Life With Seven Kids

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Would Do Anything For Love: A Food Post

Shepherd's Pie
 I think it's interesting my husband loves casserole type dishes but when he eats a regular meal he eats one thing at a time off his plate. I eat everything mixed up together on my plate and I'm actually less than thrilled with casserole dishes where everything is mixed up on purpose. It's hard to find casserole meals that don't call for msg laden soups acting as the flavor and thickener to pull things together. Lots of things call for cans of soup! I once looked up how to make cream of chicken soup and the recipe called for a can of condensed cream of chicken soup! Really!? This seriously takes away from the original intent of making a homemade meal. With the exception of chicken pot pie and taco bake the kids aren't crazy for casseroles either, so that can also be a challenge.

 Ricky has always wanted me to make him shepherd's pie. Honestly shepherd's pie looked gross to me. I know, I was such a little kid about it. But look at this picture, seriously! I just don't think it looks good at all. It always seemed like having mashed potatoes with ground beef instead of gravy. 
 I was vegetarian but starting to transition back over to meat when Ricky and I met, so I had a lot to learn about cooking meat, especially country cooking. I have learned to make tons of other dishes since, including an awesome Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. I kept plenty busy making other things over the years, but I avoided shepherd's pie like the plague... I would do anything for love but I won't do that. (After typing that I have MeatLoaf stuck in my head SO BAD! My poor kids, I'll be singing that all day now. Oh my, 1993. lol.)

 I'm a pie maker at heart and so a good 'ol chicken pot pie with homemade crust comes naturally for me. Plus chicken pot pie is a pretty package tucked under a tender crust. It's moist and mild. It's down-home comfort food. (That's another dish that's impossible to find a recipe that doesn't include canned soup!) Ricky liked chicken pot pie okay, but would drop the Shepherd's pie hint every time we had pot pie. I have a real aversion to putting ground beef in everything under the sun. I pretty much reserve ground beef for hamburgers. Big, thick, juicy, veggie and cheese topped, dripping with ketchup, grilled burgers! Also: Salisbury steak, meatballs, taco bake, meat loaf, and stuffed peppers are all suitable uses for ground beef to me. Sticking it in a casserole dish with mashed potatoes was just not appealing to me. Mashed potatoes go with turkey, fried chicken, smothered pork chops, meatloaf, roast, Salisbury steak... but not ground beef! I grew up with stuff like Hamburger Helper which is probably where the entire aversion came from.

 A couple months ago I finally got bored enough with meals to try Shepherd's pie. I wanted to make it to surprise Ricky. Work has been super stressful and he wasn't eating as much as he should (stress can suppresses the appetite). My first shepherd's pie was a success. The kids even liked it. It looked better than most the ones in pictures, but still kinda gross. It was pretty good though. It was not bad at all. Ricky said it was "very good." My second attempt was last night where I tweaked some things and more confidently prepared it. It turned out AMAZING! The mashed potatoes on top were crisp at the peaks and edges and the inside was bubbling up around the edges. The filling was perfectly seasoned and just saucy enough to be like a gravy for the mashed taters but not soupy. Ricky said it was totally *delicious* with a lot of enthusiasm and he couldn't believe how much better I had gotten it this time. I love the baked corners and peaks of potatoes. *pats self on back* The extra "gravy/sauce" in the pie really made it awesome. Plus I had baked it perfectly (credit the vintage stove, which is the most amazing thing I've ever owned, ever).

I'm going to make it again this weekend while I carefully write down my recipe. Then I shall share it for all who, like me, fear the shepherd's pie! Reading online I have learned that shepherd's pie is technically supposed to be made with lamb, but it can be made with ground beef at which point it is then called cottage pie. Technicalities.

The mashed potatoes reminded me of yummy twice-baked potatoes! And technically they are sort-of. (Boiled and then baked) They were so good! Seasoned and browned to perfection.

