Summary Sunday: Three New Recipe Hits of the Week

Summary Sunday

 

This week, quite unintentionally (as in, I didn’t plan a new recipe cooking series), Muffin’s family tried out two new recipes.  Well…we tried out one-and-a-half, actually.

As you can tell from Monday, we have A LOT of pulled pork in our house.  As delicious as sammies with coleslaw and soft buns (toasted) are…the delightful novelty fades after 10 or so.  So, in an effort to find a way to use more of the leftovers up, I came across a recipe for…Pot Roast and Cheesy Ranch Grits from A Sprinkle of This and That.

I have a huge confession that challenges my southern-ness to the core.  When I was younger (until I was a grown adult and teaching), I could not stand grits.  Could.  Not.  Stand.  As in, I would gag around a throatful.  My earliest memory of grits is stopping at a restaurant between New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana (where my grandmother lived).  I must have been two or three.  My mom ordered grits (probably against her better judgment and with the caveat “You’re not going to like them.”) for me.

(I’m sorry for those of you who are eating while reading this in advance.)  I upchucked my first (and only) mouthful of the plate.

In general, I am not a picky eater (other than chili mac, raw potatoes, hard boiled eggs by themselves, kale jerky, and hockey puck slow cooker orange chicken).  Most picky-ness that I qualify for as a picky eater come under the category of texture, rather than taste.  Broccoli florets.  (I love the stalks.)  Grits.

Now, I love cornbread.  Adore it.

But plain, instant, just barely boiled long enough grits?  I’m sitting at my laptop shuddering even now.

When I first became a teacher, my principal cooked for the teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.  (I won’t step on my soapbox now about Teacher Appreciation Week; I’ll save that for a particularly scathing Thoughtful Thursday post.)  To me, that was about the most thoughtful thing possible…a gift of food…prepared by one’s own (or loved one’s) hands.  (After all…don’t take away my Southern card just yet.  Love=food and food=love.)

One year, he made grits.  Because of my aforementioned gag-worthy (and gagging) aversion to grits, is it any wonder that I reached my mid-twenties full of trepidation about trying the dish?  On one hand, I hated (and feared) grits.  I had the phobia covered on both ends.  On the other, my principal was a fabulous cook.  And I hated to offend him by not eating it.

I tasted…a soft creamy (not gritty) heaven, the grits swelled to nearly gelatinous bubbles of yummy-ness.  I may have cried in pleasure…or blacked out.  However, I do remember hounding him for information about how he prepared the grits.

He baked them, probably more of a braise, thus softening up the (previously gritty) bits of ground grain.

Yup.  I was in luuuuuuv.

I began trying shrimp and grits and grits and grillades whenever I had the chance at restaurants.  I experimented with cheesy grits, devoured grits doused in Southern gravy, and dreamed of other ways to prepare them.

Josh, newly planted in the South, does not share my newfound lust for grits.  Considering it took my 25 plus years to be okay with grits, I find that perfectly understandable.

So, it was with some trepidation that I added my variation of the pot roast with cheesy ranch grits recipe to the menu.  Cheesy ranch grits topped ever-so-flagrantly with root beer pulled pork.

Yup.  I totally went there.

The grits…especially if you let them sit at low for 20 or so minutes after they finish cooking…achieve that same gelatinous texture (swelled with liquidy chicken broth almost to the popping point) as those long-ago oven-baked grits.  The consistency is almost that of polenta…at the very least it is a very scoopable (and capable of holding its shape) grits dish.  No creamy ooze here.

I’m only going to include the recipe for the cheesy ranch grits below.  If you wish to see the recipe in its entirety, please click the link above.

Cheesy Ranch Grits

(adapted from A Sprinkle of This and That)

3 cups chicken broth (I ended up using two cans…a bit more than three cups because the mixture became VERY thick)

1 1/2 cups quick (white) grits

1 packet ranch dressing mix (If you remember the green potato catastrophe, trust me when I tell you this:  Buy Hidden Valley brand to avoid green grits.)

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Boil three cups of chicken broth in a large pot.  Slowly stir in the grits.  Continue stirring, fairly regularly, for five minutes, over medium-low heat.  At five minutes, the mixture will be VERY thick.  Add a bit more broth until you are able to stir the mixture comfortably.  Stir in the ranch packet and the cheese.  Continue stirring until cheese is melted.  Reduce heat to low.  Allow to sit for 20 or so minutes on low to allow the broth to swell the grits until soft.  Tasting the grits immediately after the cheese melts and tasting them 20 minutes later is a completely different mouth feel experience.

(I found this out by accident because the grits came together so quickly, and Josh was a bit late coming home because he kindly stopped by Brookshire’s for me.)

When ready to eat, spoon (and spread) the desired amount of grits on the plate.  Top with slow cooked meat and juices (in my case pulled pork).

Enjoy converting the skeptics!

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One thing I’m looking forward to is changing the seasoning and cheese.  I have a feeling that Parmesan with a tweak of herbs would turn this into a great mock risotto.

The second recipe was one that seemed very classy, very unlike anything I would make…Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  The recipe was a planned leftover use of her Lemon Garlic Chicken, so of course, I had to (sort of) make it, too.

Let’s go into the major changes I made first.  Instead of marinating and grilling the chicken (forgot to put it in the marinade and Josh was working–so grilling was out), I poached the chicken in the marinating liquid plus a bit more water.  Then, I used Penne Rigate rather than rigatoni.  Penne was nineteen cents a package at Kroger, so penne won.  And, since I used a package of penne, I had to decrease the amounts of the ingredients that the pasta boiled in (because I purchased a 12 ounce bag).

