Get In My Belly!

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What a difference 4 months can make!  Documenting your progress with pictures is so important, even if you are the only one that ever sees them.  You might not notice any changes over the course of a month, which might lead to discouragement or a sense of failure and disappointment.  However, when you put a picture side by side, a month apart, you might just amaze yourself!

I’m so very late with this post, I meant to post last Tuesday…but life.  Better late than never though…right? We started homeschooling my 11 year old son 2 weeks ago, and I’m still trying to figure out both our schedules, but that’s a blog post for another time.  In my blog post, Believing Is Achieving, I disclosed that one of my major goals for 2017 was to plan and prep meals more consistently and eat out less.  So far so good, but the year is young.  One of the products I purchased for myself that has been a game changer in our household – meal prep containers.

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Seriously, these cost me $20 for a pack of 20 and they have been working awesome for us.  My husband can pre-pack his lunches with either leftovers or I prep some meat and veggies for the week.  It makes it so much easier to grab something healthy for lunch or snack and resist the temptation to eat out because I’m too tired or busy to cook/make something.  I ordered mine thru Amazon, but I’m sure you could find them anywhere.  I prefer the 3 way containers, but they also come in 2.

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I can’t stress this enough.  If you remember nothing else that I ever say, remember these 2 things:

  1. Throw out your scale!  DO IT!
  2. EAT EAT EAT – stop dieting

I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m upset, bored, lonely, happy, angry, etc… You get the picture.  I shared with my nutritionist that I don’t actually remember the last time I was truly HUNGRY.  Dieting just made me feel deprived and angry.  Angry at what I perceived to be my failings.  Anger that I couldn’t be the kind of person to eat whatever I wanted, never exercise and stay magically thin and fit.  Anger led to binge eating, losing control and hating myself.  A vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to break.  One of the key things my nutritionist and therapist taught me was that food isn’t inherently good or bad.  It’s a mantra I live by now.

FOOD ISN’T INHERENTLY GOOD OR BAD

It’s about choices.  Some foods are better for you.  They have better benefits.  I feel better when I eat them.  Sometimes you just need that slice of cake or that piece of pie or bowl of ice cream.  My life is now a series of choices.  I know that an apple is better for me than a ding dong.  I know I need to fuel my body.  Once I changed my mindset, and food wasn’t a series of things I wasn’t ALLOWED to eat, my eating habits improved.  Improving my eating habits, filling my plate with nutritiously dense foods, fueled my body in ways that I could FEEL.  I found myself with more energy, both physical and mental.  My moods improved.  I wasn’t constantly filled with self-loathing.  I didn’t feel like a failure when I reached for the mega-stuffed Oreo.  I enjoyed the heck out of that Oreo, but I stopped at 1, instead of eating 6 or more.  I started to learn to love myself.  It’s a process, one in which I’m still evolving.  I’ve found new confidence and joy in my body and what it can do now that it couldn’t do before at almost 300 pounds.

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I’m willing to put myself out there and be vulnerable in sharing my journey.  If even one person understands that they are not alone, that I understand how they feel and that I am here to inspire, motivate or just love them through it, then putting myself out here – the good, the bad and the ugly – will have all been worth it.  My goal is health.  Healthy looks different on everyone, and I think that is beautiful.  I think YOU are beautiful.  I don’t have a goal weight.  I just have goals.  Society doesn’t dictate what beautiful means to me, I define it for myself and I embrace every scar, every stretch mark, every fabulous flaw because it’s the roadmap in my journey, in my beautiful life.

So what do I eat?

Snacks

A big part of my daily nutrition comes in the form of Shakeology by Beachbody.  I usually drink one as my afternoon snack.  The long hours between lunch and dinner are my most vulnerable.  If I’m going to reach for the Oreo or bag of Doritos, it’s during the interminable mid-afternoon.  I prefer the chocolate flavor.  It curbs my cravings, gives me a boost of energy to finish the day strong and fills me up till dinner.

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I also enjoy fruit, granola and trail mix for my snacking pleasure.  I’m a creature of habit, so I’ll typically have the same breakfast, lunch and snacks every day for weeks until I get bored, then I change things up.

BREAKFAST

This is an easy one, because I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.

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And coffee.

Lots and lots of coffee.

And eggs.  I love eggs.

I vary what I put in my omelets, but I love me some eggs for breakfast.  I always add spinach, I’m not a huge vegetable lover, so I get them in however and whenever I can.  I might add turkey sausage or diced ham.  I’ll throw in some peppers and onions, a little cheese, different kinds every week.  Sometimes I add an avocado or fruit on the side.

And yes I eat the whole egg.  Yolk and all.

Lunch

Part of my meal prep for the week is grilling some chicken for easy go-to lunch choices during the week.

