Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spicy Hell-fire pickles!

Over the weekend we went to a great BBQ place, Famous Dave's. Justin got a burger, which came with "spicy hell-fire" pickles. I am not sure he realized that they were "spicy hell-fire" pickles when he offered one to Alexander. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt, anyway. Alexander happily accepted the pickle, but upon tasting it, reacted with quite the scrunched face and, "This is not what a pickle is supposed to taste like." Poor kid.

Recipe Test #10

This was the last recipe to test, and was submitted by my brother Matt (of Machinations and Imaginations).


1 1/2 lbs of Ground Beef or Turkey
1/2 Cup of Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs, Beaten
1/4 Cup chopped onions
1/2 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp Pepper
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Water

Directions: Mix thoroughly, pack into a loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 1 hour. Remove any fat coagulated on the edges of the loaf. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Serving Suggestions: The standard, as far as I'm concerned, is to serve the loaf hot from the oven with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Yum. Leftovers should be served in sandwich form.

You gotta love any recipe that calls for the removal of coagulated fat. ;) I used ground beef and I did serve this with mashed potatoes (love mine with a bit of sauteed onions), sweet corn, and brown gravy (and had a little giggle to myself in the grocery store while I was buying the brown gravy mix about how the gravy was defined by it's color, as in, "Alexander, what flavor ice cream would you like?" "Pink." "Uh... strawberry, raspberry, or cotton candy?" "Pink." "What flavor gravy would you like?" "Brown." Holy out-of-hand tangent, Batman!)

This was a good basic meatloaf. I think the gravy that I used actually overpowered it a bit, and when I ate a few bites that the kids had leftover (repeat after me, "I am not a garbage disposal."), which did not have gravy on them, I got a better idea of the flavor. Twas yum! Another recipe that I would use again. Thanks, Matt!

As for a winner, there are two or three recipes that are vying for first place. I will review my notes, but I may decide upon a cook-off, wherein I will make 2 or 3 recipes at the same time or one after the other so that I can more easily compare them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Recommendation

This is totally random, given that I typically write about my kids, or maybe some household stuff. But as I've said before, I AM the boss here, and so I thought I'd share a book recommendation. ;)

Sometimes I lose perspective. This book gave me some back. It was a totally random pick in the library the other day and I can't get it off my mind since I read it in one sitting.

"Our America" by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman with Davis Isay

This is actually mostly a transcript of audio recordings made by two boys, once in 1993 and once in 1996. The boys were ages 13 and then 16. They were both born within a year of me, which made me sort of connect with them more. They were growing up in/near the projects in Chicago. The first section is called Ghetto 101 and just sort of details their every day life for one week. The 1996 section is them interviewing people in the neighborhood about a recent crime that got national attention- when two boys, ages 10 and 11, dropped a 5 year old boy out of a 14th story window, killing him. LeAlan and Lloyd interview the victim's family, neighbors, and family members of the perpetrators.

Originally, the audio tapes were used to create two radio documentaries, which won several awards.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recipe Test #9

Today we did not cook out. Let's be honest: we're just not so handy with the charcoal. ;)

We tested Betsy's recipe for enchiladas!

Enchiladas Con Pollo

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced pitted ripe (black) olives
¼ cup green chiles
¼ cup chopped onion
3 ½ cup prepared chunky taco sauce
12- 6” flour tortillas

Combine ½ of the cheese with next five ingredients. Mix well with 1 cup taco sauce. Add 1/3 to each shell. Roll and place seam-side down n buttered 13x9 pan. Pour/Spread remaining sauce over tortillas. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Add remaining cheese. Heat until cheese is melted.

That is the real recipe. When I’m feeling lazy, I line a pan with tortilla shells, layer the ingredients and repeat, ending with a tortilla topped with salsa and cheese. I like to brown the cheese. Then I cut portions and serve.

I did this the "real" way, mixing the ingredients and rolling the tortillas. Unfortunately the boys were uncharacteristically picky tonight! I have no idea why. This was not overly spicy at all. They've happily eaten spicier food. They may simply have been full from a late snack, but neither boy ate more than a couple of bites. We'll see how they do tomorrow, as this made enough for two meals for us. Justin and I both liked it, though! I felt like a chef again! Thanks, Betsy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Recipe Test #8

I'm actually a little late writing this one up! We tested this recipe a couple of nights ago, and it came from my dad (aka PopPoP).

