Monday, July 30, 2012

Photo Dump

Well I'm over it.  I'm not exactly sure what it is exactly that I'm over, but whatever it is, ugh.  I'm over it.  I'm sick of Nick working all the time (he worked ALL WEEKEND!!!) I'm sick of the heat, I'm sick of my house being a wreck, but why organize it when we're leaving for Near-London in four months, I'm sick of Scott being a shitbrick, I'm sick of Warren crying all the time, I'm sick of Daisy June being so stinking cute that we all just give her everything she wants so that she's developing a SEVERE spoiled problem, I'm sick of PSE crashing on me all the time because as it turns out, 4gb of ram is NOT that much, even though we paid almost two grand for this stupid computer and it should have come with every single thing I'd ever want or need for the rest of my entire life.

What else...oh, I'm sick of not losing weight.  I'm sick of not exercising, but I'm also sick of not sleeping in, so that's why I'm not working out.  So I know that the lack of exercise is leading to this unshakeable foul mood, but the foul mood also leads to more not exercising.  Which leads to more foul mood.

Poor, poor pitiful me.

In other news, Ava started first grade today.  I'm having a WAY harder time with this than I did with the whole kindergarten thing.  Kindergarten is dumb, it's sort of like preschool.  But first grade? First grade is REAL.  She's going to REAL school.  And she's almost seven.  SEVEN!!!

I just threw up thinking about it.  Four, five, six, none of those birthdays fazed me in the least.  But for some reason, the idea that I am going to have a SEVEN year old just turns my stomach.

Maybe a slight thug look on the first day is our thing?

And, just for fun, a comparison shot.
Now I really do want to kill myself.  And if you're wondering, she IS wearing a bow today.  She likes her hair all pulled back, so I have to stick the bow back there.  I hate it, but she's trying to assert her independence or whatever, so as long as she actually wears one, I guess I don't care where it is.  And, in case you're also wondering about the uniforms, yes, in two years, I've sent her to two different public schools with strict uniform codes.  And naturally, it was too much to ask that school number two have the same uniform.  I was hoping that at least the khaki bottoms would transfer over, but nope.  All new outfits.  Ugh.  At least the ones from last year still fit this year. And yes, she's using the same backpack. And lunch box.  And pencil case.  But she did get a new water bottle, lucky kid!!

What else has been going on...Scott found a family of snails...
As soon as he went inside, they hurried up and raced down that table and back into the bushes. They were FAST.  Poor Scott.

Daisy June discovered that clams snap shut if you push them...

Warren developed an obsession with taking fake pictures...

Daisy drew on a fake Hitler mustache at swim lessons...

I finally remembered my camera one day for swim lessons...
Warren didn't cry one time!!

Scott is good to go.  Until he realizes that you're not holding him and he can't touch.

Sleeping sickness knows no bounds...

The diving board is ALWAYS the best part of the day.

Here's what the babies usually did during the big kids' class.  Mother of the year, ladies and gentlemen. Mother of the YEAR!!
Yes.  Our one year old has the iPad.  With it's special one year old's case.  Ugh.

And, in an ironic twist of fate that just adds to my foul mood, my absolute favorite shot from swim lessons was taken by Warren when I left my camera on the lounge chair to chase after Daisy June one morning.
So there you have it.  My three year old is a better photographer than I, even though all the did was mash the button.  He didn't even pick it up or look through the viewfinder or anything.  I hate him. Engelbrecht out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A&J Tackle PW: Week Nine

* My best friend Angela and I are cooking our way through the Pioneer Woman's new book, Food From My Frontier, a la Julie and Julia.  It's fantastic and YOU should join in!! *

This week, we tried to fit in Perfect Iced Coffee (p6), French Toast with Berry Butter (p28), Sloppy  Joes (p58), Pork Chops with Apples and Grits (p200), and Angela will do the Perfect Spinach Salad on page 60.  I don't like mushrooms and neither does Nick, so we're skipping out.

