Sunday, December 14, 2014

This week in my kitchen

It's been a decent week cooking wise. A few easy nights, one leftover night.  However I did manage to come up with a few things.

I found this thin sliced spicy chicken at Stater Bros. and while I wasn't sure just HOW spicy it would be.  I also wasn't sure what I would do with it, but it was a damn good price and I thought I would make something a little more leaning towards something I would want to eat.  I see recipes for stuffed chicken and chicken wraps so I thought I would figure something out. 

I looked at different recipes for what they stuffed or rolled into chicken and I came up with cream cheese, some shredded cheddar jack, and a little bit of spinach.  I admit I overcooked it just a bit, because I wasn't sure if it would take longer for the inside to cook, but it didn't.  However, the taste was delicious.  I don't usually see the spicy chicken, but I can probably do it with regular chicken and add different spices. 

I made a beef stew also, but I didn't take pictures.  Easy crock pot stew that was warm on the inside, except everyone in this house is weird about vegetables.  Everyone will eat the potatoes.  SR will only eat onions, the boys, just the carrots.  I'm the only one who will eat the mushrooms and everything else.  So serving it was a bit of a chore and everyone's bowl looked a little bit different.  sigh...

These are egg muffins.  One of my friends posted this on the internet.  Except hers looked really good.  These look kinda wrecked.  They did taste pretty good though.  I made them so I can grab a few to take to work for breakfast.  I did it for about three days, after forgetting the first day.  They were tasty, good reheated with some salt.  However after three days, they just felt kinda slimy in the bag.  Probably condensation- but I have a weird thing about wet eggs.  But they are not going to waste, because SR had a few and Max really likes them too. 

Now for something sweet.

Last week cake and brownie mix was on sale for .99 each if you buy 4.  So I bought 4- and then a few days later I bought 4 more.  I realized that the snacks I was buying for the kids lunches was costing me about $10 a week.  And if I made brownies at home, it would cost me maybe $2.00.  So I made a batch of brownies and used my mini muffin pan.  It made 40 little brownie bites.  And guess what, you can FREEZE them.  So I put them in a ziploack and every day I took some out for the kids lunches.  They were defrosted by lunchtime and they said they tastes delicious!!  Go mom!!!

Since I then had 3 boxes of brownies and 4 boxes of cake in my pantry, I decided to look up recipes for cake mix.  When I read "cake mix cookies" I thought- whaaaaaa?????

Cake mix
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
I c chocolate chips.

They are delicious!!!  A little sweeter than the usual chocolate chip cookies- one or two is quite enough,  But really good.  Easy to make.  Bake for 10 min at 375 and while they are cooling, the sort of settle.  They look fluffy and cakey when you take them out of the oven- but after about 5 minutes cooling, they flatten out and they look and taste awesome. 

Very light in color, but delicious.

Imagine the possibilities!  Red velvet with white chocolate chips.  Chocolate cake and mint chips, or peanut butter chips.  Ohhhh the sweets.... I love the sweets.

As you can imagine, the kids and SR are really loving my domestic abilities. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

You win some bread, you lose some dough

So my bread making efforts have been decent. 

Banana bread- win.  It could be a little sweeter, I need to find the sweet spot for ripe bananas.  But hot with butter, it was delish.

French bread- turned out awesome, but doesn't really keep for more than a day. 

Rolls for thanksgiving.  The dough was awesome, and the rolls turned out beautiful. 

I was impressed.  They cooked about a minute too long- but while still warm, they were a huge hit.  and so pretty. 

Lightly flour a rolling pin, and roll one dough half out into a 13×9-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 6 strips. Stack the strips evenly, with the buttered side up, and cut the stack into 12 pieces. Repeat with the other dough half. Grease 2 regular muffin pans, and place one piece in each muffin pan cup, with the layers facing up.

This week my attempts were not so good.

I wanted to make a French bread as my inlaws were visiting I wanted to wow them.  I thought to just use the dough cycle, and then bake it in the oven so I could shape it like an actual French bread roll. 
That didn't happen. 

I don't know exactly what happened but maybe I misread the flour, cause it was a sticky mess.  Cleaning was a bitch also.  And I had dough in my hair many hours after my company LEFT. Bought sourdough rolls instead.  Objective: failed

Then I thought I'd make burger buns to go with the pulled pork sandwiches we had for dinner tonight.  Again, didn't happen.

The dough cycle mixes for 7 minutes.  That's it, then it starts the first rise.  So any changes you want to make to the dough has to be done the first 5 minutes or so.  I peeked in to look at the dough ball and it was dry.  Not even mixed well enough if you ask me.  And by the time I tried to add more liquid, the mixing stopped.  No fixing it at that point.  I took the dough ball out and tried to add more water and mix it with the hook attachment (for dough) on my hand mixer.  I don't have a stationary mixer.  For this task, I need one. 

So picture me, with a huge ball of dough with some added liquid.  I put the hook into the dough ball, and turn it on low.  The BOWL starts spinning.  Liquid flying.  Holy shit!!  So I hold on to high speed bowl spin, and then the dough ball is spinning.  Nothing is mixing.  More liquid flying.  Shit.

So I flour a cutting board and thump the dough ball onto it.  THUMP.  It actually THUMPED.  I tried adding water but there was just no penetrating this thing.  It was just getting messier.  My fingers were getting stickier.  I heard my friends voice, "bread is cheap to make so it's ok if you fuck up a few batches." 

