Pardon the totally cheesy reference to The Shining. But I have been cooped up in the house for almost five days, save my harried trip to Albertsons last night during which I was under a 20 minute time constraint as the husband wanted to hurry home before the 'storm' hit. Which it did, kind of. We didn't lose power thankfully, which is somewhat of a miracle around here. Homeowners in our neighborhood don't like their tree branches trimmed around power lines, which leads to at least a few lengthy power outages a year.
So, I'm kind of feeling like Jack Torrance about now. The homicidal part, no, but the crazy part, yes. The house is feeling even smaller than usual, the Christmas clutter is expanding exponentially, and stuff is really starting to get to me. Like last night, when we made our one outing in days, I left the sugar cookies I'd slaved over on the counter to cool. Four dozen of them. And when we came home, I had two guilty looking doggies and about four TOTAL cookies left. Okay, I guess at this point I might had been homicidal. Dogicidal, really. I yelled at the dogs and then the husband laughed at me and I burst into tears.
This morning, I put the dogs out because they were driving me nuts and I could smell their breath. Our golden retriever, Carl, came back in with clumps of snow stuck in his wings (you know, that fur that flares out on their legs) and I just KNEW it was going to end up melted all over the house in little puddles. I grabbed the closest pair of scissors and bribed Carl to roll over onto his back with a dog bone. And I went to work. Ten minutes later Carl had a new haircut. I cut off his golden retriever wings. It's not pretty. I will never be a dog groomer. Now I kind of feel guilty and feel like I should just finish off the job with electric clippers. If I'm stuck in this house another day, I can pretty much guarantee that will happen. ( A side note, I do not have photos at this time as my camera has no battery charge, but I will upload one when I find the charger!).
I just looked outside and its snowing again. I can't remember a snow like this since at least 12 years ago. It was the winter after I graduated high school. Why do I remember it so vividly? I got my car stuck in my parents driveway, and then proceeded to put my Dad's truck in the ditch trying to get to work. So if any one's wondering why I'm not a fan of snow, there you go. It's the driving thing.
On a positive note, my son's first Christmas will most likely have snow. That there, folks, is pretty cool and worth the craziness!


Crafts for the Craft Challenged: Tie Blanket

This year, in an effort to be thoughtful and frugal, I decided to make tie blankets for my nieces' and nephews' Christmas gifts. What you must understand about me is that I am terrified of sewing machines (I was sternly warned to stay away from my mother's as a child and I think it put an unnatural fear in me). So, the only blankets I know how to make involve no thread at all.

Thus, the tie blanket. You tie it together. I KNOW.

So, here is my first attempt at a pictorial lesson. Indulge me.

You will need:

- 2 same size pieces of fleece - I vary the size of the blanket on the size of the person. Also, I like to use a pattern on one side and a solid on the other

- Pins

- Very sharp scissors

- A large area to spread out the fleece. I've found a made bed works well, or a large piece of cardboard.

- A glass of white wine, so if you spill it on the blanket it won't stain. Red is okay if it's in a sippy cup.

Step 1: Lay the pieces of fleece on top of each other. If you're using a pattern, make sure the nice side is facing out. Smooth the fleece out and even the edges.

Step 2: Pin the fleece together at 6 inch or so intervals, whatever you need to keep everything together.

Step 3: On the edges, cut 1 inch wide, 4-6 inch long (depending on how fringe-y you want the blanket) strips. Go all the way around.

It'll look all fancy like this:

Step 4: Cut squares out at the corners, about 4"x4". You'll understand why when you tie.

Step 5: Start tying knots. Be careful not to skip pieces. Keep tying till you can't tie no more. Literally, not figuratively.

It'll look like this. A little bunchy.

Step 6: Gently pull the bunchy out. You might hear a little ripping sound. If its from the fabric, don't worry. If it's NOT from the fabric, drink more wine, you probably need it.

Step 7: Stand back and bask in the glory of your domesticity.


Smarty Pants.

Yes, it's been a while. But I seriously have an excuse this time. Well, more of an excuse than working 40 hours a week out of the house and every other waking moment at home. I attended an one week intensive real estate finance class last week. Yes, I had homework. Lots of it. And I had to commute to Kent every day. That's 1.5 hours at least each way. So suffice it to say, it was a long week!

So, about the class. Sounds boring, right? On the surface, yes. But I really got a lot out of it - the biggest take home being I CAN ACTUALLY DO MATH. For reals.

And I can now tell you what an IRR is, a NPV and I can analyze the heck out of a mortgage. How 'bout that? Seriously, I have been math challenged my whole life. This is MAJOR.

Anyhow, I am about to embark on an intensive Christmas preparation journey over the next few weeks. Hopefully I'll have something fun and interesting to post, or at least photos of all the injuries I am bound to endure as I attempt to bake.



Maybe the Best Christmas Present, Ever

Go here to see possibly the sweetest, most creative gift I've ever seen.
I can't wait to see all the letters that are written to add to this compilation. I'm sure I'll need a few tissues.


Big Fat Pan of Cheesy Love

I'm always on the lookout for a good go-to recipe. And it 's always an extra added bonus when it's versatile - suitable for a dinner party or for a lazy Sunday afternoon. This lasagna fits the bill. It's not fast, but its great cooking therapy - you know, when you really want to spend time in the kitchen. I know, I know - rare, but it sometimes happens!

This is adapted from a Tyler Florence Recipe. He calls it "Drop Dead Lasagna". And the man does not lie. It's that good. I have changed a few ingredients and cut the recipe in half. The original is massive. It would feed 12 very hungry adults easily. This one is a little easier to find a pan for and will feed a hungry family of four with leftovers (and this lasagna does improve with age).

A few tips to make this a bit simpler:

- Use bagged, preshredded cheese.
- Jarred Marinara sauce works well, just avoid the sweet ones, like Ragu or Prego.

