Saturday, May 31, 2014

The sleepover snafu

There is nothing like an 8-year old girl's sleepover to make you blow it when you are on a shopping diet like ours.   But our eldest, Kara, turned 8 yesterday and it was totally worth the cheating to see how excited she was for the party.  Could we have figured out a way to avoid shopping? Probably. But it would have been kind of lame and we probably would have been forced to serve ramen noodles and expired popcorn to our guests.  There would have been no tie dyed cake, no pop and certainly no pizza for dinner last night.  So I am glad we cheated yet again. It was totally worth it!  We bought pizza, pop and snacks and none of it was stale or expired.  I even really splurged by picking up a dozen donuts on the way home from they were not day olds either, they were literally fresh out of the oven at Wesco.   So I really thought I had all my bases covered.  I felt prepared, confident even.  I even picked up dollar store balloons for the guests and they are tie dyed to match the cake. I know.  Like I said, I was prepared.

  Matching balloons the sure sign of a prepared woman!

 The cake fresh from and...
 I purchased one for every other member our family
so that I am prepared for all 2014! Just planning ahead!
 Monster Pancakes!   Frighteningly delicious.
All and all successful,
but I am sure glad Super Dad showed up to rescue me!

However, when Kara requested Monster Pancakes for breakfast (and I approved it) I didnt realize that we were almost out of flour and that were completely out of syrup which is pretty much essential when consuming monster pancakes.  So my husband came to the rescue.  Not unlike a super hero himself (which BTW was the theme at Relay for Life this year there were various people sporting various super hero costumes which was quite entertaining), my husband ran around gathering flour and syrup from his parent's house (thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the loan) and a short time later we finally dined on some excellent Monster Pancakes, Smokey Links and donuts.  It was amazing and the girls love all of the food.  And now I hope to avoid shopping for a very long time.

PS In an attempt to make sure I had properly spelled snafu, I just learned that Snafu is a military term that means "situation normal: all f*cked up". I had no idea.   Sidenote Snafu is also the name of an English rhythm and blues band from the 1970s.  Just trying to help educate my followers. Oh wait I dont have any of those!!!

Vern Out

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pigroast aftermath

People don't generally think about the pigroast aftermath when they are planning a pigroast.  I mean seriously who thinks about the fifty (or more) pounds of leftover pork that will be generated when they decide to roast a hog? No one, that's who.   They just don't.  They focus on the delectable, down right scrumptious, meal that they will serve friends and family.  They think about the prestige and the reputation that comes with providing the experience.  They think of the fond memories they will create with their friends and family at the unforgettable pigroast. But no one thinks about the reality of the leftovers.

Well last weekend my husband roasted a hog for the highschool graduation of a family member and it was fantastic, but we now have I would say conservatively 20 pounds of leftover pork;  And I am certain many family members find themselves in the same boat as I...trying deseperately to row themselves away from the pigroast aftermath cesspool and back to shore where normal dining habits can resume.  I am trying to find creative ways to use the pork, but it is getting more and more difficult and I may leftover pork!  Given the food challenge we are amidst, one would think that I would be elated to have lots of tasty roasted hog to dine on and I am, but I am also out of fresh ideas to use it up.

Pork in the morning. Pork in the midday. Pork in the evening. Pork!  We have had all the regulars. Pork barbecue for dinner. Cold pork sandwiches for lunch. Pork omelets for breakfast!  Pork!  Our greatest success was the pork casserole with a southwest flare. 

(I must confess that while I have been fairly successful at using up the pork I did surrender to it today and I placed the last bag of it in our freezer.  I just hope I don't find it in eleven years when I next clean my freezer!)

Fiesta Pork Casserole

2 pounds pork
1 can black beans
1 can fiesta nacho cheese soup
1 can tomatoes and green chilis
1 cup sour cream (lowfat)
2 cups brown rice cooked
1 cup shredded cheese

Combine top 6 ingredients and bake for 350 for 40 minutes or until bubbly around edges.  Add cheese to the top and put back in oven for 10 minutes to melt cheese.  Let set for 5 minutes and serve.

Check it out!  Absolutely AWESOME!  And I had already eaten pork every day for a week before I made this!

