Monday, September 24, 2012

Bust a Move

James has entered my marriage.  He’s a fast-talking, funny man in his 30s with swaggering hips and sparkly shoes.  James…is our dance instructor.  

Studmuffin, who has a history of very well planned gifts, got us dance lessons for our 12 year anniversary.  Does Studmuffin like to dance?  No.  Can Studmuffin dance?  No.  Studmuffin is a tall, lanky white boy from Wisconsin.  He couldn’t do the running man if his life depended on it.  I do give him credit, he does his best when the occasion calls for dancing (aka weddings).  But mostly I dance and he holds on or stands and bounces a bit.  The only song he will fast dance willingly to is “Ice, Ice Baby” and it is a very incredible sight that not many people have seen.  And yes, I will record it for you next time he does it (I’ll have to get a spy camera though as to not make the boy self-conscious).

I’ve always loved to dance.  I’m not the best at it but since I have a healthy dose of self-esteem and don’t embarrass easily, I will get out on that dance floor and have myself a good time.  I never was in dance lessons as a child (which I regret but didn’t have much say in it) and I have dreams of learning ballet and tap.  I LOVE Zumba and really want to try Bollywood classes.  Dancing makes me happy and it’s a great way to destress and get a good workout.  My main challenge now is to find the time/energy to go out dancing and to find one of my similarly tired mommy friends to drag along with me.  

Over the course of our 16 year relationship (yes, it took 4 years for the proposal), Studmuffin and I have taken a few swing dance lessons.  Never went well.  I have a hard time following if my leading man doesn’t actually TAKE the lead.  Take command of me, and I will follow.  Be a limp noodle, I’ll show you how it’s done.  This frustrated Studmuffin so lessons never went so well.  Its probably been a good 10 years since we gave it a shot.

So lo and behold, Studmuffin signs us up for a month long class called “Wedding Dances” at a place nearby called Tropical Ballroom.  The name and website looked a bit cheesy but I was so thrilled Studmuffin was going to give it a try again, I would have agreed to meet up with Dancing Danny in an alley somewhere.  We arrange for a babysitter and it seemed even Studmuffin was excited to see how it would go.  

And then we meet James.  He’s very handsome, fit, and always has good breath.  He cracks jokes by the minute and is very gregarious.  Everyone loves him.  Very quickly he understands how much of a stretch this is for Studmuffin and is very kind and supportive.  He tells Studmuffin that his goal is to find his rhythm – he has some, it is just buried very deep.  

We’ve had 3 lessons so far and I have to say – we are getting pretty good at the waltz and rumba.  My favorite moment so far is when we finally figured out a spin while waltzing.  I went spinning and felt Studmuffin’s hand on my back, guiding my spin.  I finished spinning, Studmuffin grabbed on…and we moved right into the next step together.  It was awesome and sexy and so much fun.  That’s when Studmuffin told me I had to be careful about smiling at him.  I flashed him a big smile as we continued to waltz and he completely lost his concentration.  It’s pretty special to know that my smile still has that kind of power over him.    
I wouldn’t say that romance was ever lost with us but as with a lot of you, daily life – especially as parents – can get in the way of the relationship that started it all.  We are busy and tired.  It takes more effort to be romantic after 16 years.  So I have to thank James and his dance classes for giving Studmuffin and I a chance to slow down and just be us again - to feel connected and to focus on each other for an hour.  We have really enjoyed the classes and today Studmuffin mentioned that he wouldn’t mind continuing after our month is over.  This says a lot about our experience.  Now I just need to ask James how to order matching sequined outfits!  

                    This will be us in maybe 6 more sessions!  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pineapple Chicken Salad

Darling (14 yr/old daughter) was confirmed this past weekend. I was having a hard time coming up with food ideas for her party. I knew I wanted something different. Not weird just different. My family’s taste buds are not very… um, let’s say exotic. 

We played around with ideas of a taco bar and baked potato bar. Darling wanted a pasta bar. All are good ideas but they don’t work too well with kids and/or people that aren’t eating at a table. Kinda messy. 

Sandwiches always seem to go over well. But again, I wanted something different, something exciting. I often remember a chicken salad croissant I had at a wedding reception. It was years ago, in fact the couple is now divorced… I doubt it was because of the chicken salad though because that shiz was good. Anyway, chicken salad sandwiches are what we decided on. When I say “we” I mean me. 

The recipe I found on Pinterest turned out pretty great. I was happy I made them. Not everyone enjoyed them but I did and frankly, that’s all that really mattered. Oh and bonus, Cara was at the party too. She said she liked them and I believe her. 

Here’s what I used:

2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1 pound). Please please please don't use canned chicken
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise (more or less depending on creamy desire)
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained

For what it’s worth, these are estimations. I am terrible at using the exact amount. They’re very close though.

