Tuesday, October 20, 2015

100% on my first assignment!

Since going back to school on the 12th, we just received our first grades back.  I some how managed 100% on the first writing assignment.  I'm rather pleased with that outcome.  It was stressful.  I hope as time goes by, this will become easier and allow me to develop good study habits.

Work-Life balance was easy.  Work-Life-School balance is already proving to be difficult.  There might be a huge pile of laundry needing attention.  It's also time to decorate the house for Halloween.  I'm glad we've put a plan in place to decorate the house for the party.  I've never had 4000 sqft to decorate before.  Keep in mind, EVERYTHING is bigger in the south.  Houses, yards, cars, boats, toys.... everything!  I don't think I feel that compelled to decorate the basement too much for the Halloween party.

I'm lucky that I have a husband who loves to decorate for fall and Halloween.

I'm pretty lucky in general.

Only thing missing is Jackson and I'll get to see him soon.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Change. Change Is Good

Life has changed significantly over the past several years.  One of these days, I may tell my entire story.  For now, I think I'll use this as a platform to keep my writing skills in tact since I've gone back to school.  I didn't anticipate being as rusty as I am at writing.  I certainly didn't anticipate that committing going back to school to finish my BS and go further and chase an MBA would cause as much stress as it has for myself.  However, I have an amazing husband and son who support me and keep me balanced.  I can't wait to share the news with Jackson that I've gone back to school.  This is going to be an interesting ride.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

At long last - Lasagna!

I will apologize up front. I didn't have pictures because the camera was dead and I totally forgot to charge the battery. FAIL - but that doesn't compare to the HUGE WIN I just had with my first lasagna EVER!

I have always been intimidated by making lasagna after watching my Mom for years slave at the process. Start your sauce the day before by scratch. Carrot, Onion, Garlic, tomatoes that were whole that I got to help squish into the pot - seasoning for days, tomato sauce and paste and on and on and on. THEN you cooked the noodles, trimmed the noodles - layer after layer after layer. I was just too afraid to make it without it being a total failure.

Tonight, on a very festive occasion - MY BIRTHDAY - I decided I wanted lasagna and I was going to make it. (Sorry Stouffers) So I went to the store to purchase ingredients.
Lasagna Noodles -check
Two jars of sauce - check
Ricotta cheese- check
Parmesan cheese- check
Mozzarella cheese - check

We already had some ground beef in the freezer so I pulled that out to do it's bidness ;) Opened the sauce and used a jar and a half along with the cooked beef once it wasn't a block of frozen red substance. The jar sauce I used and happen to still love is Classico Tomato & Basil. It's not the sweetest sauce out there by any means and has a decent amount of flavor.

I called my Mom for advice as I always do. She told me how to make it as I frantically tried to write it all down. "Just follow the directions on the box, it's not that hard" she says. As I picture her in the kitchen many times during my childhood slaving away over her process.

*SIGH* Ok, I can do this!

I read the directions a few times - just to make sure I knew what I needed to do. I just had to remember these were telling me to cook the noodles and I wasn't going to do that. Hmm.

I pulled out of the fridge the items needed to mix the "stuffing" with. The Ricotta slipped out of it's container with the most distinct sound and ending with a big thud in the bowl. It did NOT look yummy! Cracked in two eggs, added 3.5 cups of the Mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan and mixed. This looked interesting. Was it going to taste good? Not so sure!

Before starting the assembly process, I tasted the meat sauce. It needed a little something. I added some sage, thyme, oregano, and a little salt & pepper. MUCH BETTER!

Now to put this pan of potential perfection together!!!

"layer bottom of pan with noodles slightly over lapping them" - if any of my 2 readers have ever made a lasagna with "oven ready" or not cooking your noodles first - you know that they aren't the easiest thing to work with. Yes, the pan is 9 x 13 - YES the pan is square and so are the noodles - but they are rock solid and don't move or conform to the shape you wish them to - DUH!

I put my first layer down trying to break and crack the noodles to create the shapes and lines to fit this square yet unsquare 9 x 13 pan. Maybe next time I'll actually cook them. We'll see. :)

Now cheese mix. WOW this stuff doesn't move easy and yes I'm only supposed to use half and spread it all over this 9 x 13, dry noodled mess without moving things around!? HA! Note to self - use a fork not a spatula for this process - it works SO much better. Small strokes and move things around. It will fit! Dump half your sauce mix over the cheese mix and repeat layers. Yeah well - this wasn't the box directions first time making a meal they've stressed over making since cooking became a thought. GEEZ!

