Gawker: A Letter From Ray Jasper, Who Is About to Be Executed

Wow. Shuffle off to a quiet corner & take the time to read this. This man is (surprisingly) well spoken & knowledgeable & has a lot of good points.

Gawker: A Letter From Ray Jasper, Who Is About to Be Executed. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwneLzuhk

Meatball Cups outta thin air……

This evening I found myself in the kitchen, mentally twirling the recipe carousel in my mind, searching for something I could make for dinner. I had 1 lb. of ground beef to work with. I’ll spare you all the boring details of what ideas were turned down because I lacked the ingredients (yes, I am way overdue to go actual grocery shopping)…eventually I landed on meatball cups.

What the hell is a meatball cup?! You ask.
A meatball cup is a fun way to convince your kids to eat meatloaf! It is a cheap go-to if you have a small amount of meat (like 1 lb,) & a big taste for meatloaf! It is an American classic with a modern twist & an interesting title that makes people wonder “What the hell is a meatloaf cup?!”. Simply put, it is meatloaf smashed into a muffin tin.
Here we go:

Meatloaf Cups
1 lb. ground beef (or more; 1 lb, only yields about 10)
breadcrumbs
1/4 c. milk (or water)
2 eggs (or egg whites)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
BBQ sauce (ahem, KC Masterpiece Honey bbq sauce is my recommendation) or ketchup, whichever you prefer
1-2 muffin pans, depending on how much meat you’re using.

Now first we need to get a couple things straight:
1) ground beef shrinks
2) you should basically make this meatloaf in the way you typically would. The only difference comes with the shaping-instead of making a mound of raw meat you’ll be separating it into portions. My meatloaf recipe varies depending on what I have on hand (although apparently I manage to keep good form: I’ll never forget the time my Aunt complimented me by saying that my meatloaf “actually held together” & that hers never did) so just do what you’re used to.

Anyway…for me, I throw my raw beef into a bowl, then I add a couple eggs (or just egg whites…a good thing to keep on hand is:
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I know, it’s more of a “rich people” food but it comes in handy if you’re like me & forget to buy eggs but then you need one here or there; I have no idea how much this stuff is or where it can be found, this is courtesy of our house-mate), I add my spices-usually garlic & onion powders, seasoned salt, regular salt & pepper-then I start mixing it all together. If it seems a little “off” I’ll add a touch of water (or milk) here & there as needed. I also just eyeball the breadcrumbs…I could be wrong about this but the breadcrumbs serve to suck up the grease and to stretch the meat, so I add enough to cover those jobs but not so much that I’ll end up with a loaf of bread in the end.

Still with me? For some reason this post seems even more discombobulated than my posts usually do; Maybe because it’s been a lot of stop-go-stop-go. Thanks for hanging in there!

Okay, now once you’ve gotten your hunk of meatloaf mixed, take a normal dinner-ware sized spoon, scoop out some meat mix & start filling those muffin cups. Some meatloaf cup recipes end up putting mashed potatoes on the top but I’m going the quick & easy (read: lazy) route today; we’ll be topping these with BBQ sauce. Remember: ground beef shrinks (unless you can afford the fancy-schmancy lean beef…kidding, kidding) so don’t gip your eaters with the cups. I managed to get (almost) 11 & a couple were on the smaller side but hey, everybody ate dammit. You should end up with something like this:

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Yes, I did bbq all of them...

Next I pour some BBQ sauce into a measuring cup-so I don’t make a mess & the whole bottle plops out & drowns the meat-cups-and use the same spoon I scooped with to put enough sauce to cover each top. For those of you obsessed with measurements, I’d figure it’s about 1-2 Tbsp, if that. Place in a 350° oven for…about 30 minutes. I’m truly sorry; for me, cooking is something of a second nature now & I’m always forgetting to jot important info like times & measurements down so that I can input them on the blog. I just cooked mine until they were done, checked on them a couple times. You end up with:
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Ta-da! The dinner I pulled out of thin air.

