Sink Woes

We have a white kitchen sink and we hate it.  My biggest beef with it is that it gets so dirty SO easily.  Well, it doesn’t get any dirtier than it would if it were any other sink, but because it’s white, it’s more noticeable.

We’ve lived in our house a year now and NOTHING has gotten rid of these grody stains.  Not even my go-to box of 20 Mule Team Borax did the trick.

IMG_0476

At my wit’s end, I consulted with my friend Google and found a website that referenced this website that swears by a simple bleach-baking soda mixture.  The claim:  two parts baking soda and one part bleach will rid the stains from a white sink.  My prediction:  bullshit.  Far too simple (i.e., “too good to be true”).

I mixed two tablespoons of baking soda with one tablespoon of bleach and spread the mixture around the bottom of my sink.  I tackled it with a cleaning brush and I didn’t even have to put muscle into it.  THIS IS WHAT I GOT:

sink.jpg

I’ve never seen my sink so clean.  I don’t even think it was this clean when we bought the place!

IMG_0485Oh…in case you spotted it, I did not miss a couple of spots.  There might have been an incident earlier this year in which I dropped the crock pot dish in the sink.  It might have resulted in chipping the sink.  And it might have broken my crock pot dish, which resulted in my purchasing a much fancier crock pot.  (A blessing in disguise, I say!)

oopssink.jpg
Now of course I’m obsessed with the bleach-baking soda concoction that worked its miracle on my sink.  I’ve already deep cleaned the bathtub and I’m starting to wonder why I have so few porcelain fixtures in my home.  MUST…CLEAN…MORE!

Truly, I’m excited I’ve found a solution to the dirty sink problem.  A kitchen can only feel so clean when the sink is disgusting!

 

Chili Mac in a Snap

I’m not a big fan of leftovers, with one exception: chili. And when I say “chili leftovers,” I’m not talking about the kind you stick in the fridge and eat the next day. I like to freeze my leftover chili and wait to stumble upon it a month later after I’ve forgotten about it—surprise, five minute dinner!

Earlier this week I realized I had two fewer chicken breasts than I originally thought, so I was picking through the freezer to find something else to cook for dinner. AHA! Deep in the freezer, I discovered some chili I’d frozen last month.

Normally the drill would be to thaw it overnight, heat it in a pot, and that would be that. On this particular occasion, however, inspiration struck.

I heated up the chili in one pot and boiled some ditalini pasta in another. While both were cooking, I grated some cheddar cheese. Feeling extra daring, I even tossed about a tablespoon of taco seasoning in with the chili.

Once the chili and the pasta were done, I combined the two and stirred in the cheese until I was left with an ooey gooey pot of wonder.

chilimac.jpg

Let me tell you, this tasted SO GOOD. I’m pretty sure it tasted even better just knowing it took only ten minutes of actual work to prepare. I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever just plain ol’ chili again when I freeze the leftovers!

What kinds of quick dishes do you like to make using leftovers from other meals?

Mango Madness

A couple of years ago, I purchased my first fresh mango.  I’d heard they were a little tricky to slice, and BOY was that rumor true.  Despite following a set of written instructions online, I mangled that mango.  It was a mangle-o.

Because I’ve learned a lot in the kitchen since then, I decided to give it another go.  Mangoes were a great price at the grocery store, so I thought I’d add some fresh mango to my morning smoothies.

The first thing I did was pull up this YouTube tutorial.  Then I washed my fruit and centered it on the cutting board.  It was go time.

IMG_0440

The nice man in the video warned of the seed in the middle of the fruit, and he instructed to cut just off to the side of the center of the mango.  I paused the video, thinking I am gonna OWN this mango!

But of course, my mango was thinking, Challenge accepted.  I pushed the knife into the fruit in the same spot shown in the video, and halfway down, it hit the seed.  A rocky start, but not a “doomed” status quite yet.  I moved the knife slightly further away from the center of the fruit and tried again.  And hit the seed.  Again.  When I finally cut into the mango and didn’t hit the seed with the knife, I’d sliced off roughly a centimeter-thick piece of fruit.

IMG_0441

IMG_0443

I attempted to cut the slice o’ mango as demonstrated in the video.  I’m practically a pro at the method when it comes to avocados.  Alas, I’m less than skilled at this same method where mangoes are concerned.

