Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ROOST: Why I'm Thankful for My Messy Life...

I have a bad habit of stressing out about the rooms I haven’t cleaned, the projects I haven’t started, and the clutter I can’t control. But I’m still thankful for all those things I stress about on a daily basis. In the spirit on Thanksgiving, here’s why I’m thankful for my messes:

I’m thankful for the heap of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, the footie pajamas piled up on the dry sink in the living room in lieu of real decorations, the baskets of hand-me-downs that I keep meaning to organize, and the lost socks collecting dust bunnies under my bed. It’s nice to know my kids and I have clothes to keep us warm.

I’m thankful for the frozen-veggie avalanche that falls out of the freezer every time I open it. It’s annoying, and some veggies hurt worse than other at the speed of gravity (eff you, frozen spinach blocks!), but it’s a lot easier than wondering where our next meal is coming from.

I’m thankful to have friends who don’t care if my house is cluttered and dusty with occasional spiders. Or I’m thankful to have friends who pretend not to care—either way, it’s appreciated.

I’m thankful that my to-do list is so freaking long that it takes up three Stickies on my desktop and gives me a minor panic attack every time I look at it. It means people are still hiring me to do things I love doing.

I’m thankful to have a husband who won’t nominate me for What Not to Wear, no matter how many times I beg him to, because he doesn’t think my situation is dire enough. That’s a pretty sweet compliment, especially on days when I’m still wearing pajama pants at 4 p.m.

I’m thankful that our walls have been gouged by Tonka trucks, our floors are sticky with juice, and our computer screens are covered in chocolate handprints. If my biggest worry is how to get Mr. Potato Head parts out of the VCR, I’m a lucky parent. I’m thankful that my kids are healthy enough to cause mayhem.

Life is good.
And last, I’m thankful that calories don’t count on Thanksgiving! Proven fact.

Happy Turkey Day! ☺

Monday, November 21, 2011

LIST: 7 Reasons I think this Video is B.S.

There's a decent chance you've already seen this video, since it's racked up a quarter-million views in the past four days. But I'm calling fraud on it. Watch it and see what you think:

Look, as the mom of two toddler boys, I've walked in on my share of messes. And it's because I've walked in on my share of messes that I can spot several red flags in this video:
  1. In real-toddler-world, all five pounds of flour would be in a big pile in the middle of the kitchen. Once a toddler discovers something that can be spilled, the world stands still until every last drop has been dumped on the floor. I've watched my one-year-old sit at the kitchen table and shake juice out of a leak-proof sippy cup for upwards of ten minutes. I've found him in a mountain of wipes, but I've never found a trail of wipes throughout the house. Toddlers tend to keep their messes confined to their current location, a.k.a. the location where mom currently isn't.
  2. I don't see two kids running with a bag of flour, period. A toddler with a five-pound bag of flour is like me with a 20-pound bag -- not gonna happen unless you're talking about this kid. There's flour on the couch -- that's over their heads. Could you hold a 20-pound bag of flour in one hand and casually toss flour over your head with another? On that note...
  3. What's with the weird spots of flour on the picture frame? I've spilled a lot of flour, and I can safely say that flour doesn't clump when it hits glass. Unless, say, you're a fame-hungry youtube mom going for maximum shock value, so you spritz a little water on the glass first. Just sayin'.
  4. The TV has a light dusting on the edge. Very thoughtful of her kids to leave the most expensive thing in the room relatively unscathed. My kids, in contrast, have a magnetic pull to the most valuable thing in the room, which is why they'll draw on my computer monitor with a Sharpie when there's a blank notebook right in front of them.
  5. When I notice my kids have been unusually quiet, I don't grab the video camera just in case they've decided to antique my living room furniture. 
  6. If I ever stepped out of the bathroom and saw a trail of flour in the hallway, I wouldn't mutter, "Oh...oh, boy." It'd be more like, "GET IN TIME OUT RIGHT NOW! HOW DID YOU EVEN FIND THE FLOUR?! IT'S ON THE TOP SHELF OF THE CABINET! HOW THE FREAK LONG WAS I IN THE BATHROOM? DO THEY EVEN MAKE A VACUUM THAT CAN FIX THIS?!?!?" But, I guess you can't just hand your boys a bag of flour, help them powder the room, and then yell at them -- that would confuse them. Just sayin' again.
  7. She disabled comments. Go figure.
So, what do you think -- real or fake?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

RECIPE: Slutty Brownies = the perfect storm of desserts!

I want to tell you about the best brownies in the whole wide world.

Brownies + Oreos + chocolate chip cookies = wheeeeee sugar WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

I think I have vertigo.

