Monday, September 17, 2012

White Castle Burgers

Growing up with a father from the mid-west, one of the highlights when we would roll into St. Louis would be heading to White Castle.  Now, I know you either love them or hate them, being exposed to them as a kid, I admit, I love them!  The whole experience of seeing them on the griddle and all those little tiny buns being toasted on them as well.  I think it's part adorableness-factor, and the other part deliciousness-factor, that makes me love the Castle.  (oh and anything associated with the word "Castle" is okay by Princess ME!)

So, it is shocking to me that when I googled for a recipe for traditional sliders, and I came across this recipe (which I admit I skimmed, but got the gist of) for sliders, and I took it home to create beautiful sliders NOT REALIZING that "traditional sliders" taste just like White Castle burgers.  Remember, I skimmed the article, so I didn't see the whole "White Castle" thing at the very beginning.  I'm just interested in the recipe, not the story behind it!  

So, without further ado - Princess ME bequeaths upon you:


Off-White Castle Burgers

recipe makes 6 "dinner roll" sized burgers

Put the buns in a lowly heated toaster oven (say about 150 or so) to warm them up (because I do NOT need to soak up extra grease, no matter if that is the way the castle does it! 

Slice the onion so that it fits in a food processor (I used my mini food processor, so I sliced mine in half, and then into smaller pieces.  Create a finely chopped onion with food processor (almost turns into a mince with lots of juice).  Salt the onions.

Add beef to a bowl and add the onion and about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Blend ingredients with your hands until the onion is well distributed through the meat.  The oil just holds it all together a bit.    Form this into 6 patties (I probably could have gotten it to go into 7 patties, but 6 was a better number for me.

Warm up a skillet over Medium heat and add a touch of olive oil to that.

When pan is ready insert the first 3 burgers (unless you have a large griddle and can cook all 6 at one time.  If so, I envy you).  Allow to brown about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on your slider's thickness.

Remove the rolls from the oven, and cut open and place patties onto them. Repeat with the last 3 sliders. 

If you would like to turn these into "Krystal" burgers add pickle and mustard.  If you're a castle lover, leave them or add the pickles if you must.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Open-faced Peach (Nectarine) Stuffed Pork Chops

My "stuffed" version of these pork chops.
See the toothpicks?  Pain in the butt, skip 'em and
make them open-faced.
So, awhile back I was watching Food Network's Paula Deen show.  She was doing a recipe for Peach Stuffed Porkchops.  I really liked the look of them, but there are a few ingredients (cheese) that I'm not too keen on.  But I like the idea and thought I'd mess around with the recipe a bit.

Boy did they turn out great!  Now, there's a little disclaimer here: I put "open-faced" in the title, but the picture is of a stuffed pork chop.  I believe the next time I make this I will do them open-faced, because to close them up, it's pretty, but it is messy and takes longer.

So, without further ado, I give you....

Open-Faced Peach (Nectarine) Stuffed Pork Chops

  • 6 butterflied (if stuffing) or regular 1" thick pork chops.
  • 1 package Chicken Apple Sausage (this is what I used) with skins removed.
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon.
  • 2 nectarines (cause the recipe says to peel the, who has time for that? But if you'd like, use peaches and peel them.)  cut into small bite-sized pieces.
  • Pepper & salt (to taste).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a casserole dish (spray it or oil it up).

In a skillet over med-high heat, add oil and saute the chicken sausage till crumbled into small pieces (which is the hardest part of this recipe, since chicken sticks together pretty good).  Once complete, add the peaches/nectarines and tarragon.

(if stuffing, please follow Paula's recipe from this point forward, if not stuffing - continue below.)

Toss the mixture from the skillet into a bowl.  Return the skillet to temperature and add a tad bit more oil.  Brown the chops (just super quick to brown them, so maybe 2 minutes per side) and place the chops from the skillet to the casserole dish.  Over-top, add the sausage/peach mixture and place in the oven.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Enjoy. (serves 6)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sorry, I was just so tired.

I'm baaaack!

Yesterday was our last day, and I have to admit that by the time I got home, unpacked, started my laundry, made dinner and gave myself a charlie horse so bad I had to lie down the rest of the night, I just gave up and figured you all can read this crap later.   :)  And here you are, reading this crap later.

Actually, day 5 (our last day) was a beautiful day.  When we woke up, there were wispy clouds in the mountains, but by the time we went down to breakfast, the sky was blue, blue, and blue.  We went towards the visitors center, and picked up a map; since the guy at the Holiday Inn just moved in from
We made it to the top of the stairs!

