Win a Gift Certificate (and Black Raspberry Meringue Bars)

Please excuse me while I vent for a second. My husband has been traveling for just about every week since August for business. Most often, he leaves before we wake up on Monday morning and comes back on Friday evening. He has occasionally come back at 11pm on Thursday night only to turn around and go to work at 5:30am the next morning. He has always traveled with his job, but in the past it has just been for a week or two out of the month… none of this gone for the majority of our life business that is going on now.

I am fairly proud of the fact that I have been such a trooper through it all. My three kids are well behaved, for the most part, and are not too difficult to take care of. We have honestly gotten to the point that he is gone so much that when he comes back home on the weekends it is more disruptive than when he is here.

I have tried very hard to be the supportive wife… listening about his hectic schedule in New York, understanding on Saturday’s when he is so tired from traveling the day before, even grimacing through the “my steak at dinner had too much pepper on it” complaints, etc. But, you know what? I don’t know if it is pregnancy hormones, this dreaded winter weather, or what… but this week I am 100% fed up with it all.

I’m tired of being the sole person during the week to be responsible for getting the kids where they need to be. I’m tired of doing bath time by myself. I’m tired of every time I need to run to the store for just a gallon of milk, I have to pack all three kids in the car to go with me. I’m tired of not having a minute to get things done, like my freelance work that I need to do, until the kids are tucked in bed. I’m tired of not having a husband home in the evening to share the tasks and to just be here to spend the evening with. We miss him a lot when he’s gone and it is really starting to get on my nerves!

I didn’t mean for this to be this much of a gripe session. I admire those of you who have been doing this far longer than I have been. Those of you who are single moms, who have husband’s gone in Iraq, who are alone for other reasons… I truly do not know how you do it day in and day out.

With all that I have going on with him gone, do you know the one thing that I am up to here with? I am so tired of our dinner menu plan looking like something off of the school lunch menu. Hotdogs, mac and cheese, taquitos, breakfast for dinner, etc. I want my husband home so I can cook real meals for us and so we can all sit around the table again at night as a family.

This is where I am going to implore you to help me out. I need some new family friendly meals to put on the table. I need recipes that make me feel like I am cooking, but that my kids (who aren’t that picky) will eat. I want your favorite “the whole family will love it” dinner time recipe that is not super complicated (our evenings our tight lately) and that I feel would be worth spending time on for just the kids and I. I’d love for you to include your favorite family friendly recipe link in the comments section of this post. Have them in by midnight CST on Wednesday, February 4th. I will then sit down on Thursday to make my menu plan for the following week. If your recipe gets chosen to be included in that weeks worth of dinner menus, I will send you a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I will be giving out 5 gift certificates in all… one for each day my husband is out of town during the week. All comments must be accompianied by a valid email address.

I am still managing to bake during the day, which my kids appreciate! I chose to make these Black Raspberry Meringue Bars because my mom brought us a jar of homemade Black Raspberry jelly when she was here over the holidays. These bars are delicious… far too delicious to waste on my kiddos. Perfect for an afternoon tea or a brunch with your girlfriends!

Black Raspberry Meringue Bars (adapted from Mary Engelbreit’s Cookies Cookbook)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Generous 1/3 cup raspberry jam (we used black raspberry jelly)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. On low speed, gradually add the flour, beating just until incorporated; the mixture should still be somewhat crumbly. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Set pan on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until whites begin to form soft peaks. Add the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Spread the jam evenly over the warm crust. Using a large metal spoon, drop the meringue in large dollops on the jam, and using the back of the spoon, carefully spread the meringue over the crust, making sure to seal the edges. Bake for 25 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. (The meringue will puff up as it bakes and sink as it cools.) Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Using a large sharp knife, cut into 24 squares. Dust the tops of the bars with confectioners’ sugar. Store the bars, well covered, in the refrigerator.

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  1. Dianna says

    So one of my most favorite cooking blogs is Simply Recipes. Everything Elise makes is delicious. I think you’d be happy making anything from her blog, but try the tamale pie. It’s easy, kid friendly and delicious. Just use a good cornbread recipe to go on the top and you’ll have everyone asking for seconds. Our family is pretty small so I usually make the whole recipe, divide it into 2 8×8 containers and freeze one of them. Then on one of those extra busy days I can pull it out, defrost add the cornbread batter and bake. Super easy!
    Take a look:

    Good luck…your kids are blessed to have such a dedicated mom. You’re doing the most important job on earth by loving them so much.

