Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best Pasta Ever!!

Oh, this was a good one. Even Parker liked it, and he is hard to please!! If you have an aversion to lemon, pass this one by!!

And a note must go out because this recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa from her book AT HOME.

First, you need some sort of curly pasta, Fusilli or Campenilli or something. Cook in boiling water till àl dente.

In a separate sauce pan, heat a Tbls of 'good olive oil" and 2 minced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Then add 2 cups of HEAVY CREAM. Do Not use milk!!

Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

By the way - does any BLOGGER user know what they did with the spell check feature?? Mine has vanished!

Meanwhile, you now have a sauce pan simmering and your pasta pot boiling. Cut up 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (or grape ones, if you prefer) and about 1/2 lb of arugula.

When the pasta is done, and the sauce has thickened a bit, toss the sauce into the drained pasta, then toss in the arugula & tomatoes, add to taste salt & pepper, serve warm with fresh Parmesan cheese. YUM!!!

By the way - does any BLOGGER user know where they put the spell check feature? Mine is missing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

And it begins...

I have started the research process for my book. I am having a BLAST so far!! My head is swimming with dates, and ideas and names. I had an idea for a scene last night while brushing my teeth, so I sat down at the computer and cranked out over 700 words in a matter of a few minutes. Seeing as how I need to multiply that by a power of 100, well.. that makes it daunting.

I am anxious to get in touch with the few, distant relatives I have and see what they may be able to add to the factual data that will go into the 'sweeping family epic" my book may become. Its hard to know where to stop.

I could stop with me. I'm the only female in the family to NOT have a daughter. Think about that.. we're talking 8 generations of female producing mothers, and I have only boys. It would seem logical that the story would end with me, but who wants to read a novel that encompasses 8 generations?? I think two is enough to swallow. Maybe touch on the 3rd and call it a day.

Oh, how I wish my grandmother were alive. For many reasons, clearly, as she was a wonderfully persnickety woman who both infuriated me and cracked me up in her later years. In keeping with the 'tradition', ours has been a family of strong, will-full, and yet tremendously devoted women. My grandmother would both revel in the idea that I am going to put our family stories down on paper for once and for all, and be such an important player in my gathering of facts and names that her absence is felt physically even after 11 years.

At the dinner table tonight, the conversation veered toward "the project" as I am sure it will be called. Steve suggested that his mother would be a good resource for some of the questions I have (And Greta, prepare yourself for a phone call!!) and we started talking about what a great story HER family has, too. Parker has it all worked out... 2 books, maybe 3 in the series about MY family, then the next series could be about the Bredvold/Jensen group.

And really.. could I leave my children any better legacy to show them who they are and where they came from than to put their history down on paper?

Now.. anyone know how I can apply for a grant so I can quit teaching and start writing full time?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I want to write a book.

There. It is out in the open. I've made it public so now I will be forced out of hiding to actually DO something about it. I've outted myself and there is no putting the genie back into the bottle.

I want to write a book. I have been telling myself for a long time (years!) that I want to try to write a book, and look how far that line of thinking has gotten me? The same story line rolling around in my head, taking up much needed space! I just am not sure where to begin...

Ok, yes.. AT THE BEGINNING... Thanks!

My grandmother used to tell the old family stories when I was a kid, and I was completely enthralled by them. They have grown larger than life at times in my own head, and I've wanted to put them down on paper since I was a little girl. Now that my grandmother is gone, as are most of the other people in this world who would have any memory of these stories, it is down to just me and my mom to find a way to keep them alive. Parts are very hazy, details shaky... but just enough 'truth' to make for a decent laying of groundwork for a historical fiction novel.

I've started listening to podcasts aimed at helping aspiring writers, and I will say I have gotten some good information from them. But looking at the idea of writing at least 80K words, (80,000!!!!!) is more than a little daunting, and from what this acclaimed author of 38 books says, you need at least that many to tell a story well. Holy cow! Then, if I do manage that Herculean feat, will anyone want to read it?

So, which part will win?? Will the ambition and drive and determination side of me take over and allow me to plow through this process, first developing characters and conflicts and story arcs, or will the monster of self-doubt or laziness keep me from seeing this 'little project' through to the end?

