Catch Up Day – Still Not a Food Thing

Urgh! I’m supposed to be writing stuff and somehow hardly anything has gotten done this week. I managed some reading because, with apps on my phone, I can do that just about anywhere in tiny bursts. To some extent I can do that with writing too, but it is slower. Much slower. I only got a bit of writing done. Somehow time in this past week has evaporated like the last wisps of summer sun.

For the past month I’ve been meaning to do my nails and shave my legs.  I don’t get the bug to do my nails very often, but it does show up once in a while. So nearly every day I’ve been thinking, “oh, maybe I can do them today.” Then there’s laundry. Or a cat barfs. Or something else comes up. So that didn’t happen yet. The summer color I’d planned on doing just ain’t gonna happen at this point. I’m looking at you, Autumn.

Last week I had a follow up appointment with my Physical Therapist. I reeeaally should have shaved my legs if I was going to wear shorts there. Did it happen? Nope. If I’d have remembered this little tid-bit of info then I might have worn longer pants instead.

After that I should have, at least, shaved ’em over the weekend to avoid any more mishaps. Still no. Two days ago, I managed to haul my cookies up on an exercise bike again, guess what? I could feel my leg hairs swaying in the wind as I peddled. It’s not even like I can claim “winter legs.” At least I showered. 

Earlier I managed to paint a card for my daughter for her birthday. I’m proud of the card (proud that I finished it befor her birthday was over), and I’m even more proud of her.  I think she is a very cool young teen.



We had my daughter’s birthday party last weekend so it was a busy one. Plus we got her a nice but inexpensive cell phone, and activating it took a lot longer than I was expecting. 

First I’d tried to set her up on Cricket which didn’t work at all. It should have been the correct type of GSM unlocked phone to work there, but I think something is whacky. I’ll probably need go into a Cricket store to get the SIM to work. Like I have time. I can’t even manage to shave my legs.

Walmart Family Mobile plan to the rescue! I didn’t even know this existed until a few weeks ago. I’ll even save $5 a month over Cricket (but with slightly less high-speed data). I hope the coverage works OK, but the website for the service actually makes me feel like somebody put some thought into making it family friendly. More important, it actually worked. Excellent.

I meant to bake maple or caramel apple cupcakes for her birthday party, but that didn’t get  done either. Instead I purchased not-bad-for-store-bought cupcakes in vanilla and chocolate and decorated them with pumpkin spice marshmallows. They were a hit. Especially the marshmallows. I think they’ll be good in coffee or hot chocolate this fall.

We had a lot of fun at my daughter’s Laser Tag Adventure party. She has some great friends! The laser tag games are fun and the location was nice. But they had lots of video game redemption machines there, and some of the kids went a little wild with playing those. Seriously, why does it seem like so much fun for a machine to spit out paper tickets?

You can never get much with the tickets you trade in for “prizes” there or anywhere. Put in 25 cents and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to trade your tickets for a nickle worth of goods. 

My daughter got some Now & Laters — little hard taffy bricks that I’m pretty sure are nothing but an evil ploy of evil dentists. My daughter chose banana flavor. Against my good judgement she convinced my to try one. I promptly pulled a crown off my molar. I should have known better. Taffy is pure sweet evil incarnate, and this is not the first time that that crown has come unglued. It’s a fairly shallow, flat tooth.  At least I didn’t swallow it this time. That happened. And that’s another story for another time.

My mom and stepdad are moving in these next few days. I’m excited for them but also nervous as they’ll live farther away. This will be a big change. I helped with a few things yesterday, and I’m determined to help more this weekend.

I’m also determined to get some writing done, so here’s something. It looks like I’ve actually managed a blog post. I also have a couple of Cherokee Purple tomatoes finally ripening in our balcony garden. What’s not to like? It could be a good weekend.

I’m resetting my goals for the next couple of days. I am setting aside time. Still haven’t done my nails or shaved my legs though.





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Woke Up

That I was tired this morning was nothing new. My attempt at making a hot beverage was.

I put a cup in the microwave so that I could make myself a quick cup of tea or maybe instant coffee. (I know, I know — instant, the horrors, right?)

Zapping it for one minute, our recently installed, new microwave beeped in readiness. I opened the door and picked up my somewhat warm cup only to discover it was dry as a bone.

The microwave had not boiled it out or magically beamed it to another planet. I had failed to put any water in the cup. The microwave must have warmed the small amount of ambient moisture so that parts of the cup and inside of the microwave were warm. That seemed like a really bad thing.

I feared I’d broken our new microwave. Shorted it. I was still craving a hot, caffeine-containing beverage. Clearly, I needed one. Maybe two. I tried again. I made sure I filled the cup with water this time and once again put it in the microwave, setting it to “cook” for one minute.

