I need your expertise!
My little boy is smitten with a little girl.
This is serious.
I need your expertise!
My little boy is smitten with a little girl.
This is serious.
I have a real thing for Christmas movies. My absolute favorites are the old old clay-mation classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. We actually all just piled onto the couch to watch Kris Kringle defeat the Winter Warlock with a toy train AND make a fool out of Bergermeister with a yo-yo. That’s Christmas spirit for you right there. A Charlie Brown Christmas was on a couple weeks ago, and until we all sat down with hot chocolate to watch it together, we could have added that movie to the crazy list of cultural references that my boyfriend has managed to isolate himself from.
Sometimes I take pride in fooling my children.
Like when I trick them into eating things they previously pronounced to be “disgusting” or when they tell me 34 times they don’t like something, but then BLAM-O! They clean their plates and ask for seconds and have no idea they are eating spinach or something.
I’ve been sort of really into junk food that’s not actually junk food lately.
Like BBQ cheeseburgers that are actually made of vegetables and beans (plus cheese and BBQ sauce).
The other day I ate a humongo pile of chips, all salty and crispy and satisfying… except they were made out of kale sooooo technically they were pretty good for me, right? There’s been non-fat milk in all my lattes, which, in my world, gives full permission for adding chocolate or caramel, or one of those sorts of wonderful things. I baked some southwest egg rolls (recipes for those little yummies later this week!!) and they were just as full of spice and crunch and wonderful dip-a-bility as they would have been if I’d deep fried those babies.
Also… CHEESE FRIES. The ultimate pile of cheesy, greasy, deep-fried and then dipped in ranch dressing, potatoes that are usually covered in wonderful things like bacon!
Except that I baked these.
But before I baked them, I married them with mustard and sweet onion flavors- sort of like those Snyder’s pretzels that leave that weird and unyielding yellow flavor film on your fingers? The stuff that won’t come off AT ALL without a thorough hand-scrubbing? Like that flavor, minus the annoying sticky properties.
Am I rambling?
I feel like I’m rambling a little bit.
It’s just that… my biggest small boy is trying out for wrestling today and I am kind of freaking out about it. Of course, he can’t know I’m feeling freaked out because what if I transferred all my nerves and twisty worried mommy feelings? That would be awful. Plus he’s a boy and he’s in middle school and worried mommies are basically not cool and everything. He wasn’t worried AT ALL when he left the house this morning.
And if he was, then he is extra good at pretending (but I really hope he wasn’t).
Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, or a parent, or completely lack any amount of coordination or athletic ability, but wrestling seems scary!
It seems scary, right? Or is that just me?
The nerves explain my need for comforting platters full of cheese and potatoes, right?
And the fact that I’m really enjoying my size-smaller jeans is all the more reason to keep baking stuff that restaurants would just loooove to be deep-frying.
Bacon would have been most excellent crumbled over the top of all this melted cheese, but Evan insisted on having the last couple strips on a whole wheat dinner roll as a sandwich in his lunchbox. No mayonnaise. Or lettuce. Or tomato. Nothing. Just bacon and whole wheat bread. His lunch requests remain a mystery to me.
So anyway… baked cheesy mustard and sweet onion fries. Make these!!!
They are super comforting. Especially when your kid is trying out for wrestling. Cross your fingers for me, okay? Because I’m pretty positive my biggest little boy has got this. I just need to learn how not to worry… but I should ask someone other than my mom because even after five kids and two grand-babies and more sporting events than I could ever keep track of, after allllll that, she still paces up and down the sidelines at every soccer game.
Baked Cheesy Mustard & Sweet Onion Fries (adapted from THIS recipe for Baked Chili Cheese Fries at Joy the Baker)
3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed, roughly peeled, and sliced into french fries
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon seasoning blend; I used Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning, but something like McCormick’s Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning would be great, too (though I’d probably use a little less of that).
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons dry mustard OR 2 tablespoons prepared spicy mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup honey
1 cup shredded cheddar or blended cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions
Pre-heat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you can use non-stick cooking spray, but the potatoes will still want to stick a little bit, so the parchment paper is recommended)
Place your sliced Russet potatoes in a large bowl and toss them with the olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and seasoning blend. Set them aside.
You can prepare the mustard & sweet onion flavor one of two ways: I’ve done this both ways and they are both delicious! The only difference is that sometimes I run out of dry mustard, but I always have prepared mustard on hand.
Method 1: In a small bowl combine the cornstarch, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Toss this mixture with the already moist and seasoned potatoes. Scatter the potatoes in a single layer across your prepared baking sheet (Note: you may need two baking sheets). Drizzle the potatoes with the honey. Bake the fries for 30-40 minutes, removing every 10 minutes to stir around the baking sheet so they evenly crisp all around. The last 10 minutes, stir and then sprinkle them evenly with the cheese. Scatter the green onions over the baked fries before serving.
