So, what does the average person do with a terrible cookie icing utensil that has never worked properly? Throw it away, of course! What does a nerd mom do with said cookie icer? Make Darth Vader magic for her kids by filling it with sour cream and decorating a celebratory pizza.
Let me give you a little backstory: for the last several months my oldest son has been dealing with the worst kind of bully. This kid has called him the foulest sort of names, shoved and hit him, called his sexuality into question before others, called him fat (he’s not), told him that his bio parents only gave him up for adoption because he’s ugly (most certainly not true) and told him he was going to be returned because of said ugliness. As a parent, this is the worst thing to watch your child suffer through, but he’s at that age where I can no longer rush in to fix it for him. While I did email a teacher and tell him to secretly keep an eye on the situation and said the same to a couple of other teachers, I didn’t want my son also branded a tattle tale.
My young man is stoic, almost to a fault, however, and greatly downplayed the ongoing situation, so I didn’t know the extent of what was still happening. His bully was slick and never got caught. I say “was” because yesterday my young man finally had enough and took care of business, laying this kid out and going from the shy, quiet kid to the school hero in an instant.
We don’t condone violence in our home and never encourage our kids to fight, but we do tell them that, without any other options, you defend yourself. And that’s just what he did. I couldn’t be prouder, and to celebrate his act of heroism, my fancy-schmancy nacho pizza became all his.
And that is how my normally eye and taste bud pleasing nacho pizza became a little less pretty, but a whole lot cooler.
You can do this several different ways, but I went all from scratch last night. I made the giant corn tortilla and the meat, but you can substitute store bought tortillas and a taco seasoning packet with your ground beef in a pinch. I’ll use the store bought corn tortillas here, but will post the homemade tortilla recipe shortly.
This one is so delicious!
Loaded Nacho Pizza
1 lb ground beef
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to your heat preference)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup salsa
corn tortillas, enough to cover the bottom of a pizza pan
1/4-1/2 cup prepared nacho cheese
1-2 cups shredded taco blend or other cheeses
Lettuce, tomato, olives, sour cream, etc. for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the ground beef. Brown the gr. beef, then drain. Add the salsa, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then add the black beans. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally until the beans are warm, 3-5 minutes.
Grease a 16 in round pizza pan or an 11 X 17 inch cookie sheet and line with tortillas. Bake in a 450° oven for 5-7 minutes, until tortillas are warm and slightly browning, turning over if necessary.
Remove the tortilla pan from the oven and spread the nacho cheese all over the tortillas, as you would with regular pizza sauce. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the pizza and then sprinkle the meat and bean mixture over the cheese (you may only want to use 1/2-1/3 of the meat mixture and save the rest for tomorrow night’s awesome burritos or nachos).
Bake in your 450° oven for 6-8 minutes, or until all the cheese is melted.
Remove from oven and top with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, etc.
I think it’s time to pull out the big guns. Today we’re talking spring rolls. This is another one of those recipes that is cause for celebration around these parts. Normally, I can make 50 of these and they won’t last more than 24 hours, but I was a good girl this time. I made 25 and froze the remaining mix for later use. The disappointment eventually faded since I pacified the gang with apple chips, which are sadly gone now as well.
Like all of my recipes, I play with this one a lot. I will add extra soy and fish sauce to give a little more flavor to the filling. I would recommend using about half of an 8 ounce package of rice sticks, but sometimes I will put a little extra into the mix to stretch it.
We like the traditional method of rolling the cooked spring rolls into a leaf of lettuce topped with cooked rice sticks, shredded carrot and cucumber. This offers a wonderful variety of texture and refreshing crunch, but you don’t have to do this as they stand alone just fine.
1 lb ground pork, cooked
1/2 lb shrimp, chopped and cooked
2 small carrots, diced
4-5 shiitake mushrooms, diced, no stems
1/4 cup soy sauce + extra
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz pack Cellophane noodles or rice sticks, cooked
1 egg, white and yolk separated
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sliced green onions
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 pack 8 inch spring roll wrappers (make sure they are the kind used to fry, not for raw spring rolls)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 TBSP Fish sauce
Romaine lettuce leaves
Blanch cabbage and place in an ice bath. Drain and then squeeze out water. In a large bowl mix cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and gr. onions.
Mix the chopped, cooked shrimp, cooked pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, fish sauce, rice vinegar, about half of the rice sticks and egg white well. Add to the vegetable mix (I usually mix it all together in one bowl, but these were my original directions, so I leave it to you. Less dirty dishes make me happy).
