I miss cooking complicated things.

I have two hours after I get home to cook dinner, feed us all, get William bathed and settled down and in bed. That leaves zero time for me to actually sit down and enjoy my family unless we go out to eat and someone makes the food for us, or we just feed William and don't eat ourselves until after he's in bed (and that leaves us feeling icky).

I know it will get better, I know! I'm just anxious for it do that already - but then I'm not, because it will be so bittersweet to have a boy who doesn't want me to hold him every single second, who won't be at my feet, crawling between my legs, pulling out all of the pots and pans.

Tonight we're having pancakes, because they're easy and fast and we all like them. I'll probably end up making a strawberry syrup because I have some strawberries that need to be used and because I'm never happy unless I've made SOMETHING difficult-ish.

How are you, sister-cousin? I miss you all the time!

Mom Pride

Oh hey, while I'm here, I'd like to take a moment to give big props to red beans and rice - the first fully home-cooked meal that Curtis has ever requested of me.

He came home one day and asked me to make "some beans that we had at school today." After figuring out what kind of beans he meant, I explained to him that I'd have to make them on the weekend, because they take a long time to cook.

This meal is now referred to at our house as "The Beans That Take A Long Time To  Cook," and Curt can clean two or three plates of them as long as I DO NOT MIX THE RICE AND BEANS. He must observe the plating, to ensure the rice is laid down first, then the beans are lovingly spooned on top. No sausage.



From the person who brought you chili in summer, here is lemonade in December!

I made some this weekend (someone gave me a giant bag of gorgeous lemons, and I nearly kissed that person), and Curtis LOVES it. I have traded cup after cup for his everlasting devotion. Good trade. I highly recommend this as emotional currency.

Here, I'll just link the recipe:

It's not that hard, I just would not have thought to do it this way, because I'm not very smart. But this is how (I now know) Grandma Rhea made her lemonade. Every summer. And she'd serve it to us from that little metal pitcher and it would be very cold. And sometimes she'd drop a few maraschino cherries in to make pink lemonade. And we would serve it to our Barbies with little cut-up Kudos bars. And I still miss her every day.

Hang on, I got something in my eye...

Bonus points for defining and illustrating the word "dissolve" to a preschooler while you watch the sugar disappear as the water heats up. Science is delicious!

The Perfect Baked Potato

I'm going to get right down to it. Are you ready? Okay, here's how you make the perfect baked potato.

You get some nice fat russet potatoes or whatever.  Only the good ones - no green spots or sprouts or anything like that. Now, scrub them well in COLD water, and pat them dry, dry with a dish cloth. Look all around the potato for spots and eyes and whatnot, and snip those bits out with a knife. Help the potato be its best.

Line a baking sheet with foil (or don't; I just always do), and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. HOT. Lay the clean and dry potatoes on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil. Roll them around in the oil and cover the whole potato evenly. It puts the lotion on its skin.

STAB THEM WITH A FORK. Three or four times on each side. Then sprinkle sea salt aaaalll over them. Roll the potatoes around in the salt to get even coverage.

When the oven is hot, stick 'em in. It depends on the size of your potatoes how long you leave them in there. Start with 30 minutes, then check them. Bigger potatoes may go 45 minutes, or even an hour.

Take the potatoes out ONLY when you can spear a fork all the way through the middle and it feels soft and fluffy inside all the way through. You will learn to understand this part.

Basically, you have just roasted a potato instead of steaming it in foil or another type of wrapping. And it is perfect. The skin is crisp and golden with just the right saltiness, and the inside is waiting for butter. The butter will melt into the potato and you will eat the potato.

My favorite thing to do with baked potatoes is to make a POTATO BAR. Like a salad bar or a taco bar, but with potato toppings. Duh. I like to put chili and cheese on one side of my potato, and sour cream, green onion, and bacon bits on the other side.

Do you like baked potatoes? How. Discuss your answer in the space provided below.


Favorite Pasta Salad

I haven't felt like turning on the oven, because it's SO HOT OUTSIDE that it's even hot inside. You know what I mean? Yeah, you know what I mean.

I am not a huge fan of pasta salad, or cold dishes in general, but this stuff is the best for all-purpose summer eating. I make a big bowl of it, stick it in the fridge, and it sits there getting better and better the longer it chills. I bring it to work for lunch, or serve it with chicken or fish for supper, or just snack on it whenever.


Garden Rotini Pasta - the pretty colored spiral stuff. It boils up quickly (don't overcook it, it should be firm - 9-11 minutes tops), and you can turn the stove off afterwards. You are DONE with the stove. Give the pasta a good rinse in cool water and let it drain while you cut up veggies.

Tomatoes - cherry tomatoes are the best, but I've been using the big fresh tomatoes mom gave me from her garden. They're a little juicy for pasta salad, but I slice them, then pat the slices dry with a paper towel before dicing them. Keeps the mess out of the bowl.

Zucchini - one or two whole zucchini - leave it raw and don't bother peeling it. I slice mine down the center long-ways, then slice it into half-circles. Toss 'em in the bowl.

Black Olives - if you're into those. Slice 'em up, toss 'em in.

Parmesan - I like the shredded kind that comes in the little tubs in the cheese section of the store. I've been using that stuff on EVERYTHING lately.

Greek Vinaigrette Dressing - or Italian dressing, if you can't find Greek. I way prefer Greek, but I'm a picky dressing snob.

Salt and Pepper (and a Little Shake of Tony's)


Oh. And sometimes I squeeze a lemon in there. Most times.

Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad

Summer on a college campus is wonderfully quiet and spacious, but the food sucks. After finals, most of the on-site restaurants close or offer limited menus, because thousands of hungry college kids are off bothering someone else for a couple months.

