Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Falling in Love

I will admit, I am a toughie to buy a gift for.  I just ended a sentence with a preposition; it's that serious.  My husband would ask, "What do you want for Christmas/birthday/random gift-giving holiday?"  I don't make it easy; I'd say, "I dunno" or "How about Lego Harry Potter?"  He would often suggest a gift, for instance, "You love to cook; how about a food processor?"  To which I'd wrinkle my nose and say, "Ugh, no.  Boring!"

Don't even get me started on the time he suggested a new vacuum cleaner.  Men, if you happen to read this: never, ever give a vacuum cleaner as a gift.  That is a line which must not be crossed.  You will have some serious making-up to do.  I don't even care if it is a Dyson. 

There's no rhyme or reason behind this and I know somebody will be perverse and comment, "I received a vacuum and it was the most beautiful gift I ever received." I have no words for you, Pervercia.  It also makes no sense that I have purchased my husband power tools; however, in my defense, he did ask for them.

This Christmas, we went to my parents house and my mom gave me this awesome gift.  And thats when Bianca and I fell in love. 

Who's Bianca, you ask?  She's my Cuisinart food processor.  We have a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and also based on being able to grate cheese in approximately 0.4325 seconds.  She can also make a mean batch of hummus. 


1 can of chickpeas, drained, but save some of the liquid!
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon cumin
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all of the above in Bianca.  Pulse until totally pureed, or to the consistency you like.  Add additional oil, or tahini oil if needed to thin the mixture.

How easy is that?!?  Bianca totally simplifies your life.  Now you just need to slice up some pita, or get out some lathed carrots (don't fool yourself into thinking they're baby carrots like I did for all those years), or cucumber wedges.  Or bell peppers.  Go crazy.

You know what tastes amazing?  Toasted wheat bread, spread with hummus, and piled up with cucumber, sprouts, and/or other vegetables.  Once I was trying this vegan thing and pretty much ate this every day,  twice a day for a week.  At the end of the week I think I had a bacon-wrapped turducken with a side of trout.  Love me anyway.

You can add in other things like a fresh jalapeno, some roasted red bell peppers (drained if you use the jarred variety), or herbs like cilantro.  Go for it!  Get creative!

I would also like to thank Rita, my mini-prep, for years of faithful pesto making and garlic mincing, and Judith, my trusty Kitchenaid, who sees me through burned batches of divinity and perfect chocolate chip cookies. 

I'm working on a photo montage set to some thoughtful music to show how much I appreciate them both. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abominable Food

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of me, I'm back!  You're so glad.  I can feel it.  I got swallowed by a work-dragon, but it mercifully spit me back out.  After a few showers I'm nearly as good as new!

Some foods should never be combined.  Some foods should be considered criminal when paired together.  However, believe it - some foods that sounds absolutely disgusting end up being totally amazing when they get together.  Case in point - the waffle recipe I'm about to share.

Who doesn't love waffles?  Don't tell me, because I just don't know if I could look you in the eye next time.  I for one LOVE waffles.  Real waffles - not eggo waffles.  I love getting out my shiny waffle oven and mixing up a batter that's going to be crispy and airy and light and delicious.  I love the versatility and appeal of a perfectly made waffle.  Then I love messing it up by adding savory ingredients. 

Probably many of you love savory waffles and I'm just the last person on the caboose.  It wouldn't surprise me.  Such things have been known to happen before.

I got my most recent issue of Bon Appetit.  I ripped off the threatning FINAL NOTICE envelope I've been getting since last April and trashed it.  Get a grip, BA.  I'm not renewing.  Blame Rapoport!  It's turned into GQBA.  Bring back Fairchild! *Nerd moment*

Anyway, before I got off track, I was going to say that I saw a recipe that made my heart stop for a moment.  Not just because of the ingredient list (although that made it stop a second time - note to self, get a checkup) but because it sounded so amazing I knew I would have to make it ASAP.

Bacon-Swiss Waffles (adapted from BA - they called for ham and cheddar and I had neither)

Warning: this recipe contains both bacon and copious amounts of butter.
Warning: I am a terrible photographer.
Look!  Salad!

1 package bacon
1 3/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated (they'll be reunited later.  It's a beautiful ending, and not in the least bit disingenuous.)
1 cup of butter, melted.  That's two sticks.  I know.  YIKES!
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup soda water - actually, I used an old almost flat bottle of Pellegrino. 
1-2 small, thin slices of swiss cheese

Turn your broiler on high.  Turn on your vent fan while you're at it.  Maybe open a window.  See where I'm going with this?  Put your bacon on a grill pan and broil it for approximately 13-15 minutes until crispy.  I'm one of those people who likes very crispy bacon, and not soft-ish bacon.  I like it to be almost burned.  This method turned it nice and crispy and not one bit burned though.  My husband was relieved.

Once your bacon is finished (you might need to do it in two batches) then take it out.  Keep it in reserve until needed.  Don't let your 4 year old eat it all.  That would be just wrong!  Plus you need some for the recipe.

Get out your waffle iron.  Dust it off, if need be.  Plug it in.

Sift all of the dry ingredients.  Put the egg whites in your mixer and whip them into shape, shape meaning that they're foamy and white and not too stiff.  Whisk together the wet ingredients.  Guess what?  When you add cold pellegrino to melted butter, it gets kind of clumpy.  It's ok.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients except for the egg whites.  Once your dry and wet ingredients are whisked, fold in the egg white.  By "fold" I mean dump in the whipped egg whites, then gently mix together the egg whites and the batter.  It's hard to explain.  Foodies, feel free to rip me a new one in the comments.

Once your batter is ready, open up your waffle iron.  If you don't have a non-stick one, then spray it with cooking spray.  Pour in about 1/4-1/2 cups batter.  If you're like me, you forget that the batter travels and you overdo it, and it will ooze out over the sides.  Don't you be like me!  I just said that in a Jack Nicholson voice.

