So I am fuming about having to take a completely unnecessary early blood glucose test because ONE of my poo-poo head doctors is shocked that I am actually gaining weight during this pregnancy. Yes, I make a big deal that one of them (at least) is a poo-poo head because I actually have three doctors. "Why, you must be super rich like Beyonce or or that Snookie?" you say. No, quite the opposite. Rather, I have 3 frickin doctors because the bumpkin office I go to thinks you get better care being passed around like a drunk college freshman than you do being nurtured and looked after by a single care-taker.
As I am fuming about the whole damn thing, I am reminded of a time around a year and a half ago when I was too-big-to-see-my-crotch pregnant with Mini Monkey and had to rush out to Walmart. Yes, I said Walmart. See, the little bumpkin town I live in doesn't have much in the way of options. And to be honest, going there makes me feel better about myself and my life. Anyhoo, I'm in the freezer section and reach into my front pocket, or attempt to. See, as I was rushing to get pants on my gianormous self, I managed to put them on backwards. Big old ass pockets in the front and crotch pockets in the back. Even at Walmart that ridonk is not good. And no, I didn't leave in a hurry like most sane people would. I just kept on truckin' looking like happy drunk mommy, giggling to myself the whole time.
So when I go to take this useless, waste of time, waste of money test on Monday, I'll be sure to wear a dress, because although I know they already think I am a fat, pregnant cow, I certainly don't want them to get on my ass about being a fat, pregnant, drunk cow. I get enough of that from Mr. Martini.
So if I were a good mom, I would totally be doing these crafts with my kids. Instead I am busy making sure my basement doesn't smell like a barn. Long story...
But in any event, these are the five coolest crafts for kids I found this week. I hope they inspire you to bust out some paint and glue.
But in any event, these are the five coolest crafts for kids I found this week. I hope they inspire you to bust out some paint and glue.
Crazy Crocs from bubble wrap
Love, love, love the Positively Splendid site... I'll be going back there often, if only to make myself feel inadequately crafty with my kids. But seriously, it's awesome!
Boris The Bull Bank
Snow White Mirror
Glitter Spider Web Halloween Craft
Have a craft project you've done recently, or just something you've seen that has inspired you to take out the Elmer's and the construction paper? Add a link to it and it will automatically be added to our Best of the Web Kids Crafts post. Just click the blue frog below.
Bacon Burgers with Horseradish Sauce
Photo courtesy of Rachaelray.com
I've been trying to figure out the best way to include some kind of meal planner, or menu planner on this blog and have come to the conclusion that there are simply no good widgets out there. Bummer man. I guess I wanna eat what I wanna eat, not what some app tells me to eat. So, I'm doin' it from scratch!
In the meantime, it has given me reason to ogle over some of my favorite recipes that have gotten a little dusty over time. And I do ogle. Food to me is like diamonds to other girls. I wanna touch it, smell it, look at it... I'd wear it if that Lady Gaga didn't ruin it for me with the meat dress (and now a meat corset, I mean eewww!). Anyway, I love food!!
Many of my favorite burgers are inspired by Rachael Ray... and this is the first one I ever tried. SO YUMMY! A little spicy, a little crunch... mmmmm burger! I have modified the original a little bit.
LET'S GET COOKING!!!
Bacon Burger With Horseradish Sauce
8 sliced smoked bacon
2 lbs. ground sirloin
1/2 cup or so breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
salt and pepper
8 ounces sliced extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup chives, finely chopped **Green onion works to if you can't find fresh chives
4 crusty rolls, split
1 bunch watercress or arugula
Cook bacon to preferred doneness. set aside on paper towels.
In a medium bowl, combine sirloin, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Form into 4 burger patties and heat your grill to 350-400 degrees. Cook to preferred doneness. Add 2 slices of cheese to each burger a few minutes before done to melt.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine sour cream, parsley, chives, horseradish, and pepper.
Place the watercress on the roll bottoms and top with a burger and two slices of bacon. Slather the roll top with horseradish sauce and place on burger.
EASY PEASY AND SO GOOD!! I will say this, although I am all about recipe modification to suit your budget and convenience, try to find the sharp white cheddar... it really does make a difference ;)
What's your favorite burger recipe? Or even just burger concept? I'm kind of a burger recipe collector; I have a list of about 35, so I will surely be sharing those soon!
