~my thoughts about life~

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dinner Experiment - Day 2

I was encouraged by Tuesday's meal so I was totally gung-ho for Wednesday's.  I decided upon Stir Fry.  Yeah, I know that's another normal meal to most people, but that's what I was aiming for.  It's something I've never actually made myself and my family is happy to eat at a hibachi restaurant.  So...

I called up my sister-in-law to see how she makes hers.  I tasted a bite of it once and enjoyed it.  She used different vegetables than I like, so I did just a bit of altering.

The Process-
Cut into bite sized pieces:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 of a zucchini
1/2 of a large, sweet onion
1 C mushrooms

Steam 1C white rice according to package directions.

In a large skillet, add 1-2 turns around the pan of olive oil.  Add chicken with a few dashes of soy sauce.  Cook about halfway through; add the vegetables.  Continue cooking, adding more soy sauce, if desired.

When rice is finished, heat a skillet on high heat, adding 1-2 turns of olive oil.  Add cooked rice and as much soy sauce as you like.  Slightly brown the rice, making it a little crispy.

Add the fried rice to the meat and vegetable mixture.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:  A Winner!

Here is what I did wrong.  I started the chicken and veggies before the rice.  I ended up having to wait on the rice, which made my veggies overcook.  They were very soft and lost the slight crunch I desired.  I tasted them 10 minutes before the rice was done and they were perfect.  This is why I put in the recipe to start the rice first, then the chicken.  I started the chicken and veggies at the same time, which isn't the best idea.  Also, my chicken breasts were quite large and I ended up with too much meat (for us).

My kids pretty much picked out the rice only, but I'm sure a couple veggies slipped through unnoticed.  They each had to try the chicken and the veggies.  One of them said they kind of liked the chicken.  Just a little.  I'll take it as a victory!

I forgot to take a photo until we were done.  This was all that was left in the pan.

I added extra soy sauce at the table.  I would love to have a bottle of that ginger sauce they give you at the Japanese steakhouses!  Oh, and that ginger salad dressing!  And the onion soup!  OK, I'm not Japanese, but I did my best!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dinner Experiment - Day 1

Tuesday was Day #1 of Experiment New Dinnertime.  I made meatloaf.  Yeah, I thought I would start out with something totally horrible by the standards of picky kid eaters.

When Hubby and I were talking on the phone a couple days ago, he said he was on board with The Dinner Nazi, but there were certain things he just couldn't eat.  I told him I understand that.  I'm not going to make totally ridiculous things....only things that most normal people like.  He listed some specifics...fish, ketchup, and a couple others.  When I agreed I would not cook those things, he said, "Good, meatloaf is out then!"  Little did he know, it was on the way...

I don't like ketchup either, and I think that's why meatloaf has always left a bad taste in my mouth.  (Pun intended.)  The last time I remember eating meatloaf was when I was probably 8 and it was a major chore to get down.  I got thinking- that's ridiculous!  How can I hold onto that idea for nearly 30 years that meatloaf is disgusting???  I'm a fairly good cook.  I can put in the meatloaf whatever I want.

So I googled "no ketchup meatloaf."  Turns out, I'm not alone in the ketchup in meatloaf aversion.  Tons of results came up.  One of the comments said, "Isn't that the point of meatloaf?  To put in whatever you have on hand?"  So, I decided to customize our own meatloaf.

Here's the recipe I started with:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 C bread crumbs
1 onion, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
16 oz. tomato sauce
3 T vinegar
3 T brown sugar
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C water to thin, if necessary

Of course, I dialed down the onion- a lot!  I can't stand when food is overpowered with onion flavor.  I dialed down the pepper, eliminated the vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.  I thought the vinegar is what would give it more of a ketchup taste.  And I don't have Dijon mustard or Worcestershire.  I didn't use the water.  I added a dash of garlic powder, as I was out of fresh, and a couple shakes of Italian seasoning.  My goal was to make it more like Italian meatballs, which Hubby & I both like.  (The kids like NOTHING!)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix together beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper, and 1/2 C tomato sauce.  Form this mixture into a loaf and place in a shallow pan.  (I used a loaf pan to make it look like traditional meatloaf).  Stir together the remaining ingredients, using the water if needed.  Pour over the meatloaf.  Bake 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the pan juices.