Before you put the lid on, here is where you add your ingredients.  For my son, I add in some chocolate chips.  For me, I sprinkled bacon pieces and little chopped up pieces of swiss cheese.  For my daughter and husband, I added nothing.  They're waffle purists.

The beauty of your waffle iron is that a little light will blink on when they are finished, between 5 and 10 minutes later.  Awesome!  This recipe made waffles that were very crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside.  I think that's what happens when you whip the whites separately and then gently fold them in.  Oh, and possibly the scads of butter added. 

I went that one step further and added homemade apricot-raspberry jam to my waffle. Because when you're in for a million calories, what's a few hundred more?  My homemade jam sometimes has almost whole apricot halves in it.  They're the treasure in the jar. 

I also had salad.  Hopefully the salad is fighting off the butter right now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Simple Parent Math

I do most of the purchasing of clothing for kids and no matter how many times I've done it, I keep making the simple mistake of purchasing plain white shirts.  Ostensibly I buy them to wear under spaghetti strap shirts or for a crisp look to go with some funky shorts. However, they're typically unwearable after the first couple of times.  Here's why:

Typical kid-day:
1.5 hours of meals (hands wiped on shirt despite readiness of pristine napkin)
2 hours of making mud soup in the backyard
1 hour of bubbles
1 hour of playing tennibaskebasevolly in the backyard (gotta slide to make that last shot)
15 minutes of runny nose after being hit in face by ball (nose wiped on shirt despite readiness of tissues)
1 hour of helping make cookies in the kitchen (hands wiped on. . . you get the drift)
1 hour of coloring/painting

All that equals 100% guarantee I will forget about this and buy a new white shirt in a few months.

Wisk THIS, baby!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Going, Going, Gone!

The other night, about 90 minutes before I had to go to work, I decided it was time I brought volunteers a treat.  It was just enough time for me to whip up this delicious coffee cake.  We had our meeting and at the end of it, I said, "Oh, and I brought cake, coffee, tea and cider for a little treat." 

"Yay, cake!"  many said, and went and got slices.  Halfway through their refreshments, they suddenly got wide-eyed.  It grew a little quiet.  Someone said, "Uh oh.  What's the bad news?" 

Really!!  I mean, they must know me so well.  They know I will always try to lure them to the dark side with treats.  Actually, I had no ulterior motive that day - just gratitude to them for the work they do with youth.  What would we do without volunteers?

Epicurious is my favorite recipe site.  A couple of tips - when you go there, anything more than 3 1/2 forks and from Bon Appetit magazine is usually golden.  My favorite though is to read reviews.  Someone will say, "I know that this called for 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup apples, 1 cup raisins, but I added bananas, cocoa powder, omitted the sugar, added agave nectar, threw in some nutmeg and baked it for 30 minutes less than it called for.  And it was terrible!"  Those reviews always crack me up.

Only crumbs are left. A pan like this means you have succeeded.

Blueberry Coffee Cake - from

1/3 cup flour
1/2 stick butter (forgive yourself now for the butter) room temperature
1 cup coconut
1/2 brown sugar (oh yeah - and forgiveness for the sugar too)
1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or one package of frozen and unthawed blueberries

For the topping, combine all the ingredients required and mix until crumbly.  Hang on to that topping for later.  Just hang out, topping.  Chill.  You're up soon.

Preheat your oven to 360.  So, the recipe called to preheat the oven to 357 degrees.  I'm assuming it's a typo, because really?  I don't have that kind of oven.  When replacing our dinosaur oven, which for the last 2 years we owned it, I had to consistently pull out the burner and put it back in DURING cooking something whenever it suddenly lost heat, we went for the lower-mid-level option.  Which means it looks pretty fancy but is still pretty basic.  I don't have an oven that allows you to get to degrees between increments of 5.  I'm obsessing about this typo.  I do stuff like that.

Anyway, put those obsessions to the side.  Butter and flour a 9x13 pan.  Combine the dry ingredients (except for the sugar) and put off to the side.  You're already turned off, I can tell.  Don't worry!  So you have two extra bowls to clean.  It's worth it, I swear!

Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.  Why do they call it that?  It just seems inadequate.  Beat them together until adequate in your mixer.  That means the butter is light in color and the mixture is thick and not grainy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  I usually scrape the pan with a spatuler (my favorite way to pronounce "spatula") between each egg addition so that we can incoroporate all of the stuff sticking to the bottom of the bowl.  That stuff has to join in.  It has to cooperate.  This cake is a joint effort.  There is no "i" in cake. 

Stop digressing and add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, which you remembered to combine with the vanilla.  Do it in three additions each.  The mix in the blueberries.  Gently!  Don't squish them.  You might do the mixing with a spatula.  Treat them tenderly.  Blueberries are delicate.

Pour that luscious batter into the baking pan.  Sprinkle the crumb mixture overtop of the batter and bake it all together for about 40 minutes unless your oven stinks like mine does (I baked mine for 55 minutes).  How do you know it is done?  Poke a toothpick into the middle.  Not a used one.  A fresh one.  Don't take the one Grandpa is chewing on, not even if it's the last toothpick in the house.  When you pull it out, moist crumbs should cling sweetly to the wooden pick.  You should not have slimy cake goo on the pick.  The description of testing this cake is going into a dark alley that I really don't want to explore, metaphor wise.  Lets leave it for now.

The topping should also be golden at this point. 

If you're like me, you throw on your oven mitts and whisk it into your car, resisting the urge to pick at it all the way there.  Once you get a slice, it will still be warm.  You could get people to agree to all kinds of things with a cake like this.