Grocery List:

1/2 lb lasagna noodles
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 Tb fennel seeds
1/4 Tb red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 Tb dried oregano
1/2 (3 oz) can tomato paste
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1 Tb dried Italian seasoning (mixture of basil, oregano, parsley)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups Marinara Sauce

Fill a large pasta pot with water and place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don't stick together, the set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with {about 2 Tb} of olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the ground beef and pork, stirring to break it up, and cook until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain out the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, give it a whirl, and sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Fold in the Italian herbs and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take inventory of the components you should have now: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and a medium (my pan measures about 11x8) glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; in my experience this prevents the lasagna from sticking. Layer 1 -- the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Here is a little tip: if you take 2 lasagna noodles and line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it. Layer 2 -- the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula. The meat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation. Layer 3 -- the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula, and then sprinkle a third of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture for that stringy cheese pull that you know and love. Layer 4 --the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup; smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles and to compress the layers.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours, until golden and bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesn't ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares.


Why I'm Not a Ballerina.

Tomorrow, I go my new building for work. They moved us back to the big building. Back to the compound.

In honor of my beloved Pioneer Square, which I'll miss dearly, I'll leave you with this:

Picture it - Last week. Pioneer Square. Lunchtime - the streets are crawling with people. Me, feeling pretty sassy in some wide leg pants that are a bit long and some pointy boots. I've just emerged from my favorite bookstore. I'm hitting my stride right in front of the most crowded sandwich shop on First. Then it happens.

My boot catches in the cuff of my pants.

As if in slow motion, I go down. I go down HARD.

I spring up like a rabbit, and look into the window of the sandwich shop at about twenty horrified onlookers.

I want to die.

I run (carefully) away.


Fifteen Things

So Andrea tagged me to admit fifteen things about myself. I would nominate others to continue this game, but I don't know who all reads this! Identify yourselves!

This was interesting. Reading through these now, I think I sound a little psycho. Great.


1. I can't stand touching cotton balls. This includes the cotton they put in medicine bottles. I need assistance getting that god awful stuff out.
2. I am fascinated/terrified by serial killers. This is really morbid, I know. The one I find most interesting is Jack the Ripper. My favorite tour in London was the Jack the Ripper one where you visit all the sites where bodies were found.
3. On that note, I love horror films, but do draw the line at the Saw series. I am more a connoisseur of suspense horror - all time fave is The Shining, but Halloween is a close second. And anything with vampires - I can't wait for the Twilight movies!
4. I can remember anything that is inconsequential. Such as, the outfit I wore the first day of fifth grade - purple ruffle skirt mad of sweatshirt material and matching puff painted sweatshirt with a built in collar (shut up). However, I can never remember to pay my bills. Online bill pay saved my life!
5. All of the animals I have or have had are named people names.
6. My mother let me have both of the following hairdos - permed bangs with straight hair in the back (kind of a perm-mullet) and straight bangs with perm in the back. Child abuse.
7. I really love old houses. I mean, over a hundred years old, at least. I would love an old farmhouse. And even better if it has one or all of the following: a root cellar, a laundry chute, an attic or secret passageways! For now I'll survive with our almost 50 year old rambler and it's lame crawl space.
8. I started going gray at 16. I remember someone leaning over on the bus on the way to a track meet or a basketball game and plucking it out. I am now probably 50% gray.
9. I pretty much consistently burn myself when I bake. I have a glorious jelly roll pan scar on my forearms in honor of each holiday season.
10. I was platonic friends with my husband for five years before we even dated. We met when we were 18 and I was attached. Then when I was single he wasn't. See a pattern?
11. While I was living in England I developed a taste for some really craptastic music. One of the highlights, however, is Tom Jones. He is most definitely NOT craptastic. I am plotting to someday go to Vegas and throw underpants at him. He may be up on stage with a walker, but I'll bet that man can still gyrate! What's new pussycat? Whoaaaa whoaaaaa whoaaaa!
12. I like to read in the bathroom. Not sitting on the toilet, but I'll actually go in there, turn on the space heater and sit on the floor. I used to read in the bath but I don't get to take those anymore.
13. I can clean a fish really well.
14. I tend to hoard things. It runs in my family. I'm a bit better than my mother and she is a little better than hers. But it is an illness!
15. I am the champion of trivia games. I challenge anyone! See #4 above. I remember all things useless!


Clearly I'm Easily Amused.

I work with a man about my dad's age who is constantly dropping these colloquialisms that have obviously been around for a while but I've never heard. He is an absolute pro at slipping them casually into conversation. I'm totally jealous.

Some of his latest gems:
Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Busy as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest.

I don't know why, but these seriously crack me up. I got to thinking - why is it that middle aged men are so good at hokey sayings and really, really bad jokes? I think I want to be good at these things too. So I'm starting a collection.

Some more I like:
Hotter than a redheaded roofer in Palm Springs in July.
It's like trying to herd cats.
Raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock.

Got any good ones? I need some dorky one liners for the holidays.


They Say the Mind is the First To Go...

I don't know why, but lately I've been talking to myself...or maybe I'm just noticing it more. Sometimes I'll catch myself having a conversation that I thought was just in my head, but I'm actually vocalizing it.
So I wonder, am I just getting old? Or am I regressing to having an imaginary friend? Is this something that inevitably happens? It's so weird.
For a while, I thought I might just be doing it since I wasn't having regular adult conversations. But then I noticed I sometimes do it at work.
The thing that makes me feel a bit better is I have a few co-workers who do the same thing. They cover it pretty well by wearing earpieces so it appears they're on a call. But I know...oh yes, I know.
For me, it's in the category of rocking out in the car. I think most people sing while they're driving, but tone it down as they hit red lights. But as soon as you're moving again, game on.
Still, it's a bit embarrassing. I need to work on that 'inner monologue' thing. Or just buy an earpiece. Then I can be crazy and talk to myself all day long.


I Know it's Early...I'm a Planner!

