Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Need Sleep

      I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few days.  I've been able to sit around the house with Monkey, playing games, dressing up, painting, coloring and overall just having fun with my little girl.  Because J's gone off training again, we've had a bunch of much needed Mommy-daughter time.  I have to share a few pictures I took this weekend of my little Monkey dressed up in my wedding dress.  These are a few of my favorites:

And my personal favorite:

   She told me that she was a princess and that the headband in her hair was, in fact, her crown.  She makes me smile :-)  I got this idea from Pinterest (of course).  The original "pinner" suggested displaying these photos at your daughter's wedding.  Let's just say that when I mentioned the idea to my husband, he didn't have the same heartwarming reaction I did.

J:  "She's not getting married!"
Me:  "So you want her to be alone for the rest of her life?  What if she finds someone who makes her happy?"
J:  *sigh* "Okay fine, but no military guys."
Me:  "You know little girls grow up wanting to marry their daddys, right?"
J:   "Crap."

   I considered telling him to get out while he still could, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.  Anywho, because we've been so crafty lately I decided it's time I take a minute to showcase what my MOnkey's been up to.  So get ready for some really lame pictures that I will probably pin to my own board and then stalk to see if they get any "re-pins".  (Don't judge me, I become an insomniac when J leaves, so I have time on my hands.)  So here are Monkey's Valentine's Day crafts, better late than never:

Valentine Butterfly

Kitty made from hearts.

Evil bunny made from four big hearts, and one small heart for the tail.

Happy Heart People

Flower made from nine "petal" hearts and two "leaf" hearts.

   I've also seen a ton of these cute paintings made from footprints and/or handprints floating around Pinterest, so here are a couple of ours:

Footprint fireman. Monkey had fun painting the "fire" around him.
Hand and feet tulips.

     So enough about what Monkey's been up to, it's my turn :-D  I recently discovered that I love Nutella, which of course, is a little late in being discovered, but never the less, I've been looking at different recipes I've seen with Nutella involved.  I've yet to make any of them, but I will.  Today I woke up energize, so I decided (in the spirit of Mardi Gras) to make a King Cake filled with Nutella.  Then the moment passed.  I got busy cleaning and playing with Monkey, so when she asked for cookies, I was no longer feeling the whole pulling out the flour and sugar and butter and eggs.  Luckily, my mother-in-law always brings me little things that I can use around the house like paper towels, laundry detergent, or Betty Crocker's sugar cookie mix, so I got a little creative and made these:

     What started out as a kind of Nutella sugar cookie, ended up as more of a Nutella Thumbprint cookie.  Whatever you call it, it was yummy, and easy!  All I did was follow the instructions for the sugar cookie mix, then added enough Nutella to make it that pretty shade of brown, or until it was sweet enough for my sweet tooth.  After scooping the batter out onto a greased baking pan, I made a well in the center with my thumb and added a scoop of Nutella to the middle before baking for about 10 minutes.  Monkey was eating them before they even had time to cool.  I finally had to move her little step stool to the opposite side of the kitchen.

  I'm sorry I've been a bit obnoxious with the pictures tonight.  I know it's a bit off my normal bit where I complain about my clueless, lovable husband and our misadventures together with Monkey, but what can I say?  My muse is out in the wilderness, preparing for battle.   Well, one thing's for certain, if he doesn't come home soon, I may end up doing something insomnia-induced that I may later regret.  Like adopting a new pet, or making a life-size model of Buzz Lightyear out of cardboard for Monkey's upcoming birthday party.  You know, whatever pops into my sleep-deprived mind.  Now I'm heading over to Pinterest to pin away ;-)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Never Again

  One of these days, when I say something like "I'm never going to let J go grocery shopping with me again", I'm going to stick to it!  Needless to say, I didn't follow my own advice once again.  I know it may sound silly, but I just get these images in my head of J and I holding hands, laughing, and exchanging witty jargon while perusing the various aisles of the commissary.  Of course, this never happens, but I think last night takes the cake.

   I originally planned to go alone, but because we needed to enroll Monkey into the daycare program here on base, we decided to just do that together before heading off to the commissary.  Although this plan meant that we'd save gas by not making multiple trips to the Child Development Center, I didn't take into consideration how much later we'd be starting out.

   When we got to the commissary, all was well.  Monkey was slightly hungry, but for the most part things were going smoothly.  But as we made our way up and down the first few aisles, J began to get hungry too.  That's when he began to sneak food into the buggy that wasn't on the list or in the budget.   After catching him in the act a couple of times I got tired of berating him and simply started to replace the items on the shelf.  When he saw that he couldn't sneak past me, he decided to beg.  Then he got Monkey to beg for the items too.  I was not swayed, however, b/c what use are protein bars to a 2-year-old?  Finally he gave up and focused on keeping Monkey entertained.  This sounds helpful, but it wasn't.  His version of entertaining her was zooming up and down the aisles with her in the buggy as I'm struggling to catch up with a twenty-pound bag of dog food on one hip and a various array of cleaning products in the opposite hand.  Around this time I realized I didn't have a pen, and it was getting harder and harder to keep up with the items I had purchased and the items still needed.  That's when I asked him to run to the car for me.  And for ten blessed minutes there was peace, so much so that I didn't wonder at what was taking him so long.

