Thursday, December 30, 2010

Easy Elegant Chicken

I am here to tell you a big secret.  Elegance can be faked.  Yes, I totally just said it, you aren't just hearing things (or reading things in this case).  You don't need to be a master chef to make a great meal, just have a few ingredients, and a little patience.  So if you want to wow someone for a dinner party or just flat out wow your kids (because lets face it, they get impressed by so many other things, I think it's your turn) try this meal out on them.  It is literally 4 ingredients, yes 4, with a few spices thrown in that I'm sure you have on hand.  And the best part is, this really truly cannot be messed up.  It is highly unlikely that your chicken will get too dry.  Possible, but really unlikely.  And you can never get enough of the filling, which is low fat cream cheese.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, cream cheese is ah-ma-zing.  Plus pairing it with something healthy like spinach makes it even better, and I bet your kids won't even be able to tell, they'll be too busy focusing on the fact that it is wrapped in yummy, smoky, bacon!  Anything wrapped in bacon is delicious.  A man told my husband once that even duck is tasty wrapped in bacon.  He said the best way to cook duck is to wrap it in bacon, put it on the grill, cook until it is finished, take the bacon off, throw the duck away, and eat the bacon.  My kind of guy!  But this meal is delicious enough that you won't want to throw away the chicken, I promise.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

101 Things in 1001 Days

I hadn't seen this idea until reading this post on a friend's blog a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, I have been inspired to create my own list.  If you haven't seen this movement online, you aren't alone.  Up until a few weeks ago I wouldn't have had the slightest idea what this was.  It's a bucket list of sorts, but with an expiration date.  I really like this idea because you can't continue to put things off, thinking, "oh that's just something to do before I die."  Sure there's lots of things I would like to do before I leave this world, but why not now?  I have to admit, not all of these are my idea, but some are, and I'm very excited to start checking some things off.  Here goes...

The Mission:  Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:  Tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on my part).