But what about my salads?? The coffee bar upstairs in the library sells salads at lunch during the semester. MY SALADS HAVE DISPPEARED for the summer and I'm kind of freaking out about that.

To the store! Get some:

* Chicken breast
* Parmesan cheese (the little tubs of shredded in the fridge section, not the canisters of grated in the pasta aisle)
* Big, fat croutons
* Caesar dressing
* A lemon
* Butter (or oil, if you just want to pan cook your chicken like normal. I'm BLACKENING it!)
* A bunch of seasonings -OR-  one really good everything seasoning (like Tony's or Matt's)

Laziness Disclaimer: I have a recipe for homemade croutons. I'm not doing that. They sell those in bags. Also, I'm sure there are 50,000 recipes online for fresh Caesar dressing made from local organic hand-picked Caesars, but I bought Kraft.

The main thing here is the chicken. You're gonna thaw out some chicken breast, and cut it up into chunks. You're gonna put those chunks in a bowl and squeeze a couple of lemon wedges all over them. Toss them around in that lemon juice. Mmm.

Now sprinkle them with seasoning. That Matt's stuff that Dad has's...oh god it's amazing. Use that. If you don't have that, improvise with whatever you have in your pantry that would make a good all-purpose seasoning mix. You definitely want some black pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder in that mix. Sprinkle lovingly on chicken and toss it all around.

Melt some butter - melt some in a little cup or bowl in the microwave (set that aside), then heat up a skillet to medium-high and melt another big, fat pat of butter in there. When the skillet is nice and hot, turn on your stove vent (!) and throw some chicken down. It's gonna sizzle and steam. Let it sit there and sear/blacken for a bit on one side, then - before you flip it over - drizzle a little fresh butter (from the bowl you set aside) over the topside, and hit it with another shake of seasoning. FLIP.

Drain your chicken - which should be a nice brown color on the outside with maybe a few little crusty black bits, and juicy-juicy on the inside! - pat it down with paper towels, whatever makes you feel better about using butter. Slice it into strips or cut it into cubes.

Toss your favorite greens (I went romaine, shredded iceburg, baby spinach) with fresh parmesan. Top with chicken chunks and croutons. Drizzle with Caesar dressing. I threw a few little grape tomatoes in with mine.

[Some kind of ending pun here, like "Hail Caesar!" or something, but less lame.]

Chicken Pot Pie...Biscuit...Casserole...Thing

This is in my recipe collection as "Chicken Pot Pie," but it's not actually a CHICKEN POT PIE. It's a variation thereof. A cheap, casseroled-out, biscuity-topped variation. Not a pie at all. It's...well, here:


1 lb chicken (whatever kind, I use skinless breasts because I don't care)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped

1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup (if you also don't care, otherwise you can substitute for this!)

Roughly 3/4 cup whatever fresh, canned or frozen vegetables you want to get rid of:

Green beans!
Butter beans/lima beans!

Bisquick mix (or your favorite brand of all-purpose baking mix) and milk to mix it with. OR you know. Your favorite homemade biscuit recipe, but - and I can't overstate this enough right now - I don't care.

To start, throw all the veggies in a pot of water and simmer them for like 20-30 minutes until they're cooked and tender. This recipe is excellent for getting rid of the last few vegetables in the bag, or cans that are about to expire. I add a pat of butter in with mine because...butter tastes good.

While the vegetables cook, chop the chicken into little chunks. Season to taste. Heat oil in a pan and brown them up. Pretty standard stuff. Remove the chicken and set it aside. I just go ahead at this point and put it in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Add the onion and celery to the empty chicken pan, and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir it all around from the bottom to get the flavor of the chicken bits left in the pan!

Next - cream of mushroom soup. Chicken broth. Milk. I don't have exact amounts for you, I'm so sorry. Start with 1/2 can of the broth, and 1/2 cup of milk, and work your way from there. Use your SKILL and PERCEPTION to decide if it's thick enough. If it's not, add a couple pinches of flour. Maybe you have too much chicken and veggies and not enough of this weird gravy to cover it all in the casserole dish? That happened to me! Add another can of mushroom soup, or more broth. You can cook, you got this.

If you don't want to use the soup, you can remove the onion/celery, make a quick flour/butter roux in the pan, and thicken it with the broth/milk mixture. That's up to you. The ultimate goal here is just to make a creamy chicken gravy to pour into the casserole dish. It does not have to be amazing.

POUR IT OVER THE CHICKEN IN THE CASSEROLE PAN. Drain your veggies when they're done, and stir them into the mix as well. PARTY IN YOUR BAKEWARE.

In a separate bowl, make some Bisquick mix. (OR HAND-MAKE BISCUITS, but that's ridiculous for a Thursday night. Community is about to start.)

My recipe literally says that. "Make some Bisquick mix." Well...okay? I used the "Biscuits or dumplings" recipe on the side of the box - I think it's 2/3 cup milk + 2 1/4 cups Bisquick mix. I did that TWICE because my casserole ended up being ENORMOUS. Fine. Did I mention I really don't care?

If you feel fancy, add a little sage to the biscuit mix for a nice subtle flavor. The sage in my pantry expired in 2010, did you know that?

You're going to top this casserole drop-biscuit style. Just plop 'em on there. They make a neat sound!

Preheat oven to 375. Stick this vat of food in there and cook it until the biscuit dough isn't raw and gross anymore. Like, I don't know, 30-40 minutes or so.

Eat it. Bring leftovers to work. Eat it again the next night. Bring more leftovers to work. I'm not kidding, I made WAY too much of this stuff.

It tastes great, though. And I totally DO care about that.