Monday, August 31, 2009

Leaving the Dinner Norm

The dinner rut has gotten to be too much. We have the same meals over and over again. It’s not bad enough that if you come over on Tuesday you know we will be eating tacos but it’s not far from it. So this week we I have decided to cook five different meal s and if we get a chance one lunch. Normally lunch is leftovers. If I don’t enforce this rule leftovers hit the trash and I hate throwing away food more than words can express.

In preparation for this week I pulled out stacks of cooking magazines and went through looking for things that the family would eat. I have a husband who hates mushrooms and is not fond of squashes. And of course the “bears” who would rather eat chicken and French fries over and over. It is very important to push the envelope while having a good feeling that everyone will eat it.

Tonight is meat loaf. Most of you probably have a meat loaf in your normal rotation. We do not. Mainly because I have yet to find the meat loaf. Not that I haven’t looked. I’ve baked individual loafs, ones wrapped in bacon, a mix with pork and beef or cheese. Nothing stands out as the best. The concept is great; meat mixed with bread and spice topped with a ketchup derivative.

Teagan is very interested in what cooking is all about. With her being almost three I allow her on occasion to put in an ingredient here and there but over all just to be in the kitchen and standing on a step stool and watching. Kaitlyn has been extra grumpy lately and really just wanted to be a part of the fun so I had both girls standing on the stool trying to “help.” They actually did very well and did not touch too much. I would love for them to grow up wanting to cook and learning how to cook. Not just how to follow a recipe but to know which things would work together and experiment to find their own cooking niche.

Therefore both “bears” are in the kitchen with me. On most occasions Daddy would have walked past the kitchen and not bothered to really soak in the situation. With all three of us though I think he looked more closely than normal as he passed to go into the other room. Two minutes later he came out and said “You just put carrots in that! This is going to so suck!” Sounded just like a disgruntled five year old. Ah, the aspect of surprise was ruined. He wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t seen it. After that he grabbed the recipe and perused it to see what else he was going to hate. I am very thankful that he had no more “ah, gee” remarks.

How was it you ask? Okay. On a scale from one to ten with five being average I would give it a six. Hubby would give it a four and I suppose the “bears” would give it less since they didn’t eat all of their portions. The sauce was way too sweet. I would double the tomato sauce to even that out. The meat loaf was moist and no you didn’t taste carrot. Just above average isn’t going to make it into the rotation. Alas my search continues. I’m going to post the recipe because that’s the point of this week but please feel free to modify to your taste.

Best-Ever Meat Loaf (their name not mine)
Source: Taste of Home, February/March 2002
Servings: 6

2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
3 slices of bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add bread; let stand as you mix the rest. Mix onion, carrot, cheese, parsley, salt, basil and pepper in another bowl. Add soaked bread and meat. In a baking pan shape beef mixture into a 7x3x2 loaf. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Combine the topping ingredients; spoon some over meat loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes longer or until meat is no longer pink, occasionally spooning some of the remaining topping over loaf. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ridin' the Range

Happy Birthday Nicole!!

I have five girlfriends that have been everlasting. Today is one of their birthdays. Happy Birthday Nicole. (She's the classy one on the left.)

This wonderful woman has been a part of my life for seventeen years. Now that might not seem like a long time to most of you but it is extraordinary for me. No, I’m not so difficult that I cannot keep friends. It is because as a child my family moved. A lot. And I didn't have the chance to make solid friends.

I grew from a teenager into an adult with her by my side. We were wild. Really wild. Yet never got into a detrimental situation because she constantly had my back. As I did hers. In fact she took me in during the most destructive time of my life to help save me from myself. And to pay her back for all these wonderful years I want to share a story. One of my favorites.

Several of us decided to host a “real” party at Nicole’s. We had impromptu parties all the time but wanted to have a planned blow out. We had the classy hors d'oeuvres; pizza rolls, cheese puffs and of course fruit dip. Then there was the horde of alcohol. Beer, rum, tequila, vodka and the all time favorite Goldschlager. I swear I have no idea why we liked hot cinnamon schnapps with flakes of gold in it. And we didn’t mix it. We used is as a straight shot. Mmmm expensive red hots liquefied.

For such a classy soirée jell-o shots was a must. No one wanted to waste good vodka on jell-o shots so we had the bright idea to use Banana Rum instead with cherry flavored jell-o. This rum had been in the apartment for months. And being young college kids this was saying a lot. Basically it was so potent nothing you mixed it with made it possible to drink. Yet we knew jell-o would do it. Yeah, no.

The party was rocking. But not a soul would drink the jell-o shots as one person had tried one and spit it out due to the banana rum and the fact that we used too much. Not to be deterred half way into the night Nicole decided she was not going to be wasteful. We both have issues with being wasteful and it was said more than once on this eventful night, I’m going to finish this whole thing. She picks up a cup of jell-o and shudders one down like an oyster. Not so bad she claims. So I chuck one. It was bad but left a very warm feeling in the belly. So we have another. And another. And a few more. By this point the only people left are the apartment mates and other drunk people who have pulled up some carpet for the night. For embarrassment reasons this is very lucky for Miss Nicole and I as we had decided that we just had to dance to Erasure – Chains of Love. Not such a big deal except Nicole kicked the wall and broke a toe and a friend threw a cheese puff at me and I hit the ground as if a brick had cracked my skull.

Not only did she “play" through the pain. She stayed up to clean and got up early the next morning to cook breakfast for the entire house. Nicole was the mother hen and took care of us when we didn’t know how to take care of ourselves.