 Too lazy to take a better picture,
but it was actually delicious despite what it looks like!

A few days after the pigroast, I received a starter bag for amish friendship bread which honestly isn't that friendly of a gift because it basically means that you have to spend about 10 days babysitting a bag of sticky goop. And if you happen to forget about it, it will explode into an unbelievable mess like none other.  At least that is what I've been told, but because I take such good care of my goop I have never experienced this explosion myself. Anyhow,  I was feeling brave (or possibly stupid) when my sister's mother in law offered me a loaf of bread with the stipulation that I take the bag of starter goop, and I took it! Hook, line and sinker!
 Amish bread!  A seriously delicious endeavor
almost worth babysitting disgusting goop for a week!

As I mentioned last time I was on here (like a lifetime ago!), I made bacon crisps for book club and they were divine!  Remember, for these tasty appetizers all you do is buy club crackers place a good sized pile of fresh parmesan cheese on top and a splash of your favorite hot sauce and wrap a half slice of bacon around the whole darn thing and bake them for about an hour and a half at 200 degrees (or until the bacon is done) and you will think you have died and gone to heaven. For real!  They are so good.  Try it! They are so worth the calories.

 The bacon crisps from bookclub.  SO GOOD!
Come a little closer...You look sooo amazing!

We also went camping for the holiday weekend and I won't lie I cheated on the camping preparation shopping trip.  It was in the name of family tradition and so that we didn't get stuck living off eggs, ramen noodles  and stale popcorn while camping because that would just SUCK .  We ate pizza sandwiches, hotdogs, s'mores, more hotdogs, more pizza sandwiches and more hotdogs and more s'mores and then I had some gouda cheese because I literally couldn't eat another single hotdog or god forbid a pizza sandwich!  And then my husband went and created a new sandwich that is seriously so good that I can't tell you about it until we get a patent on it because forget about all those fancy plans with numbers and letters like 401k these breakfast sandwiches are now our retirement plan! Once we get our patent form approved, I will share them with you. I promise!  

For now, that is all!

Vern Out

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's a bird...It's a plane... It's super Kale!

These days going out to eat at a restaurant has taken on a whole new level of seriousness. I mean when you have been living off ramen noodles, eggs and expired food for months, even going out to McDonalds would be a big deal.  So it was a HUGE deal (think first 40 degree day after this past winter or rainfall after a terrible drought and you get the idea) when my boss informed me that we had a lunch meeting in Grand Rapids this week! I was like a kid anxiously awaiting Christmas. I even made a super cool paper chain to help me countdown to the day of the big meal!

So there we were at a nice enough restaurant (which shall remain annonymous because I dont want to get sued, or harrassed or anthing for what I am about to tell you) and it was there at this nameless nice enough restaurant that I was betrayed by my true love; Yes, I was led astray by Gouda.  Seriously, I spent about 45 minutes trying to decide what to order because I was actually eating out at a nice restaurant and was overwhelmed by all of the interesting options.  After much deliberation, I eventually selected my entree based soley on the presence of the gouda held within the shells of the Barbecue Chicken and Gouda quesadillas. I was absolutely certain that anything that included gouda had to be incredible.  It seemed logical that something that contained chicken, peppers and gouda would be tasty, but sadly I was disappointed. They were not very good.  It fact, they were bad.  The shells were over cooked and dry and they were lacking in the flavor department too. And there was no salsa, sour cream or quacamole served with them. In all fairness, it is possible that my assessment was partly due to the fact that I am fighting a cold and my clogged nose and sinuses had my taste buds off their typical A game. However, I served the leftovers to my husband for dinner that very night and he agreed that they were "nothing special, too dry and not very good".   Although he did mention that it was a nice change from ramen noodles.  The problem was simple; there wasnt enough of the stuff between the shells.  Everyone knows that you eat quesadillas for the stuff, not the shells. It was the first time I have been disappointed by Gouda and so I was quite unprepared for the failure.  I was at a loss for words...
Hazel wonders!?
How the heck something with gouda can be anything but DELICIOUS!

