Monday, June 23, 2008

Do not adjust your monitor...

Sunday 56 campers, six counselors and I joined the rest of the campers, counselors, and ministers at Camp Impact at OC. It is a great camp for 3rd through 6th graders. This year there are right at 300 campers which is a big camp for us in this environment.

I used to eat every meal in the campus dining hall and over the years became accustomed to it's...unique flavor. There were some really great things, it's a short list, like the peanut butter bars which I could have eaten 100 of. When the peanut butter bar lady died so did the peanut butter bar mojo--they were never the same. My breakfast of choice for the first 5 years of camp was a bowl of frosted flakes, which I love. I ate that until I got into a bad batch of milk and it turn me off the cereal at camp thing. It always tasted sour to me for some reason. You don't have to keep licking a skunk to know it's going to give you stinky breath! On to my next phase of breakfast; biscuits and gravy. I had those for nine years. Every morning two biscuits and gravy, coffee, and then water for the road. Two years ago I gave up on them because it was just not good for me to eat that kind of stuff...I did kind of like them. As much as you can like peppered gravy (re hydrated) and frozen biscuits.

Lunch and dinner were usually disappointing meals as the meat was some kind of processed pressed and coated substance. Nuggets, patties, strips, fingers...they were all the same just in a different shape or form. Not so good. There was one day when the served Turkey with yellow gravy. I knew the next day would always be tetrazzini day because they could use the left over turkey from the day before. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst) I'd say their food is about a 4.8 at best. Just not something that you love and crave for your next birthday dinner.

Last year I couldn't even bring myself to eat one thing at any time. It was just too gross. I opted instead for a Jimmy John's sub sandwich every day. The bread is baked fresh everyday and the meat is really good. Not that I loved eating a sandwich everyday for lunch and dinner, but hey, it was better than the school food. I probably should feel bad about it, but I don't not even a little bit bad about it.
The place was just across the street and allowed me to get there quick and fast. I tried to vary the things I ordered, but in the end i was just happy to eat these sandwiches instead of chocking down the camp food.

I don't think the food would be all that bad, if it were freshly prepared as it was, "back in the day." Everything today was a shade of white or yellow: Golden Chicken Nuggets, mashed potatoes with white gravy, corn, taco stack stuff. As I was walking by the dessert table I was stopped by what i could not believe. It really did gobsmack me to see this...this...thing on a tray over which the sign, "you asked for it." hung. Tell me, was this a threat? Here you are gentle reader: A marshmallow coated, fruit loop and marshmallow cube. I just couldn't believe it. The cube would move with the tongs as if the cube were alive, but man oh man was it not a sight. I didn't care if people laughed at me i was going to take a picture of this baby. It just stunned me to say the least.

I'll keep you posted on the interesting food creations over the next few days. I'm off to see if anyone has passed out from a sugar induced coma.. Did I mention they have an Icee machine?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This hit the spot

[ This beautiful picture is from Tastespotting, posted by, "". I didn't have my camera...I mean phone...handy.]

Summer is a crazy busy time for me and my family. Wednesday night's are especially hectic as we have 7 PM Bible Class at church. I usually work all through the day, pulling 12-14 hours, and don't stop just to attempt staying ahead of the game.

We usually have a Wednesday night meal at church and my family eats there because it's the easiest thing to do, not necessarily the most delicious mind you. Kendra called and asked if I wanted to join her at Taco Bueno for dinner with the kids, "...I had a big lunch today and I'm not really that hungry, just run through the drive through and get me a coke and I'll be fine." Translation: I hate Taco Bueno and can't really stand the thought of eating there--too gross for me. "Are you sure?" "Yes, thank you I'm sure." About twenty minutes later she pulls up with Wendy's--now I would have gone for Wendy's! Thunk.

