Getting Stuffed

After going up north for a quick mini-vacation (if you can call three days and two nights in with a couple grouchy teenagers a vacation) it was back to (normalcy) reality which means back to making dinner three to five nights a week. Sit-down dinners are an important part of our family life and while I know it’s not what we have for dinner that’s important, I get tired of making the same five meals over and over again. I’m constantly asking the fam for dinner suggestions. Sometimes I actually get some.

This past go-round my boyfriend suggested stuffed peppers. And maybe stuffed mushrooms. I’ve never made either. Well, not true, I’ve made stuffed peppers at work but never for the family to eat. I’ve also made an appetizer version of stuffed mushrooms with the cute little baby Bella mushrooms, stuffing, spinach, and cheese. The much bigger version of those have always been intriguing but a little intimidating. They’re a big commitment. Like, if I make them and don’t like em it’s a lot to either suffer through or waste.

Stuffed foods are one of those things that could go either way for me with my weird food texture/color preferences. I don’t like mushy or over mixed food. I’m very wary of sauces I don’t know and have a strict one-sauce-per-item policy. And anything pureed, especially if it’s green (really anything green that doesn’t have a very distinguishable solid shape) is definitely a no! But, really, I’m not a picky eater.

That being said…

Let’s start with the mushrooms: they were beautiful and delicious.

I knew the kids were not going to touch the stuffed mushrooms (no matter how much bacon and cheese I put on them) so I got a four pack of the large but not huge portobello. I popped the stems off, scooped out the weird fin things, brushed them with oil and put them in the oven with the already cooking stuffed peppers. I think the recipe I was very loosely following called for ten to twelve minutes of oven time before stuffing.

In the meantime I mixed the internal ingredients: just a little minced garlic, cooked bacon, diced tomatoes, uncooked spinach (see above regarding issues with mushy green stuff), and ,of course, cheese. It’s pretty easy to tailor this to your personal preferences.

After the requisite baking time the stuffing is heaped on the now fork-tender mushroom caps. I say heaped because the caps don’t actually hold much stuffing. It’s more a topping than a stuffing.

Return to the oven for maybe five minutes and Bam! Delicious, basically healthy food. The mushrooms alone probably aren’t filling enough to be their own meal but they are a great side and the leftovers were super delicious for lunch the next day.

For some reason I almost always have an excess of stuffing. A couple days later I got a spinach, bacon, & tomato omelette out of the leftover mushroom stuffing. It was also delicious!

There’s not a lot to say about the stuffed peppers. The recipe I followed was pretty standard. I tweaked the amount of sauce mixed with the rice to suit my texture issue based preferences and put cheese on top but other than that actually followed the directions. Weird, I know. Oh, I did not cook my peppers at all before stuffing them. I like a more firm pepper. (Yeah, that’s what she said!)

Unlike the mushrooms, everyone loved the stuffed peppers. One kid even took leftovers for lunch the next day. You know the meal is a hot when the leftovers get eaten without prompting. Seriously, “Put down that bagel and eat some leftovers!” is something I say often.

Speaking of leftovers, the stuffed peppers would be a pretty good way to use leftovers. Specifically leftover rice. Since the rice is cooked before mixing and stuffing you could make these with leftover rice from another meal, stir fry or something like that. It would make their prep quicker too. I’m all about quick prep and using leftovers.

How sticky are your balls?

I’ve been practicing productive procrastination this week. I’m not sure why I need to practice, I’m already a master at all forms of procrastination but whatever. I’ve been sharpening my skillz anyhow. As usual this involves laundry, a little cleaning, running, and baking. 

Monday was basically a waste (aka spent sleeping) after working until 6am on next to no sleep. It was a struggle just to get myself home after taking the kids to school. Yesterday, Tuesday, I was feeling blergy and down; night shift jet lag was hitting me hard. There were things I really needed to do but they were not happening. I thought chocolate chip cookies might help.

And they did!  Sort of.

I love chocolate chip cookies. I mean, who doesn’t? (My seven year old just informed me  he doesn’t, doesn’t even like them. I think he’s an alien.) Classic chocolate chip cookies are my first love baking-wise too. Starting around age ten I’d make them whenever I was bored which was often. Yesterday it was dreary, cold, and rainy; my head hurt and I was tired. Making cookies was soothing. It was comfort….

