Sunday, March 18, 2018

Recipes that aren't really recipes: Chocolate Frosting and Crazy Easy Mac n Cheese

Sometimes, the life of me as a single mom gets a little weird about food. Most of the time it means throwing a frozen casserole in the oven, or dropping something in the crockpot. Other times it means I have really random food to eat. Quesadillas are something I frequently eat for dinner when it's just me. Or a scrambled egg. Or a rice cake with peanut butter. Or a bowl of Cheerios. Whatever is quick and super easy. And cheap would be good too. I'm still trying to get a grip on having a strict budget, and paying down debt from the 2 years of Hell is taking FOREVER.

Cutest nurse EVER!!
This doesn't look good
I think she's sorry.

Last weekend I managed to break my fourth toe on my left foot in a particularly exceptional fashion. Let's just say that the toe was a casualty in the fight to save a dishrag (one of the really nice knitted ones that my mom makes for Christmas presents) from my dog. So I'll be wobbling around in a boot for a couple weeks. A boot? Who gets a boot for a broken toe? Me. Because I am an overachiever and that toe is really spectacularly broken. I even have a follow up visit for more X-Rays in 2 weeks. Who does that for a broken toe? Orthopedic specialists who are concerned about said toe healing. I am really clumsy. So my new habit of getting in some cardio at the fitness center has gone way way south. And if I wasn't so pissed off at myself for breaking my toe like this, I could do one of the one footed workout videos on YouTube. Maybe next week...I have had lots of time, then, to play on Pinterest. And socialize with my coworker friends. And that's when I discovered two recipes that aren't really recipes. 

I tried the first recipe that isn't a recipe on Friday. My 100 year old grandma got the flu and ended up in the hospital. Scary stuff, but so far she's doing ok. My coworker friend had told me about making frosting for brownies with just a bag of chocolate chips and a can of sweetened condensed milk. Both of which can be found at Aldi's as well as a delicious gluten free brownie mix. Just so you know, if you are feeling emotional and you want brownies, the time that it takes to make a batch and to make the frosting and to wait for it to set helps to calm the urge to eat the whole pan. 
I only ate one piece!
Super Fudgey Frosting 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag chocolate chips

Combine the ingredients in a a saucepan and heat while stirring until chocolate chips are melted and frosting is smooth. 

Yep. That's all there is too it. There must be some sort of chemical whatsimibob that goes on because I was expecting a thin glaze like a ganache and it's this really thick, really rich, crazy good frosting. And the upside is that it's so thick and so rich that I have come nowhere close to eating the whole pan. Ok. So far I'm at a little less than half the pan...

With the success of the super fudgy frosting, I decided to try a Pinterest recipe not recipe. This time it is for a crazy easy Mac and Cheese. It's just a picture. I spent a good chunk of time looking for a place to link to and I can't find one. This was actually almost a science experiment because it's so easy I didn't actually think it would work and I wasn't sure if it would taste good.  I used regular pasta instead of gluten free. That will be a later experiment. 

Crazy Easy Mac n Cheese
2 cups milk (I used 2% because it's what was in the fridge)
2 cups pasta (I used penne because the 1lb box is cheaper than the 2lb box of elbows at Aldi)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (it was in the fridge)

Boil the milk and the pasta together. Until the pasta is cooked. The milk does not scald if you stir frequently, and the starch from the pasta thickens the milk a lot. Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. And it's done. 
See how thick the milk gets?

It was so easy that I got a little fancy and put it in a greased small pyrex dish and crumbled some bacon on top. I put it in the oven at 325°F for 15 minutes. Super Yummy! 
I'm so excited to eat the rest!!

It turns out that quick easy and cheap are possible! Not really great for the waistline, but if I can keep the portion sizes small.....

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hygge? Gemütlichkeit? Fondue!

SO. It's March, that means random snow storms. Pretty little snow storms. But still snow when I'm ready for my spring flowers. 

On Monday, I decided to do something different with my weekend. The darling princess was with her dad and rather than spend the weekend doing something boring like trying to advance in Candy Crush, I decided to have a cocktail party. This was perhaps not the best plan because when you invite people on Monday to come over Saturday, generally people have stuff going on. And I haven't entertained in long enough that people have clearly forgotten how much fun my gatherings are! Well sort of. Most of my friends had really legitimate excuses why they couldn't come. 

As the week wore on, I started to think about the upcoming gathering and the concept of Hygge (as explained in this fun little book that I picked up). The book explained that I should have candles. Not a problem, I have tons of random candles. The book also explained that it would be more Hygge to have a sort of group potluck where the cooking is all done at the same time at someone's house than to have pitchers of cocktails and teeny tiny little hors d'oeuvres. So I called up my friends who were coming and told them I had changed my mind and we would be having fondue! It seemed more Hygge even though it's Swiss and not Danish. And I should probably call it Gemütlichkeit because my heritage is German and not Danish. They sort of mean the same thing although it's more of a cultural thing in Denmark, I guess.