I made half with pineapple and half without. I served them with tomatoes, lettuce and the choice of Swiss or Provolone cheese. I gave my guests 2 bread choices: mini French loaf or onion poppy ciabatta. I tried both and liked them both equally. 

The original recipe calls for a few more things that were sure to put a look of disgust on my boys’ face. Since I wanted them to eat, we skipped those ingredients.

And because you are curious, here’s some other items on our menu:

Slow cooked meatballs in cream of mushroom soup with a dash or two of milk.
Pudding parfait cups. chocolate and vanilla pudding with whipped cream on top.
Sliced green, red, yellow and orange peppers w/dip. Fill individual cups with a couple tablespoons    of vegetable dip and add long slices of peppers to the cup. 
The usually olives and pickles.
7-Up and sherbet punch with floating fruit.

There you have it! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Biscuit donuts

Dovetailing off Cara's donut post

Here is a quick, super easy and sweet snack. I haven’t mentioned this yet, I am an in-home daycare provider. I crave fun, new snack ideas. When my food program coordinator told me about this delicious little creation, I jumped on it.

I was fairly positive the kids would love them, but they’re kind of funny sometimes. I have one that doesn’t like chocolate and another that doesn’t like peanut butter… obviously both are aliens from another planet. This recipe doesn’t call for either chocolate or pb, I was just proving my “kind of funny” thought. In the end, I was right. Now when I make them, I seriously have kids breaking out their best dance moves. They love the faux donuts.

What you're going to need:

A tubed package of buttermilk biscuits or you can make your own. I wouldn't use the flaky layered kind or frozen biscuits.

Butter or margarine
White sugar

Brown sugar

Now let’s prep ‘em:

Get out a cookie sheet or cake pan… really doesn’t matter

Open tubed package (don't worry, we all react as if it's a "jack in the box" and jump once it pops).

Place individual biscuits on pan.

Spread butter onto each biscuit – you may need to soften the butter.

In a small bowl, mix in about 1/8 - 1/4 cup of each sugar. Swirl together.*

Press buttered side of each biscuit into the sugar mixture.

Place biscuit back on pan.

Get baking ‘em:

Follow baking instructions on the biscuit tube

Usually 375° for 15 minutes. 

Bake until golden brown 

*If you have leftover sugar, seal it up and store it for next time. Believe me… there will be a next time.

For different variations, we’ve used cinnamon instead of brown sugar. We have also added colored sugar sprinkles (holiday biscuits) to a white sugared biscuit. 

Another idea I tried, butter the biscuits, cut them into smaller pieces. Evenly lay out the pieces, be sure they're touching each other, in a cake pan and sprinkle sugar mixture on top. Bake and eat as a pull-apart snack. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mmm…Donuts (or alternatively, Going Back to Sleep Fantasy)

Last week I got on a kick to make homemade donuts (or is it doughnuts?  I think both are acceptable spellings…I’m going with donut since it’s shorter).  I was determined to make them this weekend and told my daughters of my plan.  I did some surfing to find a good recipe and then realized my recipe of choice required yeast and time for the batter to rise.  Ok, so I’m realizing this Friday night when we are at one of my favorite places, Target, buying ingredients. We have a playdate Saturday morning and a birthday party at an apple orchard Sunday morning.  A realistic, stress-free person would have just said, let’s try another weekend.  Me?  I’m determined to have homemade donuts.  So I pick Sunday as donut day.  I plan on waking up at 6:30am to combine the dry/wet ingredients so it could sit for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Then the plan involved me sliding back into bed and sleeping until the girls woke up (they sometimes sleep in, Sundays being the more likely of the two days because we don’t do a mandatory nap on Saturdays anymore).  I expected I would wake up to the sounds of them watching toons downstairs around 8am.  Perfect.

So Saturday night I put the dry ingredients together just to have a few less steps to do Sunday morning at 6:30am.  I feel so organized.  Moody (3 1/2) helps me sift the ingredients and she’s happy, she got to help Mom.  Drama (6) gets pissed that she didn’t get to do anything.  “What can I do?” she asks.  My girls love to cook and bake and I have them help me all the time.  These are my most admirable patient moments in Studmuffin’s (husband) mind.  I tell Drama that she can help frost/sprinkle the donuts after I fry them.  She’s satisfied with my response and enjoys the fact that Moody doesn’t get to put sprinkles on (oh, these two love making the other jealous).