I eventually got the 2nd layer on. Preheated the oven to 375 and baked for an hour. GUESS WHAT I FORGOT!?! You really should cover the damn lasagna so the noodles can catch some steam and cook - HELLO! Thank you for the loving reminder Mom! :)

I open the oven after the timer goes off an hour later and pull the lasagna out to top with cheese to melt. oooh! OUCH! There are some burnt or slightly darkened and dried out pieces around the edge. DARN IT! Not a total fail but not a total win! Oh well, you live, you learn right!? Thank you for your amazing words of wisdom Alanis Morissette. I topped it with cheese after picking off some dried out burned edges and placed it back in the oven to melt.

After the cheese looked oooey and gooey (did I spell that right?) I brought it back out of the oven to rest while cooking the garlic bread. I was terrified! Did the noodles cook!?? If I stuck a knife in this thing (which didn't look so bad!) would it go all the way through?? YES! WOOO HOOO! WIN #1!!! The noodles were cooked and I wasn't totally screwed for leaving the foil off during the baking process. Would it taste good??? We'll have to wait and see.

The garlic bread finished - sorry to disappoint, but it was store bought. Sliced it up and served with a modest slice of the lasagna. Of course wanting to avoid total taste failure - I served Matt & Nate first waiting anxiously to hear some sort of response before dying or giving an enormous sigh of relief to continue on to my taste test. (waiting, waiting, ..... OMG SOMEONE SAY SOMETHING!)

"Mom, this is the best thing EVER!" "oh yeah, no more store bought please"

YES! YES! YES! They like it! Shew! My turn! :)

It was great!!! I didn't have a total fail! It was really tasty and cooked well. I can't tell you just how proud I was and how the anxiety of making my Mom's lasagna finally left my body. I no longer fear the huge pan of lasagna.

I do apologize that I am lame and didn't check the camera to see if it was charged to take a picture of my lasagna deliciousness but life goes on. (wow I'm full of analogies today! sorry!)

One more hurdle in the great kitchen of life has been jumped over and I accomplished another course. I promise not to make it so long before my next blog. :)

Thanks for reading :)

Much <3

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Omeletes by The French Chef & What's next?

Julia Child the ever famous The French Chef was on PBS today making Omelets. Who knew that what I've been making as an "omelet" is considered by Julia to be leathery eggs! Huh! She recommended a deep skillet with high sides that was non stick. Hmm. I've done my one person omelets in a small pan - low and slow. She said "They are quick and shouldn't take you more than 30 seconds to make". Say what Julia!?

You beat your eggs with a splash of water to fluff them up a bit when you beat them. Then you lube your pan with a tablespoon (hello french cooking! would you like some more butter with that?) of butter - get it on the highest heat your stove will muster - and then dump your eggs in before the butter browns. Then you basically shake it around till it folds in on it's self and give it that saute flip that Julia called "jerking" lol - it's barely enough for the egg to set - before dumping it on your plate and topping it with goodies. You can also stir in your goodies for your omelet before putting the egg mixture into the pan and shaking the hell out of it for a few seconds and that's a "French" omelet. WHO KNEW!

I personally have become really good with the low, slow & covered method regardless if Julia the great thinks if they are leathery! Matt & Nate never complain! Just this morning Matt had a two egg, sauteed mushroom & Havarti omelet. He loved every bite! :)

I guess the moral of the story is kids: make your "omelet" the best way it speaks to you! You like them a little more cooked? Give it a lower heat so your eggs don't burn on the bottom and cover it with a lid so the top cooks at the same time (less moving the pan around to get the egg on top to cook) and add your good "stuffing" and fold it over! :) GEEZ! *how in the world omelets can be so complicated is beyond me!*

What's Next!?

