Yum Hey What's for Dinner Mom?


25 Minute Dinner Classic Sloppy Joes

I'm always looking for a new way to use ground beef or even ground turkey, we always seem to have it and it's so convenient to pull a package out and let it thaw while I rack my brain for something new to make. Classic Sloppy Joes, while not new, are certainly a nice way to change up the dinner menu. If you haven't had one since grade school it might be time to try Classic Sloppy Joes for dinner tonight. And when they roll in ready to eat in under 25 minutes you can count on everyone being happy about dinner, the hungry man-cubs, the hangry teens, the cook and probably even the dog, if she's lucky.

I remember Sloppy Joe day as the day I never had a hot school lunch. See I only got a hot lunch a few times a week and I saved it for pizza day and hamburger day. Sloppy Joes? No way. And I'd just like to remind you that back when I went to school they were still making real food in schools and it actually was decent, none of this vacuum packed food hermetically sealed in cardboard trays you see nowadays. I also grew up in the era of the Manwich, the can of sauce dedicated to turning your pound of ground beef into something better and more tasty than anything in the world. Again, that was a big no, my mom did not play the Manwich game or even the Hamburger Helper game, it was straight up homemade or bust.

What I'm trying to say is that I think I could actually count on one hand the amount of times I've had a Sloppy Joe. When staring down a pack of ground beef I was thawing I decided to change that number and make real homemade Sloppy Joes. I wasn't sure how my boys might react to something totally different than what they're used to, luckily hunger was on my side and they thoroughly enjoyed something new in the good old Classic Sloppy Joe.

Classic Sloppy Joes

1 TBSP butter, optional only needed if your beef is very lean
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 sweet bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic granules, minced in jars, or dried minced or powder work as well, just adjust amounts to your liking
3/4 cup water
3 TBSP quick cooking rolled oats, you can whole regular rolled oats just lay them on the cutting board and chop them with a big knife first
salt and pepper to taste
8 hamburger buns, toasted if you prefer

melt the butter, if you're using it, in a dutch oven over medium high heat, begin to brown the ground beef, cooking and breaking it up
after 5 minutes add the onions, celery and peppers, cook about 2 more minutes
then add the rest of the ingredients up to the salt and pepper, mixing well
bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes, don't let it burn reduce heat to keep it simmering
after 10 minutes remove the lid and continue simmering until the sauce is reduced and thickened about 5 minutes, stir as needed
taste for salt and pepper, add if necessary
serve on hamburger buns


Food Swap is Happening in ONE WEEK!

Wow, well that month went fast. I can't believe we're less than a week away from the very first Palmer Food Swap! I created an event on Facebook but it wouldn't let me make the invitation 'open' to everyone so I created an invite on Eventbrite.

You don't need to have a ticket to come, or print one out, I just wanted a way for people to share the event and send it on to friends. So if you're willing would you a) share this post? b) share the event? c) come to the event!? d) send us happy good vibes for a successful first swap?!? e) (hopefully) all of the above!


Our Best Tips to Successfully Dipnet the Kenai River

We've just returned from a successful dipnetting trip to the Kenai River. We were driving back late at night after having caught all the sockeyes we knew we would use in a year. It was late, we were punchy, stinky, dirty, smokey and covered in sand and driving winding, twisting roads and talking and singing the whole way to keep each other awake. We kept tossing around ideas of what made it such a fruitful trip, what we didn't need to take next year and what we thought we were missing. I thought the ideas we had on what made it successful were worth sharing, I'll spare you our renditions of crazy songs no one knows the words to though, you're welcome.

Here's a shot of some of the forty two salmon we hauled home. I was going through and making sure their tails were lopped off and getting a hard count on our numbers so I snapped this shot. Then I packed them away with they rest of the salmon in the cooler layered with ice for the trip home.