101 Things in 1001 Days
Beginning: December 21, 2010
End:  September 18, 2013

1.  Try Indian food for the first time, and make it at home
2.  Sleep under the stars
3.  Leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find
4.  Watch the sunrise and sunset in the same day
5.  Kiss in the rain
6.  Don't log onto facebook for 2 weeks
7.  Get a massage (no I've still never gotten one, shame on me I know)
8.  No fast food for a month
9.  Go night swimming (Lucy would be proud)
10.  Have dinner by candlelight
11.  Buy something I need from Etsy
12.  Go to church at least once a month
13.  Wake up early and do a daily devotional, consistently
14.  Go on a picnic
15.  Quit biting my nails...for good
16.  Surprise my mom with flowers and lunch
17.  Learn to drive a stick shift...well
18.  Plant and sustain a garden with my husband
19.  Go horseback riding
20.  Put away $5 for every goal completed, to be spent on a shopping spree at the end of the 1001 days :)
21.  Keep my house clean, but lived-in for 1 year
22.  Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
23.  Don't complain about anything for a week
24.  Learn to back up a trailer
25.  Have a slumber party
26.  Send flowers anonymously to a friend in need
27.  Write a love letter to my husband
28.  Fill up a date bucket with date ideas and have one date per month from the bucket
29.  Do 10 nice things for people without telling them
30.  Compliment someone I don't know
31.  Surprise my husband with a gift and let him know I love him for no other reason but because I DO
32.  Pay it forward in a drive-thru by paying for the car behind me
33.  Stop texting and driving, no excuses.  Period
34.  Call my grandparents once a week
35.  Do a home improvement project
36.  Make a budget and stick with it by using the envelope system
37.  Hunt out of a tree stand
38.  Learn how to use a sewing machine
39.  Read an autobiography
40.  Get my conceal and carry permit
41.  Help train our next puppy
42.  Say yes to everything for one day (within reason!)
43.  Decorate a nursery :)
44.  Get at least 6 months of back up funds in savings
45.  Read once a week for pleasure
46.  Don't swear for a week
47.  Host a tasting party
48.  Ask 20 friends to suggest one book, then read them all
49.  Eat breakfast everyday
50.  Drink 64+ ounces of water 5 days of the week
51.  Get sexy shoes that make me happy, even if they will stay in my closet and never get worn in public because they make me look like a giant
52.  Make my bed every morning
53.  Build a new lingerie wardrobe and wear cute underwear more than half of the week
54.  Can vegetables from our garden
55.  Get a manicure (after #15)
56.  Have friends over for a wine tasting, everyone bringing a different type of wine
57.  Wear something cuter to bed than shorts and a t-shirt for 1 week
58.  Have a major purge/yard sale
59.  Watch a meteor shower
60.  Develop a better skin care routine (thank you Kardashians)
61.  Join a Bible study group
62.  Adopt a family for Christmas
63.  Volunteer 3 times
64.  Do a walk/run for a cause
65.  Take my parents out to dinner and pay for it
66.  Donate $5 to charity for each uncompleted task
67.  Take vitamins consistently
68.  Do laundry at least twice a week (not Saturday and Sunday)
69.  Donate 5,000 grains of rice through
70.  Host a game night and send out invitations
71.  Go a day without my cell phone
72.  Complete the Insanity workout program (all 60 days)
73.  Change the oil in my car
74.  Keep a gratitude journal and write down 5 things a day that I am thankful for
75.  Get a photo album made of our wedding pictures, better late than never right?!?
76.  Create and utilize a food diary
77.  Beat my husband at Monopoly (the only person I can't seem to beat!)
78.  Have a family picture taken
79.  Get life insurance for both me and Timothy
80.  Get all of our frames, pictures, and various animals hung on the wall.  Finally!
81.  Get flexible enough to touch my toes
82.  Mail out a card for all family and friends birthdays and anniversaries
83.  Work on the landscaping around our house, i.e. plant flowers and don't let them die
84.  Get my abs back
85.  Tip 50% for exceptional service
86.  Take my dad to a sports game
87.  Master false eyelashes
88.  Write a living will and have it notarized
89.  Go one week without hitting the snooze button (this may take all 1001 days...those of you that know me well know I like to set my alarm earlier just so I can hit the snooze)
90.  Eat when I'm physically, not emotionally hungry for 2 weeks
91.  Learn how to etch glass and make something for myself and something for a friend
92.  Go to a sporting event (MU or professional) with Timothy
93.  Send out thank you notes for gifts received.  I always say I am going to do this, then never get around to it.  And with pretty paper always on hand, I have no excuse.
94.  Read A Purpose Driven Life
95.  Buy something for the home from a flea market or Craigslist
96.  Don't eat anything after 7:30 for one week
97.  Remember to do monthly self breast exams
98.  Refurbish a piece of second-hand furniture
99.  Write a letter to Sarah and Mikela for them to open when they graduate high school
100.  Don't worry about anything for 24 hours.  I'm a worrier.  It's a horrible I may need to repeat this one over, and over, and over.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oreo Truffles

If you are in a rush to make some goodies for family and friends during this next week before Christmas, these are for you!  Timothy's aunt made these truffles last year and I've pretty much been craving them since then.  I had to make some treats to take to a Christmas party last weekend and I decided to throw these together.  I remembered that Annette said something about them being ridiculously easy, so I figure what the heck?  I called her to ask for the ingredients, and get this.  There are only four.  Yes I said it.  Four.  Even better is it can all be done in the food processor.  I'm all for cooking that involves only one dish to clean.  So keep reading and I'll show you just how easy these are, and they will make you look like a rock star.  Or they will make you look like you spent tons of time and money, which you definitely will not!

Start by crushing up your Oreo cookies in the food processor. 

Make sure they are very finely chopped, almost like sand.  You don't want your truffles to have any big chunks in them. 

Throw in one brick of softened cream cheese.  Yes you are doing this all in the food processor.  No need to stir all this up and get crumbs all over your counter.  You have your husband or kids for that.  Just kidding!

Pulse your cream cheese and Oreo mixture to blend it together.  After is is combined it will resemble wet sand.  Now it is ready to roll baby!

