Monopoly Strikes Again

It is spring break in our neck of the North Carolina woods which for me means days and days of hungry little boys underfoot. So far I have to say that they’ve been pretty good.

Yesterday I persuaded them to scoop up two gimantico trash bags full of sweet gumballs (dang I hate those things) and old mulchy leaves. They only ran in circles around the yard wearing the body-sized black bags for a few minutes before I reminded them that THAT is the reason the box says KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Then they got down to business.

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Been a Little Busy…

Things here have been a little hectic for the past 3 or 4 days… but not in a bad way at all.

The little boys were home with me Friday for a teacher workday, and they didn’t eat me out of house and home. I took them to the library where Andrew hacked the computer in the children’s section (leave it to my kid to do the one thing I told him not to) and Evan tried to check out every single book at eye level (like me, he is a voracious reader; I love that).

Saturday morning equals soccer, except the sky fell here on Friday night so our game was cancelled. My momma called to tell me she was missing the boys and could she please have them for Saturday night?

I’m sorry, Momma, did you say you wanted to give us a Saturday night off with no little boys?
Ummm… hell yes.

Let me introduce you to the rail buggy, which I think might have been Chad’s first true love. We have a blast in this thing. It is also a work in progress. My sweetheart built this super contraption from the ground up… I think he’s been working on it since he was 17 or 18 years old. Because it’s a mish mash of old Volkswagen Beetle parts it requires a certain amount of maintenance and finesse (the kind of finesse that bangs on things with hammers). It. Is. Fun (please note the capital “F”).

But rail buggy is a two-seater. Which means that if Chad and I are gonna go anywhere together in it, little boys cannot be home. So this weekend, with no kiddies for a day, we did just that. We went to get coffee. We went to Chad’s grandma’s. We drove the super-long-two-lane-winding-road-way to everything. We went through the McDonald’s drive-thru where the guy tried to hand us our drinks in a cardboard drink carrier, like as if we had anywhere to put that. We got a little sunshine on our cloudy day. I got mud splashed on my jeans (and Chad did not… on purpose? ya think?) and sported some crazy wind blown hair.

On Monday my sister, Lindsey, came to visit me. We parked at the kitchen table with mugs of coffee and Cranberry Coconut Banana Oat Muffins and just got all caught up on things… for hours. I enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday I had to catch up on all the crap I didn’t do on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. And let’s not forget soccer practice.  Evan also volunteered me to make 984 (okay, maybe not quite that many) Easter cookies for his class and decided to give me only 12 hours notice (including the time that normal people are sleeping).

The point of all this is that I have been a little busy, but when I’m busy I still cook. Busy requires quick. Like lickety-split (I’m sorry… I just couldn’t help myself right there). And I don’t know about the rest of you, but Easter is descending on me faster than I can get a handle on it. So while I am planning a brunch menu, dyeing Easter eggs, and contemplating large quantities of chocolate with bunny ears, my family still has to eat.

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca will make you feel really fancy, even when your schedule is pinched.
You will need a fistful of sage. I picked mine from this pretty plant that Chad’s grandma dug up out of her garden to give me.
Sprinkle thinly sliced chicken cutlets with a little kosher salt. Place several slices of the fresh sage on each piece.
Wrap the chicken with bacon, securing the sage in place. Note: the original recipe calls for proscuitto, but I wasn’t about to try to fit standing in line at the deli into my schedule, so I used bacon (cause it was in the fridge). I do opt for a lower sodium center cut variety with my bacon, though, so I don’t feel quite as guilty.
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken cutlets until they are done- about 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside. While the chicken is cooking, whisk together chicken broth, cornstarch and the juice of one lemon.
Add another teaspoon of olive oil to the already hot skillet and then pour in the lemon/chicken broth/cornstarch liquid, stirring constantly. Bring it to a boil and continue cooking for about a minute, pulling in the browned bits from the cooked chicken as you still whisk continuously. The sauce will thicken. Spoon it over the waiting chicken breasts and serve promptly.
Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca (from a well-used, worn and tattered old copy of Cooking Light, January/February 2011)

