Toad Kissing Holiday Tip: Know Your Man’s Fave Home Made Christmas Treat

A fresh-baked welcome to all of my friends!

With the holidays only a week away, my kitchen smells of warmed vanilla and spiced apricots. I‚Äôm in heaven this time of year because I get an excuse to bake every kind of cookie imaginable – and then eat them ūüôā

This is my second Christmas as Mrs. PC, and my second round at creating strong family memories. I’m truly blessed.

I’m sure you know, ladies, that all men whether princes or toads, have a favorite Christmas Cookie that their Moms used to make. And I’d bet that you feel like your cookies will never match up against their Sainted mothers’.

I happen to be fortunate that my Mother-in-Law is happy to pass the wooden spoon to my kitchen and hand over responsibility for her famous Gum Drop Cookies –¬†trusting that I will do the gooey morsels the justice they have earned. Thanks, Ma! Love ya!

And without asking for her blessing, I’d love to share the recipe with each of you. I’ll warn you up front, though, these things take serious effort unless your guy is in the kitchen helping you bake.

 Loretta’s Gum Drop Delights

‚ÄĘ1 Cup Shortening

‚ÄĘ1 Cup Sugar

‚ÄĘ1 Cup Brown Sugar

‚ÄĘ2 Eggs, beaten

‚ÄĘ1 Tsp. Pure Vanilla

‚ÄĘ1 Tsp. Baking Soda

‚ÄĘ1 Tbsp. Cold Water

‚ÄĘ2 Cups Flour

‚ÄĘ1 Tsp. Baking Powder

‚ÄĘ1 Tsp. Salt

‚ÄĘ2 Cups Regular Oatmeal

‚ÄĘ1 Cup Coconut

‚ÄĘ1 Cup Spiced Gum Drops, chopped. (Here is the pain in the butt – have your guy widdle away at these for awhile while you and your Kitchenaid do the easy work. And use a sharp knife – choppers of any type gum up and become useless – trust me.)

Cream shortening and sugars together.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Dissolve the soda into the cold water, then add soda mixture and vanilla to eggs. Blend together.

Combine the egg mixture with the sugar mixture.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt together and then stir into the creamed mixture.

Blend in coconut and incorporate. Finally, mix in the gum drops and make sure they are well distributed through the cookie dough.

Shape into small balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake 12 minutes (turning pan halfway to allow for even baking)

Let sit on pan for 1 minute – they come out really soft. Remove with thin spatula and cool on wire racks.

Enjoy with a big glass of milk, coffee or eggnog followed up with a kiss on the cheek from your very own PC.

Merry Christmas!

Heidi Lee

A Single Dad’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner: Part One

Dear Friends,

Do you ever wonder how single dads and bachelors survive if they can’t cook? I’m sometimes amazed at what can be found in their cupboards. So as a Thanksgiving treat, our endearing¬†Jake from Project Toad¬†has invited us into his kitchen.

Jake¬†has full custody of his 2 teenaged sons. He has never really given them a traditional Thanksgiving dinner¬†that didn’t involve cutting a slit in the top to vent and removing the film from over the dessert. With both¬†boys growing up, he wants them to have a warm memory before they are out of the house.

Jake and I were catching up a little earlier today when¬†he asked me¬†what time on Thursday he should take the turkey out to thaw. Uhm, gee…¬†how about now?

OK, so this guy needs more help than just in online dating. Our subject requires hand-holding to turn out an edible Thanksgiving Feast. Game On! I’m always up for a Turkey-Day challenge. And as we continue with the care and feeding of Heidi Lee, I won’t¬†be preparing my own Thanksgiving feast. Mom is doing that, so I can baste my turkey vicariously through Jake.

Today’s tasks for Jake’s Norman Rockwell table:

  • Thaw the¬†turkey
  • Prepare¬†the menu
  • Shop for ingredients

As we were going down the grocery list, I mentioned that he would need green onions for the stuffing. His reply; “That’s a problem. What the hell is a green onion?”

“Jake, write this down. Find the produce section of the grocery store, and look around for a cute woman. Turn on the charm and ask her to help you find the scallions so you can make a turkey dinner for your sons.”

Jake, “What the hell is a scallion? Hold on….did you say cute woman? Can I sleep with her?”

Really, Jake? Seriously? Moving on….

For my readers who may have culinary challenges, scallion is another word for green onion.  I suppose I could have just said green onion again, but I have so much fun messing with him. LOL

Back to the prep work – something¬†I didn’t understand upfront was that Jake’s kitchen tools include a skillet, a pasta kettle, a sauce pan¬†and a few random utensils that have probably gotten more action swatting flies than cooking dinner.

Oh wait! He does have a George Foreman Grill. I believe that this grill is a staple kitchen appliance that can be found in most bachelor pads. Likely purchased while cleaning up beer cans at 2:00 AM from Poker night, men are drawn to this machine by the magic that happens when meat is put over heat in and cooks to perfection in a 2.38 minute infommercial.

