Thursday, May 29, 2008

Road Food for Teens

Thursday: Curried Chicken Salad

Hopefully, you have more chicken left over than my family does. We only have one drumstick so no chicken salad tonight. Moving on to pasta!!

Reflections from the Backcounter

Road Trip to Oceanside. tomorrow we depart for Oceanside and the turn in ceremony for our CCI Puppy, O'Hanna. She has completed the first stage of her journey to become a service dog for a handicapped person in our home and is now going on to attend advanced training at the CCI campus in Oceanside. This is going to be a bittersweet trip. We want her to live to fulfill her destiny but she has become a treasured member of our family and will be sorely missed. It seems like yesterday that we went to the airport to pick up a little butterball of an eight week old puppy to begin her life with us. We are sad and not looking forward to the long drive, gas prices and fatigue. We hope to make the trip a little brighter with good road food for teens and moms. So far our menu for the road will include:

Breakfast egg, bacon and cheese burros. (Made ahead and wrapped in foil to be eaten later on the road)

Sandwich wraps (tuna and turkey with lettuce and cheese)


Sun chips

Sparkling water and bottled water

Coffee in a thermos for the moms and hot chocolate for the kids.


Chewy bars

Goldfish crackers and mozzarella sticks.

Wish us well and say a prayer for O'Hanna!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kids on summer break: Sloths in kids clothing

Wednesday: Baked chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

Reflections from the Backcounter

The long awaited summer has finally arrived and I am already irritated with my sleep zombie teenagers. I know that biologically they need more sleep than the average sloth but for pete's sake "Get out of bed" I had to engage my best remote parenting techniques about 15 times yesterday just to get them moving before 1 p.m. Given that I am up by 5 and out the door by 7:30 this is more than a little irritating. Really irritating when they choose to ignore the ringing phone. This is the cross that all working mother's must bear. It is really hard to supervise kids from work and when there is no help at home...what can a mother do? I am leaving detailed lists for the to do's and I suppose a sleeping teen is better than a teen out looking for trouble!
Today is a baked chicken for dinner. The teen task today is to use the recipe from the Backcounter Buffet and make the dinner. More life skill training for the little darlings and a break from cooking for me. Will report on the outcome later tonight and hope to have pictures of the succulent bird to share!

Off to work.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gas Prices: Can we do something?

Tuesday: Braised Chuck Roast
Green Beans

Reflections from the Backcounter

This came to me via email this morning. I don't usually pass these types of emails on but this struck a chord with me especially as I paid $3.86 for a gallon of regular gas this morning. Who knows maybe this will work. I am voting with my feet and will buy gas from other companies.


It was sent by a retired Coca Cola executive, came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. If you are tired of the gas prices going up AND they will continue to rise this summer, take time to read this please.

Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea.

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the 'don't buy gas on a certain day' campaign that was going around last April or May!
It's worth your consideration. Join the resistance!!!!
I hear we are going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down?

We need to take some intelligent, united action. The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to 'hurt' ourselves by refusing to buy gas.

It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.
BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can Really work. Please read on and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $2.00 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $3.55 for regular unleaded in my town.

Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace...not sellers.

With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.

The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas.
But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL.

If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) .. and those 300 send it to at least ten mor e (300 x 10 = 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.
If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted!

If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all!

(If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am . so trust me on this one.

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!
I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you!

Acting together we can make a difference.

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $2.00 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Weekly menu 12

Reflections from the Backcounter

Memorial day is a day to remember all who have given up their life for our country and to remember those who served in the military. I take for granted the freedom that my father fought hard to ensure during WWII. I hope that we can all take a moment out of our hectic schedule today to realize that the purpose of this holiday is not to enjoy a three day weekend but to remember the sacrifice of individuals and families ...a sacrifice that has given me a beautiful three day weekend in May with my family. I especially remember by father who was truly proud to be an American...and so am I.