It also should be noted, that I had received an electric fondue pot as a wedding present and I had never taken it out of the box! I also had my mother's fondue pot and a teeny little crockpot called the little dipper. And it made sense to me that if I had 3 possible fondue devices, that I should make three separate fondues. And I did!! I made an unbelievably delicious Toblerone fondue (found here) that my friends and I discovered that pretty much anything dipped into it came out delicious! Grapes, apples, bread, strawberries, Rice Krispy treats, donut holes, pineapples, gluten-free snickerdoodles, giant marshmallows and teeny little skewers of blueberries, just to name some of what got dipped. Unfortunately my first try at making cheese fondue was a total fail. It was definitely stringy and globby. I'm not sure that's a real word, but it's an accurate description of my cheese fondue. Although, it was pretty good reheated on some potatoes for breakfast the next day!

And finally I made a marscapone and Calvados fondue from The Everything Fondue Party Cookbook. Calvados is kind of hard to find and it's a brandy made from apples. I had bought it for some other recipe and had to go all the way to Columbus to get it. The fondue was good. It sort of tasted like eggnog. The good boozy kind.  It was tremendous when we dipped apples in it. But it just wasn't mind blowing enough to compete with the Toblerone fondue.

We enjoyed a delicious chilled Pinot Grigio and a sweet Moscato with our fondues as well as great conversations and hearty laughs.

What I learned: I learned that making a cheese fondue takes a lot of patience and I think some practice. I also learned that I will be making the Toblerone fondue again. I learned that 3 different fondues for 6 people is a ridiculous amount of food. I learned that Walmart sells little Sterno 3-packs under where the tinfoil pans are. And I learned that I think I will either need to go to Goodwill or some garage sales and try to find traditional fondue pots. The electric one and the little dipper worked really good when I could have them plugged in, but the cords are really short and that didn't work so well for me. I might have to go buy a multi plug extension cord.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sweet Potato Chorizo Breakfast Casserole

See? Not at all like a strata!
I am a plain old Cheerios and milk in the morning sort of breakfast eater. It is my go to quick fix. Unfortunately, Cheerios and milk is not really a lot of protein and generally if I eat right when I get up at 4:30 then I'm hungry again before I get to my desk at school. And I'm ready to chew my arm off by the time I get to lunch. So I've been trying to get some more protein in my breakfast. I made some yogurt to eat with granola. But it actually got moldy before I had the chance to eat it all.Then I decided to make a crustless quiche recipe as I've had success with eating those in the past. But I only ate half of it in a week. I was eating my Cheerios instead. As I'm trying to eat better food for me in this whole new era of recovery, I was getting frustrated. I mentioned this to my super cool science teacher friend while we were eating lunch with her three daughters after church. She told me that she had this really great breakfast casserole recipe. It had tater tots and eggs and cheese and she uses some ground sausage and vegetables. I thanked her and decided to give it a try. Except that I totally changed it. 
That whole top is melted cheesy goodness!

This is an amazing casserole! I had it for both lunch and dinner yesterday. And I sent pictures and texts to Super G to tell her how amazing it is. And she now wants the recipe. I can't say that I blame her. I was a little worried it would taste like a strata. I hate strata. But it didn't! It tastes sweet and savory and cheesy and delicious!

I almost sprang out of bed this morning with excitement that I get to eat the breakfast casserole for breakfast! And then I remembered that it's President's Day and I didn't have to spring out of bed. 

Sweet Potato Chorizo Breakfast Casserole
Changed so much from the original it might as well be an original Shazamer recipe
Serves 8

1 bag sweet potato tater tots
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick)
1 lb chorizo
1 green bell pepper (chopped small)
1/2 white onion (chopped small)
5 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Arrange the sweet potato tater tots so that they all fit in the bottom of an 11 x 7" glass baking dish. Melt the butter in the microwave and pour evenly over the tater tots. Then cook the tots as otherwise directed on the package. Mine needed to be cooked at 425℉ for almost a half hour. 

While the tots are cooking, brown the chorizo in a skillet with the finely chopped onion and green pepper.until cooked through. Also in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the milk.

When the tater tots are done cooking turn the oven down to 350℉ and remove from the oven. Pour the chorizo mixture onto the tots and using a spoon, spread the meat and vegetables evenly over the tots. Then pour the egg mixture over the meat and potatoes. Finally sprinkle the cheese on top. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 30 minutes more. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Time keeps on slipping slipping slipping, into the future...

My Darling Love and I as Lady and the Tramp
I know. I've been gone awhile. 
See, it's kind of been a hell couple of years for me. Or two and a half years anyway. 