Pork Adobo

2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup flour
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup ginger ale
1 small green pepper

Mix ingredients together (except flour), and marinate for at least a day. Add sufficient liquid (ginger ale) to cover meat. After marinating, coat pork lightly with flour, and brown in stew pan or electric skillet. Add other ingredients from marinade and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat flakes.

I cut this recipe in half, knowing that we would never eat 2 pounds of meat for dinner. It was a good decision because 1 pound was just the right amount for us! I had to call my dad on this one while cooking, though! When I got to the part of "Add other ingredients from marinade and simmer," I was a little confused as to whether I was supposed to just add the onions and peppers, or add the liquid as well. My dad didn't answer the phone, so I had to figure it out on my own. *Gulp.* I added the onions and peppers, but there was no simmering going on without any liquid, so I added just enough of the marinade to get some simmering going on. Not sure if that was technically the right thing to do, but it turned out fine that way. I served it over rice, with salad on the side. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was supposed to simmer for so long, and my kids were getting pretty hungry, so I let them have their salads first and they filled up on that, so they didn't eat more than a few bites of the Pork Adobo. Justin and I liked it and ate it right up, though! It certainly smelled delicious for the hour and a half that it was simmering. I couldn't wait to eat it! Thanks, Dad!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Who are you again?

Today Alexander went to one of his special one-day programs through the county- an Under the Sea adventure. He had SUCH a good time. Afterwards, I noticed that he was still wearing his name tag and suggested that we take it off, since we didn't need it anymore. His response? "But then PopPop will just call me Matt!"

I had to post this just to make PopPop laugh, even though for others it will require an explanation. Matt is my brother, and PopPop is, of course, my dad. PopPop often mistakenly calls Alexander "Matt" for the same reason that I joke that Jack's name is "Xan-Jack," and for the same reason that I learned to respond to "Karen" when I spent summers with my grandparents (Karen was my mother's name). For some reason, we parents and grandparents just can't seem to remember our (grand)kids' names! Senility is setting in, I guess. I found that I never messed up my kids' names until Jack was old enough to be caught doing no-nos, at which point I would start to blurt out the first name that came to my mouth- Alexander or Xander, stop halfway through, and switch to Jack- creating his new "you're in trouble" name: "Xan-Jack." Alexander gets the typical addition of the middle name, "ALEXANDER MATTHEW!" but Jack gets, "XAN-JACK!" Who are you again?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jack is a big boy!

I think he looks very grown up here (despite the pink and purple Pooh and Piglet footy pajamas).

I have videos to post also, but my computer is not cooperating right now, so this is all you get!

Recipe Test #7

The recipe we tested tonight came from Melissa (of Piperizms). It came with no name, so it shall henceforth be referred to as "Piper Ravioli," unless Melissa objects. Piper is Melissa's almost two-year-old daughter who also happens to be a big fan of this dish.

Piper Ravioli

Saute 1 small onion chopped with 2 cloves of garlic minced in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add 10 oz cubed butternut squash (I buy a package of pre-cut at Giant and just cut to uniform size) and saute until onions are golden and butternut squash is browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I add a lid to help the squash steam a little and then take the lid off to brown them up. Add a handful of chopped fresh sage and stir. Meanwhile, cook a 20 oz/family size package of fresh cheese ravioli according to package directions; drain and return to pan. Add butternut squash mixture to ravioli and add 3 Tbs butter, 1/4 cup sliced almonds and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, a generous sprinkle of balsamic vinegar (do not skip this! it is sets off the dish perfectly!!!) and a few more almonds.

Piper Ravioli is YUM! It has three things that I love in food: pasta, nuts, and vinegar. It's nice to have another way to eat pasta without the tried and sometimes tired red sauce. I felt like quite the chef for having made this dish, and if my children weren't sitting near me talking with their mouths full, trying to sit on my lap and eat my food instead of their own, and generally being distracting, I could have imagined myself sitting in a fancy restaurant eating this. The kids loved it, both eating their entire portions. Alexander said, "I like this so much I want to eat it every night when it's time for dinner." Justin was also impressed, even though his portion sat in the microwave for an hour and a half while he sat in traffic. Thanks, Missy! This one's got it's dukes up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Recipe Test #6

Tonight we tested Tammy's (of Blessed Chaos) recipe for stromboli.