Monday: Memorial Day

Burgers and Hot Dogs on the Grill
Potato Salad
Deviled eggs
Chocolate Cake

Braised Chuck Roast with Balsamic Vinegar, Figs And Port Ingredients
Green Beans

1 Chuck roast; (4-pound) 3 Gloves garlic; chopped
1/2 lb Dried Mission figs; halved
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c Red wine
1/2 c All-purpose flour
1/2 c Port
1 tb Olive oil
2 c Veal or chicken stock
1 sm Onion; diced
1 tb Chopped fresh thyme

Instructions for Braised Chuck Roast with Balsamic Vinegar, Figs And Port
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Put the flour on a large plate and dredge the meat in the flour. Place the oil in a roasting pan and heat it in the oven or on a burner over high heat until the oil is smoking hot. Add the roast and brown each side well, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the figs, red wine, and Port and cook over high heat until reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the thyme, cover the roasting pan with a lid, and place in the oven. Cook until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and place the roast on a cutting board, reserving the braising liquid in the pan for the sauce. Slice the roast against the grain, cutting 1/4-inch-thick pieces, and put the slices on a serving plate. Season the sauce in the pan to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is thin, place the pan on a burner over high heat and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Ladle sauce over the sliced meat and serve hot.

Another option is to place the chuck roast and ingredients in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours. In my house this is the only way to cook something like this on a weeknight. Can serve the chuck roast slices on rice.

Baked Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

Clean whole chicken and pat dry. Loosen skin of breast and slide soft butter mixed with lemon juice and a few chopped rosemary leaves (go light on the rosemary) between skin and meat. Slice one lemon in half and place in cavity of chicken with ¼ of an onion and one small sprig of rosemary. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until done.
Roasted carrots


Curried Chicken salad sandwiches
(Use left over chicken to make the chicken salad)
1 1/2 cups skinless cubed chicken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
5 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium red onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 firm-ripe mango (3/4 lb), peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 cup red seedless grapes (5 oz), halved
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, curry, lime juice, honey, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken, onion, mango, grapes, and cashews and stir gently to combine.
Carrot and celery sticks

This is a delicious healthy pizza alternative. Instead of fighting with pizza dough on Friday night, use a Boboli and cook it on the grill to add flavor and crispness to the crust. A great recipe from Epicurious.

Pizza Bianca

Artichoke and mushroom fritatta
Fresh bread
Green Salad

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Blogosphere

Reflections from the Backcounter

New to the blog world, I am fascinated by the community of people encountered, the different blogs and the opportunities available to bloggers. When I first started, I signed up for PayPerPost. It sounded like a great idea...get paid to write about things you know. Great idea but my blog got a big fat rejection. The reviewer felt that there was not enough original writing. I think he/she got stuck on the fact that I list menus on my blog and thought that I wasn't writing. Anyway, I let it sit for a while and recently reapplied and was accepted. Now I haven't actually written anything that I will be paid for yet but I am optimistic. Why not explore ways to boost the income to the household, especially with gas approaching $4.00 /gallon? I am shocked at the cost to fill my tank and by the cost of milk. Currently, my crew drinks a gallon a day and so I do my grocery shopping based on the cost of milk. Yesterday I lucked into a $1.88/gallon deal at Basha's. So I bought extra to make yogurt.
Anyway, back to PayPerPost, they have just posted a notice that a blog will be eligible after 30 days of activity instead of 90. So it is much easier to qualify and participate in the program. If you surf blogs, you will see that a variety of bloggers participate in the program. Check it out and see if it is something that you can add to your blog.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday at last

Friday: Southwestern Monte Cristo Sandwiches
8 slices white sandwich bread
1/2 cup hot pepper jelly or: chili sauce, tomatillo or tomato salsa, taco sauce
– whichever you have on hand
8 slices honey baked ham, from the deli counter
8 slices Pepper Jack cheese, from the deli counter
8 slices smoked turkey, from the deli counter
2 eggs, beaten
A splash of milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sour cream
2 to 3 scallions, chopped

To make Monte Cristos: spread bread with a light layer of pepper jelly or chili sauce, salsa, taco sauce then build sandwiches using 2 slices each of ham, cheese and turkey per sandwich. Beat eggs with milk and 2 teaspoons hot sauce and season the eggs with a little salt. Heat a griddle pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in skillet. Dip each sandwich in egg coating and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side to melt cheese and warm the meats through.