...So I went home mystified by lunch hour gouda failure and pondered the situation and since I couldn't get out for a run, I started to cook because cooking is what I do when I am stumped, and don't know what to do, and I can't get out for a run.  I whipped up a concoction not unlike Cari Draft's D&W Inspired Kale Salad but I modified it slightly based on what was in my fridge and cupboards. Whatever it takes to avoid a trip to the store!  It is noteworthy that Kale is a super food which means it is packed with vitamins and other healthy stuff so that it is really, really good for you!

It's a bird; it's a plane; it's super KALE!

 The Usual Suspects!
 The finished product was better than the quesadilla lunch. 
Mouth-watering delicious and packed full of nutrients and vitamins!

                                              My Super Kale Salad!
                                                6 ounces of kale
                                                6 ounces of romaine lettuce
                                                1 can of garbanzo beans (fresh from the pantry!)
                                                about a half cup of craisins
                                                about a half cup of toasted almonds
                                             a large granny smith apple cut it bite size pieces
                                           2 tablespoons  Lime Juice
                                           4 tablespoons olive oil
                                           Fresh basil to taste
                                          1 tsp.Tastefully Simple Dried Tomato Garlic Pesto
                                            salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to taste

The rest of the week was rather uneventful until tonight when I ended up at work until 6 and had no dinner plans whatsoever.  I stopped at Orchard Markets and stocked up on a rottisierre chicken, a few deli salads and a frozen pizza.  I know not very healthy at all, but at least I ate Kale salad on the side! We survived and the kids actually liked the random smorgasbord.

One other noteworthy occurence; I did cheat the other day in the name of peanut butter  crackers. I love peanut butter crackers!  I had a major craving for some PB crackers the day after 5th 3rd run and I decided I deserved them.  I had eaten healthy for two whole weeks, trained hard for months and not quit (or died) along the 15.5 mile course so I bought these crackers to satisfy my craving.  I also plan to make these Bacon Crisps tomorrow night for bookclub. DBC ladies you better watch out bacon is making an appearance!!!

Bacon Crisps:

Club Crackers
Fresh shaved parmesan cheese
hot sauce (optional)

Take a club cracker
put a pile of fresh parmesan cheese on top of it
sprinkle a little of your favorite hot sauce on top
wrap a piece of bacon around the cracker
Bake at 200 for 1 1/2 or 2 hours until bacon is done

Vern Out

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hearts of Palm

Time is flying by way too fast these days.  I can not believe it is already Mother's Day and that Mother's Day is nearly over.  Where the heck did my special day go? Before I know it, school will be out too and I will be the proud mother of a 3rd, 1st and preschooler.  Crazy.

Anywhoo, my eating, and more importantly my shopping habits, of recent have been rather dull.  As you know, I have been eating all of my healthy food choices the past couple of weeks in preparation for the 5th 3rd Riverbank Run  As a result, I haven't shopped in awhile.  But it was not completely without success, as I didn't die when I ran and actually finished the 5th 3rd Riverbank Run yesterday (2:19:49 for those who care).

This morning I was surprised with a trip to the Spa de la Constantino. And let me tell you that place is luxurious. First class. Five-star.  Out-of-this-world.  It really was grand!   I could barely roll my poor, damaged and aching body out of bed because I felt like a ninety year old who had run an ultra marathon, instead of a 37 year old who had merely run 15 miles, I did manage to get out of bed because I was scheduled for this fabulous spa treatment with my 7,5, and 4 year old children. And I was not about to disappoint them.  Not on Mother's Day.  Not on my watch.  So I sucked it up and went to the spa that was set up in my bathroom by children. 

But don't worry, it was way better than it sounds.  Maybe my kids have been sneaking around attending massage therapist classes or something because they actually did pretty well.  I could actually feel the stress and tension leave my body as I soaked in the hot tub and the full body massage was absolutely to... die... for.  Then once my body had been properly revitalized, I was off to the Constantine Diner.  The food there was AMAZING. I had the Bacon Egg and you guessed it, Gouda sandwich with home-made mustard (I might have made it myself, but at least I didnt have to make the sandwich).   It really was a delightful meal. Check it out!