After getting the map, we drove around looking at all of the shops (scoping them out) and headed to Mingo Falls.  Which was breathtaking.  The pictures don't do it justice.  It was ridiculously beautiful, and it was the first thing I saw that made my jaw stand open.  There were steps up to the trail, some of which were knee high (no wonder I have a charlie horse)!

Mingo Falls
I have a confession to make.  The shops (that we visited) weren't that great.  I did get a few books, but didn't really find anything for a souvenir.  We did end up in a shop at the end that had sterling silver  jewelry and I got Leilani a pair of turquoise earrings (shhhh, don't tell her -they're for her B-day) and the guy there told me that Betsy's ring and My ring were Lapis Lazuli and Labradorite (respectively) that we bought at the Caverns.  Those were 15 bucks.  The rings and sterling silver jewelry that was in the village were closer to $30.  What a bargain!  Anyway, it was nice that he told me because mine looks like a moonstone, and that's what I was calling it.

So, after chasing after souvenirs, we gave up and went to Taco Bell, and then started the long trek home.  When we hit Morganton, we said goodbye to the last few mountains.  :(

So, to sum up: my favorites were "Blowing Rock State Park," the Caverns, and mining, and we could have spent more time in Cherokee finding the rest of the waterfalls (Linville Falls has nothing on Mingo Falls).  No one fell off a cliff, and I didn't have to call 911.  So, all in all, this was a good trip.

On the not so bright side, I think I'm getting sick.  My one gland was swollen the whole trip, and now they're both swollen.  Leilani has orientation on Thursday, and school starts on Monday.  So, I'll be a busy bee for the next few days - I can't afford to be sick!

Anyhow, I won't post anything much this week.  It's been fun entertaining you.  Let me know where your favorite spots are (especially if you have one in the mountains) so that I can visit those next time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How do you make rain stop?

See, the clouds are lifting as I'm
applying the stuff!
So, as a general question, how do you make rain stop? This sounds like an extraordinary question, but it's really far more simple than you imagine.  This is how you do it.  You get go to buy rain-x and paper apply said rain-x to all windsheilds.  Then you start driving.  Instantly the skies clear.  I swear, it should come with a money back guarantee.

Outside of Linville Caverns
So, guess what I did first thing this morning?  That's right!  :)  I made it stop raining.  (oh the feeling of power!)  After we did that, I volunteered for another shift of driving as long as I could drive to the Linville Caverns (which is backwards from where we were supposed to be going).  Betsy thought that was a great idea (her not having to drive, I think), so I drove to Linville Caverns.  I was a little worried, because we kept driving, and driving, and driving and I hadn't seen any signs in a while.  But we did find it (no u-turns required).  And boy was it worth it.  When you walked in the mine it was instantly 10 degrees cooler.  I swear to you all I will NEVER walk in front of Betsy on a tour again.  She got pictures of other things too, but a lot were photo-bombed by my ass (since I walked ahead of her).  The gift shop after was nice too, and they had a lot of stuff (variety-wise) at decent prices.  We were able to get some good pictures in front of the stream outside as well.

So, after that           (are ya'll sitting down?)        (you are?  good)      we got some lunch (before 2pm).  SHOCKER!!!!

How awesome are those clouds mixed with mountains?
And then we got on the highway and headed to Cherokee.  At this point I have to send a shout out to Patricia for telling me not to go through Maggie Valley, but to go around.  It was much, much easier to drive and it was beautiful scenery.  Unfortunately we didn't get in to Cherokee until about 3:30, so all we had time to do was the Casino.  That thing was HUGE.  It was probably as big as Wake Med, if not larger.  I walked around with Leilani and we found a rain shield that was raining from the ceiling of the casino.  It was both beautiful and amazing.  It was synchronized with a bunch of LCD panels which played something while the rain-shield changed colors.

