Tag Archives: imperfect

Go For Green

Leprechaun Visit | www.ThatCookGirl.com

You’re never too old for Lucky Charms or a Leprechaun visit!
Go For Green!

 I see all these moms running around making elaborate Leprechaun traps, fancy treats, costumes…well, you name it, and I’ve seen the over-the-top, make-the-average-mom-look-bad crafts and projects and parties. This may very well come as a shock to some of you, but I am NOT a crafty mom. I used to think I wanted to be a crafty mom…but it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy and I would just rather put forth that time and energy hanging out than crafting. So far, I don’t think my kids have been scarred too much by my lack of craftiness. Now, I may not be crafty, but I still sure know how to have fun and most Holidays around here are memorable. (Let’s not talk about Valentine’s Day this year, please… I failed miserably by forgetting to leave a silly card for my kids to find when they wake up…Hey, I never said I was perfect! I think I redeemed myself by bringing home chocolate strawberries, though.)

How does a non-crafty mom make Holidays totally awesome you ask? The answer is simple! I have a private line to all the well-known Holiday spokespeople. The Easter Bunny, Santa…yes, even the Leprechauns. Having this “in” with these people really helps when you aren’t crafty! It just takes a quick call, email, or text message to confirm that my kids still get a thrill out of the little details of the Holiday, and I’m off the hook for crafting! A special treat will be dropped off by morning and I can get some much-needed sleep!

Such as it was for St Patrick’s Day! A quick “Go for Green” text message and I was off to bed at an early hour. The Leprechauns paid a visit, performed a bit of mischief with chairs on tables, stools turned upside down, milk turned green, even the fruit bowl turned upside down and the fruit stacked on top…and left a treat for the trouble of having to clean up after them. We all get a good giggle at their silliness every year, and this year was no exception.

Of course, this doesn’t let me off the hook for cooking dinner. We will still have our traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is in the slow cooker now and will be ready when I get home from work. Another mealtime saved by the slow cooker!

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Shots and Ice Cream

Shots and Ice Cream For Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso)...and ice cream for dinner

Some days just require a shot (of espresso)…

Some days just require (espresso) shots and ice cream for dinner. Today was just such a day. I wouldn’t say I had a bad day, it just wasn’t particularly good. It began with receiving some sad news that didn’t quite allow itself to settle in. And then the day just went on as any usual day at the office would, people dropping in for different things throughout the day, appointments and meetings, coffee breaks (of course…I mean…it is MY office. There IS coffee!), just the usual goings on of the day. And then just before the day at the office ended, more sad news. And this time it took a good 15 or 20 minutes to settle into my heart and soul, and when it finally did, both bits of news settled into me all at once and it took all my strength to finish my day and get myself home to my babies.

Shots and Ice Cream for Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso) and ice cream for dinner

…and Ice Cream for Dinner

Life is precious and short and sweet. Celebrate the smallest moments. They are the biggest. Hug someone you love a little tighter today and every day.  Call someone. Take a chance you’ve been scared to take. Don’t wait another second to tell someone you love them, even if you think they already know. Have ice cream for dinner. Have a shot (of espresso).  Go for it! Live while you’re still living!  As my daughter wisely said once “Live; You Might Like It

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A Thankful Life

Hello my loyal blog-readers. Are any of you still out there, waiting for me to get my act together and start posting again? I hope so.

Well, today seems as good a day as any to see what I can do about getting back to blogging. You may be thinking “How does she have time to post on her blog when she should be busily preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd?” Easy. I’m not hosting dinner this year. Nor have I for several years. You see (and I’m about to get really real with you here), I stopped hosting the big Thanksgiving dinner when my life turned upside down a few years ago. I tried desperately to turn it right side up, to no avail. Life has had me upside down, inside out, backwards, right side up,right side out,and forward again more times than I can count. So I just started rolling with the punches. And boy were there a lot of punches thrown my way in the last 5+ years. All the while I dodged a few, threw a few back, and found myself left breathless and disoriented by even more. In the last 2 years I have held 5 different jobs and had 4 different addresses to call home. Somehow I managed to keep my head held high, if only barely at times. So, I hope you will forgive my immense absence from the blogging world, and just welcome my attempts to return. I make no promises for how often I will blog. I only promise to try to be entertaining when I do.

