It’s Na-chyo Birthday
Ginger Rhubarb Compote

skipaheadSo is this post about nachos or ginger rhubarb compote? Well both.

Yesterday was E’s 30th birthday. Old man. (Give me a month, I’ll catch up.) For his birthday he asked for one thing: the best nachos in town. He always does this, folks. Asks for the moon and then expects me to deliver. I mean, who is he to ask for nachos in Minnesota. That’s like asking for cheese in Wisconsin or seafood on the coast. Oh, Wait.

So I found lots of places with the “Best Nachos in Town.” But after a lot of Yelp reviews and some foodie reviews online I found the golden ticket: Salsa A La Salsa. Ooo, yum. The chips were made fresh and they topped them with refried beans, guac, sour cream, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and pico de gallo. I know, it sounds pretty standard, but I’m confident it was the fresh chips that made them so delectable.

After a lunch of junk food and an afternoon of sweets (courtesy of his many awesome co-workers), E was craving a salad and feeling a bit like Elaine in this episode:

So I scrapped my plans for cake and instead made E something with rhubarb. You really can’t go wrong, in E’s eyes, when you cook with rhubarb. We had this rhubarb compote (I’m calling it Rhubarb Butter at my house though) on bread, but it would be amazing with some creamy cheese or on a cracker. Or even over ice cream!


Ginger Rhubarb Compote

Overall: five-star

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This was so incredibly easy to make, I felt ashamed telling E. Hey, honey, here’s how much effort I put into your birthday dessert: 10 minutes. It tastes pretty good too. If you don’t like rhubarb, obviously this won’t be for you, but the ginger and cinnamon take the edge off the sour rhubarb.  (Recipe here.)

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Weeeee! Garlic Chopper Giveaway
Garlic Bread

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**This giveaway is now closed, thanks for all the follows and comments! Holly, Sherry, and Jenny each won a garlic chopper of their very own! (Ladies – check your email for more info!)***

Before I had Little K I remembered friends telling me how your vocabulary, movie catalog, and music presets change so much after you have a baby. Instead of Maroon 5 it’s the Wiggles, instead of damn it’s oh gosh!, instead of Hangover 3 it’s Baby Einstein. I always laughed at their joke, but didn’t quite understand how right they were. I guess I always thought it was a conscious effort to sensor yourself. You stub your toe and rather than swearing like a sailor you look over at that sweet smiling baby and say, “whoops a daisy!” Maybe it starts out like that, until you find yourself saying, “weeeee!” to an empty car. True story.

The other day I was rounding a particularly tight corner and suddenly I heard myself saying, “Weeeeeee!” I cut myself short in bafflement. I didn’t just say that, did I? (When I hit a big bump or round a tight corner, I always tell Little K, “Hold on!” or “Weee!,” even though I have him strapped so tight in that car seat we could probably be off-roading in the Rocky Mountains and he wouldn’t have a clue.) I have a long car ride to get to work each day and my fellow commuters know that you start to have conversations with the radio – “Oh Baloney! It’s gonna be 85 on Monday, in your dreams, punk.”  you talk out loud to yourself about your day – “Gotta get that TPS report filed!” – and you even have one-sided conversations with the cars around you – “Ok sweetie, you have plenty of room – just merge already! Mmkay?” But what you do not do is talk in baby voice about the man walking his doggie or how bumpy a ride it is, and you certainly don’t yell out weeee! when you’re coming off an exit ramp!

But I did and I sat there stewing in embarrassment for a minute before I started giggling and said “WEEEEEEEEE!” even louder. I am comfortable with the fact that I’m a Mom through and through now – even when baby isn’t in the car – and, heck, it’s fun to say weeeee! And so, because I want you to say weeee, I am giving away three rolling garlic choppers! The details to enter are at the end of this post.


Garlic Bread

Overall: five-star

You guys, how did I not know garlic bread was so easy to make?! I have to admit, I’ve always bought the pre-buttered garlic french loaf from the bakery section of my grocery store, rather than just making it myself. I thought it had to be kind of a pain to prepare and probably wouldn’t taste as good. But it’s yummy and easy. #totalpackage  (Recipe here, Simply Recipes.)

