Thursday, February 28, 2013

Caldillo & Huevos con Chile Verde

What a week we've had.  So, I'm a little behind getting to the blog.  I made the Caldillo on Monday because the weather here was rather ugly.

Here is the recipe:

ground beef
green chilies (4 oz. can or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded - if desired - and diced)
onions, chopped
potatoes (diced small)
1 bay leaf          cumin          garlic salt 

Brown ground meat; add onions & potatoes, water, and remaining ingredients.  Boil till done.

Okay, okay.  So, the recipe ingredients list is vague, in that there are no real measurements.  I got this from a friend of mine, and she just makes it as big as necessary to suit the crowd she's feeding.

I used about 1& 1/2 pounds of 90/10 ground beef; 1 can of green chilies, 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced, and one large yellow onion, diced.  The seasonings are added to taste.

Rather than browning the meat first, I tried something I saw on a show once, and just added the meat straight to the water and let it break apart while the water boiled.  This served two purposes:  it let me try a different technique that I never had, but also, on the inside, the ground beef was still a little frozen, so it finished thawing while it cooked.

As soon as the meat was done and I had it crumbled, I added the remaining ingredients and let it cook until the potatoes were done.  After they were soft, I used a potato masher and smashed the potatoes some, so that the broth was a little thicker.  Also, I added some black pepper.

The consensus:          The kids did not care for it.  My husband, father and I did.

This would be a good soup to eat when you are sick, but don't feel like chicken noodle soup.  If you add enough chilies, it'll clean your sinuses right out!

pronounced (call-dee-yo)

The next recipe, which I just made today, is Huevos con Chile Verde, and comes from the aforementioned, and as yet unnamed, cookbook belonging to my good friend Joan!  

2 T. butter     2 T. onion, chopped
4 oz. can diced green chilies (or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded & diced
1 tomato, diced     1/2 t. salt     1/4 t. garlic powder     pepper to taste
6 eggs, beaten well
dash Paprika

Saute onions and jalapenos (if using fresh) in butter till tender.  Add diced chilies (if you used canned) & tomato.  Add seasoning & let simmer for a few minutes.  Beat eggs till creamy and add to chile mixture.  Cook eggs and sprinkle with paprika.  Yield: 4 servings

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the eggs.  We had eaten them all before I realized that I forgot to take a shot of them.  

My take on the eggs:  I am not a huge fan of adding ingredients  into my scrambled eggs.  I don't mind adding salsa on top, or cheese.  Or if I'm eating an omelet and the ingredients are folded inside, but not technically mixed into the eggs, I'm good.  So, these eggs ended up a little wetter than I prefer.  However, the seasoning was good.  They even could've been a little spicier and I would've been good with that too.  Though they are not very pretty, they taste decent enough.  Next time, though, I'd rather just serve them with the chile verde on top.  

As for the rest of the family:          The youngest didn't like them.  Too spicy.
                                                   Everyone else was fine with them.

The only recipe left for the week:  Eggplant (instead of pasta) Lasagna Roll-ups.

Until next time,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quiche, Easy Layered Chicken Bake, and Candy Cookies

I got a little busy on Saturday and am unplugged on Sundays so, this morning, you are getting my critique of the recipes I made this weekend.

First is the quiche.  This recipe comes out of my recipe box, and I have no idea from whence it came, but here it is for you:

Quiche For Lunch 
(no idea why it was called that...)
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 9" pie shell, unbaked
1 c. grated Swiss
3 eggs
2 1/2 c. half-n-half
1/4 t. nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Place crumbled bacon in bottom of pie shell.  Sprinkle with cheese.  
Mix remaining ingredients; pour into pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or till set.  
Yield: 4-6 servings

I would like to begin by saying that since my grandmother taught me how to make pie crust and I have, finally, mastered not overworking it, I have never been satisfied with buying a pie crust.  They never taste like I have grown up thinking pie crust should taste, and there is never any left over to bake up with cinnamon-sugar to just eat.  So, I did not buy a pie shell.

what was left of the leftover pie crust
I almost forgot to take a picture!

Also, I used turkey bacon, which comes out a little wetter in the finished product than regular bacon, but we've been eating it for so long that we prefer it for the purposes of just eating.  Also, I do not cook the bacon and then crumble it.  I dice it up first, then cook it.  I could be mistaken, but it seems to me that more of the fat gets rendered out that way, AND, I don't have to wait around for the bacon to cool in order to crumble it.

That being said, I have to tell you that this was another one of the recipes The Bug picked not knowing what he was picking.  He also doesn't know what quiche is anyway, so it doesn't matter.  But what I can tell you is that NOBODY, but me, wanted to eat quiche.  All I heard ALL WEEK was grumbling about the quiche.  Turned up noses, groans and moans, were abounding anytime I mentioned it.  Personally, I like quiche.  So, the fact that the 3 remaining people in my house were sneering at the idea of it made this week all the more enjoyable for me.  Why?  Well, the rule for this project (and for anything else I make) is:  You don't have to like it, but you do have to give it a fair chance.  So, I was masochistically overjoyed that it was quiche week. If you are old enough to remember Snidely Whiplash from the Dudley Do-right skits on The Rocky and Bullwinkle show, think of his sneering laugh, and you will have some sort of idea what I was feeling like this week.

Well, I got the last laugh this week!  Everyone liked the quiche.  I actually made it Friday, and we had a friend from church stop over for a quick visit, and even though he has never liked any quiche he's ever eaten, he liked this one!

SCORE ONE FOR ME!  Well, actually, that's score about 8 for me!  Woohoo.

A quick note about the recipe:  the 45 minute cooking time was more like a guideline for the way I made the recipe.  Because of the turkey bacon, and due to the fact that I added more than a cup of grated Swiss, my quiche ended up having to bake about an hour before we could slice it. was good nonetheless.  Also, my husband and daughter ate the remaining quiche the next day for breakfast, and it heated up well too.  I placed the individual slices about a 1/2-inch apart on a baking sheet, placed them in the oven, turned it on to 400, and by the time the oven had reached temperature, the quiche was hot.

The Quiche after we dished out our first helping
You can see the liquid in the pan from the turkey bacon

 The next recipe was also in my recipe box because I clipped it out of the Kraft Food & Family magazine.  It is called:  "Easy Layered Chicken Bake" and you can find it by clicking here.  I made the Tex-Mex version yesterday.

I did not care for it at all.  Neither did the kids.  However, my husband and father liked it!  In all fairness, however, I must declare that no one in my family was feeling very well yesterday.  My taste-buds were so "off" that not even a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios tasted right.  BUT this dish smelled amazing while I was putting it together!  The smell of chopped, fresh green onions mingled with the smell of the Stove-Top stuffing, and I have decided that the next time I make stuffing to just eat, I am going to add green onions!

Also, my recipe came out wetter than I like.  I did my best to drain the tomatoes and the corn, but there was still a lot of juice in the pan when I dipped into the casserole.  I was not impressed.  But, then, I think that I was just determined not to taste anything properly yesterday because of the way I felt.

