Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's for Supper: Kung Pao Chicken & Friends

I could eat some sort of Asian food every day of the week. However, The Studly Muffin grows tired of my Asian food whims and therefore, I try and keep it to a Once A Week minimum. I love it all.

When I was a little girl my mom would give big dinner parties for church folks and friends alike. They were small town pastors, but they also owned a business and mom worked as a Respiratory Therapist at the local hospital. They were busy people so the occasional dinner party made it possible to connect with groups of people at one time. One of our favorite dinner nights was Chinese Night. Mom had collected favorite Asian Recipes from a trusty cookbook and my Aunt Joyce (who is a fabulous cook). She also had gathered over the years sets of Chinese soup bowls and soups, teapots and chop sticks straight from Chinatown in San Francisco.

I can remember my first meal in Chinatown. A little man escorted us through a hall of dark, ornate wood and into a little room with one table. Instead of piling around a buffet filled fried meats and greasy rice, our dinner was brought in family style. Big platters of deliciousness.

Now it was hard to get good Asian food in the hills and hollers of North Central Arkansas…at least it was when I lived there is a little girl. I can imagine that Mom’s search for the correct ingredients must have been pretty tough. There wasn’t an Asian market nearby. And since I’ve been adult I’ve lived in little towns that might have had a grocery store with soy sauce and a few cans of La Choy Chicken Chow Main (or Mein...depending on your part of the country). But her food was always tasty and interesting. A secret to efficient Asian cooking is prep work. So we kids would be in the kitchen stirring up sauces and when we were older, chopping veggies. Thanks to my momma I have mad egg roll wrapping skills.
Adding an Asian dish to your weeknight meal plans is not as hard as one might think. There are always premade stir fry sauces and kits. I really have to watch the premade sauces. I am likely to have a nasty reaction to MSG, plus they tend to have outrageous amounts of sodium. So I wind up making a lot things from scratch.

I am not an Asian food purist, either. I enjoy the more Americanized recipes, too. In fact, one of my favorites is the Springfield Style Cashew Chicken that originated in the city I live in. I have feed my husband some pretty interesting (awful) Asian experiments. He still loves me. At least I'm assuming he does.

One of my favorite recipes for Kung Pao Chicken comes from a cookbook that has hodgepodge of good and tasty recipes. It uses ingredients that can be found almost anywhere.

I don’t have time share any recipes tonight. I am still unpacking from our trip. I promised The Studly Muffin that I would at least clear a path so he can get through to the recliner after work. Of course, I did spend at least 30 minutes making egg rolls. But any time spent in the preparation of the Egg Roll is time well spent. I'll share my recipes another time.

Be not scared of the Kung Pao Chicken. Even if you're not a fan of spicy food adding a few little chili peppers is what makes it Kung Pao. Otherwise it's just a chicken saute with peanuts.

I know the trend is to use brown rice. I enjoy brown rice, but I am not friends with it. I have ruined many pans of brown rice. I perfected my white rice ages ago. Plus, Josiah loves just a bowl of plain white rice. Mine is not instant...but it only takes 12 minutes.

If you want Egg Rolls (or any kind of side for your Chinese food) you can purchase them ready made at most grocery stores.  Making them is a more time intensive and if you want to make them for company (and have never made them before) be sure to practice rolling them. A badly rolled egg roll will leave you with a mess in the fryer.  I also made a little soy sauce with vinegar sprinkled with sesame seeds. You can also add a little chili oil or sesame oil. I don't have sesame oil (my first choice) and I didn't want too many spicy flavors...the Kung Pao has just the right amount of heat.

No. This picture of Josiah in Costume has nothing to do with Kung Pao. Other than I was cooking supper when he walked into the kitchen wearing this.

All of his grandparents will appreciate this picture. Josiah is our Quirky guy. Nothing says Quirk like Scotch Tape Clothing.