 HI my name is Veronica...
and I have a problem...
I can't stop eating Gouda!
So after all of my relaxing activities, I was exhausted.  For real, my body was dog tired so I was feeling completely unambitious.  Shockingly my husband did the dishes and post breakfast decontamination of the table.  Seriously he doesnt do dishes like ever so I think I had to literally pick my jaw off the ground when he did that.  It might be broken, but I didnt have time to go to the med center to have it checked out because it was time for presents.  Anyhow, once he went and surprised me by doing dishes, I figured I would surprise him myself by cleaning something (two people can play this little game) and I went in the pantry to tidy up.  I discovered a few things . The pantry is getting really, really, really bare.  The pantry is getting really, really dirty and that we still have several out dated items in our pantry.  If you found the halibut story disturbing, you may want to quit reading now...
I found this can which I realize looks innocuous enough, but which actually expired in February of 2003.  It may actually be considered Haz Mat by now I'm not sure.  When I bought it, it was with the best of intentions to make some fancy recipe a long, long time ago (based on the expiration date I would say roughly a decade ago) and clearly I never made the recipe. **Hearts of Palm are also known as swamp cabbage, chonta, palm cabbage and are harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees. To be completely honest, I am kind of surprised that the can lasted this long and kind of disturbed that it lasted this long too. So my new mission in life is to find a recipe that will  allow me to use this one up!  Stay tuned for that story.

 Some things get better with age.  Wine, Cheese...
 I am not sure that Hearts of Palm made the list

I also did a couple loads of laundry and hung it on our clothes line because I full well intend to save the world one load at a time.  And it was perfect laundry weather today windy and warm.  So even though it pained me greatly, I being of sound mind (okay maybe not, but it sounds good). I being completely bonkers, hung laundry on our lines today despite feeling like an old decrepit woman.
Mother Nature's Dryer...Nature Rocks!!! 
For more on the Nature Rocks theory visit these workouts are a great way to get out in Nature.  I usually take my mother-in-law every Mother's Day but she is on vacation this year so we didn't go. Super fun.  Super great workout!  As a bonus, there are also Ecotrek Whole Food Bars that are amazing.  I may occasionally cheat and buy these bars for a breakfast or quick fuel up before a long run, but I will deny it if you ask me in person (hehe)!.

Oh and we still have friends and family members giving us random food items  (probably because they still feel sorry for us).  I don't. I bet we still eat better than probably at least 75 percent of the world's population so I don't think we have it so bad. Plus we went out to icecream this week because my name was on the sign at the Front Porch so we can hardly complain.  Our most recent food gift became our Mother's Day dinner.  Chicken breasts which I combined with potatoes and cauliflower and topped with italian dressing for dinner.  I knew the spoiling couldn't last forever, but I was hoping to get through an entire day without having to cook.  Oh well, at least dinner was yummy and at least it was all fresh food, not outdated and stale.  I failed to take any pics of this creation, but we ate it all so I think it is safe to say it was exceptional.  A special thanks to Tracy for the delicious dinner!

Vern Out

Monday, May 5, 2014

No bake cookies

When I have my New York Times Bestseller finished there will be an entire chapter devoted to the No Bake Cookies (NBC).  They deserve it.  Seriously how many cookies can stand alone as a balanced meal?  Not many, but the No Bake Cookie totally pulls it off. Kind of like fish net tights, not too many women can pull those off, but a chosen few totally do.  Anyhow, the addition of peanut butter, oatmeal and milk combines to provide a delicious and balanced breakfast for those in need!  It is AWESOME!

Well tonight I am very happy to share with you the history of no bake cookies in my life and the profound impact that they have had not only on my own life, but also on the lives of so many  people I hold near and dear to my heart.  I know for a fact that I have touched a lot of people's lives by doing little more than mixing up a batch of these dynamites! You know who you are too: Miranda, Loretta, Rebel, Abram, Laura, Erin, Lisa, Matthew, Kris, Cindy Lou, Sara Lou, Dawson...the list just goes on and on.  And now because I decided to procreate (and because my LOVE of these cookies has apparently been passed on to my offspring) I can add three more names to that list: Kara, Aven and Hazel. Man Nature vs Nurture really does applies to all things-- even no bake cookie consumption.  And I am such a proud mother!  My kids actually prefer NBCs to chocolate chip or any of the other classic cookies you may offer them! It is a beautiful thing!

