The Challenge

Yesterday I received a challenge from son #1.

We were talking about how since I’ve been home I’ve been cooking wholesome home cooked meals. My statement was that it tastes so much better than any fast food or any meal that you can get out of a box. This last part, the part about any meal from a box was a direct jab at Hamburger Helper.

I hate…no I LOATHE Hamburger Helper. I was a single mom for 15 years with son #1. I had a high school diploma but no education beyond that so you can imagine that I didn’t make a lot of money. People who have a low socioeconomic status tend to eat less healthily because let’s face it, healthy food isn’t cheap. We ate a lot of Mac N Cheese and a WHOLE lot of Hamburger Helper. Now that I can afford not to eat it I won’t. The husband and son #1 love the stuff but me? I’d rather eat PB&J.

So after I took that jab at Hamburger Helper my son  said “I don’t know Mom, Hamburger helper is pretty tasty. I doubt it would taste any better if you made it homemade. In the back of my mind I was thinking “I think he just issued me a challenge…Oh he did!”

Oh it’s on!

IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!!

*Ding*Ding*

So I found a recipe for Taco Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet Meal and set forth to prove that little rascal wrong!

This is not my image. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture before my family inhaled this dish!

I asked the husband if he wanted me to double the recipe and his reply was “HELLO!?!?! How do you not know me by now!?” Ok then, that’s a yes! Remember, this is the man who likes to eat. A lot!

So I doubled the recipe but I only added the 4oz of cheese that it called for instead of 8oz. Even so it turned out pretty good. I even made this nearly gluten free as I am gluten sensitive by using Tinkyada brown rice macaroni noodles. Seriously, they are THE tastiest gluten free noodle around! I can’t say that this dish was completely free as I don’t think the Campbell’s cheese soup was gluten free. I could see this being gluten free if you made your own cheese soup to use possibly.

My only problem with this recipe was that it didn’t say whether or not to drain the beef after browning. I did so anyway but after adding the cheese soup and cheddar cheese the mixture was REALLY thick. Like break your plastic spoon thick so I added more milk to thin it out. I’m guessing that I wasn’t supposed to drain the fat but I am health conscious (You wouldn’t know it most of the time) so I will drain it in the future and just add more milk. Milk. It does a body good!

And the winner of this friendly little challenge? While eating I asked son #1 if he liked it and his reply? “Oh my gawd yes Mom! This is better than Hamburger Helper from a box!”  I win! Woot! I should have bet money tho!

I give this recipe 4 out of 5 wooden spoons!

Breakfast Shmeakfast

As you can probably tell I’m not a super huge fan of the most important meal of the day. It’s been a life long struggle really. I can remember when I as a wee lass having the following conversation:

Mom: Heather, come eat your breakfast

Me: What are we having?

Mom: Oatmeal

Me: Nooo!!! I dun wanna!!!

Mom: Get over here now and eat!

This usually ended in my defeat. I would sit there, take a few bites and then spoon the rest around. This wasn’t with just oatmeal either. Didn’t matter if it was cream of wheat or eggs and toast. For some odd reason I’ve just never been a super huge fan of breakfast.

As I got older and was allowed to decide for myself I chose not to eat breakfast. When I got to High school I would buy three Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and eat those with a carton of milk for breakfast. Hey! Don’t judge! At least I was eating and was drinking milk. Ok?

That changed when I got pregnant with son #1. I knew that I had to eat for my own sake knowing that the child within was sucking all my nutrition out of me. Let me tell you, trying to force yourself to eat when you don’t want to on top of having morning sickness is no fun. No fun at all I tell you!

After son #1 was born I went back to not eating breakfast. Years later I started eating breakfast cereal and then quickly became a fan of hot breakfasts. Eggs, hashbrowns and bacon or bacon and waffles, hasbrown bacon bakes…pretty much anything with ham or bacon. This time when I got pregnant with son #2 eating breakfast wasn’t so hard after the first trimester. For the first trimester I made protein shakes.

