Monday, November 28, 2011

Quick Tip: Don't Get Cheesed


When cleaning up cheese
whether it's cheddar on the grater
or melted mozzarella in the lasagna pan
use COLD water to remove the cheese.


When warm or hot water hits the cheese
it melts and gets all gooey.
It gets stuck in your scrub brush.
Or sponge.
Or dish cloth.

{corny joke alert}
Stringy cheese in my scrubber really grates me the wrong way.

After the cheese is gone, 
clean as usual with hot water.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grate - FULL

Thanksgiving (U.S.) is right around the corner. Guess who's thankful? Me! Guess who's cooking? Me! Guess who is still working on the menu? Uh, Me!

I've been pondering what I'm thankful for this season. And the one thing that keeps coming to the top of my list is my husband. More than ever I appreciate the balance he brings to me as a person and to our family. I spent too many years resenting our differences, when I should have been appreciating our differences. We each bring different strengths to the table, and that's what makes us a strong team.  

It has been quite a few years since I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Or Christmas dinner for that matter. I either brought a dish to a friend or family's house, or I made reservations. I resented (there's that word again) the work and clean up.

But I am cooking this year. And I'm not dreading it. I've been thinking about what might have caused the change in my attitude. I'm pretty sure this blog and the reason I started writing it is a big part of the change. I've been focusing on caring for my family by preparing meals for them. I think it's changing my perspective. And everyone on the home front said, "Yay!"

I still haven't decided exactly what is going to be on the menu. I'm not completely behind on the shopping; I have a turkey thawed and waiting in the frig. I considered one of Rachael Ray's 60 minute Thanksgiving meals (here, here and here), but in the end I decided to go a more traditional route. I might get too much resistance to a completely new menu. 

A couple of menu items are non-negotiable: mashed potatoes and cornbread dressing. The cornbread dressing is a recipe from my southern mother-in-law that this Yankee girl has come to love over the years.  And the kids have informed me that Stove Top stuffing is also a must.

Other than those few things, I'm still up in the air for what's going to be on the table in less than 2 days. I'm considering a brine for the turkey, and a sweet potato custard instead of casserole. I would like to start a tradition of trying one or two new recipes every year.

Have you ever brined a turkey? What are you "must-haves" on the holiday table? Are you going to try a new recipe this year?

While looking online for brining recipes, I read here that using a previously frozen turkey is not generally a good idea because of they are injected with a sodium solution. But I did stumble across this idea here for cooking a turkey by spatchocking. Hmm.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh My Darlin', Clementine!

Season's Greetings! 

It's THAT time of year. 
Yep. I have waited all summer. All fall
The hubby was patient. The kids, not so much.

But today when I stepped into the grocery store, 
my eyes caught a glimpse of wonderful
A tower of awesomeness
Literally. A tower.

It's Clementine season!

Clementines, I think, are the perfect orange.

~ easy to peel ~
~ juicy ~
~ full of flavor ~
~ seedless ~
~ not too big ~

If you haven't tried Clementines, you should!
You don't even need to put them in a produce bag.
Just grab a box!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fastest Way to Cereal For Breakfast

The original title for the post was to be

I was testing out a recipe to hopefully share with you guys. I found it at Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy food blog. It's a recipe from The Minimalist Cooks Dinner by Mark Bittman for roasting chicken in your oven in 30 minutes. 

I ran into a few snags along the way. It took much longer than anticipated, and no one cared for how it tasted, so everyone ended up fending for themselves for dinner (read: cereal). Well, here are my lessons learned:

  1. Read the ingredients carefully. The recipe calls for a 3-4 lb chicken. The size of the bird would be critical to the cook time. I had chosen a nice plump 5+ lb chicken. Mistake 1.
  2. I don't care for Tarragon. The recipe called for using Tarragon, a spice which I am not familiar with. I considered using alternatives instead, but thought, why not try something new. I smelled and tasted the Tarragon before using it - it has a minty taste.
  3. Breast Side Down vs Breast Side Up. The recipe directions said to place in pan "breast side up", but the photos show "breast side down". I went with the "up". I think this also affected cooking time. (More on this in a second.)
  4. A whole chicken is messy. Once it was finally done cooking, I had to let it "rest", then carve it. The carcas, the juices, the bones... my kitchen was a disaster area. Not a weeknight Quick Fix I was looking for. 

The concept behind the Fastest Way to Roast a Chicken is to preheat the pan and the oven together while you are prepping the chicken. So when the chicken hits the pan, it's already starting to cook. I love this shortcut! If I had placed my chicken breast side down in the pan, the meatiest parts would have started cooking immediately and my cooking time would have been faster.