Not that I would dare try.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Toe-body Knows The Trouble I've Seen

The things that my son gets into and says slay me on almost a daily basis.  Yesterday evening, while playing an innocent game of "lets throw stuff over the fence into the pool," my son decided to pick up the heavy play slide and . . . who knows.  Not even he knows.  Sometimes things just exist to be picked up.

This picture has no bearing on the story.  It's just so I can show how cute he is.  It's also a bit dated.

Of course, it is a heavy slide.  So it slipped from his fingers and landed on his foot.  A couple of hops around the house and I thought all was well.  I went to work, we ate cake.  More about that later.

I came home at 10 PM and he was holding on to his shin for dear life, weeping.  "Get to bed!" my husband proclaimed.  "Mommy, it hurts so bad!"  my son argued back.  So I took a look - hmmm, not really swollen but kind of firm to the touch.  So I cuddled him until he fell asleep (don't tell his friends.  Nor his enemies).

He woke up several times in the night because of the pain, and when he woke in the morning crying about it, I said, "No problem, you can stay home today."  "Yahoo!" he cried, leaping out of bed.  Then he stopped and said, "Oh yeah.  Ow!"

I was sure I was snowed.  I made an appointment with the doctor and was relieved to find out - no!  I was not snowed!  He had an infected toe.  What a relief.

Isn't that dumb to feel relieved that there really is a (semi)serious medical issue going on?  I hate going to the doctor and seeing her give me The Look.  "He's fine," she'll say.  The subtext I always hear is, "Really?  Calm down, Hoverlady!"  But not today!  Today I got my money's worth.  "Keep his activity level low," she advised. 

After running out of the building, skipping up the stairs, racing to the car and talking about the bike riding he was planning for later, all punctured by thoughtful "Um, oh yeah.  Ow!  It still hurts," I thought about asking next time for suggestions about keeping a 6 year old's activity level low.

On our way home, I had him call my husband to give him a guilt trip.  "Daddy, you were WRONG!" he crowed into the phone. "I DO have an owie on my toe!" 

We all felt better after that.

Chicken Pancakes

Did that title make you want to throw up?  It certainly doesn't sound very appetizing, which is why I'm renaming it "chicken patties."  Yes.  Boring.  Safe.  Palatable.  When I think chicken pancakes, I just squirm a little.  I picture chicken and maple syrup which seems a culinary atrocity.

Now chicken and waffles?  Totally fine.  Don't ask me why, I don't make the rules!

I adapted this recipe from one I found online, mostly because I didn't have any chinese 5-spice powder.  I have about 473829 other spices in my spice cabinet but not that one.  So, I decided to take a different flavor profile with mine.  Did you like that term?  Makes me sound like a professional.  Either a professional or a totally pretentious git.  The other recipe also sounds delicious though and I encourage you to check it out here:

This is a really healthy recipe.  Very little oil is used and no bread crumbs!  I served these with a baked sweet potato and some steamed zucchini.  I like my baked sweet potatoes with a teaspoon or so of grated parmesan cheese melted on top.  Don't knock it; it works.

Chicken Patties

1 package ground chicken (or turkey if you're feeling wild)
1 tbsp thyme (not ground; although if you go down that alley, reduce it to about 1 1/2 tsp)
2 tsp dried basil
1 egg
5-6 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or olive oil for pan

Preheat your oven to 350.  Spray a baking tray.  Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  You should always be careful not to overmix; it makes your patties tough.  And nobody likes tough patties.  Doesn't that sound like some kind of nasty innuendo?  Maybe these should be Innuendo Patties.

Once your ingredients are mixed, get out your griddle pan, or if you don't have one of those; just a pan.  It's that simple.  Brush the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat on high until a drop of water dances across the surface of your hot pan like a fouette-obsessed ballerina.  I used to be able to do fouettes.  But not without coming pretty close to kicking something.

Once the pan is hot, form the patties (I tried the wet-hands rumor and it is true!).  Don't make them too thick or they won't cook all the way through.  Put them on the hot griddle and let them cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  Once both sides are cooked and golden, remove them to the oven to finish off. This method avoids you cutting into each one obsessively to make sure it is no longer pink inside.  Usually you can tell if there is still some pinkness if there is a pink line around the circumference of the patty; however, sometimes you just can't be sure.  Putting them in the oven for 5-7 finishes them off without making them too dry.

Serve them with something healthy, for the love of all that is holy!  They would be great with some tzatziki sauce on the side, or in a pita with some salad and feta thrown in for good measure.  My husband had these the next day on toast with cheese and tomato and I proclaimed them acceptable for human consumption.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attack Of The Growth Spurt

My four year old is ravenous lately.  Here's what she ate today:
  • 2 waffles with syrup
  • 1/3rd of a pack of sliced turkey
  • 3 popsicles
  • Goldfish (the crackers, not the pet. Come on!)
  • A little bit of beef with barley soup
  • Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • 4 strawberries
  • Some salt and vinegar pringles
All this before 2 PM.

Yikes!  She's also been sleeping through the night in her own bed for the past 3 days.  This is a record.  Usually she comes into our bed and creates the horizontal part of the letter "H." 

The other issue is that after just fitting into size 4t pants, after 2 months of wearing that size they have now become obsolete.  I had to buy 3 new pairs of pants on Friday so that she doesn't walk around in fear that someone will run up to her saying, "ma'am, ma'am, where's the flood?"  She also woke up one morning unable to put on any shoes that didn't pinch her toes.

Please, universe!  Let her grow a little slower!

Way Back Then:

Adorable, yet cheeky 1 year old.  Apple to her mom's eye.  Brother may have different outlook.  She used to let me do her hair however I wanted. 

Now (well, a couple of months ago):

All-grown-up four year old.  Now with opinions on her hair and clothing.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Soup For My Soul

Well. . . tortilla soup, to be exact!  My soul likes it spicy.  Unlike some tortilla soups out there that are brothy, this is thick, tomatoey and stewy.  This soup could be made vegetarian or vegan.  Such things have happened before.  I have mad respect for vegetarians and suchlike. 