Wow!! We did it all.  I think we took two weeks, I can't remember when I started this post.  WHATEVER.

Here we go. Lucky you, I decided to start taking pics :)

~Perfect Iced Coffee~
So.  After wanting to be a coffee drinker with all my heart for fifteen years, my friend Laura made me a cup of coffee right after we moved here.  I was exhausted and we'd planned a trip to Whole Foods and I didn't really want to fall asleep at the wheel or be cranky in the store, so she grabbed a mug, mixed it with her creamer and splenda and shoved it in my hands.

It was like a tiny little mug of heaven, right there in my hands.

It was the most amazing day of my life.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit.  But it was pretty cool to FINALLY be able to sit with my main squeeze at the table over steaming mugs of java while our kids played at our feet.

Okay, so that doesn't happen either.

Anyway.  I still don't really like coffeehouse coffee because I am VERY specific in my taste.  I need a pretty mild brew, twelve ounces, and I need three teaspoons of sugar free powdered creamer, either french vanilla or creamy chocolate and I need one packet of truvia.  And let's face it, you can't be that specific at Starbucks.  So, I prefer my coffee at home.

I now can't remember why I started this incredibly random story, other than to say I was pretty excited about making this iced coffee.  It was messy, she's not kidding.  I made half the recipe but it was still so much liquid that I didn't have a pitcher.  I had to use one of the big tupperwares I usually use for flour.  I let it sit for almost exactly twenty four hours, then strained it twice, which in hindsight was a waste of time because I got all the grounds the first time. I don't have cheesecloth, so I used some papertowels and my regular mesh colander.  Then I didn't have any liquid creamer, so I had to wait another two days to finally drink it.

It was a little strong for me.  I'm a newbie.  I had to use a LOT of creamer, and two packets of truvia, and it was still really strong.

But also? So good.  It tastes like...heaven.  Seriously.

Here's what Angela thought:

This recipe is so neat. I never would have come up with this on my own. “Cold Brewing” is genius. It keeps the coffee from getting bitter and tasting old like when you get to the bottom of a pot of coffee that you made this morning. I used several layers of papertowels instead of cheesecloth… I don’t even know what is/where to get cheesecloth.  (TWINSIES!!!) Anywho, this is super easy. I keep it in a glass container that seals. I prepare mine like this: fill my cup halfway with the coffee, add a spoonful of sundae carmel syrup, some flavored coffee liquid creamer, spoonful of sugar/sweetner. I stir it very very well and then add ice. One container lasts me about two weeks. SO good, easy and CHEAP!

  • 1 pound Ground Coffee (good, Rich Roast)
  • 8 quarts Cold Water
  • Half-and-half (healthy Splash Per Serving) (book says "milk or half and half")
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk (2-3 Tablespoons Per Serving)
  • Note: Can Use Skim Milk, 2% Milk, Whole Milk, Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, Syrups...adapt To Your Liking! (this is at the end of the pictures and instructions in the book.  Makes more sense up here though.)

Preparation Instructions

In a large container, mix ground coffee with water. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight. (The book says to mix it and let sit 12-24 hours).

Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container. Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through. Discard grounds. (Book warns you that this is going to be a mess.)

Place coffee liquid in the fridge and allow to cool. Use as needed.

To make iced coffee, pack a glass full of ice cubes. Fill glass 2/3 full with coffee liquid. Add healthy splash of half-and-half. Add 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (can use plain sugar instead) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust half-and-half and/or sweetened condensed milk as needed.

~French Toast with Berry Butter~

Man, just cutting and pasting this looks time intensive.  Groan.  What's wrong with Eggo's frozen french toast sticks anyway?
Yum.  Now I get it.

I've made french toast before, and it ALWAYS ends up soggy.  News flash Past Jenn, don't use a loaf of wonderbread, you moron!! Nick picked up a big, thick, crusty, fat loaf of French bread and I think that made ALL the difference.

