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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When retro is new again (Pineapple Upside Down Cake in a Skillet)

skipaheadOver the weekend we celebrated my littlest sister and her 19th year. Yes, my sister is entering into her last teen year. I just can’t believe it. She’ll always be my baby sister though. After all, when I’m 99 she’ll only be 89. Spring chicken!

My baby sister and my baby boy.

My baby sister and my baby boy.

To celebrate her birthday, we went to the zoo and then made any cake she wanted. She could have chosen a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and chocolate ice cream. Or a lemon infused three-tiered cake with butter cream frosting. But no, she chose pineapple upside-down cake. And when I told her she was being retro and a little bit too easy on me she blinked back at me confused. Apparently 19 is too young to know that a pineapple upside-down cake is old-school.

Happy Birthday, Michelle!

Happy Birthday, Michelle!


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (In an Iron Skillet)

Overall: four-star

DSCF48701This is such a throw back recipe. It reminds me something that my grandmother probably made as a newlywed. I’d never made it though and it was really pretty good. The flavor didn’t blow me away, but it was easy to make and such a sweet presentation. (Recipe here, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.) Continue reading

Egg Wars! (Creamy Herb Deviled Eggs Recipe)

skipaheadFor Easter this year we went down to Southern Wisconsin, where my parents live. It is a long drive, compounded by traveling with a baby and two dogs. It was definitely worth it though. We had a blast seeing all of my family and catching up.

Great Grandma (Gigi) and Little K

Though Little K ended up getting two top teeth (yay for balancing out his smile!) and a terrible fever along with them, we did come home with some pretty fun goodies. Little K got some fun toys from the Easter Bunny and his very own adirondack chair.

Silly bunny hid Little K’s basket under his pack and play!

Mmm, Peeps! (For mommy and daddy…)

I fared ok too. First of all my mom gave me this beautiful deviled eggs plate that she had gotten as a wedding gift:

Ooo, shiny. And secondly, purdy eggs:

Do you decorate your eggs as intricately as this? That’s Little K’s egg (Rachel’s handiwork) with the big red tractor. We decorate eggs every year. And we’re serious about this project. This year we decorated seven dozen eggs. Don’t worry, only a mild cholesterol spike for us, each family only took about a dozen home.

What does any sane person do with all those eggs? Well, first you have an egg war.

After a couple eggs have sparred one another and been defeated, you make deviled eggs. What other option did I have?!


Creamy Herb Deviled Eggs Recipe

Overall: three-star

I made these as the main recipe calls for, and I made some that I “greek-ifyed.” The magazine has a bonus tip that says to add lemon, mint, and cucumber to give a Greek flair (I didn’t have cucumbers, so I used kalamata olives). Either way, I didn’t like them. E would give them a better rating than I would, but in my book I’d pick the traditional deviled eggs with mayo and mustard 99 times out of 100. However, if you’re looking for something a little healthier, this is the way to go! (Recipe here, from Taste of Home.) Continue reading

Sugar-Induced Coma (Cream Crowdie Ice Cream)

Over the weekend the lovely Miss Rachel, of Rachel Running Wild, and her boyfriend invited us over for ice cream from the book I found for them on my Maklemore Challenge. Five flavors later I was dizzy, lethargic, and probably suffering from sudden onset diabetes. The five pieces of broccoli from the veggie tray were all that saved me from a sugar-induced coma. The ice cream was amazing. They served the best chocolate ice cream I’ve had in a long time, vanilla (I’ll punch you if you say vanilla is plain. Seriously. Watch out.), coffee stout, and cream crowdie. They all were amazing, but the chocolate and cream crowdie were my favorites.

Rachels' cat, Lila.

Rachels’ cat, Lila. She’s much bigger now. The cat, not Rachel. Rachel is still as tiny as she was in junior high.

Because Rachel is super-cool (she’s my sister, of course she’s super-cool), she wrote up a guest post about the recipe and the process to make the ice cream. But first, a bit about her: Rachel is the middle sister of our notorious Wisconsin clan. She went to college in Iowa at Luther College and has a health and environmental studies degree. Rachel is an avid promoter of organic home gardening and upcycling. (When I was a kid I called her a hippie because she had goofy round glasses. She didn’t talk to me for at least a week. Now when I call her that, she beams proudly. #truestory) She also loves the snow and all sports requiring the fluffy stuff, like skiing and snowshoeing. When it comes down to it though, she’ll always be a distance runner at heart. (Wow, typing all that up really drove home how shockingly different we are from one another. All the more reasons why we work so well with each other – not something I could always say!) But there are lots of similarities between us too. She runs her own blog, Rachel Running Wild (go check it out right now, I’ll wait for you.) She’s an animal lover and spends as much time outside as she can. We both go crazy for Parks and Rec and nearly any dessert we can get our hands on. Especially ice cream.


Ice cream never lasts long in our house. It’s the sole purpose for out freezer, really. We have a bag of peas and ice cube tray in there too, but that’s just to keep the ice cream company. We always have several WiLd flavors on hand – from Salted Caramel and Coffee Stout, to Beet. Yup, you read that right. Beet ice cream with Mascarpone, orange zest, and poppy seeds. Crazy stuff.

Where do we get these wild flavors? …well from milk, cream and sugar for starters! We bought this ice cream maker about two years ago and absolutely love it. Until trying your own (or someone else’s!) homemade ice cream, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. There’s definitely a whole new depth of flavor, creaminess, and just plain deliciousness that you get with homemade ice cream.

So when Krystal gave us her thrift shop findIce Cream: The Perfect Weekend Treat, I was a bit excited. We decided to turn it into an ice cream extravaganza! (And by extravaganza, I mean FIVE flavors of ice cream and nobody’s allowed to go home until they’ve tried them all.)

The recipe we decided to feature for the party was Cream Crowdie Ice Cream. According to the tidbit in our book, “Cream Crowdie is often considered the national dessert of Scotland… consisting of oatmeal, heavy cream, and Drambuie with (optional) raspberries.”  Sign me up!

Cream Crowdie Ice Cream

raspberry goodness

raspberry goodness

Overall:

four-star

This was a easy ice cream to make and had pretty good flavor overall. The oatmeal added an interesting flavor, but took away a lot in the texture department. If you give this a try, leave the oatmeal out! (Recipe here, from Ice Cream: The Perfect Weekend Treat.)

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Pinterest Overload: Skillet Chicken Parmesan (Updated)

Know what the problem with Pinterest is? It’s so freaking addicting!! I’m working on a Pinterest challenge (I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow) and so I’ve been spending more time over there than usual. Picture me waking up in the morning and pouring myself a warm cup of coffee, opening up Pinterest, thinking “ok, I’m gonna peruse the food and drink category.” Next thing you know it’s 2am, I’ve drank at least three pots of coffee, and I’m still wearing my pajamas. It’s a very dangerous possibility. Stay safe, be smart – have a Pinterest rescue buddy who will steal your computer if you’ve been on Pinterest for more than three hours straight. Little K is my buddy. Who’s yours?

No more computer time for you, Mom! (Actually, that’s not my computer. Mine is orange and blue, not yellow and blue.)

The point is, I have yet another Pinterest recipe that I tried for dinner the other day. I will again open up a real cookbook one of these days.


Skillet Chicken Parmesan

Overall: three-star

This is a very quick, very easy recipe. I didn’t find the flavor all that great though – pretty bland. A winner if you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, though. (Recipe here.)

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