This looks saucy, but when we were finished the sauce was all gone. The pan was dry and so were our bowls. We ate every last drop and it mixed in well. Some people use only peas and carrots while others use peas, carrots and corn. I buy an organic mixed veggie blend so ours has corn. Ricky isn't crazy about corn and ground beef together, but for Shepherd's pie he says it is appropriate. The family gobbled this up so fast I'm going to have to start making two casserole pans, or one big one and a small one. At some point as these kids get older we will be a two casserole dish family! Wow!

Here's some other pictures of meals we enjoy, some from recently and some from a while ago.
                                                                              
                                                                                  This is my favorite summertime dish. 
Smoked salmon lettuce wraps
Ricky smokes the salmon and we use it in lettuce wraps topped with mango and black bean 'salsa.' The salsa is super easy. Lime juice, black beans, tons of cilantro, and lots of chopped mango. You could add salt if you wanted, we dd not. The corn is roasted with lime-chili-butter. The lime chili butter is SO GOOD. I make it with melted butter, chili powder, a dash of seasoning salt, salt, sprinkle of pepper, a pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper. Use as a dip for corn or anything else. (Rolls! lobster! Shrimp! Endless possibilities here!) You can experiment and make your own buttery dip with seasonings.












Last month the kids were away visiting Aunt Sharon and so I surprised Ricky with a seafood extravaganza dinner! Yummy salad, lobster, crusty grilled cheesy garlic bread (garlic bread on the grill is GREAT!), shrimp, oysters, escargot, steak kabobs, and a brown rice-quinoa boxed dish. Beatrice is still little so she was with us, she LOVED the rice. I wanted to take a picture of her nomming the rice down in her high chair but the camera battery died. It was a really fun dinner! After the baby went to bed we had a fancy carrot cake cupcakes I bought and coffee for dessert. 
Remember me talking about hamburgers above? This is what I mean. 


Salisbury steak is a favorite of mine from childhood, but I had only ever had TV dinner versions. It was the 80's.
A couple years ago I was really excited to make Salisbury steak from scratch and it was actually pretty easy. Recipes online called for beef bouillon, canned soups, or gravy mixes! I refused! That's not from scratch. I was really proud of this super flavorful gravy, made from pan drippings and mushrooms! I had the same happy experience when I learned to make chicken fried steak. I really love home cooking. (I think I enjoy feeding my husband more than myself!) So many of these skills are lost since people don't grow up with as many home-style meals these days, people are busy doing other things, and homemaking is a lost art. People also fear real fat and don't widely buy healthier raised meats. Our meats are all locally raised and much of it from Ricky's parents' farm. I'm happy that there is definitely a resurgence and trend of stay at home families, do-it-yourselfers, and backyard gardeners. Most of the people I know cook at home, but I also know many people don't these days.

Healthy Super-food Salad
Last but not least, I re-purposed the leftover salmon and mango/black beans above and spooned it onto a salad mix of shredded broccoli, shaved brussels sprouts, chopped cabbage, curly kale, and chicory. This was fantastic and I'm not even a big fan of kale (bitter to me)! I just put some extra lime juice on it, no fancy dressing needed. This is a new favorite that I have to make for Ricky. I got the bag of 7 super food greens from Costco. Looks like this:
Mix comes with dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds included. I haven't tried them though. I bought it for the greens.

Meal time = family time. I love seeing them sit down together. This picture is from April 2014

Backyard weenie roast in late winter/early spring. Some people just get ants at their picnics...we get goats.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beatrice's Bumble Bee Party: She's ONE!!!

Our Baby Bee turned one on Saturday. We decided to throw a party to celebrate. We had a lot of fun! It was pretty exhausting, too, but also loads of fun! I really enjoyed watching the siblings help prepare for the party. Penelope (7) and Layla (9) made some handmade decorations and bees out of pipe cleaners. They also helped me make a bee hive pinata! It turned out way better than I thought it would and was really fun. Everyone helped with yard work, decorating, and all those little things that you have to do to put on a party. We had a handful of family and friends over -which turned out to be the perfect amount of people to visit with. Beatrice got really into her party! Pointing at everybody, playing, snacking on raspberries a friend brought over, and the highlight was she LOVED her cake and totally hammed it up for us for photos! It was really a perfect day with gorgeous weather.