This narrator of the podcast I referenced above says one of the things a good writer needs to do is read a whole heck of a lot. CHECK. A good writer also needs to devote time... ok, that may be a problem with a full time job and a full time family, but I am one who writes fast, and types faster, so maybe that will help. He also suggested setting a deadline for yourself so you are not working on The Great American Novel for the next 20 years. Again, potential problem because, in the words of Douglass Adams, "Deadlines amuse me.. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

But maybe, just maybe, I can do this. Now, to get of my arse and find a place to start.

Oh, yeah... That's right.. start at the beginning...

Friday, September 25, 2009

General Whining

Please take the title of this blog post to be your warning that the contents of this particular post contain the general complaints of a woman who, truth be told, has very little to complain about and yet seems to still find SOMETHING that pisses her off.

And yes, I just ended a very long winded sentence with a preposition. Balls to that.

On the upside, Parker won his game tonight (2-3 is the standing record), Christopher's tooth no longer hurts, we have a three day weekend which delights me beyond comprehension, and Matthew qualified for the gifted program at school, which delights HIM beyond comprehension.

Yet, (You KNEW there was a YET, or a HOWEVER in it's way) I need more than the well-timed day off. I need a week. The honeymoon is over!! While the environment in which I 'teach' is better, the kids are the same. More or less, anyway.

We are nearly 8 weeks into the school year and all the good behavior stuff we saw at the start of school has pretty much been left at home and the true, inner beasts of my students are coming through.

I nearly strangled 3 of my students just today. (alright - no one alert the authorities, for I would not so much as even move toward a student in a menacing manner, however, the urge to kill that which bothers us {think.. mosquito} is embedded into our DNA. And, yes, I have evolved enough to resist such urges)

I get it that they are learning disabled, or otherwise impaired in some way. I get that - been teaching them for 7 years now, I get it! But there are differences even among my LD kids. I had 4 in with me taking a science test this week. Now, I will grant you that the test was 5 pages long and holycrapola it was hard, but I modified the test so that even Christopher could muddle through. Here's what I got at the end of 2 days...

1 student who finished the whole test
1 who went home sick after page #1
1 who finally realized I would not let him get away with just scribbling nonsense on the page and attempted 1/2 the questions, leaving the rest blank.
1 who completed 12 of 15 matching questions and left the rest of the test blank.

TWO DAYS, mind you.... I practically said "This answer goes HERE" and they still didn't even TRY. Ok... 1/4 of the group tried.

I've got other kids who I swear, if they are taking their meds, perhaps a trip to the doctor is in order to adjust the dose because they are climbing the walls. All I do is redirect and redirect and "Stop talking to her, sit down, you have a test in front of you, stop bothering him, pick that up, do not throw things in my classroom, get down off the desk, stop swiveling in that chair, get out of my chair, leave my computer alone, PICK THAT UP!!!" Please remember, my students are not 5. Well, at least not chronologically!

Then, to add insult to injury, I have had 2 different teachers email me and the whole phone book of the 85250 area, and tell me how to do my job. "Don't let this one use a calculator, we can't use that book on tape, there's no other option for him and why don't you just keep him in your room all day".

Oiy. Gimme a week. And maybe a gallon of wine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Taking time to smell the Chardonnay

I am, at this moment, sitting outside. This is noteworthy due to the pervasive, oppressive heat that IS Arizona during nearly 6 months of the year. Common lore would have it that we are not yet to the 'nice' part, so the fact that all of us can be out of our climate-controlled dwelling and into the more or less fresh air is quite something.

The days are, thankfully, getting shorter. I realize that I live in one of the sunniest places on earth, but that is not necessarily a good thing, and we welcome with delighted abandon the end of long, unrelentingly sunny days.

So I sit out here, sun setting behind me, boys playing catch or floaty-tube wars, with a nice glass of Chardonnay that I got from Sprouts the other day. And, forgive me all you wine-connoisseurs out there, it is from a BOX!! A box, with a resealable screw top! And it is yummy... yummy and cheap. Can't beat that! And something about it reminds me of basil. Is it possible for wine to taste like basil? I've had wine that tastes like fruit, or even wood, but never an Italian herb.

And the joyful sounds of playtime have morphed into wails of displeasure. Oh well; I suppose my time enjoying the subtleties of my wine are over. Best chug the rest of it and ensure there is no bodily harm, or spillage of blood.