Ingredients

thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken cutlets

kosher salt to taste

3 or 4 sage leaves per piece of chicken

1 slice of bacon or proscuitto per piece of chicken

about a teaspoon of olive oil per piece of chicken

1/3 cup low sodium, fat-free chicken broth

the juice of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

**the chicken broth, lemon juice, and cornstarch will yield enough sauce for 4-6 pieces of chicken

To Make

Sprinkle each chicken piece with kosher salt to taste. Place 3-4 sage leaves on each piece and then wrap with the bacon or proscuitto slices to secure into place. Heat the oil (except for one teaspoon) in a large skillet. Add the chicken pieces and cook until done, about 2 minutes on each side. While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the chicken broth, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Remove the chicken and set it aside. Heat the last teaspoon of oil in the skillet and whisk in the lemony chicken broth mixture. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, and sauce will thicken after about a minute. Spoon the sauce over the cooked chicken and serve immediately.

Mismatched Shoes

Let me explain for a minute how mornings go down in this house. I am always the first one up. I shuffle into the kitchen and start the coffee (coffee is always #1; if you doubt that, read this). The lamp beside the couch flips on and I call out to Andrew, my oldest son, to get up. He has always been easy in the A.M., a morning person like me, and he climbs out of bed with no trouble at all, heading for his bathroom to make his way into the shower rotation.

While he does that, I cook. Two extra large breakfast sandwiches on whole wheat toast for Chad, and then I fill his thermos with coffee. The little guys are cereal eaters, which suits me just fine, but sometimes I surprise them with pretty pancakes or scrambled eggs. Andrew wakes the little one, Evan, up. Evan is a little more emotional in the morning– if there is to be a tearful meltdown about milk or school papers, this guy will be the one.

Chad does not wake up grumpy. In fact I’m not sure he wakes up at all until long after he’s left me, thermos and sandwiches in tow.

Evan is always the last one out and most days I have to make him hurry up. Friday was no different. While peering out my kitchen window clutching my freshly refilled coffee cup, I noticed lights through the dark fog at the next house down from ours. No, it was not an emergency vehicle. It was the school bus. Evan’s school bus.

Where was Evan? Well standing in front of the television zoned out slowly rotating his toothbrush around the inside of his mouth… naturally. I managed to fuss at him, snatch up the toothbrush, and shove him out the door waving the homework folder at him all at once. Then I let out an exasperated sigh and set to straightening up the clutter that a man and two boys strew all over the house. This is what I found:
What is this? A picture of shoes. My kid’s shoes. One sneaker, one soccer cleat. What makes this significant is that Evan only has one pair of sneakers that fit. So that means that HE WENT TO SCHOOL WEARING ONE SNEAKER AND ONE SOCCER CLEAT.

How does that even work?

Later that day he stumbled off the school bus looking a little sheepish. And lopsided in his mismatched shoes.

I find that in the face of any little kid that has suffered a day of funny shoe embarrassment, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t love you for making him a treat with fresh whipped cream.
Fresh Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

To Make

Using a mixer (stand mixer or hand mixer) with a whisk attachment, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Use on or in your favorite desserts. Or just lick it off your fingers.
I layered this batch with squishy cubes of leftover chocolate cake, a little fudgy chocolate sauce, and a coarsely chopped snickers bar I had hidden in the freezer for just such an occassion.

Seven Things…

I follow a handful of cooking blogs (okay, a really large handful) and sometimes a recipe post will roll around inside my head gaining momentum until I just HAVE to make it. Other times I read a post and mentally tabulate what’s in my pantry. If I have everything I need, I’ll make it right that minute. Some recipes make it into my monthly rotation and I carefully plan to include their ingredients on my grocery list.

I thought I’d take a minute to mention a handful of recipes that I’ve tried from blogs that I follow that, in this simple little house, bearing zero in the way of fancy kitchen gadgets, were a  huge phenomenal success. Follow the links provided to try these crazy good dishes yourself! The photo above was my first attempt at General Tso’s Chicken, shared by Tia at IAMSIMPLYTIA.com. It was better than any take out I have ever had anywhere, I promise. ***Note: breading with cornstarch yields perfect results, but makes a sticky mess. Wear an apron and keep the water running*** Also from Tia, I made a blackened chicken rub for grilled chicken that was spicy and delicious. Chad brushed ours with a little sweet barbeque sauce before taking the chicken off the grill and laying it to rest on my plate.

