Thursday, July 30, 2009

Freaking Jury Duty

Again! Again I have been summonsed to Jury Duty. It's at a different location than it was before (the previous one was for traffic court, and I'm guessing this one is for something a bit more important than a seat belt violation). But still! How the hell can I have lived here for 4 years and been summoned twice while in my entirety of living in Colorado I was summoned twice. AND SHAWN HAS NEVER BEEN SUMMONED. EVER! I think I'm going to go to said Jury Duty and ask if they can put my husband on the roster for the next summoning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I've gone and gotten myself some work kritturs. Said critters are 3 hermit crabs. I have not named them yet, two of them were extremely active on the way home, the other is actually quite the hermit and didn't even move until it had been sitting in the terrarium (the crabitat if you will) for over an hour.

I set out some fresh food from Bond (grapes and spinach) so we'll see how much they eat.

The biggest problem with said crabs? They're nocturnal so I probably won't get to watch them move around much.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Update on Baby Projects

So, by the time I wrote my last entry about the baby projects, Miss Sarah's newest addition to the family was already 5 hours old.

I told you the baby wasn't going to wait until Friday.

Baked Ziti

And the last recipe to be tried out of the Best Skillet Recipes book before I had to send it back: Baked Ziti.

Of the three dishes, this is probably my least favorite. It was also the only one that I didn't pre-measure everything before starting. It maybe took an hour to do (from beginning to end), and about half of that time was used boiling and peeling tomatoes and dicing a jalapeno.

Note: The recipe did not call for fresh tomatoes, nor did it call for a diced jalapeno. It called for whole peeled tomatoes in a can and red pepper flakes. but I had like 10 tomatoes and 8 jalapenos, so I figured I'd just use the fresh stuff instead. Also, I normally don't have whole peeled tomatoes in a can lying around the house.

So, after boiling, cooling, peeling and pureeing the tomatoes, I weighed them only to find out I was a little short on tomato weight--I could have just boiled, cooled, peeled and pureed more tomatoes since I only used half of them, but decided that was too much of a pain in the butt since I was already hungry. So I used a can of petite diced tomatoes in addition to the homegrown and the Farm to Work tomatoes.

I diced a jalapeno because I had it on hand, and I need to use them. These I got from the Farm to Work thingy-ma-bopper and from Bond.

I also peeled some garlic (which, I hopefully will have growing in my garden this fall. woot!), and garlic pressed it.

I then weighed the penne I had on hand, and I only had 8 of the required 12 oz. So, since I was lazy, I decided to just add elbow mac to make up the difference instead of running to the store to pic up another box of penne--bad idea. I did at least wait 3 minutes between adding the penne and the mac to try to get them to cook to the same doneness (oh yeah, I used penne because I had it on hand instead of the ziti, and just so you know, DO NOT add elbow mac to a recipe if you're already adding a larger noodle...which I already knew, I just hoped it would have worked out).

So I cooked the pasta on the stovetop in the skillet for about 18 minutes, and then I added the cream and basil. I also decided to add in a spoonful or two of the ricotta cheese that I still had left over from the Pasta Alla Norma. Stir, cover with mozzarella cheese and bake until melted and bubbly. Let cool.

Or you do what I do and practically forget about dinner cooling on the counter because you're too busy playing on Facebook. Which is only impressive because I was HUNGRY.

So we ate dinner, and it was alright. It would have been better without the elbow mac noodles (duh), and it still seemed to be missing something...more cheese maybe. I think the ricotta was a good addition. I think the biggest problem was that I like my baked pastas to be more saucey than it was (so I should probably just add some canned spaghetti sauce to my plate). Of the three recipes we tried from the book, I think this was probably the biggest disappointment, though it is easier than most baked ziti recipes that require you to boil the ziti seperately from the sauce. Of course, even though it's a disappointment, that doesn't mean that I won't make this ever again. It is relatively easy--especially when using canned tomatoes and pepper flakes, and the ingredients aren't too out there. The only one that I for sure won't usually have on hand is the heavy cream. But seeing as how the Pot Pie recipe uses heavy cream, I'm sure we'll just do the two recipes back to back, thus making the buying of cream not such a big deal.

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

I figure I'd write more about the recipes we've tried out of the Best Skillet Meals cookbook that I originally blogged about here and here.

I had bought all the stuff to make the pot pie at the same time I bought all the stuff to make the Pasta Alla Norma, but due to life, was unable to cook the pot pie until 4 days later, and even then, it was more of a "oh crap, this stuff is going to go bad if we don't use it" thing.

I first pulled out the pie crust (Pillsbury "just unroll" variety), fluted the edges, and cut out vent holes. Then I put it in the freezer as per directions. Of course I should have measured to make sure it would fit in the skillet. Oops. I chopped celery and carrots, measured milk and wine (which I had to substitute white wine since the grocery store doesn't sell Vermouth), and patted dry the chicken breast (and can I just mention how disgusting it is to pat dry raw chicken? EW!). I added a clove of garlic because I had one ready to go, even though the recipe didn't call for it.