So, here’s what I did:

Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Poaching Liquid:

juice of one large lemon

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 cups water

Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot (large enough for the poaching liquid and a pound of chicken breasts, cut into manageable strips).  Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, add chicken, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Check for doneness periodically.  Mine finished in 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool before shredding into bite-sized pieces.

While waiting for the chicken to cool, prepare the pasta.

Pasta:

4 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 4 1/2 cups water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

12 ounces penne rigate

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

While waiting for the chicken to cool, bring the broth, garlic powder, and black pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven.  When in boils, stir in the pasta and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking, until all liquid is absorbed (15-25 minutes).

Sauce:

Shredded chicken (see above recipe)

1 1/2 cups half-n-half or whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Stir remaining ingredients into the cooked pasta.  Cook, stirring often over low heat, for five minutes or until the butter melts.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes before stirring.

We served this with asparagus roasted in a 375 degree oven (tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and lemon zest, and drizzled with a bit of red wine vinegar) 15 minutes or so until slightly wilted and softened.

IMG_0731 The third recipe, also from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, is Korean Beef and Rice.  This one was an all-around winner.  My mom and a coworker asked for the recipe.  Muffin LOVED this one.  I loved this one; it reminded me of some boiled chicken wings (trust me, they were good) that my great-aunt Gene (my mom’s mom’s sister) used to make with sherry and ginger.

What I like about this one is the ease of preparation.  I prepped it on Monday ostensibly for Wednesday but was able to talk myself in to eating it on Tuesday (when I couldn’t find the grits or ranch dressing powder I had purchased).  Muffin and I tasted it, and I had to use all the willpower I had not to inhale the entire pan.  The preparation took, at most, 15 minutes, as long as it takes to brown meat, whisk together and pour in a sauce, and simmer it for a bit.

This one is definitely a repeater.

I didn’t change the recipe up too much, only to add in a bit of sesame seeds as a garnish on top with the green onions.  I sliced my green onion fairly thinly.  (I do apologize for the incompleteness of my picture.  I had already taken a few bites when I remembered to snap a shot.)

Here’s what I did:

1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used 12 ounces ground turkey and 12 ounces ground beef.  I am looking forward to seeing what ground pork does to the mix.)

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dark brown sugar (It’s what I had)

1/2 cup soy sauce (I used full-sodium and compensated accordingly)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon sesame oil (an absolute love of mine!)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (The author also recommends 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.)

3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

sesame seeds

hot cooked rice

Brown the meat with the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mush and mash up the meat so it is in fine crumbles.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drain excess grease.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Stir the sauce into the meat mixture.  Simmer over medium heat for five minutes, stirring to fully “sauce” the meat.

Serve over hot cooked rice, garnished on top with green onion slices and sesame seeds.

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This recipe (and the other two) were Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

What new recipes did you try successfully this week?

Summary Sunday: 100 Followers and Counting! (And Date Night)

Summary Sunday

Wow!  It’s been an explosive week!  At the end of the work day Friday, that is all I could say.  There was, of course, the exploding potato last Saturday (although I guess that counts as a last week sorta thing…although it sure was a portent of things to come).

I knew that it was going to be a long week.  I had two days jam packed with after work meetings.  Monday morning began with a bang, literally, though…my carpool buddy’s back passenger tire hit something (thus the “bang”) and went flat.  I realize now that my education has been sadly lacking.  I literally have NO IDEA how to fix a flat…or put the doughnut tire on.

Tuesday was the first meeting afternoon followed by Wednesday.  I feel on those days as if I barely have the time or the energy to give to Muffin that he needs from me.  Only his snuggles sustained me (and the fact that supper was pretty much prepared each day).

Thursday I felt more like Muffin’s mama; I felt that I was on the end-of-the-week slide into sanity.  And then Friday resulted in an explosion in one of my classes.

All in all, very explosive.

Saturday I got in some much-needed family time, including even a semi-successful DATE NIGHT (the first of the year).  After two false and non-starts, we caught up on some of our shows that had downloaded and made Bounty truffles (that’s what I’m going to call them because they wouldn’t dip well as bars).

I think it was after the craziness of the week that I noticed in my e-mail that I now have 100 followers!  Yay to all my wonderful readers who put up with my random musings about food, motherhood, and randomness!  Thank you for putting up with me!

How did your week go?  Hopefully, it was not as explosive as mine!

Summary Sunday: Sinusitis…Population: Me!

Summary Sunday

This week began with a bad cold (from exposure to the elements at the playground at the Brookshire’s museum last Saturday) that developed into a full-blown sinus infection.  I apologize for my brevity, but a lot of this week passed in a blur of sneezes, coughs, and d-accented words (doze instead of nose).

On Sunday, we relaxed and made Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars.

On Monday, I returned back to work.  Josh and Muffin relaxed around the house a bit.

On Tuesday, Josh made a huge pot of spaghetti for supper (and for us to have leftovers in our lunches).  I began working on finalizing again (hahaha…expect to hear this a lot) the menu for when we have company in June.  I’m now on version 3.0, but then I found a lot of recipes on Recipe Goldmine early yesterday morning, so all bets are off.

On Wednesday, I picked Muffin up, and he and I spent most of the evening snuggling.  And on Thursday, as well.  On Friday, we had to do the grocery shopping for the week in case the threat of winter weather actually happened Friday night.  (It didn’t.)

Saturday started out pretty lazy.  I didn’t sleep much Friday night (on account of full-blown sinusitis), so Muffin and I lazed around the bed the first half of the day.  I organized my list of things to do a few times.  Then, we got ready to go to Sam’s to meet Josh and my parents.