I had an appointment, so I covered the top with about 3/4 of the prepared sauce, put it in the oven, and left. I did not baste.

The verdict:  pretty good!  The sauce on top was very sweet.  I liked that; Hubby thought it was too sweet.  If you don't like sweet food, dial down the brown sugar a bit.  Of course, all my kids fought me, yet I made them eat some.  I think I'll add it to the occasional rotation.  It was very easy to make ahead and pop in the oven later.  I served it with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob.

Your thoughts about Meatloaf:  love it or hate it???

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No Short Orders, Just Short Tempers

I had a breakdown last week.  I finally had it out with being a short-order cook around here.  I've complained and complained many times over that I have a family full of picky eaters.  I'm sick and tired of it and I can't take any more!!

I grocery shop every Monday and plan the meals for the week.  We stick to them for the most part, occasionally delaying one until the next week to make a run for Chipotle or order a pizza on a busy night.  But you can bet your home that, when I announce what we're having for dinner, someone will complain.  It's as sure as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening.

Last Monday, we planned on grilling out.  That is one of two or three meals that makes everyone happy.  Still, it's not like I can only grill one thing.  It's got to be cheeseburgers, made 3 different ways, and hot dogs, made 2 different ways.  It still ain't easy.  I don't even care for hamburgers or hot dogs, I just go with it every week or two just so I don't have to hear the complaining.

Anyhow, it ended up raining cats and dogs last Monday.  We were planning to cook over our fire pit, which had 2" deep puddles in it.  Because of that, I decided to delay Monday's meal and cook Tuesday's tacos instead.  Tacos are definitely in my top three favorite dinners.

Someone, I won't say who, heard the news about tacos instead of burgers.  He said- well, kind of yelled, "I am NOT eating tacos!  I don't like them and you know I don't like them!  I am NOT eating them!"  I was taken off guard, but kept my cool.  "Fine," I replied.  "I'm done then.  Y'all can make what you want from now on.  I'm not cooking any more."  I stormed out of the kitchen, changed into running clothes, and fled the house.  There was a bit more drama involved, but those are the bullet points.

The kids couldn't believe it.  Mom isn't cooking any more!  I also managed to declare that no one gets the easy way out either.  No pizzas, no McDonald's, no Chipotle.  You can fix something for yourself with the groceries that are here at the house.  There was still some confusion as to what was going on in this typically happy home.  I informed my family members that they can eat grilled cheese, boxed macaroni, or frozen pizza.  There's always peanut butter in the cupboard, which is what I ended up eating.

This continued for the entire week.  I refused to cook.  I was not giving in.  Finally, on Thursday, the apology came.  It wasn't long and detailed, but it came.  I was ready for a truce.  "There are two options," I said.  "Everyone can make their own dinner every night, but there will be no going out to eat.  You're stuck with what's here.  OR, I can start cooking again.  If I cook, there are going to be some huge changes.  You're stuck with what I make.  No one is refusing to eat and going to bed without dinner.  If I make it, you're eating it.  Also, there will be no complaining.  I don't want to hear that you don't like dinner.  Sit down, shut up, and eat.  Finally, I will not be announcing what I'm making.  I'm tired of being asked that question 6 times a day and hearing complaints.  You'll see what's for dinner when you sit down at the table."

Mama's on the warpath...

Option #2 was chosen.  SO...I decided to hit it hard.  This week, I am making all brand new things that I've never made before.  They probably will not be well received, yet I am prepared.  Maybe the fam will appreciate the way it's been up to this point and will beg to have things go back to the way they were.

On Monday, I had a youth group meeting that included dinner.  I decided to give them one last day of freedom before I grew my Hitler mustache.  They ordered pizza.

The remaining nights are going to be brand new recipes (to me).  I plan on sharing them with you, along with a story of how they went over.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Quizzed Out

Every time I try to be a better blogger, something always comes up.  I was looking forward to the lazy days of summer, but they haven't arrived yet.

