal binder it came in even if it is buried under a pile and it provides a great place to store any recipes I may have printed out or have torn from one of my magazines. Mead has printable meal planning sheets for free but it seems the have discontinued the inserts for my binder. The closest one I could find on their website is this one:

Step 2: Pick your source for recipes.
We like to cook out of one magazine or cookbook each week so that we don't have to hunt down a recipe when we are getting ready to cook. I grab whatever magazine or cookbook we are going to use for the week and flip through to see what recipes speak to me. Whenever I get one of my food magazines I go through it and dog ear every recipe that sounds good. I like to keep a big basket of our food magazines under a coffee table so they are always easy to find.  We try and eat pretty healthfully so a lot of our recipes come from Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, and Everyday Food Magazine, or from this cookbook:I

Step 3: Plan your recipes based on how much time you have.
READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE RECIPE YOU ARE CONSIDERING! This is a critical step so that you know how much time it is going to require, if you need to do a step the night before, and to see if you have all the tools it requires. I HATE getting stuck half way through a recipe and having to punt or make something else because I didn't do my homework. We pencil in the recipes we like and plan the dishes and side dishes on each square, look to see which will provide leftovers for the following day's lunch (one of my favorite time saving hints). Then I ask the kids what they want for lunch and make sure that is on the grid as well so that I make sure I have everything I need.

Step 4: Make a list and check it twice. (We'll get more specific about the tools we use for this in a future post.)
At this point I go through each recipe and make a list of all the items we need at the store. We don't plan out our breakfasts so this is the time we check our "stock" of breakfast & snack items. Our house doesn't have a pantry so we don't have a ton of space for food storage so we have to make sure and have the necessities on hand.

Step 5: Shop
We have found a store near us that is a great hybrid of traditional grocery store and gourmet market so we can usually get most of what we need in one stop. When Trader Joe's opens up around the corner from us in a few months we will have to see if they can take over for this store so that we don't have to make two stops. We do actually shop as a family. The kids LOVE checking off things on the grocery list and this has turned into a great letter/reading activity for the girls. We only shop for the things we need that week and rarely get swept up in the stock up on something that is on sale mentality. I know this works for a lot of people but we find we end up forgetting what we have and have to throw stuff away after it has gone bad. If it works for you-do it! Everyone has to find their own method.

Step 6: Enjoy a much more relaxed week!
Put your groceries away and enjoy your extra time now that your evenings aren't filled with  trying to figure out what you can throw together or heading to the store multiple times in a week.

Step 7: Repeat!
Although this seems obvious, this is a critical step. Keeping up with this routine even when things get crazy can really make a huge difference in your sanity level.

A bit confused by all of this? Here's what my meal plan for next week looks like:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sandwich Night-Always a Favorite!

Almost every other week we plan at least one "sandwich night." It often gives us a night off from "cooking" and when we have a crazy night with dance or a PTA meeting it helps us have a quick meal without resorting to leftovers or eating out in a restaurant. Sandwich night for us does not usually mean deli meats and cheeses, or peanut butter and jelly, for us it means things like open-faced goat cheese and prosciutto sandwiches with fig preserves (the girls love goat cheese on toast for dinner), or BLTs+Avocado.  Although these recipes may sound like "fancy" sandwiches, they have all originated from one of my usual magazines or cookbooks and are usually able to be whipped up in less than 10 minutes. Many of them have become family favorites and are repeated regularly.

Tonight our eldest had ballet/tap, laundry needed to be done, and I've got to pack for another trip so a sandwich night was in order. In sticking with the use one cookbook/magazine plan, we made the Open Faced Chicken Club Sandwiches featured on page 122 of the January/February Cooking Light Magazine. You can find the recipe at  This recipe was perfect for this week as it used up the bacon we opened the other night and the chicken we bought on sale last week and had in the freezer.Although this recipe took a bit longer than 10 minutes, most of the time it required was not active cooking time but more "cook the chicken on each side for 6 minutes"--no babysitting required. My kind of recipe!