Yesterday I went into my kitchen intent on making my usual craisin pecan oatmeal but decided to experiment a little bit. I heated up my oatmeal and threw in a handful of chocolate chips, pecans and a tiny splash of vanilla extract.

Voila! Pecan chocolate chip cookie oatmeal.

Try it!

 

Unhealthy Obsession…

Well, that’s what some would call it but I think it’s perfectly normal.

I am, always have been and most likely will always be obsessed with music. Unless I go deaf…which I think I’d rather go blind given a choice personally.

To say I love music is to put it mildly.  I listen to all kinds from Bach to Marilyn Manson. I think if I were autistic this would be my area of savant. If my neighbor is listening to a song and all I hear is the baseline I can usually pick out what song it is…at what point it is at and sing along with it. My husband has called me his Shazaam or Sound Hound several times. We even play this game where he’ll pull up a song on Youtube and play maybe 5 to 10 seconds of a song and I have to guess which song it is. I get it at least 75% of the time if not more. If we are in a public place and I hear a song I fixate on it inadvertently blurting out what song it is and who the artist is. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here..just trying to succinctly convey my level of obsession.

One of my favorite and very likely my most expensive hobbies is going to concerts. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been to concerts. I’ve seen:

  • New Kids on the Block (4 times one of those times with Backstreet Boys)
  • Barenaked ladies (5 times)
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Jack Johnson
  • Beck
  • Ryan Adams
  • Adele
  • Michael Jackson
  • Bloc Party
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Keane
  • Snow Patrol
  • Weezer
  • Sia
  • The Cure
  • George Winston
  • Meatloaf
  • Oasis
  • TV on the Radio
  • Janet Jackson
  • Naughty by Nature (You down with OPP?)
  • Bobby Brown
  • They Might Be Giants
  • The Pretenders

There are more but I just can’t seem to clear to cob webs from the attic I call my head at the moment.

The reason I am talking about this is because last night I went to see The Black Keys with one of my besties Melissa. All I have to say is ZOH MY GAWD!!! So let me explain something to you.

I was born and raised and currently live in a state called Minnesota. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I like to think of it as the land of 10,000 Lutherans. Now, I have nothing against Lutherans. In fact there is a whole radio show called A Prairie Home Companion where they talk about life in Minnesota in a fictional town called Lake Wobegon and they make references all the time to The Lutherans. They are a very conservative people and there seem to be a WHOLE lot of them here in this state. There is a reason for this I promise.

Normally when I go to concerts I notice that people in Minnesota sit politely not moving much and only clapping when the person on stage prompts them to do so. I call this the Lutheran effect. In fact, when I went to see The Pretender (I was 19 at the time) my group of friends and I stood and danced the whole time much to the chagrin of the people behind us who even complained. I just ignored them but what I wanted  to say was “Oh…I’m sorry. I thought we were at a CONCERT not a church sermon!”

Last night the girls in front of Melissa apologized for standing up. They said they had to stand up because the people in front of them were standing and they couldn’t see otherwise. It kind of just hit me how absurd that is.

You are at a concert.

Where they play music.

Music is meant to be danced to.

You sure as heck fire can’t dance in  your seat!

No apologies needed ladies!

While at the concert I was looking around because I’m a people watcher and not ashamed of it either. I didn’t see many people sitting down. I’d say 98% of the people there were standing and dancing. This made me happy. VERY happy! I was super impressed that a band with only TWO people in it could raise so many people to their feet and compel them to move.

So here is the video for The Black Keys Everlasting Light. They did this song last night with 2 of the largest disco balls I’ve ever seen. It made such a cool effect through the whole stadium. I think it was by far my favorite part of the concert. So if you haven’t already go check it out.

PS-if you check em out and don’t like em that’s cool, I can respect that. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but at least you heart something new!

Sometimes I surpise even myself!

Two years ago in January my mother in law passed away from a brain hemorrhage. They believe that this was a blood vessel weakened by years of battle with high blood pressure. My husband is from Vietnam and high blood pressure runs rampant over there. I’m guessing it’s from all the salt in the soy sauce, fish sauce and the MSG they eat over there.  Since then two things have happened in our marriage…well actually three.