Method 2: In a medium bowl whisk together the cornstarch, prepared spicy mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and honey. Pour the liquid over the seasoned and moistened potatoes in the large bowl and toss to incorporate. Scatter the fries out across the prepared baking sheet (Note: You may need two baking sheets) in a single layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, removing every 10 minutes to stir around the baking sheet so they evenly crisp all around. The last 10 minutes, stir and then sprinkle the fries evenly with the cheese. Scatter the green onions over the baked fries before serving.
Saturday night brought the demolition derby type of amusement, complete with mullet-sporting spectators, loud cars, lots of mud, and my 9-year-old thrilled to pieces over some car with the word “renegade” spray-painted on the side.
And then on Sunday there was this:
Soooooooo many rollercoasters. I am a thrill-ride junkie. I love love LOVE a rollercoaster. It’s been a few years since we’ve made it over to Paramount’s Carowinds (which is, like everything else in the civilized world, about an hour from here) because it is usually pretty pricey, the heat is unbearable, and the lines are way too long. But! Our dear friend Pat, who is too adorable to even try to put into words, really wanted the boys to do something fun this summer – her treat. We waited until the summer was hanging on by a thread and picked yesterday to indulge in all things too fast, too high, and too much fun.
Armed with a 12-pack of Coca-Cola, a pile of peanut butter sandwiches, and a box of those chocolate Hostess cupcakes with the curly-cues across the top, we made our way to the amusement park, dead-set in our rain or shine mentality. It was a torrential downpour all the way up the road… I was beginning to fear I’d have to placate the children with a movie I couldn’t bear to sit through (to give you a good idea of what I mean, Evan thinks that Air Bud makes for quality viewing material). But when we pulled into the park the downpour turned to drizzle and eventually just… stopped.
As a result of our fearless drive through the hurricane-force sheets of rain, we were able to ride every rollercoaster in the park at least TWICE without waiting in one single line all day. That was a very sweet gamble.
So it’s been a few years since I’ve been on a rollercoaster, and though I am ever unafraid, I have to admit that the Intimidator rattled me. It was the first stop of the day because we just knew that bananas long lines would happen at any minute. Rather than work our way up to the tallest, fastest, longest coaster in the southeast, we just jumped in with both feet. Eyes wide open.
There are no shoulder harnesses. YIKES.
But ohhhh so worth the scary.
Chad, my little brother, and I spent a good chunk of the day convincing the children to get on rides they had dubbed “too high” or “too scary”. Evan quickly established that his comfort zone involves lap belts and hills, but absolutely no loops. He actually buried his face in his hands on his first go of the Goldrusher, a train ride I very affectionately remember riding with my parents when I was very super small. Five I think.
Andrew totally resisted his status as son of a thrill-seeker until …he didn’t. When he finally got it, he was all-in. You have never seen a kid more excited or more fueled by pure happy adrenaline than mine after his third trip round on the scariest rollercoaster I’ve ever ridden.
The only thing we didn’t do yesterday is eat greasy amusement park food. We by-passed every steak ‘n’ hoagie, every single cheeseburger. We did not eat even one giant soft pretzel. There were no $7 Dippin Dots or $9 soft drinks in fancy souvenir cups. Halfway through the day we marched out to the parking lot, ate our picnic lunch, and marched right back in. That’s not to say I wasn’t totally enticed by the smells of Cinnabon wafting past, but I’m the mom that brings a purse full of candy to the movie theater. And I’m okay with that.
I did, however, bring thoughts of fair-like food home with me. So I indulged today, but I healthed it up a pretty good bit.
These Cheesy BBQ Veggie Sliders are HANDS-DOWN the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had. What’s better is that they’re itty bitty, so you can have two.
Cleverly smashed into these lovely little sliders are chick peas, black beans, carrots, spinach, caramelized onions, cheese, and BBQ sauce. Ohhhhhh yeah.
Topping these with more cheese was an important decision. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much cheese.
More veggies on top of the unreasonable amount of cheese.
If they had sold these tiny veggie burgers at Carowinds, I might have been tempted to splurge. But I think I’m glad I waited to gorge myself on park-ish food today, in the comfort of my own home, where Chad is the only person that might point and laugh if I smear BBQ sauce on my face.
From THIS recipe at How Sweet It Is
The last week has yielded, for me, a metaphorical 5-gallon bucket of lemons. In order to maintain a level of relative calm in this sour hurricane of a storm, I have adapted a few practices that have made it bearable; things I do when I’m stressed that I really thought I should share.