Reflections from the Backcounter

The downside to a long weekend is the week leading up to it. For some reason, this has been a long week. I have been on a collision course with competing agendas. Luckily, the weather was on my side and our planned trip to the mountains was cancelled because our getaway from the heat was unnecessary. It has been very cool, and rainy in the desert... fun for those of us who are oversaturated with sun but when you translate it into 30 degree weather in the thanks. I think I'll stay home and be productive. Hope all your Memorial Day celebrations are happy and safe. Prayers for our troops.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday is really Friday Eve

Thursday: Linguine with Clam sauce,1977,FOOD_9936_24132,00.html

Reflections from the Backcounter

I am blessed today to have a guest author on the blog. My dear friend Ruth shares her thoughts about the week with us. Thank you Ruth. I hope you have a wonderful and restful weekend!

When I was small, the world seemed like an enormous place to me. I thought the boundaries of the known world were the hill at the top of my street, and the corner at the bottom of my street. Each passing year changed my perspective in much the same way that you can change the perspective on a map in Google. Start at the street level and move up, to suburb, city, state, country, world, planet, universe, and you’ll get the idea about changing your own perspective on the week.
For example, today is Thursday. On a daily level, it’s a truly hectic day. My work to-do list and my personal to-do list are wrestling each other for the heavyweight championship, and my tired brain is trying to multi-task its way to the calm I crave and associate with completion and closure. On a weekly level, though, today is the day before Friday, which makes it technically (and much more positively) Friday Eve! Thinking about today as Friday Eve lifts my mental perspective. I’m less bogged down by the reality of today than the prospect of tomorrow. There’s more. Tomorrow (Friday), is the day before A LONG WEEKEND! I can scarcely stand the anticipation! Three whole days that stretch out like a grand and glorious blank canvas, ready to be painted with the colors of my whims, peccadilloes, and unplanned pleasures! Looking back at the month of May, I can appreciate that, despite having been busy to the point of near-cruelty at work, I have savored an unusually temperate desert spring, and done really important things like holding a frightened friend’s hand while her husband had surgery. The point of this exercise is that you can literally rise above the chaos of the minute, the hour, or the day by considering the week (it’s Friday Eve!), the month, the year. When you rise above the day, you can see further. You grow up mentally, and what you really see is that your life is blessed in ways that you never imagined when you were little and your world was small.
Peace to my Julia.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fairy Godmothers and Friends


Layered cobb salad

Reflections from the Backcounter

Great food on my backcounter this week. I may forego the cobb salad because we still have leftover enchiladas. Leftovers are a gift on a busy weeknight. Speaking of gifts, I just received an inspirational and hilarious card from an amazing friend. She has the uncanny ability to know just what is needed and when it is needed the most. I do need a Fairy Godmother but if one is not available, I am happy to substitute my good friends.!! And you all know who you are!!! (Aussies, judges, barn moms, engineers, editors, managers.......and by the way you are all busy moms(oops and dads, sorry DD)
Friends are amazing. I just received a great card from a dear friend and it really brightened my day. This girl knows how to tell it like it is. I am sharing it...send the message on to one of your friends who needs a little support!

"If I could, I'd find a fairy godmother with a magical wand and combat boots so that she could grant your wishes and kick the crap outta anything that tried to get in the way of your happiness.!"


Tuesday, May 20, 2008



Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker
(See recipe on Sunday's Post)

Reflections from the Backcounter

Today was a day of reflection and gratitude. Gratitude for the small things. Gratitude for the grand things. A birdsong, a clear sky, a warm meal, friends who check in on me.. I am thankful for much and have much to learn to be thankful for. May I continue to grow in the realization of my many blessings.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday mayhem: Finals week

Chicken Cheese Enchiladas
Refried beans
Spanish Rice

Reflections from the Backcounter
Final exams. A dreadful week of stress, anxiety and hours of studying. Finals are a fixture in the American education system and they have the capability of turning a household upside down. I am just putting my head down and trying to weather the storm of moods and stress while providing large quantities of good food available at all hours of the night. What else is a mother to do? I can promise that the days of my being able to assist with the math are OVER. My math ability was surpassed in about the third chapter of the Geometry book. So, I will focus on sustenance and support, the teachers will have to present the content. Hopefully, the enchiladas will brighten a few moods.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Menu Week 11

Reflections from the Backcounter

A lazy Sunday in May. A great chance to catch up on laundry, magazines and cook ahead for the week. An hour or two of prep on Sunday can make the week go much more smoothly. In our area school is winding down and not a moment too soon. At least the morning launch and lunch making will be over less chore in the morning. Maybe I can focus on other things like matching my shoes!