Once when I was 16 I went to a concert (I believe it was Q-Fest, for all those who lived here in the 90s and remember KUKQ) and stopped by the PETA booth.  When I left 5 minutes later, I left a committed vegetarian.  I came home and told my mother that I would no longer be eating meat.  "No problem," she said.

For the next week, my mom pulled out the stops and made every single meat dish I loved.  She claims to have no memory so I believe it could have been a subconscious decision.  I caved after 7 days.  That guacamole chicken has never tasted so delicious (recipe to come).

Anyhow, this recipe is one easily adapted if you spurn animal cruelty of all forms.  Good job!  May ants never invade your bedroom because I would expect you'd have some difficult decisions to make.

4 tbsp vegetable oil
6 corn tortillas
1 onion, diced
3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
A large (32 oz can) crushed or diced tomatoes, or two regular sized ones
1 regular sized can tomato sauce
4 cans chicken broth
2 raw chicken breasts
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves

Shredded cheddar cheese
Crispy tortilla strips
Sour Cream
Chopped avocado

So did you also visit a PETA booth at an impressionable age?  Just leave out the chicken, and substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth.  Maybe you could add chunks of tofu.  I like to pretend tofu doesn't exist.  It creeps me out.  Everyone has their little phobias.  That one is mine.

Cut the tortillas up into squares.  Not little ones.  Regular sized ones.  Postage stamp sized.  Don't worry about doing it beautifully because they are going to disintegrate somewhat and thicken your soup.  Put the oil into a big soup pot.  This is a good time to turn on the stove.  I better not forget to mention that.

Put the corn tortilla squares, onion and garlic into the oil and cook it a bit until the onion is translucent.  The tortillas are not going to be crispy.  They're going to be soft.  Once that magical point of no return has been reached, then add your tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth.  Rinse out your cans and put them in your recycling bin.  I will be checking.

Add the raw chicken breasts.  If you want, you can dice them up first and then add the chunks.  I don't do this at this point but I will share my secret technique later.  Add all of the spices.  Let the soup come to a boil, then turn it to medium to medium low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is entirely cooked through.  Stir it occasionally so that ingredients in the soup don't become codependent and stick to the bottom of the pot.  Everyone gets burned that way.

Feeling lazy?  Want to make this soup but you don't have the specific spices?  You could add between 1 and 3 tablespoons of taco seasoning.  I'm a tortilla soup snob and I firmly believe that there is a subtle difference between the spices and the taco seasoning but I wouldn't turn my nose up at the taco seasoning version.  Both are delish.

Usually, if I have added whole chicken breasts to the soup instead of the chunks, I take it out once it is mostly cooked through.  It can still be pinkish in the middle because it will cook some more.  I chop the chicken somewhat finely and then put it back in the pot.  I like small chunks in the soup - almost like shreds.  You might like big chunks.  Lets all get along.

Now that your soup is cooked, time for some fun garnish!

Ladle your soup in a bowl.  Top with garnishes of your choice.  You could also do some chopped green onion.  I personally think that fresh cilantro tastes a little like your mouth does after you've been to the dentist, but sometimes it works for me.  In some dishes it is essential.  If you don't like it, leave it off.  Think of this as "personal responsibility" soup. 

This is a picture of temptation:

That's a tortilla strip with big grains of sea salt on them.  I can't resist them when they're like this.  Sometimes I burn them.  Those are easier to resist.

Make them like this:
Slice about 12 corn tortillas into thin strips.  Put about an inch of vegetable oil in a fry pan and fry these till golden.  They are meant to be a garnish so it's ok to partake a little.

When you take a bite, it's going to tomatoey, spicy, crunchy and soupy all at the same time.  Added effects for added garnishes.  Heaven.

Once at an old job, I had some leftover soup I'd just made perfectly ready for lunch at my desk.  A colleague I kinda disliked began an important conversation with me and could not be dissuaded from discussing that topic right at that minute.  When I was able to get back to my soup about 30 minutes later, the tortilla strips were soggy. 

I still carry the grudge.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Once. . . Twice . . .

Fee times a mayyyyydayy!  This may make no sense to you.  Lots of what I say and/or do makes no sense and I've come to accept that over the years.

Let me tell you what DOES make sense though - twice baking your potatoes!  Twice baked potatoes are hot, creamy, perfectly seasoned and they have the added bonus of looking like a lot of work.  So when you bring them out for your family, or for your dinner guests, and they say, "Wow, that must have been so much work," you should say, "Yes.  Yes it was.  And I'm not entirely sure you DESERVE it!"  Then shoot them resentful looks while you devour one if it's true, or laugh jocularly if it's not true and hope they know you're kidding.  In either scenario, it will place those you serve these to in your debt forever.

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 potatoes
4 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup cheddar cheese

Twice-baked potatoes have a formula to them; it's approximately 1 tablespoon butter and a scant 1/4 cup of cheddar per potato.  Less cheese and butter if you want.  The twice-baked potatoes police will not send a team into your kitchen and throw you to the floor if you deviate from the formula.  They're busy with other things.

The recipe I originally read when I learned how to make twice-baked potatoes said to rub the potatoes all over with a tablespoon of butter and then put ANOTHER tablespoon of butter in them.  Doing this gives the potato skin a nice crispy outside; it also means you've just eaten two tablespoons of butter with your potato.  I say, decide where your priorities are.

So anyway, preheat your oven to 450.  That's right!  I said 450, what of it??  If you really blast the potatoes, it crisps them up a bit on the outside; then you're going to lower the heat and cook them longer.  Decide what kind of aggression you want to release and either stab them with a fork or cut an "x" in them with a knife.  I like cutting a nice, neat "x" in mine.  Failing to do so may result in exploding potatoes in your oven. 

