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Sharing-It's the Right Thing to Do

The following is VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.  Pay close attention, people. I discovered something recently.  I am compelled to share my discovery with the world, just in case there is someone out there who might not know what I did not know up until a few days ago.  I did not share right away because I had to confirm what I thought might be true; further data was necessary.  Now this is a secret that I cannot keep to myself.  It would be wrong.

In the not too distant past I bought a new cake pan.  I had no 9x13 metal cake pan, only glass baking dishes.  I bought it for Christian's birthday cake, but went a different route with it (I needed a really big cake so I made the Pioneer Woman's sheet cake in a clay jelly roll pan-it was perfect).  I considered returning the unused pan, but decided that it might come in handy sometime.  Now I know what an important, no, crucial crossroads that was.  The other day I planned on taking a meal to a friend who had a baby recently and I wanted to take brownies along with the meal (Hello-oo, new mother with three other children?  Brownies, not optional.)  Several years ago (I promise this is relevant) I read a book by Edith Schaeffer, wife of Francis Schaeffer, called What is a Family? and she suggests in her book that whenever you make food for another family you also make the same thing for your own family, for they are special, too.  (Wow, count how many times I used the word "family" in that there a substitute for family?  I think not.)  I decided this was a good time to try out my new metal cake pan with a double batch of my brownies (they are actually Ghirardelli's brownies, but I've made them so many times that they are practically my own).  I paid careful attention to these brownies since doubling a recipe can be tricky, timewise.  I made a chocolate cream cheese frosting, topped the brownies, and just to make sure I wasn't sending this family bad brownies (does that even make sense?!) I had a taste-testing.


I quickly covered the pan, lest I eat all of the brownies and have to do all that work over again, plus have the mother of all stomach aches for the next three days.  That would defeat the eating of a great piece of chocolatey, gooey, chewy goodness. My initial thought was that it had to have been the pan.   I've made these brownies, like I said, many, many times.  I've always used a glass dish before, though.  I wanted to test out my theory, and since I gave half of the brownies to this other family and we were down to one last portion (three servings or one, depending on who you are) with company coming last night, it was the perfect time to make a new batch.  (Um, any time is the perfect time to make a new batch.  Right, got it.) 

I didn't double the recipe for one dinner guest plus our family, and the only small metal pan I have is a round cake pan.  I used that, and found to my absolute delight that these also surpassed all of my previous glass-dish brownies. I have been converted to the metal cake pan club forever.  I would hand-wash my metal cake pan if it were dirty in order to make such scrumptious brownies.  

Maybe you already knew this information...WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?  If you didn't know it, then I hope you, too, go forth and make delicious, perfect brownies with a metal pan now.  And you're welcome.