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A recent favorite of mine is the turkey, avocado and red pepper roll up!  So good!  And no I’m not anti-bread.  I LOVE bread.  It’s important to meet my protein goals every day, and that’s harder to do if I fill up on carbs, as lovely as they are and as much as I love them.

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Another lunch favorite is the quesadilla.  I eat this one quite a bit, it’s easy and I love a hot lunch.  I’ll add grilled chicken, spinach and peppers/onions to a whole wheat tortilla, sometimes throwing in some cheese or avocado.  The quesadilla is great because it’s a versatile choice, there are so many directions and iterations you could try to shake things up if you get bored easily with food.

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DINNER WINNER OF THE WEEK

First, I will share my list of favorite websites that I use religiously for recipes/ideas when I’m not using Pinterest.  Pinterest is pretty much my one-stop shop, but these websites are beautiful and have deliciously wonderful recipes.

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Our favorite dinner last week came from How Sweet It Is.  It wasn’t too difficult to make, I did throw in some cheats and I was able to prep most of it ahead of time to reduce actual cooking time.  It was a hit with the family, even the man-child, and he’s impossible to please these days.  It tasted even better reheated the next day.  I can’t wait to make it again!

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I mean seriously, how good does this look?  And I’m usually a Pinterest fail, so when my food (or project) comes out actually looking very similar to the fancy picture, I’m super stoked! Even admiring how pretty it looked, I was still afraid to taste it.  I would have curled in the fetal position, crying for days, if it hadn’t tasted as good as it looked.  Luckily, it did!  Here is the actual recipe.  I didn’t grill corn on the cob and shave it off, that’s too much work for me.  I just bought the Del Monte Fire Roasted Corn (yes, in the can).  I made the bacon ahead of time, crumbled it up and stored for later use.  I also kept the grease in a bowl and reheated it for cooking per the instructions.

A small serving of this tasty dish filled me up, but not in that uncomfortable food baby belly wear elastic pants kinda way.  I love it when a recipe comes together from kitchen to table like this one did for me.  It’s just the best feeling, especially when you aren’t the best cook in the world, like myself.

Anyway, I hope some or all of my suggestions work for you and your family.  Meal prepping really does help control poor eating habits and choices, not to mention all the money we’ve been saving not eating out.  It takes a bit of organization, planning and prepping but it’s so very worth it.  Try it!

It’s a game-changer, I promise ❤

Just Keep Cooking…

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My second objective in 2016:

FOOD 

Specifically, eating healthier, cooking more and eating out less, trying new things.  I know I sound like millions of other New Year hopefuls.  I’ve certainly made this pledge/resolution many times before, with little or no success.  My surgery last year was a game changer for me, but the second half of my weight loss journey is going to be harder than the first half, I know this and I’m prepared.  I’ve already made so many positive changes, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an emotional eater.  Eating is hardly ever about hunger for me.  I wish I was the kind of person that could go out to eat and order from the “skinny” menu, but I’m not.  I wish I was the type of person that could bypass the chocolate and pick up the apple instead, but I’m not.  Now, I might dip the apple in chocolate…does that count?  What if it’s dark chocolate?  Mmm chocolate covered strawberries or those Dove dark chocolates with sea salt and caramel or ice cream topped with chocolate fudge magic shell…  The point is I love food.  I love eating.  However, I do not love cooking.

Digging back through my archives, I found these two little gems, which I think accurately depict my love/hate relationship with cooking.

http://mybrainonkids.net/2012/09/03/french-cooking-with-a-redneck-twist/

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

I want to love it, I truly do.  I want my avocados to look like this on my plate after I slice them:

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Instead, they look like this:

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I mean seriously.  I post my food pics to Instagram with the hashtag “foodporn”, but honestly it’s a horror show, and I should probably use the hashtag “myfoodpicsmakeyouwanttonevereatagain”.  Also, I suck at hashtags.

One of my objectives for this year is to try new foods.  I’m infamously picky.  For some people, trying new foods may sound exotic or exciting, but I’m over here like “hey, I’ve never eaten a Mango.”

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Alaskan Cod with Jasmine Rice and mango-ginger-mint salsa

Also, my foods are always from the same color family.  But hey!  Now I’ve had mango.  I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry mango.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I overcooked the fish too.  I didn’t have an exact recipe for this, and apparently not all fish cooks the same, and I can’t just wing it.  I need specific, detailed cooking instructions complete with pics.  Even then, it’s touch and go.  The odds are never in my favor.

I’m also an extremely lazy cook.  I look for recipes that have the least number of steps, which is why I love my crockpot or recipes where I can use cheats.  It’s been really cold here the last week or so, a good time for soup.  I wanted something a little heartier than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  Those who can’t…Pin.  I could waste spend a whole day Pinteresting.  This recipe was easy, very few steps and I could use my favorite cheats.