  2. niki says

    making something quick and delicious isn’t always easy. here’s what my 3 picky eaters will eat. it’s a variation of a recipe.

    heat oil in pan on medium. while this heats, put 1 lb. sliced chicken in a ziploc bag along with flour, pepper, and garlic salt (to your taste). shake to coat. place this in heated oil and cook until done. while this cooks, cook a steamer bag of broccoli in the microwave (i use bird’s eye frozen that cooks in 5 minutes). remove from pan and drain oil away. place chicken back in along with one can of cream of chicken soup and 1 1/2cups of water. stir to mix and bring to a boil. at the boil, pour in 2c of uncooked instant rice. cover and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. when this is done, remove the lid and from heat. pour in as little or as much of bacon pieces as you want along with a cup of shredded parmesan cheese. stir to mix well. i serve it with dinner rolls.

    hope you enjoy it. it takes less than 25 to 20 minutes to make and its all done in one large skillet.

  3. says

    Go ahead and vent, we can take it! :-) I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such a rough time and I admire your strength (venting your frustration is an important part of that too).

    I’m sending a big hug along with my recipe recommendations for simple but yummy dishes!

    Two are classics:

    Ok, this potato dish takes a long time to cook, but the prep time is short, so if you’re around the house, it’s a good one:

    This dish is a lot of fun, doesn’t cook long and is very comforting. I guess I’d leave out the chili peppers for the kids:

    Hopies last blog post..Root Vegetables

  4. Amy Bowser says

    I also do not have a link – just a simple recipe!

    1. Take a raw chicken – like 3-5 pounds.
    2. Rub with olive oil and cut 2 lemons in half.
    3. Stuff the inside of the chicken with the lemons.
    4. Put in a crockpot on low for 8 hours.
    5. You now have a fabulous chicken. You can either serve alone or with gravy you make from the drippings.
    6. I serve with Idahoian instant mashed potatoes and canned peas.

  5. says

    Mmmmmmm. Raspberries!

    We are all going through rough times, and although I know it is easier sad than done, when you are feeling low take a good look at your life and see how amazingly lucky you are for the things that you DO have in your life. Image that your husband had to go back to Iraq.

    I always try to remind myself of Gandhi’s quote “I complained I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

    Hang in there. You have a wide internet(s) family that love you! 😉

    cookie jills last blog post..Brigitte and Norbert’s new adventure

  6. says

    I know what you mean about school lunch fare during basketball season for us!! Here’s an adapted recipe from Rachel Ray for Florentine meatballs, I usually make 10 pds at a time, put them in individual ziplocks and freeze. To make dinner, I boil pasta, use a jar of Cascone’s sauce to simmer the meatballs in, throw some bread in and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes. It’s our go to meal when Kye has to be at basketball practice by 5:30 and I’m home alone!
    I don’t usually do the sauce the recipe calls for but it does sound wonderful!!
    Florentine Meatballs-adapted from Rachel Ray
    2 boxes frozen spinach, defrosted in the microwave
    1 pound ground turkey breast
    1 pound ground beef
    2 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
    5 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 large egg
    3.5 cups milk, divided
    1.5 cup bread crumbs, 6 handfuls
    1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 4 palm fulls
    Coarse salt and black pepper
    Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
    4 tablespoons butter
    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2 cup chicken stock
    2 (10-ounce) sacks shredded provolone or blend of Italian cheeses, available on dairy aisle
    1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
    1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    Wring defrosted spinach dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place turkey and beef in a bowl and make a well in the middle of it. Add the spinach, all but 6 tablespoons of the onion, all of the garlic, 2 large egg, about 1/2 cup milk, bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form into meatballs and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
    While balls are in the oven, heat a small sauce pot over medium heat. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and 4 tablespoons butter. Melt butter, add remaining finely chopped onion and cook 2 minutes then whisk in flour. Cook flour 1 minute, then whisk in 3 cups milk and 2 cup stock. Bring liquid up to a boil then stir in shredded provolone or blended Italian cheeses. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, turn heat to lowest setting.
    Place 3 balls on dinner plates and top with sauce, garnish with parsley.

    Whitneys last blog post..Visitors part 2

  7. says

    Kristen: how fortuitous that I read your post today. I AM GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING; and waver between being strong and frustrated. Monday through Friday he is gone and it has increased from once every 4-5 weeks to every other or sometimes 3 weeks in a row… (like now). It is more like 1 week home and 3 weeks gone. My boys are in 4 different soccer carpools and I am gone 2 nights a week at cooking school which means I have to figure out how they get everywhere and on the nights I am home I am driving carpool to make up for the nights I am not… anyway, whew, exhausted.

    I so don’t need an Amazon certificate: I just want to help! First of all, I hunkered down and made a pile of meals in advance that freeze well. Which means even if I am tired and packing around kids or coming off school all day, the 3 of us—sans dad—still eat well.

    I hope this helps!

