Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Pepperoni Pizza Paninis!

You try saying that three times fast!  I found, and knowing me, later altered, this recipe several years ago and we all just love it. You can easily change it to your tastes. If you don’t like pictures, well, stop here. This recipe is basically done with photos.

For each sandwich you will need:

2 slices Texas Toast

6 slices mozzarella

1tbsp shredded parmesan

9 slices pepperoni

butter

garlic salt

pizza sauce

While you are assembling sandwiches, heat grill pan to med/hi

lay three slices of mozzarella on each slice of bread

arrange pepperoni in three rows, overlapping a bit, sprinkle with garlic salt and shredded parmesan

lay the last three slices of mozzarella over the parmesan, top with second slice of bread, butter and put butter side down on grill pan

now butter the side that is up and put grill weight on top

cut the sandwich and serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping

Here's my boy enjoying his dinner. YUM-O-RAMA!

I also made a lower fat/calorie version for myself using only 5 slices of pepperoni and three slices of mozzarella. Still tastes great, but with alot less guilt!

This can also be done on a skillet or griddle, I just like the grill marks/panini style sandwich.

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Dishwasher safe?

I read an article not long ago about what NOT to put in a dishwasher and thought some of those tips  would make a good post.  You all know me by now. I’m all about easy, so the dishwasher is a busy partner in my house! it’s run at least once a day, and in summer, sometimes more. They are really wonderful, but you must be careful about what you put in.

Here’s my list:

KNIVES – if you invest in a really awesome set of knives, like Henkels or that kind, you want them to last a long time. Putting them in the dishwasher will destroy them faster than anything. The high temps of the water and the harsh nature of the soap will cause the handles to dry out and crack. The rack can knick and dull the blade, not to mention if you put the knife blade down, it will chew up the rack. I worked at Bed Bath and Beyond for several years and the Henkels reps told us this info, so I know it to be true. Oh, and if the knives happen to carry a lifetime warranty, like my Pampered Chef forged knives, putting them in the dishwasher voids the warranty.

NON-STICK COOKWARE-Once again, the detergent used for the dishwasher will cause the non-stick coating to break down and flake off. If you have been putting your non-stick pots and pans in the dishwasher and they look like they’re covered with chalk dust, that is what’s left of the non-stick stuff and guess where it’s going….. you got it, your food! gross. I know it’s tempting to not have to stand at the sink and wash them by hand, but unless you’re fond of eating chemicals like that, it’s not recommended. And once again, it could void the warranty if they’re a really nice set.

WOOD-You should never fully immerse wood in water to clean it. You can use a wet cloth and some dish soap and scrub it that way.  Putting it in water will cause it to warp and crack, and those little cracks are where the bacteria love to hide out.

GOLD-TRIMMED DISHES OR STEMWARE-Am I sounding like a broken record to you yet? The detergent and water are too hard on the gold and will cause it to rub off. Go on, just take the extra five minutes it takes to wash them by hand if you want them to stay beautiful. Otherwise, skip the gold/silver trim.

CAST-IRON COOKWARE-Remember grandma’s cast iron skillet and how it made everything taste better? Part of that is because the skillet has become seasoned over time. If you put cast iron in a dishwasher, not only will it strip  the seasoning of the piece, the soap could stick to the seasoning, making everything cooked after the washing taste like soap. The same goes for any unfinished stoneware, like my pizza stone. To clean either rinse with hot water and a scrub brush, or wipe out with a paper towel. Both of these techniques will preserve the seasoning of the piece.

CRYSTAL-the detergent can cause what’s called ‘etching’ on the glass and put permanent cloudy marks on the crystal. Did i say the etching is permanent? That and the repetitive motion can cause the stemware to bang into other things, or other things maybe move around and could potentially break your beautiful crystal stemware. I put one of my cheap wineglasses in the dishwasher because it was new and it had a special little holder for the stems when you put the wineglasses in. Cool! I thought. Yes, washing stemware by hand is a pain so I was totally jazzed to not have to worry about it. The first time I did it, my glass didn’t get any etching, BUT the repetitive motion of the water from the spray arm hitting the glass caused it to repeatedly rub a part of the rack and I ended up with a mar on the side of my wineglass.