The microwave sounded different. I knew that sound — the sound of a fan blowing without the magical hum of a magnetron (the part that cooks) in the background. This was the sound our previous microwave made when it was “on” but not heating anything. Broken. That’s why we got the new microwave…

“Oh please, I do not want to go through that again,” I mentally pleaded to the god or goddess of kitchen appliances and regular God too. “Please let it not be broken.”

Maybe I was wrong about the sound. I opened and closed the microwave, turning it off and on again. I let it run for a bit. If it was already broken I couldn’t possibly break it more, could I? Then that distinct background hum finally kicked in. It was working again.

But by the time it beeped, my cup of water was only vaguely warm. Not hot. Dare I zap it some more? I decided to let the whole machine cool a bit. Maybe it had some kind of safety feature that turns off the magnetron if some half asleep idiot tries to zap an empty cup something gets too hot inside. I hoped.

Once all had cooled, sure enough it worked fine. Yay! I zapped my cup. And in about a minute I had a piping hot, not-so-instant, cup of coffee. A pot on the stove would’ve been quicker and tasted better too. But it worked.

“Time-Saving” Food

After blogging about time-saving “food” here’s my take on the flip side – “time-saving” food.

Last year I broke down and joined the legions of cooks and moms who own and use a slow cooker. Since then I’ve discovered a new pet peeve. I hate to see recipes for slow cookers that label themselves, “time-savers,” but in reality are far from.

Time-saving recipes need to save time. Just because food is cooked in a slow cooker and could be ready when I get home doesn’t mean it saved time. If I had to get up at 3:00 in the morning to prep the food then I will probably be too tired to eat it when I get home. Zero time saved. Or if a recipe calls for only 4 or 5 hours of cook time, then it is not a weekday recipe that will save time. I’m not going home on my lunch hour to make dinner!

I want recipes like this:
1.) put raw food in Crock Pot
2.) cook on low for 9-10 hours
3.) enjoy!

But there are recipes aplenty that require lots of prep like chopping, layering, and cooking the food before it goes into the pot. Why would I want to pre-cook anything before I put it in a COOKER? Except maybe double-cooked pork, but that’s … Oh you know what I mean.

I get that browning adds flavor, but I wonder how much of that flavor really holds up when food is cooked in a slow cooker all day. I’ll try a comparison some time. Even if it does enhance the taste, is it worth it on a regular basis?

To save time you can start with food that’s already totally cooked like rotisserie chicken. If you shop around you can find rotisserie chicken that don’t cost much more than buying a raw chicken. These can be a huge time-saver! But you can’t feed your family only rotisserie chickens, and you’ll want to watch salt and other flavorings that might be added to store-bought rotisserie chicken. For that matter, you can slow cook your own chicken in a crock pot. Save the bones from either, put them in a slow cooker all day, strain and you’ll have a great (not too hard) chicken stock. This is one if the times home-cooked makes a big difference in taste. Freeze or refrigerate and you can use it to make lots of easy soups.

There are time-saving ways to cook food out there! But not all slow-cooker recipes are created equal.

When Taste of Home shared this recipe for Slow Cooker Enchiladas on Facebook it was the perfect example of a not-so-time-saving recipe. There was a lot of good and bad feedback:

Slow-cooker Enchiladas

Yes, it looks totally delish! And I would love to try it. But it has everything that bugs me about a “time-saving” slow-cooker recipe — ingredients that must be chopped and pre-cooked twice before the goop is then layered multiple times with tortillas in a slow cooker and left to cook for only 5-7 hours. What part of that is supposed to help with a busy schedule?

I wouldn’t be so bothered if it just advertised itself as a tasty recipe and left it at that. I will make time for increased yum factor on a weekend, some weekends anyway. (And I still take issue with pre-cooking food before I put it in a Crock Pot.) But the cook describes herself as a “busy wife and mother” and says this is a handy recipe. The implied saving of time – that’s kind of where it lost me.

Because in the amount of time it would take me to prepare and cook these enchiladas I could have prepared and cooked an entire Thanksgiving turkey! With stuffing! And cranberry sauce. Not all from scratch, mind you, but it would be yummy food.

The slow-cooker enchilada recipe apparently allows the author to cook dinner after lunchtime and keep it warm until the entire family is home for dinner. I’m sure it works well for people who are home after lunch and can chop, cook, re-cook, layer, and turn on a crock pot for dinner.

But what about people who can’t do that? I don’t think those tortillas will stand up to 10 hours in a slow cooker. I tried that with pasta once. It was delicious-smelling paste!

Once you cook everything as the recipe suggests, I’m worried that the tortillas will get mushy even at 5-7 hours. Maybe refrigerate the cooked goop then spoon it out and reheat in an oven, toaster oven, or microwave when you get home? You could even eat it another day. Reheating it in an oven or toaster oven could even give the tortillas brown, crispy edges and it’s probably less than 20 mins to the table once you get home. Still too much work?