Studmuffin and I watch “Thor” Saturday night (my, my Thor is nice on the eyes!) and I go to bed around midnight.  This should not have been part of the plan but I do enjoy movie nights with my man.  Set the alarm for 6:30am – Studmuffin shakes his head at me.  He’s used to my stupid, grand ideas though so stays mum (one skill that may be contributing to our 12 year bliss).  I’m able to sleep, fantastic.  Alarm obediently goes off at 6:30am.  Radio lady is talking politics.  Studmuffin turns down the volume but keeps it on.  Weird, but he works in politics so maybe he wants news at 6:30am?  I get up.  Wow, this is going well!  Head downstairs and get to work.  Yeast dissolves slower in the milk than I thought but everything goes smoothly and it smells great.  As I push my most favorite kitchen item (my shiny black KitchenAid stand up mixer) under the cupboard light for a warm spot to sit for 1 ½ to 2 hours, I hear it.  I hear little footsteps.  It’s 7am.  Shoot.  This was not part of the plan.  I stand still as if that is going to will whichever princess is up to go back to bed.  The feet come down the stairs.  NOOOO!!! - I think but stay quiet.  Moody slides into the kitchen in her footies, holding her pillow.  There’s hope, she has her pillow, still looks sleepy.  “Will you snuggle with me?” she asks.  “Baby, you need to go back to bed.  I’m going back to bed.”  “BUT I WANT TO SNUGGLE WITH YOU!” she insists.  Don’t get her excited, don’t get her worked up or your chances of getting her back to sleep are over.  I agree and sit down in our rocking chair in the living room.  She snuggles in.  I am relieved, this could work.  Then…more footsteps.  I’m screwed.  Drama comes down.  She has her blanket.  She lays down on the couch and turns the tv on.  I decide any chance of sleep is going to happen on our huge beanbag type chair that I can’t seem to stay awake on ever.  I pull it out and lay down with Moody.  Of course Drama objects to the favoritism of the situation so I tell her to come sit with us, the thing is big enough for all 3 of us.  She does.  Neither could lie still and after elbows, knees¸ and heads knocking into me, I decide to leave them watching cartoons and try to head upstairs.  It’s about 7:30am at this time.  My prospects of any more sleep are nil but I so desperately just want to close my eyes and get a few more z’s.  I slip into bed – damn, it is cozy.  It’s dark and cool in our room.  I may be able to sleep!  Nope, Moody has followed me.  She gets into our bed and lays up against my back.  Ok, if she is still, this could happen.  She doesn’t.  “Meow!”  Cat enters the scene.  She jumps up on my side table and starts rustling around my make-up containers.  Seriously???  She comes onto the bed.  She steps on my hair, then my side.  I just lay still.  She finds a comfy spot and lies down.  Ok, that’s done, not bad.  Try, try, try to sleep.  Moody gets out of the bed.  She heads to the poorly located playroom next to our bedroom.  She comes back, “Will you get this dress on my Barbie?” She asks.  I play asleep.  Studmuffin tells her he’ll help.  She goes to his side and he takes it.  I feel his arms moving.  I open one eye and look over.  His eyes are shut and his fingers are fumbling with the Barbie.  I’m going to end up putting that dress on.  I continue to play asleep though just to see if a miracle happens and it does.  Moody is happy and returns to the playroom.  Yes!  She’s going to play quietly!  She finds the recorder.  I get up.  Operation Going Back to Bed is a FAIL.   

The following is the donut recipe I used – it came with the cool batter contraption I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond that drops batter (can be used for donuts, pancakes, waffles).  I’ve always admired them at the Lions’ pancake breakfasts.

Raised Doughnuts (I see they used the longer spelling)

1 ¾ c flour
¼ t salt
2 T sugar
½ oz yeast
1 c lukewarm milk (reserve ¼ c)
1 T melted shortening
2 beaten eggs

½ c powdered sugar
2 t hot milk
¼ t vanilla

Sift flour, sugar and salt, let stand in a warm place.  Mix yeast with ¾ cup milk until it is dissolved.  Beat together melted shortening, yeast and eggs.  Add dry ingredients and beat until batter is smooth.  Let stand in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours until it has risen.  Beat again until mix has a smooth flowing consistency.  Add additional milk if necessary.  Fill donut maker and deep fry at 375 degrees.  Turn to brown each side about 1 minute each side.  Cover with glaze.  Makes about 1 dozen.
The one thing I’ll do differently (other than pick a morning without other plans) is adding the extra milk at the end to get the right consistency.  The recipe says to add the ¼ cup remaining milk as necessary to make the batter a smooth flowing consistency.  Not sure what that meant at first but when I saw how thick the batter was after it was done rising, I saw it needed to be thinner in order to still be a batter.  It was more like a dough.  I added the milk and got a nice smooth consistency but then I let it sit while I prepped the oil.  In that time, it got too doughy again.  Using my cool dropper, I found the batter did not ooze out nicely in order to make good rings.  As you can see, I had varying shapes and girth.

My weird shaped donuts!

 Finished product - they were a hit with my family!

The donuts were fun to make and I do look forward to making them again and using what I’ve learned.  If I’m limited in time, I will try a cake donut next time.

Now I’m getting off this computer and taking a nap!!!