Thursday, July 15, 2010

If you can't handle the heat....

...then get out of the kitchen! And I'm beginning to think I should. I don't know what exactly happened. All of the recipes I've been trying have been going so well and blogging about them has been really fun. Maybe with all the blogging feedback and positive reviews on the new dishes at recent cookouts, it started to go to my head. Maybe I got a little cocky. Maybe I haven't been concentrating enough while I'm in the kitchen. Whatever is going on, starting with yesterday's new recipe I've been on a downward spiral that carried over to tonight. I still plan on posting each of the recipes I have tried (and failed) but I thought it might be beneficial for me to do one quick wrap-up of the trial and tribulations I've had over the last two nights and then go into the specifics with each recipe in separate posts.

Last night I tried to make Grilled Double-Cheese and Bacon Sandwiches with a side of "Healthified" Cheesy Potatoes. Everything was going well until I received a phone call from Pat while grilling the sandwiches (and by grilling I mean on a griddle on the stove). He was on his way home from getting his hair cut and he was NOT happy. It takes a lot to get Pat riled up (unless you're one of his siblings, then it's quite easy) and boy was he ever riled up. The girl who cut his hair was brand new and did a really bad job. He said it was clear she had no idea what she was doing and another girl had to step in at the end to try to repair the damage. The thing about hair is, once it's gone, it's gone. No one can jump in and put it back where it was. The last thing he said to me on the phone was "Prepare yourself. It's really bad."

I wasn't quite sure what to think and was really hoping he was exaggerating. Either way, the first thing I needed to do after we got off the phone was a status update on facebook. Makes sense, right? As I was updating my status to say something like "It's never good when your husband calls you on his way home from getting his hair cut and says 'Prepare yourself. It's bad." Something along those lines (it's a moot point now anyway since he made me delete it the moment he got home). That's when I started to smell the burnt bread. OH NO! My sandwiches. Once I got to the stove, it was too late. The damage had been done. The bread of both sandwiches had been burnt to a crisp.

Right around that time Pat got home from the hair salon. I made sure to remove the sandwiches from the stove, not that it mattered. They could have lit on fire and they still would probably taste the same. I went over to check out his hair. I didn't think it looked bad at all! It was definitely shorter than he's ever had it before, but I really like it short. He disagreed with my positive assessment, "I was just trying to be nice," and immediately went to the bathroom to get his clippers to try to fix some of the damage (again, not much he could do. The hair was already gone!).

While Pat was trying to fix his hair, I decided to try one of the burnt sandwiches to determine whether or not they were edible. As I bit into the sandwich, I heard a noise in my mouth and felt something "shift." I immediately rubbed my tongue over my tooth and realized the cap was gone. I had to search around my mouth and sure enough, there was my cap. In its original condition, thank goodness. I went into the bathroom where Pat was clipping his hair, tooth in hand, and showed him what happened. He was surprised at how well I was handling the loss of the tooth and how not so well he was handling the loss of his hair (and so was I, to be honest). We both decided to just move on. There was nothing either of us could do to improve the situation(s). We were both hungry, anyway, so we might as well go eat.

You would think the loss of my tooth would deem the food inedible, right? Wrong. We ate the sandwiches anyway. They weren't good, by any means, but they weren't horrible either. They were, well, edible. Barely.

The next morning, I showed up at the dentist promptly at 8:00 a.m. when they opened. They weren't able to get me in until 10:30 a.m. and I was already late for a meeting. I asked if they could get me in at the end of the day, and they could, so I decided to just go to work toothless. No one likes walking into meetings an hour late, but I think it's even worse walking into a meeting late when you are missing a tooth (a front, clearly visible tooth). I'm either getting way too used to my teeth falling out or I'm maturing and am "sweating the small stuff" less because it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Or maybe that's the difference. I didn't even really think about it, I just did what I had to do. I worked the entire day toothless. Only talking and smiling when I had to, of course.

I went back to the dentist at 4:30 and they fixed my tooth and I was as good as new (whatever that means)! I was charged and ready to make tonight's meal: Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad. I was talking to my friend Jen from the moment I started this recipe (which was on my computer). As I was talking to her, I was also trying to read the instructions off the computer and then walk over to the counter where I then tried to remember them. It wasn't going well. I ended up boiling an egg that wasn't supposed to be boiled and burnt the breading on the chicken (more on this later with the actual recipe). I feel as though I'm on a roll with my cooking, and not in a good way.