1. My husband goes and gets yearly physicals and closely monitors his high blood pressure.

2. He eats better and works out at the gym at least three or four times a week.

3. I’ve learned how to cook Vietnamese dishes. He told me that one of the things he would miss the most about his mom is her cooking. He’s a boy who likes to eat! And eat

And eat

And eat! So it doesn’t surprise me that one of the things he misses is her authentic Viet cooking. It broke my heart into about a bazillion tiny shards when he said that. So I started looking up recipes. Can you tell how much I love him???

Our friend Soury (you can see her blog here) posted a link the other day to Ca-Ri Ga. It’s a Vietnamese chicken curry with potatoes and carrots. When he saw that link he demanded asked me sweetly if I would make it for him. So I put it on my menu plan for the week. I set forth to make this and made a couple of mistakes.

First of all who knew that when you prepare lemon grass you peel off the outer most layers (he called it the woody rind)? Yeah, I didn’t either and now I’m pretty sure the only good knife we had left is not so good any longer. *making mental note* Next time I will peel the woody rind off before cutting it.

Another thing. I didn’t peel the potatoes. It wasn’t until I got them all cut into pieces that he told me that the skin should have come off. *making mental note*

Last but not least. The recipe did not tell me this but I guess I was supposed to cut the chicken into bite size pieces so I just plopped them whole into the pot. *making mental note*

So…the instructions could have been a little more clear. The one thing the instructions did get right was that this should be served with a nice piece of french bread. The Vietnamese people love french bread and this is due to the French occupation of Vietnam.

Luka had been begging me to teach him how to make bread so I decided today would be a good day. Ya know the feeling when the planes align for you? Well, that’s sort of how the making of this bread went down. Luka was amazed at how many steps there were to making something so simple. As it happened the bread got done about 5 minutes before the Ca-Ri Ga so it had time to cool.

Neither Vinh nor Luka could get enough of it. I was afraid it would be too spicy for me, being a white Irish girl and all, but it had just the right amount of slow heat. I will make this again and I will utilize my mental notes.

Mmmm….Bacon

Who doesn’t love bacon? I mean aside from vegans, who I have it on good authority that even they like bacon so much that they make their own version out of tofu. Sounds gaross in my opinion but hey to each their own, right? I can’t imagine a life not eating bacon.

My son Luka has a saying “Bacon makes everything better.” and he’s right.He loves bacon so much he’s even experimented with making his own dish. Something he calls bacon explosion. I didn’t get to try this as I was out of town but I can tell you that washing the dishes was no joke and I think the dish should be called dishes explosion instead!

I digress….

There isn’t one instance where something wasn’t improved by the addition of bacon. I mean really…how could chocolate get any better? BAM! Add bacon and you have a salty sweet treat that is beyond tastetastic!!

So when I was cruising the information super highway and stumbled upon this recipe for Bacon-Cheese-Pull-Aparts from Pillsbury I KNEW this was a recipe I just had to make on a cool Saturday morning.

Holy Yum Batman!

It was actually a fluke. I saw this recipe and by some grace of the higher power I happened to have all the ingredients.

For this recipe it says you need precooked bacon but c’mon! Really!? If you are going to do anything bacon do it right and cook it yourself. This way you can buy thick cut, smoked or maple bacon and add your own texture or flavor to it. I opted to cook my bacon in the oven. So easy! No grease splatters all over the stove and no grease burns (yes again with the burns…I told you I was clumsy!).

I read some of the tips on the site and some people added more eggs, more milk, green peppers and onions and differing spices. So this is an easy dish you can really make your own by adding things to your liking. I just went with the original recipe to begin with as I always do just to see if he fam would like it.

THEY LOVED IT!!!

I will make this again. I will probably add more bacon and more eggs and a little more milk. I might even try this with ham. *gasp* I know I know…but ham is kind of another form of bacon, right?