It was nice while it lasted!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Righteous Frustration

I expect I will receive a few calls from parents tomorrow, or the next day. Admittedly, I sort of 'lost it' with my students today. Let me explain...

There may be a few readers who are unaware of this, but I am a special education teacher. I teach LRC kids, or Learning Resource. I also teach 2 specialty reading classes for kids who cannot decode words or cannot really understand what they read. My tirade was not aimed at them... not specifically at least.

No, I unleashed my inner "Bad Witch" on my 7th hour Resource kids. The purpose of Resource Class in middle school, at least as I see it, is to have time to get your homework done, catch up if you need to, or get extra help from the teacher. With 5 or 6 kids, it can be really more like a glorified tutoring session, but with 10 kids in the class, I get to the kids I can, and they take turns. The older ones often are willing to help out the younger ones, or they help where they are strong... It can work quite well.

Except when it doesn't. And in this case, it is not working because the majority of my students this year, or in this class specifically seem to not care a rats' tooshie about their grades. I have 5 kids who, amazingly enough, never seem to have any homework to do, except that they are FAILING their classes. F.A.I.L.I.N.G. And in this case, they do not care.

I have one kid who is, while cute enough, seemingly hell bent on doing NOTHING in my room at any and all costs. He is a master at procrastination, coming up daily with yet more excuses to be totally and completely devoid of effort or work. I have another one who gives me the same look that my dog does when I get mad at her; the total blank stare with the mouth hanging slightly ajar as if to either catch a fly or at risk of drooling.

It makes me wonder what their educators were like in their elementary schools. What DID these people do FOR these kids? Because as far as I can tell it was neither instilling a strong work ethic or teaching them coping skills for their deficits. I know one teacher spent every single afternoon and every lunch working with two students so they could pass. And while this is admirable on one hand, from a practical perspective, what she did in no way prepared them for middle school, or for high school, or for LIFE. I understand they have disabilities, but in the big, bad world, no one is going to stand over them and hold their hand while telling them what to do to be successful.

So I lost it. I told them that I did not want to hear from any of their parents (*which I know invites the calls... I know!!) when they get Fs on their report cards. It is not for lack of making accomodations or modifications to the curriculum. Having an IEP or being a special education student still earns you the right to FAIL if you do not participate in your learning.

Going around expecting other people to do everything for you is NOT the way to become a self-sufficient adult. The sooner people adopt the motto "If it is to be, it is up to me" the better off they will be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What has gotten into me?

I'd call it a bug if I thought it would pass rather quickly, but this cooking thing... geesh!

Wanna know how I spent my morning? That all-too-brief time between getting out of bed, and having the rest of the family get out of bed? Sometimes I get 30 minutes, sometimes I get lucky and have an hour or so on a day like today (meaning, a No School day) or sometimes its about 30 seconds, as the sound of my feet on the stairs magically awakens all other breathing members of my family, with the notable exception of my husband. These are precious, quiet moments. I pour myself some coffee and when the weather promises to not melt me within 2 minutes, I go outside to enjoy the admittedly lovely desert morning.

Today, I poured my coffee, grabbed an armload of cookbooks, a pad, and a pen and then proceeded to pour myself all over their pages. Some are just OK. My favorite today is The Barefoot Contessa's book on entertaining simply. I must have marked 15 pages, at least.

Some notable favorites were versions of sweet potato fries, something called Confetti Corn, a fantastic looking rolled-turkey breast, some mustard cream sauce slathered fish recipes... I got inspired and motivated!! *(Ok, and HUNGRY, too!)

Now I want to start cooking for Thanksgiving. Yes.. I realize Thanksgiving is nearly 8 weeks away. Which then lends to my question "What has gotten into me?" There is something extremely gratifying in the idea, and then in the execution, of making from scratch Thanksgiving dinner, and heck, just your basic every-night dinner, too. This is unlike me. I've been utterly content to just toss something edible on the table for YEARS now. Hmmm...

I quelled my desire to MAKE something from that book by cooking up a nice big batch of French Toast for the family. I even enjoyed a near-perfect batter-to-bread ratio!!

Now off to watch Parker hopefully win his baseball game, and then to cheer for the Trojans as they make dog-food out of Washington.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Foolin' Myself

Chicken Divan tonight; Mom's was certainly better, but I think mine fared decently, and was unquestioningly kinder to the hips!! A few tweaks for the next go-round that may negate any of the health benefits of MY version, but oh well.