Brush egg yolk on three corners of a wrapper, then add 2 TBSP of filling in the center, diagonally. Place a wet towel over any wrapper or spring roll not in use to keep moist and prevent breaking during the frying process.
Deep fry in peanut oil at 350° for 4-5 minutes, flipping half way, until golden brown.
Serve wrapped in lettuce with the extra noodles, cucumber and carrots, or alone. Dip in oriental chili or soy sauce.
Scroll down for directions and a short video on how to fold spring rolls.
Finally! A beautiful cabbage from the garden!
Shiitake mushrooms. I bought a huge bag and separated, preserving with the food sealer.
Good afternoon, all! Getting a little bit of a late start because I finally got my husband home last night. I’m thinking weekends may have to be quick and easy posts so that Jamie can get a little attention during the 36 or so hours I’ll get to see him for the next few months.
As you know, I am recovering from a super fatty food run and on the lookout for new snack items to feed my hungry gang and myself, so this week we remembered how much we love fruit chips.
There is almost no fruit that can’t be dried, but we went with mango, apples and bananas. You can do these in a food dehydrator or an oven and they are an easy, delicious snack. Because fruit isn’t exactly bursting with flavor this early in the spring, I used lemon juice and cinnamon sugar on my chips.
I’ll break this down into three separate recipes since I’m giving oven directions and temperatures vary, but you can tweak it depending on the fruit you choose or whether or not you use a dehydrator. I also recommend dipping your fruit in, or brushing it with, lemon juice to enhance the fruit’s natural flavor, but it’s not mandatory.
Oven: 225° Prep time: about 10 minutes Cook time: 45 min-1 hr Serves: 4 (for about 10 minutes in this house)
4-6 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (a mandolin works great)
Lemon juice for brushing
Cinnamon sugar, if fruit is not sweet enough
Arrange apple slices on a baking sheet and brush with lemon juice.
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake in preheated oven until edges are dry and begin to curl, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of variations of healthier snacks and have rarely hit on any winners. After the dangerous discovery of homemade fried potato chips, I had to find an alternative, lest I need to find a 12 step program instead. I don’t know if they have those for chip eaters, but I was ready to look. At the very least, I was headed for much larger pants. Anyway, since I still have a bunch of salsa, I decided to give it a try. It’s easy and painless, but you’ll need to make a lot to keep up with the demand.
Lime Juice, dried cilantro, cumin, chili powder, cheesy popcorn or other seasoning*
Brush or spray the tortillas with lime juice, if desired and let dry. Brush or spray with olive oil.
Cut the tortillas with a pizza cutter into wedges. You may have to cut strips for larger tortillas.
Brush a cookie sheet with olive oil and place the chips in a single layer on the sheet. Sprinkle with salt, if desired, but do not use cheese seasoning at this time. It will burn and not be terribly tasty.
Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and toss with any additional seasoning. Repeat until you have enough to satisfy the masses.
*I brushed the chips with lime juice and oil, then used my mortar and pestle to grind salt and some dried cilantro from the garden. I sprinkled the concoction on the chips and then baked them. Delicious!
Good morning, all! It’s a gloomy day in my neck of the woods, made gloomier by being up until the wee hours exchanging gifs with my dear friend, Carrie (this newer feature on Facebook Messenger is best discovered during daylight hours). Mama is tired, but luckily I stumbled upon a very easy winner in the kitchen last night and by golly, I’m making it again tonight. I’ll be a hero!
Remember Cheeseburger Cups from a little while back? Well, meet their cousin, born out of the fatigue which comes from raking and scooping 32 yards (or so) of leaves over the last few days. I figured, “Meh, why not?” and gave it a shot. I like to save my experimental or laziest and least difficult meals for my single parent weeks (I do not know how working single parents do it! They deserve super hero status) when Jamie’s gone and was in the mood for Mexican last night. Call me silly, but I like the man to eat well when he’s home since the cooking can be iffy offshore, or now, on the road.
My kids tore into these, but I would recommend doubling the recipe if you have more than three people at your table. The only complaint I received was a reprimand from Andrew for not putting out the olives. They are really good plain, but great dressed up!
Serves: 3-4 Prep time: 5-10 minutes Oven: 400 °
1 lb ground beef
1 package or 1/4 cup taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 tube refrigerated biscuits
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or taco mix cheese
cornmeal for dusting
sour cream, lettuce (chopped or shredded), tomato (diced), taco sauce, olives, etc.