Even though it's our son's first Christmas this year, I am really starting to think about having a pared down Christmas - homemade gifts, family gifts, donating to charity in someones name are a few thoughts I've had.

So far, some ideas I've come up with:

Family Night Package: My brother and sister-in-law have family night every Friday. I thought it might be fun to do a 'movie night package' for some of the families we exchange gifts with. I found a great deal on cozy quilted throws, so I bought several. With the throw, I'll add a kid friendly movie, a big popcorn bowl, a few bags of microwave popcorn and some candy.

Fleece Blankets: My mom showed me how to make double layer fleece blankets (no-sew) about five years ago. That year I made my nieces and nephews cozy blankets and they all loved them. Now they've all grown quite a bit (and some weren't even born at the time) so I figure it's time to upgrade.

Treat Basket: I did these last year and thought it turned out well - Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts (these are freakin' fabulous), white chocolate peppermint bark, homemade hot chocolate mix, and a bag of coffee beans from that place where I work. I may try homemade almond roca this year. But I would have to use a candy thermometer and that frightens me...stay tuned.

I'm still trying to plot this all out. The plan is to not necessarily spend a lot, but put some thought and effort into gifts.

Anybody have any cheap and cheerfuls they want to add to the mix?


Yay, Autumn!

To be perfectly honest, I am a summer person, but for the first few weeks of fall, I kind of cheat on summer as my favorite. It's hard to resist all the changing leaves, that distinct crisp fall smell, feeling like you are entitled to curl up on the couch with a book for an afternoon (okay, not so much now that baby is here). I'm even considering baking...seeing all those pumpkins in the grocery store gives me a yen for some pumpkin bread.
Most of all, I love fall clothes. Love love love! All the yummy textures - tweeds and courdoroys - they're so much more forgiving than the revealing clothes of summer.
Right now I'm obsessing over finding the perfect sweater dress and tall boots.
For the dress, I'm envisioning cable knit, in an earth tone. Long sleeves, about three inches above the knee. My search so far has been fruitless, though I'm sure if I wanted to drop $300, I could find something.
Boots are a little easier. Something a little equestrian in some nice, soft buttery brown leather. The challenge these days is I need something a little wider in the calf. I have a few pairs of tall boots in my closet that sadly will not zip. I wonder if you can stretch them...
So, if anybody has any leads on said items, let me know! I'm a little dress obsessed these days. I'm loving jersey too - wash and wear! I never was really into dresses before, but since I'm still eschewing waistbands, they fit the bill.


Stuff I Never Knew I Needed...

and may not be able to live without.

Bacon salt? Yes, apparently this is already on grocery shelves, and the same company is releasing Baconnaise (bacon flavored mayo) later this month. I have to admit, I'm intrigued. I love me some bacon.

I was on Drugstore.com and noticed the area at the bottom with new featured products. The Va-Jay-Jay Visor was one of those items. Marketed as the first 'cup for women', it's supposed to protect your lady parts while tanning, tattooing, waxing, or trying on swimwear. But does it protect your dignity? Hmmm.

And, believe it or not, both of these products were developed in Washington. I am SO proud!


Read This!

I am not a sappy person at all, and usually I shy away from posting/forwarding inspirational stories - but I found this really touching. I found this link over on Dooce, one of the blogs I frequent. Worth a read, and make sure you have some tissues handy.


Soup Weather

Today is cool and drizzly - perfect for a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. Throw leftovers in freezer bags for quick lunches and dinners. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Easiest Chili Ever

1 lb ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz can of chili beans (they come with spices)
1 15 oz can of kidney beans (black beans or pinto beans work too)
palmful of cumin
palmful of chili powder (NOT CAYENNE. That would be painful)
salt to taste

In a deep pot or dutch oven, brown the ground beef, drain extra fat. Add onion, peppers and garlic and saute with beef till soft. Dump all the cans (tomatoes and beans) into the pot, mix well. Stir in cumin and salt. Simmer on stove as long as you want - on a low heat you can let it go for a few hours. It needs at least an hour for all the flavors to come together.
Serve with warm cornbread and honey butter! This is an order!

Poblano, White Bean & Chicken Chili (or Soup, my friend Jenny takes issue with chicken chili...she's a purist)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 poblano peppers, de-seeded and diced
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 15 oz cans of great northern beans, rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon (or more if you really like it) cumin
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
fresh cilantro, torn
sour cream
shredded pepper jack cheese
avocado, diced
warm tortillas

In a large pot or dutch oven, saute the chicken in oil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and one can of beans - cook about 15 minutes, stirring often, till beans start to break apart. Add the rest of the beans, broth, cumin, oregano and cilantro. Simmer till warm throughout. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle (or douse!) with shredded cheese and avacado, and add a dollop of sour cream. Serve with warm tortillas.



This really takes the cake - or should I say ice cream.
Just thinking about Ben & Jerry's using human breast milk in my Cherries Garcia...well, it makes me throw up a bit in my mouth.
I'm pretty open about breast milk. Heck, I've donated it to a baby besides my own. But I tell you I'd freak out if my donated breast milk ended up in some adults dairy dessert. Call me old fashioned, but ewwww!

Coping...Kind of.

I can't believe how long I've gone without posting.
Actually, I CAN believe it. My motivation level these days is pretty low. I really got to thinking about it the other day and realized that deep down, I kind of feel like I'm doing a half-ass job at everything, but not doing anything really well. And it's got me down.
It's times like these when I'd really love the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. Not that moms that stay at home have infinite amounts of time, but what could I do with those 40+ hours a week I put into my job and commuting?
Some weeks it's all I can do to cook some meals, slog through the laundry and keep the house in some semblance of order. Believe me, none of those things are getting done well.
And getting the maintenance type things done, well what happens to things like playing with my son? This is the part that makes me the most upset. I'm not even doing a good job running the household and even that mediocrity is cutting into me taking care of the most important things.
As you can imagine, the family, the house and my job leave me no time for myself. Which I expected, but I feel like I can't even take care of myself. I'm eating terribly, getting zero exercise and you can imagine what that's doing to my self-esteem. Not good.
I have no answers. I don't know if I should consider hiring someone to come in and clean once a week (or every two weeks). It feels like a cop out. And I don't know if I can justify the money. I do my best to cook and freeze meals, but that only goes so far.
This is a vent, more or less. I'm pretty resourceful so hopefully I'll figure something out. But suggestions are good. And writing this down feels better too. Whew.
Okay, rant over. Back to work.