Chicken Marsala,,FOOD_9936_24021,00.html
French Bread


Chicken Cheese Enchiladas
Refreid beans
Spanish Rice


Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

4 thick bone-in pork chops at least 1 inch thick blotted dry
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 med yellow onion, chopped
1 lg red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings or strips
1 clove garlic minced
2 8oz cans tomato sauce
2T balsamic vinegar
2 T minced fresh flat leaf parlsey
½ t dried oregano
½ t dried basil
Pinch of salt
2T cornstarch
¼ c cold water

Brown pork chops in a skillet
In slow cooker, combine the mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Nestle the pork chops on top
In a med sized bowl, combine the tomato sauce, vinegar, parsley, oregano, basil and salt. Pour over the pork chops. Cover and cook on low until the meat is tender, 6-8 hours. Transfer the pork chops to a platter and tent with foil. Transfer the tomato sauce to a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth, and stir the slurry into the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and serve over the porkchops.

Adapted from: Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger


Layered Cobb Salad

This is a great recipe from Rachel Ray. This can be considered a pantry dinner because the clams come in a can and pasta keeps in the pantry. A few added ingredients and dinner is served!

Linguine with Clam Sauce,1977,FOOD_9936_24132,00.html

Sliced tomatoes with Balsamic vinegar and Olive oil
French Bread


Southwestern Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Carrot and Celery Sticks
Tortilla Chips and salsa

Southwestern Monte Cristo Sandwiches

8 slices white sandwich bread 1/2 cup hot pepper jelly or: chili sauce, tomatillo or tomato salsa, taco sauce – whichever you have on hand 8 slices honey baked ham, from the deli counter 8 slices Pepper Jack cheese, from the deli counter 8 slices smoked turkey, from the deli counter 2 eggs, beaten A splash of milk 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup sour cream 2 to 3 scallions, chopped
To make Monte Cristos: spread bread with a light layer of pepper jelly or chili sauce, salsa, taco sauce then build sandwiches using 2 slices each of ham, cheese and turkey per sandwich. Beat eggs with milk and 2 teaspoons hot sauce and season the eggs with a little salt. Heat a griddle pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in skillet. Dip each sandwich in egg coating and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side to melt cheese and warm the meats through.

Meat loaf
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 pound ground beef, moistened with ¼ cup milk1/2 onion, finely chopped (I like to sauté the onion before I add it to the meat)1 egg 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 cup bread crumbs or 1 cup bread cubes1 cup ketchup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix together the horseradish, mustard, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix ground beef, onion, egg, and Worcestershire sauce. Add contents of small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the bread crumbs and combine well.
Place mixture into a 1-pound loaf pan. Pour ketchup over top and place in oven.
Bake uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday: Pizza

Friday: Pizza

Reflections from the Backcounter

I just read a blog entry from Penelope Trunk that got me thinking...always a dangerous undertaking. Anyway, she decided to hire a house manager to allow her to keep her life together as she struggles to balance the demands on her time from work, home and childrearing. I completely agree. The goal is to find a way to get through life with grace and balance any way that works for you. Unfortunately, this is a polarizing topic and the responses she got from her readers were amazing. The pendulum swung from those who were completely supportive to those who basically wanted to tar and feather her for the choice that she made. This is dangerous ground. Rather than criticizing each other, women need to bond together and support the diversity that makes us all unique. There are those of us who stay at home and those of us who don't. The "why " in why we choose to pursue certain paths is made up of complex equations that are constantly changing as we journey through life. Circumstances, goals, dreams, talents and financial realities are all factors in the equation and no one can judge another woman's choice to work at home or in the workforce because there is never a way to truly understand all of the factors leading up to the outcome. We have to be free to choose our destinies and should support one another in our choices. I work outside the home. I struggle everyday to balance my life and ensure that I do the best job that I can do in every aspect of my life. Some days I succeed,other days I am a miserable failure...I guess that I am just human. In the end, I believe that we would all benefit from tolerance and respect for others who are living their lives to the best of their ability. If I can say one thing to Penelope..I say this..."you go girl" and don't let the critics get to you.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Panini Thursday


Brie and Apple panini

Fruit salad

Sweet potato chips

Reflections from the Backcounter

A great find on Epicurious. Always in search of menu ideas, I was pleased to find this weekly menu planning page on Epicurious. Listed by date, there are weekly menus that are targeted to the season . The recipes look interesting...some perhaps a little too interesting for a family with kids but in any event always fun to try new ideas and menu plans. I so often run out of ideas for my crew. Here is the link.