This is a picture of the rain curtain, but no
squirrel dancers on the LCD's in the background.  Sorry
Now, I'm not sure if I can tell you how funny this next part is, or if you just had to be there; but I'm going to try my best.  On the screen pops up a (CGI animation) toad, woodpecker, and (the star of the show) a squirrel.  Now, here's the funny parts:  #1- there are no children allowed in the casino (where this was playing) except we could see it from the top floor. (hello, isn't that your biggest audience for animated cartoons?)  But there were no children around except for Leilani.  #2- There is a ridiculous hip hop beat going (thanks to the toad's croaks and the woodpecker's..uh..pecks?) and the squirrel is *ahem* dancing.  And catching some sweet front-side air on a makeshift snowboard (that happens to be made out of a twig - oh, and there's no snow).  I didn't have my camera (or my wits) about me, so you all will not get to see this spectacle, unless you go to the casino and stand there all day waiting for that particular animation to play.  Sorry.  I truly think everyone should have to see it at least once.

So, I lost 5 bucks in the casino.  Leilani was worried (how did I get such a prude?) about me spending my money.  I told her we wouldn't starve if I lost $5.  So, she eventually let me go.  Betsy won about $30, so that's pretty awesome.

Can you believe this sweet angelic creature
could fart like a truck driver? (no offense to the
truck drivers out there.)
After that we took a drive to see if we could find downtown (which I could have SPIT and hit it was so close) and then we got some dinner (nothing special).

When we got back, Leilani had a fart-fest and gassed Betsy out.  And that's how she won at UNO tonight. :)

Tune in tomorrow, when I might post about my exciting trip home.  haha.  Actually, we plan on seeing the park and downtown tomorrow and then we'll come home (unless we find something else to do).  So, I'll post if anything exciting happens.

Good night :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

So, I still have yet to call 911, depsite haivng a bad customer service experience that could have warranted a 911 call!

"On the road again...just can't wait to get on the road again..."

Does this really need a caption?
This is her idea of fun.
This morning, after checking out of the hotel (after eating breakfast - thank goodness), we headed to Linville Falls.  Now, looking ay the internet Betsy told me that it was right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  My GPS, decided he had never heard of the place - so we took a chance and followed her directions.  It was a beautiful drive on the parkway for the most part. We got a little lost, and it's called "Pisgah National Forest - Linville Falls" which is why when we followed the directions and ended up in Linville Falls the community, it was a little like "uh...and now what do we do?" when we saw that there were no falls in Linville Falls. I am happy to report though, that we did finally find the falls (hence me being able to tell you what the hell they're actually called - and the picture below).

Leilani with Linville Falls in the
Hiking to the falls was a downward affair.  It was a beautiful hike, filled with moss covered trees, and so many mushrooms I can't even begin to tell you!  When we got to the falls we took some beautiful pictures, and then hiked back.  However, Leilani fell 1/2 way back and so she and I rushed (uphill) to the car so I could bandage her with the first aid kit I (so conveniently) left in the car.  While I bandaged her, I recovered my lungs (holy CRAP what a hike uphill that last part was!) and we waited (not long) for Betsy to get to the car.  By the time we left however, it was 1pm and we were starving! (sound familiar?  It's like a recurring theme lately!)

Little Switzerland Downtown.  Sadly, this was the
best part of "LSD"
So, our plans were that we were going to go to Little Switzerland and eat there.  There must be a ton of cute places in a little "Swiss village," right?   HA!  Little Switzercrap had a bunch of winding roads that went to a post office, general store, and the "Little Switzerland Cafe."  By this time it was about 1:30/1:45.  Now, we were really, really hungry.  But let me explain to you the entire saga:  When we got there, it said "please seat yourself."  When we attempted to do so we were told in no uncertain terms that there was a waiting list and that we should get on it.  okaaaay, put us on the list then.  (meanwhile other people ARE seating themselves.)  So, we look around the adjacent General Store and we bought Leilani 2 postcards and a walking stick (a little late in the game, since I haven't been buying the tags to put on the walking stick,but whatever).  This takes a little bit, since we're not the first people in line.  But, we're still waiting on a table (that STILL hasn't been cleared since we put our names on the list) so no biggie.  Well, we go up to the girl and she's like, "Yeah, you can sit here - let me just finish wiping it down."  okaaay (by the way, this was the original table we tried to sit down at).  So, Sabrina (the girl who snootily told us that there was a waiting list and we should get the hell on it) comes over and asks us what we'd like to drink.  Betsy and I ordered water, and Lei ordered Sweet Tea.  When she came back with the drinks, we were discussing having the BBQ chicken, when Sabrina piped up and told us that "We're out of chicken!"  okaaaayy.  Now, this menu is pretty crappy, but we take a look.  And look.  And look some more.  Well, Sabrina never comes back to the table.  So, we decide we've waited this long, let's just get the ham sammich outta here.  So, I leave 2 dollars on the table (which should cover Leilani's tea) and leave.  We pulled out of the parking lot down the road, and drove past.  She still hadn't come back to the table.  We must have been SUPER important to her.

