Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I am, I am, I am Supermom, and I Can Do Anything

Today was my first day out alone with all three kids. We went to the doctor. August is coughing and congested and ran a fever over the weekend. Amabel woke up during the night saying she needed to throw up, but never did though she did start running a fever. Elspeth and Amabel were scheduled for well visits today- I was only slightly late calling for Amabel's five year check up and Elspeth's one month!! I called this morning and changed Amabel's well visit to a sick visit for August. I have been off coffee for a while now, but days that look unusually daunting sometimes become Starbucks drive through days for me. I like to give myself a little day brightener when I know it will be otherwise rough. But as the clock ticked toward time to go, I thought about that left turn into Starbucks and the drive through line and the thirty dollar copay that would be due upon arrival at the pediatrician's office. Did I really have ten minutes and six dollars to spare for a mocha and scone? And didn't I have homemade banana bread on the counter? And wait a minute, didn't I also have coffee, hot chocolate, and whipping cream in the kitchen? That should make a decent mocha, right? So everyone save yourself a few dollars and make my easy mocha (it's really just common sense if you haven't thought of it already):

Minute Mocha
2 6oz cups of brewed coffee
1 hot chocolate package (I use Swiss Miss Chocolate Sensation or nothing, it can't be beat!)
fresh whipped cream
-fill your travel mug with coffee
-mix in hot chocolate
-top with whipped cream

Told you it's not really even a recipe. Anyway, it was so good. As I drove by Starbucks, I was taking my last sip of delicious mocha when I wouldn't have even ordered it yet. Plus, mine was better anyway. I arrived at the doctor's office five minutes early, an amazing feat for me even without two sick children and a newborn, and got the chance to read a little more of The Silver Chair, which we got started on last night, to the children. Can you believe it? I even had the presence of mind to bring reading materials!

The doctor said that most children's cold and cough medicine is basically garbage and won't even be on the shelves pretty soon. He said nearly everything but Benadryl has more side effects than medicinal value. Just thought I'd pass that along. He said August most likely has a croupy cold and has probably come through the worst of it, but that the best "medicine" is humidity. Good thing we've had the humidifier blowing right beside his bed for the past few days; it seems to have done the trick. And Elspeth has grown. She is already 23 1/4 inches and 11 pounds, 4 ounces, the size of an average three of four month old! I was wondering because she seems to be outgrowing 0-3 month jammies. Why should we be surprised? She eats every two hours like clockwork. When we left, the business office gave me back my check because our doctor doesn't charge a copay for seminary students! What a blessing! I think he must have just started this policy. Bless him! We went out to the car and I put a Thomas the Train video in for the kids so I could nurse Elspeth. Can you believe it? I even had the presence of mind to bring entertainment for the car!

After Elspeth finished, I took all three kids to both Target and the grocery store. I decided yesterday that I need to quit trying to run all over town to get the best prices and just give myself a little bit of a break while I am trying to do a round trip drive, three kids, and a week's worth of groceries in an hour and a half The grocery stores with the freshest and "swankiest" (and by this I mean even simple things like fresh herbs and non-expired meats and cheeses) items have a reputation for being "expensive." So for years I have gone places like that for a few things I can't get anywhere else and tried to round out the rest of my list somewhere cheaper in addition to my weekly runs to Target and Sam's, both also in the name of saving money. I just don't have the time or energy to do that now. I really don't have the money to not do that, but God is gracious and I am sure with a little bit of creativity on my part and continuity of provision on His part (which is always there, even though I doubt), it will be okay to shop at just Dierberg's for a few months! Well, Dierberg's is next to Target, so it shouldn't be too too hard to go there too every few weeks. It was such a stress free experience, such a pleasant experience, going to the grocery store I would want to go to anyway. They had what I needed, they had helpful service people- they didn't ignore me or just ask the obvious to answer "do you need help?" they just cheerfully said "so and so will help you out to your car" and he cheerfully did- they let you try things at the deli counter before you buy a pound and discover you hate it, yet they have such excellent quality deli meats that you wouldn't hate it, their food was not expired, they even gave my kids Halloween candy! All of those things to me are totally worth the extra three or four dollars a week that I will no longer be saving; I actually think I'm getting the better end of the deal. I'm sure George will- not having your wife come home from the grocery hacked off or crying every week-- priceless.