And I can’t believe I almost forgot, anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that says ‘NOT DISHWASHER SAFE’ or ‘HAND WASH ONLY’.  You would’nt throw your favorite silk blouse or wool sweater in the washing machine would you? then don’t do it with any of these items. The reason for the disclaimer could be the potential for damaging the finish on the item, ruining the heat retention of a travel mug, or even maybe melting of the item because it wasn’t made to withstand that kind of heat.  You may not know the reason until it’s too late, so just play it safe and wash it by hand. And something I’ve found with my travel mugs, if I submerge them in the water, they get water in between the inner and outer layers.

This is not an all-inclusive list, I just tried to cover the biggies. If you have been putting any of these things in your dishwasher, suck it up, and start washing them by hand. It will make all of these items last longer, and could prevent you from voiding any warranty that they might carry. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather put on my rubber gloves and take the time to do it right than to have to pay for another knife or pizza stone. Oh, and the thought of adding teflon to my dishes just really isn’t terribly appealing!

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Delish pasta for one!

I was hungry and I was solo. Something that doesn’t happen often in my world. Hmmm, what should I have for dinner? I am free! Free to eat things that are green, or sauteed, or steamed or spicy, without hearing, ‘eeewww I don’t like thaaaat!’ I opened my fridge looked around and had the usual, ‘there’s nothing in here’ moment. I wanted some simple pasta and remembered that I had blanched some fresh asparagus and put it in the freezer. Ok, now we’re talking. Here’s what I came up with.

8oz fresh asparagus, steamed and cut into 1″ pieces

3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp butter

1 clove garlic

4 to 6oz whole wheat spaghetti

In a skillet, cook the bacon until it’s crisp, drain on paper towels.

In a large pot, cook the pasta until it’s tender

Put asparagus in skillet with bacon pieces, add butter, cook on low heat for just a minute or so to bring everything to temp. Press garlic into skillet and stir. Add a pinch of salt if desired.

Drain pasta and toss with asparagus/bacon mixture. Top with shavings of parmesan and/or asiago. Mmmm it’s nice and light, but packed with flavor and yummy goodness! Enjoy! This can easily be doubled to serve more, or altered to your tastes with more or less of the asparagus and bacon. This and a glass of wine and I was a happy girl!

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The Great Cheesecake Experiment

Something you may not know about me from my posts is that I love to bake. And I mean serious love! I would bake something sweet and decadent, or maybe not so decadent, but just yum, every single day if I could. Alas, summer has me avoiding the on switch of my oven as if it’s poison ivy. It just gets too hot in my little part of the world to add insult to mother nature’s injury!

There are occasional circumstances when temperatures be damned, I’m turning it on anyway! Like today. My husband’s boss has invited several other managers over to her house for dinner. And being the friendly, neighborhood domestic goddess, I volunteered to bring dessert, hence the title for this post.

I have only baked a cheesecake one other time, but I almost never burn anything anymore and my oven is my cooler weather BFF, so I’m not intimidated by many recipes. My friend posted a recipe for a key lime cheesecake. OMG, did I read that right? The marriage of two of my favorite things! I’ll eat just about anything that’s cheesecake! Would you like a slice of our cardboard cheesecake the chef has prepared today? Sure! Needless to say, I was up for the challenge. I broke out my trusty springform pan, dusted the cobwebs and dust bunnies out of it and went to work.

I have a theory on baking especially, but cooking in general. If you’re not making a mess, you’re not doing it right!