A closer look at the meatloaf cup:
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They were delish! Granted I wish I would’ve had more meat so we could’ve had more cups, but the basis of this recipe was working with what I had on hand (I still have not been to the store! I definitely don’t get the Mom-of-the-week award this week…)

On a side note, I’ve heard of people using sour cream in their mashed potatoes to make them creamier. I happened to have a half a tub left so I decided to try it out as opposed to throw it out.
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I honestly didn’t notice a taste or texture difference, however because you can’t taste the sour cream, that’s exactly why you should sneak it in if you have it on hand…everyone can use some extra vitamins & all that, so just sneak it in there without telling anyone . 😉

Thoughts are welcome, ALWAYS.

Alert: it’s apparently still winter. (So bring on the vegetable soup!)

Unbeknownst to me, it is still winter. I was fooled into thinking spring had finally sprung when we had those glorious few days of warm, sunny, breezy weather. I broke out my flip-flops (well, not really…I never really packed them away but no, I didn’t walk through snow in them-what kind of dummy do you think I am?) & the kids ran free without jackets. It was a wonderful time, full of laughter and smiles and hopes for a plethora of sunshiny days ahead.

And now this.

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Admittedly, not the best snow picture ever. 2 things you should know about this photo: #1 It was not taken at night (unfortunately the camera fairy still hasn’t blessed me with a dslr); #2 There is a lot more snow than depicted. Not mountains, or even enough to coat the roads, but it’s flurrying hardcore (which is actually pretty if also unwanted).

Of course the kiddos were out today-news I relished at 6 a.m. when I realized I didn’t have to get up but somehow that news loses it’s charm halfway through the day & after 45 “Can I….?”.

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This latest snow assault puts me in the mood for something warm & filling for dinner. I’m hoping (if I can get C to go get the stuff) to turn to a family classic, my Mom’s Vegetable Soup. It holds a special place in my heart not only because it came from my momma, but also because it was the first thing I made C & I when we first started out; and because my sister asked me for the recipe, which makes me feel useful, traditional & generally warm-n-fuzzy. The list of great things about this recipe is not short:
*it’s cheap
*it’s easy
*it’s super versatile
*it’s freezable
*it’s comforting
*it’s semi-healthy
*it’s tasty
*it appeals to different taste buds
I could keep going but you’re probably bored to tears. This soup can be whatever you want it to be, really. You can use whatever vegetables you like, whatever meat you prefer; you can make it more tomato-y or more beefy tasting; you can make it overloaded with veggies or just a few. It’s totally customizable for those who are looking to start their own traditional family soup recipe.

Judy’s Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 lg (or 2 small) bag frozen mixed vegetables (sometimes labeled as “soup mix”)
1 small onion, sliced or diced
2-4 beef bouillon cubes (depending on your taste…I like a lot)
1 can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can tomato sauce
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
Water, as needed

1) In a medium skillet cook the ground beef over med-high heat. While beef is cooking, in a large pot add vegetables, tomatoes, seasonings & water (the amount of water you use will determine how much soup you end up with). Drain grease from meat well.

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Cooked, crumbled ground beef.

2) Add meat to soup pot; add salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste; put a lid on it & let it cook (aka turn fabulous) on low for one or two hours.
While cooking you can taste-test & add flavors accordingly. Since soup has so much water sometimes you have to add more seasonings than you’d normally use. Also, since it’s so versatile, you can add whatever would taste good to you:
Beef stock.
A ham bone.
Beans…cannellini (spelling?) or kidney or whatever!
You could use a different type of meat, like beef stew or cut up strip steak.
More tomatoes.
More vegetables.
Whatever…you…want.

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All together. Kinda gross now but not for long!

When it’s done melding flavors, serve piping hot with peanut butter crackers or sandwiches. Mmm-mmm good!!

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Dip that sandwich in & you're in 7th heaven!

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PS…sorry for posting a pic of my ice foot after a pic of that deiciousness-in-a-bowl…I took it specifically for the blog & felt bad leaving it out. 😉

PPS…this is one of those recipes that’s even better the next day! If you believe in leftovers, that is.

PPPS….feel free to add some pasta (elbow, ziti, the ABC pasta if you’re lucky enough to find it, whatever’s in the cabinet), just wait until the soup is hot/completely reheated so you don’t overcook the pasta & then it turns to mush. You may have to add some extra water also, depending on how much your pasta sucks up.