It is always a hit at my house to have a sandwich dinner. Easy and quick to prepare, the panini maker adds flair and interest to a boring sandwich.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prayers for China

Wednesday: Pork Fried Rice

Sliced tomatoes

Reflections from the Backcounter

I cannot get the images of the poor children trapped in the rubble of the earthquake out of my mind. The scope of this disaster is unfathomable and hard to confront. As I sit in my comfortable house with my children safely asleep in their beds, my heart breaks for the Chinese mothers who have lost their children and with them a part of their very heart and soul. Motherhood transcends culture, geography, religion and politics. All mothers can relate to the joy and pain of motherhood. A mother's loss is felt by all mothers. Join me in prayer for the mothers who are suffering unthinkable pain and loss. I lift them up.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Green tea

Tuesday: Chicken Tacos
Refried Beans

Reflections from the Backcounter

More chicken leftovers. I was able to make a big batch of chicken tacos using the last of the two chickens cooked on Sunday. Another night where a quick dinner was a neccesity. Chopping the chicken into small pieces and combining it with salsa and grated cheese in a skillet makes a delicious filling for tacos. The usual toppings were served and everyone had a great dinner. It was quick to prepare and the taco bar on the backcounter was a quick way to serve. We ended up serving eight for dinner as we had unexpected guests and a good time was had by all.

We have decided to add green tea to our diets. Interesting evidence in the medical literature about the benefits and possible impact on cancer risk . There are some case reports of improvement in four chronic leukemia patients from the Mayo clinic who added green tea to their diet. No hard science yet but trials are underway through the National Cancer Institute. Seems like an easy way to add benefit.



Monday, May 12, 2008


Left over chicken
Green beans

Reflections from the Backcounter

Leftovers rule in our house. It is nearly impossible to have the time to make a meal every night given the time constraints and calendar obligations of the family. Yesterday we put two chickens on the spit (by the way they were on sale for $.57/lb) so it was a bargain dinner. Tonight we had left over chicken and it was a fast but delicious way to feed everyone.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekly Menu 10


Roasted boneless pork loin
Corn on the cob
Mashed potatoes


Rotisserie Chicken
(We make this chicken on our BBQ rotisserie and did it on Sunday. We made two because they were on sale. You can also purchase a rotisserie cooked chicken at most grocery stores or Costco)
Green Beans


Pork Fried Rice

1/2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 cup chopped onion 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger 2 cups left over cooked pork loin diced 1-2 cups cooked rice 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce 2 teaspoons sesame oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggs and tilt pan to coat the surface. Cook eggs in an even layer until cooked through, flipping halfway through cooking (about 2 minutes per side). Remove eggs, dice into small pieces and set aside.
To the same pan, heat remaining peanut oil. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook 2 minutes. Add diced pork and cook 3 minutes, until golden brown. Add rice, soy sauce and sesame oil and cook 2 minutes to heat through. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Transfer to a serving plate and top with chopped eggs.

Chicken tacos
Use left over chicken from Rotisserie chicken. Shred chicken and mix with chopped olives, shredded cheese, salsa and fresh cilantro. Cook in a skillet until warmed through and cheese melts evenly. Serve in taco shells and top with usual taco toppings.
Refried beans
Spanish Rice


Brie and Apple Panini
Fruit salad
Sweet potato chips



Reflections from the Backcounter

Today is Mother's Day. A great day to enjoy the blessings of my children. We took a hike in the morning and had a great dinner in the late afternoon. The weather is great and the sky is blue. l A day to be thankful.



Friday, May 9, 2008

More Friday Musings: Mother's Day Gift ideas

Reflections from the Backcounter

Still musing on Mother's Day. I realized that a great idea for my mother would be photographs and so I called my favorite photographer to see if she had any ideas. Of course she did. Check out her website . Paula is great with kids and animals and especially with them in combination. Think about a certificate for a photo for the mom in your life and check out Paula's work


Friday musings: Spring Fever

Friday: Chicken picatta with capers

Reflections from the Backcounter

School is winding down and the temperature is rising!! More than an observation on the weather, I am referring to the fever that is raging through my house...Spring fever! It is getting increasingly difficult to get my teens out of bed in the morning and homework is becoming a daunting task for them. It is hard to blame them. The circadian rhythm of the teen body is completely out of synch with the time demands of a school schedule. Haven't you noticed? Teens get a second wind at night and suddenly have a burst of energy around 11 pm. Just when the parents are collapsing, teens are buzzing with enthusiasm and sleep is the last thing on their minds. Morning is another story. Trying to get my teenage son out of bed in the morning requires nothing short of a herculean effort.