Now, let me say that if that were the only problem with this town, that would be ok.  But, we thought it was going to be "more" and that we'd end up spending the rest of the day there.  But, it really was only a post office, a cafe, a general store, and a coffee house.  That's it.  Totally not worth the stupid road.
Leilani finds cool stuff at the mine

However, what WAS worth the stupid road was the gem mine we went to next.  It was also in Little Switzerland.  (How important is food anyway?)  We decided since the mine was there that we'd take a trip to do some mining.  It shouldn't take too long.  So we ordered the smallest bucket ($20) which was about a 5 gallon paint bucket.  Leilani got to pan for gems, and we came away with a WHOLE mess of stones.  Some Rubies & Saphires, Emeralds, Peridot, Topaz, Quartz and Amethyst, Moonstones and more.  For $20 we got a whole lot of stones.  And they labeled them and put them in baggies for us.  And they told me all about how people get different colors of topaz (the different hued blues are just the amount of exposure to radiation - did you know that? Yes, Dad, I know you did!).  Anyway, if you have the chance to go, definitely check it out.  Although we didn't get any gems refined today (we were too hungry), their prices are good.  $35 to cut a stone, and $70 for 3 stones.  That's an awesome deal.  And when we have a moment to look through, we'll probably ship some back, and have them refined.

Where Leilani refuses to put her roll
down for a picture.  Admittedly,
they were amazing rolls.
So, it's about 3pm now.  We decide that we should just go for an early dinner (like yesterday) and find the hotel first.  There's just one problem.  We don't have an address for the hotel we're staying at.  hahaha.  So, I told the GPS to take us to Marion, City Center and hoped that we would find it on the way.  It did...we didn't.  Betsy went to the trunk (I pulled over in old downtown Marion) and got the hotel information.  So, we plugged that into the GPS.  Long story short, we got to the hotel, checked in, put the luggage in the room, and RAN to the closest deliciousness we could find.  Which happened to be FATZ.  I've been to a FATZ, but Leilani and Betsy had never been.  What can I say...We had a wonderful waiter who was laid back and didn't bat an eye when Leilani ordered 2 kids meals, and I cleaned my plate entirely.  Lets just say that we don't even have pictures of our food tonight because we were RAVENOUS!  After we devoured our massive plates of fantasticness, we went to the Peebles that was next door.  It was cool.  I bought Leilani some boots for the upcoming fall weather.

Now we're back at the hotel chilling.  Leilani and Betsy had a tie for UNO cards tonight.  4 to 4.  So, Leilani beat Betsy in the head with Betsy's own Kindle.  (by mistake, I'm told.)

Tomorrow is Linville Caverns, and then we head out to Cherokee. 
We may get out of this trip without a single rescue squad being called into action.  But, I promised to drive again tomorrow, so nothing is certain yet.  ;)

Tune in for tomorrow's segment currently titled "This is the day that I blew a WHOLE 5 dollars at a casino!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

No one fell off the (aka: and this would be why the GPS said NOT to use Route 221)

So, last night was a ridiculous night.  Air set at 68 degrees.  When the fan was off, we sweat.  When it was on we froze.  So, we didn't sleep very well.  But, we plugged along anyway.

After getting ready, we went down to breakfast.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  I guess that's how you can tell if it's a good breakfast- if it looks like an IHOP on a Saturday morning.  Once we finished breakfast, we headed out to Grandfather Mountain State Park.  We took the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there.

The first stop on the parkway promised directions.  So, we stopped at the Moses Cone Flattop Mannor.  It was a beautiful old mansion filled with amazing crafts from local artisans.  I bought some presents/souvenirs.   And we took pictures of some of the beautiful paths which were built originally for carriages.  The house gave tours as well, but we missed them because it wasn't the right time. So, we moved on after getting directions.

Next stop on the parkway was the Julian Price Memorial Park.  It was a lovely lake overlook with beautiful views.  We took some pictures of the lake view and then drove on to Grandfather Mountain.

When we got to Grandfather Mtn, they gave us an audio CD to pop into the CD player so that we could listen to a tour on the way up the mountain.  It gave some really interesting information about the mountain and the park.

