Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stealing Kids and Maiming Chicken

Random conversation between J and myself while riding around in the car:

Me: (browsing Pinterest and finding this:

OMG!  We need a boy so I can dress him up like David Bowie!

J: That is pretty cool. Let's have a boy.

Me:  I don't really want another baby right now; I'll just steal one for Halloween

J: Wait, what?

Me: Yeah, I'll steal one and dress him up like David Bowie.  It's perfect.

J:  Do you realize how crazy you sound right now?

Me: Okay, maybe "steal" was too strong a word. I'll borrow one for Halloween and dress him up as David Bowie. Then I'll give him back with candy.

J: You're crazy.

Me:  No: I'm smart.

J: What if someone "borrowed" Monkey?

Me: That's different. I know I'm not crazy.

J: But you are.

Me: Okay, fine we'll have our own boy.

J: Thank you.

Me: It just seems like a lot of work for one Halloween costume. Borrowing a kid would be so much easier.

We lapsed into comfortable silence for a while before it dawned on me...

Me: Orphans!!!  I totally forgot about orphans!  We could adopt a boy and dress him up like David Bowie

J: Yeah, then we can bring him back and be all 'He looks like David Bowie, and it's kinda freaking us out...a lot!'

Me: Brilliant!  This is why I married you.

   Later I realized that I could simply dress Monkey up as David Bowie for Halloween, but I already have matching Hollie Golightly costumes planned for us.  But!  I do have a little brother I could kidnap for Halloween.  Then I get my kidnapping thing out, and I get a cute family photo.  Except for the fact that my "little" brother is fifteen, and that would probably come across as more creepy than cute.  Ugh!  I give up.  

   I guess while I'm freaking y'all out, I can go ahead and share my step-by-step instructions of how to maim your own dead chicken.  It was for a good cause, though.  It made a scrumptious meal :-)

I found a recipe on Foodgawker a while back for Grilled Lemon and Yogurt Chicken.  It was one of the first recipes I "pinned", but I hadn't tried it until Monday.  I guess the idea of spatchcocking a chicken was a bit much.  Or, at least, it would have been if I had read far enough into the recipe to know that I had to do that.  And then I had to google what "spatchcocking" even meant to discover that I'd have to remove the back bone of a chicken.  Feeling a bit brave after watching Amy Adams de-bone a duck on Julie and Julia, I thought this would be a cinch.  And it was (which was the scariest part).  You just have to avoid thinking about the fact that you're defiling a poor dead bird.  But, then again, it's no worse that what my step-daddy does with a chicken and a beer can.  


Well, anyway on to the recipe!

You'll need:

1 whole medium chicken
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. mixed herbs (I used Italian seasoning)
1 TBS paprika 
1 TBS ground coriander seeds
grated rind and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper

First, spatchcock your chicken.  To do this, take the gizzards and such out of the chest cavity, set aside or discard (I usually cook those extra pieces for the dogs).  Rinse your chicken, then pat dry with a paper towel.  Set your chicken on a cutting board with the neck and wings facing you, like so:

Begin cutting just to the right of the neck making sure to cut through the bone, not just the skin and meat.  Cut from the neck all the way to the tail, following along on side of the back bone.

Then make the same cut on the left side of the back bone.

Once the back bone has been removed, flip the bird over to be sure that it lies flat.

Next, set your maimed spatchcocked chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up.  In a small bowl mix all the remaining ingredients, and rub all over you chicken.  

Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil, and bake on 350 for 40 minutes.  Meanwhile light your bar-b-que pit, once the chicken has baked, transfer it to the bar-b-que pit for 30 minutes or until done.  


I served mine with garlic bread, a side salad, and my step-daddy's grilled asparagus. Take a bunch of asparagus, roll them in about a TBS of olive oil and your favorite seasoning (I use Tony's, garlic powder, and onion powder), and then grill for about 15 minutes or until tender.  It was very good meal, and the extra chicken was used for chicken salad, which is a recipe I'll share later, but right now I need to go feed my little slugger before her first t-ball game.  :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Birthday Bash!

