Monday, July 30, 2012

Meal Planning Mondays: A letter to my girls.

Dear Lily, London, Ellie Jane, and Emerson,

Haack Ladies Extraordinare

Last evening as we gathered to enjoy a Sunday meal together, you sat 'round the table hungry and anxious to begin eating. The rolls were piping hot and begging, JUST BEGGING, for butter and strawberry jam to  smother them. You tried to be patient as I took out my camera and photographed the special "plated" version of dinner. You know, the one that makes it look as if we aren't eating on paper plates mixed with a wide array of chewed-on plastic sippy cups and mismatched utensils.

Daddy piped in, "oh just one second girls...while YOUR CRAZY

i gave him a fast evil eye. He winked.
Because he gets it. And I get it.
It's a very weird thing to be photographing your dinner all the time.

I apologized very sweetly and sincerely,

Oh I am sooooOOOOSOOOOooooo sorry that I happen to be
amassing a one-of-a-kind collection of family tested recipes

He laughed.
And you all waited.
Then we ate.

The End.

I tell you this story because I want you to know you are worth the effort. When I am kneading dough in my kitchen on a quiet Sunday afternoon (the best), I imagine you someday in your future kitchen. I hope you'll listen to your favorite music. And enjoy the love that goes into a good meal. I hope you'll remember that these small things, these efforts we make as mothers, are indeed the ingredients of a good life. You don't have to be magic to make some magic. You are my best recipes yet. And when you go off one day to create your own, I hope you'll allow yourself the time to take pictures too.




Recipe time!

1. The perfect quick weekend meal.

Easy Margherita Pizza
(You'll need only 4 ingredients!)

pizza dough
 (store-bought or homemade - I stock up on fresh pizza dough at Whole Foods and keep balls of it in a big ziploc in the freezer)
1/4 cup pesto sauce
8 ounces fresh mozzerella
grape or roma tomatoes 
(we like the big grape ones from Costco)

Preheat oven to 425. Roll out your pizza dough to desired thickness (we prefer THIN). Spread pesto sauce, slice mozzarella and cover pizza. Thinly slice and add as many tomatoes as you prefer. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese has melted and crust is golden!


2. How to add more mangos to your life.

For the Mango salad you'll need:

Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 fresh mango, peel and chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds or pepitas 

Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Toss with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette to taste.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil

Mix above ingredients in blender. Chill any leftovers in fridge for up to 3 days.


3. Have you ever tried this soup at the Olive Garden?!

Zuppa Toscana Olive Garden knockoff
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1½ tsp crushed red peppers
  • 1 large diced white onion
  • 4 Tbsp bacon pieces
  • 2 tsp garlic puree
  • 10 cups water*
  • 5 cubes of chicken bouillon*
  • (*or 10 cups chicken broth)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I use milk)
  • 1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
  • ¼ of a bunch of kale

1. Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients
2. In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic over low-medium heat for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.
3. Add chicken bouillon and water (or chicken broth) to the pot and heat until it starts to boil.
4. Add the sliced potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
5. Add the heavy cream and just cook until thoroughly heated.
6. Stir in the sausage and the kale, let all heat through and serve.


4. The perfect thing to have baking in the oven on a Sunday after church!

3 1/2
to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
cup sugar
cup butter or margarine, room temperature
teaspoon salt
package regular or fast-acting dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
cup water
cup milk
large egg
Cooking spray to grease bowl and pan
tablespoon butter or margarine, melted

  1. In a large bowl, stir 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, 1/4 cup butter, salt and yeast with a wooden spoon until well mixed. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the water and milk over medium heat, stirring frequently, until very warm and an instant-read thermometer reads 120°F to 130°F. Add the water mixture and egg to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, stopping frequently to scrape batter from side and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula, until flour mixture is moistened. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, stopping frequently to scrape bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until dough is soft, leaves side of bowl and is easy to handle (dough maybe slightly sticky).
  2. Sprinkle flour lightly on a countertop or large cutting board. Place dough on floured surface. Knead by folding dough toward you, then with the heels of your hands, pushing dough away from you with a short rocking motion. Move dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue kneading about 5 minutes, sprinkling surface with more flour if dough starts to stick, until dough is smooth and springy. Spray a large bowl with the cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if an indentation remains when you press your fingertips about 1/2 inch into the dough.
  3. Spray the bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch pan with the cooking spray. Gently push your fist into the dough to deflate it. Divide dough into 15 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball; place in pan. Brush with melted butter. Lightly spray sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray; cover the pan loosely with the plastic wrap, sprayed side down. Let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Remove plastic wrap.
  4. Move the oven rack to a low position so that top of the pan will be in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a cooling rack. For a softer crust, brush tops of rolls with room-temperature butter, using a pastry brush. Serve warm or cooled.
Adapted from Betty Crocker.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

she came with the sunshine.

When she is older, I will tell her two things about the days of her impending birth.