  Before long he returned and chaos ensued, but the light at the end of the tunnel was getting brighter as I realized there was only one thing left on the list.  That's when J realized that Monkey's pull-up was on backwards and had leaked.  I asked him to take her to the family bathroom while I went in search of the last item.  I was telling him that I only needed one more thing before I went to check out as he was walking away, so I knew he didn't hear me.  I also knew that he probably wasn't listening when I said that this was my last item, so he wouldn't know where to find me after Monkey had gotten cleaned up.  One thing I didn't know was that cell phones had horrible reception in the commissary.

  I checked out while eyeing the bathroom door, waiting for them to come out, but I never saw them.  Finally the bagger and I walked towards the exit.  She had a cart and I had a cart, because I evidently didn't catch all of J's sneaky maneuvering.  I swung by the bathroom on my way out, and knocked on the door.  No answer.  Then I opened it, but no one was in there.  Thinking that perhaps J went out to the car the bagger girl and I headed in that direction too.  Only, there was a problem.  The car wasn't there   Now, I'm not always observant when it comes to remembering where I parked, but I did know that it was right outside the main exit and next to a buggy return.  The car was no where to be found.  I even tried hitting the panic button a few times; nothing happened.  Finally, I admitted defeat, went back to the exit so I could stand out of the rain(oh, did I mention it was raining?).  I apologized profusely to the bagger girl, who after I tipped her,  had the good grace to tell me that she's seen worse.  Then I set about blowing up J's phone like a jaded fifteen year old trying to get in touch with her ex to tell him she's still in love.  (Wow; what a flash-back!)

  Finally, my phone rang, and I could tell right away that J was still in the commissary by the background noise, and he was all "Where are you?" and I was all "Where's the stinkin' car?" and he was like "I moved it."  And I was just "Why the HELL would you move the car?"  That's when I realized people were looking at me, so I just mumbled something very threatening about what would happen if he didn't get out to of the store in the next five minutes.  He obliged, but only to realize I was not at the exit he used.  Then he tried again.  Still not the right exit.  That's when he tells me to just meet him at the car....



  "Oh, yeah;  okay."  He sounded a little too peppy for my taste.  Finally he met me and took the cart as I took the buggy.  In silence we loaded up the car that was now on the opposite side of the parking lot.  As we were finishing up I said that I was going to run to the BX to pick something up.  Out of nowhere he snapped at me, saying there's milk and ice cream in the car.  Without another word I marched off to the BX in search of Vodka, not because of the stressful shopping trip, but for the spaghetti recipe I'm going to eventually share with y'all.  It literally took three minutes.  I was back in the car with my Vodka in hand, and J was apologizing for snapping.  I bit down an ugly retort because I was still a bit peaked at being embarrased and force to march around with a lost bagger-girl and a ton of groceries around a rainy parking lot looking for the car that was there one second and gone the next.  I asked J one thing, "Why did you  move the car?"

"I thought you'd like it to be closer because of the rain."

Damn his sweet, considerate, yet inevitably doomed attempts to help out!

  By this point it was 7:00, so we stopped to eat on the way home (no one brought up the milk or ice cream this time), and we all felt better.  Well, sort of.  The way home was silent, because although food made me more calm, I was in no way a sweet, purring kitty.  J was his happy, clueless, puppy self, and decided to break the silence he'd begin asking me a series of odd questions.

J:  "So, when you make new friends, what's a trait you look for?"

Me: "What?!?"

J:  "What would you say your favorite color is?"

Me:  "WHAT are you TALKING about???"

J: "I'm just curious."

Me:  "You pick NOW to be CURIOUS?  What is WRONG with you?"

   The rest of the ride was silent.  I guess he finally caught on.  When we got home, I unloaded the car as he bathed Monkey.  After tucking Monkey in, I passed out as I was about to blog.  J woke me up later to get dressed for bed.  As I was about to pass out again, I hear "So...what happened tonight?"  I turned over and went to sleep.  Perhaps there was a little bit of angst left over b/c this morning when he leaned in to kiss me before he went to work, I head-butted him.  In my defense, I was half asleep.

   So, for those of you who read this, please remind me when the 1st of March rolls around NOT to bring my darling husband to the store with me.

  Now here's that recipe I promised:Spiked Spaghetti.  

1/2 pound dry thin spaghetti pasta 
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
Scant 3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper 
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
Shaved or grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
Additional fresh basil leaves (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add vodka (when cooking with alcohol, there is always the chance of it catching on fire, so be very careful); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly.