   This year to celebrate our little Monkey turning 3, we decided to have a family party at our home.  When I asked what type of party she wanted, Monkey kept insisting on a Toy Story theme, so that's what we went with.  From the cake to the decor, it was Toy Story all the way, and I want to share all the fun ins and outs with you.

Let's start with the games, shall we?

First we had a Make-Your-Own Potato Head station.  I used adhesive craft foam (found at Michael's) to cut out various bodies, eyes, mouths, noses, ears and hats.  The kids seemed to enjoy this station the best.

Next up was a Paint-Your-Own Snake-in-the-Boot station.  The idea was to decorate these before using them in a Snake-in-my-Boot Toss, but we never got around to that part of it.  But, I only paid a dollar for these snake at the Dollar Tree, so it's all good.

I think my brother-in-law enjoyed this next game the most.  Each kid was given their own Mini-Marshmellow Blaster (found in the dollar section of Michael's), and was instructed to shoot the various villains from the three films.  Monkey ended up going on a rogue shooting spree after she had enough practice on her targets.

"Say hello to my little friend."

Last, but not least, here's an oldie, but a goodie.  Pin the tail on the donkey, but instead of some nameless donkey, it's that lovable horse, Bullseye.  I found the template and instructions for this game here.

 I knew there would only be four kids at the party, which meant I could squeeze more games in.  These were really good for keeping them all entertained, for the most part.  Plus they were fun for me to put together.

Next up: the food!

In addition to the normal spread of fruit & veggie trays, chips and dip, and hot dogs, I found these online and loved them!  They're supposed to look like Jesse's cowgirl hat, although I've been told that they look more like sombreros (Thanks, J!).

And of course, I had to try my hand at cake-decorating.  This was supposed to look like the bed in Andy's room, and considering that I threw it all together the morning of the party, I think it came pretty close to the mark

...unless you compare it with the elaborate sketch I had made before hand.

  To be fair, if I had used fondant it would have looked more like the sketch, but I don't like the taste of fondant so I try to steer clear of it.   Instead, I used a Buttercream icing with a Nutella Buttercream Filling.  Here is the recipe for the filling, or for the icing just omit the Nutella:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup solid shortening
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 TBS milk
3/4 cup- 1 1/4 cup Nutella (It varies based on how chocolate-y you want it.)

In large bowl mix butter and shortening.  Add vanilla, combine.  Add sugar, one cup at a time.  Add milk, beat until combined.  Add Nutella.

 Now, on to the decorations!  J and I had fun staying up until midnight the night before putting all this up. (So if it's crooked, blame it on lack of sleep.)

We found the banner and streamers at Part City, but almost everything else came from Wal-Mart.  We even got one of those helium tanks to blow up our own balloons.  Oh, and those stickers of Woody and Buzz are re-stickable (is that a word?), so we just removed them and put them up in Monkey's room after the party.

I also made a Buzz Lightyear box and Etch-a-Sketch out of cardboard for the kids to take pictures in.
To infinity, and beyond!
Monkey was hiding.
My lovely little sister modeling the Etch-a-Sketch for me.
My favorite part of the decorations was actually this small detail in the "Happy Birthday" banner:

Doesn't it look like Rex is threatening you with a knife?  "Give me my presents, and nobody get hurt!" Or maybe it was just my midnight brain playing tricks on me.

Anyway, last but not least I wanted to share Monkey's outfit.  I found it on Etsy, at this cute little shop.  The boots, I found at the Disney outlet store.