I was nervous. Very nervous.
Like more anxious than I had ever been.


we looked for her with the flowers. 

she was my first spring-time child. Her sisters were all winter babies. it seemed to me God's sign that i indeed needed this refreshment, this new little hope. She would come with the warmth and the renewal of life itself.

given that her sisters had no concept of what nine months even meant, i frequently told them that their baby sister would come when the flowers started popping out of the cold ground and the blossoms sprouted on the trees.

come April, everywhere we would drive the girls would look out the windows and start squealing

Mom! Mom! I shee flowas! I shee flowas on the twees!
 Is my baby coming now??!
Where is my baby?!!

They began to doubt as the days passed.
Until she came...
just like I had promised. 
With sparkly eyes mimicking the clear blue sky to prove it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meal Planning Mondays: i'm baaaaaAAAack.

Sad Rae here, and it's recipe time!

Why am I sad?

She started first grade today.

I'll spare you an essay.
Let's just say that between this event 
and the fine lines cropping up EVERYWHERE around my mouth

mortality is
too real.

 I say we forget all this life is so beautiful sort of sentiment and


Summer dinners and a dessert that will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF.

We are not huge fish lovers. I adapted this recipe for Salmon and instead used tilapia. The salad dressing is pretty amaze though: worth making and using on any green salad or grilled fish/meat you like.

Crispy Salmon (or Tilapia) Salad w/ Carrot Ginger Vinaigrette*

  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallots, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 teaspoons rice vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
    • 4 ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups loosely packed)
    • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
    • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
    • 4 (6-ounce) fresh or frozen sustainable salmon fillets (such as wild Alaskan)
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1. Combine carrot, orange juice, 1 tablespoon onion, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, honey, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mini food processor; process 1 minute or until well combined.
      2. Place arugula, tomatoes, and bell pepper in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar, and sesame oil; toss well. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss well.
      3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish to pan, skin side down; cook 6 minutes or until skin is browned and crisp. Turn fish over; cook 2 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Arrange 1 1/2 cups salad on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 fillet and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette.

    • *And if your family is anything like mine and gives you the look of what have we done wrong that you are serving us SALAD and calling it DINNER? I highly recommend this yum-city side:

    • Herbed Ricotta Bruchettas

      • 2 cups ricotta 
      • 3 tablespoons minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
      • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
      • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
      •  salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • 1 round sourdough bread
      • olive oil
      • 1 whole garlic clove, cut in half

      Slice bread and brush with olive oil. Rub with garlic. Broil in oven until toasty. Mix together ricotta and herbs. Spoon onto warm bread and serve.
      Recipe adapted from HERE.

  • ...............................................



Carribean Jerk Turkey Burgers

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
  • 2 pounds turkey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried or ground thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil or 2 tablespoons cilantro, your choice, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 English (seedless) cucumber, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • Cornmeal Kaiser rolls, split
  • Bibb lettuce leaves

Heat a large nonstick skillet with EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium-high heat.
Place meat of choice into a mixing bowl. Combine the dry spices and sugar in a small dish, then sprinkle evenly over the meat. Add fresh basil or cilantro, lots of salt and pepper to the meat. Mix the meat and spices and form four large patties. Make a divot in the center of the burger. As the burgers cook, the well will swell up and you’ll end up with a flat surface instead of the dreaded burger bulge. Cook the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning once.
While the burgers cook, make the mango salsa: in a small bowl, combine the mango, red pepper, jalapeño, cucumber and lime zest and juice. Season with salt, to taste.
Toast the buns lightly under a hot broiler.
When the burgers are done, transfer them to bun bottoms and top with Bibb lettuce, lots of salsa and bun tops. I also add AVOCADO and CHEESE-YES-PLEASE.

Thank you, Rachael Ray.


Once upon a time back when I was dating Tyler, I spent a semester of college abroad in Jolly Ol' Great Britain. I had literally HobNobbed my way throughout Europe and it showed. Like fifteen extra pounds showed. Worth. every. bit.

I arrived back in the States and decided to immediately crash diet, spray tan myself into a stupor, and drive 17 HOURS WITH MY LITTLE SISTER to SOUTH DAKOTA to see my beloved. While visiting I decided to make a dessert for his buds in the frat house. Ya know, show em a little some'in some'in coming from the chubby girl straight outta England. Let em know what really had Tyler hooked. I got to work in their dung-heap of a kitchen and made an all-time favorite.

And oh boy DID IT WORK. Two months later he proposed, moved back to our hometown...and not one of them questioned his decision. NOT ONE DANG BIT. 

Try it, you'll see.


Package of Pillsbury Sugar cookie dough
one container Cool Whip, thawed
one package cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

fresh sliced fruit of your choice
(I've tried em all and particularly love kiwis, peaches, strawberries, and any berry combo)

Preheat oven according to cookie package directions. Roll out sugar cookie into a large pizza shape. Bake around 10 minutes or until cookie looks lightly golden. Cooking time will vary dependent on how thin you like your dough. I also err on the side of super SOFT COOKIE. 
Allow to cool completely.

Mix whip cream, cream cheese, and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread over cookie.

Top with all your favorite fruits.