This whole "blog about cooking" idea was really fun when I was actually making good recipes and making them well. It's not nearly as fun (or easy) to write about the horrible mistakes and recipe botching that has been going on. But that was the deal. I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly (and toothless) stories of me in the kitchen and I plan to keep that promise. I just hope the trend goes back to me sharing about the good rather than the bad and the ugly (and toothless).

Watch for the recipes coming soon, just in case you want to try them out for yourself. I'm sure you will do a better job.

Monday, July 12, 2010

To sensor or not to sensor?

When my nephew Max came to visit us in our new house for the first time two years ago (at age 1 1/2) I was really nervous about the fact that our garage door doesn't have a sensor. Then, when we got Grady last summer, I became even more nervous every time I closed the garage door, thinking he was going to run towards me and get underneath of it.

I was sharing this concern with Pat's Aunt Marilee, and she told me there is a test you can do to determine whether or not you need to get a sensor for your garage door. She explained that you simply put a roll of paper towels under the garage door and close it. If the garage door starts to close, hits the paper towels and then goes back up, you don't need a censor. So I decided to give it a try!
I think it's safe to say we need a sensor! This garage door wasn't going to budge at all! Lucky for my paper towels, they were able to go back to their original shape after the incident. I don't think a human or dog would be so lucky.

Not a project we need to do immediately, but it's something I think would be good to have done before we bring children into this world (or this garage).

Will swim for sticks

We had another great weekend! I was so excited to be home from Dayton and be back with my "pack" as Grady thinks of us. Being away from home is a great reminder of how much you love being there and gives you a new sense of appreciation for the phrase "home sweet home" when you return (especially if you spent three nights in a dorm room). Both Friday and Saturday night were very low key. Dinner and watching a movie at home, just the two (or three) of us.

Friday night was Pat's choice so we watched Gladiator. I have been trying to dodge watching this movie for, oh, I don't know, the entire 5 years Pat and I have been together? Finally, when it arrived in the mail from Netflix on Friday and I realized how excited Pat was for us to watch it together, I succumbed. And I have to admit, despite the violent parts (which I tried not to watch), I really did think it was a good movie.

On Saturday night, we went to dinner at Max & Erma's and used our anniversary gift card (thanks again, MacAskill's) and we sat on the patio. We then went up to the lake and tried to catch the sunset but we just missed it. It was still beautiful, what was left of it. A few weeks back we found online information about the only beach on the West side that is dog friendly so we set off to find it. We were successful and decided we would definitely be returning with our dog. As for the movie Saturday night, it was my choice. I've been trying to get Pat to watch Slumdog Millionaire for a few years now too and finally he gave in (wow, isn't compromise GREAT?). We both really enjoyed that movie too!

On Sunday we had lots of running around to do. Sunday errand number one: operation beach chair. I have been on a mission to find reclining beach chairs (or chaise lounges as I learned they are called) that I can use to soak up some rays in our backyard while reading during whats left of my summer hours (rough life, I know). After doing some research online and at a few local stores (Home Depot, Wal Mart and Target) I realized that I wasn't going to be able to find any that I could afford. The cheapest I could find was $80 for one! I had NO idea they were going to be so expensive. Then on Saturday, while Pat was golfing and I was bored, I started looking on Craig's list. Low and behold, I found my dream chairs! And the price was RIGHT! Both of the chairs (with cushions) only $20! Maybe it's because I watch too much Dateline or maybe it's because I'm smart (or a combination) but I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to drive to this man's house by myself to look at the chairs while Pat was golfing. So it became a Sunday project. We went to look at the chairs and both agreed, it was a great deal. We are now the proud owners of two, fully reclining, padded chaise lounges. YES! (And - the guy was completely harmless and in fact, I'm pretty sure he's not interested in women at all anyway...BUT...you never know!).

Sunday errand number two: operation ceiling fan. We have been without a ceiling fan in our bedroom for a few months now, ever since Pat accidentally broke one of the blades off, while the fan was in full motion, when he was helping make the bed. He really did earn the title of Irish Dinosaur didn't he? :) Yes, this is the same bedroom that doesn't really get any of the central air so a fan is a big must. We've already been to Home Depot twice to find "the perfect fan." During our second trip, I realized there is no perfect fan and to be honest, I don't really care anymore what it looks like as long as it keeps me from having night sweats! So we settled on this beauty and called it a day (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Dillon for our anniversary gift which funded this fan!).