Cheat #1: Onions and Celery

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They sell them already chopped and diced!  Granted much more expensive than buying a small onion and 2 celery stalks and chopping it myself, but I save like 5 minutes or more and a finger!  FIVE MINUTES!  Do you know how much Bill Gates earns in 5 minutes?  $34,200!!!  Give or take.  He makes about $114 per second.  I mean, I don’t make Bill Gates money obviously, but that’s not the point.  FIVE MINUTES SAVED!  And a finger.

Cheat #2: Garlic

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You can buy it already minced or chopped!  I assume that 1 clove minced is equal to 1 teaspoon, I’ve never actually measured it out and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.  Ignorance is indeed bliss.  The recipe called for 2 cloves, minced, so 2 teaspoons it is!

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This recipe was great because it said that I needed to sauté the onions and celery (and carrots, but I don’t like carrots so…) for 7 minutes.  I literally set my timer for 7 minutes.  Also, I recently learned that this pot (that I call the spaghetti sauce pot) is also known as a “dutch oven.”  I used to use a skillet when the recipe called for a dutch oven, because I didn’t know I had one.  I thought a dutch oven would look more like a toaster oven, except more…dutch?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t exaggerating my lack of kitchen prowess.  I received a cookbook as a wedding present.  It was titled “How To Boil An Egg.”  I was offended until I realized…wait, how do you boil an egg?  I still have to google it, I can never remember for how long (you can also buy eggs already hard-boiled in the grocery store fyi).  You are all probably feeling pretty sorry for my husband and kids about now.  They could tell you some cooking horror stories to be sure.

Anyway, then you add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Again, I set the timer.  Add 1/3 cup flour, cook for another minute (with timer).  It suggested I sprinkle the flour over the mixture gradually…who’s got time for that?  I just dumped it in.  Well, I did stir while I was dumping it in.  It’s now time to add the broth, 8 cups worth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  I hate the range.  Honestly, just pick one.  Is it 10 or is it 15 minutes?  Sigh.  I usually just split the difference.

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Cheat #3

The recipe calls for “3 cups cooked shredded chicken”.

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If I won’t even dice up an onion then I’m certainly not going to cook and shred a chicken.  Lucky for me, I didn’t need to do it!  I find this in the frozen section, and it’s great for soups, salads, crock pot recipes, etc…

At this point all remaining ingredients are added:

2 cups of uncooked egg noodles

12 oz of Evaporated Skim Milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano and ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Voila!

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It was quite tasty.

So, this year the goal is to cook at least 4-5 nights per week.  We eat leftovers 1-2 nights per week, which still leaves us 1 day to splurge and go out.  Quite a big change from a year ago when we were eating out 4-5 nights per week.  I’ve been really good about cooking at home since my surgery.  My portion size is still very small, so eating out at most places is a waste of money unless I can split with someone or order an appetizer as my main dish.

In the spirit of trying new things, I will be attempting to cook different types of cuisine throughout the year.  Here is my list:

  1. Thai Cuisine
  2. Lebanese Cuisine
  3. Spanish Cuisine
  4. German Cuisine
  5. Korean Cuisine
  6. South African Cuisine
  7. Caribbean Cuisine
  8. Greek Cuisine
  9. Filipino Cuisine
  10. Indian Cuisine
  11. Indonesian Cuisine
  12. Brazilian Cuisine

Don’t worry husband, I have all our favorite delivery restaurants on speed dial.  Is speed dial even a thing anymore?  I’ll be posting my failures and successes (lol).  Trying new things and making healthy choices will continue to be challenging for me, but I think I’m up for it, plus I have all of you to keep me accountable!

Please feel free to share your favorite recipe from the above listed cuisines or cheats/lifehacks for cooking, or you can just come over and cook for me 😀  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+.  The icons are on the side or bottom, depending on what device you are using.  You can also e-mail me @ mybrainonkids4@gmail.com or leave a comment!

Have a great week ❤

Oh, A Pinteresting We Go-Go

I’ve been trying to organize my Pinterest boards lately, because I can’t find anything.  I have vague recollections of pinning good stuff about chicken or pork or brownies, but when I look at my boards, all I see are 1,300 pins of potential failure and disappointment.  I can’t remember which ones I’ve tried and failed.  It’s easy to remember which ones I’ve replicated successfully because the answer is zero.  One of my friends suggested that I create a board of attempted pins so I can clear out the epic failures.

The only reason I keep pinning is because my kids hate it when I attempt to cook, and making their lives miserable is one of the bonuses of parenting.  Plus, I am sick and tired of cooking the same crap over and over and over again.  Pinterest recipes come with pretty pictures of divine culinary delights.  I yearn to break out of my cooking rut, at least until I try, and then remember that I hate cooking and I am spectacularly bad at it.  I’m terrible at following instructions.  I skim instead of read recipes and inevitably end up missing some crucial step in the process.