Well all 3 readers :) Here's what is on the list of potentially what's next! Tell me what you think! I'll make it! *these jumped out at me from the cookbooks I have*

Gnocchi with quick Tomato Sauce
Crispy Chicken with Parmesan Tomatoes
Chicken stuffed with dried Tomatoes & Basil
Potato Crisp Chicken
Chicken Ragout
Boeuf Bourguignon
Texas Style Chili (this is an entire blog on it's own! the great chili debate)
Three Cheese Lasagna Rolls
Bayou Dirty Rice
Chicken & Dumplin's (southern staple?)
Chicken Positano
Beef Wellington for 2
Skirt Steak Stroganoff

Now I realize there is a LOT of chicken on this list. It's CHEAP PEOPLE! :) I'm cookin' for 4 on a budget! :)

Much <3

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beaten, Battered & Oh Well!

Today was the open casting call for a brand new show to air on Fox called "Master Chef". I just found out about it a few days ago from a friend on Twitter. They were looking for people who like to cook or entertain with food who didn't have professional experience. I wasn't too sure when I initially found out about it, but with a lot of encouragement from Matt I thought what the heck. I know I don't have a lot of experience, but it would be fun!

I went through a few recipes and decided to go with the Shrimp Scampi. It's most assuredly the most involved recipe that I've done or maybe that's just my take on it, since I've not made it a million times. At any rate, I fell in love with this recipe. **Warning- this blog might be a bit long so if you aren't sitting, you might want to**

I don't know how else to tell of my experience other than it's been interesting. I sent my initial email telling my story about how I love to cook and that I'm VERY new to the game. I wasn't going to sugar coat anything of my experience or try to bite off more than I can chew so to speak. :) They would see right through that crap anyway. In the process of sending the producers my store and pictures of plating things and such - I made a virtual friend :) Well she may not consider me one, but she was very sweet and I could send an email to this address and she wasn't going to judge me based on my lack of cooking history. She actually liked the fact that I'm so passionate about cooking and willing to show my true non cooking pro colors :) THANK YOU Maria - you'll never know what that little bit of kindness has meant to me.

I first sent her a picture of a plated tasty treat :) I got this idea out of one of Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks. This is a double chocolate brownie with coffee ice cream(Starbucks - the only way to roll coffee ice cream) with chocolate sauce and a strawberry for decoration. :) Not the most complicated thing in the world, but it was fun (yet stressful) to make but damn tasty! :)

I believe I also sent Maria a picture of my Portobello Steak & Crab dish that y'all got to see earlier in this blog. That was tasty too! :)

Then, just a few nights ago when I made the scampi for the first time, I was SO PROUD of myself that I had to send Maria a picture of it. I just couldn't help myself. :) Within just a few minutes of me hitting the send button, she called me to giggle with me. A little kindness goes a long way people! Learn how to use it! :)

I really wasn't nervous about this experience. I know I don't have but a scratch of cooking experience - all self taught with the long distance help of my Mom Laveta. *You'd love my Mom - she's awsome!* So the process went like this:

Wake up at 8 - take a shower. Get dressed. Get in the kitchen and get cookin'! :)

For only being the 2nd time of making the Scampi it was MUCH better than the first time and the first time I couldn't stop ooohing and aaaaahing over the sauce! I got everything packed up for plating and put the good stuff in a warm mug and took off. Nate kept me company and gave me a lot of support while being nervous. I had a check in time of 11-12 and got to pass through the CRAZY line outside of Sir La Table in Kirkland. It went from the left side of the store in the alley, all the way around the front of the store and up the right side down the street.

I had a pre-screened pass if you will to not sit in that line. So we got in really quickly and didn't have to wait in that MONSTER line. We get inside and immediately I felt in over my head. You can see some people have already plated their stuff and HOLY COW, I must have looked like an idot. But I had the balls to be there and do it anyway. I didn't care.

As the line moves around, I learned that I'm not the only one with little experience and that was comforting. Some dishes I saw, I thought "wow, really!?" I could do so much better than that! I was finally moved around the room to a station where I could plate my Shrimp Scampi. YEAH! (not so much) we had waited there - plated almost an hour - watching people who had come to plate after me come and go. The longer I waited, the worse my stomach got and the more I wanted to cry. Ugh!

We finally get in front of a Chef Judge. The one I wanted to be judged by because she sat with Maria (Woo Hoo!) and I should have kicked myself. I was already seriously nervous and I realize that she was just doing her job, but I felt like I was tore up by this woman who was the professional.