The first place we stopped was the half-moon overlook.  We were really high up (elevation 5946 feet) and we were only 1/2 way up!  We took some beautiful pictures here and then got back in the car and headed to the Sphinx and Split rocks.  They were awesome (did you know they're actually older than the mountain - being an ancient river-rock?  Neither did I.)

It started to rain, but we walked the connected animal park and saw deer, an otter, and a few chipmunks.  I went ahead to the museum while Betsy and Leilani went to see the bears.  At this gift shop, Leilani got a coon-skin cap.  It's hilarious.  She thinks it's very cool and reminds her of James "Bobo" Fay from Finding Bigfoot's Kentucky episode.  We had a snack here, because it was already after 1pm.

Next stop was the top.  YIKES.  It was drizzly and really windy.  The wind howled under the swinging bridge.  And if this is the new and improved un-swinging bridge, then I'm glad I never saw the rickety piece of crap that it used to be.  Holy Crap!  This think DID swing.  And, as if it's not bad enough that I'm freezing do death and hanging on for dear life, watching every step as I got closer and closer to the other side, they just HAD to put on the place with the greatest distance from the ground exactly HOW far you'd fall if you decided that you couldn't make it to the other side.  Over a mile.  I however, (both ways) didn't read exactly how far down that was (it was more than a mile) because I was pushing people out of my way (practically) so that I could get inside shelter where it was safe and warmer.  Needless to say, it was not my favorite area.
Don't be fooled...these are terrified faces!

So, after that we strolled down the mountain and went to Linville (the other side of the mountain) using Rt. 221.  There was a General Store Betsy wanted to go to.  It wasn't all that interesting, so we left; turned around, and went up the mountain again.  Lol.

And that's when the fun began.  (Betsy's driving)  Betsy: "This Route 221 should go back to Blowing Rock.  It says it's only 19 miles.  What do you think?  Should we bypass the Blue Ridge Parkway?" This was a huge mistake.  Yes, it was 19 miles of curvy, narrow, not as well paved, road that took us probably 45 minutes to get to Blowing Rock.  By the time that she arrived in Blowing Rock's downtown area, her knuckles were devoid of blood as she pried them off the steering wheel.  (gosh, I wish I had a picture of that!)

Leilani's Tea (after 3 minutes)
Betsy's Tea (after 3 min)
Once we decided that downtown Blowing Rock was too crowded, we decided to stop by the Tanger Outlets.  (insert laughing here) We didn't stop here either.  Instead we roamed the parking lot looking for plates from out of state to add to our list that we started in yesterday's highway game.  Besty says she was still in shock from 221.  So, she was in no state to do anything.  And I didn't want to upset any mental balance issues she might have been having, by suggesting we stop for anything.  No, really...we just didn't find anything interesting aside from the license plates.  Sad, isn't it?

My tea (after 3 min)
By the time we finished trolling the parking lot, we were starving.  It was 4 pm after all.  So we had some awesome Beef Brisket BBQ at The Woodlands Barbeque. Leilani ate 5 huge Chicken fingers (surprise).  That is very conveniently located next to the place we're staying.  That's very, very handy since we were all exhausted.  So after the BBQ, we came back to the room to put together the scrapbooks, write the blog, and listen to Leilani having a nervous breakdown trying to entertain us.

I've been told that Betsy only won 1 game of UNO tonight against Leilani.  They think they might have played 4 total (nervous breakdown averted).  So, my card sharp is getting better.  And we got some postcards to post in the morning's mail.  Hopefully they'll make it home before we do.  But that's doubtful.  And I'm really not sure what Leilani wrote on those cards, so if you get one - please be understanding.

More tomorrow, when we visit Linville Falls (and hopefully not fall) and Little Switzerland.  Also, check out the rest of my pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The episode where no one falls off a mountain

Today is my anniversary.  14 year of wedded bliss (and not so much bliss).  So, naturally, I left him.  At home.  On his own.  For a whole week without me and Leilani.  :)  He's probably very happy.

Leilani and I went to the mountains with Betsy for her 50th birthday celebration.  Today we drove from Raleigh to Blowing Rock.  We got in around 2:30 and scouted the hotel out.  It reminds me of a hunting lodge from the outside, but on the inside it is very modern.  I'm especially taken and disappointed (all at the same time) with the bathroom, whose shower has marble.  Just like mine. And here I thought my shower was pretty original.  Ce'st la vie.