Ingredients: pizza sauce
refrigerated Pillsbury French Loaf
1/4 lb. ham
1/4 lb. salami
shredded mozzarella cheese (as much or as little as you'd like)
small onion
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil

Chop and saute onion.
Spread dough into a rectangle on a baking stone or baking sheet.
Cut dough every inch along each side (leave space in the middle for all the ingredients)
Squirt a little mustard on the dough.
Layer ham, salami, and cheese on dough. Sprinkle onion (as much as you'd like) on top of meat and cheese.
Braid the dough - basically just alternate sides and drape across ingredients so it criss-crosses
Mix oregano and olive oil - brush on top of dough.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with warm pizza sauce.

Tammy didn't know what she was getting into, giving us a recipe for stromboli! Weis makes an awesome stromboli which we LOVE, but this was a close second to that, which is saying a lot! It was really good. I was a little dubious about the mustard, but in my opinion it totally worked! This is definitely "up there" on the list, and I will make it again.

I am a Lovey

Like many of my readers, I am a Supermom. I am also a Lovey. Put me right up there with Linus's blanket and Maggie Simpson's pacifier. I am a security item, a source of comfort to small children when they're scared, tired, or not feeling well. Well, when I say "I" am those things, I actually mean "my body." That's right. An alternate title for this blog entry could have been, "Boys only want me for my body."

Let's see... this started soon after Alexander stopped breastfeeding, around 16 months old. My theory is that, in order to replace the physical closeness of breastfeeding with something else, he "latched on" to my stomach, or as he called all stomachs at the time, my "tickle." He just liked to lay with me and rub my belly! Now that he is four years old, my stomach is the only one still called a "tickle," and he still asks for it at least once per day (Well, occasionally I think he also does this to Justin, but I am definitely the main "tickle" owner). He'll say, "Lay down and I will touch your tickle," or "Lay flat so I can touch your tickle." It's sweet, but sort of weird.

Jack chose a more common lovey: my hair. Again, he started his hair obsession soon after he stopped nursing, which for him was around 14 months. Actually, he would often pull on my hair while nursing, so I guess it started there. It's getting a little out of hand lately, though. When it looks like he's giving me the biggest hug ever? Just trying to reach the bulk of my hair. Last night when he came to bed with me he literally laid on top of my head so that he could have the best access to all my hair. I kept trying to reposition myself, but he just kept hugging on, laying on top of, and generally molesting my head.

So, really! What's up with this?! I think I'd feel needed and honored if they wanted me to hug them, sing to them, or stroke their backs! But I sort of feel used! Boys! They really do just want me for my body! I honestly wonder what Jack would think if I cut off my hair and sewed it to his stuffed monkey. Perhaps I would no longer be necessary. Hmph! At least I can use this as blackmail when they're teenagers and would be sorely embarrassed to have once loved their Mommy so much! Mwuhaha!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Mommy Stuff

I've talked a lot about the funny things Alexander says, or the way he says certain things, but here are some "Mommyisms":

I should start by explaining that we now allow Alexander to play an hour of video games per day instead of watching an hour of TV. We figure his brain is more active playing a video game than watching TV, plus he's gaining hand-eye coordination. Also, he doesn't ask for snacks or juice while playing video games! Sure, NO screen time would probably be best, but come on- the kid doesn't go to preschool. Am I supposed to entertain him ALL day? He usually plays Super Mario Sunshine, which is pretty age appropriate, but Mario can't survive everything you put him through.

SO... instead of "You died," we say, "You lost your turn."

Instead of "You're running out of life," we say, "You're running out of energy."

Instead of, "Those koopas can kill you," we say, "Those koopas can make you lose your turn."

It's a delicate line we walk! ;)

And here is my Mommy confession for the day, in the form of a conversation:

Alexander: Ow! I scratched my face!
Me: We really need to cut your nails.
A: NO!
Me: But you just scratched your face. Your nails are too long!
A: NO! (runs away)
Me: Alexander, we need to cut your nails or you won't be able to play Mario because your nails will scratch the controller, too.
A: Nuh uh.
Me: Yeah, your nails will get in the way and you won't be able to use the controller so well.
A: Okay, you can cut my nails, but I want you to sing a song while you do it.