And…since I neglected my to-do list all day, we came to my to do list with a vengeance.  Or…I guess I should say exploding force.  I started out baking potatoes for a dish I am trying out this week.  After they were all done, I took them one by one out of the oven with a pot holder.  I put a little pressure on each.  The first one…done.  The second one gave an audible poof and exploded…all over my chest…all over the oven door…and on the floor.  Yes…I had poked holes in the potatoes.  Three on each side, as a matter of fact.  This is my cautionary tale.  Never test potatoes for doneness by pressing on them slightly.  Do the “fork tender” test.  Because exploded potato…is not fun.  Thankfully, that was after Muffin and Daisy went to bed because my heart stops a bit to think of one of them in potato shrapnel range.

So…the week ended with a bang…or a poof, rather!

How did your week go?

Summary Sunday: New Year’s Week

Summary Sunday

 

This week began as hectically as the last few.  We were nearing the home stretch, holiday-wise, but we were in full party-prep mode.

Daisy celebrated her birthday (The diva princess turned 4!) on Monday with a hot dog of her very own.  She also got to share “her boy’s” bedtime snack of a clemmie (clementine orange) and marshmallows (She loves both, but marshmallows are her absolute favorite!).  Monday also marked the second day of scary bleeding from Muffin when he reopened his wound from scraping the underside of his left food and one of his little toes against the bed frame.  This time Josh was home when it happened.  At the time, I was proving that attempting to make macarons for the first time while under all of the stress of preparing the party just really…wasn’t…a…good…idea.  At all.

Tuesday was all about more party prep, but Muffin had to be the “laying” wounded and “seated” wounded because he was only allowed up to go to the bathroom in an attempt to keep his wound from opening up again.  The greatest accomplishment Tuesday?  Watching The Lego Movie six or so times…one after another.  Expect a Thoughtful Thursday post about it soon.  In the midst of the crazy, I decided to start planning menus for Josh’s mom’s trip down here.  Yes…I know.  She’s arriving at the end of June.  But it will make a fabu We Plan Wednesday post.

Wednesday was the New Year’s Eve fiesta.  For once, I didn’t go into full panic mode a few hours before.  I planned it out so that Wednesday was the “light” day…no heavy cleaning…no heavy cooking (other than Josh grilling the fajitas and making the Spanish rice).  Our guests began arriving at 6:15, and our last guest departed around 12:30.  I collapsed soon thereafter.  Josh lasted, playing the new “Zelda” game I got him for Christmas, until shortly after 1.  Muffin sacked out a few minutes before 12…again.

Thursday was New Year’s Day.  We were a bit sluggish starting out…having brunch of bacon, toast, eggs, and beans.  I informed the boys that we were eating two meals that day…brunch…and “lupper” at my mom’s around 2.  I think I had cooked enough the month of December.  At my mom’s, I made Hot Water Cornbread to accompany her pork loin with carrots and potatoes, peas (purple hull or black eye), and coleslaw.

Friday was a Muffin and Mama day.  Josh had to work, and it was my last “official” day off (not counting the weekend).  We spent much of the time snuggling, cuddling, and watching Disney Junior.  We also played his TMNT Trouble game that he received from his Ontario relatives.  I made a new soup that I will be posting tomorrow that was super yummy (and one that is on the prospective menu for when Josh’s mom and stepdad come here).

On Saturday, we took a bit of a road trip.  We went to Tyler on a fact-finding mission you will find more about on Wednesday.  We also went to the Brookshire’s wildlife museum and country store.  They have a playground, and Muffin had a great time, but all of the playground was wet on account of the very rainy thunderstorm our area was treated to.  After we arrived home, Josh and Muffin played Minecraft and put together LEGOs for a bit before we ate a late dinner.

Hot Water Cornbread

Source:  Cooking with K

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2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

2 cups oil (one that can withstand high heat…no olive oil here)

Heat enough oil in a skillet halfway up the side of the cast-iron skillet.  Mix together cornmeal and salt.  Add enough boiling water that the cornmeal comes together to spoon.  When oil is hot but not smoking, spoon cornmeal mixture in hands dipped in hot or warm water and place gently in the hot oil.  Fry each in hot oil, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about five minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

How was your week?

Summary Sunday: The Pahr-tee (The Joanne Fluke Blackberry Pie Murder House Party)

Summary Sunday

Okay.  I know.  I’ve been gone a bit.  I had a few scheduled end-of the month blog posts already written and in the outbox, but this past week has been strictly about THE PARTY.  In the end, counting myself, Josh (briefly on lunch break), and Muffin, we had eight attendees.  And a lot of fun.  However, my parties never really go on schedule (no matter how much planning goes into them).

My mom and aunt arrived at 12:30, just after I snapped these photos and before I finished making the scones.

These were the goody bags and also the “Create-Your-Own-Blackberry Pie Cooler” (nonalky) station. The recipe calls for blackberry puree or blackberry drink syrup (like Torani–I bought a jar of seedless blackberry preserves and made that into a syrup by microwaving it with water until smooth). Josh had squeezed lemon juice into a squeeze bottle. The recipe also calls for white cranberry juice (but I went to several grocery stores and couldn’t find any). I substituted white grape juice instead.