This is how you feed a hungry man after work. I made Smothered Pork Chops, posted by Allison at Main St. Cuisine. Hers was an adaptation of a Good Housekeeping recipe. I saw that issue (February 2012), and Allison’s pork chops put theirs to shame. I was in a hurry that day and did not take any decent photographs of my creation, but it was a quick easy recipe and I highly recommend it.

The tomato sauce pictured here was a recipe from Creative Noshing. It was full of veggies and delicious tomato flavor and made this rigatoni so so happy. I used this tomato sauce for the mini pizzas my family made at our last birthday bash. From Creative Noshing’s site I have also made caesar dressing (which I pulled off without a food processor- it was super yum), and baked oatmeal (which was delicious and kin to having dessert for breakfast; next time I make it, it will be accompanied by a big scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt).

These recipes are totally copycat worthy. Try them! You’ll see!

On another note… last week I posted a handful of awards, but I felt like I was getting a little long winded. Awards come with a set rules for acceptance, and I postponed fulfilling the requirements for another day. Another day has arrived. The Beautiful and Kreativ Blogger Awards both required me to share with you seven things. And yesterday I received another Kreativ Blogger award from Tabkhet el yom who with her blog does some really amazing things! It’s traditional Lebanese cooking from a mother of four who posts recipes for things like biscuits with anise and falafel (my own personal favorite). So if we are keeping track here, I’m supposed to tell you 7…14…21 things. And that’s too many.

I’m gonna break it up…

This is my favorite picture of Chad & Me

2. I am totally opposed to having things on my feet. I prefer to be barefooted at all times and refuse to sleep in socks.

3. I used to sell and install cable tv.

4. I am terrified of spiders. Once when I was opening the store I worked in, a gigantic spider flew out of the light above me and landed in my hair. I have ALOT of hair and I just thought it was a moth buzzing around me until I got inside, locked the door behind me, and a spider the size of my fist crawled down my arm. I flung it into the floor and let out a blood curdling scream, and then left Chad a hysterical voice message at 6 o’clock in the morning. He still laughs at me about that.

5. The gum balls from two sweet gum trees in my front yard have become my natural enemy.

6. I live in a dry county. Prohibition is going strong down here, ya’ll.

7.
This is my happy family.

One Sec, I’m Doin’ a Scene

Don’t worry… ”One sec, I’m doin’ a scene,” doesn’t make much sense to me either. Which is too bad, because these are phrases that my two boys spin to Chad and I on the daily.
When I call Evan for dinner he says, “One sec!” One sec usually evolves into another few minutes, during which I inevitably holler for him again (patience is not my strong suit).

When I ask Andrew if he’s washed his hands he replies, “Hold on, I’m doin’ a scene.” Whaaat in the world.

My powers of mommy observation have unveiled that for little boys that are still little to me but to themselves are almost big, “doin’ a scene” is like when we used to say “let’s pretend…”

Playing pretend was my favorite staple of childhood play. When we visit Chad’s family, he has a little cousin who is a few years younger than Evan and cute, cute, cute as can be. They play really well together and she has a wild imagination. Their games always begin with hauling an armful of stuffed animals out of a long forgotten corner or stomping through the tall grass outside the chicken coop. Amazing worlds are created out of rocks, dirt, vines that hang from the trees, and a few magic words that turn all of it into something they dreamed up. They act out things they’ve seen, heard, thought, or read in a book, and the story is modified every few minutes with amendments to the game; let’s pretend this, or you be that, or I’ll be {insert crazy imagining here}.

We currently have a rather large hole at the edge of our backyard because Evan and the little boy in the next house down became convinced that there are dinosaur bones lurking under the tree roots, just waiting to be discovered. There is a small pile of fossils (a.k.a. rocks) beside the hole, and whenever the boys hit a rough spot in the North Carolina clay they solicit Chad’s help. He happily brandishes a shovel for the imaginary excavation.