Now it is time to roll them into small balls.  I would say about the size of a Tablespoon scoop, or smaller than a golf ball.  They don't need to be perfect, real truffles aren't.  Place them in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.  They will be easier to dip in the chocolate this way and won't fall apart.

Now for the dipping, which is super simple.  I would have taken more pictures of this process but I apparently am not an expert dipper and dropped a big piece of dark chocolate into the melted white chocolate and had to start over.  Plus at that point my hair wasn't even dry and we were already thirty minutes late.  You want to melt your chocolate with some shortening to help it to set and not be goopy.  I know goopy isn't the best term, but it's the best I've got right now.  It's easy to remember though, because it's a 1:1 ratio.  1 cup of chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp of shortening.  I happen to prefer dipping the truffles in the white chocolate (real white chocolate not almond bark) because the inside is dark and then it's like a reverse Oreo.  But I'm weird like that, do whatever you want...or whatever is on sale at the time.  Melt the semi-sweet chips the same way and spoon them into a Ziploc baggie.  I used a toothpick to dip my frozen truffles into the chocolate then sat them on wax paper.  Once the white chocolate dried (this will also happen very fast if the truffles are frozen), I snipped the end off the dark chocolate bag and piped some stripes on top of each truffle.  Then just store them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them, which is probably as soon as you are finished if you're like me.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Christmas Eve in my family consists of appetizers (a huge spread), games, presents, and even a few drinks (shhhh).  When I met my husband and found out that his family treats Christmas Eve the same way, I knew it would always be fun, even if we had to trade off.  I was thrilled would never miss out on this tradition that I had grown fond of.  I usually switch up what I bring to the feast, and this year will be no exception.  I'm not quite sure what I will bring, but I know this dip is always an option.  Timothy and I are huge fans of spicy food, and really love buffalo chicken wings.  I first tried this dip when I was at my last teaching stop.  My friend Monica (shout out!) made this for our basketball girls and I was hooked instantly.  Sure, it's not really healthy, but everyone needs to have a little break now and again.  All things in moderation, I say! Or as my students say...Ya' huuurrrrdddd me?? Even if you don't have a Christmas Eve celebration quite like my family, make this dip for your next holiday, New Year's Eve, or super bowl party.  It will be gone...pronto! Ya' hurrrrdddd me?? Ok, I'll quit...

Start by heating up your shredded chicken with the hot sauce.  Please please please use Frank's Red Hot.  I cannot guarantee the quality or taste of anything else.  And Frank is pretty much the shiz.

Stir in the cream cheese until it gets all melty and yummy.  Be patient, the creaminess will happy, I promise.

See, I told you!

Now stir in the ranch dressing.  Remember the part about this that is in no-way-shape-or-form healthy? Yeah forget about it! (Said like Al Pacino, not Hugh Grant)

Melt in the cheddar cheese and transfer to a slow cooker.  Now pat yourself on the back for making such a delicious and easy dip, now you can fold laundry.  Even I'm beginning to get better at that part!
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cheesy Garlic Bread

I'm usually a fan of garlic bread of the boxed variety.  You really can't get much more for your money than to spend $1.89 for a box of 8 slices of bread.  However there does come a time when you just feel like making something yourself.  And really, the loaf of bread cost me $1, the rest of the ingredients I had on hand.  Again, this goes back to the fact that I have become a fan of knowing exactly what's in my food (at least 75% of the time.)  I've been searching for a good hot, cheesy, bubbly garlic bread to serve as a side with some of my favorite Italian dishes.  I tweaked a recipe I found (because Lord knows I can't just leave it alone) and the first time, I'll admit I used a little too much mayo.  Second time though...success!  It may sound weird to you that you would use mayonnaise on a piece of garlic bread, trust me, I was thinking the same thing.  In my mind there were only a few things that needed to be on garlic cheese bread.  The garlic, and the cheese.  Anything else would just be overkill.  Boy was I wrong.  The mayo gives it a depth of flavor that really is missing from the plain garlic bread.  Try it and you might find yourself in love.  And if you are a home cook that likes to throw a boxed lasagna in the oven on a busy night (I don't hate, I appreciate), make this bread on the side.  It will really round out the meal and make it feel homemade, because who really has time to make a lasagna and cheesy garlic bread??