Lastly, I made The Bug's request - Candy Cookies - from a recipe out of "Just Desserts: and other treats for kids to make" by Marilyn Linton.  Here is the recipe:

Candy Cookies
1. softened unsalted butter
1. loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 c. candy-covered chocolate pieces, such as Smarties or M&M's

Heat oven to 375.  
Put butter in large bowl and beat it with a beater for about 30 seconds.  
Pour in the brown sugar and white sugar and beat till fluffy.  
Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.  
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl, then pour them into the large bowl.  
Beat until well mixed.  
Stir in the candies and drop teaspoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.  
Flatten the cookies slightly with your hand.  
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.  
Yield: approximate 36 cookies.

I didn't change anything in the recipe, except for the cookie size (I always make mine bigger than the recipes call for) which increased the cooking time a bit.  However, since I notoriously get busy and forget about the cookies, I just waited in the kitchen, checking on them periodically.  So, I don't really know how long mine were in the oven, but I didn't burn them!!  Also, my kids had a bowl of cookie dough about the size of one of these cookies.  This means that my yield was "somewhat less than" 36 cookies. The recipe was good enough, but I think, next time The Bug asks for these cookies, I'll just use the Toll House cookie base, and then add the candy pieces; I have it memorized, and I like that cookie dough flavor better.  Also, I make it using 1/2 the butter and only 2 cups of flour, and the recipe calls for 1/2 the brown sugar and an actual full teaspoon of salt, which makes a difference in the way the dough tastes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BBQ Mini Meatloaves, Mashed Potatoes Ole & PCOS

Last night's meal comes straight out of my recipe box.  Well, actually, I guess I must give credit where credit is due.  Last night's meal came out of a Kraft Food & Family magazine and off the back of a container of French's French Fried Onions container.  And, again, I forgot to take pictures.  But, that's okay, because the ones I've used, come off the websites for these companies and are far more photogenic than mine.

The mini meatloaves are actually made in a 12-muffin tin.  I was excited to make these because I have been wondering for a long time how making individual meatloaves in a muffin tin would work.  You see, the meatloaf recipe I have comes from my mother,and I believe it is the best in the world, but it takes almost an hour to cook, and sometimes I don't have that long.  So, it seems that, once again, this little project of mine is going to help me with more than finding new recipes and cleaning out my recipe box & board.  

While I got my recipe from the Kraft Food & Family magazine, it is also available on the Kraft website.  Just click here.

Marvelous Mini Meatloaves

There are three other variations you can make, but I chose to make the one with barbeque sauce because my mother's recipe calls for barbeque sauce and I wanted to see how the two matched up.  My mother's recipe calls for a can of golden mushroom soup, eggs and oats to act as binders.  This recipe calls for 1 cup of water and a box of Stove Top Stuffing to bind it.  The smell was great, and the taste was too, but, it will not replace my mama's recipe.  I am happy to report that the meatloaves were a success, but they will not replace my mama's.  However, this would be a good go-to on a rushed evening!  All told, the meal took about 45 minutes to prepare.

As for the potatoes, well, it seems to be a trend that I messed up the recipe again.  I did not do exactly what I was supposed to, but it was still a hit.  I'm not sure when I obtained my recipe, but you can find it on the French's website, by clicking here.

Mashed Potatoes Ole

First, I didn't buy the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  I had Butter & Herb, so that's what I used.  Also, I decided not to buy the Cheddar-flavored French Fried Onions.  I had bought some of the original version for Thanksgiving and still had plenty left, so that's what I used.  I didn't really think it would make much difference in the final flavor, so I decided to proceed with the rest of the recipe as instructed.  At least, I intended to.  As you can see in the picture, salsa and black olives top the mashed potatoes.  I did not intend to use black olives, because I don't like them, and, on the recipe, they are listed as optional.  The salsa, however, is not.  I misread the recipe.  I thought the salsa was added after the potatoes were baked to melt the cheese.  I was mistaken.  And that's okay.  What I ended up doing was just stirring some of the French Fried onions into the potatoes, topping that with cheese, and baking until the cheese melted.  For my taste, it was a little on the salty side, but everyone else loved the potatoes too.  Next time, I think I will try making this with homemade mashed potatoes instead of instant.

To top it off, I served corn and black-eyed peas.  

Good news for me: I've been doing my Weight Watchers-point counting-thing for so long that, for me, the corn and black-eyed peas were far better than the potatoes, and even though 2 of the mini-meatloaves is supposed to be a serving, I only had room for one! 

I am not saying this to toot my own horn, but with the obsession with weight, and the apparent inability  some people seem to feel to conquer their issues with it, I add that last little bit there as proof that if you stick with it long enough, and are truly intentional about what you put into your mouth, your body will start to crave the things you ought to be feeding it, and will start to convince you that you no longer want the things you really shouldn't eat.  

Between 2007-2009, my husband was on an unaccompanied tour, and I took that time to get back in shape, and lose the rest of the weight that I had gained with child number 3, The Bug.  I joined a group called T.O.P.S. - Taking Off Pounds Sensibly - and lost 30 pounds.  On my last meeting, the group asked me if I would be willing to share some hints and tips on how I managed to set and achieve my goal.  The realization I came to is this:  there is not a one of us who has struggled to lose weight that doesn't already know what to do.  Genetics aside, you have to eat less that you burn off, or work out more.  Sweat needs to become your friend.  Furthermore, most of us do not actually work out long enough to burn off the calories we consume.  One thirty minute walk/work-out is not going to burn off a full day's worth of dietary misbehavior, unless you have starved yourself calorically and worked out like a beast.  (Case in point, I have a friend who just ran 5 miles in a little over 30 minutes and burned 578 calories, but eating fewer calories than that during a day is NOT HEALTHY!)  

All I am saying is there is no magic pill.  There is no magic powder.  There are things that can jump-start your weight loss a little, but the claims on most of the pills you buy over the counter have not been proven by the FDA.  And considering what all IS allowed by the FDA, do you really want to risk taking something that hasn't been reviewed?  Don't get me wrong.  I have tried several of these things.  But I have to tell you that the only program I have ever done that has given me any kind of consistent success is keeping a smart diet (and by diet, I mean eating plan, not a "diet") and exercise.  And, with that, I also don't experience any crazy, negative side effects, like a racing heart, or insane blood sugar dips, that make me feel like I'm going to hyperventilate and/or die.

I have another reason to try to keep on top of my weight.  Though I didn't know it for years, as it turns out, I have PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I found out in a freakish sort of way, in that I had 2 separate visits to a female doctor when my husband was on his unaccompanied tour, and just from my medical history on my first visit (it took several years for me to get pregnant with The Bug), and one question I asked in my second visit (I think I have a little more hair under my chin than what my mother and grandmother seem to talk about), she was able to deduce that maybe I had PCOS.  A blood test and an ultrasound later, it was confirmed.  In fact, it was so bad that the ultrasound tech looked at me and said, "I'd have never guessed that you had PCOS.  You don't bear any resemblance to most people I get in here who have it."  Apparently, one of the symptoms is obesity.  That's one I can do without!  Keeping up with my health and taking care of myself means more to me than just staying in shape and letting me eat chocolate cake if I want to; it also helps me buck against my PCOS, which I may have, but which will not have me!

***  If you want to know more about PCOS and what it's symptoms are, you can visit the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome directory in the Women's Health section of WebMD or

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lent, Giving up Coffee, and Creating Monsters

Lent is upon us, and it has been nearly a week since we have begun our annual fasting.  Not being Catholics, nor being raised that way, we do not do Lent the way true Catholics do.  We find something that would be tantamount to a sacrifice to give up, something that usually makes everyone cringe at the thought.  This year has been no exception.