So I threw the whole wet mess into the garbage.  Today, I bought rolls.  Objective: failed AGAIN

I am not giving up on this.  I know I can make dough.  I made it for the rolls for thanksgiving.  It CAN be done.  Also I need to watch the mixing on the dough cycle more carefully. I only have a limited amount of time to correct mistakes.  It's all about finding the correct wet to dry ratio.  When all else fails, apply math!!! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adventures in bread making

I have not forgotten this place.  I have just been cooking a lot of the same things.  Tacos.  Meatloaf.  Nothing exciting.

However I DID get an EXCELLENT birthday gift. A bread maker!!!

This one to be exact.

I am so excited about it. 

To go with my new breadmaker I also received from friends:

A HUGE book of breadmaker recipes
A new bread knife
A bread slicer (you put the bread on it and cut between the slats
A new flour container
A new set of measuring spoons from an 1/8 to 2 cups.
A recipe book stand!!

I'm SOOOO ready.

I have made three loaves of bread.

Loaf 1.
White bread.  From the book that came with the machine.  Tasted great, but collapsed.  I think I did not measure the salt very well. 

Loaf 2.
White bread. From the King Arthur Flour website, used olive oil instead of butter.  Turned out perfect. 

Loaf 3.
Sour cream bread.  From my Breadmaker book.
1/2 cup +1 tablespoon of water
1/1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of lilght brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon yeast

Mine rose a little too high, and collapsed just a bit.  I think next time I will make sure the sourcream is room temp, and NOT try to slice it before it's cool (like the recipe says).  Either way.  The taste is delicious.  It has just a hint of sweet but it's moist and delicious.  The kids used it for their lunches today and they both loved it. 

Tonight I'm making banana bread.  Very excited about that!!!!! 

And I'm going to also make dough tonight for rolls tomorrow to go with spaghetti.  The excitement is killing me.

I sort of look at making bread with the same respect as I produced breast milk.  Stay with me.....  It's such a basic staple of life.  Bread.  And I can make it.  There's a weird pride for me in that. 

Ok, stop laughing.     

Monday, November 3, 2014

Things I found on the internet

I love looking at posts about easy and clever ways to organize.  I am not very organized, but I dream of being one of those really creative organizers. 

I found this article yesterday on Pinterest.  Have you been on Pinterest??  I spent HOURS yesterday pinning recipes and decorating ideas and clever organizing.

Here's some amazing things I want to do, but I probably never will.

Magnetic Strips for Bobby Pins

Garment bag to organize wrapping paper
Instead of shoving it in a box in the medicine cabinet
Solo cups for arranging Christmas Ornaments

Here's my Pinterest Page.   It's growing, and I'm adding things daily.  Anything you want to find, you can probably find it on Pinterest. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

For the love of balsamic vinegar

I have been trying to use cheaper cuts of meat to save some money so I bought some London Broil.  I don't love London Broil.  In the three years I've been living with SR I've developed a love for fatty, chewy and delicious cuts of meat.  London Broil isn't that.  Everyone else likes it, and it fits my budget, so I buy it when it's on sale.

What I DID do was make a really good sauce for it.  I followed a recipe I found on line but didn't add the cherries or cranberries, cause I didn't have any.  But let me tell you, it was delicious.

I have had oil and vinegar with bread and as salad dressing, but I've just started using it for cooking.  The sauce was sweet, and buttery and whatever the flavor vinegar gives you.  Vinegary?  I don't know, but it was delicious.

I think on better cut of meat it would be totally glorious.  As soon as our budget allows, I'm going to make it on a New York Steak. 

I also made some corn bread.  I was going to make it from scratch- the recipe is easy enough but when I went to the store to buy cornmeal, I saw this.

My mom used to make this.  And they were .59 for a small box.  Each box makes 6-8 muffins with just an egg and 1/3 cup of milk.  So I made two boxes and put it all in a 10 inch round pan and made cornbread.  Everyone loved it and we ate it all.

At that price, it's way cheaper to make it from the box and it was really good.  I guess that's why it's been around for so long. 

With butter and honey- along with the delicious sauce from the London Broil, dinner was warm and tasty and we are all satisfied and happy.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mom's Taquitos

I call them "Mom's Taquitos" because that is what my kids call them, but the recipe was given to me from my friend Arin, who's mom used to make them this way.  So this is actually Star's Mom's taquitos, but my kids won't remember that. 

Before I continue, I have to tell you that SR doesn't prefer these.  He likes his taquitos with ketchup.  KETCHUP!!!  It's repulsive and I tell him that every time I give them to him.

These however, are delicious.  Even as leftovers. 

I usually buy a big box of a frozen taquitos, or two boxes of 20.  It depends on the size of the pan you are using but I like having two layers.  I don't have the perfect size pan for it, but my 9x13 does ok. 

Pour a can of green enchilada sauce over it so it covers the top and gets in between them.  I use the mild flavor, because the medium is a little spicy for the kids, but I prefer the medium.  Then cover it with cheese.  I use the cheddar jack because that's the catch-all cheese that I keep in the house. 

Bake for about 30 minutes at the temperature the box dictates.



Doesn't that look yummy??  It really is yummy.  I top it with sour cream, and some green salsa.  It's divine.  I made it with some spanish rice and it was great. 

SR had his with ketchup.  I may need to leave him. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I am NOT the burger king

Burgers tonight. 

Sometimes I feel like a damn short order cook for a restaurant of grumpy impatient people who don't tip the waitresses.

Burgers used to be easy.  Add cheese, to some of them and go.

Now, kids have specifics.  Everyone has specifics.