But let's start with the loveliness of the past several years. My darling princess. The true love of my life grows more beautiful and more interesting and more hilarious every day. I am forever the luckiest woman on the planet that she is my daughter. I frequently thank God that I get to be her mommy. She rolls her eyes when she hears me say that prayer. I simply cannot express the joy she brings to me. She's an amazing kid and the older she gets the more I enjoy her. We have started an adventure that we are going to travel to every state in the country together. Since deciding this we had an amazing summer vacation through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. I think that might be a separate post though. 
Diggerland New Jersey!

This summer we will head to Washington and Oregon. She wanted to go to Alaska or Hawaii and I told her we had to do those last...

About two and a half years ago, my husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore. I was kind of sideswiped hard by the semi truck of devastation. Although our marriage was hard work, I didn't realize exactly how badly it wasn't working. As my cousin, who is also now divorced, says, growing up we were told that marriage was work and how were we to know that it wasn't supposed to be THAT much work. With that said, I have no intention of speaking poorly about him. It's in the decree that I can't and there's really no point in it anyway. So in the summer of 2015 he was done. And after an eternity of fighting we were officially done in October of 2017. So remember my darling little love? I only get her 50% of the time. And although my mom would roll her eyes and tell me I'm melodramatic, It breaks my heart every. single. time. I have to give her to him. But in the interest of personal growth and being a whole person, we shall not mention him for the rest of this blog because he is no longer important. We are pleasant to each other because it is best for our daughter, but he is not an important piece of my life anymore. And really I am much happier now.

So what else have I been doing? Well, there was the whole cancer episode. 
Getting some chemo!
Which we shall refer to as when I was sick. I found the lump myself. And although WebMD said it could be cancer, it wasn't a surprise. WebMD says EVERYTHING could be cancer. and besides that I was dealing with a difficult home situation and it was December. I have a $2600 deductible and I hadn't touched it. There was NO WAY I was going to the doctor before the new year started and I forgot about it. I forgot about it? I FORGOT ABOUT IT! It seems like such a weird thing to do. To forget about a lump in my breast. Although it was really kind of over by my armpit. More on my side boob. And seriously who has breast cancer in their side boob at 44? And did you read the last paragraph? I had kind of big things going on at the time. SO, after he had moved out and I could breathe again because the tension dropped. I maybe was laying on the couch drinking a bottle of wine and watching Downton Abbey (Such a great show!) and feeling sorry for myself because it was the first weekend that my precious darling wasn't in my house. And there was this episode where Mrs. Hughes finds a lump and her and Mrs. Patmore go to get it checked out. In my wine drenched stupor, I remembered. With trepidation I felt around. Yep. It was still there. The next workday I made an appointment with my gynecologist and he assured me that he didn't think it was anything, but suggested we check it out to be sure. So there it was. Stage 2B breast cancer. Ugh. It was awful. Chemo, Baldness. Radiation. Exhaustion. Surgery. Surgically induced menopause. Hormones can kill me. Hot Flashes. The whole shebang. It's not quite like in the movies, but I only realized how terrible it was in retrospect. My family may have PTSD from watching me projectile vomit or not being able to walk because of weakness or balance issues or passing out from dehydration. But I had a laser like focus on surviving for my precious daughter. So while I was focusing on that, I wasn't focusing on just how awful the whole thing was. So in March of last year I finished the treatments of Herceptin. My survival chances go up significantly if I can make it through the first year without it recurring. After 5 years I will be considered "cured". 

My unbelievably supportive family!

Moral of the story? Feel your boobs. Really really get to know them. If you find a bump get it checked out. Had I waited until I was due for my next mammogram, I probably would be dead. 

So what does that mean for this blog? Where is it going? 

Well, I still cook. Although chemo messed up my intestines and gluten isn't really agreeing with me anymore. But now my home situation is changed and I can broaden my horizons. I LOVE to travel, both with my precious girl and without. While she was with her dad doing her obligatory "family vacation" where his family all packs in the same house and up each others rear ends and all through each other's business, I got to skip off to Iceland. It was amazing. That might be another post too...
Me at Þingvellir

And I have developed a sort of habit of reading as many books as I can. Lately, I've been reading a ton of self help books, but I also like to read fiction, like this great Icelandic Murder/ Detective series. I also really love funny books and inspirational books. Maybe I'll blog about some here. 

And I've been sewing some. I've been poking around on some sewing blogs and those can be really interesting. I have a ton of fabrics and a ton of patterns and maybe if I were to blog about them I would get some of those projects done. 

The beginning of a Split Rail Fence Quilt
I'd also like to knit more and show off what I've done if I ever complete anything.

And I've really really been bullet journaling. Oh my golly I love bullet journaling. So I may share some of my spreads and collections. I'm on my second Leuchtturn 1917 journal and I just got a TON of Tombow dual brush markers for Christmas.

Workout Log
Planning last year's vacation
Habit Tracker and Gratitude Log

Oh and I got a sweet sweet puppy.
My other little girl!
So I'm thinking rather than limiting this blog to simply being a food blog as it has been in the past, I will posting much more varied and interesting things.