Our Best Tips to Successfully Dipnet the Kenai River 

  1. before anything else you MUST be an Alaska resident, have a current fishing license and have a current dipnetting permit--all of these should carried ON you as you fish per Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations--put them in a ziploc bag and carry them in the pocket of your waders, it's NOT worth it to mess around
  2. bring a BIG cooler filled with ice because chances are you may not find ice available anywhere in Kenai or Soldotna--when I say big I mean BIG like the 250 quart cooler--if you put it anywhere outside your vehicle do yourself, and anyone driving behind you, a favor and face it so the opening is facing behind you--put the opening facing the front of the car and the lid will rip off the cooler the first chance it gets and scare the crap out the people behind you--the road to Kenai is littered with cooler lids no one knew they were missing until it was too late
  3. you need a dipnet--you can make one, buy one or borrow one but you don't want to wait till you get to Kenai to find one--the prices for ANYTHING fishing related in Kenai and Soldotna are inflated except for fishing licenses they can't change the price of those but everything else is outrageously priced, understocked and picked over so have one before you go
  4. wading gear--you need it whether it's neoprene or breathable you're going to need chest waders to get out chest deep in the ocean--you'll need boots too and if you can swing it a rain coat over the top of everything on the outside--the water will NOT come up in it but will actually force it to suck in around you giving you a few inches of wiggle room in how deep you can actually go--there are the few and hearty who prefer to go out in shorts and t-shirt but brrr most people prefer waders of some sort--again get these before you get to town or you'll be sorry or at least your wallet will!
  5. know when to fish--hahhahah but no I'm totally serious, watching the action is the best way to know when to fish, if you see a line of dipnetters in the water and more than 3 fish are caught in 5 minutes chances are the fishing is getting good--we like to fish right as high tide hits and then the following two-three hours after that--one way to tell if the fishing is going to be good is to watch for the locals to show up these will be the folks who roll in, are totally methodical about their gear and their time, these are the people to watch, when they fish, you fish
  6. land your fish--when you feel a fish hit your net, you'll know when it does because it jerks hard give your net a good shove and pull and then flip it down and drag it in--I've seen many fish not set in the net well and flop right out of the net if the net is lifted high out of the water and brought in--you'll totally develop your own strategy to keeping a fish it doesn't matter HOW you do it just do it!
  7. have a team on shore to bonk fish, cut and gut fish, wash fish and clip their tails (another ADFG regulation-do NOT skip this, we watched a totally legit family fishing last year lose their fish and their licenses because they did not clip the tails, the tails need to be clipped so they're marked as subsistence and not sold) and ice the fish--you can also have an extra dipnet available for whoever is fishing to trade out nets, they come in with a fish, the beach crew hands them a fresh net to go right back out with, while they wrangle that fish out of the net then the fisherman is right back out to work with no time lost on the beach
  8. take plenty of water, snacks you can eat one handed and sunscreen you'll need them all--the worst thing that can happen during good fishing is to suddenly feel too hungry to go on or so thirsty you have to take a break so keep hydrated and fueled up--sunscreen is a MUST the sun and the reflection of the sun will cook your face
  9. get to know your fishing neighbors, it's good fishing karma I swear by this! they'll cheer you on, you'll cheer them on, they'll keep your chopping block from floating away, you'll lend them your their fish whacker when theirs is no where to be found--you can share a fire later and a few fishing stories too
  10. relax and enjoy the scenery-marvel at the volcanoes directly across from you, Mt Spur and Mt Redoubt are right there as you stand in the water, watch the seals come in to eat, the salmon jumping, airplanes taking off right over your head and the mouth of the river is busy with fishing boats--so much to look at! I really think once we relaxed and started to enjoy ourselves  and we quit worrying about getting fish and we we got more fish
  11. watch out for--fishing boat waves, they will breach your waders every single time, high tides that can swamp your camp or your vehicle, and never fish past 11 pm because that's when the fishery closes unless of ADFG opens up a 24 hour fishery, which can happen
  12. kids waders--if you have kids sometimes the best bet for dipnetting success is to put them in chest waders even IF they're not fishing, they can play in the mud, sand and rocks, gut fish and clean them for you and stay relatively dry--this is important because wet uncomfortable kids will kill all the fun from any fishing trip 
  13. at the end of the day MARK your dipnet permit with the date and the number you caught (then mail it in when the season is over)--they DO come along and check your permits and your fish so it's best to keep on the up and up 


Country Captain Chicken

Country Captain Chicken, what? A new to me Indian curry dish featuring lightly fried chicken, mild curry flavor and just enough sauce to temptingly drizzle over hot cooked rice. The original Country Captain recipe used bone in chicken pieces rather than boneless chicken but I prefer to use boneless chicken instead, it gets dinner on the table quicker and I never have to worry about if the chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve Country Captain Chicken with hot cooked long grain rice.

I was flipping through one of my favorite cook books, James Beard's American Cookery, looking for inspiration, I needed something new to do with chicken. I'd passed by this unassuming little recipe every single time I looked through the cook book, this time instead of flipping right past it I stopped to read it. I was kind of blown away that I'd never even considered the recipe because after reading it I was tearing my kitchen apart to see if I had all the ingredients I needed to make it happen. Fortunately it didn't call for anything too out of the normal pantry wise and I got lucky, so did my family because let me tell you this recipe is a marvelous addition to any repertoire.