But then I ate said cookies and, let’s not lie, excessive amounts of cookie dough. Physically I felt slightly gross. So this morning, after waking up late and getting kids to school almost on time, I had the urge to be super productive and healthy. I made a list of things to accomplish and decided today would be the day I’d start that low carb/high fat diet I’ve been eye balling. This required some Google searching which lead me to recipes for peanut butter chocolate chip protein balls.

Protein balls, or as they should be called power balls, seemed like an adequate replacement for the remaining chocolate chip cookies that were still tempting me. So I found a couple recipes including this one that I intended to follow and began throwing ingredients in a bowl.

I love peanut butter.  Love it! But I hate measuring it out; it’s such a sticky mess. So usually I just eye ball the amount. Really, there’s no way to have too much peanut butter.

The recipe called for 1/2 cup peanut butter but that didn’t sound like nearly enough. I probably used closer to a cup. AND then I added some ambiguous amount of coconut oil  (going for high fat here) and more flax than the recipe demanded because I didn’t feel like putting protein powder in. Oh, and instead of chocolate chips I poured in some cocoa powder. After mixing it all together and tasting the resulting concoction I added a bit more honey and called it good.

It was time to roll these balls!

I’ve never made balls like this before so I have no idea how they’re supposed to feel (insert immature snicker here), but damn! These balls were sticky!!!!

They made a goopy mess. Albeit a tasty goopy mess. 😉

The added cocoa powder gives these guys a…questionable appearance.

All joking aside, are these types of balls usually so sticky? Hopefully the refrigerator will solidify them some. Maybe next time I make them I’ll measure stuff and follow a recipe. Maybe not though. Probably not.

Hey who knows, these might end up being fantastic and delicious magic sticky balls. If they do I’m going to have to write my own protein balls recipe. I think I’ll call it Hippie Poop…for obvious reasons.

(P.S.-The amount the word balls was used in this post is directly proportional to the amount of immature giggles writing the post produced. Maturity is a little overrated anyhow.)

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful…Ice Cream Cake

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, 19 days according to WordPress. I really meant to post sooner. Five drafts and a half finished Word document on my computer prove it but my life has been exceptionally crazy. It happens. However, I seemed to have survived this most recent bought of My Life is Trying to Kill Me so hopefully I’ll return to more regular posting. Not that I have ever been regular or systematic about it, but at least I’ve been more frequent int the past and I do 

One small part of the recent life chaos was my oldest son’s birthday. He just turned 17. I don’t think either of us is ready for that. Since I hadn’t seen him that morning I texted my almost-man-child on his birthday. I told him I was really not ready for him to be so stinkin old. He confirmed that he isn’t either. “Great”, I replied ,”how about you be 13 and I can be 30?” His response was that he didn’t want to endure middle school again but we could go with 15 instead. Fair enough. Unfortunately we don’t get to stagnate no matter how hard we try. (Although I did stay 25 for like three years.) Sometimes I really do think he’s trying to stay in high school. He appreciates where he is right now and doesn’t want the fun to end. I get it. Being an actual adult kind of sucks sometimes. But anyhow, ice cream cake.

My son is a little different: He doesn’t like cake.  What the actual Eff, right?!?! Okay, it’s not all that unusual but I truly enjoy cake or at least good quality frosting with a small coating of cake attached. It’s one of the best parts of birthdays. My first born does not, however, share this penchant. Instead he enjoys and requests ice cream cake. I used to buy a small, ridiculously priced ice cream cake every year and then make some other cake to feed the masses. Of course, everyone wanted a piece of the tiny ice cram cake and it got stretched pretty thin. A few years back I realized that it’s super easy to make your own ice cream cake. I may have even taken some photos of the process last year with the intention of blogging about it because I wanted to enlighten anyone who may not be aware of the ease with which one can DIY ice cream cake.

finished icc

This year I loosely copied a video I saw on Facebook, mostly just for the crust though. In the past I’ve done cookie crumb crusts or baked a thin layer of brownie for the crust but this video showed ice cream sandwiches placed around a spring form pan and cookie crumbs for the bottom. It’s a simple twist that makes homemade ice cream cake just that much cooler.