PPPPS….this apparently also makes good chow for pugs & mixed breed cats! Our 3 cats & 1 pug thoroughly enjoyed the remaining soup after we had leftovers with it. So, you’re welcome for that little tip.

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This princess currently has a furry belly full of warm, yummy, vegetable soup!

Stealing from other’s menus-Teriyaki Chicken Bowls

I am signed up for several different blogs/sites to send me their daily/weekly recipes & one of my favorites is Mommy’s Kitchen. The recipes usually meet my 3 goals:
Cheap
Easy
Tasty
I also use the monthly menu plans & various recipes to inspire our meals & get fresh ideas. In a way this could be considered stealing but then again that’s what they are meant for, so that sort of undermines the whole concept of stealing…you can’t “steal” what someone is giving you, eh?

Okay, so we recently tried:
Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Bowls & man were they good! I had gotten a huge pack of chicken leg quarters for $4, resigning myself to de-skinning/fatting/boning it all myself in order to save a few bucks (the prices on the packs of boneless skinless chicken are ridiculous!). Because of this, it took me awhile to make this but if you choose the easy route it shouldn’t take too long. This recipe is also versatile, which I like a lot; you can interchange the vegetables and/or pasta to whatever your favs are or whatever you have on hand. You can even switch out the noodles for quinoa or rice if you prefer. And let me just say…the leftovers the next day are delish! After the teriyaki sauce has had time to sink in?? Mmm-mmm! Click the Teriyaki Chicken link above (which takes you to another recipe site, not Mommy’s Kitchen, which you should still make sure to check out) for the full recipe with step-by-step instructions. Then, after you get your belly full, be sure to stop back by here & let me know your thoughts!!

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My meat prep.
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Look at that freshly deskinned shhhicken! 😉
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Saute the mushrooms & onions; what an amazing smell!
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Make sure to chop your veggies on the small side for easy eating.
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My teriyaki sauce as it is cooking.
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Almost finished!

I’m too much of a pig (& I’m compelled to eat when it’s hot) to remember to get photos of finished recipes, which is something I strive to remember but never fail to forget. No-finished-product-photo aside, just plop your noodles (or rice) in a bowl & top with the teriyaki chicken mixture, then enjoy!

Update
I just received a rare email from Kikkoman & there is a link to their version of a Teriyaki Shrimp Noodle Bowl; I thought I’d share it here because shrimp is amazing & it seems easy enough to make. You could double the teriyaki sauce you’re making, instead of using theirs. Just sayin’. Good luck!

*Updated & pics added!*Pizza Inn & California Pizza Kitchen copycat recipes: so good & so easy.

I couldn’t think of anything clever or cute to title today’s recipe post. “Super Saturday” would’ve worked but I like to tie in something about the recipe with the title. You know…”meat-y Monday”…the recipe was meaty…that sort of jinky stuff. So anyway, tonight we’re being copycats!

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Interior dining room of a Pizza Inn

Growing up there was a restaurant in our town called Pizza Inn. They’re a small franchise primarily on the east coast (as far as I know). They offer a buffet & regular menu and have all kinds of yummy stuff to eat: pizza, pasta, desserts, salads, breadsticks. In my mind (because it was the first place I’d ever heard of such a thing) they pioneered the much loved pizzert: dessert pizza! I remember being a teenager & calling them up (on my own line-God was I fancy!) for delivery of a small black-olive-extra-cheese-light-sauce pizza just for me…I felt so grown up. If you’ve never heard of or been to a Pizza Inn, I highly recommend you seek one out immediately…or at least stop in there if one pops up during your travels. You are totally missing out! They don’t skimp on the cheese (or toppings), they don’t over-sauce (blehh), everything is always fresh & clean (they constantly mind the buffet) & they’re unique and original; which brings us to tonight’s recipe.

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Buffet display. The BLT pizza is hanging out in the back, towards the top. Notice the hamburger pizza complete with pickles!
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O. M. G. Some pizzerts-the best actually-cherry pie & chocolate chip!

