A Week, in Three Acts (Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches)

skipaheadAct 1: “Is it Friday yet?” So said the girl who enjoys an incredibly flexible work schedule and one or two work-at-home days each week. This week has seemed exceptionally long though. It all began with some news about staff changes at my job. It’s an exciting time, but it also likely means more demands on me and a more rigid work schedule. Since the biggest perk of my job is my ability to work from home as needed and start my day at 10am or leave at 4pm when I can, I’m a little troubled. I know we’ll get back to a flexible schedule again, but as we transition, I imagine I’ll be pulled in a few more directions. It’ll be a fun ride anyhow. Ride along with me?

Act 2: In the middle of the week I attended a conference and flashed a handful of attendees. Ok, not really, but kind of. If you ever plan a conference, please please please make sure you have a spot to direct nursing mothers to. PLEASE. To be fair, this conference did have a spot for me. On the other side of the hotel on the 24th floor. It took no less than 10 minutes to get to. So 20 minutes of travel, plus the time it takes to pump, meant I was missing whole sessions out of my $200 conference. There were only five sessions to begin with, so I was not a happy girl. Even so, I tried to roll with it. But when I went to use the room for the second time that day and found it was in use, I was incredibly frustrated when they didn’t have a back up option for me. Folks, I’ve pumped in storage closets, I’ve pumped in my car, I’ve even pumped in a restaurant after hours. I’m flexible. I really just need a door. I asked the hotel and conference crew if there was an office, a bathroom with a sofa, a closet – anything at all that I could use in lieu of the 24th floor isolation chamber that was in use. No, no, no. With tears welling up – mostly out of frustration – I started counting my options. I told the staff I’d nurse right there in the lobby if that’s what they left me to (fyi – I do have a cover-up, so we’re not talking about extreme indecency here). They said I couldn’t do that, but didn’t give me any other options either. So I walked three steps in the direction of the lobby sofa, saw a plethora of guys in three-piece suits on their blackberrys, and quickly chickened out. Instead I found a corner in one of the meeting rooms that had minimal traffic and a spot to plug-in my pump. It was still humiliating sitting there with my shirt hoisted, my nursing coverup (aka “tent”), and the steady “swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash” of my breast pump while conference participants networked and met with one another close by.

(By the way, later that day I found that the bathrooms did in fact have sofas, despite the front desk looking at me with bafflement when I asked that question.)

Act 3: Finally, the end of my week was spent battling a three-day snow storm that veered wildly from sputtering rain, to huge snowflakes, to sleet; and so on. I had watched the weather closely because of an early morning meeting, with participants from all around the state. The meeting went off without a hitch and although I hid behind various types of technology all through the meeting, my struggling social side was drained. I mean it, I was dog tired when I got home. Introvert friends, if you find yourself physically exhausted after meetings or parties, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Read this and take comfort. How to Care for you Introvert is one of my favorite articles. I share it, reference it, and read it often. It gives me comfort and reminds me that I’m not a crazy person (well, that might be an overstatement), but just an introvert.

So, needless to say, easy was the name of the game this week for dinner. I wanted comforting food, fast food (from my kitchen, foo, not from McDon’s), and mostly I wanted easy food. So, consider this the first installment of the “this week can just go right back to H E double hockey sticks” series.


Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Overall: five-star

Go ahead, have some wine! I love this Purple Cowboy Merlot. It’s named Purple Cowboy because the rodeo-loving wine makers always had purple teeth. My cowboy always turns his teeth purple when he has wine too!

This recipe makes me happy. It was so quick to whip up; had the meat, veggies, dairy, and grain all included; was a breeze to clean up; and tasted great! It costs a bit more since it does require steak and if you’re feeding a big family it could add up, but at least a little steak goes a long way in this one! (Recipe here, from Simply Scratch.) Continue reading

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It’s pronounced keen-wah (Lemon Herb Rainbow Quinoa Salad)

skipaheadWe’ve been eating pretty unhealthy around here. Or at least my recipe feed would have you think so. So I figured it’s high time we bust out a healthy recipe. Plus, I haven’t had many vegetarian recipes and no vegan recipes yet! (Sorry Jenny! Your potato soup recipe is still in the queue though!) So we’re busting out of our “meat, potatoes, pasta, and chocolate chip” funk today with a quinoa recipe. I have only had quinoa a couple of times and I’ve never prepared it myself. It’s one of those foods that scare me, simply because I don’t know what it is exactly or where to buy it or how to prepare it. And I know my mom is reading this now saying, “Qw-in-o-ah? What the heck is that?” So, here is a great infographic to help you, Mom!

I can summarize though: We should all be eating more “keen-wah.” Get started with this recipe. It’s easy and yummy and fast.


Lemon Herb Rainbow Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Overall: three-star

We loved this salad. Light and fresh and easy to make. But it was expensive, man. E was trying to dissuade me from thinking it was expensive, so maybe I’m a cheapskate, but I had to spend $10 on the quinoa alone. Mint and pine nuts aren’t cheap either. (Recipe here, from Simply Scratch.) Continue reading

BBQ Sauce, the best camouflage (Larry’s Best Baby Back Ribs)

skipaheadRemember last week when I told you I was sick yet again? I’m not anymore. Though I’m a bit itchy. (Don’t read that sentence too fast, bit *pause* itchy.)