This is my adaptation of the recipe Cecily Brownstone's Country Captain from James Beard's American Cookery cook book. Besides using boneless skinless chicken, I omitted the thyme and the currants. I found my family was not a fan of the sweet little surprise bits in the curry. If you like currants or raisins in your curry feel free to add them, the recipe called for 3 TBSP but because I roughly doubled the sauce ingredients you may want to add up to 6 TBSP. I've left out the almonds too because there were no firm directions on HOW many to use or exactly WHAT to do with them, I suppose you could chop them and sprinkle them on the top if you like, other recipes call for them to be used that way. We liked it just fine without them.

Country Captain Chicken

stove top or oven 350 
dutch or french oven

4 TBSP butter or ghee
8 boneless skinless thighs, cut to bite sized pieces
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green sweet pepper, finely chopped
1 TBSP curry powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
2 16 cans crushed or chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup golden raisins 
salt and pepper to taste

begin by melting half the butter over medium heat in a heavy dutch oven 
mix the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag
add 1/2 the chicken to the flour shake to coat 
when butter has melted carefully add the chicken shaking to remove the extra flour, fry until lightly turn and cook the other side, you're just browning it so don't try to cook it all the way through
once it's browned remove to a platter, add the rest of the butter to the pan and allow it to melt
cook the rest of the chicken in the same manner, coat with flour, lightly fry and remove
once all the chicken in browned and removed to a platter add the onion and pepper, cook and stir 5 minutes scraping the browned bits off the bottom while stirring
then add the curry, thyme and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, don't burn it just cook it a little
add the tomatoes and stir well to combine
nestle the chicken into the sauce
reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or bake in 350˚ oven for 35 minutes 
serve with hot cooked long grain rice


Rhubarb Dream Bars

Rhubarb Dream Bars, no dream just real life in the land of abundant rhubarb. If you're looking for a way to use up that rhubarb out of your garden these use 4 WHOLE cups of rhubarb, a great way to use a lot in one recipe, if you ask me anyway. And Rhubarb Dream Bars with their shortbread crust, and that top layer with just a delicate bit of a crust that gives way to a gooey layer of almost custard are quite a delight to eat, or give, or eat. Whatever you do just make Rhubarb Dream Bars and bring me some, ok?

Last week a friend came over looked at my rhubarb patch and said "you better use that rhubarb up!" and the funny thing was I HAD been using it! I'd been cranking out crisps, rhubarb soda, crock pot cobblers and rhubarb juice it still looked like I hadn't touched. So in a fit of USE IT OR LOSE I decide to USE IT. I went at my patch with a vengeance and after going through a 1/4 of it I had 10 quarts in the freezer for winter use and a nice big batch of these dream bars. While I was at I took out all the under stalks and cleaned it all up and it looks so sad and barren but never mind my freezer is bulging full of rhubarb. And I have so much more to go! We are going to be eating so much rhubarb this winter.

I did leave several stalks on each plant though so it does have a way to regenerate and come back nice and healthy for another harvest this summer, what-am-I-even-saying?!? Oh well, I had someone suggest I bring to the new Palmer Food Swap and I might just go for it.

Do you live in the Palmer area? You should come to the Palmer Food Swap, (and bring these!) it's doing to be great fun!

Rhubarb Dream Bars
oven 350
9x13 pan

shortbread crust
2/3 cup of powdered sugar
2 cups flour
2 pinches of salt omit if using salted butter
1 cup butter

1/4 cup flour
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
4 cups chopped rhubarb, 1/4-1/2 inch works best
1/2 teaspoon salt

**optional topping
1/2 cup dried shaved or shredded coconut-use scant 1/2 cup for shredded
1/2 shelled, chopped walnuts

mix the flour, sugar and salt together
cut cold butter into chunks and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two knives or just use your hands

, mix it until it looks like coarse crumbs
press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan
bake for 15 minutes

meanwhile mix the flour, sugar, salt and eggs together until smooth, you may have a few little lumps of hardened brown sugar in there, they'll be ok!
then fold in the rhubarb
when the shortbread comes out after 15 minutes stir the rhubarb one more time and pour evenly over the crust
return to the oven and bake for another 35-40 minutes until the top is browned, no longer sloshes around and appears set, you can give it the toothpick test it may come out damp from steam but it shouldn't have crumbs or batter on it, if it does continue baking in 5 minutes increments until done
**if using optional topping then sprinkle it on after 15 minutes of baking and then continue baking until done


25 Minute Dinner Smoked Sausage Jambalaya

This one pot Smoked Sausage Jambalaya comes together so fast you'll have to hustle to get everything else ready to go before it's finishes cooking. Believe it! Smoked sausage and chopped ham are quickly browned with chopped onions and sweet peppers and then left to simmer in a bright tomato broth for just 10 quick minutes before you add leftover cooked rice to finish it off. Don't have cooked rice? No worries, I have a few tips below to help with that too.