Start by mixing your mayo, cheese, green onions, and parsley.  Put it off to the side.  Even though I know it is hard, you can do it, I know you can.

If your skillet is big enough, you can combine the next couple of steps and do all of your bread at once.  I found that it is easier to break it up in to groups.  Melt half of your butter in a skillet and add 1 clove of the minced garlic.  Be really careful that your heat is hot enough to crisp up the bread, but not so hot that it browns the garlic.  Otherwise you'll end up with bitter garlic bread, and that's just plain wrong.  I think I had mine at about medium maybe a little lower.  Place 1/4 of your loaf cut side down in the skillet and cook, moving the bread around to soak up the butter and garlic.  Set the first slice on the baking sheet and repeat with the second. 

Spread your cheese mixture evenly over both pieces of bread.  How good does this look already???

Bake in the preheated oven at 425° for about 10 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.  Slice and serve with your favorite pasta!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

21 Days

Motivation is a funny thing.  You can find it when you least expect it.  Right now I am tired...tired of getting home at 9 p.m. or later every night, tired of my students (who I'm sure are equally tired of me) and ready for Christmas break followed by a fresh start next semester.  I'm tired of the dishes piling up, tired of the laundry overtaking my bedroom because it's spilling out of the hampers, and tired of just plain feeling tired.  But as high as that mountain of laundry is, I am feeling motivated.  Motivated to be more organized and keep a tidy house. 

I was inspired by this post on a blog that I recently found called Nesting Place.  I was inspired to get a handle on my household, to keep my house clean for days at a time. a row.  It will definitely take effort, and time, but I'm willing to try.  Now, I'm usually not one for new year's resolutions.  Every year I vow to be healthier, and do a nice job of it for awhile, but by the end of summer and beginning of "hearty casserole" weather, I find myself slowly falling back into horrible habits.  It's like a vicious cycle, and I've had it!  I am going to have a new year's resolution this year and I really am going to stick with it.  I read a lovely post on Like Mother, Like Daugher that really put everything into perspective.  My favorite quote from this post was when she reveals the secret to making and keeping a strong resolution by saying,  "Do better in the minimum anyone can expect from you, and you will do better in everything else."  I had to think about this one for a few minutes, as it was hard for me to swallow.  Who wants to do the least amount people expect?  You always want to exceed expectations right?  Well I have realized that this is my biggest problem. 

I'm not really sure why, but I've always been a messy girl.  My parents did a good job of teaching me to keep a clean house.  However cleaning my room was always a battle.  I found myself spending more time going through things in drawers than actually cleaning.  My brother could finish in no time flat (he had to have shoved things under his bed I swear) and there I would be 3 hours later, with just one drawer organized.  I convinced my parents (though I doubt they were ever convinced) that I needed to clean out the drawers first because that was where the rest of the stuff needed to be stored.  Dumb, I know.  It got so bad that they would have to set the timer on the oven and I had to finish by that time...or else!  My mom would always say "How are you going to be able to handle cleaning your own house someday?" And I always reassured her, it's not that I don't know how to clean, I just don't enjoy it...I'll do it when I have to.  Ha! Look at me now!!  Now I find myself calling my mom and complaining about the mounds of laundry, dusting, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom (never did enjoy doing this, but I'm glad she made me back then), and all the other house things that need to be done.  And every time I call her, she laughs and says, "Ha! Wait until you have kids!"...Gotta love her!

Unfortunately, combine the fact that our house was never really spotless to begin with coaching and you've got one major house disaster.  In an effort to really keep myself accountable I am going to do something you what my house looks like right now (gasp!).  Now, I'm pretty embarrassed about this, but I also realize that my house would not be like this if I actually had the time to take care of it right now, so I don't feel so bad and I'm trying to remember that this is a starting point, and hopefully the worst it will ever be again. 