Opening her Mrs. Potato Head from my dear friend, Tessua :-)

My pretty little cowgirl.
All-in-all it was a great day.  Monkey racked up on presents, so much so that her daddy and I are contemplating turning our guest room into a second bedroom just for her toys, but that feels a little too Dursley-esque.  I think a good time was had for all, and now I just have to come to terms with the fact that my little Monkey is three!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shrimp Etouffee and French Bread

   I know that it may seem that I use this blog to vent about my husband more often that I should, and you know, that's not completely untrue, but I just want everyone to understand that my venting about him comes from a place of love.  That being said, I almost beat him yesterday!

   In the morning, we have a little routine.  He wakes up and leaves for PT while I'm still sleeping.  His goodbye kiss is my alarm clock.  I toss and turn for about thirty minutes more; then I get up and start getting ready for work.  Meanwhile Monkey begins to stir, and right about then J returns from PT to shower and change into his uniform before heading out again.  I like it, because we still get to have breakfast together without me having to wake up at an ungodly hour to fix it.  Well yesterday, I was in the middle of getting dressed when Monkey strolled into my room, bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  She hugged me good morning, and then went off to potty and get dressed.  It dawned on me then that I had just washed my work clothes the night before, so the shirt I wanted, well, all of my shirts were downstairs hanging up in the laundry room.  I headed down, shirtless, in time to hear the door unlocking.  I quickened my pace so I could greet J at the door with a hug.  Thankfully, he was quicker because as I was midway to the bottom I hear, "Hey baby, we've got company!"  I high-tailed it back upstairs, tripping over a half-naked Monkey on my way.  I scooped her up and we both got dressed before heading back down to meet what I assumed would be one of J's coworkers.  Now, J has pulled this on me once before, so I figured that the person I would be meeting was just some other guy from J's battalion.  I was only partially correct.  The person I found was J's Chief!  I instantly regretted throwing on my old, tatty night shirt, and ran to the laundry room to change into my work shirt.  Not that it mattered, the guy came to work on J's computer, and didn't even deign to look up when I squeaked out an all-too peppy "Good morning!"  I stood around for about five minutes, awkwardly waiting for J's introduction that never came before finally busying myself with Monkey's breakfast.  That was a bad idea, though, because I then brought attention to the mountain of dishes I had been boycotting (Yeah, Mr. Chief looked up to see that!).  Finally giving in, I politely asked J to get Monkey a Pop-tart while I barricaded myself in the bathroom until the Chief left.  (Still without introduction, or so much as a "kiss my foot").

   Needless to say, tonight I went to town scrubbing, vacuuming, and washing those dishes that I had so vehemently boycotted.  Oh well, you win some; you lose some.  I think I'll be counting this one as a loss.  The recipe I'm about to share, however is definitely a win!  I was feelin' some down-home cookin', so I made Shrimp Etouffee and homemade French Bread.

The Shrimp Etouffe recipe was a jumble of Emeril's Crawfish Etouffee with a bit of my own spices thrown in, and then of course, my step-daddy's advice :-)  Here it is:

1 stick butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp (next time I'll use more, so about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 TBS garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
1 TBS flour
Tony's to taste
1 small can tomato paste
1 can stewed tomatoes drained, and pureed
2 TBS finely chopped parsley
3 TBS chopped green onions

In a large pan, melt butter.  Add onion, celery, and bell pepper and saute 10-15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender, and onions are translucent.  Add the shrimp, garlic, and bay leaves, and cook 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Dissolve the flour fully in the water, and add to the shrimp mixture.  Stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with Tony's.  Stir in the tomato paste and stewed tomatoes.  Add the parsley and green onions.  Cook 2-5 minutes more.  Serve over cooked rice.

Close up

The French Bread recipe was found on a fellow blogger's page via Pinterest.  The bread was perfect.  It made a bunch though, so I brought one of the loaves to a friend.  Here's what they looked like:

They were really good.  I impressed J, which I'm finding out isn't really hard to do.  Oh well. Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 TBS yeast
3 TBS sugar
2 TBS white vinegar
Add the above ingredients together and let sit about 5 minutes, or until bubbly.  (It's really cool to watch when it starts bubbling.)