When we got home, we decided to take our furry friend up to the lake to test out the waters. Keep in mind, when Grady was young and fearless (actually, he was never fearless), we didn't know about this beach so this was his very first time seeing Lake Erie. At first, he was not impressed. We were having trouble getting him to leave the steps which practically take you right into the water. I thought he was going to wiggle out of his collar. After a little coaxing, he finally made his way to the water and was terrified of the waves. He would start to wander out and then sprint away as soon as a wave started coming. Once Pat and I started to go out further into the water, he started to follow and I think he realized that is was actually quite fun! He became a swimming (and lake water drinking) machine! Especially when Pat showed him that he could swim for his favorite treat, sticks!
video

When we got back from the lake, we gave Grady a much needed bath. Did I forget to mention that in addition to playing in the water, Grady also likes to roll around in the sand? Then Pat cleaned our cars (inside and out!) while I sat in my new beach chair and continued reading Marley and Me (obviously, Pat wins for being more productive).

What a wonderful life we have! I feel very blessed.

How was your weekend?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tick-tock, tick-tock....

From the day after our wedding (actually, even before we were officially married) people started asking the question, "When are you going to have kids?" The answer was always easy. I would laugh and say "Not any time soon!" Pat and both knew we wanted to have kids eventually, but both agreed we wouldn't try right away. Age 30 sounded about right to both of us.

Without any surprise, when I visited my doctor in February for my annual exam, she asked about our plan for kids. I confidently told her our plan to wait until we were 30 and then start trying. In a very professional and informative way, not in any way overbearing or pushy, she went over the statistics about women and their eggs, after the age of 30. She explained that women are born with a certain amount of eggs, the only amount of eggs they will ever have in their lifetime. When women turn 30, this percentage of eggs goes down to only 12% remaining. She went on to explain that this is still a very large amount of eggs but that there was no way of knowing how long it would take for me to get pregnant. It could take up to two years, she explained. For this reason, she recommended that maybe we should consider trying at age 28 or 29. I was still 26 at this time and thought, "Well, that's still 2 or 3 years from now, maybe we'll be ready by then."

At a wedding a few weeks ago, I was asked again when Pat and I were going to start having kids. I answered the question the same way I always do, "Not any time soon." His response was great. He actually agreed with this plan. He encouraged me not to rush it and enjoy being married, after all we're still young (so he thought). Then he asked, "How old are you?" I told him I would be turning 27 in July. Either he didn't try or wasn't able to hide his reaction. It was very obvious that he wanted to retract his statement about being young and waiting to start having kids.

The next week at work, someone asked me how long I've been married. I told her it was one year in May. Without even asking, she passed along her advice of not rushing to have kids. Thank goodness! Another person who agrees with my logic. "Besides, you're still young," she said. Yes, I agreed. "I will be 27 in July." "Oh," she responded in a surprised voice. "I thought you were much younger than that."

I'm sure that almost every single married couple goes through this exact same thing. And for many people, maybe they just ask because they think they're supposed to or they've already asked "How's married life" so many times that they want to move on to another question.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't starting to feel a little bit of pressure. Then, when we were out to dinner last week, Pat asked the question, "So when do you want to start trying?" I was mid-gulp of my beer and luckily didn't spit it out. "We have to talk about it sometime," he explained after seeing the shock on my face. He thinks the end of next summer, after I've turned 28, is a good time to start trying.

Ever since we had that conversation, I've been doing a lot of thinking about it. The entire drive to Dayton with my friend and coworker, mother of three, I asked her questions about pregnancy, giving birth, raising children, etc. I explained to her some of my fears and as we were talking, I realized I was scared of a lot! Even though these are very raw and personal thoughts, I didn't know what else to do except write about them.

The overarching fear I have about having kids is fear of change. I know I've written about this before, but as a recap, I have never been someone that adapts well to change. It's really hard for even Pat to fully understand this, because I am often the one who initiates changes in our life and get really excited about them at first, until the time when the change will take place gets closer. Perfect example. Grady. Everyone knows that getting a puppy was my idea. I am the one who did all of the research on breeds, read the puppy books (and took pages of notes), contacted the breeder and made all of the arrangements to adopt Grady (with my husbands help, of course). The night before we picked him up, I almost started to cry because I was nervous. I knew our life was about to change and it made me really nervous. Pat wasn't sure how to respond except by saying, "I thought you wanted to get a dog?" "I do," I answered. "Then why are you nervous?" The only response I could think of was to say that change, good or bad, always makes me nervous at first.

I'm definitely guilty of being an over-thinker too, which also doesn't help the situation. When I think of having kids, I immediately think of them becoming teenagers and treating me the way I treated my parents at that time. Not very nicely. When I shared this fear with a Dad of one of Pat's friends, he said, "You're thinking too much." I agree. At age 27 (almost) I am in no way prepared to raise a teenager. But at age 40 when I'll likely have one, maybe I will be!