I mixed, I cooked, I shredded chicken, I added the frozen peas right at the end as per directions. And then I tried to add the pie crust, only to find out that it was still bigger than the skillet, so I had to try to bend frozen pie crust just so it would touch all the delicious gooey goodness. Then I threw it in the oven for 5 minutes less than the recipe called for (Hey, it said 30-35 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown, and it was golden brown at 25 minutes). I also didn't let it rest the full 25 minutes because we're big kids and I told Shawn that the gooey innards were going to be piping hot.

But still, we ended up eating dinner at 930.

But it was also the best pot pie I've ever had (not that I've had that many pot pies). At first Shawn said that he thought it was good, and the only downside was the amount of time it took. But then by the time he got to his 3rd helping, I stated that I was pretty sure he liked it. And he did agree that it was also probably the best pot pie he'd had too (I don't know how many pot pies he's had).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pasta Alla Norma

So I made a recipe from the aforementioned skillet recipe book.

The recipe itself was easy, and simple, with simple ingredients.

It did, however, take 3 hours from start to finish. I would like to say that's how long it took for all the chopping, dicing, mincing and other what-have-yous, but that would be a lie. It should only take about 50 minutes to do the recipe from start to finish (including prep).

The reason why it took so long? I was talking to my mother for an hour and a half during the prep work. And since she gets all frustrated when I do things while talking on the phone (I'm not allowed to get ice for my drink, chop things on the cutting board, or type on the computer). I'm pretty sure that 'using the food processor' goes under the list of 'things not to do on the phone while talking to your mother'. Actually, i'm pretty sure that using the food processor is one of the more benign things on that list, but you get my point.

So I had to entertain myself by boiling, icing and peeling some garden tomatoes that I needed for the recipe and measuring everything out in little bowls (it could have been worse, I could have yelled "BAM!" when I added the garlic). And taking pictures. Which I won't bother to show here because I am lazy like that.

After getting off the phone with my mom, I followed the recipe and properly pulsed the tomatoes until they were smooth. Then I cut up the eggplant (I didn't want to cut the eggplant earlier because a) see list of things I'm not allowed to do while talking to my mother on the phone, and b) eggplant starts to turn brown right after you cut into it), and put it in the pan and slowly browned until done. Which was really more like I didn't want the pieces to look like shit so I took them out before they were actually done. After pouring all the eggplant into a different bowl to sit around until they were called for, I cooked the garlic, and tomato pulse puree for a while before adding the requisite amount of water and penne pasta. Stir, cover and simmer. Of course, stirring was a bit difficult as the pan was full to within 1" of the top. Anyhow, simmer until the pasta is done, stir in the cheese and cooked eggplant. And serve.

See, easy peasy. As long as you use the right cheese. I just looked at the recipe before going to the store and saw "Ricotta Salata" cheese, but didn't bother reading the part that explained that Salata is the hard ricotta, not the soft stuff I'm used to. So I added the soft cheese instead of the correct cheese...which of course imparts a gritty/grainy texture. So there you go, I can't read directions. Never mind that I also only used half the amount of eggplant and a different type of pepper than called for, plus garden tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes instead of only canned, peeled, whole tomatoes.

Shawn said he thought it was great, and thought I was crazy when I said I would either use the correct cheese, or less of the soft cheese. In fact, his only complaint was that I didn't cook the eggplant long enough. but some of the problem there is that he's used to mushy eggplant and I can't do that--all my veggies must be slightly firm except for mashed potatoes (and even then, I'm told I like dry mashed potatoes because I don't like them to be too thin and watery). So yes, I think the next time I make this, I may just use the HEB brand crushed tomatoes (they really are like tomato puree as opposed to the name brand stuff which tends to have little tomato chunks in it), and skip the eggplant, unless I have it on hand of course. And since I ate some of the pasta before adding the cheese, it is do-able, but the cheese really does take it to the next level, but just not as much...or maybe mix the cheese with some milk.

On a side note, I hopefully will be able to grow everything needed for this recipe (except the pasta and cheese) next year in my garden since I have eggplant seeds, garlic heads, pepper seeds, and tomato seeds.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Baby Projects. Again

So all of the friends that have already had babies are now all on their second round. The first baby is due in 6 days (and I'm guessing that Miss Sarah isn't going to be able to make it to the actual due date seeing as how she's smaller than me, and they went and induced labor 2 days before her due date with Mya). Anyhow, I'm still working on the baby gift. It's not even that what I've chosen to do is all that difficult, it's just that I haven't been in a sewing mood. At all. I think it's got something to do with the weather--I get all into sewing when the weather starts to get colder. Of course, you'd point out that the last time when the girls all had babies, it meant that I was sewing through the summer. But I think I started the sewing when it was still cool-ish outside and just had to keep it going through the summer as opposed to this time where I started in the middle of the summer.