With the slow-cooker in mind, the recipe is basically salvageable with a few busy-mom hacks:

1) Dump raw meat into slow cooker along with seasonings and canned foodstuffs.
2) Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
3) Warm tortillas in toaster oven or a hot pan. Or not. Or use corn chips or crispy tostadas.
4) Spoon goop over tortillas (or chips or tostadas) and top with cheese. ENJOY!

If you sub corn chips for the tortillas, you probably can’t call these enchiladas anymore. So top with some lettuce and tomatoes for a delish taco salad.

If you’re worried about how much fat may be in the dish when you can’t drain the meat ahead, then start with a very low-fat meat. OR skim the fat after everything is cooked. It floats to the top. Cook with free-range, grass-fed beef, and you’ll want to eat a lot of that healthy fat anyway.

I’m going to suggest yet another variation on this, and later I’ll post a simple Slow-Cooker recipe for Misc Mex Meat Goop. Cook it in a slow cooker and eat it how you like — in soft flour tortillas for burritos, over corn chips, in taco shells, or rolled into enchiladas and topped with a quick sauce. Real time-saving food!

Time-saving “Food”: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What is time-saving “food”? It’s food we might eat to save time that isn’t much like real food in one way or another. This can be both bad and pretty good too.

Busy moms need to feed ourselves and our families. Too often we have so little time that we’re left with few choices and even fewer good choices. A poor diet can make us even more tired than we might already be!

To save time I often “eat” a protein shake that doesn’t even resemble food, but thankfully has better nutrition than a doughnut or bagel. Now if the rest of the family would eat them, everything might be a little easier, but not nearly as pretty or tasty.

Some “food” looks and tastes a lot like real food, but is so sorely lacking in nutrition I have to question its validity as a foodstuff.

My mom worked for much of my childhood. She was a nurse with a schedule that often left her little-to-no time to cook a real meal.

Occasionally we ate fast “food” which was usually fast indeed. Back then fast food never meant salads. The closest things to vegetables were the ketchup, onion, and pickles on our burgers, and I usually picked those off. Today’s fast-food options are only slightly better.

As a kid we feasted on TV dinners and frozen meals. The TV dinners could be kind of fun. They have the word, “TV,” in the name – it must be at least entertaining even if it’s not that good for me, right? And there were plenty of other non-TV frozen meals with such favorites as Stouffer’s Creamed Chicken over toast. Gotta love those spongy cube-shaped pieces of “chicken.” If you closed your eyes you could practically imagine you were eating space food. Once in a while, I even crave that creamy, chicken-flavored goop, but I think Stouffer’s stopped making it. Other standards included tuna casserole, oven-fried chicken, and pot pies. At least a few of those had veggies! But they were highly processed and loaded with salt and fat. Not the healthiest choices.

When Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners came along, we thought they were a bit of a luxury. Wow, not a zillion calories! See that orange sliver? That’s a carrot. Except I’m always left wondering why there aren’t more veggies. Frozen meals can be puny. They have a serving of protein, sauce, a starch or grain, and a small portion of veg. Doubling or even tripling the veg wouldn’t raise the caloric content by much and it would up both nutrition and satisfaction.

Even when my mom cooked a real meal, the veggies were usually from Green Giant and came in a plastic pouch that she’d “cook” in a pot of boiling water. It was all very ordinary. At least they were better than canned!

As a working mom today, I have a few more options. While there are even more frozen packaged meals, we hardly ever make these for dinner. They’re more often a work lunch than a family dinner. There’s just not that much food in them! We’re left wanting more. (See my sentence above about adding more veg.)

Plain, frozen veggies with no additives are often just as quick and easy as their sauce-covered, poly-bagged, microwavable counterparts, and I can make huge portions. We can eat real food instead of “food”!

For now I’m the one that’s left eating a lot of something that’s, maybe, not technically much like food. I love my meal-replacement protein shakes! I don’t mean I love the taste of them. And I sure don’t like how they look — thick green sludge anyone? But I love how easy they are to make and how packed with nutrition they can be. My favorite brand is Vega One as it’s one of the least yucky. I almost like how they taste. That’s a special kind of ringing endorsement there. But it’s packed with a good quality protein, veg, fiber, antioxidants, omega 3s, and a lot more. They’re super easy – as I use a shaker bottle with ice and water. I actually feel better during the day when I’ve had one for breakfast. When I “eat” them regularly my skin even feels better. It’s a kind of “food” not really food. It’s definitely ugly. But it’s good for me and works well with a busy schedule. Maybe I can even get the family to “eat” one occasionally.

So time-saving “food” can be good. Can be bad. And sometimes it’s what’s for dinner.