Friday, February 25, 2011

Get in the kitchen and make me some: Creamy Potato Lasagna

Creamy Potato Lasagna
Prep Time:
25 Min
Cook Time:
1 Hr 10 Min
Ready In:
1 Hr 35 Min

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced ham
  • 1 (10 ounce) package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Alfredo sauce and milk. Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Then layer 1/3 of the potatoes over the sauce in the dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the ham, broccoli and 1 1/2 cups of the Swiss cheese. Mix well and spread 1/3 of this mixture over the potatoes in the baking dish. Then top with another layer of potatoes, followed by the ham mixture, finally topping all with the remaining Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. Pour the remaining Alfredo sauce over all.
  4. Cover and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degree C) for additional 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
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I say this with such a strong fear that it almost verges on certainty, that one day I will lose a finger when cutting food with a knife. It scares me so much every time I use one! I'm a paranoid person anyway, but it seems like each time I cut up vegetables with a knife, I have too many "close calls" for comfort. So when this recipe called for slicing potatoes 1/8" thin, I knew I was in trouble! I did an okay job, but I would say the majority of my slices were more like 1/4" thin. I guess I would rather have thicker potato slices and keep all of my fingers. :) If only I had this.

 Once I got through all the chopping, it was pretty smooth sailing from there! I used turkey bacon instead of the ham. I had been buying the butterball turkey bacon and wasn't real impressed with the taste so I tried Oscar Myer this time. Much better and it was delicious in this recipe! Even Pat, who hates my turkey substitutes, thought the turkey bacon was good in this recipe!

I used mozzerella cheese instead of swiss for several reasons. I don't really like swiss cheese and I had a huge bag of mozzerella cheese that I bought at GFS. I followed some of the suggestions from the reviewers of this recipe and added garlic salt on each layer of potatoes. My only critique is that it takes much longer than the recipe indicates. The recipe assumes that the potatoes have already been cut. I also added to the time by using bacon, too. The next time I make it, I want to try making my own alfredo sauce to use. 

As for my final review: this recipe was DE-LIC-OUS! Some of the thicker potatoes weren't 100% done, which I only have myself and my fear of knives to blame. Other than that, it was awesome! Pat gave it a 9.5 out of 10. We had it for dinner on Sunday, ate the leftovers for dinner on Tuesday and then I had it for lunch on Thursday. It was yummy each and every time! I highly recommend this recipe!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Goodbye Christmas. Hello St. Patty's Day!

I finally took my Christmas decorations down on Sunday. February 20 seemed like as good a day as any to finally do that. Going straight from Christmas decorations to my St. Patrick's Day decor is a dead giveaway that my Christmas decorations were up much longer than they should have been.

Given all that happened in the month of January, I'm going to give myself a pass for letting it go into February. But I'm not sure what my excuse is for letting it almost go into March! I'm sure I can think of something...oh, that's right; laziness! That and lack of motivation. But the good news is, it's done.

I've been somewhat of a strange bird these days. I can and will, at any given point in time, start crying. There are some trends as to where this spontaneous crying occurs. It happens almost always right before bed, when the busy day has ended and I'm left with my thoughts and that hole that is still in my heart, missing that fourth parent. I may have said this before, but not only had I accepted the fact that I had four parents, I had embraced it and truly LOVED having four parents. I don't think that hole will ever go away but I do think at some point I will get used to it being there. Maybe?

Another place I usually cry is in the shower. Seems logical, right? You're already wet so the tears just blend right in. It's a private time, so you don't have to explain to anyone why you're crying or what caused you to start. Believe me, there's usually no rhyme or reason as to why the tears start - every time I think about Mark and what the future will be like without him, I cry. Still. Is that normal? Who am I kidding, I've never been normal anyway. Why start now?

And finally, the most random place I've been bursting into unexpected tears is at restaurants. Usually alone with Pat. The most recent have been on Valentine's Day (nothing says, "I love you husband" like a good old cry during a romantic dinner, right?) and this last Saturday. I wish I knew why it was happening in public places like this so that I could make it stop, but I'm not even sure what triggers it.

My mind has always been a snowball of thoughts so something as simple as a good song on the radio could lead me to Mark. "What is this song? It's a good song. Mark liked music. Mark. Mark is gone. I miss Mark." There's your glimpse into that scary place we call my brain. Yikes. You don't want to stay there for very long!