Leilani, Heide & Betsy were here.  2012
After unloading and settling in to the hotel, we drove a short distance to Blowing Rock Park.  It was really pleasant weather - being warm, but not humid, with a cool breeze.  We walked the park and saw beautiful flowers and lovely outcroppings of rocks jutting from the earth.  From the overlooks we could see Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and, I think, even Table Rock Mountain.  When we were standing at the highest and largest overlook the up-drafts felt so delightful.  I used my blue Sharpie to write on the railing that "we were here" and the year.  If we ever come back, we can check to see if it's still there.  It's on the under-hang of the railing, on the right side of the lookout.  When I got to the gift shop, I bought Leilani a postcard for her scrapbook, and 2 booklets about the mountain legends and the legend of Blowing Rock.

Mystery Hill's "Vortex"
After Blowing Rock, we headed to Mystery Hill.   It was really freaky.  Although the house was built on an angle, you could definitely feel the massive pull of gravity.  There was a lot of neat stuff there - like the large bubble makers, the spooky spigot, and awesome antique farm equipment.  They had an old still for moonshine, and an "outhouse."  I bought some postcards there, a stone that is used for sharpening things.  Leilani got a mustache moodring and a robot moodring.  Oh, and a got an awesome book about North Carolina history...the weird stuff, not the run-of-the-mill history.

For dinner, we went to The Canyon - a restaurant that used to be a speakeasy and opened in the 30's
Grandfather Mountain is beneath that sun. I got sunburned
for sitting out there for all of 45minutes.  Ugh!
(I think...).  It had a beautiful view of the mountain range, with a lovely sunset view of Grandfather Mountain...which we didn't get to see because we ate so fast.  But it was still beautiful and impressive.  Leilani hated sitting outside (I'm hot!  There's a bee hovering! -for the record there were 2 bees and the didn't bother us much at all!)  The food was delish.  Betsy had the Grouper special with rice.  I had the Malibu Chicken with smashed potatoes.  And Leilani - surprise- had Chicken fingers. Betsy and I had salad with our dinner and it had a delicious Honey Lime Vinaigrette.

And this is me freezing
After dinner, we went to the Food Lion to buy tape for Lei & Betsy's scrapbooking efforts.  We went in and didn't buy tape.  Betsy and Leilani had to go back into the store to buy it (again).  I got to watch a fireman park his massive truck and enter the store.  Delightful.

Now here we are at the hotel.  I'm freezing and Betsy thinks it's stuffy in here.  This is gonna be some night! :)

Tomorrow - The adventures of Grandfather Mountain and more Blowing Rock. Also entitled "The episode where we (might) fall off a mountain and are rescued by hot firefighter I saw at Food Lion."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Recipe: Spaghetti Amatriciana

Spaghetti Amatriciana

This is a light sauce that I improvised.  It's light and perfect for Spring/Summer months.  You can used fresh tomatoes or canned, depending on your preference or the season.  Also, don't be afraid to try adding fresh herbs in place of (or in addition) to the Italian Seasoning blend.  I've made so many variations of this recipe because it's so easy and quick.  Enjoy!

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes (about 4 - 5 vine-ripe tomatoes)
  • 6 slices of pre-cooked or raw bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion (I use sweet ones when I can find them), diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, diced (or use a press)
  • 3 tbsp - 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar or Vodka (to taste)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp of sugar
  • Olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
  • Italian Seasoning (eyeball it - about 3 shakes/3 tsp)
While waiting for the water to boil for the spaghetti, place the olive oil in a separate pan and bring to medium high heat.  Add onions and garlic (and bacon if uncooked).  If using cooked bacon, wait till the onions are soft and then add the bacon to the pan.  When those items are cooked, add everything else to the pan and simmer to blend the flavors.

When pasta is done, add sauce to it and stir over medium heat to absorb liquid.

Add cheese, if you must.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken Scampi

Way back in ‘99, right before Y2K hit and everyone thought their computers were going to die, I printed a recipe from Disney’sFamily Fun website.  It was from the kitchen of Jean Knight in Bokeelia Florida.  Giving credit where credit is due is what I’m all about.  However, I can’t find the recipe out there anymore (and this is why printed things should NEVER go away completely).  I still encourage you to go out there and check out some of their cute recipes, but you will not find this one out there among them.  

So, I feel like I can post it here (if anyone ever runs across Ms. Knight, I’d be happy to link to any website she has).  I’m going to write her original recipe verbatim, and then below that, I’ll put my own version.