This morning as I prepare to have Thanksgiving dinner with some much-loved people in my life, it hit me just how very thankful I am. Not only today, but every day. I saw this saying recently that sums up my feelings pretty well:

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

I am thankful for more reasons than seems reasonable at times. But I am thankful nonetheless. For the love I have been surrounded by, the opportunities life has presented to me, the friends who have become family, the friends and family who have stood by my side as I made choices that they may or may not have agreed with but supported me no matter what. More than anything, I am thankful to have my 2 pretty darn amazing teenagers who keep me going when all I want to do is give up. I will show them and the whole world that life doesn’t have to be perfect or even go your way to live it happily.

Now, I am being summoned by a cup of coffee that needs my attention and my world famous artichoke dip that isn’t going to make itself.(It’s famous in my world, that counts, right?)

My wish for you is to be thankful for the small things and the big things, the good things and the bad things, and for every choice you make, the good ones and the poor ones. Each of these things will make for a happy life if only you can find a way to be thankful for them.

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Confessions of a Childhood Cook

I grew out of a lot of things I liked to do as a child, as most people do. One thing I never outgrew was liking food and cooking. One of my confessions from my days as a young cook involves multiple confessions. So I might as well just get right to it. Mom? Dad? I’m sorry. I was not the angelic child you believed me t….sorry, I can’t finish that sentence with a straight face, even typing it instead of speaking it. Angelic? Middle child of 6 girls? Not likely. I’m sure these confessions won’t even raise an eyebrow from my folks.

Confession #1: The recipe I’m about to share has always been my guilty pleasure. From the moment I discovered it… I would sneak out of bed many nights to make it after everyone else was long asleep (or at least I assumed they were asleep)

Confession #2: After making the recipe, I plopped down in front of the TV to watch late night Nick at Nite shows like Donna Reed and Mr.Ed (such a rebel)

Confession #3: I ate the recipe straight out of the pan and drank 2 big glasses of milk along with it.

So, what is this glorious recipe? I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I’m sure you’ve even made it many times yourself. And I’m sure you even have eaten it straight from the pan. Perhaps not the entire pan of it like I did, though (please, do confess if you did, though! I’d love to not be alone on this one….)

NO BAKE CHOCOLATE MOUNDS (a.k.a No Bake Cookies)

Your Ingredients:

1/4 lb butter, 2 c sugar, 1/2 c milk, 1/4 c peanut butter, 6 Tbl cocoa powder, 3 c quick oats, 1 tsp vanilla

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In a large saucepan, mix together butter, sugar, and milk. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Imagine a child waiting for 2 minutes for sugar to boil. I think that kind of torture should be enough that no punishment for the crime of sneaking out of bed to make this yummy treat is necessary. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Add the remaining ingredients to the pan.

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Stir until well combined. And then, if you’re like a normal person, you’ll want to work fast to drop the mix onto wax paper before it begins to harden. (The cooler it is in your house, the faster they will harden.) [Note, mine are on foil instead of wax paper…because I don’t have wax paper. This is the only recipe I have that needs it, and well, I usually eat the dang things right out of the pan and never make it to this step!]

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Oh, don’t worry. I saved some for myself. I have it sitting right here next to me while I type. So, Mom and Dad? Now I guess you know why you seemed to always run out of oatmeal (and sugar, and cocoa powder, oh and milk….) quicker than expected. Loves! xx

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As I was remembering my late-night snacking adventures this morning on the way to work, it reminded me of other recipes from my childhood that I am now officially on the hunt for! Children’s books with recipes in them! There is one out there somewhere with cranberry cookies and I am determined to find it, along with many others I remember from my childhood. I will keep you updated on what I find. What are your favorite childhood food memories?