#1 Find an ink pen and doodle all over a pad of paper while you spill all your guts to your mom (or your sister, or your best friend, or all of the above) on the phone. Acceptable doodles include all manner of hearts and swirlies, the names of all your loved ones, including your cats and dogs, and polka dots.
#2 Clean something. I know that this does not sound nearly as fun as drawing swirlies with a hot pink pen, but mindlessly scrubbing things lets you focus on a simple task while exerting an unreasonable amount of force on inanimate objects like bath tubs or ceiling fans. Plus the results are totally satisfying. Tip: avoid cleaning products that boast “Scrub Free!!!” or “Works like Magic!!!” labels. These are not going to help you.
#3 Bake bread. I find baking to be waaaay theraputic anyway, but baking bread is simple and it can go on for awhile. Slapping dough down on your floured table and kneading your little heart out is a super duper stress reliever. And when the baking is done you have big thick slices of warm bread to slather with blueberry butter. THAT is comfort.
#4 Find the Kenpo X video from the P-90X work out series, put on your sweats, get a big bottle of water, and then pretend to punch the daylights out of the source of your stress. It’s like pillow punching, except you can work on your fitness. And you’ll feel like a badass. Oh! And if you keep it up you’ll look like a badass, too. Perks.
#5 Give yourself a pedicure. Soak your feet in warm water, epsom salts, and a little milk. Make a scrub with some kosker salt and a few glugs of olive oil. Pick the happiest nail polish… your favorite summery pink or red, a girly soft pinky white, a juicy melon color, or go crazy with stripes of green and blue. Whatever you do, stay away from navy or brown or deep dark purple. Save those for November. Right now you need pretty colors and peep toe shoes. Yes yes yes.
#6 Go to your favorite coffee shop. Order your favorite drink. The full fat version. Indulge in baked goods. Curl up in one of those huge fluffy arm chairs with your beverage, tuck your feet under you, and just BE.
#7 Hug the ones you love the most. Hug them tight. Don’t let go.
Sometimes I am totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of awesome things I come across on the daily. I try so hard to remember allllllllll the things I wanna tell you about because they plain old strike my fancy, but then I get distracted by things like baking bread or eating ice cream sandwiches.
Ice cream sandwiches are really distracting.
So before something shiny (OR chocolatey) snags my attention, let me proceed.
Awhile back my sister posted a link to these 27 Indisputable Facts that Everyone Knows are True. Numbers 7, 10, 14, 16, 19, 21, 22, and 23 are particularly awesome.
One day I came across this proposal video. I watched it twice. Then I made Chad watch it. Also I cried. Don’t judge me.
I’m so ready for fall I can hardly even stand it. I want to wear things like THIS.
I’m a teensy bit obsessed with these… like I think I need to make them yesterday…
And going back to indisputably true things… I really like it when my little Evan leaves me reminder notes taped all over the house or my Andrew sends me text messages just because he wants to talk to me… about nothing really in particular. I really like it when they solicit my approval on their Crayola masterpieces or beg me to join a card game, or pick me flowers from the yard to tuck behind my ear. I really, really, REALLY like alla that.
Also!! When the little boys rave over my baked goods it’s like a badge of honor.
Everyone likes badges. And dogs. Everyone [SHOULD] likes dogs.
I also like loaded potato skins. THEY ARE SO INSANELY ADDICTIVE.
Which is a little bit weird because baked potatoes, while pretty good and definitely falling on the list of things I like, don’t really qualify as addictive. Something happens to potatoes when you scoop out the fleshy middle (and save it for hash browns) and replace that middle with cheese.
It might be the bacon that sits on top of the cheese that puts these things over the moon. Or the sour cream that goes on top of the bacon. It could be the slight oniony crunch of scallions or chives or the chewy but crisp bite to the potato.
More than likely, it is all of these things, wrapped up into a few bites of deliciously satisfying appetizer goodness. What’s not to like about all that ?
There is SO MUCH to like about loaded potato skins that this pile grew and grew.
Then it disappeared really fast.
This morning my mind is pretty much stuck on sugary breakfasts (like those pop tarts I showed you before), so before I tell you all about how to make potato skins (which are a decidedly un-sugary breakfast food), I need to show you one more thing I like.
I like these Overnight Cinnamon Rolls so much that I really wish I’d remembered to make them last night. I’m pretty sure they would more than drastically improve my morning. Coffee cake couldn’t hurt either.
Oh! When you make yourself that pile of potato skins don’t forget that ranch dressing is important on the side. It helps the celery sticks. And while you eat, you should totally watch THIS.