Getting that first slice pretty much blew my opportunity to follow Mr. Nice-Bearded-Man’s guidance on cutting the rest of the mango.  Ten minutes later, I had butchered the stupid thing and I was left with a pile of assorted sizes of mango chunks and a pile of scraps from the skin and the core.  All I can say is, good thing these were intended to be tossed into a blender!

mangleo

If you have any good tips for cutting mangoes, PLEASE share them with me!  I still have more to slice and I plan on making an update post when I’m finished.  Help a girl out with your best pointers!

What kind of cheese ain’t yours?

On Thursday and Friday, this stupid f*&#ing crap happened.

IMG_0429

For the record, that is SEVEN inches of snow.  And also for the record, the reason the snow doesn’t appear as a smooth, perfect blanket in this picture is because it turns out the puppy really loves playing in the snow.

But wait, it gets better!  Last night it was a whopping one degree, so this stupid, stupid snow is all freezing solid and we’re essentially living in a bleeping igloo.

Long story short, it’s been a bit cold and I’ve been a bit whiny.  What better to combat this dumb weather than to spice things up with some nachos?

Last night I made nachos for dinner.  Like chili, nachos is one of those dishes I can’t exactly screw up too badly.  I started with this…

IMG_0432
Which turned into this:

IMG_0436

I baked them for about ten minutes to melt the cheese and heat up the refried beans.  I added the olives to my own plate at the end because the husband is anti-olive, and then we both plopped a big spoonful of sour cream on our nacho mountains.

I don’t make nachos often enough.  I think this was the first time in…sheesh, years, I think.  But on an ice-cold night, these really hit the spot!

Oh, and if you really thought I pulled this off flawlessly, you obviously don’t know me very well.  My downfall on nacho night:

IMG_0438

“Easy open” my butt.

So, what kind of cheese ain’t yours?  NACHO CHEESE!  (AKA, my husband’s favorite joke of all time.)

Plan B

In my house, there is always a Plan B for dinner. More often than not, Plan B consists of burrito bowls from Chipotle.

Chipotle.png

We utilize Plan B more often than it really should be in one’s household. Whether I cook something that resembles sewage, or I fill up the crockpot in the morning and forget to plug it in, it’s not exactly “rare” that the husband and I end up at Chipotle.

Today it was made clear that I don’t even have to begin preparing food in order to ruin dinner. Not one dish was dirtied and not one burner was turned on, but we had to resort to Plan B.

Honestly, I kind of blame the dog. Let me back up a bit.

This morning, despite it being a depressing 18 degrees outside, Samantha was insistent on running around outside with the four-foot-long stick she recently found on a walk. Upon returning inside, she bolted around the house, ping-ponging off the walls like she’d just chugged a case of Red Bull. In the midst of her burst of energy, I noticed some splotches of red on the kitchen floor.

I called out Samantha’s name, suspicious she was bleeding from one of her paws. She came flying into the kitchen at full speed, running in circles as I begged her to calm down. At last, she stopped long enough for me to confirm she’d managed to cut one of the pads on her foot.

And that’s when I noticed that my kitchen looked like a murder scene. There were bloody paw prints everywhere. To my horror, I realized the blood trailed deep into the living room as well.

At this point I had roughly ten minutes before I had to leave from work in order to make it to a very important early-morning meeting. So I prioritized and dealt with cleaning the wound and helping the dog, and decided to worry about cleaning up the kitchen floor on my lunch break.

On my lunch break, I spent twenty stinking minutes cleaning dog blood off the kitchen floor and spots I’d missed on the carpet, and spraying down Samantha’s kennel blanket with stain remover before throwing it in the washing machine. TWENTY MINUTES. And this is what caused us to resort to Plan B for dinner.

Okay, maybe you’re wondering how I can blame this on the dog. Let me explain.

When I first arrived home on my lunch break, I remembered the chicken for tonight’s dinner still felt like it wasn’t completely thawed on the inside—although the outside layer was squishy as ever. I removed it from the fridge and set it on the counter, thinking half an hour in room temperature might speed along the process. Well, I had no idea just how much cleaning up I had to do, and by the time I was finished I was once again in a rush to get back to work.

At 4:45, as I wrapped up my tasks at work, a horrible thought came over me. I texted my husband.

Me: Did I leave the chicken on the counter?
Husband: Yup.
Me: Crap. Will you put it back in the fridge?
Me: [A minute later] Is it even still cold?
Husband: Nope.
Me: Craaaaaaap.
Husband: [Sends cartoon image of a smiling turd]

The chicken was completely warm and had been for who-knows-how-long. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for five hours. Like I said, I didn’t even start cooking and I still managed to ruin dinner. But if it hadn’t been for the dog blood, I bet it wouldn’t have happened.