She asked me about how I made the dish and what was in it. Were the shrimp fresh? Why do you clarify butter? Is there stock in the dish and did I make it myself? Uuuuh. :( I'm sorry I didn't have a picked chicken carcass just hanging around to boil & simmer for hours with amazing fresh herbs to blow you away with my chicken stock. I had store bought free range chicken stock. KILL ME! No I don't know why you clarify butter. I now know that it removes water and milk solids and leaves pure butter fat which gives it a higher smoke point, but that doesn't mean much to me and Scampi when I'm not cooking it at a very high temp anyway!
My toast pieces were too large and the plate was unbalanced. It tasted just like scampi. Win!? NO! She got what I was trying to do but it didn't work for her. She seemed very put off that I wasn't bringing her an original creation and that it was a recipe from my Mom.

I was crushed. I tried to keep the tears back. It didn't work. We packed up - I turned in my packet and we headed home. Crying while driving is really hard. But tell me something - why do your best come backs always come AFTER THE FREAKIN' FACT!?
Now I would love to tell that judge or ask her - when she first thought about cooking - was she cooking out of cookbooks and recipes from those around her or was she just the most amazing natural that she was cooking the most amazing inspirational dishes from the get go without any training and a large budget!?!

Did this hurt a little? Yes! Will this stop my cooking adventure? No way in hell! I'm far from done people! As a matter of fact - I encourage all you non cooks who might be interested in cooking to join me in my journey in learning how to cook!

I've had my minute to be sad- now it's time to move on and COOK MY ASS OFF!

Much <3

Friday, January 8, 2010


I feel like the Campbell's soup commercial! Cause it was "so mmm...mmm... good!" I was looking for a dish to make for Sunday (more details Sunday). I tried the steak & crab dish. It was nice but it wasn't BAM! Mom kept bragging about how delicious this Scampi dish was that she and Aunt Donna can't get enough of.

So I think I wrote this thing down about 3 different times before finally deciding to try it. It sounded complicated! "Clarify a stick of butter." Well, I've never done that before! In all honesty this was probably the most complicated dish I've ever made just on the butter part! MAN!

The first stick - separated and didn't really bubble thanks to the heat being way too low. It just looked like an oily mess! YUCK!
Second stick of butter was MUCH better. I turned the heat up a bit- things separated and bubbled & foamed and all that jazz that butter is supposed to do when you "clarify" it. :)

Now the easy part - shrimp! I purchased 2lbs of shrimp (on sale baby) that had already been cleaned - I just needed to peel them. It was time to delegate! Jackson was playing/crying/grumping under my feet and all over the house so it was time to make this go faster. NATE TO THE RESCUE! Nate scrubbed in (LOL) and helped me peel. He was very proud to pull the shells off and the tail of the shrimp still be attached. I didn't even have to pay him for his labor! He just wanted dinner :)

I floured the shrimp and chopped fresh garlic. I thought you could have too much fresh garlic. Not so much! I wanted more! I had to double the amount of garlic - I thought we were all going to stink! :) After browning the shrimp in the sparkly butter - I added the garlic and let it fill the house with smells of NOMS! (Have I ever told you this cooking thing rocks!?)

Chicken stock, some simple herbs & a little sauce - no I mean white wine :) and we were ROCKIN! I sliced some baguette and kept dipping it in the sauce as it was coming together. As it came together and simmered I could see trouble ahead! No wonder there are so many cooks over weight! You just can't stop yourself when it tastes so damn good!


I didn't really have a plate to make this look fancy - then I remembered the lonely set of China we got from my brother & his wife. SCORE! :) Look how far I've come! :) I'm SO stinkin' proud of myself! I could have written all night about this one, but it's late, I'm sleepy and it's going to be a long weekend which those of you who listen/read (all 2 of you) will read about on Sunday/Monday. :)

I'm happy to answer questions - send you the recipe but all I can say is even the shrimp hater in the house (Hubby Matt) thought this was good. "Thicken the sauce and ease up on the lemon." I love that I can get honest feedback from Matt & Nate and it doesn't hurt my feelings a bit. Now if Gordon Ramsay was giving me feedback, I might cry :)

Much <3

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tonight, tonight - is not just any night :(

The little one is sick and I have things going on - so I apologize to my 2-5 readers. Nothing exciting this evening. Check back tomorrow!

<3 U