Jerkface is easy.  Ketchup only.  Quantity 2
Bonehad (10 year old) he likes a double cheese burger.  No condiments.
Evil Spawn (age 7) he likes cheese, ketchup and mustard. Quantity 2
SR likes double cheeseburger with onions, bacon if possible and a little bit of ketchup.

That's 8 burgers, for 4 people.  And I haven't even eaten yet.

I did so much cooking that I didn't even bother making one for myself.  I was sick of burgers before I even had one. 

So I'll have some leftover meatloaf for dinner. 

I'm so tired by this point in the evening.

I come home, do homework, and cook, tend to the dog, the animals, some cleaning. All in between telling the kids to stop screaming.  Why are they ALWAYS screaming?  Are they hard of hearing?  Do they not hear each other?  They certainly don't hear me.

Sometimes this mom thing... it's exhausting. 

I'm not complaining... ok- yes.  I'm complaining.  I'm irritable and tired. 

and I smell like hamburger. 
It's kind of nauseating.

I'm going to shower and wash the grease off of me and go to bed. 
Mom is checking out for the night. 

Easy Sunday Meatloaf!!!!

Sunday I made meatloaf.  I found a recipe that might be the easiest meatloaf in the entire world.  It was easy to make and I suspect it will be delicious.

1 pound of ground beef
One egg
One cup of water
One box of Stove Top Stuffing.

It has all the seasonings and the breadcrumbs.  viola!!! 


Green beans drowned in butter and garlic.  Add rolls.  Delicious.

Dessert, I have brownies in the oven as we speak.  As soon as they are done the meatloaf goes in, and the last 15 minutes the cheese muffins will go in and I will make the green beans so they will be done at the same time. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

Finally Friday

What a long week it's been!!

I've been just dead exhausted.  Driving to work half awake and the same driving home.  By that I mean, halfway thru my drive I just become so tired that I have to force myself to stay awake by turning off my audio book and switching to music, or turning off my music and switching to my audio book.  My drive is very long.  60 miles, and here in SoCal that is a pretty ugly drive. 

I cooked the first half of the week and we had leftovers for the last half.  Yesterday, because everyone heated up whatever leftovers they wanted, I had extra time so did some of my chores- and then I forgot to eat dinner.  PB&J at bedtime, after figuring out why I was so hungry... and then to bed.

I did have one really great food WIN this week.  I made chow mien.  Now I am Dutch-Indonesian and growing up we had Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng) or chow mien (Bahmi) as a side for most meals that would take a side.  Oddly I never grew to hate these foods but I never learned to make them either.  SR loves Chinese food, and we usually go to Panda Express at least twice a month because he loves their chow mien.  I do not LOVE Chinese fried rice or noodles, because there is a difference in the flavor between Chinese rice and noodles and Indonesian rice and noodles.  For one, growing up my mother did not put peas and carrots in the fried rice.  She does now on occasion, but growing up, this isn't something I remember.  Also there is a different taste.  Until this week, I didn't know what that taste was.


SR wanted Panda Express this week, and while I am usually down for food I don't have to cook, it gets pricey with the two of us and three kids.  So I decided to look up a recipe for chow mien.  Specifically Panda Express Chow Mien.  I love the internet.  So I found a few and this one caught my eye.  My first thought was "PLEASE tell me those are not Top Ramen noodles."  Turns out they are not exactly, but once cooked, they may as well have been. 

First, what is white pepper?  I thought jokingly that maybe it's salt- but I made a safe assumption that it probably wasn't.  Unable to find any, I used ground black pepper instead.

Second, I have never used ginger root before.  It is not easy to get freshly grated ginger because it's all very pulpy.  I used the smallest holes on my cheese grater and had to scrape the ginger pulp out of the inside of the grater to come up with two teaspoons.  Do NOT rub your eyes until you have washed them after grating the ginger. 

I think 2 cups of shredded cabbage was a bit too much.  I will use a little less next time. 

Once all the grating and slicing and mixing and noodle boiling was done.  It all came together pretty fast.  The first thing I noticed was that this chow mien was not as dark as Bahmi usually is.  At first taste though, it was pretty decent.  I let SR taste it and he said it needed more soy sauce.  I gave it just a little bit more, because Americans have a way of over soy saucing their rice and noodles.  I figured if he wanted more he could add it to his plate.  It had a bit more kick than I wanted it to and I knew that the younger boys would complain about it.  I think it was the ginger.  However, SR and Jerkface thought it was FAN-tastic. 

I sent a picture to mom, and she asked if I used sesame oil.  I told her I hadn't.  She said the difference between Indo and Chinese rice and noodles is sesame oil.  Next time use sesame oil and soy sauce.  Skip the ginger.  I also found that the brown sugar and soy sauce makes what can be bought in stores as Kecap Manis, which is the Indonesian sweet soy sauce that we use as marinade for our satay.  (kabobs).  So next time I will skip the ginger and use sesame oil, garlic and kecap (or soy sauce and brown sugar).  That makes it Indo.  That makes it Bahmi.  (I think that is what also makes it a little darker, but that could have been the noodles I used.)  I know she also uses a little bit of shrimp paste and msg.  Mom would sometimes scramble an egg and dice that up and throw it in.  Sometimes adding leftover chicken, or shrimp.  She would sometimes make it spicy, which was always my favorite.  If I'm making fried rice, it's the same recipe, but adding cooked rice instead of noodles. 

I'm really excited to make this again.  I doubt it will ever be as good as my moms.  However, my kids and SR will love it just the same as I did. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My dog Max

I can't very likely have a blog about domesticity without mentioning my dog, Max.  He's a pure bred Siberian Husky and our relationship has been slow to develop. 