Plus after 2 baby gifts that required embroidery, 15 embroidered towels, 4 baby blankets, 2 stuffed animals, 2 soft books, and a Christmas stocking, I think I'm a little burned out on the sewing.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Our administrative assistant needs help.

On the 2nd, the first thing he said to me (at 9 in the morning) is "Wow, you're shirt makes me thirsty." I look down at my shirt. A plain lime green T-shirt. I give him a funny look and he concludes "it makes me thirsty for a margarita because your shirt is colored like a margarita."

Today, the first day I've seen him since I've been out of town for a week, he says "mmm, your shirt makes me thirsty for a Blue Hawaiian" as a greeting to me at 10am.

Aside from the fact that it looks like we might have to introduce him to Betty Ford, who says shit like that to someone? "mmm, your shirt is maroon, it makes me thirsty for a Dr. Pepper."

Cook's Illustrated

Back in the day (before Christmas, because it's the reason why I got a Dutch Oven as my Christmas present from Shawn), I had ordered a Cook's Illustrated book called "The Best Restaurant Recipes". I ordered the book because i have a weakness for cookbooks. I rarely ever use them, yet I love to look through them and what have you--I've got multiple cookbooks with pages marked of things I'd like to try. And I'm sure the librarians out there (or the ones raised by librarians) would be appalled to find out that I routinely make notes in my cook books--usually they're along the lines of whether the food was good, or suggestions for changes. I've actually made a couple of things out of said cookbook though (lamb ragu and shepherd's pie come to mind), and they've been pretty good (though I think the lamb ragu would be better with ground lamb...and I still need to make the Osso Buco, which was the reason I got the book in the first place).

The only problem I have with Cook's Illustrated is that they always send you crap. Crap as in unsolicited cookbooks. They usually send a little postcard first so you can send it back with the check next to "Please do not send me this cookbook", but if you forget to send that postcard, or you don't get it back to them in time, they will send you said cookbook. You have something like a free 21 day trial before you either have to pay for it or send it back. I'm guessing that most people are too lazy to send the book back (they at least give you a pre-paid packing slip), and end up paying for the book.

Anyhow, what a long way to say that I didn't ever see the postcard this time around, and so it came as a shock that I received a copy of "The Best Skillet Meals" in the mail the other day (or rather, it was during the vacation, but still, it was a surprise). I thumbed through the book and it seems like they have some good recipes--a baked ziti, a different recipe for shepherd's pie, and pad thai all look very good. So it seems that I will have to make some of these items before I have to send the book back. Maybe I'll even do a food review like Eric did on Kristie's blog. And I only say that these reviews will turn out more like Eric's reviews because I don't know anything about food other than whether I like it, and whether I find it easy to make.

Also, if any of you loyal readers (so in other words, the people that I actually know and have met face to face) want a Cook's Illustrated book, just let me know and I'll order it for you (I of course expect to be paid at cost) so you don't get all this propaganda.

I feel like such a drug dealer. Well then, I think I may need to get some black boots.

More Vacation

So much has happened since we took the Yellowstone vacation. For example, there was the week of work (not bad since everyone wanted to know stuff about Yellowstone), and then the week of training. I swear if Hell froze over, it couldn't be colder than the training room we were in. I was cold enough that my coworker who took the same training ended up giving me his jacket so I would stop shivering. And I was wearing pants, long sleeved shirts, and my jacket already. I seriously thought about bringing a hat. Then I took The Test. The Test not being the P.E. (which I do have to take at some point in the near future), but being the CFM test.

So, there you have it. I am now a Certified Floodplain Manager. Which doesn't necessarily mean anything. I guess it makes me more marketable if I want to get a job somewhere else, but it doesn't get me a pay raise or anything (like the P.E. will).

Then there were 4 days of work (it was the week of the Fourth, after all).

Then I went to happy hour where I found out everyone has smoked, or otherwise partook of the nicotine. Well, that and they told me to go back to Yankeeville.

Of course, they said that because (!!) Shawn and I were about to embark on another vacation. One to the East Coast to burn some more of his copious amounts of vacation time, plus it coincided nicely with going to his cousin's wedding.

The trip started out with me getting home at 10 at night and then having to clean and pack for the trip, so we didn't go to bed until 130 am. Which is only a problem because we had to get up at 430 to make our flight. Oddly, we did the same thing on the trip back...though that time we stayed up late because of the aforementioned wedding.

Pictures coming soon. I ended up having to delete some of them mid-trip because on Thursday Shawn looked at the camera and said "hunh, you only have 32 pictures left before the card is full." Which means there are like 450 pictures or so on my camera alone...which actually does mean something since we went to the DC zoo and only used my camera.