Today let’s do a scene and pretend I could modify my favorite beef and beer chili recipe to accomodate the chicken and jalapeno peppers loafing around in my fridge. If you’re feeling beefy, see the original Beef and Beer Chili post here.
I generously peppered and browned two large diced boneless skinless chicken breasts in a little oil. I removed the chicken from the pan and set it aside, and added the onions to cook for a couple minutes. Then i stirred in the garlic. After another minute or two, just when the onions and garlic started to soften, I threw in my diced bell peppers and…
… a large handful of diced canned jalapenos. Chad said he wanted it hot. It was.
I poured in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, oregano, cumin, pepper (I omitted salt because for me canned jalapenos are salty enough), and worcestershire sauce. Then I stirred in chicken broth and a bottle of beer (I used an amber ale) and brought it all to a boil. I reduced the heat to a simmer and covered the pot, stirring from time to time for about an hour. Then I stirred in a can of drained and rinsed black beans.
Let’s pretend that pretty red roma tomato actually made it into the pot.

“Scenic” Chicken & Beer Chili

Ingredients

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces

black pepper for seasoning chicken

2 onions, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup diced jalapeno peppers, fresh (seeded) or canned- or add peppers according to taste

1 small can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Ro-tel… that variety can be found in 10 ounce cans)

1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes

1/2 cup diced green pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

black pepper to taste (and salt if you prefer)

1 cup chicken broth

12 ounce bottle (or can) of beer

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed

To Make

Heat the oil in a large deep non-stick skillet or dutch oven. Sprinkle pepper all over the diced chicken and then brown the over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Cook the onions and garlic until tender in the drippings left in the pan (about 4 or 5 minutes). Add the diced tomatoes with green chiles, diced tomatoes, and green peppers. Continue cooking until the tomatoes are simmering. Then add the chicken back in, along with the oregano, cumin, pepper, and worcestershire sauce. Pour in the chicken broth and the beer and bring the pot to a boil. Partially cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, and then add the black beans for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Diner Classics & Awards

 

The behind the scenes “stats” board of a blog are a strange phenomenon. The posts that make the numbers spike are always interesting to me. Generating an audience is a pretty neat trick, albeit one I haven’t mastered yet. I have to assume that content is a little piece of the action- a smidge of a contributing factor- and the content here that sends numbers soaring is neither fancy nor the best of my literary attempts. It is plain old everyone-makes-it-everyone-loves-it-order-it-in-every-greasy-spoon-in-America food.

People love a tuna melt. They love oatmeal cookies or chewy chocolate chip. They love cozy casseroles made with familiar ingredients that are probably already in their cabinets, and can definitely be found at any local grocery store. I’ve decided that in honor of the classics, and because of my super love of classic diner food, I’d start a little series here- a collection of recipes paying homage to the All-American standbys we all know and love. A few weeks ago I posted a tuna melt. Today the star of my show is egg salad.
But before I bang out this recipe, and WHILE I’m paying homage to things that are awesome (like diner food and chocolate chip cookies), I need to address some awards that came my way. I have amassed a small collection of awards in recent weeks and would like to take a minute to acknowledge the winners that nominated me and then pass the recognition on.

Creative Noshing, sometime in between skillet fried potatoes, a move, and a kitchen flood she found time to share The New Blogger Award with me. Take a minute to flip through her super recipes and eloquently penned memories.

Vina Kent passed me the Beautiful Blogger Award– she is a writer, a voracious reader, and blesses my posts from time to time with really positive words.

Domestic Diva, M.D. called me her “probably favorite”, and she is probably really one of mine. She is quick-witted, smart and shares things like Red Wine Risotto and Shrimp Pot Pie. Plus she makes me laugh.

All these awards require that I nominate a few picks for should-read blogs (5 for New Blogger, 7 for Beautiful, and 7 for Kreativ), but I think that the volume of picks here dilutes the effect (19 would be sort of ridiculous). I’m gonna list you a solid five that I think are way worth it:

Year of Healthier Living: writes about trying to green up her household. She posts weekly menus and grocery lists with her farmers market and local finds.