So it is with dread and fear that I walk into the heart of my nemesis…the kitchen.  The first thing I notice is that the dishwasher is duct taped shut which means the dishwasher has been run and not emptied which means a sink full of dirty dishes, not exactly conducive to the whole cooking experience.  The question is can I ignore the mess and fix dinner, or do I delay the nightmare by confronting the other nightmare that is my kitchen sink?  My husband will tell you that I am a hoarder in training.  This may or may not be true, but one thing I will admit freely…I have a pretty high tolerance when it comes to filth and clutter.

IMG_0978IMG_0979Sorry for the blurriness but I thought to preserve the gag reflex of my reader by not publishing the gory details with vivid clarity.  I’m pretty sure that was dried tomato soup, but maybe it’s vomit…I don’t know.  Right now you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are never inviting me to a potluck.  It’s okay.  I hate potlucks.

I’ve decided to make Stuffed Shells for dinner.  The pinner of this recipe swears it’s easy peasy and yummylicious.  We shall see.  If anyone can screw it up, it will be me.  When it comes to cooking, nothing is dummy proof.

We start with 1 lb of ground beef.  I really hate touching raw meat.  I tried to be a vegetarian (even a vegan) for a while, but apparently, I don’t hate touching meat bad enough.  I missed my meat.  Just not touching it.

IMG_0975Of course, I spend a few moments making fun of the packaging promises.  Not only is this meat “natural” but it’s been vegetarian fed.  I mean, I’m happy my cow has been fed no additional hormones and no preservatives have been added to my beef, the last thing I want is for man-child to get man boobs.  Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t cows herbivores?  So claiming my cow was vegetarian fed is redundant, right?  These questions are rhetorical, please don’t corrupt my carnivorous nature with horror stories of animal cruelty and vile feeding practices.  I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals”, as I mentioned above, I was a vegan for about 6 months.  I’m also a quitter, and I grew up with those “Where’s the Beef?” commercials.  Once I’m done reading the packaging and wishing I had gone into Marketing, I dump it into a pan.

IMG_0976My dog smells bloody red meat, and throws herself at my feet in what I can only interpret to mean she is literally starving and will die if I don’t feed her this raw and delicious beef.  I know some people believe in feeding dogs these raw, natural diets, but my dog gets kibble.  It’s expensive kibble, but kibble nonetheless.  Our dog likes to let us know, frequently, what complete failures we are as doggy parents, little does she know, We’ve plenty of experience with human children, so we are immune to her cries and pleas.

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Still…I have to admit this is pretty pitiful, so I get her a treat.  Well played dog…well played.

So, I push the meat around with a spatula and eventually it looks like this:

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Are you looking at my dirty stove top burners and silently judging me?  Well, don’t expect an invite to dinner anytime soon then!

I drain the meat, and place it back in the skillet/pan or whatever you call it and put it on the back-burner for now.  Now, I fill up the BIG pot with water, which I never measure, just fill up about half-way and hope for the best, and set to boil.

IMG_0980Yes, that is two cans of Pam you see back there.  We like to open new stuff before the old stuff is completely finished.  It’s how we roll.  The other stuff is just there so it looks like I’m a master chef.  Pretty sure most of it has crystallized at this point.  Actually, I really shouldn’t have those bottles near an open flame…probably.  Anyway, back to my riveting cooking tale…

The water is boiled and it’s time to add the Jumbo Shells.

IMG_0981Target brand.  Oh yeah.  And look!  There are stuffed shells on the front of the packaging.  Mine won’t look like that though, so don’t get excited.  I boiled the shells for about 5 minutes, so they’d still be kinda hard.  The pinner suggested it was easier to stuff them that way, boil them any longer and they might be too malleable.

While the shells were boiling, I combined a container of ricotta cheese and a package of mozzarella cheese.

IMG_0982IMG_0983IMG_0984I usually buy the Philadelphia infused shredded cheese by Kraft, but I sent my husband to the store, and he came back with the regular, boring kind.  If this recipe is a fail, I’m blaming the sub-standard cheese product.

Oh and I almost forgot to pour the sauce in with the beef!  No, I don’t make my own sauce.  How cute that you would think so.  We use Newman’s Own, it’s the only kind my kids will eat, and believe me I’ve tried every kind.  It’s not too chunky or tomatoey.

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The directions called to place the meat mixture on the bottom of my baking dish, but I put half on the bottom and then the saved the other half for the tops of the shells.  I worried if it was on the bottom only, then you wouldn’t get a meat filled bite every time.  Of course, because it was meaty sauce, it didn’t really spread over the top that well.  I sort of felt like my shells were getting meat bombed, and some of them did kinda break, so maybe next time I’ll remember not to improvise and just follow the frickin’ instructions.