Big Sis has chosen to be a star Bible Quizzer this year.  I am one of her coaches.  She accepted the challenge and found out she's very good at it.  Her big brothers have chosen to show up to practice and not study.  They are horrible and can't stand that she can whip their tails.  The end of the quizzing season was quickly approaching and she was getting very close to learning every single verse of required material.  When I say she's learning verses, I don't just mean she's familiar with them.  She can quote, word for word, the verse from the King James Version of the Bible, Biblical reference included.  She's amazing.  I never realized that an 8-year-old brain could hold so much information.  I was a Bible Quizzer in my teen years, but I never accomplished what she did this year.  She finally memorized all the material- 191 selected verses from the book of Psalms!  She's my hero.

Not only has she learned these verses, she can answer nit-picky questions about them.  Things like- quote the only verse of study that contains the word "fire."  If you answer 6 questions correctly in a quiz (out of 15), you quiz out.  It's her goal for every quiz.  She stands, everyone claps for her, and she's awarded 10 bonus points.  She smiles that huge smile that causes her to lose her eyes.

State Finals were over the weekend.  It was a 2-day trip an hour and a half away.  They lost their first quiz against the team that ended up winning first, yet she managed to earn the second highest scorer.  They won the next two, which Big Sis quizzed out of.  She was the highest scorer of both of those quizzes.  Their final quiz was lost to the team that took second.  She handled it with the utmost dignity and grace.  She shook hands with the winners, congratulated them, and smiled that sweet smile of hers.  They placed 5th in the state, which is about in the middle.  We didn't expect to win or advance to Nationals.  This is only the second year for our church to have a team, so my expectations were totally exceeded!

She finished as the 3rd highest scorer of the day, which was 1st on the All Tournament Team.  She has another trophy.  She got 2 blue ribbons, 1 red, and a medal for being part of the 100% club!

Seeing her score goals in soccer, get straight As in school, be at the top of the cheerleading pyramid, or have a solo in the choir could never provide me with the sense of pride that being a star Bible Quizzer does.  I could not be more proud and needed to do a little bragging!

Bible Quizzing is over for the year -- let the lazy days of summer commence!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Worst Day

I have a new Worst Day of My Life, I'm sorry to say.  It was my birthday weekend.  Hubby and I were gone all day Saturday since my mom offered to watch the kids.  We hoped to bike but there were threats of strong storms all day.  We started off touring some nearby model homes.  Of course, that sent me into a low grade depression in which I broke the Thou Shalt Not Covet commandment.  Man, if I could just duplicate that New Home Smell in my house....it's way more appealing than New Car Smell!

Anyway, we don't have any fantastic shopping locally so we drove an hour away.  We even visited the discount paper store, where I loaded up on a bag full of envelopes for six bucks.

When we got home (it never did rain, by the way), there was a visitor at my mom's.  It was a high school senior that my mom and I have kind of mentored through the years.  Her mom passed away suddenly when she was a young girl and her dad has two girls alone.  She stopped by to give my mom a ticket for her graduation.  She's a little on the slow side and didn't realize that she had overstayed her welcome.

In the midst of the visiting girl, our return from The Day, and my brother's family stopping by, it got a little hectic.  I overheard a bit of a conversation between my mom and Son #1.  I heard her reply to his question, "That's something you'd have to ask your mother."  I didn't know what he had asked.

My brother and his family left.  The girl continued to stay.  I figured that if I left too, she might get the hint.  I took my shopping treasures from the day and got ready for bed.  It turned out, the girl stayed another hour or so.  Finally, when she left, my mom called over to make sure I had Son #1.  The boys had asked to stay the night but only Son #2 was there.  "No," I replied, "I thought he was at your house."  She thought he had maybe gone into her basement so she hung up to check.  I checked his room, but he wasn't there.  We started questioning down the kids, wondering where he was.  I woke up Big Sis to make sure she didn't know anything.  He was nowhere.

My mom said he mentioned something about going to a friend's bonfire, but she told him he'd have to ask me.  He never did.