Well. I'm off to unpack some more. And to try and talk Josiah out of his tape. That looks like it might hurt a bit during removal!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Hoosier Vaycay - Part 2 (or Troy Twirls)

Because I know you, my dear readers, wait in delicious anticipation for my latest postings I did not procrastinate in getting these pictures out into the blogosphere. Two posts in one night? There must be something I am putting off doing. And that would be unpacking from our Vacation. In my head I am still there in my Mother-in-law's living room watching a girlie movie eating a piece of chocolate cream pie.  My mother-in-law does my laundry and feeds me chocolate pie. Heavenly. Not to mention that the weather in Indiana wasn't as hot and sticky as it is here in Missouri.

In my last First Vaycay post I alluded to the fact that The Studly Muffin had joined a High School Marching Band. He sure did. And he was a member of the Color Guard at that!! Actually, our niece Megan is on the Color Guard team and we went to her first family night of the marching season. The kids got to teach a family member part of their marching routine. It was fun. It was classic. I will never erase these pictures from my camera.

 And now. Without commentary. Troy Teague Takes Up Twirling.

I am giggling right now. I can't help it. Real Men Twirl. You see now why I married him. I love this man with every molecule of my being. He is pretty special.

They were almost done twirling when I saw that Troy's tall gorgeous sis, Sacha, had joined the gang. She was filling in as a "parent" for a girl whose parents weren't there.

Sacha is much younger than Troy, but they have always been close. She has a degree in Criminal Justice (which is really helpful when you are watching one of those Law & Order shows...she can give you the inside scoop). I plan on using her expertise during my next entanglement with the law. Hey. It could happen. She currently getting her Masters in Public Mangement. I think the Public needs her.

So on our last night in Indiana we went over to Sacha and John's house and watched a movie. Keaton did homework. He was doing Pre-Algebra review. It was a group effort. I realized how much I have forgotten since College Algebra. And no. I really don't use it in real life.

Megan showed off her hat she got on Vacation in the Smokey Mountains earlier in the summer. It says "All My Friends I Got On Facebook."

Josiah tried it on.

We watched Tangled. It was a pretty cute movie. I kept thinking. "How does she wash all that hair? Since it magic does it clean itself? Doesn't her head hurt?"

Keaton finished homework.

Troy and his Momma.

Josiah and PaPaw. Josiah is PaPaw's Shadow. You won't see one without the other very often we visit.

I realized when I was going through my pictures I took that I didn't get any of Troy's brother Chris, who also lives in Kokomo and his kids. Josiah got to spend a little time with his two littlest cousins, Bailey and Trace. They are as cute as they can be.

So soon it was time to pack our bags and head home. This was breakfast just outside of Indianapolis. They don't have White Castle where we live.  Boy. White Castle sounds good. Anybody up for a 4 hour White Castle run? I think the closest one to us is outside St. Louis.

And hours later we were back in Missouri. We still had a little bit of a drive, but at least home was in site. So was the heat. The lovely Indiana weather didn't follow us back home. Sigh. It's been a long dry summer.

We've only been home a couple of days and I'm already trying to think of ways I can send my laundry to my Mom-in-law Sharron every week. And does Chocolate Cream Pie mail well?

What's For Supper: Summer's Harvest

While I am sifting through the remainder of our Indiana Vaycay pictures (which I plan on posting later) I thought I would post what I made for supper tonight. Nope. I'm not really all that hard up for blogging material, but as I always enjoy seeing what other people eat and cook, I thought I might start posting a few of our weeknight meals.

It can be a real challenge to get supper on the table some nights. And don't start whining at me that I shouldn't have any trouble because I am a stay-at-home homeschool mom. I wasn't always a stay-at-home homeschool mom and throughout the years I have had to provide a meal for my family during some pretty tough times. And being a stay-at-home homeschool mom doesn't mean you sit around all day and supply your child with worksheets and coloring pages (can I get an Amen! from my fellow homeschool sisters). Regardless, throughout my challenges and changes in life I have discovered that a few things are important to me. Budget (can I use what I have and what I can afford?), Presentation (will my family feel like I created something extra special for them) & Well-Balanced (am I providing my family with nutritious and tasty meals?)