FYI, this recipe originally garnered a kid friendliness rating of 10 (where 10 is begging you to make it every night) and a difficulty rating of 5 (scale of 1-10, 10 being ridiculously hard).  I can attest to the 10, since Leilani is begging me to make it again.  But I think the 5 is ranking it too high.  If you've shake and baked before, this is only taking in one step further.  I'd give it a 3 on difficulty.

Original Recipe

  • ¼ to 1 lb butter
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Boneless chicken breast (quantity is measured by how much you want to make.  Jean uses about 9 – 12 breasts to make enough for a large group, or 2 – 3 for a small family).
  • Italian Bread Crumbs

In a saucepan, melt butter and cook slowly with as much garlic as you like (the more, the better)(.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Wash chicken and cut up in bite-size pieces.  Put chicken and bread crumbs in a bag and shake to coat.  Lay chicken pieces out on a cookie sheet.  Warm the butter and garlic mixture.

Meanwhile, put chicken in 325-degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes, turning the chicken once halfway through.  Pour garlic and butter mixture over the top and bake fo another 15 – 20 minutes.  Serve.

Serves 2 – 30 people; takes 1 hour to cook

My Recipe

  • 1 stick of butter and ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 6 cloves of Garlic
  • Parsley / Italian Seasoning
  • 3 Breasts (because that’s what comes in a package nowadays)
  • Mixture of Italian & Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Salt
  • Spaghetti (or rice, is a great accompaniment)

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Put chicken in a Ziploc baggie and then add some bread crumbs.  (Yeah, I just guestimate).  Shake ‘em up.  If you need more coating, add some more and then re-shake.

Bake in a dish (I’d not use a cookie sheet because I feel like the juice is going to go everywhere – I use a glass casserole dish) at 325 for 20 minutes.  Turn them only if you remember to do so (I did, because I was starving and was waiting on them).

Meanwhile, since I make this with spaghetti I started boiling the water for that.  Once that’s  going, I started with the “juice.”  Melt the butter & oil with the garlic and some salt (unless you use salted butter…then you may not need it) and Italian Seasoning (and I happened to have some fresh parsley, so I stuck that in too).  Melt it over warm heat.  You may even want to add a splash of lemon or wine to it at this point…but I didn't.

After the 20 minutes is up, I turned the oven up to 425/broil (not too high on the heat); added the sauce and stirred the chicken .  I broiled for about 10 - 15 minutes just to brown the tops and make them all crispy.

Serve over the spaghetti or rice.

Served my family of 3, plus leftovers for 1 the next day.  Took too long for me to cook, which is why I sped it up with the broiler.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Move along...nothing to see here.

Why does I feel the need to write (or type as the case may be), when I have nothing to say?  It's as if a force is compelling me to write something - anything - simply so that my fingers are occupied.

True story - I actually set this blog up in September.  But for lack of anything to say, didn't post anything till December.  Although they say "Everyone has a story to tell" this isn't really writers block...I just have yet to find a story  I feel  is interesting enough for me to bother telling it.

I see the same writers itch in my daughter that I see in me.  It doesn't have to be just has to be on paper.  (oh the poor trees!)  She started Chapter 3 on her short story tonight, before I commandeered her into helping me plan a March menu.  She would still be writing (and illustrating) now, I think, if I had not distracted her attention.

Do you ever feel the need to write, but have nothing to say?  Perhaps this is just a left-over from my adolescence, when I would write to gather my thoughts.  Or, perhaps this is more common.  I don't know.  What I do know is that when something really inspires me, I feel that I write much better, and that it's worth reading.  This post, may not be worth the read (sorry no refunds on that 2 minutes I just killed), but it is a question I've wanted to find the answer to repeatedly.  And, maybe by putting this out there, someday, someone will be able to answer it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I think I've finally found my new-year's resolution

So, I'm only two months late, but I think my new-year's goal this year is going to be to buy cruelty free products this year.  I've done this in the past, but have lost focus over the past few years.  I think it's time to get back on track.

If you'd like to buy from cruelty-free companies, I urge you to visit Peta's listing of companies that don't test their products on animals.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Effective vs. Efficient

So, I've read a few articles recently about the difference between being effective and being efficient as of late.  And I have to say I’m not sure I entirely agree with them.