I wished it was sweeter.  More sugar? Something other than half and half? Who knows.

On to the butter: it's NOT frosting.  I'm sure normal people don't need that reminder, but I had a really hard time with it.  When I whipped it up, it looked like frosting, so I scooped a big dollop out on my finger and popped that sucker in my mouth.

Butter is NOT frosting.  I almost barfed right there.

Then, when it was time to plate it up, I put HUGE spoonfuls of the butter on my toasts.  It looked like tiny slices of cake, with red and purple frosting.


Third time was the charm, I scraped it all off, drowned those suckers in actual maple syrup (I've always been a Mrs. Butterworth's kinda gal), and shoveled it all in before my kids could get their sticky hands on it.

And bacon.  There was bacon too.

I followed the directions, minus the lemon zest, because I didn't have any lemons.  Still don't.  Is that something everyone just keeps around? Oh, and I used blueberries, not black.  And all my berries were frozen, I just thawed a few cups from my smoothie drawer.

Angela says:

I am not a big fan of French toast because it typically tastes eggy. This does not. Probably because it uses yolks only, no whites. I found the lemon zest just a little too strong, and will probably use only half of a lemon’s worth of zest next time. The liquid could actually be cut in half and there would still be enough. I do not soak the bread in the liquid, just dip each side. I didn’t want to risk it being soggy, and it was perfect. As far as the butter is concerned… I  picked up blueberries and raspberries. I discovered the raspberries were completely molded when I got home (I didn’t think to check, I’m new to this berry thing). I decided on blueberries instead of blackberries b/c I thought they’d do better for the family and they are chock full of antioxidants, so certainly that does something for you right!? Anywho, the butter was super easy to make. It makes more than enough, actually too much, so I am glad I only made 2 sticks of butter’s worth as opposed to four. I took the rest of the blueberries, mashed them up, added ½ cup of water and ¼ cup of sugar and simmered it on the stove top to make a blueberry syrup. I just cooked it down until it was nice and thick. It was really good. This is something I’ll make again.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 pound Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 3/4 cups Raspberries
  • 3/4 cups Blackberries
  • 1 loaf Crusty Bread: Baguette, French Loaf, Etc.
  • 4 whole Eggs 
  • 2 cups Half-and-half
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • Zest Of One Lemon
  • Maple Syrup For Serving
  • Sifted Powder Sugar, For Serving (optional)

Preparation Instructions

-Make the berry butters: in separate batches, whip 2 sticks of butter at a time on high using the whisk attachment. Switch to paddle attachment. Add either raspberries or blackberries. Turn mixer on low for only about five seconds, just long enough for the berries to begin to mix in/break up, but not so long that it turns into a mess. Clean mixer bowl and attachments and repeat with other kind of berry.

-With each batch, turn mixture out onto a long sheet of plastic wrap set over a long sheet of foil. Use the wrap/foil to roll the butter into a cylinder: first seal the plastic wrap around the cylinder, then secure the foil around it. Twist the ends, gradually applying more pressure as you twist in order to make the cylinder taut.

-Once it’s a nice, neat cylinder of foil, place into the freezer for 30 minutes in order to quickly solidify it, then transfer it to the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Butter should be nice and firm.

NOTE: You can add a little sifted powdered sugar to the butter to make more of a sweet spread for bread and muffins! For French toast, though, the maple syrup makes things sweet enough.

-To make the french toast, cut bread into slices 1/2 inch thick. In a dish, mix together egg yolks, half-and-half, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Dip bread slices in mixture, coating both sides, then remove from dish and set aside. Repeat until all bread is coated.

-Heat iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Sizzle butter in the pan when hot. Cook French toast on both sides until golden brown, being careful not to burn.

-Remove berry butters from fridge. Unwrap one end and cut slices. Lay one slice each onto each serving of French toast. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, then drizzle with warm maple syrup.

