Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kitchen Adventures

Remember how I said I’m not much of a cook? Like I tend to just dump things in together, flavors I like and just hope it turns out well. In my opinion, that really isn't cooking, whether it involves an oven or not, but defines how I “cook”. Well, I found this amazing web site Emily Bites and well… anyone can follow a recipe right? HaHaHa right….

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The recipe calls for two types of cheese, I don’t think I had even heard of one of them. I just figured only using cheddar would work . The problem, is that I had a block of cheddar cheese and no cheese grater. From experience, I do know that trying to melt a solid block of cheese to use in a sauce, wont turn out the best. So, I improvise… I use my veggie peeler! It was quite funny peeling my cheese block and it took forever needless to say. In addition, I figured I could just use penne and fresh spinach…. Right? How much of a difference is there between elbow macaroni vs. penne and fresh baby spinach vs. frozen chopped spinach? It’s all going into a baked dish, there shouldn't be an issue. Well, cooked fresh spinach probably would be fine, the recipe even said it would be. Do you think I read that part of the recipe? Nope. Did I cook the spinach, prior to adding it in? Nope.  It still worked, righhhhttttt....

So, I start cooking, needless to say I have no idea what four cups of cooked pasta is, so I just made the entire box. No biggie. Then not thinking at all, I started making the cheese sauce, before the penne was actually finished cooking, oops! I thought the recipe would include cook the pasta as a step in the directions. Well, I guess cooked in bold in the ingredient list was enough of an indication. Yeah… no. (I’m book smart people, common sense could use some massive improvement).

Being my first time making cheese sauce, I had visions of burning it. I thought it was going to burn like almost fully melted chocolate burns after three seconds too long in the microwave. (Yes, I know you should melt chocolate in a double boiler, but that’s not my point). So, I kind of puttzed around till it was finished cooking. Did I mention I have little patience when it comes to cooking?

Shockingly enough it did not burn, separate or boil while waiting for the pasta to finish cooking.

I took four full scoops with my 1-cup measure and put it in the bowl with the fresh uncooked spinach and cheese sauce.  The problem is that four cups of cooked penne is a smaller amount than four cups of cooked elbow macaroni….  It’s an insult to my education I did not realize this HA!  Therefore, I just dump the rest of the cooked penne into to the mix. 

I mix it all together and realize my sauce must have gotten too hot because it was very thin, not really bonding everything together.  I’m not too sure, how I’m going to mold this mixture to fit into a muffin tin.

First off look at one piece of penne it longer than the bottom width of the muffin tin, do you think I realized this… nah.  I tried to fill the muffin tins.  Well, each muffin looked like it was filled with three ping pong balls, meaning nothing was bonded or mixed together, the sauce pooling at the bottom, penne coming out in all directions, tons of open air pockets, nothing staying in the formed mold.  Pretty much a mess.

This was just really frustrating, I now had a muffin pan I had to wash, find another pan to cook this in and wait to until it cooked. (I don’t have a dish washer and I had almost a full sink of dishes from this recipe already… I was a little over it) Needless to say, I was hungry, over the entire thing, mad my kitchen was messy and that it was past 7pm.  But I still had to cook it…somehow.

So, I ditch the whole portion control concept and grab my 9x13 Pyrex pan and decide to just make this a pan of baked mac & cheese. It all fit in the pan too! It still really wasn't sticking together but it was better than what it looked like in the muffin tins. I’m thinking to make it more like traditional baked mac & cheese, I added breadcrumbs to the pan, then take a spoon to try and evenly spread out the breadcrumbs. It looks ok, minus the occasional spinach leaf sticking straight up.

Thinking I didn’t tweak the recipe too much so, I was going to follow the cooking instructions as indicated. Well, after those 15 minutes, it looked just like it did when I put it in the oven, so I let it cook longer, checking on it. Not really much happens so after about 35 minutes, I take it out because I’m worried about it burning and it not being edible.

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Well, after about a two and a half hour long process it turned out pretty damn good! Crispy pieces on the top and quiche like in the middle. YUM! Of course, I did not portion it out in 12 servings and I certainly ate more than one "serving" but ughh it was good! I may have eaten half the pan that night.

