(Trying to) Have a Nice Dinner

candleA friend of mine made a bunch of these cool candle holders from “sparkling-cider” bottles for a ladies’ lunch with an Italian food theme.

After the lunch was over, she said they were up for grabs, so I took a pair.

I think they are very beautiful, reminiscent of red-checked-tableclothed restaurants and violin trios playing.

I thought of Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti with meatballs as I set the table for dinner. This looks romantic, I thought.

My family did not agree.

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“What’s this?!” said Boo suspiciously. 

“Are we pretending to be fancy?” asked Little Boy.

Little Girl exclaimed, “They look like there is throw-up on them!”

And my husband’s mental associations were a little different from mine. They reminded him of an old shack he’d found in the woods as a kid, one that local hoodlums were using a drug den.

Not exactly romantic…. but I tried!

Operator Error

Yesterday I made dinner in the crockpot before going out for the day. It’s nice to have that chore all done, I said to myself.

When I came home, I expected the stew to be percolating cheerfully on the counter, its many flavors mingling into the savory mix my family enjoyed eating. 

But when I sniffed the air, I could smell nothing. Oh no! Something was wrong.

With trepidation I approached the kitchen. The crockpot was right where I left it, on the kitchen counter, stone cold.

Apparently, IT HAD NEVER BEEN SWITCHED ON. I hate it when I do things like that.

crockpot

 

Also, the knob fell off again. So maybe it wasn’t all my fault.

And maybe it’s time for a new crockpot…

Don’t Mess With My Dinner

image from papajohns.com
image from papajohns.com

I ordered a pizza one day last week with a “plan-ahead” order.

I know what you’re thinking: Me? Plan ahead? That’s crazy talk! But on this occasion I did.

Amazing, huh?

But I digress…

The pizza was supposed to be delivered at 5:30. By about five p.m. I was getting hungry, and at 5:30 I was looking out the screen door every five minutes to see if the pizza guy had arrived yet.

At 5:45 I looked out and saw the Papa John’s delivery car parked on the street. “Yes!” I thought. “Finally!”

Then I saw the delivery guy walking BACK to his car from my next-door neighbor’s house. With an EMPTY insulated delivery bag!

“Oh no,” I thought. “Oh no no no no no. The neighbors STOLE my PIZZA! And I’m flipping STARVING!!”

I thought about how I’d have to point out to the delivery guy his mistake, and how he’d have to go all the way BACK down to the Papa John’s store and get me a new pizza. Which would take FOREVER. (Did I mention I was hungry?)

Then I thought about the neighbors eating MY pizza. Grrrr. I envisioned walking next door and confronting them, ripping my six-cheese-thin-crust right out of their greasy little hands. 

And then… Oh joy of joys!!… The guy took a new, FULL, insulated delivery bag from the back of his car. He waved cheerily at me, fortunately unable to see my glowering face through the screen door.

I hopped out there as quick as a rabbit with my new, happy, I’m-getting-to-eat-finally face on. Yay for dinner!

The neighbors are lucky they didn’t steal my pizza.

You mess with my food, I will cut you.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Baked Shrimp Scampi
foodnetwork.com

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe I made last week. Delicious!

Of course, my version was slightly less pretty. And I took out some of the complications.

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Here’s the recipe, with my modifications in (Notes):

Baked Shrimp Scampi

  • 2 pounds shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. (Note: I took the tails off. I don’t like shrimp shells in my food.)

Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined. (Note: I don’t have all of this stuff. I used minced garlic from the jar and then replaced the other spices with a seafood seasoning blend. I used plain old bread crumbs instead of panko. The egg yolk I used as directed.)

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. (Note: This makes it look fancy. Since I cut the tails off I couldn’t do this, but I’ll trade fancy-looking for shell-free food.)

Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. 

ENJOY!!

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Macaroni and Cheese

macncheese

I saw a new way to make mac and cheese on pinterest.

