Friday, April 29, 2011

Fat Friday: Cheeseburger Soup

Coming up for air in 5 -- 4 -- 3 -- 2 -- 1 --

Hi guys!

Boy, the last few weeks have been a blur. A blur of fever, headache and the worst fatigue that's ever hit me. And that includes the fatigue you feel when you have babies and get about 5 minutes of sleep for the first 3 months of their lives.

Yesterday was the best I've felt in close to 3 weeks and all I can say is - I'm so thankful my kids didn't get it. There's nothing worse than having sick kids when you, yourself are sick. It's unbearable. Here's what I learned during this time:

My kids can get themselves up, get dressed, make their own breakfast, fix lunch boxes and go to school without my help. Actually, without me even waking up. I woke up one morning at 8:24 am, which is a half hour after they usually leave for school. I wasn't worried about them getting to school - I carpool with the Harmons - but I was concerned about other details. Were they in clean clothes? Did they have lunch? Did they remember their homework? Did they brush their teeth?

In great humiliation I called the school to ask;
1. Are my kids there?
2. Are they in their uniforms?
3. Do they have lunch taken care of?
4. Are they OK?

Fortunately, everything was fine and I learned two important lessons;

1. They don't need me anymore - waaaaaahhhh! - sniff, sniff.

2. They don't need me anymore! We've raised independent, responsible, well-adjusted kids who can easily adapt when their mom is out of commission.

So now I sleep in til 10am every day and get up in time to watch Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. SWEEEEEEEEEEET.

I just had to share that with you before we get to cooking today. Because there's another reason I can brag on my kids -

They can cook!

I will prove it to you. Katie is going to be our Fat Friday guest chef today. Can I hear a big "Woo Hoo!"? Here we go . . .

Here is my darling girl, grating cheese and participating in what we call "Kitchen Helper Night".

I got the idea from my friend, Becky, who has 10 children. Our kids go to school together and I am always picking her brain. I'm terribly interested in the logistics of managing a family of that size. For instance, how many meat loaves does it take to feed 12 people, 4 of whom are teenagers? How many loads of laundry do you do daily? How do you stay on top of homework? These are just a few of the many questions I've asked. Now that I think about it, Becky wears dark glasses and looks the other way when she sees me coming. Hmmmmm.
Anyway, Kitchen Helper is Becky's idea. It sounded amazing so I stole it. That's how I roll, man.

Here's the scoop! I began our Kitchen Helper project by typing a list of every single thing I've ever cooked. Entrees on one side of the paper, side dishes on the other.

Each weekend, the kids sit down with this list and pick a meal. They choose an entree and 2 side dishes. The only rule I have is they have to pick something green - a veggie or salad. Other than that, the meal is up to them. On their chosen night, they prepare the meal, with my help.

Can I just be honest here? It drove me crazy.

Our very first time, Matthew chose his first ever meal to cook - chicken pot pie. My chicken pot pie is awesome. It's tasty and we love it. It's also high maintenance with all the chopping of veggies and defrosting of meat and . . . . it took us THREE HOURS to make it.


Halfway through, poor Matthew was sick of it. He said, "I hate pot pie. WHY DID I PICK THIS?" I had to talk him down off the ledge and then later, as we sat around the table, oohing and ahhing over the fabulous meal and praising his efforts, he calmed down.

The next night it was Daniel's turn. He picked hamburgers. It took us 15 minutes, start to finish. Live and learn, man.

We've been doing Kitchen Helper for a couple of months now and . . . can I be honest here? . . . . IT'S A BLAST!

When we're cooking, we're talking about the meal. We talk about balanced meals, healthy choices, reading labels and safe food handling. We're learning how to read recipe cards and the difference between measuring spoons. We've learned the difference between liquid and dry measuring cups and how to use knives safely. There's a lot of math in cooking - fractions and calculating how to double recipes.

My kids are learning so much and I've never been such a proud mama! I want to raise kids - especially my boys - who won't be completely helpless in the kitchen. Right now, I can honestly say this is one of the most fun things I've ever done with them!

So, without further blah-blah-blahing, Katie the Kitchen Helper is going to show you how to make Cheeseburger Soup!

Start with 3 big carrots. Peel them . . .

. . . and grate them into a big stock pot.

While she was doing that, I was chopping up a big onion and 3 stalks of celery.

(I'm not that comfortable letting her loose with a sharp knife so I still do that part.)

Put all these chopped veggies in the stock pot along with a pound of ground turkey or hamburger. Cook them until the veggies are soft. After they're cooked, add 1 t. each of basil and parsley and let them cook a bit with the meat mixture.