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Green French Fries and Why I Blog
Baked Asparagus with Parmesan

skipaheadHave you noticed all the goings on around Krystal cooks.? New follow tools, recent posts information at the end of a post, and fancy schmancy recipe pages for the handful of recipes I have to post here on my site.

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You may have also noticed the slower load times, random error messages, and down time. Well the good and the bad is because of a move I decided to make to WordPress.org. Instead of having WordPress host my site, I’m hosting it now. It means I can have more control over my layout and install some pretty awesome widgets (like the Recipe Card plugin I’m using for my recipes. Love it!!) And I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect a completely hiccup-free transition, so we’re grappling with some error messages and load time issues. I sincerely hope you’ll tell me what you like, what’s frustrating you, what you wish the site could do, or if you see anything wonky. I appreciate all your feedback!

I’ve been having so much fun finding new plugins for the site and trying to figure out why Publicize isn’t working anymore, and this post over on Blonde Ambition got me to thinking about why I’m blogging in the first place. Honestly, the blog was conceived and born in a matter of hours. I was making dinner one night – a particularly irritating cookbook recipe – and telling E how much it frustrated me that on paper the recipe looked fast and easy and manageable. Hours later and loads of dishes, we were eating a mediocre meal of spaghetti and meat balls. I said I wished there was a resource that you could go to that would give you a full review of the recipe, done by a real person, so you could trust that the recipe was as true to form as the cookbook and pictures let on. E and I both decided it was an idea worth pursuing and later that night E and I had the site set-up and the concept mapped out. 

Fast forward a few months and we’re still here plugging along. The blog is turning out to be a lot more than a place to share quality recipes. It’s a hobby. It’s a diary. It’s a letter to friends. It’s a way to make friends. It’s a place to connect. I’m so glad you’re here and you’re reading along. I hope you’ll help me out by sharing a page, offering up a comment, trying out a recipe, submitting a recipe for me to review, or letting me know how my site could be more useful. In the meantime, I’ll be here working away at a never-ending list of recipes to try.


Baked Asparagus with Parmesan

Overall: five-star

Ooo, I love asparagus. I didn’t think I did as a kid, but it was mostly because my family liked to cook the hell out of it. Mmm, smooshy. Asparagus is delicious and full of flavor. You can eat it fresh, steam it just enough to cut the crisp, or give it a quick bake to roast and bring out the flavor even more. This recipe is fast and easy, and so delicious. It’s a total package (maybe the first of the month? Yikes!).  (Recipe here, from Simply Recipes.)

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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

BBQ Sauce, the best camouflage
Larry’s Best Baby Back Ribs

skipaheadRemember last week when I told you I was sick yet again? I’m not anymore. Though I’m a bit itchy. (Don’t read that sentence too fast, bit *pause* itchy.)

Not interested in dealing with another sinus infection or two-month long cold, I broke the rules. I broke the rules and karma had something to say about it. See, I had this unused bottle of Augmentin (an antibiotic) in my drawer. I hadn’t used it before because I was wary of it. As an infant I had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, but I had been told by several urgent care doctors that often times infants are mis-diagnosed with penicillin allergies. So I decided now was the time to give it a try, rather than going into the doctor yet again to get a z-pack. I took it for seven days. On Saturday, while nursing Little K – I looked down at my hands and realized I had red pimples all over them. I knew what it was right away and took a Benadryl and threw away the rest of the antibiotic. One step forward, two steps back. I took a Benadryl an hour before spending the afternoon with the most enthusiastic shoppers you’ll find this side of the Rio Grande: E’s family. They shopped and fussed over Little K until I dropped. Although I think they know I’m not the avid shoppers they are, they likely realized something else was up by looking at my glassy eyes and my poxed hands and chin (luckily a scarf I was wearing covered up most of the hives while we shopped). I hit a metaphorical shopping wall right around the same time Little K hit his. We packed up and headed home. And honestly, I didn’t think at all about the allergy and hives – it didn’t even occur to me that I was tired because of the Benadryl. I’m just always tired these days I guess. Everything finally clicked when I got home and took off the scarf to find the hives had grown in size and now seemed to be glowing red. I took some more Benadryl and promptly went to bed.