In a skillet, brown the ground beef, drain and prepare according to taco seasoning directions, adding the taco seasoning and water.
Grease a muffin tin and dust inside the cups with cornmeal. Press biscuits into individual cups of the greased and dusted tin, bringing the dough up the inside of the cups, but not over the lip.*
Spoon the taco meat evenly into all biscuit cups and top with shredded cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from muffin tin with a fork and top with lettuce, tomato, taco sauce, sour cream, olives, etc. Enjoy!
*Naturally, I got goofy and rolled my biscuits flat on a surface dusted with cornmeal. It added nice flavor and gave me evenly cooked biscuits.
Every parent knows that there are ups and downs to this child-rearing thing. We will always love our kids, laying down our lives if necessary, but there still are those days. Days when the messes defy logic, when the eye rolling and attitude are so bad that I have to remind myself that I wouldn’t do well in prison, and days when it’s all so overwhelming that you just want to sit down and cry. As much as we have all wanted to head to our blanket fort with a good book and a flashlight, hanging out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that’s not usually an option.
Each child is different in so many wonderful ways, but they all have something in common; the need for some consistency and structure. This helps build trust and stability in their lives. Because my boys are adopted, they seem to need it even more than most (something hammered into us during the months of parenting classes we were required to take to foster/adopt) and I see immediate negative results when we deviate from our routines or have a break down in structure.
For example, when Jamie worked in the oilfield, he was gone two weeks and then home for two weeks. He would get home from a hitch with a touch of “Disneyland Dad Syndrome,” not enforcing rules and letting the back talk happen more. The rapid deterioration of basic manners and dropping of chores happened almost instantly and it would take me a week to get us back on track. I’m not blaming him at all, just stating my observations.
I’m trying to help my kids gain independence, but I feel like it’s my job to show them how to obtain and use it wisely. I believe that giving them household responsibilities as kids teaches them to be responsible adults. I want them to enjoy their childhood, of course, but I try to think of the end game as well.
The biggest factor for us is that the boys and I all have ADHD and our brains move a bit too fast at times. If I’m thinking about what I’m going to do after I put the laundry away, chances are I’m going to forget about the laundry and move on to the next thing. I’m like a pinball around the house, moving from job to job, but somehow getting it all done. It’s not always that easy for the boys, so I have come up with a few things to help them remember. I hope they inspire you and I’d love to hear some of the things you all have tried with success.
Here are a few ways to organize our kids’ and our lives.
1. Give everything a place to belong.
“Clean your room!” We have probably all said this a time or two, but know that this means different things to different people. In a child’s mind, it often makes sense that, if Mom can’t see it, it must be clean. Or, if I push everything into a pile over here, I’m good. Under my bed was a fantastic place to stash things when I was a kid; Voila! Clean (sorry, Mom). I learned a long time ago that everything needs a place to belong, leaving no gray area.
I labeled all of their drawers and wall hooks for easy putting away and finding things. The book shelves have labels too: coloring books here, legos here, etc. It helps them see the benefits of being organized.
I showed you the cup tower I made before and can’t stress enough how much it’s helped cut down on dishes, but it’s also the place where we keep the little important things like name tags, chore lists, any medicine, etc. Hard to miss, therefore hard to forget.
My guys are responsible for emptying the dishwasher, so I’ve even labeled drawers and hooks. They don’t need to ask me where everything goes anymore and they don’t have an excuse to shove things in any drawer they choose.
I have a laundry basket for each of them, but if I can ever teach them that it’s easier to hit the basket than collect dirty clothes from all over the room, I’ll let you know.
2. Make expectations clear and put them in writing.
My 42-yr-old post-menopausal, ADHD brain has a hard time remembering what I have to do today without writing it down, and God help me if I go to the store without a list. Young, hormonal kids saddled with tons of homework and the distractions this world sends their way aren’t much better off. Putting expectations in writing leaves no margin for error and simply helps them remember.
I created these lists for the guys to check throughout the day and I think they like them. Now every morning, instead of, “Did you do X, Y and Z?” I can just ask if they checked their lists.
It’s the path to privilege in our house. Completing your list for the day earns you TV time at night and allowance accrues. Completing the list consistently for the week can earn weekend video game time.
I used to have a larger sheet with it all on one page, but breaking it down into specific times of the day has made it less overwhelming and much easier to keep track of. The boys actually get kind of excited to grab dry erase markers and check things off.
Again, they want independence, so managing their responsibilities on their own is a great way to achieve that.