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Filed under Cooking With Love, Dessert, Recipes

Live; You Might Like It

Live; You Might Like It

So there’s this life I love. And in this jumbled, imperfect life, I try to find time to do all the things I love and, well, I just can’t fit it all in. So when it comes to choosing which things are priority, it’s the living of life that wins. The enjoying everyday, ordinary moments.
Of course, this means my blogging suffers, as does my housekeeping. But the thing that doesn’t suffer is life.
In a kitchen conversation with my girl child several months ago, we were talking about how I have done things I never would have dreamed of doing even just 2 years ago (things like accepting an invitation to go out on a boat with people I did not know…taking on new adventures…quitting my job…finding new joys in this crazy world), and how much more fun life is when you decide to live it. It was a “lightbulb moment” for both of us, especially for her. She excitedly yelled “Live; you might like it.”, and then ran out of the room. She returned, proud of herself, and apologizing for running out like that, but she said she wanted to write it down before she forgot.
And that night when I was getting ready for bed, I found this sticky note on my bathroom mirror. And there it stayed until moving day a few weeks ago, as a daily reminder to Live.
Oh, that’s right. You don’t know… After working 2 jobs to barely make ends meet for awhile, I was offered a new job. This new job allowed us to move out of our tiny apartment and into a nearly-perfect house, complete with garage, yard, garden, and an amazing kitchen! If we didn’t know any better, we’d think this house was built just for us. And maybe it was. And it’s just been waiting for us to be ready for it.
I have so many things to share with all of you, so many recipes, moments, new adventures, LIFE! I hope you’ll forgive me for Living Life and my delays in sharing about that amazingly imperfect perfect life!
Now, please do me a favor. Go. Live! You might like it, too!

 

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Crowd Pleasing Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

I love to cook for people. Have I ever mentioned that before? I recently met some new people to cook for, and at our first meeting, I kinda bragged about being an amazing cook. I even brought some of my Homemade Bagels to share. I think they liked them (either that or they’re great at faking it.lol) So of course, when the invitation came for me to bring my kids out to their house and cook dinner, I was all-too-happy to plan a meal that would be both simple enough to cook while visiting and something my hostess would be able to easily recreate on her own, but also a crowd pleaser and a “wow” kinda meal. I do believe I picked a near-perfect meal to do the trick. I have only 1 picture to share with you, and the credit for that goes to Carri who brought out her phone to snap a picture before we dished up. I was too busy enjoying cooking in a big kitchen and visiting and dancing while doing so to think about taking pictures. (I know, shocking, right?)

Our hosts spent a good amount of time that day showing me and my kids around and introducing us to all their animals, even putting my girl child on a horse to ride around for a bit (the boy child had no interest). They shot a bow and arrow, enjoyed the company of children other than each other, and generally just had a nice, fun, relaxing day/evening. And I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with adults outside of work, something I don’t get to do enough of lately.

I am not a perfect cook, to which I have admitted many times. I do make some really great food, most of the time, but I do have my mishaps… In planning the menu, I decided I wanted to make dessert as well, which I was going to prepare at home and bring along. I decided on my old “signature” dessert of cream puffs…but they didn’t puff, and my work schedule was so hectic there was no way I would have time to re-make them. Seeing my sadness (I was near tears…probably more because of my hectic schedule and trying to do too much and overwhelming myself than having not had success with the puffs, though…) at not having success with this, my girl child (15 years old now, by the way! How did THAT happen?!) offered to give them a try while I was at work. When I saw her facebook status update declaring “I WIN”, I knew she had had success and it was for sure a proud mommy moment.

So, what did we share with this family of new friends? Having bragged about being an amazing cook, it had to be something amazing, of course… Well, the cream puffs, of course, thanks to the girl child. I also made Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara (the recipe is below, but to be honest, I didn’t really follow it too closely, and had only made it once before this night, so threw it together from memory, but it seemed to turn out quite well… also, this recipe is a combination of several I found on the www with my own little twists added to it) and a big green salad with lemon salad dressing. Yeah, that’s it. But it was plenty!

Thanks again for letting me come out to your house and mess up your kitchen!

 

Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

This is a dish that can be complete in less than 20 minutes if you gather all your ingredients before you start. It’s simple, with simple ingredients, and a crowd-pleaser!

When I told my kids one night that we were having Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner, they both cried out “YUM!!!!” But they had no idea what it was. They just liked the sound of the name. When I told them it had bacon in it, I thought they would both faint from excitement. I love these simple meals that impress. 🙂


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon
    Here’s What to do:

    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic (or more) and add them to the water (I do this instead of salt) along with the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the largest skillet you have over medium to medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Chop the remaining garlic cloves, and slice the green onion (green and white parts), reserving a bit for garnish. Add these to the bacon and grease in the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Chop tomato into cubes and cut lemon in half during this cooking time.