Put them in the 450 oven for around 20-25 minutes.  Then lower the heat to 375 and let them cook for another 15 minutes until they yield when you squeeze them (preferably while holding a potholder or wearing an oven mitt).  What does yield mean?  So when you squeeze them, it shouldn't feel like you're squeezing a rock wrapped in cotton balls.  It should feel as though if you released your mighty power, it would squish into nothingness in your hands.  Mwahahhaha! 

Gently and tenderly slice the tops off of the potatoes.  Scoop out the insides with a spoon and put in a bowl.  The first time you make these, you may tear the skins a little.  That's ok.  Forgive yourself.  That happens to everyone.  Put the butter in the bowl with the potato and mash the potatoes and butter together until they're creamy and blended.  Add cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  This is the time when you get to make them the way YOU like them.  Power to the people! 

Just as gently, put spoonsful of potato mixture (spoonsful or spoonfuls?  probably spoonfuls. I'll never live that one down.) back into the hollowed out skins.  You're going to have more filling than skin, so you can sort of mound it as though it is bursting with buttery, cheesy goodness right out of the potato.  Put them back in the oven to get browned.  I typically turn off my oven, and broil them on high for about 5 minutes until the edges are brown and there are delicious looking brown spots dotting the top. 

It doesn't sound delicious, but trust me on that one.

Then serve them with almost anything!  The only thing I could possibly think of that wouldn't go with these?  Tacos.  There.  Done. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lazy Food

So the Superbowl is coming up and I am really looking forward to it.  No, no, not for the football.  I'm not the sportiest person on the planet.  I've got some inner-ear dysfunction that makes me clumsier than your average human.  My clumsiness is almost of epic proportions.  Able to sense your most breakable possessions and destroy them in a single moment.  Spilling things on herself and others almost without even trying, it's. . . Maladroitica! 

No, what I'm really looking forward to is the commercials and the food!  I love commercials that make an effort, are funny or weird.  Superbowl?  Perfect time to watch a couple, in between pages of my book.  You know, when the men in armor and tights try to bludgeon each other.  And lets be honest - I'm always looking forward to food.

Here's what I might be convinced to make, had I not made them last weekend - ribs! Actually, I'm pretty sure of what I'm planning to make and they don't include these.  But maybe you want to!

See how the board is all messy and saucy?  That's the measure of a good rib in my opinion.  These are back ribs, not short ribs or country ribs which I would cook in a completely different way.  They spend a lot of time just sitting on their butts in the oven.  Lazies!  You spend a nominal amount of time slathering sauce on them.  You live to serve.

These are also so supremely easy to make, it is ridiculous.  Let your oven have the glory.  Even my fickle oven can handle these.  The key is having some really good barbecue sauce.  I like Bone-Suckin Sauce and chipotle sauce, but any thick, bottled sauce will do. 

A big slab of ribs
Barbecue Sauce
Aluminium Foil

Preheat your oven to 375.  Ooh!  My favorite oven temperature!

Aluminium foil is your friend.  You are going to bake these for a long time and the last thing you want is carbonized sauce forever welded to your nice baking pan.  Or your patchy, old, bumpy baking pan that has seen better days but has job security because you prefer shoes to boring stuff like replacing baking pans.

So wrap your baking pan in foil.  I use a cookie sheet; a rimmed one.  Your ribs will exude some juices and much better that they don't drip onto the floor of the oven.  Salt and pepper the ribs all over and put the meaty side facing up.  Hold your horses on the barbecue sauce right now.

Bake the ribs in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  How long exactly?  Kinda doesn't matter.  This is just to sear the meat a bit and keep it juicy.  Take the ribs out, flip them over and slather barbecue sauce on the side facing up.  The bony side.  I wish I had a bony side. Brush it all over so you have a good glaze of sauce.  Put them back in the oven for 20ish minutes.  Not less than 20 but if it stays in a bit longer, no biggie.   Take them back out, flip them over, and pour more sauce on the side facing up, the meaty side.  I have two of those depending on your perspective.  Brush it all around and put it back in for ANOTHER 20 minutes.  Take it back out after 20 minutes. Don't flip them, but pour one final lashing of sauce over the ribs, spoon it all over, and bake 20 more minutes.  Take them out, turn off the oven.  Good job, oven.  That was like an oven 5k.  Thanksgiving?  Oven marathon.

Now this is where you need to be very careful because you've got molten hot barbecue sauce on those ribs.  The ribs should also be insanely tender, so if you just cavalierly pick up the ribs with some tongs, half of them might just break off and fall, and you've just put more than an hour into baking these puppies, which means that you'll reach out your hand and grab them, thereby fusing sauce onto your finger and giving you a huge blister.  You might say a couple of choice words, but I guarantee you they wouldn't be your mother's choice.  Have you ever noticed that swearing makes you feel better?  I have.

Anyway, carefully move them to a cutting board and cut the ribs individually.  I served mine with gratin potatoes and steamed broccoli. The gratin potatoes were even kind of healthy!  Well, healthier than most.  You'd think after all that time in the oven, the ribs would be dry, right?  Well, they're pretty juicy and delicious.  I know.  It boggles the mind.

Bone appetit!  Ha ha.  Oh, I kill me.  Tip your server, I'll be here all week!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Yesterday I reached a secret personal goal.  I often have secret goals.  They're really essential when you are planning world-domination.  Now that I'm getting older though, I have to realize - I'd be happy enough with household domination.  It is exhausting to crush uprisings of laundry, dust bunnies and dirty dishes.  One day, I will control the tri-room area.