My facebook BLEW UP last night during the presidential debate, and it is during these times that I am reminded of why I left my former life of academia. The academic political arena, like politics as a whole is certainly a fiery place that can be intensely vitriolic, scathing, and often condescending. Ideally, shouldn't we all be able to live and let live? Upon further inspection I wonder if we are getting farther and farther from that ideal and closer still to a country divided by ideals.
On one hand, I see this passion as evidence that not everyone is apathetic, as the media would often lead us to believe; which of course is a good thing. On the other, it raises concerns that those in the Ivory Tower with whom I once roamed, can't see out their windows or past their own deeply ingrained beliefs, leading one to question the value of their expertise.
Why is the question of value important? Because these are precisely the folks that the media look to as experts, and to a large extent these experts help shape the national conversation and at least in part determine what should be of the utmost import to regular folks like you and me, and perhaps more importantly, to policy makers and political insiders. One would assume a political expert should be able to check their own deeply ingrained beliefs at the door when making "analyses" (a term I will use loosely, as that is often not at all what we get) of the political world, and I am just not sure that this is a reality, let alone even a possibility given the contentious nature of the field. And the semantics matter here: analysis is too often confused with educated opinion when talking about politics and political experts. The former assumes unbiased review, while the latter clearly does not.
Just yesterday, Mike Wagner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) wrote an interesting article addressing the issue of expert bias in political media, using political campaign contributions as an indicator. He writes, "...reporters and readers, but especially reporters, should take the time to try and find a way to judge the expertise of their academic sources before using evidence of a political donation to write them off. Have they published in the area about which the reporter is seeking a quotation? Do they have a record of being unfair to one or more sides of the political aisle? Are the experts referring to published evidence when making their claims? Are other experts who publish in that same area chomping at the bit to refute your source’s arguments as the ramblings of a crazed-partisan? Google News, Google Scholar, and a few phone calls would be all most reporters would need in most instances to be able to make a reasonable judgment in most cases."
Now I would never argue that mainstream media are simply conduits through which information (biased or not) is transferred. The current popularity of and almost certain future shift to exclusively highly partisan media outlets certainly suggests otherwise. However, to say that a good reporter should easily be able to tell if their "expert" source is giving them a biased "analysis" by taking note of whether they have published in the area (i.e. what would make you an expert in the first place and has nothing to do with potential for political bias), or if they refer to published evidence when making their claims, assumes that the field itself is unbiased, to which Dr. Wagner himself concedes, it is not.
So the question becomes, who gives a rat's ass if the information passed long by political experts is biased? Well, in short, we all should if we are looking for clarity in a nebulous political vacuum; if we are looking for analysis as opposed to educated opinion. But I'm not sure that is what we're looking for. If it is the media's objective to tell us what to think about rather than what to think, (a mantra that is beaten into your head as a student of the study of media and politics) then these biases that come from the experts would be the fundamental flaw in our media system. But perhaps that theory is showing it's age as evidenced by the aforementioned popularity of highly partisan news outlets. Perhaps the bias, and with it all the vitriolic, venomous, condescension that often comes with it is exactly what political man is looking for. And I'll be damned if the media doesn't have an incentive to give it to him.
So what does this all mean? That perhaps one shouldn't be concerned that the experts in academia can't isolate and pack-away their own political biases, because when it comes to politics we aren't looking for anything more than educated opinion anyway; and an educated opinion that supports our own at that. The question shouldn't be whether the media are biased; they are, and are becoming increasingly more so by design. And the question isn't what is the source of this bias, because who cares? Political media is biased, not because the experts are biased, but because that is what political man wants. What this means for the future of our civil society is perhaps the question we should be asking. But if we asked it, what would the value of the expert's opinion be?
|Chicken Caprese - 3 Monkey's and a Martini Style|
I have several go-to meals... mostly because they are easy to make and easy to plan for, and they don't take a lot of weird ingredients I would have to actually write down and plan to get when grocery shopping. And although I do try to plan our meals for the week, I often find myself shocked at how quickly we go through the foodstuffs I planned to have on hand later in the week to make those menu meals. And Mr. Martini and I live on a tight budget (we plan to pay off $30,000 in debt by Christmas! Whoot Whoot!), so we don't really allow ourselves the luxury of just going to the grocery for all the ingredients need to make paella just because it's on the menu. And sometimes our budget gets cinched even more and our weekly trip gets cut to bi-weekly which means, if we ain't got it, we ain't gonna get it for days!