Great Food Friday Catch-Up: Sandwiches & Favorite Mix

Sheesh. Been a while since I've done this blog thing. First things first, I need to catch up on my Great Food Friday entries. I'm been very negligent!

1st: Sandwiches

I bought a kick butt panini press from Costco a few months ago and I am in lurve! Here's my favorite:

Caprese Panini

Bread of your choice (I recommend thickly sliced French or Ciabatta rolls)
Really good tomato, sliced
Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced
Fresh Basil Leaves
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Heat the press. Drizzle the olive oil on the outside of the bread (that will touch the press). Between the bread, layer the tomato, mozzarella and basil. Drizzle a little vinegar on top before closing the bread. Be sure not to overfill your panini, it will just end up squishing out during grilling. Place the panini in the press, grill till crisp on the outside and the cheese is melted. Yum! you could totally do this as a grilled sandwich in a regular pan (but I think it's better as a panini).

Other panini ideas:
Tuna and cheddar (tuna melt!)
Roast beef, swiss and horseradish
Nutella & strawberry or banana (dust with some powdered sugar)

2nd: Favorite Mix

I love cake mix. It's very difficult to really tell the difference between scratch and mix, especially with this recipe. It's from Jessica Seinfeld's 'Deceptively Delicious'.

Yellow Cake

1 18oz box of yellow cake (any kind)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water
2 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 egg white
6 oz nonfat vanilla, lemon or banana yogurt

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a nine inch cake pan with cooking spray and flour lightly. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil eggs, egg white and yogurt. Beat till smooth - 1 or 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

You can also do this as chocolate cake, just use chocolate cake mix and stick with the vanilla yogurt.

My sister in law does this recipe as cupcakes for all the kids birthday parties. They're so good, even better than the bad for you cupcakes. The kids LOVE them. We're still looking for a healthy frosting!


Great Food Friday: Leafy Greens

Though I love me some greens, I don't have many really cool recipes for them. I guess I just usually eat them pretty close to their natural state: sauteed spinach with a sprinkle of balsamic or in a salad. So this week I'm posting about salad. I love salads, have since I was a child. They are kind of an obsession of mine - I'm always trying to think of new combinations. This one is definitely a favorite.

You'll need:
Baby Greens
Goat Cheese (think Chevre, not Feta), crumbled
handful of dried cranberries
handful of roasted sliced almonds
your favorite vinaigrette

In a big bowl, toss all ingredients. Eat.

Some other salad combos I love:

Baby spinach with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette
Baby greens with Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and pear

Looking over my salad recipes, I think the leafy greens may just be a vehicle for cheese. Oh well.


Baby Axel Update

A month or so ago, I wrote about my cousin's little baby boy who was born addicted to methadone. Last week he was finally released from the hospital (he was in for about six weeks). My uncle and aunt were granted custody - which is what we were all hoping for.

There was an intervention for my cousin - I didn't go, it was decided it would be better with just immediate family. A proposal was made for her to go into rehab for a month, then enter a halfway house where Axel could live with her, but they'd be under constant supervision.

She and her boyfriend (also the father) walked out. I am just stunned they could walk away from their baby, just like that. But addiction is powerful, and in reality, baby Axel is probably in a more safe, nurturing environment then he would have been with his mother. If she or the boyfriend show up, my aunt and uncle are to call 911.

My mom got to meet the little guy last week and said he looks good. He's fairly small (11 lbs at 2 months), but all I have to compare with is my gargantuan son. The pediatrician's prognosis is very good - and we're all hoping for the best.

Back when this all hit the fan, I contacted La Leche League about donating my frozen breast milk to Axel. I figured he needs all the help he can get. I was wondering how accepting of the idea my family would be, but everyone has been absolutely open about it and I feel really good that all the frozen milk I have stockpiled will go to good use. I will continue to send up as much as I can until I wean George. Hopefully whatever the milk contains that is making my kid grow so fast will work a little magic on Axel!


Deli Karma

Ahhh, the grocery store. I used to actually enjoy grocery shopping, but with a child in tow, it's a completely different game.

Today I had to do the weekly shopping. Usually I save it for a weekday night, but we were low on everything, so it was a must. Plus, its super hot and muggy right now, and I figured the store's AC would be a nice break.

I have a pattern when I shop. I walk in, and directly to my right is the deli. Brian likes to take sandwiches to work, so sliced deli meat is always the first thing I get. The line was long, but I hopped in to wait my turn. George was fairly well behaved at this point.

Thanks to some deli clerks who were running in slow motion, by the time it was my turn, G was starting to get a little whiny. He likes to be moving in the grocery cart. Anything else is unacceptable (I've been known to run down aisles and just knock stuff into my cart when he's starting to crab). I was just about to ask for my black forest ham, and this woman steps right in front of me. I was a little shocked, but didn't say anything. But inside I was fuming. I'm just a LITTLE passive aggressive.

She says," Do you have any pico de gallo - I mean good pico de gallo? The stuff in the refrigerated section isn't good pico de gallo, it has jalapenos. I can't have jalapenos, they're too hot." The poor clerk looked confused. She wasn't sure what exactly was in the pico de gallo, but she said she'd go check the container it came in.

A few notes here:
1) Good pico de gallo is made fresh. So if she was wanting the *GOOD* stuff, the deli counter at Albertson's probably wasn't the best place to look.
2) I would venture to guess that most commercially produced pico de gallos have hot peppers in them. Most likely jalapenos.