I had many favorites growing up but my #1 had to of been their BLT pizza. I also loved regular ol’ mushroom & sausage, chicken fajita, pepperoni, & pretty much all of the pizzerts (cherry pie, chocolate chip, cinnamon struesel, some kind of cheesecake-like invention, chocolate pudding…ok, I’ll stop). As a child I couldn’t really figure out how the BLT pizza came to be, but I knew that because it’s a hot food item, the lettuce & tomato should’ve been limp & icky…but it wasn’t! Naturally, as an adult, the lightbulb has gone off & I realize it’s all done after the pizza cooks. (Duh!) Even the mayonnaise.

Yes. I said mayonnaise. You can’t have a BLT without mayonnaise, can you?? Some people don’t have the pickiness I do when it comes to mayo. Me personally, I have to be in the mood to be able to eat mayonnaise. Ridiculous, I know. But such is my life. SO! If you have the same affliction no worries…you won’t have to eat cooked mayo & you won’t use a lot of it.

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A couple of reviews from my hometown Pizza Inn.

If you have any reservations I’m asking you to put them aside…this pizza is amazing if you give it a chance. I’ll admit, the only reason I ever tried it is because when I first saw it I thought it was a taco pizza (which they do have, incidentally, and is also good!)…I would’ve totally missed out on the yummy awesomeness if I’d known it had mayo, which is totally crazy!

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Pizza Inn (copycat) BLT Pizza

1 cheese pizza (small/medium/large-your choice)
Wedge of lettuce, chopped
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1 pkg bacon, cooked, crumbled/chopped
1 bag of cheese (your choice/mozzarella/pizza blend/etc) *optional
1/2 c. mayonnaise

1)  First, bake the pre-made cheese pizza according to package. When done remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
2)  Using a spatula or spoon spread a (thin, for me) layer of mayo over entire surface of pizza. You can use as much or as little as you like; the measurement is basically a reference.
3)  Evenly sprinkle lettuce, tomatoes, bacon (& cheese if using) over entire aurface.
4)  Cut the pizza with a pizza cutter or large knife, serve & enjoy!

In addition to the BLT pizza, I’m also going to make a copycat California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken pizza & Pizza Inn’s Chocolate Chip pizzert. Both recipes are super easy & don’t require much time or many ingredients.

For the CPK BBQ pizza, cook a pre-made cheese pizza (you can make pizza from scratch; using a pre-made is in the interest of saving time) then top with chopped, cooked BBQ chicken, sliced red onions & mozzarella cheese; pop back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted.

For the pizzert you need 1 can of Pillsbury thin pizza dough; lightly press it onto a pizza pan (Pizza Inn uses small, I use a cookie sheet); melt 1 stick of butter & add it to 1 pkg Jiffy cake mix, blend well; spread cake mix over dough making sure to reach the edges; sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 6 oz/half a bag) all over before baking at 400° for 11-15 minutes.

Like always….let me know if you try any of these & what you think!!

Update!
Okay y’all, it took me & the Middle child awhile but the end result was worth the wait! (It usually takes me awhile when trying a new & unfamiliar recipe because I get distracted easily so don’t worry…it probably won’t take you as long!) Here are some mouth watering pics for you to salivate over & be inspired to recreate in your kitchen!

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Early stages of the chocolate chip pizzert...dough spread & cake mix being added.
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Final step done: chocolate chips! (We added extra)
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Bada-bing-bada-boom! It's done & smells fantastic!
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It grew a bit more than I expected but that's ok...gives it character.
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Some of the ingredients you'll need...good luck keeping your fingers outta the bacon!
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Start with a regular ol' cheese pizza.
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BBQ Chicken pizza (before additional cheese)
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BBQ chicken pizza after 2nd run through the oven.
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I know-grossest photo ever. BUT...if you can get through this step (pizza+mayo) you'll be rewarded with an awesome tasting pizza!
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I believe in adding a lot of topping when we do homemade pizza, since the pizza places always skimp you.
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Finished BLT pizza-ready to cut & eat!
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2 of the overall 5 satisfied customers! The boy (who is notorious for not eating) said he loved the bbq pizza!

Lady and the Tramp Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

Technically any spaghetti can be called “Lady & the Tramp” spaghetti, but it’s one of my absolute favs from Disney so I thought I’d share the “official” Disney version. Plus the featured pictures are adorbs!

Disney’s Lady & the Tramp Spaghetti & Meatballs

If you try it, as always, let me know your thoughts!