Next, add 6 c. of broth - chicken, vegetable - whatever is in your pantry and . . .

. . . 8 c. cubed potatoes. I suppose you could use frozen hash browns or shredded potatoes too. Do whatever is easiest! My kitchen helper needed me to do this for her.

Bring to a boil then simmer 10 minutes until potatoes are cooked. While they are simmering, make a roux with . . .

6 T. melted butter and 1/2 c. flour.

Stir the roux constantly over medium heat until bubbly.

Then stir into the stockpot.

While the soup is simmering, you can also get some cheese grated. You'll need 2 -3 cups. I used Colby Jack but the original recipe called for Velveeta. I have a confession - I love Velveeta but I don't think it's a real food. It's chemicals that are food-colored. Just my opinion, man.

So I don't use it anymore.

Grate some extra cheese in case the Kitchen Helper needs to do quality-control sampling.

Sprinkle the cheese into the pot and and stir til melted. Make sure you don't boil it at this point. Cheese doesn't like super high heat or it will "break". Meaning it's oils will separate from the solids and you'll have a disgusting oily layer on top of your soup. Ask me if that's ever happened to me.

Really. Ask me.

Stir in 3 c. milk and season with salt and pepper.

(Click here for printable.)

This is a thick satisfying soup and went perfectly with the rest of the meal which was: strawberries, jello, cucumbers and homemade bread.

I love my Kitchen Helpers. If I plan it right, there'll be a guest food blogger every week!

Bring it on.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Quiz. . .

I'm in the mood to be helpful today. To provide some therapy, should you need it.

Just call me a public servant.

I mean, some of us don't know we have a problem until a bigger problem arises. Like when you're in a crabby mood and you may need a nap but the bigger problem is you need an IV infusion of chocolate.

In order to help you solve your problems today, I'm going to ask a series of hypothetical questions, designed to enlighten you. I mean me. I mean, OF COURSE YOU. Because I don't have problems. No sirree, not me. Nope. Perfectly perfect and normal out here in Karenpie Land.

Here are the questions:

1. Are you overly dependent on your computer? If you're honest you'll answer yes.

2. If you suddenly did not have a computer, would your life come to a screeching halt?

3. If your life didn't come to a screeching halt, would you at least get more laundry done?

4. How long do you think it would take for your high score at Bejeweled to be completely obliterated if you couldn't play computer games? It's just a question.

5. Do you think your computer is necessary during these final 2 weeks of tax season?

6. Should your hard drive on your beloved iMac decide to get completely pissed off and fry itself, how much data would you lose? And by data I mean pictures.

7. If your beloved Mac, which is completely pissed off, was unavailable to you, how long would you cry and suck your thumb in the fetal position?

8. Do you have a computer-savvy husband who believes in backing up your beloved iMac's hard drive on an external hard drive? Just because? Because I do. Have one of those husbands.

Six days without a computer. I'm typing this at the library, which isn't too bad. Me and the Mormon missionaries are hanging out, doing important things on the internet. Six days without a computer feels like six years. I'm running out of wine.

Which is something when you have a wine refrigerator that holds 150 bottles.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fat Friday: Southwest Corn Dip

Watcha doing this weekend? Anybody having basketball parties at their house? Because if you are, this is your lucky day!

This dip - this wonderful, tasty, amazing dip - will elevate you to rock star status if you serve it to your friends. And that is no exaggeration, people.

Southwest Corn Dip is the most requested recipe in my arsenal. I got it from my sister-in-law, Jennifer, around 11 years ago. Since that time I've changed it up a bit and put my own spin on it and it's amazing! It also makes a TON which is the perfect amount because you'll want leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Here's the recipe, along with some very helpful hints without which you simply cannot function.

Southwest Corn Dip

4- 15 oz cans corn, drained
4 oz. can chopped chilies, drained
4 oz. can chopped jalapenos, drained
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. sour cream
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 oz. bag finely shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

Drain corn, chilies, jalapenos and beans. Put them in a large bowl and tilt the bowl a bit onto its side while you're chopping the other veggies. Once they're added, drain the bowl of any more accumulated liquid. If you don't do this the dip will be watery - a total crime.

Stir in the sour cream and cheese. Add cilantro last.

Serve the dip with Fritos Scoops or Lime Tostitos. It's like the law or something.

(Click here for printable)

I didn't take pictures of the process - opening cans, chopping vegetables, mixing it all together - you know how to do all that. What I'll show you instead, is what happens to a family divided by Southwest Corn Dip. A family struggling when the Southwest Corn Dip provides too much temptation and they turn on each other.

It isn't pretty.

The End.