As a puppy, SR took charge of him and he was playful and loving and needed a lot of time and attention and he got it.  As he got a little older, I admit he didn't quite get as much attention as he needed.

We have tried different ways of housing him, but we simply cannot let him roam the house.  He's just simply too destructive.  He's almost 2 and while I think we could have trained him much better- we had struggles.

1) The kids are terrified of him.  It's ridiculous because there's nothing very scary about this dog.  He's happy and hyper.  He's also very rambunctious and very large.  He is almost 25 from shoulder to paws, which makes for a tall dog. He's also very loud.  His I'm so happy to see you bark is also the loudest bark he has.  The 10 year old has a problem with loud noises, so he gets panicky whenever Max is around and Max seems a little uncomfortable around him too.  As a puppy, he would RUN from Max.  And of course Max, thinking he wants to play, would chase him.  It was stressful for everyone.  The 10 year old has anxiety and sensory issues so I can somewhat understand his fear.  He stays clear of Max with the exception of occasionally giving him treats when he's crated. 

The 12 year old is afraid for no real reason, because he isn't afraid of all dogs.  Just Max.  The 7 year old likes to pet Max after his walks, when he's mostly tired- but even now we are teaching him not to make jerky movements or come at him with his hand way high over his head because he things there's treats there and he tries to jump up.   Also I think because the other boys are afraid of him, he worries that there is a REASON to be afraid.

I don't try to force the dogs on the kids.  Max senses their hesitance and his overwhelming need to make them love him makes him a little overbearing which seems to frighten them even more. 

2) Our fences in the backyard are not secure.  We have allowed him to be outside and run in our rather large backyard for hours at a time, which he loves.  However, he's a digger.  He's not a jumper, but he loves to dig.  Once he dug out under the fence, he won't stop trying to do that.  Also he the fence between us and our neighbors is weak- so it's just a matter of time before he jumps on it and the whole thing falls over. 

We are renters and replacing the fence is not exactly in our budget.  We may be able to invest in some electric fencing that will keep him clear of the actual fence, but for as large as our backyard is, that's a large investment.  I did a lot of research on electric fencing.  No, it's not the same strength as they use for cattle or horses.  Also, huskies are really smart and it will only take a few mild zaps on his chest or on top of his nose, if he is trying to crawl under, for him to get the hint.   

3) We have a large kennel for him outside, but our neighborhood gets ticks.  We had a really bad tick infestation last year that managed to get EVERYWHERE in the house.  We regularly treat the animals, and the yard- but they still manage to be around.  Even if the don't bite on him, he can still bring them in the house.

Luckily, he really does love his crate.  I have let him out in the house a few times when the kids aren't home and he just runs right back to the crate and lays down.  I think he just feels safer in there.  He goes out several times a day, unfortunately on the leash now- because he runs right for the fence and starts digging.  It's amazing how fast that dog can dig JUST enough space to wiggle under the fence. 

Have you ever tried chasing after a dog that can run upwards of 30 mph?  It's NOT fun.  The best we can do is follow him until he gets interested in something long enough that we can nab him.  I once chased him down an entire block.  Every time getting close enough just to have him run to the next house. 

What to do?

So he is crated most of the time.  I feel bad about it, but he doesn't complain about it.  He is glad to let you know when he wants attention and doesn't mess in his crate.  I have considered that we extend and/or his kennel and move it to the concreted area of our patio so he's not in the grass with the ticks, he can really move around and he's not inside all day.  However, I think he would rather be crated and inside with us, than outside and alone.  He really does seem happier inside.  He gets our attention throughout the day.  He gets taken out several times a day with lots of water, snacks and attention- but unless he's going on a walk, he's not really all that interested in being outside.  As soon as he's done with his business he wants right back in the house and heads for the crate before I can get his leash off.  He will pull me back towards the house, "ok mom- I've had enough of this outdoors stuff- lets go back inside."

Also we have discussed using bricks to line the bottom of the fencing between our neighbors yard and ours- and also the one he digs under to escape.  Just so we can let him outback to run several times a day.  If we are with him, he is not going to run off because he prefers to be in our presence than NOT.  Now that the weather is cooling, we can actually do some work outside without melting in the heat.  I also think he will enjoy being outside more.  The weather is cooling, thank dog!  I think this is the next project. 

Also we are going to move his crate into the office.  This is where SR spends most of the day- so at least Max is right there with him and not alone.  This will hopefully lead to him learning to be out of the crate without wreaking havoc.  Maybe it will calm him some and hopefully as he gets older (and neutered) he will be able to move about the house without the kids having a fit.  I've had him loose in the house before- after about 20-30 minutes, he does chill out.  However, what a husky can destroy in 2 minutes in a new environment is impressive.  30 minutes is epic.

Over the past several months, I have learned to love this big dumb dog.  I admit I was skeptical, as I have said many times in the past that this was not the type dog I wanted.  However, spending time with him- he has learned to give me some respect.  Teaching him things has made for a good relationship with him and I look forward to coming home, taking him outside for a bit and then our long nightly walks.  He comes in happy and content.

I would love to have a dog that will lay with me on the bed or curl  up at my feet, but I'm just not sure he will ever be that dog.  Maybe in a few more years, but for now- this is the best we can do for him. 

My sexy oven

I finally cleaned my oven.  I have managed to NOT use the oven all week because I was putting it off.  I've never cleaned an oven before.  However, I never really the oven as much as I have since I've lived in this house.  At my old apartment I used the oven to store some of my pots and pans.