Supper tonight was Spinach and Bacon Quiche, Fresh sliced yellow and red tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon straight from Papa's garden. We literally brought home dozens of eggs from my parent's farm this weekend. So this week I am thinking of ways to use up the eggs...especially considering we will probably be bringing home more next week.

These tomatoes I got at our local produce & organic market. Dad has been having tomatoes coming out of his garden, but they just canned a whole bunch and there wasn't enough for me to take this week to eat on. Not to mention I made a whole mess of Fried Green Tomatoes when I was there this past weekend. I won't tell you what I paid for them. Because if I tell you I will have to tell The Studly Muffin.

Quiche is a great idea for any meal. And you can really use anything in them. I am not an egg eater. But I do enjoy The Quiche. You might have heard that Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. But my man eats pretty much what I put in front of him so we're good. It's not his favorite meal of all time...he'd much rather have steak. Despite his hankering for a hunk of meat, he sure gobbled this up tonight. This recipe makes two quiches.

I used this recipe from Allrecipes.com ...  Clark's Quiche. I used bacon I got from my last Angel Food order, left out the ham (I didn't have any). I used just one kind of cheese and 2% milk. I also left out the mushrooms (I didn't have any of those either). You can substitute any kind of vegetable and protein. This particular Quiche recipe uses Sour Cream, which I loved. Another thing. I made my own pie crusts. It is pretty cheap. Just find you a good pie crust recipe and hang on to it. But, don't feel guilty going the store bought route if you need to. I was wishing I had spent the extra 2.50 for premade crusts when I was rolling this crust out tonight. But then again, after tasted the finished product I was doing some pretty heavy duty self-congratulating.

So here's supper! The corn we brought home from Indiana. I am hoarding it like Josiah hoards candy.  I'm considering hiding it in my top drawer along with my nighties so I don't have to share.

I made some Sweet Tea (which is technically sweetened with Splenda), but since I don't allow Josiah near caffeine (those of you who know him understand) I mixed up some juice from concentrate. I adore this pitcher. I have a little bit of a pitcher "thing." This one came from one of our thrift store crawls.

I love, love Watermelon. This one comes straight from Papa's garden. It was picked yesterday. He asked me if I wanted a medium or a large one. I don't think there were any small ones. We almost needed a Uhaul to get this thing home. I asked for a medium. I hate to see what the large ones look like. We are going to be eating Watermelon for daayys.

Easy Peasy! And delicious!

A Hoosier Vaycay - Part 1

You know. I should have listened to The Studly Muffin when he said (around 9:45 this evening) "I don't think that it's probably a good idea to drink that"....as I guzzled a can of Diet Dr. Pepper. He was right. So as I lay in bed thinking of all the stuff I have to do tomorrow, planning my weekly menu and waiting for the Tylenol PM I just took to kick in, I thought I would blog a little. If I don't make any sense just blame it on the medication...I do.

We just got back a few days ago from a last minute Vaycay to Indiana to visit The Studly Muffin's folks. It was a much needed Vaycay. We were gone about 8 days. We got back Friday evening then hopped in car Saturday morning and headed for our weekend job as Associate Pastors. We commute every weekend to a little town outside of Joplin. I can tell you I felt every mile back this evening. That was a long couple of days on the road.

I thought I would share a few pics of our adventures in the Hoosier State. Warning: "A couple of pics" is misleading. Proceed at your own risk.

We left our house at 1:30 in the morning. We do a lot of traveling at night. Josiah has always been a good traveler. I'm the one you have to watch out for. You know I have issues when I'm the one in the car going "Are we there yet?" That and The Studly Muffin drives under the speed limit. He says he is saving gas.