Cutting and placing the ice cream sandwiches before they all melted was a bit of a challenge but other than that it’s very straightforward.

The next step is the ice cream. Softening it helps but it was so warm that I just set it out while I put the crust together.

The chocolate could have been a little more malleable but by the time I got to the cookies and cream it was nice and pour-able.  That makes it easy to get a good smooth top layer on your ice cream cake. In the video they make this fancy top layer with whipped cream, pretzels, cookies, and syrups buuuut I forgot to get whipped cream so my topping was the larger chunks of cookies that I pulled out of the crust crumbs and what little chocolate syrup my kids hadn’t used to fuel their unreasonable chocolate milk habits.

Once your ice cream cake is all assembled just throw it back in the freezer for a while. Usually a few hours does the trick but if you want to play it safe make the thing the night before.

icc cut intoI don’t think the extra topping stuff was missed, this thing disappeared very fast.. It didn’t even have time to melt. But if you do want your ice cream cake to look a little more fancy here’s the video I copied.


Blueberry Biatch Cheesecake


Once again it was my year not to have the kids for their school spring break. Apparently this divorced parenting stuff goes in two year cycles. We’re three years out now; I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. Sort of…as much as anyone can. At any rate, I handled this past ten day spring void better than the one two years ago. There was no Easter hangover this year, mostly because Easter fell on my work weekend and was at the beginning of the ten days. Typically I’m a little more stable the first weekend than the last. That’ll likely always be the case. Ten days really is just too long!

As has been my emerging holiday-without-the-kids pattern, I was hesitant to commit to my family’s usual get-together even though Easter is smaller than some of the others  especially this year since my parents and youngest brother headed south to see other siblings. Around Thursday or Friday I finally gave in and told my sister I’d show up for Easter dinner….Well, maybe I wouldn’t be there for dinner because I worked the night before, I wasn’t sure yet ,but if they waited until five to start dessert I’d most definitely be there by dessert. Which, naturally, made the answer to my “What can I bring?” question dessert.

And then someone posted this recipe on Facebook…Blueberry Creme Friache Cheesecake.

It looked amazing. It spoke to me. I had to make it ! And also what the hell is friache?!?

The recipe kindly explained that it’s basically a super fancy (and way way better!!!) version of sour cream. If you couldn’t find it you could make it…or you could use plain old, boring basic sour cream in its place. But then your potentially awesome cheesecake would probably be sub par. I’m no stranger to cheesecake and the rest of the recipe looked pretty normal so I figured I’d take my chances.

multiple cheesecakes

Five cheesecakes I made for a baby shower not too long ago…proof that cheesecake and I are well acquainted. 

My plan was to run into Meijer (the store) before work Saturday night and grab whatever ingredients I needed to make the cheesecake that night.  I forgot that almost every person in my small town can be found at Meijer the evening before a major family holiday. The place was packed and I had not left myself quite as much time as I should have. It’s okay, I would just have to do the grocery store sprint. If you haven’t tried it your life might be way too organized. It’s best done with a frantic look plastered on your face, adds to the fun.  When I dashed up to the dairy case, ready to grab and run, I found a gaping hole where the sour cream should be.No! There were only non and low fat versions available. That is not acceptable. You really can’t use low fat sour cream in, well, anything that you want to taste good! There wasn’t time to call up the recipe and figure out what I’d need to make this friache bullshit so, with a dramatic sigh, I grabbed a low fat sour cream and turned to run to the checkout lanes. Just then something caught my eye…Greek yogurt.

General promoters of healthy living are always touting the benefits of Greek yogurt. It’s close to the same consistency as sour cream (and maybe friache too. Who really knows?) I threw down the grossness that is low fat sour cream, relieved that I wouldn’t be forced to use that, grabbed the tub of vanilla Greek yogurt and rushed out.