See what I mean? And this is a fairly mild mess, compared to some, it’s only on one counter! I followed the instructions, the graham cracker crust was lovely. I poured in the batter and popped it into the oven and set the timer.

About ten minutes before the timer went off, I checked my beautiful cake. Ruh roh Raggy! It had bubbled up the sides of the pan, there was a huge bubble in the center and when I moved the rack, I could tell it was still liquid under the dome. GRRR So I grabbed my phone and called Cheesecake 911, AKA my friend Anuschka, whom I”d gotten the recipe from. She walked me through the rescue of my cheesecake. I’m totally hoping it’s not terrible. It’s a bit scorchy on top, and the sides where it bubbled up above the crust, it had scorched. So not pretty. Oh yeah, and where the bubble had been, well, you can see for yourself.

Would you eat that?

Looks almost more like a pizza than a cheesecake. The brown part is all wrinkly and pruny. I”m debating whether I should cut that part off and just top it with lime jello like she suggested.

I need some suggestions from my baking friends! Has this ever happened to you? How did you recover? Did you give it cosmetic surgery or scrap it all together? I need help people, this dinner is tonite!

I think I may have figured out what to do. I’ll post pix and let you know later how it turns out. If nothing else, I can pick up a cheesecake at the grocery! Or use my standard new recipe disclaimer: It’s a new recipe, if it sucks it’s not my fault!

***UPDATE****

My BFF here suggested I use a star tip and decorate the top of the cake with whipped cream. Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea. I didn’t have time, dinner was the same day I made it. I was scrambling to make it appealing.

It looks much better now, don't you think?

You can’t even tell it was scorched! Everyone at dinner said it was delicious and that made me happy.

My review of the cheesecake: sadly the crust was soggy and I’m not quite sure why, which is kind of disappointing. The cheesecake filling was very tart and limey, not very cheesecake-ish, other than the texture, I really couldn’t taste the cream cheese, the lime was almost too overpowering. Will I make it again? Probably not, to me it was not my best work, but next time I know a cheesecake needs a water bath. Anybody want some, I’ve got a bit left over!

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I’m a sneaky, sneaky mom!

I have a problem that I think most moms can relate to: my children don’t like their veggies. My daughter, she’s good about trying new things and will eat many different vegetables. My son used to be this way, but after about age 5, he decided he had free will and he would use it to not eat the veggies on his plate! I encourage them to try new things, but ya know, it’s kinda difficult when the mere sight of some things, Brussels sprouts for example, trigger a gag attack!

So, today I took their dinner into my own hands, literally. Last night I made soft tacos and black beans. I love black beans, cooked on the plate as a side, or cold in a salad, pretty much anyway they come, I’ll eat them. However, my children are a different story. EEEEWWWW!!!  Was the response i got when I asked if anyone would have some last night. This evening, my husband is working late and I didn’t want to cook, so I offered leftovers. The black beans and taco beef went into the same container last night GASP! The horror! I know, i know. Big deal, right? Well, to you and me, maybe not, but to kids who don’t want things touching on their plates, it’s tantamount to cooties! As I was trying desperately to figure out how I was going to separate them, I decided, if you can’t beat them, join them! I mashed the black beans until the were well blended, made their soft tacos and waited for their reactions. My son said they tasted even better than last night! Huh. really? I wonder why honey, I said as I am giving him the ‘surprised’ look. All the while I’m secretly smirking, HA! I got you to eat veggies! YAY ME!!!

I know, there are lots of sneaky ways to get their veggies in. I have the book, but it looks like way too much work for me, so I do it when I can. I have finely grated yellow squash into spaghetti sauce, I use applesauce in my baking instead of oil and kill two fat birds with one stone. And I can’t forget about the chocolate zucchini bread. My children know exactly what is in it, my son even made it for a class project, and yet they love it! They eat it until they get sick every time I make it!