Anyway, now it’s time to stuff my shells.

IMG_0987I had to dig around and find the opened ones.  It was hard to pry some of those suckers apart without breaking them.  By the time I was done, I felt like I’d violated my food, and maybe I should have a cigarette or a stiff drink.  Poor shells.  Is cooking always this sexual?  Or has my pining for Adam colored my every thought and deed?  My husband chooses that moment to walk in the kitchen, takes one look at me, and immediately gets defensive…”What?” he says.

I shake my head, and go back to stuffing my shells…muttering under my breath.  Husband decided to come around the kitchen island and hump my leg.  And you wonder about my Adam fixation?  I’m thinking of making hubs watch Magic Mike as punishment.  If you’re going to hump me, at least look like  Channing Tatum while doing it.

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But I digress…where was I?  Oh right, stuffing my shells.

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Not bad right?  I’m thinking about patting myself on the back.  Maybe this dinner won’t completely suck.  Then I lob on my meat torpedoes and some more cheese, because you can’t have too much cheese right?

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I bake it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, I put the leftover shells back into boiling water, and serve those with plain sauce for those kids of mine that won’t eat food that’s been “mixed.”  Freaks.

Here is my finished Pinterest “Stuffed Shells” recipe:

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I served with Garlic Bread and Salad.

Hubs said it was “good, so good.”  He gushed and made ridiculous mmmmm mmmm noises, so much that I was forced to doubt his sincerity.  Bastard.  Why can’t he just give me honest criticism or feedback!  I’ll just fix it again if I think he likes it, so it serves no purpose to pretend.  There is enough leftover to feed him all week, so if it’s still in the fridge by Friday, I’ll have my answer, and then he’ll pay.  Oh, he will pay.

I liked it, but it’s that time of month, so if it’s not moving, I’m eating it lately.  Run, kids, run.

Happy Funday Sunday!

 

French Cooking with a Redneck Twist

Red Red Wine

In lieu of throwing a sweet 16 party for my girls, I gave them the option of traveling to the destination of their choice .  My oldest daughter picked Ireland, and daughter #2 picked Paris, France.  A little over 2 years ago, I purchased THE cooking Bible, according to some.

I wrote a blog about our first experience trying these recipes, before relegating Julia’s masterpiece as a dust collector and occasional door stop.  We will begin our trek to France in 9 short months, so I thought it might be time to try again.  The PTSD I suffered from after the first go-round has abated somewhat, so I’m feeling optimistic.  The first order of business is to purchase the wine.  I’m pretty sure it’s like a French law to drink wine while cooking, and cook with wine while drinking.  Two birds, one stone.  We decided to shop for our ingredients’s (spoken like Teresa from RHONJ) at Market Street because they have an extensive wine selection.  The wine guy (yes, I know there is some fancy name that begins with an S and sounds more sophisticated than wine guy, but I don’t feel like googling the spelling) suggested a $20 bottle of wine that he promised tasted like a $60 bottle of wine.  This guy is totally speaking my language.  Now for the rest of our ingredients’s, which seem less important than the wine purchase.

Tonight’s Menu:

Poulet Roti (roast chicken) 

Gratin Dauphinois

Peas (the frozen kind, two dishes will be more than I can handle)

I glance longingly at the pre-packaged roasted chicken and briefly entertain the idea of grabbing one and my bottle of wine and getting the hell out of dodge, but lucky for everyone reading this, I persevere.  Also, sorry for the blurry picture.  I always feel weird taking pics of things and people in public, I’ve had a couple of really bad experiences (forgetting the flash was on when snapping a mocking pic of a random person for the People of Wal-Mart website), so I’m always very wary and furtive.  I have to wait for the guy stocking the chickens to move away, and then I try to do the snap and drive by move, which as you can see, needs some work.

We make it home with our purchases and I’m already exhausted.  Obviously, I need to be at my peak optimal performance before managing such a feat as tackling Julia Child’s recipes.  So, I decide to start with a nap.  Don’t underestimate the rejuvenating powers of the micro sleep.

Ideally, I thought we should start at 4pm, but my nap runneth over, so it was more like 4:30.  The first order of business was to peel the potatoes.

***a quick note about the potatoes.  The recipe called for “boiling” potatoes.  What the hell is a boiling potato?  There are no labels anywhere in the produce section that say “boiling” potato.  Normally, I would have called my mother to help me solve this mystery, but I’m trying to be a grown up, so naturally I Google it instead.  Apparently, a boiling potato is the same thing as a “red” or “new” potato.  I had to scan through 3 paragraphs describing the difference between a “baking” potato and a “boiling” potato before I actually got to the words “red” and “new”.  I now feel qualified as a food chemist.  Thank you Google.