But I digress.  One of the goals, which I referred to the other day, is to get healthier.  Lets put it into black and white; I want to sveltify myself.  Ok!  Ok!  I want to lose some pounds.  I started pretty intensely in mid-September and as of yesteray, I'd reached 20 pounds lost! 

Pictured above: black and white brownies.  Something I'm eating a lot less of.
I was pretty confounded because last week was the week from hell.  I didn't exercise at all.  I ate cheesecake.  I quit the gym (which incidentally I hadn't set foot in since September).  I curled up in a fetal position a couple of times.  And I lost a couple of pounds.  What?  Easiest diet plan ever!  I'm going to call it the No-Gym Fetal Cheesecake Diet (TM).

I've got some ways more to go, but for now, I feel like celebrating.  But instead of eating 20 brownies, I purchased a few songs off iTunes to mix it up when I take my daily mile(s).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Never Gonna Run Around and "Dessert" You

Last weekend, the Administration of our family talked a lot about how we need to eat in a more healthy way.  We both spoke in earnest yet conversationally about how we've been working very hard on changing our eating habits to become fitter and to feel better.  Personally, I've been working on losing weight and exercising more often, and not just because it's the new year and because typically people make these kinds of resolutions around 1st of January.  We're doing it for the children.  For the children.  I just whispered that.  I hope you got goosebumps.  I know I did.

Believe it or not, I've been working hard since September and have gradually been losing weight and inches.  Sadly, the inches seem to be in the feet and chest area.  What gives, universe?  I've been having talks with the thigh/stomach area about stepping it up a bit.

Both of us felt re-invigorated and recommitted to our health goals.  We held hands and skipped through a rainbow-arched field.  I wore a sundress and a flowers in my hair.  "Crimson and Clover" played softly in the background.  I'm getting way off track here, and besides, none of that really happened.  The skipping and the "Crimson and Clover" and rainbows, I mean.  But it's not to say I didn't try.

So anyway, after we talked a lot and felt great about our commitment to healthy eating, I promptly made cheesecake.  What can I say?  I'm multidimensional.  I'm complex.  I always keep you guessing. 

Maria Cheesecake (because if you say it softly, it's almost like praying.  I'm probably misquoting it.  I'm good at that.)

Preheat an oven to 350.  Spray a pie pan with cooking spray.

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 package graham crackers (not a box, a package.  Just so we're on the same page)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Open up the graham crackers and put some or all of them in a large resealable baggie.  (No more plugs until I see some dough, major name brands.  Except Mazola.  Because it's more like a public service announcement.)  Seal the bag and crush them.  Roll over them with your rolling pin.  But don't get Rick-rolled.

Never gonna give you up. . .

Anyway, next, measure out 2/3 cup of those crumbs, and put in a bowl, and mix with the sugar and butter.  Pour into your prepared pie pan.  Next, try this nifty trick.  I've actually done this, so it's not merely rumor.  Take some plastic wrap and lay it loosely over the pie pan with your crumbs; then gently press said crumbs together and up the sides of the dish as far as they go.  Try to keep it even, so that you don't have two inches of crust on one side and a bare spot on another. After you've pressed it in, put it in the fridge.  Then make your filling!

2 packages cream cheese
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cups sugar

Put these in your mixer and mix them until very smooth.  I put mine in my mixer and then ignored it for about 5 minutes.  Medium high.  Still lumpy after 5 minutes?  Keep whipping it.  When it's ready, pour into crust.

Here's where it's tricky.  Originally my recipe said to bake it for 20 minutes.  However I've noticed that my oven has mood swings and quite frequently it withholds its heat and love from whatever I'm baking, so sometimes I have to increase the baking time.  I hope it's not an electrical problem.

Anyway, my cheesecake baked for about 40 minutes.  Which begs the question; how did I know to keep it in there?

Here's how: when the timer goes off, open the oven, put on your oven mitts or grab your stained, ragged and unravelling pot holders and start taking the cheesecake out.  Does it jiggle in the middle like my middle does when I try to jog?  It needs to stay in a little longer, just like my jogging sessions should be.  I do it in 10 minute increments until it is set in the middle. 

Once it is set in the middle, you can let it cool.  Mine got a crack or two in the top.  The edges were golden brown and puffed.  You can put it in the fridge and let it set overnight.  Congratulations.  You have both more willpower and patience than I do.  Or you can do what our health-conscious household administration does: cut right into it.  Offer a slice to the constituents but once they hear it's cheesecake, they won't take a bite.  All the more for you!  Top it with some berry sauce that your sister made.

What?  You don't have a sister that makes triple berry jam/sauce?  I feel for you.  Be sure to lick the plate when you're done.  Nobody will judge you.  In fact, they won't even see you because they'll be too busy licking theirs.

"Never gonna give you up" is totally blasting through my mind right now.  And it's nobody's fault but my own.

Monday, January 30, 2012

If It Doesn't Kill You. . .

On Saturday I was at the doctor with Seth, who had an ear infection.  Seth is a planner and often the things he says crack me up.  For instance, he explained to the doctor that sometimes his heart moves around in his chest and sits on the right side instead of the left side, so maybe he should check the right side if he's not hearing anything on the left side.

Seth has real trials and tribulations, the cause of which can be attibuted to one person: his little sister.  Rowan lives to torment Seth.  When he gets old enough I plan to teach him the old Nietzchean adage: That which does not kill you, makes you stronger.  I probably misquoted it.  You get the gist.

I found this old photo Saturday also:

Rowan (10  months old at the time) has stolen Seth's favorite toy and is on the move.  The look on his face here continues to this day.  I see it at times when I ask them a question such as, "What movie should we see today - Alvin and the Chipmunks or The Iron Lady?" and Rowan looks over to Seth to see what he's going to say first.  He says, "Alvin!"  And she automatically says, "The Iron Lady!"