But, as the title might lead you to believe, what I chose to fast is not coffee.  I did, once.  And it didn't really seem like such a big deal.  I had been thinking that it might be time for me to say farewell to my morning coffees; I have never drunk it because I needed the caffeine anyway.  I don't like the idea of doing something "just because;" the only thing worse is having an addiction.  I'm old enough (or secure enough with myself) now that I don't want anything in my life that hasn't been examined and tested, no exceptions.  Not even my morning coffee.

I would like to say that I came to this decision by way of divine revelation, or because I decided to conduct some scientifically sound experiment.  That might make this sound so much more important.  Rather, I just kind of fell into the decision.  A couple mornings in a row, while reading and working on this blog, I was in the mood for tea.  So, I had a few cups.  Never missed my coffee.  Like I said before, I never drank it because I "had to have it" anyway.  However, after those mornings, I decided that I would make some coffee.  It just sounded good.

Both times (with the tea and with the coffee) I had my cups before I ate anything.

With the tea, my stomach never got upset, I never got grumpy, and when I did get hungry, I just felt hungry.  I never felt groggy, sleepy, grouchy, or like my blood sugar had dipped so much that I wanted to bite off my children's heads.  When I had the coffee, the exact opposite thing had happened.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I had drunk a cup of coffee the night before at a church function, and nothing happened.  It was late in the evening.  I never had an upset stomach, never got grouchy, anything.  But, first thing in the morning, me and coffee - not a good thing.  So, from now on, for me, it's going to be tea for my morning drink.

As for creating monsters:

When I decided to start this project, I went through all my recipes, organizing them into actual meals, and then I divided up all those meals among the remaining months of the year, and made out a checklist for each month.  From those lists, I have let my family pick what we would eat each week.  This week, it was The Bug's turn.  He picked out his meals, not knowing what he was picking because the list was written in cursive and he still has a bit of a hard time deciphering it (which is a euphemism for - he didn't really feel like trying to figure out what the words said).  I was about to give him a hard time for this when he approached me with a cookbook of his own.

"Look Mom," he said, "since you've been working on this project and cooking and stuff, I thought you might like to try to make one of the recipes out of this book.  I found it at the library, and thought we could make some of the stuff together."

The book - a cookbook he found in the kids' section of the library - is called "Just Desserts: and other treats for kids to make" by Marilyn Linton.  The recipe he and I will be making together:  Candy Cookies.

Along with the Candy Cookies, I will also be making BBQ Mini Meatloaves and Mashed Potatoes Ole,  Tex Mex Chicken Bake, and Quiche for Lunch (don't know why that's the title).  This last one, I can tell you, is not being thought of favorably!  So, instead of a full recipe, I have decided that I will make a smaller version, and will spare everyone the torture.  LOL!!  Or maybe I won't because I like quiche.  We'll see!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mexie Mack Burgers & Mexican Skillet Potatoes

Tonight's recipes: A HIT!!!

These recipes came out of my recipe box. The potatoes were another recipe I copied out of, my friend, Joan's Mexican cookbook (the same one from which I pulled my first recipe - Albondigas Soup).

Mexican Skillet Potatoes

3 lg. baking potatoes, peeled & diced. 3-4 T. bacon fat (or oil)
1 sm. onion, cut into rings 1 sm. green pepper, diced
salt. 1/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper. 4 crushed cilantro leaves

Rinse diced potatoes thoroughly. Heat oil in skillet & cook potatoes, covered, over medium heat, till tender firm. Add green pepper, onion, and salt. Cover and cook till green pepper is tender. Season with pepper and Vila too. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Let me tell you about those potatoes. I just don't think you can go wrong with the combination of bacon fat, potatoes, onions and salt. I believe if there's is a smell I will never tire of, that borders on being rapturous, it's that smell. So, these potatoes were bound to be good. What I didn't expect was to like the way they tasted with the addition of the cilantro. I like cilantro(I used a small handful); don't get me wrong. But I like my potatoes the way they are, too. But this was a really good combination.

When I asked my daughter what she thought of the meal (I hadn't even sat down with my plate yet), she said, "my potatoes are half gone already, if that tells you anything."

The next recipe: Mexie Mack Burgers

1 1/2 pounds ground beef. 1 pkg. taco seasoning. 1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 t. garlic salt. 1 small onion, diced small
To top: salsa & grated cheese

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients but the salsa and cheese. Shape into 6-8 patties. Grill or broil. Top with salsa and grated cheese, if desired.

The first comment about this recipe came from The Bug: "Normally, Mom, I only like hamburgers if they come from "Five Guys," but these are really good."

I don't have any idea where this recipe came from. If I did, I would most certainly give credit where credit is due. I would love to be able to thank the person who made my husband speechless through yet another meal!

At first, I wasn't sure about the ketchup, but it added a sweetness that paired well with the smokiness given off by the taco seasoning.

It was too cold and windy outside to start a fire, so I cooked these on my George Foreman grill, bad they came out just fine.

My husband said that he thought it would be a great way to make our regular burgers, and he already likes the way I make hamburgers. So, now,I have another idea.

My son ate his with cheese melted on top, and with nothing else. My daughter had hers with cheese, and taco sauce on a bun. I had cheese, and salsa (a good spicy one that added a little extra kick), and my husband had cheese, pickles, and mustard. Four different preparations and NO COMPLAINTS!!!!

And, as for the missing pictures, well....I was cleaning up after dinner before it occurred to me that I hadn't snapped any shots of our meal! Again! OH WELL!

P.S. - I googled the title of the recipe to see if maybe I could track down the source. I came across the website, and it has TONS upon TONS of articles, recipes, etc. I could easily get lost on this site for a few hours. If you want to go straight to the recipe, just click on the following link: Mexie Mack Burgers.


The Story About Fish Sticks and Macaroni-n-Cheese

As I have mentioned a time or two, I am a Navy wife. At first, I was a U.S. Navy sailor and a wife; now, I am a "dependent." But, during both of these seasons of my life, I have spent much time as a single-mom, waiting for my man to get home, and wondering what would be the best way to welcome my sailor back home from the fray. I wanted everything on his first night home to be special, and welcoming, but not too fussy, since, invariably he will have just spent a little over a full day (one time it was closer to 48 hours) without any kind of real sleep and, so, would be happy to FINALLY be home, but also a bit jet-lagged, tired, grumpy, etc.

Needless to say, I felt a little bit of pressure to make everything JUST RIGHT.

I tried many different recipes. I don't even remember them all; I recall making a catfish dish once, that I paired with some kind of alcohol drink. What I do remember about those times was that the reaction I received was not what I had hoped. My efforts at just right had turned out just wrong! GRR!!!

One time, however, I actually got to talk to my husband on the phone before he got all the way home. I was able to ask him: "is there anything, at all, you would like to have your first night home, other than sleep, of course?"

He said, "Yeah. I want fish sticks and macaroni's & cheese." (That's really how he says it; with an "s" at the end of macaroni.)

Me: "Really?"

Him: "Yep. I get to eat a lot of different things on board ship, and out in town when we're in port, but I never get to have fish sticks and macaroni's & cheese."

Me: "You're sure that's all you want?"

Him: "Besides seeing you and the kids, and my bed....YEAH!"

And so began our tradition of fish sticks and macaroni's & cheese homecoming meals!