I promised the kids cake today so I knew I had to clean the oven.  My friend Arin told me to get some EZ Off so I bought that.  5 days ago I sprayed it in the oven and then forgot all about it- so last night I went in, resprayed and set my alarm for 20 minutes as instructed.  I decided to just do it cold, since the last time I turned on the oven there was so much smoke that two smoke alarms went off.

Return 20 minutes later and kneel in front of the oven.  Umm, how the hell am I supposed to reach inside the oven with the door in front of me?  Yes, I actually thought that for a moment before it dawned on me that I should go on from the side.  One thing I hate about cleaning is how I end up totally dirty in the process. 

So I reached in with my damp towel, feeling the grit underneath- ick.  Wipe. 


It wiped up- breaking apart the grit, cut thru that bitch like it was dry sugar on a plate.  Of course the towel was black but holy crap.  I folded the towel to use the other side, and wiped down the middle.  It was like fucking warm butter, if you were to do that sort of thing.  I was so excited I actually said, "ohhh gaaawddd." 

I rinsed the towel, excited to finish. I wiped it clean, wiped the sides, the rack, the broiler.  My oven is as clean as the day we moved in.  I was ecstatic.  Almost giddy.  It's like finding the g-spot of house cleaning.  You just want to do it again.  I can't wait to do it again.

I even showed it to SR and he replied, "Damn baby, that's good."  Seriously, it was THAT good.

I think, somehow, the cake tasted even better too. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

This totally works. No more tears!!!

I don't eat many onions but SR likes them on just about everything.  I bought one of those chopper deals just so I wouldn't have that eyes burning crying to go thru every time.  Also, cause I'm kind of stupid, I then wipe my tears away with oniony hands. 


I saw this video and said, "ok I gotta try this"

So a week ago I gave it a shot and it worked, but because I was skeptical I tried it again.  Core out the end, although mine did not look EXACTLY like that but definitely cone shaped.  You can see some of the core still in there, I just gutted it out and right into the trash.

I then sliced my onion, kind of slow, just to be sure.  The did tingle just a bit- but no watering, no burning.  Nothing.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Making lunches

I have figured out that I make about 90 sandwiches a month.  I use 8-10 pieces of bread every night (depending on if the EvilSpawn is home every other week).  That equates to about a loaf of bread every two days.  Which means I spend about $40 a month on bread.  Just for lunch.

The CapriSun juices cost about $2 for 10 (when on sale) and I go thru 5 or 6 a month.  so that's another $12.  Fruit, usually bananas is about $2 a week, $8.  $10 on lunch meat (because Jerkface likes turkey sandwhiches) and $8 on Peanut Butter and Jelly. We go through a LOT of peanut butter but the jelly usually lasts a little longer.  The snacks I usually get cheap too- so about $10 a month for cookies, or chips or whatever sweet goodies I put in their lunches (and some usual gets eaten after school or between SR and I).  So give or take about $90 a month on lunches.  Last year my mom made their lunches and the year before that I was broke enough for the reduced lunches at .40 a day. 

Compare that to the fact that school lunches cost $2.55, it saves me about $65 a month making lunches.  That's kind of a lot.  I've been good at making them at night, especially after the incident where I made them in the morning, and I accidentally forgot to put MEAT in Jerkfaces sandwich.  oops- at 430AM, mistakes happen. 

So before bed I make their lunches.  Write their names on the bags and set them on the counter.  Tonight I got a little creative. 

I'm sure they will laugh when they see them.  I'm not much of an artist, clearly, but I'm sure that they will show their friends and say, "My moms a dork."  but maybe someday they will look back and remember that I did this sometimes.  I should make an effort do to this on occasion.

I wish I was as awesome as this dad.

Cause that is cool.  His site has all sorts of cool bags.  What sucks is that his kid was in first grade so chances are he threw the bags away.  I'm sure when he's older and his dad is gone, he will regret doing that.  Fortunately, and unfortunately when kids are that age, they don't know regret.  Either way, it's super cool that he did it.

laundry and McDreamy

I guess it's time I do some laundry.  Right after I finish this post. 

Grey's Anatomy is back on tonight so while I am watching, I will fold the laundry that has been sitting in the dryer for a week.  Yes, a week.  Lugging the laundry to and from the garage is not that big of a deal, but I hate doing it.  For one, my laundry baskets are the rectangle shaped ones that sort of fit through the door, but I almost always slam my fingers. 

SR and I had an agreement that he would put the laundry in the wash and dryer and bring it to the bedroom, and I would fold and put it away.  That lasted a few months, but seems to have stopped.  So I'm back to doing it.  It gives me a good excuse to watch TV though.  It seems to be one of the few times that I don't feel bad about locking myself in my room to watch TV- because I'm also doing chores, see?  Win/win

Tonight we had hamburgers for dinner.  Another easy family favorite.  Since I am out of propane I made them on my griddle.  Yes, I know I get a fail for that- but I am not in the mood to get more propane and nobody really can taste the difference.  If they can, they never say anything.

It IS kind of gross when you make them on the griddle because I buy the store bought burgers and so when you cook them, that meat slime always forms from the fat and water and meat juice- or whatever that is.  I usually just tear it off and scoop it into the trash so if anyone comes into the kitchen and sees the burgers on the griddle they don't get immediately grossed out.  I like that I don't really have to defrost anything, just put them on frozen and they defrost and then cook.  Easy.  And you know how I love easy.