I know that having kids is going to change my relationship with Pat. It's not going to be about just us anymore. That really scares me. I LOVE it being just about us. I know that we both love each other more than anything in this world and I want it to stay that way forever. In my mind, I fear that once we have kids, our marriage will come second. That scares me and makes me really sad.

I met a really nice man at our conference last week in Dayton. We were talking about his wife of two years and he said, "She used to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Until we had our daughter." Most people would probably say to him, "Aww! That is so sweet of you," (and I'm pretty sure that is what I said). But I was really thinking, how sad for your wife that she's no longer the best thing that's ever happened to you! Even as I type this, I know how ridiculous and immature it sounds. It's difficult to even admit but I can't deny that it's how I'm feeling.

I hear about couples who have children and for the next seven years while they're raising them, never go on a date as a couple. Never do anything for just the two of them. That scares me. I read on facebook, updates from mothers that say "I have not spent more than 5 minutes away from my daughter for the last 65 days." That scares me.

I am reading the book, Marley and Me, and I just read about the miscarriage the couple had and the heartbreak that came with it. That scares me. I had a dream last night that I had a baby and was completely ill-prepared to care for it. That scares me. Granted, in my dream there was no ninth month pregnancy to take advantage of by reading books and doing research...in typical dream fashion, the baby just appeared out of nowhere.

I hope that my fears and concerns are normal and are just a sign of the fact that I am really enjoying my time being married to my husband, just the two of us, and I'm just not ready to share him. I hope that my fears and concerns are normal and are just a sign of maturity. I believe that 27 IS still young, even if my biological clock disagrees.

I want to make sure you know that I actually really do love kids. I love my nephew more than I thought possible and I've really enjoyed watching him grow over the last 3 1/2 years. Every baby I see, I want to hold. I know that Pat and I will be good parents and we will be surrounded by a lot of people that will offer us support and guidance as we embark on that new journey. I also know that we would both be committed to our marriage and would never become one of those couples who stops having fun and stops going on dates. I read a quote from Seal in Redbook magazine about the fact that he and Heidi Klum, even with their four kids, still put their marriage first and believe everything about being a parent and a family stems from that. I completely agree! So if deep down I know all of these fears have no real basis, than why am I still afraid? Good question. I have no idea.

So regardless of whether or not you were wondering when Pat and I plan on having kids, you now know more information than you ever wanted to know. A lot can change in a year, and we do plan on talking about it again next summer to make sure we're both ready. And maybe we will be. Until then, I will continue holding babies when I get the chance and then give them back. I will continue spending as much time with my nephew as I can, and then give him back. :)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

F is for family, friends, food, fun and FREEDOM!

It was a fun and eventful three-day weekend for the Robinsons! Lots of time with friends and family, good food, great fun and of course celebrating America's freedom!

Us with our pooch, the Gradster all decked out in his Red, White and Blue

Friday night, Pat and I went to dinner at Crocker Park to join in on the American Liberty Fest activities going on there. We tried a new restaurant (well new to us anyway) Vieng's Asian Bistro. It had a pretty good menu selection ranging from sushi and Thai to Chinese. Pat and I both ordered Chinese and neither of us got anything new and different (we are creatures of habit after all). Pat got his usual General Tso's chicken and I got my usual Sweet & Sour Chicken. We both thought the food was great and the portion sizes met Pat's standards. :)While we were eating dinner, we could hear the Beatles tribute band, British Export, starting to play. After we finished eating, we went down to listen to the rest of the show. The website said British Export was an award winning tribute band, I don't know if I would go that far but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Something about sitting outside and listening to good music (free music, no less) just says summer to me and I loved it! The newlywed Detwilers and their new puppy, Kane joined in on the festivities too. After we listened to some more music, we went back to our house and let Kane and Grady play and we had a fire in the backyard. It was a good time!

Pat and me enjoying the Beatles tunes

The Detwilers: Jon, Julie and puppy Kane

On Saturday we went to a cook out at Tim & Faith Robinsons and had a nice time! They even invited the Gradster! I didn't know they had a pool until I got there but will bring my bathing suit next time for sure! I made this cake (a box mix of red velvet cake) to take over there. It was so fun to make!
Not too shabby, ay?