In the immortal words of Paul Harvey: And now, you know the rest of the story.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spicy Honey Glazed Chicken & Roasted Smashed Potatoes

Good morning all.

As the title suggests, I made Spicy Honey Glazed Chicken and Roasted Smashed Potatoes last night (both were Pinterest recipes).  It was fabulous.  So good, in fact, that it wasn't until after we were done eating that I realized I forgot to take some pictures of the meal.  That's okay, though, because I had to cook the chicken in the oven, and it was not nearly as pretty as the picture I saved from the website where I obtained the recipe.

So, here is the link for the the chicken, and a pretty picture of some awesome chicken.

Spicy Honey Glazed Chicken

Spicy Honey Chicken
 Recipe by Our Best Bites
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2lbs            2 t vegetable oil
2 t granulated garlic          2 t chili powder          1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t coriander          1 t kosher salt           1 t cumin
1/2 t chipotle chili powder
1/2 C Honey          1T Cider Vinegar     

Combine the rub spices in bowl and mix well.
Use kitchen shears (or a pair of clean scissors) to trim off any excess fat from the chicken pieces.Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it’s not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2T honey glaze for later. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling.
I’m gonna warn you that this can make a hot mess, literally. It’s sugar, and it’s gonna drip. But the smelly smoke is worth it for a minute or two. Just leave your grill on for a few minutes after the chicken is done to burn off any excess glaze. It’s totally worth it once you taste this stuff.
If you don’t have a bbq, try it on an indoor grill pan or use your broiler. Just be sure to open a window in case you burn your glaze!
Remember how I had you reserve that extra couple tablespoons of glaze? Ya, drizzle that on top now. Your taste buds will thank you.

          My review of the recipe:
I used approximations on the ingredients listed.  I didn't feel like trying to measure out all the teaspoons of this and that.  I also forgot to oil the chicken.  I forgot so badly, that I had to double check the recipe when I copied and pasted it because I completely missed that step all together.  I'm certain it would've made a difference in the way the chicken looked once it was completed; mine came out black as the ace of spades.  But, it was still good.  

As for the rub, I was hesitant about whether or not the chicken would get any of the flavor I'd just rubbed all over the skin, but I was worried about nothing.  The skin was extremely spicy; I'd never worked with chipotle powder before, and didn't think about how spicy it would be (guess I should've tasted it first).  The chicken underneath:  lightly flavored, with smoky hints of chipotle but without the heat!  YEEHAW!  So, the kids just picked of the skin.  My husband:  he just ate right through it.  The crunchy, spiciness of the skin mixed well with the chicken.  

Statements from the family regarding the chicken:

My daughter:  "I love you mom, but I don't like the skin."
My son:  "The skin is too spicy, but I like picking off the ooey-gooey fat pieces underneath.  Those are yummy."
My husband:  "Mmmm...hmmm,hmmm...(with mouth full) it's good.  I like it just the way it is."

When I mentioned that I thought it would taste better grilled, my man said, "Ordinarily, I would agree with you, but this time...I don't know."  

I don't know about you all, but hearing a Texan say that kind of thing about anything that could have, and was called to be, grilled; well, that's saying something.  

NOTE TO SELF:  Remember to oil the chicken first, and next time, use the grill!

Now...for the potatoes.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes
Compliments of It’s a Keeper
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

2 pounds small Red Bliss potatoes (about 18), scrubbed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Adjust oven racks to top and bottom positions and heat oven to 500 degrees. Arrange potatoes on rimmed baking sheet, pour ¾ cup water into baking sheet, and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Cook on bottom rack until paring knife or skewer slips in and out of potatoes easily (poke through foil to test), 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and cool 10 minutes. If any water remains on baking sheet, blot dry with paper towel.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over potatoes and roll to coat. Space potatoes evenly on baking sheet and place second baking sheet on top; press down firmly on baking sheet, flattening potatoes until 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and season generously with salt and pepper; drizzle evenly with remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Roast potatoes on top rack 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to bottom rack and continue to roast until well browned, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

I mean, seriously, how can you go wrong with roasted potatoes.  I followed the directions to the letter, but I did substitute rosemary for the fresh thyme because I didn't have the thyme.  I did everything else as directed, and the potatoes came out wonderfully!  The inside is like a baked/mashed potato and the outside is roasted, and crunchy.  I will definitely be making these potatoes again.  Everyone loved them.  

All in all, last night was a HIT!

A quick word about the websites from which these recipes came:  CHECK THEM OUT!  They have tons of recipes.

It's A Keeper:  Testing Recipes to See if They're Keepers:
Our Best Bites:  Tips, Tricks, & Tastes from two Real-Life Kitchens:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Life Lessons from a Pan of Failed Sausage Gravy

Happy Valentine's Day!!

I know, I know. I'm a day late, but yesterday was about being with my man and, as much as I love you all, he's coming first when he's home.

Everyone of you who know my husband can attest to the fact that he is not easy to shop for. He's got weird tastes, which seem to constantly be changing, so, even after 19+ years of marriage, most of the time, I'm just stymied when it comes to buying him gifts.

I, on the other hand, am not so hard to shop for. I like jewelry. I also adore GOOD chocolate. And I love seeing how my man's brain works. This last one means that he pretty much always knocks it out of the park when it comes to gift-giving (he's never satisfied with just "phoning it in).

Now, put those two things together, and add in the fact that I must have things balanced in my life (nothing can be all give and no take) and you can see how I might end up feeling like I'm not pulling my fair share of the gift-giving weight. So what's a girl to do? What did I do? I cooked.

Sausage gravy and biscuits for brunch, and fish sticks and macaroni and cheese for dinner. Yes, you heard me correctly. Fish sticks and macaroni and cheese. There's a story to it, but I'll get into that at a later time.

As for the sausage gravy and biscuits, well...there's a story for this too. Let me begin by saying that, for the last few months, I have come to believe in the truth behind these few words: "If you're gonna do it, you gotta commit." To put it the way my grandmother says it: if you're gonna take the time to do it, you might as well do it right. Or, as the old proverb states: Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Sausage gravy and biscuits, and diets, are no exception.

Honestly, I should've known that when I was trying to find a way to mesh sash sausage gravy with my points-counting system that something was going to go awry. But, it never occurred to me. I've been making sausage gravy for years, and have never had it turn out like it did yesterday. You see, my mistake was: I used skim milk. I never use skim milk to make gravy. Why? Because, really, it's like sitting down to eat a large pizza, or a big bowl of chili cheese nachos and drinking a Diet Coke, hoping the soda will counterbalance the calories.

Yeah! Not gonna happen!

Well, yesterday, I did it.

Do you wanna know what happens when you make gravy with skim milk? It separates. Honestly, you might as well try to make cream gravy with water. You'd get just about the same results. Not being one who likes to just immediately scrap something just because it doesn't look right, I tried it. It tasted "separated." Unfortunately, I awakened my husband before I tasted the gravy, so now, i had to go Since I had already awakened my husband to inform him that he could lay back down for another 20 minutes, until I could make another batch. However, since he was up, he insisted on trying it. He liked it well enough to eat it (he did not rave about how good it was though), and chided me for being too hard on myself (I love this man.) and then, we called the kids. They tried it and were fine with it. So I ate biscuits, and they ate the gravy and there was none left at the end of the day.