I am still out of onions so no onions on SR's burger tonight, but he didn't make a fuss.  I really do not like having to go to the store to buy one thing.  It's almost a trap.  I can't remember the last time I went in to buy ONE thing and only actually bought ONE THING.  There's always SOMETHING on sale, or that I walk past and think, "Oh I'm out of that."  Of course if I need it, it's not wasted money- but I like to have an idea in my head about how much money I'm going to spend before I walk into any store.  So if my plan is to buy an onion for $1 and I walk about spending $13 because I also picked up some 12-packs of soda- that is a failed trip. 

We spend a lot of money on soda actually.  I drink a lot of soda, at least two a day, sometimes more- but that is nothing compared to SR.  He has at least 5 or 6 a day.  If I cut him open, I'm certain he would bleed Dr. Pepper.  However I always try to get the best price, and that is .25 per can.  Occasionally it will go on sale at 4-12pks for $11 which is about .23 per can.  You would think that would last me a week or two, but between SR, myself and the one soda a day that Jerkface has, it lasts about 4-5 days.  I know, I know..... 

Ok- 7 minutes to Grey's Anatomy.  I swear I hope Meredith is not whiny and obnoxious this season.  Listen, you love McDreamy, you HAVE McDreamy.  Don't freak out every time things are not perfect.  NOTHING is perfect.  It's been 10 seasons, it's time you figure that out. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

There are starving kids in Africa, jerkface.

Once the dog is walked, I can take off my bra.  That's better. 

So I know I said I was going to make meatloaf.  I stopped by the store to get bread crumbs, and I forgot to get the onion.  Ugh. 

OK- so I made Hamburger Helper for dinner.  SR likes it, and the boys like it too.  Well, or so I thought they did. 

The 12 y/o, Jerkface has to be in the house at 6:30 and dinner was ready at 6:10.  I sent him a text and told him he could come in at 6:30 and heat up his dinner.  I was being nice.  He said ok.  There was enough in the pan for him.  There was NOT however enough in the pan for me.  The problem with hamburger helper is that I usually don't serve anything else with it- so everyone gets a decent size helping.  Except that means it really only feeds 3.  Three males with grown male appetites.  So I opted out for dinner with plans to have a sandwich later.  Now, before anyone gets all weird about how I need to take care of myself etc.  Trust me when I tell you that I could, and would gladly eat PB&J 4 nights a week and not complain about it.  The same with cereal.  I love both.  SR gets upset when I do this, so when I do, it's like a treat for me.

So I'm just in from walking the dog and I stop to clean up a little of the left over "my plan was to make meatloaf" stuff.  I put away the pan I was going to use and the spices etc.  I'm bad about cleaning as I cook.  This is when I remembered that I sprayed EZ OFF in my oven and then forgot about it.  OK well, I'll get to that tomorrow.

I notice the pan on the stove and it still has Jerkface's serving of dinner.  Untouched.  I called him and said "Hey, you didn't eat dinner."  He said, in that "I'm trying to look thoughtful- but am totally not" face, "Well, we have that all the time and I don't want to eat that."


So I SKIPPED a hot meal, so your sorry ass can turn your nose up at it because we have it as often as we have tacos, chicken, steak and pasta.  Approximately WEEKLY.  really?? 

So I calmly said, "Well I hope you aren't hungry."

He said, "Well can I have something else?"

"No," I said, "You can have what I made for dinner or you can wait till breakfast."  At this point I am putting it in a bowl so I can have it for lunch tomorrow.  He is sticking his head in the pantry.

"I can make nachos."

I thought to myself, oooh maybe I'll have nachos for dinner.

"No, you can have what I made you or you can wait until breakfast," and then, I swear I said this, "You know, some kids don't get to eat dinner at all tonight.  Some kids would be grateful that their mom made them a hot meal even though it isn't their favorite." 

I didn't look up at him, because I was kind of ashamed that I went there.  It's such a mom cliché.  There's starving kids in Africa, you know!!

He sighed and said, "Okayyy. I'll heat it up."

I wanted to smack it out of his hand and say, "No that's my lunch for tomorrow."  But I didn't.  He heated it up and ate it.  Tonight he will go to bed with a full belly and clean clothes under my roof and I will have done my job.

Look, I know that Hamburger Helper is just well, Hamburger Helper.  However, we were broke once.  We used to have spaghetti with no meat.  $1 pasta and $2 sauce and too broke for $3 ground beef or $4 parmesan.  I don't make Hamburger Helper necessarily because it's cheap, but because it's fast and easy and filling.  Up until today he claimed to like it.  We've had pizza and spaghetti and steak this week. 

We had pizza yesterday because SR asked for it. 

Tomorrow will be burgers and Friday is chicken.  That's the plan.  Again, it's a loose plan, but it's a plan none the less.

I have a decent rotation of about 10 meals.  Some of them happen weekly, some by monthly.  Who makes something different every single night of the month?  Not me.  That's way too much shopping and considering that the tastes in this house revolve around staple foods and spices, I can't get too extravagant anyway. 

I will make that meat loaf, but I'm thinking maybe that's more of a weekend thing.   

What I think I look like.

What I probably look like.

Added note that doesn't fit in this post, but I wrote it:

Laundry well, that's a different story.  That's not really a plan.  It's more like a theory.  In theory I was to come home and take the laundry in the dryer and put it away and wash two more loads.  In reality, that didn't happen.  In reality I will walk my shirtless self to the garage and pull a clean shirt out of the dryer because the reality is, I'm not doing it tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2014

So maybe my plan was loose

I was going to make the meatloaf today, I said it a few times- but I got home late from work. 