We called his phone dozens of times.  It was off.  His phone is never off.  He is better about answering his phone than anyone else in the entire family.  My mom started to panic, but I was still calm.  "I'll go look for him," I said.  I changed out of my pajamas and set off in the car, ready to tan his hide for causing this chaos.

I drove by Jeremy's, Jake's, and Evan's.  It was dark out and I couldn't remember exactly where Tyler lived.  Those are the only friends he visits at home.  I was fairly certain it wasn't a church friend, because #1 would have told my mom the name of the friend who was having the bonfire.

I started calling friends and family.  No one knew of his whereabouts.  By this time, it was after 10:00.  It just wasn't like him.  He wasn't angry and didn't run away.  He didn't actually ask for permission to go somewhere and didn't tell me he was leaving.  He wasn't answering his phone.  I was getting quite nervous at this point.  Various family members had arrived at our house to offer help and support.  My uncle was driving the streets of our town looking for and smelling for a bonfire.

We tried to send out a Find My iPod signal, but he didn't have it with him.  He also left his iPad mini at home.  I couldn't think of another thing to do.

Around 10:30, I realized I had to call the police.  How long do you stand there in your front yard, unaware of where your 14-year-old son is and not knowing where to look next?  I dialed the non-emergency number and kept very calm.  I explained that my son mentioned something about a bonfire at a friend's, but none of us knew he left.  I asked if they knew of any bonfires in town.  (Whenever we have one, someone typically calls the cops and complains, so I thought maybe they had heard about it.)  They knew nothing.  I said I didn't know what to do next.  They said they could send someone out.  Son #2's best friend's dad is a cop, so I asked if they could send him.

Hubby paced and continued to call his phone.  My mom went in and out of panic mode.  My cousin asked various questions.  Son #2 and my dad were both very quiet.  I was surprisingly calm.  Then, that story of the girls kidnapped for over 10 years in Cleveland kept playing though my mind.  They were about his age.  I imagined every possible scenario...

Finally, after an eternity, the police arrived.  My old high school buddy stepped out of the car and I started explaining the situation.  Suddenly, I heard Hubby's very loud voice saying, "WHERE ARE YOU?!?!"  I ran to where he was.  He was on the phone, fuming.  There was almost steam coming out of his ears.  Again, he said, "WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?"  My mom busted into tears, I didn't know if I should be angry or relieved.  Then Hubby got the answer he was looking for.  Son #1 was in a town 15 minutes away, at someone's house we had never met.

Oh dear...the rage.

I'll try to wrap up quickly now because this story is getting quite long.  In the confusion of the evening, #1 thought he made it clear to my mom that he was going to a friend's.  He never asked me.  This friend called and said he was a block away and would pick up my son and take him there.  He quickly grabbed his sweatshirt and hat and headed out the door to catch them.  This person attends his school but lives a couple towns away.  I do not know why.  They have a good 20 minute drive to school every day.

When he arrived at the house, he realized his phone was almost dead.  He turned it off and put it in the house.  They had been playing games outside and he said he lost track of time.  By the time we arrived at the house to pick him up, it was just before 11:00.  I realize you don't know us personally, but that's not OK.  Our kids are NOT allowed to stay out until 11, especially with people we've never met!  I was fired up the entire drive there.

#1 was standing by the road when we got there, as was the father of the friend.  #1 was sobbing and the dad looked like he was close to tears.  He apologized profusely, saying he had no clue our son hadn't received permission to come.  He assured my he was a good person.  He actually went to school a few years ahead of us and he lived in a very beautiful neighborhood.  I was still irate but did my best to assure the man that the fault was not his.

I decided not to kill my son because sobbing in front of all your teenage friends is punishment enough.  We did, however, lecture him the entire way home.  I explained to him why I ask him to text or call me sporadically when he's not at home.  It's not to interrupt his fun.  It's not so that I can check up on him or that I don't trust him.  It's for my peace of mind.  He said he understood that now.  I told him the many thoughts and emotions that went through my mind that evening.  We made him feel pretty bad.

Fortunately, we got a happy ending.  But can you imagine all the parents who went through something like this, only to never see their child again?  The thought of it makes me literally sick to my stomach.