 Better than your average anti-depressent, it's the no bake cookie!
Our dog, Stan. Market research suggests cute dogs will boost viewership. 
I figured I need all the help I can get! Seriously so please tell your friends about my cute dog!

Anyhow, I learned to bake, or I guess technically not bake, these cookies from my aunt Cindy.  She is amazing and served as somewhat of a second mother to me!  I quickly memorized the recipe and still know it by heart today.  As a teenager we ate an astronomical number of these cookies at my aunt's house for various occasions and often for no reason at all! I still to this day can not eat a no bake cookie without thinking of her, my cousins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which was our numero uno movie back in the day.  These little tasty morsels became synonymous with happiness and quality family time for me.  And I soon took to baking them for all occasions: weddings, parties, birthdays no occasion was safe from my offerings of freshly made NBCs.  I doubt there is a person out there who doesn't recall me making these damn cookies at some point during my high school and college days.  Also there is likely no one who doesnt remember my years of wearing scrubs like everyday for a decade or so, but I have digressed.  The mere aroma of a freshly prepared no bake cookie brings back so many good memories for me that I drool, uncontrollably.  It is a bit embarrasing really, but at least I am fairly fit now.  My aunt once no baked me a heart shaped NBC and sent it to me at school on my birthday. This was way better than getting flowers at work. And good thing too because my husband has never sent me flowers.  Not even when we were dating.

What happens when you leave a 4year old with an unattended camera!? CHEESE!  PS market research also suggests that cute kids help boost viewership!

Now in contrast to the countless people in my life who love NBCs, my husband HATES them.  He tried them once and hated them instantly and has never waivered in his complete contempt for these awful cookies.  Hate might not be a strong enough word for what he feels toward these and to make matters worse the man loves cookies.  He is a bit of a cookie MONSTER and loves all cookies; All cookies except for NBC.  It is a bit of a perplexing situation really. And somewhat disturbing to me since I have been an addict to these cookies for at least two decades now!  I actually think he might prefer to die of starvation than to eat a no bake cookie and it may someday be the reason for our demise...

and the point to all this, because honestly I am sure you are wondering what that is by now and if you are not then something is wrong with you go get your head examined.  Yes the point is that I bought everything I needed to not bake some NBCs up this weekend because the kids begged for them and we were well immersed in our little impromptu Mystery Adventure at the time and because just the thought of a no bake cookie brings so many wonderful memories to my mind that I just couldnt help but to spend an extra ten bucks and rush home to no bake me and the kids some happiness and fun memories!

You are correct there are no eggs needed for NBCs,
but I wanted to make you stand on your head
or at least lean over really far and possibly fall out of your chair for this one!
Plus our egg surplus is really getting out of control so I wanted to show off our bounty!

Vern Out   

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Oh Sh*t I burned the quinoa

The last time I cooked quinoa, I burned it beyond recognition.  Seriously, the pan I used is still not quite right (it has black specs of quinoa remains still burned deep into its finish).  Well tonight I pulled it off without a hitch and more importantly without setting off the smoke detector!  So I now have lots of freshly cooked quinoa for my upcoming RBR week!

I am still actively amidst my, "trying to eat healthy for a short time in hopes that it will somehow miraculously help my time at the Riverbank Run (RBR)" gig and I must say, "it is getting rather a bit boring" (spoken in a sexy (yet not very accurate) english accent please).  So today I went to a cookout with friends and family and the burger, fries and icecream pie was just what this gal needed.  I am now officially ready to run 15.5 miles next Saturday!  I wasnt totally unhealthy either... well I mean as far as the meal goes I was, but I did run 4 miles tonight so at least I burned off some of those calories.

Anyhow, I have been making a few health exceptions of recent with the grocery challenge:  I bought steel cut oats in an attempt to improve my breakfast habits.  I purchased lots of quinoa and discovered that red quinoa exists and bought some of that as well.  I stocked up on fruits and veggies as well and our chickens have really gotten the hang of this egg laying thing so we have plenty of fresh eggs which  as I suspected are absolutely delicious when placed atop an english muffin with a slice of smoked gouda! 

P.S. I do recognize that I violated standard practice regarding acronyms, but I wanted to peak your curiousity about RBR.  You know I don't want to become too predictable or boring.  Hope it worked.

Vern Out