~Sloppy Joes~

I don't think I've EVER had sloppy joes.  Mainly because every time I hear the word, I dissolve into a fit of giggles, remembering that weird lunch lady on Billy Madison who walks around scooping it out and slurring "Sloppy Joes...I made 'em extra SLOPPY for ya..."

Just me? Weird.

Well, I liked them.  They were fun to make and I thought they tasted great.  Nick, who will eat ANYTHING and has said he doesn't like something maybe three times in the entire eleven years we've been together? Yeah, he didn't like them.

It pissed me off.  Which I know is irrational.  But still.

His input was that he'd rather eat it in a bowl with pasta.  That's his solution for EVERYTHING.  He's like the chili mac addict.  He eats taco soup with pasta.  White chicken chili? Over pasta.

So that's only two things (three, including the sloppy joes...) but whatever.  It's weird.

And I'm so jealous, because here's what Angela says:

This ain’t no manwich! This is so good. I left out the green bell pepper, used chalula hot sauce (because I can’t stand the taste of tabasco) and used hamburger buns instead of Kaiser rolls. This is seriously delicious. And and a family pleaser. These do really well as leftovers and taste fantastic with a slice of American cheese on top!

Can I eat with you next time? I think if I put these on the menu, Nick would work late on purpose.

  • Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter 
  • 2-½ pounds Ground Beef
  • ½ whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 whole Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-½ cup Ketchup
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (more To Taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • ½ teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional; To Taste)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • Kaiser Rolls
  • Butter

Preparation Instructions

-Add butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard.

-Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

-Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

-Spread rolls with butter and brown on a griddle or skillet. Spoon meat mixture over the rolls, topping with a slice of cheese if it makes your skirt fly up. Serve hot with kettle cooked chips!

~Pork Chops with Apples and Grits~

She's got these as two separate recipes on the site, so that's what I'll copy and paste.

WOW.  I loved these.  In fact, with or without the grits, this is probably the way I'll be making my pork chops from here on out.  I thought they were the tiniest bit dry, so I'll have to figure out what that's about, but other than that, they were perfection.  My kids wouldn't eat the apples because they were mushy, but I anticipated that, so I just let them have raw apples on the side.

I've never had grits (I know, right?!?!) but after this, I might be a fan.  Bacon? Good.  Cream? GOOD. I halved everything except the bacon, so mine was REALLY bacony.  And I didn't use an entire cup of cream, probably somewhere between half and three quarters.  And I got distracted before I started the chops, so my grits simmered for a LONG time, which I think really made them fanfrickingtastic.

Here's Angela:

We aren’t really pork people, but I am totally a grits person (kinda comes standard when you’re from the south). I thought the flavor of the pork chops good, but very mild. My husband thought it bland. I don’t really know how to boost the flavor… since I don’t cook pork chops much I don’t know what would be ideal. Typically Tony’s seasoning is my go-to, but I don’t think the spiciness would lend itself to it. I also would have liked it a little more if the sauce was more of a glaze and less of a sauce (I’m a big glaze fan). The grits were amazing. A-ma-zing. The first time I made it I used 10 min grits because I couldn’t find stone ground grits, I just cooked them longer and had to add a little liquid midway. The next time I made it our new fancy super walmart was opened and they had stone ground grits. That batch was even better. It does make quite a bit, though. So I think when I make it again I’ll cut it in half. And instead of apple pork chops I’ll make New Orleans BBQ Shrimp.

Hmm.  I just this second realized that I forgot the cheese!!! What a moron.  Bet that woulda been even more amazing!!

  • 8 slices Regular Bacon, Cut Into 1/2-inch Pieces
  • 1 whole Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 2 cups Stone Ground Grits; The More Coarse, The Better!
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups Water (this isn't in the book)
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream (sorry)
  • 1-½ cup Grated Cheese (Monterey Jack, Etc.)
  • 1 dash Cayenne, For Heat
  • Salt As Needed
  • Black Pepper To Taste

Preparation Instructions

In a heavy pot, cook bacon over medium heat for a couple of minutes to render fat. Add onions and cook with bacon for a few minutes, or until bacon is chewy and onions are golden brown.