The difference is: You cook the noodles in the milk instead of water. 

I know, right? CRAZY. But it was really good.

It was super creamy, but did not use any butter or cream. There was only skim milk and cheddar cheese.

Now, I haven’t done the calorie math on this, but it’s got to be healthier than regular mac and cheese. (Especially when paired with frozen broccoli, as above. Bravo to me! Ha ha.)

The only drawback was that it required more standing and stirring than I usually prefer. (I’m lazy like that.) In my experience, it took longer than the 25 minutes on low for the milk to thicken; I think it was more like 35 minutes.

Still, this was some good pasta.

Revolutionary Mac & Cheese
Source: Cate’s World Kitchen  adapted from White on Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried pasta
  • 2 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup loosely packed cheddar cheese, shredded by hand
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard, can omit and substitute nutmeg instead
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.

Turn heat off, add cheese & salt & and stir to combine.  Stir in the mustard or nutmeg & cayenne a little at a time, to taste. Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir.

If you would like to bake it at this point, place in a baking dish and top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until cheese has melted.

A Valentine’s Dinner Conversation

WAIT

My husband and I went out to dinner last weekend. Like everyone else on earth, apparently.

I thought if we went the day AFTER Valentine’s we would miss the crowd, so we waited until Saturday night. There was over an hour wait for a table, so I guess the crowd was still there.

Here’s a sample of the conversation we had while waiting:

  • Me: This is SO boring.
  • Him: Yeah. What time is it?
  • Me: Like one minute after I last checked the time.
  • Him: Oh.
  • Me: You want to talk about something?
  • Him: Sure.
  • (long pause)
  • Me: So go ahead then.
  • Him; I was waiting for you to start.
  • (long pause)
  • Me: I should have looked up those interview questions.
  • Him: What?
  • Me: At my ladies’ group last week, the chaplain came and told us how we could strengthen our relationships with our husbands by interviewing each other.
  • Him: You want me to interview you?
  • Me: Well, yeah. But I forgot to look up the questions.
  • Him: That’s okay. I do interviews all the time at work.
  • Me: You mean with your patients? (Note: He’s a psychiatrist.)
  • Him: Yeah. You want me to interview you?
  • Me: Oh…kay…
  • Him: (putting on a serious doctor-y face) So, what brings you in here today?
  • Me: In here? In this restaurant?
  • Him: Yes.
  • Me: Well, I’m pretty hungry.
  • Him: Hmmm. And how long has hunger been a problem for you?
  • Me: Um, a few hours now, I guess.
  • Him: I see. And have you had this problem before in the past?
  • Me: Uh, yes.
  • Him: How often does the problem recur?
  • Me: Pretty much every day.
  • Him. Interesting. So how do you usually deal with this problem?
  • Me: Usually? I eat something.
  • Him: Ah. And how does that work out for you, usually?
  • Me: When I eat something?
  • Him: Yes. What does that coping strategy generally do for your hunger problem?
  • Me: Um. Generally I’m not hungry anymore after eating.
  • Him: I see. Very interesting.
  • Me: Right.
  • Him: But you say the problem returns again soon after?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Him: Every day?
  • Me: Sometimes several times a day.
  • Him: Ah. So this is a chronic condition for you.
  • Me: Yes.
  • Him. Hmm. So what about your family history?
  • Me: My family?
  • Him: Yes. Has hunger been a problem in your family? Historically?
  • Me: Well, yeah. I’d say everyone in my family has suffered from hunger at some point.
  • Him: I see. So it’s quite pervasive.
  • Me: Yes.
  • Him: Well, I have some ideas about what this could be.
  • Me: Really?
  • Him: But I think I’ll have to order some labs first.

You can tell he’s a doctor….

Mayonnaise Chicken

I just had a little argument with spell-check over how many “n’s” are in mayonnaise. Also over how many “e’s” are in argument.