And then there’s Aunt Nellie. She was the first sneaky chef I’d ever met. My mother’s aunt, which makes her my great aunt. Anyway, I was 9 and my brother 6 when we stayed with them for a month. Aunt Nellie made mashed potatoes one evening and put shredded carrots in them. My brother being the veggie-phobic he was, asked what was in his potatoes. He, like most children, adored his smashed taters. Aunt Nellie told him that in Seattle, they have orange butter and he ate them like there was no tomorrow! Of course after dinner, someone had to spoil it, but it got him to eat carrots. Poor Aunt Nellie, he never forgave her and wet the bed in protest! To this day he won’t touch a carrot. And he may still wet the bed for all I know, he’s married so I hope not!

If you have sneaky ways of getting veggies into your food, please share! I’d love to have more tricks in my arsenal!

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Do you live in a sauna? Check out this awesome summer cooking tip!

Ok, so I live in the midwest, Oklahoma to be specific. If you have never been here, it really is beautiful. It’s very green and lush with rolling hills and friendly people. And for those of you wondering if we still ride horses, drive wagons and play cowboy and Indian for real, well, I hate to be the one to burst  that bubble, but we don’t. Another newsflash, as long as Im’ in the bubble bursting mode, we have cable, electricity, and hot water too! In fact, I remember the day we got MTV, way back in the day when they actually had MUSIC on, ahem, MUSIC television.

One thing we have for sure is incredibly hot summers. Our weather can go from one extreme to the other. Seriously, weeks of ice and snow on the ground with wind chills in the single-digits in winter (I know, it’s much worse in other parts of the country, but I”m a cold weather weenie!). Summers, the norm is temps in the upper 90’s to 100’s during the day with humidity in the sauna range, making it feel like the 7th ring of hell! for three months I thank God and the genius who invented the air conditioner, because without A/C, there’s no way I’d survive!

Needless to say, temps in the range of 3000F don’t make me want to use my oven, so I”m always looking for ways to use my grill. Oh, my lovely grill, but you know, there’s just so many dogs, burgers,  and chicken I can cook before it becomes kind of boring.  I think I can cook just about anything on the grill and now I’ve found something else to cook on it and I”m soooo happy! Pizza! Yup. I’ve heard of people doing it, but I thought it was more of the fresh variety and what I wanted to put on there is frozen.  I found a blog by a control freak who ‘splained it for me! You can check her out here www.controllingmychaos.com, she’s got great tips and recipes and is just a freaking funny chick! I’d love to have her at one of my parties! She thinks like I do, but the difference is I’ve given up trying to control my chaos and just go with it most of the time.

So, here’s what the control freak had to say about grilling a pizza.  Cook it on low heat and keep an eye on it. if your grill has a higher rack, so much the better. I put a sheet of heavy-duty foil under my frozen pizza, as my grill grates are in serious need of a cleaning after the burgers I made earlier this week. The bottom of my pizza got kind of scorchy, which I promptly scraped off, since my children dont’ eat anything remotely burnt! But otherwise turned out well. I will definitely do this again. I love anything that makes my life a little easier!

***UPDATE*** Well, although the black was not on the entire pizza and I did my best to scrape it off, neither of my children wanted anything to do with it! My son took a bite, didn’t even chew it, didn’t even totally bite it off before loudly proclaiming how terrible it was! It didn’t upset me, I was kind of expecting it but hoping for a different result. This little speed bump won’t stop me from trying it again, next time I’ll just do a better job of watching it so we don’t have the issue with a charcoal-flavored pizza!