So during the tighter weeks we tend to have some pretty creative, easy dishes that I did not plan for but maybe should have (or will in the future). Why? Because I gotta use what I got, and that requires thought...something I try to steer clear of whenever possible. So that means sifting through the half-open boxes of whatnot and finding random cans of "didn't know we had that's" and putting together a meal that is healthy, yummy, and new to the menu rotation.
Last night's Stuffed Chicken Caprese was just one of those meals. Here is me: I have two frozen chicken breasts, and I would sell a kidney for some Italian food right now. Hmmm... canned diced tomatoes, half a bag of shredded mozzarella, left over Genoa Salami and roasted red peppers from bruschetta two weeks ago (it's gotta still be good, right?), half a head of garlic, and fresh basil from my herb garden which is on it's last legs (SCORE!). Bam! Dinner is served! And looks pretty impressive, even if it was a foraged meal ;)
LET'S GET COOKING!!
2 chicken breasts, thawed if frozen and butterflied
10 (or so) fresh basil leaves (no fresh, no prob, just sub in dried)
1/2-1 cup shredded mozzarella (fresh would be better, but use what you got)
1 roasted red pepper, diced finely
4 slices Genoa Salami (no Genoa, no prob, just sub it out with prosciutto or eliminate it. No one will know they're missing it).
3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped finely
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained
Preheat oven to 350
Place 2 pieces of salami on each chicken breast. Top each with roughly 3 basil leaves, 1/4 cup mozzarella, half the roasted red peppers, and fold so the breast looks like a half-sandwich.
|Folded Chicken... just in case that didn't make any sense.|
Season with salt and pepper. In a deep oven-safe sauce pan, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and add your chicken breasts. Cook on one side roughly 5 minutes (you are trying to get a nice golden color, not trying to cook it through). Turn the chicken over, being careful not to let it spill out all it's goodness, and put the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through and your cheese is all melty. About 5 minutes before it's done, top each breast with the remaining cheese to melt in the oven.
While the chicken is getting all happy in the oven, Chiffonade your basil (OOOH, fancy pants alert!! I've seen Top Chef, watch out!!). Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan and cook garlic until it is all soft and fragrant. Be careful not to burn it, or it will taste bitter. Add the canned tomatoes and oregano, and a little black pepper (crushed red pepper would be excellent too if your husband doesn't have heart palpitations at the thought of anything remotely spicy like mine does). Cook for about 5-8 minutes until it smells yummy and everything is heated through and combined.
Top your chicken with the tomatoes and Voila! Add a chopped lettuce salad and you've got a yummy, fancy-looking, super easy dinner, and no one has to know you didn't plan it :)
What recipes would you add to the regular rotation that you had to come up with on the fly? I'd love to get more ideas!
That said, if you're like me, you pin like crazy. You pin things that you love, things that make life simpler, storage ideas, cleaning ideas, DIY projects... the list goes on ad infinitum. But how many times do you actually put those pins to work? I am going to do a weekly feature (at least weekly) where I will try out one of these fabulous "make life simpler/more beautiful/more convenient" Pinterest finds, and share the results. Sadly, my first post is a PinterTest FAIL.
A few weeks ago, Grandma Martini and I were talking about how gross our oven doors were, and how no matter what we did we couldn't get those puppies clean. I thought, "there's got to be a Pinterest solution to that". And Eureka! There was. I found a pin linking to DIY Home Sweet Home (a blog I think is fabulous and is on our Monkey Love Link List). I was particularly drawn to this at-home solution because it was super easy to follow, and used on-hand, green ingredients (i.e. baking soda and water). Clearly this gal has a magic DIY touch that I just don't have, because her oven looks awesome, and mine looks, well, the same as it did before I tried her method.
|Example Oven BEFORE |
Courtesy of DIY Home Sweet Home
|Example Oven AFTER|
Courtesy of DIY Home Sweet Home
My Oven AFTER
So, not sure where I went wrong. I followed the directions, making a paste with some baking soda and water,
Baking soda paste... perhaps too thick?
And I left it on for 1 hour (twice as long as her recommended time). Scoured it off, and was left with shinier grime on my door. I will say may hands were super soft after the baking soda paste, so even if this isn't my go-to oven cleaner, it will certainly be one of my go-to self-spa treatments.