Loaded Potato Skins
Russet (or other thick-skinned, good for baking) potatoes, smallish in size and thoroughly scrubbed. I look for potatoes that, when halved, could be eaten in about 3-4 bites.
shredded cheddar cheese
bacon, cooked and crumbled
green onions or chives
coarsely ground black pepper
ranch dressing (for dipping)
Preheat the oven to 400. Rub the potatoes all over with the olive oil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven (but leave the oven on, reducing the heat to 350). Let the potatoes cool, cut them in half, and leaving a little flesh all the way around (don’t scoop all the way down to the skin), scoop the middle out of the potatoes. Set the potato middles aside for something delicious like hash browns.
Rub the insides of the potatoes with the olive oil and then sprinkle with the kosher salt. Line the halves up on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese into the hollowed middles of each potato. Then the crumbled bacon. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, watching for the cheese to melt but not burn. the potatoes will become a little more chewy and a bit crisp at the edges.
Spoon sour cream onto each potato half and then sprinkle with green onions.
Serve with ranch dressing.
Actually, this is the third time this week that a late night noise has pulled me from my already sporadic slumber. The first two times were weird; once I woke up in a panic and scrambled off the bed around 1 a.m. because I felt certain something was creeping around, and it wasn’t Chad. Chad could sleep through a hurricane, so my scream-and-scramble-for-the-door move didn’t phase him much. He just swung his feet over the edge of the bed towards the floor and sat there rubbing his eyes in the dark, most likely thinking that I’m completely crazy. Then I made him try to sleep all night with the light on.
About the time we both dozed off, maybe around 3 in the morning, the TV in the living room started blasting white noise out of nowhere.
I promise I am not making this up.
Several mornings this week when I have gone into the kitchen to put the coffee on and start breakfast, my oldest son, Andrew, has been perched on the couch with a blanket quietly watching re-runs of The Office. As soon as I flip the light switch and start to wonder why the TV is on, his head pops up from behind the cushions like as if it’s the middle of the day. “Hi Mommy!”
“Why are you up?,” is all I can muster in my pre-coffee before dawn coma.
“Bad dreams… couldn’t sleep. Can we have pancakes?”
So back to this morning at 4 a.m. A noise woke me up and when I sat up in bed to identify the source, I realized it was the TV. Not scary white noise TV like earlier this week, but little boys parked on the floor watching cartoons TV. And sure enough, upon opening my bedroom door and padding through the house, I found two little boys in a mess of pillows and blankets sprawled across the floor watching cartoons at 4:15 in the morning.
And they had yet to fall asleep.
I crashed the middle-of-the-night cartoon party and shooed my boys off to bed, managing to catch a teensy bit more sleep before my morning routine started calling. The only good that came of the whole mess was that they both slept until after noon. When I pressed the issue over cereal and milk at 2 p.m., expecting to hear tales of crazy nightmares or scary bumps in the night, they told me that they were simply staying up to see if they could do it.
Remember when you were a little kid and you just stayed up all night for no reason other than to see if you could? Completely the opposite of now, when I’m thrilled to pieces if I hit the sheets by 11 p.m. Or better yet, 10.
I can’t wait to see what kind of interruptions this night will bring…
Typically I can offer you some clever liaison between what’s going on in my life and the recipe I’ve decided to share, but sleep-deprived as I am this week, It’s just not happening. I made this southwest inspired pizza shortly before we went on vacation. Chad talked about it for a week, so I’m guessing he liked it alright.
I used a whole wheat crust, but a jalapeno cheese crust would have been even better. In place of sauce I made a paste with some leftover black beans, a heap of seasoning, and a bit of chicken broth. I sprinkled corn, bell peppers, red onions, and tomatoes over the black bean sauce. Added a little shredded chicken and a heap of shredded cheddar jack cheese.
And then happily smothered each slice with guacamole and sour cream.
Here’s to hoping for a night without any paranormal activity.
There are lots of things I miss about being on vacation. This view from a lounge chair in the sand is one of them. I also miss early morning coffee with my whole family at the kitchen table with a pile of waffles.
I’m missing the fact that no one thinks twice when there’s more vodka than juice in your cup at 11 am or that beer is totally acceptable well before noon. Vacation tip of the week: Buy THESE. You’ll thank me later.
Junk food was an integral part of our 8 day hiatus in Oak Island, North Carolina. This included Doritoes piled with leftover chicken & rice, root beer floats at any hour of the day, homemade pizzas, tacos, brownie sundaes and s’mores.
OH. The S’mores.
We very quickly remedied that problem. I have pictures, but I think he would not speak to me for a week if I posted them. So I’ll just leave that marshmallowy and slightly inebriated mess to your imaginations.
We also had a birthday… Happy Birthday, Momma!
This one nursing the sunburn of the century…
And the construction and subsequent all-day defense of this sandcastle. Yes, it has a soccer field.
And a hot tub.
I’m really missing this view behind the house…
Recipes to follow…