What’s for Dinner…in Des Moines

The Tall One and I are headed to the opposite side of the country where I will be busy laying by the pool and dining out so no Boring menu this week. Instead I have my first “guest-blogger,” my sister! I suppose in order to be a regular guest blogger she should have her own blog {ahem} but I’m still thrilled that she took the time to jot down her plans for you here! It’s a big week in their Iowa home–back to school. Can’t wait for you to read all about it…

P.S. She didn’t send me the recipe for the Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake (Anyone else flashing on My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Let’s all say it together now, “the bundt cake.”) But I bet she’ll share if you clamor for it in the comments!

Okay, here’s what I think we’ll try for dinner this week:

Monday: Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Black Beans, sauteed vegetables
This is one I’ve tried before and added to our favorite healthy recipes. If you don’t like peppers (which I don’t), this mixture is easily rolled up in a corn tortilla instead. I feel very, very organic saying that I make my enchiladas with quinoa. And even my kids love these! Oh, and I add ground chicken, so maybe I’m not as vegelicious as I may seem.

Tuesday: Out with Friends
Our tradition on the last day of summer is dinner on the patio with our treasured adopted-grandparents, Denny and Becky.

Wednesday: Mom’s Meaty Spaghetti, garlic bread, garden salad and First-Day-of-School Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
This is another traditional meal. If, when school was out on the first day, we didn’t return to a home smelling like heaven, my girls would be beyond disappointed. They are expecting and will receive one of the best recipes my mom ever handed down to me. People are impressed that I make my own sauce…please don’t mention how unbelievably easy it is.

Mom’s Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves minced garlic
2 #1-cans (4 cups) diced tomatoes
{Can you tell this is an old recipe? When was the last time you referred to #1-cans?}
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf

In a large skillet, cook onion in hot oil until almost render. Add meat and garlic; brown lightly. Add remaining ingredients.

Simmer uncovered two to two and a half hours until sauce is nice and thick. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Note #1: That’s the whole recipe. It’s fantastic but super thick and meaty.
Since we want the sauce to mix in with the noodles a bit more, I usually add a jar of
ready-made sauce (gasp!) at the end, with just enough time to get it hot.

Note #2: It’s totally double-able. In fact, I almost always double it
so there are plenty of leftovers.

Note #3: We’ve been known to skip the noodles entirely and just eat a bowl
of the leftover sauce for lunch the next day. It’s that good.

Thursday: Jalapeno Popper Chicken, rice and roasted carrots
Time to try something from my pinterest board. We are huge fans of poppers, so I’m looking forward to this one!

Friday: Backyard Dinner Party
This usually means grilled meats and potluck sides. If I’m asked to bring salad or a dessert, I’m considering these:

Sandy Mountain Festival 2012

A remarkable perk of living on this side of the mountains is being close to family. It’s been amazing spending my Saturdays with my sister. This has never happened to me before. Time with family usually involved major restructuring of regular schedules, in depth planning and dropping everything so that we can be together non-stop for whatever time we have been alotted. None of that is necessary now that I live ten minutes from Delores. So we’ve fallen into a bit of a habit of hitting the Farmer’s Market or the craft store or (gasp) Red Robin come Saturday afternoon.

I love the time with her and the chance to get out and about but truthfully I’ve been sadly disappointed by the Farmer’s Markets we’ve attended. I expected them to be enormous over here surrounded by fields and produce. Instead it seems that every small community has their own Saturday morning Farmer’s Market forcing the local vendors to choose which one to attend and making it impossible for any single event to grow past about a dozen stalls. So I was excited to explore the Sandy Mountain Festival yesterday. It’s an annual event in Sandy, a small town just east of us, on the foothills of Mt. Hood, and it’s a big deal there. There’s bumper to bumper traffic and everything! They take over a beautiful park with live music, food and lots of booths.

My sister, Delores, and her daughter, Kelly, let me crash their party and we had a blast. We checked out the adorable homemade bird houses that Delores aspires to make.

And we ate some healthy-ish (by festival standards) food. Kelly and Delores had Yakisoba noodles but I had chicken on a stick from the Sandy Baptist booth ’cause you gotta have something on a stick, right?

Chicken-on-a-Stick booth on the right

Our visit wouldn’t have been complete though without an elephant ear. Do we get points for sharing instead of each having one of our own?

Yum!

(I love the look on Kelly’s face here…she didn’t know I got her in the photo.)

The highlight of the day was while we were eating. I noticed a couple teen guys next to me, one of whom had a super long sword. Yes, sword. I told Kelly I absolutely had to get his photo (particularly since he was also wearing a KISS shirt, for real.) So I took this shot on the QT:

But Kelly was confident that if we asked he would pose for a photo. She was fearless and asked him if she could take his picture. He not only agreed but fully posed and embraced it. Pretty sure he thought he’d been discovered. Check out Kelly’s nickname for him. She cracks.me.up.

“Frodo”

After the “photo-shoot,” he and his friend were going to have some kind of duel and we overheard his buddy giving this disclaimer, “I’ve only ever practiced with a sword and broad shield, never with one of these two handed deals.” Seriously? Killing. me.

There were a ton of people, lots of great booths, and some pretty cool artisans too, like this guy who was working a potter’s wheel on a wagon wheel along with his story-telling compadre sitting next to him.

Sandy is a cute little town along the old Oregon trail so the mountain man look is pitch perfect.

Loved spending the day with my girls! Aren’t they cute?

Grand company for the Sandy Mountain Festival.
(Kelly hates having her photo taken. Can you tell?!?)