Before I started typing about this today, the thought occurred to me that I do this a lot: try to mesh two things that don't want, or need, to be worked together. I've never seen apples growing on orange trees. Surely, there are some things that just can't be forced into a compromise. Now, don't get me wrong, I do not foresee a day when I will never eat gravy. I want to be healthy and in good shape, but I also enjoy a good plate of biscuits and gravy. I don't believe there is anything wrong with that. The problem, yesterday, came when I tried to make something healthy that was never really intended to be a health food. Yet another saying comes to mind here: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." You just can't do it.

Making a "healthy" sausage gravy, HA! I might've had better luck if I had used turkey sausage, but you still need milk with a fair amount of milk fat in it and a decent amount of fat to make gravy.
You just do!

So why do we do this to ourselves?

I did it for years with my marriage and, sometimes, either directly or indirectly, with my husband. By the time I got married, I had several ideas of what marriage was "supposed to" look like, and my marriage only seemed to resemble the fact that we said we were married. I also had several ideas of what men and husbands were like, and my man met only the genetic requirements. Of course, I also had a lot of ideas of what it was supposed to be like to a wife, but the fact that I wasn't living up to my own standard was directly attributable to the fact that neither my marriage nor my spouse looked like they were supposed to.

As a result, I spent a lot of time not appreciating what I had, and also not doing my job. I was too busy trying to make what we had into something it what I thought it was supposed to be. You see, I am hard-up on supposed to. At least, I used to be. And I have a hard time not comparing what I am, have, like or do with everyone else's. My marriage and my spouse were no different.

What does all this have to do with a pan of failed sausage gravy? Whenever I have tried to force anything, or anyone, to being something it was never intended to be, I have come away disappointed. Worse than that, if it was a person I was trying to force, that person ended up feeling resentful toward me, and feeling like I don't love them for who they are - which, obviously, I didn't. But that has never been the person I have wanted to be. You see, my "supposed to's" got in the way of my loving them. And because I tried to force them into my mold of "supposed to" I failed to see the beauty that was already there, and I failed to relish what they had to offer that made my life better, to see what challenged me to be a better person.

So...what have I done to make my life a little easier? I have summarily dropped the words "supposed to" from my vocabulary. If I use them now, it is with a wink and a nod, and with full knowledge that I am no longer boxing myself into a corner with them, but am using them as a reminder not to set up unrealistic expectations.

Also, I have decided to just let my sausage gravy be the yummy, fatty goodness it was intended to be, and I will just eat less of it. I will enjoy what I do eat, relishing every bite of how it was intended to be, but within limits. I will not force it to be something it cannot, rather, I will change the ways enjoy it. And for those times when I cannot, because I am not dealing with ACTUAL sausage gravy, I will accept at face value what I have before me, and trust that God will show me how to deal with it, believing that He allows all things into my life to continue to transform me into the person He wants me to be.

Who'd have guessed you could learn so much from a pan of failed sausage gravy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Leftovers...and a few general updates

Tonight, we revisited the Crispy Herb Chicken recipe I raved about last night!  Again, it was delicious!  I dearly love fresh, fried chicken with a nice crispy skin, with just the right amount of pepper and salt, but this new chicken recipe is playing a very close second to that!  It's easy, and yummy, and for the last two nights, The Bug has come running from the opposite end of the house when he has smelled it cooking, anxious to dig in.  He liked it so well last night that he asked if he could just have 2 pieces of it tonight, and nothing else.

The nothing else he wanted to have tonight was leftover zucchini lasagna from last week's menu.  It was, by no means, pretty to look at tonight, and it was not nearly as yummy as the first night, but a bite of lasagna and a bite of chicken at the same time worked famously.  I had the idea last night that this chicken recipe, with a slight adjustment to the spices, would be a great way to make chicken parmesan.  Served with the lasagna tonight, I am convinced!  Seriously, this chicken just makes me giddy.

I told my man tonight that if I get no more recipes out of this project than this chicken one, it will have been worth it.  I will definitely be making this chicken for the rest of my life!!

In other news:

          I mentioned that I was on Weight Watchers when I began this and was wondering how the project would work with tracking points, and vice versa.  I am happy to announce that I have lost a total of 10 pounds since I started!  And, last night, I ran 6 kilometers, which equals 3.75-something miles, the farthest I've run, since 2 springs ago, when I ran a 10-mile race.  I'm quite excited!  My next goal:  4 miles.  It's the next step toward a race that I signed up for in June - a 10k trail race.  And for now, I'm still contemplating whether or not I want to revisit the same 10-mile race.  It takes place in April, not too hot, sometimes rainy, which means not so sweaty, which I love!!!  I just haven't decided if I want to commit yet.

          Another thing I think I should add:  my New Year's Resolution this year has been to not allow irrational fear to dictate the decisions I make.  Because something is weird, or too hard, or is not a good enough reason not to do it.  I'm not unreasonable, of course.  I'm not talking about stupid things.  But, for instance, for 2 years in a row, I have signed up for and chickened out of the Baltimore half-marathon just because I was scared.  See, the thing is, both times, I've signed up for it way in advance, so the amount they charge was already spent, and gone, and things being "out of sight, out of mind" as they can be with me, it was easy not to let losing that money bother me.  After all, I have reasoned, the money then goes to a good cause.  UGH!  Admitting it even makes me squirm.  I mean, seriously, I spent 8 weeks in boot camp.  I have delivered 3 babies.  I have endured a number of deployments, and their associated crises, to include one in which I was rear-ended, totaling my husband's '91 Camaro, and I have made it this far.  And I decide to let 13 miles stump me.  And not just once.  Twice.

To make matters worse, my husband and I have friends (a couple) whose daughter (who is in middle school now), has completed her first half-marathon already.  GRR!!!

          And now, as I type this, I realize that I have just put this out into cyberspace, and still have not signed up for that race.  HMMMM....Guess I better hit "send" before I get the urge to delete what I've just written.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Crispy Herb Chicken was a HIT!!!

On Saturday, I posted that I was going to make the Crispy Herb Chicken and "Better Than Potatoes" Mashed Cauliflower on Sunday and that I would blog about it today.  I didn't get around to making those dishes on Sunday, but I did today; well, half-way.

The cauliflower recipe I was not able to make.  The cauliflower smelled funny before I even started cooking it, so I scrapped that idea.  I will try to make it again at a later date.  When I do, I will post the link to the website where I found the recipe.

As for the chicken.  Well, let me just tell you about the chicken!!  Man alive, was it good!

Before I begin gushing about the chicken, here is the recipe.

2 c. potato flakes     
2/3 c. Parmesan cheese     
2 T. parsley flakes     
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic salt     
1/4 t. paprika     
1/8-1/4 t. pepper
3 whole chickens, quartered, skinned, rinsed & patted dry
1 c. butter/margarine, melted

Heat oven to 375.  Grease, or line with foil, two 15x10 cookie sheets or two 13x9 pans.  In medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients; stir until well mixed.  Dip chicken into melted butter; then roll in the potato flake mix.  Place in prepared pans.  Bake at 375 for 60-75 minutes or till chicken is tender and golden brown, reversing pans halfway through for even browning.

