Sunday, June 29, 2008

2 Pounds of Green Beans

A few years ago, the highlight of my family's weekend was shopping at Costco. We would spend way too much time going up and down every aisle amazed at the goods available. We would try every sample numerous times whether we liked them or not. C'mon, it was free food! Afterwards we would sit at the food stand sharing hot dogs and pizza and marvel at all the people, wondering what they had in their carts.

Now, there is a Costco much closer to our home and instead of each shopping trip being an adventure it has become one of many errands I run while the kids are at school. If I don't have any kids with me, I can be in and out of there in less than 15 minutes.

Recently I bought a 2 pound bag of french green beans. At the local grocery store, I would have bought 1/2 a pound of green beans, but this is Costco and they don't sell anything in such small quantities. I originally planned on making the standard green bean casserole.

When I got home, I realized 1) I didn't have any fried onions in the house and 2) I didn't have the 40 minutes to let the thing bake.

Plan B - I found a fast recipe on line that looked yummy. With some tweaks it would be perfect. How convenient that the green beans come in a steam bag. After I microwaved them, I did the math. How was my little family of 5 going to eat 2 lbs of green beans?

Here is the recipe I used:

Orange Marmalade Glazed Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans, cut into 3 inch pieces
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Steam the green beans.
2. Either on the stove top or in the microwave, melt the orange marmalade and butter and salt together. Stir until smooth. Transfer green beans into a serving bowl; add orange marmalade mixture and toss to coat.

I thought it was yummy, dh thought it was yummy. The kids thought it was too sweet and chose to eat the leftover plain green beans with a sprinkle of sea salt. Proving once again that I really shouldn't bother looking up recipes and cooking. I should just steam veggies, give them a dash of salt and serve.

Having not learned my lesson...The next night, I chopped up the remainder of the 2 lb bag of green beans. I added left over steamed broccoli and made that green bean casserole I had originally planned on doing. However, instead of cream of mushroom soup, I used cream of chicken soup.

It didn't matter. My kids said they would rather of had the green beans and broccoli plain without all the other stuff.

The amazing part is that we ate the 2 lb bag of green beans in 3 meals (we had left over casserole for another night).

I don't think I would buy the bag again from Costco. Just too much of a good thing.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fine Dining with Children

It started out as a good idea...Not even my idea.

Cookie Magazine and Gourmet Magazine created Kid's Restaurant Week at a number of Chicago area restaurants. As a self proclaimed foodie who is trying to raise her kids to have discriminating palates (they think Gouda cheese is very good-a and truffle cheese ROCKS) I thought this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.

Plus, they added a great incentive. The kids pay their age for their meal and adults pay $20.08. Before we left, I tried to convince my 5 year old she was 3 (to save $2), but she would have none of it.

After 2 of my kids had long days out in the sun at camp and then 2 of my kids just came back from 2+ hours at the pool (it's a logic problem since I only have 3 kids), I come up with the great idea of us going to a really nice restaurant for dinner.

We chose Prairie Grass Cafe because 1) it's near by and 2) we've eaten there many times before and enjoy the food.

This was my first time seeing PGC's kid's menu. There's great stuff not on your ordinary kid's menu (which is why we went out). However, we told the waiter we wanted the Kid's week special deal. He said it is a three course meal. Starting with a mixed salad then locally raised chicken and potatoes for an entree and strawberries and cream for dessert. The price for the 5 of us would have been: 2+5+7+20.08+20.08 for a total of $54.16 before tax and tip. However, the 3 kids wouldn't have eaten the salad and we really didn't want chicken (I could have made that at home for 5 people). And dh doesn't like strawberries.

Instead, we ordered off the menu. In the end it was $88 before tax and tip. That include a glass of wine for dh. For a Monday night, it's a little steep.

All of our food was delicious. I was very happy with the quality, quantity and service. However, we probably would have saved the $88 dinner for a special occasion or a weekend night. I think being able to choose from a few different items on a "special menu" for kid's week would have been a better experience. Also, in our family, no two people are allowed to order the same thing in a restaurant. We all share.

This is what we had tonight:

2 year old: Combo plate: sliced apples, carrots, bananas, chunks of cheese and cucumbers and celery for $4.00. The best part was the caramelized bananas. Well worth the $4.

5 year old: Breaded chicken cutlet and mashed potatoes and broccoli for $6.00. This was a huge piece of chicken and the mashed potatoes were great. We took half of the chicken home and will probably fight over it tomorrow night at dinner.

7 year old: 4 oz Petite Fillet with half a twice baked potato and broccoli for $14.50. All I can say is I didn't even get to try the fillet because she chowed the whole thing down so fast. It was the best children's menu steak we have seen in a long time.

Mom: Moussaka with Layers of Tender Braised Lamb and Tomato, Potato, Eggplant and Golden Crusted Bechamel for $16.00. Yum, yum, yum. I usually only eat this at Greek restaurants. I forget how delicious this can be when cooked with high quality ingredients.

Dad: Ancho Marinated Skirt Steak over Mushroom Ragout with Caramelized Onions for $20.00. Also very good. And we took half home to fight over at dinner tomorrow night. The only complaint was that it didn't come with a potato or starch (where the kid's meal did).

Oops, forgot to mention...I also had the Caeser's salad to start (with the 2 year old eating all of my shaved Parm cheese and croutons covered in dressing... this kid loves his garlic), dh had the soup of the day, cannoloni bean soup with turkey sausage in a broth. We just had a taste because the 3 kids ate most of it. Dh and I split the vegetable asian spring rolls. There was something spicy in it that made it wonderful for us but a little too flavorful for the kids.

I applaud the idea of having a special week to encourage families to try non-family oriented restaurants. However, I would have liked more variety in the menu for the "special week"

Everynight in my home, I tell my children the same thing at dinnertime, "This is what I am serving for dinner. This is not a restaurant, you can't pick and choose what you want. Eat it or get out." After all, I'm not a short order cook, right. Once you start taking orders in the never ends.