I may decide, some day after the trauma of the evening fades, to try the recipe again. Instead of Tarragon, I would substitute one of the following:

  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning

What's your favorite roast chicken seasoning? Let me know if you give this recipe a try!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Military Spouse

I came across this article on Yahoo a few days ago, and since today is Veteran's Day in the U.S. I thought I would share it with you.

Being a military family has its challenges, but I don't think I could begin to describe how rewarding it is. It always touches me deeply when a stranger comes up and thanks my husband, shakes his hand, and wishes our family well. And of course, I am super proud of my hubby and all he has accomplished.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Remember to thank a military family today.

1. When a deployment is imminent, we just want it to start. That doesn't mean we want our spouses to leave. We don't. But when the date has been set and our husband's bag is sitting half-packed in the corner of the bedroom, we start getting anxious, worried and a little bit angry. We think about the upcoming months and everything he's going to miss and everything we're going to have to do alone. It's overwhelming. Once they leave, we can start to tackle the challenges one at a time and that's so much easier than the waiting. But those last few weeks before he leaves are wrought with frustration, nervousness and a little fear.
2. We are not miserable the whole time they are gone. We don't like that our family is split up, but we can't live in the future or press a pause button on our life, so we focus on other things. Hobbies, children, visiting friends and family, work; our life is still full. Just not complete.
3. But there are tears right underneath the surface. Whenever our children do something new, or something exciting or sad happens, or even when there have been just too many nights that we've stayed in alone, we get really sad. And we can't always be sad because we don't want to upset the kids.
4. That being said, most of us like our lifestyle. We enjoy the adventure of moving every few years, starting over, making new friends and living in various parts of the country and world. We have close friends everywhere. It's stressful yes, but also exciting.
5. We rely on our friends a lot. Even when our husbands are home, we are used to be canceled on at the last minute, not knowing schedules until an hour before an event, or having a job take precedence over the family. So, we have friends who are reliable, patient, flexible and who make us laugh. We love and truly appreciate our friends. So do the kids.
6. Our children are well adjusted and okay. In fact, most of the time, they are amazing in their ability to see the silver lining in every challenge. From the beginning of their lives, they've moved around, started over and had a parent leave for huge amounts of time. We have lots of strategies to help them stay connected, and we analyze how to make each deployment as painless as possible on the children.
7. We don't need or want pity. We look for love, friendship and fun. We don't need you to say "I'm sorry," when we tell you our husbands are away. We knew what we signed up for when we got married. However, we'd be so grateful for a helping hand. Helping us with something that would normally take two people, like shoveling snow or even just bringing in our grill for the winter would be awesome and will relieve the stress a little.
8. Please don't ask us what we are going to do to "keep busy" when our husbands are gone. Just like you have a healthy relationship with things outside your marriage, so do we. We don't need to "keep ourselves entertained" or "find something to do to pass the time" while he's gone. Those comments are insulting. We will just continue to live our life. Yes, there will be a hole in it, but we will not be pining away for six months or a year. So don't try to give us projects or find stuff to keep us busy. We'll be fine.
9. There are romantic moments about military life that rival only the most dramatic movies. We've been spun around by a man in uniform after he hasn't seen us in months. We've seen our children run toward their daddy with pure glee and excitement. We've dressed up like royalty and attended military galas and we've watched ships pull into port, with sailors standing at attention around the perimeter.

Homecoming - August 2003
When my husband returned from a year at GTMO, Cuba.
10. And sometimes the civilian population can be so supportive and sweet that it just brings tears to our eyes. These moments are precious and get us through all the tough stuff. So thank you. We appreciate all the thoughts, good wishes and the extra stuff you do to make us feel better. We notice it. We see it. And it really does help.
Sarahlynne is a Parenting Guru and has been married to a United States sailor for 3 years and 3 deployments.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chevrons and a Bowl of Pears

What does one have to do with the other other?

(Links to photo sources below.)

A few days ago, this was on my dining room table:


Green and Yellow Pears
aka "Grellow" Pears

More on the pears in a moment.

I'm slow to warm up to most trends. Especially the retro ones. 
No owls or peacocks in this house. 

Gray and yellow?

Turquoise? Too bright. Too 70's.

Chevrons? Why?!
Chevrons AND turquoise?
Chevrons AND turquoise AND yellow?!
Get me outta here!

Then one day
I put on a gray pair of pants for work.
I added a yellow shirt. 
And threw a denim jacket over it. 