3. Have a schedule and stick to it.
I used to get a little flack and people thought I was so weird for not going out more often to weeknight or late weekend social events. If you know me, you know that even though I’m happy with my own company, I can be a bit of a social butterfly, so it wasn’t easy going into my cave. I’m not saying that life ends when you become a parent, but it does change. Dramatically, so when you get 2 boys at once dealing with childhood trauma.
Something I learned early on was that, while my kids will test me a lot, routine and consistency set them at ease. All kids benefit from routine and mine thrive under it, so yeah, we have to leave the party at 8 pm on a Friday night to be in bed by 9:30, and yes, dinner is always between 6 and 6:30 so we can be in bed by 8:30. I have schedules for the boys, but thankfully we have them memorized now.
A friend of mine was marveling at the fact that my kids are never late to school, but it’s because they know what’s expected. If you’re late, you don’t get TV, but if you’re the first one to the table, you get the easy morning jobs. Trust me, that’s not to say we don’t push our luck and that I never have to lose it in the morning, but it’s way easier than being a constant drill sergeant.
This is also a great way to teach kids the relationship between their actions and consequences or rewards. It can also make mornings a contest, and with 2 boys, everything is a competition. “First guy to the table calls what we have for breakfast” is a big deal around here.
Knowing what is expected and having that written reminder makes life easier on all of us.
4. Teach your kids the life skills they won’t learn in school.
Most of us had the advantage of Home Economics and Wood Shop classes in school, but that seems to be a thing of the past. I’ve discovered that teaching my kids things like cooking, sewing and building can be really enjoyable for all of us.
Being a perfectionist made this a challenge in the beginning. I struggle with the “if you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality, but I’m learning to coach gently and let go of the reins a little.
Andrew loves working in the kitchen and building with wood, while Daniel shines at engineering and numbers (he’ll always have a balanced checkbook). Stirring and shooting from the hip are Andrew’s favorite things, but Daniel will measure everything perfectly; if it’s one of his favorite foods, he wants to know how to make it exactly right. They take pride in learning these basic skills and it’s a nice chance for us to spend time together.
Canning, housework, animal care, lawn care, how credit cards and mortgages work, are all skills they will need later and mine love learning everything. The trick is making it not seem like work.
5. Remember to have fun.
This can be tricky for perfectionists driven to try new things every day (no names), and it’s too easy to forget. The laundry needs to be done, bills paid, dinner made…the list is endless, but all the while our kids are growing up around us.
I’ve been so busy cooking, building and writing lately that I realized my kids were getting used to me being on the move all the time. They weren’t underfoot in the kitchen or asking me to play cards or outside with them anymore. Sure, we have a few games on the weekends and family movie night, but we haven’t been connecting like we should.
Last night I decided that we were having chili dogs for dinner and I was going to meet them in the yard for some football. I was ashamed of how surprised they were to see me come out and ask to be put into the game. Their excitement warmed my heart and reminded me in an instant why I signed on for this gig. I don’t need to have a successful blog or publish a book, I wasn’t supposed to learn skills so they could brag about my cooking or building abilities and I don’t need to be able to brag about having the best mannered kids on the block. I am here because I love these kids and I’m challenged with
making them into fine young men. A big part of that requires the greatest gift I can give them; My time and My FULL attention. I’m also proud to say that I was showered with compliments like, “Wow, Mom! I thought your were worse than that!” and, “Holy cow, how did you beat me when you are kinda’ old?” High praise, indeed…sorry, didn’t mean to brag.
Try something they love, or at least pretend to be interested. Luckily, my boys are nerds too, so we can do the Comic Cons together or watch good movies together, but there are generational differences that are hard to relate to. For example, I can’t even pretend to like some of the cartoons and music out there, but I’ll try everything once.
Read something you love to them and do the voices. It’s fun and a great reminder to them that parents have personalities.
6. Take time for yourself.
But wait…didn’t you just say to give them my full attention? Yes, but it doesn’t have to be 24-7. When we forget who we are, depression can creep in, so we all need a few minutes of our own company to recharge and stay comfortable in our own skins. Take five minutes to just sit and watch the sunset or sunrise and drink a cup of coffee. Have someone watch the kids long enough for you to take a bubble bath without the knocking on the door starting the second your toe hits the water.
You are so valuable and need those moments to refresh. Keeping yourself happy and healthy if vital to the kids’ survival…I mean, vital to their well-being as well as your own. Yeah, that’s it.
