White Sauce Recipe

I love that our construction crew is teaching our son how to work with his hands. Manual labor, I think, brings on a sense of ownership, a feeling of responsibility, an appreciation for the materials—what is, and what is not real—through your senses.

What are quality materials? Will they stand the test of time?

This lesson, I think, is important when it comes to food, too. How do you know the difference between what is food and what is not if you don’t understand the materials? The answer is learned through cooking.

Last night, we made a simple white sauce for shrimp pasta. We followed this recipe and then added 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt, 1/2 cup of frozen peas, and 1 cup of thawed cooked shrimp to it.

25. February 2013 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Food, Home Building | Tags: | Leave a comment

Crock Pot Taco Meat Recipe

We’ve broken ground now on our new wooded lot, and every day we stop by to check the progress: First, an oversized hole, dug so wide we thought they were erecting an apartment building…

Then, the foundation, which felt so small we worried we’d undersized each room…

Now walls have risen up, and each space feels like us—cozy, comfortable. We’ve started imagining how our family will live inside its walls, where we’ll come together to eat breakfast, read, or play board games.

I like that we live so close; we can walk our dog over, and, in warmer months, the kids. The next six months will be busy for us as we prepare to put our current Craftsman home back on the market and pack for our mid-summer move. And that means we won’t have much time to cook.

Whenever I go shopping, I buy three types of meat for our refrigerator: fish, chicken (drumsticks or breast), and hamburger. We leave them raw in a bowl on the top shelf, and cook them in a pinch in that order given their shelf life. The first two you can simply rub with salt, pepper and olive oil to bake. The third I use a couple different ways, mix it with pasta sauce (usually not home cooked) or fry it up for tacos.

Tonight, to save time, we’re making taco meat in our crockpot by following this recipe. (Skip the frying—and the mess—by mixing the ingredients together in your crockpot, adding 1 cup of water, and cooking on low for 6 hours.)


18. February 2013 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
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Salmon Enchiladas

I got my tea leaves read today, and apparently I’m in for a good year. A leafy green Lord of the Elephants appeared (aka the Lord of Obstacles) but soon victorious Singing Birds overtook him. I’ll take it.

I’m back at home now, heating up a dish our daughter and I prepared earlier. While cooking for our family, I’ve learned two things: (1) if there’s no meat thawing in the fridge (we pull it out the night before) or; (2) a game plan isn’t in place by 9 am, we’ll be pulling frozen pizza from our deep freeze—to our kids’ delight. Over the years though I’ve also learned a few tricks to minimize our reliance on over processed foods, like keeping taco shells in our pantry and flour tortillas in our refrigerator. They’re both great for making leftovers disappear in an unnoticeable way (i.e. by smothering them with cheese).

Tonight we’re dishing up salmon enchiladas using leftover salmon (you can also use canned salmon) with this recipe from The Well-Fed Heart. To ensure our kids would eat it, I omitted both the chilies and green onions. You can assemble the enchiladas up to two days ahead.

11. February 2013 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
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Best Dishwashers

Decisions made: Energy Star model, cabinetry to blend in and muffle noise, no dual drawers

Undecided: Brand

I’m dreaming of a dishwasher that doesn’t require me to hand wash our dishes first. And one I can hear the TV over when it’s churning. Like a Bosch, which we had in our first house.

Photo courtesy of Bosch

Pros: Energy Star model, quiet, efficient, half load option, a sanitize option if you’re still on your first child

Cons: Pricey. But considering how much can go wrong with a dishwasher, maybe this is the place to splurge?

But, if you buy Thermador’s range and double oven, you get their Sapphire Dishwasher for free. Or for $200 you can upgrade to their Stars Saphire for the silverware drawer.

Photo courtesy of Thermador

Pros: It’s free! If we buy the Thermador range and oven.

Cons: Can’t think of any.

Miele would be perfect if we go with a modernist kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Miele

Pros: Customizable with a cutlery drawer. And wow. It’s Wi-Fi enabled to notify a Miele monitoring center of any difficulty.

Cons: Again, expensive. But this is for our forever house, right?

Asko comes with four racks, and settings like “plastic”.

Photo courtesy of Asko

Pros: Tested to last for 20 years, and open and close 300,000 times. But did our kids test it?

Cons: Probably the most expensive option, but its interior has the best design.

And finally the KitchenAid Architect Series.

Photo courtesy of KitchenAid

What dishwasher do you have? Is it your friend—or foe?

10. May 2012 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Home Building | Tags: , , , , , | 3 comments

And More Cooking Ranges

Oh no. More eye candy from my friend Danielle. Capital and Blue Star, two brands I’ve never heard of, but find intriguing.

capital range photo
capital range photo

Photo Courtesy of Capital

blue star range photo
blue star range photo

Photo courtesy of Blue Star Cooking

I am suffering from decision fatigue. Already. Because look at the character provided by this duel fuel range by Heartland.

heartland range photo
heartland range photo

Photo courtesy of Heartland

08. May 2012 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
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How To Select a Refrigerator

Decisions Made: French door, 36 inches

Undecided: Brand, stainless steel or cabinetry

Last week we toured a showroom hunting for a refrigerator (we, as in me and our monkey of a son, who swung one handed from door to door). I can’t get excited about refrigerators. They perform just one function: food storage. So my selection criteria is simple: Long lasting (ever since I became a mother, nothing upsets me like having to re-do an item I’ve crossed off my to-do list, especially when it involves waiting for repair people), must not topple on said 5-year-old, and the price, well, how much are you willing to invest in a fridge?