The gist of it is that “effectiveness is when you are doing the task correctly.”  This makes sense and there are no problems here for me.  I agree that you can be effective and not be the sharpest knife in the kitchen – so to speak. (which also happens to be an excellent example.  Kudos to me!)  In other words, you don’t have to do your job well to do it correctly.

However, the problem that I’m having is with the definition of efficient.  Thanks to the following definition is available to us:

performing or functioning in the best possiblemanner with the least waste of time andeffort; having and using requisiteknowledge, skill, and industry; competent;capable: a reliable, efficient secretary.
satisfactory and economical to use: Our newair conditioner is more efficient than our old one.
 (there are more definitions but these are the two I want to look at for the time being.)

So, let’s look at definition # 2.  This is what I’m hearing a LOT on these articles.  The performance is satisfactory and economical.  But not necessarily as “effective” as a non-efficient “air conditioner.”  And this is where I begin to diverge from those who agree with this statement as being a reflection of efficiency.

The first definition – by far – is the one I agree with.  And even efficient air conditioners should be held to that standard.  Just because a step is skipped doesn’t mean that the outcome should be less effective because of my (faulty) efficiency.  If that is truly the case, then efficiency is just the opposite of its own definition (according to definition #1). 

Example:  I write contracts as part of my job.  It used to be that I wrote them by hand.  I would have to fill out every section of every block for every contract (about 200 per year).  This was effective, to an extent.  Sometimes though, I messed up what goes into those little boxes.  And to the extent that our technology was, it was as efficient as I could be at the time. 

Then, I started using contracts that I had already filled out portions of those boxes for the stuff that wouldn’t change.  I would then take them to the copy machine, make about a hundred copies, and then write the contracts from the copies.  I would still occasionally write an incorrect date; so this too was only partially effective.  It was also more efficient (time-wise) since I didn’t waste extra time filling in all those blocks.  However, I had added a step to the process, not taken one out.

Now, fast forward 12 years from the first time I wrote a contract.  I now use a pre-filled computer template which I can type the information into. (that took me awhile to create!)  I then compile the contracts using Adobe Acrobat, and send them electronically to the person who needs to key them into the system.  If I make a mistake on a date, the turn-around is super-fast.  But I do still make mistakes.  Effectiveness = same, Efficiency = more.

In these scenarios, I was just as effective in all 3 (I do still make mistakes).  However, since streamlining the process I have become more efficient at the task.  (If I could streamline the process more so that I didn’t make mistakes at all, I would jump for joy and get to work on that new process.) 

But, let’s say that one of the changes I had made had caused me to re-write all of my contracts because of error, I would not label that as efficiency.  For anyone to say that I could be less effective, but more efficient is a waste of everyone’s breath. 
Another example of this would be to say that a payroll officer should be efficient, even if they’re less effective.  Uh, if a payroll officer left off the step deducting the federal taxes from my paycheck, “efficient” is not the word I would use to describe them.  In fact, a few choice words would come to mind when it came time to pay those taxes back.

So, I can’t say that I agree with some of the articles out there claiming that efficient does not always equal effective.  I beg to differ.  Perhaps a few decades ago, that might have been true.  But should it have been?  One last example of this:  Just because I go through a drive through, I still want pickles, ketchup, onions, lettuce, and tomato on my burger.  But there are also things I don’t want on it.  Skip those steps (no mayo please).  If you don’t listen to my request and are on “efficiency autopilot” and I have to go through the drive through again to get my order corrected, were you truly efficient?   No.  And you just cost the company $ on that burger that just went in the trash.

Is it just me?  Does anyone else see the difference between the two terms as I do?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oddly enough

So, yesterday on the way home from work I realized that I had a dream about myself developing a roll of film. (you remember, 35 mm film, right?)  And it feels like a recurring dream that I had recently as well.  Almost as if I dreamed the same thing within at least 2 weeks (possibly sooner).

It's eerie when you see something (Rite Aid, in this instance) that reminds you of something you've dreamed.  What's eerie about it is that until that moment you had no idea that you had done so.  But as soon as the light bulb in your head goes off and everything clicks into place, it feels so familiar.

I haven't developed a roll of film since Leilani was 2 years old.  Why think of that now?

Even stranger, is that last night I was thinking about elephants and feeling like I had dreamed of them earlier as well.  The fog surrounding my brain in regards to the particulars refuses to lift, and the mystery is still complete.  My mind keeps trying to peer past the fog to illuminate my subconscious thoughts but to no avail as of yet.  I continue to wait for the "ah ha" moment.