My husband might argue that last part. But he’s not here to prove me wrong, so I’m still blaming it on the dog.

Samantha’s Last Carrot

Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about having pets. A few examples:

  1. If it looks too high for the cat to reach it…it’s not.
  2. Being 65 pounds does not stop a dog from sitting in your lap.
  3. Bugs aren’t nearly as fun to eat as they are to kill.
  4. Scratching the wall next to the litter box is somehow necessary to burying poop.
  5. If you give your cats wet food even once, you will be committed to giving it to them every day for as long as they live…or else.

Most of the things I learn from and about my pets are pretty general and I often learn they apply to my friends’ and families’ animals as well. However, there are exceptions. One of them came to light last night.

My parents have a corgi named Flash. He’s adorable as all get-out but he’s always been a tad overweight. (Who am I kidding, that’s what makes him adorable!) For years, he’s been on “diet” food. At some point his vet suggested giving him carrots in lieu of treats because they’re low-calorie. It seemed a little odd, but Flash loves them.

Last night I was making a big batch of Spicy Red and Black Bean soup (mmmmmmmmmm), which called for a cup of chopped carrot (which, by the way, I have finally mastered). I had about a third of a carrot leftover and wasn’t in the mood to eat it. However, waiting at my feet in anticipation of my dropping something was my eight-month-old puppy, Samantha.

Don't trust her cuteness, it's a trap.

Don’t trust her cuteness, it’s a trap.

I recalled how much Flash loves carrots and thought it would be an easy way to dispose of my leftover carrot. Samantha’s eyes ballooned as I held out the hunk of carrot for her to take.

I immediately returned to my cooking but I could hear Samantha crunching away at her exciting orange treat. At some point it occurred to me that although several minutes had passed, the crunch crunch crunch from behind me was still going strong.  Eventually it stopped, Samantha disappeared, and I turned around.

This is what I found. ARGH!!!

IMG_0402

The whole time Samantha was chewing on that carrot, she didn’t swallow a single crumb of it. Needless to say, this was the first AND last carrot she’ll ever be getting. And now I have yet another pet lesson to file away.

Brat.

 

 

Turning Tables

It’s a strange Saturday. My stepson isn’t here because of a birthday sleepover, and my husband had to go into work this morning. I’m not usually left to my own devices on a Saturday morning, so I normally go for a quick run, take a shower, and spend the afternoon running errands or going to the park with the family.

Having the house to myself this morning meant I glued myself to the couch and caught up on my Dateline recordings. At one point I got up to refill my coffee and realized: my kitchen table is a disaster zone.

IMG_0383I tried to ignore it. Damn it, this was going to be a lazy morning! The TV is allllll mine. I’m still wearing my glasses and my pajamas, and if I feel like spending half the day playing Hungry Cat Mahjong, no one is here to judge me. (If my husband would play even one level of that stupid game, I’m sure he’d understand. He’d have to.)

Anyway, the fourth or fifth time I went into the kitchen, I finally cracked. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned off my kitchen table. We eat dinner at the table every night, and all I do is push everything off to the side to make room for our plates. Something had to be done.

I started to clear off the table and almost immediately I felt better about my life. Until I discovered the table is covered in a blanket of dust and pet hair, and then my contentment crumbled yet again.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me half an hour to clean up the kitchen table disaster zone. It looks like a quick job until you consider the stack of old mail that has to be sorted and the fact that every little item seems to belong in a different room in the house.

But here’s what I determined: tidying up the kitchen table makes the entire house seem cleaner. A few nights ago, I went on one of my random cleaning rampages and still felt like the house was a pigsty. I couldn’t figure out why. One of the few things I hadn’t done that night was give any consideration to the kitchen table. Somehow it seems to fade into the background and I don’t give much thought to how cluttered with junk it becomes.

table.pngRight now I feel so much more comfortable than I did a couple of hours ago. Now the challenge will be resisting the temptation to resume using it as a dumping grounds for anything we’re too lazy to actually put away where it belongs.

Personally, I give it five hours max. What can I say? I’m a realist. I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.

IMG_0395

What types of “little” things do you do around the house to help it seem cleaner?

Blending In

Why does my blender have so many bleeping functions?

IMG_0380

It’s not even a “fancy” blender. In fact, we’re going blender shopping this weekend because this old blender is as good at blending as a snake is at walking. What I don’t understand is the difference between all of these functions.