The deli clerk comes out. She tells pushy lady that the pico had serrano pepper in it, which is just like black pepper and offers a sample.

Oh yeah. I had a feeling this was going to get good.

You see, serranos are hotter than jalapenos. A lotter hotter.

At this point I had a choice - speak up or stand back and enjoy the show. Under normal circumstances, I'd have probably advised regarding the heat of serranos and direct her a few doors down to Trader Joes, which has a lovely assortment of prepared salsas.

But these were not normal circumstances. I had a simmering baby, had been sweating like a pig all day and was tired. I was up for some entertainment.

The clerk passed the lady the sample in a little white paper cup. She sniffed it and then took a big ol' bite. I waited.

A few seconds passed - then pow! She started jumping around and saying 'hot, hot, hot.' Like a five year old. Over dramatic a bit? It was priceless.

She ran over to the cold drink section, cussing.

I sidled up to the counter and got my freaking ham, enjoying how the universe came through and punished the cutter. You don't cut off a woman with an infant at the deli line. Nothing good will come of it.


Great Food Friday - Quick & Easy

Most of my cooking these days has become 'quick & easy' out of necessity. I want to spend as much time with the kiddo as I can and he's not a fan of the kitchen (he has a special distaste for the food processor).

I promised Andrea I wouldn't post any recipes with cream of mushroom soup (and I have oh so many), so I decided to post a recipe I ran across earlier this summer and is great to make ahead and eat for days.

Hot and Cold Sesame Noodles

1 box spaghetti (I use whole wheat, it has a good nutty flavor)
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 rounded cup smooth peanut butter (microwave for 15 seconds to soften)
2 tablespoons cider or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoon hot sauce (whatever you like, I used Franks - you know, the hot wing sauce)
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrot mix (buy it in the bag, pre-shredded)
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
3 green onions, chopped at an angle
crushed peanuts or sesame seeds to garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the tamari, peanut butter, vinegar, oil and hot sauce. Boil the noodles to al dente, drain and shock with cold water to halt cooking process. Dump the noodles and all the veggies in to the bowl on top of the dressing. With clean hands (this is the easiest, I swear) toss all the ingredients together. Chill before serving. This is good with shredded chicken for a quick meal on a warm day. It holds up in the fridge (covered) for a good 4 days, if it lasts that long.


There is a Couch in My Kitchen.

While we were on vacation a little over a week ago, we had our hardwood floors refinished. It seemed like a good idea to go ahead and paint our living room and redo the trim while we were at it.

Now, we've been home a week and our house still looks like WWIII (as my mom would say). There is a couch (and a chair) in my kitchen that I have to crawl over to get to the fridge. Our table is outside. Our office/extra bedroom is so full of junk that it is a hazard to navigate. And our living room is a cornucopia of plastic, painters tape and dust.

This could very well be what pushes me over the edge.

I have never wanted to organize so badly. But, it is pointless, because I will come home from work tomorrow and all my work will be for naught. I have decided that once all the dust has settled (literally and figuratively) I will be having a massive yard sale to get rid of all our excess stuff. I say stuff, cause it's not necessarily junk, but it's not useful to us at this point in our lives. I mean, who really needs a boxful of VHS tapes when you haven't had a VCR in 5 years? Hoarding runs in my family and I need to watch myself...it's a sickness...really!

Hopefully this will all be over soon and we'll have a beautiful, freshly painted living room, kitchen and hallway. The other rooms can definitely wait. Until then I'll be cursing at the sofa blocking the fridge and the ever present coating of sanding dust on every stable surface...x*&@#%!


Good Food Friday: Cookies

Let it be known that my husband's nickname for me is Cookie Monster. I had a Cookie Monster coat (complete with blue fur and googly eyes) as a child and my first birthday cake was - wait for it - Cookie Monster. I have a problem with cookies. I actually try not to make cookies too often because I can polish off a batch by myself in one sitting. Ugly.
That said, I did actually make cookies twice in the last few weeks. The first batch I made to take on vacation - and they were very well received. I made the much praised/hyped/blogged about New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies. The best chocolate chip cookies ever? Hmmmm. Maybe. They were delicious. I used the darkest chocolate chips I could find (no, I didn't order the specialty chocolate disks from Jacques Torres!), but I think the thing that puts these over the top is the sprinkling of sea salt ...delicious. They're a bit labor intensive (the dough needs to be chilled for at least 24 hours) but I would give them a try, or at least sprinkle some sea salt on your next batch of Toll House.
For my dad's birthday last week, I made cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies. I find white chocolate overly sweet, but the the tart dried cranberries cut the sweetness perfectly.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugars till creamy; add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, then add to wet mixture. Mix well. Stir in oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips - mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 - 12 minutes till golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, remove to cooling rack. Yields approximately 4 dozen (3 dozen if you have a problem with dough like I do).

Happy Baking!
xoxo Cookie Monster


Belated Great Food Friday: Company's Coming!

So I'm a little behind on this one...I was on vacation!
I usually like to try to grill when we've got people coming over, especially in summer - our little house gets pretty hot with the oven on, plus the grill is easier to hide...er, I mean clean up.

Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

This marinade is quick and delicious. The addition of vinegar speeds up the marinating process. Don't forget to cut the flank steak on the bias or you'll end up with fancy beef jerky!

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ground chipotle chili powder or ground cumin
2 teaspoon hot sauce - eyeball it
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 splashes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds flank steak

Mix garlic, steak seasoning, smoked paprika, chipotle or cumin, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Whisk in extra-virgin olive oil. Place meat in shallow dish and coat it evenly in marinade. Let stand 15 minutes. Grill flank steak 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove flank steak from grill and let juices redistribute before slicing. Thinly slice meat on an angle, cutting the meat against the grain.