So if you think randomly crying in public restaurants is awkward for me, think about what it's like for Pat. He's alone with a woman at dinner and she starts to cry. On Valentine's Day. People probably think he's breaking up with me, his mistress, or divorcing me, his wife. And then the more I think about how much I shouldn't be crying, the harder it is to stop. It's weird. I know. But I am weird. You knew that, right?

Don't worry, I'm not quite as depressed as I sound. I still laugh, at myself, and try to make other people laugh. And my laughter takes place more often than my crying which is a good thing. And I'm still trying new recipes. I am behind on sharing these new recipe experiences with you, so stay tuned to find out how the Creamy Potato Lasagna and Sweet and Sour Chicken turned out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just a hair behind the times...

I think it's a really important skill to be able to laugh at yourself. But growing up with buck teeth and a lazy eye made this skill more than just important, it was a necessity for survival! I learned to make fun of myself at an early age and I still enjoy it to this day. But just because I can make fun of myself, doesn't mean you can! Oh, the double standards of life. :)

Every time I get out of the shower, I comb my hair as straight as I can possibly get it and then marvel at the 80s poof that it slowly becomes as it dries. It's amazing to me each and every time and I'm not sure why. Maybe I hope that one of these days it will magically stay stick straight. The reality is my "natural" look is that of a teased frizz ball. If I could bottle that up and then go back in time about thirty years, I could be a millionaire! There was a time when people would kill for hair like mine. But unfortunately, it's not the 80s anymore and no one really wants hair that looks like this, including me. It's not straight, it's not really wavy, it's not curly; it's just frizzy.

Before
After
No products, no teasing just natural awfulness
I'm so jealous of the people that can just get out of the shower and go; their hair either dries completely straight or with nice, natural waves or curls. I'm 27 years old and I still can't quite accept that I will never be one of those people. My awful hair started at a very young age, well as soon as I got hair, so around the age of three or four. I never thought much of it until Pat looked through childhood pictures of me and said that I looked like a "swamp thing." I don't know what that means exactly but I know it can't be good. Unfortunately, my hair hasn't changed much since then.

If your hair looked like this, you would make this face, too.
Is there anyone else out there with worse hair than mine?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Some days I crawl...

I haven't really used this blog much (or at all) to talk about my step-dad Mark, his battle with cancer, his recent death and my struggle with accepting life without him. I had his blog so I didn't really need to mix the two. Well, now I"m not writing in his blog anymore (although, I really should be - even if I don't publish it anymore) and I'm really feeling my emotions start to bottle up. Writing really is therapy for me. Music is, too.

It seems as though I've been suckered into helping with another play at the school. And I think suckered is a fair statement since the students have been bugging me every single day for weeks, begging me to help again (I guess I should be flattered). Anyway, it's a musical so we had auditions this week and one of the students, who completely caught us off guard with her beautiful voice, sang a song I never heard before but I LOVED it. I couldn't get it out of my head so I asked her what the song was and it's called Crawl by Superchick. I've been listening to it nonstop ever since.

I think the song is beautiful, I think the lyrics are beautiful and I think the dancing  in the video is beautiful. I feel like I've been crawling a lot lately. Work is so busy that I get through the days fine. But by the time I make my way to bed, and am left with nothing but my thoughts, the overwhelming amount of sadness I still feel takes over my body. I still cry myself to sleep almost every single night, but when I'm "crawling" to get by, Pat is too. I'm not alone. Pat has been there with me every step of the way and I feel so very lucky to have him by my side.

When I was in the hospital with Mark on that first night, he kept staring at my wedding ring and twisting it around with his hand. He couldn't talk so I don't know what, if anything, was going through his mind when he was doing this but I feel like it was his way of saying, "I'm so glad you have Pat to take care of you when I'm gone." And he's right. I am so lucky to have Pat. This song reminds me of how supportive he has been over the last month. I don't know what I would do without him.

It's a very conflicting and sad feeling to be so thankful to be married to your best friend, knowing that your mom just lost hers. Sometimes I even feel guilty about it. But I know that my mom is happy for me to have Pat and I know that Mark was, too.