The secret to such a quick dinner is starting with leftover rice then you don't have to worry about cooking it and/or sucking up all the broth while it to cooks. If you don't have leftover rice you can start some long grain before you start this recipe and it will be done in time to drop in your jambalaya. You could in a pinch use instant rice it's not as tasty as the recommend basmati but it will work. And if you're thinking "meh too much trouble", just remember to make extra rice next time you make rice and this recipe is all yours.

I also use and love a rice cooker, it cooks perfect rice every time, and I never worry about it sticking, burning or any other troubles. I use an older model similar in easy to use design like this one (affiliate link), mine has sadly seen better days but it is still limping along. I cook all sorts of things in mine though like oatmeal and quinoa, I warm up soups and the like too. But this post is NOT about getting you to buy a rice cooker, although I highly recommend it, it's about feeding your family good food

This recipe is endlessly open to variations--have more sausage and no ham, DO IT! Got chicken and no ham? Dice it up and use it. Only have ham? Try it! And you could even make it without the rice if you're paleo!

Smoked Sausage Jambalaya 

1TBSP cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chopped 16-20 ounces of smoked sausage such as Hillshire Farms, I used a local reindeer sausage 
4 ounces of cooked ham, smoked, unsmoked, lunch meat even works, I used precooked ham from a boneless ham 
1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho powder or use cayenne if you like heat 
1 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes, crushed or stewed would be fine too
1/2 teaspoon smoke flavor
1/2 teaspoon fennel 
3 cups water or vegetable broth, if using water you may need to add more salt
2 TBSP tomato paste
3 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper to taste

heat the oil over medium heat and add as you chop it up the onion and the peppers
cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally
while it's cooking chop the sausage and the ham into roughly bite sized pieces
add them to the pot and cook another 2-3 minutes
add the garlic, paprika and ancho powder, cook and stir 30 seconds, don't burn your paprika
then add the tomatoes, the smoke flavor
quickly crush the fennel between two spoons to just break them up add them to the pot
pour in the water/broth
mix in the tomato paste 
cover simmer for 10 minutes, reduce heat if needed to keep it from boiling hard
then taste it, do you like it? add salt and pepper to taste-do you need more heat add it, more smoked paprika? (taste testing is thankless work!)
once it's perfect add the rice and cook for another five minutes until it's heated through


Cherry Cheesecake Smoothie

If you're looking for another option on the smoothie making front you might want to try my Cherry Cheesecake Smoothie, seriously. Fruit meets graham cracker crust and tangy yogurt for a luscious cheesecake taste with less of the fat and calories of a true cheesecake. It's our new favorite, I bet it could be yours too.

This smoothie started life in recipe development as a strawberry cheesecake smoothie but I kept having to add too much sugar to actually make it anywhere near sweet enough and that just turned me off. I guess the strawberries I was using just weren't sweet or probably just weren't ripe enough to use without a bunch of sugar. Stumped and totally out of strawberries I turned to cherries in hopes of having better luck. First one out of the Vitamix was a HIT with my sons but my husband, who came home later, was a doubter when I told him how much it actually tasted like cherry cheesecake. People he poopoo'd me! So I made another batch and he HAD to agree with me that they were in fact as good as I'd said. I made one more batch because we were hot, er no in the name of recipe testing, and we decided they were good to go.

Please note

  • that you may need to add more sugar if your fruit is less sweet
  • you will need a food processor, vitamix, sturdy blender, blendtec or ninja to make this smoothie

Cherry Cheesecake Smoothie

1 1/2 cups milk--maybe more, depends on how loose you like your smoothie
3 cups frozen, pitted cherries
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1-2 teaspoons sugar--you may need more depending on your fruit
3 rectangle graham crackers

pour the milk in the blender jar(that's what I'm calling it)
add the cherries, yogurt and sugar
blend until smooth, I like to keep going until there's almost no discernible cherry parts left, in other words really smooth
once you've achieved your desired smoothie-ness open it up and have a taste does it need more sugar? or maybe more milk? don't be afraid to add a little more of either and blend again
once you've added sugar and milk to your liking crumble the grahams on top and blend until they are incorporated
serve in chilled glasses if desired

Also have you gone to enter the Breville juicer giveaway yet? DO IT without delay!