My elbow is still bothering me (see earlier blogs), so peeling these suckers was an act of torture (and I’m not being as melodramatic as you might think).  They were slippery little boogers too, and kept falling down the garbage disposal.  No worries, I was able to use a fork to fish them back out.  I suppose at some point it should have occurred to me to use the other side of the sink, or put a bowl over the disposal, but…well, it didn’t.

Before the Peeling

We peeled and sliced the potatoes and then let them sit in a bowl of cold water.  I don’t really know why, but if that is what Julia tells you to do, then you do it!

Now, time to prepare the chicken.

I bought the more expensive “smart” chicken with the hopes that perhaps this chicken would prepare itself.  I waited in vain.

Step 1:  Coat the inside of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of butter.

Ummm.  You want me to stick  my hand where?  Inside the chicken?  I need more wine.  My daughter and I stare at the chicken for a while before we decide she will salt first, then I will butter (and by we, I mean me).  We decide since we had to become more intimate with the chicken that we should name her first.  I felt bad for Suzy, like maybe we should have bought her dinner before she became the dinner.  I kept apologizing.  It was almost enough to turn me vegetarian again.

Plus, the gagging sounds my daughter made while she salted Suzy’s “cavern” was making the wine curdle in my belly.  I ate a cracker, squared my shoulders and inserted my hand with the tablespoon of butter and rubbed all up inside that chicken….er, I mean Suzy.  If I smoked, I would have had a cigarette afterwards.  Suzy looked pretty satisfied, if I might brag for a quick moment.  I felt like maybe my daughter and I should also have “the talk”, but she quickly shut that down.  I don’t know why.

Step 2:  Truss the chicken

Huh?  Wtf is a mattress needle?  I really need to read these instructions more thoroughly before attempting to make them.

Me:  What’s a mattress needle?

Daughter:  How would I know?

Me:  Well, you are the one that sews!

Daughter:  I don’t sew mattresses!

Me: Just get the biggest needle you have and some thread, we can make this work. 

Picture diagram of the correct way to truss a chicken

Our poor attempt looked like this:

Clearly, it’s not trussed.  Suzy’s cavity is gaping open, and the thread keeps snapping every time I move the damn chicken.

Me:  This is hopeless.  How important do you think trussing the chicken is?

Daughter:  I don’t know.  I have some yarn.  Do you think that will hold better?

Me:  Yeah, that’s a good idea, maybe we should try yarn.

Daughter:  I can attach the yarn to a bobby pin?

Me:  It’s worth a shot.

We kept having to use a knife to poke holes in Suzy because the bobby pin wouldn’t cut through the skin and fat, and the yarn kept shedding, but it actually worked!

No gaping hole Suzy!

Step 3:  Slather with more butter! 

Step 4:  Place in 425 degree oven and baste with yet more butter every 5 minutes for 15 minutes.  Then lower oven temp to 350 degrees, and continue basting with yet more butter every 10 minutes until completed.  Actual cook time:  1 hour and 25 minutes.

Here is Suzy ready for the oven.

Goodbye Suzy. You were a good bird.

Another pic of Suzy, halfway through cooking time:

It smells amazing and I think Suzy is one hot-looking bird, all golden and delicious.  Ok, now it’s getting kinda creepy calling her by name, so from here on out, we go back to the impersonal chicken versus carnivorous human.

While the chicken is cooking, we prepare the potato dish.  It’s pretty simple actually.  I don’t even think I can screw this one up.  You layer the potatoes in the dish and cover with swiss cheese and yet more butter, salt and pepper.

We should have put it in the oven earlier, but since I don’t have two ovens and the cooking temps were vastly different, I juggled the two as best I could.

We took the chicken out of the oven, and let it sit, while I continued basting for about 10 minutes, allowing the potatoes to cook longer.  Then we made the gravy, using the basting juices from the chicken, and yet more butter, salt and pepper.

I almost forgot to pop the peas in the microwave!  I could hear the groans of disappointment from my children that I remembered the peas.  Julia said to serve peas, and I would never argue with Julia!

Here is finished meal, I think we are one step closer to being French!  And I’m pretty soused!

The critics:

Husband – it’s very good dear (ok not the accolades I feel I deserve, but I’ll take it)

Daughter #1 – oh, you made dinner?  Mom, I have plans.  Love you, Bye.

Daughter #2 (sous chef) – I am proud of us mom, but I really hate peas.

Daughter #3 – It tastes like normal chicken, I don’t get it.

Man-Child – I LOVE these peas mom, and this is the best chicken EVER (as he saturates it with ketchup).  I got him to taste one minuscule piece of the potatoes, which he declared were quite good while declining to eat more of them.  Man-child asked if he could wear this to dinner:

 

Of course I said yes because we’re redneck classy like that and it was good to see those exercise bands getting some use.  The shorts tan and no pants added a nice ambience to the meal I thought.