This is bringing the 2nd week of My Triumphant Return To The Kitchen to a close. I am starting to get into a routine, and one that is admittedly far more family-friendly than my prior habits. I had myself convinced that I didn't really have TIME to cook. I work all day, and need to play Mommy at night, and I'm too flipping tired to plan and shop and prepare and cooking takes WAY too long anyway....

Except, I do have time. It doesn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. It does take effort and forethought, a bit of planning and researching, but the TIME is not too bad, really. I'm getting into a routine, too.

It used to be this way: Leave work, pick up Squirt, arrive home, scream about homework to the zombies masquerading as my children, grab a snack for myself and one for Squirt, clean dishes from the feast the Zombies had when they got home, and then mercifully retreat to my room and hop on the computer for an hour or two a few minutes. I'd emerge somewhere close to 6pm with a mild sense of panic, knowing there were 4 hungry male mouths that needed to be fed with something that resembles healthy food.

Now, I have my menu for the week on the fridge, along with the page numbers of all that week's recipes. (I am having flashbacks to my MOPS meetings from years ago when we had a speaker come tout the benefits of meal planning a month in advance. I'm not quite yet THAT ambitious) I have already purchased everything I need for the week over the weekend, so I just need to gather ingredients, and have at it! And, if I start when I get home at around 4:30, small potential disasters akin to what happened today can be averted. (I went to gather the chicken I had in the back fridge only to smell long before I tried to OPEN the package that the contents had seen better days. Off to the store I went for fresh chicken!) I have the added benefit of spending the hours between walking through the door and sitting at the table actually IN the presence of my children. Which is sort of nice.. in its own way... when they are not trying to dismember each other.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I need another hit!!

The meals for this week have been "eh" at best. I made my pasta (angel hair, my favorite) with fresh tomato & basil on Monday. Note to self: When doubling the amount of pasta, you are also required to double the sauce ingredients! The flavor, when you got some, was good, but overall I felt it was dry. That said - the leftovers were really good!! So, either more sauce on the outset or just make it the day before you want to serve it! Everyone, including my mother, seemed to enjoy it, so perhaps I am judging myself too harshly.

Last night, it was my plan to make the Lemon & Basil Chicken, but I now tutor on Tuesday nights, and I think last night proved that whatever I make on Monday better darn well be enough to feed everyone on Tuesday, too. So, I made the Lemon & Basil Chicken tonight instead. It was decent. Good even. But not great. Possibly a "keeper" recipe because it was easy, but it won't stay at the front of the list.

I put off tonight's meal until tomorrow, so we will see how that goes. I was so excited by the reviews from my biggest fans/critics over last week's meals, that I'm now a "positive reaction" junkie.

I will say, it is fun, this cooking gig. I've also realized exactly what I need in my kitchen, so if ever I need to start from scratch, I will know exactly what to get. Historically, I've been known to amass a few (thousand) kitchen gadgets that look wicked cool in the demonstrations, only to let them fester and gather dust in my cabinets or drawers. I think I have whittled down what I really need to this:

~Several good wooden spoons. Like, maybe 5. Or 6. Different sizes.
~Good kitchen shears & Spatulas
~My 8qt sauce pan. Maybe its really a frying pan?? Anyway, it's HUGE, has a nice long handle, is non-non-stick, or STICK surface (what IS the right terminology for that?) and has a lid. I can make everything from braised beef to sauces in it.
~Spaghetti pot (with internal fitting colander)
~2qt sauce pan, again non-non-stick
~Whisks of various sizes.
~My Williams-Sonoma multi-chopper thingy that has a name I am sure. Several blade styles, make everything from cored apples to french fries. It works wonders on onions!
~Good knives.

I'd love to learn how to use cast-iron and have several pieces, or at least, one nice big Le Crueset dutch oven. (Christmas list, perhaps!!??)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steak au Poivre (big hit #3)

Or, loosely translated, Pepper Steak. In a word?? YUM. And easy!! Ok, hit a few snags, like having tenderloins of different thicknesses, meaning they did not cook evenly, but on a scale from "I can boil water" to "I have a PHD in Culinary Arts", this dish certainly leaned more to the Boiling Water side!