These kids are tired by the end of the school year and are yearning for the unstructured days of summer. My kids plan to sleep for the first week of vacation. Until then, they must continue to soldier on and stay focused on the last tasks of the semester. Projects are coming to a close and the final mountain to climb is finals week. Keep them well fed and prepare for late nights...they are inevitable.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mother's Day

Thursday: Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry


Reflections from the Backcounter

Let's get planning. Mother's Day is on Sunday!!!
Mother's Day. A day like no other. A day for all mother's to celebrate and enjoy the gift of motherhood. This is the day when mother's are supposed to rest, relax and be pampered by their adoring families. The brainchild of a West Virginia woman, Anna Jarvis, Mother's Day was declared a national holiday by Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Soon thereafter it became apparent that Mother's Day offered significant opportunity for commercialization. Greeting cards and Floral arrangements became customary gifts for mothers.

Fast forward to our current reality.....Restaurants filled to overflowing with families waiting to be seated for brunch, hordes of men grabbing the last remaining Mother's Day cards in the grocery store aisle during the Sunday morning coffee run, and of course the wonderful homemade macaroni and glue flower pots, cards and refrigerator magnets that are made in the elementary school projects.
Mother's day can actually be a scramble especially for sandwich moms...those are the moms who are actively mothering children and also attending to the needs of their own moms who are now elderly. Mothers who are "sandwiched" between two generations of need (kids and elderly parents) are often too busy doing for others to take time for themselves. How best can all of the expectations for Mother's Day be met? Who gets the designation as "the Mother" Who cooks? Who cleans? Who relaxes? Who gets stressed out?

Maybe simplification is the answer.

Here are some ideas gathered from friends and family for celebrating Mother's Day:

1. Have a multigenerational celebration. Celebrate all mothers and share the cooking and clean up. Everyone bring a dish and have a casual meal

2. Picnic with the family in the park. Little to clean up and food can be simple

3. Skip the busy overcrowded and usually expensive restaurant meals.

4. Have a dinner and a movie night on the Saturday before Mother's Day

5. Send all the mothers in your life to the spa for a day of relaxation and make dinner for them when they return (hint to all men reading this blog)

6. Do and relax.... a forced celebration is often more stressful than doing nothing.

7. Help the mother in your life plant her summer garden or flowers.

8. Clean your mother's house

9. Wash your mother's car!

10. Serve your mother breakfast in bed

11. Do all the laundry in the house.

12. Take a family hike and picnic on the trail

13. Pick flowers from the garden and make a bouquet

14. Have a casual cook your own omelet brunch

Mother's Day does not have to be more work for the mom in your life. is meant to be a day for celebration and enjoyment. Simplify and enjoy!!



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The To Do list.

Wednesday: Split Pea Soup
Garlic Bread

Reflections from the Backcounter

It is the middle of the week again and I seem to have arrived with a little less fatigue than usual. I have been attending to my health a little more lately and the pay off is happening. My energy is better and I am less done in by the to do list.

The all powerful To Do list. What is it about the To Do list that wields such power in our lives. I am constantly updating it, checking it and enjoying that momentary jolt of pleasure that is derived from crossing an item off the list. The To Do list is a fundamental element of my life and without it, my family would implode. But...honestly I would love to spend some time away from the have to section of the To Do list and on to the want to section. Life is too short to always serve the have tos. Maybe instead of doing I will concentrate on being for a while. ....and then we will run out of milk.....



Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Tuesday: Stuffed Shells
Garlic bread
Reflections from the Backcounter

I got this on my email today and had to share it. Let's keep those handbags off the backcounter!!