-Add grits, chicken broth, and water (again, water not in the book, and I didn't use it). Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pot, and cook 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the liquid level is okay. If grits begin to get dry, add a little more warm broth.

-After 30-40 minutes of cooking time, pour in cream. Cover pot and continue to simmer on very low heat for another 30 minutes, or until grits are done. Taste and add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese. Keep warm.

  • 6 whole Boneless Pork Chops, About 1/2-inch Thick
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 whole Gala Apples, Diced
  • ½ cups Dry White Wine (I used more chicken broth because we don't have wine laying around)
  • 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ¾ cups Pure Maple Syrup (I used almost the whole bottle, which was twelve ounces, so like what, cup and a half?) (And I thought it could have been a little sweeter still.)
  • 1 dash Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Creamy Bacon-Cheese Grits (see My Tasty Kitchen Recipe)

Preparation Instructions

-Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter and heat until butter in melted.

-Salt and pepper both sides of pork chops. Brown them on both sides until nice and golden. Remove pork chops from the skillet and set on a separate plate.

-Reduce heat to medium. Add apples and stir to combine them with the oil, and butter that remains in the pan. Pour in wine and vinegar, then whisk along the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Pour in the maple syrup, then add a dash of salt and pepper. Stir, then return pork chops to the pan. Cover the pan and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

-Serve pork chops on top of a generous helping of Creamy Cheese Grits (mashed potatoes are good, too) and spoon the apple-maple sauce over the top, allowing the liquid to drip over the grits.

~Perfect Spinach Salad ~

This one is from the Food Network site, so it's a little off.  Again, Team Engelbrecht didn't make this, but here's what Angela says:

This is a fantastic salad. I, of course, left out the boiled eggs because they are disgusting. I sliced the bacon up before I cooked it. I find this to be way easier and I see NO reason why not. I used about half the onions because we aren’t big onion people. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly. Cooking the mushrooms and onions completely changes the flavor and it is divine. Mixing the salad while the mushrooms and onions are warm wilts the spinach just right. The dressing is completely complimentary and brings all the flavors together. You could even add some chicken to it and make it a full meal type salad. (just sautee the chicken in the same skillet, splash a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil on it with some salt and pepper. perfecto.)

Perfect Spinach Salad

2012 Ree Drummond, All Rights Reserved


  • 3 whole eggs
  • Ice
  • 7 slices thick-cut peppered bacon
  • 1 small whole red onion
  • 1 package white button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 dash salt
  • 8 ounces baby spinach, washed, dried and stems removed


Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and allow to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain off the water and add ice on top of the eggs.
Fry the bacon in a skillet until crispy/chewy. Remove to a paper towel. Drain the fat into a bowl and reserve. Give the skillet a wipe with kitchen paper.
Slice the red onion very thinly, and then add to the skillet. Cook slowly until the onions are caramelized and reduced. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Slice the mushrooms and add them to the same skillet with a little of the reserved bacon fat if needed. Cook slowly until caramelized and brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Chop the bacon. Peel and slice the eggs.
Make the hot bacon dressing: Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat, vinegar, sugar, Dijon and salt to a small saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk together and heat thoroughly until bubbly.
Add the spinach to a large bowl. Arrange the onions, mushrooms and bacon on top. Pour the hot dressing over the top; toss to combine. Arrange the eggs over the top and serve.

So there you go.  Next week, what are we doing... the His and Hers Burgers (p160), the White Chicken Enchiladas (p186), Cowboy/Cowgirl Quiche (p32), the Cherry Limeade (p114), and the Strawberry Shortcake (p246).  Is anyone else joining in?