Other than the recommended biatch  friache and the lemon I completely forgot to get, I mostly followed the recipe. i really liked the method of roasting the blueberries in the oven and mixing them in a blender before adding them to the cheesecake. Everyone said it was very good…all I could taste was the Greek yogurt.

easter cheesecakesThat was a little strange in the chocolate cheesecake  made from the same batter. I’m pretty sure it still got eaten though.

Weird cheesecake is better than no cheesecake at all.

Layers of Yumminess

Because my family is huge, crazy, and a good number of us are ADD, holiday gatherings always have an element of only slightly organized chaos. Each year around Thanksgiving (late November) someone will take the initiative to organize the sibling gift exchange  and the neice/nephew name drawing (where people from my generation get a gift for someone in the next generation). Usually someone else will start trying to pin everyone down for a day and time that all the majority of us can be together to celebrate. This year there was no one day that everyone could agree on. We have a few siblings from out of state, one in state who lives at least two hours drive from anyone else, a few who work in health care (ie have to work some holidays), and one who is a music director of a church. In other words, it’s complicated.
This year we ended up with three different Christmas gatherings, two of which are brunches. Typically I’m a bringer of desserts. Fancy cheesecakes and pies are my favorite. But those aren’t very cohesive with brunch so I had to put aside my baking preferences and adapt. Instead of Salted Caramel or Chocolate Mousse cheesecake my contribution this year was layers.
Healthy(ish) breakfast layers:


And sweet, delicious layers:


It might be brunch but it’s still the holidays.
Some people call those dessert bars seven layer bars, in the cook book I have they’re called Outrageous Bars. Either way they are very easy to make and super yummy with a graham cracker crumb base, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes, and a light sprinkling of pecan pieces. My mom used to make these back when I was in elementary school. For me they taste a little bit like nostalgia too. If you need a quick dessert I highly recommend this.
The other layer thing, the breakfast one, is also extremely easy to make. Basically I oscillate between making complicated things (or maybe making things complicated) and just wanting the easiest thing possible. And I don’t have a dishwasher so the number of dishes needed can be a deciding factor. In the simple and low dish dirtying categories this one is a win.
Using an electric griddle cook frozen potatoes of your choosing (you can use fresh potatoes but that detracts from the easy aspect), once they’re all toasty and slightly browned spread them out in a 13×9 pan.


Cheese and potatoes

Cook one or two pounds ground sausage (in same electric griddle), layer the sausage on the potatoes.  Apply cheese between layers as desired. Scramble some eggs


You've got to break a few eggs to make.... well just about anything that has eggs in it.

(again in griddle if you’re minimizing dirty dishes) for the next layer then top it off with some cheese and bake it for ten to fifteen minutes just to melt the cheese and whatnot.


Bam! Breakfast.
The leftovers make good breakfast burritos too.

5 Tips for Maximizing Enjoyment of Your Fast Food Breakfast Sandwich

1. Pick A Favorite.
Try a few and weigh their merits. Think about what you’d like from a breakfast sandwich, what qualities would meet your needs. Set some standards and decide what you really, truly like.
Not what you think you should like, not what the person next to you likes, what you personally actually enjoy.And go with that one.
Yup, you really do need to pick just one.

2.Wait at least two weeks to have it again.
One word: Anticipation.
The more you want it, think about it, and yet deny yourself, the better it will be when you finally do get it.
Now that you have a specific breakfast sandwich that you have committed to (at least for a little while. You are allowed to change your mind now and again.),be sure not to overindulge. I know it’s tempting to make this new favorite a regular thing but really that will severely diminish the pleasure of it.

3.Breath deeply.
When that fast food worker hands you the bag through the window or over that counter (yes, get a bag even if you walked inside.) Take a moment, open the bag, stick your face in it just a little and inhale the beautiful scent of that which you’ve been desiring.
Mmmm, anticipation.

4. Savor the moment.
You know how people talk about mindfulness and learning how to live in the moment?
Yeah, do that. Take it in slowly and really savor it.
Just be with your senses in the now, enhance your experience with attentiveness to this present moment.

5. Sigh with contentment.
After finishing literally sigh and say (out loud if possible) “That was good.”

breakfast sandwich

(Photo credit)