This was the dessert section of the table. I purchased a 97 cent tablecloth from Walmart as well as aquamarine plates and pink forks (trying to make it match the concept of the cover of the book as well as the spring colors of the Hershey’s kisses wrappers in the brie box). The bottom tier is the Pepperidge Farm Apricot Rasperry thumbprint cookies that were included in the prize pack surrounded by the Fresh Blackberry Cookies (from Blackberry Pie Murder). The middle tier has the Sublime Lime Bar Cookies (from Blackberry Pie Murder) and the Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies (from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder). I used spice containers and baking supplies to create the height of the tiers. The top tier is the Fudge Cupcakes (from Fudge Cupcake Murder). Also in this picture were the floral centerpiece as well as the Bingo prize bags (containing a baking-scented jar candle, cake batter chapstick, and a Hershey chocolate bar), the book sampler that came with the party pack, and the signed copy of Blackberry Pie Murder.

This was the “healthier” foods section of the tablescape. I had butter and homemade boursin (I’ll post my adaptation of the recipe below) for the crackers as well as the Cream Cheese and Herb Scones (from Blackberry Pie Murder) which I waited until guests started to arrive to bake. I also had ham and cheese slices for either the crackers or the scones. I included fruits and veggies for Muffin (and for one of my attendees that was supposed to start a diet that day). I had blueberries that were still in good shape from last week’s shopping trip and I purchased a veg tray and fruit tray from Brookshire’s yesterday morning. The veg tray had broccoli, grape tomatoes, celery, and carrots (as well as a cup of ranch dip). The fruit tray had honeydew and cantaloupe (muskmelon) as well as grapes (very very few) and pineapple. I had planned on doing red and green pepper strips and cucumber slices, but I ran out of time…literally.

This was what was included in the goody bags: French Vanilla Chai and Orange and Cinnamon Spice herbal teas (from the party pack), Hershey’s Kisses, a drink packet, the recipe card for the Blackberry Pie Cooler, a bookmark with the Blackberry Pie recipe, the sampler for Blackberry Pie Murder, a word search that I created based on the series using Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker, a copy of Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, a copy of the menu, a copy of the recipes that were made (except for the ones in the sampler and on the recipe card), and a mini stenographer’s notebook like a smaller version of the one the main character Hannah Swensen uses in the books.

My peep/bestie arrived shortly after one with one of her best coworker friends.  My best coworker friend arrived around 2.  It was a very relaxed, casual atmosphere.  Of course, I went into manic mode first thing that morning, something I always strive not to do that always ends up happening.

Um…we may have forgotten about the bingo and drink-making until it was time for people to leave.  It was fun to visit and talk about her works and where the recipes come from (especially the Fudge Cupcakes that I was so so so excited about getting to make)!  Muffin loved all the taste testing this week (although I probably shouldn’t have given him a cupcake as a bedtime snack).  It was almost chocolate-coma inducing.

It seemed as if the week passed in a blur of work and party preparations, especially the baking.  On Monday, I baked the Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies.  On Tuesday, I made the Boursin cheese and the Fresh Blackberry Cookies.  On Wednesday (after being ill–not contagious), I made the cupcake part of the cupcakes.  On Thursday, I made the frosting for the cupcakes and frosted them.  I also made the word search and the other printables.  On Friday (after working the basketball game…we won!  Go Lions!) I put together the goody bags.

Yesterday was the party, so I blitz cleaned in the morning (with Josh’s help), mixed up the scones, and placed them in mini muffin tins and regular size cupcake tins (two cookie scoops in a cupcake tin, one scoop in a mini muffin tin).  Then, I set up the tablescape in earnest.  Like a crazy person.

We have lots of leftovers.  They will probably be lunches/breakfasts throughout the week.  Muffin had the bag of fruit for his bedtime snack.  Josh took the bag of veggies with him this morning for a work snack.

Muffin’s behavior before and at the party?  Um…  We’ll just leave it at um.  Today’s behavior hasn’t gone so great either.  As I type this, I have him lying down for a nap (unsuccessfully).

Verdict on the House Party?  I think I will not sign up for one again, at least during the school year.  It was too much prep (for me, who adores Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series) in an attempt to do the party justice for during the school year (and having to navigate work and planning and prepping the party).  Or maybe I just made it more difficult than it had to be. (Those who know me can stop nodding at any time)

Here is the recipe for the Homemade Boursin Cheese (heavily adapted from Food.com):

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces butter, at room temperature (unsalted)
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Neufchatel)
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese ( I used grana padano grated with the MicroPlane)
  • 1  teaspoon dried dill weed, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil, dried and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon chives, dried and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground on a fairly coarse grind
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  1. Mix cheeses, butter and garlic using a hand mixer.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, folding in the herbs and spices until fully incorporated.
  3. Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld.
  4. To serve, bring to room temperature.

Serving suggestions:  on crackers, as a sandwich filling for tea sandwiches (maybe with cucumbers or watercress…although I’ve never tasted watercress), fill a hallowed out cucumber (with seeds removed) and slice into rounds, stuffed into a chicken breast and breaded and baked, as one of the main ingredients of the Cream Cheese and Herb Scones (I used 10 Tablespoons in the recipe).

This stuff is fantastic!

Did you host this (or another) House Party?  Let me know by dropping a line below.

Summary Sunday: LFam’s Exploits This Week

Summary SundaySunday:  Muffin slept late this morning (thank goodness)!  For breakfast, we had sausage, eggs, and toast.  Muffin had apple and grapes, as well.  Josh began smoking the ham, as it had been decided and thawed for lunch meat this week as well as dinner tonight.  Josh and Muffin took down the Christmas tree while I worked on blog posts for the week (and posted the recipe for chicken spaghetti and chicken noodle soup).  I played Juice Cubes, my newest addiction, and organized some things on my phone and computer.  Muffin went outside to keep Josh company while Josh was smoking the ham and building the fire pit.  It looks great!  (both the ham and the firepit)  Then, they went out front to play (translation:  tire Muffin out).  For lunch, we had leftovers (chicken tacos and leftovers from last night) as well as some truly frightening combination of Muffin’s.