And, another plus... there are leftovers!! Always a good thing! And.. the boys liked it! Parker did ask that the next time I make it I keep one steak aside for him that is NOT encrusted in pepper. (Note: they were not ENCRUSTED but certainly peppered!)

I, once again, donned my apron, and even timed the dishes more or less right. Had the pans all cleaned up before we sat down, making the after-party in the kitchen a much simpler affair.

It's very nice to hear compliments from the boys. Matthew's eyes light up when I make something he enjoys. Parker just doesn't make a sound because he is too busy eating! Chris nibbles regardless what is in front of him, so its hard to tell the degree to which he likes something.

My side dish was my only failure. I'd chosen a pre-bagged Roasted Potatoes & Veggis from Schwans (I can't cook EVERYTHING, you know!) but somehow either the oven was not working well or another near disaster fell upon my casserole dish, but they were ice cold still when we got to the table. Oh well.. Parker was smart; ate all his meat and then reheated the veggies.

So.. in case you want to try this at home, here's the recipe:

Tenderloins of beef, cut thin, coated with cracked pepper corn. Cook these in a skillet of hot butter until done. Anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes/side. Set on serving place and put in warming oven (or microwave, which I have found to be a good runner-up).

In the still hot skillet, add 2tbsp of Brandy, and scrape off the drippings from the meat. Add 1/3c heavy cream (Do not use milk!) and 1/3c beef broth. Stir... add 2T of dijon mustard and continue stirring over low heat until sauce is smooth and thick.

Pour over meat. ENJOY!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Today is Steve's birthday. He's afraid that he is inching (rapidly) toward "being old", but I disagree... you're only as old as you feel, my dear!

Steve is a very difficult individual to celebrate for. He does not want parties in his honor, he's impossible to buy for because he wants for nothing, he's not up on the latest gadgets, so he is unimpressed by most of the things that make my eyes pop, and a dinner out, just he and I... well.... that idea works, so that's where we started with the planning.

However, what is the saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? Yeah.. sort of like that. We started off planning to get a sitter, and go see a movie then go out to dinner.

Until we saw the choices we'd have right now for movie choices. Nothing. ZIPPO. There are 2 movies I'd like to see, but truly they are chick-flicks and not of any interest to him.

Ok, scratch the movie.. how about a nice nite out, just the two of us?? Good idea, until we realize that is the USC/Ohio State game. How about just going to watch the game? The USC group gets together at a local hotel here in Scottsdale, that is, until THIS week, when they change the venue. Still, we could use the sitter and go, just US.

Until 2 of the 3 boys seem to be fighting some low-grade bug-thing and are grouchy and grumpy and lethargic.

Maybe we will wait for another weekend to go out and celebrate.

Steve has also decided that there is no time like the present to attack the yard. He's been digging and chopping and chipping all day, in the oppressive humid heat. Silly silly man! Not exactly the pampering, self-indulgent way I'd like to spend MY birthday, but who's to say which is the RIGHT way to spend one's birthday.

On another note: We are finishing up week 1 of my Culinary Adventures. Last night's Fritatta met with limited success. It could have been due to this low-grade bug-thing, or to the fact that eggs belong on the table for breakfast, or that certain things like sausage and corn do not belong with eggs at all. At any rate, it is about the only dish so far that did not meet with approval. Tomorrow is my last recipe - Steak Au Poivre. I have worked up and shopped for next week's menu, too! More "real" cooking coming this week! Our menu looks like this:

Monday: Pasta with Tomato & Basil Sauce
Tuesday: Lemon-Mustard Chicken
Wednesday: Chicken Divan Casserole
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Spaghetti Pie
Saturday: Veal (or Chicken) Parmesan
Sunday: Someone's takin' the cook out for dinner!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I was reading a story with one of my classes today, and we came across the word REVERED. None of the kids knew what it meant, so I pulled out Webster and we researched the exact description. I'd already told them that it is sort of "to look up to" but more so. The official definition is "To regard with awe, deference, and devotion."

This got me thinking, which, as you know, usually leads me straight to the top of my soap box. Certain things in life should be revered. Elders, for one. This particular story talks about the revered elders in the family. I agree... we should respect and even revere our elders.

But what else do we, as a country, revere? Other than money? It used to be that we revered the Office of the President. It used to be that we revered religion, or at least the institution in which one practiced religion. But we've lost all of that somehow. Over and over again, we are witness to just how debased we've become as a society.