My tweaks:  I do not keep garlic salt because, when I do, every dish comes out saltier than I like.  I used garlic powder and salt.  Also, I didn't use whole chicken, but chicken breasts.  There are just 4 of us eating, so I made 2 breasts a piece, though these were thinner than typical, big-on-one-side, therefore difficult-to-cook-evenly, chicken breasts.  I believe it was a packet of pre-portioned Tyson's breasts, but I threw out the original packaging when I brought them home to make it easier to store them.  Also, instead of the full cup of butter, I used 1/2 a cup, and 6 of those ounces were left-over 1-ounce packets of Papa John's Garlic Butter Dipping Sauce.  (Okay, admittedly, this is not the healthiest thing in the world, but I thought the extra garlic might not hurt, and, besides, the butter is just to help the coating stick, don't judge.)

I went ahead and made the full amount of coating, because I originally intended to make chicken thighs to go along with the breasts, but decided against it at the last minute.  So, I ended up having more of the coating than I needed, but the chicken was so good, that I'm making more tomorrow and will use the rest of the coating then.

Since I didn't use the type of chicken called for in the recipe, I had to figure out the cooking time.  I did 15 minutes, then turned the pans around, and cooked it for another 10-15 minutes.  The edges got all brown and crunchy, the Parmesan cheese got all melty, and the family started pouring out of their rooms, into the kitchen, to see what they were smelling.  It was just that good.  Not only did it smell good after it was done cooking, but it even smelled good during preparation.  This chicken was fabulous.  Initially, I was bummed that the cauliflower didn't turn out, but the success of this chicken eclipsed the bad cauliflower altogether!  I ended up serving it with mashed potatoes, and all 8 breasts were scarfed down.  My nine-year-old at 2 by himself.  And he was asking for the second one before he even touched his potatoes.

fresh out of the oven

As for my daughter, she was lamenting that she was not able to make the Chubacca sound.  She had to settle for a groan of delight!  Of course, since she mentioned Chubacca, we all had to see if we could try to make that same sound, and since we couldn't, we decided that the actor must've used a voice enhancer, or it was added in, by way of a sound-mixer.  Surely no human can make that sound.  

My man was smitten after the first teaser sample I gave him, and sat down to eat without even looking at his drink.  Then, he went to get another one.  He showed remarkable restraint in that he only took one of the last 2 (shown above), and he saved the other one for The Bug (the nine-year-old).




and AFTER!

Yes, it was JUST THAT good!!!

p.s. - I have no idea where this recipe came from.  
I wish I did, because I would chat that person up BIG TIME!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My take on some of the Super Bowl commercials - Part Two

Alright...I promised a follow-up to my favorites.  Here are my remarks on some of the ones over which I have heard much controversy.

#1 - I will begin with the Taco Bell - Viva Young - commercial.  First, I really liked this commercial.  I thought it was hilarious!  From the moment they showed the pool scene, I immediately thought of the Ron Howard movie "Cocoon."  However, Mr. Bill O'Reilly thought it was not favorable toward seniors.  Really?  I have to say that, being a conservative Christian, there isn't a whole lot that he says that I don't agree with politically; but, that's just me.

But as for whether or not this commercial is unfavorable toward seniors, what it makes me think is:  don't be so quick to disregard, or write off, the elderly.  They have a lot of life in them yet, and to put them in a home, and forget about them, or to refuse to visit them because the place where you've left them makes you uncomfortable, is the epitome of selfishness.  These people have a lot of offer.  There's a lot they'd still like to be able to do, and don't really want a bunch of people younger than them robbing them of their dignity to make those choices.

Maybe I'm looking at this all the wrong way.  Maybe I'm oversimplifying.  Who knows?  However, having spent quite a bit of time with people much, much older than me - though, admittedly & ashamedly, not nearly enough time - there's a lot to learn from and about the those among us who outdate the Baby Boomer population.  If it takes showing them sneaking out of their home to go club hopping and making late night runs to Taco Bell to make the younger generations wake up to that fact, then so be it.

#2 - The Calvin Klein underwear and GoDaddy commercials.  You might think that I might have a different beef with each of these commercials.  It's the same one really; just hear me out.  I am not fond of the kissing sound on television at all anyway; it's just not something I care to listen to.  So, at first, that was what turned me off about the GoDaddy commercial.  But then I realized that wasn't it at all.  See, anytime something really gets to me, I just have to stop and ask myself what's the true culprit.  The realization I came to was this:  I am a bit prejudiced against things not-so-pretty.  And, I think, deep down, most people would have to admit that they do too.  See, what really bothered me about the GoDaddy commercial, and what didn't bother me so much about the Calvin Klein commercial, was the look of the guys on the commercials.

          If Fat Albert came into my living room and started dancing around in those same, although much larger, Calvin Klein underwear, I would be repulsed, and would, most likely, call the cops on him for indecent exposure.  I would chase my kids out of the room, throw a towel at the guy, or something.  However, I did not turn the channel away from the Calvin Klein commercial.  I didn't like it, but the guy was not hard to look at.  The guy in the GoDaddy commercial, not so pleasant to look at.

The sad thing about all of this is that comparing these two commercials, and these two men based on appearances does them both a disservice.  The GoDaddy guy may be one of the nicest guys I could ever hope to meet, and the Calvin Klein guy one of the worst, but that is not the first place my brain went to when I watched those commercials.  And I am ashamed to say so.

So, why print them here?  I've been a student studying Psychology and Counseling since 2008.  One of the first things we are encouraged to do is examine ourselves to see where we might be harboring biases.  Having felt like an outcast at time, or at least like an outsider looking in, I had reasoned myself into thinking that I didn't have too many biases.  A few based on circumstances that had occurred to me, yes, and I knew I would have to address those if the occasion ever arose when I became a counselor, but nothing as shallow as what I've discussed here.  I am the first to warn my kids about not judging something just based on the way it looks at first.  I am also the first to rush to the defense of just about anyone saying, "You shouldn't say such a thing, because you never know what that person has been through, what his/her life has been like up to this point."  You name it.  And always, my default is:  "Treat others how you want to be treated."  That pretty much sums up how I believe any bias should be handled.  Well, guess who I had to preach that lesson to this week.

My initial goal for this post, I'm sorry to say, was to hop on a soap box about these commercials and about how other people had hopped on their own soap boxes about these commercials, and the state of our country today when it is perfectly okay for a half-naked man to dance around in front of millions of people in his underwear but an ugly  making out with a super model was not okay.  But, that was not to be.  Why add fuel to the fire, when I can, maybe, make some people think for a second.

None of us is perfect.  I don't mind saying that I certainly am not.  Well, okay, maybe it's not true to say that "I don't mind saying" that.  I'd rather not have to say it, but I might as well.  But, I would like to leave you all with a word of encouragement, an exhortation, if you will.

The next time something makes you really mad, or indignant, or leaves you feeling downright self-righteous, before you open your mouth to spout off your rant, ask yourself:  Just what makes me so mad about this.  Pursue the answer with all you are worth.  Even  if you suspect that the path you are about to follow is one you'd rather not travel.  In fact, ESPECIALLY THEN.  You just might find that there is still room for improvement.

Forrest Gump said that his mama always said: "Stupid is as stupid does."  Well, I think beauty is as beauty does holds up pretty well too.  And beauty does not judge others by their appearances.  Pride does that.  Arrogance does that.  And God opposes the proud.

So, I leave you tonight having been knocked a peg or two down my self-importance ladder, and feeling better for it.  Maybe one day I'll finally make it to the bottom and I can begin rebuilding a different ladder that puts people's inner beauty before their outer appearances.  Until then, I am certain God will provide me many, many more chances to learn to see people the way He sees them.