Now, a few things in my (our) defense:
1.  My house does not always look like this.  It is clean sometimes...only problem is I clean it and I feel like it is messy in 24 hours.
2.  I'm zooming in on all of these things...the rest of the room is empty.  Still bad I know, just didn't want you people to start sending in the Hoarders tv crew.
3.  We are doing some serious remodeling to our home, one room at a time.  So things get shoved in other rooms and I feel like I can never find anything.  So the digging begins, but it's my fault for not putting things back where they belong.  Timothy says that's my biggest cleaning problem, haha!
4.  We have both been getting home at 8-9 pm the past 3 weeks.  Timothy is really busy at work, and we are always early to bed (if not...somebody, and I'm not going to mention names, gets a little crabby) therefore we have not (I repeat, have not) had time to clean.  At all.

Now that you are done reading through all my excuses, back to the story!...When we went through our premarital counseling we filled out a nice checklist of household duties and how they would be fulfilled, either by the husband, wife, or both.  Timothy took charge of anything outside the house, like mowing, fixing cars, repairs, etc.  I foolishly sat there and said that I would take care of everything inside the house.  All the cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills, and general things that I had this mental image of being "wifely duties."  Problem was our house was never clean to begin with.  I moved in all my stuff when we got married and I'm still unpacking things to this day, and I'm ashamed to admit that the rest of the stuff from my last house has been shoved into the attic.  So unfortunately since I moved in all my stuff, including a basket of dirty laundry, I was never, ever on top of a clean house.  But this is what a wife is supposed to be able to do perfectly right???  Wrong.  I have come to realize through many tearful conversations over our first year of marriage that it all has to be a team effort.  I took on too much...I'll admit it.  And let's be honest, what husband wouldn't want a wife that can do it all.  So he sat there and believed me when I promised that I could handle the house and everything in it, just like I believed myself.  And I failed.  For the first time in my life, I had to sit there and admit failure. 

So I decided that I will have a handle on my house for ONE WHOLE YEAR. Yes I said whole entire year of beating the laundry, dishes, cooking, and cleaning monsters that have evaded my home since we got married.  So why 21 days? Well, I think you can accomplish a lot in 21 days.  My goal is to get my house clean in the 21 days from now until January 1st, and I believe this is very possible since I will be on Christmas break and will have more time around the house.  I am realistic though, so when I say clean, I mean everything put away, and all rooms cleaned, dusted, and swept, so that at the beginning of the year I can set some goals for myself, and begin the big purge, which is what I've been wanting to do for so long!  I'm hoping that 2011 can start small, and end big!

Now, don't get too excited....remember that lovely post I was telling you about?  Well, she says not to try to do it all.  Again, "Do better in the minimum anyone can expect from you, and you will do better in everything else."...Well Leila says that the minimum is to get a handle on two things: Laundry and Cooking.  She says that if you can do these two things well, then everything else will follow.  So I have decided that I'm going to try...really really hard.  To prove to myself more than anyone that I can keep a clean house.  Not perfectly clean, because I feel like I need to steralize myself before I walk into those types of houses, but a clean, lived- in home that is inviting to friends and family, and a true home for us.  Because in the end us is all that matters.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Candy Crunch Cream Pie

It was birthday time in our family, and we always do a birthday dinner for the special one.  On this particular day that family member was Sarah, Timothy's little sister.  I have a younger brother (who I love dearly) but I never had a sister.  Timothy has three! So that is definitely a bonus for me.  Sarah and Mikela are younger, so it is fun to do special things for them on their special days.  I was fortunate enough to have them stand with me on my special day.  I have to share a picture of course!

As you can see my veil would not cooperate that day.  It was so windy!  We can all laugh about it now, but at the time it was hard to smile

It was Sarah's 14th birthday and she loves anything chocolate, especially candy bars.  So I figured I would try my hand at some sort of chocolate cream pie.  Now I know that I can read the package and make Jell-O, but the rest of this pie took a little brainstorming.  I wanted layers, but I didn't want a layer of vanilla pudding underneath.  I immediately thought of cream cheese! Hello, why didn't I think of that sooner?!?! Cream cheese goes well with anything!  So I started mixing, chopping, layering, stealing a few bites of candy bar, more mixing, more stealing, and more layering.  With all that work behind me (and I use the term work loosely) I ended up with this delightful dessert that can be so easily adapted to your taste. 