After lunch, Muffin and I enjoyed the fight of nap time (which for Muffin meant a three-hour nap after the fight ended).  I worked some more on the blog while he napped.  After the nap, it was time to prepare for dinner.  I made Peppery Parmesan Biscuits (looking forward to the leftovers with Sister Syrup tomorrow), and Josh prepped the ham (he had sliced it during Muffin’s nap), sweet potatoes (canned), and English peas (canned).  While he was prepping dinner, Muffin and I snuggled in the recliner with Tracker, my stuffed TY basset hound from when I was younger that Muffin has now inherited.  Josh also grilled some chicken for the fried rice (as well as for other uses in the week to come) Tuesday.

My plate at dinner

After dinner, Josh cut up the pineapple, and Muffin ate most of it (Josh and I snagged a bite or two).  Then, Josh and Muffin went to play outside again while I caught up on more blogging.  Then, they played a Bubble Game on the Wii.  Something seems to be wrong with the Wii (maybe it got dirty).

Speaking of dirty, earlier in the day when Muffin and Josh were outside playing and building, Daisy decided to roll around in Muffin’s turtle pool.  She had to be hosed down.

After supper, Muffin took a bath while Josh and I set up and started grinding a pork loin.  Then, Muffin joined us for some grinding fun, family-style.

Monday:  Today was spent prepping the week’s meals (chicken fried rice and red beans and rice–as well as two loaves of artisan bread!) and snuggling and playing with Muffin.  We played a game of toss the balloon, where, according to Muffin, the loser wouldn’t get a badge but the winner would get badges.  We watched Thomas and Friends Blue Mountain Mystery five times…I counted.  He even built a track for me.

Red beans and rice is one of his favorite things I cook.  Muffin tends to like beans (red beans, refried beans) as well as meat.  However, he licked the butter off of the bread instead of eating the bread!

Tuesday:  Switch up of the meal plan.  Again, plans are meant to be flexible.  I decided to redo red beans and rice (piggybacking off of the success with Muffin eating so much of it last night), and he ate two bowls!  Josh is going to do the final prep work of the fried rice tomorrow.  (He does a better job with the fried rice than I do)  Muffin didn’t have a nap today, so that meant a bit of a struggle for the rest of the day and a test of my patience.  I read a post by Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom about patience and apologies in parenting, and it really hit the target today.  There are days when Muffin really tries my patience, and when he hasn’t had a nap (and I’ve been at school all day), those seem to be the most trying days.  We did a family movie viewing of Despicable Me 2, which we all love, this evening.

Wednesday:  Day three of eating red beans and rice.  Muffin fell asleep on the way home, and Josh was late getting home, so Josh and I decided we would just do leftovers again rather than make rice.  We will probably make the fried rice tomorrow night.  I worked some on the upcoming blog entries (including this one).

Muffin woke up during dinner and played with his trains for a bit (as well as the felt shapes and felt background I had made for the trip last summer).  Then, he took a bath.  I think he wanted to sleep with us because, after bedtime, he kept coming into our room.  He and Daisy must have sneaked into our room at some point last night because they are now cuddled up next to each other between Josh and me on the bed.

Thursday:  Muffin was a good boy for Granny and Granddaddy again today.  This is especially auspicious because it rained just about the time he was to get to go play outside in their backyard.  I’m very proud of him for his behavior today.  He was even good when I picked him up (something which almost never happens because he’s usually in “manic” nap time mode).  And then Josh got home.  And Muffin reverted to super-manic mode.  Josh was busy cooking supper (the fried rice rescheduled twice from Tuesday), and I was posting a blog post on tourtiere for Sunday.

Fried rice, for Muffin, was a bit of a struggle.  He did not like the fact that onions were in it.  So, Josh meticulously picked out the onion, and Muffin ate the rest.  Then, Muffin looked through the mail and found a fake car key that a local car company was using as part of a contest entry.  (Muffin likes keys.  He wanted to go try it on his Jeep to see if it worked)

Muffin’s infamous plate of fried rice.

After that, Muffin played trains while watching a Hot Wheels show on Netflix.

Friday:  The evening was a challenge to say the least.  We had planned to go to Rotolo’s, but Josh was late getting off, and there was a long wait.  In my antipathy about restaurants, I am becoming very impatient.  I can wait in lines at stores, but I don’t like having to wait for a table.  Having an active son tends to force the issue even more so.  After another false start at Santa Fe, we settled at Don Juanz, an old favorite of mine.

Saturday:  I awoke Saturday early and completed most of my shopping, returning home shortly after Muffin had awoken.  We then went to Brookshire’s and the library, and Muffin had a lot of fun.  We then went home.  Muffin saw the ducks in our neighborhood and wanted to feed them, so we decided to have a picnic at the playground and let him feed the ducks.  He had a blast, and the ducks are definitely not shy!  Then, we rested a bit before the parade.  Muffin fell asleep on the way home.

Summary Sunday: What the LFam Did for Valentine’s Week

Summary SundaySunday:  We made blueberry pancakes with the blueberries from Fresh.  I spent much of the day updating the blog, reading blog posts, researching a future Tip Tuesday about picky eaters, reading to Muffin, snuggling with Muffin, cooking Muffin’s lunch, cooking chicken spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and shredded chicken for tacos.  For lunch, I made Muffin a P lunch (all items were supposed to start with the letter P):  pizza, popcorn, pretties (fruit snacks–I was stumped, okay?), and pepperoni (actually some of the salami that we bought yesterday–and Muffin pointed out that it was salami).