>Something to think about!
>Have you ever noticed women who place their handbags on public toilet
>floors - then go directly to their dining tables and set it on the
>table? Happens a lot!
>It's not always the restaurant food that causes stomach distress.
>Sometimes 'what you don't know will hurt you!
>Read on...
>Mom got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their
>handbags down on the counter where she
>was cooking or plating food. She always said that handbags are really
>dirty, because of where they've been.
>Smart Mom!
>It's something just about every woman carries with her. While we may
>know what's inside our handbags,
>we have no idea what's on the outside. Women carry handbags
>everywhere; from the office to public
>toilets to the floor of the car. Most women won't be caught without
>their handbags, but stop to think about where
>your handbag goes during the day.
>'I drive a school bus, so my handbag is on the floor of the bus a
>lot,' says one woman. 'On the floor of my car, and
>in toilets.' 'I put my handbag in grocery shopping carts, on the floor
>of the toilet,' says another woman 'and of course
>in my home which should be clean.'
>We decided to find out if handbags harbor a lot of bacteria. We
>learned how to test them at Nelson Laboratories in
>Salt Lake , and then we set out to test the average woman's handbag.
>Most women told us they don't think about what's on the bottom of
>their handbag. Many said at home they usually
>set their handbags on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is
>Most of the ladies we talked to told us they would expect that their
>handbags were a little dirty. It turns out handbags are
>so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist who tested them was shocked.
>Microbiologist Amy Karen of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the
>handbags tested were high in harmful kinds of bacteria.
>Pseudomonas can cause eye infections, staphylococcus aurous can cause
>serious skin infections, and salmonella and
>e-coli found on the handbags could make people very sick.
>In one sampling, four of five handbags tested positive for salmonella,
>and that's not the worst of it. 'There is fecal contamination on the
>handbags,' says Amy. Leather or vinyl handbags tend to be cleaner than
>cloth handbags, and lifestyle seems to play a role. People with kids
>tend to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception.
>The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of
>the worst contaminations of all. 'Some type of feces, or possibly
>vomit' says Amy.
>So the moral of this story - your handbag won't kill you, but it does
>have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places
>where you eat.
>Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don't put
>it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen countertop.
>Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a
>pair of shoes. 'If you think about putting a pair of shoes onto your
>countertops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your
>handbag on the countertops' - your handbag has gone
>where individuals before you have sneezed, coughed, spat, urinated,
>emptied bowels, etc!
>The microbiologists at Nelson also said cleaning a handbag will help.
>Wash cloth handbags and use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of
>leather handbags.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday: Cinco de Mayo

Monday: Shredded Beef Tostadas

Reflections from the Backcounter

Children thrive on routine. All mothers learn (some earlier than others) that a bedtime routine benefits mother and child. A household that has a predictable rhythm provides children with a sense of security and a center. As children get older it becomes much harder to enforce routines. Each family member may be running on a different calendar, after school activities often conflict with dinnertime and homework can keep a teen up until the wee hours of the morning .
The family dinner is an opportunity to bring the family together in a relaxed and comfortable environment. Coming together over a meal encourages communication and bonding between siblings as well as parents and children. As idealistic and appealing a family dinner routine is to those of us who were raised on the June Cleaver pearls for dinner model of the perfect family, such a simple concept is in practical terms often "nigh on impossible.!" The challenge of getting everyone in the same place at the same time is daunting.

One solution is again, the use of the Backcounter Buffet. Setting up the food and utilizing the countertop near the stove to layout the dishes, silverware, napkins and cold dishes allows the hot dishes to remain on the stove for easy serving. A meal prepared like this can be served in shifts and usually keeps well for the few hours that are needed. Although this is not the classic meal ,served June Cleaver style, I believe that it still conveys to my children the importance of a healthy meal and the importance of making an effort at making dinnertime special family time.

Simple additions can add a special feel. Tonight was Cinco de Mayo and so we had a Mexican themed meal served on the kitchen table which was covered in a Mexican serape. One simple item added a festive feel to the meal and was enjoyed by all.

Stay strong and continue to plan for meals and to celebrate the rituals associated with the non traditional holidays. These traditions can form a strong thread in the fabric of your children's lives.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Menu Week 9: Great Food on a Budget

Menu Week 9

Reflections from the Backcounter
Food prices are skyrocketing. This makes it even more important to shop the grocery ads, stock the freezer and plan the menu accordingly. This weeks menu reflects the sales in my area so it may not be as cost efficient for a different locale. Planning is key to keeping costs under control and your family fed with great meals. Variety is important and tying the menu to the calendar is fun and interesting. This week is Cinco de Mayo. It is easy to spice up dinner with a few decorations and a festive meal!
Cook ahead on the weekend to make the week go more smoothly. Try to make the stuffed shells on Sunday and cook the shredded beef in the crockpot on Sunday also. This gives you two ready to go meals for the weeknight 5 oclock scramble! If you have boundless energy, the split pea soup can also be made on the weekend and stored for later use. Otherwise, it is a fairly quick prep and cook. A great vegetarian meal.