I know the journey of healing is long and that time is the only thing that will make it easier for me. Until then, there will still be many days when I have to crawl just to get through the day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Here's to you, Mr. Dodge Truck with lift kit man

So you have a big truck. I get it. I would have been a lot more impressed with your white dodge truck with lift kit had it not been adorned with weird (and girly, I might add) graphics but given the fact that you still had temporary plates, I'm going to let those slide and assume you didn't add them. However, if I was going to be driving around my big truck, trying to be intimidate and pick on innocent little mazdas, my first order of business would have been removing those girly stickers before driving it off the lot. But that's just me.

I realize that in your opinion, I had plenty of time to pull out in front of that car. You are entitled to your opinion, but I don't appreciate you honking at me to try and encourage me to risk my life just because you think I should. Unfortunately, that's not really your call to make. And, let's say, by chance, that your honk would have enticed me to pull out in front of the car (which, I hate to break it to you, honking at me only makes me do the exact opposite of what you want), do you honestly think you would have had time to pull out in front of the car, too? I can assure you, you wouldn't have. Even with your lift kit, your truck isn't a "monster" truck and can't drive over top of cars like it's a demolition. I hate to be bearer of bad news.

You may think your big truck intimidates me, but it doesn't. So your lift kit makes your truck taller than my car. Big deal. I'm 5' 3", everyone is taller than me. I'm used to it. Revving up your engine and speeding past me as soon as you had the opportunity, proved your point about how irritated you were that I wasted those precious thirty seconds of your life. It did make me pause and reflect about the fact that putting my life in danger to save you those thirty seconds probably would have been the good samaratin thing of me to do. I will definitely think twice next time.

I couldn't help but notice that your final destination was Gus' Diner. It must have been a very important meeting you were having there, definitely warranting the sense of urgency you were showing on the road. Not urgent enough, however, for you to leave a little earlier and give yourself enough time to get there. Please, apologize on my behalf to those you were meeting for the additional thirty seconds I added to your commute this morning.

Monday, February 07, 2011

I jumped on the bandwagon!

In case I haven't adequately explained how very indecisive I am, let me reiterate the point. I have been waiting for the iPhone to come to Verizon since, well, the day the first iPhone was announced, so almost four years! I anxiously awaited for "2010" when it seemed so far away, and just like that, the year came and went with no iPhone at Verizon. And then it happened; Verizon and Apple announced last month that the iPhone 4 was FINALLY coming to Verizon!

I was elated, until I realized that I wasn't eligible for an upgrade for another year and that there was no way on Earth I could pay the full retail price of the phone (not knowing exactly what the price would be but knowing it would be more than I could afford). So, I came up with a list of all the reasons it's better to wait for the next Verizon iPhone. I consulted the experts (those Apple junkies in my family), the blogs, etc. and had a lot of good, solid reasons why I should wait until the iPhone 5 comes out.

Then my iPod touch bit the dust. And by "iPod touch," I mean someone's old At&t iPhone that I jailbroke to use as an iPod touch (that is how desperate I have been for an iPhone). I used this thing every single day for my Google calendar, my Lose It calorie counting app, taking/sending pictures to the web/my blog, listening to audio books while I work out, tracking my workouts, making dinosaur videos to make fun of my husband, the list goes on and on.

When the Verizon iPhones went on sale last Thursday, I woke up feeling quite confident in my decision to not jump on the bandwagon and "wait it out." That is, until I saw my friend's status update on Facebook saying she had already ordered hers. As soon as I read that, I became extremely jealous and felt a range of emotions that are better suited for my four year old nephew when he has difficulty losing at Candy Land or sharing his cars. All I could think about was everyone having this phone that I have wanted so badly for so many years, everyone except me.

So I decided to log in to our Verizon account just to see how much the retail price of the phone was. I was astounded to see that the dollar amounts of $750 and $650! Who in their right mind could/would pay that ridiculous amount? Then I remembered that Pat was eligible for an upgrade and never found a phone that he liked. I checked it out and with his upgrade and discount, I could get it for $170! That is $30 less than the 8 gig (half the memory) iPod touch! I had to have it!!!! So I got the approval from the husband and placed my order, within twelve hours of the time they went on sale. How is that for sticking to a plan?