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An unintentional domestic goddess

Ten years ago, I was a new mom and newly minted healthcare professional on a mission to save the world. The thought of being a domestic goddess, or *GASP* stay at home mom was about as foreign to me as someone talking to me in Chinese. I never would have even considered it. I spent too much blood, sweat, tears and money on my education.  I was very happy the way things were. I thought everything was the way it was supposed to be: harried, hectic, and wonderful. Dinners most nights were a whirlwind of something out of a box and a can and augmented by some fresh chicken or beef and a salad. And although it sounds tasty, it was, um, bland is a good word to use. I felt like I was turning into, *gasp* my mother! AAAAAAGGGHHH! She was a working mom and had a fairly limited number of recipes that made their weekly appearance on our dinner table, boring is the best way to describe them. The most colorful name of all her dishes was ‘Shit on a shingle’. MMMM Appetizing, no? ‘Mom, can I have more of that shit?’ funny, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as, ‘Mom, can I have another piece of the bacon wrapped chicken in the white wine cream sauce?’

Of course, we enjoyed eating out, seriously, who doesnt? At one point, my favorite thing to make was reservations. But, it gets expensive really quickly. And then, when you only frequent a small number of dining establishments because of time, as in it’s too late to go all the way to the north side, or wherever, because it’s too close to junior’s bedtime, it is no better than whipping up the shit on a shingle I was making on a regular basis!

What to do what to do? Life went on this way for a few years, something like this: I’m off @ 6, pick up my boy, zoom home, throw something together, eating dinner at 7:30, kid’s off to bed at 8, I’m off to bed at 9. sounds terribly exciting, doesn’t it??

Looking back at it now, I can’t believe it. Things are so different now and definitely for the better. When our precious girl came along a few years later, I had what I thought was a random, fleeting thought about life. It terrified me and I thought there was no way in hell my husband would go for it. Ha ha! Once again, the universe laughed at me! The first two times, well, it’s a long story for another post. So I sort of vomited this idea on his lap. I say vomit because, well, that’s really kind of what it felt like. I was nervous and frightened all at the same time. But I decided I wanted to be the one raising our children, not an underpaid daycare worker who was too overwhelmed with children to give them the attention that I would want them to have. (No offense to daycare workers, but you get my meaning) To my complete astonishment, he said yes! Go for it! He was actually happy that I wanted to do it.

Now life is not the harried, hectic place it used to be. Well, maybe not the same, harried and hectic yes at times, but better. We now have dinner at a respectable hour with time to play after eating. I have found a really insane love of trying new recipes. I jokingly call myself the friendly neighborhood Betty Crocker! I truly enjoy making things, and not just food. This blog is another. If we dont’ have at least two new recipes a week, I must be ill. Or solo. If my kids are gone, I don’t cook much. Although, they were gone earlier this week and I made a new dish, Italian sausage w/peppers and penne. OMG it was soooo good! Will I ever go back to work? I don’t know. All I can say is even though this may have been an unintentional route on my journey, it has been wonderful and I wouldn’t change it for all the rice-a-roni in the world!

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How do I love my garlic? Let me count the ways

To borrow a line from my favorite poet seems the best way for me to begin this ode to my favorite herb/spice. I grew up in a house where my mother’s repertoire of spices was seasoned salt, table salt, garlic salt. Oh, and there may have been a jar of onion flakes and garlic flakes too, but you get my meaning. As I have grown and expanded the horizons of my palate, I have come to really love my garlic. My husband was teasing me one evening as I was cooking, every pot on the stove had garlic in it! Yes, it is pungent and gives bad breath. However, it really has  many health benefits as well.

HISTORY & HEALTH: Garlic has been used and known for thousands of years. In fact, models of garlic were found in the tomb of King Tut. It has antibacterial properties and can boost the immune system. Next on the list is cholesterol and high blood pressure. It has been shown to possibly decrease cholesterol levels and therefore affecting blood pressure. Mosquitoes don’t like people who use garlic, which is a really nice thing! And of course, we all know that VAMPIRES don’t like garlic, so obviously Bella didn’t eat any!

HOW TO CHOOSE: when choosing a bulb, or head, of garlic at the grocery, look for nice, white, papery skin. If you see any green shoots coming out of the top, separation of the cloves on the bottom, or cloves that crush easily or are soft, that bulb is old, put it back and move on. I was a Pampered Chef consultant for a while and my joke to my guests about choosing the right head of garlic, I would simply think of my lovely husband, white and tight! Just remember “WHITE AND TIGHT’ and it will be a good choice.