I did not see the outburst during the Presidential address on Wednesday as I was driving the boys back from a lovely trip to the dentist (4 cavities, 1 crown, 4 sealants and a visit to the Ortho is in our future!) but I HEARD the scene when the Senator from South Carolina heckled the President. HECKLED THE PRESIDENT??? Pardon my language, but WTF?

Since when has a Presidential Address to Congress turned into an NFL game? Or worse? If we, and our Elected Political Heroes no longer have, or at least SHOW, respect for the Office of the President, what does that mean for us as a society? I know this may seem like a stretch, but can anarchy be far behind?

And when did this happen? When did it become not only OK, but expected for us to question the private lives of our leaders, or their financial history, or their choices from 30 years before? We didn't do it to Eisenhower. I doubt we did it to Kennedy while he was living... I bet even good ole Calvin Coolidge didn't have to live through a heckler within his own CONGRESS.

We wear our bra straps showing in church, or jeans with holes in them, and sneakers. We talk back to our leaders, screaming and name calling rather than engaging in honest debate and dialogue. We no longer hold doors open for those older, or heck, even the same age as us... we let it close in their faces...

Will we ever again be a society of individuals with both reverence and civility?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Product Recommendations

I have encountered/brought into my possession/stumbled upon some things lately that I love and felt the urge to spew/crow about said things.

iPod Touch. I've had my Touch for about 3 months now. We've passed the learning-curve and have progressed on to a blissfully symbiotic relationship. I plug it in frequently, and fill it with podcasts, music, news and other applications, and it keeps me delightfully entertained. It also keeps my 4yr old delightfully entertained at restaurants, waiting for doctors, waiting in line, in the car or any other time I need him to be distracted. It works like a charm!!

LoseIt: Application for said iPod Touch. I have done Weight Watchers, I've counted calories, I've tracked heart rate and caloric expenditures to try to lose or maintain my weight. This application is clear, easy to use and because my iPod has become my appendage, always accessible. Which means I use it. Constantly! This is good... if it goes in my mouth, it gets logged into LoseIt. So far? Down 12 pounds. More than I care to mention, to go!

My Vera Bradley purse.
I've loved Vera Bradley bags for years. It's the New England prep in me. I've also come to the realization that I am particularly difficult to please. My purses are either too big, too small, the handles don't stay on my oddly-shaped shoulders, they are too difficult to get into, have too many pockets, or too few. So, back to Vera. I've LOVED her Daisy print since it came out this spring. I'm really a big fan of Daisies. They are so happy, so peaceful and happen to be the flower of my high school, Miss Porter's School. However I could not justify the cost of buying one of these bags. Until the other week! The spring patterns went on sale (More than 50% off!), so I treated myself to the mini-tote in Daisy. I LOVE IT. It is the perfect size (I did waiver for a bit if it would be too small.. NOPE!) Its bright, colorful, preppy.... Me-Likey!

Olay ReGenerist Microdermabrasion System: I'm of the age where my skin and I are not always seeing eye-to-eye. I do not feel as old as I sometimes look, and have passed the stage where a bar of soap or a jar of Noxzema will suffice. So, for about $22 I decided to give this a try. Oh! the difference! Not so harsh that I had to wear a mask but tough enough on the ole' face that I felt it! My skin was MUCH smoother! I've used it only once. I'll let you know how I look after a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm battin' 1000

I promise that I will not report after every single home cooked meal I slave over in my kitchen, however, this one met with ENTHUSIASTIC reviews from my harshest critics so I felt I had to share!!

Tonight's entrè was Sausage & Beef Empanadas. Recipe from COME ON OVER cookbook, if you are interested. I was worried because: they didn't mention which KIND of sausage to use, I didn't use the proper amount of enchilada sauce and, well, let's face it, its ME doing the cooking... god knows what could go wrong!

Note to self, and anyone else curious... Homestyle ground sausage works great. I figured breakfast sausage was out of the running, and I can't stand the heat of Chorizo sausage, so my process of elimination worked.

The recipe also did not falter due to lack of enchilada sauce. It was supposed to take (1) 29oz can of sauce, but when I realized I got HOT sauce, I scaled it back to about 8oz. Perfect!!

Served with canned corn, and next time, will put corn IN the casserole.