Hot Rod Cowgirl: her photos are stupefyingly beautiful. Click the images on her page for the enlarged versions of her home landscapes that make me JEALOUS.

Go Bake Yourself: High school student and baker extraordinaire. Her cookies are stuffed full of candy and her meringue is professionally torched. This girl is going somewhere.

Little House, Big Heart: Just found this one a few days ago. Newlyweds, new house- lots of super ideas.

Masala Art: a collection of recipes, posts reveling on her cute as ever little boy, and 5 things on Foodless Friday! I really dig the 5 things.

I also created a page listing all these awards, complete with the pretty stickers they came with!

And for the egg salad…
I hard boiled 6 eggs and then gave them a bath in cold water. I keep the water running while I peel them.
I separate the whites from the yolks…
Then I smush the yolks and dice the whites. The yolk gets dressed up like a deviled egg… mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and pickled relish if you are so inclined. And a dash of paprika. I add chopped celery and onions to the diced whites cause I like a little crunch.
Mix it all back together.
Smear the egg salad all over whole wheat toast and smother it with crispy green lettuce.
Classic Egg Salad

Ingredients (Egg Salad is all about preference- no measurements necessary. Eyeball it.)

6 hard boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, yolks and whites divided

mayonnaise

salt & black pepper

pickled relish

paprika

celery, finely diced

onions, finely diced

To Make

Smush the egg yolk with a fork and stir in the salt, pepper, mayonnaise, pickled relish, and paprika. Mix well. In another bowl combine the egg whites, onions and celery. Stir it all together and eat it off the back of the spoon… or make a sandwich.

Quick & Simple

We all know that weekday rush to put some semblance of nutrition on the dinner table in a reasonable amount of time. Monday through Friday means work, school, traffic, activities, homework, stress. Stress.

More Stress.

Raise your hand if you wanna stress about what to eat! Anyone? Hullo?

Right. Me neither. Pinterest has yielded, yet again, another tasty and quick we-have-too-much-crap-to-do-and-are-trying-to-avoid-the-Taco-Bell-drive-thru recipe. Taquitos!

Stop. Do not eat the taquitos rolling under the obscure heat lamp at the gas station next to the mystery hot dogs. Don’t even think about buying the giant box of pre-fried taquitos that’s on sale in the freezer aisle in the grocery store. Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? You need a PhD to pronounce the first 5 ingredients. Bad. I made the filling for these ahead of time the other day and then took just a few minutes to roll up the tortilla shells, brush with a tiny bit of olive oil, and bake when we got home from all our after school/work running around.
With a hand mixer combine cream cheese, salsa verde, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and minced garlic.
Fold in fresh chopped cilantro and green onions.
I used queso fresco all crumbled and yummy. You could use whatever cheese makes you happy- pepper jack, a cheddar/jack blend, shredded sharp cheddar cheese- the queso fresco was mild and melted with the cream cheese to give the filling a nice creamy texture.

If you’re making the filling ahead of time, stir in your cooked chicken, cover, and here is where you’ll refrigerate this filling for later. Otherwise, lightly oil a 9X13 baking dish, preheat the oven to 425, and get ready to roll.
Place the filling along the bottom third of the tortilla shell (I used flour tortillas) and roll them up as tightly as you can without tearing the tortilla shell.
Seasoned Chicken Cheesy Filling deserved a close up.
Line your rolled up taquitos in the prepared baking dish and lightly spray with cooking spray. I do not have cooking spray, so I just lightly brushed mine with olive oil. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of kosher salt. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. The end result will be crispy and golden. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole. I made a great big green salad and we enjoyed this a quick & simple weeknight meal.
Thank you to my source for this recipe, Chef in Training, and her source, Pennies on a Platter, and what appears to be the origin, Our Best Bites.

Baked Chicken Taquitos

Ingredients

3 ounces of lowfat (Neufchatel) cream cheese

1/4 cup salsa verde

the juice from half a lime

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 green onions, finely chopped

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken

1 cup shredded cheese (queso fresco, pepper jack, sharp cheddar, your preference)

small flour or corn tortillas (I used a mid-sized flour tortilla)

a pinch of kosher salt

cooking spray or a little olive oil for lightly greasing the pan and brushing the tortillas)

To Make

To cook the chicken: place 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts in a saucepan and just cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes- until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove from the pan and let it cool. Shred it with a fork and set aside.