Plan B

This week I did something that I rarely do. Oh, that could be any number of things, you know.  Did I make sure to check my calendar each morning to know what was going on on a given day? Nooo... Did I put away all the clean clothes as soon as they were dry and folded? Heavens, no! Did I handwash two days worth of dishes one night because our dishwasher is a piece of junk isn't working properly, the power tabs we have don't really work, or a combination of the two? Actually, I did do that...but I'm trying to talk about something else here. I planned dinners and made meals accordingly.  Wow.  First of all, I planned.  This in itself is a great feat for me.  I went to the store with meals in mind, and shopped for those meals and didn't get a whole lot of extra stuff (Oh, maybe a jar or two of pasta sauce, because I love to stock up on pasta sauce.  I think I have a problem with that, in fact.).  I am not a natural-born planner; it is not in my genes.  (This is REALLY bizarre because my mom could have invented Day Planners.  She wants to make a plan, she wants to know the plan, she wants to plan the plan.  I frustrate her.)  I am the anti-planner.  I don't like to make a plan.   My plans don't come to fruition.  My plans end up being wrong.  My plans are too complicated to pull off so they are left undone.  My plans are non-existent.  (I am not trying to be hard on myself...these are just the facts.)  Making a plan is hard for me, in part, because then I have to follow through, and there is something about following through that scares the padoodle out of me.  Making a plan is hard for me, because then I have to be committed to the plan.  I have to be responsible, and make sure that things work out and fall into place.  I am pretty sure that I missed some integral part of normal development where I actually became an adult, and instead I am really 13 in a 34 year old body. Back to the meals...the real point is that it worked out pretty well.  Right now you should know I am eating a piece of humble pie (which will NOT take the place of the piece of chocolate cake I am going to have in a few minutes).  Just last week I told Mike that I didn't want to plan meals anymore because it didn't work...that one time I tried it the week before.  I got so discombobulated because the plan didn't pan out that I wanted to give up.  But he encouraged me to persist, and so I did, half-heartedly.  And stubbornly, too.  I made a list in my head, and we all know how effective those kinds of lists are.  This, too, came back to bite me in the derriere when my fajitas were sans peppers.  (Yes, "fajitas" is a Tex-Mex kind of word, and "sans" is French, along with derriere-I'm multicultural like that.)  At any rate, for the most part, my meals went very well.  I was able to prepare some during the afternoon while Eliana was sleeping, and I knew how much time I needed in order to finish getting it ready (I am still working on this skill...I am always 10 or 15 minutes later than I hoped to be!). Two of the main dishes I prepared were relatively easy and pretty tasty, so I thought I would share them.  I did not come up with these recipes (although I did tweak one to suit our fridge and our family's tastes). The first thing I did was cook six chicken breasts all at once so that I could use them or freeze them.  I ended up using three for each recipe. Early in the week I made soup with a garbanzo bean base.  The second time I ever made this soup I accidentally opened one can of garbanzos and one can of navy beans.  I decided to go with it, and it didn't affect the taste negatively, and it turned out creamier-bonus!  So now I do it that way each time.  But the beans don't come in to the picture until later.  First, I cooked some tiny shell pasta according to the directions.  I think I cooked about a pound, and ended up using most of it in the soup.  While the pasta is cooking you are supposed to saute (I'm sorry, I can't put the accent mark on that word, but I know it goes there!) a little garlic for a couple of minutes; I had none so I skipped this part.  To the garlic you would add diced chicken (I used the three breasts cut into small pieces), 32 oz. of chicken broth, dried rosemary (about 1 teaspoon, more if you like), salt and pepper (I put in quite a bit of pepper and I think it made a big difference in the flavor-maybe a full teaspoon.  I'm not sure, but it was more than I usually put in, but tasted great).  The real recipe calls for two small tomatoes, cut up, but I didn't have them and my kids don't like them, so I skipped the tomato part and instead added a cup or maybe more of baby spinach.  I put a lid on the pot and let it simmer for a bit, so the spinach wilted and everything heated through.  While that was going I drained two cans of beans (you can use two garbanzos or one garbanzo and one navy) and then blended them with some of the broth until it was smooth.  Then I dumped it in the pot, along with the pasta.  The recipe calls for a tiny bit of pasta, but it's just not enough for us.  I use a bunch of pasta and it makes it heartier.  I kind of eyeballed it, adding pasta until I thought,"That looks good."  Very scientific and precise.  (Can you see my dislike of planning even in this cooking bit-I don't even follow the recipe.  This is definitely not always true.  Most of the time when I don't follow a recipe, we want Papa John's to come to the rescue.)  Then I let it get hot all the way through.  This soup turned out well, I thought, and both of my kids ate it up.  That is always a good sign.  I served it with salad, and bread would be good too. The other meal I made that went well was chicken enchiladas.  Because the chicken was already cooked, this was super simple.  I cut the chicken into tiny pieces.  I melted an 8 oz. box of cream cheese (I used the full-fat version this time) in a skillet, then turned off the heat and added the chicken to it and stirred it to combine.  I added a small can of diced green chiles (I used the Whole Foods 365 brand, and they were the best green chiles I've ever eaten in a dish like this...I don't know why, but it's true-a little bit of heat, not too much at all, and a good flavor) and mixed it in.  I patted out the mixture in my skillet so that it was flat and divided it into "slices" so that I would have eight relatively equal enchiladas.  I grabbed my eight tortillas and filled them, rolled them, and put them in a 9 by 13 dish (lined with aluminum foil), six across and two down the long side.  Then I sprinkled two cups of Monterey Jack cheese over the rolled tortillas, and poured one pint of cream over the top.  (Note:  This is not a low-fat dish.)  I baked it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  It was good.  It was rich. So, these two dinners brought happiness to our family this week...and happiness ought to be shared.  Maybe your family can enjoy them as well.  And if anyone has foolproof recipes to share, then I plan on trying would love to try them!

Fixing Dinner

I don't really like to experiment with food.  I'm not the kind of cook who can look at what I have on hand and whip something up and it's fantasticalicious (<--- she however is amazing).  It's usually bleh with a little bit of mlech on the side.  Add some salt, or ketchup and we're okay. 

Tonight I went to make pizza (some folks brought pizza up at Michaela's soccer practice and Eliana started her chant-I thought I would be frugal and make it instead of order it); in true Christina fashion I whipped up the dough (I have a super-easy recipe from online) and then realized I had no mozzarella cheese.  Hmmm. 

I went back and forth, what would I do, save the dough for another day, make a mexican-style pizza, save the dough for another day, what would I do.  I am probably one of the most indecisive people on the planet (I'm not sure about that, but I might be.  On the other hand, there are probably people who have a worse time making a decision than me.  But I really have a hard time, so I might be at the top.  But I don't know...).

I finally decided to make the mexican pizza.  I pushed the dough out into a circle (and Eliana said,"Peas-uh!  Peas-uh!") and then slapped some refried beans on it and spread them around.  I put some ground turkey seasoned with taco seasoning on top of that (yes, browned), and then some black beans and defrosted frozen corn.  I dribbled a little salsa on top of all that, but just a little of the saucy part, we don't like a whole lot of chunks here.  I topped it with Colby Jack, because that is the only kind of cheese I have (and when I say that is the only kind of cheese I have, I  mean it.  I have it shredded.  I have it in single serving rectangles.  I have it in slices.  Why do I have so much Colby Jack and no mozzarella?  Why?). 