Jake also doesn’t have a mixer to make mashed potatoes, so he will be making Mashed¬†Baby Reds with the potato masher.¬†No worries, I’ve¬†texted him a picture so he can¬†find one in the Utensil Aisle at the grocery store while he is also hunting down a turkey baster.

Here’s where I fess up. PC’s mother makes really good instant mashed potatoes, and my instant potatoes suck.¬†Therefore…I make homemade. I’d love to teach Jake the easy way out, but PC says not to teach him how to make something that could be found in a glue factory. Believe you me; Colonel Sanders¬†can’t make mashed potatoes like PC’s mother. She’s made¬†Idaho Spuds¬†an art form.

Jake is at the grocery store as we speak, so for now I will say good night. He has promised, though in return for the advice, to share every dirty detail and to photograph his victory dinner¬†for us. Tune back later in the week to see how Dinner with Dad turns out…

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

Kitchen Blunder transformed to Wonder: Southwest Sausage and Peppers

Oh, for the love of MUFAs! I miss being in my kitchen. For the last week and a half I’ve been resigned to bed rest.¬†I’ve been at the mercy of the men in my household to bring me food and drink. Just¬†try¬†getting someone to bring you a glass of Merlot¬†to wash down¬†your Percocet – impossible!

The care and feeding of Heidi Lee¬†has no doubt been a challenge for¬†PC as well as for my son, Cole. I love to cook and I can be a little picky/snobby with my flavors. My poor PC has been a bachelor for 46 years and has gotten, how shall we say…. well,¬†very creative with his culinary skills. I was able to¬†detour him in his misguided attempt to¬†slush canned tuna¬†and¬†applesauce¬†together onto a plate¬†by strategically requesting that he make a pot of his Chili. A big pot goes a long way, and every guy in the world swears by his own Chili recipe.

Yes, I’m sharing this strategy with you proactively should you ever find yourself in my position. Play it safe and ask for the chili.

Cole, on the other hand, brings me candy bars and licorice. Good kid.

Lately, though, our¬†gallons of chili¬†has begun to run dry. I¬†find myself moving around a little better though. Last night I¬†hobbled off my lazy duff and finally got back into my kitchen. A bit of a struggle scooting between the stove and the refrigerator, wearing my orthopedic boot¬†makes me feel¬†like I’ve got a 10 lb bag of flour strapped to my leg. No worries, though. I was successful.

I had been craving sausage and peppers for a while, and I could almost smell the fresh basil and garlic dancing around my drugged up nose for over a week. I had grabbed Italian Sausage from my freezer earlier and set it out to thaw.

When it came time to cook, I teetered my way through my cupboard pulling¬†out all of my standard¬†ingredients. As I grabbed the sausage to begin slicing, I realized my challenge. The Italian sausage I thought I had grabbed turned out to be a Southwest smoked chicken sausage I had never used before. Ok, so a change of flavors on the fly. Cool, I’ve got this. Basil and garlic became chipotle chili powder and smoky cumin – throw in a little paprika to boot….Voila! Perfection.

My hodge-podge of a throw together¬†turned into¬†a¬†delectable variation on the traditional Italian Sausage & Peppers. I’d love to share it with you as I am certain I stayed within the requirements to make it a Flat Belly Mufa Meal. The best thing – this meal was my first adventure with a new favorite ingredient – Johnsonville Chicken Sausage with 50% Less Fat! (coupon)¬†I can tell you the¬†sausage was full of flavor. I was very impressed, and PC couldn’t tell that it was actually chicken.

Now to the meat of my post ūüėȬ†A little bit of kitchen magic:

Southwest Sausage & Peppers

  • 2 tbsps¬†olive oil (Mufa)
  • 1 pkg¬†Chicken Sausage with Cheese & Chipotle Peppers, cut into bite sized slices
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 1 large orange pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 2 large green peppers, cut in thin strips
  • 1 med yellow onion, cut in thin strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (you can substitute with minced garlic in a jar if you want)
  • 6 oz¬†can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry red wine – Leave enough in the bottle for drinking. You be the judge.
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (I believe these cans are ~ 4 oz)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti, prepared

Pour a 5 oz glass of the red wine – set aside for drinking. See, now I’m back in charge!

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, using a 5 quart kettle, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add sausage. Saut√© until lightly browned. Add in the vegetables and the garlic, and saut√© for 3 – 4 minutes. You want to keep the crispness of these peppers in the sauce, so don’t over-cook.

Enjoy a sip or two of wine and again, set aside. You need to pay attention to adding the tomato paste so don’t let the wine become the activity for right now. If you do¬†this next step¬†right, you get an added surprise in your meal of a¬†rich, sweetened tomato sauce – mess up and your paste¬†turns the whole dish¬†burnt and bitter. So no gulping down the fruit of the vine just yet, k?