My arm at the doctor’s office. I wish I had played connect the dots, I feel like there may have been a pretty awesome picture of Donald Duck hidden in there.

When I woke up I knew I was in bad shape. I knew because it felt like my whole body was sunburned, swollen, and like I had swallowed a bumble bee. I fed Little K and drove myself to urgent care. The doctor there scolded me, gave me an anti-inflamatory shot, told me to stop taking Benadryl during waking hours (I’m taking Zyrtec now), and told me I was grounded for the next week for breaking the rules. Ok, he didn’t really do that last part – but he probably should have…

Five hours later I looked no better (and no worse), but I was sitting at my friend Kerin’s baby shower with about 25 other people who I didn’t know or only vaguely knew. Who knows how to leave an impression? This girl! Fortunately I really don’t think most people noticed the leper in the room. I wore a big scarf, long sleeves, and the thickest layer of make-up I’ve applied since I was 14.

My arm as of this morning. You can’t tell from the picture, but even though the hives are much larger and are blending together – they’re less raised and I’m feeling less swollen.

Now, over 24 hours since the anti-inflammatory shot, the hives are finally starting to dissipate. I’m still taking Zyrtec so I don’t scratch my skin off (I’m also considering wearing mittens for the rest of the day). But at the rate we’re going here, I’ll be lucky to be rid of the hives by swim suit season. In the words of the urgent care doc, “There are better ways to find out if you’re allergic to something.”

Fortunately I have the perfect food for you to try if you’re trying to hide your bright red hives all over your hands and face: Ribs, with the best bbq sauce. You’ll have it slathered all over your face and hands while you’re chowing down, no one will even be able to see the hives! What a clever girl I am.


Larry’s Best Baby Back Ribs

Overall: five-star

Oh yum. See that weird-looking martini? It was a Bloody Mary Martini from a recipe on the bloody mary mix. Sounds weird, but so good.

We have used this recipe to prepare ribs for years and we love it. I honestly don’t recall preparing ribs any other way since we’ve found this recipe. It’s super easy to make, you can set it to cook while you’re at work and come home to the best dinner and a fabulous smelling house. (Truly, I wish they made candles in this scent. Yum.) (Recipe here, from Cooks.com.) Continue reading

Sinuses Revolt!
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

For the love of all things furry, when will I be able to breathe through my right nostril again?! I need balance in my life and thereby, balance in my nose. Either both nostrils need to be plugged or neither. If you hear about some madwoman on the news tonight screaming about “equality for all nostrils”, that was me.

Fortunately I do have some relief when I’m sleeping:

Think I could lay down on my desk and work? Totally acceptable, am I right?

Since I haven’t been feeling great for the past couple of days, I haven’t been in the mood to cook much. I did get around to making some comfort food for myself, though – sadly – I couldn’t taste much of it.


Judy’s Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Overall: five-star

We have another “total package” recipe on our hands! A very easy quick bread to make, but a nice added sweetness with the chocolate chips. I would say you could even serve this as a dessert with some coffee. (Recipe here, from Taste of Home.)

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You don’t know Reuben
How to make a panini without a press

This post is a combo post. Part review of a reuben sandwich, part tips and technique on how to make a panini even if you don’t have a panini press. I had high hopes of making corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day (note: a friend of mine alerted me that I’ve called this day by the wrong nickname for years! Apparently it’s not Pattie’s or Patty’s. It’s Paddy’s. Lesson learned.), but I woke up with a cold. Again. So instead of figuring out corned beef and cabbage and making – and eating it! – for the first time, I spent St. Paddy’s day catching snippets of naps in between Little K’s meal schedule. By dinner, we were looking to partake a little in the Irish festivities and fill our empty bellies fast. So, we made reuben paninis. One problem though… I don’t have a panini press. I did a quick hunt to see if I could find recommendations on how to get around this little hitch, and found lots of tips.