Yes, it’s official. I’ve been sucked into the kitchen far too often lately and I have lost my mind. Initially, this blog was going to be a recipe here and there kind of deal, but now I’m cooking and making things I haven’t in years. Today, for example, I have a sick child home from school and have decided on soup and grilled cheese for dinner, but in order to keep the recipe momentum going, I dug up one for something I haven’t made in over 20 years.
Ho-Ho Cake is basically a giant Swiss Cake Roll and was really easy to make and safe to eat when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but now maybe not so wise for my 42-yr-old metabolism. Did this knowledge stop me?
No way! I love this cake and even though it was a bit of a challenge and I’m now going to have to eat lettuce for a week, I have to share this one. The filling tastes just like the real stuff and IT IS SO GOOD!
I’m going to take you on a ride through one woman’s struggle to make a delight of her youth after a 20+ year hiatus. Be sure to read my account of what actually went down after the real recipe.
Servings: a small village Prep time: Who cares? It’s a giant Swiss Cake Roll!
1 box Chocolate or Devil’s Food cake mix and for that:
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
3 TBSP flour
1 & 1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 small packages unsweetened chocolate chips, melted
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2 & 1/2 TBSP hot water
Directions (what you’re supposed to do)
Prepare your chocolate cake mix and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes on a lined or greased 10 X 15 inch cookie sheet. Cool completely. Remove carefully to wax paper.
2. For the filling: Mix the flour and milk in a sauce pan and cook, whisking or stirring constantly, until thick. Cool completely and add the remaining filling ingredients, beating at high speed for 5 minutes. Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the icing: Beat all ingredients until smooth and spread about 1/3 of the icing on the chilled cake, placing a thin layer on top of the filling.
Carefully, roll the cake into a log, using the wax paper to lift and being careful not to roll the paper into the cake. Use the remaining icing to frost the outside of your rolled cake. Chill to set, then slice and enjoy!
Directions (what I ACTUALLY did)
Yep, got that right and even took my cake trimmer and made it perfectly level. Don’t do this. You’ll see why.
Yep, got the filling perfect and everything was tasting and looking pretty good at this point.
For the icing: I realized I had no unsweetened chocolate chips and with a sick child at home, I wasn’t going to the store. No problem, I had some store bought chocolate frosting I could use. Why not? I’ll tell you why not in a second. I spread a little of the frosting over the filling and we were off to the races.
Level and loving it!
Frosted like a boss!
Now to neatly roll my perfect rectangle into a log. Ever so carefully, I lovingly rolled that beautiful thing up into a photo-worthy masterpiece! It was breathtaking!..until it cracked because I just haaaaddto shave it level and the cake was now too thin to hold up. I contemplated keeping this little secret and showing you only the final product, but I’m letting you in here, people. This is the real story.
There was still hope at this point, 1 cup chocolate chips mixed with 2 TBSP coconut oil makes a great “Magic Shell” frosting, but a little whipping cream and an extra dab of coconut oil could give me chocolate spackle!
Now, to grab the double boiler and melt the chips and coconut oil (microwave doesn’t work so well for me), but BLAST! No double boiler in sight (The problem with kids emptying the dishwasher over here is that the dishes only make it to their designated area about 65% of the time). No problem, I totally MacGyvered it!
2 cups chips, 2 TBSP coconut oil
Redneck double boiler?
I tried spreading my store bough frosting, but it just ripped more of the cake off, so I filled the holes with a cake decorating tip and bag of said frosting. I put this eyesore in the freezer for about ten minutes, not even able to will myself to photograph its hideous visage.
When my spackle, I mean, chocolate drizzle was ready, I set to work trying to save the disgusting log thing. I used a rubber spatula and tiny cake decorating knife and managed to smooth things out pretty nicely. Sure, it’s a little shiny and resembled a chocolate poo from a distance, but it was presentable, in my opinion. I took some lovely pictures and almost used one as the featured image until I realized that it shows you just how much chocolate filler I used…I present to you:
CHOCOLATE SPACKLE WITH FROSTING AND A DASH OF CAKE!
You know what though? It’s darn good. Sure, I can only eat a quarter of a slice without risking diabetes, but that’s healthier, right? Plus, one slice will last like three days and the rest freezes like a champ!
The moral of the story? Just follow the main directions and you should be okay. In fact, unless you’re notthe klutz I am, just serve as a sheet cake. Just kidding, your friends and family will love this. It’s really not difficult…unless you are me and we’ve all seen how well my cakes work out.
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