The possibilities are endless.  Sugar free pudding, light cream cheese, skim milk...The dessert can be lightened up for sure.  And the candy options...Reese's (how awesome would it to replace the cocoa powder in the first layer with peanut butter?), Snickers, Butterfingers, Andes Mints???? I almost want to make more just to see what combination we can come up with next!  You will also notice that there are two different pie crusts in the pictures.  I wanted to try both to see which one we liked the best.  Since the recipe ended up making two pies (totally by accident, and I'm shocked I didn't eat half of the filling first) I did one Oreo crust and one regular pie crust.  In the end I had no preference.  If you want more of a mud pie, go with the cookie crust.  If you're going for more of a "chocolate silk pie" effect, stick with the regular pie crust.  Either way you can't go wrong, so I vote for what is on sale!  Any way, time for the play-by-play I suppose :)

Start with these ingredients.  But don't be like me and forget the cocoa powder or the pie crust.  They are there, just hiding.  I really tend to do this very often!

Start by chopping up your candy bars.  This time I used one Hershey's Bar and one Heath Bar, for the crunch.  Set those aside and try as hard as you can not to sneak a few pieces.

Beat the cream cheese with the powdered sugar and cocoa powder until creamy.

Add in the Cool Whip and it will look something like this.  Spread this out in a layer on the bottom of your pie crust.  Set aside.

Because I know not too many people have two mixers lying around, wash that sucker out and get ready to mix again!  Mix the pudding and milk together for about 2 minutes or until thickened.  Depending on how thick you want your pie, you may want to decrease the milk to 1-3/4 cups.  I think I used somewhere between that and 2 cups.  Throw in half of the candy bar pieces and fold in the Cool Whip.  It is important that you fold in the Cool Whip, don't mix it in.  With the cream cheese layer it didn't really matter.  With this layer it is important that the Cool Whip keeps its "whipped" consistency. 

Folding is designed to combine ingredients without knocking air out of the mixture. Rubber spatulas and large metal spoons are ideal for this step.  I like to use a spatula.  To fold in ingredients, you always add the lighter mixture to the heavier mixture.  In a single motion, run the spatula or spoon around the side, then along the base, of the bowl. Now fold the mixture over onto itself.  Do this several times until the two are combined, being careful not to get impatient and start stirring like crazy, which is what I want to do sometimes.  Trust me it will be worth it in the end.

Spread this mixture over the top of the cream cheese layer.  You'll notice what it looks like above and below with both the regular pie crust and the cookie crust. 

Once you are finished with that spread the remaining Cool Whip on top of the pie.  I like to leave some of the chocolate peeking out from underneath, sort of as to say "Hey there, don't pass me by, I'm chocolate!"

Drizzle the chocolate syrup over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the chopped candy.  Make sure to chill until you are ready to eat.  The best part about this is it can be eaten immediately if necessary.  And trust me, it's necessary!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Easiest. Crockpot Roast. Ever.

Ok first let me say that it has been awhile since I put out a new recipe.  A million apologies to the 10 people that actually read this thing.  I kid, I kid... But with basketball now being in full swing, Thanksgiving last week, and a tournament this week, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat.  I've barely had time to cook at all this week (thank goodness for freezer meals).  So in the spirit of easy cooking, I thought this post would be perfect.  Let me first start by saying that I adore my crock pot.  So much so that I have decided to show you guys some of my very favorite crock pot recipes.  With the weather turning colder, and my free time being limited, the crock pot is my best friend.  So dust off that crock pot you got as a wedding or Christmas gift and put it to good use! 

This is by far the easiest slow cooker roast, and it makes its own gravy.  Hello bonus!  If you are super efficient, you probably already have some frozen mashed potatoes to go along with it.  But who really is that efficient? Really?  Definitely not me, so I usually plan to make this roast when I know I'll have time to whip up some potatoes.  The leftovers also make killer cold sandwiches the next day. 