I had something he wouldn’t eat (and Josh definitely wouldn’t):  some of the blue cheese crostini that I mentioned recently that my sister used to make.  I didn’t have red bell pepper, but I had tomato that I put with the green bell pepper and chunks of blue cheese.  P.S.  I found out that Muffin does not like blue cheese (like his dad).  I will post the recipe soon. I served it with a few shaved slices of the salami.  I may have eaten that entire plate.  (guilty shifting of eyes)

I laid down with Muffin for a nap after lunch (which was a struggle).  After sleeping for an hour or so (sometimes the best way to get Muffin to nap is to fall asleep yourself), I returned to the kitchen to work on my prep for meals this week.  Muffin came out while I was chopping carrots to add to the soup (impromptu surprise decision after boiling the noodles for the chicken spaghetti in the broth from the chicken and still scratching my head about Monday’s dinner since Saturday’s didn’t go as planned, and we were supposed to have Saturday’s leftovers on Monday).  I had pulled out an extra carrot knowing that if he woke up in time he would want some and he did.  In the midst of all of this, we did laundry.  After Josh got home, we ate dinner (chicken spaghetti, salad, baguette slices with special dipping blend, and grapes for Muffin) and then relaxed for a bit.

My plate.

Dipping oil: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly ground pepper, Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Seasoning

Thinly sliced baguette on the bias. This was the last of it, and Muffin loved it!

Muffin’s plate: after he devoured the grapes and two of the pieces of bread but before he had the broccoli added to his plate. He also had pieces of diced tomato.

I also made Josh’s lunch (ham and swiss sub sandwich with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato; bbq potato chips; a few small pieces of chocolate; broccoli and cauliflower pieces with ranch dressing to dip; an apple; and a granola bar) and my lunch (chicken spaghetti, a blood orange, a lollipop, a can of pop, and a fork).   Muffin took a bubble bath in my tub, brushed his teeth, and went to bed.

Monday:  Today threatened inclement weather.  Muffin fell asleep on the way home, so he missed the promised chicken noodle soup (with carrots, his fave!).  Josh and I ate the soup with cheese and crackers rather than sandwiches.  I worked on some work for the blog as well as some work for work.  I had brought home extra work for work because I figured that we would be out tomorrow because of bad weather (we were under winter weather advisory, after all).

Tuesday:  Well, the bad weather didn’t happen.  The students were actually pretty decent, though.  The weather that had been threatening for three weeks finally hit as we were getting out of school that day and continued the rest of the day (causing me to skid onto our street and then into the driveway).  We ate leftover chicken spaghetti and chicken noodle soup (Rene finally got to eat the soup, and he loved it).  This was actually a very “organic” meal in the sense that the planning was very fluid (we kept adding things)…grapes…chips…other stuff.  Shortly after arriving home, I found out school was canceled for tomorrow, so that was very much a plus.

Wednesday:  I awoke at 5:30 (thank you Muffin) on the day school was canceled.  I enjoyed most the fact that we were off today because I had planned tacos for today, so I could really focus on making a nifty taco seasoning based off of Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 recipe.  Josh hung out a bit this morning as the roads were icy and he was unable to leave the house for work.  He did some work on his van, did some online courses and training for work until the roads had melted a bit (and reopened).  Muffin played trains a lot and was very particular in requesting certain Thomas movies.  I went outside to record the ice for posterity and discovered that Angel had sneaked out while Josh was throwing things away in the trash can.

As you can see, she was a bit peeved at being left out in the cold and wet.

Yes, that is a real picture of the real Angel.  Gotta love her!  She spent some time mouse hunting in the garage.  After a bit, Muffin had gotten kinda cranky, so we both took a bit of a nap.  🙂

I spent much of the afternoon listening to the KPod on the KiddNation website.  Then, I cruised YouTube for a bit looking at old Kidd Kraddick in the Morning vids.  And sobbing.  His death is one of those that just seems so surreal, as if it couldn’t possibly happen.  You know, when you have a nightmare and wake up and a few days later you can’t remember if what you dreamed was a dream or reality (I’ve stopped for the most part asking the people involved in the dream if events actually happened.  I just kinda wait it out and see if they mention stuff.  Is that normal?).  And I cracked up laughing as I listened to J-Si’s segment on the show today discussing “The Reality of Parenting.” (July 12, 2014).  I was one of “those people,” and Muffin has pretty much cured me of it.  We are also oh-for-ten.  (You’ll understand if you listen to it)

While I was slicing and dicing for the toppings for tacos for supper, Muffin became the official sniffer and taster of olives.  Lately, he’s had a marked preference for black olives.  He “taste-tested” at least five black olives and four green olives.  We had chicken tacos, and just as Alton Brown makes the beef tacos, I diced up an onion and sauteed it before adding the chicken and then the seasoning.  (I will be posting the seasoning recipe in an upcoming post–my adaptation of it, at least.)  Taco seasoning is another thing (like the chicken spaghetti) that I can’t make the same way twice.

Thursday:  Muffin got in truh-bull this afternoon.  Mom and Dad said he had been good all day, but he had gotten into the dry erase markers shortly before I arrived there and had colored on the carpet and a blanket (that he folded to keep from anyone finding it).  Graffiti seems to be his M.O., and it’s the one thing that makes me see red (even when he’s used green…or yellow…or brown).  I’m stuck as to a solution.  I’ve even thought of canceling my plans for the evening (Josh and Muffin were going to have a “man’s night,” while I played bunco–something I’ve never done–with my besties from college) to try to make sure that he does behave.  I arrived home late but happy because I got to spend time with my two besties from college (whom I hardly ever get to see).