    I make ahead:

    1. From scratch macaroni and cheese,

    2. Steak: cubed and rubbed, then frozen (takes 6 minutes under the broiler: SO EASY)

    3. Lasagna (a lot to make, but so worth it because I always make a big batch)

    I also have a section on my blog that is called DEFAULT DINNERS which is (usually) easy, (always) yummy, (pointedly) family friendly food. And if you know me;) you know recipes that don’t make the cut don’t make the blog. Here is a fave:

    Chin up, you have friends!

    janelles last blog post..pie dough surprise

  8. says

    I don’t have kids and I still struggle to get good meals on the table for my husband each night. I am always amazed at my friends with kids and how they cook and take care of the little ones and still have a clean house!
    This recipe is something I grew up with, a recipe my Grandma used to cook.

    Folks are posting some great recipes in the comments that I can’t wait to try!

    Mrs. Ls last blog post..Ginger Chicken

  9. says

    First of all-vent away! It’s incredibly stressful to take care of THREE KIDS by yourself. You have every right to your exhaustion.

    Secondly, whoa-pregnancy hormones? You’re having a fourth? LUCKY! CONGRATS. I’m totally jealous. And very behind in reading your blog!

    And last but not least, here are 2 easy, delicious recipes. One has kale, which surprisingly, I find a lot of kids like.

    Kale and White Bean Stew


    * 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
    * 1 small onion, chopped
    * 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    * 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
    * 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
    * 1 bunch kale, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
    * 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper


    1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat for 6 minutes or until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

    2. Add onion to pot and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in beans and rosemary and cook 1 minute. Add broth to pot; bring to simmer.

    3. Stir kale into beans in pot and cover; cook 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir kale until wilted. Stir in reserved bacon, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

    You can find my Ginger Chicken one here:

    Annes last blog post..Worse Than A Bad Boy? A Bad Boy Haircut.

  10. says

    Wow. Being husband-less and family-less at this point in my life, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult a situation like that would be. I think his travels have earned you at least one day of nanny services a week. Bring someone in so you can get your sanity back!

    My experience in family friendly meals also is a bit lacking (due to the no family of my own thing) so I will leave the recipes to others!

    Jessicas last blog post..Anchovies and Bagna Cauda

  11. says

    I understand completely. Although my husband doesn’t go out of town (that used to always be me) he has worked really long hours for most of our 17 years. I always wonder how single mothers do it. Although I often feel like a single mom, he does eventually show up.

    As for meals, my favorite from our blog is pinto gallo( It looks enough like junk food that kids will eat it but it has some actual health in it too. Kay votes for potato enchiladas ( though which would probably be my second choice.

    Hang in there!!


    Danas last blog post..Cheese fries with corn by Kay

  12. says

    I totally understand how you feel. Before my husband switched jobs he would be mostly gone from November through April. It was really hard. Thankfully he has a job now that requires much less travel.

    Here is a recipe that all of my kids love:
    Greek Chicken (freeze half to serve another time)

    2 pounds raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
    1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 cup green onion, chopped
    1 T dried basil
    1/2 tsp dried oregano
    1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
    28 ounces canned, chopped tomatoes, with juice
    1 tsp brown sugar
    2/3 cup feta cheese
    Cooked rice or pasta

    In a large skillet, saute the chicken and pepper for about five minutes (salt the chicken). Add spices, brown sugar and tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has reduced slightly. Serve over rice or pasta and top with feta cheese.

    Another recipe that my kids beg for is Split Pea Kielbasa Soup. The recipe is here:

    I hope you can find some new recipes for your family in all of the comments!!

  13. says

    I can only offer sympathy and the knowledge that at least you’re being a great mom! Those bars look delicious.

    As far as a easy food idea, there’s always the simple breakfast for dinner… one of my favorites as a kid especially when my mom would “dress up” in her bathroom to make pancakes. In order to update it for my daughter, I throw in blueberries and whole wheat flour. yummy!

  14. says

    Here is one I haven’t blogged about but pleases all.. Kids especially
    Bow Tie Taco Taco Casserole
    1 lb ground beef
    1 lb ground pork
    2 pkgs taco seasoning mix
    1/2 cup diced green peppers
    1 15 oz can tomato sauce
    1 14.5 0z can diced tomatoes
    1 pound bow tie pasta
    2 cups shredded montereyjack cheese
    1 cup sour cream

    Brown your meats and drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and peppers. Bring to boil, reduce heat simmer 10 minutes.
    Cook pasta, drain.
    Combine pasta with 1 cup of cheese and the sour cream. Spray a 9X13 inch pan with Pam. Pour pasta into dish; top with meat mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
    GREAT if the kids enjoy tacos.. a new twist on it.

    Donnas last blog post..Banana Bread Cookies AND Ever SO Moist Banana Cake with Luscious Cream Cheese Frosting


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