As mentioned, I LOVE a BLT+A so this recipe was a great match for me. The mix of crispy bacon, avocado, mayo, and chicken felt so indulgent. Many of my favorite things all together in one sandwich and at only 400 calories made me a happy girl! The kiddos went for a more of a "deconstructed" sandwich with slices of the chicken from our sandwiches, cherry tomatoes, and an open faced grilled cheese. As is often the case for us, a recipe that claims to make four servings can often be stretched into 2 adult dinners and 2 lunches, as well as portions of the girls dinners. The leftovers make lunch the next day a no brainer-and something to look forward to!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Survival of the Simplest

It must be Wednesday... In our family that normally means the Queen is off doing her good work while the King is home with the two Princesses. I may on occasion come off as less than enthused on nights like these, but know that I would not trade a second with any of my ladies for anything. That being said I tend to stray from gourmet when cooking for just myself and the kids. Tonight is no exception from that tendency. After picking up the girls from school and spending an hour at the gym we headed home for the remainder of the evening. While our first grader did her reading on the couch, and our pre-schooler colored away, I heated up the soup Barrett made last night jazzed up with some Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and Tabasco sauce (I'm a spicy fan you'll find). The Hawaiian rolls were gone so I cut a slice of some rustic country bread in half, spread some honey mustard on it, and piled some turkey on it for the side sandwich.

The kids picked a simpler fare: Dad's Cheezy Eggs. A dish that is often favorably recieved by the less adventurous palates of the Harr-lings.

After that it was cleanup time, bath time, and bed time.

The food seen in this post is not my preferred fare. I am an adventurous cook who loves making crazy desserts for the Poker Crew (check back next Wednesday), canning various culinary creations, and plenty more. I hope to "WOW!" you a bit more in the future so stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Voila-just like the picture in the magazine!

Cooking Light Cheesy Potato Soup

Every week I sit down on Sunday afternoon and plan all the meals my family will be having for dinner during the coming week, make the grocery list, before we go to the store as a family. Often we pick a magazine or cookbook to cook from for the entire week. This week looks to be a crazy one for my family (as is often the case) as I'll be taking the teens from the youth group I run to a regional  event this weekend and will be out of town Friday to Sunday as well as having as my usual Wednesday night commitment. Due to my trip, this week there were only three nights that we would be home and cooking. When I am gone, my husband usually whips up things like breakfast for dinner, sandwiches and the like. He is an amazing cook himself, but when you are serving as Mom and Dad, sometimes something has to give. My husband suggested that the current January/February Cooking Light Magazine might be the way to go this week to help us get back on track with our plan of eating healthy. I have been travelling for much of the last month and we all know how eating on the road goes, so a few healthy dishes were a welcome starting point.

We try to start each day with breakfast as a family and we eat dinner together on as many nights as possible too. Today was scheduled to be one of those nights however my husband got stuck at work until after 8:30 so it was just me and the girls. We had already planned to make Cheesy Potato Soup so I stuck to the plan instead of trying to throw something else together.  We don't eat a lot of ham in our house so I swapped out the ham for deli turkey in the mini sandwiches that Cooking Light suggested as a side instead. The soup was quick and easy to throw together-even while on my own with the girls.  I am not usually a soup person so I was a bit skeptical about how satisfied I would be but I was pleasantly surprised afterwards with how full I was. Other than the above mentioned swap the only thing this dish needed was a bit of salt as there is none called for in the recipe.  The girls aren't soup eaters so they had the mini-sandwiches with chips and fruit and were quite pleased with themselves.

I always know dinner is a success when I am looking forward to eating leftovers the following day!

And so it begins...

As a child I spent many a weekend afternoon watching cooking shows on PBS. Sometime between my graduations from high school and college I had the thought that because of my love of baking I might want to study to become a pastry chef. My parents weren't too keen on that idea so instead I chose to pursue my other love, working with Jewish youth. Although I haven't reconsidered cooking professionally, I have never quite been able to give up my love of cooking and baking.

Eating well is something that my family tries to do every day, not just on weekends or special occasions. We have our own organic garden and compost bin, we would keep chickens if the county we live in permitted it, and we do our best to avoid processed foods when possible.We eat local and organic when feasible but not as a rule.We are environmentalists with a lower case "e", minimizing our impact on the environment is something that is important to our family but not something that we take to such a degree that we stand out in a crowd.  In order to sustain my love of cooking I subscribe to multiple food magazines a month and read food blogs like they are romance novels. My Sunday afternoon meal planning ritual is one of my favorite times of the week. 

My husband and I regularly post pictures of the food we eat at restaurants or we make ourselves on Facebook. For the last few months people have suggested that I start a food blog to document our food adventures and so that others can try the tasty things we are eating at home.  The majority of my recipes come straight out of cookbooks and magazines with little to no modifications. I plan share the links to the original sources and nutritional information whenever possible so that you too can try these tasty dishes for yourself. I hope that you will consider this blog a conversation and feel free to let me know what you try yourself and share any recipes that you enjoy. I look forward to sharing our food adventures.