It didn't seem like it would be too bad.  Theoretically, I thought, this could work.

Well, it was okay.  This is the finished version (my daylight was gone, sorry about the bad photo...)

It was missing something.  Or maybe there was too much of something.  Dough?  Refried beans?  I'm not sure.  What might help?  Nothing?  Very bad idea?  I just wondered if anyone had an opinion on how to fix this...

Christian and Michaela ate it.  In the end, Eliana decided that it was not pizza, and therefore would have nothing to do with it. 

So, here's to experiments and fresh ideas.  I think I'll stick to my recipes.


Easy and Cheesy (Oh So Cheesy)

Here is a super-easy, and surprisingly yummy way to get rid of that 5 lb. bag of mozzarella cheese you bought at Sam's the other week.  Oh, you didn't buy 5 lbs. of cheese at once because you're not that silly?  Right, well, I am.  And I've been making individual pizzas for a couple of days.  I'm also using the gyro bread that my son threw in our grocery cart, because he thinks he loves pita bread, only it wasn't pita, it was gyro.

What was I talking about? 

Pizza.  Yes, I put the gyro slice (slice?  Not really, more like a piece) on a plate.  Very easy first step, right?  I took a can of tomato sauce (the little ones) and spooned a small amount into a little bowl.  I added some garlic (smashed in a press), a little oregano, a little basil, and a little garlic salt to that sauce and then spread it on my bread.  I took some spinach (and for my oldest daughter, no spinach on hers this time) and broke it into little pieces and sprinkled it all around.  Then I covered it up with mozzarella and popped it into my oven at 400 degrees (how do I make a degrees symbol?  Anyone...anyone?) for about 12 minutes.  It was great!  And so simple!  Those two things together make me so happy.  I wish I had a picture of my pretty pizza, with a little red sauce around the edges and the green spinach sticking out here and there and the melty, golden mozzarella.  Yum

I'm happy to take suggestions about what to do with that mozzarella.  Seriously, I have about three lbs. left.  And that's a lot of cheese.

I just realized how much I've written on cheese lately.  I really don't have a problem.  It's just occupying my thoughts the last couple of days.  I wonder what that does mean.  I don't think I have a problem.  Maybe I should talk to someone about it. 

Knock knock.

Who's there?


Cheese who?

Cheese finally lost her mind!   


Trial by Pumpkin

A friend of ours sent in a pumpkin recipe, so I thought I would try it this morning.  It was a recipe for Pumpkin Scones.  Mmmm...sounds so good.  I set Eliana up in her high chair with a bowl of cereal, got Michaela going on some math review, and started dumping in my ingredients.

All was going well.  I added the pumpkin mixture (the puree, an egg, and 3 tablespoons whole milk) to my dry ingredients and gently folded that in with a spatula.  I put that mixture onto a floured surface and tried to get it into a ball, as the directions said.  It was obvious from the start of this part of the procedure that the dough was too moist.  I added a little flour and it didn't help a bit.  I added a little more, and a little more, and then I was afraid I was going to ruin the dough.  If you could have seen it you would say right now,"Going to ruin the dough?"  I was hoping that I hadn't already!  I decided the culprit of my sticky situation was...(dun, dun, dun)

I had to add quite a bit of water in order to blend the pumpkin chunks into the puree, so the extra water ended up in my scone dough.  And the dough didn't like it.  There was no way I was going to be able to make a rectangle and cut it and put the pieces onto a baking sheet.  It looked like I had on chenille gloves!  This stuff was so sticky.

I decided to try to make a sort of muffin instead.  What would we call them?  Scuffins?  Scofins?  Muffones?  I'm kind of partial to scuffins myself.  Michaela likes scofins.  While pondering these deeply philosophical questions and their existential effects,both good and bad, I dropped/oozed the dough (batter?) into my muffin tin.

It seemed like it might work, but I didn't know about timing it in the oven.  I set the timer according to the scone recipe and thought if I needed to add a minute or so, I could.  They came out like this:

Oh!  Where did that muffin go?!  

Alright, I confess.  I ate it.  I had to make sure it was done...

I put them back in for two minutes.  Then they were cooked all the way through.  They turned out very dense, but still fairly moist.

Must've been that extra water, no doubt.  I planned it that way.  Yeah, I meant to do that.

I wondered what would happen if I put maple syrup on it...

I got some interesting results...

I finished them up by adding the spice glaze that the original recipe calls for, which is how Michaela wanted to eat hers.  They were pretty good, too.

I have to say, it didn't go quite like I thought it would.  But we all thought they tasted yummy.  And I am in the process of draining some of the liquid out of the pumpkin puree before trying any other recipes.  Water is such a trouble-maker.  Seems so unassuming, but watch out!  You never know just when it's going to cause some confusion.  Of course, it doesn't take much to confuse me...