So I did all of my errands, made lunch when I got home, and have somehow even found time to write this post for all of you. I think part of it may be that Elspeth has slept past time for a feeding. That's a first! Anyway, I think most of it is that I really am Supermom. It looked a little if-y there for a while, but I'm pretty sure I got this whole three kids thing down!

Lest you be discouraged by (or actually believe that I think this will be a pattern!) this post, please let me just say that there is a reason I have not posted in four days and yesterday I was in tears because of how crappy the nearest grocery store to our house is and because of how difficult it is to make a round trip grocery run between feedings and because Elspeth is like a human timer and will not be stretched more than two hours from feeding to feeding. So you see I am not always Supermom, most of the time I am like Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn at the end of Death Becomes Her (a really dumb movie if you haven't seen it), walking around with pieces of myself falling off and trying to keep the rest of myself together as I scoop up the broken parts! But today, I was Supermom.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Famous Fire Extinguished Feast

On second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) tasting, I have decided the Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake is quite good. I think it is not good warm (hence the initial confusion), but if eaten at room temperature, after the chocolate chips have had a chance to go back to their unmelted texture, it is quite tasty!

Some of you have requested my easy chicken pasta recipe and so now I am sort of afraid, because what if it destroys my credibility? Well, I think it tastes good. The only way it might be better is if you actually grilled the chicken, but it is easier for me to do it all in the kitchen myself- George is the griller in the family. I don't think it quite compares to some of the yummy stuff people brought while I was recovering from surgery. I am planning to collect recipes from some of the girls who brought the very best things and hoping they won't mind if I post them on here. So if you're reading, and you brought really delicious quiche (Ami) or I-can-just-taste-it-now (mmmmm!) red beans and rice (Annie) or I-can't-believe-my-kids-(and I!)-will-eat-spinach pasta (Ami) or kid friendly, hearty, and homey chicken pot pie (Jessie) or I-can't-believe-we-love-another-spinach-dish lasagna (Kelly), scratch down the recipe for me so I don't have to ask! I understand if the recipe is not one you give out. I think it is fun to have "secret" recipes. I know some people who think otherwise (wink, wink, you know who you are!). Anyway, mine's not a secret because it came from Southern Living a few years ago, so by request, here it is:

Mediterranean Chicken and Pasta
8oz. penne pasta, cooked and drained
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" pieces
2T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2c. sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/2c. chicken broth
1/2c. dry white wine
1tsp dried basil
1/2c. chopped fresh parsley
1T butter
1/2c. fresh grated parmesan
- cook chicken in oil for 8 minutes and remove from pan
-saute garlic in pan for 1 minute; add tomatoes, broth, wine, and basil and bring to a boil
-return chiken to pan, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 4 minutes
-add cooked pasta, parsley, and butter, tossing to combine and cook 2 minutes to heat
-transfer pasta to serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan

Round it off with "Perfect Pound Cake" from the Cake Bible. It really is perfect, no fail- unless, of course, you turn your oven all the way up and leave it in for a few minutes after it's already baked. Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream (just say no to cool whip- and more importantly, just say no to canned parmesan on the pasta while you're at it!!)

Perfect Pound Cake
(have all ingredients at room temperature)
3T milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2c. sifted cake flour
3/4c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
13T unslated butter
-in medium bowl, combine milk, eggs, and vanilla
-in large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix on low 30 seconds to blend
-add butter and half of egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened; increase to medium speed and beat 1 minute to aerate and develop structure
- scrape down sides and gradually add remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating 20 seconds and scraping down sides after each addition
-pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-65 minutes at 350

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Sweets for the Season

I am slightly unimpressed with the Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake. It was a lot like brownies, and not even the best kind. I am not the best cook in the world, but I am a pretty good taster. Ever know anyone who was an excellent cook, who had such potential, but never picked anything worth making to make? Or used poor quality ingredients when the fresher and more natural ingredients would have made all the difference? I know those types. I am the opposite of those types.