So, yeah I’m driving blind when it comes to cooking but it turned out good. And yes, I do realize this prolly isn’t as daunting or funny to you, but it complete defines my personality in the kitchen! A little hap-hazard but the results are usually better than expected!

Lesson learned: There is a reason recipes indicate specific ingredients. If you follow the recipe, it turns out pretty good without all the head aches and extra dishes! In addition it helps to READ the recipe.

*** I have made this recipe again, sticking to my original detours but I used frozen chopped spinach. It’s necessary because it helps the sauce bind with the pasta and make its quiche-esk.

So, my hap-hazard version of this recipe is as follows:

Mac & Cheese Bake

Source: adapted from EmilyBites

¾ of a box of cooked penne 
1 T butter
1 T flour
1 c skim milk
3 garlic cloves, minced
6-8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg
1 egg white
1 (10 oz) package of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, & drained… I didn’t take the time to pat it dry
1/8 t Salt                                                                                                                                                                                                     1/8t Pepper

¼ t McCormick Pinch Perfect Basil & Garlic (optional)

1/2 c of Italian Style bread crumbs SPLIT

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 400. Lightly mist a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2.    In a small sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, mixing it into the butter until thick. Stir in the milk and garlic and raise the temp to bring the mixture to just under a boil. Add the cheese and whisk mixture together until thoroughly melted/combined into a cheese sauce. 
3.    Remove the cheese sauce from heat and then mix in the egg and egg white (binding agents) until combined.
4.    In a large bowl, combine the pasta, spinach, cheese sauce, salt, pepper, McCormick pinch perfect, and ¼ c of the bread crumbs and mix.  Once combined, put into the prepped baking pan.

5.    After in the pan, take the other ¼ c of bread crumbs and sprinkle on the top
6.    Bake for 15-25 minutes until the tops slightly brown. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Final part of the catch up

So, I was thinking of this sweet eloquent way to finish off my catch up from January until, now, but this is reality. There wasn’t much going on to really delve into. So, here is a simple extremely generic finishing summary. aka… not the way I like to blog, but it works

My dad continued healing and going to cardiac rehab, his doctor was happy with how everything turned out. I think he liked cardiac rehab because he was the youngest guy there by about 20 years, or at least he looked like it. Since he was overall healthy prior to surgery, he made huge strides in rehab and did really well.  So, how we just need to make sure he keeps up with exercising and possibly eating a tad healthier! I think mom is more thrilled than anyone!

My brother FINALLY got engaged! Poor Carrie had been waiting for a loonnnggg time. I give her props, I doubt I would have waited that long. He always said he saw himself with Carrie for the rest of his life, but marriage seemed so permanent. Men! We spent a good 2-3 years asking when but any time we brought it up he would just get mad. She was definitely the “one” but I guess the idea of being married made him feel old. I have no idea, needless to say, I don’t understand him what-so-ever. It was really cool how they told my parents too, we had all just gotten iPhones. So, Kevin decided to face time them, he was just talking and showing them the beach, bragging a bit since they are in snowy upstate NY. He was panning the beach and then Carrie’s hand popped in with her ring on! Ahhhhh, it took them a minute but then mom screamed! Of course, she cried and best of all Carrie was totally shocked!  They called me and of course, I screamed and cried. Sooo excited! She makes him a better Kevin and they make each other happy. 

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I went to see my sweet cousins twice, ughh. They are growing soo fast and its hard living so far away! Here are a few of the bazillion pictures I took.

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Other than that, January-March consisted of work, grad classes and writing my thesis. If you want more specifics email me, but now you’re all officially caught up and I will hopefully be blogging on a more consistent basis!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Part two….

Well be careful what you joke about…. Here’s why:
Prior to my dad’s procedure, his doctor even said he was sorry to inconvenience him and that he doubted this procedure would reveal anything he did not already know. Well, the doctor ate his words! They found 90% blockage in two major arteries. Needless to say, we weren’t sure who was more dumb founded, us or his doctor.

The cardiothoracic surgeon wanted to do a double bypass as soon as possible. Dad wanted to wait until after Christmas but Dr. Fink did not want to wait. Surgery was scheduled for that Thursday…. Yes three days later!