Needless to say by the time we got home I was really hungry! Titus wanted to ride his bike and I didn't deny him this one love of his life. We were only outside maybe 20 minutes and it was time to go in and get ready for bed. Chubbers went down, Emma went down, and Titus was hungry. "Dad, what'ca makin?" "A cheese quesadilla." "Can I have one for after my shower?" "Sure." I had scoured the fridge and pantry for something to eat and came up with nothing that wasn't involved and I was ready to eat NOW! That's when cheese quesadilla came to my mind because it's fast...filling...and really good. Sold.

Titus likes his Quesadilla straight forward with just cheese and nothing else. I usually like to add shaved ham or something to the mix to give some more flavor. But what to do? Spice cabinet. I had recently bought some Fajita seasoning to make beef fajitas for a church pot luck, the recipe I was using called for fajita seasoning and I found this bottle at the store and had some left over. Not a bad plan I must say.

I decided to sprinkle some of this seasoning on my quesadilla and see what happened. The most prominent flavor coming through for me in this seasoning is cumin, which I love, so if you aren't a huge cumin fan I don't think this is for you. I can see me putting this on corn for a mexi-style side dish one night, or in refried beans to kick up the flavor--ok just give it flavor period. I'll be keeping this seasoning blend in my pantry for a while especially after the terrific results I had with the quesadilla.

Cheese Fajita Quesadilla

2 8" flour tortillas

1/2 cup shredded cheese

McCormick Fajita seasoning


Place a small skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, butter one side of each tortilla. Place the tortilla, buttered side down, in the hot skillet and immediately add the shredded cheese. Shake fajita seasoning over the cheese. Place the remaining tortilla on top of the cheese, buttered side up. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crispy. Flip over and cook 1-2 minutes more until golden and crispy.

I cut these into fourths and had some sour cream and salsa to dip. They were delicious! I could have eaten more than one, but resisted. Of course, you can use any size tortilla you want, and you could add an endless list of ingredients to this.

I also wanted to make you aware that Kraft is marketing hormone free cheese. I jumped on this bandwagon when I saw it. It's really good, not loss of flavor or texture, just a loss of all the weird stuff mass dairy farmers have been feeding cows for years. Why do they do that? This is what the package looks like. I think that Kraft is ONLY making hormone free 2% cheese now, but I could be wrong. Kendra has also found and loved Weight Watchers cheese, it's pretty good but not Kraft. I would still rather grate my own cheese like I did when I was a kid, but I just don't want to hassle with the mess. True it's much better, but not that much better I must say.

Here's an idea for you. Have a Quesadilla party! I jsut thought of this a few paragraphs up. You would need to borrow two or three griddles (you could use electric skillets) so everyone could whip up their quesadillas quickly. All you would need to have on hand are tortillas, and butter, plus cheese, and then have folks bring their own topping to add to the quesadilla bar. Chorizo, grilled sliced fajita beef or chicken, onions, mushrooms, peppers, ham, spinach, artichokes (I just thought about an artichoke spinach quesadilla: spinach, nutmeg, swiss cheese, and chopped artichokes--yum) just leave it up to the imagination of your guests. Then have salsa, guacamole and sour cream for the condiments and you have a party! Sounds fun.

One more recipe for you:
Fajita Marinade

1 bottle Kraft Italian dressing (15 oz I think, it was the "regular" sized one)

1 T Fajita seasoning (or one packet if you can't find the shaker bottle)

1 T cracked black pepper

In a zip top bag, add all of the ingredients, whisk with a fork. Add chicken breasts or beef and marinate for two hours up to overnight. Grill and slice for great fajita flavored meat.

This marinade is awesome! You aren't saying, "man this Italian dressing is really great!" You can't tell it was Italian dressing--promise. I like to use flank or skirt steak for my fajita beef and always use chicken tenderloins for my chicken. They cook super fast and I don't have to worry about under cooking them. You could use thinly sliced ribeye or sirloin steak if you wanted to.

Give this quesadilla a wont be sorry. Man...I'm hungry!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Have you ever been completely stopped in your tracks with the burning question, "Why?" I really can't count how many times a day I have to this go through my head. You see, I have a problem. I watch people--a lot! I find myself at times lost in a trance as I'm gawking at folks. I really need to stop, I'm sure I'll be punched in the face someday.