When we first moved here two years ago (stop me- oh-oh-oh stop me- stop me if you think that you've heard this one before) we invited an old friend of George's and his wife and daughter over for dinner. I had not met the wife but once before and we were enjoying getting aquainted as I put the finishing touches on dinner. I made my easy but impressive looking chicken and penne pasta with white wine and sundried tomato sauce and was grating fresh parmesan on when I realized I needed to go get an extra highchair out of the basement for their daughter. We had been talking about whether we liked cooking or baking better and I was explaining how much I love to bake and how the pound cake I had in the oven was phenomenal with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I turned off the oven, but left the poundcake in the oven, and excused myself to get our extra highchair. And when I returned, no more than three minutes later, the kitchen was filled with smoke, George's friend was in the front yard with all three toddlers, his wife was making her way around the house opening windows, and George was in the back yard with a smoking black loaf pan. Right, the pound cake had caught fire. George had used the fire extinguisher which blew gross fire extinguisher foam stuff all over our swanky and ready to eat meal and clean plates, so our guests ended up having to us out to eat! How embarrassing! What had happened, if you will even believe me, is that the knob on the oven turned clockwise as opposed to counter clockwise like the knob on the oven I had been using for two years in our old house in Birmingham. I thought I turned the oven off, but in fact turned it to broil and the top of the cake caught on fire! So although I may not be a very accomplished cook or have a whole lot of know how/ presence of mind in the kitchen, I use the very best ingredients and I know what tastes good. Some other guy may have used some disgusting butter or sugar substitute, frozen strawberries or, heaven forbid, cool whip (which should be banned), but I know what tastes good- even if I can't always achieve that end.

So now that you trust me, maybe not enough to come eat at my house but enough to take a gander at my recipe box, let me share the recipes for my favorite chocolate brownies for fall to make up for the not-so-fabulous brownie like chocolate cake. We went to Eckert's last week and came home with 25 pounds of apples fresh from the tree so my current project is working through apple recipes. I had one on my list but Annie, who always has impeccable taste and execution, beat me to it. I'll get to posting some others later this week or possibly next week. Meanwhile, here's the chocolate ones. The second one is thanks to my good firend Sara. Oh, and bonus points for anyone who can tell me where the song lyrics in parenthesis came from, 'cause it's always so sad to me when things like that are lost.

Cocoa Gingerbread Brownies
1 3/4c. flour
3/4c. sugar
1/4c. brown sugar
2tsp. ginger
1 1/2tsp. cinnamon
1tsp. salt
1/4tsp. ground cloves
12T melted unsalted butter, cooled
1/2c. molasses
1/4c. milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2tsp. baking soda
8oz. chopped semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chunks)
-butter and flour a 9x13 pan
-sift dry ingredients (except soda) together
-combine butter, molasses, milk, and eggs in a medium bowl
-add wet to dry and stir to combine
-in a small bowl mix 1/4c. boiling water with baking soda
-add water to batter and stir to combine
-stir in chocolate chunks
-pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes at 325

Caramel and Chocolate Brownies
1 bag of 40 caramels
1 can evaporated milk, divided
1 German chocolate cake mix
3/4c. melted butter
1c. chopped pecans
1c. chocolate chips
-mix and melt caramels with 1/2c. of the evaporated milk, remove from heat to cool some
-grease and flour a 9x13 pan (okay, I have never quite been able to make this work in such a large pan, so I use a smaller one, but then I have a little too much caramel sauce)
-mix cake mix, butter, pecans, and 1/3c. of the evaporated milk
-press half of the dough into prepared pan, bake for 8 minutes at 350, and remove from oven
-sprinkle chocolate chips over dough
-drop clumps of caramel sauce over chocolate chips
- spread the rest of the dough over the caramel and bake 18-20 minutes at 350