Tomorrow, I'm making my last recipe for the week - CRISPY HERB CHICKEN & CHEESY CAULIFLOWER MASH - however, since tomorrow's Sunday, I will not be blogging about it until Monday!

Alright, that's it for me.  I bid you adieu (Goodbye) and bonsoir (Good Night)!

Zucchini Lasagna - YUMMY!!!

Recipe Number Two, and let me just say, WOW!  

I got this recipe off of Pinterest; however, it's original source is from a little foodie blog called "Jo and Sue."  You can find them at:

This is a Pinterest recipe, and I pinned it for two reasons:  (1) my husband loves my lasagna recipe (which is really my mother's, which is a hybrid of 2 other recipes she tried), but would like it if I would use less pasta.  He grew up eating Mexican food all the time: beans, tortillas, and the like.  Not a lot of noodles.  So, they sit heavier on his stomach than he likes; (2) my sister's mother-in-law had sent some zucchini lasagna home with her once, and I got to try it and was instantly smitten.  So...I've been wanting a recipe ever since.  This one, as it turns out, has tons of veggies, and I am always looking for ways to get my kids to eat more vegetables, especially if I can disguise them as something they'd rather eat, like 

Enter this recipe!  

This recipe has tons going for it:  ground turkey rather than ground beef; a whole head of broccoli; a whole head of cauliflower, 2 cups of spinach, and marinara sauce.  

I added a few of my own tweaks:  a whole onion, while browning the turkey; red pepper flakes; freshly ground black pepper; and finally, some grape tomatoes I had roasted last week (with olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, some salt, and some freshly ground black pepper) before they could go bad on me!

My experience making this recipe: 

Browning the turkey and onion together, I was already liking it.  I've used ground turkey before in some recipes, BEFORE I KNEW HOW, and was not impressed with the lack of flavor.  This was years ago, though, and I was not aware that it would not taste the same as ground beef; therefore, I didn't season it the way that I needed to.  But, with a chopped yellow onion, it smells really good!  And with garlic powder and red pepper flakes, it smells even better.  But, in case that wasn't enough, then it was time to add the other ingredients.  The first thing I added was my own roasted tomatoes, and it just got better!  Next I added the marinara, broccoli, and cauliflower.  After those vegetables my pot was full.  

Now, I've cooked with fresh vegetables enough to know that they will cook WAY down, but I was still nervous to see how full my pot was, and I hadn't even added the spinach yet.  I was debating whether or not to even try.  I thought:  "Well, I can always use it for something else."  Of course, I probably wouldn't, and it would be thrown away after it sat in the refrigerator long enough to get funky smelling, which happens more than I care to admit.

But... the broccoli and cauliflower did cook down, and there was room in my pot for the full 2 cups of spinach, and that cooked down too.  Thankfully!  Funny how you can "know" a thing, but then still have to see it to believe it!  

Once it had cooked down a fair amount, I tasted it, and it was a bit bland.  The recipe doesn't call for much salt, so I'm sure that's why it was not as flavorful as I'd like.  Furthermore, comments on the blog concerning the recipe mention that a few of the people had an issue with the final product being a little more watery than they'd like.  SO...I added more salt, and let it cook down even longer.

In the meantime, I prepped the zucchini.  A few words about that:

          1.  I did not like trying to slice the zucchini lengthwise.  I should've done what Rachel Ray recommends, and sliced a bit off one side so that it had a base to sit on.  I'll do that next time!  Trying to keep a zucchini from rolling and trying to slice it into uniform pieces is more than I am capable to doing.

          2.  The blog says to roast the zucchini for 5 minutes on each side at 425.  I did this, but only after I salted it for a while to draw out the juices.  I wanted to make doubly sure that my lasagna was not overly watery.  This worked extremely well for the pieces that were decently thick, but on the slices that were too thin, not so much.  When I baked the thin pieces (on silicon sheet pans, rather than cookie sheets with parchment paper), after they had been salted, they wanted to stick to the pan. 

Finally, the sauce had cooked down sufficiently, and I tried it again, and I LOVED it!  That being said, my kids, who were sitting in the living room, were less than impressed with the smell.  Admittedly, I am not fond of the smell of broccoli when it cooks, but I could smell it the way they were.  After I had the lasagna in the oven, I found out that they had tried to make a deal with their father to get out of eating the meal because they were not fond of the smell of the sauce.

Personally, I didn't really care, because I had already tasted it and knew that I was probably going to like it.  However, I have not gone into this project with the impression that they, or I, will like everything that I make over the next year.  My only issue is with their deciding they aren't going to like it before they even try it.  However, whenever I try a new recipe, I employ a tactic I learned from a friend of mine called the "no-thank-you bite."  You don't have to like it.  I can't dictate that.  But you do have to try it.  

Before buying the ingredients for the lasagna, I read through the comments on the blog.  There were a few comments regarding ricotta cheese, and the success those who used it had had (the original recipe calls for cottage cheese), and since I hadn't used it before, I decided to try ricotta rather than cottage cheese.  Again, A BIG SUCCESS!  

After I had the lasagna in the oven, I called my husband into the kitchen to try the sauce, to give me his opinion.  He said it was good, but seemed like it was missing something, that maybe it would be better all put together, with the cheese, and everything.  So, I took a bite of the sauce, and a bit of the left-over ricotta/parmesan mixture and - LET ME TELL YOU -  I could've just eaten those two things together.  A bite of cheese filling and a bite of sauce!  YUM!  Another bite of both delivered to my man, and we both confirmed his previous suspicions:  SAUCE + CHEESE = FANTASTIC!

Finally, an hour and 10 minutes later, it was time to dish out the lasagna.  The kids both received their "no-thank-you bite" and my man and I dished out our bowls.  And my kids - who had tried to wrangle their way out of eating the meal I so lovingly prepared for them became converts!  Any my husband, who suspected he was going to like it after trying the sauce/cheese combination, sat down with his bowl and did not put the bowl down to take so much as even a drink of Coke until after his bowl was empty!  

the gorgeous masterpiece

As for me, well...I've been doing this whole Weight Watchers/points counting thing long enough now that my stomach has shrunk to about the size of a pea.  I ate a little less than half of my serving (about 6 decent-sized bites) and I was full.  But man, were those bites heavenly!  

and, from the top
This lasagna was so good, in fact, that my husband and I decided that this is going to be the lasagna I take to our church for our annual couple's Valentine's dinner!  All I'll have to do is double the recipe!

YEEHAW! for a big hit!  I do love my mama's lasagna recipe, and this one will never be able to replace it, but it is a healthy alternative which will enable me to be able to eat more lasagna more often!  So...SCORE!!

A couple quick notes:  
          1.  During assembly, after each layer of the ricotta/parmesan filling mix, I also added a thin layer of mozzarella cheese.  

2.  I had enough sauce left over, for another whole lasagna.

Finally, here is the link that will take you right to the recipe!  Try it!  I think you'll be impressed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My take on some of the Super Bowl commercials

Ah...the Super Bowl.  I don't normally watch football.  I'm a "just watch it for the commercials" person.

However, I did watch this one, and not just for the commercials.  The Ravens did extremely well, before the power outage.  But they did manage to keep the 49ers from running away with it when the lights came back on.  NICE JOB!  My man and I were talking before the Super Bowl started and he asked me who I thought would win, and I am football-ignorant, but I did have a preference.  With Ray Lewis retiring, I did want the Ravens to win so that he could go out on THAT note.  I mean, come on, who wouldn't want that kind of end to a career.  So, I am happy that they won!