IF you have stick blender, you can now puree the sauce right in the pan (easy peasy!). OTHERWISE, place tomato mixture in a conventional blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); and secure the lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters), and process until smooth. Return tomato mixture to pan.

Mix in cream, then cook the sauce for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta and basil. Taste the pasta and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.

 It was really tasty.  It was different, tangy, but yum.  J liked it, but he did say that he wished it had meat. I'm glad I tried it, but now I don't know what to do with the leftover Vodka in my cabinet.  Hmmmm.....

Disclaimer: After reading my blog entry, J requested that I clarify a few points.  
1.)  He did not ask me my favorite color.  He knows my favorite color, but he did ask me some other random, pointless question that I can't remember now.
2.)  He was not "zooming up and down the aisles to keep Monkey entertained".  He must have been doing it to simply keep himself entertained.
3.)  He now wishes he hadn't asked me to put up this disclaimer.

Update:  I made the Spiked Spaghetti again, but this time I added 1 lb of Italian sausage and fresh, sliced mushrooms, and it made a world of difference.  I also used crushed tomatoes, insted of diced, so that cut out the entire blending proces.  I was very impressed with this new and improved version, and J was satisfied that he had some meat in there.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Bites

     Yay!  J came home Friday, which means no one is in danger of being bludgeoned by their vigilante mom when she hears a bump in the night.  It also means, more food!  Seriously, when he was gone for just those two weeks I saved about $100 on groceries alone.  Monkey and I bought a gallon of milk the day after he left.  We ran out the day he got home, and now the one he bought the day he came home is gone already.  Oh, well.  It's not all bad, though.  I love the ego boost I get when he gushes about something I've made for him.  Tonight I got one of the best episodes of "gushing" so far.

    Tonight I made Buffalo Chicken Bites.  I've had this recipe "pinned" on Pinterest for a long time, and I "favorited" them on Foodgawker before I'd ever heard of Pinterest.  Let's just say that actually making these was long overdue, especially after how delicious they were.  These would made a perfect appetizer for a football game or barbeque, but they were also good as the entree to a side of coleslaw and corn on the cob.  So I'll stop rambling on and on about them and just share the recipe and some photos, shall I?

 So here's what you'll need:

1 cup finely diced cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's brand is what I used)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (I used 2%)
2 1/2 cups of flour

To make the buffalo chicken mixture, in a small bowl, combine the chicken, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, melted butter and hot sauce; set aside.

In a small bowl, heat the milk and then add the 2 tablespoons brown sugar; stir until dissolved; place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast to the stand mixer and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (I ended up adding about 1/4 cup). Allow the dough to knead in the stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Place dough into a clean bowl that's been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours (mine only took about 1 hour).

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands with flour, then gently roll and stretch 1 piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of buffalo chicken mixture into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to a sheet pan. Make 3 more ropes with remaining dough, filling and cut into pieces, transferring to sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly). 

Bake buffalo chicken bites in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven (some cheese may have melted out.) and brush tops with melted butter before serving (optional).---She said optional, but I say go for it.

  Well this is going to be a short blog tonight.  I'm not that interesting when I'm not attempting to defend my home from the unknown evils that only threaten when J's gone.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Honey-Glazed Chicken Quarters w/ Seared Bok Choy

   The last time I blogged, I was going on and on about how easily I'm freaked out when home alone, and I'm here to announce: It's not getting any better.

   As I've said recently, Monkey sleeps in a big-girl bed now, and I guess it finally dawned on her last night that she can get out of it and come find me.  I figured that was coming soon, but I guess my half-concious brain didn't consider that when a dark little figure came slowly creeping into my room at 3 am.  Thank God that hammer was tucked back in its proper place in the closet. O.o  Perhaps I should consider putting up the baby gate tonight.

   While I'm battling insomnia and insanity on the home front, I'm finding work less and less appealing.  I mean who wants to go into the office after five hours of sleep that were interrupted by the stuff of nightmares?  Not me.  Thankfully my boss gave me a bit of incentive today.  He brought his kitty from home to be our new honorary mice-catcher.

 As I'm sure y'all have guessed from my blogs about VooDoo, I'm a bit of a sucker for anything of the feline persuasion.  So it's no wonder that within five minutes I had the kitty on my lap, purring and rubbing up against me.  I also renamed her Layla (an upgrade from "Sissy", which is what my boss was calling her).  Needless to say, I'm looking forward to work tomorrow.

  And last, but not least, I do have a recipe to share.  This is for Honey-Glazed Chicken Quarters w/ Seared Bok Choy.  This is from the September/October 2010 issue of Paula Deen's magazine.