I like to serve this with mashed baked potatoes..your basic mashed potatoes with extra butter, fresh ground pepper, sour cream, shredded cheddar and green onion or chives mixed in. I don't have any measurements for this recipe, I just lob as much in as looks good that day. I highly recommend you try your mash with yukon gold potatoes, they're super creamy and delicious.

As a veg, I usually go with a tossed green salad of some sort or roasted asparagus or broccoli. If you've never roasted your vegetables, you have to try it - it gives them a completely different flavor - nutty and delicious! Here's a simple recipe I use a lot:

Roasted Chili Garlic Broccoli

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, eyeball it
5 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended:Montreal Steak Seasoning )
1 large head broccoli, cut into thin, long spears

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, chili powder and grill seasoning in the bottom of a large bowl and add the broccoli spears. Toss to coat broccoli evenly then transfer to a large nonstick baking sheet. Roast the broccoli until ends are crisp and brown and stalks are tender, 17 to 20 minutes.

The flank steak and the broccoli are bastardized Rachael Ray recipes (if you can't already tell from the liberal use of Montreal Steak Seasoning) - I must give credit where credit's due!


City Girl Hearts the Country Life

We just returned from a lovely break in Chelan. Being over in Eastern Washington is like going to another world. It seems like everything is just slower. I LIKE IT!
I was out for a early morning walk (because baby does not care if it's my vacation, he's getting up at 5 am, dammit) in this little town called Manson and it made me wonder what it would be like to live in a small town. Village, really. Okay, I did grow up in a 'small town' but honestly, if you can drive to a city in fifteen minutes, does that really count?
I stopped for a latte and a scone (that's pretty citified if you ask me, I should have gotten a cup of drip and a muffin) at this cute little ma-n-pa coffee shop. The owner was working behind the counter and there were regulars perched up on stools, chatting away about happenings around town. Baby was admired and flirted with everyone. We got the coffee to go and went and sat on a bench outside. I'm not lying when I say not one car passed in that 15 minutes we were sitting. Lovely!
Further down main street, there was a farmers market. Super fresh produce and flowers from local farmers - heaven.
So, now back on the west-side, I've fought traffic back and forth to work for two days, and I'm ready to go back to the middle of nowhere. I wonder if I could really hack it, being isolated like that. I'm guessing it would get to me after a while. The grass is always greener, right? Hmmm. Eastern Washington? Okay, the sagebrush is always browner - that sounds about right!



I just found out Friday that one of my bestest-besties is pregnant with her first child. This now means that in the next six months I know of six new bundles that will be arriving. Right now the count is: 1 boy (lucky, lucky boy!), 3 girls and 2 TBD. Crazy!

On the whole subject of crazy, I saw an
article about a couple up in Abbotsford, B.C. who just had their 18th natural child in 23 years. No multiples, no adoptions. I'd figure after about baby 10, her uterus would go on strike. They say they are 'letting God guide their lives'. I say they are letting certain - ahem - body parts guide their lives!

I guess the
Duggars are no longer the 'biggest family in the world'. Though that claim must be up for debate, I'm sure there are larger. But wait...they just announced #18. So they'll be caught up to the Abottsford couple, at least for a few months.

I became semi-obsessed with watching the Duggars when they had all their specials on Discovery Health. I have to admit, the whole organization (which, with 17 kids - 1 on the way - is how you'd have to classify their family) is fascinating. But as interesting as this massive family is, it's also a little disturbing. When does all this breeding become irresponsible? Sure, they apparently can afford to have all these kids, but at what cost to the children? How much attention can two parents give 18 kids? And to that end, if you are so compelled to have so many children, why add a few adopted kids into the mix?

I really shouldn't feed the beast and watch their shows, but it's like a train wreck. I can't stop. Help me!


Great Food Friday: Breakfast!

I have a couple recipes this week - one is below in an earlier post. Freezer oatmeal. It sounds weird but I stole the idea from Trader Joes and it sure beats instant oatmeal!

My second offering this week is French Toast Casserole. It's a
Paula Deen so you know it is by no stretch of the imagination healthy. But its a great treat, I like to make it for company, or for a holiday morning. You assemble it the night before so you can just pop it in the oven in the morning. It's always a hit, and reminds me of a big bread pudding for breakfast, all custardy and warm. Yum!

French Toast Casserole

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

I usually serve this with sausage, because if you're going to be bad, you should be really BAD!


June Cleaver I Am Not.

Not too sure how I should feel about being a TOTAL FAILURE at being a 1930's wife. Probably pretty good!

Some of my favorite questions:
Often comments on husband's strength and masculinity - CAN'T. STOP. LAUGHING. Not that Brian isn't strong and masculine, but dude, SERIOUSLY. Dude.
Wears pajamas while cooking - how about 'wears pajamas while doing EVERYTHING.'
Wears soiled or ragged dresses and aprons around the house - Dresses? Aprons? what are those? Ok, I do wear aprons from time to time.


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!


Bad Jeans

As a child I spent several summers with my Grandma, Step-Grandpa (they have since divorced), and my cousin Amber - who is almost exactly one year older than me - in a remote cabin on Lake Couer d'Alene in Idaho. Amber and I used to have colossal fights (we've since outgrown our animosity) and I spent a lot of time being moody and sullen. One summer when I was about seven, my S.G. sat me down to talk to me about my moodiness - he, being manic-depressive, was an expert on the subject.
He sat me down to talk about depression. I don't know if he actually thought a seven-year-old could fully comprehend the concept.
The 'talk' started out with, " I was born with some bad genes." And that's all I really remember. Why? Because my seven-year-old brain was stuck on the fact he was born with JEANS. And bad ones at that - obviously not cool acid washed, pleated jeans - tight rolled, please. Yes, I was a child in the 80's. Shut up. I'm sure the speech was very heartfelt but I'll never know for sure. I got hung up on the jeans.
Where I'm going with this is that my mom and I were having a talk about traits - what I inherited from her, from my dad, other family members. We talked about how we both are pessimistic - or as we like to call it 'realistic'. It made me think about what I want to pass on to George; not that I can control these things, just a mental wish list.
I want him to have: my motivation, my love of reading, my hair (but not the premature gray). I hope he bypasses: my metabolism, my 'realistic' outlook on life, my self-doubt.
I made the mistake of saying to Brian that I hope George doesn't get his allergies, among other things. Unfortunately Brian misunderstood me for not wanting George to turn out like him - which was not my meaning. What I want is for the kid to get the best of both of us - I think that's a common wish for most parents.
Good jeans, I got 'em. Bad ones, hopefully they stay buried in the bottom of the closet!