The recipe said it served 20. We, meaning the 4 of us who ATE it, cleared easily 1/2 the dish. Plenty for tomorrow's dinner!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dinner #1, a meal in review

I had no idea how long I would need to cook my first COOKED dinner in ages, and I started perhaps a bit too early. However, it all worked out fine. Even have dinner for tomorrow night prepared, and waiting in the fridge to be placed in the oven for the appropriate amount of time.

Tonight's dinner met with 4 Thumbs-Up, tho not enthusiastic ones. They didn't hate it is what that boils down to, which is good.

I also goofed and picked up dried basil rather than fresh basil, and I know there is a difference in flavor. If I make it again, I will know better next time. However, I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, which means one less meal I have to think about, and this, too, is good.

Also made a cake, in a very pretty flowery bundt pan. AND freshly whipped cream on the side.

I even wore an APRON! ;-)

Week one of my Triumphant Return to the Kitchen

Getting ahead of myself? Possibly! However, an inspiration is an inspiration and I am going to go with it until we either go broke, there is a complete mutiny from my crew, or we get so fat we can no longer fit through the doors.

My menu is planned. My list for the store is complete, and I am going to spend this afternoon making dinner for the next two nights. Here's what I have planned:

Monday: Chicken in a creamy basil sauce, with rice and broccoli.
Tuesday: Sausage and beef empanadas with corn.
Wednesday: Dinner sausage with sauerkraut (Schwanns. No thinking involved!)
Thursday: Parker has baseball. Sandwiches for all...
Friday: Corn Fritatta with cheese
Saturday: Steve's Birthday... he and I are going out. Kids get Pizza
Sunday: Steak au Poivre.

Julia, while amazing and fabulous and brilliant, is a bit too rich for the likes of this family. So I am pulling my recipes from the Better Homes New Cook Book, and a little artsy one called Come On Over.

You will notice that, in reality, I am only COOKING 4 of the 7 nights. Yup... but that is still a HUGE increase over my standard percentage. My battle cry for a very long time has been "I don't cook. I fix".

Well, I am trying to "fix" that!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Long time, no blog

We're about to start the 5th week of school. So much for my promise earlier this summer that I would get back into the swing of blogging once school started. The best laid plans, right?

School has turned out to be a much better situation that I had feared. Isn't that usually the case?? One of the classes I have to teach will be, I am sure, only slightly less painful than poking myself repeatedly with something sharp, but the kids are good, I've settled into my classroom enough that it is feeling like HOME, and I have some wicked cool new gadgetry to use, so its all good. (if you are not following me on Twitter or following my updates, our SmartBoards and Doc. Cams were installed this last week. OH SO FLIPPING COOL!!!)

I spent the day today with my friend Nicole. We had a 'girls day' of shopping (got some make up and a new pair of silver hoop earrings) and then we saw Julie & Julia. I have the book on my bedside table and it is my next read. Movie then book... generally I don't like to do things in that order, but oh well.

In short - LOVED the movie!! It was cute, laugh-out-loud funny at times and certainly inspired me to go dig out the Julia Child cookbook my parents gave me back in 1992. (Yes.. it was VERY very dusty!) As with most aspects of life, the movie made cooking look SO easy and effortless. Ahhh - were it only so! One little highlight for me toward the end of the movie was a shot (cameo??) of my childhood-neighbor-turned-published-author-and-famed-NYTfoodie Frank Bruni! I'd heard he was in the film, but when I didn't see his name show up in the IMDB list, I thought perhaps an article of his was shown or something.

However, the movie DID inspire me a bit tonight. The plan was for my throw-it-together Mexican Salad - bagged salad, Tyson grilled chicken slices, corn, avocado, dressing. Toss it, call it dinner. The bagged salad comes with tortilla strips but tonight, in homage to Julia, I decided to make croutons. And I had a little helper in Christopher. We had the BEST time, chopping the stale French bread I had in the fridge, melting the copious amount of butter, and stirring until the magic happened. I wish I could replay the scenes for you - it was not just the butter melting during our team-work fest!

So.. I pledge to myself, and the 3 of you who READ this blog... I will do better both in the kitchen, and on my blog. Thanks Julie.. and Julia.. now I have a bit of inspiration! (and be warned, you may hear about my culinary disasters because you KNOW there will be a few!)