The bee hive pinata we made, with pipe cleaner bees on it
Opening gifts
Ricky bought me and Bee these gorgeous roses!!! They are the most gorgeous yellow I've ever seen! I told him I think yellow roses on Bee's Birthday could be a tradition I'm in for ... :) He said, "You think so, do you." lol. We had yellow roses on all the guest tables.

We had a weenie roast
I made the rock garden area (an old well that I cover up with rocks and flowers) into a drink station area!
Charlotte made Baby Bee this party hat
All About One Year Old Baby Bee:
Beatrice likes to clap when she's happy, shakes her head to say no, she loves the guinea pigs and LOVES when her siblings takes her to see them. She loves all animals and grunts, squeals and is excited when she sees them. We go around visiting the goats and chickens daily and her little face just lights up. Beatrice loves her siblings and watches them intently. Through the good and the bad. I swear she is taking notes! Beatrice loves hanging out with everyone. She has started to try and bite when she's mad. She has two top teeth and two and a half on bottom. She stands up but doesn't walk yet. She moves around holding onto furniture only a little bit. We are totally content with that. She can wait to walk...we like her like this! But, walking will be exciting and sooo cute, and I just know her siblings will melt with cuteness when she does start to walk. Even though she's been clapping and standing for a while now, Penelope (7) and Sebastian (5) still have to holler nearly every time she does it. "Mom, MOM, MOOOOM! LOOK she is standing!!" It's cute how excited they get. Penelope and Layla haul her around a lot and are a tremendous help.  It's very cute. The teens hold her several times a day while I get stuff done around the house. It's so cute seeing teenage boys try and throw their hip out to hold a baby. They love her and they light up when they see her. It's really special. The kids will take her to the trampoline (like a giant play pen!) to watch her sometimes. Beatrice often asks to go to Charlotte and sometimes will holler up the stairs for her. She loves Charlotte. Charlotte is very close to Beatrice and those two are really sweet together. The kids take really good care of her. The teens even remember to give her sips of water when they are watching her. They are great caregivers.

Picture of Sage (14) listening to his ipod, finishing folding laundry, and blowing up balloons for his baby sister's party. I love seeing little things like this.
Beatrice likes playing in the sand box and does not eat the sand. Beatrice likes playing with toys. She will sit for a while and play which is wonderful. She puts her arm into the air when she hears music and likes to wave it around to dance. It's very cute! She recently pointed to the radio to get me to turn on music. The pointing is SO cute. She points all over the place to tell us what she needs or wants. I love it. She waves to her daddy when he leaves in the morning. This is such a precious age. The little things she has learned over the past four months are getting refined and it's really neat to watch. She jabbers a lot and that's something we love to hear. I love watching her deep blue eyes absorb the sights around her. It's amazing to me that her life is so normal to her...it's all she will ever know. Lots of kids, lots of animals, a mommy and daddy that keeps her close by always and snuggled into bed with them, lots of adventures yet to come... oh happy, happy birthday Beatrice! You are such an amazing addition to this family. Simply amazing you came to us.

Father's Day... was the Sunday after the party.  
We were beat and didn't do much. I had to pry myself out of bed so he could sleep in. :) I made and helped the kids deliver breakfast in bed to their dad around 9 am. I made him walnut banana pancakes, eggs, hash browns and sausage. And then we pretty much just hung out and cleaned up decorations.We got him a used mini fridge for the basement. He also finally got a recliner for the basement. He's been wanting that for a while. He's excited to keep beer in the mini fridge. :)
Ricky's such an amazing husband and father. He was raised by amazing parents to be an amazing man. And his children and I reap the reward. 
Three year old Penelope
Newborn Everett



Preschooler Layla, toddler Penelope


2005 Baby Layla

Toddler Penelope 2008

Newborn Sebastian 2008

Layla toddler
Helping Charlotte



Father's Day 2013

Baby Everett 2011

Birthday Party Fun

Playing poker with the kids...a summer tradition with the cousins!  

Baby Beatrice 2014
The life I live ...the love I have...my dreams coming true... I owe to you. I love you Ricky, Happy Father's Day.