I Miss the Good Old Cheese Graters.

I heard about this on the radio today(the joy of an hour long commute - talk radio) ...people sticking their feet in a tub with a bunch of tiny carp that EAT THE DEAD SKIN OFF THEIR FEET. I want to know what possessed someone to hatch this gem of an idea.
Then I remembered hearing something about a bird poop facial. They charge $200 for this sh*t. Pun intended.
I totally need to rethink my career choices...I've got a back yard full of dog crap....there's got to be something I can doo (ha ha) with that.


Mommy Wars?! WTF? (F Stands for Fudge Now That I'm a Mom)

Two weeks ago I had never even heard of this term. Now I see it popping up everywhere. From what I gather through my blog hopping is that it is the tension between mothers who work in the home versus mothers who work outside of the home.
The first thing that really caught my eye and got my goat was this book called
The Happy Housewife by Darla Shrine - this quote is pulled from her book and from Andrea's post on her blog-
That is why so many women stay in their careers, because they just can’t cut it. You have to be strong, confident, and selfless to give up your career, give up your identity, give up a piece of yourself—all for your family’s best interest.
Pretty inflammatory if you ask me. I mean, this quote really, REALLY bothered me. To the point I really stewed over it. Then, reading around on other's posts on the subject, I started to get angry.
What it really boils down to, for me at least, is that I would love to stay home with my child. We are just not in a financial position for this to be an option right now. And it's not about me being selfish and wanting to have an extravagant lifestyle - it's about us paying our mortgage on our modest home. So I suppose I get a little defensive when I'm informed I'm making a choice to work outside of the home .
Eventually I'd love to be at home with my children and my hope is one day that will be an option. I can't say that I'm not envious of women who get the choice. I admire the fantastic job many are doing with their kids. That said, I also think there are some women whose children would be better off in daycare...that's another post entirely!
So this whole 'mommy wars' thing - what's the deal!? If we are doing the best we can to raise healthy, intelligent, loving children, I don't see the argument or the need for the condescending comments (again, back to this Darla Shrine person). Teaching your children to be respectful and open-minded is the aim here - and I think the 'mommy-wars' battle is missing the boat. I found this the other day. Its by a work at home mom and I love her for writing it. Thank you, and thank you to all you work at home moms who are doing their thing and not being judgmental over what the rest of us have to or choose to do.


Great Food Friday - Zucchini

I love zucchini! I plan to make baby food out of it in the next few weeks for George - but that's another post. We'll see how he likes it!

I have two recipes this week: the first one is very basic but a super quick and easy way to work zucchini into your dinner as a side dish.

Sauteed Zucchini

Zucchini (as much as you like), about 1 centimeter slices
Onion (as much or as little as you like), thinly sliced - I like Walla Walla Sweets
Olive oil, a few times around the pan
1 T butter
Sea Salt

Heat the olive oil and add the butter to melt. When sizzling, add the onion and zucchini. Saute to desired consistency (I like mine a little firm). Sprinkle to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. You can also add other veg into this, like peppers, yellow squash, mushrooms. Also, instead of sauteing, you can pack it all up in foil and throw it on the grill.

The second recipe is a little more (but not much more) complicated. It's a healthy recipe, but also has CHEESE. Cheese is GOOD! These are great as is or dipped in marinara (this one is from Ellie Krieger):

Zucchini Crisps

Cooking spray
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (3/4-ounce)
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and a few turns of pepper. Dip each round into the Parmesan mixture, coating it evenly on both sides, pressing the coating on to stick, and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the zucchini rounds until browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove with spatula. Serve immediately.

Per Serving:
(serving size, 1/2 cup) Calories 105; Total Fat 6g (Sat Fat 2g, Mono Fat 2g, Poly Fat 0g); Protein 5g; Carb 8.5g; Fiber 1.5g; Cholesterol 1mg; Sodium 222mg Excellent Source of: Molybdenum, Vitamin C Good Source of: Calcium, Manganese, Vitamin B6, Protein