Red Velvet Cake Balls Follies

A couple of years ago right around Christmas time my dear friend Cindy created the event of all events. Cookiepalooza. It was an event I very much looked forward to every year. Our fearless leader had just left and our interim replacement participated by making these cake balls. Unfortunately I missed them the first year but was intrigued by my coworkers reviews of them. Cindy said something along the lines of  “Oh man she had these balls covered in chocolate and I don’t know what was in them but dang they were good! I was going to save you one but T took the last one.” Dang it! The next year I was able to have one and ZOH MY GAWD!! I was in LOVE. Come to find out these were Oreo Truffles. I still haven’t made those yet. Maybe next year for my husbands cookie exchange at work.

Speaking of which…my husband asked me to bake something for him to participate in the cookie exchange at his work this past Christmas. Normally he doesn’t participate in things like this but he had just accepted a new position in a new building and didn’t know many people. A month earlier I had been at a bridal shower where they served Red Velvet Cake Balls. HOLY MOLY! If I hadn’t been 7 months pregnant and trying to avoid gestational diabetes I would have used the excuse of being pregnant and ate the whole tray!!! When he asked me to bake something for him I KNEW this is what I had to make.

I found the recipe on Gonna want seconds blog Here.

Reading the directions it seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, either I am mentally challenged or just plain simple but I had SO many difficulties making these. Everything went well in making these until it came to the shell that surrounds the outside.

Mistake #1: Melting the chocolate.

I didn’t particularly care for the method they describe in the recipe. On the package it says to melt in the microwave a few chunks at a time. Well…I have ceramic dishes and those suckers get HOT and have a tendency to burn the fingers while gripping. So…I broke out the fondue pot. My train of thought was “That is what fondue pots are made to do…right?”

First of all I turned it on and the chocolate bark was not melting on level 5. Hm…that’s odd. So I turned it up to 8. Still not melting well enough so I checked the cords and Voila! As a result I ended up burning the chocolate very quickly. I also burned my finger! Doh!

I ended up going to the store to pick up more bark. After that I melted it in my ceramic bowl in the microwave like the instructions indicated on the package. And I used my oven mitts (or rather my husband did to help me avoid burning more digits. Yeah, I’m clumsy like that).

Mistake #2: Chilling the filling

The instructions CLEARLY state that you form the filling into balls and freeze until the outside is frozen. One you thing you will learn about me and one thing I am desperately trying to change is the fact that I am not a very patient person. I did not let the balls cool enough.

So while I am in the process of trying to roll the balls in the melted chocolate bark they are falling apart. Nothing looks more shitey than having little bits of red velvet cake in the chocolate. So I put them in the freezer and called it a night only to resume the next evening. I couldn’t figure out how to get the coating smooth though and that was frustrating to me.

After I got all that figured out they turned out pretty good. My husbands only complaint was that the chocolate coating was a bit thick on some of them. My response was “I’m pregnant, tired, it’s the end of the semester…consider yourself lucky I’m doing this at all!” I can look back on it and laugh now but I was irritated about it then.

The good news was that all his co workers raved about them which made me happy.

After all is said and done I am not sure I’m going to be making these little sweeties again. Oh hell..I might try them again now that I am no longer pregnant and no longer working. I am, however, still going to school so maybe I’ll try around christmas time again after the semester is over.

What is better than a KitchenAid mixer?

Well let me tell you not much. This year the husband asked me what I wanted for Mothers day. My answer this year was the same as the last two years. I wanted a KitchenAid mixer. I’ve wanted one for years! This year he said yes to my request and I finally got what I asked for! Yay!

Here is a picture of my new toy…straight outta the box!

Here is a picture of Luka playing with the bowl. Gotta love his goofy self!

I’ve made cookies, brownies and french bread so far in it and love Love LOVE this machine! If I weren’t married I might take up a courtship with this thing. It’s nothing less than amazing.

Now, back to my original question. The only thing better than a KitchenAid mixer is one that is personalized. Check this shiz out!

Un Amore Custom Designs

This woman has MAD skillz!