Yeah, I'm evil. And now there's a record of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recipe Test #5

Tonight we tested another of Mara's recipes. I think Mara deserves extra points for taking advantage of the fact that I didn't specify one recipe per entrant. ;)

Thai Curry
1 1/2 tablespoons of curry paste (green, red, or yellow)
A protein (chopped chicken, beef, fish, or tofu)
Chopped stirfry vegetables (napa cabbage, broccoli, peppers, squash,
carrots, eggplant...)
6 oz. of coconut milk
12 oz. of veggie broth
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
a pinch of salt
A handful of fresh basil leaves (optional)

Add the curry paste to a pan with some hot oil, and squish it against
the bottom for a minute or two until it smells yummy, then add the
protein if it's chicken or beef, and any hard vegetables. Let those cook
for a few minutes, then add any soft vegetables and the protein if it's
fish or tofu. Let that cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk
and veggie broth. Let that simmer for about 10 minutes. Then turn off
the heat, add the fish sauce, brown sugar, and salt. Then throw in the
fresh basil leaves.

I especially recommend green curry and chicken, with napa cabbage,
carrots, and yellow squash. But you can really use whatever veggies and
protein you have.

I followed Mara's recommendation and used the green curry paste, chicken, napa cabbage, carrots, and yellow squash. With her approval, I used these amounts: 1 pound chicken, 3 very small squash, and approximately equal (to the squash) amounts of carrots and cabbage. She also approved serving it over rice or rice noodles, and I chose rice.

This was pretty good, although I was expecting more of the curry taste that I am used to in Indian curry. The chicken, which had most of the curry flavor on it, was definitely what I was looking for. I would like to try this again using more curry paste and perhaps less (or none? Would this kill it, Mara?) of the fish sauce. Alexander ate everything except the squash (strange, since he usually likes squash). Jack ate a few bites of rice and was done, but that is because today was his turn to be too busy being a maniac to eat. Justin and I cleared our plates, as usual! ;)

Thanks again, Mara!

Oh, and for those of you who are anxious for a winner, I believe I have 5 more recipes to test, so I think we can have a winner by the end of this month.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recipe Test #4

Another recipe tested! This one was submitted by Becky (of Golden Acorn Homeschool).

Biscuit Pizza Bake

1 lb. ground meat of choice (we usually do ground turkey)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
Any other veggies you like...mushrooms, etc.
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (the normal average size, I am too lazy to look up ounces.)
16 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown the meat with the onion and pepper, drain any fat off. Add the sauce and warm through.

In the meantime (or before hand), make biscuit dough. I make mine from scratch, but Bisquick works just fine. Add more milk to make it thinner and spreadable. I swear Beth, I don't measure, I have no idea how much to tell you. Somewhere between a 1/2 a cup and 1 whole cup or extra milk. :-P

Spread the biscuit dough in the bottom of a greased (we use Pam) 9x13 in baking dish. Top with the meat/veggie/sauce mixture, and then the shredded cheese. Bake for 30 minutes on 375 until the dough is done and the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Baking Powder Biscuits
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening (I always use butter flavor)
2/3 - 3/4 cups milk (for the bake, I guess I use in the neighborhood of 1 1/2)

Mix the dry ingredients, cut in the shortening until it looks like course crumbs. Add the milk.If you are just making regular biscuits, you would roll and cut them at bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes.

I used ground chicken and added chopped mushrooms as the extra veggie. I did make the biscuits from scratch using Becky's recipe, including the butter flavored shortening. In fact, I used this recipe to make plain biscuits the other night!

This turned out excellent. I love the concept and the fact that I can see myself playing around with it to fit our mood. Jack gobbled up almost his entire serving. Alexander ate only a few bites, but only because he was too busy being a maniac. Not sure I can hold the food responsible for that. Justin and I were already planning what "toppings" to use next time. This version is great because it actually packs in a lot of veggies, but of course we're naughty and want to fatten it up with pepperoni or sausage! ;) This was easily enough for two full dinners for our family. Becky, have you ever frozen it? Next time I could see splitting it into two dishes, eating one that night and freezing one for another time, if it freezes well.