But, that's not why I'm here.  As I'm sure you guessed by the title.

I'll throw out my Top Three first.  Kinda like, soft balls, you know, to be nice.

#1  The commercial I loved:  the Dodge Ram commercial about the farmers!  I come from Southern Illinois.  There are farms everywhere.  I grew up on a farm.  My family tenanted a farm.  My parents took care of the landlord's cattle and the property, and we got to stay there rent-free.  We had a garden.  A big garden.  We had corn, potatoes, and, one year, quite by accident, watermelons sprouted in the end we used for a slop pile.  Of course, hindsight being what it is, turns out it wasn't accidental.  We had thrown out some watermelon rinds and seeds the year before.  Who knew the seeds would last through the winter, to sprout the next summer?  Quite the happy accident!

My grandmother and my mother's oldest sister also had gardens.  We all planted enough to be able to share what the others could get to grow in their own gardens.  So, we all ended up having beans (green and otherwise), tomatoes, potatoes, and corn to spare.  None of us had very much money.  But you can grow up poor on a farm, and not ever know it, because you always have enough to eat.  If people in the city made as little money as we did, they'd probably starve.  Farm life was good.

So, yeah, I love that commercial.

#2  The next best commercial: the Jeep one with the returning soldiers.  Any commercial showing soldiers and sailors and their families at homecomings make me giddy and sappy all at the same time!  In a time when our military is being horribly downsized and their pay is being cut, any commercial that shows support for the military warms my heart.

Of course, none of that could possibly have anything to do with the fact that my man is a Navy man; I was in the Navy, my dad was Navy and National Guard, and many other family members were Army and Air Force (back before there was even an official Air Force).  To say I come from a long line of military would be an understatement.

According to my husband, however, there has been some rantings and raving on FB by some Navy people about the very obvious lack of sailors on that commercial.  Well, it may have been obvious to some, but I've been Navy, and, like I said, my man is Navy, and my man is Navy (a Chief, by the way) and we didn't happen to notice.  Maybe we are just not very observant?

Regardless, it was still a good commercial!

#3  The Budweiser Clydesdale commercial.  These guys always hit it out of the park with their commercials. Anytime I see commercials showing men get all sappy over their relationship with either their wives, their children, or their pets, I'm just done for.  This one was no exception!  Some bonds can never be broken.
However, in all actuality, I have to say that probably the main reason I liked it was because there are so many horse-lovers in my life.  I really, really like horses: their physique, the musculature, their grace, their long flowing hair (which I'm probably jealous of), and the sound their hooves make when they gallop (it's like a drum beat)!  But, there are people in my life who ABSOLUTELY LOVE horses, and every time I see a horse commercial, a commercial nearly praising horses, I think of my loved ones who love horses, and the looks they must have on their faces while watching the commercials, and I can just about cry.

If you didn't watch the Super Bowl, have not seen the commercials, or have been living under a rock for the last couple of days, you can check out the 2013 Super Bowl commercials here:


If you don't want to watch all the commercials, click on the Open Gallery button at the bottom left of the viewing screen.  The Budweiser commercial is #4, #56 is the Dodge "Farmer" commercial, and the Jeep commercial is #69.

These have been my TOP THREE.  There were others I liked, that were just treats to watch, but these are the ones that I will remember for a while.

Next time:  either a new recipe, or  the BOTTOM THREE, and why I ranked them as such.  One answer will definitely NOT surprise you, but the reason just might!

Have a good one y'all,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First Recipe - Albondigas Soup

Since it's nearly 1 in the morning, technically it's Wednesday already, but when I wrote this post (in longhand) it was still Tuesday, so bear with me.  

I have to begin by saying that today's recipe contains one of the first weird Spanish words I ever heard in high school Spanish and, ever since, it has been my most favorite word ever.

In fact, I like this word so much that I'm pretty sure it's the only reason that I actually copied this recipe out of my friend's cookbook.


It's Spanish for meatballs.  And I just love to say it.  It makes me smile every time.

So, today's recipe - the first recipe is:  Albondigas Soup.

I got the recipe out of a Mexican cookbook that belongs to my good friend, Joan Davis - a dear, dear woman.  Kind as the day is long and uber-hospitable.  But, I digress.

I have to say that I had no idea that I might do a project like this and, therefore, do not have the name of the cookbook from which this recipe came, but I will share the recipe nonetheless.

1 lb. ground beef
3 T. diced onion
1/4 t. oregano
salt & pepper to taste
4-5 chopped stewed tomatoes
1/2 c. pre-cooked rice
1 c. cooked, tender-firm sliced potatoes

When I started this project, I had PLANNED on making every recipe specifically as directed.  However, upon looking at this recipe, I was a little disappointed to see that it has more of an Italian feel than I was hoping for.  I was thinking:  Spanish word, Spanish taste, or Mexican taste.  Since that is not really what this recipe sounds like, I decided to tweak the recipe.

The first change I made was to add a can of Ro-Tel.  I also added half a bottle of a product I've been itching to try, called Sofrito.

The recipe calls for 4-5 stewed tomatoes, but I used canned, diced tomatoes (3 cans) plus the can of Ro-Tel.

Then, I let it cook till the potatoes were...scorched to the bottom of the pan, along with the rice.  That's what happen when I lose track of time after walking away from the kitchen.  GRR!!!

Before I messed up the whole lot by scraping too much of the burnt mess off the bottom of the pan, I transferred the soup to a new pot and began to doctor it up.

First, I added some chili powder, onion powder, and more salt.

Then, I tried it.  All I could taste was tomatoes - and SCORCH!  UGH!

By this time, my man was home.  He tried it, and liked it.  Almost.  He added some freshly ground black pepper and a cilantro bouillon cube.  Then, he really liked it.  (Of course, he hadn't eaten much all day either.  LOL!)  And I...I was still not fond of it.

As for the children:  my daughter liked it OKAY but said that it "needed something" and The Bug said the meatballs were "kinda dull by themselves."

I served the soup with some Cheese & Herb Biscuits I had ordered from Schwans (which I really liked).

To my about 1/2 a cup, I sprinkled in some Parmesan cheese, but still it was just okay.  I think I ruined it for myself because I got that "scorched" smell in my nose, and then, that was all I could taste.  I ate a meatball, a couple bites of soup (extremely tomato-ey) and the biscuit, and was done.  I'll save my Weight Watchers points for something else that I won't turn my nose up at.

However, I have not decided to totally scrap the recipe, especially since my man really liked it! In the future, I will use 1 can of tomatoes and 1 can of Ro-Tel, and almost-copious amounts of cumin, and maybe some taco seasoning, in both the broth and in the meatballs. 

A QUESTION:  I've heard it said that adding a potato to something you've burnt will help eliminate that scorched taste.  What if what you scorch IS potatoes?

P.S.  After the hubs and I got back from the gym, and I had plenty of time away from the kitchen for my nose to rid itself of the smell of scorched rice and potatoes, the smell of the soup was actually not bad.  I still added to many tomatoes.  I will definitely reduce the amount I add next time, or else, I'll try to figure out how to stew 4-5 tomatoes, even though the recipe doesn't say what size tomatoes to use.  Details, details.

Good night all!