Disclaimer: This isn't my recipe. In fact, let me start by explaining how I create the recipes I post on here. I have no cooking skills, so I can't just "throw a few things together" in the kitchen because the outcome will usually be surprising in a really bad way. So instead, I start by Googling whatever I feel like eating ("mexican pork slow cooker") and then skim a bunch of recipes to find ingredients I recognize ("corn!"). There's usually a bit of follow-up Googling ("substitute for dill?" or "can you mix basil and cilantro?") and eventually, I come up with a list of ingredients that will, most likely, taste okay when put together. My husband gets the lucky job of lab-testing the meals ("Welcome home, honey, I put jelly in the meatloaf!") and then the ones that don't suck (in my final and overriding opinion) wind up on here.

When three or four days go by without a recipe, you should really feel bad for my husband. Send him a lasagna or something.

But when I stumbled across this recipe, I knew it was solid gold. I ran out to the store at 10:00 at night to get the ingredients. I didn't need to tweak, substitute, or simplify anything. So, I can't lay any claim to this recipe -- all I can do is bow down to The Londoner for sharing her stroke of culinary genius with the interwebs. I think she's my new girl crush, but that could just be the sugar high talking.

She calls them Slutty Brownies -- if that term makes you cringe, try to look past it, because these brownies will make you lose your moral compass.

Click here for the full recipe from The Londoner.

Short version: Line the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking pan with cookie dough batter (I used Betty Crocker bagged mix and added an extra Tbsp of water and an extra Tbsp of applesauce to the batter, like the recipe suggests). Then a layer of Oreos. Then pour brownie batter over that, and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It comes out looking like this:

Unbutton your pants because you're going to want to eat, like, five.

Friday, November 18, 2011

RECIPE: Pumpkin French Toast

I came across this recipe for pumpkin pie-inspired French toast on Babycenter and immediately made a beeline for the kitchen to try it. (So what if I'd just just finished breakfast ten minutes before that? There's always room for pumpkin!)

I had to substitute a couple of spices for the pumpkin pie spice, like the recipe suggested. And I left out the cloves, because I don't have them in stock either. I also had to substitute crappy wheat bread for the brioche, because what the heck is brioche? If you'd asked me two days ago, I would have guessed it was a cheese. Anyway, Stroehmann wheat worked fine. I prefer thin-sliced bread for French toast anyway -- less bread, more egg and sugar and yumminess.

You'll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 8 slices of bread (well...I cooked four and gave up)

Whisk everything but the bread together. Dip the bread in the goo, then drop it on a preheated skillet on medium (or medium-low-ish) heat and cook until golden. Then drizzle it with maple syrup and be glad it's fall, because fall really has the best foods of any season.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RECIPE: $3 "Sweetloaf" Meatloaf Recipe

Okay, who has $3 to spare and wants to settle a bet between me and my husband?

I thought this meatloaf was crazy delicious, and the fact that it took me less that five minutes to prep made it a big fat win. My husband's verdict was that it's "not Italian." Oh, I'm sorry, he just read the post and told me to change it to "not good." Anyway, I know I can't out-meatloaf my mother-in-law, but I still think this is a fantastic dinner. And fast. And did I mention cheap? And delicious?

Now, full disclosure, the ingredient list is going to require a leap of faith.

You'll need:
  • 1/8 cup yellow or brown mustard
  • 1/8 cup grape jelly
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb. ground turkey

It's an inexact science -- I just filled a 1/4-cup measuring cup with half mustard, half jelly. Then all you have to do is mash everything together, squish it into a loaf shape, rub some olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish, and plop it in there. Cover it and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

And then report back and tell me who's right :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

RECIPE: Bootleg Olive Garden San Remo Seafood Dip

Hubby and I used to eat at Olive Garden a few times a month, and I can sum up the reason in four words: San Remo Seafood Dip. Anyone remember that dip? It was the stuff that dreams were made of. It was my desert-island food. It was crabby, garlicky deliciousness. We didn't even need a menu when we went in -- we ordered the same thing every time.

And then one night, we ordered it, and the waiter came to our table with...spinach artichoke dip. Whoa whoa whoa, WTF!??! Don't get me wrong, I love spinach artichoke dip -- but I can make spinach artichoke dip at home. I couldn't recreate San Remo dip. I had tried. It cost me $18 in supplies and tasted like the airplane-food version of the dip.

"Excuse me," I said. "We ordered the San Remo dip."

"Oh," said the waiter. "That's not on the menu anymore."

I'm not sure why he thought spinach-artichoke dip was an adequate substitute for The Best Food in the Whole Wide World -- and such an adequate substitute that he didn't even need to notify me -- but whatever. I couldn't worry about his crappy waiting (waitering?) skills, because I was too busy wrapping my head around the fact that I'd never eat San Remo dip again

That was 10 years ago. I'm still not over it. So the other day, I went on a search for a copycat recipe. And unlike the crap-stew version I found last time, this recipe actually looked like it might do the trick. I tweaked it a little but....IT WORKED!!! And the stars and planets realigned, and now I can drive past Olive Garden without the usual cursing and fist-shaking. 