(The answers are 2 and 1, respectively.) But I digress…

The REAL Housewives of Riverton: Parmesan Mayonnaise Chicken Recipe

My point was, I made baked chicken with mayo.

The above image is from “The Real Housewives of Riverton.” Isn’t it pretty?

My chicken was decidedly less attractive.

Photo_FCB29873-014C-5F9D-9997-7F2926398B5B

Still, it got two thumbs up from the kids and the husband, so I recommend the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 chicken breast halves
  • 4 Tbsp Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  1. Combine the mayo and cheese in a bowl.
  2. Arrange chicken on a baking sheet.
  3. Top with mayo mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake 20 minutes at 425.

Seriously, it was that easy!

Seven-Up Biscuits

Recipe for easy 7-up Biscuits

I’ve been seeing this recipe on pinterest and facebook for a while and I thought I’d try it.

It came out really well. Of course, with a stick of melted butter in the mix, how can you go wrong?

Photo_0FCA444D-9508-E11C-3CF1-D8C3AEFC7D28

The only note I’d add is, when is says “dough will be very soft”? It means, the “dough will be a big sticky mess.”

I could not cut it into neat circles; I just dropped globs into the pan.

Still, it was good.

By the way,  you can add shredded cheese and garlic and get something similar to Red Lobster cheese biscuits.

Yummy!!

Spaghetti Squash in the Crockpot

I’ve been seeing this on pinterest and wondered if it would really work:

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in a Slow Cooker
image from healingandeating.com

To be honest, it looks bogus. Just put the whole thing in the crockpot with some water for a couple of hours? That’s it?

But I hate slicing a giant raw squash (It hurts my weak American arms) so I tried it.

Surprise! It worked!

After 2 1/2 hours on high it sliced open quite easily and was all cooked inside. Amazing!

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All I had to do was take out the seeds and then use a fork to get the spaghetti squash scraped out for eating.

Then I went back to pinterest to get a recipe I pinned earlier for “Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin.”

I ran into one of the problems I’ve found more than once on pinterest. I call it Pretty Picture That Leads Nowhere.

If you love Potatoes au Gratin but hate what it does to your waistline, then I have the recipe for you! The Spaghetti Squash au Gratin is simply delectable and healthy! | dandy dishes
If you love Potatoes au Gratin but hate what it does to your waistline, then I have the recipe for you! The Spaghetti Squash au Gratin is simply delectable and healthy! | dandy dishes

You get this lovely image of food marked with glowing recommendations by “other pinners,” and when you try to go to the source and get the recipe…

IT’S NOT THERE!!

There’s no recipe. This food does not really exist.

But I was determined. I searched diligently for the real recipe. I would not rest until I’d found it!

(By which I mean, I Googled “Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin” and clicked on the results.)

It was tough… but I found the recipe!!

(Click here to view it if you’re interested.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean I actually followed said recipe. Here’s what I made:

Photo_9E8F46C3-E8DC-3444-ABCB-4059FA544556

  • Half a cooked spaghetti squash
  • half a stick of butter
  • some dried onions
  • a little red pepper
  • a cup of sour cream
  • a cup of shredded cheese

Toss the spaghetti squash strings into a baking dish.

Cut up the butter and put it in while the squash is still hot so it will melt. Then mix in the sour cream and sprinkle the onion and pepper on it, mixing that in as well. Throw the cheese on top.

Cook it at 350 until it’s done. (Maybe 15-20 minutes)

Then feed it to your family with pride.

Because there’s nothing like a healthy vegetable… smothered in butter and cheese.

Why I Cook

I saw this advertisement that suggested all kinds of pretty-pretty reasons why a person would cook.

Photo_A27E9F94-8012-7847-6218-1912DDEEEE81

  • To feed my creativity
  • To show love
  • Because my kitchen is my sanctuary
  • To feel like an artist
  • In order to promote world peace

Okay, I’m joking about the last one.

None of these are true for me.

Why do I cook?

So my kids won’t starve.

The end.