My time is really, really limited as I'm in the throngs of one of the most stressful and busy summer's I've ever had in my career and I just don't have the time it takes to dedicate a long post...say about a super vacation. My camera...I mean my phone...takes forever to send photos to my computer so I can load them. Be patient, gentle reader, all is not lost as there is plenty of "stuff" rolling around in my head to keep us busy.


  • do hot dog buns come 8 to package and the hot dogs 10 to a package?
  • do people waiting for the same elevator HAVE to push the button already illuminated? Do they think it will come faster if more than one person pushes it?
  • did the 5th dentist cave on Trident? What gum does HE like?
  • do people always think it's their turn to go no matter what?
  • do banks charge you money for funds they know isn't there?
  • do we wait for the right step as the escalator rolls? Have you ever seen someone step on the first step rolling
  • Do CD's come enclosed in plastic as well as sticker closed on two sides? Do they HAVE to be that secure?
  • are all toys permanently secured to their packaging to point that you need power tools to free them so your anxious child can play.
  • do we believe people who say there are 10 billions stars in the universe, but touch a wall we are told has wet paint?
  • would someone taste something that you were just told, "this is disgusting, taste it."
  • do we look into other people's baskets at the supermarket and feel panicked when we see large quantities of one thing, wondering if it's going to be rationed.
  • can produce growers not keep our veggies from being poisonous? Spinach last summer...tomatoes this summer...what's next?
  • do drive up ATM's have braille?
  • do students who have open seating sit in the same chair on the first day as the last?
  • do we feel compelled to whisper in airports but flat out scream in a restaurant?
  • do waiters, assigned to your table, ask if they can help? Who else will if they don't?
  • do we talk louder to people who don't speak our language?
  • does an American speaking in another language sound like a total doofus, but english sound cool when spoken by folks whose first language is something else? French accents, German accents, etc.
  • aren't their B batteries? Couldn't the 9 volt just come along and be the B?
  • do we trust manufacturers who screwed up the first time think we will trust them with "New and Improved". They didn't do it right the first time!
  • does Hawaii have Interstate highways?
  • will we stop for trains? Shouldn't they stop for us?
  • do dogs look like their masters?
  • does the postal service have machinery that processes thousands of letters a second and send them out for delivery by people who saunter?
  • do women who run in a sport's bra not feel like they are running in their underwear? men don't just run around in a jock strap, thankfully!
  • are chips packaged by weight...just fill up the bag!
  • do we shop in the cold and frozen foods sections first?
  • don't we believe expiration dates?
  • what was the best thing before sliced bread?
  • do black olives come in a can and green olives in a jar?
  • does the cashier ask if we found everything we needed and not take action when we don't?
  • does the oil company set it's own price? electricity is subsidised and regulated by the government...can't car fuel become a utility too?
  • do we have general elections if it doesn't matter who wins the popular vote?
  • does day break and night fall?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hurry out the door rice

Do you find yourself busy as a beaver...a cranberry merchant at Christmas...a long tail cat in a room full of rockers? Are you sick of feeding your family through a drive through and find yourself just wishing that you could eat something that wasn't wrapped in paper? Well if you are in this boat then this recipe might just help you out. It's super simple, limited ingredients, and varied as your imagination can make it. This dish can have dinner on the table in lest than 30 minutes! How's that for getting your family out the door on on your way with a home cooked meal?
First the cast of characters:
1 lb. of ground beef (we had ground turkey on hand)
1 can of beef broth
1 box of Rice A Roni
1 stick of butter (you won't use all of the stick)
2 tsp. Garlic Powder (or 2 cloves crushed fresh)
2 tsp. Onion Powder (or 1 cup of chopped fresh)
Salt and Pepper
That's it, nothing more that you need to get dinner on the table lickity split!
Place your ground meat in a large skillet, into which you have poured 1 T. of olive oil and fry over medium heat until it is browned. Once you see the meat starting to brown, add your seasonings (and if using fresh veggies, those too) and continue to cook until the meat is brown. Remove from your skillet and place on a plate to rest while you get the rice a going.
Let's talk for just a minute about frying meat. There's not much in the world I hate more than wormy meat. When meat is fried un attended and cooks without beign broken up, looking wormy. It's just not fun for me. One of my good friends, Ana Marquez, who lives in Fort Worth, TX share a secret that her family uses in their restaurant business, a potato masher! That's right friends, a potato masher.