Thanks, Becky! It was really delicious and just writing about it makes me want to go eat more! Really!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recipe Test #3

Tonight we tested one of Mara's (of Dangerously Subversive Atheist Penguin) submissions, "Aunt Helen's Squash Pudding." As far as I know, it is simply a big coincidence that Kathryn and Mara's submissions both came from "Aunt Helen." Maybe *I* need an Aunt Helen!

Aunt Helen's Squash Pudding (aka the most kid-friendly vegetable dish
Either 4 pounds fresh yellow squash, washed, sliced, steamed in
saltwater, drained, and blenderized *OR* 4 pounds frozen yellow squash
defrosted in the microwave, then squished to remove some excess water,
and blenderized
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk or orange juice
1/2 - 1 cup matzo meal or flour
1/2 stick margarine or butter
Blend ingredients together, place in greased dish, bake for 1 hour at 350.

I used fresh squash, orange juice, and flour where given the choices. I served it with pork chops and biscuits. Justin, Alexander, and I all thought it was really yummy! Alexander said, "I like squash pudding the best!" Jack, however, inexplicably spit it out! Blasphemer! I would definitely make this again! Next time, though, I will make a half recipe. This was delish, but we only ate between 1/4 and 1/3 of it, so I think this recipe is the "company's coming" size! Thanks so much, Mara! I really liked it.

I plead temporary insanity

I am pretty sure I am in trouble when Justin gets home from work and sees what I did to our second son. I may have my clipper privileges revoked. I was giving Alexander a nice summer haircut, and Jack was begging (ya know, with body language, grunts, pointing, etc.) for me to do his, too. So I DID! AHHHH!

Actually, once the shock wears off, it's sort of cute. It's always really tough to capture a haircut in photos.

Recipe Test #2

Yesterday Alexander had basketball again, and since we don't get home until about 5:45 from that, it was the perfect day for a crock pot recipe. So we tried Kathryn's (of My Three Monkeys) submission in the recipe contest: Aunt Helen's One Pot Dinner.

"Aunt Helen's One Pot Dinner

1lb ground beef

3/4 lb Bacon
1 Cup chopped onion
2 cans pork and beans
1 can kidney beans (drained)
1 can Butter lima beans (drained)
1 Cup ketchup
1/4 Cup brown sugar
3tbls vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Brown ground beef and bacon (make sure bacon gets crispy) and drain fat. Put all ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low about 6 hours.

I usually make it with cornbread on the side. :-)"

I made this as directed, using Campbell's pork and beans and Jiffy corn muffins. Everyone liked it, including the kids. It was wonderfully hearty and perfect for the dreary day. Jack said, "Mmmmm." Alexander said, "This is good." Justin said, "You should make this next time we have a cookout because I would love to drench a hot dog with this." I said nothing because I was too busy eating. This will be tough to beat! Thanks, Kathryn! (Oh! There's leftovers for lunch! See ya!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Superlatives

Most of my readers know that over the weekend I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Here's a list of my top eleven (I'm a rebel) favorite things about the weekend.

11. The triumph of walking 39.3+ miles in one weekend.
10. Successfully locating the parking garage and shuttle to Opening Ceremonies after getting briefly (but panic-inducingly) lost in DC at 5AM Saturday morning.
9. A burly man wearing an extravagant pink tutu who volunteered as a crossing guard.
8. A hot shower, in a truck, at the end of day one.
7. The energetic, hard-working, and caring youth crew who were too young to participate by walking, but who wanted to make a difference also. Not only did they crew the entire weekend, the 20 of them raised over $11,000.
6. Samoas at mile 25.
5. A man dressed as a cow who showed up frequently along the route and repeatedly cheered the walkers along, telling us that we were "udderly awesome," leading group stretches while we waited to cross intersections, and regaling us with cow-related humor.
4. Being greeted by Aunt Eileen and Ginger cheering for me and all the other walkers at the National Cathedral.
3. The fact that the rain held off until Sunday.
2. Coming home to my guys after a long day and a half of missing them.
1. Personally collecting $3,545 and collectively raising over 6.8 million dollars for breast cancer awareness, research, and programs.

My least favorite thing about participating in the walk? BLISTERS. Thankfully, they're very temporary.

The weirdest thing about participating in the walk? Being cheered for like a rock star. I was just getting some exercise. Y'all are the ones who deserve the cheers! :D Thanks again to all my supporters. I'll be sending out a full recap of the event to all my donors. :D