STORAGE: Fresh garlic should be stored in a dark cool place. Think of where you store potatoes, not in the fridge, that will affect the flavor of the garlic.

HOW IT COMES: There are many forms garlic comes in and depending on how you want to use it, it can be odorless and not give bad breath or as stinky as you want to be. Let’s see there’s fresh, powder, salt, flakes, minced in a jar, roasted at the deli. When using fresh, you can mince it, slice it, chop it, or use a press and crush it. The amount of flavor you want will dictate how you prepare it. Crushing it in a press will expose the most of the oils and give you a stronger flavor than any of the others.

ROASTED: To roast a head of garlic, cut off the top half, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in heavy duty foil (or use a garlic baker) and bake at 350F for 35 to 45 minutes. This changes the flavor of the garlic, making it very mild and almost nutty. You can use it in cooking for a different, almost smoky taste. Or, one of my favorite ways, spread it on fresh, crusty bread. The cloves become very soft and spread almost like butter.

PEELING: If you are going to chop, slice, or mince your fresh clove of garlic, the easiest way to get the skin off is to lay the clove on a cutting board and use the heel of your hand and the flat of a knife. Lay the knife flat on the clove, sharp edge pointing away from you, and give it a good smack keeping the heel of your hand toward the dull side of the knife. This will just crack the clove enough to make the skin easily come right off.

CRUSHING: To crush the garlic, all you need is a good garlic press. I love this method because there’s no peeling required! Just put the whole clove in the press and give it a good squeeze. The press likely came with a little plastic scraping tool, use that to scrape the garlic off the press. Left behind in the well of the press will be the skin of the clove, throw it away. Here’s my favorite press https://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26463&words=GARLIC PRESS

(no, this is not my website and I get nothing from sharing this with you, other than knowing you will have the best garlic press out there!)

FRESH VS JARRED: I have to tell you, I used to use the jarred minced garlic because I thought I was too busy to mess with peeling/chopping/mincing/pressing the fresh garlic. Well, I was completely wrong! Ok, so chopping/mincing/slicing does take a little longer than scooping a bit out of a jar, but the difference in flavor is so worth that little bit of time! It is truly amazing the difference the fresh made in the flavor of my meals. My problem with the jarred garlic, as with anything that is jarred/canned, you have no idea how long it’s been in that jar and it seems to decrease the intensity of the flavor.

If you want the health benefits of garlic without actually eating it, there are supplements that come in capsule form and will not give you bad breath. And for as long as I’ve taken them, i really have not had an issue with them coming back up at all.

BULB (OR HEAD) VS CLOVE: Garlic grows beneath the surface and sends shoots out of the ground. The bulbs are white and contain anywhere between 10 and 20 cloves each. It is very important to know the difference between a ‘clove’ and a ‘bulb’. I heard a story once of a newly wed making 20 clove garlic chicken, but she didn’t know the difference and thought the bulb was a clove! Needless to say, her dish was very stinky, but her sweet husband ate it and told her he loved it!

Here’s one of my favorite, extremely simple and delicious recipes involving garlic and it goes really well with pasta.

Garlic Bites

1 can 5 count Grands biscuits flaky layers cut into 1/8ths

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

1tsp Italian seasoning

1 to 2 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in an ovenproof 8″ skillet/frying pan. Press the garlic into the pan, add the Italian seasoning and stir. Cook just long enough the garlic gets soft. Place the biscuit pieces into the pan and toss to coat all the pieces.

Place the pan in a preheated 350F oven and bake about 10 min, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and invert it on a serving plate. Enjoy! This is so delicious and so easy. You can use more or less of the garlic and butter, whichever you prefer.