Confession: I’ve only used this blender a handful of times in the three years we’ve had it. But it’s only got one set of blades and no matter which of these buttons I push, I swear it does the exact same thing. Proof: I made a smoothie this morning using the Puree setting. For the past five days, I’ve made smoothies using the Blend setting. The difference? Not one thing. Not…a…single…thing.

I’m not disappointed by the fact. After all, I’ve always been under the impression that a blender should…well, blend. I’ve got a fancy-shmancy food processor that takes care of anything more hardcore. So it’s no big deal.

But it confuses me. What are all these settings supposed to do?!

Stir? Wouldn’t a spoon take up less space in the dishwasher? And what’s the difference between Grate and Shred? And WTF does Mix mean? I’d assume that ALL of these settings technically “mix” the ingredients.

I’ve drawn two conclusions. Conclusion #1: The buttons were a ploy to increase the cost of the blender (which thankfully, I didn’t pay for) by making it seem cooler than it really is. Conclusion #2: I really don’t understand my blender or how to use it properly, and should probably leave the choosing of the new blender in my husband’s capable hands. Unfortunately, I know myself well enough to know it’s probably my second guess.

I’m Baaaaaaack!

It’s my first post on this blog since 2012.  YES, 2012.  And I have to say, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.  I originally stopped posting because life was hectic and I felt I’d acquired an acceptable knack for cooking.

Well, life isn’t so hectic anymore since I finished my second bachelor’s degree (mark my words:  NO MORE COLLEGE DEGREES).  What I’ve learned since my last post is that cooking–though less comical and disastrous–is still a talent that often escapes me.  But it’s not just the cooking.  It’s the whole “being an adult” thing.  I’m 29 years old, I’m married, I have a ten-year-old stepson, I have a real career, I’m a homeowner, and yet most of the time I still sit back and wonder what the hell I’m doing.  Replacing furnace filters?  Barbecuing?  Using Goo Gone to remove the hilariously large sticker that clung for dear life to our new trash can?  Pffff, not a clue.  Good thing I have a husband.

So.  I’m picking up where I left off, and I’m even expanding on my blog.  This will be my journal of sorts as I try to make sense of anything that happens under my roof that used to seem like a cakewalk until I became the responsible adult who had to deal with it.  Cooking, cleaning, pets, husbands, children.  Somehow I’m going to figure it all out.

It’s good to be back.

pretend

Pan sauce, take one: steak

In the process of learning to cook, I’ve seen a recipe or two…or eighty-nine…for various meats cooked with pan sauce.  All along, I’ve steered clear of pan sauce.  I mean, have you seen the terminology used in relation to pan sauce?  FondDeglazeCaramelizeNape.  I don’t like words I can’t define!

Ah, but hasn’t the progress I’ve made all resulted from my learning things unfamiliar to me?  Crap.  I hate it when that thing called logic interferes with my resistance to change.

Having said that, my next Two Week Technique is—you guessed it—pan sauce!

I haven’t had a rendezvous with steak in quite some time, so for my first stab at pan sauce I chose a recipe for Steak with Pan Sauce (such a creative name, isn’t it?) that I found in my BH&G cookbook.

The first step was to heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan and cook the steaks for three minutes on each side.  The first three minutes went according to plan.

But then the stupid bleepity-bleeping steaks started to char on the outside…

At this point, they’d cooked for three minutes on one side and one and a half on the other.  Surely there was a problem.  I cut into one of them just to be sure.  Though the exterior of the steak was black and stiff, the interior was still entirely dark red and oozing blood.  [Insert frustrated cry here.]

I cooked the steaks for several more minutes before I was satisfied that they wouldn’t “moo” as I bit into the meat.  What resulted was two ugly steaks, and I hadn’t even started the “challenging” part of dinner yet!

The steps for making the pan sauce were simple:  add apple juice and broth, stir, add whipping cream, stir, add butter, stir, add more butter, stir, add more butter, stir, add evenmorefreakingbutter, stir.  But of course, I handled this all about as gracefully as a one-armed juggler.  By the time the sauce was finished, I’d worked up a decent sweat.

Thirty minutes of stress and cussing paid off when I tasted the food.  The sauce had a great flavor and texture and, despite the charcoal briquette-like appearance of the steaks, the insides were cooked to perfection.  HAHAHA, steak—IN YO FACE!

On a more serious note:  I do hope things go just a wee bit more smoothly when I make chicken with pan sauce…