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.