One of the best things about traveling at night is getting a great view of morning. We were just outside of St. Louis. Gotta love that view!

Somewhere in Illinois we stopped at Denny's for a quick bite. And a quick yawn. And really salty Biscuits and Gravy.

At last. My husband gets a little giddy when he sees this sign. You can take the boy out of Indiana, but you can't...you know the rest.

Another sign? Yep. This is the spot we blew a tire. Troy and I have been married for almost 20 years. In those 20 years it seems as if the powers that be in Indiana have been working on the same stretch of Highway. They need to maybe try something different. These are probably the worst roads I've ever been on. Our tire agrees.

Poor Widdle Tire.

Meet the donut.

Let's just say that I-70 isn't the best location for a tire changing exercise.

What's a girl to do when there is tire changing going on? She takes pictures. This picture is of the corn growing in a little patch on the side of the Highway. These Indiana folks take their corn seriously. Which well they should. I tasted some of the best corn of the summer. We even bought some at a farmer's market in Indiana bring home.

Grandma to the rescue. The remainder of our trip was spent driving on the donut at 50 mph for a 120 miles. It was a long 120 miles. When we finally reached Kokomo, Grandma took us out the next day and treated us to new tires!

All fixed!

One of our favorite pastimes (at home or away) is thrift store shopping. Here Josiah is showing us what he called "The Thanksgiving Couch." I couldn't have named it better. Makes me hungry for Turkey just looking at it.

What's better than having a brother-in-law who can fix pretty much anything? Troy and John check out  rattling under Troy's car. It's always something. This time the something was some sort of rattling. I'm sure one of them could explain it better....I just know John fixed it right up and we are rattle free!

One of our days was spent at a little amusement park called Indiana Beach. Here we have loaded up with Grandma, nephew Keaton and niece Megan. Megan is channelling Elvis. Here is a  story about Megan. When she was little she came to visit us when we lived outside of Memphis. We went to a famous BBQ joint called the Rendezvous. She kept asking to use the restroom. We found out that the Powder Room Lady (they still have the ladies who sit in the restroom and sell gum, mints and hand lotion, etc.) kept giving her candy everytime she went in.

I'm not sure what's happening here. I always hate to ask. I probably don't want to know.

Beware of Cousin Sock Love.

At Indiana Beach we all stand in line for tickets...and some measuring to make sure we are all tall enough to ride the rides.

This nice fella puts hospital bracelets on us. At least that's what it felt like. I started having a little flashback panic attacks. Isn't Keaton the cutest? He would shoot murderous looks my direction for saying so. He's 13 now. I think he looks like his Uncle Troy.

The Three Amigos. Ready for a day of fun. That bridge SWAYED by the way. My balance is poor anyway because of my metal hip parts...I had to hold onto the side as I walked across.

I don't do Roller Coasters. I all kinds of rides, For some reason being flung around a little track 100's of stories in the air isn't appealing to me. My grandma loved them. She would make me ride one with her at Silver Dollar City now and again. She would scream and laugh the whole way.

The Studly Muffin and Mom ride the Sky Lift across the park. Troy swung his legs the whole way. True Story.

This is THE BEST PICTURE EVER! Ignore the quality, but don't you just love it! For one it truly captures my Mom-in-law's personality. She is all about living life to the fullest and enjoying herself. She is up for pretty much anything.

 Don't you just love amusement park food? Here we are sharing Dipping Dots. Which were outrageously overpriced...

Troy wants me to make these at home. I'm afraid. I'm afraid that once I learned to make them we would always be eating them!

Megan is pointing out the first item on her wishlist for Christmas this year.

Oh to be 16 again. This was her request.

Josiah and Daddy on the Sky Lift at the end of the day.

On our way out. We were a little crispier (me), really worn out (me), but a good time was had by all.

I have to say that the trip was just what we needed. I have more pictures to post later....some of which include Troy's stint in a marching band. True Story.
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