Add the tomato paste to the meat & veggie mixture and toss until the paste begins to coat through. You will begin to see the paste start to get a little gloss to it Рthis is the time to add in the wine and stir until the paste and wine begin to blend. Perfect! Nicely done.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients – not art to this part. Just be careful to toss gently through your sauce rather than to vigorously disturb your lovely veggies.

Set aside to simmer for about 20 minutes Рand enjoy that glass of red while the aroma starts to fill your house. Be sure to offer a glass to your own Prince Charming while you are at it.

With about 10 minutes left, remember to start your spaghetti (my favorite wheat pasta). Add a little salt into the boiling water, and add enough of the noodles to feed your family. You may even want to prepare a little extra to take leftovers to work for lunch tomorrow. This meal tasted is even better today.

Guidelines for serving size to make this a Mufa¬†Meal – 1/2 cup of pasta and 3 oz of sausage (1 link is 3 oz). You’re getting your Mufa from the olive oil. However, the wine throws the allowed calories off track – be sure to refer to The Flat Belly Diet recommendations about adding alcohol with a meal if you are attempting the diet plan.

Stop back by and let me know if you liked this recipe. Also, feel free to share a variation if you come up with any.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

Lovin the mufas, Lovin my life

Hello, my friends.

I must say that journaling my hurdles and successes is really helping me to appreciate little things around me that I may otherwise take for granted.

That being said, here is my accountability from yesterday.

4 meals? Well, no. But at least I got in 3 quality meals – each with a Mufa and 400 calories. And by the end of the evening, I realized I had 400 calories that I could spend – Wine! 400 calories = 4 (5 oz) glasses of red wine. So I could have had 2 more glasses to meet my calorie count.

Wait – I don’t think that is really in the principles of the Flat Belly. But it sure did make the evening with PC a bit cozier ūüėČ

I’ve mentioned yesterday’s blueberry heaven of a breakfast, and I made a healthy Run for the Border over lunch. Dinner was filled with rich flavors balanced by the crispness in the wine. Sound wonderful? Ok, I’ll share my recipe.

It happens that I collect cookbooks although I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I use them for inspiration rather than instruction. Last night I was thumbing through #RachelRay’s Book of 10 for new twists to put on the every day boneless skinless. I happened across a yummy little number on Page 14 for Mediterranean chicken with Saffron CousCous and decided this was a great place to start. The challenge was the the recipe was too heavy in Mufas – you have to watch your intake because they really do lump on the calories if used in excess. Her version used 2 Mufas; olive oil and kalamata olives. I had to cut back.

In pie plate – mix together 1/2 C flour with a pinch of salt and a whole lot of pepper. Top it off with a sprinkle of Cayenne pepper and you’re all set. Lightly dredge your 4 breasts and give them a little shake. The recipe calls for 2 tbsps of heated olive oil, but I cut it back to 1 tbsp to allow for extra olives. Brown the breasts on each side until golden and crispy, then turn the heat down and cook thru (about 10 minutes). Remove and set aside. (If your guy seems to be sneaking a couple peeks into the kitchen, dab a little flour on your cheek. He’ll appreciate you a little later)

Now comes the fun! And here is how I avoided adding sodium rich powdered chicken broth and water. Deglaze your pan with 1 cup of water and get all that good, rich gunk up off the bottom of the pan. Pour off and set aside.

(Start Couscous – I use a Hodgkin Mill brand for time saving – basil and garlic flavored. I added 1 cup of frozen peas to the water before I followed the package directions. helps cut down on doing dishes)

Add a tad more oil to the pan, and saute 1 chopped red onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic. Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of dried thyme. Like Ms Ray, I also like to use fresh herbs – just didn’t have any.

Hopefully you notice a little bit of sticking to the pan, right? No worries – grab a bottle of white wine, and deglaze again using the wine (just over 1 cup). Wow – smell that? Add the broth back in, and toss in about 20 kalamata olives; halved. Throw in 1 cup of grape tomatoes and return the chicken to the gravy. Heat through (about 5 minutes for the perfect doneness in your tomatoes).

As I finished up dinner prep, I started to set the table. The sounds of Alex Trebec gave way to a light jazz – Huh? PC noticed all of the work I put into dinner, and he decided to set the mood for relaxation with the right background noise. I sometimes find it hard to believe that this type of man exists – and that I literally picked him out of an Online Dating JC Penneys Catalog. But here he is – over a year into our relationship and still bringing the romance and the thought. I truly am lucky.

As a family, PC, Cole and I sat around the table just a little longer than usual last night. Very nice. Then we all moved back into the dining room where the soft music was replaced by a Thursday night favorite – The #BigBangTheory. It seems both PC and Cole find me remarkably similar to Sheldon in my nerd-dom. Wow.

So how did I do yesterday in meeting my goals? I came close on the eating, and I completely missed the mark on the exercise. I did spend more quality time with my family and managed to turn work off for the evening. The good news is – PC decided to help me out with the vigorous activity a little later so I could even up my goals¬†ūüėČ

Cheers!

Heidi Lee