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Little Culinary FYI

So as I was making the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake tonight, I found myself disatisfied with the way the recipe is written. I buy sugars in bulk at Sam's. So how annoying is it for a recipe to call for a certain package size instead of however many cups? And it would seem third grade math: 8 ounces in a cup means a 16 ounce box equals two cups. But that (8 ounces in a cup) is a volume conversion, not a weight conversion. The 16 ounces on the sugar packages is a weight measurement, one pound. How many cups in a pound of sugar? Well, white sugar is denser than brown sugar which is denser than confectioners sugar; so I'm thinkin' there are varying amounts of cups in a pound depending on the type of sugar. I asked George's stepmom who went with my old assumption, 16 ounces means 2 cups. She is a seasoned cook, so I went ahead and mixed the two cups in. But I wasn't satisified with the taste or texture of the uncooked filling (even though, what do I know? I've never made this before!). I did a search and found this webpage which is handy for all manner of cooking conversions. Most conversions you probably either have memorized or bookmarked in your favorite cookbook. But this one isn't one you come across too often, so here it is:
2 cups of granulated sugar is a pound
2 1/2 cups of brown sugar packed is a pound
3 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar is a pound

So going with the 2 cups would have put me off by almost half the amount! What did people do before the internet?!
Incidentally, George and I both agree that the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake is just not as good as the Pumpkin Crisp. However, I watched Paula's Party on Food Network last night and Paula made Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake. So now I will have to try that variation. Love that Paula Dean! Here's the recipe for the new variation. I hope someone out there likes gooey butter cakes and I am not just wastin' my time. I think they might be one of those things St. Louis is supposed to be special for; too bad I chased away all my St. Louis readers with my true feelings about their beloved city. And yet, I will strive to maintain my objectivity should any of you wish to express negativity about Auburn or Nashville, or even the entirity of the South. I get it; every place is not for everyone. I never meant to make anyone mad. I had no idea anyone could be mad over such things. It makes it so hard to be funny when people get so upset.
I hope no one is still reading that doesn't know this is all very tongue-in-cheek, especially this last part about the people who don't read anymore. Not that they care; they don't read anymore. Alright, the recipe already!

Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake
8T butter, melted
1 package chocolate cake mix
1 egg
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
4T cocoa powder
16oz. box powdered sugar (there it is again!)
8T butter, melted
1tsp. vanilla
1c. chopped nuts (I think she said you can substitute chocolate chunks or white chocolate chips etc. here)
--To make cake
-combine ingredients and pat into bottom of a greased 9x13 pan
-To make filling
-beat cream cheese until smooth
-add the eggs and cocoa
-lower speed of mixer and add powdered sugar until ingredients are well mixed
-slowly add butter and vanilla until smooth
-stir in nuts with spatula
-spread filling over cake and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350

No more Gooey Butter Cakes, I promise!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Oh My Yumminess!"

That is what came out of my mouth after putting a taste of the following recipe in (after I finished chewing of course!). I may be the last person in the world to discover this recipe, but if there is anyone else who has also tragically been missing out, here it is:

Pumpkin Crisp
15oz. can of pumpkin
1c. evapoorated milk
1c. sugar
1tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 package butter flavored cake mix
1c. chopped pecans
1c. butter melted
-stir together first five ingredients and pour into lightly greased 9x13 pan
-sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture
-sprinkle pecans evenly over cake mix
-sprinkle butter evenly over pecans
-bake at 350 for 1 hour
-let stand 10 minutes before serving or serve at room temp with whipped cream

And now for the pumpkin muffin recipe. I just can't get enough of these, so I have to save them as strictly a fall time treat lest I gain a hundred pounds eating them year 'round!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
4 eggs
2c. sugar
15oz. can pumpkin
1c. oil (recipe originally called for 1 1/2 but I found this to be unnesessary; you may want to use a smidge extra)
3c. flour
2tsp. baking soda
2tsp. baking powder
1tsp. cinnamon
1tsp. salt
2c. chocolate chips
-beat first four ingredients until smooth
-in another bowl, stir together next five ingredients
-mix dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture
-fold in chips
-bake at 400 for 16-20 minutes