And now, with only 24 hours left until the iPhone is my hands, I am extremely anxious and giddy like a small child. I have been keeping a tab open in my browser with the tracking information. Nothing has changed since 4:30 a.m. this morning, but I keep clicking refresh every half an hour just in case there is new/updated information about where my "baby" is. According to FedEx.com, it's still in Memphis, where it was when it "shipped" yesterday. It still says it should be delivered to my work by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Until then, I will just keep "refreshing" the tracking status in case there are any changes.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Get in the kitchen and make me some: Cheese Garlic Biscuits

 Cheese Garlic Biscuits
Prep Time:
10 Min 
Cook Time:
15 Min
Ready In:
25 Min

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
    2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add the milk and cheddar cheese; stir to combine. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
    3. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. While biscuits are baking mix melted butter and minced garlic. Brush garlic butter over hot baked biscuits. 
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    On Monday night, I made my Nana's Old Fashioned Stew for the first time. It was SOOO good. So good, that I've eaten it for lunch every day since and I'm still not sick of it. And Pat loved it, too! It is such a simple recipe but is so yummy. But I also tried a new recipe to go with the stew, per the recommendation of my Aunt Molly/cousin Elaine). I didn't have their recipe so I went to old faithful, allrecipes.com and searched for something similar.

    I always read through the reviews before making a recipe for tips and suggestions. I came away with a few recommendations: add some garlic to the dough mixture, in addition to the butter topping mixture; make sure not to over mix the dough and use wax paper on your cookie sheet for easier cleanup.

    Mmm...cheese garlic wax paper biscuits
    I followed all of the recommendations of the reviewers. Two worked out great, one was absolutely awful. The wax paper idea was HORRIBLE! We could not get the biscuits off the wax paper. Unless you like eating biscuits like this (picture to your left), never, EVER, use this recipe with wax paper.

    I'm not going to lie, I was extremely frustrated and disappointed when this recipe didn't turn out. I even screamed. Yes, I threw a tantrum like a little girl. But after a day to calm down and regroup, I decided to tackle the recipe again, this time sans wax paper. They turned out much better but still stuck to the pan. Maybe next time I should grease the cookie sheet?

    I do highly recommend the biscuits, they taste just like red lobsters. They don't look quite as good when I make them, however. I would give them a 3 out of 10 for presentation. When Pat got home from work and saw them on the pan before going in the oven, he said, "What is that? It looks like cat throw up." Nice. Just what every wife likes to hear about the meal she is preparing. Considering he ate them off the wax paper, I would say he was really enjoying the cat throw up biscuits. :)

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Those things with four times as many legs...

    Yes, I am a bit dramatic. But I am not exaggerating at all when I say that spiders (and all bugs with more legs than me) make me weak in the knees. Beyond the weakness in the knees, they actually make me feel slightly sick to my stomach, too.

    As I was preparing my lunch today, there was a spider on the counter. It was about the size of my thumbnail, aka HUGE (I do not discriminate based on the size of spiders - I find them all equally disturbing). It was moving really slowly, which should have been comforting but actually freaked me out even more because I was waiting for it to speed up or, even worse, jump!

    Since I was the only one home, I needed to kill it. I realize that spiders aren't bad and are actually important and necessary to kill other bugs. I understand all of that. I left a huge spider, perhaps a black widow, outside right next to our backdoor all summer and fall so that it could do it's thing. However, all bets are off when they're in my house. When it comes down to me and the spider, we can't coexist and only one of us pays half the mortgage to live here.

    So now I have to figure out how I'm going to kill it. My first choice is ALWAYS a shoe. I am not comfortable with the kleenix/toilet paper route that works for Pat. Paper is not enough of a barrier between my hand and the spider. What if I don't kill it? What if I can feel it being squished? Or even worse, what if it touches my hand? SICK! But I'm also not sure how comfortable I am putting the bottom of a shoe on my kitchen counter.

    I had to do what I had to do so I grabbed Pat's huge slipper with rubber bottom; size twelve slipper vs. half inch spider. I knew the spider didn't stand a chance, but I still screamed when I smacked the slipper on the counter. It was involuntary. Even though I wouldn't say I handled the situation with dignity and grace, I am quite proud of myself for standing up to that spider, defending myself, my house and my animals. (I already told you, I'm a bit dramatic).