At the end of last month, one of my cousins gave birth to a baby boy. She named him Axel William. We all thought it was a cool coincidence that my mom, her twin sister, and their older brother all became grandparents for the first time within 6 months of each other.
The back story here is that my cousin, who is quite a few years older than me, has had a pretty major drug problem for years. It is very sad - she was a very bright teenager and had a lot of things going for her. Of course, there may and probably were things going on in the background that I had no clue about (isn't that always the case). She worked at the hospital and was eventually fired (and convicted) for stealing a prescription pad. So we definitely know she had a problem with prescription narcotics. I also remember a family holiday when she kept going in and out of the bathroom - with her husband at the time - mellow going in and crazily energetic coming out - dilated pupils, the works. Looking back, that was pretty obviously cocaine.
Back to Axel. When we found out my cousin was pregnant back in April or so, we were a little wary...had she cleaned up? Would the baby be okay? Everyone was hoping for the best, for both their sakes.
He was born on June 28, and everything appeared to be fine. But it wasn't. About a week after he was born, his parents took him to the pediatrician. He wouldn't stop crying. I guess the pediatrician freaked out (as they should have) and called CPS. Little Axel was going through withdrawals.
He is still in the hospital. What we know is that my cousin was trying to clean up during her pregnancy and was given methadone (which I think is for coming off of heroin). She was supposed to wean off of it in the last months of her pregnancy, but didn't. So Axel was born addicted to methadone.
I don't know much about addicted babies, but am learning. Axel is hyper-sensitive and cannot be held. He can only be fed by one or two people and it must be completely quiet - no distractions - or he will refuse to eat. The nurse says that if all goes well, he will possibly be normal by 18 months.
On July 25 we are supposed to have a family intervention. I have talked to another cousin and we are wary of what this is supposed to accomplish. Will she be angry at us for interfering as neither of us have had contact with her for years (we have been instructed not to have contact as she apparently was stealing from family members to support her addiction)? I have committed to go, though I'm terrified. I can't even think about this poor little baby without getting upset. My reaction right now is just sadness, but I'm worried it will turn to anger once we are face to face.
The best case scenario right now is that my uncle and step-aunt get Axel and my cousin goes to rehab and then a halfway house. The worst case is that he ends up in state care. That is almost too much to bear.
I'm really struggling with this, probably more so since I've recently become a mother. This child has such a tough road ahead. I want so much for him to be healthy, and I also want my cousin to be able to have a happy, sober life with her child and experience the joy of being a mother.
If anyone has any good resources on any of these subjects - addiction, addicted infants, interventions - I'd love to hear about it.

Well, there really isn't much to tell. Last I heard, the whole 'intervention' thing has been bagged. I'm not sure the reason, though I have a feeling it may be that she's just not ready - meaning she's not hit rock bottom. Anyhow, I'm trying to find out more about little Axel, and of course my family is not sharing info...why can't we be open and honest - how else are we going to help this little guy? I guess he is still in the hospital, but unfortunately that's all I know. I hope six months from now I can write an update that George, my cousin Jason's daughter Alli and Axel all spent Christmas Eve pestering each other. All for now, H.


Great Food Friday: Mexican Inspired

Mexican food is always a hit in this house. I wouldn't say authentic Mexican, but lets say we pretty much have taco night every week.
This week's recipe is a two-fer. First off, the best guacamole I've ever made. It's a Tyler Florence recipe and it's AMAZING. I love the piquant taste of the lime with the richness of the avacado and the smokiness of the cumin.


4 ripe avocados
1 lime, juiced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 vine-ripe tomato, diced
1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Halve and pit the avocados; scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving them still a bit chunky. Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together to gently mix.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn't brown and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Secondly, my mother-in-law's "Taco Dip." It may not be the most sophisticated dish and we're definitely using the term "mexican food" loosely here, but I promise, this is the first thing devoured from the table whenever it appears. I've taken a few liberties with it, but it's essentially the same thing they've had at family gatherings for years.

Taco Dip

1 16 oz can refried beans
1 16 oz tub of sour cream (I usually use light sour cream, you can't really tell)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup salsa or pico de gallo (commercially made works fine, use your favorite)
shredded cheddar or mexican blend shredded cheese
guacamole (use recipe above or your favorite)
sliced olives
chopped green onions
diced tomatoes
chopped cilantro

In a bowl, mix the sour cream and taco seasoning. Set aside. Spread the beans in a shallow dish. Next, spread the guacamole over the beans, then the salsa/pico/ then the sour cream mixture. Top with the shredded cheese (as much as you like, but at least enough to cover) and the olives, onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Cover and refridgerate for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips.


The Diet Starts Tomorrow. Seriously.

Actually, I've been doing pretty well on the diet thing. Thanks for asking.
I baked a lot over the weekend but managed to share/dump it off on others. On Saturday I made a lemon blueberry poundcake and it was fantastic! Here's the recipe. It is by no stretch of the imagination good for you! It has three sticks of butter though, so you know it tastes heavenly!

For the cake

1/3 cup milk
6 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
2 /3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly grated lemon zest
3 cups picked over blueberries, tossed with 1 1/2 tablespoons flour

For the Syrup
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Make the cake: In a small bowl whisk together the milk, the eggs, and the vanilla. Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, and the zest until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the flour mixture alternately with the egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating the batter after each addition until it is just combined, and fold in 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. Spoon one third of the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (3-quart) bundt pan, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining blueberries over it. Spoon half the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining blueberries over it. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it evenly, sprinkle the remaining blueberries over it, and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it is golden and a tester comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, poke the top immediately all over with a wooden skewer, and brush it with half the syrup. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, invert it onto the rack, and poke it all over with the skewer. Brush the cake with the remaining syrup.

Make the syrup while the cake is baking:
In a small saucepan combine the lemon juice and the sugar, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and remove the pan from the heat.

Tonight's the Night...

We are going to try to get baby to sleep in his bed by himself tonight. This also means I will not be breastfeeding him to sleep. Things may get hairy. If there is any advice to be doled on out this subject, please, do tell. And Benedryl does not count.


Great Food Friday: Bread

My friend Andrea is starting a Friday recipe swap...this week's theme is bread. I'm actually stealing Rachel's recipe...we used to make this one all the time when we were doing Weight Watchers (er, yeah, I need to start that up again). I believe this is from Cooking Light. These muffins freeze well, I put them in individual baggies in the freezer for a good grab-n- go breakfast. I know the ingredient list is long, but these are well worth it. Yummy!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups oat bran
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup flaxseed
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
1 thin-skinned orange, unpeeled and quartered

Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and the next 8 ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in carrot, apple, and raisins.

Combine milk, oil, vanilla, egg whites, and orange in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add milk mixture; stir just until moist.

Spoon 3 tablespoons batter into each of 28 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake in batches at 375° for 20 minutes or until muffins are browned and spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove the muffins from pans immediately, and place on a wire rack.


28 muffins (serving size: 1 muffin)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 114(22% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.3g,mono 1.3g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 3.5g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 61mg; SODIUM 188mg; FIBER 3g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 22.6g