    3. In a bowl, beat yolks and add 1/2 cup of the water from the pasta. This keeps the eggs from scrambling when added to the pasta.

    4. Drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Working quickly, toss to coat the pasta, adding more water to make a creamy texture, maybe a ladel or 2 full. Remove from heat and add a large handful of cheese, about 1/2 cup or so, and chopped tomatoes. Continue to toss the pasta until it thickens. Garnish with reserved green onion and extra grated Parmesan.

    5. Serve in pasta bowls or on plates with large sides to hold the yummy goodness in!

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Traditionally Non-Traditional

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my kids? They are fun and quirky, just like their Mama, but in their own unique ways. We all embrace each other’s individuality, bringing out the best in each other, making every day life fantastically fun together. Part of our fun is that we love tradition, but we also love to break tradition!

Color Me Happy

It’s Easter. So we obviously had to color some eggs. We even made some tea eggs after seeing my sister’s post about making them. Coloring eggs is one of my favorite things. I don’t know why. I don’t even really enjoy hard boiled eggs all that much. But there’s just something about the fun, bright colors of Easter Eggs that bring a smile to my face. I’ll be coloring eggs long after my kids have grown up and moved away from home. It’s a Holiday tradition I enjoy very much.

Baskets o' Plenty

Let’s not forget the candy, of course. Our baskets were left in front of the fireplace for the Easter Bunny last night. This year, we all have “proper” baskets. I have struggled every year with the fact that my kids don’t have nice baskets that they will enjoy bringing out year after year, even as adults, like I have. I’ve just never found nice ones that we liked. Some years we didn’t even have a basket, so the Easter Bunny would leave their treats in new lunch boxes or new baseball caps. Always fun, but this year when we looked, the kids decided they both really liked the plain wood ones. They are sturdy enough that I think they will last a long time for them! And we awoke to our baskets filled with candy, candy, and more candy, plus some notebooks, coasters, books, and even new toothbrushes for the kids (their Dentist will surely be happy to hear that! lol)

Traditionally Non-Traditional Easter Dinner

So, what does a silly family like ours have for dinner on Easter? I’m so glad you asked. Cheeseburgers, of course. I was asked by someone today if I would be having a big ham dinner. He seemed a bit taken aback when I said “No, we’ll be having cheeseburgers for our Easter dinner tonight.” He asked me if that was a family tradition. It was then that I realized our “tradition” is that we like to be “non-traditional”. He seemed pleased with my response, and thought it was a pretty cool way to enjoy Holidays. [By making a tradition of breaking traditions.]

Our Easter dinner, 2012: Cheeseburgers, piled high with plenty of melted sharp cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and some thinly sliced red onion. Paired with artichokes [with lemon butter for dipping!] and sweet potatoes, and of course some deviled eggs (gotta use those colored eggs somehow, right?)

And the weather for this day? PERFECT! We made great use of our deck for the first time since we moved in here, and enjoyed our fantastically fun dinner outside, giggling about our silliness and enjoying each other’s company and laughter.

I hope you enjoyed your Holiday as much as we did.

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Reusable Memories

Stacks of Memories!

I use real dishes. Yes, even for parties with many people in attendance, I use glass plates, glasses, and flatware, and I even use cloth napkins. It’s not that I’m a snob about dishes. Not at all. I have a hodge podge mix of plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and napkins. There are matching sets among the mix, but for a large group, nothing matches, and I rather prefer it that way. It’s casual. It’s fun. It’s me.

When the party is over and all the guests have left, I walk around and pick up stray plates, glasses, and whatever else is sitting on tables, window sills, next to chairs… and this brings a smile to my face, because I know that everyone enjoyed themselves and as I stack up the plates and line up the glasses, it’s like I’m stacking up memories with every clink of dishes hitting against each other. And those memories will get to come out and play again and again as those dishes are used for nightly family dinners, dinner with friends, parties “just because”, impromptu get-togethers, and much more. And those memories are worth more than any possible breakage might cost to replace.

Remember: Use the good stuff. Today is special.

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Food Trials: Beef Jerky

Have you seen Runaway Bride? What about the famous egg scene from that movie? In that scene, our Runaway Bride is standing in the kitchen with eggs prepared several different ways, having a taste test. Why? Well, as she explains, she doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes. She has always eaten her eggs in the same manner as her current “beau”. This, I believe, is all-too-common.