1 TBS sesame or olive oil
4 chicken quarters
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS lime juice
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 baby bok choy heads, halved
Sesame seeds, optional

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, and cook 6-7 minutes per side or until browned on both sides.  In a medium bowl, combine chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, lemon juice, honey and mustard.  Pour over chicken.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done.  Remove chicken from pan.  Place bok choy, cut sides down, in pan, and cook 5 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.  Serve chicken with bok choy.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

  For some reason my computer is rebelling and won't let me upload a photo, but trust me, it was yummy.  Well, this is going to be a short blog tonight, because Modern family is coming on in 7 minutes :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Only Two Weeks

  As most of you already know, J has been gone for a few nights now.  He's training at a base not too far from here, but he's not allowed to come home so that they get the real "feel" of war.  *insert eye roll*  Whatever.  Although I hate any amount of time that he's away, I was looking forward to these next couple of weeks.  I thought, "Yay for me time and one-on-one time with Monkey and a lower grocery bill."  What I didn't realize was how much I'd actually miss him.

   I know that must sound horrible, but as a seasoned Navy Wife, I thought that a couple of weeks would be no problem.  After all, we've been through a nine month separation swiftly followed by one month of home time before he was shipped off on a six month deployment.  Two weeks?  What's that?

   What I didn't take into account was the fact that I've gotten used to having him around.  This is the longest J has been home since Monkey was six months old, and I guess I've gotten spoiled.  So yesterday when I drove home from work you can probably guess how excited I was to see his car parked outside of our house.  I was so happy, giggling at the thought of him trying to surprise us,  that I swung into the driveway without stopping to pick Monkey up from my friend's house first.  As the garage door was going up for me to park, it dawned on me.  J didn't take his car.  I dropped him off, and the buses drove him to the base.  Sad times.

   Tonight I had another realization of what having J around means to me.  With him in the house, I'm not really that worried about crazy things like burglars or ghosts, but when he's gone every creak in the floor is a robber or a demon from Hell.  (And our floors squeak a lot.)  As I was upstairs bathing my Monkey, I heard a loud bang downstairs.  The dog (who is a good warning signal) raced downstairs, barking.  Fearless, as I am when forced into the protective mother-bear role, I ran to the closet, grabbed J's hammer and creeped downstairs, ready to bludgeon some bad guy for entering my home uninvited.  That's when I found out that the cat had knocked the laundry detergent off of the shelf.  No one got bludgeoned, although I seriously considered the cat as a likely target for a moment or two.

   It's not all bad though; Monkey's room and mine are more spotless than ever.  She goes to bed on time, and without being wound up by tickle attacks.  I get the whole bed to myself.  AND, we get to eat all of the food ourselves.

   On that note, I'm going to share two recipes.  The first recipe is for a month's supply of breakfast burritos.  The woman who thought of this was a genius.  J goes through two boxes of cereal a week on his own, so I think having these stock-piled in the freezer will not only fill him up more, but also cost less.

You'll need:
2 lbs bacon, diced
2 lbs sausage (I used Johnsonville, b/c it's good, and I usually have a coupon.)
1 large onion, diced small
1 diced bell pepper
20 eggs
30-35 fajita sized flour tortillas
1 (8 oz bag) shredded cheddar cheese (I just realized that I accidentally used two bags.  Oops.)

In the biggest skillet you own, cook the bacon.  Once brown and crispy, take out and put on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess grease.  Brown sausage in the same skillet.  Remove from skillet.  Place on another plate lined with paper towels.  Cook onion and bell pepper in same skillet until onions are translucent and bell pepper is tender.  Meanwhile scramble your eggs in a blender. Add eggs to skillet, and scramble with onion mixture.  Once cooked add sausage and bacon.  Remove from heat. Add cheese.  Cover pan and allow cheese to melt.  In a frying pan warm your tortillas to make them more pliable before topping with a 1/4 cup of the bacon/egg mixture.  Wrap it all up in plasitc wrap and place them into a plastic freezer bag.  The original poster said she made 36.  I made 30, so I guess it just depends on how generous your 1/4 cup is.

Next up is a house favorite from Paula Deen's Sept/Oct 2010 issue:

Italian-Seasoned Chicken, Pasta and Vegetables
You'll need:

8 oz linguine
1 1/2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp slat, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 tsp gr. black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup of water
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 TBS chopped fresh oregano

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  In a small bowl, combine vinegar, 1 TBS olive oil, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Set aside.  In a large saucepan, heat remaining 1 TBS olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan, and saute 3-4 minutes or until chicken is browned.  Add onion and garlic, and saute 2-3 minutes or until tender.  Stir in water, and bring to a boil.  Add broccoli and tomatoes, and cook 2-3 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender.  Remove from heat, and stir in cooked pasta, olives, lemon zest, and oregano.  Drizzle with desired amount of reserved vinegar mixture.

Enjoy.  Now I'm going to finish watching Grey's Anatomy.  :-)