Baked Turkey Breast

Smashed potatoes

Green beans

Turkey breast bone in were on sale today $.97 /lb A great deal so I got two. I plan to roast one in the oven for dinner and roast the other to slice for lunch meat. A much better deal than deli turkey that runs about 6.99 a pound.

Monday Cinco de Mayo!!!

In Mexico, beef is always paired with lime juice. A squeeze of lime enhances the flavor of the beef and brightens the taste. I worked in a hospital in Guaymas, Mexico for 6 weeks while I was in med school and the condiment table always had a bowl of hot peppers and a bowl of lime wedges. My fellow med students from Mexico squeezed the lime on everything!

Shredded Beef Tostadas


Refried Beans

1 (4 pound) frozen rump roast
1 cup white wine
2 (7.75 ounce) cans Mexican style hot tomato sauce (I like El Pato)
3 tablespoons crushed garlic
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place the frozen roast in the slow cooker. Pour the wine and Mexican style hot tomato sauce over the top. Season with garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
Cover, and cook on Low for 9 hours. When done, the roast should shred easily with a fork. Shred the roast into the juices, and mix in the chopped green onions and cilantro.
Note: Serve shredded beef on warm tostada shells topped with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, avocado and most importantly a squeeze of lime!


Stuffed Shells


  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach thawed

  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese1 cup (about 4 ounces)

  • grated Parmesan 2 tablespoons

  • fennel seeds 2 tablespoons

  • chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • Salt and pepper
    3 1/2 cups purchased marinara or spaghetti sauce

  • 32 jumbo pasta shells, freshly cooked

  • Additional grated Parmesan


Squeeze spinach dry. Transfer spinach to large bowl. Add ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, fennel, basil and garlic to bowl. Season mixture with salt and pepper; blend.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spoon 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly over bottom of 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with spinach mixture. Place shells, filling side up, in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve, passing additional Parmesan separately.



Garlic bread

I love her soup recipes. The pictures are fantastic and her lentil soup was amazing.




Green beans


This is a favorite recipe for our kids. We are trying to premake some of it on the weekend, freezing it and finishing it on Friday evening. We'll seee how it works

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday night social life

Remote parenting. Clearly a phenomenon of the twentieth and twenty first century. I have defused arguments, directed the bandaging of wounds and coached homework projects, piano practice and hurt feelings all by phone. My favorite exercise in remote parenting is the end of the day commute warning call. " I am leaving the office right now and will be arriving home in 15 minutes, do not let me walk into a mess...get moving you have a lot to do before I get there!!" Some days it works and I can arrive to find only one or two of the breakfast dishes still on the counter but other days it is an utter failure and nothing short of a cattle prod can persuade my kids to do anything remotely resembling a quick clean up! But I still hold on to my false illusion of control and dutifully dial the house on the commute ...
Friday at last



Thursday, May 1, 2008


Thursday: Chicken Tetrazzini
This is a great casserole that can be made ahead and popped into the oven on a work night. Truly comfort food, it is delicious and filling for teen appetites.

Reflections from the Backcounter

Thursday... almost the end of the week. A great day to plan a breakaway. Everyone needs a break from the routine, the mundane tasks of the week that are mind numbing and predictable. A weekend getaway is always fantastic but for most of us, the time, funding and opportunities to get away for an entire weekend are limited. Instead of a getaway, how about a Breakaway? A Breakaway is just that, the chance to break the routine and enjoy a brief respite from everyday life. It can be as simple as reading a book in the library or sitting on a lawn chair under an umbrella for two hours sipping an iced tea and leafing through a magazine. Anything that we do to change it up is refreshing and rejuvenating. Here are some great Breakaway ideas:

Take a drive and look at spring flowers

Take a short hike

Grab your camera and shoot a few pictures

Go to garage sales

Read a book

Take a bath

Take a bike ride

Take a walk

Wash the dog and have a water fight with the kids

Take a nap


We need to embrace opportunities to refresh our spirit.