I’m not sure the reactions were worth the 2+ hours of labor, but I’m too busy finishing off this wine and thinking ahead to the cheesecake we got for dessert to really care.  I was also extremely happy that no one found a “hair” from the shedding yarn on their plate!  This was one of her easier recipes.  I might be so inclined to try again…  After my arteries finish unhardening from all the butter…

Let’s Chow…der!

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite moments occurs when I pull up to my house and I see that Amazon box sitting outside my doorstep.  Every other plan for the evening flies out the window because I am now going to do nothing but sit on the couch and peruse my new purchases.  Well, last week I received several of my new vegan cookbooks.  One of them was The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.  The first recipe in the Soup chapter is Corn Chowder.  I love corn.  I don’t care if it exits looking much the same way it did on my plate before I ate it, I love it.  I was very upset to learn it’s not technically considered a vegetable.  I’m excited to make it!  I break out my “Mealboard” grocery store app on my iPhone and record the recipes, create my shopping list and off to Whole Foods I go.

Ingredients that made me struggle:

Vidalia onions (say what?  I spent FOR-ever in the produce aisle looking for these blasted special onions and could find them nowhere!  So, naturally I phone a friend, my one and only lifeline, my mother and I ask her what the heck a Vidalia onion is and where I might find it.  After reassuring me that I was indeed looking in the right place and that maybe it wasn’t the season for them (onions have seasons?), she told me I could substitute with a short squatty purple one, so I did)

A dried chipotle pepper (this looked like a giant prune and I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t want to touch it and it did make me gag a little)

Cut vegetables into 1/4-inch dice (I eyeballed the dice, no way was I breaking out the ruler)

De-rib a bell pepper?  bell peppers have ribs? Oh good grief…

Don’t EVER confuse “organic” chicken stock with “faux” chicken stock.  I had all the ingredients diced, sliced and prepped and I was ready to get a-cookin’ when I pulled out what was supposed to be the “faux” chicken stock and instead discovered that somehow when reading the label I mistook the Organic to mean Fake or Vegan.  Whole foods isn’t close enough to my house to run out and get the correct stock, so I briefly entertained the idea of just using the chicken stock, but you won’t believe the guilt I felt.  I know if you aren’t vegan, you’ll probably think I’m being stupid and silly, but if just felt like a give-up or a failure, so I ran to Wal-Mart to see what I could find.  Of course, they didn’t care fake chicken stock, so again I “phone a friend”.

“Mooooooooooooooooooooooooom” I whine.  I had to explain my dilemma many times.  I think I was so flustered and upset by my quest to quickly find fake chicken stock that my explanations came out disjointed and incoherent.  Naturally, it was her fault, I mean she did birth me, why couldn’t she read my mind!!!!!!!  Anyway, she assured me that vegetable broth would work just as well.  Whew, crisis averted.

I get back home and now I’m ready to make the magic happen.  Would you like to see a picture of the finished product?  Okay, okay you twisted my arm.  Voila!  Here it is:

Corn Chowder

It does look yummy don’t you think?  It was delicious, and even better the second day!  This might be my favorite recipe so far.

Here is a pic of my son about to try it….  That’s not excitement on his face, that’s him begging for PB&J instead.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

Now I must leave…I am on a new mission to find yellow Miso paste!

The skinny on the French

I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia, and found myself fired up to learn how to cook like that.  My middle daughter loves to cook, and would like to learn how to cook more things, and I can’t cook, so I thought….hey, let’s do this thing!  I went out and bought the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, subscribed to Julie’s blog so I could follow along her same journey, and set about picking the first dish!

(Sidenote:  When I say I can’t cook, I’m not exaggerating.  My poor family.  I’ve been known to ask questions like “how do you reheat pizza without a microwave?” or “what’s a broiler?”  or “why is there an oven made just for toast?”  As a wedding gift, I actually got the cookbook “How To Boil An Egg”.  You get the picture…)

So, I decide to start with this meal (is it a bad sign when you can’t pronounce any of the words for the foods you are about to cook and then eat?):

Potage Parmentier

Filets de Poisson Bercy aux Champignons

In layman’s terms, potato & leek soup with fancy fish.

First, let me say that after cooking this meal, I now understand why French women are skinny.

IT TOOK OVER 4 HOURS TO COOK THAT MEAL!!!!!!!

I was exhausted just reading the instructions, which should have been my first inclination that I was in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over my head.  Plus, she required using cookware and dishes I had never even heard of, and I spent a fortune just preparing to make the meal.  I hadn’t even bought ingredients yet!