Using a potato mashwer allows the meat to be broken up, giving you an even texture and making your meat consistently smooth and no clumpy and wormy. I, for one, like smoothly textures ground meat and not all huge clumps. Maybe you are different, but I can tell you this--use a potato masher up until the "clumpiness" you prefer and you'll want to buy me a Starbucks gift card (worth $100 please email me for the address).

Look at this picture to the left, remember we're cooking turkey so that's why it's not more brown. But you can see the there is even texture, and that there are no clumps or worms. At this point you can add your sauce, taco seasoning, or whatever. Hey freeze the stuff and have it on hand for an even quicker week night meal! I think I'm done...are you convinced that you need to mash your ground beef? I sure hope so.

Ok, back to the show. When we last left our pan, it was lonely having just said goodbye to some perfectly fried ground turkey. Place two tablespoons (use the package directions on the Rice A Roni and go by what they say) of butter in your skillet and melt it. Pour in the rice and vermicelli and brown. You'll want to let this set for 1-2 minutes before stirring because you want to get the vermicelli browned and toasty. It's very important for you to not leave your post because you can burn this quick and then you would have to unwrap your food from paper through a drive-through AND clean up the kitchen to boot. Just stand there for 3-4 minutes and stir the stuff, ok?

My personal preference for "perfect" Rice A Roni" is to have some of the vermicelli browned but not completely browned all the way through. It is probably more of a fear that I will burn it, because I have burned my fair share of Rice A Roni over the years. This picture is of what I would call perfect rice. Now, you are ready to pour in the Beef Broth (instead of the water called for on the box directions.) which I love because it increases the beefiness of this dish 100% especially if you are using ground turkey! After you pour in the beef broth, you'll add the seasoning packet and give it a quick stir, so all the powder is completely mixed in. Add the ground beef, stir, cover, and cook it according to package directions. I think it's like 25 minutes or something, covered on low. How about this shot I took of motion? On a camera phone none the less. I love to read Pioneer Woman's blog and she takes motion pictures all the time and wondered if my phone...i mean camera...would do it--viola! It does.

While this is cooking, you have time to cut up fruit and throw in a bag of Steamfresh veggies to finish off the dinner. I usually put some crescent rolls in the oven because by the time the oven heats up and the bread bakes the rice is ready and the hot fresh bread is ready. You can do salad or whatever you like with this dish.
Here it is all done. If my kids didn't do convulsions at the sight of green stuff, I'd add some fresh parsley, or some mushrooms. It's really versatile and super easy to do. Plus the bonus is one dish, one skillet, that will fit in the dishwasher.

You could use Pork Rice A Roni with Sausage, and chicken broth to mix it up. You could do ground chicken, with Chicken Rice A Roni and chicken stock. It's really up to you to decide how far to take this. This dish is one of all my kiddos favorite things to eat because they all love ground beef, rice, and having them together with nothing else to corrupt is just bonus all the way around.
I do want to let you know how awesome these steam fresh bags are. I just love them because the veggies are perfect every time with out any failures at all. We usually dump the veggies into a bowl and season with 1T of butter and Mrs. Dash or whatever we have on hand, but you could just serve these from the bag on to the plates to save time and another dirty dish.
I love this medley because it has crunchy, sweet white corn, yellow corn, carrots, and asparagus. It is really good. There are a ton of varieties and they really, really do work. You can trust me on this. Do make sure you read which side needs to be up--it matters. Also holding it where it says matters, unless you like steam burns.
I'll be off for a few days, going to Silver Dollar City with the family for Titus' birthday celebration. You'll hear all about it when I get back.