However I hadn't eaten all day and I was starving.  I needed something quick, and filling.  Spaghetti is on the weekly menu.  It's fast, east and sounded delicious.

Spaghetti was one of the first things I learned how to make when I was a teenager.  The first was a grilled cheese sandwich.  Those two things are still some of my favorite things to make and eat. 

I admit I use spaghetti sauce from a jar.  For a long time I was partial to Prego.  Slowly I made the switch to Ragu.  I am not sure why.  I like them both the same.  If one is on sale I will buy the one on sale.  If I'm broke I will buy the Hunts spaghetti sauce in a can and add garlic.  I add ground beef.  My mom usually adds 1/2 pound of sausage to a pound of ground beef.  It's pretty tasty that way too.

I once made it from scratch using this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  It was really good- but it still tasted like spaghetti sauce.  Nothing spectacular really and it really cost about the same as a jar of spaghetti sauce.  If I had grown the vegetables it might have been healthier with less preservatives and such, but the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce did away with that too. 

I also make a delicious baked spaghetti if I take the time.  I mix the sauce and noodles and put it in a 9x13 pan.  I have a stoneware one from Pampered Chef that is perfect for it.  Then I mix a can of cream of mushroom soup with just 1/2 can of milk.  Pour it over the spaghetti.  Then cover it with cheese.  I usually use the mix of cheddar and jack cheese because I almost always have that in my house.  However it's very good, with mozzarella- but that can be expensive.  Cheese is cheese.  I give it a good coating of cheese.  Then I bake it until the cheese is melted and gooey.  About 25 minutes?  I don't know- I just keep checking it. 

The mushroom soup just makes it creamy and mixes nicely with the cheese.  Just only use 1/2 a can otherwise it's a little too soupy and it loses that "casserole" feeling.  (This can also happen if you have a lot of "sauce" in your spaghetti, but if you use left over spaghetti it's almost perfect. 

My kids love this because it's just cheesy spaghetti and they love everything that is cheesy.  They don't realize that the creaminess is the soup, because it mixes so well. 

You could probably tailor this to whatever suits your fancy.  Spice it up, add a bread crumb topping.  Whatever you like  It's delicious.  If you try it and/ or mix it up, let me know what you did!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Margarita Steak Tacos

Instead of meatloaf I made steak tacos tonight.  While I was at the grocery store they had some thinly sliced ribeye and it was only like $6- dated in a few days.  I always scope the marked down meats, and then inspect them as closely as I can.  I have had a few bad picks- but most of the time it's great for eating that night or the next. 

My family loves tacos.  They are usually soft tacos, or burritos depending on the size of tortillas I buy.  I knew I had soft taco tortillas at home, because I usually do.  We eat soft taco's a LOT.  Personally I PREFER hard taco's but since I'm not going to fry up two corn tortillas for just myself, I reserve hard tacos for fast food and restaurants now.  It makes 2 for .99 Jack in the Box tacos a special treat for me!!     

So I came home and decided to cook up the steak.  I sliced it into strips and threw a little olive oil in the pan to brown it. Once browned I sprinkled it with a light coating of carne asada seasoning.  When making it with a packet this is where you add the seasoning and water.  But instead I added margarita mix. 

Last week I needed some lemon juice and I didn't have any- but I DID have margarita mix.  I tasted it and it tasted pretty lemon-limey to me, so I gave it a try and it worked.  So I added what I assumed to be about 1/3 of a cup.  Added more seasoning.  When there is a recipe I am following I am pretty meticulous about using the right mount of ingredients, but when I'm sort of making it up as I go along- I do it until it looks the right color or tastes right.  Most recipes have about 2-3 teaspoons of "seasonings" so I try to stay around there.  I don't know what most of the ingredients in my pantry actually TASTE LIKE except for salt, pepper and garlic.  I don't have a good tasting palate, so I wouldn't know what "savory" is.  I know what is sweet, bitter, salty and garlic. 

Then I let it boil off.  My bestie says it's called "reducing."  Ok whatever that water vapor magic is, it left the meat tender and citrusy with the right amount of spice.  Delicious, tangy and not too sweet.

I was just enough meat for 9 soft tacos.  No left overs.  Which is usually the goal.  Nobody eats lettuce on their tacos- so I don't buy it.  I would eat lettuce, but you can't buy one leaf of lettuce.  Unfortunately.

Meat and cheese for the boys.  Meat, cheese, sour cream and onion for SR.  Meat, cheese, sour cream and salsa for me. 

Dinner was a win tonight, like taco night usually is. 

Eventually I will buy some tequila and put that Margarita mix to proper use.  But until then, I won't have to buy lemon/ lime juice for a while.

Weekly prep

In my kitchen I have the following items for food this week.

3 lbs of ground beef
Frozen hamburger patties
3 frozen ziplock bags with 4 chicken thighs each
2 New York Steaks that the plastic came open so they are freezer burnt- I think I will give them to the dog.
3 pounds of frozen flap meat.
1 frozen pizza
1 can of chicken
Two bag of frozen vegetables, maybe 2
8 pack of frozen corn on the cob
Left over Balsamic Honey Pork Roast (originally called Balsamic Herbed pork roast but since I didn't have the herbs the recipe called for, it's not as much "herb"-y as it is "garlic and random spices"-y but there is Balsomic vinegar and Honey, so there you go)

I'm making meatloaf for dinner, using a recipe from the Betty Crocker website.  It's not the recipe from the website, but the recipe from the first comment on the post for the Betty Crocker meatloaf.  I ALWAYS read the comments on recipe posts, because the fine people of the internet always hack the recipe to make it better.  This person revamped most of the recipe, cutting many of the wet ingredients in half for a less mushy meatloaf.  I'm all for that. 