Oh San Remo, I have missed you so!

  • 1 can shrimp
  • 1 can white crab
  • 2 oz cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Papa Joe's salt
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. horseradish
  • 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup grated romano, asiago, or parmesan
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup marinara

Heat olive oil and flour in 2-qt. saucepan. Add the liquids from the canned seafood, the cream cheese, salt, garlic, and horseradish. Stir until smooth. If it looks like hot vomit, that means you're doing it right!

Add romano and seafood. Stir until heated. Add half and half. Simmer 10-15 minutes. The texture will start to improve, and it will actually begin to look and smell like something you might willingly put in your mouth.

Rub olive oil on a casserole dish. Pour the marinara in the bottom. Pour the mixture on top, and top with 1/4 cup of romano. By now, it will look yummy and smell like MAGIC!

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. I was so excited that I sat in front of the oven and watched it cook, but that's not a necessary step unless you, too, have been suffering withdrawal since 2002-ish. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Yum.

So, have you ever had a favorite dish taken off the menu? While we're on the subject, I'm also a little sore with Applebees for 86ing their french dip sandwich. And if Dunkin Donuts ever takes away the butternut donut, there will be mutiny.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

RECIPE: Elvis PB-Chocolate-Banana Bread

I don't have a thing for Elvis or anything. I just impulse-bought some almond flour at Trader Joe's, and needed a reason to use it. For some reason, the second I set foot inside a Trader Joe's, I lose my ability to evaluate my needs. I'm like, "What's tapenade? Looks like something I need. What do you use polenta for? Whatever, it's $2.99." Full disclosure, I just had to go to the kitchen and double-check the tube of polenta to make sure that's what it was called. But I bought it, and now we have it.

Anyway, I based this on a recipe for peanut butter blondies. I substituted some ingredients, threw it in a pan, and figured I'd see what came out. The verdict: Bread! It's the consistency of a banana bread or pumpkin bread.

It's also the perfect thing to make when you find yourself stuck with a banana that looks like this.


You'll need:
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
one mashed overripe banana
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used the Nestle minis)

Combine everything in one bowl using a hand mixer.

Grease an 8x8 pan. (For greasing, I like to use a sandwich bag as a glove and grease with Country Crock.)

Pour the batter into the pan and cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Let them cool in the pan, then slice and serve.

When I told my husband what I made, he said, "Why'd you do that?" Um, because it's delicious? But after I forced him to eat one, he ate two more and then demanded that I take the rest to our neighbors before he polished off the pan. They're that good.

P.S. You can sub regular flour for the almond flour and regular peanut butter for the almond butter. Again, I'm usually working with whatever random stuff I was tricked into buying by Trader Joe's black magic. Also, my husband suggests substituting peanut butter chips for the chocolate, or just leaving it chipless.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

RECIPE: Chicken with Cucumber Salsa

I'm still recovering from the epic moussaka adventure, so as a sort of kitchen detox, I'm following up with the easiest recipe ever. Seriously. THIS IS SO EASY. And it's a great way to use up random leftover veggies.

Yum, right?

The cucumber salsa recipe comes from my friend Erika, the blogger behind Honey I Shrunk My Butt.

The chicken recipe is my own creation. If you can call it that. I mean, my two-year-old could probably come up with this if I left him alone in the kitchen for five minutes. (Okay, that's not true. If I left him alone in the kitchen for five minutes, he'd most likely eat a whole box of Triscuits and dump out every piece of paper in the recycling bin.)

You'll need:

  • boneless chicken
  • a cup of salsa (any kind)
  • half a cucumber
  • half a red pepper
  • 1/4 of a red onion
  • some corn
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning blend

Put a pound of chicken in a crock pot with half a jar of salsa. (I used Newman's Own pineapple salsa, but any salsa is fine. I'm thinking salsa verde would be phenomenal.) Cook on high for 2-3 hours. That's it.

Dice the cucumber. Dice the red pepper. Dice the onion. (Shout-out to the Pampered Chef Food Chopper, by the way. It seriously might be my favorite kitchen tool. And my kids think it's a toy, so I can actually persuade them to help me cook!) I used about half a bag of Steamfresh corn. Mix it all together in a bowl with the cilantro and seasoning blend.

When the chicken's done, put it on a plate and dump the salsa on top, or wrap everything up in a flour tortilla. That's it. Super-healthy, beyond easy, and the cucumber is a refreshing twist on pico de gallo. This is totally getting added to regular rotation at our house.