I find myself in similar situations as I realize I am in my mid-30s and fully, 100% single for the first time in my adult life. And, surprisingly, it’s not too bad (most of the time, anyway…but you don’t want to hear the boring details of my non-dating life).

Early in the fall, my kiddos and I spent a weekend at my baby sis’s house to attend a local festival where we got to make fresh apple cider. Before heading her way for the weekend, I decided we should bring some beef jerky from our hometown. I ran into a problem with this. I don’t know which shop’s beef jerky I like best. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, buy from all of them and have a taste test, of course.

And so, in true Runaway Bride fashion, I gathered up some beef jerky from the shops in our hometown and set up a taste test for everyone. Here’s what I discovered: Of the 3 we tried, I found 1 to be too dry and too salty. The other 2 both had good flavor, with 1 that I had never even tried previously coming out the clear winner in my book. It was the least salty of the 3, and had the most interest with different layers of flavor and smokiness. But the real discovery? I guess I’m just not a beef jerky kinda girl. Yes, that’s right, the results of this taste test for me was: I don’t really care about beef jerky.

Stay tuned for more food trials. There are many foods I have not tried. Some because I’ve just never had the opportunity, and others because someone else said they didn’t like it, so I just never made it. My kiddos are pretty adventurous with food, so they’ll get to try some of these foods with me, as well. But some, well, some I will make for myself on my own date night when I find myself at home by myself watching sappy chick flicks (like Runaway Bride and Eat, Pray, Love). Because I deserve to eat well, even when I’m eating alone.

What are some foods you have always wanted to try but for whatever reason, just haven’t? Will you join me in this food trial and share your new food experiences with everyone?

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The Great Pumpkin Hunt

The Great Pumpkin Hunt of 2011

Saturday morning, just 2 days before Halloween, and it occurred to me that we still had not gotten our pumpkins for carving. It was already going to be a busy day, but we were determined to make time for our carving tradition.

We begin our hunt, before heading to the soccer fields, at the Farmers Market where I made my usual first stop to see Bambi at Parke Creek Farm. This stop was not only for getting some great fresh veggies for our weekend food as we continue the move, but to say “good-bye”, since my “home” market will be in our new town next year. She didn’t have a lot of pumpkin choices as far as carving choices go, but I did pick out some great small pumpkins that she said are called “cuties”, but admitted she had yet to actually cook with one. That’s ok. I’ll experiment and report back to her. We said good-bye with promises to keep up via our Facebook pages at Parke Creek Farm and That Cook Girl. You can keep up with us there, too! </end shameless plug. Heehee>

As I mentioned in opening, we had a busy day planned. So, here’s just a quick rundown of the rest of the day before we got to continue our Pumpkin Hunt:

  • Soccer game (we won! Go RED BULLS!)
  • Quick visit with friends before leaving the fields
  • Load car with boxes from storage
  • Stop at house (that was filled with people and food… it would have been rude to
    not have a quick visit with them as well, so we stayed there longer than we had
    planned)
  • Add a few more things to the car, hoping there would still be room for the kids to
    sit (there was)
  • Drive and hour+ to the new place
  • Unload the car (to the 3rd floor apartment)

Now that we’re unloaded and sufficiently exhausted, it was time to head out for some shopping and pumpkin hunting… our first stop had the last-minute costume things we needed, and the food, and the other home necessities we were looking for…but no pumpkins. But what they did have was squash. Butternut and Spaghetti. Both made their way into the cart for the night’s carving activities. When all else fails, we carve squash, because the carving must go on. (Wait… that’s the show that must go on… nevermind. 😉 )

We did make one final stop before ending our hunt. There is a grocery store near our new apartment, so we swung in there, to find they still had plenty of pumpkins sitting out front. We made our choices and headed for our new home.

Enjoy! Our first Fireplace Decoration in our new home!

While I began cooking dinner, the kids set to work on their pumpkins. But they weren’t happy with carving just pumpkins. They wanted to carve the squash, as well. Afterall, that is why we bought them, right? I listened to their talking and giggling while I cooked and
put some more things in order in the apartment and started to feel like we really are at home, wherever we are together. I love you, kiddos!

 

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