We were all completely shocked and frightened. It rocked our family. I think in the beginning we were just going through the motions, just nodding and agreeing, unable to grasp the reality. I had never seen my dad in a sickly or weak light until then and it was hard. It was probably the longest week in our lives.

What was worse, was that the more questions we asked, the more nervous my dad got. We knew he was scared and his mind was racing, but we felt helpless in easing his mind. It was a tough lesson in restraint. Luckily, I knew quite a bit from an internship at a surgical center, but I still had questions and I wanted to grill his doctor. I even called some old doctors I used to work with to get the 411 on his surgeon. After all, their patient was MY DAD.

All four of us went to the hospital together, sat with him in pre-op and stayed with him until we were kicked out by the nurses.  I found peace in knowing it was a routine procedure, he had a great doctor and he was healthy. I was even a little excited, since I have missed being around an OR, surgery, hospitals and medicine. I couldn’t get enough of it, I picked anyone’s brain I could and asked tons of questions, simply because it’s fascinating to me. I was in his room more than the waiting room, just to observe, ask questions and learn. What was even better was that I was able to answer some basic questions my mom and brother, it felt like I helped ease their minds a little through my education and experiences.

His surgery went great. Dad did great. His nurses were amazing, absolutely amazing to both him and us. December was all about letting dad heal and making sure he did not overdo it. The first time mom left him home alone, he tried to do laundry! Things seemed to go back to normal, but the holidays were less hectic and calmer, surrounded by the ones we love most. We were reminded what matters most and how the power of prayer can carry you through. I was overwhelmed by the love, support and prayers from our family and friends. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

re-cap part 1

August was spent playing paparazzi, suffocating my cousin in kisses, playing legos and trying to be taught star wars by a 4 year old; all while living between two different states.
September was simply survival mode. Ughh my hardest semester yet, seriously grad school kicked my bootie this semester! I could NOT believe how hard it was so soon into the semester. Yes harder than quantum physics and organic chemistry. Not to mention How is it that I was able to handle 21 credits with relative ease but I struggled to keep my head above water this semester with my 12 credits. I’m sure who/what I am more annoyed with myself or my dumb program making me take two courses that have minimal connections to my major. It was hard. What was worse is that in grad school, you kind of are expected to have a background in  the subject, even if its not your major!?! So, the whole learning process is supposed to occur prior to taking the course…. yes, counter intuitive.
October was not much better, waking up to a lovely hit and run, but being “rescued” by my awesome cousin who got my fixed my car while I got to play spend time with the baby and little man. Halloween brought some fun, when I got to yell at a bunch of pesky too old to be trick-or-treating trick-or-treaters who took not only to all of the candy I had on my porch but took the bowl too. (I leave a bowl out because I can’t be constantly interrupted while doing school work)
November ended with a bang and no not a good bang. (here’s a little back story) My parents were traveling for pretty much all of fall, and while away my dad had some trouble breathing, but didn’t think much of it. My mom pushed him to make an appointment with his doctor, through out November my dad had a few tests done to rule out any major issues. Every test came up clear, and he went about his daily life. His doctor recommended simply for precautionary reasons to do a heart catheterization. So, as I left to go back home from the Thanksgiving holiday, I kissed my dad goodbye and wished him good luck and teased him about getting his death sentence the next day. (The cardiac catheterization was that Monday)……
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

really? A nine month lapse

Well, consistency was never my strong point….. HA

How is it possible that I took a nine month hiatus? It seems insane to me, not to mention I can’t tell you how many draft posts I have, but either do not know how to finish them or just don’t get around to finishing them or something gets in the way. Not to mention the endless desire to start blogging consistently again. (Even if this blog has zero readers!) I guess that is life. With that said I decided I would do a three part mini-recap of what’s been going on since July… ugh July was my last post!?! Really?? Why does July seem like forever ago?

This re-cap will be done in 3 parts since I have a tendency to have looongggg wordy posts, but stay tuned, I got tons to share!!!

Yes, I said mini re-cap…. keep in mind mini is a relative term.