The next one is one I haven't made yet, but have heard from several people to be fabulous. It's a Paula Dean recipe if that means anything to ya. I'm absolutely addicted to her show, but I have yet to try any of her recipes myself. This is one I plan to make soon, this weekend in fact as George's dad and stepmom are coming down to meet Elspeth. I'll let you know once I make it if it deseves to stand in company with these other two.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
1 package butter cake mix
1 egg
8T butter, melted
8oz. cream cheese, softened
15oz. can pumpkin
3 eggs
1tsp. vanilla
8T butter, melted
1 (16oz) box powdered sugar
1tsp. cinnamon
1tsp. nutmeg
--To make cake
-combine all ingredients and mix well with mixer
-pat mixture into lightly greased 13x9 pan
--To make filling
-beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth
-add eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together
-add powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well
-spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake 40 to 50 minutes at 350. make sure not to overbake as center should be gooey
-serve with fresh whipped cream
*in place of pumpkin, a 20oz. can of pineapple or two ripe bananas can be used in the filling, but why would you want to go and do that?!
**one other variation: you can use chocolate cake mix instead of butter cake mix for the cake and 1 cup peanut butter instead of pumpkin for the filling

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's a Good Thing George is Great

During my leave from my own blog, I have also not had the chance to check up on anyone else's blog. Armed with recipes for delightful pumpkin dishes, I decided to hop on the internet and get reaquainted with my little internet neighborhood. Before posting, I went for a cruise around the block and found myself quite perplexed. Why is it that men, who have something like 200 words a day compared to women's eight billion (or something close to that, right?), have all posted well over a page of new blog entries while I have been gone but the women all only have about five or six new posts?! I am not picking on the women. I know what you're doing. You're answering questions about the Tooth Fairy and wiping dirty mouths and imploring your children to share and making a meal plan and a hundred other things. My problem is that these guys who "have used up their words" and have nothing to say at the dinner table have pages of words on the world wide web. I just don't get it. And frankly, I'm a little hacked off. In saying that, I do try to remember that one such man lives in my home and brings me chocolate milkshakes at eleven o'clock at night and would certainly be willing to sit up with me for a four o'clock feeding if ever I asked. However, the same man is watching baseball for the one hundred and eighty seventh night in a row (or something like that) right now, so I am not feeling real generous as I have already been waiting two hours to see Lost and when the same thing happened last week, we got to the end of the tape and the last ten minutes were cut off!

If that weren't bad enough, the Tigers and the Cardinals have been in the playoffs. I just happen to have married someone who lived in Michigan until sixth grade and then went to junior high and highschool in Missouri. That means that at best, I am only a baseball widow for five more games. At worst, I have eight more! No other sport is played from April to October or for any other six months out of the year. And it's not just that it is played for six months, there's a game every day! Even Auburn football would start to tick me off if it was on every day.

And finally, "no shave November" has struck early this year. We have already had to survive no shave last half of September and no shave first half of October. Who remembers how I feel about facial hair? That's right, I hate it.

So basically, we're dealing with a hairy baseball fanatic who only talks to people via the computer. He just happens to also be a sweet sweet Daddy to my three children, a very tenderhearted and patient husband, and a really thin spread man trying to do his very best at way too many things piled up on his plate without ever complaining or freaking out. Yes, it's a good thing George is great or I might just hurl our computers and television set out on the sidewalk and play barber shop whilst he was sleeping. Because, of course, I do complain and I do freak out- I think I'm sort of in the constant state of either complaining or freaking out. Thank heaven for George though- nasty beard, too much baseball, and all.

Pumpkin recipes soon. I've run out of time tonight. Hey, does anyone still even check this after so long?

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