Rachel’s Tears, Beth Nimmo {My 2¢}

I recently finished ‘Rachel’s Tears’ by Beth Nimmo.

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It is based on the journals, writings & drawings of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine tragedy. I liked the book overall, however with most reads I did find myself with a few bones of contention.
One thing I liked was the parent’s view & their heartbreaking recollections of that day. As a parent you are reluctant to indulge the terrifying question of “how would I react to that situation?” (Or at least I am…almost as though thinking about it may risk it actually coming true); they seem to have really opened up & portrayed their honest emotions, thoughts and actions. Your heart can’t help but ache for them.
This type of book isn’t my usual cup of tea–it has a lot of religious references, quotes, etc….which is fine (to each his own & they were/are obviously religious people); I just don’t generally read material like that. I wanted to read this because it had to do with Columbine & I figured it could offer some new views, which it did. It’s not a long read, so that’s good too.
Now, my not so happy thoughts:

–It Seems like they didn’t have enough material/topic for a complete & thorough book…there is lots of repetition & what I can only describe as filler.

–repeatedly saying “we hope you’ll see her spiritual side” when they reveal the fabled journal…yet keep stalling with filler & repeating other statements as opposed to revealing the journal. Granted there are pictures throughout the book of journal excerpts, but I had gotten the impression before reading that the journal was the book. Maybe that’s my mistake. Repeatedly promising that the reader will see the type of person Rachel was through her writings & journals & drawings, yet the reader sees only excerpts…it never quite makes it to the journals. Understandable in the sense that you don’t want to put your child out there, open their most intimate thoughts to the world…I get it. Just don’t promise to & then never deliver.

–So at the end, I’ll admit, I was a little over the “God-speak”…props to them for spreading the good word, being 20x the Christian I am & trying to help people; it’s just not my cup o’ reading material. I wanted to do my part however & decided I would share the contact page they have in the back. I figured the couple people that read this blog may tell a friend or such.

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–My last complaint is, I feel, sort of a sensitive one. I can not imagine what these people & their family have gone through…I don’t want to imagine. But where does the money factor in? It’s one thing, say, if you have all these journals & drawings from your child who was murdered in a national tragedy; you want to share with the world all of the wonderful & positive qualities your child had (plus let’s face it: some of those precognition-esque entries/drawings are undeniably spooky & must be shared!); you are proud of the person you helped create (as you should be); it gives you a final positive ending note to the atrocity that claimed your child. There are probably tons of other good reasons. So, one book…what’s the harm in that? The reality that a lot of people don’t confront is money. I, myself, have always wondered how people survive a crisis financially. Maybe I shouldn’t but I do (just like the people-ahem, me-that are obsessed with serial killers & the like wonder what a real dead body looks like) & it’s a real fact of life…money makes the world go round…if people have to miss work, chances are they’re not being paid (salaried persons don’t count in this instance. Obviously.)…if people aren’t being paid, how are groceries filling the cabinets? How does the light chase away the darkness? How does the car remain in the driveway?
Legitimate questions I think. My whole rambling point is that if the family made money off of the book I have absolutely no problem with that; hell if anything they deserve it. My (albeit small) bone of contention comes in when we have…

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Book #2

Book #2. Now, I can understand if they put together book #1 & ended up having leftover stuff they could use, or wanted to share. Happens all the time. I mean hey…they put so little of the journal in the 1st one that the question becomes how could they not have material leftover? You begin to sense a rotten egg when you happen across this…

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Book #3

I found myself feeling like now someone (in that family) has realized that books (especially books linked to Columbine) generate money. It’s as if someone said “Okay, so…we can use this & this from the leftover journal stuff because we still haven’t revealed them to people, but we need an overall theme. I know!! We’ll compare & contrast our beloved daughter Rachel with the murdering sociopath that gunned her down. That’s sure to sell some copy!”
What the hell people.
Then, this:

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Book #4

I think I’ve zeroed in on our culprit too. Now this is just my armchair detective theory, but the mom seems less involved in all the books after #1. Granted I haven’t read any of them; it’s just the sense I get. It’s almost as if by.book #2 dear ol’ Dad someone started planning future books & saving tidbits (entries, drawings, stories) to include in them. Again, I don’t begrudge anyone money…or the right to make it…it just reeks of exploiting this young lady’s private sanctuary under the guise of “helping people see the light”. I don’t know….maybe I’m being too harsh & judgmental, maybe I’m too negative. It just jumps out at me like that.
What do you think??