My heart went pitter-patter. 
Weird! It kind of freaked me out how much I liked loved it. 
I think it was the gold stitching in the denim that tied the look together for  me. 

And then a few days ago with the bowl of grellow pears on my dining room table.

Why am I suddenly liking this color so much?
Maybe I'm reading too much Young House Love.

But I was sure
I would never get on the chevron train.

Then this sweater at TJ Maxx caught my eye: 

Why did I suddenly like chevron? Maybe it's the gradient colors? It's not as color-blocked as the other popular chevrons. I tried it on, but it just didn't fit right so I left without it. 

But that's okay. There's a lesson learned. Even if you don't like a current trend, don't judge the trend. You never know when you'll find it in your own personal style.

(Thrifty Decor Chick talks here about how sometimes our styles change, and it's okay if we don't fit neatly into a design label.)

Wait. Did I just use the word grellow? Maybe I am trendy after all.

Photo links:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Secret's In The Sauce II

If you've been in the grocery store this week, you've noticed that baking season is upon us. Now, I'm not a baker. But that doesn't mean I can't take advantage of the sales in the supermarkets this time of year. This is the perfect season for stocking up on spices, herbs and seasonings. But which ones and what for? Great time for another installment of . . .

The Secret's in The Sauce

The previous Secret's in The Sauce included my secret for Chicken Noodle Soup: poultry seasoning! The kids have even started adding it to canned chicken noodle soup when they fix it for a snack.

Here are a few more creative uses for those seasonings. And this time, they're not all cooking!

vacuuming - cloves
salt substitute - onion powder
pest repellent - bay leaf
mulled cider - cinnamon sticks
potpourri - out-dated seasoning

Deodorize with cloves: Place whole cloves inside your vacuum bag or sprinkle ground cloves on your carpet a half-hour before vacuuming.

Repel bugs and pantry pests: Place a bay leaf in your flour, rice of cereal. (Okay, I haven't tried this one. Not sure if the bay leaf change the flavor of the container contents. I found this idea here.)

Freshen up your kitchen with last minute home-made potpourri: Add rough-chopped fruit (apples, oranges, lemons) and spices to a pot of simmering water. Just open jars, take a whiff, and give a few shakes of whatever smells good! My favorites are rosemary, thyme, basil and cinnamon. This is a great way to use fruit past its prime and recycle old seasonings. And if you have a hood that vents inside instead of out, make sure you turn it on!

What are your favorite seasonings? Are you going to be baking during the holidays?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Menu and Schedule Board: Pinterest Challenge

Pinterest is a place where you can have a virtual collection of bulletin boards. Anything you see online, of have a photo of on your computer, or see someone else "pin", you can pin to your board. It's a great source of inspiration.

I took a challenge from Young House Love to complete a project that's inspired by Pinterest.

Here's my inspiration piece, a Wipe Off To Do List / Weekly Menu Board:

It's easy!
1 - Take a frame
2 - Add scrapbook or other paper behind the glass
3 - Use dry erase markers to write

I loved this idea, but I wanted to do it on a larger scale -- a combo schedule and menu to hang on the wall in our kitchen/dining room. I kept my eye out for an old window. I scooped this up at a yard sale for $5:

I painted the front red and added a light-colored scrapbook paper behind the windows.

I decoupaged gingham checkered wrapping paper all around the sides.

Then I put the initials of the days of the week down the side and labeled one column "sked" (for "schedule") and the other column "eats" (for our "menu").

This has been working great for the family! The kids know to look at the board to see what's for dinner and what is happening in the house that week. I wasn't sure I wanted to keep the background paper the same, but if I decide to do that, I will decopage it to the back of the glass. It will dry perfectly clear, but it will be permanent. Right now it's just taped to the wood frame in the back.

I loved the idea so much, I decided to make one for a to-do list at my desk at work. The background is actually scrap fabric that I glued to a piece of cardboard. It's has a subtle gray/navy swirl pattern.

My to-do list board inspired a coworker to make this dry erase board to notify her team of where she is on any given day, or if she is in a meeting or at lunch.

I love how the frame matches her desk lamp, and also how it hides the computer cords from view!

She also framed our company's monthly calendar, and plans to add additional meetings and events with a dry erase marker:

One simple idea, so many options!

Do you have any projects inspired by Pinterest? I'd love to hear about them.

Oh, and please visit the blogging gals who are hosting this Pinterest Challenge. At the bottom of their posts you will find links to hundreds of inspired people like me who quit pinning and started creating!

Sherry from Young House Love
Katie from Bower Power Blog
Erin from House of Earnest

Also linking up to