For the filling: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, blend together the cream cheese, salsa verde, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic. Using a spatula or a large spoon, fold in the green onions and the cilantro. Then add the cheese and the chicken. Stir until well combined.

To assemble and bake: Preheat the oven to 425 and lightly spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. Fill the lower third of each tortilla shell and roll tightly. Line the stuffed and rolled tortillas in the prepared pan. Lightly spray with cooking spray or brush with oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until crispy with the edges lightly browned.

Birthday Season

Yesterday was my little boy’s ninth birthday. Happy Birthday Evan!!! Tomorrrow is my sister’s. Happy Birthday Sister!!! Since Evan was born he has shared his birthday parties with my littlest sister (or rather she has shared hers with him) since their birthdays fall only two days apart. Right here at the end of February, birthday season is in full swing and we all celebrate like crazy.

Evan started his day with birthday pancakes (sprinkles, sprinkles, sprinkles, and melted frosting in place of the syrup), topped with trick candles.
Then we read birthday cards…
Opened birthday legos…
And ogled birthday cake (this birthday cake road suffered an earthquake on its hour long car ride). We all had our fill of mini make your own pizzas, cool and creamy pasta salad, and buttercream frosting. We sang the birthday song and laughed the birthday laughs and just plain old enjoyed each others birthday company.
The birthday boy and girl blew out the birthday candles (look how cute my Super Mommy is in the background blowing the candles out, too), and we called it a Happy BirthDay.

Birthday Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

2 sticks of butter, softened

3 cups of confectioners sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons heavy cream (more if needed to get frosting to desired consistency)

To Make

Beat together butter and confectioners sugar for 3 minutes at a medium speed. Then beat in the vanilla and the heavy cream. Whip the ingredients on medium for another minute and then high for about 30 seconds. Add more cream if your frosting needs to be more creamy.

 

Empty Box

We had our Valentine’s Day date over the weekend… it was just easier that way. No work to worry about in the morning, no early bedtimes for the little boys, no reservations required at every restaurant on earth… it was just a little more simple than trying to make our great evening escape during the week. I got some gorgeous roses and a hand written card.
And a pretty sweet gift, too. But I had to walk 7 miles uphill in the snow to get it.

Okay, not really (because Winter has almost passed this season and we haven’t seen a stitch of snow) but figuratively. It might have even been more than 7 miles.

Chad has this problem where he likes to try to coerce me into taking my gifts for any holiday early. He gets all excited about his purchase and acts like if I don’t have it RIGHT NOW he might die. Or I might die. We ALL might die if I don’t let him give me a gift as soon as he returns home with it. If the children knew he suffered from this ailment, Christmas would consist of unwrapped gifts stuffed in Target bags passed along at random intervals during the month of December. So Valentine’s Day was no different.

On the date of gift purchase, I think he asked me 1, 973 times if he could give me my present now? No.

“But you’ll want it early. I promise you will want to have it for tomorrow,” he said, referencing a family get together the following day.

No-uhhh.

Chad is persistent, I’ll give him that. And so I relented. The box was not wrapped and when he hauled it out from under the bed, I knew immediately what it was: A new camera!!! (note for newcomers: up to this point, my photos have been taken exclusively with my phone. It’s a got a decent camera- for a phone- but it has its limitations) Okay so I was waaaay excited. I opened the box and pulled out the software discs. I lifted up a little cardboard flap and pulled out some cellophane and the power cords. I reached for the soft little foamy fabric that wrapped the camera- at this point I was TOTALLY stoked- and

IT WAS EMPTY.

My boyfriend is ever the practical joker so it took us a few minutes to sort out that this wasn’t a joke. He bought and paid for an empty box. And then he was just mad.

We called the office supply store responsible (I mentioned the idiocy of said office supply store in a previous post- this fiasco just affirmed that they really are a bunch of do-do’s) but it was nearly midnight. We sat on hold for about 23 minutes. I was so worried they would think us liars and not make the purchase good; I was determined to have some documentation. The lady that answered was the definition of apathetic.