Marilyn Monroe: seldom seen photos!

I feel like doing a quick post on Ms. Monroe: #1 because I’ve been meaning to for some time now, and #2 I need to free up some space. I had notes with the details of this session, ie: where it occurred, the photographer, etc but I’ve misplaced them at the moment. When I find them I will update; until then hopefully a superfan with better memory & organizational skills will happen upon this lil’ blog & share their knowledge. I do remember that these photos were taken mere months before her untimely death. Looking at them & knowing what we know, it is so hard to fathom something so beautiful & unique suddenly being snuffed out. Terribly sad.

Without further ado, Ms. Marilyn Monroe……..

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The wall behind her is exactly like a wall that used to be at my grandmother's house.

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This is one of my faves. I don't know why, maybe the natural-ness of it?

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Must've been cold!!

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Obviously these are stolen borrowed from a book I read. Hopefully the author/whoever owns the photos won’t try to take me to court for using them without permission; I just want to share Marilyn with other fans.

Ranch House Chicken…you won’t believe how easy!

This recipe is one I recently received in one of my routine “recipe emails” & I’m pleased as punch (isn’t that a cute yet annoying saying?) that it meets my Big 3 (requirements):
      *Versatile: you can cook it via the oven or the crockpot
      *Easy: I managed to reduce it to 3 steps. Oh yea.
      *Cheap: less ingredients=less money…yay!

I like to give credit where credit is due, so here is where I got the recipe from. I’d hope-however-that you’d do the right thing &take pity on me for taking the time and making the effort to compose this post, and continue where you started…nice & cozy right here. 😀

Okie doke, let’s get to it!

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Step 2: prepare your soup concoction.

Ranch House Chicken
1 pkg chicken pieces (I found a “variety pack” on sale & decided to save a couple cents by de-skinning the chicken myself; the pieces were legs & thighs; the original recipe suggests using 4-5 boneless & skinless breasts but I’m a cheapskate)

2 cans cream of mushroom/celery/potato/chicken/whatever you prefer soup

1/4 c. sour cream

1 pkg Ranch dressing mix

Oven Method:
      1-Remove skin from pieces then arrange chicken in casserole dish.

      2-In a medium bowl combine the soups, sour cream & 3/4 of the Ranch mix; stir well then pour evenly over each piece of chicken. (I ended up adding about 6 Tbsp of milk just to increase my liquid & loosen up the consistency a bit. Use your best judgement.) Sprinkle the remaining Ranch mix over all.

      3-Bake at 375° for about an hour (or until juices run clear) then serve & enjoy!

(Crockpot Method:
Everything is basically the same: put the chicken in first, then the soup mixture, etc; cook on low for 5-6 hours.)

I enjoyed the ease, overall cost & taste of this recipe…chicken is my “go-to” meat & there are gobs of chicken recipes out there. I felt like maybe next time I’ll double the Ranch mix because while it had a good taste it wasn’t necessarily a ranch taste. I didn’t include it in the recipe (hey, I’m proud of getting it down to 3 steps-I don’t wanna ruin it!) but I finely chopped some green onion & mixed it into the soup concoction; this would be totally your call…do you like green onions or not? While the original recipe suggest mashed potatoes & green beans (I think?) as sides–which does sound delish–we just had mashed potatoes so I subbed fried eggplant & cooked carrots.

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Surprise--it's eggplant, not potatoes!

I’ve been wanting to try a simple fried eggplant recipe anyway! As usual, Allrecipes didn’t disappoint & (I’ll be honest) I was surprised…fried eggplant is gggooooooddd! I know, I know…eggplant…ick–what the hell?! It can’t possibly be good because it sounds so weird.
      Except it is.
I can’t explain it: it’s almost like squash. It wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. I got a huge one for $1.34 at Walmart so you should try it…at least if you don’t like it, it won’t of cost much so you won’t lose much. One of our family sayings is “Try new things one time” & I’m proud to report each little duck took a bite. Reviews were mixed but I think that’s due more to the odd name than the subtle taste.

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Let's eat!