I love the idea of a Sub Zero fridge (especially this one, coming in Summer 2012). Maybe because it’d blow our budget.

sub zero refrigerator photo
sub zero refrigerator photo

Photo courtesy of Sub-Zero/Wolf

Pros: You know it will last.

Cons: I’ve already blown my budget on the Wolf. Mentally (we haven’t bought it yet).

Then there’s the Thermador.

thermador refrigerator photo
thermador refrigerator photo

Photo courtesy of Thermador

Pros: Sits higher than other refrigerators, so produce is at eye level (and therefore I’ll remember to use it). And with their current promotion, if you buy a refrigerator, you get a hood for your range for free.

Cons: I like saying Sub Zero. What can I say? I’m shallow.

And KitchenAid.

kitchen aid refrigerator photo
kitchen aid refrigerator photo

Photo Courtesy of KitchenAid

That’s it for today’s “research.” Our kids are painting in our home somewhere, and probably not on paper.

Which do you like? Which do you have experience with?

07. May 2012 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Home Building | Tags: , | 1 comment

Oven Hunting

Decisions Made: 48-inch sealed burner (easy clean!) dual fuel range. Two ovens beneath the range (rather than in the wall) to save space.

Undecided: Brand and number of burners/griddle (is it as easy to clean as they say, just scrape and wipe with club soda?)

I’m in love with this Wolf Dual Fuel Range. I think it’s the red knobs.

wolf range photo
wolf range photo

Photo courtesy of Wolf

Pros: It’s beautiful, a statement piece. Simmer mode so low you can melt chocolate without fear of burning it.

Cons: It costs a fortune. But I’m willing to give up a bathroom for it.

The Thermador Professional Series comes with a warming drawer for nights Matt works late. But it doesn’t come with red knobs.

thermador photo
thermador photo

Photo courtesy of Thermador

Pros: Second oven can double as steamer. Buy their range/oven, get their dishwasher for free. Streamlined for a clean look.

Cons: Small oven.

For a real statement piece, we could go with Vikings’ Classic Series and pick fire engine red.

Viking range photo
Viking range photo

Photo courtesy of Viking

Do you have any experience with the brands above? Which would you recommend? Which would you not?

03. May 2012 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Home Building | Tags: , , | 5 comments

Meatloaf Recipe


Last night, we made Advent wreaths at our church. We’ve been trying to become more involved in the community there. Because our children are at the age where we need teach them what we believe in, what our family stands for, while we still have their attention. But they’ve got questions we can’t answer: Why do you light the purple candles first? What is the pink candle for? What happens when you light the last one? Does that make Jesus rise from the dead?

And religion today feels different than it did when I was growing up, attending a Catholic school, where all lessons were black and white. How do you teach when you believe in a gray area that the institution you support doesn’t?

How do you teach religion in your home?


For this meatloaf recipe, we used our leftover croutons (you could do bread crumbs as well). The kids devoured it, eating about a half pound of meat each.

Man, I thought diapers were expensive. They’re nothing compared to appetites. For all things.


02. December 2011 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Food, Parenting | Tags: , , , | 1 comment

Ribs Recipes

The sports. Where do I start? When I was growing up, I played all sorts of sports: soccer, hockey, softball, and even lacrosse, before it became popular for girls. Today it seems you don’t experiment; you specialize. I’ve been trying to resist it, to let our children explore. But then you see that flicker of talent and you ask yourself: What if? What if I miss this opportunity? What if they do? It’s hard not to confuse your dreams with theirs.


No recipe to recommend tonight. I screwed up this ribs recipe (short on time, I opted to broil, which left the ribs too tough to chew). So we stared at the ribs while eating rice and roasted broccoli. (Our dog, however, loved them.)

29. November 2011 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Food, Parenting | Tags: , | 1 comment

Ground Beef Recipes

We strung our Christmas lights yesterday, and lit our first fire of the season. As we listened to the wood crackle, our kids danced around the living room.

It’s hard to believe that Matt and I are approaching our 10th anniversary, that our children have grown up enough that we can have an actual conversation again. We find ourselves with the energy to do the things we’ve been intending to do for years now, like start traditions, ways for our kids to remember us, to remember our family, when the first snow falls.

When I interviewed food bloggers about their favorite Christmas holiday recipes, what struck me was how much a familiar smell invoked a memory for them. A Thanksgiving menu is easy. But Christmas? The possibilities feel endless.


I’m into ways to use up ground beef. It keeps well in the fridge, and it’s a less expensive meat. This Serbian Ground Beef, which we made tonight, finds its way to our table often. Another great way to use up your leftover veggies.

27. November 2011 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Food, Marriage | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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