We went to the store as soon as they opened the following morning. Chad kept his cool and I bit my lip (because I sometimes just say whatever crass corrections pass through my mind OUT LOUD… it’s not always really helpful). After a fair amount of standing around, thinking someone was helping us but never really sure, the manager pointed at a register and said, “Sign here for your exchange.”

Whaaat? Is this guy serious?

Yep. He was serious. On the way out the door I just couldn’t maintain my composure anymore. I looked at Chad and in my loudest full-of-indignation voice I said, “He Didn’t Even Apologize!!!!” Gah.

My camera is pretty great, though. And getting an empty box for Valentine’s Day is kind of a funny story to tell.

Bad customer service is the reason I needed chicken soup to soothe my soul.
Rub boneless skinless chicken breast with a little olive oil on both sides, salt and generously pepper. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes (or until cooked through). I cut my pieces down a little for faster cooking.
Cook celery, carrots, and onions with about a teaspoon of oil over medium high heat in a large lidded skillet until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add chicken broth, rosemary, thyme, and two bay leaves. Then stir in cooked brown rice. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. When the chicken is cooked through, let it rest until it’s cool enough to handle and then shred and add it to the pot. I cook my “soup” until the broth is mostly absorbed (because Andrew A.K.A the picky son has some kinda aversion to soup, but that part is just about [his] preference). Chicken & Rice soup is cozy and comforting. It even made me feel better about the empty box.
Hearty Chicken & Rice “Soup”

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces (I used boneless skinless breasts)

a little olive oil (for rubbing the chicken)

salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup carrots, chopped

3/4 cup onions, chopped

3/4 cup celery, chopped

1 teaspoon oil

2 cups cooked brown rice

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 bay leaves

To Make

Preheat the oven to 400. Rub the chicken with the olive oil and then season with the salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool. Heat the oil in a large lidded skillet and then cook the onions, celery, and carrots until they just begin to soften. Pour in the chicken broth and then stir in the rosemary and thyme, and toss in the bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir in the cooked rice, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Shred the cooled chicken and add it to the soup. Cover and continue cooking for about 30 minutes over low heat.

 

Tuna Melt

Yesterday was dreary and rainy. To make matters worse, I had a sick(ish) kid at home. It was a day that made me want a hot cup of tea on my sofa with a blanket and a book. But since there was no time for curling up on the couch, I moved on to the next best thing: comfort food.

After tomato soup, I think a good old fashioned tuna melt sandwich tops my list. Crispy buttered and grilled wheat bread, peppered tuna with the crunch of celery and onions, gooey melted cheddar jack cheese… Mmmmmmmmmm.

I make my tuna melt sandwiches just like I make a grilled cheese- in a hot cast iron skillet with butter and a shredded cheddar jack blend.

Topped with shredded iceberg lettuce and a meaty red slice of tomato, this sandwich was the cure for my rainy day kid-with-a-cough blues.

Tuna Melt

Ingredients

1 large (12 ounce) can of tuna in water, drained and flaked

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced celery

salt & pepper to taste

about 3 tablespoons of lowfat mayonnaise (nothing makes tuna salad better than Dukes- and they don’t even pay me to say that.)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese, divided evenly between the sandwiches

8 slices of whole wheat bread

butter for grilling the bread

sandwich toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, etc)

To Make

In a medium sized bowl, using a fork, stir together the tuna, onions, and celery. Add the salt and pepper (I go heavy on the pepper and barely use any salt– canned tuna is a bit salty anyway) and then stir in the mayonnaise. ***Note: this is how I make my tuna fish salad. Make yours however you like it best!*** Set the tuna salad aside. In a large skillet, melt a little butter. place two slices of bread in the melted butter over medium to medium high heat. Spread a quarter of the tuna salad on one slice of the bread and then sprinkle with a quarter of the cheese. When the bread is grilled to a toasty brown, put your sandwich toppings on top of the melted cheese. Place the other grilled slice of bread on top, grilled side up.