If ever I need a pick me up I can think of her and all the times we have shared. There are friends we have that are great and then there are friends that make your world do a positive 180 with a simple phone call. Nicole is one of these friends. I am blessed to have her in my life. As adults we are almost completely different yet she is the friend who has always understood me and loves me anyway.

Once again Happy Birthday Nicole and be thankful I didn’t share the story of King Henry’s Feast. Or Epcot. Or the time you caught your hair on fire. Or better yet the time you caught your but on fire at my 30th.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Calais!!

Just an extra blog post today for my beautiful niece Calais. And for the record she would like me to add it is not pronounced Cal-Us.

Happy Birthday, I love you so very much and hope all your wishes (and your family’s wishes for you) come true. Also I so totally snagged this picture from your MySpace page because I have no new pictures of my darling niece. Ah, to be 22 again.

Aquarium Trip

I’ve wanted to go to the aquarium for almost a year now. I thought we should wait for the girls to get a little older so they could enjoy it more. With things moving the way they are it was decided to do it now. Yeah!

We have a small fish tank at home and I told Teagan and Kaitlyn we were going to go to where there is a huge fish tank with gigantic fish. Daddy stretched his arms out to illustrate and Teagan replied with an “Unh-unh. They’re this big.” As she held out her thumb and forefinger. I was eager to prove her wrong.

Upon entering the aquarium the hall is flanked by two massive tanks that have a stream of (ugly) 1 foot to 4 feet long fish. Kaitlyn immediately starts with “DISHEES, DISHEES, DISHEES!!!” Teagan was awe struck. It was the exact reaction I was hoping for.

The aquarium is the world’s largest and every section was absolutely astounding. Daddy loves coral so we went to the Tropical Diver. I love jelly fish. Unfortunately I did not get enough time in the jelly fish area. They are so sinuous gliding through the water floating without a care in the world. The moon jelly was incredible up close. They are pure white with a four leaf clover pattern on the top. Gorgeous. The girls could have careless. So we continued on. “At the center of this gallery is one of the largest living reef exhibits of any aquarium in the world. Living corals and thousands of colorful reef fish are presented in a faithful recreation of a tropical Pacific coral reef, complete with an overhead crashing wave.” AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME. That is where the pictures of the girls are from. Now I would say this was my favorite part but it was the next section that has my vote.

In the Ocean Voyager section they have the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide. Teagan was so impressed that she actually sat with me for five minutes and just watched the whale sharks, humphead wrasses, hammerhead sharks, golden trevallies, crevalle jacks and tons of others swim by or just hang out in front. And of course I have to mention Nandi. Nandi is the aquariums manta ray. She is over nine feet across. Awe-inspiring as this beast glides through the water dwarfing sharks and other fish. Truly amazing and inspirational.

At this stage due to our late start Kaitlyn is getting tired. Daddy took her to hopefully rent a stroller which might allow her to take a cat nap, as Teagan and I went to the touching pool to try to touch some stingrays. She was too short. I held her as far over as I felt comfortable and had to hold her hair so it wouldn’t get wet. There was a scuffle between three rays and that would have been the best time to reach in but my Motherly instincts took over and I pulled her away. She still enjoyed reaching her hands in the water and watching them swim around.

Daddy came back empty handed as there were no strollers but he found the next best thing, Cheetos. That bought us our last hour at the aquarium. Were we saw otters, a very playful beluga whale, alligators, eels, piranhas, turtles and so much more. I have lived for years in the middle of theme park central and never bought yearly passes. When the girls are five and six we will be purchasing yearly passes. It was a wonderful day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - August 12, 2009

Okay from now on it really will be wordless when I choose to use this. I have several blogs I visit and a lot of them have a Wednesday post as just a picture. Kind of a copout but I've been doing a lot of things and just didn't have time to write. It is difficult to think of topics that all will enjoy. I want to make sure I'm contributing rather than just adding to the crap already on the web.

We went to the aquarium today and I will post all about it tomorrow. PROMISE. Until then enjoy the whale shark.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Teagan and Kaitlyn are at their computer (glorified DVD player) watching Monsters, Inc. in their little soft chairs. Teagan's chair had unfortunately been placed somewhat on top of her BiBi. This won't do.

Teagan: My BiBi won't open.

Kaitlyn: Abrir.

My girls watch a lot of Dora!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cake in a Cup

Saturday night with no real chocolate in the house I decided to try the infamous chocolate cake in a cup recipe that was an internet sensation eons ago. Now I received this recipe over two years ago and had not made it until recently. I made it a month ago with the bears and it was okay at best. They loved it and bounded around the house all giddy as they ate a forkful at a time. Back to the time at hand. It’s late, I’m in my pj’s and I am in need of a chocolate fix.

With my first attempt with the girls did fail to completely satisfy so here is the recipe with my modifications.

4 tablespoons cake flour (I used bread flour)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 large microwaveable mug

1. Mix flour, sugar and cocoa powder.
2. Add 1 egg.
3. Pour in milk, oil, and vanilla and mix well.
4. Put in microwave for 3 minutes on maximum power (1000watt)
5. Wait 1 minute to cool and settle.
6. Drop out cake onto a saucer or eat from the mug.

Betty Crocker has no worries but it was better than last time. Last time I used regular flour and it was a little rubbery. I think this time it was the bread flour and extra vanilla that made it muffin-like. I normally have cake flour in the house so next time it might be even tastier. Oh yes there will be a next time. Why if it was only sub par? Because chocolate goes fast in this house and I am sure that I will again have an insatiable craving and not a thing to quench it but Cake in a Cup.