Now, of course I never give choices like this.  It just illustrates how Rowan will do whatever humanly possible to challenge Seth.  I choose to believe it is from a subconscious desire to keep Seth on his toes, feeling challenged and alive, and not because she just likes to provoke him.  But I know the truth, deep down inside.

Anyway, we're at the doctor on Saturday and Seth says to me, "Mom, when I become a teenager and I get a laptop computer that opens and closes, could you do me a favor and never let Rowan touch it?"

To which I replied, "Of course, sweetheart.  Of course."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Top of Old Smoky

Disclaimer: I'm not now, nor have I ever been of Italian descent. I may be committing all sorts of atrocities with this recipe; blame my naivete!

I love pasta of all shapes and sizes, with the possible exception of rotini. I just don't know why rotini and I are not friends. I think it's trying to hard, what with all those grooves. Get over yourself, rotini!

One of my favorite ways to top pasta is with a juicy meatball. I usually use an easy recipe that's oven baked, so it is a smidgen more healthy than frying them. These are really great with turkey, too! Save that oil for when you make fried chicken. And remember: Mazola protects you against appendicitis and broken bones. I'm not being paid by Mazola for that last statement. Get on the ball, Mazola!This is a picture of uncooked meatballs. I'm not very organized, so I forgot to get a picture of the finished and delicious looking product. I put that little tablespoon measure in there for added jaunty realism. I live to serve


1 package ground beef or ground turkey (arond a pound or 1 1/4 pounds)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 small onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced - or use 2 tsp granulated
3 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp salt (more or less depending on what you like)
1 tsp pepper (ditto)
1-2 eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Optional: 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper. Some like it hot, and all.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 375 is my favorite oven temperature. I know. It's weird. Who has a favorite oven temperature?? I also have other weird favorites, such as favorite rest areas on the way to California. Hey-o, Quartzsite!

Take a baking tray and cover it with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Put all of these ingredients in a bowl. Don't be shy; get your bare hands in there and mix it up. Mush it around. Show it who's boss. But not too much; overmixing will make them tough. Maybe just show it who's a colleague with some constructive criticism.

Once it is decently mixed together, get out a tablespoon measure and scoop up tablespoonsful of mixture, and roll it together with your hands. I have heard a rumor that if you do that with wet hands, it is easier to roll; however, I usually remember this rumor after all my meatballs are rolled, so I haven't put it to the test.

Place your rolled meatballs on your baking tray; then pop it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Once the timer goes off, take one out and cut it open. Is it pink inside? Maybe another 5 minutes. But it should be done. Since you've sacrificed one, you might as well go ahead and eat it (unless, of course, it is pink inside).

While your meatballs are cooking you can cook some spaghetti and heat up some pasta sauce. Lets get crazy and slice up some French bread and make a salad. Or, you can slice open sub rolls and heat up some pasta sauce and get out some provolone.

I'm not trying to tell you what to do here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's a Zoo Around Here!

Whenever I go to the zoo, I like to say, "It's a zoo around here!" Then I throw up my hands and laugh jocularly. Lamest joke ever.

The Phoenix Zoo is really a world-class zoo. It's on a huge campus and has tons of exotic animals. It's got komodo dragons, lions, tigers, rhinos, and even stingrays, to name a few. They also have fun attractions in addition to seeing the animals.

Oh, and bring your wallet.

I took Rowan and one of her best friends ever to her preschool field trip at the Phoenix Zoo. They were so excited! They danced and danced and danced while we waited to go inside. We got inside and met up with the group and I asked the girls, "What do you want to see first?"

"The carousel!"

I didn't come to the zoo to ride the carousel all day, and I usually save it as the last thing we do at the zoo anyway. So I said, "Lets visit the stingrays!"

The stingrays are the comedians of the zoo. You're allowed to put your hands in the water and touch them. Several of them will glide right up to you, then lift their fins out of the water, and SPLASH! You're soaked. I know they're snickering as they glide off.

We had the opportunity to buy some food for them (I told you to bring your wallet, right?). The girls both held a piece of fish or raw shrimp in their hands and lowered it into the water. Instant stingray mosh pit.

When we finished up the food, they splashed Rowan good. She was saturated.

I said, "What do we want to do next?

"The carousel! And snacks!"

I was operating on less sleep than usual, and I'd forgotten to pack snacks and water. So, first we purchased some snacks - healthy things like Doritos and popcorn. I laid down the law and said, "No unhealthy things like cotton candy." Nutrition first!

I walked them over to the big open area with the giraffes, ostriches, antelope, etc. It's a beautiful area. It's also handily at the zoo train stop. We were actually on a time crunch with this trip because Seth was sick all night and Gary stayed home while we went. Zoo train is a perfect way to see most of the animals in a 30 minute trip.

My favorite was this tiger. Clearly he was practicing casual Friday. He was laying on his back as if begging for a tummy rub. You know, however, that if you bounded gleefully over to give him said tummy rub, he'd probably eat you up, head first. Good thing they're behind wire, because I would have.

When the train concluded, we'd seen bears, mandrills, monkeys, cheetahs, wild dogs, rhinos, gazelles, the lion, foxes, horses, tortoises, and more. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to the zoo and the tortoises were mating? That was a visit I will never forget.

The girls, who had been on the train for the last half hour, were exhausted. "My feet hurt from walking," they moaned within the first 30 seconds of going to our snack rendez-vous. We could only go to say goodbye, because Gary had to go back to work and I needed to allow enough time for the crown jewel of the zoo (for kids anyway): the carousel.

Funny how they got their energy back and were able to use their tired legs to gallop the whole way to the carousel.

We rode three times.

By the way, Ms Jessi is the BEST preschool teacher ever!