Now that I’ve got you up to date on the garlic, I think I”m going to go and have some on my Cheerios! (Just kidding, I can’t have garlic for breakfast, it’s a little early yet, but lunch isn’t out of the question!)

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My husband told me to!

Since returning from our vacation, i realized how much I’ve missed cooking. You know leading up to our trip, I intentionally didn’t do big grocery trips or much cooking, I didn’t want to leave lots of food to go bad while we were gone. Now I’m looking at my mags and books for interesting summer recipes. Here’s a surprise, my husband was looking at one of my mags and noticed a recipe contest for burgers. We started tossing about ideas for a recipe and I’ve decided to give it a try. I was watching Giada a couple of days ago and got some great ideas from her. She makes everything just look so wonderful, so I’m taking a few cues from her and going to give it my own little twist. I’ll let you know how it comes out. what we’ve come up with is an Italian burger. Will it be good? I have no idea, but I’m having a girls’ night next week and will let a couple of friends be my taste testers to see if what we’ve come up with is contest-worthy. You know, i don’t even know what the prize is, maybe I should look at that before I start going crazy trying to create something! If they turn out the way I hope they do, I”ll share the result! If they suck, well, I’ll just used my standard disclaimer, “It’s a new recipe, if it sucks it’s not my fault!”

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10 Things That Make Me Happy

One of my friends wrote a post on her blog and I thought I’d give it a shot. You can read hers here http://www.bridgetmcguiresfillingstation.blogspot.com/

I don’t know that I can put these in any specific order, I don’t want anyone to get their feeling hurt, so I’ll just write them as they come to me.

10. Cooking. it’s so funny, I have become what I call your friendly neighborhood Betty Crocker. Ten years ago, I was a newly minted chiropractor out to save the world and cooking was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I was very pregnant and looking forward to becoming a mother, not a chef. I have found a love of cooking and especially trying new recipes. dinner in my house is never boring, I can tell you that for certain. My kids, well, they will say otherwise. They don’t love everything I make. I dont’ love everything I make, but that’s how you learn.

9. Traveling. I have always enjoyed traveling to new places that we haven’t visited before and seeing the architecture and learning about the history and culture of the places we’re visiting. We have been some really interesting places, like Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Napa, US Virgin Islands, Hawaii. I still have a rather long bucket list of places I want to see before I die. At the top of my bucket list is Italy. My friend, ‘Bridget McGuire’ just returned from 10 days in Italy and the pictures she’s shared are simply amazing!

8. My children. I have been blessed with two beautiful and amazing children who have changed me immeasurably. You know they say you will never truly understand what it is to be a parent until you are one, and it’s true. I am so proud of these little people. They are adorable, precious, and maddening all at the same time. They fight and bicker with one another, but I love them more than I can ever begin to express. They are so much fun to be around, they make me laugh, cry, and scream every single day! Watching them grow is such a joy and privilege. I just hope that I can do a good job helping them grow into productive, respectful, intelligent people. My son is so handsome and sweet. He’s a very caring child who wants to make people laugh. When he was younger, he never had baby talk, he was very articulate at a very early age. People were amazed at how well he spoke as a two year old. My daughter is a beautiful, blue-eyed girl. She was the sweetest, most laid-back baby ever. But when she hit 22 months, it was as if someone told her ‘you’re almost 2, you’d better act like it’ and since then all bets are off! She’s very strong-willed and knows what she wants. She’s a princess one minute, and a tomboy the next.  She loves to perform, dancing and singing are what she really enjoys.

7. Writing. Writing in some way, shape, or form has been a part of me since high school, maybe earlier. I remember keeping a journal when I was younger. In my 20’s, my journal was my best friend as I was going through a particularly hurtful breakup. It was my therapist and my catharsis. I still journal, just not as often as I used to, I blog instead! I’m also working on a novel about a 20 something young lady who moves from the midwest to LA. She’s been languishing on my hard drive for years, and I’m determined to finish her story, if for nothing else, for myself and the knowledge that I’ve completed it. That and I’ve got another story in mind that comes from my friend’s incredible life.