Anyone have an alternative they think is more effective? I'd love to take on the challenge! I'll be trying this again with slightly looser paste... maybe it just didn't have the juice it needed the first time. In any event, I'll be keeping an eye on DIY Home Sweet Home for new tips and tricks to try. And you should too ;)
|Fallen Pumpkin Spice Bread|
So I was in a particularly domestic mood this Sunday and thought it would be really nice to get the house smelling all yummy by baking. Now, for those of you who don't know me, baking is sort of my nemesis. Actually, it's like one of those popular girls who just doesn't like you even though you really like her. I like to bake, I just suck at it. Always and consistently suck. But no matter how many fails I experience, I just can't give up. Enter yesterday's Pumpkin Spice Bread FAIL.
So here's the recipe I used:
2 Cups Unbleached Flour
1 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed***
1 TBSP Baking Powder***
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Cloves
1 15oz can Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Cup Milk
2 Egg Whites, Whipped***
1/3 Cup Fat-free Sour Cream
Preheat 350 and spray a 5" x 9" loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Spices in a large mixing bowl. ***So perhaps I already set myself up for failure here. I used 1 tsp baking powder because I couldn't believe a quick bread recipe would actually require 1 TBSP. I checked through all my other recipes and they were consistently at 1 tsp, so I modified assuming it was a typo. AND I didn't have brown sugar OR molasses, so I just used granulated.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, sour cream, and eggs. *** And since I didn't care if each slice had a single gram of fat, I used whole eggs instead of whites. Fail set-up number 2?
Spoon pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and mix just until moist.
Pour into pan and bake for 60 minutes.
Now, my oven is possessed by the slow-food movement. It does not keep a consistent temperature (always 20-30 degrees low), but knowing this I check it regularly and re-set when necessary (which is every time I check).
My bread is baking away, smelling all good and yummy, puffing up like bread should. In short, looking like I may actually succeed. Since it seemed a bit un-done at 60 minutes, I left it in for another 10. And then another 10. And then took it out and dumped it on a cooling rack,
where it deflated like a day-old latex balloon. That sucker was not done after 80 minutes!!! What the heck? After cutting it, a custard like bread interior was revealed. I think it was actually cooked through, but the texture was much more like custard than bread. Where the heck did I go wrong? Was it the egg or the sugar that did my concoction in? Any baking guru's advice would be much appreciated, as it would be nice to know how to right this run-away train wreck of a disaster. Also, a better recipe would be welcomed as this one landed in the chiminea last night. :)
|Custard Bread? Um, Yuck.|
|Low(er) Carb Garbage Eggs|
Mr. Martini is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, which really sucks for him since we feign a low-carb diet and haven't had a potato in our house in over two years. One of the things he loves is garbage eggs... you know, roasted potatoes mixed with sausage and cheese topped with eggs. Mmmm. But since the base has been rendered hands-off, we have come up with a super yummy substitute using peppers (yes, they have a few carbs), and turkey smoked sausage (more carbs than regular, but way less fat and calories... leaving room for BACON!). It is a favorite in our house and we have it every weekend.
LET'S GET COOKING!!!
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 package Turkey Smoked Sausage
1 Cup Shredded Colby-Jack Cheese
Bacon until your heart pops (optional)
First, if you are so inclined, cook as much bacon as your heart desires. This is served on the side, so you can omit with no repercussions (except bacon cravings).
De-seed your peppers and cut into roughly 1" pieces. If you're a purist, cook with a little olive oil. If you love bacon, drain your bacon grease and cook in the tiny bit that coats the pan. A non-stick pan is ideal since you will be adding cheese, and there is less of a chance of it creating a cement like coating on your pan when you're done. Cook over medium until the peppers start to soften a bit and begin caramelizing.
Meanwhile, slice your smoked sausage into 1" pieces, and then cut in half so you are left with a ton of little half-moons. Add to the peppers and cook over medium. Your looking for softened (not mushy) peppers and slightly browned sausage pieces.
Cook your eggs to your liking (in a separate pan). Mr. Martini likes his over medium, I like mine scrambled. Both are awesome on top of this meaty, peppery, cheesey goodness. When your eggs are just about done, add the cheese to the pepper soiree, and stir together until melted. Divide pepper mixture between four plates (or two if you eat like a horse) and top with your eggs. I like to drown mine in Cholula hot sauce, and a little parsley always adds a nice touch.
|eggs with sausage and peppers|
How low-carb is it? If you eat like a normal, you're looking at a total or around 8.375 carbs per serving. If you eat like a horse (or a member of the Monkey House), you're looking at about 16.7 carbs. Using 4-5 medium red potatoes instead of peppers would add an additional 145 carbs!!! That's a whole-lotta bunch! So yeah, score for the low-carb lifestyle!