100 Days!

Wednesday celebrated 100 days of school for Seth. They got to make 100 day crowns, and one of the projects was to bring in a bear holding 100 of something on a piece of paper. Naturally we chose googly eyes. Not marshmallows, not cereal, not popcorn kernels.
The world was on the verge of collapse if it wasn't googly eyes.

We also had dessert and blew out candles to celebrate. Rowan said, "It's my 100 days too!" and I've learned by now to pick my battles, so we all celebrated with brownies and chocolate pie.Because it the day we all decide to eat one thing would pretty much signal that Armageddon is on the horizon. One time we all ate the same thing and all night I checked for the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.

I asked Seth what he didn't know 100 days ago and after much thought, the thing that stands out for him is this:

"I didn't know how to spell 'red.'"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Medicinal Chicken

It's 9:07 in the morning and the day is already off to a dubious start, thanks to the traffic ticket I got this morning. In my defense, I thought I stopped. According to the video though, I didn't. Further to my defense, I have two small children, one of them who spent the night in my bed kicking all night long. So maybe I was a little tired.

It's the kind of day where I would likely made this amazing chicken for dinner, you know, to be a comfort after a long day in the trenches of modern life. Where the trenches are trying to manage getting your kids to eat something, get dressed and get to school on time. Unless you don't comfort yourself with food. Or are a vegetarian. And I applaud you!

This is amazing fried chicken. I usually serve this with a delicious pasta salad (maybe the recipe for my favorite pasta salad another day) if we're going on a picnic. I like using legs because you can typically get about 10 of them for about $3.50. That's a bargain!

Fried Chicken

2 eggs

3/4 c. milk

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

Whisk those ingredients together. Add the chicken legs. Put in your fridge for a little while and forget about it. How long is a little while? Anywhere between 5 minutes and 1 hour. I usually stick mine in for about 30 minutes.

2 c flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp thyme (if dried, 1 tsp if ground)

Do you ever have a "dump" recipe? Where you eyeball everything and then hope for the best? When I'm in a rush I do that with this recipe. This is approximately what you put in the flour mixture. You can add more or less depending on what you like. I love the thyme flavor that comes through.

Mix the dry ingredients together.

This is where it gets ugly. Say some apologies now.

Get out a large fry-pan. Put in about 2-3 inches of vegetable oil and heat it up on high to medium high.

Strange fact: my grandfather believed that his children never got appendicitis or broken bones because their family only used Mazola. He also believed he knew the locations of several worm farms that McDonalds got their "meat" from for hamburgers. He drove me past them one time. He was the coolest grandpa ever. Also, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that although you're serving your family fried food for dinner, if it's Mazola, you may be saving on hospital bills.

Ok, so your oil is hot! Roll those chicken legs around in the flour. They should be totally opaque with flour. Once they're coated, place them in oil and let it go to town. Don't move it around. Let it sit there and get really browned up. I'd say 5-7 minutes. Then flip it. It should be a beautiful mahogany color. Let the other side cook 5-7 minutes. You may need to turn on your kitchen fan and reassure the smoke detector. Sometimes it happens.

If you're really worried about the whole mahogany-on-the-outside-bloody-on-the-inside conundrum, take out one leg and cut into it to have a look. If it's bloody, put it in and give all the legs an additional minute or three. Usually 5-7 minutes works for me.

I served this with baked potatoes and peas mixed with corn. I'd say the whole meal for my family of four cost me less than $15. My kids even ate this! Well, Picky ate the coating and left the meat.

But that's a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yes, I'm a total nerd

I'm a teacher for 3 year olds at my church. Ha ha. Mwahaha. Mwahahahahahahahaha! Ahem, Ahem. Excuse me. I don't know what came over me just then. I'm really NOT evil. I love those little cuties.

This week we had a lesson about Daniel in the lion's den. So Saturday afternoon, I though - I'm going to paint up some little figures for them to play with and be able to relate to the lesson. Yeah. Saturday afternoon. Which meant that Saturday night, i created these:

Pictured: Angel, Daniel, King, two Advisors - they're real downers. And some really cuddly, sweet looking lions. I did impress upon the children that the real lions were ferocious. I guess that this doll-pin Daniel was in more of a housecat den.

I had approximately a million unpainted doll pins left, give or take 900,975 thousand, and so I painted doll pins for my kids to play with - namely Phineas and Ferb characters.
Pictured: Baljeet, Buford, Isabella, Perry, Phineas, Ferb, Candace. You can tell from the fine detail work that I have had an extensive education in painting and fine art.

My kids love Phineas and Ferb, so I painted them a set each. I painted two Perrys each for each kid - one Agent P and one Perry the pet. Agent P doesn't have a hat; I couldn't make a good one. Perry does have a rad beaver tail in the back. Or platypus tail, I guess.

Doofenschmirtz and Agent P. I am pretty sure Agent P has just used his 1940's style fedora to disable some sort of -inator. Seth noticed that we have a serious lack of doll-pin Batman characters, so at his request I created a Batman and Robin.

Rowan has requested some fairy princess doll pins, which I will do once I get the current paint stains off of my fingers.

Me Versus Everything

Originally, I started a blog called "Mom vs. Lunch." I was hoping I could share ways to combat my son's pickiness and still provide him a healthy, balanced lunch.

I soon learned that my son only wants one thing in a homemade lunch: homemade macaroni and cheese. Yeah. That kind of blog gets boring pretty fast. Today I made homemade macarani and cheese. Today I made homemade macaroni and cheese (again). Rinse and repeat.

So I decided to do a blog where it is me versus everything. Everything, baby! Then I can pretty much post whatever I want, which is much more in line with my ADHD mentality. Phew! But you know it's mostly going to be recipes, crafts and the dark back alleys of thought that my brain likes to meander. Meandering is fun.

Follow me down the dark back alleys of my id! And maybe you'll get some good recipes and projects along the way. Lets laugh together, but not cry together, cuz that's kind of weird.