Answers to Corner Gas Trivia Questions:  1.1 1)  the Ruby 2) Lacey takes the hot dogs off the menu. 3) Jaws

1.2 1) in a cabinet in the garage 2) Marvin Dray (the tax man) tells her to write Karen and Davis’s coffee off as a business expense 3) television

1.3 1) they think he (Pilate) killed Jesus 2) they are told that they are wearing girls’ shirts 3) because Wanda already started a Pilates class (mat class)

1.4 1) Tanner rigged it so that a bird pooped on Hank and it looked a lot like squeeze mayo 2) die-cast metal cars 3) Lacey says that she likes it when men take care of kids

1.5 1) it was supposed to be Grad ’86 and it was one of Brent’s goals to do so 2) he stopped traffic near the tower 3) she held his legs so he could spray the paint

1.6 1) Fitzy’s grandma, Helen Jensen 2) headcheese 3) Quincy

1.7 1) bowling 2) lawyer 3) broken taillight

1.8 1) a watch 2) Stubby Heidelberg 3) Sheckle and Jekyl (and Hyde)

1.9 1) Lacey–insulting the size of Brent’s and Davis’s phones 2) to play with the claw machine 3) mistype of the question:  It should have read “What did Lacey find out caused the rats and what did she do about it?” answer:  the old barn–she had it declared a historical landmark

1.10 1) Life of Pi 2) the comic makes fun of Dog River and cheers Wullerton 3) Wullerton

1.11 1) Karen slept with Hank 2) Oscar 3) Brent

1.12 1) Xanadu 2) goalie 3) hammer

1.13 1) cow 2) bracelet 3) belt

Friday:  Today was Valentine’s Day, and, as the work day progressed, I struggled to keep on my “happy face” for the fun events ahead.  Friday was really not a good day at work, ’nuff said.  So, I arrived home with Muffin (more than) a bit grumpy.  He had received a new “Charlie” (by the Pioneer Woman about her basset hound Charlie) book, candy, and a card from Granny and Granddaddy.  Muffin loves the Charlie books, as he calls them.  This one was about Charlie starting a school for the other animals on the ranch.  Did I mention Muffin also didn’t have a nap and that we have another new front coming through?  Although today was beautiful and the mercury kissed 70 degrees, one has to remember Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday when ice was falling/on the ground.  Gotta love Louisiana weather!  So mix cranky and crabby Mama and no-nap Muffin with a front coming in (which my dad says is a lot of reason for some of his misbehavior) and you have a near apocalypse in the making.

It didn’t quite help that I wasn’t able to get the strawberries on Wednesday (the weather), wash them Wednesday evening, lay them out for Thursday morning, and dip Thursday night.  Josh had washed the strawberries Friday morning, and I gotten home on time with no time glitches, I might have had them dipped in chocolate for dessert with the pizzas tonight.  That didn’t happen.  Due to a circumstance that happened during the day at work, I was late leaving work.  Then, it was a struggle to get Muffin to leave Granny’s and Granddaddy’s.  Then, nothing went right from that moment on (or at least it seemed so…I’m sure you know how that happens).  All of my “perfect” Valentine’s Day plans started to slide into oblivion.

I know I should have prepared the cards and the gifts before yesterday afternoon.  Muffin had received a card (with Spongebob stickers…I hear my sister laughing hysterically as she reads this…yes, I’ve given up), a Spongebob marshmallow pop (You can stop laughing now, you know–although it was fun to watch Spongebob disappear into Muffin’s tummy), candy that I bought on clearance at CVS (Starburst, Hershey’s drops, Simply Caramel Milky Way, and Orbit gum), some of the candy bars (World’s Finest Chocolate) that we are selling as a fundraiser at school (I made a special order with one of my former students), his safety scissors, a glue stick, and an Octonauts toy.  (I got Josh some Canadian beer that I purchased at Fresh by Brookshires that he liked when he had tried some from Central Market and some of the same candies as Muffin, as well).  Josh got me flowers and an all-milk Whitman’s sampler assortment.  (This is in addition to the fire pit that we bought each other.  If you read about the date night where we called 911, I’m sure you realized what a necessity this is.)

After prepping the presents and cards, I figured that we would make dinner next because otherwise Muffin wouldn’t eat.  I had Josh mix up the biscuit dough using Jiffy biscuit mix while I prepped the presents.  Even using parchment and flouring the parchment and the surface, it stuck to the parchment so that it could not be used as pizza dough to cut out the heart-shaped pizzas.  So, there was another setback while Josh and Muffin went to Brookshire’s and bought canned pizza dough (which I detest, but I couldn’t think of another option to make heart-shaped pizza at this point).  While they were gone, I used my new canape cutter that Mom got me at Christmas to cut out heart-shaped pepperpronies (as Muffin says it) and ham slices to top the pizzas (so there would be red and pink on the pizzas), so the time wasn’t totally lost while they were gone.  I also discovered that, once they came home, canned pizza dough doesn’t reroll well and tears easily (and it really doesn’t respond well to a heart-shaped cookie cutter).  Some of the heart shapes looked kind of mutant-y.

While the pizzas were cooking, we decided to open the cards and gifts (BIG mistake).  Muffin wanted to eat his Spongebob pop right away, and wanted to cut and glue stuff right away.  That didn’t go so well because we refused to let him until after dinner.  The pizzas tasted okay, by the way.

Muffin trying to get the stickers from his card.

Instead of the strawberries for dessert, Josh and I had ice cream sundaes while Muffin had his Spongebob marshmallow pop (and announced the parts of Spongebob that he had eaten).  I should note that this pop was one of the few things he specifically requested for Valentine’s Day (the other being the scissors–safety, of course).  He kept remembering it and re-mentioning it.  I managed to buy the last one Wal-Mart had the other day.