Buying the ingredients:  Keep in mind that I don’t like talking to strangers, especially in the grocery store.  I loathe having someone help me out to my car or load my groceries for me (which is why I avoid Market Street unless my husband is with me).  I’d rather spend hours trying to find an ingredient than ask for help.  I might have some issues, probably could benefit from some therapy, but that would require talking to strangers…and here we go again.  So, I did what any grown woman would do, I waited until my mommy was in town, and decided to drag her all over town to help me.  Apparently, those guys behind the meat counter, know some things and can be quite helpful (who knew!).

So, my ingredients are purchased.  Bed, Bath & Beyond has a good chunk of my money.  We are ready!

First the soup, Potage Parmentier.  Actually, I have to say this recipe was fairly easy to follow and not difficult.  At one point though, I did look up to find Emily crying, and I thought OMG is cooking with me THAT bad?!?!?!?!  Then I realized that it was the leeks.  I don’t think I knew that leeks were a type of onion, or I guess they are since Em was Ms. Waterworks during the dicing process.  The only other real issue was trying to learn how to use the food mill.  I have to say, I’m not a fan.  Although, it probably was more user error than anything else.  All in all, it was not bad.  Anything which lets you add whipping cream or butter can’t be all bad (we went with the butter, next time I’d like to try the cream and OMG…did I just say next time!).  It was even a pretty color!

Here is a pic of all the ingredients cut up and ready for cookin’, pretty isn’t it?:

Now let the cooking begin!

After passing thru the food mill

It probably could have used a few more passes through the food mill, and I personally would have liked it served a little warmer, but all in all, it was generally decided that we did a good job, and it was a delicious dish.

Now, moving on to the fish!  I believe the recipe called for flounder.  Couldn’t find any flounder, so the very helpful guy behind the counter at Sprouts suggested using Orange Roughy.  He could have named any fish, or the most expensive fish he had in stock, and I wouldn’t have known the difference, so okay.  Orange Roughy it is!  Weird name for a fish anyway, and it wasn’t necessarily orange or rough, so I don’t get it.  Oh and as an aside, if you buy it frozen, don’t plan on cooking it that day.  We were a bit derailed trying to thaw out this fish before we could use it.

Here are my pretty mushrooms (which I don’t even like, but they did look good):

I was too tired trying to get the meal cooked and time everything perfectly, that I didn’t really have time to snap pictures of all the different processes that went into the fish dish.  This recipe covered several pages, for the fish itself and for the sauce.  Again, anything smothered with cheese, cream and booze, can’t be all bad.  Here’s a pic of the final look:

I assume that is what it is supposed to look like, if I could have offered a suggestion to Julia Child or her publishers, it would have been nice to have pics to go along with this recipe.  The cooking challenged might have appreciated knowing that at least by sight, the dish was going well and on track.  Taste is another thing entirely, which I’ll get to later.

Here are some pics of my helper, hard at work.  Grating cheese and stirring and whatever else I asked her to do.  I think she learned a few things, although it was probably more fun to watch me run around the kitchen, cursing and muttering under my breath, breaking a sweat, and generally oozing confusion and exhaustion.

After a half-day of prep and cooking, this  blasted meal is finally done.  I have to admit, I was feeling immense trepidation on how everything would taste, and I had some pretty major critics:  my parents, my husband, Emily, the other 3 overly picky kids and myself.

The consensus:

The 3 picky kids: ummm no thank you “where is the peanut butter and jelly and please don’t tell me we are out of bread”.

Emily – co-Chef – she liked it, not sure she would ask for it again, and I think she liked the process better than the outcome, and that was really the point anyway and we had fun (well a sort of fun I suppose).

The Parentals:  Dad – it’s really good (he cleaned his plate) and Mom – “I want to bathe in this sauce and the soup is my favorite, very yummy”, she even got seconds of the soup I think, and my mom doesn’t eat as a general rule 🙂

The Husband: I think he nodded, maybe grunted.  His plate was clean, so I’ll take that as a good sign.

Myself:  After I picked off the mushrooms, I have to say, the fish was excellent.  Very rich.  Very yummy.  I would definitely eat it again.  The soup, I wasn’t as big a fan, but it was good.  I really don’t like green food.

So that pretty much sums up my first Julia Child experiment.  I don’t know how Julie did it over the course of the year.  We are trying to plan dish #2, but procrastinating hasn’t been difficult if I’m being honest.

Did it make me love cooking?  No.  Did I bond with my daughter and did we share an experience?  Yes.  Does anything else really matter?  Nope, I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t have picked this as a way to bond with Emily, but it wasn’t about me, it was about her.  It’s easy to find ways to spend time with your kids doing the things you like, but then you miss out on what could be some really awesome opportunities.  You end up learning much more about each other when you are both flying blind.  Or at least that is how it worked for me.

Au Revoir