6. Learning. I feel like the perpetual student, but I really enjoy learning new things. I can’t say that I learn something new every day, but I do enjoy reading and studying and discovering things that I didn’t know. My son is going into the 5th grade and last year in helping him with some projects, I learned things that I had no clue about prior, and it was really fun. I like to exercise my brain through learning. I keep telling my children that they don’t know everything, and neither do I, but we can find it out. The internet is such a wonderful resource. I really wish it had been around when I was growing up, it would have made researching topics for projects so much easier!

5. The beach. My friend wrote that Notre Dame is her happy place. Mine is the beach, any beach as long as it’s on an ocean. Although at this specific point in time, I’m very sad to know that many of the beautiful Gulf beaches are being polluted by the oil spill and it’s a real tragedy and a travesty. Anyway, maybe it’s because I’m a cancer, the crab, a water sign, that I find the beach so soothing. To have my toes in the sand, smell the salty sea air, hear the waves crashing on the beach, to me, that is heaven right there. If I get my way, we’ll retire to a beach condo. That’s a while off still, but I’ve put in my order!

4. My friends. I have been blessed with some really good friends that I’ve met in some really interesting ways. My friend Bridget McGuire, we met while on a cruise 10 years ago and have kept in touch with. My BFF and I have been friends for over 10 years, my husband met her at a bank while he was opening an account. Another friend, well, this one is pretty wild, she was the girlfriend of a boyfriend of mine (LOOONG story). He was a POS and neither of us knew it, but the best revenge we could’ve gotten on him was becoming friends. Facebook has helped me reconnect with so many people from my past that I would not be in touch with otherwise.

3.  My love. My husband and I have been together for 14 years now and it feels like the blink of an eye. He is my best friend, he still makes me laugh and tells me he loves me every night before we go to sleep and in the morning as he’s leaving for work. He was my willing guinea pig while I was in chiropractic school and my taste tester for my new recipe concoctions. We started off as co-workers and friends at Bed Bath and Beyond. Musci trivia was how we really got to know each other. I tried to set him up with my friends. He was a really good guy and I was planning on moving out-of-state to go to college. None of them were interested and I don’t know why. One night, we were going to a movie, as friends, and I looked at him and thought, ‘Boy, he’s really cute, why am I trying to set him up with my friends?” And that was it. He gave me a good night kiss that night and we’ve been inseparable ever since! funny how things work out.

2. Trying new things. I’m always up for something new, be it food, activities, places.  To me, that’s what makes things interesting. Some things I like, Cabernet franc anyone? Others not so much, like Alice in Wonderland. I really enjoy going to a restaurant and trying a dish I’ve never had before. Once we were in Cozumel, I ordered ceviche. I’ve had ceviche before, but this had octopus in it! that was pretty wild. And yes, I did eat it. It completely grossed out my husband, but he tried it too!

1.  Introducing my children to new things. Every time we travel with our kids, I encourage them to do or eat things they never have before. On our vacation last year, my daughter tried Brussels sprouts (gag).  My son tried them on our Disney vacation this year. I have been very happy with them at least taking one bite of something new before deciding if they like it or not.  Taking them places they’ve never been and showing them fun new things, or to help them appreciate all that we have is really amazing. We went on a cruise last year and one of the stops was Grand Bahama Island. We rode a bus from the ship to a beach and to get to the beach, we passed some really sad and run-down neighborhoods. It was such a contrast, you have the gorgeous beaches and people living in poverty. it really made me appreciate what we have and I try to help our children understand that every chance I get as well.

Now I challenge some of my blogging friends to do the same!

http://valcitygal.wordpress.com/

http://theonearmedchef.wordpress.com/

http://www.ontheglam.com/

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