On Sunday Pat went off to a golf outing while I sat outside in the sun with Grady and finished my book, Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. Despite my reviews of the first half being somewhat anticlimactic and slow, the second half by far made up for it! I really enjoyed reading it (as I always do with Nicholas Sparks' books) and can't wait to watch the movie now! Lisa was my long-distance reading partner in Findlay and we definitely kept each other motivated to read faster than either of us are used to anymore! She's about to finish it today so we can have our "book club discussions." :) After I finished the book, I started cooking for the cook out we were having at our house on Sunday. I made the pasta salad (with Pat's help) and made the red velvet cupcakes (my Grandma's recipe) and cream cheese frosting from scratch. That night, we joined my BIL and SIL at their friend AJ's house for the fireworks. It was perfect! We got to sit in his front yard and enjoy the Clague Park fireworks without the hassle of the crowd. And Westlake put on a GREAT fireworks display! For the entire last 15 minutes of the show, we thought it was the grand finale. We were faked out at least three times. Thanks for the invite, Traci and Russ!

On Monday morning we finished getting ready for the cookout. I made a new cheesy potato recipe, some guacamole dip, put the finishing touches on my cupcakes and we were ready to go!


My MIL Leslie, FIL Mark and BIL, Mike all came from Brunswick, my SIL Traci and BIL Russ an their pooch Paulie came from Westpark, Pat's Grandma and Grandpa Dillon and Uncle Trent came from Parma and my Dad and Jill made the trip from Bellville! Despite the scorching heat, we had a great time! My mom and Mark couldn't come because Mark had to work but they were missed!

Self-timers on cameras are awesome, except when you cut people out of the picture.
My dad and I are supposed to be over there next to Pat!

That was our great weekend and now I'm heading off to Dayton for the week for work. I'll be back on Friday evening and will definitely be sharing the recipes with you then!

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Get in the kitchen and make me some: Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken

recipe image
"A wonderful baked chicken recipe that's quick and easy! Using just a few handy ingredients, create a delicious main dish, that also makes great leftovers - if there are any! Serve with a salad and pasta or rice for a quick, scrumptious dinner."
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Total Time: 45 min
Makes: 6 servings
Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Directions







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About Concordance™




1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, blend the olive oil and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, basil, and pepper. Dip each chicken breast in the oil mixture, then in the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish, and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.
3. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.
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To make things really challenging on myself, I combined this recipe with another to make a new version of chicken parmesan. The other recipe is Penne with Vegetables in Tomato-Basil Sauce from bettycrocker.com. It's really good practice for me to make several things at once because I really struggle with the timing (as I've mentioned before). It really is an art to get everything to finish at the same time (an art I haven't mastered, by the way).

Anyway, one of the keys to making this recipe in 45 minutes is to make sure you let the chicken thaw ahead of time, if you're using frozen chicken like me. Luckily, I DID in fact remember to let it thaw while I was at work. Made life much easier for me this evening.

I read the reviews on the website before I made this recipe (is that cheating?) and someone suggested not using bowls to coat and bread the chicken but rather use pie plates. I ended up using a meatloaf dish and a square dish. Why? Because they were already out and I'm lazy. :) They worked just fine, I might add.

So as I'm cutting the fat off the chicken, I remember why I hate cutting chicken. What are those big white things that go through the middle of the chicken? Sometimes they're sticking out of the ends and you have to cut them (I had to cut them from each piece of chicken). I'm assuming they are some sort of vein and that they're okay to eat, but they really gross me out.

I pretty much followed this recipe to a T except for the fact that I used Italian bread crumbs instead of plain. I have both and have cooked with both and it just seemed like the Italian would be better for this recipe. I also used Italian seasoning in addition to the basil.

I had some oil left over after dipping and breading the chicken so I dumped it over the chicken in the casserole dish before putting the extra bread crumbs on top.

While the chicken was cooking I made the penne pasta and the sauce (which is just a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomato with garlic and basil and some zucchini). I made some garlic bread in the oven for the last 5 minutes of the chicken (I put it on the top rack while the chicken was cooking - is that a no no?). After exactly 30 minutes, I got the chicken out and cut the biggest piece in half. There wasn't any pink so it was good to go.

Everything actually ended up being finished around the same time - the noodles got done a little early but I kept them warm by putting a towel over them in the strainer. In case you ever do make the penne recipe - I disagree with the statement that it would serve 6 people. Maybe 4 at the most with the pasta but only 2 or 3 with the sauce. That needs to be doubled for 6 people for sure! I added some mozzarella cheese to the top for a finishing touch (and taste)!

Pat and I both LOVED the recipe (as indicated by the before and after images of Pat's plate)! The chicken was so tender and the breadcrumbs added a lot of flavor. I will DEFINITELY make this recipe again! And because it's baked not fried, it's a much healthier version of chicken parmesan.

I took some leftovers to work today for lunch and day 2 of this recipe was just as delicious as day 1!

My Grandma sent me her recipe for red velvet cake so I'm going to make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for dessert this holiday weekend! Stay tuned!