Next, add:
1 TBS salt
1/3 cup oil (I used Canola)
5 1/2-6 cups flour, one cup at a time

Knead for 2-5 minutes and then put in the oven with a small pot of boiling water underneath it. The water will keep the dough moist. Watch the dough and punch it down when it gets to the top of the mixing bowl. Do this every time it gets to the top of the bowl, preferably 2-5 times.  
Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the sheet.  Divide the dough into 3 sections.  Roll the dough balls into long French bread shapes. Slash tops of bread diagonally 3-5 times and cover with a beaten egg. Let rise 30 minutes (or until doubled) on the cookie sheet.  Meanwhile, preheat your stove to 375 and bake for 30 minutes.  

  I think next time, I'll try adding some garlic and other seasonings to the top of my loaf.  The leftover bread is good for French Toast too :-)

  Well, it's 11:00 pm, and I still have to pack for our weekend back home.  We're taking both dogs, so this should be interesting.  Goodnight all!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If I Won the Lottery....

   A recent conversation with a coworker got me thinking.  I don't watch the news, and my coworker seems to think that it's his duty to inform me of all the horrible things that go on in our world (which is why I don't watch the news in the first place).  But to break up his usual routine of informing me about the crazy bombers, suicidal mothers, and bank robbers, Thursday morning he came up with a new topic of conversation: the lottery.  He was telling me how the lottery was up to the highest it has ever been, and that led us to talking about the "what if" that always accompanies the lottery, and I've been contemplating that ever since.  Even after someone won that huge pile of money, I'm still thinking about it.

   So here's what I'd do:  I'd split it in half, and give half to J.   Then I'd take 10% of it and donate it to some good cause, like St. Jude or the Red Cross or something.  Then I'd buy three homes: one for Moma Deana, one for my sister and her family, and one for my mom and step-daddy.  Next, I'd set up a trust fund for my little siblings, as well as my godson and daughter, so that they could go to whatever college they wanted.  Then I'd pay to go back to school, and get my degree in something fun, like history.  Then I'd get another degree in something practical, like nursing.  If you have a lot of money, you don't have to choose, right?  But first, I'd take Monkey on a Disney cruise.  Then we'd have a family vacation in Italy, followed by a romantic get-away to Ireland for just J and I.  I would get a  new wedding ring, one that wouldn't make my finger break out in a rash (J would pay for that of course), and we'd probably have another child.  Oh, and last but not least, I'd build a house.  Nothing too big or fancy, but it would have a giant, gourmet kitchen that would make Paula Deen green with envy  along with a wrap-around porch, and those big, white, Southern-style columns.  I'd probably also go to culinary school, after I write my first book.

    The more I think about it, though, the more I realized that I wouldn't really like being that rich.  When you're that rich, what do you have to work for?  My favorite part of the whole circle of life is the part where you set a goal, you work hard to reach it, you're satisfied for a bit, and then you set a new goal.  There's a sense of pride and accomplishment that goes along with having to work for what you want and need.  That's something that no amount of money could buy.  I think it would be fun at first, but then I'd have to work or volunteer or something so that I wouldn't feel pointless or meaningless.

    I think I'd be better off winning just enough to have fun for a couple of years, and then have it run out so that I could return to the "real" world.  The only thing that wouldn't change would be my cooking.  Granted, I'd probably be stuffing steak or Quail, instead of these Chicken Breasts, but no matter how rich I get, these will still be on the menu:

Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

 (How was that for a segue?)

  Well, since that maid of mine is still just a dream, I guess I should get to cleaning those dishes.  But, I'm curious, what would you do if you won the lottery?  Leave me a comment, and let me know.

P.S.---Monkey would get a pony, and I would have a Camarillo again.  J would have to buy his own horse. Oh, and all of my friends who are military wives would get free spa days :-)