Start by covering the roast with salt, pepper, and flour on all sides.  Don't skip this step, or you dinner will be ruined, and the cable will go out (oh the horror), and the toilet will clog.  No not really, but I totally reccommend this extra step. 

Melt the butter in a skillet and brown the roast on all sides.  This will help keep the natural flavors of the meat where it needs to be, inside the meat.  Otherwise you end up with meat that just tastes alright, with a very flavorful gravy.  Plus as an added bonus the flour will thicken up the gravy.

Place the roast in the slow cooker and add the onion soup mix, and garlic. 

Then pour the soup and beef broth over the top.  Some people like to stir these things up before pouring over, I do that sometimes, but on this particular day I was in a hurry and didn't care, can ya' feel me??  I found that it came out just as good without the mixing...

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I always thought it would be silly to sit down and write a recipe for mashed potatoes, but I figured right before Thanksgiving would be as good a time as any.  I grew up watching my grandma make them, and I guess I just continued the tradition.  She made the best mashed potatoes.  I know, I know...your grandma probably made the best too.  I'll let you continue to live in your dream world, but my grandma really was the best.  I kid, I kid!  Your grandma's potatoes were probably equally delicious. 

One big reason a recipe is hard to write is that uniformity is really hard with mashed potatoes, because there is no way that all of your potatoes will ever be the exact same size.  I keep the same base each time for my mashed potatoes, but I just continue to add each ingredient to taste.  So keep that in mind if you decide to try this recipe.  You must conform it to your taste, it's a must-must.  But I do have a few tips for the perfect creamy mashed potatoes.  So here we go...

Tip #1:  Make sure to dice your potatoes the same size as much as possible.  They will cook more evenly and you won't have as many lumps.  Lumps are the fallen angel of mashed potato heaven.  I also have people ask me which types of potatoes to use.  I always use Russets or Yukon Gold potatoes.  I find that red potatoes are too gummy for my liking, but russets and yukon golds are light and fluffy!

 Tip #2:  Make sure to place your diced potatoes in cold water.  This will help them to come up to boiling temperature gradually.  Again cooking evenly = no lumps.

Tip #3:  Place 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbsp olive oil in your water.  I got this trick from another lovely blog, and I'm not exactly sure how or why it works, but it does.  And never fear, the potatoes will not come away with one single hint of vinegar flavor.  You should try this sometime, but if you don't trust me (which you should, I would never lead you in the wrong direction) try it after Thanksgiving.  You know, sometime when all you have to feed is a toothless toddler who doesn't care because they just love mashed potatoes.

I know it looks murky, but don't worry!

Tip #4:  Boil the potatoes until they are all falling apart.  I know popular belief is to boil them until they are "fork tender" but I like to boil them until each piece falls apart with the touch of a fork.  Like imagine that the fork is the hot senior football player and the potatoes are the giggly freshman girls.  They should just melt with one tough.  How's that for a metaphor?? :)  A lot of people also worry that this will make for watery mashed potatoes, but we'll take care of that in tip five.  This ensures that I will have no chance for lumps.  Plus I sort of make a game out of finding the biggest piece of potato left and making sure it is fork tender.  I know.  I'm weird like that.

Tip #5:  Once you drain the potatoes place them back in the hot pot.  The potatoes will cook just a bit more and all the moisture left in the potatoes will evaporate.  Leaving you with a perfect base for fluffy goodness.

Tip #6: Once you have your potatoes minus all the moisture, dump them into your mixing bowl.  The mixing bowl should already have one stick of butter plus some salt/black pepper.  This is also the point I put the garlic in too, so it gets all warm and yummy.  I have vowed to try it with roasted garlic someday.  Sounds delicious!

Tip #7: Turn on your mixer and try to get out as many lumps as possible.  If you followed all of the steps there shouldn't be very many at all, but sometimes these things just happen, not sure why.  Add in the sour cream and mix again.  If the potatoes aren't creamy enough, now would be the time to slowly add in the milk.

Tip #8: A lot of people put a couple of slices of butter on top of the potatoes so they melt down over them.  I happen to like to press small squares of butter all over in the potatoes, so not only do they melt, but sometimes you can find a nice buttery surprise with a bite. 

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