Not interested in dealing with another sinus infection or two-month long cold, I broke the rules. I broke the rules and karma had something to say about it. See, I had this unused bottle of Augmentin (an antibiotic) in my drawer. I hadn’t used it before because I was wary of it. As an infant I had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, but I had been told by several urgent care doctors that often times infants are mis-diagnosed with penicillin allergies. So I decided now was the time to give it a try, rather than going into the doctor yet again to get a z-pack. I took it for seven days. On Saturday, while nursing Little K – I looked down at my hands and realized I had red pimples all over them. I knew what it was right away and took a Benadryl and threw away the rest of the antibiotic. One step forward, two steps back. I took a Benadryl an hour before spending the afternoon with the most enthusiastic shoppers you’ll find this side of the Rio Grande: E’s family. They shopped and fussed over Little K until I dropped. Although I think they know I’m not the avid shoppers they are, they likely realized something else was up by looking at my glassy eyes and my poxed hands and chin (luckily a scarf I was wearing covered up most of the hives while we shopped). I hit a metaphorical shopping wall right around the same time Little K hit his. We packed up and headed home. And honestly, I didn’t think at all about the allergy and hives – it didn’t even occur to me that I was tired because of the Benadryl. I’m just always tired these days I guess. Everything finally clicked when I got home and took off the scarf to find the hives had grown in size and now seemed to be glowing red. I took some more Benadryl and promptly went to bed.

My arm at the doctor’s office. I wish I had played connect the dots, I feel like there may have been a pretty awesome picture of Donald Duck hidden in there.

When I woke up I knew I was in bad shape. I knew because it felt like my whole body was sunburned, swollen, and like I had swallowed a bumble bee. I fed Little K and drove myself to urgent care. The doctor there scolded me, gave me an anti-inflamatory shot, told me to stop taking Benadryl during waking hours (I’m taking Zyrtec now), and told me I was grounded for the next week for breaking the rules. Ok, he didn’t really do that last part – but he probably should have…

Five hours later I looked no better (and no worse), but I was sitting at my friend Kerin’s baby shower with about 25 other people who I didn’t know or only vaguely knew. Who knows how to leave an impression? This girl! Fortunately I really don’t think most people noticed the leper in the room. I wore a big scarf, long sleeves, and the thickest layer of make-up I’ve applied since I was 14.

My arm as of this morning. You can’t tell from the picture, but even though the hives are much larger and are blending together – they’re less raised and I’m feeling less swollen.

Now, over 24 hours since the anti-inflammatory shot, the hives are finally starting to dissipate. I’m still taking Zyrtec so I don’t scratch my skin off (I’m also considering wearing mittens for the rest of the day). But at the rate we’re going here, I’ll be lucky to be rid of the hives by swim suit season. In the words of the urgent care doc, “There are better ways to find out if you’re allergic to something.”

Fortunately I have the perfect food for you to try if you’re trying to hide your bright red hives all over your hands and face: Ribs, with the best bbq sauce. You’ll have it slathered all over your face and hands while you’re chowing down, no one will even be able to see the hives! What a clever girl I am.


Larry’s Best Baby Back Ribs

Overall: five-star

Oh yum. See that weird-looking martini? It was a Bloody Mary Martini from a recipe on the bloody mary mix. Sounds weird, but so good.

We have used this recipe to prepare ribs for years and we love it. I honestly don’t recall preparing ribs any other way since we’ve found this recipe. It’s super easy to make, you can set it to cook while you’re at work and come home to the best dinner and a fabulous smelling house. (Truly, I wish they made candles in this scent. Yum.) (Recipe here, from Cooks.com.) Continue reading

My garlic press goes vroom! (Lemony Tuna and Olive Oil Pasta)

Things are looking up around here!

  1. I made some scones (stay tuned for the review!) and I can smell them baking. This cold is whipped.
  2. Little K went in for a weight check today and he went up two percentage points to the 6th percentile in weight and seven percentage points to the 25th percentile in height! My tall, skinny baby is gonna look like his daddy!
  3. Spring is coming. Know how I know? Today when I let the dogs out, instead of walking to the edge of the deck, seeing the snow and running back to jump throw themselves on the door until I let them back in, they did their business and then proceeded to lay down on the deck and sun themselves.

A couple of days ago, I wasn’t feeling so optimistic and wanted a quick meal to fill our bellies, but I had no energy to give to the prep. I also had nothing on hand. I found this recipe using pasta, a can of tuna, some red pepper flakes, and a lemon. Perfect.


Lemony Tuna and Olive Oil Pasta

Overall: three-star

This was a pretty good recipe for what it was: something I could throw together quick, using just the ingredients I have in my pantry. The flavor was pretty subtle, but it was healthy and fresh. (Recipe here, from Real Simple.)

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You don’t know Reuben (How to make a panini without a press)

This post is a combo post. Part review of a reuben sandwich, part tips and technique on how to make a panini even if you don’t have a panini press. I had high hopes of making corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day (note: a friend of mine alerted me that I’ve called this day by the wrong nickname for years! Apparently it’s not Pattie’s or Patty’s. It’s Paddy’s. Lesson learned.), but I woke up with a cold. Again. So instead of figuring out corned beef and cabbage and making – and eating it! – for the first time, I spent St. Paddy’s day catching snippets of naps in between Little K’s meal schedule. By dinner, we were looking to partake a little in the Irish festivities and fill our empty bellies fast. So, we made reuben paninis. One problem though… I don’t have a panini press. I did a quick hunt to see if I could find recommendations on how to get around this little hitch, and found lots of tips.

Don’t worry if you can’t watch the video though, here’s the gist:

  1. Use a smaller frying pan stacked on top of the sandwiches as they fry.
  2. Press it down with your own weight or with a few different cans from your pantry.

It worked great and the reubens were super yummy.


Reuben Panini

Overall: five-star

If you haven’t had a reuben before – or heaven forbid, you don’t even know what a reuben is! – put that on your to-do list. They are amazing – especially with plenty of thousand island and swiss cheese! Oh, and the cheater panini press worked like a charm.¬† (Recipe here, from BringingUpBoys on Tasty Kitchen.)

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