She suggested instead of using ketchup, to make your own "tomato based sauce" but since that seems like a lot of work- I'm going to use ketchup, but maybe add some seasoning to make it taste less ketchup-like,  Worcestershire Sauce maybe? I'll ask facebook later.  Facebook is great for ideas.  I have a handful of wonderful friends that will give me tips on what to exchange for things I don't have.  Or ways to make something easier.  I'm all about easy.

The best meatloaf, however, is the one I can buy already mixed at the Stater Bros. by my moms house.  I just buy 2 pounds of it, bring it home, put it in a loaf pan and bake it.  Food that someone else made is my favorite meal.  Since I don't go to my moms house 3-4 times a week anymore, I need to make my own.  I've made it a few times with varying success. 

The one thing this kind commenter said was to let the meatloaf sit, away from a heat source for 10 minutes before slicing.  This will keep the loaf from falling apart.  I think I'll need to remove the meatloaf from the pan, since it always seems to be sitting in it's juices.  Then letting it sit so- I don't know- gravity- will pull the juices down and out- leaving a meatloaf that is not lopped off at the bottom? 

Tomorrow is left over pork roast, because while we can't have it two nights in a row- I can't let it sit in the fridge for too long either. 

Tuesday is taco night- so I'm going to throw a pack of chicken thighs in the crockpot and make the chicken taco meat that I usually use breasts for.  I have the thighs, so I'm going to use them. 

Wednesday is a little too far ahead so I'll figure that out, hopefully before Tuesday so I can remember to defrost meat and crock pot it if I need to.

But now that my coffee is done, it's time to #ApronUP and get started on my day.  I'm a reluctant domestic goddess.  Or maybe I'm just Cinderella. 

Nah, fuck that.

staring out

Yes another blog. 

I'm doing this because I have to cook every night now.  I have never had to cook every night before. 

Once the kids got old enough to eat "regular food" - and you know I miss the mac and cheese/ chicken nugget days- I have been fortunate enough to really never have my kids home every night.  Up until this year they would ALWAYS spend at least one, if not two nights at my moms house.  Mom would often make them dinner before I picked them up.  Sometimes I simply stayed for dinner.

On nights they weren't home we would often opt for pizza or have sandwiches.  Now that they are home every night, we still have pizza a few times a month but it's mostly me, cooking.  Trying out new things and finding hacks along the way. 

So my adventures in cooking started about three years ago when SR and I moved in together.  He had expectations that I was going to learn to cook.  Why?  Because I said it was something I wanted to do.  I wanted to learn to cook, and not just cook spaghetti and mac and cheese.  Sure, over the years I've been able to throw things together, to occasionally impress and feel proud of myself.  Once I put my late husband in the hospital with chicken dinner- but really that was just because he was sick anyway so I don't REALLY take the fall for that one. 

The first year of living together I played it very safe.  Hamburger helper, spaghetti, tacos.  Barely a step up from chicken nuggets and mac and cheese- but it was enough to satisfy everyone.

However, we were hanging around people.  Socializing has not always been my forte.  I don't mean, seeing people out of my house, but having people in my house.  Going to peoples houses for dinner.  Watching them cook.  Sometimes watching them cook in my house.  So it stands to reason that I would pick up a few things along the way.

I made friends with my crockpot, who before always turned out meals that tasted like "crockpot."  I also made friends with the oven.  Well, sort of.  My oven and I have a weird relationship.  I never really know what it's thinking- and I worry that sometimes it's purposely adjusting the temp by 25 degrees when I'm not looking.  Seriously. One day the recipe takes 35 minutes, some days it takes an hour.  Same recipe, same temperature.  What the fuck, right?

I have since learned to barbeque.  I agree that I think the barbequing should be left to the men folk, but SR never seems ready to grill when I'm ready for him to grill. 

I am learning the art of timing.  So that everything is done within minutes of each other- but not at the same damn time.  Heat is a tricky damn thing.  One minute too long on the stove or in the oven can turn brown into burnt.

Also, I am learning to take care of my house, in general.  Domesticity is not my baseline.  At 42, I can tell you that just last night I was asked to pick up the pile of dirty socks from underneath my desk.  Ohhh- THAT's where all my socks went!!  However, I DID say that I wanted to learn to be more domestic.  I'm 42 with 3-5 kids and it's about time I start acting a LITTLE more motherly.  I admit I'm always envious of people who keep their homes clean and tidy, who can make a meal without breaking a sweat or setting the meat on fire.  Who look like they belong in an apron with pearls on and for whom a recipe with more than 6 ingredients doesn't make them break out in hives. 

While I don't inspire to be Martha Stewart- I have to admit that there IS something exciting about a new recipe that turns out well.  There is a certain pride to seeing only empty laundry baskets instead of baskets that have clothes that need to go in the washer, or need to get folded and put away before they wrinkle. 

I don't HATE the domestic part of my life, but at 42 I'm reluctant to embrace it. Part of me wants to stay irresponsible and live off of cereal and Lean Cuisine.  I admit I'd rather pay someone to clean my house and cook meals than do it myself.  However I can't afford that and so far nobody has shown up at my door and offered to just do it for free.  So APRON UP I must. 

I think I just coined a phrase there.

I think that will be the name of this blog. 

That's how I roll.