Don’t worry if you can’t watch the video though, here’s the gist:

  1. Use a smaller frying pan stacked on top of the sandwiches as they fry.
  2. Press it down with your own weight or with a few different cans from your pantry.

It worked great and the reubens were super yummy.


Reuben Panini

Overall: five-star

If you haven’t had a reuben before – or heaven forbid, you don’t even know what a reuben is! – put that on your to-do list. They are amazing – especially with plenty of thousand island and swiss cheese! Oh, and the cheater panini press worked like a charm.¬† (Recipe here, from BringingUpBoys on Tasty Kitchen.)

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Manhandling it like an enchilada
Lasagna Rolls

It’s me, E. I need to set the record straight on a couple things.

Ok, so Krystal got most things about me right and has been pretty flattering. But she hasn’t talked about my skills in the kitchen.

Fair enough, there aren’t that many skills that I possess in the kitchen. In fact, I have a tendency to be dangerous. Not in the “boiling noodles started on fire” sense, but more in the “this recipe calls for 1,328 ingredients!?!?” sense. I commit to recipes that are WELL beyond my capabilities (e.g. my steaks are still exclusively served in hues of grey.) But of all the weird recipes I may try and botch, there is a holy quadrinity that I will only attempt if I know I’ll emerge victorious:

  • Enchiladas
  • Nachos
  • Chili
  • Lasagna

One of my favorite webcomics: garfield minus garfield. It has apparently never mentioned lasagna.Now that I say it out loud type it out loud that makes sense.

So when I told Krystal I was making lasagna rolls and she responded with skepticism, I was stunned. She apparently dozed off during that part of our vows where I said, “I promise never to muck up lasagna.” Certainly not the weirdest wedding vows ever, but still something I took very seriously.

The result was magnificent, beautiful, and delicious. Heck, during prep I told Krystal they were upgraded from “easy” to make to “fun” to make. So, without further adieu, I present my first guest post on this blog. E made…


Lasagna Rolls

Overall: five-star

Lasagna Rolls

Un-photoshopped proof that I am useful in the kitchen.

After digging through the weird and boring lasgana recipes on Pinterest, Kelly’s recipe promised salvation. Not only did it come with a great story of failure and redemption (#eInjectingDramaAndHashTags), but it was straight-forward and simple. I thought I was being Minnesota Nice when I told Krystal I wanted to give it 5 stars, but despite her usual brutal critiques she said “well duh” and sealed the deal. Further points were earned by the recipe for being so delicious that when I skipped a step, the tastiness prevailed! (Recipe here, from Something Shiny.)

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You think you know hiphop
Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

All weekend, E has been at the Midwest PHP conference, leaving me to my own devices. So far I have decided to use this time by reading, lazing in front of the TV, and shopping. It’s been a good couple of days…

When E was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, he asked me to check what time a particular session started. I pulled up the website and looked at the session schedule. I noticed two things:

  1. There was only one woman presenting (Sara Goleman).
  2. She was presenting “Scaling PHP with HipHop.”

Disappointed, I told E, “Jeez, only one woman and she has to do some watered down version of a seminar? Teaching the language using hiphop.” E stared at me for a minute and then started laughing. Apparently HipHop is a music genre, but it’s also a open source project used by Facebook developers. Uhhh, embarrassing, right?

Well apparently E didn’t think so. At the conference he ran into Sara and led with the story of his ditzy wife thinking HipHop was hiphop. E tells me he didn’t tell it quite like that. Regardless, I’m mortified! Let this be a lesson to you:

hiphop

Something I do know though: if you bake eggs, tomatoes, and goat cheese you will be happy.


Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Overall: five-star

This recipe is the total package. Affordable, easy, healthy, and so so good. E told me this might be his favorite meal. It’s comforting and you can make it for any meal. I usually make it for dinner, but it’d make a great breakfast too! (Recipe here, by A Cozy Kitchen.)

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