Muffin and Josh made me a valentine so that I would feel better!

After dessert, Muffin took a bath, and Josh helped me dip the strawberries.  I’ve decided that I probably shouldn’t use Target Market Pantry chocolate chips for dipping the strawberries because they don’t work so well (I’m not sure they are completely real chocolate).  I think they are chocolate frosting hardened into chips because that’s what happened when they melted.  I decided to decorate some of them with red sprinkles.  I usually just straight-up dip them.  Halfway cost comparison:  2 pounds of strawberries ($4 at Albertson’s) and chocolate chips (milk chocolate, bought on sale for $2 and purchased at Target–never again–for just under $2), roughly $8 total.  There really isn’t that much labor involved.  By comparison, 6 strawberries at Kroger were $8, and at Albertson’s they were $10 for 6.  Yes, the Albertson’s ones were decorated, but still $10 for 6?  Even if you bought higher quality chocolate, you are looking at $9-$10 for the whole batch of 30-40 or so.  And, if you had purchased just one strawberry from Godiva (yes, I’ve indulged), each berry is $6-10.  I’ll let you contemplate that one for a minute.  And dipping strawberries is fun…messy, but fun.  And, I like the smaller strawberries because the chocolate coating tends to stay on the strawberry after a bite (with larger strawberries, the chocolate tends to come off).  I think it’s time for a recipe!

I don’t know who took a bite out of the one in the lower left-hand corner! 😉

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

(good for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, New Year’s, Guy Fawke’s Day, Canada Day, etc.)

(Really, it’s the universal-occasion dessert)

2 pounds strawberries (washed, dried thoroughly, and room temperature), preferably strawberries that are “red” all the way through

2 bags chocolate chips (milk, white, dark, or semi-sweet, whichever you prefer)–don’t skimp on high-quality chips here–I learned my lesson Friday night!

sprinkles or other decorations (or, if you want to get really fancy, different chocolate chips or candy melts, melted and placed in a plastic bag with one corner removed, for drizzling on the finished berries–I’ve never done this because I prefer mine au naturel) (optional)

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for one minute in a pyrex measuring cup.  Stir with a wooden skewer after one minute.  Heat in ten-second increments, stirring with a wooden skewer each time, until the mixture is melted (Do not overcook the chips!  Bad, lumpy things will happen).

Once the chocolate is melted, remove and reserve the skewer.  Fluff up the strawberry leaves, and hold by the leaves to dunk and dip the strawberry in the chocolate.  In the beginning when the level of chocolate is high, I use an up and down method.  Once the level of the chocolate drops, I tend to almost roll it in the chocolate on its side.  I try to cover about 3/4 of the berry so that some of the red is still visible.  Place on a parchment or wax-paper-lined sheet pan or lipped cookie sheet (small enough to fit in your refrigerator).  This recipe took a sheet pan and a lipped cookie sheet (both) to hold all of the berries.  Repeat.  Once one sheet is full, decorate the berries (totally optional), and place the pan in the fridge for the chocolate to set.  Repeat as needed.

Note:  It is very important to make sure that the berries are completely dry (and room temperature) before dipping.  Any moisture (whether water from washing them or condensation from them being cold in a room-temperature kitchen) will cause the chocolate to seize and get lumpy and grainy.  That is definitely not yummy.

After dipping and refrigerating the strawberries, Josh decided to have an impromptu date night by watching the second Bourne movie (Bourne Supremacy).  It helped to laugh at the big noses again (seriously, stop using the profile camera angle) as well as the indestructability (is that a word?) of a cab car.  Great movie, though.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of it.  And, watching it seemed to make the stress of the day fade away.

Saturday:  After Muffin woke us up this morning, I went shopping to Kroger and Wal-Mart.  I picked up a few post-Valentine’s freebies that I put to use (cupcake liners to line the egg carton I put the chocolate-covered strawberries in for Mom and Daddy), Valentine’s sprinkles (wish I had those last night when I was making the strawberries), another Spongebob marshmallow pop (for Muffin’s Easter basket), and plates for tonight.  When I returned home, we got ready to take the strawberries to Mom and Daddy (and Muffin had made them valentines!) and to go to Brookshire’s and the library.  At Brookshire’s Muffin again got his Customer-in-Training cart and helped us pick out apples and bananas.  Then, we went to the library where Muffin picked out the movie Planes and several other books.  I picked out a few cookbooks and cozy mysteries.  After we ate a lunch of mac-n-cheese-and-hot dogs and Muffin watched the movie, Muffin and I took a nap.

Then, came the preparation for date night.  Toward the end of Muffin’s nap, I set up the cheese and stuff tray on our wooden cutting board that our builder gave us at signing for building with them.  I still don’t know how I managed to get it all on the tray.  (Actually, I didn’t.  I had originally intended to include the strawberries and SweetTarts conversation hearts with it to decorate.  That so didn’t happen.

Read more about this in the date night recap!

This was more a Muffin-and-us date (so it’s a good thing that Josh had decided to do an impromptu date night.  Verdict:  We all ate until stuffed and drowsy.  Then, we sent Muffin to bed with his strawberries and tried to watch the movie.  I must have been drowsier than I thought because I didn’t last halfway through Bourne Ultimatum.  It was a good movie, but I was zonked!  Needless to say, I didn’t finish this post until just now because I was asleep! 😉

How did your week go?  Drop me a line below to let me know!

By the way, the cheese board and the strawberries were DEFINITELY Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved